Thursday, 26 November 2009

Warm Turkey

Tobold writes interesting and sensible things about gaming. He makes you think a lot of the time. Here is one of his recent posts. In it he talks about how it is now ridiculously easy to level cooking in Warcraft. It seems like a frivolous topic, and there is the usual "catering to casuals" versus "streamlining annoying bits of the game" arguement in the comments.

I levelled my cooking skill at the time I levelled this character because I thought it would make it easier for me to get access to ability buffs and might give me the chance to make money. I didn't enjoy doing it particularly, although there was a mild feeling of achievement from time to time. I put in the effort because I thought it would be worthwhile to do so in order to gain an advantage over people who did not take the time to do so.

So for me, this is a nerf - any real or perceived advantage I gained has now gone. My achievement and effort was good for about a year, but is now worth less than it was before because most people will be able to do as well or better.

Still, it's only cooking.

This comment is fascinating however

I'm amazed at the direction complaints towards MMOs have taken over the last year or so. It seems all the things that made MMOs what they were are suddenly anathema to players.It seems like so many people hate most of the many small things that have always been part of an MMO.Questing, grinding, grouping, craft skills, everyone seems to be trying to find a way to make them go past more quickly... It's like saying: "I love playing football... except the part where you go outside, work as a team or have to kick a ball. That part sucks and I try to get it over with as soon as I can because it's annoying."

This is true - the levelling and exploring experience in warcraft is increasingly portrayed as a chore. Why is that? I am as bad as anyone - getting from 75 from 80 on my paladin alt was a real grind, and yet it was only the second time I'd seen the content. Some ideas:

- It is no longer a group game

Sometimes I am literally the only person in a levelling zone - particularly some of the more out of the way ones like Badlands or UmBungo Crater. Most levelling is now done alone and the most memorable and fun way to level is with a guildie or friend.

- There is no real reward

Because the levels flash past so fast none of the gear you receive has any lasting quality. I remember getting the paladin two handed weapon Verigan's Fist at level 25 many years ago, including soloing the first boss of Deadmines, and using it for 10 levels. It was a brilliant, epic experience and I was really excited to get it. I've had nothing like that in any of the expansions and when I level alts I can get through ten levels in two nights.

- It is very easy

You are hardly ever in any danger of dying in PvE these days. There are no elite mobs or quests. Something easy to obtain is not usually inherently valuable.

So what is left that we like in the game? Raiding is better than it ever was, and was brilliantly conceived and executed in Ulduar. Coliseum is disappointing as an instance, but some of the fights are well designed. Arena PvP is again supposedly very enjoyable for a certain sado-masochistic mindset. What's the link between these activities? They are essentially social activities, they require co-operation and co-ordination. They offer tangible rewards. They are difficult.

The more that Blizzard dumbs down the early part of the game, the less that people will enjoy it I think.

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