Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Accommodating less good players
Shamutanti wrote me with a link to a post of his on raiding difficulty, saying that "I’ve found myself becoming more and more accommodating towards those who really don’t know what they’re doing and I’m trying to help" and "Not everything needs to be hard and not everything needs to be complex.". And he asked me what my point of view is, because he thinks I have changed my point of view. I haven't, people just have problems understanding my point of view.
I'm on record as saying that A) Naxxramas being easy is perfect as a starting raid, and B) players dealing less than 2k dps should stay away from Malygos. And it is surprising how few people believe that both statements can be true at the same time. Far too many people think that either EVERYTHING has to be easy, or EVERYTHING has to be hard. Which, in fact, would be awfully bad game design. Because while everybody wants all the content to be tuned exactly to the difficulty level he personally prefers, the whole player base will span a wide range of different preferences. And the developers need to cover this wide range, and not just cater to the needs of one small sub-group.
I never said that World of Warcraft should not contain any hard content. I did say that WoW should not have ONLY hard content. A situation where nearly everybody can do Naxxramas, a somewhat smaller but still big subset of people can do Ulduar at normal, and a few bosses like Malygos and Algalon only beatable by the top raiders is great. Even if yes, that means that the top raiders are bored in Naxxramas, and the least good players will take months before even reaching Ulduar.
With not all raid content tuned to the same small subset of people, whichever group that would be, but spanning a wide range of difficulty levels, the main problem for Blizzard is creating enough of it to make everyone happy. Whether Ulduar is too easy or too hard is a straw man dispute. The real problem is that Ulduar is too *late*, it should have been released with Wrath of the Lich King, and patch 3.1 should already have added the next dungeon.
There is nothing inherently wrong with there being players who play less well, be that for reasons of not being skilled enough, not having spent enough time, or just not being interested enough. Just like you don't have to be Tiger Woods to play golf, you don't have to be Ensidia to play WoW. The whole stupid argument how easy or hard a raid dungeon should be is just a fight between various sub-groups for limited resources. Of course it would be better if everybody had a place to go, but with Blizzard only able to make a limited number of raid dungeon, everybody wants those few raid dungeons to be designed for him, and him only.
While having raid dungeons spanning a wide range of difficulty levels, accommodating the hunter who deals 1k dps as well as the one who deals 5k dps, is great, it still isn't perfect. It's only "as good as it gets" in the confines of World of Warcraft game design. A raid dungeon used to have only one fixed difficulty, either you could beat BWL or you couldn't. Today one raid dungeon already has two different difficulty settings, normal and hard. Some future MMORPG (and it might well be Blizzard's next one) will have an ingenious system in which the same place exists in infinite different difficulty levels. Just like a chess club, or a ladder system for some game manages to match players against opponents of the perfect difficulty for them, that future MMORPG will match any given raid group with a raid dungeon with the perfect difficulty for them, being both challenging and achievable. And then that stupid fight about raid difficulty will hopefully disappear.