Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
What is hard?

Yesterday's discussion on the EQ progression server made me realize that in the fast-living age of the internet, Everquest is such ancient history, that it is mostly forgotten. Millions of today's MMORPG players never set a foot in that game, and only have hear-say knowledge of it. Particularly the comments revealed a substantial lack of knowledge of why exactly Everquest was considered to be hard. So let me make a list:

Time: The one thing people *did* remember correctly about Everquest was that it took considerably more time than modern games. A survey once estimated the average time to level cap at 2,000 hours, while today a game like WoW can be leveled up to the cap in under 200 hours. It took a full 15 minutes for a mid-level caster who was out of mana to get his mana back to full. And some mobs only spawned every 8 hours, or even only once a week. But the comments yesterday made it clear that people fail to realize that a longer leveling time has a significant consequence: Better players advance faster than less good players. In Everquest a bad player would not only advance slower, he would actually never reach the level cap, which brings us to the second point:

Penalties Everquest was hard because it had severe punishment for failure. When you died, you lost xp, and potentially even levels. The idea of "let's wipe 20 times at this boss to learn how to do him" is completely foreign to EQ, because by that time you would have lost 2 levels and would probably be unable to kill the boss. You had to get things right on the first try, or at least not have too many failures. Furthermore when you died you respawned at your "bind point", not a conveniently located graveyard. And you were naked, with all your equipment being on your corpse. Thus the "naked corpse run", where you would need to run back naked to recover your gear. If you didn't make it in time, your corpse would despawn and your gear would be gone for good.

No crutches: Addons and other programs were not allowed for Everquest. Some people even got banned when somebody wrote an application that allowed to control the Windows Media Player from the game to select background music. Thus there were no Healbot, Decursive, Deadly Boss Mod, Threatmeter, Damagemeter, Gearscore, or any other mods and addons to the game. There wasn't even Skype/Ventrilo/Teamspeak back in 1999. Do you know any guild in WoW that raids without the use of addons and external programs like that? And the standard UI of EQ wasn't very helpful either: No maps, no indications where your quest targets were, no glowing sparkles on anything you could click on.

No instances: Every dungeon and rare mob only existed in one single copy per server. If you wanted to kill the Frenzied Ghoul for the Flowing Black Silk Sash, you had to hope that nobody else was already camping him. If you entered a dungeon you might advance fast because the monsters were already dead, only to have them spawn behind you, blocking your way out. And then you'd hear somebody shout "TRAAAAAAIIIIINNNNN", and see a guy rushing past, fleeing towards the exit, followed by a load of monsters that would attack you if you got into the way. A "raid calendar" in EQ was an agreement between guilds who got to raid what raid boss on what day.

Forced grouping: Apart from a few special character classes, the majority of classes in EQ were unable to solo past the newbie zone. If you wanted to kill a mob that gave you xp, you had to find a group first. And there were no meeting stones, Dungeon Finder, or other fancy tools to help you. You just went to the zone of the appropriate level and shouted to find a group. And then you shouted a "camp check" to see which mobs were already camped.

It is this list of various difficulties that makes me think that the modern "leet" players wouldn't get far in Everquest. But if you don't believe me, I have an extremely simple challenge for you:

Create a character on one of the new EQ progression servers, level him up as much as you want, and then run from Freeport to Qeynos (or vice versa). That's it. Just cross the main continent of EQ on foot. I've done that repeatedly at the time, and with quite low level characters, so I know it is possible. But I believe this to be already too hard for most players who started MMORPGs only in the post-EQ age.
I love your challenge Tobold, having done that myself on lots of occasions in-game when playing it years ago. I think the lowest I managed was level 5 and it took HOURS just to cross the Karana's. I'm not sure I would go back now as I think my rose-tinted glasses would fall off rather rapidly, but at least I can say I 'grew up' on EQ1 and can appreciate the difference between yesteryear and modern MMOs.
Interesting challenge, I myself got my feet wet on FFXI circa 2004-2005. Any one knows how FFXI compares to EQ vanilla difficulty wise?

From what i recall it also had:
Delevelling and xp penalties from death.
Slow mana regen (not as slow as EQ, but certainly not like Wow's)
Forced grouping (for most jobs, unless you were a beastmaster)
Tedious does not equal hard.

