Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 12, 2009
Skill-less WoW

Joel feels he missed something, and didn't understand my remark in the class vs. skill post that outlined the importance of PLAYER skill (not avatar skill) in most non-MMORPGs. Gevlon hates social players. And Green Armadillo reports on Blizzard making transport easier in WoW, with easier teleports to Outlands, and mounts starting from level 20. What has all this to do with each other?

If you have a thick skin and can withstand Gevlon's sociopathic ranting, most of his analysis is correct and shows where the problem is. Blizzard is nerfing WoW, because easier is more popular. Quote: "I feel hate now. Not towards Blizzard, they did the goblin thing, defending their $15. If I were a Blizzard executive, I would do the same. I had warned the raiders in 2 weeks advance so they could focus on FL+4, to have it before the nerf. But I'd nerf it too. I hate the socials now, who are paying for this nerf." Of course the hate part is irrational. If you don't blame Blizzard for making WoW skill-free, because that is where the market is, you can't possibly blame the market. Blaming the market never works, as every economist should know.

But he is right that there are apparently more people wanting World of Warcraft to be even easier than it already is, so every nerf results in 10 skill-free players subscribing and staying, for every 1 player who is leaving because the game is now too easy for them. As I said in my Sims post, auto-questing isn't far ahead. In fact the WoW-clone Runes of Magic already has auto-running back to the quest NPC. The easier transport is just part of that. You'll now be able to buy a flying mount at level 60, thus you can do all of Outlands flying. On the one side there is a certain logic to that, because previously once you hit level 70 and could buy your flying mount, you immediately moved to Northrend, where it didn't work any more. On the other side the quests in Outlands were designed with ground transport in mind, and a flying mount at 60 makes many of them much easier.

And yes, while I defended Blizzard for making the STARTING raid dungeon easier, and still think that this is a good idea, I never wanted them to nerf hard mode for the more advanced raid dungeons. And I repeatedly said so, but nobody listened, because everybody makes the same mistake as Gevlon: They all think that 100% of the game should be designed to be exactly at the difficulty level they enjoy most. So the hardcore want everything hard, and the skill-less want everything skill-free, while the casual raiders want everything at medium difficulty. Not only is it obviously impossible to please everyone, it also is rather bad game design.

What happened to the idea of the game getting more complicated the higher you level up? Somehow it got lost in the process. Any player who is able to do the very first quest to kill 6 wolves is nowadays also able to do any level 80 daily quest. And if you ask a developer to design something hard, the only idea he can come up with is making it faster and more twitchy. A "hard boss fight" is one where you constantly have to be moving in unison with your raid, a giant game of Simon says on high-speed.

I blame the combat system. At level 80 you have more possible buttons than at level 1, but they don't do anything different. The little added complexity more buttons bring (small heal fast for little mana or large heal slow for lots?) is concentrated in the first 30 levels. From there on you just get the same abilities over and over, in different colors and textures. Ultimately it doesn't matter at all whether you hit a monster that has 100 health for 10 damage, or whether you hit a monster that has 10,000 health for 1,000 damage. Forcing a large group of players to run around to avoid fire or all press a button at the same time increases the chance that the group fails, but doesn't make the game much more complex for the individual player. Its simple math, if you have a 90% success chance, but all 25 players in a raid need to succeed, your overall chance of success goes down to 7%. Wow, a hard boss, you fail to beat him 93% of the time. Still doesn't change the fact that every single player just has to perform a trivially simple action with 90% success chance, it just changes who to shout at after the wipe.

Might as well play Luminary, where combat only uses one button. I recently fought a monster there at my level, and got killed in a moment of distraction, not drinking my healing potion fast enough. And noticed that in the presumably much more complex WoW my chance as a warrior to die when fighting a single monster of my level just because I didn't watch the screen for 5 seconds was much lower, near zero, even at the level cap.

What I would like to see in a MMORPG is combat being easy at the start, but getting more complex when leveling up. Not simply by adding more buttons that do the same thing, but by adding more interactivity and decision-making. Not simply twitchy "hit that button in the next 0.1 seconds or die", but more like tactical combat games, where you get a bit more time to think about what to do, but have to take an non-obvious decision.

