Leave Cataclysm Alone!

| Thursday, June 9, 2011
I briefly mentioned this during the Twisted Nether interview, but I think it deserves another saying: Cataclysm was not a horrible expansion and would have been a pretty awesome game by itself. The problem is Wrath of the Lich King. Or was.

What did LK do? It gave WoW a whole lot of problems. Cataclysm, at worst, built off those, but in terms of truly creating new problems, Cataclysm didn't do a whole lot wrong (beside retaining LK problems).

Problems that LK brought to WoW:

- Taught us that heroics are meant to be trivial zerging lootfests. Cataclysm tried to fix that and make heroics more challenging and presumably more fun. But once people have been trained to expect something, especially if that something is a lot of rewards very fast, they don't like change.

- Brought about extensive use of phasing. Cataclysm extended this. If anything, Cataclysm did it better, using phasing in solo-oriented content such as leveling. LK used this anti-grouping mechanic (fall behind and the other person must wait, cannot help) for lead-ins to group quests and instances. Phasing also encourages, even requires, highly-linear quest designs.

- Random formation of cross-server groups. Your mileage will vary in terms of how much you care about the negative social effects relative to the speed gain. But I do think that BC had higher-quality groups than LK and beyond. We could blame this on a population change, but that would assume data that I don't have, whereas we can see how the devs changed incentives and social mechanics with these features.

- Everything became about raiding. Now certainly vanilla and BC had a lot of raiding going on and a lot of raiding content. But there was not an expectation that everyone would raid or must raid. Both had players who wanted to raid but could not due to this or that problem unrelated to skill, and so changes were almost certainly to their benefit. But I suspect that a lot of players who did not particularly want to raid were driven into it by the structure of the game. Late-game (not end-game) content was thinner, in favor of fast gearing to get people into raids. This causes all sorts of problems, such as players who lack internal motivation to raid and who must instead be driven purely by loot or social pressure, neither of which are long-term formulas for fun.

- Blue sets, what? BC had blue-quality late-game sets. They were not fantastic at all. But some pieces were okay. My paladin used a couple pieces for a while. Other classes had similar experiences. These were not amazing sets, but sets give some sense of legitimacy, they say that this tier is one that is okay to be at. Sets indicate that the devs think you will be here a while and are okay with rewarding that. LK had no instance sets, nor did Cataclysm. It says something: don't stick around and do not, under any circumstances, feel like anything you got here is worth remembering or keeping.

I'm not claiming that sets imply we are meant to stay at a certain level of content, since I doubt we're meant to spend months in VC or WC (both have sets). But the lack of a set does indicate that content is meant to be temporary and fleeting.

- I will do the math so I can properly blame LK for jewelcrafting (since BC is currently the best time ever in WoW, having replaced vanilla despite neither changing), but that's a bit too complex for right now. The number of gems isn't the problem (I checked).

- Time. LK gave WoW a new way of doing thing. Some was good, some was bad. It took time for people to get sick of the bad and quite, which coincidentally put it during Cataclysm. Also, if not for LK, Cataclysm would have been sooner and there would have been fewer horribly burnt-out veteran players leaving.

If WoW had Cataclysm, minus LK, it would be in a much stronger position.

26 comments:

Kring said...

I do not agree.

1) Cata doesn't have enough heroic dungeons. TBC and WotLK had much more.

2) The heroic dungeons are not challenging (unlike TBC) but long (unlike WotLK). Challenging content is fun. A fast hack and slay dungeon can be fun. A long, boring hack and slay dungeon is not fun.

3) Heroic dungeons are not rewarding, unlike TBC and WotLK. Just calculate the time it required to get a first tier item level chest. TBC was the fastest because every boss dropped BoJ, then WotLK which only rewarded the real badge for the random but the random was fast. Last is Cata which takes forever for a T11 chest.

4) Heroic dungeons lack all the "epicness" the vanilla dungeons had. A place like LBRS or Scholomance is reward in itself! A place like Vortex Pinnacle is not!

> - Taught us that heroics are meant to be trivial zerging lootfests.

Making them require more time doesn't make them fun. Make them really hard. But that wouldn't work with the LFD. Remove the LFD for heroic dungeons, raids don't have an LFD either.

If the LFD is a given, WotLK was better with what it made out of the limited resources.

> - Everything became about raiding.

