Tobold's Blog
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thought for the day: Challenging yourself

People often say that MMORPGs have a variable difficulty level, because you can always challenge yourself by tackling more difficult content or play in a sub-optimal way. So why do people laugh at me when I tell them that I leveled my priest with holy spec and my warrior with protection spec?
That's a simple question: because they are social, doesn't want challenge just approval, liking and respect of peers.

If you kill Algalon, you'll be "Starcaller" to show of so it's a worthy challenge in their eyes. Leveling holy does not leave such title/achievement/epic so it's a pointless challenge.
Offa toppa my head: the two groups have different membership?
increasing the challenge is only fun if it requires more "skill". In this case, the challenge comes from tedium and frustration at throwing out lolsmites and doubling the time it takes to kill a mob.

it's like cutting the damage of all your dps spells by half and calling it a challenge... it is one, but why the hell would you?
Perhaps because those individuals don't even consider leveling to be the sort of thing worth defining as "challenging" or not. For many, I suspect they've so limited the scope of the game to endgame PvE or PvP content that leveling inefficiently is postponing the point when one can participate in the "real" game.

I don't subscribe to that view, and think it is sad that such a rich game can become so distilled in the minds of some players. At the same time, while you're having fun enjoying the challenge of leveling as prot, many of those who would criticize you are working on the latest hard mode encounter. The challenge you set yourself isn't silly but neither is theirs.
people are laughing at your futile efforts to go against the flow and make something bad seem good.

Why would you want to do that? Levelling as a tank/healer just makes the grinding/questing unbearable. If you have plenty of instances to go to then it would probably be a good way to do it. Grinding however calls for the most destructive and efficient way of operating.

the quests are the same, the mobs are the same, the numbers of drops are the same, but you've dropped your killing efficieny significantly.
the quests are the same, the mobs are the same, the numbers of drops are the same, but you've dropped your killing efficieny significantly

Exactly the same is true for a number of achievements that ask you to kill bosses in a less efficient way.

And while me leveling up as holy and protection might be less efficient in xp gain per hour, it certainly leads to me grouping a lot more. And whenever I reach the level cap, I actually know how to play my characters in the spec they are supposed to be at the cap. If you level shadow / arms, and then respec at the level cap, how do you expect to play your new spec well with zero practice?
In both cases you're purposefully creating conditions for failure. Why is your effort disregarded? Two part answer: communication and reward.

First, communication. People understand tackling bigger mobs. "Even-con" and "Higher-con" mean something to people, so they can easily compare their experiences to yours. If you start following your own rules, people tend to disregard you because they can't map themselves to you as easily. It tells them less about how effective they will be at killing the same monster than if you followed the same rules of engagement.

Second, reward. The rewards for killing the bigger monster are presumably greater than the rewards for killing the smaller monster. If you are going to subject yourself to X difficulty either way, why not maximize the reward?
We aren't one, we are many. Some of us can laugh while others don't :)
Because levelling as holy isn't really more challenging. You won't die. It's just slower and less efficient and you'll spend more time doing boring things like drinking.

Or from another angle, why not level shadow, get the extra challenge from healing instances without being holy specced, and make the solo part faster and more fun?

The reason people find levelling holy a bit weird is that it isn't clear where it might be more fun. If it was genuinely more challenging then people might understand better.
This is the kind of question that always makes me cringe, because the responses are almost predictable it seems. Some will question your intelligence when they tell you that what you are doing is "less efficient" - supposedly because you are not as smart as they are, otherwise why would you do something so stupid?

Tobold, you really need to do a post about what a -game- is anymore, and how we are supposed to play them "correctly". If these things we call MMO's are no longer games, but free form virtual worlds, how can one play them "wrong"?
So why do people laugh at me when I tell them that I leveled my priest with holy spec and my warrior with protection spec?

Because you aren't making the game harder for yourself, merely slower.
Because the "challenge" you are adding to your game is perceived by the players you meet as pointless and dull. It's doesn't come across as funny, original or creative and perhaps it doesn't appear to derive from a firm, committed worldview.

