Friday, January 24, 2014

Is The Game Easier?

That question is a pretty loaded question that can cause a great deal of debate.  Is the game easier?  In the name of convenience and accessibility there have been a great many changes to the game over its nearly 10 years in existence.  Some might argue those changes have made the game easier while others might not.  If reading the forums are any indicator it would be easy to pick out what the posting masses believe and that is the game has been dumbed down.  I don't actually agree, even if in some sort of a way I do on some of the smaller points.

I recently decided to work on the legendary quest line on my druid a little bit.  When we finished the first tier of raiding I was 2 sigils away from moving on.  While I did tank a fair deal in ToT it did not drop sigils as it does now and being my druid is a tank and I would not tank the LFR even if you offered to pay me one hundred dollars for each one I tanked, my druid never moved forward.

So I decided I would go with a feral spec and use my bear gear to do it.  With bear enchants, bear reforges, bear gemming, and bear trinkets, which isn't as bad as it seems being I have some DPS trinkets even as bear.

I worked on the dummy for a while practicing my rotation before I went in and was doing what could be considered okay at best.  It was then, after trying to track all the stuff feral needed to track, I decided to go back to a one button marco I had played around with early on in the expansion.

I entered a flex run, as a tank, and managed to get my last two sigils.  So now it was off to either A, find a pug for ToES or B, head to the LFR with my one button kitty macro.

I was not in the mood to pug so I switched specs and went prancing around the timeless island clawing rares to death as a cat to get some practical experience in the world while I waited in queue so I could get the quest item I needed.  When I entered the raid I found myself as #1 on the first boss in damage done, #1 on the second boss in damage done, #2 on the third boss in damage done, and finally #1 on the last boss in damage done as I looted my quest item.

This story is not about my bear however and how a one button marco was capable of beating people in a lower tier LFR even if a few had gear better than mine.  It is about if the game has gotten easier.

Would me being able to do top damage with a one button macro with what is arguably the hardest rotation in the game be proof that the game has gotten easier?

I could very well see how someone could argue that and even be on solid footing to do so.  If someone can top the meters using one button for the hardest rotation in the game it is surely proof how easy the game is, right?

I came away from that experience thinking something different however.  It made me realize that the game is actually harder than it has ever been.  I could easily make a series of posts just on this one topic and the reasons I believe that but right now I just want to touch on some of the changes that people call the dumbing down of the game.

Was it difficult to carry around symbol of kings, or candles, or arcane powder?  Was it difficult to buff each character one at a time?  Was it difficult to take longer to level?  Was it hard to level your weapon skill?  No, no, no and no.  It just required remembering to pick up your regents, or took more time to buff each person one at a time, or prolonged the length of the game play for you to keep you in the lower levels longer, or made you find something you could beat on for hours on end waiting for that 1 skill point you needed.

Changing those things did not make the game easier.  It made it more convenient.  Yet I still see people argue about it on the forums all the time that changing things like those made the game easier.  I am sorry, but I do not see it.

I think back to my hunter way back when and all the things I needed to do when I first played and I did not even play when you needed to tame pets to teach your pets abilities, that was more work, much more work.  I did however play when you could chain drink potions, when your pet had happiness, when you needed to level your pet, when you needed to carry ammo, when there was best in slot ammo, when you needed to carry food for your pet too so it would not leave you and later buff food specifically for your pet.

I complain about the lack of bag space now but back then it was really a hot commodity.  I really do not even know how I managed to have space with those smaller bags and all the crap I needed to carry around.  I guess I just had fewer toys back then.

I would have almost a full bag of the best arrows I could find, usually had a few slots filled with cheap arrows for when I was questing, before I started to make decent gold so I just used the good ones all the time to save bag space.  I always had a few slots filled with bullets too just in case I had won a gun while on a raid that was an upgrade so I could switch instantly.  Lets not even talk about all that time I spent leveling my gun skill with a crap gun just so I could use it if I got it.  Or the fact I had to go all around the world to even learn the skill to use a gun.  I still remember it taking my hours, literally hours, to figure out where I could train the gun skill.  I had to carry food for me, food for my pet, flasks and more potions than you could shake a stick at because I could, and would, chain chug them sometimes.  Bag space was at an amazing premium.

