Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Does WoW Teach Players?

I have often said that I do not believe that warcraft is helping the players by making leveling faster and easier.  That they are not teaching the player and that is why we are seeing more and more bad players at the end game.  Easy leveling that doesn't teach you anything.

I've been thinking about it recently and am starting to believe I was wrong, at least in part, because it is not that warcraft is not teaching players, it is just that players do not care to learn.  You can not teach someone that is unwilling to learn.  They are still trying to teach them, but later in the game, and by that point people no want longer want to learn.  Perhaps that is really the issue.

Thinking back to how I learned, before I started to look outside of the game for information, it was from the things that happened in game.  One of the very first lessons I learned, having rolled a night elf, is that falling long distances will kill you.  Anyone that has ever rolled a night elf, at least before cataclysm when they changed it so you can't die from it now, knows exactly where I died to falling.

It was the changes like that change that makes me believe blizzard isn't teaching people.  It is what I would like to see changed back.  Something as simple and stupid as that was a good learning experience.  You run to the top of the tree to turn in a quest and then run out and either by accident or because you know it would be quicker, you go over the edge and die thanks to fall damage. 

Now when you turn in that quest you get a slow fall buff.  Apparently I am not the only person that fell from there.  Then again I knew that.  There were a nice collection of bones at the bottom of that tree.  No matter when you went there 24/7/365 you would see at least one remnant of the dead left behind.

That is why I keep saying that warcraft is not teaching people.  Little things like that is how I learned.  Why was it changed?  Were brand new players quitting because they died right there at the beginning of their game play?  No seriously, I want to know.  Why was that changed?

That is the perfect way to teach people.  If anything night elves learned it sooner, and more effectively, than any other race in the game thanks to that death plunge.  Simple, subtle, and teaching.  Who would have ever thought that something like that was a teaching moment.  But it was.  It taught me that falling hurts and can kill me.

And while things like that were changed many other things were not.  There are still many other little lessons in game.  Or there had been many other lessons in game.  They all seem to be disappearing.

So it is not the quick leveling that is making these people bad, it is the removal so the subtle learning lessons that are making for bad players.  While there are still many of them in game, the most important ones, the ones you learn from at the start, are almost all gone.  So I might have been as much right about blizzard not teaching us as I am wrong.  This case would be the right case.

Remember pulling one murloc and getting 12 and dying near instantly?  That was a teaching lesson.  Remember roaming mobs that would sneak up behind you?  That was a teaching lesson.  Remember the runners that would go grab as many friends as possible if you did not find a way to either kill them so slow them instantly?  That was a teaching lesson.

All things like that, all little things, we did not notice it, but when we were leveling we were learning.  Now, we don't.  Mobs die too fast, there are less chances of pulling 12 murlocs when you want 1, there are nearly no roaming mobs any longer.  All these learning moments were removed from the game to be replaced with quick leveling.  So I was right, blizzard is not teaching us.  But I was only right to a point.

Blizzard moved the learning experience to the later levels.  It still tries to teach the players, but they make the catch up so much easier now.  They let players get from 1 to 85 with as little resistance as possible and then decide to do those teaching moments in the newest expansion.

The sauroks around the lake in dread waste don't like to come one at a time.  Most often you will get two or three of them.  And they have roaming mobs, oh boy do they.  Everywhere in the dread wastes in a massive collection of roaming mobs.  Townlong too.  And for runners, want to teach people about runners, just visit those virmen near the farm while questing.  You better slow or stun or outright kill them or they will be bringing back friends.  And they are fast.  And they also have roamers.

So maybe I was wrong.  Maybe the game is still trying to teach people but they are end loading it instead of front loading it like it used to be.  The more I think about it the more I can see there are plenty of learning moments in the new content that you can experience through questing.

So does warcraft teach players?  Yes, it is still attempting to do so but the problem is that the players do not want to learn.  I have a theory as to why this is.  A few actually.

