Mike Preach has a video on youtube explaining his thoughts on why Blizzard’s direction for World of Warcraft is wrong. Part of his belief is that the game is becoming too easy and that by making content harder, it’ll improve the overall player base and attract better players.
Let me preface this article by saying that I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Preach as a youtube publisher and as a gamer. He makes excellent how-to videos, generally is positive and does his best to encourage players to be at their best at all time. He is the ideal gamer and the type of person you would want in your guild or at least your party.
What he fails to understand is that he’s working from a very privileged point of view. He does belong to one of the top world raiding guilds, Method. Also, he’s able to convey his viewpoint through his videos. More than that, he (I think) is a professional gamer. As a result, his viewpoint on the subject matter is incredibly slanted.
Now, I do agree that it is ideal for people to step up their game play. However, that cannot be done through enforcing it at the content level. Cataclysm has proved this by returning content difficulty to around he Burning Crusade level. As I have blogged on numerous occasions, the biggest problem has been that the differential between BC to Wrath of the Lich King in the growth of World of Warcraft’s player base has created high expectations inside of Activision. Since at the end of the day, Blizzard/Activision is after all a business, alienating a large portion of the gamer base through creating frustrating content is not an option. The layoffs at Blizzard clearly indicate Blizzard/Activision priorities.
Second, and here’s the big one, creating more difficult content does not necessarily attract better players in higher droves. You’re constantly going to get a hybrid of players where the vast majority are going to sit in between good to mediocre at best. These people may not necessarily give a damn about becoming a better player. In fact, I argue that most will just do the bare minimal to get by. Ever run End Time and notice how people are reluctant to do the hour glass? I ran an instance where a hunter revealed she didn’t want any responsibility. This is what I believe is the average mentality of the normal player is.
Not everyone has a positive attitude and wants to improve upon themselves. Most enjoy swimming in the stench of their mediocrity. Most don’t care if their mediocrity pulls the better people down. Just look around you and ask yourself how people aren’t attempting to do their best for the world. If that were the case, we’d have free health care, no censorship, real etiquette, honor, etc.
The thing is that I feel these mediocre people are the ones driving the better players away. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be players who suck. They can be kids who enjoy aggravating others. Two of my friends, who I felt were certainly far above average players, quit World of Warcraft during Cataclysm not just because of the content, but how the average boneheads would chase them out.
Making the content more challenging does not improve people as a whole. How many times have you ever been in a class where you have a hard ass teacher and the entire class rises to get straight A’s? I’m certain in that situation there will be the 1-2 who get the A and the rest will receive C’s. Similarly, games are like bell curves and in a social environment like World of Warcraft, you will see that the vast majority are C’s and below.
I think World of Warcraft suffers at the moment and in general for a few reasons. With regards to the current content patch, I see it as a test drive for Mist of Pandaria. Hence, why the content is relatively simple and why Blizzard more than likely is putting its resources into that rather than creating new content for the current expansion (in truth, Cataclysm was an abysmal failure as an expansion; I don’t know anyone who really enjoyed it). Second along these lines, there simply wasn’t enough end game content. The HoT instances pretty much are limited so it’s easy to grow bored once you’ve done them 3-4 times. The same can be said with Dragon Soul. But of course, beyond farming gear for your alts, if you really are bored by the content, why not find something else to do?
The other stigma that World of Warcraft suffers from is the mentality of raiding that it has created. I don’t think Blizzard initially intended raiding to be a competition. So progression raiders are the only ones that really care about acing through content. But that’s part of the problem and that’s where you more than likely are hearing the most vocal audience.
When I say the mentality of raiding, I think that people need to understand why it’s a huge issue. The biggest problem with end game raiding, imo, is the time commitment that raiding guilds can demand from their raiders. Professional gamers won’t care about this aspect since their lives only exist in the gaming world. But not everyone is privileged like that and many of us have major time commitments to families, jobs, schooling and whatnot.
This is why LFR is so important. For all the complaints, LFR is a great tool because it allows people to experience content that they may not necessarily get to see. I like it because I can join on my own schedule. I’m certain if I had plenty of free time and a more stable schedule, I could do regular raiding. But I really need the freedom due to various problems in my life.
However, I’ve seen raiders look at LFR as a slap in the face. They call the gear drops welfare gear and denounce LFR as not being “real raiding.” I think LFR probably is more frustrating than raiding in that your groups vary tremendously and that you have to deal with a great number of immature assholes. But to denounce it is a problem with the whole raiding mentality.
Here’s the thing about raiding. You need to deal with other people with a great deal of variance in skill. So making raids “hard” just drives off people. If you’re lucky, you’ll belong to a good guild that can help carry you through. But I think most people simply don’t want to belong to one and prefer soloing the game. After all, I think any people just play games to relax on their spare time. The social element, while being nice, may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Unfortunately, Blizzard makes raiding too much of their bread-n-butter when it comes to World of Warcraft. But I think the system itself is old, which is why I’m interested in the whole PVE Scenarios. Still, I think that more content should be individual based with options to allow for groups. For instance, why should LFR be 25 people? Why not give a handicap for long queue times? Let’s say you can’t find healers (the biggest problem). So instead, provide a buff to reduce the damage to the party as a whole. The problem should not reflect the available resources (or lack thereof). Or why not do more quests like the last one in Mount Hyjal where you fight Ragnaros? To me the game should be playable either by individuals or by groups.
Honestly, I think there’s no easy way the game is ever going to find that right balance of difficulty that can satisfy both sides of the equation. But the game does have to strike enough of a balance to retain its player base.