And everything you listed belongs to the first category. With forced grouping and leveling by grinding leading the charge.
Sounds like Fake Difficulty combined with Fake Longevity. WoW has removed some of those (and replaced some with their own). But the important question is that if you strip away all of the cruft, is there still something worth salvaging in old designs?
On the one hand side you despise the 'leet' players that would not make it as far as you did in EQ.

Then you generally consider EQ a bad MMORPG, compared to other games.

Then you ask who would want to play classic EQ today, guessing that those who claim to like some elements of EQ wouldn't want to do this.

In my opinion you write a wild mix of various simple emotions down here.

Why don't you use your considerable intellect to make an educated guess about what players really mean when they claim to have liked EQ? Why don't you write about this and why don't you try to learn from the past and the present alike, to make better MMORPGs in the future?
There's more than one type of player that calls themselves "hardcore", and while some of them want to show themselves as better than other players by simple virtue of time investment and tolerance of tedium and bad design, they gain nothing from playing a game so poor by today's standards that the only people who'd want to play it would have at least as much time and tolerance as they do.

The hardcore players looking for a challenge tend to either master PvE play so well they can bypass gear checks in greens, or go into competitive PvP.
So in short:

Time: nothing hard here, just need time to waste in a game.

Penalties: which do nothing except adding more time. It's not like you cannot get back to the same point by taking time.

No crutches: a bad UI does not make a game hard, it simply makes it a game with a bad UI.

No instances: making people wait for ages (= time) does not make the game hard, just boring.

Forced grouping: making people wait for others does not make the game hard, it just makes it take more time.

Tell me, what is *HARD* there exactly?

You challenge sounds interesting, but nothing more that what I've already done in Ryzom (which, even without seeing EQ mob spawns I know to be a lot less interesting, since Ryzom's mob behaviour is unique).
Helistar: I don't think that's quite right. Heavy penalties put much more emphasis on being careful, focussing on survivability and having backup plans rather than just on speed speed speed.

Although admittedly Tobold did kind of contradict that by saying that good players would level faster.

I do think we need to find a way for good (in terms of players) to not always mean fast.
@Nils: Your continue misrepresentation of what I said convinces me that you are either deliberately trying to provoke me, or you are completely unable to understand anything I say.

A) I never said I despise people that didn't get as far as I did in EQ. I'm saying that I despise the hypocrites who *pretend* to want hard games, but refuse to play them when on offer. If WoW is the most dumbed down game around, dumber than Farmville according to some, then why are all these people still playing WoW instead of something more challenging? Hypocrisy!

B) I don't consider EQ a bad MMORPG. In fact I repeatedly said it was the best MMORPG available back then.

If you are unable and unwilling to even try to understand what I am saying, why do you keep hanging out here? I'd really love to get rid of you.
Although admittedly Tobold did kind of contradict that by saying that good players would level faster.

No contradiction here. Good players level faster *because* they think ahead, are careful, and have backup plans. In a game with heavy penalties, not getting killed means leveling faster. Bad players that just rush in level slower, because they need to do every level two or three times.
Regarding the comment that it's all about time, it IS all about time. That is one measure of the difficulty. Everything becomes easy over time, but the more time it takes, the more difficult it was to begin with.
I never played the original EQ (didn't have the computer for it), but all the people I know who did have very fond memories of it. They find it funny that they might lose their stuff or the "TRRRRAAAAIIIIINNN" issue you talk about. For them, it was what made it fun. And yes, they laugh when they talk about this stuff.

And this: "Better players advance faster than less good players." Maybe that is why Wolfshead and others like it. They like the idea that the game will naturally weed out the poorer players (possibly). This means that if you do get into a PUG at level cap, you can expect that all players are of the "better" variety than the "less good" variety. I would think you could pretty much group with anyone at level cap and expect to have decent or better results.

That being said, most of the people I know who played won't play it now. They have full-time jobs and say they can't devote the effort needed for the original EQ.

I guess the truth will be in how many people sign up for this service.
I enojoyed games with XP loss on death.

Say you lose 20% of a lvl anytime you died. At level 10 that 20% of a level may take an hour. At level 30, 20% of a level may take 6hours.

Some people aren't able to avoiding deing less than once per 6hours, and thus would never hit level cap unless they learned how to avoid deing. This kept "bad" players from ever getting high enough to cause my groups to wipe.

So I enjoyed the filter a death penalty caused. I won't say it made the game harder, but it did do a great job at keeping away "rush rush rush" players.
What the people who play WoW while praising EQ don't understand is that these types of "hard" are intimately connected to the memories of "better community" etc.

