Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Why isn't a WoW more like golf?

A reader wrote me with an interesting comment on how to solve the problem of casual versus hardcore gamers. Right now the casual gamers complain if Blizzard spends too much developer time in making a top end raid dungeon like Sunwell Plateau, because they will never see it. And the reason why they will never see it is that success in raids is a pretty binary affair: either you kill the boss who drops the loot, or you don't. Now compare that to a game of golf: Both the best and the worst player can play on the same course. They don't compete directly against each other, they compete against the environment, but there isn't a minimum skill level to advance. The good golfer might make a birdie, one stroke under par, and the really, really bad golfer might need 10 strokes over par. But eventually his ball will be in the hole and he'll advance to the next hole. Even if the course is Augusta, or some other very hard place.

I wonder if that system could somehow be applied to MMORPG raiding. For example the monsters could become a bit easier every time the raid wipes, until at some point it is of the good difficulty level for the raid group attempting it. Of course the reward system would have to be changed completely, into some point system like PvP. The less wipes you need to kill a boss, the more points you get, and then there is a vendor somewhere who sells you epics for those points.

In a lesser way something similar already exists in Zul'Aman, with the timers. If you kill the bosses faster than the timer, you get more rewards. At least that increases the number of possible scores from 2 to 3: fail totally, kill boss slowly, kill boss in time. But that still isn't perfect, because there are still quite a lot of raid groups who never see the end of ZA. On a golf course everyone eventually reaches the 18th hole. Why shouldn't that be possible in a MMORPG.
For example the monsters could become a bit easier every time the raid wipes

Or you could imagine that the boss would not regen between wipes. Ok this would change the encounter design a lot, but hey...

The only thing I am afraid of, is that Blizzard would make encounters that are not designed to be beaten at once.

Instead of raiding KZ - Gruul - Mag - ... One would raid KZ, KZ, KZ just to down the boss "at its hardest".

Or even KZ - ... - Sunwell and the back to KZ...

This remind me a lot of the T0.5 encounter in UBRS, which was clearely not designed to be beaten by anyone in dungeon blues.

I am afraid that by wanting to make raiding more accessible, this design choice would make ti more elitist than ever.

Raiding would still take too long and that is my reason for disliking it.
I feel like I'm repeating myself:

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. People already complain about raiding taking too much time and how nolifers can just muscle through an encounter. The main complaint against the old ranking system in PvP was that it wasn't about skill, it was about who could dedicate 18+ hours per day for 3 months.

And now raid encounters should be redone to encourage such behavior?

What is this, Bizarro Tobold day?
Tobold, the idea you are proposing would 'break' the game for the Explorers and true causals. Those of us not interested in the status of owning the most 'uber' epics or the bragging rights of beating the hardest setting would simply exploit the difficulty-reduction mechanic to breeze through the content. Having thus 'completed' the game, many would quit -- that's bad business for Blizzard! The 'hardcore' would hate such design too, since the epics from lower-tier raids would be no longer necessary to advance to new raid content, thus robbing such gear of meaning and status.

WoW (the PvE portion at least) is ultimately a content-based game. Golf is benchmark-based. The same design choices don't apply. Would you enjoy grinding golf courses for additional clubs?
You're describing the timed Zul'aman run. My group does it timed, with about 10 minutes to spare (not record breaking) when we free the little gnome girl.

A casual golfer's group isn't going to get through that same golf course as quickly, and they won't be looting the PGA trophy (the bear mount).

And they posted that ZA was "too hard" all the same.

The model is a very smart and interesting idea, but the casual population already caused it to fail somewhat because it won't be seen by blizzard as being popular enough to repeat.
And the naked wype to make the boss easier ? ;)
The key difference is that by beating a golf course you don't get better golf club or other gear that is neccessary to beating the next, harder, golf course. In WoW the rawards are also tools for next phase in the game, and I'm afraid that's is the root cause for lot of bitterness, anger and division in player populace.
The model is a very smart and interesting idea, but the casual population already caused it to fail somewhat because it won't be seen by blizzard as being popular enough to repeat.