When ammo was removed, when feeding pets was removed, when chain drinking potions was removed, when having pet buff food was removed, when all these things were removed, all it did was save me a butt load of bag space.  It did not make the game any easier for me.  It just made it more continent for me and more accessible for new players just starting.

The fact I needed to carry all that stuff did not make me a better hunter, it did not make the game harder, it was just filler, it was time wasting, it was bag wasting, and while it did add a great deal of immersion to the game, none of that made me a better hunter, not even close.

We might often joke that you could tell who was a good hunter, he is the one that did not run out of ammo in the middle of the raid.  It was a joke, it didn't actually mean he was a better hunter.  It just meant he had more ammo on him.

One quality of life change, and only one I can think of at the moment, could be argued as dumbing down of the game for hunters.  That is the swing timer and our need to monitor it if we did not want to clip our auto shots.  That was a quality of life change that did in fact make the game easier.  Some could argue being able to shoot on the move as a step in the easier direction and they might have a point.  Stutter stepping was a skill, one I practiced a lot just to get good at it, but I believe the change was not to make it easier on hunters, it was just a design change for the class as a whole because they wanted a mobile ranged class.

Did it really take skill for a paladin to have to buff everyone every five minutes?  No, it was just busy work.  Did it really take skill for a paladin to have to know which classes got which one of the buffs?  Maybe you can argue it took some memory skills but it really was not difficult.  Making it so everyone got the same buff, and the buff lasted longer, and one buff buffed everyone made a mundane task simple, it does not make it easy, even if some will argue that.  It just made it less annoying.

Now lets touch on leveling.  It is something I have argued was better off being slower and will continue to argue that it was something that was better for the game to be slower.  It gave a person more time with their character during the leveling process.  More time to get familiar with their abilities and to learn how each of their abilities worked and interacted with each other.  Was it harder, sometimes yes, with the elite quests and the dangerous world, sure, but was making it faster really making the game easier?  Not really.  It just switched the focus from a true MMO where the entire experience mattered to an end game MMO where only the end game mattered.  I will continue to argue that the leveling experience should be much longer but not because it makes the game harder, it just allows people to get to learn the character they are playing more intimately.  In the end, speeding up leveling was just another quality of life change even if I disagree with it.

For all those changes, the ones you can label as quality of life changes, it made the game more user friendly, faster, less grindy, but it did not really make the game easier.  It did not dumb down the game no matter how many forum posts are made by delusional people.

So lets get out of all those quality of life changes that made the game more assessable and convenient and get back to my bear masquerading as a cat and topping the charts with one button.  Surely a sign how easy the game is right?

Lets look at the fact before we jump to a conclusion like that.  I knew the fights having done them all over 100 times so far this expansion.  I've done them as a tank, as a healer, as a melee, as a ranged.  I knew all the mechanics because I had done them so often.  I knew where I needed to be, what I needed to do, what to avoid and how to do the fights.  That has to account for part of the reason I did so well with one button.

There is also the fact that while I did have a one button macro and call it using one button, it was not really only one button.  The core rotation was in that one button rotation.  I still used cooldowns like beserk and tigers fury on my own, it was not part of the marco.  So even if I call it one button it was not exactly one button.

I had also spent a great deal of time on the dummy playing around with feral both without the macro and with the macro.  I knew the rotation, I knew what buffs should be on me, what debuffs should be on the boss, and know to fix it if something went wrong with the macro needing me to reset it or hit some abilities manually to fill in some spots.  I could have done it without the macro, but I was just being lazy.  I was there for a quest item and not to practice being feral as I have no intention of being feral, so I took the easy way out.

Even if I was walking in there in the wrong spec with a one button macro, I was still walking in there better prepared than everyone there most likely, as well as more geared too, maybe, as I was sitting at 524 when I did so and 524 for ToES LFR is actually quite over leveled.

That is why when all was said and done I did not leave the raid after I looted my item thinking the game has been dumbed down being I can top the charts with one button, but that the game very well might be harder than it had ever been even at its easiest level of doing it in a raid setting because I topped the charts.

I read a blog where a vanilla raider was comparing raids and their mechanics and they said something I had heard so many times before.  Even the LFR is 100 times harder than anything they ever experienced in vanilla raiding.  Add in the lack of communication and you have created something that should not go down, ever, and it is a testament to the people that play this game and their skill level that they can do it, even with 10 stacks of determination.  He was saying players now, even the ones we call bad, are better than even the best raiders back in vanilla.