For example *because* you had to group, and *because* you had a lot of downtime between fights, you ended up chatting with your fellow players, forming stronger social bonds and friendships. You can't magically transplant the "better community of EQ" into a modern MMORPG without bringing a lot of the tedious hardship with it.
Sounds like Fake Difficulty combined with Fake Longevity. WoW has removed some of those (and replaced some with their own). But the important question is that if you strip away all of the cruft, is there still something worth salvaging in old designs? - Hirvox

I think if you removed the features listed by Tobold EQ would not only remain an interesting game but be significantly improved. To my taste it has the advantage over WoW of being much more of a virtual world design than a theme park. It has tons of areas worth finding an exploring (which I often did solo on my Monk thanks to being able to Feign Death).

The one other feature I would want to change with EQ would be the combat. Most classes had very little to do other than choose which target to attack and watch for adds.
Your stance on this is way too all or nothing. I don't want to get into the argument about the 2 games but there can be a happy median that isn't so easy as WOW but isn't so soul crushing as eq.
"What the people who play WoW while praising EQ "

The people I know personally who praise EQ don't play WoW and never have. They play EQ2, DAOC, LOTRO, and other RPG's (mmo and single player). I think you are mainly speaking of Wolfshead or other bloggers.

It seems to me that the harder content forced cooperation and that is what produced a better community. Not sitting around chatting all the time. People do that in WoW too.. sit and talk in /trade all the time, and yet nobody is talking about how great its community is.

Great post and follow-up comments.

A couple WoW/ex-EQ friends and I rolled on one of the new EQ progression servers. It was funny to see all of the, "XP in vanilla EQ was not this slow!!!" comments.

I think people have been "spoiled" by WoW and other MMOs that are amazingly easy compared EQ. Granted boss fights in WoW are more complicated than they were in EQ. But at the time, EQ boss fights were equally difficult, not to mention the factors you mention.

My friends and I spent a great deal of time reminiscing on Ventrilo various aspects of EQ. Those memories were some of the best times we've had. We tried to think about times in WoW that we remember the most. But nothing came up that was as "epic" as those times in EQ.
Sounds like an interesting challenge. Are those servers free-to-play?

It's definitely a test of adaptability but I would hardly use it to determine how hard the game actually is. It definitely is more tedious hard but I prefer intellectual challenges over endurance challenges in my games.
What I remember of EQ:

The excessive penalties in EQ were really effective in teaching people to NOT take risks in the game. Players simply did not do anything unless it was fairly safe.

I suppose the idea behind the extreme degree of forced grouping was that it would 'force' you to make 'friends'. The ramification was that if you didn't have 'friends' you basically could not advance. Naturally sociable people advanced easier than those who were not - even if they were fairly mediocre players.

No instances allowed well organized guilds to basically dominate the server, and lock out all the other guilds from major content.

True, EQ was, arguably, the first of it's kind. But I remember many an argument with John Smedly on various EQ related message boards about these same issues, and he refused to listen. I think he finally listened when WoW came out and everyone left.
@Zaeni FFXI is(was) pretty similar to that, not quite as harsh.

-death penalities. don't loose your gear on death but you either have to wait for someone to raise you then be weakened for 10mins, you're a mage with reraise, or go back to your "home point", which is likely far away in one of the towns.

-slow mana & hp regen and you have to "rest" for it to happen, unless you have access to certain items/spells.

-grouping. it's possible to solo but the xp you can get & not risk getting killed and loose it all is so small it's hardly worth it. Used to have the train/mpk problem until they made trained mobs despawn when they loose target.

-no crutches. You learn what's best by repeat experience.

-not sure about instances. is dynamis an instance?

things that have changed in recent years. kill x crabs type solo quests. Increased accessibility to regen/refresh/re-raise buffs & warp scrolls. changed skillups to dc or above, doubled xp gain.less need to group and the majority of players are in the VAST end-game content.
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p.s. as soon as you take up and complete my challenge of crossing the US on foot without supplies, I'll gladly attempt to run from Freeport to Qeynos. Until then, thanks but no thanks, I'll keep running IRL for the health benefits instead.
Anyone who is just taking away the "more time" angle from this is missing the point.

The level cap doesn't jstu take more time because of xp gains it takes more time because normal yellow mobs at a point are like 5man bosses now.

