Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Casual Misconception

New players are still having trouble with the first 30 minutes and five levels of the game, more hand holding is coming for very basic concepts like moving, questing, fighting, and looting.

Personally I think anyone that is having trouble with WoW in the first 30 minutes of the game is not the type of person this game is meant for to being with.  So what is the real issue here?  I say leave it be, or better yet, change it back to the way it was.

When I first started the game, knowing nothing about it except what my friends had told me trying to get me to join them playing, I had no clue how to move, quest, fight or loot.  It did not stop me from playing.  Even back then the starting areas where easy enough to ease into slowly even for someone that had no idea what they where doing.  Now, they are 100 times easier as is.

My first death came shortly after the game began when I was given a quest to go up to the top of the tree in the night elf starting area.  Nothing hard about that right?  Coming down however was a little faster then I would have liked and I fell to my death.  It taught me how to find my dead body.  It taught me to watch where I was going.  It taught me that I could die even when I was not fighting.  I learned.

Some deaths later I ran into three furbolg that did not wish to be separated from each other so they three manned me basically beating the snot out of me.  It taught me about pathing, it taught me about pulling and relative distance between mobs and I died a few more times trying to figure out how that all worked together.  I learned.

My first adventure into a cave ended up being an all day event.  I made my way down and through no problem but got lost down there and could not find my way out.  I would guess I spent nearly an hour and a half in there fighting my way out.  It taught me that all paths are not always clear and to remember my way out.  It taught me that I should have enough food and drink before venturing anywhere that I might not be able to get back to a vendor soon.  It taught me the value of bag space.  It taught me that things respawn.  I learned.

I got abilities such as concussive shot which I immediately looked at and thought what is this piece of crap, I need abilities that do damage.  What use is slowing a mob if you can not kill it.  The day came where I got my brains splattered all over the place over and over trying to defeat a mob that was just to strong for me and I thought that if I only had a few more seconds I might be able to beat it.  I then learned the use of concussive shot while looking over my skills again for anything that could help me.  I learned.

I remember my first ever dungeon quest but I did not know exactly what that meant when I got it.  I made my way to blackfathom deeps to do this new quest and walked into a room filled with elite creatures, ones I had already known would be stronger then normal mobs because I had seen a few but they where all over the place here.  I used my previous learning to work my way through the dungeon.  Slowly pulling mobs one at a time, working my way through there as best I could.  It took me a total of maybe 6 hours, leveling 2 levels, over a couple of days, but I finished my quest there, solo.  Like I said, I was a total noob.  I did not know this was meant for 5 people.  I did not know I was not supposed to be doing it on my own.  I did not know I could just skip these quests.  I thought this was just an extreme challenge for those that wanted to do it and I liked the challenge.  It took me a while but I got it done and guess what, I learned a lot in there.

I ran into a few mobs here and there that became a personal bane.  I spent what seemed like hours trying to figure out ways to beat them.  I learned how to do the run and jump shot to kite mobs.  I would kite them back to a road, where I knew nothing else would join because I had kited them into other mobs before.  I learned not to do that again.   It taught me how to kite.  It taught me how to better make use of my pet.  It taught me how to mix slows with damage.  It taught me how to be aware of my environment. I learned.

There were hard pulls.  Deadly mobs.  Pathing mobs that would sneak up on you.  Elites that would take every bit of skill you could muster up to beat.  It was fun, it was exciting, it was a challenge.

There were also those ?? dragonkin just outside of forest song that murdered me, repeatedly, because their aggro range was huge.  The bears in felwood that I was not quite ready for when I wandered the wrong way one day.  There where dangers every step of the way.  It was filled with excitement, it was filled with challenge, even if some of the challenge I created myself like being stupid enough to do a dungeon quest alone.  I played, I learned.

The redesigned old world has dumbed down everything to the point of it being a joke and now they are talking about making it even easier?

Some people say that it is catering to casuals.  I call that a casual misconception.  I am a casual and I do not want that done.  I want the old old world back.  I want leveling that takes time and leveling that brings a challenge.  I want leveling that does not tell you where to go.  I want leveling where you accidentally walk into bears 10 levels higher then you because you strayed into a place where you did not belong.  I want to be afraid of the possibility of those dragonkin outside of forest song that are long since gone or be afraid of swimming to that cool island off of Theramore Island because there are some seriously scary ?? things in the water over there.

Making leveling easier is not about catering to casuals.  It is about catering to people that are not interested in this type of game.  Making it easier for them is not going to make them play the game.  Making it easier for them would mean making it easier for me.  If I where to start now there would be no challenges, there would be no experiences the way I experienced them, there would be nothing left of what made me love the game.

People think easy means casual and they are wrong.  Easy means trying to get people that do not play this type of game into this type of game.  That can only end one way, badly.   People that do not play this type of game will not get involved in this type of game for long.  It will pass some time for them and they will move along to the next game that grabs their interest.  They will not stay and play this game just because they made leveling easier.

