The word "mandatory" has been the buzz word of the mists expansion and I would not be surprised if a few years from now if someone made a post on the forums that said to describe mists in one word that many would say, mandatory.
While some people argue that nothing in the game is mandatory, and they are 100% correct, that does not change the fact that people felt things were indeed mandatory. There is a reason for that feeling as well and that reason should be a buzz word in its own. Caps. The reason things felt mandatory were the fact there were so many caps in the game put in to slow people down and that is what gave some people the feeling of something being mandatory.
What am I rambling about you ask? Limiting what a person could do.
Lets take a look at the change in reputation from previous expansions to the current one. In BC the reputations where, mostly, ones you could grind if you really wanted them by killing mobs for reputation or repeatable turn ins for reputations. The items those reputations gave you, which in some cases might be nice, were really nothing all that special. So with that said most reputations could be sped up if you were willing to spend the time doing so and what the reputation offered never felt all that important to the point you felt you had to get it.
In wrath and cataclysm the reputations because a dungeon run away. You could get as much reputation as you wanted in one day if you were willing to put in the effort to do so. While nothing except the head and shoulder enchants were really interesting you could just pop on a tabard on a saturday and chain run some heroics with friends or the LFD (later on) and be capped out.
Now enter mists (talking about from the beginning here) and the only way to get reputation is from dailies. The dailies where limited, even if they removed the cap on how many dailies you could do per day if the faction that you needed reputation with only offered 1200 worth of reputation per day, that is the most you can get. There were no mobs to grind, there were no repeatable quests, there were no tabards you could throw on and grind some dungeons. You would do all your dailies and get your 1200 per day and that was all you could get.
But wait, there is more. Unlike all previous expansions, there was actually something more than just worthwhile or filler behind these reputations, namely, all your gear. You could earn as much valor as you wanted, up to another cap that is, but you had nothing what so ever to spend it on if you did not grind that reputation.
This collection of stuff all thrown together gave many people the feeling of mandatory. If you could only get 1200 reputation a day, and you need 6000 more reputation to buy the piece you need, if you want to get it as soon as possible, it was mandatory that you did those dailies for 5 days. And that is why people felt it was mandatory. Because it was if you wanted that in 5 days.
When you could miss a day and make it up, no one cared about reputation. Big deal I will run two dungeons tomorrow instead of one and catch up. I will turn in 12 pieces of cloth for that repeatable quest and make up for what I missed. I'll go slaughter some innocent humanoids that just happen to grant me reputation to catch up for what I missed. None of that was there. If you missed doing those dailies that day you missed getting that reputation.
Again, there really was no huge rush, unless you felt you needed to get it done. But many people did feel that way, just look at the forums back then to see all them complaining if you don't remember them feeling that way, and the caps on what you could gain in a day is exactly why people felt it was mandatory to do those dailies, daily.
How about those coins, the elder ones, the ones that gave you extra rolls on raid bosses? I know many, myself included, that believe if you did not get your three coins a week you were just not trying. I still believe that now. If you still need loot from the bosses you are currently killing and you are not getting coins each week for an extra roll, you are just not trying.
The fact they were limited to 3 per week made getting them feel mandatory. If you miss getting them one week there was no way to get them the next week. It was not like the next week you could get 6. Nope, 3 per week, you were capped. And 10 over all, you were capped. Basically this built on the system that you need to get it now or you miss out. There is no going back, there is no catching up, if you missed it you missed it.
At least the lesser coins were a better design. You could get as many of them as you want. I made enough just that first month of the expansion doing every daily every day that I will never need coins on my main for the entire expansion and that is good. That is actually great. Blizzard needs to take a look at that, and the change to no cap on dailies per day, and see what they did right.
If someone wanted to, like I did, they could stack up a few thousand of them right at the get go and basically never need to worry about them for the rest of the expansion. Never be put in the position where I felt it was mandatory to do quests to get lesser charms to turn in because I farmed them when I wanted to farm them and I have enough of them now.
So while you can say that lesser charms still have the mandatory feeling, as you need them for those elder (rune) coins they never really had the same mandatory feeling because there was no cap placed on them. Right now, if you were so inclined to do so, you could go pet battling crazy or barrens farming or do all the dailies for a few days and build yourself up 600, 700, or more of them all in one day and then not need to do it for a few weeks or even months depending on how many you farmed.
Kind of like with the tabard for reputation you could get as much as you want when you wanted it, you could get as many lessers as you want when you want them. That is the reason why they did not feel as mandatory. Because there was no cap.
That is the ultimate play at your own pace gaming design I would like to
see a lot more of in the game personally. But that is another post
completely so I will not go on too much about it.
If you were only able to get 50 (90 at the start) lesser coins a week to turn in for the three elder ones it would have had that mandatory feeling. Because it was capped. Because if you miss it you would never be able to catch up.
