Is WoW Too Easy, or Are We Too Lazy?

WoW’s getting too easy

You just get handed epics, you don’t have to work for them

Noobs who have no skillz have full tier 9

If you visit the official WoW forums (or indeed many other WoW-related forums), these types of complaints will be familiar to you.  The vocal minority claims that because raiding is easier, the hard work that they put in “back in my day” is somehow made worthless.

Raiding is not as difficult in WotLK as it was in TBC, which was in turn easier than in Vanilla WoW.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  People who clamour for the days of old either aren’t remembering everything that went into a successful raiding guild in vanilla or were never there in the first place.  It would not surprise me at all if the commonly claim that only 5-10% of players ever saw the high end raid dungeons was accurate.

The goal behind making things “easier” is to get more people to experience raiding, and to see the work that the Blizzard encounter and art teams put so much work into.  To do that, you have to bring the complexity down.  Can you imaging trying to run a casual guild or PUG through a fight like Chromaggus, with the required healing teams and carefully timed heal/regen cycles?  Impossible.

Easier Raiding

So, the entry level of raiding gets easier.  Because this is a cakewalk for experienced raiders, Blizzard adds hard modes that bring the difficulty level up to where it was back in the vanilla days.  In theory, this should solve everything – experienced raiders blaze through easy mode, then bang their heads on hard mode for a while instead of banging their heads on every single boss in the dungeon.  At the same time, casual players get to see all the content (eventually).

Of course, not every raider falls squarely into the “casual” or “hardcore” category.  In between, you have people of varying skill levels willing to put in varying amounts of time to take down a mix of easy and hardmode bosses.  This is a very wide middle section – the changes to raid size mean that there are many more viable raiding guilds on any given realm than would have been possible back in WoW 1.0.

The Lazy Middle

It’s this expansion of the middle which I feel is lowering the skill level of casual raiding guilds.

Top raiding guilds are able to place certain demands upon their members: strict attendance, gemming and enchanting requirements, forced specs, and most importantly a commitment to be prepared by reading and understanding strategy before attending a raid.  They can enforce these requirements because they have a waiting list of people who want to join the guild: if someone refuses to keep up, they are easily replaced.

As you move from top guilds to casual guilds, these requirements tend to fall off.  It’s the order in which the requirements fall off that  I take issue with.

For content that is well-understood (Naxxramas for example), I don’t really care what level your gear is at, so long as you meet the minimums required to take down the bosses.  Even being slightly under the minimums is OK if you have a few strong people willing to pick up the slack.  So long as you pull your weight, I’m not going to force you to re-spec or have every slot enchanted.  Your GearScore is just a guideline, not a threshold below which you won’t get into a raid.

What I cannot tolerate is people who show up well geared without knowing anything about the fights, and continually ask for instructions before each boss encounter.

Strat?

The strategies for the newest content in 3.2 is understood at a basic level because people who playtested the encounters on the PTR shared their experiences.  Everything that has come before is incredibly well documented at a variety of sites (WowWiki, StratFu, Bosskillers, etc.).

It takes all of five minutes to read a boss strategy.  You may not grasp every nuance of it, but you will at least understand the various phases and hopefully the things that you have to watch out for.  If you don’t bother to do this and it takes 3 minutes for the raid leader to give a explanation in-game, you not only get the terse version, but you eat up the time of everyone else in the raid.  While you can easily spend much more out-of-game time preparing to take on content, you shouldn’t have to spend more than 10-15 minutes tops to be prepared for the bosses you intend to take on in a raid night.

Worse still is the person who doesn’t read strategies and doesn’t mention that they have no clue about what to do.  When I do a ready check, I expect that everyone who clicks “yes” understands the mechanics.  If you’ve never done a boss before, haven’t read a strategy, but still say you’re ready, I am not going to be kind when you screw something basic up (like dropping a cleansing totem on Grobbulus).

Patch Notes and Class Changes

This isn’t specific to raiding, but gets on my nerves: people who don’t bother to read the patch notes but have no issue asking someone in-game to effectively type out the changes that apply to them in whispers.  Case in point: the ability to get cold weather flying at level 68 if you have a level 80 character on the same account.  I bought this for all my alts as soon as I logged in after 3.2 dropped, but I still get at least one whisper a day from someone asking how I can fly before level 77.

Small changes like this may not be a big deal, but I was recently running a 5 man with a level 71 tree druid.  The tank kept dying, and my meters showed that he was only receiving rejuvenation and lifebloom ticks in the 10 seconds before death.  I suggested that the healer try mixing in Healing Touch when the tank was getting hit hard, only to be rebuffed by “I don’t want to change out of tree form”.  That restriction was lifted when patch 3.0.2 came out, but this player was still healing like it was TBC because they’d never bothered to check out what had changed as the result of the expansion being released.

Why Not Just Kick Them Out?

Believe me, I’d love to.  But that’s the crux of the problem: the middle is so wide and there are so many casual raiding guilds that recruitment is not an easy task.  Even if you keep recruiting all the time you will be hard-pressed to be able to kick people who don’t read strategies or show up unprepared.  To do so will cripple your raiding roster, which can lead to a downward spiral where you lose more qualified members because you’re not able to take on the content they want to see.

In my ideal world, my raiding roster would be principled enough to demand that guild/raid leaders remove players who show up unprepared, even if that meant that the raid couldn’t progress.  “We’d rather not run Ulduar tonight than run it with someone who isn’t willing to pull their weight”, they’d say.  A word to the wise: don’t hold your breath waiting to find 9 or 24 such people.

So you keep people around who aren’t of the calibre you want, and the average skill of your raid group goes down.  Once enough guilds end up in this position, measured progression outside of the top guilds suffers.  Too many casual guilds can’t get past the Siege of Ulduar?  Let’s nerf XT-002 then.

The middle gets lazy and fat and the game difficulty falls back to meet them.  What I want to see is the good raiders pushing their less-than-stellar compatriots to get better.  Analyze and improve each member’s DPS instead of crying for an enrage timer nerf on the official forums.  Call out people who stand in the fire instead of asking your healers to compensate for someone else being lazy.

And QQ Begat Nerf

I realize that Blizzard doesn’t re-tune based on forum complaints, but they do re-tune to meet their goals: getting more people to experience the content.  If the players don’t choose to improve and progression grinds to a halt, those goals haven’t been met.  It is then more likely that a nerf will be considered, even if the current difficultly level is manageable.

If on the other hand raid teams decided to step up their performance (as the top guilds who passed by the supposed “impossible to beat” content), then Blizzard’s data would show slow but ever-present progression, and we might have a chance of always being pushed to improve rather than believeing ourselves entitled to sail through the next tier because we farmed the last one.

Until Next Time.

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