But then again WotLK allowed everyone to raid. And TBC had an alternative endgame called heroics. Cata has neither.

> - Blue sets

That's so true it's amazing they haven't learned this part from WotLK.

tagn said...

I disagree as well, though on a somewhat emotional level.

I found WotLK content to be quite enjoyable and when I was bored with the solo Cata experience, I went back and ran out my subscription playing in Northrend with friends. WotLK actually has overland group quests. You could do something besides an instance.

WotLK also has a good series of instances that you could start in on almost right away in the expansion. I haven't done a Cata instance as by the time I got to the right level and found one, I was no longer interested.

WotLK, despite its flaws, was my favorite timeframe in WoW history. Cata turned so much of the game into a very pretty but very solo activity that I lost interest.

Dave said...

Cata doesn't have anywhere near enough content for a game in it's own right, and the less said about the phasing the better. Horrible expansion.

Straw Fellow said...

You know what's interesting? I liked WOTLK for some reasons, and I think it worked given one of your answers there.

"- Everything became about raiding."

I will agree, everything in WoW became about raiding. But at the same time, they made raiding accessible to everyone.

Yes, I am a filthy communist casual pig. Regardless, I joined a guild with a group of people I just enjoyed hanging out with and main tanked ICC all the way up to the Lich King over a course of six months. We didn't even down him, because our raid group fell apart at that point. You know why? Because half our group was concerned with our ranking, and the other was just concerned about having fun. The ones concerned about ranking left for higher progressed guilds, and the rest rebuilt the group and managed to get their progression up to Sindragosa again and even downed Halion. (I was sick of raiding at that point so I stepped out.) But they had fun and were capable of downing content at their own pace.

Now you can't step into a heroic without being prepped like you are for a raid. Boss strategies are as complex as a raid boss, you need to be properly geared and specced, and if you walk in their without reading up on it first your group may very well punt you. And to be honest, I just don't have the patience to make a spreadsheet for my bear tank and sit through boss videos for every instance just so some jerk in a PuG won't yell at me for being a n00b.

Cataclysm raised the bar for doing heroics and raids without adding anything for the people who didn't want to or couldn't reach that bar. Lich King didn't do that either, but it also lowered the bar for heroics and raiding to compensate. So yes, even a casual guild could feel like they accomplished something in the game. Now? Forget it.

Bee said...

For Kring:

"2) The heroic dungeons are not challenging (unlike TBC) but long (unlike WotLK). Challenging content is fun. A fast hack and slay dungeon can be fun. A long, boring hack and slay dungeon is not fun."

I have to disagree with you. When Cataclysm first came out these new dungeons were very challenging. Especially for healers, a class that I play almost exclusively. For DPS, maybe not so much. Of course as I have geared up the content has gotten much easier. But that's not the only reason. I've also been able to learn what to expect. I know when the damage spikes are, I know what debuffs I can dispel, and which ones are even worth the mana. I have more mana period.

I do have to say though, once Blizzard put out their first set of nerfs to the heroic dungeons, some have become "long, boring hack and slay dungeon[s]." Especially Shadowfang Keep. I used to dread getting that one because it was such a challenge. Now I dread it cause its so long.

Kring said...

Bee, yes, some bosses are quite complex in Cata and brute force doesn't lead to victory. They have more advanced mechanics then the TBC heroic bosses (, although TBC heroic bosses required much more healing.)

I was merely referring to trash because that's where you spend 90% of your time in a dungeon on. I want the trash to be challenging and fun. Trash should be fun and not something that eats your time. And the Cata trash is merely a push over. It's a huge difference to TBC heroic trash. TBC heroic trash did way more damage and required way more team play and CC. TBC had trash groups where a single one of them required the healer to keep spamming the most efficient heal on the tank to keep him alive. (At least always the two mobs with stealth detection in front of a door...) Many TBC trash mob would one hit a cloth wearer. If you didn't re-sheep in time you or your healer would get one-hittet.

Sure, you can wipe on Cata trash which wasn't possible in WotLK. But groups who wipe on Cata trash wouldn't have survived the first trash mob in a TBC heroic.

Sthenno said...

Kring: I think Cataclysm heroics are about on par with BC heroics for challenge. There were some downright cruel trash pulls in BC heroics, but despite being occasionally overly class dependent (in terms of having the right CC, paladins being able to heal about 60% more than priests, etc.) they weren't that bad. Cataclysm also has a few trash pulls that range up into the "cruel" category, and a few of the bosses (springvale, corborus, ozruk) seem on par with the worst of the BC heroic bosses.

