Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Skiing vs WoW – different views on difficulty and entitlement

I spent my Easter week the same way as I've done the last few years: downhill skiing in the Swedish alps.

Most of the time I had my mind set on other things than WoW. I marveled at the view of the mountains, covered by miles and miles of unbroken snow reflecting the fresh spring sunlight. Pure arcane power if you ask me. I kept a watching eye for suicidal three year olds, heading directly towards me like a flame orb in time warp speed, apparently with no clue about where to find the break (in the unlikely case they'd notice me.) And above all I fought the increasing symptoms of a really bad cold that cunningly had picked my vacation for an evil disease attack.

But a couple of times it happened that my mind drifted away towards Azeroth as the ski lift slowly pushed me to the top. I came to think about similarities and differences between skiing and WoW playing - especially when it domes to the mindset and expectations of the people involved. I’d like to share a few of those thoughts, for whatever it's worth. I might even come to some sort of conclusion. Or maybe I won’t. See for yourself!

This post will be mostly about different views on difficulty levels, expectations and how we’re entitled to certain experiences. It will be a wall of text, so we’d better get started.

The view of a WoW player
First we'll have a look at the WoW community. The more vocal part of the playerbase has always been pretty much obsessed with the issue - constantly arguing about exactly where to put the difficulty bar in the current and future content. The claims and demands from various groups of players shift wildly and are often contradictive. The game developers try to adjust accordingly as well as they can, in an act of balance, providing "a little bit for everyone", so much that I'm afraid that they sometimes get a bit lost in their own long term vision for the game.

It appears as if the lowest common denominator is ruling most of the time these days, and because of this, raid instances are in a process of constant nerfing, accelerating towards the end of an expansion, just to make sure that "everyone" will be able to do "everything" so they can "see" what they've paid for, since it's their “right”.

This doesn’t stop some players from thinking that the content wasn’t nerfed enough, they couldn’t see what they wanted to see, and they’ll make no secret about this.

In the other end you find the hopelessly bitter veterans who never grow tired of mourning a game they think basically has been destroyed by this Army of Ignorant Noobs (which is referring to people like me, without any pervious background in gaming, and therefore in need of a slightly more forgiving learning curve.). Those veterans will glorify any stupid game mechanism from vanilla that has been changed or removed, regardless of the fact that they actually hated it in the past and wanted it to go away. To change the game is to dumb it down, and any change that makes the game accessible to more people is a personal insult to these guys.

The view of a skier
Now let’s move on to the skiing resort. When you put the WoW player view on differences in difficulty in the context of skiing, it looks rather absurd.

At the place where I spent the previous week, you would find about 30 different ways to get down from the hilltop to the valley, and the span of difficulty was enormous. You'd see slopes where you'd happily put your old grandmother who has never seen a pair of skis before, and you would see others, which looked like a death trap, a lethal wall, making you nauseous if you as much as threw a glance at it.

And do you know what? The skiers seemed to be completely happy about this variation!
Did I ever hear anyone who spent their days in the black labeled ski trails whining about the existence of green slopes for the beginners? Of course not! The thought was absurd. Did I ever hear a beginner complain over the fact that they missed the fantastic "content" since they couldn't view the black slopes, demanding that this should be made easier and more accessible, by building some sort of ramp so it wouldn't be so steep and scary? Definitely not! Such a claim would be laughed at.

There was content enough for everyone to be happy. And the fact that the content came in such a variety even seemed to make people easier at mind since it meant that they could bring all of their friends and family, certain that no one would end up being either left out due to noobishness or bored to death because of lack of challenges.

Not once in the lift did I hear anyone commenting negatively on the choice of gear or skill level of other skiers, laughing at signs of clumsiness, ignorance or foolish bravery. As long as you're not violating the rules, putting other skiers safety in danger (the equivalence of hacking, I suppose), skiers don't care. They've got their hands full focusing on improving their own performance, so why would they bother about others?

Approaching WoW like skiers?
So what do I make out of those observations?

I can't help finding the skiing view on levels of difficulty and skill a bit more... let's call it "mature" than the whining you hear from WoW players. A ski resort is a pleasant environment to be in, no doubt. The question is: would it be possible to somehow let this approach sip into the WoW community? Could we encourage Blizzard to design raid slopes in all difficulties, ranging from green to black-black? Could we convince the players to find this design acceptable or even attractive?

