Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 17, 2011
 
Syncaine on accessibility

Syncaine has an extremely well-written post up arguing against accessibility. I don't agree, but it is well worth reading to understand the point of view of the hardcore.

His main argument is that in a game that is too hard, the not good enough players can always work to improve, while in a game that is too easy, the too good players can't do anything to get worse. Let's have a look at that claim!

What is the difference between a casual player and a hardcore player? As one can see from the frequent use of words like "idiots" and "morons", the hardcore believe that intelligence is a factor here. That is almost certainly completely wrong. There is no single agreed upon definition of intelligence, but most scientists agree that intelligence is about figuring things out, being able to adapt to complicated circumstances. A raid encounter in which the boss would use random abilities, and raiders would have to think on the spot about how to counter these abilities would require intelligence. But we all know raids don't work like that. Scripted raid encounters in which your success depends on perfect execution of predetermined moves you can watch on YouTube does not require intelligence. It requires a lot of determination, practice, and motor skills, but little or no intelligent thought.

Thus the real difference between hardcore and casual players is how much effort the two different groups are willing to exert. Gevlon's "slacker" part of the description of casuals, while not nice, is a lot closer to the truth than the "moron" part. For example I did raid BWL up to the last boss during vanilla with a hardcore guild, proving I do have the skill or intelligence to do so if I chose. And then I decided a hardcore raiding schedule was more effort than the fun I got out of this activity was worth, so I continued playing as a far more casual player. The large majority of hardcore players could become casual in a instance if they chose to do so, and the large majority of casual players could become hardcore in an instance if they chose to do so. The number of people who are actually "too stupid to raid" is insignificantly small.

Syncaine is completely right in saying that if somebody applies the typical hardcore effort on a task not requiring that sort of effort, the task becomes trivial. But in games that is called "optimizing the fun out of it". From theorycrafting sites, YouTube strategy videos, boss kill guides, to a plethora of addons, hardcore players use an incredible amount of tools to make raiding easier. That only proves that any game can be beat if you apply enough effort. Pac-man was beat 19 years after release in the first "perfect play" yielding the maximum possible high-score in 6 hours. That tells you a lot about the amount of determination some players have, and very little about whether Pac-Man is "too easy".

Making a game too hard is not about making it "impossible" for the casual players. It is about requiring an effort these casual players are not willing to bring to the table. The G in MMORPG stands for Game, and there are a lot of people who believe that MMORPGs are "just games". If there was a game which would require you to simply press a button 1 million times to get a super reward, some people would do that, while most people would probably say that this isn't enough fun for the reward to be worth the effort.

In real life the possible reward for any given effort is often limited by laws of physics and nature. For example how much effort you have to exert to lose weight and become muscular by working out in a gym is not really optional. That limits the business opportunities of gyms. In virtual life no such limitations exist. A developer can require a grueling 6-hour perfect play for you to get any epic reward, or he can give it to you for pressing a single button, or he can sell it to you. It is true that the 6-hour perfect play epic would be "worth more" to the person having achieved it than the button-press epic everybody got. But that is an optimization problem, with a optimum solution somewhere in the middle. The 6-hour perfect play epic does not motivate a player to play and pay a monthly subscription if that player knows that he will never want to play for 6 hours straight, or do all the training and research required. The single-button press epic doesn't motivate anybody either. So the task for the developer is to design challenges which require enough effort to be considered worthwhile, but not so much as to be considered only accessible by the no-lifers.

MMORPGs are entertainment products. Game companies are in the business of selling these entertainment products. If developers design a game which requires too much effort from the average player for too little gain, the average players will start leaving the game. While Trion never published subscriber numbers, I am pretty certain that this is what happened to them. Rift wasn't nerfed because of some change in philosophy, or to mimic a move Blizzard made 2 years ago, or to do the opposite of what Blizzard did in Cataclyms. Rift was nerfed because it lost too many players who were complaining that the endgame wasn't accessible enough for them. Cataclyms will be nerfed end of this month for exactly the same reason. Accessibility isn't a philosophical concept, it is a business survival strategy. That some people would rather want to see their favorite game fail than to be made accessible speaks for itself.

Of course better solutions than nerfing exist. Single-player games have solved the exact same problem years ago by introducing variable difficulty. Most single-player games wouldn't be profitable if they only existed on their hardest difficulty setting. One day some MMORPG developer will get the risk-reward ratio of a variable difficulty system right and make a killing. Until then going for the largest number of players is more intelligent than catering to the hardcore.
Comments:
I'm sure everyone prefers a game which has plenty of appropriately challenging content tuned perfectly for their particular group/ circumstances.

It's not a case of 'well you could get better' - you'll have more fun if you can do that while not actually hitting your head against a brick wall at the same time.

That's all he's saying really. It's the root of WoW's problems too because the players who were comfortable with one expansion got a new one that was tuned for a different crowd.
 
> Most single-player games wouldn't be profitable
> if they only existed on their hardest difficulty
> setting. One day some MMORPG developer will get
> the risk-reward ratio of a variable difficulty
> system right and make a killing.

Single player games don't offer special rewards if played in a higher difficulty nor do they have high difficulty only content. And I think that's the key. No additional reward for higher difficulty.
 
Dara O'Brain has a point : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4AmIKhfr40&feature=player_embedded

It gets really amusing and absurd if you compare books/movies/music to games [all part of "entertainment"] and what role "fun" or "enjoyment" plays in all this.

I've learned not to waste time on frustrating games, just like i don't read books "just to say i finished it" either.
 
I agree with almost everything you write.

One thing: Rift's dungeons had to be nerfed due to the LFD that was integrated the same patch. It was what Trion learned from Cataclysm: You can't have

1) challenging dungeons
2) a (more or less) anonymous LFD
3) a daily quest
4) a player base with the expectation to do the daily quest each day.

I said before, A MMORPG needs to offer accessible and reasonably challenging content for all players at all times.

In Rift Trion took the content Syncaine liked to do and give it people with worse gear, worse coordination and less willingness to read up/learn/etc.

That alone would have been ok. But Trion didn't give Syncaine anything in return. Thus, he is now out of reasonably challenging content, has nothing interesting to do. And thus he leaves.

i.e. classic WoW did this better than WotLK: there was more accessible, reasonably challenging content for everybody.
 
Silvertemplar, the differene between books and and games is that a frustrating book is just a boring grind to read.

But games can be hard in interesting ways. They can demand creative thinking or good execution of a plan, for example.
 
every time you talk about hardcore gamers, you fail to see that they do not have the youtube video's to watch an encounter, they are the ones discovering the tactics, and making the video's. And then developping the alternative tactics.

Any guild using bosskill movies, etc is by definition not hardcore. You seem to include a lot of "top" gamers into the hardcore group that do not belong there. They may referr to themselves as Hardcore, or others may, but they are not, what the do is spend a lot of time ingame, perhaps making them hardcore but they are not the ones in the race for world first kills, and usually not even for server firstkills.

In reality the hardcore end game raiders that you referr to in this post are limited to around 100 / 200 per server. All the rest are simply near the top but not in the hardcore region.