I would not go as far as he did but I understand that train of thought and I agree with it.  I've noticed it often while joining pugs now and getting to garrsoh with some flex groups.  For as simple of a fight as it is, mechanics wise, it is not very user friendly. 

Players need to be better, really that is what it comes down to.  Players need to be better than they had ever been before to get it done.  They need to be faster to respond to movement.  They need to be better at recognizing their surroundings and reacting to them.  They need to be better at target switching.  They need to be better to realize that they need to do other things like interrupt.  They need to put out more damage, target switching damage.  They need to be better at seeing where they are in reference to others.  They need to be able to split up and focus down adds (this is the part I see flex runs wipe on most tied with MCs).  They just need to be better players.  None of these mechanics are "hard" but they wipe groups over and over because people need to be better.

Not only that but they need to put out number so much closer to what I refer to as the good numbers, as in 80% or more of maximum potential, in a less than normal mode which is something they have never had to do before.

I am not exactly sure I can agree the game being easier.  Perhaps in some aspects it has become a little easier.  In targeted questions you could say it is easier, as it is easier to level, but that is more because they have abandoned the older content and are trying to push everyone to the newer content, and more importantly raiding. 

And that is where the misconception comes in.  In raiding.  If you have been raiding for 2 tiers, 4 tiers, 8 tiers, or more, you are in the position I am in.  Each time I see a new boss it is more of the same.  Doing things I have done 100s of times before with successes in other raids and most likely 1000s of times in wipes in other raids while I learned to deal with them.

Of course things seem easier, because when I go into a fight with 5 mechanics usually only one of them is new, the other 4 I have spent those 1000s of wipes learning them already.  Of course doing something I have done 1000s of times before is easy.  It sure as hell should be.

The game seems easier for the people that have been playing it longer because they have already learned what they needed to learn for the most part.  That is why it seems easier.  For a new player they are facing more obstacles in a raid the first time they step into one, and with LFR and the rush to max level that blizzard is pushing lots of new players are doing it for the first time.  There are more mechanics for them to deal with that we ever had to deal with when we first stepped into a raid.  It is harder for them.  It is also the reason I was able to top the charts with my druid and a one button rotation.  Not because I was doing well but because I was experienced.  Lets face it, it was one button, I stunk up the joint but my experience is why I did will, not the one button.

If I had to give my opinion I would have to say no, the game is not easier than it has ever been, it is harder than it has ever been.  It is also more accessible that it has ever been.  Add those two together, harder and more accessible and you now understand why there are so many bad players in the LFR.  Just because the game is easy for you or me because we have been playing it for years, do not make the mistake to think it is easy.  It really isn't when you look at the bigger picture.  At least in my opinion.


  1. I'm with you fully on this one. For some reason the knee-jerk me-too community has equated "easier" with "simpler". Easy is a measure of difficulty, simple is a measure of complexity. Two entirely different concepts.

    The core gameplay involved in WoW, as you mentioned, is more difficult than it has ever been. From what I've read (it pre-dates me), some of the most difficult Vanilla encounters had two mechanics to worry about... for example, spread out and if you get a debuff run out of the group, then run back. That's it, otherwise you just stood there and pewpewed or healed occasionally (when the healing rotation dictated) or did whatever tanks did for fun in those days before active mitigation (went and got coffee and blamed dps when they pulled threat?).

    There was a time when an optimal Warlock rotation was, I believe, Shadow Bolt. Yeah, things are so much easier now.

    Even without any other outside influences Blizzard would have had to ramp up the difficulty of progression content over the years since the average player was getting BETTER. Getting better decreases the challenge of content so the challenge has to ramp up appropriately to compensate and offer a similar experience. I get the impression that first kills for "difficult" bosses back then were 50-100 wipe experiences, just like they are today for most raids. If anything, they seemed to have pretty accurately nailed the difficulty curve over time.

    Add in a huge number of raiding add-ons, from DBM (which alone has likely required a significant bump in fight difficulty to compensate) to class-specific ones to simplify or trivialize complex rotations and they're having to keep pushing the envelope. Back in the day, a successful 40-man raid could make do with 5 AFK, 5 incompetent and 10 barely competent raiders and still succeed. Try to go into a normal 10-man raid today and carry even ONE below-average player and you likely aren't downing progression content unless your other 9 are very well geared and skilled.

