Tobold's Blog
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Thought for the day: Hard solution

Isn't the solution for people who would like World of Warcraft to be harder actually quite easy? Simply play one of the harder to play roles! For example if you think that WoW is missing challenge in requiring situational awareness, play a tank, and you'll see how that requires a ton more situational awareness than other roles.
Still would not fix how easy soloing is.

You can't tank solo, neither heal solo.
I would say, if you want it harder, just group with people who don't know what they are doing.
Slaps Head.

The solution is blindingly obvious. Allow every player to select their own difficulty by allowing players to tackle content that is higher than their own level.

The game developers simply have to do two things. First they remove all the level based locks in the game. You want to tackle a level 20 quest at level 10 - go right ahead. Then they should allow players to voluntarily drop to a lower level for an encounter.

You think an instance is too easy at level 80? No problem - drop to 79 and try it or even try at 75 if you are uber enough.
Yup, that's one solution.

The other is to be a guild or raid leader. Leading raids is probably the hardest thing to do successfully in the game (if you include the challenge of getting the raid together.)
There are plenty of ways of making the game harder, if you want to. Wear cloth/leather instead of mail/plate. Only use green, or white, or no gear. Don't spend your talent points. Melee as a hunter or spellcaster, or use ranged weapons and CC as a rogue or warrior.
Hmm, interesting how you consider tanks to be harder to play :) Trust me, many people will disagree :P
Why make their own challenges when they could complain and be elitist instead? That ruins all their fun.

@Winde: So don't solo. Tobold's solution was to challenge yourself and then you bring up an activity which is not challenging. So don't do that!

Pull more mobs, hit higher-level mobs? Solo the Shade of Arugal? Soloing is exactly as challenging as you choose to make it.

Pull more mobs, hit higher-level mobs? Solo the Shade of Arugal? Soloing is exactly as challenging as you choose to make it.

You have no idea of human nature. We evolved by finding better ways to achieve goals. That's what we like.

We do not enjoy to hunt a pig while jumping on just one leg. And that's good. Otherwise there were no human society today.
The game has four roles for players to adopt: melee DPS, ranged DPS, tank, and healer. I have a Protection Warrior as an alt but my main is and has been a Warlock. I enjoy the ranged dps role and find the Warlock class particularly satisfying.

How is suggesting abandoning one's character to perform the ostensibly harder role of tanking (or healing) a viable answer to someone asking that the game be more difficult? I suspect - and this holds true for me - that these people are interested in maximizing their potential within their chosen role. What is frustrating and leads to criticisms of WoW's difficulty is that the game doesn't motivate or support that effort. You don't need to be particularly skilled to achieve most of the objectives the game provides. The more skilled player or raid might be able to perform remarkably well - clear ToC10 in 15 minutes for instance - but in large part the game does not necessitate nor ever recognize that someone has executed their role beyond some fairly low threshold.
Huh. I thought the problem was that people wanted to unique experiences, and that their solution to that problem would be to make the game harder so that fewer people experience the endgame content.

If you ask me, the more obvious solution is to quit playing MMORPGs.
Situations in WoW are really very generic after you've tried them once or twice - what happens when tanks get bored of situational awareness?

Taking things faster, pulling more etc in an attempt to make things a bit more interesting relies on 4 other people being as on the ball as you are - that seems more luck based to me than skill (with the random dungeon finder particularly).

The problem with multiple difficulty levels is that anyone will play it on easy just to get it done faster and easier. What about easy, normal and hard, which all reward the same loot, but grant non-gamechanging rewards like achievements, titles, minipets?
You don't make a game harder by arbitrarily gimping yourself.

It is like proposing to make a boring little children' game more "difficult" and "challenging" by taking away some of the gameplay choices that you can have. Like play UNO but have no special or wild card - talk about a boring game...

You make a game harder in the exact opposite way - with more decisions to make - not fewer.
When I made level 60 way back when 60 was the level cap, I thought that it might be fun to solo the low level dungeons/bosses with no gear and see how far I can get.

Surprisingly, it was hard to get enough people wanting to try this to do a proper 5 man dungeon.
"I suspect - and this holds true for me - that these people are interested in maximizing their potential within their chosen role."

Yes, but what people are failing to realize is - once you have maximized your potentially... things are easier! Isn't THAT the idea behind making your character 'better' (gear, skills, talents, etc) in the first place?
World of Warcraft is easy for a good reason. Making the game more difficult may please a few players, but it's against the design goals of the game. WoW is a themepark MMO, first and foremost, that succeeds because <a href=">it lets as many people play through the game as possible</a>. Increasing WoW's difficulty would be self-defeating.

If WoW is too easy and it bothers you, I suggest moving on to a game that is of sufficient difficulty instead of wasting your time on WoW.
Sadly that doesn't make it more interesting.

If you want to understand what "Hard" elements are missing from WoW, just read the details of what used to be involved in taming, training and maintaining Hunter pets.

When Mrs Bhagpuss and I started WoW last year and both quickly settled on playing Dwarf Hunters, we avidly read loads of information on some great WoW pet websites. All that stuff about finding your pet, having to feed it and keep it's loyalty to stop it running off. The stuff about finding specific Named or rare animals with special abilities. About finding different animals, training them, learning their special abilities, releasing them and transfering their abilities to your pet. Levelling up your pet's abilities.

Imagine how disappointing it was to find out that actually all that great stuff that used to be in the game had been taken away. Imagine how weak and uninvolving the gameplay we were offered instead seemed, with everything being done for us, with no thought or effort on our part required.