And for that real hardcore region, intelligence is a factor. Besides the point that if there are those video's around and players fail to know / understand tactics they have to be pretty moronic, google isn't that hard to use.

In reality the moment boss kill videos become widespread the whole min maxing game etc is out the window. One doesn't need to do all that research anymore since encounters ARE scripted and the 0.2% stat difference won't make the difference anymore. After that point all the games become are monkey tricks, wich is exactely why that whole segement isn't included in the hardcore community.

I spend upwards of 40 hours time logged weekly to wow, you would probably consider me hardcore, i'm not. I have my fun in game, most of it doing stuff completely unrelated to instances and raiding. My performance in encounters puts me at the top end of the mediocre group, pretty much around the sweet spot, to a level where content isn't exactely challenging, but can still become so if the skill of my team mates is lacking. Wich is actually not entirely where i'd like to be, i would preferr content to be more challenging. The LFD buff made the difference for me, before that i had to work hard most of the time, and would fail to complete stuff in the bad groups. With it, i can slack off in the better groups, play normally and afford mistakes in most of the groups and only the terrible groups still give me a challenge. I'm talking about players showing up with 5 sockets in pvp gear, 2 sockets from a completely unrelated class or spec. No gems, and at best 30% enchanted. Usually with some mistakes made there aswell. ( in the area of hunters enchanting for intellect and crit ) or priests having an agility stamina ring.

Content difficulty should not be at a level that you need gimped groups of that level to make it challenging.
 
one more addition about the effort i put in.

I start by reading the spec description, i put some thought in wat talent point will help me achieve my goal. I do not look up the ideal spec at all. after reaching end game levels i usually end up with a spec that is identical or only differs in a few point from the "ideal" spec. In my book this is not putting in an excess amount of effort.

I read my stat descriptions and take around 5 minutes to determine what is important for me, since i've read my talents i know that some classes benefit more from crit while others would preferr mastery. I find out if i need to use strength, agility, or intellect. the tooltip tells me that haste will increase my energy regeneration. That spirit will increase my mana regeneration. So i make a tiny list in my head telling me that its probably best to get intellect first, spirit second, haste and mastery third, and crit last. as a holy priest.

Without looking at EJ sites that just comes from reading tooltips on what stats do provided in game.

the exact rating conversions needed to determine weather or not 1 piece is better then another are completely useless for 90% of the content offered. When it comes to those tradeoffs, is 100 int loss worth the gain of 100 spirit or do i need 200, or perhaps 300 to make up for it. In general, just playing your class will tell you. If your struggeling for mana you'll take the spirit one regardelss of the intellect one being slightely better. If everything feels allright it doesn't matter wich one you pick, as again its either bigger spells or more mana and you pick wich you like better, plus you are not struggeling so you didn't need the upgrade anyway.

Its only when everything falls apart, you losing too much mana, not being able to keep up with what you need to do where sites like EJ come into play.
 
@Tobold, I believe "pressing a single button" is your metaphor for "simple task", so I'd like to ask you how can a reward for a simple task be "epic"? I agree that the most important factor (or the only one) on casual vs. hardcore scale is the amount of effort the player is willing to put into game but the amount of "epicness" is tied to the effort as well. As many people said before, the awards given to us in games are virtual - i. e. cheap and easily duplicated by the game producers. That means it's not the award that matters but the act of reaching it - the more effort one puts in it, the more epic it is.

(Also, as a consequence, the rewards that casual players get are not epic by definition.)
 
I think you have to distinguish between "hard" and "hardcore."

Raiding requires hours of research on character optimizing, dozens of hours of obtaining that optimization, hours of research for each boss fight (none of which will apply to the next boss), a fixed raiding schedule which you must schedule your real life around, and perfect execution.

Right now, we are only talking about fixing that last part. Even if you totally eliminated the need for perfect execution, raiding would still be an activity which applies only to people with a hardcore dedication to the game.

I give up on "fixing" raiding. Raiding is just not a good design for the majority of the players. Let the hardcore have it, they seem to be happy with it. Make something new for casual players.
 
how can a reward for a simple task be "epic"?

You need to roll with the terminology used by players here. An "epic" is "epic" because it has purple pixels, even if you didn't do anything special to get it. A "heroic" is "heroic" because it says so on the dropdown menu of the dungeon finder, not because there is any heroism involved. A "raid" in a MMORPG has nothing to do with a military raid, a police raid, or a corporate raid.

In reality the hardcore end game raiders that you referr to in this post are limited to around 100 / 200 per server.

I'm refering to Syncaine, who isn't in the top 100 / 200 players on his Rift server.

Furthermore what I am saying is that there is already a strong business incentive to displease the top 10% to please the middle 80% (the bottom 10% not being affected). I don't think any company can afford to displease the middle 98% to please the top 1%.
 
Hi Tobold!

I think you're understating the role of intelligent play in raiding. There aren't very many tank-n-spank or 'move out of the fire' type fights anymore. Almost all encounters include some element of randomness (my favorite is heroic omnotron, every pull is different!), and while many aspects of the encounter are scripted, it's a relatively complex script! Just look at how many players still attempt and fail to complete these 'pre-determined moves from youtube'. One major difference between a mediocre raider and a good raider is the ability to recognize and adapt for whatever situation comes up.

Really, I'm sure most of us know players who just can't seem to pull it together. The hunter that always gets killed by massive crash on magmaw, the moonkin who sits in black puddles in maloriak, not to mention all the people who failed at Heigen's safety dance every single attempt. If intelligence were not a factor, you'd expect these people to get better over time, as they get more practice. And yet they don't. Or perhaps they do, but it takes far more practice and failures than the average across the raid.

What I love about raiding is that it's basically one of the performing arts, where your performance is determined by the quality of your gear, the precision of your execution, the rapid integration of data into a strategy, and your ability to merge seamlessly into your group. Imagine if someone enjoys playing the cello! He spend hours every day practicing his music and studying his sheet music, to better capture all the little nuances of his play. He come to every concert well prepared and ready to play. Of course, his play is restricted to what's written in the score, which he can find dozens and dozens of previous recordings of, but that's ok, he wants to do it himself, too! Truly, he's a hardcore cellist, and in a raid, I mean orchestra, with similarly hardcore players, he can make some truly enjoyable music!

It always puzzles me that people point at pretty much the exact parallel system of how raiding works and say it's a problem, when every other performing art it's simply the norm.

And surely there are many people who wish to become musicians on that level, but who simply lack the ability to achieve it. Just as there are players in wow who don't have the skill to accomplish hardcore raids.

About accessibility. It's sad when a system limits the ability of the strong to reach ever higher levels of excellence, just to let the weak achieve beyond what they merit. Poor raiding ability shouldn't be catered to by making easier raids, rather there should be room for alternative advancement, so that people who don't do well at or don't care for raiding (casual or hardcore) still have something to do at endgame.
 
The hunter that always gets killed by massive crash on magmaw, the moonkin who sits in black puddles in maloriak, not to mention all the people who failed at Heigen's safety dance every single attempt.