Theory #1 : People want easy.

No matter where they try to teach people the people do not want to learn.  I know plenty of people that do not touch the dread wastes at all because it is "too hard".  Too hard my ass.  Is it the best place in the game to learn how to play at this given moment.  If they want to gate content that is where it should be gated.  You can not enter any dungeons, raids, etc, until you have the achievement for completing all quests in the dread wastes, and you must do them all solo.  Seriously.  It is people wanting the easy route by skipping the best teaching, gearing, and challenge while leveling zone currently in the game.

It is the only zone in the expansion I have completed on every single character that has reached 90.  I skipped most of jade forest, valley, and summit, never touched wilds and only did the shado-pan stuff in townlong on most of my characters but I did the wastes completely on every single one.

Why?  Because it is not hard and offers better experience and better rewards.  It is because it is the fastest zone to level in.  It is easy because I learned how to pull mobs back when I was level 12.  Because I started to learn how to control a situation when I level 6.  Because I've been dealing with deadly pats that could take me out since the 20s and maybe even earlier.  Dread wastes was no more of a challenge to me than tying my shoes is.  I've been doing what is needed to accomplish it for as long as I can remember.

And that is why people aren't learning.  They just want the easy route so they skip anything that gives them a challenge.

Theory #2 : End game is all that matters.

Blizzard is pushing this concept on people in various ways.  One being they are pushing the entire player base into raiding, like it or not.  They sped up leveling so people can get to end game as fast as possible.  They create nothing for the leveling player.  No lower level dailies outside of cooking and fishing.  No lower level daily dungeons, no lower level tier sets for justice or something, nothing to earn at the lower levels.  Just get through it and get to the content that matters.  End game at max level.

This design basically forces people that want to get there as fast as possible to take the path of least resistance.  If wastes is going to be too hard for them they will level through dungeons, pet battling, doing the forest quests, wilds quests, summit quests, anything that keeps them away from challenge and gets them to that all important end game that blizzard keep telling them is the only thing that matters.

Whatever the reason, I was wrong, blizzard is still trying to teach people.  They just made the mistake of where they are trying to teach them.  They need to move the learning back to the start of the game.  They need those falling to your death moments.  They need those roaming mobs sneaking up on people and killing them.  They need the poor innocent adventurers dog piled by a pack of a dozen murlocs and ripped to pieces.

People need to learn early in their playing.  Not late.  I was wrong, blizzard is still trying to teach people.  But I was right in the idea that people where not learning because blizzard basically gave them a chance to avoid learning.

Every zone at every level from 1 - 90 should have those very same challenges.  It should teach them early and keep them on their toes.  The only reasons that the dread wastes is so hated by many is because they do not know how to handle it.  They never learned, and because they can skip it, they never will.

Blizzard doesn't even need to remove the speed of leveling.  It can stay as fast as it is.  But they need to add the danger back into leveling and with that the learning experiences that will make players better players later in the game.

The only reason the dread wastes seemed too hard to so many is because they had never experienced that type of challenge.  If the entire leveling experience was filled with those types of challenge then the dread wastes would be just another zone to them, like it was not me, nothing special.  Just a zone with better quest experience and better quest rewards.

Case and point to show someone that learned how to play the right way and someone that learned how to play since cataclysm when you could basically skip learning.

Someone that learned how to play:

One of the klaxxi areas.  You know the type.  Lots of mobs tightly together.  Flying packs, roaming packs, connected packs.  I walk up there on my mage while leveling and wait.  See a pat move and grab one mob when I know I will only get one.  I slow, blow it up, slow, blow it up, kill it before it gets to me.  I repeat this, taking my time, about 4 times with this paladin watching me.

Someone that never learned how to play: 

The paladin does a laughs emote and says, fucking noob, and goes charging in.  Pulls a roaming pat of three mobs, the two he was aiming for and a set of flyers.  He dies in seconds.  Mobs come after me, I hit invis to save myself.