Camp grinding too, if done with an inferior party can set you back a week. Skill plays a massive role in success. The short sightedness comes from taking for granted modern mmo mechanics. When was the last time you heard someone get props for being a pro mob puller?
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Yeah, EQ really was actually hard in a skill sort of way. Knowing how to pull a full camp of mobs so you wouldn't wipe (it was generally impossible to kill a full pack of mobs at once, you had to split them up) or being able to crowd control several of them (if you were the one class that could do that) required actual skill (a bad enchanter could CC one or two mobs but a really good one could keep several locked down). No amount of time allowed you to succeed without learning things like that. It also helped to learn your way around the dungeons so you could get where you were going and there were no in-game maps (or even compasses).
Death penalty: This is true, but ressurrection spells restored most of the XP lost.

Corpse runs: Also true, but largely impacted solo play and early vanilla. They added the "summon corpse" spell to the necromancer class fairly quickly.

Wiping: Wiping over and over to a boss was very much a part of EQ due to the above factors. Of course since nothing was instanced, while you recovered from a wipe, another guild could steal your kill.

Crutches: Not only were there no addons, but for the first couple of years they wouldn't even let you alt-tab!

EQ wasn't just harder, it was a much more primitive game. It wasn't as much fun to play, and it was dangerously addictive in a skinner box sort of way, much more so than recent games like WoW.
Also, the people that say it wasn't hard but just took a huge time investment are largely correct. The boss fights in EQ vanilla and the first expansion or two weren't anywhere near as involved or scripted as we see in WoW today.

I understand that modern EQ raid encounters are extremely involved and scripted, but modern EQ only has a vague resemblance to vanilla/kunark times.
The boss fights in EQ vanilla and the first expansion or two weren't anywhere near as involved or scripted as we see in WoW today

It seems we are at least agreeing on something here. The difficulty of WoW lies in "boss fights being involved and scripted". While as Eteocles describes above, the difficulty of EQ lay in having to play your character exactly right, with not much margin for error.

Some people here claim that the EQ sort of difficulty is "fake", but I would say that the scripted WoW difficulty is the fake one here. Read for example this description of the Nefarian fight, and you quickly realize that the difficulty comes from an improbable sequence of scripted events with no logic whatsoever. You either learned the dance, or you didn't and fail.

Furthermore end-game dungeons are the ONLY place in WoW which offer this difficulty. 95% of the game doesn't have the fake scripted difficulty, and in consequence is totally trivial. While in Everquest you can die on your first mob.

Yes, EQ takes a lot more time, but it is BECAUSE it is really difficult not "instead of" being difficult. There are no long sequences of trivial tasks, every single pull is dangerous, every walk across a zone is dangerous. So hard, difficult, and dangerous, that a commenter here compares it to treking on foot across the USA. By refusing to even try that sort of game, you are confirming my impression that modern gamers simply aren't made out of the same stuff any more than those a decade ago.
Good summation Tobold.

The one thing I'd disagree with is the "only a few classes could solo beyond the starter zone" idea, which was often said but was never true. About the only classes that couldn't solo reasonably well in 1999/2000 when I started would have been Warriors and Rogues.

Necromancers, Magicians, Wizards, and Druids routinely soloed all the way to the then level-cap and many Enchanters and Bards did too. Rangers, Shadowknights, Paladins, they were all soloing by Kunark or Velious. What most of them couldn't do was solo in dungeons, of course, where the best xp and loot was, so groups were still very much favored, but outdoors anyone that could snare, fear or root, which was almost everyone, could solo.

The bit that you'll never get people who weren't there at the time to believe isn't that it was "harder" back then, but that it was more fun. Only those who are able to make the comparison from experience know if that was true for them.

Personally, I loved EQ then but I love it even more now. Mercenaries have made it the most enjoyable single-player MMO in existence.
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I disagree with the commenters that EQ was only hard due to time involved. There was a definite discernible difference between good and bad players. With no thottbot or wowhead, things were not easily known about items, zones, maps, etc. A player who spent the time exploring, learning landmarks, finding shortcuts, and reading up on eqcasters, stratics, or allakhazam's was a boon to their group. Maybe reading was all about time, but learning directions was something that some people just couldn't grasp.

Also, one of the other aspects of the closer-knit community that i didn't see mentioned was that real assholes and ninja-looters faced real consequences. They made (bad) names for themselves, and the server communities enforced punishment by treating them like pariahs. And unless they were playing quad-kiting druids, wizards, or necros, they were screwed.