When players add "challenge" by doing things like Noor's pacifism project it generates press coverage, interest and ultimately respect. That's because it's original, amusing and creative.

When players consistently play according to personal tenets, such as Beau Turkey's "immersion Project", it fits with the image we have created for them and adds to their quirkiness and individuality.

On the other hand, if you choose to play in a mainstream game using characters that have made choices similar to those that might be made by someone who doesn't understand the game or who hasn't taken the trouble to think through the implications of the choices made, then the best response you're likely to get will be people trying to help you to change them. More commonly, as you point out, people will just laugh at you.
If these things we call MMO's are no longer games, but free form virtual worlds, how can one play them "wrong"?

That is basically my question. And the long string of comments saying that I'm doing it wrong proves that the question still needs to be asked.
"If you level shadow / arms, and then respec at the level cap, how do you expect to play your new spec well with zero practice?"

Maybe if you're playing your first character ever. But I'm convinced anyone with some experience in WoW and the will to read a short class-specific guide, is able to play a new class at 80 acceptably after a bit of practice. You'll learn to play it well while obtaining your pre-raid gear.

The reason why I don't roll alts is the leveling requirement. I don't find it challenging at all. Using a suboptimal spec to level will only cause more frustration and annoyance to me.
A couple of months ago I decided I wanted a fresh start with WoW (due to nonexistent other good mmorpg's and tired of healing). So I needed a new character. I have only done about 30 levels myself. If that kind of service wasn't exponentially expensive, I'd probably have paid to only do 75-80 myself.
"So why do people laugh at me when I tell them that I leveled my priest with holy spec and my warrior with protection spec?"

Because level based MMORPGs are broken IMO.

Can someone please explain to me the wolf paradox: why a regular wolf in Dun Morogh or Elwynn forest is 280 times less healthy than a regular wolf in Cristal Song forest?

I discovered WOW a year ago (first MMO for me) and played it for 10 months (leveled a hunt and DK to 80 and druid to 40, went in a HL raiding guild for few months). Absolutely loved WOW especially the "Massively Mutiplayer" promise, friends you make IG and you obviously want to continue to play with.

Hated the consequences of the level based approach:
- you have to play as much time as your most addicted friend to be able to play with him
- by doing this you can't play anymore with friends who play less (even if they are more skillful than the level-ding/gears-ding addicted ones)
- you learn your skill have very few importance (wolf paradox)
- you better learn to be selfish because in addition to levels, stats gears are essential
- you obviously won't find anyone for vanilla or BC instances except maybe for a rush, anti-challenge and anti-teamwork mod.
- if you have the chance to level in a group (for a short time) you won't even have time to read the quests and appreciate the lore (remember the Pavlovian level-ding urge)

I'm now trying Aion in casual mod. Have a lvl 28 cleric, like the game, world and fight mechanics. Met some nice and skillful people that I obviously can't play with anymore, again because of level based MMORPGs :/

Right now I'm obliged to look at Guild Wars series with the freedom to play pvp directly with a maxed level character and low level cap in PVE campaign (lvl 20, low impact of gears).
I'll probably try Fallen Earth and everything were "skill" and "social" still have a meaning (versus time/gear dominant economic model).

At least a lot of people think there's something missing from the levels/gears based MMOs:

Thanks for this great blog, please review more social/skill based initiatives in the MMORPG world if you can/will.
Most players of mainstream MMOs are convinced that the only "right" way to play their games is to rush as fast as possible to the level cap.

Thus, doing anything that doesn't fit that mental model of how an MMO is to be played is immediately scorn-worthy.

Frankly, I find the blind-rushers are missing the point entirely. But then I no longer play that way.... so my opinion is probably massively foreign to them as well.
Prot from 70 to 80 is as fast as arms/fury if you had some semi-decent gear. Plus you could easily solo all the group quests.

Also, I have had a priest that I have had for a while and I am considering leveling him up as either holy or disc. I think I would be fun
People see a difference between taking on an already existing challenge and between artificially gimping yourself. Note that the pre-existing challenge may not be known to us, but finding the challenge does not mean we created it.

