Thursday, September 22, 2011

Complaints about WOW

For some reason I still read lots of blog posts about MMORPGs.  I find the viewpoints of bloggers on WOW intriguing because so often their experiences are so starkly different from mine.  My WOW subscription has lapsed and I have no intention of renewing it so I cannot be so much accused of being biased towards a game I don't play but normally I find the various criticisms levelled at WOW to be entirely spurious.

One of the most common ones is the idea that WOW is entirely twitch reflex based and not strategic.  Tobold and Gevlon, among others, seem to have this idea that as long as you click fast in WOW you are going to be awesome because nothing else matters.  I just don't see how that makes the slightest bit of sense.  Clearly when playing a fast moving game you have to make rapid decisions but strategy comes up all the time.  Healers moreso than others need to be monitoring their mana and their casting patterns to find more efficient ways to keep the group alive.  That said, everyone has cooldowns to use and things they have to choose timing on and figuring out when to do that is important.  Regularly when my guild was tackling hard content we sat down and had discussions about how many DPS to put on a task, which ones, and who would take special jobs.  Clearly at the end of the day you are going to have to click a bunch of buttons really quickly but there was huge amounts of time devoted to strategy and people who couldn't plan ahead were obvious because they failed at their tasks.  

Although much of the button pressing thinking is offloaded to mods these days I don't know that this removes the strategic element to hitting abilities.  I spent hundreds of hours building and maintaining my spreadsheet to tell me exactly how to play optimally and many of the choices that ended up being the best were not at all obvious from the outset.  Though it is true that the average player usually does simply download the appropriate mod and accept whatever the theorycrafters say I would point out how often my theorycraft slightly differed from others and that these small differences were relevant.  Doing the theory myself was important and gave me a real advantage over those who just went with whatever they found online.  I suspect that much of the complaints of WOW being all twitch based come from people who simply never did much hard content.  If you are doing easymodes you rarely get pushed to the limit of your potential - as long as you can do 80% of the optimum you will win as long as you don't stand in the fire.  When you do hardmodes with minimal gear though you end up being forced to never stand in the fire and also deliver 95% of optimum and doing that requires a ton of information, strategy and thought to achieve.

The second big complaint I see is that you don't get to use your class abilities as you raid.  I totally get this one as I recall vividly going into AQ40 back in the Classic days and being awed that I had to actually Hammer of Justice things.  No monster in the preceding dungeons was affected by anything aside from autoattack so I really only needed 3 buttons on my bar - Flash of Light, Holy Light and Cleanse.  In AQ40 not only *could* you use all kinds of 'levelling' abilities you *had* to use them or you would die.  There was a huge increase in the number of abilities you needed to use to be effective and I thought it made the game a lot more fun.  In modern raiding this still holds true - I loved fights where the monsters were brutal but could be slowed, interrupted, stunned, etc. and we had to use all kinds of crazy tactics and spells to solve problems.  I remember really enjoying the challenge of piecing together how we would solve particular problems with the raid members on hand and having to be aware of all the neat things stuffed away in our spellbooks.  

I think the raid design team is doing a MUCH better job than they used to at incorporating more class abilities into fights which I find pretty hilarious when I compare it to Tobold's recollection that BWL was the best zone ever for forcing him to use his abilities. The BWL I recall was one where mostly everyone stood in one spot casting either Fireball, Frostbolt, or their single most efficient heal.  Nothing came out of your spellbook aside from the 3 basic things you needed to do - there is no question that modern fights require far more in terms of skill, output, flexibility and using all of your abilities than the ones in BWL did.

WOW isn't perfect, as is evidenced by the fact that I don't play it anymore.  However, there has been a major improvement in making use of levelling abilities in endgame and the level of strategy required for the challenging encounters is extremely high.  You *can* get by with minimal strategy and you *can* ignore your spellbook but only if you are doing easy stuff.  If you want a challenge, it is there... and if you don't agree with me I want to see your list of heroic mode final boss kills that were done before the boss was nerfed!