As for the reward for running them, I think it's risky to say that Cataclysm heroics aren't as rewarding. I think you could equally argue that the problem is that they are far too rewarding. You do not need to run normals to gear for heroics or heroics to gear for raids. You can just jump right in. BC heroics gave rewards very slowly, but you attributed more meaning to your rewards so it felt better. I think Klepsacovic hits this on the head in the post. His reference to sets, while not being the essential problem itself, is a great symbol of (and contributor to) the problem. Remember, in BC heroics dropped the same loot as normals but with one epic at the end. People would search for groups for a heroic to fight through it for a chance of their item dropping. With the exception of wrists, there were no items I needed to actually have drop from a heroic in Cataclysm to get a full 346 set of gear.

I fall in with Straw Fellow, I think. The problem is that in Wrath they made the game all about raiding, then in Cataclysm they took raiding away from a lot of people and didn't fill in the gap. Making raids super easy might not have been a good idea in the first place, but the remedy in Cataclysm seems tailored to too few people.

Darraxus said...

- Taught us that heroics are meant to be trivial zerging lootfests. Cataclysm tried to fix that and make heroics more challenging and presumably more fun. But once people have been trained to expect something, especially if that something is a lot of rewards very fast, they don't like change.

(I agree. I came to expect short easy Heroics that I could blow through even when carrying someone. The biggest problem though you hit on below.)

Random formation of cross-server groups. Your mileage will vary in terms of how much you care about the negative social effects relative to the speed gain. But I do think that BC had higher-quality groups than LK and beyond. We could blame this on a population change, but that would assume data that I don't have, whereas we can see how the devs changed incentives and social mechanics with these features.

(I liked them in Wrath as you could rarely be "bad". Now it is horrible. I havent run a Heroic in months. I dont want to deal with the cross server douchebags. In BC you had to build a friend list of reliable players. If you sucked, people wouldnt group with you, and being an asshat was frowned on as you were on the same server. They need a same server LFG.)

- Everything became about raiding. Now certainly vanilla and BC had a lot of raiding going on and a lot of raiding content. But there was not an expectation that everyone would raid or must raid. Both had players who wanted to raid but could not due to this or that problem unrelated to skill, and so changes were almost certainly to their benefit. But I suspect that a lot of players who did not particularly want to raid were driven into it by the structure of the game. Late-game (not end-game) content was thinner, in favor of fast gearing to get people into raids. This causes all sorts of problems, such as players who lack internal motivation to raid and who must instead be driven purely by loot or social pressure, neither of which are long-term formulas for fun.

(I loved raiding in BC. Liked it in Wrath. Havent touched it in Cata. Time is a big factor for me, and I just dont enjoy it like I once did. Who wants to be stressed out in a video game?)

- Blue sets, what? BC had blue-quality late-game sets. They were not fantastic at all. But some pieces were okay. My paladin used a couple pieces for a while. Other classes had similar experiences. These were not amazing sets, but sets give some sense of legitimacy, they say that this tier is one that is okay to be at. Sets indicate that the devs think you will be here a while and are okay with rewarding that. LK had no instance sets, nor did Cataclysm. It says something: don't stick around and do not, under any circumstances, feel like anything you got here is worth remembering or keeping.

(The Blue sets go back even further. The 0.5 Dungeon Sets in Vanilla were awesome. You were legit with those and the truly badass had raid epics.)

I'm not claiming that sets imply we are meant to stay at a certain level of content, since I doubt we're meant to spend months in VC or WC (both have sets). But the lack of a set does indicate that content is meant to be temporary and fleeting.

(I agree. I miss the class sets.)

- I will do the math so I can properly blame LK for jewelcrafting (since BC is currently the best time ever in WoW, having replaced vanilla despite neither changing), but that's a bit too complex for right now. The number of gems isn't the problem (I checked).

- Time. LK gave WoW a new way of doing thing. Some was good, some was bad. It took time for people to get sick of the bad and quite, which coincidentally put it during Cataclysm. Also, if not for LK, Cataclysm would have been sooner and there would have been fewer horribly burnt-out veteran players leaving.