So for example, you attempt to write well and challenge yourself to find something new every day. This would be a true challenge. In contrast Gevlon turns off his brain before attempting to write and tries to find something useful in his words. That would be an artificial pointless challenge undertaken only by idiots.

First, full disclosure: I always try to level my toons with a spec that people don't expect. Resto shaman from day one, holy priest, prot paladin. I don't think levelling the druid with a feral bear spec counts, since it was also a dps spec... although I did level my mage arcane way before arcane was "cool". I think I have only paid for a respec on any of my many toons about two or three times. I'm what you might call conservative in that sense.

Personally, I aim to evaluate every moment in WoW (and any other game) on its own merits: am I having fun now? If not, why not?

Levelling a toon to the cap with "maximum efficiency" in mind can be a fun game in itself for some, I suppose, but personally I find it unbearable. For me, at 80, things aren't inherently more fun than during levelling. So having a good time in the levelling game is of paramount importance to me. I try to redo those quests and quest chains that I enjoy the most, and I focus on doing yellow/orange quests (levelling is so fast these days that it's hard to finish chains fast enough to tackle new red ones...).

And this also goes for the spec. Just like you said, Tobold, levelling with a healing or tanking spec helps you learn the spells on a much more profound level than if you read a book about them. Most importantly, since spells are handed out one by one, you learn to use them and learn their meaning one at a time (footnote: I'm levelling a warrior now (fury this time, actually) and I have absolutely no idea what that "slam" attack is good for...). That's a great way of learning and I am positive it helps you become a better healer or tank than if you have to take it all in at once.

So people laugh at you (and probably at me, but I never ask them like you do :)) because just like somebody above said they are playing a different game than you, one where "efficiency" means getting from 1 to 80 with a minimal amount of key presses. I have a feeling that in your game, not entirely unlike mine, "efficiency" is what you get when you derive maximum enjoyment from your leisure time.

Having said all this though, here's another question for you: if levelling with a healing spec is so slow, how come my resto shaman was the one toon (of my seven or eight so far) that made it from 1 to 70 in the shortest amount of time /played?

Sorry for another lengthy post.
silly Tobold -- don't you know that lvl 1-79 is just a tedious test and that being level 80 is where it's at? If the real world parallel to that test is to swim across the lake, you chose to perform that test with a 45 lb weight strapped to your back towing your pal Guido on an inner tube behind you. Get with the program: only thing that matters is that you get to level 80, get fully geared to run the most recent raid instance with twenty four of your friends, and then beat them all in dps in the frequently-spammed raid dps charts. Duh. (Or to put together the greatest arena team EVAR). The journey is NOT the reward -- that's why Blizz is always making it a faster shorter journey. Yet, you come along... This is not a game!!! (oh wait...)

I have four 80s. I don't play them. I saw lvl 80, and, well, meh... So now I've been slowly leveling up a rogue in the BGs with an alternate dagger spec. The journey has been really rewarding.
Because you pick a challenge which from a power gamers perspective will give a known result.

It has the secondary problem of being a long term investment into an experiment which will in the end match your own perseverance, which is not very interesting to the power gamer who might make a comment about it. ^^
Those people taunting you just don't know how effective those specs can really be when it comes to levelling. I solo'd my prot warrior from 70-80 and it was a total breeze. Now, granted I had pretty decent gear (4 piece T6, Bulwark, etc); but nothing quite beats grabbing a crapload of mobs who aren't hurting you at all popping tclap, shockwave, and watching your dmg shield chip away at them while you shield slam them in the face.

The changes Blizzard made to prot warriors in 3.0 made levelling pretty easy. I was able to solo many of the group quests and dinged 80 less than 4 days after the release of the xpac, only slightly behind some of my guildies that went for the "optimal" group grind approach.

If I had tried to level with my crappy fury or arms gear it probably would have taken me longer.
"Because you aren't making the game harder for yourself, merely slower."

