Saturday, August 27, 2022

Swimming Against the Tide

It kind of goes without saying that I found this Josh Strife Hayes video interesting.

The entire point of his video, that you shouldn't make players go through a slog just to be able to play and do group content together, is a pretty sound one. And that entire slog, as found in Retail and Classic, is the reason why boosting exists.

Of course, boosting by various methods also becomes a problem --as Josh points out-- because you don't learn how to play your class, never mind your role, in group content. 

When people asked me why I wasn't boosting my Shaman Briganaa via instances, I said that I needed to learn how to play a Shaman, and leveling one the old fashioned way allowed me to learn by doing. Now, with Wrath Classic imminent, I've decided to re-learn how to be a Paladin that way as well. The Paladin changes from TBC to Wrath are significant enough that trying to figure them out like I kinda sorta did with a boosted Linna isn't ideal for me. I kept fumbling around for a while until I finally figured it out, and even then I was reluctant to take Linna into instances because I didn't know how well I'd be handling things.*

Learning how to play your class is important, and MMOs do that in spades by peppering low level content with quests designed to teach. For example, the undead troll quests in The Ghostlands are a Blood Elf player's first opportunity to encounter the "don't stand in the bad" mechanic**. The Deadmines expose a player to mobs, adds, and even adds that come from behind after a boss kill, so you never really get a chance to just hang back for a moment or three. Ragefire Chasm exposes a player to a "good luck trying to find your way" dungeon that becomes more important in places such as Maraudon.***

The problem is... well... players in MMOs such as WoW have learned their lessons too well. The horse has left the barn, and players who are interested in the journey rather than the end aren't the focus of MMOs. I may agree with Josh that MMOs should focus on putting raids and dungeons in the hands of lower level players, but the player base doesn't seem to care. Or at least enough of them don't for developers to make it worth their while.


*Even then, when I finally started going into instances I still got called out by someone saying "You should use Seal twisting as Ret!" My response to that little editorial comment was "If you get it exactly right, you get a boost to DPS. If you don't it's a waste of mana." Which is the truth. Unlike totem twisting for an Enhance Shaman, seal twisting in a Retribution Paladin is very much a thing for the highly skilled player only, and even Icy Veins' guides mention that it is an advanced tactic and difficult to pull off. After my retort the player shut up about seal twisting, but I could tell that he didn't like that I wasn't doing 'all the things' necessary to be the best. If you play MMOs long enough you can just tell; even though body language isn't a thing in MMOs, there are subtle cues.

**I did not pass that first test. Just sayin'.

***Alas that Blizz went away from dungeons that just sprawled out and were their own thing. There was a huge adventure behind places such as Maraudon, Blackrock Depths, and Blackrock Spire. A true city, such as Blackrock Depths, that could take well over an hour (sometimes close to 3 hours) to clear. It was players first and then canonized by Blizz that those dungeons were broken up into what they've become today. 


  1. First, I haven't watched the video, but I will soon enough. I haven't seen a Josh Strife Hayes video yet that wasn't a decent watch. In fact, in his Josh Strife Plays series he nails Tenchu, good and bad. I do so miss that game.

    As for the idea that Raid content should start at lower levels, I was actually surprised when I first started WoW back (just) before BC came out that Raids were such a big deal but not available till much later. My brother-in-law did think though that I likely would have to raid when I hit 60 before I could do Outlands content. It seemed to many that obviating all that content, especially when so few had even stepped foot in Naxx40, would be almost unfathomable. Once they were proved wrong with the first quest rewards, it seemed to almost demoralize them. But I also see it from Blizzard's POV; once you make large-group content end-game content, combined with "horizontal progression", you've committed yourself from a design perspective that is almost impossible to get out of. The crazy part is, classic servers might actually be a way to experiment with this, if they want to. Might totally be the wrong audience though, what with "NO CHANGES!" driving so much. I dunno, but sticking to poor design decisions of the past only makes it harder not to make the same mistakes. *shrug*

    1. I think that the "no changes" crowd has essentially lost out at this point, because the lack of an automated LFD tool has split the community pretty hard.