I don't know, but to be honest I doubt it. For some reason I don’t think you can expect WoW players to behave like skiers. Someone with deeper knowledge in economics would probably explain it in terms of business models. I’ll refrain from this and just point out a few fundamental obstacles for an ever-smiling WoW audience.

One major thing is the need for grouping in WoW. While skiing is purely individual - you don't even need a buddy to ride the ski lift - you have to cooperate with people in most things you do in WoW. And when you force people together, you will also create tensions, when the interests of the individuals clash.

Imagine you couldn't ski down the black wall-slope on your own, but had to hold hands with 24 other people, running it in a long, unbroken chain. I bet you would be rather annoyed if a first-time skier with no clue whatsoever suddenly broke into your chain and insisted on bringing him with you. But that’s not the case. Skiing is more individual, so people can afford not to bother about others.

Another explanation could be the costs – in money as well as in time. If you break it down to how much you spend per hour you are entertained – in my case how many hours I actually was skiing – the cost for my holiday was absolutely horrendous. No doubt would I rather spend those precious hours enjoying myself, skiing as much as possible, making the best of my time, rather than looking for errors and reasons to complain, worrying about other people’s business.

Since it’s so expensive, I’m also very keen on feeling happy about my choice, so I’m also likely to convince myself that it was a good one, that I enjoy what I’m doing and the level entertainment justifies the costs. It's the mechanism of “commitment and consistency”, as the psychology professor Robert B Cialdini would have labeled it. And since I pay so well, I’m certain that the company that runs the ski resort will do everything in their power to keep me as a paying customer, making a good profit on me. Blizzard on the other hand makes only a smallish marginal benefit from my subscription, so even if they want to make a broad-market game, they’ll not be extremely anxious about meeting the expectations of the individual Larísa.

And finally: WoW playing as opposed to skiing isn't limited in time and space; it's more of an alternative existence in a parallel universe. I bet that if we didn't just visit the ski resort one week a year, but on a daily bases, year after year, I would be more inclined to discuss and have opinions on the overall planning of the trail system. I might even whine a bit when I grew bored, feeling “burned out” on skiing, having nothing else to replace it with to get the thrills I’m used to.

A sort of conclusion
My conclusion, if there is one, is that even if I admire the atmosphere at the ski resort, I can’t expect to find it in Azeroth. Nevertheless I think it wouldn’t hurt if we got a little bit of inspiration from it: Blizzard in the terms of customer care. And the player base in the terms of accepting that players these days come in many different shapes.

Some like it black, others pick the green trails. If you don’t like the easy slopes, there are always others to try. Live and let live.

And if you get bored - try some off-pist wowing. As opposed to in the alps, falling won't hurt you. In case you'd forgotten.


krizzlybear said...

There is a clear aesthetic difference in the variation of content that is available in a particular WoW expansion compared to a ski resort with differing difficulties of a course.

In BC, you could go to a haunted tower (kara), a cave full of menacing ogres (gruul), an underwater cavern (ssc), through time itself (hyjal), or through the blood elf architecture (sunwell).

In a ski resort, you go through snow, some more snow, a hill or two, some trees. more snow. a moose if you're lucky (and likely in canada).

You can see the aesthetic disparity in variation between the two venues. People are content to ski in the various-difficulty courses in the resort because they know they're not missing much when they're going into a novice course.

But when you're in WoW, and you miss the opportunity to see the lush forests of Hyjal, or the technological astro-prowess of Tempest Keep because of your skill level, of course you're going to be disappointed in not being able to experience everything.

This is especially true in LK. As soon as you land in Borean Tundra, Arthas is shoved in your face throughout the leveling process in all the zones that Northrend has to offer. It would be a folly for the developers to do such a thing, and then suddenly deny those who have experienced the antagonism of the Lich King to not even get a fighting chance to step foot upon the very citadel in which he lives.

Thankfully, such a case isn't so, and the developers got it right this time around.

Klepsacovic said...

For skiing, beyond the view and speed, the challenge is the content. The laws of physics and psychology do not allow them to be separated. A jump is a jump and a higher jump is a higher jump and more of a rush. WoW is flexible: AQ40 could have been the easiest raid imaginable while Karazhan could have been nigh-impossible.