But just like Gevlon I realize that I'm a niche gamer in wanting tactical challenge, and the more mainstream a game is, the less likely it is to cater to my needs. World of Warcraft will get easier with every patch, with every expansion adding 10 more levels, and a new level cap which takes even less skill to reach than the previous one. Star Wars The Old Republic will copy that model and garnish it with great storytelling, but still getting you all the way to the top without having to think much. I blame neither those who prefer twitching to thinking, nor those who prefer not having to do anything at all to get their virtual rewards, nor the game companies that are willing to sell you those feelings of "achievement" for nothing much. Hate is not a solution. The only reasonable thing to do is to look for niche games catering to my niche gamer needs, and supporting those games with my money, so they don't die out. Thus my opposition to flat fees, which end up favoring the bigger, mainstream games to the detriment of the niche games. If you don't like Disney movies, neither blaming Disney nor blaming those who make Disney movies a multi-million dollar business is going to get you anywhere. Targeted spending on indie movies you like will, because it allows the producers to make the next movie. Games are just the same.
Tobold, be assured that most of your readers WANT a bit more player skill based MMO gaming.

Still, Bartle once said it. MMO worlds design is influenced by noobs and their wishes and demands.

I really fear the lowest common denominator. This trend is going to ruin the whole genre IMO.
By making content easier they satisfy everyone. The hardcore guild had their shot at the super hard modes. And casual players get a chance at it a few months after the dungeon is out.

And I don't think things got easier. I played a mage in vanilla WoW. Running molten core was "press frostbolt x 10000". No skill required. In TLK I played a DK. Now there I felt like it mattered what buttons I pushed. I was no longer pressing one button but doing a priority rotation including about seven buttons. While having to look for trinket or weapon enchantment procs. You have to look where you stand and try to get behind the mob. And use those two (meh, why didn't they keep it at one) minute cooldowns when they're up. It's a LOT harder and a lot more satisfying. Then again, I'm sure that mage can still do the same damage with one or two buttons.

Besides that, making the raids easier and thus accessable to more players is a clever business option. And offering those hard modes is a nice alternative for those few hardcore players. If they do also nerf those, that handful of players is probably better of just finding a game that's better suited for them. I don't blame Blizzard, they just try to make their biggest customerbase happy.
Great post. However I have a plan how to get out of the reach of the nerfbat. My hate is already diminsihed as I have a solution. I'll post it in a couple of weeks.
I don't see how you could add tactical challenge to a PvE MMO. I agree that the "five to ten seconds until death" raid combat is a bad model for an MMO anyway, especially when regular combat is so utterly unchallenging, and it's unfortunate that it's the only idea they seem to have these days, but if you're looking for Starcraft or Risk then I don't see any solutions here.

I think it could be argued that WoW is tactical, especially in PvP, but that you have to make decisions extremely quickly. And the luxury of slow decision making is "nerfs for noobs".
Thank you for including that last bit at the end: go out and spend your money supporting indies doing something different. Along with "lowest common denominator" gameplay, I think too many people are hooked on the notion that a game has to be full 3D and look like millions of dollars were spent on the art budget. Really innovative games aren't going to have multi-million dollar budgets because people who can raise that money aren't going to piss it away on trying something different based on what some people say they want.

This is one reason why I support the microtransaction business model for games, too. It allows a smaller company to make more money on games. Three Rings may not make a mint on each person who plays the green oceans, but you can see from their figures that they bring in a lot more money from microtransactions than they do from subscriptions.
Is skill becoming speculative now?

I could have swore there was skill involved with having knowledge of your class, knowledge of other classes, anticipating outcomes and reactons based on that knowledge, and being able to win against a living breathing human being trying to do the exact same to you. -- PvP.

Are raid encounters indicative of how well an individual performs, or how well the group functions as a whole? -- PvE.

>>What happened to the idea of the game getting more complicated the higher you level up?