The cap, the limit, that is what makes things feel mandatory. It even goes to the oldest cap to grinding in the current state of the game that we can remember, the valor grind. By placing a cap you are saying you can only get this much and if you do not get this much, you will be behind because there is no way to catch up once you missed it.
I sometimes wonder if the valor cap were removed how much it would change the game. Lets take one of my more recent 90s for example. As an alt I am not going crazy gearing it up but I will only play it until it is capped. Once it it capped I no longer play it because I feel as if I am wasting my time playing.
Would I prefer to play it like crazy one weekend while trying to gear up and grind 4000 valor in one weekend or would I prefer to have to cap it every week for 4 weeks to get that same amount?
Personally, I would rather play it when I feel like playing it. That would mean that if I want to grind 4000 valor on one weekend play session I should be able to. And then I could let it sit on the side for the next three weeks. I would get the same amount, but I would be doing it at the pace I wish to play that character at and not being limited by caps and forced, if I wanted that 4000, to play it every week for 4 weeks. That is why the valor cap makes it seem mandatory.
If I am looking to collect 4000 valor the most effective way for me to do it would be to cap for 4 weeks. Without the cap, nothing would seem mandatory. I would get that 4000 when I wanted it. I could do the 1750 I wanted for one piece saturday, the 1250 I wanted for another piece on sunday and then maybe on monday I could knock out the 1000 to upgrade them both. As long as I am forced into the 1000 a week cap thing I can't play at my own pace, as long as I am forced into the 1000 a week it is mandatory for me to cap each week if I want that 4000.
While some people might not look to raids and consider them as another cap, they are. If I do not kill the three ranged weapon bosses this week that is three chances, six with coins, that I miss for getting the weapon for my hunter. It is not like I can go back next week and kill them each twice getting six chances, or 12 if you will. A missed chance, because I am capped at looting raid bosses once a week, is a chance that is lost forever. So if I want that ranged weapon it is mandatory I down those bosses every week to get it. The one loot per week cap makes killing it each week mandatory if I want the weapon.
Any time there is an enforced limit on anything in the game it has the chance of feeling mandatory. Only when you can do things when you want, how you want, and at your own pace, will things begin to lose that mandatory feeling.
We need to take a look at why there are caps to begin with to fully understand the reasoning why people feel they are mandatory. Understanding the reason for caps will help in understanding why there are mandatory for many to reach.
Capping reputation to 1200 per day means that the game is effectively telling you the pace you can proceed at. If it is going to take you 18 days to get to the level you want to be, it will take you 18 days. The cap is there to ensure you are playing the game for those 18 days. If they let you put on a tabard like in the last two expansions you could get that 18 days worth of work done on one weekend and you played 2 days instead of 18. By making a cap they are slowing your progression on gaining reputation and keeping you in game playing. It is by design, it is intentional, it is a cap for that very reason, to keep you playing, it is mandatory by design.
Same goes for raid drops. If you could keep killing a boss until you got what you wanted you could effectively gear yourself up in a short time if you had the people and the time to do so. Just like in dungeons where you would spam the same dungeon over and over until you got what you wanted. That is why you get one shot a week in a raid and only one. They want to slow you down which in turn keeps you playing and also makes killing those bosses each week seem mandatory.
The raid loot once a week is probably the only cap I actively support in game, as it is the end game, it should take a little longer. The LFR looting once a week however I am against. If I choose to practice some self abuse and endure the LFR multiple times for bottom of the barrel gear I should be allowed to do so.
In the valor example I gave where I was talking about getting my new 90 two pieces and upgrading them both I said I would do that over one weekend. With caps however it would take 4 weeks. And more so, 4 weeks of me playing that character every week for its 1000 valor cap and maybe even more. So not only is it slowing my personal progression down to a halt almost taking me 4 weeks instead of 3 days but they keep me active in game over those 4 weeks because of it. That is the reason there is a cap. To slow me down on purpose.
Everything there is a cap for in game is there for the reason that they want to keep you in game playing and that is why they are slowing you down. It is only a side effect of the person playing that makes it feel mandatory. The caps themselves were never put in with the intention of feeling mandatory, but they were put in to slow you down so you play for a longer time.
So the question is, are caps really worth it? What is gained from making me cap my new 90 for 4 weeks in a row instead of letting me do what I want to do in 3 days? Is it worth all the "mandatory" backlash because of these fixed caps?
There might be other reasons why people feel things are mandatory in game but in my opinion the only reason it is such a big deal is because of caps.
Sure, if there were no caps at the beginning people would say they did not like that they needed to be revered with the golden lotus to get the valor piece they wanted, they would say it felt mandatory. But if they were capable of putting on a tabard and banging out that rep doing dungeons instead of being stuck gaining only 1200 (or whatever) reputation per day because of a cap it would become more of a choice. A person would then have the choice of moving at the 1200 per day pace or the choice of putting on a tabard and grinding it out in one day. Choice, something that gets around the caps, it helps remove the feeling of mandatory.
To answer my own question of the topic, yes, caps are the reason things feel mandatory. What do you think?