Part of the problem is also that the challenge is the content. The end of the hill isn't a goal, it's actually not much fun at all! In WoW there are gear and achievements and screenshots of kills, so the process of the challenge is not as much the intrinsic reward of overcoming a challenge (as with a tough slope) as a barrier to a reward; imagine if the warm buildings where you can relive yourself of cold were only accessible from the hardest slopes.

Holycrepe said...

I have a little insight into this, recently I persuaded my long-time girlfriend to try out WoW. She is a non-gamer, apart from a few arcade stye games the only video games she has played are the Sims Bustin' Out on PS2 and Civ III on the PC.

She didn't expect to enjoy the game, but has now been playing for almost a month, logging on for a few hours every 1-2 days. I helped her by explaining how things worked but not by actually controlling her character. It showed how there is a lot to learn even in the starting zone.

WoW is still pretty difficult for someone who doesn't understand videogames, but it isn't impossible by any stretch of the imagination. It took some time before she could get the camera to do what she wanted while moving around. In fact to an observer her movement might have seemed very bot-like.

Over the month she has need a helping hand less and less, just yesterday she grouped with someone and discovered she liked healing. In fact she knows things others don't and helps out when she can.

She told me how they had found a washing machine thing ...turns out it was the instance portal for BFD, they even went inside a short way. Now she is open to the idea of grouping with others, fortunately the person she grouped with wasn't one of the entitled ones and was patient with her learning how to heal even when they died.

Neither of us are uber-gamers, and WoW should embrace all levels of ability in my opinion.

Chewy said...

The reason I read your blog Larisa is your well observed parallels between the real world and the microcosm that is WOW - An excellent piece.

I'll pick out a few things that struck a chord with me since a comment about the whole "wall" is more response space than I deserve.

...they’ll not be extremely anxious about meeting the expectations of the individual

Entirely agree and I'd go further. The whole basis of the game's business model is small subscription, stack it high sell it cheap so complaining that you don't like this or that little bit of the play is a nonsense. For what we pay, we get an extremely good deal.

...the hopelessly bitter veterans who never grow tired of mourning a game they think basically has been destroyed..

I'm not entirely innocent of this myself but I've lived long enough to know that the streets weren't safer when I was a kid, people weren't nicer to each other, if was just different and the same applies to wow. The difficulty factor of content I remember has changed but then I've changed, learned more, become better. Change multiple variables at once and you can't come to any solid conclusion about which one of them makes the difference (see Holycrepe's comments about his partners experience).

...Nevertheless I think it wouldn’t hurt if we got a little bit of inspiration from it

Agree with the sentiment but I think you know this is wishful thinking. The one thing that would change it, to which you made reference, is the price. Making it wholly inaccessible to those who can't afford it (like skiing) would change the whole player dynamics but it wouldn't work as a business model.

Looks like we're going to have to change our expectation or go back to watching TV.

Andy said...

Another difference as I see it is that in WoW, all the level 80s of all skill ranges are all in the same place (Dalaran), and the vanity rewards for success are obvious to all. The elite are free to hover over Krasus' Landing on their ironbound protodrake mount sporting their Kingslayer title, being the envy of the lesser. This naturally leads to people wanting what they might not be able to have.

With skiing, on the other hand, the reward for completing a black slope is the personal knowledge that you did it. Sure, you may talk about it with other skiers, and if you're a dick you might tell everyone about it in a loud voice, but more often the discussion is civillised.

Furthermore, there is a very real punishment for attempting things you aren't capable of in skiing, so people are much more willing to accept their level.

712 said...

To elaborate further on Klepsacovic's point, we have been trained through quest XP and gear rewards/drops to devalue the experience and value those quantifiable things which have no parallel in skiing.

The other major difference is that I think I would be bored of the one ski resort pretty fast. Perhaps a better analogy would be that each ski resort is an MMO. Blizzard wants as much of our money as possible, and there is a high barrier to trying a different resort and it's a pretty big resort with only very occasional overcrowding(server instances are full??) with XXX million visitors. Wouldn't that mean at the WOW resort all that hard work with each slope should be made available to all.