(I also agree. LK was easy. Cata was harder. If not for the simplicity of LK, Cata would have been popular longer. I actually prefer the zergfest that was Wrath due to the ease I could run dungeons with friends of varying skill levels.

Anonymous said...

While doing your BC/WotLK gem math don't forget the unique epic gems BC heroics dropped all the time.

Faeldray said...

I started playing WoW in BC but barely ran any dungeons or group quests until Wrath, nevermind raids. So I can't really comment on the quality of vanilla and BC times. I will say though that Wrath was the best time I've ever had in WoW.

I was scared of grouping with people in BC, plain and simple. I had heard horror stories about the complexity of dungeons and raids and refused to step foot into them. It was the accessibility of Wrath dungeons and raids (and partially great guildmates) that encouraged me to venture into them. I learned more about playing and mastering my class in Wrath than I have any time before. And I enjoyed the hell out of it.

I never lost interest in running heroics for more than a week or so. I had two characters that were raid ready, and two more that were partially geared from heroics. Our first Lich King kill was absolutely wonderful. We didn't care that we did it with the full buff, it was still fun for us. So we carried some people through ICC, who cares? We weren't competing with guilds doing hard modes so it didn't affect them.

Things went downhill in Cata. I'm all for harder heroics and the use of CC. But I do not want to spend the whole evening in one or two heroics, and I certainly don't want to spend the entire time being a CC bot. It didn't take me long to get burnt out on them.

I'm sure that other people remember how hard Wrath heroics were your first couple times through. Azjol-Nerub was the bane of our existence at the beginning. But then as our gear got better, they became easier. And it wasn't boring! Instead it became a fun challenge to see how many groups you could pull at once and survive. And hey, if you got grouped with some idiots, at least you didn't have to spend any longer than 45 minutes with them.

I miss being able to run a dungeon with my boyfriend in the 30 minutes I had before work. Oh well, I hear that LotRO has some nice short and interesting instances.

old wow bastard said...

"Just calculate the time it required to get a first tier item level chest. TBC was the fastest because every boss dropped BoJ, then WotLK which only rewarded the real badge for the random but the random was fast. Last is Cata which takes forever for a T11 chest."

That point is a bit incorrect since the "First Tier Chest" you mention in TBC did not exist until about a year into that expansion's life cycle.

Specifically, you did get badges from Heroic bosses only, but until about a year into TBC's lifetime most of that loot was sub-par.

In terms of ilvl, the badge gear was IIRC 105 or 110. Kara drops were 115, T4 was 120 and Prince/Gruul/Mags gear was 120.

So no, you couldn't get a "Tier" chest with badges in initial TBC. Under Any Circumstances, Period.

old wow bastard said...

Err, sorry slight typo in my reply there, Prince/Gruul/Mags gear was actually ilvl 125

Kring said...

Yep, you're right. My fault.

stubborn said...

I'm not sure I want to dip my toe in this one, but I'm going to anyway. I actually mostly agree. While I don't like some of the new Cata things, either, I do think a lot of the problems came from LK.

That said, I think that the biggest problem was LFD and the increased focus on theorycrafting in regards to maximized efficiency of raiding (not WoW's fault, but a result of how they allow data to be accrued via addons).

That said, there was a lot I liked about LK, and about Cata, too. Perhaps I should post on that, so I won't spoil it here with more than a short list: old lore made relevant again, zone changes that feel appropriate to the circumstances, ... man I can't think of any more right now.

Shintar said...

If WoW had Cataclysm, minus LK, it would be in a much stronger position.

What an intriguing thought! What if Cataclysm had come after Burning Crusade? I'll have to think about that one; there might even be a post in it!

And I agree very strongly with your post in general. There is a lot of good stuff in Cataclysm, but it just doesn't mesh well with WOTLK mechanics that have been carried over.

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: LK did have more, however it added the random mechanic, allowing heroics to be run multiple times in a day, and at a higher rate. Even with a large pool, it still became repetitive very quickly.

Cataclysm heroics were challenging at first. I don't know what they are now, but they were not trivial. LK was faster than BC if you consider that LK gave not only a badge (which was upgraded over time) per boss, but the more powerful badge as well. Contrast this with BC which gave one badge per boss and had increased badge costs for the higher gear. I remember my badge axe being the end of a very long grind.

I will agree that the vanilla instances had something better to them. What, I cannot quite say. Maybe it was that they were part of slower content, either leveling or late-game rep and questing, which gave us more time to learn about the places we were sent to.