This went on for a little bit.  Me pulling one, or two, at a time and killing them.  Him reviving, running in, dying.  I finish the quests and wait for him to come back and revive again.  I say to him, I pull one at a time so I can live and finish the quest, how is your progress going?  I then mount up and run away.  It was my way of saying, fucking noob, right back at him.

If only he had learned at a lower level that you need to watch for roaming mobs, pull controlled pulls, and even move back to assure you are fighting on your terms, he would have not died multiple times and he would have not made himself look like the total jackass he is.

They are still trying to teach their players but they made the, I believe, massive mistake of where they decided to move the learning experience.  You can't teach people at the end, you need to teach them at the beginning.  Once someone hits 89 and gets to the wastes they are set in the ways.  If they are a bad player and they always will be.  Maybe a small, very small fraction will take this opportunity to learn but most won't.

You need to teach them when they are new to the game, at the start.  You do that by removing that slow fall buff when turning in that quest in the night elf starting area and letting them fall to their death.  That is how you teach people and when you teach people.

So I was wrong, blizzard is still trying to teach people.  But I was also right, because they are not teaching people because by moving the lessons where they did, they made it possible for people to completely miss or ignore the lessons.

Move difficulty, move teaching, back to where it is supposed to be.  At the start of the game.  No more two or three shotting every mob up until you are 85.  Let people earn their way to 85 and learn their way to 85.  Don't wait until current content starts before you try to teach them.  You can keep it quick level still, just make it teach people while leveling.  If they learn while leveling they won't even know they are learning.  It will just become part of the game.

I don't think knowing how to pull only one mob from a pack of mobs is some sort of skill.  It is just something I learned while leveling.  Yet someone else will see me do that and say, wow, nice pull.  I should never hear anyone say that because everyone should know how to do that from the course of their leveling. 

How they learn to pull is by them pulling wrong and getting killed, near instantly.  They will go back and do it again and again until they learn how to do it.  And guess what, even as a low level while leveling, this is one hell of a triumph that makes you feel great.  You got those suckers that killed you.  And guess what, without you even noticing it, you learned how to pull.  The game effectively taught you something.  Tada.

Move teaching back to the beginning of the game.  That is all I have to say on the matter.


  1. It won't surprise you I agree 100% with your post.

    The sad thing is that the one area players would still be able to learn about interrupts etc. - PvP - has been made moot by the toxic cocktail of (to name just a few)

    -innate unbalance (removal of spell ranks, resulting a.o.t. in every tweak at endgame having direct impact on levelling, Shield Slam being a recent example),

    - faulty map re-design (the first BG people encounter - WSG - has become a death trap; gl trying to explain to & getting enough people to 'hard rez' etc.)

    - way too many twinked characters/Heirlooms (slated to get worse with 5.4, when basically any-odd Trainer glow can be lobbed on Gear) the game simply isn't balanced around (and if they did, the bar would be too high)

    In this regard the removal of Skirmish Arena was a bad thing as well, while personally not a fan of it, while it was still there you'd have fast queues all the way from 10-19 onward.

    You mentioned the fleeing & call for help mechanics, they basically removed them with Cata, right :? Or was it late Wrath when they turned Starter Zone mobs into Neutral (luckily soon altered again)?

    On a personal note: while a bit crammed , I liked the Dread Wastes as well, exactly because it was the one zone were I could get my characters killed by regular mobs (never been a fan of the Diablo-style 'wade in and pull as many as possible' style of play).

    1. Cata changed a lot of things - elite mobs now regular, starting zone mobs mostly yellow. Phasing affecting play is all around now. Even Mists changed a lot even more.