To use my example, I was a green beginner during TBC, only dabbled in karazhan. If I could only use the karazhan slopes in this resort, I would get bored pretty quickly and leave for another resort. Which is pretty much what I did when I left to try other MMOs

Ulv said...

The elite are free to hover over Krasus' Landing on their ironbound protodrake mount sporting their Kingslayer title, being the envy of the lesser. This naturally leads to people wanting what they might not be able to have.

Interesting point Andy and may account for the reaction of some. I remember vividly, back in Vanilla, seeing people around with the Tier 1 and 2 gear. That's blue stuff. People with Epics were very very rare.

I didn't feel that the game was unfair though - I realised that my knowledge and skill wasn't capable of getting that gear. Hell, I didn't even know how to get that gear.

WoW players these days are better educated, there is less mystery to the game reserved only for the few percent that achieced end-game.

We've just started working on LK on 10-man, we're a way off that on 25. I don't think that the majority of players will down that encounter on normal mode before Cata lands - even with the 30% buff.

From the perspective of a GM of a guild just outside the top-30 on his server I'm happy with the difficulty level and our progress.

Larissa - the skiing analogy works really well imo. Particularly in addressing the absurdity that comes from players having a sense of entitlement. As with any game completion should only be available if you have decent skill and time-investment. The same goes for skiing down a black run with finesse.

Spinks said...

I think the observation that skiing is a solo activity which you do with other people is really spot on.

Imagine a skiing holiday where you weren't allowed onto the black run unless you agreed to spend the entire week with people who also wanted to ski down the black run and not mix with anyone else.

People would have to choose between spending their ski holiday with their family/ friends or challenging themselves on the black run.

Anonymous said...

That's our gnome.

Perfectly right my dear, although it is not much a surprise that people behave in a hobby as they do ... well in any other way of spending your free time.

Regarding the content concerns in your example that some mention, just compare Endgame to Olympic Skiing. Although you love Skiing, the physical effort will probably keep you away from it. Everybody will know that you are an Professional from the media and medals you won (Protodrake and Title).

I love Hiking, but I will never be on the top of Mount Everest, although you can literary pay someone to carry you to the top.

Your Skiing Example does also display social experience, since you go Skiing with those who share your way of Skiing and associated experiences.

As you mentioned, it's about choices and you decide according to your maturity.


Markus said...

Another great concept Larisa! While there are differences in how the content is handled and perceived, elite WoW players could learn from the social aspect of skiing. Sure, I may never see the inside of ICC or the last boss in Ulduar, but that doesn't mean I can't play this game or not have fun in Azeroth.

I will never be considered an elite player. I am too much of a keyboard turner to be any good at PvP and I always find some way to screw up my movement during a boss fight. Lord knows I have tried to only move with my mouse, but I just can't get the coordination down. Playing Daggerfall for a number of years didn't prepare me for a MMORPG as well as all those Zork text adventures. *laugh*

But I hold my own, don't screw up in groups too often and just have a good time....mostly by staying away from PUGs. I know my job, whether it's DPSing or decursing. We get the boss down...great! If I end up above the rest of the mages (and that annoying warlock) on the damage meters, that's icing on the cake (or meringue on my pie lol!).

kelvix said...

I'm someone who started playing WoW fairly recently - I bought BC whilst I was still levelling my first character - still at a time when my first mount was *expensive* and bought at level 40. I never did any raiding - or even heroics, in classic or BC - the friends on the server were already in end-game raiding - there were levels of pain and suffering, not to mention experience between us - our time was spent differently.

Now I have explored just about all the solo-play on Alliance characters - and I have experienced the heroics (many times) of Northrend. I have joined a server top 20 guild, and am finally experiencing the group efforts that is raiding (at level). I wanted to raid to see what raiding was like, and to see parts of the game that I would not otherwise do on my own. And now I am.

I think there is a certain amount of nostalgia for the days of yore, but it was ever so. "Times were hard... shoebox in 't middle 't road etc".

It is strange to me that gearscore and realm guild ratings seem to matter so much - and are such an unreliable indication of skill - and it is sad (in a way) to see mediocrity (or worse) geared in epics that cost little expertise to acquire. And painful, when you end up Pugged into HOR(H) with them.