Conversely, a good group-mate or someone who you would add to your friend list might not just be the best person at their class. Being easygoing and fun to spend many minutes of downtime shooting the breeze with, or exchanging information about the game you'd learned, was probably more prized than being the "leet"est.
I forgot to mention that I made the run from Freeport to Qeynos at level 4.

My first char was a barbarian warrior (who incidentally used to make money at level 16 by escorting people between Freeport and Qeynos, because so many people at the time didn't know the way or were scared! Little did they know a warrior was about the worst class to be escorting anyone...), and I loved Everfrost and mammoth hunting so much that when I made my 2nd character, a High Elf enchanter, I ran her at level 4 from Felwithe to Halas. I told people I was an Ice Elf :) Of course enchanters had all kinds of crazy utility spells. I think at level 4 I got Invis, which is why I made the run. Successfully, too!
For example *because* you had to group, and *because* you had a lot of downtime between fights, you ended up chatting with your fellow players, forming stronger social bonds and friendships.
That certainly explains why the DesertBus crew is awesome.

You can't magically transplant the "better community of EQ" into a modern MMORPG without bringing a lot of the tedious hardship with it.
To be more generic, do you think that it's even possible to have a good community in a MMO without the "tedious hardship"? And if not, can we at least disentangle hardship from tediousness?
@Bryan: Actually, I did mention the same thing about ninja-looters etc in my comments. Cooperation was a necessity (or so it sounds), in which case if you were a jerk I'm sure this info would travel and nobody would help you. Like I said, sitting around chatting doesn't make any community better.

@Tobold: Do gamers want an easier game? I think there is a happy medium. I got tired of being a slave to dps/threat meters and boss mods. It started to feel as if I was no longer playing a game, but just reacting to some add-ons. I'm glad that in LotRO these don't exist. I have to pay attention and react to the fight.

But I don't want something I do for recreation to become a job in the negative sense. For each person this will be different, but everyone grows up. Maybe having a game this hard was fun when someone was younger, but not now that they have a family and full-time job?

Most people who have never tried EQ likely won't now because of it's poorer graphics. I'm not joking either. And then this brings us back to the other question that Wolfshead and other's bring up: Did the audience no longer want the hard game? Or did company decide to make it easier for other players?
Tobold doesn't need defending. That's clear as rain.

However, some of the readers need to TRY, at least TRY, to understand what he's getting at here. Read the title, "What is hard?" Then read the description of why he is bringing up vanilla Everquest. Then READ the description of vanilla Everquest. Then make the connection between the title and the description of vanilla Everquest and clear out the cobwebs in your own head about what people mean when they say "Everquest is teh HARD!"

It's meant to generate discussion, and he's -- once again -- crafted a clever set of questions to consider.
The usual problem with defining what is 'hard' is because we do not really define what the 'test' actually is.

eg Opening a door is usually trivial but becomes hard if all you can use is your tongue.

Also just because something is deemed hard under one test does not mean that it is actually applicable to another test. eg being able to run real fast is not really applicable to playing chess

To use a comparison I tend to equate the 'hard' in old school games like EQ to the hard in watching a Uwe Boll movie marathon.
Extra Credits: Easy Games
While you're correct that individual non-raid encounters were far more challenging for the average player, that average player didn't "surmount the obstacles", because the risk was too high. They skirted the zone wall, or sat at the zone-in to lower guk for 6 hours straight advertising in /ooc to get in a frenzied group.

Everquest was a groundbreaking, amazing, absolutely awful and downright dangerous (to its players!) game.
The pacing of the game has nothing to do with the difficulty. Requiring 5000 mobs for level 3 is pacing. Making every mob lethal is difficulty. Making every lethal mob require the same strategy is tedious. Making a failure carry a penalty is difficulty. Making penalized failure "normal" is tedious (aka, a cost of doing business).

Diablo 2 was the first time I felt I ran into this. I had rushed to the end of Act 3 and was fighting Mephisto. It took me almost an hour to kill him, because I was underleveled and undergeared. But I beat him by simply throwing time at him. Town portal, buy a stack of javelins, go back, throw javelins from just off screen, back to town, repair the stack, portal to dungeon again, rinse repeat. For an hour. And yet it was a fun experience that I still think fondly of.

