So I was listening to Total Biscuit’s Blue Plz podcast on the way home last night. In episode 31 he spends a great deal of time verbally disemboweling one of the new Cataclysm Heroics (Vortex Pinnacle) for being “too easy” and “too boring”. In fact, with paramount anguish he claims that VP is actually easier than Wrath of the Lich King Heroics and wonders how something so monumentally horrible could have happened.
Unlike many in the WoWosphere, the ‘Biscuit seems to really enjoy difficult content. On his website he has a 40 minute run through of Grim Batol the new level 85 Cataclysm Heroic, where he enthusiastically praises the dungeon for wiping his party repeatedly. The video shows most of the highlights of the instance (including the corpse runs) and is a condensed version of what was in reality a 90 minute run.
90 minutes. When was the last time you spent that much time in a Wrath Heroic?
Have you *ever* spent that much time in a Wrath Heroic?
Didn’t think so.
Something that TB really latches onto in his podcast is how the legions of “entitled adult players” have been responsible for Blizzard’s consistent dumbing down of WoW content. In fact, he expends a great deal of vitriol and directly blames these players who seem to believe that Blizzard owes them an easy walk through of gameplay that requires no effort, causes no wipes and for goodness sakes, never makes any one feel bad about themselves.
About halfway into one of his rants about how these entitled bastions of mediocrity have ruined the game a part of me wanted to get REALLY offended. I’m not sure why. Maybe deep down in my creamy filling I’m one of those entitled adult players that wants to enjoy the little bit of time I do have for the game and to not spend it beating my head against the walls of a heroic 5-man. Or maybe I was offended because I thought Wrath of the Lich King – while not perfect – was indeed the most accessible WoW expansion ever and that the accessibility to raiding and epic level gear better than at any other time in game.
But then I kind of mentally pulled back from all of that. Was all of that accessibility good? Were face roll heroics good? What has the past two years bought us in terms of a viable game and viable gaming community?
Not much I think.
It’s true that Blizzard has made end game much more accessible in Wrath and I think that the reasons behind this decision were generally good. After all – why develop all of that end game content when only a handful of the most elite players on each server are ever even going to see? From a business standpoint alone, it’s pretty dumb. Blizzard is a company, Blizzard likes money. Ergo they are going to want some return on all of that art and development and code that they’ve piled into their end game experience. They aren’t going to get that return if only 20% of each server’s population are going to be the focus of 80% of the development time.
Starting around the end of The Burning Crusade, Blizzard decided to begin nerfing the difficulty level of their raid content over time. The theory was that if things suddenly got easier, even pugs and casuals would be able to whine and bitch their way through until the end boss.
Whether this was a good idea or not really has to do with where you stand in game world. Pugs and Casuals thought it was great – they could – for the first time – kill Illidan or the Lich King. Elites – were of a different opinion. After all, in today’s world of achievements and such, there is very little difference between a guild or a player that knocked the LK down before the Icecrown Zone Buff and those that bashed their head into a brick wall right up until the buff went to 30%.
From a fairness point of view, this doesn’t seem to wash for me.
Let’s be clear here too. I consider myself a casual. I have a fixed number of hours that I can play the game any given day and that time can be sorely compromised by the joys of life as a responsible, working adult. Yet despite the rather pejorative connotations of the term “casual” I enjoy a challenge, I do raid, I do arena and I make a concerted effort to be better at the game.
Because I do these things, I have enjoyed much more of the game than the average “casual”. It also allows me at least a glimpse of how the true raiding and pvp elite see the game and how, in their opinion, it’s starting to kind of suck.
And simply put, I don’t think we’re doing ourselves any favors by dumbing the content down. Or by making it so accessible that we virtually remove the distinctions between the hardcore and the casual raider.
Do I think “true” casuals have a right to complain that they need more to do in a game that has historically been focused on team based raid play? Absolutely. But the answer to that is not (I think) that we need to make everything so utterly accessible and faceroll easy.
But that’s exactly what Blizzard did in WotLK. In fact, they’ve wrapped the whole game around ensuring that more and more people have the ability to join the dungeon finder and to run anonymous pugs with others in order to face roll easy content and collect badges for tier level epic gear.
We have, for two years, trained a completely new player base on this kind of thinking and this kind of game play. How are they going to react to a much harsher world in Cataclysm I wonder?
And will it really be harder? Everything I’ve read on the official forums, on blogs, and heard in podcasts is that the new heroics are wrecking people. Trash pulls are HARD again and you have to learn the mechanics for boss fights and be on your toes from the moment you pull to the moment the boss drops. People are going to DIE. People are going to get frustrated and they’re going to get mad at each other and a lot of them are going to wrap up their six-sided loot dice and QUIT.
And then what happens? Blizzard seems to be trying to unmake the monster it has been building and feeding over the past couple of years, but when the bottom line drives business, you simply can’t afford to alienate millions of players can you?
But while you might not be able to fit that monster back in the box it came in, you might be able to teach it some new tricks. In Cataclysm, group dynamics and group play are going to be important again. These are things that the dungeon finder doesn’t really teach well. But good guilds and thoughtful players are going to probably step away from LFD and start doing things together again.
Which is also good.
What way forward would you choose? Was Wrath your first WoW experience? How would you view a “harder” game?
For those of you that have been around a while – what do you think? Are you ready to have to really learn content again? Are you ready to find yourself wiping on trash? Are you ready to spend hours trying to clear a 5-man instance and get nowhere?
** Author’s note: Something I want to add here as I think it’s pertinent to the topic – and I’ve received a couple of e-mails about in regards to this post: The Lich King fight is a grind. It’s hard. I’ve seen good players stymied by it for longer than any of them expected to be. But it can be beat. I think it’s important to not downplay the effort that others have put forth to close the door on WotLK content. That said, not everyone in this game is created equal. Some are simply “better at the game”. As players we should be able to celebrate those that took Arthas down without the buff while also honoring those that needed the full 30%. Making everyone a generic “Kingslayer” wasn’t the way to do that in my opinion.