What is so hard to understand about these types of bussiness decisions?

By decreasing the level of difficulty, reducing barriers to transport and levelling, Blizzard is opening the game up to a whole new demographic of gamers who will learn the Blizzard name, become possible fans, and buy their next MMO or RPG.
I agree with many points. I just don't understand, why microtransactions are better for smaller games?
I'd happily buy a small game, test it for the usual one month and then subscribe if I like it or don't subscribe.
If the small game was better than WoW I had not problem to pay more monthly money, btw.
I'm not so sure that dumbing things down will become the standard in MMO’s. It may happen, but at this point in time the ultimate standard for success is Wow, and Wow reached its peak when it was a lot more challenging; a time when hard-core gamers were happy (happier? they always seem to complain!)

However, I would suggest that it’s a lot easier to create good, simplified content than to design good, challenging content. Thus Wow becoming easier might be a function of resources being moved to other projects: Blizzard made a decision to create simpler, but still polished content. They may not have the resources any more to create really good, challenging stuff. And Wow is an older game, so this might be the correct decision if you’d like to gracefully wind it down.

However, that is no reason to assume that all new games will follow the same model. Surely it makes more economic sense to cater for as many players as possible, including the so called hard-core? Wow went massive during Vanilla and Burning Crusade. Turbine also seemed to have consciously increased the challenge in Mines of Moria, and they appear to do quite well from that expansion. I know none of these examples are truly hard like older MMO’s, but there are some real challenging content in there.

Only time will tell how loyal the fans of simplified game-play would be. Once you’ve consumed the simple content, what then? When a real easy, low-skill type game can attract and sustain the kind of players that Wow generated during the “hard-core” days, only then may such a simplified model become the norm. Until then, and even after such an event, most new games will still include a certain amount of challenging content.
/signed at Joes,

I'd set Tobold as a benchmark. The second even he complains that it is too easy, it is. :)

Maybe Blizzard is testing what kind of difficulty is best. If I could make the decisions, I'd carefully use WoW as a test for my new MMO.
And now Age of Conan is taking a step to make their game more difficult with Patch 1.05..(especially when some dungeons are already super hard to begin with...example Onyx Chambers and their heal when hit mobs)


Could it be that a more difficult playstyle could equal the final coffin nail for AoC?

Will all the casuals leave?

Stay tuned!
Wow reached its peak when it was a lot more challenging

Huh? What is your definition of "peak"? According to the official data from Blizzard, World of Warcraft has the highest number of subscribers ever right now. The peak is today, where WoW is super-easy, and the plans are obviously to make it even more easy. I'm pretty certain Blizzard isn't deliberately planning to drive the maximum number of subscribers away.
"Star Wars The Old Republic will copy that model and garnish it with great storytelling, but still getting you all the way to the top without having to think much"

QUICK! Email Bioware to tell them you played the entire game and think its just cloning the way WoW does things!

I'd do it myself, but I've only heard about a few planets and classes so far. It probably needs someone who has played the entire game before its even ready to convince Bioware...

lmao - C'mon Tobold. I expect better from you!
Blizzard sees sales in the teen and young adult market, where it is far easier to promote an MMO lifestyle. This leaves older players with harder-style game preferences out in the cold. Younger audiences expect quicker advancement. This translates into watering everything down -- less complexity, less challenge, class-balance, etc.

The older demographic is NOT a growing market. It is passé. Blizzard sees this and is tuning their product accordingly.

Also, with the death of the PC as a gaming platform on the horizon, I wouldn't be surprised that all these recent game simplifications are intended to allow Blizzard to port wow to a console version, where only a small number of keystrokes is needed.
MMOs are just another genre of entertainment and they'll follow the same model as the rest.

The really big ones, made by the biggest, best-known companies, will aspire to be accessible, unchallenging and familiar while claiming to be vital, new and outrageous. They'll cost a fortune to make, only a few of them will succeed, but because those that do will make an absolute torrent of money, the big corporations will keep on churning them out.