Figuring out I could do that? Hard. Keeping my nose to the grindstone and following through with it to see if it actually worked? Hard. Applying this tactic, or even knowing the tactic existed afterwards? Tedious. The entire game instantly became a time sink to me, as any illusion of difficulty was completely shattered by the option of throwing time at it.

I later found out this of course didn't work in the higher difficulties, as mob health regened too quickly, but the damage was done, and it actually took me several years to even find out about this (as why would I bother going to the higher difficulties if this strategy would work?).

To me, difficulty involves a changing or dynamic action plan. Anything resembling "brute force" is not difficult, it is tedious. Learning how to pull, tank, cc, or whatever other related skill, and then how to apply it to the current situation (mob/party/terrain) was difficult, and enticing, while staying away from the hated "Skinner box". Becoming "good" at the difficult parts reduces the tedium, and that itself can become a reward, feeding the cycle.

My favourite times in WoW were with my Warlock and my Druid. Juggling 2 or 3 mobs, while killing them, in TBC heroics on my Warlock was intensely fun, as every time a feared mob ran around a corner I wasn't expecting, or fear broke early, or I applied the wrong curse to the mob, or I apply the right curse but didn't line up the fear/curse/dots right was an adrenaline rush I didn't find anywhere else in PvE, ever.

My fondest druid memories were as Resto with Feral Charge. With Cyclone, Feral Charge, Bash, Taunt, Entangling Roots, all while healing, there was always the feeling I could do it better, and always times when it didn't go as planned. This was mostly in PvP, but there were a few times in heroics I did this too (taunt obviously being much more dangerous in this situation than just dragging someone's pet around a pillar).

Both of these have been removed from the game. There are similarities, but the removal of Feral Charge from Resto, and the removal of Recklessness nullifying Fear have changed these from fun to either seemingly impossible to be successful at, or a boring minigame relative to their former shadow.

Keep in mind people still enjoy doing speed runs, even if they don't get extra rewards (including saved time) from doing so. Some people just get a kick from the mastery of the task at hand, and the time savings are an arbitrary but noticable reward.
@Tobold on hypocrites:

The problem with calling people hypocrites is that it's not that easy to switch games. There's the time investment that people have sunk into this games as well as the emotional attachment they already have to WoW. And then, there's the possibility that the harder game is simply not as fun to play as WoW. Maybe they enjoy some stuff in WoW, but the dungeons are simply not hard enough.

On dances:
I'm done with tank-and-spanks. They're boring. Fun to play as DPS as you get to watch your meters, but not to do for every fight. That's exactly what you're promoting when removing the dance. At max, I'd want one per raid dungeon.
You're conflating difficulty and time consuming. Everquest certainly was a difficult game, but it was also tediously time consuming. Looking at other genres, you could have a difficult game without it taking very long to beat if you were skilled at it. The Mario platformer games come to mind. You can rip through Super Mario 1 with a little knowledge and a lot of skill, but it wasn't tedious.

Part of the problem, in my mind, is that in many MMOs, Everquest and WoW included, you cannot simply trade time for skill. If I'm skilled at platformers, I'll beat the latest Mario game significantly faster than you. If I'm good at MMOs or RPGs, I cannot hit the level cap and gear up faster than you without a large amount of pre-researched information. There's no way to trade time for skill in the MMO industry, not in any significantly meaningful way, so just adding more time to the equation, ala your post about what made Everquest difficult, you're not requiring more skill, you're just adding more time.
Pzychotix also brings up an excellent point about raid difficulty. You want to have fights that are about mastering your character, but not about the dance. So what happens when you do master your character? What makes these dances/high movement fights difficult is the addition of environmental factors: external, uncontrollable factors that you must take into account while performing the things you've already supposed to have mastered: your rotation, raid healing, taunting and tank swapping, etc.

Admittedly, a game like WoW could do with a little more random and a little less dance (though, frankly I think the Halfus fight is a great example on counteracting the learned dance to a significant extent, versus, say Heigan of Naxxramus which was very literally a dance), but I've gotten a damn good handle on my characters. Patchwerk fights are dull.
I understand the hypocrisy that you're highlighting here.

Accusations that WoW is "too easy" or the poor man's MMO are usually compared to the "good old days" of EQ when life was hard.

Many of the critics that say this never experienced those days and, given the choice, would not want to experience them now.

And frankly I find it irritating that the same people who say WoW is easy have never stepped foot in a heroic raid, or competed for a realm first.