      One side effect of no automated tool is that the "daily", the 2 current tier badges that a player could get by completing a random LFD dungeon run, is now gone. So.... That means that a player like me, who back in the day didn't raid could, through patience and diligence, obtain a current tier set just by running dungeons. The net effect is going to be that people who didn't --or can't-- raid are going to be denied their path to getting some current gear. With Wrath being also the exapc of the rise of GearScore, the "LF3M DPS, GS 5000+ only, will inspect at Dal Fountain" will become even more prevalent and split the community even further.

      In spite of the obvious problems of trying to get anything gathering related (or anything involving less of a mass of people) accomplished, I foresee there being about 2-3 megaservers per region and everything else simply dead.

    2. The thing that the "NO CHANGES!!!!" group doesn't agree with me about that most changes that have occurred in the game, at least up through Wrath, are a result of needed improvements because of failures from early design decisions. To take an example, one of many, is the fact that there are so few advocates for pre-Wrath dual-spec still just blows my mind, especially with the min/max hardcore mindset to raiding. Apparently the number of people in TBC Classic who pvp in arenas is pretty low, and once 25s became progression, the vast majority of players never stepped foot in a heroic again, what with the number of tanks dropping from 2/10 to 2-3/25. Dual spec should take care of both issues, and give players more opportunities. This is my big irritation with them. The changes weren't designed to degrade the game and introducing them sooner in most cases should lead to a much better game, but they are so bound by a combination of nostalgia and I'd argue unfamiliarity with, or resistance to, design decisions and limitations that come from going one way.

      Where we'll see how things pan out is the two big new changes, the 10/25 difficulty split and the harder Naxx. Naxx 10/25 was a great starter raid, easily farmable and beginner friendly. I'm intensely curious to see how making it harder, combined with no LFG insta group for dungeons works out. I would not be surprised to see even greater fragmentation of the player base, not unlike 2004-06.

    3. I have no qualms about your argument, and really I'd be fine with the dual spec in TBC Classic as well, After all, Briganaa carries a full offheal set with her all the time (as well as a few pieces that make an Elemental set viable), and Linnawyn was in the process of acquiring a Phase 1 Prot Pally set (through Karazhan) when I stopped the runs.

      (Me as a tank? Saints preserve us.)

      I suspect that a harder Wrath Naxx will be barely a speed bump to the hardcore progression guilds, and they'll push for quicker phase rollouts, because "ULDUAR!" But I do agree that a harder Naxx will cause the player base to fracture further as the non-hardcore players will hit a wall in a similar fashion to what happened in Sunwell.

      Once players realize they're not getting the Wrath experience they thought they were getting --given how TBC Classic panned out-- those people won't voice discontent, they'll just leave, and the Classic Team will only hear the "MORE FASTER FASTER MOAAAR!!" from the hardcore guilds.

      And then my argument becomes, to what end? So that you can finish Wrath Classic in a year? So what? Who's going to stick around for Cataclysm Classic? Then again, we had people clamoring for the automated LFD tool, saying "it wasn't that bad", so I expect the Cataclysm apologists to be in full swing by January.

  2. I'll totally buy your argument of "learning to play" in Classic, because that's how it worked to a degree, you probably couldn't easily level without learning your kit. But in retail, at least for the last few expansions, everything goes much too quickly for that to matter. I really think a guide explaining the important skills/spells and some notes on rotation help a lot more, especially if you need to optimize for throughput and not bursting down single mobs/groups.

    And then there are people like me who don't play an alt for a few months and have forgotten everything, then maybe something got changed in a major way since the last expansion... No, for retail I've completely sworn off that "learn your way" thing. It's sad, but 100% reality for me.

    1. I'd agree with needing a guide, but I think Blizz did themselves a huge disservice by essentially farming out said guides to third party sites like Elitist Jerks, Thotbot, and then Wowhead. By not providing it themselves, new players who are unaware of those sites are reliant upon others to tell them where to find this info. And then, while those new players may not want to raid, a lot of those sites have raiding as their primary focus, which can confuse new players. Besides, if you have players thinking that endgame is really where it's at, then they ask the question "why should I even do all this crap if it's just a roadblock to the 'fun' part of the game?" And it's a very valid question that Blizzard can't answer because they've bought into the endgame belief themselves.