As we learned more about WoW we saw many, many examples of great, fun, immersive, involving gameplay having been replaced by automated systems, leaving the player very little to decide or do.

Everything I read about WOW makes me wish I'd played it five years ago. It must have been a really great game then. It's still a good game now, but not one that can hold the attention for long once the novelty wears off, because there's just so little required of the player.
In my eyes they broke tanking in dungeons when added aoe tanking for every tank class. Instead of managing aggro on every target you just spam your aoe ability. What fun is that?
People want the game to be harder but not necessarily too hard for themselves. It's nice to be challenged but not nice to hit a brick wall.

If Cataclysm is indeed a re-shaping of Azeroth, it would be the perfect time to re-design the game to make it harder for experienced players but easy for new players through phasing and new instances.
Great discussion. Just to respond to a couple of points:

We do not enjoy to hunt a pig while jumping on just one leg.

I agree with Nils. Most players prefer natural challenges to arbitrary or self-imposed challenges. Fighting a dragon is fun; fighting the same dragon blindfolded and with one arm tied behind your back feels contrived.

Also, players usually want rewards to be proportionate to risk. For example, one way to challenge players is to allow them to take on quests above their level (as mbp suggests), but the experience/loot rewards would have to be proportional to the additional risk. In many MMOs today they aren't.
Tobold, I think you miss the point of "harder". I'm not sure whom you refer to when you say "those people who want a harder game" but I am one of those who are disgusted by the current situation of MMORPGs. I clearly stated my opinion here: I talked about why Maps with GPS system ruins a game. That is just ONE point of many. I don't care if a game is "hard" or "easy" that is not the case. Some people think we demand a "hard" game but what we need is just a dangerous world, immersive and mysterious. If you remove Maps and make death penalty harsh and make monsters "hard" to solo and remove the Quest Driven system I believe you'd get a place to finally start an "adventure" in rather than just "playing".
Maps are a typical example for proof how it is the PLAYERS who sabotage hard. World of Warcraft did not have quest targets marked on the map before. It was the PLAYERS who assembled all the information first in databases and then in addons to destroy all challenge involved in finding the quest target. If players had really wanted hard, they wouldn't have put so much work into making the game easier.
If players had really wanted hard, they wouldn't have put so much work into making the game easier.

Well, players' preferences can differ. Some players like exploration, danger, and mystery and some don't. The latter group uses the wikis. And even some of them might be "optimizing out the fun" in that they'd prefer not to use wikis but feel obligated to to keep up with everyone else.

I honestly don't see a real problem with outside wikis and guides. The problem is when they become incorporated into the game as the default, removing all of the exploration, mystery, and danger even for those who want it.
I think it's clear that most commentators who sneer at "elitists" demanding harder content clearly don't play hard modes themselves because they don't experience the tedium. Hard modes only put a twist on the fight, they don't really change the fight very much. Since the content is aesthetically the same (even if different execution), it is far less interesting and feels more repetitive. Blizzard won't even let hard core raiders start with heroic modes for Icecrown, they have to wait 2-3 months to even get to Arthas. And even once you kill your 4 or 5 bosses for the week, all that's left to do is ... play them again but with 10 players!

Hardcore players don't want casuals to face harder bosses, they want to be playing different bosses entirely.
If players had really wanted hard, they wouldn't have put so much work into making the game easier.

It's normal for players to beat challenges every way possible. If this leads to challenges becoming trivial that is the fault of the game designer.

First rule of game design:
The players is never guilty of anything.
Seems like it is impossible for Blizzard to please everyone, the difference just got too big. On the one hand you have people who play this game since release and have raided for five years or more and on the other hand you have people who just got their first character to 80. I don't think its possible to cater to both in a single game.
In addition to that everyone has a different definition of "harder". I for example am perfectly fine with solo content but would like group-pve-content to be harder. Yewsef wants to tweak solo content. Pleasing him displeases me.

Personally I suspect that a lot of those who would like everything to be easy will leave soon only to be replaced by new players who again like it easy and will leave soon, while those who like it more challenging are the kind of players that would stay for several years. Right now Blizzard caters to the first kind of players which drives the second kind away (on top of the first kind who is leaving anyways) thus causing a tremendous fluctuation.
I personally don't want the game to be hard...

Yet I'd like it to be a challenge on more than one level. I think new raids are considered to be a challenge to the raiding community but very little else IMHO seems to be.

I totally agree with Bhagpuss. I remember having to hunt down specific pets, to tame then and learn the skill they had to offer.

Everything is handed on a plate to get to the end and raid and no longer proves to be hard/challenging.

Watling for my account to end, I rolled a new class the other day. Playing carefully to avoid mobs at level 3 to 8(ish) and picking them off one by one. The mobs no longer aggro? When did that change?

It may seem like a small point to most people. To me it is a point to me that demonstrates that all hurdles must be taken out of the way to speed up the goal of level 80 goal.

I think Challenges are being eroded and thus the game has become too easy.
We Fly Spitfires--- only bad tanks and people who haven't played one would think it was easier than dps.

Or prot paladins maybe....

Good tanking is way, way, more involved than dps (most of the time). Healing used to be a challenge, sounds like it got nerfed a lot. But it's still harder than dps. I honestly don't understand why a clear majority of players prefer to play dps; it's the most repetitive and superficial role. Give me a role with some responsibility any day.
The solution does not address the link between difficulty and visible measures of achievement. If you think the gaming world is dominated by achievers, the solution is not viable.
A bit late back I am, but I just want to thank Nils for clearing up that I am not human, and apparently not Tobold either. ;)
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