I think it is totally possible for somebody to completely intellectually understanding Heigen's safety dance, but still be unable to complete it due to lack of motor skills and reaction time. Case in point: At the time my guild did Heigen, we had a player whose ability to do that dance depended on whether he was playing on his laptop or his main PC, which had less lag.

The fact that Heigan's dance is the same every time suggests to me that intelligence has nothing to do with succeeding in it.
 
"That is almost certainly completely wrong. There is no single agreed upon definition of intelligence, but most scientists agree that intelligence is about figuring things out, being able to adapt to complicated circumstances. A raid encounter in which the boss would use random abilities, and raiders would have to think on the spot about how to counter these abilities would require intelligence. But we all know raids don't work like that."

That's in a perfect situation, which is very unlikely. In a far more likely scenario, there will be problems cropping up in the raid. Intrinsic knowledge of your class, along with the ability to make intelligent decision quickly can be the difference between a raid wiping and a raid failing.
 
There really are gamers "too stupid to raid". Actually they possess too little general gaming expertise ,due to being first time gamers, to learn in a reasonable amount of time.

Blizzard (and Trion) would rather be the Nintendo Wii by recruiting more non-gamers and less skilled gamers, then be the XBox 360. And look where Microsoft is going: More Kinect motion games and even adding in gimmicky Kinect controls into hardcore games that don't need it.
 
I think that saying that current raiding doesn't require intelligence is a very reactionary position. You can simultaneously accept that high level raiding is a game that requires intelligence and reject the idea that everyone who doesn't raid is a moron.

Michael's comparison to a cellist is very good. In order to be a master of a musical instrument you have to practice until your hands can pretty much play it by themselves. Only by mastering playing mechanically can you stop playing mechanically. If you never get past the stage where you are focusing on twitch reflexes then you never get to the stage where you actually make decisions.

I don't think successful raiders spend time watching boss kill videos and trying to copy them. That is coloured by my personal experience since my guild did not do that. We figured out ways to approach the boss, continuously modified our strategy, used good communication and teamwork and made tough decisions in the middle of encounters. All of that is possible and ideal in the WoW raiding game. That is what the first kill guilds do. As far as I can tell, the PuG is basically the limit of what can be accomplished with rigorous individual play and no teamwork or decision making - you can do well but not extremely well, and you can only do well with extreme discipline.

You could win almost all video games by watching videos and memorizing patterns, but for the most part that is not how people play them. That aspect is extremely overblown.
 
If what Inq and I were doing falls into the hardcore category, then I fear for the genre. We did not watch youtube, we did not min/max (hell we had a guy who forgot to buy his skills from lvl 20 to 50), and we went in with whatever five we had, optimal setup or not. And even in their original forms, we were not struggling heavily to complete them (and by all accounts, we did them under-geared). The 1.2 versions are, literally, trivial.

Notice I never use the terms moron though, it is all about effort. That's the beauty of the genre; basically anyone can reach 'the end' if they just try. 1.2 made it so you reach the end in 20 minutes without having to try once. I don't find games like that fun.

"If developers design a game which requires too much effort from the average player for too little gain, the average players will start leaving the game. "

This is the part I strongly disagree with, and WoW's sub history does as well. Vanilla/BC, which had a MUCH harder end-game that fewer players saw to completion, saw massive growth. WotLK/Cata, with raids being cleared by all who stepped inside, have brought decline.

Difficulty is much like PvP; a lot of players will tell you one thing, but their actions in-game tell a different story. Lots of people SAY they want PvP, just like lots of players say they want easier raiding. In game, they get upset over PvP, and they don't stick around long after those raids become easy.

Weak devs cave in to these short-sighted demands, and it ruins games. After all, back in vanilla tons of players were on the forums complaining about the 'elitist' raids, yet as they did so they had their buddies sign up for the game, in droves, hoping to gear up and get into MC.
 
You started out by suggesting you were going to refute Syncaine's argument that "In a game that is too hard, the not good enough players can always work to improve, while in a game that is too easy, the too good players can't do anything to get worse."

But you did nothing but set up a strawman argument. Syncaine never mentioned intelligence, nor did he refer to hardcore or casual users (despite the title of his blog).

His statement seems completely accurate to me and you did nothing to refute it. "Good enough" simply means able to complete content at the moment. His argument applies equally to hardcore raiders and casual solo players alike.

I'm a casual solo player, and I would love to have extremely difficult solo content in wow that takes me years to build up to and work through. Making things more "accessible" because people are loudly complaining about a failure to be instantly gratified is not only short sighted, its not even helping the people who are complaining.

I've seen people complain about something for long periods of time while simultaneously continuing to remain subscribed and work on getting better. And when they finally do succeed, even the complainers feel a much greater sense of accomplishment than they do when game companies cave in to pressure and give the majority what they only think they want.

I've also seen people complain that something was too hard, then find it suddenly trivial in the next patch, and then decide they were bored with the game and stop playing entirely.

Having said all that -- Trion may or may not be doing the smart thing. Catering to the whining masses is not necessarily the wrong business decision.
 
That was well said Syncaine. It's great to see the blogging community come together here and finally make sense. ;)
 
As a player that went through the growing process of learning to play in Vanilla WoW I am deeply disappointed in the direction it has taken these past two expansions in the name of accessibility.

I worked my way up the "treadmill" system, starting in MC, eventually moving to BWL then AQ then finally Naxx. (Upgrading to different guilds in the process as my own skills improved). It was an outstanding experience and, in my opinion, the epitome of a raiding curve for MMOs.

This new method of everyone gets an epic just for showing up (grinding 5 man heroics) is so shallow by comparison. Its boring, its easy, it stops being fun quickly. Thus people leave...

More content would help solve this, but since the raids now go with the single-raid tier formula content is burned up by the skilled players quite fast (or burnt out on by the less skilled players). A wider range of content is whats needed.. which is exactly what classic and BC WoW provided.
 
Easy/Medium/Hard/Hardcore/Insane...ect. - All of these terms existed long before MMO's came into being, and were developed and used in single player games as a means of offering replayability once a lesser challenge level had been reached by the player. The term Hardcore, in most cases, denoted the maximum level of difficulty that a game could offer a player, so it was adopted as a way of distinguishing oneself amongst gamers who played the same game. It offered bragging rights and was a reward in and of itself to those who attained it.

Accessibility in this case was not an issue, as players had a choice to revert back to an easier mode if their success in the harder modes didnt pan out.

Gamers of a specific genre will tend to establish its own hierarchy or pinnacle pyramid as a means of establishing the weight and measure system that is used to rank or measure players on a peer scale.

First Person Shooters evolved into a competetive activity as competitive events/tournaments served to establish a hierarchy based on player success as defined by skill when pitted against another human being. It's the reason we have the Thresh's and Fatality's of the world.

In a game like WoW, there are several peer groups, each with its own idea of what activity is considered important enough to be deemed worthy of establishing a specific manner of peer recognition.