What did Paragon think of the first tier of Cataclysm heroic raiding? "Brutal".
A dance refers to it being scripted actions. Whether it's a traditional Waltz or the Heigan encounter, they are very structured and planned, and you fail until you do it "right". The problem this comparison is intended to highlight is that unlike a Waltz, there's very little perceived difference between a professional Heigan dance and a "good enough to pass" Heigan dance.

Everyone should understand that there are certain minimum levels of knowledge that act as barriers. You have to be able to move to dance, you have to know the dance to kill the boss, etc. They build on each other to become more difficult as you master the earlier steps. The problem is when the difficulty ends when you meet the minimum barriers. This is the reason why I supported meter whoring in my raids when I was leader: because "so long as the boss dies" is a very binary goal, and gives very little room for improvement, and very little drive for competition.
Technically speaking, Paragon's comment was directed towards the frustrating circumstances under which they did their realm firsts. Being that they were the first guild to ever to do these encounters (which were largely untested due to Blizzard's internal testing team not skillful enough to test such encounters), they had the Devs watching over them every attempt and hotfixing the encounters between attempts.

For the large part, once you understand yourself and your enemy (a Sun Tzu moment here), the game is pretty easy.

Really, the problem that Tobold is running into is that there is such a surplus of information already solving the problems that he wants to solve himself. If his guild were to do encounters blind (i.e. no outside info) and learn it as they go, then he would be able to solve the tactical side of the encounters.
If tedious is NOT hard, like so many of you seem to suggest, what was it about Everquest that makes people today say "EVARQUEASTT WAS TEH HARD!!!"

Are they wrong? I would submit that skill alone is not what makes a game hard. For example, "penalties" increase risk, thereby making it more difficult to approach and kill a boss. In other words, if you are going to die and have to naked corpse run to retrieve your gear (and lose XP in the process), it makes the risk vs. reward ratio different. "No crutches" requires you to rely only upon the original UI to do well...again, hard. Forced grouping is also arguably hard because it requires you to work with others to achieve goals that in other games since you can solo. Ala, hard.

Disagree? Agree? Anything about Everquest that was hard?
@Lighstagazi: Meters are still a good effective means of measuring performance. I don't see why whether it's a dance or a tank-and-spank has anything to do with it. Damage meters will still measure how much performance you did throughout the fight, and if you died early because you couldn't keep up with the dance, your meter is going to drop in comparison to others. Similarly, if you're only barely good enough to stay alive, your Damage Taken is going to soar.

I never said meter-whoring is a bad thing in my previous post (though in many cases it is since it promotes taking unnatural risks to do more damage when staying alive is a more important priority). My point was that if all the fights were only about tank-and-spanking, and everyone only focused on doing the same job every fight, it'd be really boring. These outside mechanics which force people to adapt to new situations while still doing their jobs are what make fights interesting and fun to me.
Never played EQ, but I played FFXI heavily.

Ultimately, transitioning from FFXI to WoW taught me that as fun as those types of games are with their forced grouping and difficulty, WoW is just always more fun. Even going back, I can guarantee that I would have fun playing FFXI or a similar game again...but not as much as wow.

It's probably also because I've grown older. I just can't sit down and plan out 6 hours to play at one time on a game. It's not going to happen. WoW's pick up and play is just too convenient.

I think what needs to happen is just a separation of genres. Because MMORPGs have simply changed too much it isn't fair to compare the modern design from the original king. Call the originals...OMMORPGs. Ultimately you can want a harder MMORPG that is more difficult to play, or you may want another OMMORPG that has the classic themes that used to be present (Forced grouping, horrible penalties, based entirely on the community). People just shouldn't conflate the two.
On the subject of games passing a generation by...

I was at a party recently, kicking back on a couch with a few brews, talking with newly-discovered fellow gamers about shared experiences. At some point in the discussion of gaming history, we enthused about how Half-Life brought powerful narrative and cinematic direction, scripted devices to the FPS experience, and how ground-breaking it was. Much like when people talk about where they were for 9/11 or Obama's election, we all shared stories about how we first experienced Half-Life.
One of the guys drinking with us looked sheepish and admitted that he'd never played it because he was only five or six at the time.

Those of us old enough to remember Amiga and Commodore 64 (recording programming on to cassette tapes to swap/save hours worth of careful transcribing/typing from games written up in CVG magazines) all sort of looked at each other dourly and decided to drink a LOT more.
Counter point to my own argument:

"Part of the problem, in my mind, is that in many MMOs, Everquest and WoW included, you cannot simply trade time for skill."

