Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Too Easy?

My husband has, for a while now, complained that Blizzard has made WoW too easy.  He will grant that the end-game raids provide more of a challenge, but he still refers to them simply as "The Hokey-Pokey", instead of any sort of real strategic battle.

So when he heard our main tank posted in a bear rage about Blizzard's decision to hotfix threat to the point where it was not a real factor in raiding encounters, he just said, "See?  This confirms what I've said all along."

His contention is that Blizzard has been "dumbing down" the game--making it more accessible to people who just want to play and don't want a challenge.  The result, of course, is that many of those who do want a challenge are not finding the game to be fun anymore, my husband included.

A case in point is the time the other day when he logged on my baby Blood Elf hunter to check the settings on my graphics card.  She's decked out in heirlooms, although she hasn't been played in . . . just about forever.  He spec'd her and took her out for a spin, looking forward to the experience, as his first character was a hunter.  He was disappointed to see she was one-shotting mobs her own level and could handle five mobs her level, with a little skillful play.  (If it had been me on the keyboard, I would have died.)  It reinforced in his mind that the gameplay had become too easy.  (He's now preordered Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I hope he finds what he's looking for.)

It reminds me a little about a disagreement I had with my 4th daughter's 1st grade teacher.  I had homeschooled her through kindergarten, and since she was a sharp little cookie, I had run her almost all the way through 1st grade math, using the Singapore Math program, which focuses less on memorization and more on doing mental math through understanding how it works.  I had, as a matter of fact, started this little barely-6-yr-old on multiplication by this point, and she was doing well.  I was shocked, therefore, when I went to her first parent-teacher conference and found the teacher had assigned her entire worksheets of "plus zero" addition problems.

When I asked the teacher why she was giving her such easy work, the teacher replied she wanted to build up her self-esteem.  My daughter hadn't been able to run through timed addition worksheets very well (of course not--that wasn't the focus of the math curriculum I'd been using), and the teacher sensed she was discouraged.  I told the teacher as diplomatically as I could, which to be honest, takes much effort and still usually comes out sounding wrong, that self-esteem is not built by working through easy things.  Self-esteem comes from meeting and surpassing challenges.

It is the same with a game.  People might be able to accomplish easy quests or steamroll bosses, but that doesn't make them feel like they've truly accomplished anything.  Pride in one's ability and satisfaction in the game comes when the players face a challenge and somehow manage to succeed.  (Such as back in BC, when my husband joined a Karazhan group as a Holy Pally and they somehow managed to come up with strategies for the bosses, despite their less-than-ideal group make-up.  He still talks about that run.)  It's what gives gamers that "high" which keeps them coming back for more.

And this is why our tanks are upset.  They see this proposed change taking away a lot of their challenge.  In our bear's words, "You dps want to sit and epeen on your meters.  Same for tanks, we look at those meters and feel the accomplishement of 'holy crap, I held aggro off that!'"  They worry that the change will make their role in the fights mindless and boring.

According to Blizzard, the developers think the fight mechanics will still challenge tanks, who must be concerned with good positioning, tank switching, and so forth.  In addition, they are talking about adding more mitigation management tools to keep the tanks busy.  But I can understand the tanks' concern.  After all, as it is, they already have to worry about good positioning and tank switching, along with the mitigation management tools they have, but they have the added challenge of maintaining aggro on themselves.  They thrive on this kind of challenge.  It's what they signed up for when they chose to tank.

Who knows?  Perhaps the developers will change their minds.  Or perhaps they won't.  They've been tweaking the game play from the very beginning.  Not sure why we should be so surprised or get so upset now.  Either the players will adapt, or they will leave.  The recent statistics, however, do not bode well for Blizzard.

(Speaking of which, I need to cancel billing on my husband's account . . . The girls haven't been playing it lately.)

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