  1. Without diminishing your post, I think the seed of the complaints is that you can use tools to simulate 80% of the out-of-game strategy (visit Elitist Jerks but never read anything but the first post with the distilled current accepted wisdom, use website to calculate your reforging, use RAWR to tell you what to equip and how to gem...) and 80% of the in-game strategy (plenty of guides give you 3 rotations and when to use which).

    Then you pick a class/role centric strategy video and do exactly what you are told. Maybe you will not be the bestests ever, but you will do alright executing your personal script, even if you have no idea why hit rating is good but there's a cap for it, for example.

    However there are no tools to get you 80% of the 'twitch' if that is where you lack. You can see the dance these days, but learning the dance is another matter. If your twitch-fu is bad, because the dance is most of the times somewhat new, you will wipe and wipe.

    For me, personally, the problem is compounded by the need to have everybody do the dance right. In the 40man days, 20 people carried the other 20 most of the time, and 10-15 carried the rest most of the first kills (in my experience). You could lose bodies and keep going.

    Now encounters either punish you very hard for losing even 1 member of your 10-man, or much worse make one person misstep kill the whole raid.

    You cannot uber-dance to make up for your mate's crappy-dance, nor can you carry the new guy by making the other dpser/healer work a bit harder as you used to be able to do.

    So best case scenario your raid progression is slowed to the slowest person to get the dance right. And then maybe keep wiping 1 of every 3 times due to silly, silly dance errors.

    But worst case scenario, you do not have stable roster of players and every other week you have to pay the 4 or 5 wipes for the new guy to not cross the rays or everyone dies, or whatever it is for that boss.

    I have had fun doing the first tier of Cata raiding (only normal modes, mind), but there were many many nights of wiping on bosses we were supposedly farming because new people needed to learn, or someone had a bad day.

    Having a bad day or being new/undergeared used to be doing 10-20% less damage. It can be crippling in certain encounters, but most of the time the raid can compensate specially if you are farming the boss. These days you can wipe your raid 3 times in a row 3 minutes into the fight. If it is you, you feel bad. If it someone else, you have to fight the urge to bite their heads off after a couple of hours of torture... stage right, enter drama.

    One person can wipe the raid + encouter-specific mechanics that take 10 wipes to get = I am a decent player but I will still cripple my raid just because I was off for 2 weeks = Not fun

    It probably is a matter of perception, but failing because of the dance is a lot more frustrating to me than letting my tank die. The effect could be as bad, but the second feels like I knew what my role was and I should do better at it, and the first feels like random punishment out of random hoops we were made to jump through so we can get to the fun part.

  2. I was watching a Let's Play of an interesting bullet hell game. The player talked about the different boss patterns and how to deal with them. There were two bosses where the player explained that he was not good enough at the game and he had to resort to memorization. The idea of memorizing the movements he was making seemed impossible to me - especially with the precision and speed required, but he regarded it as the easy way out.

    People talk about twitch reflexes in WoW and memorizing a dance. But assuming you play action video games sometimes, you know that the reflex requirements in WoW are very low by video game standards. Moreover, memorizing is, just like the bullet hell game, a short cut for people who can't handle the decision making speed and information processing required - it is not a requirement, and it's probably not even how to maximize your performance unless you are really playing at your limit. I don't find either of these arguments convincing in the slightest, they are just people complaining that WoW is too hard.

    The real problem is that WoW wants to be exactly the same level of hard for ten people at the same time. I agree with Peke that the one death = wipe formula is not a fun thing. On the other hand, if one death did not mean a wipe then everything would be super easy (battle rez is ridiculously overpowered, by the way).

    If there is a problem with WoW, I would say it is one of two things:

    1) The model of cooperative semi-action RPG play just doesn't work because groups will always be filled with both people who find it too easy and others who find it too hard; or

    2) The ideal for a cooperative semi-action RPG is to set the difficulty to a very low level and just accept that people will leave because it's too easy.