This is disproven by the end game of WoW, and likely raid bosses and the like in Everquest as well. Take a look at top guilds like Paragon or Method. They're the first to kill these heroic modes, and by far the first to down normal mode bosses. And in the end it will likely be with less man-hours than other guilds before they're capable of downing these bosses.

So while the end-game, you can absolutely trade skill in lieu of time, the grinds, such as leveling, or getting reputations, or waiting for a mob to spawn, or farming for a drop cannot be made faster by skill.

The only part I'd actually agree with you to an extent are death penalties and making things more difficult. This is the only portion of the grind that can have a skill vs. time trade off, as someone who is more skilled will likely die less, and therefore not need to spend the time to make back the penalty.
First off Nils is a troll ... occasionally he has lucid moments but he has trouble with any subtle argument Tobold. So what is obvious to you and any other critical thinker is dropped somewhere in his wiring.

Better just to call a troll a troll and quit trying to mine for nuggets of constructive debate. There are no nuggets you can't make this pig sing.

Second, I need to make an assumption ---
ASSUMPTION: If we suspend all the quibbles about "different UI", caveat can't compare apples to apples crap. We CAN compare EQ Vanilla to WoW Vanilla.

But the comparison is flawed. Because of the simple fact, Wow was and is AWESOME for it's time. EQ was good it was cute and all. But Wow took MMOs mainstream. Wow was the MMO "DOOM game" that shifted perceptions.

While EQ did a handfull of things right. WOW did dozens and dozens of things right.

Wow did so many things right that NOW the playerbase is spoiled. The comments show that people REALLY BELIEVE that UI customization is "no big deal" "obvious now thing".

Just that paradigm of UI independence from Core Client execution makes Wow stellar. How can we go back now? How can we "unsee" Paris?

And once perceptions have shifted to a new reality how do you get someone to debate from the "before" mindset? It's like talking to an iPod user about a time when music was either Radio or Record... they just don't get it.
I said this in the other post, but just because EQ is hard doesn't mean that WoW isn't easy. I don't see what the point of the comparison is, unless you mean that people don't know what it is they're wishing for?

I think most people consider difficulty to be what you demean as "twitch" (aka -- playing the game) whereas what you think of as difficulty is what others would call bad game design (i.e., structural obstacles). And just because something requires a longer grind doesn't make it harder, it just takes longer.
- Tobold, what is hard in life?
- To crush your bosses, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their devs.
@Me: sitting around chatting doesn't make community better? What? that doesn't even make sense. What does make community better, flailing around your e-peen and running through PUG instances without even saying a word, then dropping group the second you get your blue goody bag?

It most certainly did. There's a reason why I made a ton of online-friends in EQ, and zero in WoW. The only people I actually talk to in WoW are people I already knew outside of WoW.

EQ had a much better community than WoW, and its mechanics enforced social interaction. Were there people that sucked at it? Yep! Were there people that were outright assholes and jerks? Yep! And guess what? These were the people whose names everyone on the server knew and either avoided, or didn't know and so they didn't get invited into groups.

Heck even the zone wide chat was social. Outside of Barren's Chat (which was primarily inane and anti-social on the servers I've seen) and the trade channel in cities, I've never seen any social, community oriented activity in WoW zone chat channels like used to occur in every zone chat channel in EQ.
@Pzychotix - The meters comment wasn't meant to be pointed at something you said, it was merely part of my argument. Many people dislike damage meters even existing, because "So long as the boss dies, what does it matter?", and there is honestly a significant amount of truth in that. Your comment about "it promotes unnatural risks" backs up that sentiment.

Without those meters, many fights are PURELY dance. They are a rating of quality beyond pass or fail (wipe or boss kill). They give everyone something they can focus on to grow or excel, rather than pass or fail, which promotes engagement and personal growth.

@Bryan - His argument is based directly on Trade and Barrens chat. Those don't seem to show any signs of actually helping the community on the server, and instead seem more as barometers of the community quality (ish).
I love this post. Everquest was the first MMO I fell in love with in 2000, I was only 10 or 11 years old, and I did nothing else the entire summer. I've been trying to get back into it, but certain aspects just aren't fun any more in a game that is this mature. Even then I thought the levelling was too slow. I loved the game, but it has more grinding then any other game I have ever seen in my life.
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