I wonder if the Thresh's and Fatality's of the world have ever been questioned about what activities they would find worthy of participating in - in a game like WoW? Would they choose raiding? Would they choose Arena matches? Would they consider a Heroic raid boss to be more important than a regular mode boss of the same instance?

I tend to think that Arena would be the most likely choice if compared to the dynamics of a FPS, in that pitting players against each other still holds a greater value to those types of players than simply beating a scripted raid boss, but then again MMO's have attempted to redefine raiding as a pinnacle activity due to the notion that functioning and succeeding in large groups is just as important as individual activity when compared against FPS's, and the growing pains associated with defining a new genre in terms of esteem and importance will lead to highly contested debates over which activity is more worthy of praise.

The end game of professions in WoW is reaching skill level 525(540 for engy's). The end game of raiding is to down the last boss in a particular instance. The end game of Arena matches is earning a suitable ranking and belonging to a peer group that recognizes that ranking as something worthy of recognition. The end game of leveling is reaching level 85. Does it matter if a person is the worlds first to do so? Does it matter if a player spends 20, 30 or 40 or more hours a week playing the game? Does it matter if a player never raids due to their realife work/family demands and finds some other activity equally as important as the Raider or Arena player finds theirs?

I think that the answers to these types of questions are entirely subjective, and any debate about relative importance is a waste of time, thusly discussing "accessiblity" is rather fruitless so long as players find their activity in a game fun and worthy of doing. If a player wants to join a raiding guild and establish their success based on that, then more power to them. If the EJ types want to spend the time and resources doing what they do, then more power to them as well. If the Arena types want to establish a competitive ladder and laud each other with accolades based on ranking or wins/losses, then more power to them as well. There are plenty of activities in a game like WoW that can give each person their own measure of success or peer recognition, and there is simply no use trying to debate which is more important in terms of making one more or less hardcore than another player.
 
@Rick
How come you had to upgrade guilds to move to another raiding tier? Why didn't your guild move on to the next raiding tier?

Is it maybe because no guild was ever done with a raiding tier? Doesn't sound like what Nils would call a "pleasant social environment", with everyone ditching their guildmates every raid tier.

How did TBC solve this problem?
 
A very good point Bill.
At my server all raid groups had a policy: Those who jump raid groups weren't let in.

Of course, other servers were different. Especially the anlgo-american servers are often home to more 'competitive/selfish' players. No offense.

I agree that raid-jumping was an issue. I think that if a majority of players on a server dislike it, it can be avoided.
 
@syncaine

BC worked because the end game offered meaningful 5-man progression, and that is what most players did. Raiding in BC (especially beyond Kara) was something only small minority did.

BC raiding was not at all popular. Claiming it was is just a damn lie.
 
In my opinion, when it comes to Rift the real issue is that instanced raids are out of kilter with the game's U.S.P. All this three bears stuff over whether the T1/T2/Raid instances are "too hard" "too easy" or "just right" is a sideshow.

Rift's U.S.P. is the continual spawning of open-world planar invasions. In beta these were thrilling, unpredictable and much more "dynamic", to use the buzzword du jour, than they are now. Even so, open-world invasion content continues to be extremely popular and well-atended at all levels, at least on the two servers I play on.

If the development time that's being wasted on new instanced raid content was instead being spent on adding new overland dynamic invasion content of the same quality, complexity and detail it would be better for the future of the game.

Even if Trion were to be successful in providing a steady stream of "just right" T1/T2/Raid content, if they then hid it all away in instances it would risk sucking all the life out of the part of Rift that makes it different from most other MMOs.

And player-triggered "Expert" rifts aren't much better than instances, either.
 
@Samus: Ah but see, popular is a tricky thing. Did a significant amount of players down Illidan? No. Not even close. (Of course, how many cleared NAX40, or even AQ40?)

On the one hand, that means lots of players never say the 'content' that is Illidan dying. On the other, it means that a huge portion of the population still HAD content to work towards.

That's my whole point; having content to work towards is what drives an MMO, it's what sustains it over the months/years. MMO history, not just WoW history, strongly supports this.

Now is having tough raid content the be-all-end-all path to success? No, of course not. As you mentioned, BC did other things right as well, but the way raiding was set up in both Vanilla and BC is very much a part of that success.
 
@Nils
So if you didn't let in raid jumpers, how did you restock open slots? Run new raiders through the attunements and carry them through raids until they had the gear they needed? Or run them through earlier raids?

The way you make it sound, the game design was so lax in this regard you had to force it down people's throats. Doesn't sound like a good design to me.
 
Bill, we had weekly raids to equip new players. Mostly Karazhan. We also often took 2-3 players (of 25) to farming raids.

Equipping players actually was very fast. They often were 80% geared after 1 or 2 run-throughs.

So, yes, we often took newbies.
Of course, we also took players from other raids if they departed the prior raid in mutual agreement. For example, because our shedule was better for them.
 
@Nils: I find the idea of not taking guild jumpers really bizarre. While I had the good fortune of having a sizable group of real life friends who were all very competent raiders, I think most people need to hop around a few guilds before they find one that fits them. If you start raiding MC in a guild that has been doing MC for 1.5 years and after a month you think you'd rather be making progress, it just makes sense to look for a guild that is doing BWL or AQ. If a person in that situation can't switch then I think they'd just quit playing or jump servers.

Some people who seem to frequently guild hop also seem to be obviously problematic. But moving from a less progressed guild to a more progressed one because your skill level and play style is better suited to the latter will always be a part of a viable raiding scene.
 
Sthenno, last comment, because Tobold doesn't like it when I overtake his comments sections ;)

First, we didn't have a raidguild.

Guild and raid were different things, although there was an overlap. Of course we did take people that just looked for a better community. But that really was the point.

If you told us that you wanted in, because our content-progression was more to your liking, or because you wanted items so that you could apply at another raid well .. goodbye ;)

The raid was a community. We looked for people who wanted to join the community.
 
I think Bhagpuss has the right of it. Rift has the answer to the problems inherent in an end game design focused on raiding (dynamic world events!), and instead of focusing their strengths they are putting most of their recent effort into...making raiding their primary endgame.

Which is a really good idea because there aren't already a ton of other MMOs where raiding is the primary endgame. Oh, no wait...that's not true at all..

It only matters to the subset of their playerbases that wants to raid whether the raids are "hardcore enough." In contrast, everyone that reached the cap must like rifts to some extent, or they never would have made it there in the first place.
 
Nils,

I think you need to read more books ;) (Sorry, I'm late to the party – this relates to your first comment above).

As for the difficulty/random abilities thing, your latest mention of this got me thinking about superheroes. Most of them (except Superman, but he's just silly) have a limited set of super-abilities. They're not "random", but they can still be interesting. Perhaps it would be enough if the attacks were simply made less predictable. I realise that players never liked that – they want the warning of what's incoming with a big booming "come closer, closer and buuuurn" etc. But just by making the bad guy use its abilities in a more random manner, many of the videos and walkthroughs would be made obsolete.

Even better, make the fights "unfair" – sometimes it's a pushover and the bad guy doesn't hit much. Next time he uses his awesome sword of infinite murder ten times in the fight. Fun!
 