      The one thing no one has said that with patch 5.4 is the new training areas! Hopefully that will make up for the lack of lower training and satisfiy GE. :D

      I still believe, PVP and PVE has to be two separate items. Separate armor, talents, abilities. No one should be forced into PVP or Raiding by the game. And if you are on a PVP server, then by gosh, it's ok, but if you are on a PVE server, no pvp allowed, not even battle grounds - because it will change the abilities/armor/talents on PVE.

      Sorry, but I still hate Mists for a lot of reasons - including the Dread Wastes. I just hate the flying ants and the sha - my can of "black Flag" isn't large enough. :(

      stay frosty...

    2. I think the runners were removed in catas redesign of the old world. I can not be 100% certain but I do recall them doing that up until that point. There are still a lot of runners in the game but they die so quickly now, even to someone that does not know how to play and is not wearing heirlooms, that they pose no real threat.


      The proving grounds will be nice but only if people use them. The sad part is that I believe only the people that want to play better will do them. The ones that just want to play, but not be better, won't. And those are the people that would actually need them.

      I do believe that talents should be different for PvP and PvE but I do not agree with the gear being different. One set of gear should cover everything. It would actually make balancing a lot easier and the cross over between the two a lot easier.

  2. When my Night Elf hunter was made back in Nov I fell off the tree and panicked thinking I was going to die now I know why I didn't Even though I have two other WOW players in my house that have been playing since the beginning I was essentially on my own and learned a lot of things the hard way like you said Lesson 1 quests are sometimes dungeons yea Blackrock I know noob but 2 days of "questing" in there and I had learned to pull and proceed 1 at a time but when I got to Dread it wasnt all that bad I finished leveling to 90 there but did the same approach I learned earlier pull one maybe 2 and don't die rinse and repeat
    So I guess there are some of us that want to learn and some want the instant gratification of level 90 and those are the morons that make us wipe 10 times in LFR

    1. If you want to learn they can grant you an instant 90 and you will learn. Anyone that wants to learn will take their lessons when they can get them.

      I am more so addressing the people that do not want to learn and how the game does not teach them because they back loaded their learning. If they were being taught from the get go they would be getting taught in a way that it did not feel like learning. Now they get to the wastes, for one example, and just skip it because it is too hard and come into random content willfully ignorant. That is bad for everyone involved, them and the people they are paired with.

  3. With the reduction in xp needed for 85-90, I didn't even get to the Dread Wastes on my DK. I hit 90 in Valley of the Four Winds... I had to scoot around to Kun Lai just to do the quests which open the gates to the Vale so I could get in and learn to fly...

    Definitely agree with Grumpy though about the learning process.

    I learned the basics of WoW back in vanilla while lvling a night elf rogue (I'm pretty sure I died falling out of that tree in the starter zone as well). Back then, either you learned or you didn't get anywhere. You had to eat between pulls. You couldn't fight more than 1 or 2 mobs at a time without using CC. Elites were terrifying mobs that if you got too close, you prayed you could actually run away fast enough; otherwise, you were dead meat.

    It wasn't as harsh when I came back in Wrath to level my hunter, but those skills were already in place from years earlier.

    Now, I like lvling quickly and using heirlooms, but I've done it before. Your first lvling experience should be a challenge. People need to learn before they get into endgame group content.

    Once you've learned once, they could just give you a lvl 90 like Grumpy said and you'd figure it out pretty quickly. Just go make a premade on the PTR of a class you've never played, read noxxic and icy-veins, practice a bit, and you'll be good enough to start doing content (at least as DPS) and learn the minor details as you go.

    I hope the Proving Grounds will be good for teaching tanking and healing skills. You can learn to DPS in the real world or on target dummies, but tanking and healing are not really skills you can learn without doing group content where other people have to pay for your mistakes (there are no healing dummies or tanking dummies...). Hopefully, Proving Grounds will help to address that, but I don't think they'll help the overall playerbase.

    1. You can also learn tanking some while in the world. At least learn your limits on how much you can handle and about using personal cooldowns. But healing, yes, there is no way to learn that out in the world in any way.