But then, I too have benefitted from the epic acquisition process - I have had a steep learning curve (I think I am still learning, but it is less completely strange) but I have also been able to grind my way into better gear so I can achieve better figures and hold my own - rather than waiting for weeks, or even months, for a pair of tier trousers to drop. Someone (in fact quite a few people) have put up with my earnest attempts to learn, and to do better. My efforts to learn were backed up with my farming of heroics for badges, to show my commitment to the learning process.

It's been difficult to get this far. Am I entitled to kill LK? Well, I have worked hard to get to my guild's first kill nights - which mean lots of wiping. Are my social friends entitled to see LK on 10man? Well, I'd be surprised if they *could* - but we all have to start somewhere. If you start later, you need to run faster to catch up.

Jay said...

I wonder how the 1st skiers felt when they saw someone other than themselves tackling their pristine ridges. I'm sure at the beggining there must of been some "hey this is my mountain" scenarios playing out.

I think a better analogy, as far as the hardcore gamer's psychology, is to use surf boarding. Google "territorial surfing" and see what you get. Here is 1 quote that I found:

"They're so good [at surfing] it's hard to get [a wave]," said Peralta, who added that he wouldn't go as far as to refer to these territorial surfers as gangs. "They're a pack in the water -- they monopolize the waves and humiliate people [with their talent]. They know the system."

Similarly that is what hardcore immature gamers do - they try to humiliate people with their talent and want to monopolize the game. They "peacock" to show everyone that they are just more than mortal..they are gaming gods. But when everyone can wear a nice purple suit and have the title of "king slayer" - it makes them feel like they are less special, less of a "gaming god". So they see it as something being stolen even if it was something meant to be enjoyed by all. Like the gods who got pissed at prometheus for giving mortals fire.

European culture, where skiing was invented, is an older culture so the culture and etiquette of skiing has been worked out. And as someone else mentioned, there are natural psycological and physical barriers that prevent them from attempting to ski down a black diamond slope. So those black skope skiers can at least mentaly know they completed a slope that can't be skied by all - if everyone could ski it then it would feel like much of a challenge -correct?

Aurgon said...

Great post! Maybe this has been mentioned in the comments, but I think there's another aspect to the varying attitudes:

Rewards (and pride/comparison).

The activity if Skiing is its own reward. The act of raiding perhaps should be its own reward, but it isn't. For most people the reward of raiding is gear, and this is a concept that Blizzard actively reinforces by providing better and cooler gear for tougher encounters. Sure, the gap has closed substantially over the past 5 years, but the perception is still the same.

And it's not just the gear- it's how we place value on our purple pixels. In WoW, rare is basically synonymous with valuable. Your gear's perceived "value" somehow scales with its accessibility.

It creates a kind of weird cycle. Some people want content to stay hard, because that way it can be relatively exclusive to them and they can reap the benefit of "wowcocking" in Dalaran. Others want content to become easier to they can get their shinies and "wowcock", but they're actually decreasing the value of their shinies by obtaining them. New gear is introduced, repeat, etc...

In my experience skiing (which is rather limited, mind you) I didn't care how good other people were. I was just having fun skiing. But in the mind of a typical WoW player, you're only good if there are people worse than you... and being good is fun? Or something.

Larísa said...

@All: thank you for all those cleaver, well thought out comments! Each one is like a blog post in itself. I’m humbled that you put all this effort into it.

: hm… I get what you mean. On the other hand are they really THAT different from each other, the raid instances? When you think about it. All this recycled content… And you can always see it on Youtube if you just want to see “what it looks like”. I never did Sunwell. And to be honest I’m not particularly bothered about that. It’s just one of the slopes that wasn’t for me.

: once again I think we see the difference between raiders who raid for the pleasure of raiding – the act of skiing down the slope – and raiders who raid for the gear/achievement, which I guess would be some sort of bragging rights in the lift queue.
Personally – for me – the challenge is the content. But I know there are many others on the other side of fence.

: that’s awesome! She’s doing the green slopes fine and taking curious looks at the blue ones. I’m glad that a beginner can still get that kind of experience in wow.

@Chewy: thanks! And yeah… You know. I’m still a starry eyed pink pigtailed gnome, I have a tendency for wishful thinking and trying to see things from the brighter side.
Adjusting our expectancies to be realistic for a cheap deal like this is, is probably a good idea to remain happy in WoW.