Oscar, that would be a great simulation, but terrible, terrible gameplay.
*Damn, I comment too much.
 
Nah, I'm not so sure about that. It all comes down to the implementation. If you make one-hit-kill flame thingies like what's-his-face in that Kara library then, yeah, terrible gameplay. But make it better. Make stuff that doesn't kill you instantly but just makes things "interesting", as the Sid Meier fans say. Perhaps not so terrible. Perhaps...

And the unfairness, well. Yeah, probably terrible. But still cool. I'm playing a lot of action puzzlers again lately, like Lumines, Bejeweled etc. None of them are fair, really. Every now and then you get a lucky run and you feel like the smartest guy around. Next time you're dead in 20 seconds again. Not much simulation there, but certainly good gameplay :)
 
...oh, and the only thing you're commenting too much about lately is that you comment too much.
 
This blog is too damn accessible for hardcore commenters like Nils camping the place all day.
 
Syncaine definitely does not address the people who don't give a rat's posterior about seeing any particular boss or encounter. It's fun to get an epic, but if I don't get epics for weeks I am okay with that and I still show up. I was still tanking ICC three nights a week when all the boss and loot motivated people left and all we had were newbies and alts.

I couldn't care less about killing Nefarian. I'm there because I love my guild. Because I love my guild, sometimes I have to accept that loyal people who are sub-average players will be in the raids. We fill the raids with who shows up. I have already spent two nights this week wiping on Cho'gall because new people have to learn how to interrupt and the healers have to learn how to heal while not standing in stuff.

Will we down all the bosses before the next tier of content? Who cares?! We're doing something together.

Syncaine is wrong: it's perfectly easy to play worse. Bring in some newbies who have almost not raid gear. Works every time.
 
This is the part I strongly disagree with, and WoW's sub history does as well. Vanilla/BC, which had a MUCH harder end-game that fewer players saw to completion, saw massive growth. WotLK/Cata, with raids being cleared by all who stepped inside, have brought decline.

This is the most pernicious, asinine fallacy in any discussion about World of Warcraft.

WoW's sub history SAYS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about any causation between difficulty and subscription numbers. You have no idea, no idea, about the reasons why people bought WoW for the first time in 2005. To blithely claim it was because of endgame difficulty, an endgame that you readily admit relatively no one experienced, is the height of intellectual laziness. By the exact same argument, I could claim that it was precisely because WoW was easier and more casual-friendly than the rest of the MMO market at the time that they saw the subscriber growth they did. The rest of the non-NA growth in TBC can be attributed to WoW's release in China and elsewhere. Hell, you cannot even postulate that the non-raiding endgame had enough (or any) content for casual players to do because you have NO IDEA what level of player churn existed at said endgame, or why.

Did you know ice cream causes people to drown? The fact that when ice cream sales increase so do the number of drownings deaths proves this to be the case; when ice cream sales decline, so do drowning deaths. Clearly, Dairy Queen needs to be nerfed! Or... it is because the hotter it gets, the more likely people are to both swim in water (increasing the odds of drowning) and buy ice cream.

You can argue that a harder endgame is more entertaining to you, or better from some philosophical standpoint. What you cannot do with any sort of intellectual honesty is argue that WoW's sub numbers "prove" anything other than what WoW's sub numbers were. Even if we were to assume your asinine correlation was correct, what we should have seen were massive growth in WoW's subs based on a much harder endgame in Cataclysm than Wrath - that it was exactly the opposite is not something you can simply hand-wave away by grouping Wrath with Cata or saying "too little, too late" or anything else.

------

That's my whole point; having content to work towards is what drives an MMO, it's what sustains it over the months/years. MMO history, not just WoW history, strongly supports this.

Do you consider Sinestra content to work towards? I don't. Hell, I do not consider Cho'gall or Neferian or Al'akir content to work towards. Most of your argument makes it sound like the existance of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet is enough to keep us Proles warm at night with the thought of it happening to us one day. That is not how it works, nor is it how linear raid tiers work for anyone with a conscious understanding of the extent of their own abilities and/or what they want for the effort required.

The only sense in which you are correct is that having no method of personally improving your character OR being capable of making your time spent in the game mean something will kill the drive to play said MMO. You are wrong to suggest or imply that an out-of-reach goal counts as a goal, or that it makes for compelling game design for anyone other than masochists. The guilds still stuck in T5 when Sunwell was out were not going to down Illidan, let alone the first boss in the new place. Nor the Kara/ZA guilds, as mine was. The thought of unfinished content did not sustain me when we failed to progress past 2/5 in ZA; PvP and the AH sustained me. I had run out of raiding content the same as someone with KJ on farm.
 
Azuriel, you make the mistake of assuming that statistical correlation doesn't have any effect on the likelihood of an hypothesis.

Sure, there are those many examples of statistical correlation that are obviously abusurd. Often, because there obviously is no causal relationship, but just one underlying reason for both events.

This is clearly not the case for subscriber numbers and game design. So please understand that statistical correlation, while it is not mathematical evidence, does increase the likelyhood of a hypothesis.

Actually I shouldn't really have to link to the mathematical formulation of this idea. It's perfect common sense; and not a fallacy.
 
Nils,

I liked Azuriel's example. It is a fun play on statistics.

Oh, and he's absolutely right. Syncaine assuming (and others perhaps) assuming this or that about people's motivation for leaving or joining the game are clearly not based on any reliable metrics, unless he has access to a whole different channel of information (and this being the Internet, I highly doubt that).

Syncaine's opinion that MMO players are happier when they have something out of reach to work towards is interesting. But his using vague statistics on WoW subscriber numbers to seek to prove it is weak.

Azuriel, if Blizzard were to offer free ice cream in-game, would they drown in subscribers?
 
Oscar, there are many statistical fallacies. Most peole find them very fun when they encounter them the first time.

What is annoying is when they start to weant to appear extra-smart by applying them to every situation.

I agree that Syncaine's statistical argument is not very strong. But that doesn't mean that it is wrong. And there's more to the argument. I wrote on my blog.

[..] Sure, players moaned and complained about those who had more: The unemployed, the students, the born-rich. But at the end of the day they had fun when they played in the evening. And thus they stayed subscribed.

And that's really the point. Players don't quit due to jealousy; they just complain about it. In fact, other people having more than they do encourages them.
 
No need to be condescending, Nils.

You seem to subscribe to Syncaine's view and I tend to agree with Azuriel. I don't think Bill's billions push other than the hardcore to seek riches of their own. Funnily, Bill didn't make the billions in the first place by catering to the hardcore either :)
 
Yeah, sorry for that, Oscar. I work in this statistics/probability business and become easily annoyed by things like that. My apologies, Azuriel.

Bill Gates is irrelevant. The point is that players need to see a possibility to get there.

Entering Molten Core was never impossible. In, fact you could go there on your own. You could kill the first few mobs without 40 people.