    I'm not sure that either of those are true. But the idea that WoW should move away from twitch reflexes, dances, one death = wipe, and other "problems" just doesn't make sense. Giving you more time to react is making the game easier. Simplifying enemy abilities or making it so you do not have to react to them in the right way every time is making the game easier. Letting you get away with a death or with doing 20% less damage is making the game easier. Unless you beat the boss by playing Sudoku, they can't eliminate these elements of the game and still maintain the level of difficulty.

  3. @Peke

    So here is the thing: You are primarily arguing for the game to be easier. If we can win with bad players coming along, subpar play and deaths then the fight is simply easy.

    There is nothing wrong with easy! However, we should be honest with ourselves and say we want it easier if that is what we want. If you found wiping to be frustrating then maybe you should play old dungeons that are nerfed or which you overgear - you can beat those with lots of deaths and mistakes. Hell, I enjoy playing Upgrade Complete and it is a game where you literally cannot fail. Easy isn't worse, it is just different, and if you prefer the game to have less strict performance requirements then I certainly would like there to be a spot for you to find that.

    I personally advocate a single raid size (I like 10s, but I am not married to that number) and three difficulties. If we had Story mode, Normal mode and Heroic mode then people who really want to just hit their buttons and see bosses die could do that - the 'dance' portion would be very trivial in Story mode. Normal mode would have moderate leniency in dancing and Heroic mode would be seriously difficult as it is now. This way no nerfing of dungeons needs to happen - people can farm Story mode forever if they want to and everyone gets the lore.

  4. @Sky

    Not really, albeit I can see where you come from. Also when you write a couple of books worth of text it is easy for the point to be obscured.

    Lots of movement and rapid responses make the encounter more difficult, but I flatly refuse to accept they are the only or even appropriate way of doing it. So reducing these factors should not be boiled down to 'You want it easier'.

    If they left the dance but made required raid dps 2000, and the encounter last 1 min, it would also make it easier. But I would not like that, so it is not just that I want it easier.

    In fact, it would be completely opposite to what I would want, because the encounter knowledge totally would trump the character/class/game knowledge. It would be easier, but not get me any closer to be happier.

    I do not want it easier. I want it different. I want gameplay barriers to relate to class skills, rotations, choosing the right spell, gearing up correctly... not learning the dance. It is nice to have a few things thrown in for variety's sake, and from time to time mechanics are memorable and fun. But overall they feel like chores on top of being a decent player of your class and role.

    Let me put an example:

    If the adds reach the orb and heal the boss too often, we can rotate more dps from the boss to the adds, we can try to have the resto druid root one on top of healing the tank, or we maybe we just need to practice our rotations better or think of respec or re-gemming, whatever, to raise our raid dps.

    It is not only a problem inside the game's core mechanics (kill mob!) but also one that can be sorted in different manners and where veterans can help newbies if required. Also it allows for granular improvement (maybe if only one or two adds less reach the orb this time, we can make it!) and feedback.

    If it is a movement puzzle, and everybody has to follow, and one person failing either wipes the raid outright or puts an unreasonable burden on the rest, then there is no other recourse than wipe until that person gets it, or replace that person. Others cannot help you, putting that person to other task won't help either, it is just repeat, repeat, repeat. And next week if this guy cannot come and some other wonderful healer but that never did this encounter comes in instead, we would have to pay the same 5 wipes price of admission. There is no better way.

    Notice this new guy does not need to be that bad. I reckon by bad you mean someone who would never get it right to a reasonable degree, not someone that gets a few tries to get it right. But just being new to an encounter makes it likely you will need a few wipes to get the steps right, because it does have all these steps. And by the end of it you would only be a small degree more ready for the next encounter, because you will need to learn those steps.

    Also I dislike this focus on the individual performance over the group, where if you do not get everybody doing the dance right the raid wipes. It takes from it being a team effort. The team should be able to put people in roles according to their strengths, reassign people, compensate weaknesses. This does not need to be carrying anybody around, but let it be if that is what people want! Set the goal post for the team to reach and let each raid sort themselves. Very high team goal posts (say, heroic) will necessitate high performance individuals, so it would sort itself nicely.