At the same time, maverick teams with a vision, an obsession or both will somehow cobble together independent, low-budget games, some of which may delight a few, but most of which will be utterly ignored by almost everyone.

Every so often, one of these left-field offerings will soar into the mainstream and become "the next big thing", probably for no good reason that anyone can quite put their finger on.

And inbetween a lot of middling players will turn out a lot of middling games to middling successt, making everyone who tries them think "Meh... s'ok I guess".

In the end, there should be something, somewhere to suit most people. Just don;t expect the good stuff to come from the big players all the time. It rarely does.
Ever play final fantasy tactics? I think what I want in a game is more chess, less cod4. No idea how that would work in an mmo unless you controlled a group instead of a single character. If you could have three characters instead of one then even solo content could be strategically challenging. Hell nobody really groups anymore anyway.
Wow is very tactical in PvP (say what you want but it is one of the best combat systmes in MMOs to date).

The pve content.... Well it was never challenging in terms of individual skill, it is always about raid coordination and all players doing same trivial thing, exactly like you said

WoW has both sides - easy mode pve for majority, pvp for skilled. I dont see any problems with that (my only problem is time investment it takes to level and gear up the character, otherwise I would be playing wow)
There's a lot of revisionism going on, I think. MC was "Forcing a large group of players to run around to avoid fire or all press a button at the same time" to start with. Blaming a change in the combat system is silly - the combat system is exactly the same as it was at the time of the first Onyxia kill.
Meh. Blizz has stated previously that they balance nerfs around the percentage of guilds that are making it through content. You might have noticed that previously they buffed the crap out of hard modes, before hardly anyone had gotten them down, which enables this kind of tuning.

As Gevlon said, less than 1% of guilds are making it through FL+4--perhaps Blizzard's goal is 1.5%, or 2%. Whatever the case, this is hardly the result of "casuals" complaining about the hardness of FL+4; seriously, on pages and pages of forums I have not once heard a "casual" complain about FL+4.

I understand the feeling of getting a kill robbed, but there are still lots of (very) hard modes left. I don't think Gevlon has downed Algalon.

FWIW, I think WoW's combat system is actually pretty good, and at times very challenging. I was an add tank on Sarth+2 the other night for the first time, and it made me sit up straight. That's what I'd call a tactical fight--managing taunt/exorcism cooldowns, dropping strategic consecrates, waiting to throw the Captain America shield so that you don't slow the adds into the flame walls, all while watching my health, raid aggro chart, and OhShit buttons. One fuckup, and it's a healer down.

Not easy, and a lot of fun.
I'v been saying this for awhile now. While they have done some things right like lowering 40 man raids to 25 and adding bgs. They have changed the game so much from release and it is nothing like what it was. I liked old wow and hate new wow only reason i still play is to have raid with my guild. If i could manage to find a good group of people to play another game with id leave wow for good.
Any decent rogue will tell you that player skill is still very much part of the game. The tactics of knowing what abilities to use and when is what being a successful player is all about and it is extremely easy to tell the skilled player from the unskilled.
To say that the game takes no skill any longer and doesn't change as one levels is completely false. Perhaps true with some classes, however there are many classes that remain engaging and challenging to learn, and there are many bosses that continue to challenge skilled and unskilled players out there.
I disregard anyone's opinion that WoW is too easy until they can tell me that they've downed Algalon.
I disregard anyone's opinion that WoW is too easy until they can tell me that they've downed Algalon.

The challenge of a MMORPG should start WAY earlier than in the endgame, and certainly much, much before the last boss of hard mode.
To me this change over time in WoW seems kind of alike a larger version of how raids when first relaeased were extremely hard, than were reduced in difficulty as the top guilds beat them (Or at least that's the destcription I've heard about how raids were adjusted over time.)

When WoW was first released, the main people to know about it were more "hardcore" gamers, as these are the ones who follow computer game news more closely. Over time, though, less "hardcore" players will hear about the game and decide ot try it, and more hardcore types will get bored and leave. As the type of player changes over time, Blizzard will
adjust the game for those players. (Guild wars seems to have changed in a similar way, as over time it has catered more and more to people looking for a typical MMO, who seems like the players who will stick around longer.)