Bill made his millions by being smart, creative, very lucky(!) and because he had the courage to make his own business and take some risks. That's the correct anology. He saw other people who could make enough money with their own business and decided that he can, too.
 
Interestingly, I don't think Bill Gates is in the least irrelevant. I didn't think of it before and I'm sure Azuriel didn't either. But as far as I recall, all of Microsoft's really big early products (Windows, Q-DOS, Excel, Powerpoint – arguably even Word) were slick versions of otherwise available software. Not necessarily better, but certainly more accessible.

Sort of like a couple of success stories in the MMO sphere. :)
 
#############
@Tobold
MMORPGs are entertainment products.
Accessibility isn't a philosophical concept, it is a business survival strategy.


I agree with this but I would add that "Accessiblity/nerfing" is all in the eye of the beholder. During Wrath many players like myself who played little TBC end game, thought Wrath was tough in parts.
Now with Cata coming out "tough" then "soft" it has a sort of confused direction in which no one will be happy.

##############
@Tobold
Single-player games have solved the exact same problem years ago by introducing variable difficulty.


I disagree that variable difficulty is the answer here. Wrath was supposed to solve this with Hard modes. But it mostly ended up a cherry pick of easy/hard modes for better loot. Lootship anyone?


Variable difficulty requires the following:

Calibrating Content
Calibrating Reward
Multiple beta testing runs
Creation of incremental "new" "rare" content (special attacks, graphics, loot)


All and all Blizzard decided that they wanted to make the non-hard mode of Cata into the Wrath level hard mode.
Why? Anyones guess but my money is on the "money" cost of creating easier content that you have to make MORE of to keep people happy.

#######
In the end that was the dimension that Blizzard used to decide the easy-hard argument they attempted to set the difficulty to match the amount of content they had at launch.

What we have probably discovered that their assumption that raiding population was a 1 hump normal distribution was completely wrong.
I would say now that they have discovered that raiders are at least bimodial 2 hump population distributions. AND setting difficluty wrong leaves out not 10-20% but 50% of players.

In essence with Cata you can't hang out with your casual friends anymore and raid. You either hang out with the 1 hump EJs or don't raid.


This ultimately implies not "hardmodes" but probably 2 distinct end game experiences.... or you just nerf to make EJs mad since their hump is smaller.

My money is on nerf and deal with the EJ whines.
 
@Azuriel: Why WoW sold initially and why it retained people until WotLK are two different things, and mixing them together is pretty silly.

The fact remains that, during vanilla/BC, subs grew. The fact also remains that, during that time, the end-game was what it was. Both of those facts changed in WotLK and beyond.

Now if you want to believe they have nothing to do with each other, that's fine. You have your view of things, backed up by what you know of the genre, and I have mine.
 
A minority of players raid. Thus raiding is not responsible for whether a majority of players subscribe or not, as raiding doesn't affect their game experience in the least. Changes to the raid game only affects the subscriptions of raiders, which is why it would be a good idea to make changes that create more raiders.
 
Can you make an educated guess about the percentage of players who reach maxlvl and play for an extended time at maxlvl, but does not raid, Tobold? Do you maybe even have some data?
I'm honestly curious.
 
Having something to look forward to, even if you'll never make it. Knowing that there is another class of raids out there that you havent' reached and may never reach but you can at least try is a factor for a certain part of the population. During vanilla WoW, I never made it through the entirety of Naxx or AQ40, I only ever made it completely through BWL but that didn't change my opinion of the importance of those raids.

Thinking back on it now, I think I did indeed like it better when I knew it might take me forever to catch up to the top raiders. I liked it better when there were raids I might never reach, because it gave me something to constantly work for. Only 5% of raiders may have beaten Kel'thuzad, but that didn't make that content irrelevant to me. That content in fact was VERY relevant, it made the game more exciting.

I also enjoyed world pvp as a day 1 player, so maybe my opinion is not the common opinion today.
 
@Nils

I crunched those numbers in another thread, using WoWprogress and WarcraftRealms census.

There are currently 1.97 million active level 85 characters, of which 780k (or just under 40%) have killed at least one raid boss.

"Active" means logged in within the last 30 days, and that number is going down. I would suggest a large number of people who did not want to raid are quitting the game (myself and Tobold being prime examples).
 
Something that seems to be missing here is any accounting for the horribly awkward 10-25 transition. Kara was a great raid, but was it a hundred times better than Gruul's Lair? Okay maybe. But the point I'm trying to get at is that regardless of skill or time requirements, there is a huge organizational problem created by that shift and that's going to skew any statistics.
 
Samus: it's not clear how one can square that active character count with the ~5 M active subscribers that are supposed to be on the NA/EU servers.
 
3 million characters under the level cap. It might be hard to believe, but for example I see my wife playing only characters below the level cap.

Ding 85 = Game Over
 
Just to support you Tobold. I am a person who despise Raiding and I simply "Cannot" be a Hardcore MMORPG player (whether it's raiding or simply leveling up too fast or spending a lot of time on a game). However, I love gaming a lot. I play StarCraft 2 and I tell you I beat the average player easily. I beat 3 average players against solo-self.

When I'm with my friends who do play MMORPGs and are hardcore raiders. I beat three of them in StarCraft 2 easily. It's true I probably spent a little more time playing the game but not much more to be honest. I think they need 500% more play time to be a match against me and to be honest they will never ever beat me 1v1 even if they practice for 10 years (I've thrown that challenge many times!).

What that tells you is that the "hardcore" raider is not necessary an Expert or Intelligent player, actually Hardcore MMORPG player is simply any person who have time to waste.
 
@Oscar:

Blizzard game designers came to the conclusion over the years that large randomness is simply not that fun of a gameplay mechanic. They felt that too much of it made the raider feel like they were just playing the odds, and if they did make it through, it was because of luck rather than their own accomplishments.

This is why, over the years, mechanics have become less random and simple stuff like parry thrashing have been removed altogether from the game.
 
Thanks for pointing that out. I'm not even close to being a game designer, and it is of course a bit presumptuous to step in and try to second-guess some of the foremost ones.

But do you think that this antipathy against randomness is a feeling shared by all, or just by those who have been grinding the same fight for months?

Of course, commercially it seems wise to make people *want* to grind the fight for months... So I suppose that's what it's all about.

For the record, I always kinda liked the parry mechanics and the other random stuff myself.
 
@Neowolf & Samus on subscribers: For the most part, WoWCensus can't really be used as an accurate number of active subscribers; the addon (if it's unchanged from the last time I've used it many many years ago) can and will miss characters if they're offline, and requires active scanning by the players on the server.

Then you have to realize that a subscriber can have multiple characters, and a subscriber may not have multiple characters that actually raid.

@Syncaine's theory that harder raids = more subscribers:

I would much rather attribute WoW's early growth to much more likely things: Blizzard's popularity and success as a game company which made solid games prior to WoW, and word of mouth. Endgame content is a matter of retaining subscribers, not attracting subscribers.