I would go so far as to say you are making the game _easier_ for yourself (and also slower), by levelling with a heal or tank spec.
Because leveling Holy or Prot isn't challenging, it's just longer.
"Get with the program: only thing that matters is that you get to level 80, get fully geared to run the most recent raid instance with twenty four of your friends, and then beat them all in dps in the frequently-spammed raid dps charts. Duh. (Or to put together the greatest arena team EVAR). The journey is NOT the reward -- that's why Blizz is always making it a faster shorter journey."

Although the comment was meant sarcastically, it also happens to be very true as far as Blizzard seems to be concerned. Though they are very capable of doing balancing, creating content which is kind of fun and such, and overhauling the game, the very fact that this is the context in which they perform all of this is why the current WoW development team is the "B team".
I leveled a Paladin from 1-80 as Prot. I do not laugh at you.

I laugh at the people who leveled as Ret because it was the path of least resistance and who then decide to try to tank for the very first time *ever* in a heroic instance.

I laugh at the people who think everyone should level up as fast as possible as a DPS spec. Who is going to tank and heal your level 70 instances for you?

Why wouldn't you want to spend an awful lot of time getting to know your intended primary raid spec, even if it's just from 70-80?
@Sibyl: obviously the problem is the players in your example. If they would have respecced tank, read a bit about it, use some target dummies, and go to a *normal* dungeon, instead of going heroic without even knowing where their taunt button is at, there would have been a lot less problems.
WoW is not that hard to play, you don't need a month of slow, repetitive "practice" while slowly gaining more abilities, to learn how to tank or heal. Those who do need that will end up as bad dps anyway.
I can imagine people enjoy the leveling game, but I think it should be optional (for those who hate it).
WoW is not that hard to play

If WoW is not that hard to play, then why are there so many complaints about other players not knowing how to play, especially in pickup groups? If people aren't willing to do your suggested path of training on dummies and in normal dungeons (good luck finding a group for those anyway), isn't leveling up in group spec a good solution?

I think if you dismiss the leveling part of the game as the part you'd rather skip, you're missing out on at least 80% of the content of the game. Why not just play World of Raidcraft, where everybody starts out with a fully equipped level-capped raider?
I levelled my priest as full holy spec, specifically to get me into instances on the way to 70.

It worked.

She is 71 and I specced her shadow after the talent points were refunded, and it is highly likely that I will pay for dual spec soon so that she can still get into instances.

I don't care if people think it's sub-optimal; I pay the monthly fee and I'll play the game exactly how I want to (within the rules, of course!)
People don't know how to play, because they don't want to spend time learning how to play. A person like that will still not know how to play after 200 levels.
Leveling up as group spec certainly is a good idea, but it has the same problem; those who don't care won't do it, and those who do care don't need 80 levels of training. Not even close to that. I have done 4 normal dungeons (after leveling as dps and questing for/buying all available blue tanking gear) to get the hang of tanking, and now I'm running all heroics successfully and have recently tanked my first raid successfully as well.

I agree you'll miss a large part of the content. My point of view was someone who already has a level 80 character and doesn't want to go through all those weeks/months of leveling, to do something their current character cannot spec into.
"Exactly the same is true for a number of achievements that ask you to kill bosses in a less efficient way."

Which is exactly why some of us also laugh at the current 'challenge' the game provides, because the only difference between leveling without setting talent points and 'hard mode' raiding is that the raiders get a pretty title to show of their one-handed feats.
"Why not just play World of Raidcraft, where everybody starts out with a fully equipped level-capped raider?"

I've argued that they should be able to do this from day one. If that's the only part of the game that interests someone, let them play it. It holds no appeal for me, but then, who says *my* way to play is The Right Way?
One isn't necesarily more difficult, it just tends to be far less efficient.

I leveled resto pre-BC. It was a long grind at the time (i spent about 1-2/10 of my time questing). By and large my main method of leveling was grinding, pure and simple.) Leveling in kitty as resto isn't hard. But every mob takes 30+seconds to kill.