No the problem is they keep trying to find ways to have exactly the same content for Nihilum and the casual players. 5mans and Heroic 5 mans.. Stupid. By the time you are ready for heroics you don't want to go back and do the same thing on heroic mode. It's like console games. Yes a few hardcore achievement oriented people beat the game on all modes. most of the rest of us pic out regular to easy mode play the game and then we are done.

Its not the casuals that made it fail. Its the devs that thought they'd train casuals to become hard cores. Then when they realized it wasn't ever going to work they equated soloer with casual.

then after realizing thier utter failure they mumbled something about karazhan was supposed to be the UBRS of BC and they couldn't understand why more people didn't play it.

It's like watching a kid with ADHD try to focus on the details. They spend so much time with hard core gamers (because they are a gaming company after all), that they just can't connect with the people in the middle. When they realize that there is no one "casual" group. That there are casuals that like to solo, casuals that like to explor, and casuals that like to raid and every mix inbetween, then Maybe we'll see some improvement in thier game design.
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@sam & co. I think you have some valid points. I just want to add that the reason in Blizzard's very limited mind that this wouldn't work is because they view gear as a status symbol. Many players do too. If it is a status symbol you cant lower its status by making it easier to get without upsetting people. So unless they move away from this paradigm they are between a rock and a hard place.

I enjoy golf a lot and the status in golf is performance based, not on how awesome your caddy and clubs are. Blizzard could do the same thing but prolly would take a lot of creative rethinking... instead of staying in the rut.
I think games, unlike sports, require a chance of failure. I do think they need to lower the barriers of entry to raiding (I still like your 'normal' and 'heroic' raiding instance idea) but I don't think making it so that you'll eventually win no matter what is a good idea.
The difference between golf and WoW is the type of progression.

Progression in golf is getting better. Mastering the skill of golf.

Progression in WoW is getting better gear that *makes up* for lack of skill. Sure you can improve skill in WoW too, but it's very easy to do and can be simply replaced to a degree with better gear.

Golf has limitations on equipment. If golfers were forced to grind through 1,000 rounds on the same course before they were allowed to use better clubs and balls, they would grind it out and get just as frustrated and pissed as WoW players.
Me and a couple friends were talking about this the other night on Ventrillo.

My thoughts were that they did something good in ZA where they gave the bosses normal rewards and then extra (vgood) rewards if you beat them in a time limit per boss and again if you cleared the zone in under a time limit and awarded with a mount.

Now take this idea and expand on it for future bosses, if you had zone like naxxaramas where the boss count is more than 3 (like sunwell), put it on a timer per boss and the faster you did it the more reward you get. Make the bosses progressively harder so that the higher tier guilds still have a challenge, but once they have done it they have more of a challenge to hit that boss even quicker to gain the extra time based rewards.

I first found ZA very boring and tedious ZG copy till we started racing for the time limits ... it wasn't for the mount it wasn't really for the loot, it was just to see if we could do it. And because that timer existed we tried to beat it. And to be honest it was a ton more fun, I don't see why they can't expand it to the major dungeon design.
Sam says: "then after realizing thier utter failure they mumbled something about karazhan was supposed to be the UBRS of BC and they couldn't understand why more people didn't play it."

... but Karazhan IS the UBRS of BC. I'm no means a devoted raider, nor are most of my guildmates. I've been on a total of uh... about 6 raids since BC, and about 4 before that. Yet the three-guild raid group of which I'm a member is running two to four half-Kara runs every week, a full clear about once a month, and other raids regularly enough. We downed Hydross last night, on our second venture into Serpentshrine Caverns, but Kara is now in pretty much the same state as UBRS was - someplace we go into knowing how the fights work, and often with getting some one person a particular bit of gear in mind.
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