You're also missing out on many other factors that have changed between Vanilla/BC and WotLK/Cata: pool of new available players that would play WoW growing smaller, players staying interested in the same game for over 4-6 years, WoW being grown out of as a hot topic in the gaming world, etc, so on and so forth. There's so many other factors that could be pointed at that saying the difficulty of Vanilla/BC in relation to WoTLK/Cata is the cause of player decline is unsubstantiated.

And last I recalled, Cata was supposed to be hard in the eyes of casuals, so I'm not sure why you would claim this as your stance. If difficulty (and therefore, content) was the problem, then Cata should be seeing growth rates similar to Vanilla/BC, but nothing suggests that's even close to being the case.
 
Oscar: But do you think that this antipathy against randomness is a feeling shared by all, or just by those who have been grinding the same fight for months?

I don't think people who had stuff on farm cared all that much about it. I think the feeling was more of for players doing progression, where if a shit sandwich just happens out of nowhere, it removed the feeling that player were be in control.

And IIRC from random design stuff I've read over the years, if anything else, making the players feel helpless is the worst thing of all.
 
Yeah, you do make a convincing point. But if that's the case, then why is Tetris still popular? (Well, maybe it isn't - but you get the point :))
 
@Pzychotix

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the WarcraftRealms census, I can only say that it is the most accurate data we have. WoWProgress, on the other hand, scrapes the Armory, and therefore misses no one. This would imply the total number of level 85 characters may actually be higher, and thus the percentage of raiders is lower.

There is also no way we can distinguish a new player from an alt. I can only say that in my experience, most raiders with alts will switch them out based on the raid or encounter needs. This would mean that one player is representing 2+ characters which have killed at least one raid boss. Again, this would mean the proportion of actual players who raid is smaller.

Interesting fact:

According to WoWWiki, on 10 June, 2010 WarcraftRealms was reporting over 6 million active 10-85 characters. Now, they are reporting only 3.87 million. WoW player population in NA and EU has dropped by 35.5% in the last year.
 
Just to support you Tobold. I am a person who despise Raiding and I simply "Cannot" be a Hardcore MMORPG player (whether it's raiding or simply leveling up too fast or spending a lot of time on an MMORPG). However, I love gaming and I play StarCraft 2 and I tell you I beat the average player easily. I usually (alone) beat 3 average players.

When I'm with my friends who do play MMORPGs and are hardcore raiders. I single handedly beat three of them in StarCraft 2 easily. And that's not because I spent more time playing StarCraft 2 (or WarCraft 3) which is true I probably do spend a little more time on these games thant hey do. It's still a fact that they are far far far behind me in that particular situation and I don't see it possible for any of them to beat me 1-on-1 no matter what because they have limitations that I didn't figure out yet.

They fail to have the tactical and strategical talent that I had. They do grim mistakes all the time and even when they learn I can always bullshit them, out play them or fool them. Maybe it's the APM or the Multitasking abilities? or maybe it is the type of brain that is better at analyzing strategic and tactical movements. This is also true for other gmaes like MtG they tend to fail to out play me in these games as well.

These are all "Hardcore" MMORPG raiders. They always beat me to the max level in any MMORPG game we played and I cannot compete with their time investment in a game because I cannot play a game for 8 hours a day for months it just mind numbing. So, they are always Max Level and Always Raiding and they always consider themselves "Hardcore". But does that translate to a "good player" I think not... I don't see anything challenging with wasting someone's time and that's the only criteria you need to be a hardcore raider (that and an double digit IQ at least). So, unless you're an amiba, if you have time... you can be a hardcore raider.
 
Why are people so quick to separate retention of players and attraction of new players? A player who stops playing will cancel out a new one; a player saved is a player earned. Who is going to encourage more people to play, whether actively recruiting or just "I heard you play this game", someone who still plays or someone who quit?

We're also assuming a lot more information than most new players would have. Do they even know there is an end-game? I sure didn't. Do they have a certain time/reward expectation? Of course not, since there's no baseline.

What was the number they gave, 30% of players not getting past level 10 or 20? That's not caused by raiding being too hard. Probably not caused by it being too easy either. But the wrong tuning of raids can cause problems with retention, and therefor growth.

Accessibility isn't the biggest problem, but of what content a player has even if they cannot do the next tier of content. Vanilla and BC both had a lot of non-raiding content, which helps retain non-raiding players.
 
All this makes me wonder why they want leveling to always take the same amount of time. Not that I ever believed this to make sense. ..
 
@Klepsacovic
The number you are quoting is in regards to trial accounts, not all accounts in general.
 
I realize I'm late to the conversation, but had to respond.

I'm college educated with 2 degrees and work as a health professional.

I'm intelligent.

I had Friday off, leveled my DK to 85 and decided to tank him out. Have a Hunter ilvl 352 gear, fully gemmed & enchanted. I understand the game. I tanked heroics w/ my DK in WotLK.

I spent FOUR hours researching a spec, gems/chants, reforging, rotations, making notes and cards, watched vids of all the bosses. And I was so wiped after I didn't even run a damn dungeon.

I rarely spend that much brainpower at work.

Anyone who says this game doesn't require high intelligence JUST TO PREPARE TO PLAY is on some other planet.

The playing itself is a byproduct of preparation, knowledge, and memory; and then muscle memory takes over with repetition. THAT's the point that it isn't hard anymore.

But it took intelligence to get there.
 
I spent FOUR hours researching a spec, gems/chants, reforging, rotations, making notes and cards, watched vids of all the bosses.

So your definition of intelligence is looking for information other people have put on the internet? I do agree that this is "work", but this falls outside my definition of intelligence.
 
I disagree. Reading other peoples' writings can require quite some brainpower. And DKs aren't easy to learn - especially not in theory.

I do agree, however, that figuring things out on your own is usually more fun and requires more creativity.
 
@valkrysa: Good catch there. I wish I knew how many accounts originate from trials. I suspect that people who buy the box straight away are more likely to stick around, since they don't want to waste the money and they may already know the game somewhat and plan to stay if they're spending money that they don't have to just yet. So maybe 30% of trials fail and only 5% of boxes (that might even be high), but if we don't know how many people are starting with the trial or the box, there is not much to get from that.

@Nils: Writings? Guides are made to avoid too much writing and reading. Gem X for Y role doesn't require a whole lot of complex writing to convey, nor does a general rotation. Beside watching the videos, most of that preparation requires about as much intelligence as your your average lab rat.
 
fixed using an example from my own experience:

I spent FOUR hours researching all about POSIX threads in C in order to better be able to write a basic webcrawler.

So your definition of intelligence is looking for information other people have put on the internet? I do agree that this is "work", but this falls outside my definition of intelligence.
 
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@Bristal and Valkrysa

If you're honestly arguing that tanking (or any other role) in WoW requires a high level of intelligence, then I believe you have a poor understanding of what intelligence is.

Intelligence isn't about being able to copy a spec from Elitest Jerks with the appropriate gems/enchants, repetitively pressing buttons in the right order and standing where the vids on tankspot tell you to. All of those could be done by a simple bot a lot more efficiently than any intelligent human. In fact, I'm fairly confident, with a suitable UI, a monkey could be trained to do it. Well, the pressing the buttons at the right time bit anyway.