      I said to someone else that the proving grounds will most likely only be used by the people that don't actually need it. The ones that want to learn and will go through the necessary content to learn to begin with. Sadly I do not believe it will do anything to help the masses as the masses will never do it unless the rewards are worthwhile. And that becomes a problem. If the rewards are worthwhile it allows the good players to gear up too fast and the lesser players to either learn or cry until it is nerfed. Proving grounds are a great idea but I doubt it will used as the tool it has the potential to be if they make it well.

      I don't think leveling needs to be brutal and I have changed my mind at least a little on the time frame needed as I always said it should take a while but am not so sure that is needed any more. But yes, it does need to be harder. It needs to teach people the harsh game lessons early on. If it does that then we will have better players end game. At least I believe we will.

    2. Agreed. Maybe not quite Vanilla challenging but Mists paced. Harder but still very quick. Heirlooms make it much easier and faster for people who've done it before. It's basically that way except the default difficulty is too low.

    3. I suppose proving grounds will be similar to Wrathion back quests? Have no idea how it was for other classes but the tanking one was laughable. Interrupt something, move out of bad and taunt. I think I'm gonna be all over the proving grounds once the patch hits, just to see what they can come up with.

    4. @Jaeger

      Exactly. For the new it should still teach. For the ones that have been there and done that it should be quick. That is what heirlooms are for.


      Me too. I also think it would be a great way to try new things out like a new spec or new rotation or practice. But again, I think only the people that actually care to be better will do it.

      I wonder, will the time ever come when we see people saying stuff like LFM New Raid, must have PG gold.

      Personally, I could see that being a selling point to me as a raid leader and recruiter. If someone has a proving grounds gold at least they can move from the bad.

  4. I like Dread Wastes a lot. Best from all the zones IMO. In large part because quests offer 250k+ xp but also because I like the atmosphere, the dark/tainted/amber colour scheme, I like the bugs and I like the idea of the Wakener. And the buffs they give you are pure win.

    1. I liked the area too. And loved that it offered so much experience and good starter gear. Like I said, it is the only zone every one of my 90s has finished.

  5. Er, no.
    And then no, once again no and finally a fairly big, stern no.

    It is not a goal of Blizzard to teach people. This is the goal of TED, for example. The goal of Blizzard is to keep people paying for entertainment.

    People who don't learn easily and quickly and eagerly in video games will learn playing WoW well neither late nor early. They just won't learn at all, no matter the timing. If they are forced to learn or keep dying early on, they will unsub early on. Flattening the initial learning curve was a very sound business decision: it prevented a lot of people leaving the game while still on free trial.

    I don't like Dread Wastes. Not because of sudden jump in difficulty - it was quite refreshing. I dislike it for lore reasons. Remember who the mantid and the Klaxxi are, who are their natural allies and how you should know it from the very start, instead of creating a whole new and very complicated raid boss for yourself.

    1. I actually loved the zone and the whole making friends with your enemy feeling for a greater goal. The end quest even says it straight out when the paragon tells you that you will be on different sides soon.

      If anything that is a bit of story telling that goes deeper into detail than nearly everything else blizzard ever does. I liked the feel of the story of the zone and knowing that one day I would be face to face in battle with the new friends I helped revive. Interesting story telling and very hitchcock like. You know something is going to happen, you just do not know when. That is suspense. That is good writing. That is something blizzard needs more of. Sure it is canned, something that has been done a million times, but it is still better than anything else blizzards writers come up with.

      But it is all a matter of taste. Like I love open zones. Love tanaris, uldum, valley, etc, while many hate them. I like the dark zones like the wastes but can't stand the tree filled zones like the wilds and the forest which some do like.

      As for the difficulty, I think you might have misunderstood what I was getting at. It was not teaching people straight out. It was teaching people through tricking them. Make them feel as if they are not learning.