@Andy: Awww… the WoW cock exhibition in Dalaran. Yeah. I’s definitely a part of the deal. Personally I’m not much for it. But I imagine it plays a very big role especially for the younger players.

@712: Yeah, that’s how I imagined it actually: each MMO a different ski resort. Funny enough we keep going to the same ski resort every year and never grow tired wishing for something else. But then they’re really good on the queue issue and maintenance compared to Blizzard. We never ever see those server malfunctions or anything like that. The lifts keep functioning and there are a rarely any queue at all to speak of.

@Ulv: Yeah I really don’t know where that entitlement thing came from. Even if you can’t run one of the slopes there are still 29 others you can, so what’s the big deal?
And yes, LK is definitely a worthy challenge! We’ve started to work on him in 25 man and… oh dear. Yes, that slope is very, very, very black.

Larísa said...

@Spinks: And that’s why it’s so interesting to think about the concept that I think Ciderhelm at Tankspot suggested – more special assignments for the better players. They could be in the same raid as their family members but with a harder task.

@Usiel: Glad you liked the post! Actually you can pay people carrying in WoW as well… GEvlon as a living example. But it doesn’t quite work with my skiing analogy. You have to stand on your own feet, so in that sense skiing is less forgiving and flexible.

@Markus: Thanks! It sounds as if you’ve found a perfect slope for you. A bit like me in the skiing slopes by the way. I go for the average sloaps – not the green ones, nor the black ones, but something in between. Keeps me perfectly happy there.

@Kelvix: great story! It sounds like me. When I started to play WoW, TBC was out, but I didn’t have any reason to buy it until months later when I approached 60. And the learning curve….steep indeed. And no lift that pushed me up all the way, I had to work a bit for it myself.

@Jay: good finding from the surfing community. Interesting. There obviously are dickish bleeding edge people there as well.

When you think about the idea that some players purposely want to “humiliate” others and find their entertainment in the game from that, it sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? How pathetic to hang up your self esteem on such a thing.

@Aurgon: thank you! And yes, it’s funny this cocking-with-gear-thing. I wonder though if the ones who care most about really are the ones with the best gear, running the blackest slopes. I don’t think so. I think they’re more focused on the challenge itself to be honest. And those who are just medium skilled and want the best gear to show their wow cock will as you point out get disappointed since the value of it decreases when they get it. It’s running like sand through their fingers.

What's my main Again? said...

What if skiing only had 2 slopes... the green boring down hill slope... and the black triple xxx slope of death.

Where does that leave people in between?

Unfortunately that is where most of the expansion has been in. You have wow players of all different skill levels and abilities but you only have 2 modes in a raid. Normal... and hard.

I liked the way that BC had a clear progression in gear and difficulty... the big issue though is that it is difficult for new players to catch up.

I like the way wotlk has made the end game more accessible but the issue is that there is no middle ground. There is no gradually increasing ski slope. On the contrary with the gradual buff combined with improving gear... ICC is becoming gradually easier. There is no feeling of continually improving. Its like moving up to the next grade in ski slopes only to have the grade reduced.

I never saw sunwell or BT in BC... but I was ok with that. I've seen the lich king... but it doesn't feel like the same accomplishment as seeing the endgame bosses from BC.

There is no need to increase your skill.. because eventually Blizzard will reduce the difficulty of the instance to your level.

Anonymous said...

Another excellent post Larisa. I would like to, however, respectfully disagree with your point today. Or, rather, as disagree is too strong of word, suggest an alternative viewpoint as I believe that the approach you suggest does already exist in the WoW community.

Take for instance the U.S. trail classification system to help illustrate the point. The lowest classification is green circle. I would equate this to farming materials - in essence, doing something with relatively little interaction or fear of combat or serious pain. Next on the scale is the blue square (intermediate) which I would equate to questing, i.e., something where you may or may not be required to group and combat or pain should be expected. Next, the black diamond which is probably most closely related to instances (either heroic or not depending on your level). These are more difficult terrains and obviously require grouping with combat being certain and a possible likelihood of death. Lastly are the double black diamonds - which clearly represent raids, i.e., grouping is mandatory and unless you are prepared and very skilled it is almost certain that somebody is going to get badly hurt.