@tagn: Starting in Northrend you're only going to have UK or Nexus, a design which was pretty awkward given that they were on opposite ends of the continent. Eventually things open up more with OK, AK, and more as it goes along, but early LK was about as restrictive as Cataclysm, though Cataclysm never quite opens up.

@Dave: I should have phrased that better, I did not mean to suggest that Cataclysm alone would be a game, but if Vanilla had used the remade Azeroth from the start (though that would have other problems), it would have been a quality game.

@Straw Fellow: I like the concept of accessible raiding, but the LK implementation of it didn't feel very good to me. The progressive badge buffing, along with forcing raiders into random heroics, made raiding feel like a mandate rather than a choice.

Klepsacovic said...

@Sthenno: BC heroics had upgraded loot if they were low-level, so SP would have new loot beside the epics, but SL, since it was a late-game instance, it had the epics tacked on.

@Daraxxus: Tier .5, I totally forgot! But good point, a partially epic set of gear from instances, and an awesome quest chain, Blizzard's first real attempt (and possibly last) at an alternative progression path.

@Anonymous: I was wracking my brain trying to think of something involving epic gems and those just skipped right past me. But yes, those gems were sometimes a handy bonus. I can't say they were great, since they were somewhat unreliable and were often of truly terrible stat mixes (int defense!). For the most part mine tended to sit in my bank as I waited for something to put them in.

@Faeldray: "I had heard horror stories about the complexity of dungeons and raids and refused to step foot into them."
That makes me sad to hear, because I feel like in BC you'd have gotten a chance.

I wish WoW had a variety of instance lengths. Back in vanilla and BC I liked long instances (with a dozen bosses in a place like BRD that was inevitable). Now, not so much. So I'd love if there were a half-dozen half hour, a few hour, and a couple very long. This wouldn't work at all with random dungeon finder, but maybe that's a stupid tool anyway.

@old wow bastard: Sub-par is a relative term. Sure it wasn't at Kara level, but lots of it wasn't shabby. The trinkets in particular were a nice item (but perhaps because until LK trinkets weren't falling out of the sky, even if BC had a lot more than vanilla).

@stubborn and Shintar: Glad to see I might have inspired some posts. Looking forward to them!

Straw Fellow said...

"The progressive badge buffing, along with forcing raiders into random heroics, made raiding feel like a mandate rather than a choice. "

I'll agree with you there. It was most definitely the whole point of the game in WOTLK: You did heroics and raided, or you didn't play WoW. Thing is, I think that is a fine approach because they made raiding accessible to so many people that getting into the raiding game wasn't a problem at all. Cataclysm came along, kept the heroic and raid focus, but locked people out of it. And then didn't give anything to the people who were locked out. That could be a major reason for subscription loss, now that I think about it.

"That said, I think that the biggest problem was LFD and the increased focus on theorycrafting in regards to maximized efficiency of raiding (not WoW's fault, but a result of how they allow data to be accrued via addons)."

And I'd like to agree with this wholeheartedly. The maximized efficiency in spec, gear, gems and enchants has become so engrained in the game that playing without that make you liable to be kicked from any random group. It's like trying to go to the park to play baseball with the neighborhood kids and them laughing you off the field because you don't have a replica MLB jersey to play in. Weak metaphor, but you get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Kleps:

I can speculate why you're doing it, but I strongly encourage you not to downplay the negative impact of LFD. It is absolutely a baby-with-the-bathwater solution to a problem that didn't yet exist and has caused at least as much damage, if not more, than every other thing combined.

Also - and you're going to hate me for pointing this out - badges were a mistake. A severe mistake. If you remove badges as a medium, what you have is absolute loot homogeny. That was a TBC invention and it was a mistake. Granted, in TBC it was a very short list of items you could get, but that was the worst thing they could have done. You need variety. In WoW, people who have put some effort forth into gearing up are wearing pretty much the exact same stuff, and I'm not talking about BIS - I'm talking about availability: for any given role/class/slot there is a very, very short list of items that go there at all, doubly so with set gear. And part of that is because there's such a narrow band of ways in which to individualize a piece of gear.

My point of reference is EQ in this respect, because I feel they did it right with regard to gear: at any given point in time, the end game had 10 different face slot options for plate classes. At the end of the day, the actual, bottom-line difference between them is negligible at best, but the fact is that not everyone is frantically grinding their way toward the exact same goal, and I suspect that's important. And lost.

bleh, done rambling

-Ben

Klepsacovic said...

