I know it's Monday, so the title of this post isn't exactly right. Just work with me here. I'd post it on Friday, but I work those nights. This is a post about "casual" gaming. And I'm Friday. See what I did there? K.
I'm a casual WoW player.
There. I said it.
I never thought of myself as a casual. I'm pretty serious about playing well. K, I'm not particularly talented or anything, but I do study up on fights before I fight 'em... mostly. I practice priorities and rotations. I occasionally turn on Recount to see how I'm doing. I have Omen installed and keep it updated. I'm in a teeny, tiny guild that most nights would rather run alts through quest chain x... again. With the exception of latter, I may be silly sometimes, but I'm pretty serious about my play time. Mainly, I'm a "causal gamer" because I rarely have more than an hour or two to play a night... and, gasp! some nights not. at. all. Horrible, I know.
I may be casual WoW player by some standards, but I also have something many hardcore players seem to lack... I actually enjoy playing the game. It's not a job for me and if something or someone frustrates me in the game, I go do something else. That's actually kind of nice. I really, really don't want another job.
I thought about the no pain, no gain argument, of course. I mean you should have to work to get what you want. But... This is entertainment. Seriously. There's a difference between working hard and long hours to feed your kids and grinding the same instance 40 times for enough badges to buy a virtual sword. One is necessary and done with the expectation that it won't always be pleasent. The other is for fun. Getting there should be fun. So the no work, no gain argument doesn't hold for me. If you're working for it in game, it should be entertaining at the same time.
This all got me thinking about two things that I read about elsewheres around the Interwebs pretty much every, freakin' day.
First, that Wrath is too easy. Second, casual vs. hardcore players. There's been a ton written about both, and today I have the mildly burning need to chime in on the matter. I'll see a doctor about it tomorrow. Maybe those Argent Crusade legs are chaffing a bit.
Has Wrath really made the game easier? People that claim this sound like noobs. Not a big fan of that word, but seriously, anyone that claims Wrath is too easy either has a really bad memory or is completely new to the game. Of course it's easier!
For one, a huge portion of the WoW player base is experienced now. Very.
I remember level 5, taking my shiny new Warrior self out for a spin, and getting "pwn'd" by a buncha Defias nothings while trying to gather grapes. Repeatedly. Now I can take a shiny new level 5 Warrior and blow through that quest in five minutes. Easy peasy. Did those quests get too easy???
In a way, yes. There's been general nerfs to xp gained. By nerf I mean the xp went up. So you level faster, which makes you tougher, which makes questing easier. Dungeon bosses also have been nerfed serveral times to make them easier by lowering thier health. Even some wild mob bosses got nerfed. (Thankfully, the left Hogger alone... but of course, you can grind the extra level you need to solo him in, what, 30 minutes?)
More important, though, I got more experienced. I know how much a Warrior can take. I know how to use my stances. I know when to damage and when to defend. I know how to use all of the Warrior abilities, in the right order, to get the job done. I know how to pull. I know which target to take out first. I know what to do when a caster and minion are tossing fireballs at me.
My very first character was an Undead Warlock. (No, not Friday.) I spent a good portion of those opening quests dying(again) a lot while trying to level my dagger skill! I figure, if they gave it too me, it must be important! Yah, when I rolled a new warlock not too long ago, just for grins, I didn't bother. Just nuke 'em till they glow. Yah, it's "easier."
It's more than just having the quest memorized. When in Northrend, we also know quest mechanics. True, Wrath added a few new hitches, but those are mostly fun or annoying. The basics are the same. I can look at a cave full of mobs and know that I need to pull here, but over here I can Charge, and over there I need to close with and shut down that caster first, and right over there is the best place to pull that group so that elite doesn't aggro, and so on.
If I didn't know these things, these quests would be hard. Killing gnolls standing around a campfire in Westfall is pretty much the same as killing harpies floating around a tree in some frozen ravine in Storm Peaks. The gnolls kicked my big round ass several times, repeatedly. The harpies can't touch me. And it's not my not-so-wicked quest/crafted armor saving me. I just know how to do that kind of quest.