I won't argue that it doesn't take skill, but intelligence certainly isn't a requirement.
 
Klepsacovic: Accessibility isn't the biggest problem, but of what content a player has even if they cannot do the next tier of content. Vanilla and BC both had a lot of non-raiding content, which helps retain non-raiding players.

I don't remember there being that much non-raiding content back then. And normal mode dungeons back then were no pushovers either.
 
Must-read comment
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
"I don't remember there being that much non-raiding content back then. And normal mode dungeons back then were no pushovers either."
There were quite a few high-level instances, with a few more added with Dire Maul. There was the outdoor content, mostly rep grinds, which had a decent bit added to it with the AQ patch, which gave a high-end 40-man, the more accessible 20-man, and a whole zone revamp. A mini-Cataclysm.

The instances weren't trivial, which I think is a good thing. It slows people down, adds a sense of accomplishment, and reduces repetitiveness.
 
@Tobold 17.6. 14:08
Oh, I have never seen adjective "epic" to be used that way; it usually means "really awesome" or something to that extent. Noun, on the other hand, is used the way you said.

@MMO Tomb 19.6. 07:39
Last time you said they hadn't played Starcraft 2 before; I also don't think that anyone has been able to practice Starcraft 2 for ten years because it's just 1 year old.

@Nils 18.6. 10:30
Just because he might be wrong, doesn't mean he is wrong - the same what can be said about your argument.

Consider that WoW is about 7 years old (unless I'm mistaken). Of course, there is a lot of MMOGs that are older but how many of them were able to keep their numbers at 50%+ of their maximum number of subscribers? Loss of subscriptions is something that in my experience happens to all games even if they don't change - especially when they don't change, so instead of asking what did Blizzard do wrong I think of asking what were they supposed to do to avoid this.
 
Klepsacovic: There were quite a few high-level instances, with a few more added with Dire Maul. There was the outdoor content, mostly rep grinds, which had a decent bit added to it with the AQ patch, which gave a high-end 40-man, the more accessible 20-man, and a whole zone revamp. A mini-Cataclysm.

There were by far fewer max level instances than there were in any of the expansions.

Outdoor content was minimal in BC, and rep grinds have existed in all of the expansions so far.

Big events (although few and far in between) have existed for all expansions so far. Sunwell for BC, Trial of the Crusader for WoTLK (and it's too early of course for Cata).

The instances weren't trivial, which I think is a good thing. It slows people down, adds a sense of accomplishment, and reduces repetitiveness.

Neither are Cata heroics. Yet people are complaining about those all the same.
 
"So your definition of intelligence is looking for information other people have put on the internet? I do agree that this is "work", but this falls outside my definition of intelligence."

Finding/evaluating sources, organizing and distilling down useful information, reading walls of often poorly written guidelines, applying the information to your own keyboard style; you don't think this requires intelligence?

Reading and comprehending someone else's reasearch doesn't require intelligence?

So, what's your definition, Mr. Smarty Pants?
 
OK, deep breath.

I think one of the problems with the "intelligence" debate is the audience.

While I live among a sea of people who shop, watch TV and do Facebook in their off time, you people are programming "bots".

I took human anatomy from a nationally renowned anatomist. He was brilliant. I asked him about his brilliance; he shrugged and said that to him, it was all just "common sense".

So perhaps what stretches my mind isn't what stretches your mind.
 
@Pzychotix:
As I count them, vanilla had 9 instances that we would reasonably expect to do at level 60. This is slightly stretched because of the gearing system, so it ends up including a place like BRD which is technically a pre-60 instance.
BC had 8 high level instances, 16 total heroics. which puts it significantly ahead of vanilla.
LK was the same.
Cata has 9 instances total and only 3 are max level, 5 with some stretching. So the "any of the expansions" part is completely false.

All of the expansions have had rep grinds, but they are being pushed into the more structured dailies and randoms, with few to no sandbox options.

As for the instances, there's a lot of context to consider. Random instances in a small pool of possible instances will cause more repetitiveness. The LFD tool makes it easier to grind out multiple runs. The badge system, especially one that allows multiple runs per day, encourages players to repeat the content very quickly. Then of course there's all the training of LK which told us that badges are meant to come very quickly and very easily.

These aren't problems with the instances themselves (not that I'm suggesting there are none), but with the way we use them.
 
On Instances: Cata normal mode instances can hardly be counted as instances. You literally can auto attack your way through, and you basically can't fail at them. The heroic mode instances would be a more apt comparison to Vanilla's difficulty levels, in which case there are an equal number of high level dungeons, and then which progresses to an additional two more troll dungeons (and presumably even more 5-man dungeons to come).

On rep grinds: Pre-dailies: Kill 9 million tigers. Post-dailies: More structured and reasonable, and less grindy feeling. There really weren't any sandbox options before, unless you consider farming without a quest more sandboxy than farming with a quest.


On Instances (yet again):

"Random instances in a small pool of possible instances will cause more repetitiveness."

In all of my asking of people here on Tobold's blog, not a single person has responded to doing normals instead of heroics. So they're choosing to do instances with the same pool size as before.

The LFD tool makes it easier to grind out multiple runs.

DPS had hour long queues prior to 4.1 (don't know about after). Getting groups together as a tank or healer has always been easy. So I would hardly call the LFD tool making it easier. The main benefit of the LFD has really only been for people running dungeons in sparse level regions (i.e. not max level).

The badge system, especially one that allows multiple runs per day, encourages players to repeat the content very quickly.

The exact opposite. It encourages the players to do heroic content only once a day for valor badges. After that, you only get the same amount of justice badges as defeating a heroic boss, so there's really no more incentive than before, where you would run instances for loot rather than badges + loot.

Then of course there's all the training of LK which told us that badges are meant to come very quickly and very easily.

Sure.
 
The impact of LFD wasn't in speed, it was in convenience. You can quest, farm, whatever (except PvP), while in the queue. Before LFD (and teleports) instancing was more zone-based, so if you were in the Plaguelands you were going to more easily find groups for Scholo and Strat, or Hellfire and the instances there. Ironically, the teleports and LFD system are a major boon to world travel, except at the same time we've gotten tightly packaged dailies and very little else to do out there.


Random queueing gives a slightly faster queue time, since it lets you take any slot, rather than specific ones. And more points are more points, even if they aren't valor.
 
not a single person has responded to doing normals instead of heroics

I actually wrote a whole post about that: People would do normal dungeons if normal dungeons would lead to normal raid dungeons. As it is, doing normal dungeons quickly stops being useful after you got the gear, and the gear isn't enough to start raiding.
 
@Tobold:

Oh yeah, the current state of normals is basically just filler content you get to do while you're levelling, and then straight into heroics. With this sort of progression, heroics become nothing more than the new "normal" mode that casuals have to face.
 
You're being facetious, Psychotix. As I said, you do normals to gear up. But once you are in complete BiS gear from normal dungeons, there isn't really much reason to visit them again. I'm not asking you to visit raid dungeons you don't get gear from either.
 
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