@Ben: If it were anything else, I could understand if I had somehow miscommunicated, but to suggest that I think or would claim that cross-realm LFD was anything other than a disaster is insanity.

Badges could have been implemented better, of course. But I'm sure we can at least agree that BC did it a bit better than LK/Cata, not tying them to raid gear. I suppose I should write a post about why I like the concept of badges, one of these days.

"the actual, bottom-line difference between them is negligible at best"
Aha! So what you're saying is that some of the choices are totally inferior and anyone who is using one rather than the other is a complete noob?

"not everyone is frantically grinding their way toward the exact same goal"
That sounds nice.

old wow bastard said...

@kleps yar, those trinkets were actually pretty good at the time. Especially the tanking stuff.

My point was more to the fact that kara gear is higher in terms of item level, than the initial badge gear. Blizz seems to have done away with that model starting with WotLK.


If blizz would have followed the model they set in tbc (standard drops in an instance are ilvl x, tier is x+5, last boss is x+10, with 13 ilvls between tiers and base instance drops between instance tiers) even when factoring in hard modes they could have ended gear progression at or around ilvl264 gear.

Part of the way they've really decreased difficulty since TBC has to do with they way they've modified their way of distributing ilvls to instances.

I could spend a lot of time detailing this (as I've nerded out on it a lot) but the simple fact is that, between heroic gear in tbc and the very last boss of the very last instance, you only saw an increase of 59 ilvls. Crafted/Heroic gear was ilvl105 or 110; drops from KJ were 164.

Additionally Crafted/Heroic gear was 5-10 ilvls lower than basic kara drops, and 10-15 ilvls lower than t4 gear.

In Wrath the spread was 84 ilvls from badge/heroic gear to ICC Hardmodes/Ruby Sanctum.

Based on what I'm seeing with Cata it looks like the spread will be similar.

I'm thinking that a move back to the earlier model could really add some challenge back into that game. Adding 40% to the max gear level can simply cause scaling issues.

Personally I know that my ilvl 359 prot paladin has little or no problems carrying really bad groups.

My T4 warrior did not have that same ability.

If the model continues to follow the WotLK standard, current heroics will be a joke pretty soon.

Kring said...

I'm quite sure the item level spread was not the main reason. Yes, I agree that they went overboard with CPP.

In addition to that the characters were much weaker back then. Characters weren't a one man army back then, they were designed for group play... Druids didn't even have a normal rezz back then! And they lacked a lot of important healing tools to heal 5 mans back then.

But the reason TBC heroics were much harden then Cata heroics was that they contained a lot of trash mobs which you couldn't just brute force.

E.g. Mana-Tombs. There you had groups of 4 mobs with various abilities like mana-burn (which would burn about 90% of your healers mana and they didn't have insane reg and you couldn't survive single groups without heal) and stuns and random aggro and kicks and push backs and heals and they would spread dots and so on.

Your group had to CONTROL the enemy one way or the other. Either by taking them out of combat or by kicking their casts to prevent them from unleashing their worst casts.

It just wasn't possible to tank them all just because you had a bad group because the trash mobs DID FIGHT BACK instead of only dealing damage.

Klepsacovic said...

http://trollshaman.blogspot.com/2010/06/item-level-within-and-across-expansions.html

I attempted an analysis of the item level changes last year. I found, more or less, that inflation didn't radically change in terms of ilevels. However the gradual improvement of gear design has driven a huge power increase. Compare contemporary single-role gear with vanilla blues, which even on a warrior set could include anything from strength to spirit, whereas now that gear would be strength for DPS, avoidance for tanking, and... let's pretend I started with paladins and say spirit/int for healing. Then there are the class revamps, which have made us all a lot more powerful.

eveleaf said...

I guess I’m going to throw my 2 copper in here, too.

I think it’s a mistake to look only at game design when evaluating the problem with Cataclysm. Sure, everyone has their own unique “sweet spot” where they like content to be on the easy-to-difficult scale, and we’re never going to get every single player to agree. And it’s obvious that the game itself has gotten easier with each new expansion, with only Cataclysm bucking the trend and trying to push content back into a more difficult (or “challenging”) space.