I still see dead bodies scattered around Northrend frequently. My first impression is, "WTF? How could you die on this quest? It's a freakin' buffalo!" But if you just stand in front of the buffalo and repeatedly hit Heroic Strike... well, you're gonna die when that wolf you didn't notice bites you in the ass.
The only other thing I'd point out here is that most people started Wrath after playing BC for most, if not all, of it's run. So you get to Northrend and yah, with gear that'll last you until 75-77, it's going to be fairly easy unless you're a complete doof. It's a lot more challenging if you blast through 58-68 (and not even finish a single zone!) and hit Northrend in Outland quest greens. It's actually balanced pretty well. It's not nearly as annoyingly difficult as some points in vanilla WoW, but it's not blow through it easy either. And more important, there's less figuring out how it's done (which you should already know) and more about being involved in what's going on. I like that a lot.
Northrend isn't too easy. We're just better. The design is better. So the counter argument is, "That just means Blizzard needs to make it harder! That's the point!" We'll yes, that's a point, but it doesn't mean that at all.
Blizz has a tried and true method for questing. It works. Mess with it too much and it stops working. There's only so much you can do inside those mechanics. Wrath is a huge leap forward in that regard. Some of the new mechanics work, but they really just add a touch of variety.
Blizz has gotten a step closer to perfecting their quest model. Quests that become available only when you've finish a prior set, instead of popping up at level. Quest chains that flow together better. Popping all quests for a related area in roughly the same place, instead of having to run around and gather them. Much nicer and more focus on actually doing the quests instead of worrying about which one to do. That's not making things easier, that's making things make sense.
Most of the Wrath is too easy arguments boil down to a dumbing down of quests and dungeons/raids. Please!
What would be "harder?" Tougher mobs? Within the quest model that doesn't make it harder, just astonishingly frustrating. Or maybe having mobs tighter packed where you can't move two feet in any direction without aggro'ing half the world. Oh wait, that would be World of Terokkar Forest. Gak!
Better mechanics? Sure, that would be great. Here's my thing, though... I've been sitting here for ten minutes tryin' to remember the most memorable quest chain or experience in Burning Crusade. Nothing. Maybe a few neat bits in Nagrand and Shadowmoon... Bonewastes with it's boss for every occasion (carried over in large part into Wrath)...
I remember many in original WoW. Little Pamela, anyone? And there's tons of "moments" that are amazing in Wrath. Maybe BC just didn't appeal to me as much. Probably, actually. Playing through it again on my Priest, though, it seems like there's a lot of grinding and quest-to-quest with nothing important happening.
Progression? Okay, originally it was very hard. Also mostly time based. I really have no problem with some things not being accessible to every player. "End game" stuff should be enjoyable by everyone, but there should be more beyond that. Those that can spend six hours a night, six days a week should definitely have stuff in the game for them, and yes that includes exclusive rewards and content. That's awesome. I'd play that much if I could!
But should that be the focus of the game? No. Absolutely not. The focus of the game should be on creating better and better (not harder or easier) experiences for the 11 million other players in the game. Top tier WoW raiding and PvP should become the sideline. The domain of the few and the proud. But not the primary focus of the game, nor the wish of every player.
Now we have a major patch coming through that was discouraging at first because the huge focus is going to be on one single "end game" raid. But you'll be able to do it 10-man style. The hard modes will be there. Sorry, but it's a brilliant solution to give "hard modes" for hard core gamers and normal modes for everyone else. More content open to more players without extending development time. Pretty slick idea. Still, a new raid wasn't terribly exciting regardless of it's cool factor.
No, Blizz has it covered. The Argent Tournament is, hands down, going to be the biggest addition to the game in 3.1. Yah dual spec will be neat. Some other additions. But this'll still be hot when Ulduar's not and long after we're saying "hey remember when you couldn't dual spec? Ah good times." Despite my QQ, I should have a little more faith. This looks like so much fun, for hard core and casual WoWers, it really should be overshadowing the new raid by a long shot. Most news that comes out about WoW is oriented toward hardcore gamers, but it's stuff like this that pays the bills at Activision. Expect to see more of it. I'm thinkin' it's gonna be awesome.
PS I'm sticking the random pictures in this post now. And yes I changed the site again and hate it. I'll keep working on a new, more Spring/Summer design. Valentine's Day will have to work for now.