Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Larisa has an interesting observation about people who say that World of Warcraft is too easy: Only 0.13% of them actually beat the hardest content in the game. The other 99.87% are complaining that WoW is too easy, without having been able to beat it themselves. A good part of those 99.87% who didn't actually beat the game did however beat all or nearly all of it in normal mode, and gave up at that point. Larisa says they didn't continue because the "wipe/gear quota" of hard mode wasn't favorable enough. I think that is an interesting statement, with a lot of player psychology behind it.
Once upon a time in World of Warcraft running around in full epic gear was something special. It meant that you were part of a relatively small elite of raiders who got far enough into raid dungeons to fully equip themselves. That made you stand out in comparison to the average player, who couldn't get into a raid, or couldn't get past the first or second boss in the first raid dungeon, and who didn't have other means to acquiring epics. Fast forward to now, and I'm looking at my warrior who is just one piece away from being full epic, without ever having set a foot into Naxxramas or Ulduar. Nevertheless a given raider with a given skill is probably exactly as far away from having beaten the hardest challenge in the game in Wrath of the Lich King than he was with the same skill in vanilla WoW or The Burning Crusade.
So what has changed is not that there suddenly is no more challenge. What has changed is that the difference in rewards between somebody beating the hardest challenge and the average player has shrunk considerably. Especially in people's minds, due the "color psychology" I recently mentioned: Even if beating hard mode gives better rewards in terms of iLevel and stats, the hard mode epics aren't all that distinguishable from the iLevel 200 epics that are handed out like candy nowadays. If you haven't got epic iLevel 200 rings for example, you can do the Headless Horseman event tonight, and get at least one, if not two epic rings, for a fight that even a pickup group has trouble wiping on.
So when people say "World of Warcraft is too easy nowadays", they don't actually mean that there is no challenge left, or that the hardest challenge in the game is too easy to beat. What they are saying is that it is too easy to get rewards that are remarkably similar to those handed out for the hardest challenge. Or to say it somewhat acerbically: What good is raiding if other people aren't jealous of you?
By simply listening to who isn't complaining and who is, you can now distinguish between those who *really* raid for the challenge, and those who are just elitist. If somebody is really playing for the challenge, it wouldn't matter at all to him how easily other players could get the same or similar rewards. If the main motivation for raiding is trying to appear better than your fellow man, the rewards other players get is suddenly of the utmost importance.
And then, of course, there are people like me, who believe neither that modern WoW raids are really a challenge nor in "achievements" in a video game actually meaning anything. My main reasons for raiding have always been a) hanging out with the guys, and b) epics being the key that gives you access to further content. The latter is less and less the case. Better gear makes raiding easier, but the kind of epic gear you can already get rather easily is good enough to enable you to see all content in normal mode.
What I kind of miss from the "good old times" of raiding with my priest was that the challenge at that time was about how well you played your character, at least in the case of my healer. In Molten Core and Blackwing Lair I constantly had to make intelligent decisions which were not only based on speed, but also on mana efficiency. Anyone remember "healing rotations", with one healer not casting for some time to regain mana, while another healer was taking over his role? Somewhere on the way mana efficiency was removed from the equation. Nowadays I often just spam healing spells as fast as the cooldown allows, while simultaneously playing some sort of jump'n'run platformer game, not unlike Super Mario Brothers, in which the "challenge" consists of performing this much simplified healing strategy while having to constantly move around for some artificial reason. One the one side each of these particular jump'n'run mini-games isn't all that hard to do, on the other side success very much depends on how much training you had on that particular boss, while how well you play your character class and how well you are geared has become a lot less important. So if I'm not raiding any more it isn't because raiding is too hard, too easy, too many wipes per gear, or not enough boasting potential. It is because I find the jump'n'run kind of challenge a lot less interesting than the more tactical challenge of vanilla WoW raids.