In terms of how to get more strategy into an MMO, I would look to strategy games with good AI, and seem what sorts of things it does that are challenging to players, and as much as possible attempt to add those types of features into MMOs. (for example, if an AI opponent in a raid notices a lot of frost damage, it may have the raid creatures use skills designed to better handle frost damage, or something along those lines) It's hard to say anything specific, though, without knowing a particular game, and the combat system might have to be changed from WoW to work better with an AI.
I'm missing the outrage about how slow travel was. I didn't see the scenes of irate mobs storming the Irvine campus of Blizzard demanding ez-mode. Maybe it's because I never visit the official forums and I'm not aware of all this.

Blizzard has nobody to beat now, so why would they be caving in? "We're unchallenged, so let's fold." Why would they be heading to Hello Kitty: Fantasy Island?

This game is already popular. They aren't going to get more subs if word of mouth goes out: "Wow, they've made it real easy now." I'd imagine quite the opposite effect.

Is this move, and ones like it, i.e. the expansion of ez-mode, to attract the final 5% of players out there not yet subscribed, but who might? The folks who'd like to play, because their friends play, but they'd be starting out hopelessly behind and could never catch up, so why bother? Tell that to the Draenei and Blood Elves who were Level 70 a week after TBC was released. That didn't slow them down.

Would Blizzard sub #s go up or down if they offered Instant-80 characters? I'd wager they'd go down, even if briefly spiking. I'd like to think more folks prefer to work a little for their rewards.
Kinless, I think they're going for people who tried WoW in the past but left it. Making it easier and easier for them to come back and catch up.
I agree with Erik -- any skilled player will tell you the difference between skilled and unskilled play. I think Blizzard has gotten better at eliminating the easy loopholes of doing top DPS with a single button. From a feral druid melee DPS perspective, there are 7 buffs/debuffs/procs to track, not counting trinkets and raid effects (such as Heroism/Bloodlust). Does any expert raider really do top DPS with only 1-button these days?

Tanking and healing are even more complex to address, so let's stick with DPS for now.
any skilled player will tell you the difference between skilled and unskilled play

Of course there is a difference. Unfortunately you don't need to know about it before you hit the level cap. Or are you telling me you need to play skilled to reach level 80?
"Of course there is a difference. Unfortunately you don't need to know about it before you hit the level cap. Or are you telling me you need to play skilled to reach level 80?"

You can reach level 80 with your hands tied behind your back and just repeatedly hitting the keyboard with your forehead, but that's a silly point to make. WoW was designed and released at a time when the getting to cap level WAS the game for many many people - EQ and DAoC with their grind intensive leveling for example. I bet Blizzard's next MMO will not have "leveling to end game" at all, as it's really expensive to create gameplay and assets for one-time content that the playerbase will go through in 2 weeks tops.

There's still a lot of individual skill in order to be competent. I guess it's just the definition of competent that changes. Facerolling as a DPS through Naxx is different than being tank on 3D Sarth, competent at 1500 is different than competent at 2300.
I enjoyed the more tactical combat of Atlantica Online. I'm definitely a Tactics fan, and would love to see some more cerebral aspects of combat in MMOs, even if that means changing the pace like AO does.

That game is still largely a DIKU grind, but the combat itself is very refreshing in the MMO genre.
"Huh? What is your definition of "peak"? According to the official data from Blizzard, World of Warcraft has the highest number of subscribers ever right now. The peak is today, where WoW is super-easy, and the plans are obviously to make it even more easy. I'm pretty certain Blizzard isn't deliberately planning to drive the maximum number of subscribers away."

Fair enough, Tobold, peak can be a relative term. According to some analysis (i.e. the Wolfshead article you linked to), Wow has reached its peak in interest a lot earlier. According to Blizzard the maximum number if subs are right now, and I have no reason to doubt their figures.