Now, given that framework, every night when I log in for my brief couple hours of skiing, I have the option to choose which slope I want to ski. Do I want the relative ease and comfort of the green circle to work the daily stress off from a long day? Or, do I want the Double Black Diamond-strap 'em on-"Cowabunga! Here I come!" pell mell straight into Arthas' grill? It's my choice every single night to choose the hill I want to ski. Again, the choice is all mine. Unlike many other games, there is no requirement that I keep pressing forward - I choose how far I want to advance knowing full well that should I wish to ski the double black diamond, then I have got to be prepared and very skilled and cognizant that death may occur if I screw up.

I think, very honestly, in fact, that it is the availability of this diversity of options in the game that keeps us (well, at least me) coming back - I mean, just as in skiing, it is quite nice every so often to just shush down the green circle hill with a loved one without having to worry about how I'm getting to the bottom of the hill, no? And, more importantly, who am I to suggest what somebody else's daily skiing vacation should be like?

(p.s. I understand that it may be miscontrued that I was implying that you were making a value judgment - that is something I know you would not do and any inference to that conclusion is clearly false and only caused by my inability to coherently and adequately articulate my thoughts).


Holly said...

While I agree making things accessible to people isn't necessarily bad, it's the fact that the veteran slopes -are- getting ramps. My easiest example is icecrown. There's 'normal' and 'hard' hard was intended for the more hardcore, the bigger challenge. Normal I could care less about in the terms of nerfs, buffs, etc.. buildin gup to a 30% buff for normal icecrown? sure. But when that same buff works in -hard- when they are nerfing the pro slope with a ramp, adding guard rails, taking off your skis and letting you walk down it that's going a bit far since there is suddenly no 'hard' slope. It's not like they weren't seeing the bosses, the loot was better but only slightly, the gear even had the same bloody names! It's when the nerfs slip into my hard content that I get annoyed. The fact paragon got to do the hard mdoe lich king kill with a 5% buff across the board just boggles my brain, they didn't even wait till the hardest core players had -finished- the content before nerfing it, and that's what bothers me.

Holly said...

Oh and I know you can turn the buff off, and we do which was a nice option, but somebody being really competitive like paragon -can't- they can't afford to, period, after they get the world first they can, but doesn't it cheapen it a little?

Also that still doesn't fix the nerfs to the fights themselves, you can't turn off the slowing down of rotface's slimes, you can't bring the aggro mechanic on marrowgar back. In the end it just annoys me that hard modes get affected in the same way, when they're designed for more challenging content. I miss non-binary hard modes though, made it easier, if you weren't as hardcore with say, sarth, you did sarth 1 or 2 drakes. Flame leviathon you did with 0-4 towers up, yogg had a nice difficulty slider, council did. Ulduar was beautiful for challenges and difficulty in my opinion.

Anea said...

Hm - that is definitely a good example. I know that when I go snowboarding, I enjoy having a variety of runs available to me - I don't be going down any double blacks, of course, but I can work my way up from green to blue. And not only that, but there are many different greens and blues across the mountain so I'm not bored.

I would venture to say that I am one of the few "skiers" in WoW. I am perfectly happy with variety in the game and having bits available to everyone.

Larísa said...

@What's my main again: I don't see how having a green AND a black version of an instance can be any worse than ONLY having a black one. Then you could wish for even more alternatives. Sarth + dragons and Yogg+watchers was brilliant. You could tune the instance yourself. So how about not just giving one hardmode but several?

And like you, I'm not so sure that it's a good thing to change the black slope, builing ramps, like Blizzard does nerfing the content.

These days admittedly you can click away the buff. That's an improvement, althoughs I would have liked to see an achievement for it.

: Thanks for a beautiful put comment! However I don't actually see on what point we disagree. But it's nice to ponder upon it, isn't it?

@Holly: yeah, basically I agree. I think it's the pressure from the community that forces the game in this direction. That's why I write posts like this, trying to spread ideas about that it might not be a bad idea to leave the black slopes as they are and let the best skiers have their fun.

@Anea: a happy WoW skier! That's lovely. Now just spread it around in the rest of the community!

Anonymous said...


After re-reading your conclusion, you are correct, we do agree! Second cup of coffee, FTW!


What's my main Again? said...

No I agree.. having 2 options isn't worse than having 1... but it isn't really better either. I don't think either BC or WotLK got it right.