Now that i know more about the game (and i'm also a lot less stupid, to be quite honest), i realize i should've leveled as feral or balance, even though 'feral sucked' at the time. Every druid was 'resto with innervate or gtfololz'. I really regret being so easily swayed, even if the first couple levels as balance sucked (my first talent was Nature's grasp... and the excitement wore out by the time i realized i had to get hit first.)

"If you level shadow / arms, and then respec at the level cap, how do you expect to play your new spec well with zero practice?"

If only the leveling content was any challenge = /. You can heal most instances pre BC as feral, feral specced nowadays. My server is small, so the BC instances almost never get done properly, so no comment there.

Even the 5 man nonheroics aren't nearly as innovative as some of the raid bosses tend to be. There is no fight similar to Mimiron, Thorim, or Freya (Sarth is endgame) etc. Hodir i could see a case for H nexus.

Even MC etc (which you'll never find 40 willing 60's for) are far far below the 'cap' for fun/hard fights nowadays.
Why do you think they reused Naxx? Most of the boss abilities were a little different, most people hadn't done it, but it easy enough to be the 'starter raid' to wet your feet.
Heigan, Thaddius (although people from H Arc who tried to do the fight properly will remember this mechanic), Gluth were all pretty cool.
Things like Noth, Gothik, Maexxna, and Patchwerk, Kel, and Sapphiron basically taught basic raider skils: dodge void zones, pick up and kill adds, switch targets.

P.S: I didn't intentionally group it that way, but the bosses PuGs tend to struggle with the most are together ;). Go figure.

I believe the answer to your question comes from the answer to this one "What's the point of leveling ?". Take a moment and answer it in your head.
Now let's see how many people answered "To get to 80" and how many answered "To learn how yo play your character gradually". If the only point of leveling would have been to get to 80 , then you're on a dirt-track , eventually leading to the same destination. If the purpose of leveling is to get to 80 fast , then , as the saying goes "Leveling - You're doing it wrong".
But if the end goal is to get to 80 and know how to play your character , then I can't dissagree with leveling holly and doing dungeons while at it.
To those who dissagree , might I suggest to go PuG with fast levelers and see the results ? I believe that someone who leveled as a tanking / healing spec will play better in a dungeon/raid environment as a fresh 80 than someone who switched specs.

However , there's something more I'd like to add. Leveling is one thing , being 80 for some time and doing dailyes is another. While I too have leveled my paladin as protection and spent the whole 50-70 range tanking dungeons and learning to play my class , now at 80 , I quest as ret simply because it's a lot faster. Sometimes more than twice as fast. (indeed for things like soloing elites - Threat from Above comes to mind , prot is better and safer). So while I don't dissagree with leveling as a healer/tank spec , I would dissagree with doing dailyes/farming at 80 in the same spec (if you have dual spec and some rezonable offspec gear).
Of course there are exceptions ,like keeping one spec for tanking and the other for healing , if you run heroics all day or if it's raid mandatory , but I believe you got the bigger picture.
I can see and understand all the different points trying be made here on this subject.

But lets be clear about this the individual that pays his/her's $15 a month to play WOW should be able to play or spec however they so desire.

Now with that said, this reminds me of when I was playing Magic The Gathering, basically you were a nobody, noob, or whatever they chose to call you if you were not running the most expensive cards in your deck or the ones that were on a certain champions decklist.

Everybody that has played Magic understands the term Rogue, they way I understand it is that a Rogue player plays with a deck he or she designs without using some Cookie Cutter Design, also in my eyes every deck out there had to be a rogue build at one time or the other, I believe the same thing can be said about WOW's spec system and or gear system.

I personally like playing my spec the way I want to build it trying different spec and gear combo's just to see if it was good or not.

Just like In Magic when I could walk into a tourny and sit down with my white/blue soldier deck and stomp the heck out of the then number one blue fairies deck on turn five average, let people experiment with the specs and gears that is out there and learn if they need to be like all the cookie cutters out there or not.

Sajagloll of Maelstrom
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