Whichever way you look at it, Wow was an incredible successful game when it was more difficult. That surely means that there are a large number of players who enjoy challenging content? And some game companies will try and tap into that market. Only time will tell, but I believe that the next Blizzard MMO will be more challenging than WotLK. As will be some of the AAA releases until then.
Agreed -- anyone can faceroll to 80. Though if you are unskilled (and don't know how to gear and spec for leveling), it may take you a lot longer.

I want to bring up a different point now: the clash between Retirement Philosophy and Challenge Philosophy. Retirement Philosophy basically says: "I've put work into this endeavor, and now I deserve the rewards while working less." Challenge Philosophy is the opposite: "I've put work into this endeavor, and now I deserve challenges which will make me work harder."

I don't think people can be easily divided into both camps in a black-and-white manner. There is some Retirement and some Challenge in each of us, in different proportions, in different scenarios.

But as it pertains to WoW, the Retirement folks tend to want things easier once they reach endgame (hence Naxx), and the Challenge folks want them harder (hard-mode Ulduar).
I suspect that someday, not too long in the future, Blizzard will unveil a mode where players can select the class and race they want to see played, and then settle in to watch the computer play that character. They'll also be given ways they can tweak the character, like personality, so the character will do more quests or emote to more people or go run through battle ground or raid.

Sims 4: World of Warcraft Edition.
1) What percentage of the game would you say you have completed by reaching max level? In CoH, you are basically done with the game when you hit 50. In WoW, the distribution of content allows for many more hours playing once you are at max level than it takes to reach it. I think you should change your perception of at what point you are at "the end of the game" in WoW.

2) I assume you have seen Massively's Anti-Aliased review/description of Jade Dynasty, the game which openly lets you "bot" your character? It seems your predictions are already here, although it will be interesting to see if people really want a game THAT easy.
IMHO they really overdid nerfing the levelling game. I defy any moderately competant MMO gamer to get killed without doing something willfully reckless during the 1-60 game (jumping off a cliff, attacking multiple reds, pissing off a wandering elite, ect.). Unless of course they are playing a rogue.

The game really trully bored me to tears the last time I played it (a few months ago). Once I had played through the deathnight instance and the new quest lines they added in Dustwallow, I was done.

I didn't even make it all the way to 80 on my main. He was so much more powerful relative to mobs his level than I remembered that the combat lost all entertainment value. Quest targets might just as well have committed suicide the moment I arrived for all the threat they posed.

WoW has never been one of the more challenging MMOs, but recent changes seem over the top to me. And this is coming from someone that has been known to make fun of "hardcore" players that are pissed that modern MMOs aren't the grueling time sink that launch EQ was.
It's a video game, so only so much skill is really involved.

In fact, I'd argue that the more crap you are forced to do in order to actually "play" the game, the less skillful the game requires you to be, regardless of it being an RTS, FPS, or MMO.

Want an extremely challenging game that is all about skill and not about mindless facerolling?

Go pick up a game of chess. See how much leveling you need to do before you jump right into the basic rules and gameplay of chess.

When you have a game like WoW, or any other type of MMO, that requires you to do repetitive tasks in order to up your "skills" or levels, you are basically playing a game that converts time into virtual skill that really doesn't exist.

Downing some boss in Naxx or getting enough honor/arena points to get gear that has higher stats on it than what you had before doesn't make you a better player. It makes your avatar more powerful, regardless of your skill.

So, when you start getting into skill and games, you either play a game that is all skill, or almost no skill masked behind colorful icons and pictures.

Chess v. Naxx...which one takes more skill? If you don't say chess, you've probably never actually played chess.

So throwing around the word skill, as if any MMO really takes skill and not just an investment in time, is a little naive.

Skill exists when you can use the same exact thing your opponent uses and beat the opponent. FPS and RTS games deal with skill a hell of a lot more often than an MMO, where you can artificially raise your "skill" just by logging on and equipping epic loots.