      If you teach people to get out of the bad from the start, it is no big deal later on. It was something that was just part of the game. But if they can just stand in everything all the time forever, teaching them later causes them to rebel.

      If they did it early and often then it would just become reaction to move from things because they had to. They would not feel like they were being taught.

      People will not learn. You are right. But if they think they are just "playing the game and winning" they will learn without knowing they are learning. And that is how they can be taught without letting them feel like they are being taught.

  6. I think if they brought back some of the difficulty of mobs, but increased the XP per mob to keep the tempo up it would be an improvement. Like you said currently you two shot every mob till 85. If the mobs lasted longer, were actually dangerous to you, could potentially pull other mobs or pats, then you would learn how to do a lot of the things you mention but with increased XP you'd still level just as fast.

    They would also need to bring back some of your characteristics to the dungeons as well as the rest of the world though as many only level in dungeons. I'm thinking of the 5 man dungeons that went with SSC where you had pats to watch out for and limited space or you'd pull extra mobs. You'd have pulls that required CC and killing specific mobs first. You'd have mobs that feared or cc'd members of your group that you'd have to handle. I agree that at the time you really wanted a specific group because of the CC constraints, but they basically gave/changed CC to most classes so that you weren't limited to rogue/mage yet at the same time they took away all need to use it.

    1. Exactly. I always said leveling should take time but I changed my mind on that. It doesn't need to take time, but it should do something to include a little challenge. Like you said, let those more challenging mobs offer more experience.

      Then good players that know all that will use them to level faster and new players that have not learned yet will get to learn while playing and let them experience a little personal victory on their own level which feel great your first time through. I remember those moments beating that really hard elite mob while leveling. That mob is gone now. That is what I am getting at.

      I remember tanking some of those low level ones before they got the watered down treatment. Some of those pulls were brutal. You could even know how to pull but one, even split second, mistake and you got 7 mobs instead of 3 and if you did not kill them fast enough there was a roaming pack that would be back shortly and insure a wipe.

      I hated those. I hated them, and I loved them at the same time.

  7. I would imagine that players that started playing after Cataclysm launched must also hate the daily quests when they first hit 90 because many of those are more challenging than the quest encountered leveling from 85-90.

    I have been playing since Vanilla and I did not really find the Dread Wastes too terribly difficult. But that probably was probably because my strategy mimicked your own. I would pull one mob at a time, keep and eye out for patrols and elites, and make a strategic retreat if required (jumping off a cliff with levitate is awesome!)

    I really only recently leveled from 85-90. When Mists launched, I rolled a Panda Monk, got bored, and stepped away until recently. I was really looking forward to leveling in Mists because of a post I read on this site about your positive experience leveling. I agree that it was much more fun than leveling in Wrath and Cataclysm. I liked that they added some danger back into leveling. However, I still feel like it lacked the difficulty of vanilla.

    1. The dailies were a little hard when we first got there. That is for sure. I remember it taking hours to do them all at first then a month or so later I could knock out every daily in an hour or maybe a tiny bit more when it took double that only a short time ago.

      For a lesser skilled player they were downright brutal. I would always see people asking for groups to do them. I guess being a hunter I never understood that. A hunter is their own group.

      You learned that back in vanilla, just like I did some years later, even if it was watered down from what you first saw. We both learned how to do that because we had no choice. lol

      Yes, it still lacked the difficulty we had once, but it is more so than anything we have seen in years. I really enjoyed some of the surprises that put me on my toes like running rabbits and packs coming from everywhere even if air all over the place in townlong and the wastes. It was easy to adapt to but I can see someone that never had the experiences we did being totally beaten by them.

      I think they need to put those lessons back into the game at a much earlier level and not wait until you enter the wastes to make people experience them. Just my opinion of course.

      I am glad my description was able to help you decide if you wanted to give it a try again or not. I enjoyed the leveling. It is too fast since they changed it, but it is still okay.