They are not the casuals, they are the passerbys, they should not be catered to because they have no intention of playing for long and even if they do play long enough to reach max level they move from the everything being handed to them leveling experience to the I have to work for things by grinding and doing dungeons that might actually require them knowing their class sort of game and then they will leave.

Making the leveling content faster and faster and easier and easier is bad for the game.  It needs to stop and it needs to stop now or they will create a new generation of players that think everything should be instant.  You can't basically gift people with the easy path to 85 and then expect them to know anything about their class, about how to handle real tasks, or be able to group with people for content that is not merely a task to pass the time like the entire leveling experience is now.

I am a casual, I leveled slowly with my first ever character, I died 100s of times and most of them where my own fault.  I had fun, I enjoyed the challenges.  I did not find it hard back then to get a hold of the game and how to move, quest, fight and loot.  I did not have a problem because I wanted to play the game.  I liked the concept of the game so I took the 1.5 seconds it would take any normal person to go check out what the sparkling thing on the mob I just killed was.

The concept of WoW and what is done in game is not hard to understand for a beginner and even more so for a beginner in this day and age.  WoW is not unique in any way, shape or form.  The movement is the same as 1000s of other games out there.  Looting is a concept that many games have and I am sure every person that has ever played WoW played a game where they looted mobs before they ever looted a mob in WoW.  Questing is not a new concept by any means and fighting is as simple as it gets to begin with.  All classes start with something in the 1 spot that does damage.  All classes walk up to something and press one (or click on it).  Fighting is not hard either to start out with.

There is nothing wrong with the leveling and learning process for new players.  Except for the fact that the leveling process no longer requires people to learn anything about their class.

Welcome to a world where a hunter now reaches 85 and knows nothing about anything I learned early on because I had to.  He will not know how to pull mobs, kite, slow, plan, etc.

If anything, WoW needs to slow down leveling and add back harder quests with elite mobs so people actually learn their class even a tiny bit while leveling instead of just basically granting brand new players to the game an 85 just for logging in.

Please, do not think they are making things easier for the casual player because they are not.  They are making it easier to try and get people that normally would not play this type of game to play this game.

Thinking they are making it easier for casuals is a casual misconception.

15 comments:

  1. You know what I like about this blog? It shows a problem that most of us are aware of and offers a solution that makes sense and gives the reasonings behind it.

    Yay for logical reasoning and yay for yet another post that I agree 100% with.

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  2. I am glad you liked it and thanks for the kind comment.

    I just wish the game developers would think the same way.

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  3. I also 100% agree with you. I started playing 3 years ago (I think) and I have many fond memories of my first character, a Dwarf Paladin. When I "found" Ironforge I remember being so excited and telling my buddies all about it! They all laughed as they were seasoned players.

    When I went to Wetlands and saw LEVEL 20 MOBS!!! OH MY GOD! :D

    Learning and figuring out the game was a BLAST.

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  4. I agree with much of what you say but wonder if it needs to be an all or nothing approach. I started a fresh toon to experience the 1-60's with post-Cata and was dismayed to find that the hand-holding continued right down to the wire. The old days of having to be observant and to utilize problem solving skills were dead, buried and forgotten. Then, of course, you hit Outland and surprise! No hand-holders to be seen. I wonder how many new players hit the wall there and quit?

    Because this game can be so complex, would it not perhaps be a better approach to start off in full Nanny mode, and then to slowly ease off to allow players to make their own mistakes and learn by them?

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  5. @ PaulC - I remember that feeling well seeing a level 20 and thinking wow, that is one tough creature. Or how about seeing a 22 elite and being scared to the point of walking the long route around it. It was fun.

    @Eccentrica - The BC culture shock has to be a huge deterrent to new players. Personally I can not wait to get to BC when leveling because it feels as if I am sleepwalking through the game until I get there.

    They can start easy and slowly make it harder but I do not think it is really needed. Even if I have memories of things being a challenge, it was never actually hard, so to speak. I am sure most people that actually would want to play a game like this would not be thrown off from anything even remotely harder right from the start.

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  6. I don't really want to rail against any changes without even knowing what exactly they entail, but I think I agree with the general gist of your post. I can't blame Blizzard for always trying to pull more people in, but there comes a point where it just turns into trying too hard, where you change your product into something completely different just to appeal to those who don't care for it. WoW's gameplay basics really aren't that hard to figure out even if you've never played an MMO - all you need is a minimum amount of curiosity to ask yourself "What does this button do?" or "What happens if I click on that?". I really have a hard time seeing the devs doing anyone any favours by trying to appeal to people who can't even muster the tiniest bit of interest in what's going on on their screen.

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  7. You make some very clear and valid points. Even those that I feel at first you haven't looked beyond, but then go on to create a strong argument with reasoning and such.

    "You reap what you have sown". This comes right to my mind part way through your post. It feels to me that Blizzard are biting themselves in the backside the more they push these changes, as such.

    I agree that casual doesn't mean what people assume. There are a lot of us who like to get on and play 'hardcore', but when time allows us.