And heaven forbid skill be used when referring to PvE content. Honestly, everyone making their avatars line dance, and clicking on the correct buttons when their mod tells them to shouldn't be considered skill. At most it should be called coordination.
"What I would like to see in a MMORPG is combat being easy at the start, but getting more complex when leveling up. Not simply by adding more buttons that do the same thing, but by adding more interactivity and decision-making. Not simply twitchy "hit that button in the next 0.1 seconds or die", but more like tactical combat games, where you get a bit more time to think about what to do, but have to take an non-obvious decision."

This part has always been contained within the game. It's the analysis of encounters and how to execute. The problem here is that most players simply just don't experience this area of the game, because it's an added level of difficulty when there are already guides to beat the boss.

There's also the problem that such "tactical" decisions can actually be mapped out into a guide. Unless these tactical decisions can be turned into something that requires new thinking and forethought EVERY SINGLE time, it simply isn't very possible to make such a great game throughout of PVE.

Have you even seen a good adventure game made only by scripts and random generators? It still needs good writers and scene creators to make the gameplay flow, or otherwise it'll turn out terribly.

My suggestion? Go play Dofus or something.

Seems like what you want.
Pzychotix's point is exactly what I miss in WoW. Offline/single player games (if you resist Googling the walkthroughs) have all those puzzle-type things integrated, which makes figuring out *how* to do something just as if not more challenging than *what* to do.

Granted, I always get frustrated running around in circles because I can't find the damn chest/crown/sword/mcGuffin, but ones that require you to figure out strategies and tactics to get through challenges are simply fun.

I guess in WoW those challenges for me come from trying to figure out how to manage the group - the inherent challenges in working with a big group of real people. But since I rarely raid lead... well, not so challenging in the end.

But somehow, most times I'm in a group that *does* have a challenge, that can't manage to down the boss on the first try, people get pissed off, want to kick out the inexperienced, and make things easier/faster. Even the "hardcore" gamers - it doesn't actually seem as though they want it to be tough.
I'm with Shawno - the older hard-mode player base is the dying market. I was there once and while I revealed in the feeling of being uber, I couldn't support that sort of gaming lifestyle now, nor do i want to either. I just want to log into a game and have fun while achieving something reasonable.

I can't play that raiding game anymore or that one where I have to "prove" myself worthy to access the content. My time is spent elsewhere doing that in my real life. So I get what they are going for and since it's a business who can blame them?

I spend my money on games with features I like and skip the rest. It's the clearest and strongest voice you can send as a consumer.

Saylah - in case stuped OpenID gives me a numerical name again.
This is probably stating the obvious, but there are already MMOs with tactical combat. Wizard 101 has turn-based combat that can involve a surprising amount of skill. Ship combat in EvE and in Pirates of the Burning Sea focuses on positioning and maneuvering. Even sticking with Dikus, Vanguard and Guild Wars both allow a lot more tactical variety than WoW.

I agree that people should vote with their wallets and try other games. The only way devs will be encouraged to try out alternative approaches is if we support the ones that are already out there.
In WoW Raid terms, I think it's something a trap to think X is what I have to do. There will always be challenges unless you're in the top 0.01%. If they nerf the challenge you're working on then just move on. The next boss/hard mode is still hard and if you beat that move on again.

I can remember feeling quite leet for killing Ragnaros, now anyone can kill him.

It is true that there's a closing window of opportunity to kill a specific boss and get full satisfaction. That's simply the way a mudflating MMO with progressive content works. Is anyone here wishing they were still wiping on Lucifron, the first boss in Molten Core?

In Gevlon's case I think you've forgotten to be a goblin. Why not just buy your raid tourist spot with a more successful guild?
Wow, that's a very revealing post from Gevlon. Probably rather more than was intended...
Of course there is a difference. Unfortunately you don't need to know about it before you hit the level cap. Or are you telling me you need to play skilled to reach level 80?
The game doesn't really start until you hit the level cap, leveling isn't supposed to be a matter of skill, Leveling is merely a process of training in your class skills to show you what is available when you get to the real game. The devs have consistently made leveling to the cap a faster process simply because learning a class doesn't need to be a painful experience.