    Is the game as a whole less complex? Absolutely... a lot of the "man, I wish I didn't have to..." rough edges have been smoothed out over the years. Travel is much easier (having to do each segment of a long flight path manually pre-dates me but apparently that was a thing), mounts come earlier, most reagents have been removed by now, ammo is gone, bags are bigger, gold is plentiful, pets don't run away if you forget to log out before eating dinner, Pally Power is (thankfully) no longer necessary for raiding, Dual Spec is a thing, no more talents that remove 0.1s from the cast time of an ability you won't get for 50 levels, etc.

    I do actually remember having to tame very specific pets in order to learn abilities to train to other pets, I must have started a bit before you did. That was ridiculous. People complain about having to leverage outside resources to play optimally NOW? Sheesh.

    IMO, the game has never been more difficult, nor more polished, than it is today. The new player experience, up to end-game, is better than it's ever been. Things oldsters miss would be shockingly annoying to anyone who picked up the game since MoP (or even Wrath) was released. Those things were not GOOD. They didn't make the game less SIMPLE. They made the game MORE ANNOYING.

    I also want to know, precisely, what your kitty one-button macro is. I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with even a semi-functional one-button macro for a kitty and I'm failing miserably.

    1. You mention something that clicked with me when you said " People complain about having to leverage outside resources to play optimally NOW?"

      The thing is, you did not need to play optimally back then. Anything even remotely resembling competence, even minimally, and you could raid.

      Yes, more people are raiding now than ever before, but the game grew when it was easier. It grew when it was simpler. Perhaps this buffing up the difficulty for me, who has experience, is the wrong thing. Maybe they are losing people not because the game is old or the game requires outside resources, but because the game required people to play optimally.

      Anyone used to be able to raid. There is no such thing any more. Even normal mode I am careful who I bring with me. Being we over gear normal now I might be able to drag along one or tow slickers for the first 8-10 bosses, but after that you still need people playing well.

      Perhaps the reason they are losing people is because people can not play the way they wish to play because they are designing it for me, not for the masses. I can do optimally if I have to. You can. Many can but most can't.

      It is a game, it should be fun first and challenging second. They seem to have gotten that backwards.

      The game is just too hard for the average player. At least at the end game raiding level which is where they seem to be pushing everyone as fast as possible.

    2. I am at work right now so I can not log in and C&P it for you. I'll attempt to remember to do it some time this weekend. I usually do not post on weekends, but I will try to remember for you.

    3. There's a continuum... we're all babes in the woods when we start and don't know better. I'm sure my first hunter didn't worry about pet abilities much, if at all, I didn't know better. Once I found out they existed, though, I'm sure I researched what pets I needed in order to learn the abilities and went and got them. Not having to be optimal doesn't mean not being optimal. Everyone moves from a state of ignorance to knowledge but some seek expertise at the knowledge stage, some shrug and make do. All I really meant by that comment was that these days, someone with a good level of experience (so, say, us) could pick up a new class and using nothing but in-game resources could get pretty good with them. The game is simpler in that there aren't a ton of hidden mechanics anymore. Back then, though, if you needed Claw 3, what in-game resources was there to determine what pet would give that to you? Based on that, to me external resources were FAR more critical back then, without them you were screwed. I used to have to consult Thotbott regularly for quests... if I was starting out for the first time today would I have that same need? I don't think so...

      It's funny, I almost posted a comment to Apple Cider Mage on a recent post (regarding gender issues in raiding) but eventually didn't but one of my key points was that a side effect of Blizzard making raids more difficult is that it was removing a lot of misogyny from raiding, at least for progression... it's a lot harder to carry someone than it used to be so it's a much more merit- and performance-based criteria for raiding than ever before, things like gender can't be as much of a factor as they may have been previously.

      I think the name changes, although cosmetic, in WoD will help with that. When current Flex difficulty is "Normal" it should make for a more relaxing raid experience in most cases. There'll be a transition period when people snark that it's really Flex but that'll pass, eventually it will just be Normal and that'll be a good thing.