    As much as bringing in the newer player is great, I feel, to an extent, they just want to have numbers in the game. Doing enough to keep the majority happy. However I feel the real customers, which are outweighed by the slightly more whiny mainstream players, are the ones which can really progress the game and keep it alive.

    Truth is, they must be getting a feedback, or have a specific plan(s), which is pushing this more 'catered' direction.

    I am left with a rather 'nostalgic feeling, after reading your starter experience, which almost mirrors mine. I miss that sense of danger. The feeling of the unknown and mystery. Having the chance to be curious, even if it lead to your death, rather than being spoon fed. Real adventure and immersion.

    Lead to this blog via MMO Melting Pot - Instant subscribe for me after this post.

    Good read,

    - Jamin

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    1. MMOMP led me here, too, though through a more recent post. I was a tad iffy at first, but reading this clinched it. Great reasoning and the best definition of "true casual" I have seen. You highlight that the dividing line is not between between "hardcore" and "casual," but between "invested" and "passing-by."

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    2. I am glad you liked it and appreciate the kind comment, thank you.

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  8. I must say that if anyone isn't into the game inside of 30 minutes and or the first five levels, I can't see how making the game easier is going to change their opinion. In defense of the current starting zones, at least a few of the mobs are back to being red instead of all being neutral yellow.

    I think however what is most missing from the first 60 levels is an over-arching storyline such as was presented in bits and pieces in the original vanilla wow. In the original storyline you had to read the quests to figure out the story but the story was all inter-connected...the defias with Onxyia with the missing king and ultimately the end game raids of the day were tied into this story. The two world events also had well presented precedent in the case of AQ 20 and 40 man raids and foreshadowing of the Wrath expansion in Naxx.

    You had to actually play the game and pay attention to figure out these things. The story wasn't given to you like a elementary school presentation. Instead you had to pick up on the details and piece them together in your own imagination and through conversations with guild mates and others both in and out of game.

    The current questing in 1-60 may be designed to send players through the game faster, but it seems to lack the story telling that was inherent in the older style.

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  9. Just found this blog and I 100% agree. Really this is why I no longer love WoW. The new vision of handing everything to the players on a platter until level cap only makes sense if Blizzard are aiming the game at the masses that haven't played RPGs, those that find leveling a tedious chore in the first place.

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  10. Sometimes I encounter blogs and after reading half through the first post I tab out.
    ...
    Then, after I added them to my blogroll, I read the rest of the post. And then some others.

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  11. Anonymous, I wouldn't really say storytelling was a strong point of vanilla / weak point of Cataclysm. I would rather say it's vice versa, the Cataclysm story is presented in a much clear way. In vanilla, there were unfinished quest lines which started a story that was never ended. Before anyone says that sense of mystery adds to depth, let me say that would be the case if the information was hidden and needed to be found - and it wasn't (actually it wasn't as in did not exist).

    There is one thing Grumpy Elf mentions in the blog post I agree with - the ramp up in difficulty should be continuous; now, it seems as if there was a couple of huge jumps in difficulty (quests/leveling dungeons -> heroics and heroics -> raids as an example) which I find frustrating for many players as they're stuck on easy content not being able to progress. The initial difficulty should be tuned in order to lure new players in (because the old ones will eventually quit anyway, so any game without new players is doomed) but I think the difficulty should slowly ramp up as they progress through the game.

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  12. *smiles* I guess that you would rather have every storyline finished and completed, but for my taste the few that I vaguely recall as not being finished simply made the Vanilla style of storytelling work better. Not all mysteries in life are solved and leaving it to the player's imagination is a fine choice for some of them. In one case, that of King Varian, the end of the storyline in Vanilla left things hanging, but eventually with the passing of time and more expansions, that was resolved.

    The newer version of story presentation is MUCH clearer, way to much clearer and far more linear. Do A, then do B and so on till you get to oh say, F or G or even maybe on a really extended storyline H. That is a pretty poor method to tell a story as far as I am concerned.

    Where is the inter-connection that ties things together when quest line one is thought about in comparison to quest line two and three and four... So far as I can tell, and to be honest, I haven't done all the Cata quests, the various stories just don't have the same cohesion of a grand design being fed to us piece meal.

    Of course, each to their own, but for my taste Blizzard has done a much poorer job of storytelling in Cata than in previous expansions. If I had to rate the storylines of each version of World of Warcraft, Wrath has the best, Vanilla second, TBC third and Cata a poor and very distant fourth. Again, your mileage may vary.

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  13. Unfortunately, this is a fundamental lack of understanding amongst the developers that causes this; they've mixed up "accessible" with "easy" and assumed the two are the same thing.

    Obviously, they're not.

    I was vilified by people for saying "learn to play an MMO or get out", yet it's amazing how people seem to agree with the very points I made.

    It has NOTHING to do with being casual. It's about being bad, and having everything dumbed down for you.

    I support casuals.

    I don't support baddies.

    The reasoning for that should be clear.

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