But the fact is that WoW went mainstream. The player base is no longer comprised solely of sweaty neckbeards with no social life, who like dungeon crawling until four in the morning, nine days a week, hoping that if you keep it up for six months straight you might eventually get your bracers to drop. The game’s appeal is much more universal now, and it’s picked up a gigantic mass of players who are, for a lack of a better term, regular folks. Parents of young children. Working, active professionals who want their MMO to fit into a healthy, balanced lifestyle. More and more of us with busy schedules who really only get an hour or two here and there to play, on nothing like a set schedule. We don’t have the time or obsession to pour over elitistjerks or spreadsheets, searching for those missing 2 DPS points. We will naturally seek out an MMO that we can still enjoy, but that occupies a smaller and less demanding spot on the priority list.

And WotLK actually did that. It “fit” us. I’m a working mom with two kids, a house, an extended family and an active church. And by investing a little time here and there, I was able to get seven (yes, seven) characters to level 80 and fairly well geared, just from heroics when I was able to fit them in. The path of progression was a very easy climb and one I enjoyed immensely. I did some raiding on a very casual level with pugs, and I killed the LK (with a 10% buff) with a fantastic group of raiders who let me play with them off and on once I’d demonstrated my competency. I loved WotLK because it was, for a player like me, completely and totally accessible. I accomplished everything I wanted to in that expansion.

Cataclysm never had a place for someone like me. I love healing the most, and healing was a nightmare. I didn’t have two or three hours a night to wipe over and over and still not finish a dungeon. I couldn’t take the anger and blame when my LFD group, again, failed to cc anything and then got angry when I ran out of mana trying to keep the alive. On trash. I was miserable. I switched to dps, but found similar barriers blocking my path – wipefest heroics that went on for hours, a progression path so steep that I lost interest before getting anywhere close to my goal.

So instead of saying “this isn’t for me” in relation to T2 raids, which I did in WotLK, I had to say “this isn’t for me” in relation to heroic 5-man instances. Which left me with approximately 2 months of playable content, before WoW got put on the shelf. I had to find another game.

Is the problem WotLK? Is the problem that WoW ever went mainstream to begin with, ever gave us a really accessible expansion that a person could fully explore on a limited schedule? I don’t think Blizzard’s marketing department would agree with you. They certainly enjoyed our money. They may tout their “12 million subscribers!” but it’s a mistake to think those are 12 million neckbeards. I’m betting the vast majority are actually casuals. And disenfranchised with Cataclysm.

Klepsacovic said...

That's at least a gold.

Beside the insanity of original Naxx, I'm not sure BC was easier than vanilla. I guess leveling was sped up a little, but gearing wasn't a whole lot faster, though the badge system helped. Heroic instances were harder than most of the vanilla instances.

As for the neckbeards, I'm not sure what to say. How does one respond to blatant over-generalization and exaggeration? I guess all I can give is my own experience: for most of BC I raided with guilds that had a good number of parents or other people with outside responsibilities. I certainly wasn't one of them, but maybe that only adds to the point, that we were able to coexist at the time.

While WoW started with a core of former EQ players, it didn't even start with a raiding game. With its instanced bosses (no camping required) and quests to show people where to go, WoW was a very casual-friendly place. I'd even say that beside the PvP ranking system and the inability to save raids between weeks, which are certainly major problems, but the latter is a simple fix, vanilla was entirely casual-friendly.

Minstrel said...

"Random formation of cross-server groups. Your mileage will vary in terms of how much you care about the negative social effects relative to the speed gain. But I do think that BC had higher-quality groups than LK and beyond."

I think it's pretty hard to call this a "problem." Any time you allow more people to mix, the quality per social transaction is going to go down. Was PUGing via Trade/LFG channel a problem before the Random Dungeon Finder? I'm sure if you were forced to run only with people you know, the group quality would be even higher. You would just have even fewer groups.

It's a very arbitrary line to draw, IMO, between PUGing intra-server versus PUGing inter-server. And an unnecessary one, IMO.

We don't have to decide as a broad issue whether the speed gains outweigh the social concerns. People can make the decision on an individual basis. Both PUGing on your server and using the Random Dungeon Finder are opt-in services. If you feel the social outcomes are negative and outweigh the positives of getting groups faster and more easily, you can avoid it.

I make that choice day by day, week by week, sometimes choosing one side (to PUG) and sometimes choosing the other (not to PUG).

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