      Thanks, it's not often I come up completely blank on something like that so I'm really curious. :)

    4. This is true. I never really played destruction before but at 90 I decided to give it a try. Some time spent reading, some time spent working on my bindings, some time spend working on the dummy, and tada, I was ready to roll.

      Same with my priest. I was always disc, nothing else, but it was too slow to kill things so I attempted shadow having never even done it before and if I say it took me an hour to get rocking with it I would be lying, it took much less.

      It is easier for a skilled player to pick up. For a new player there is just so much to learn that it is not easy at all.

      Just like raiding. Say I never healed a raid (i have of course) and I just leveled a healer. I could go in and maybe not do great but do okay because I only have to do the healing, I already know the fights, so there is not a lot on my plate at once.

      Whereas someone completely new not only need to learn how to heal, but how to do so in a group, and 101 raid mechanics, and learn which people are likely to step in crap and need more heals and which ones can take care of themselves and what type of tanks take spike damage and when they usually take it. Etc. It is a lot for a new player to swallow.

      I have to find that post and take a look. I wonder if they intended to say there would be more ore fewer female raiders. If anything I have more actively skilled female players on my raiding roster than I have ever had in all my years raid leading.

      Normal has been heroic since cataclysm.

    5. thats two of us - so what is it GE? And are you still guardian spec but running as feral or feral spec running as feral? I am still having problmes with my druid, so he keeps his farm going, planting for everyone and any of those that can be buffed up with flowers....

      "where have all the flowers gone"
      "long time passing"
      "where have all the flowers gone"
      "to Serendypity's home"

      still alive, still above the flower bed

    6. I have a feral spec but do not have specifically designed feral gear for it. I can't be bothered building a second set of gear when I really do not play it.

    7. thats great, but I also would like to know, precisely, what your kitty one-button macro is. Please let me know instead of ranting about being bothered about building a 2nd set of gear - heck, I didn't even asked ya about that. Grumpy as usual. :D

      Or, I'll ju-ju your butt so you wait time is even longer for LFR.

    8. Always grumpy.

      I'll make sure to get on when at home and post it.

    9. thanks GE!
      ps - me be not make ju-ju'ing on you, you.


      Here is grumpy's post with the macro

    11. Thanks, I forgot I had listed it before.

    12. thanks, I never knew you listed, but I am glad some of the readers have good memories - thank you Luofu Chen. :D


    13. Seems some of them have a better memory of what I write than I do. lol

  2. Vanilla it was more about pre fight coordination and coming up with a strategy (strategies used to be considered secrets not to be shared). Hell Garr used to take forever just because you needed a tank on each add, and they didn't have raid markers back then. C'thun was one of the hardest fights in Vanilla, but it was mostly about positionioning every single person in your 40 man raid in exactly the right spot. Once the fights started in Vanilla it was usually just stand here and cast this spell. There was the rare move here if this happens. All of the "difficulty" in vanilla was in getting the items you needed to raid; gear to equip, flasks, potions, toobers, ammo, reagents, gold, etc.

    You are right about the experienced raider knowing because they've seen the mechanic before. Countless times I've heard people say ohh this boss is like X boss mixed with Y boss because the mechanics were just mix and matched. The most difficult thing now for experienced raiders is when they take a mechanic that you've seen and make it look the same, but you're supposed to do the opposite. So you have to unlearn those 1000's of times where seeing this meant do that.

    1. You seem to echo the voices I hear often about vanilla raiding. The difficulty was in the grind getting ready for it and the assembling and management of 40 people. The fights themselves were all pretty straight forward and did not require excellence of execution.

      Don't stand in the fire. So often, more so it seems, there are a lot of the stand in the fire mechanics. After all that training they try to mess us up. I do not so much mind it but for a new player it is mixed messages.

      Most fights are just everything we have seen before worked together in a different way and we just need to learn how to do it in a certain setting. Take the first boss in SoO for example. Original, 100% so. I do not recall doing a fight anything like that before. But the fight mechanics were all things we have done a million times before. Don't stand in the bad, avoid the spinning effect, switch to adds. Oh wait, there is a twist, heal some of the adds. Rinse and repeat. For a person that has raided it might take an attempt or three to get it down, how these things we have seen before work here, but for a new player, that is a lot to throw on their plate. A hell of a lot more then tell someone in vanilla, this is your spot, stand here.