Perhaps you're right, it might be better if skill came into the game at an earlier stage. But then again that is kind of how FFXI was and everything about leveling became a tedious and arduous process in which you were forced to grind exp. Sure skill was introduced to the game earlier than WoW but it most certainly didn't make for a more fun game.
"If you have a thick skin and can withstand Gevlon's sociopathic ranting"

LOL. Guess I'm not the only one who pictures Gevlon sitting at home in a darkened room polishing a shotgun :D
The idea that catering to the VERY lowest denominator makes everyone happy is totally wrong.

Most players are neither hardcore nor super-casual/noob/bad whatever players.

Let us simplify and say that player skill is distributed like a bell curve. Catering to the very low end leaves not only the hardcore but the vast majority unsatisfied!

It also creates a downward spiral. Less challenge, less reason to improve as a player. The game will dumb itself down more and more if it follows such a principle of catering to the very low end.

MMOs should not base difficulty on the low end or the high end of players. Finding that middle ground is harder than finding the extremes.

And having some things too hard for bad players, and having a few things that really challenge the better ones, this makes the vast majority of players between both extremes happy.

P.S.: 1.) Saying that WoW really starts with the endgame makes me sad. A game about verticial progression starts at the very end of it, hear hear. This shows some fundamental flaws of the WoW game design.

2.) The economical success of WoW is not my primary concern, I would like a fun game.

I also doubt that it gets more successful in the long run by dumbing down the game more and more. I see it rather as the prelude to disaster. Even if there is still no WoW Killer in sight that soaks up the masses of bored WoW players.

WoW subscriber numbers are suddenly only measured world wide, and it seems that european and american customer numbers have peaked if they are not even already on the decline.

I do not see myself among the hardcore crowd, but I am pretty sure nobody here wants a game that caters to the exact opposite end of the spectrum either. I do not want a boring lootgrindfest MMO.
Wow is easy for people who've been playing it for 2+ years.

PvE is being made easier to beat, however there is a massive difference between good and great players. ITs not just knowing the rotations, its being able to complete them under pressure. We've all seen equal geared rogues doing 25% difference in damage (I was the one who sucked).

I always liked running 5-10 mans slightly under-geared. The most fun/satisfaction was when a pull went wrong (CC broke early or a Patrol or Respawn hit) and you had to adapt on the fly. All of a sudden those extra abilities come in handy (like Blind or Pet off-tanking).

Making content predictable is boring (but maybe good business, since people like winning). You can know the recipe and rinse and repeat each week. The only way to make predictable content challenging is to make the margin of error tiny. That margin is then increased by groups over-gearing or bringing perfect group composition/specs.
If you want to see the culmination of the "make it easier" philosphy go play the recent Prince of Persia. You cant die, you dont have to think as the way is pointed out via a glowing trail. In short... its no fun!
I liked the Retirement vs Challenge analogy and think that points out a significant flaw in the 1-79 are irrelevant and Nax as well once Ulduar ships. I knew people I quested with to 70 who quit since the WoW they enjoyed was over: PvP or Raid but either way very different from 1-69.

I have come to the conclusion that I am on the losing side of a generational issue: does skill = twitch? In any of the games I played, an extra 200 or 2000 milliseconds don't matter. Maybe it's me: I want challenging and complex, I just don't want to be rushed.

I see knowledge and skill devolving into some rote "if proc1 then cast spell1, if proc2 then cast spell2 if avail otherwise cast spell3. My opinion is that these sort of mindless annoyances let hyperactive videogame goblins be distracted and feel skillful without a lot thinking involved. Which is a bad strategy if you are trying to broaden the customer base outside the videogame stereotypes. But perhaps a reasonable strategy if you know you are in decline and just want a retention strategy. Does WoW's devolution towards videogame mean it is less likely to ever see 20 million subs, but might retain 1 million for a longer time?

Regarding "peak:" I think that GM was the dominant car company, IBM mainframes the dominant computers AT&T ... - profitable and #1 - at a time when history will say they peaked. So no amount of current sales or market share is a complete defense to its peaked. WoW may still have subscribers a decade from now, but that doesn't change the peaked verdict either.
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