I know non Binary hardmodes is something that TB talks about a lot on his show and to a point I do agree. At the same time balancing an encounter with 4 different difficulty levels is no easy task. Each of the hardmodes need to have some sort of new ability to make it more interesting otherwise it is just hard for the sake of hard.

Maybe there should just be 3 modes to the dungeon... Create an easy mode that uses loot from the previous tier content. The bosses have watered down abilities of the normal/hardmode and serve as a teaching ground for new raiders or lesser skilled players.

Normal mode should be of the original difficulty of ICC... no scaleable buff just leave it how it is. This way the middle guilds have something to sink their teeth in and progress. Hardmodes are hard... and again no scaleable buff and no nerf's aside from real bug fixes.

Larísa said...

@What's my main again?: I don't know if it's somehow comforting, but yesterday night I tried a couple of hardmodes in 10-man and was happily surprised. We wiped a number of times but you didn't have to be Ensidia to beat it. It was perfectly tuned (apart from gunship, which was exactly the same as in normal). I felt that it was what I would have considered to be the "normal mode" in TBC, for instance when we did ZA when it was new.

Tesh said...

Running with the analogy, I'm a cross country skier. (Explorer Bartle type.) It doesn't bother me that the black downhill slopes exist... but I don't want to pay for them if I'm not going to use them.

Bristal said...

Saw your comment on Gevlon's post this week. Also remember another comparison of ski areas to WoW recently, can't find it now.

I live near Lake Tahoe in the US. Two dozen ski resorts with 2 hours, lots of competition.

The resorts do indeed cater to newbies, and we veterans do in fact complain bitterly about those newbs (and the idiot snowboarders, of which I'm one). If they stay in their newbie zones it's no problem. Unfortunately, the separation of newbie/advanced zones & terrain park "instances" are at the mercy of geography.

The ski areas MUST cater to newbies (including discounts for gear, lessons, etc.) in order to continue to build a clientele into the future. My community invests heavily in teaching kids how to ski/snowboard at a young.

So, really not so different. You should see my epic new's purple.

Anonymous said...

@ What's my main again?

Although I'm intrigued by your idea of a third mode for raids, I can't help but feel that we would be starting down a slippery slope. In fact, it seems Blizz has already started us down that slope with their 2-mode way of thinking. I, personally, do not think it is a question of the hardness of the content per se, it is, rather, the time with which it has to be completed before average players (which I consider myself) start to QQ (which I try not to do) about how hard the game is and Blizz then breaks out the nerfbat.

Give the average guild/player more time to progress through the content without adjusting its difficulty. I mean, with all due respect, if a leading edge guild defeats the end boss in a race to be the world first and they do so in a matter of days, then they have the longest to wait for the majority of players to catch up.

If we really think about it, there is, generously speaking, maybe, what, a 1000 players worldwide who downed the LK in the first month available? 10,000? 100,000? That is still less than 1% of players worldwide. And, further, if we extrapolate to four (4) months, it still is only 400,000 of 12 million players! Add to that, if thought about, over the last four months how many bosses have been added? I mean, really, there has been close to 40 endgame bosses introduced in the last year alone!!

Long story, short, in my opinion, Blizz needs to slow down introduction of new content and leave it as difficult as originally designed and let people earn the right to see content, not just give it to them. In the end, maybe we'll start to see guilds as they were conceived, people continuously playing together in a steady progression instead of the mad-dashes of all-nighters, immediately followed by nobody playing.


Michael said...

If WoW were more like skiing, the runs that were challenging last year would be challenging and satisfying this year. Novice skiers would still not be able to complete the hardest runs from 5 years ago.

Blizzard's expansion design contributes to players' sense of entitlement. The previously most difficult content, the double-black runs, in TBC are now accessible to fresh 80s because of gear inflation. Game mechanics that we had to take into account are no longer relevant because we outgear the content. It's as if all skiers were granted exceptional skill and can now ski any run they like. Blizzard compensates for this by creating new, even harder runs to keep the more motivated and skilled players happy and to keep everybody progressing towards something.

When people ask for access to the current end-game content which they can't get to now, they're asking for what everybody expects Blizzard is going to eventually provide. They just want it sooner. It's not a question of whether ICC is going to be accessible to the "unwashed masses" but when.