    In the end, I find annoying a part of the game I used to enjoy. Annoying, not (necessarily) difficult. The difficulty comes into play because I would have an easier time ignoring the annoyance if I could progress to the next encounter and forget about it, but that is not desirable either.

    That said, I think the first bosses in each tier should be easier. Let people walk out with something if they can reach a moderate minimum. This I do not consider this a must, but a marketing ploy if you will: everybody can give it a good try, and get a drop or two. That will keep them trying and coming next week.

  5. There are some things I agree with here for sure. Some people like encounter mechanics to be crazy and varied. I am one of them. However, there is no reason why everyone should want that. Some people want the specific fight mechanics to be either relatively unimportant or not there - they want to use the same abilities they normally do in every fight. That is fine, everyone has different parts of the game they enjoy.

    One thing to keep in mind though is that if it is possible to bring new players in who can easily do the fight the first time (because the mechanics are not especially unique or punishing) then fights cannot be hard. If one person can do it right the first time then your raid team is going to need only a couple wipes at most to learn a new encounter. That means a new dungeon with 6 bosses could easily only last 20 wipes in total - you would be done the new raid in your first 8 hours. Every fairly casual raid groups would find that a new dungeon tier lasted only a week or two. Again, that isn't bad, but if what you want is content that you can carry new or weak players through and which a person who is skilled can beat on the first try then everything is easy - no other simple way to describe it.

    Look at it this way: How long do you want it to take to beat a fight? If the answer is you want to one shot it, then you can clearly go raid ICC. If you want to beat it in a couple tries, go raid normal modes from the previous tier that have been nerfed. People can screw up and die all over the place and you can win anyway. The trouble with those choices of course is that you run out of content in an extreme hurry! The current dungeons on the other hand will take a number of wipes to learn for the average raid group. They will take a month or two to clear it out because they have to die a lot to get better at the fights individually.

    So to sum:

    If you want to be able to bring along new or weaker players and win the fights will be won within a couple wipes by the normal group.

    If this is the case then you beat every fight in a week or two. (I am not saying this is bad, just that there isn't much raiding to do!)

    You will run out of things to do extremely quickly.

    If you want to have things to do for a long time then learning each fight needs to take some time.

    This means a lot of wipes, which means there needs to be something that your group can practice to get better at. For there to be something that you have to practice at in each new fight there must be new mechanics!

    And this is why fights need new mechanics (the dance). The alternative is raids that everybody plows through in no time and Blizzard needing to put out a new raid dungeon every month to keep people busy.

  6. I agree with pretty much everything Peke said, and it's pretty much why I got so tired of raiding.

    Vashj was hard, I think we can all agree to that. But we were still able to bring a wide variety of 'skill' to the fight. We wiped an awful lot of times but we still didn't need to get everyone up to the same level. Everyone didn't have to be awesome at all aspects of the fight and you could assign people in ways to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

    I got so frustrated this time around because it didn't seem like we could possibly hide any weaknesses we may have had on a fight like heroic Atramedes. We were going to pull that fight over and over until everyone could handle everything the fight did. It didn't matter how good the group as a whole became, or how good any given individual became. Unless we wanted to wait for another tier of gear so we could 9-man the fight we had to have 10 people who could get it done.

    Maybe I want the fights to be 'easier', but I don't want them to be easier for me. I want them to allow bringing a few people who aren't as good as I am because putting together a full team of people who are near the same skill level is annoying/hard/not fun.

    And them being 'easier' doesn't mean they have to be trivial. Again, we fought fights like Princess Huhuran, Vashj, Archimonde, and Sarth+3 many, many times. They all died, eventually, and with some definite weaker links involved.

    They can have new mechanics but those mechanics don't need to apply to all players and guarantee a wipe when anyone fails them. The gongs on heroic Atramedes on the ground (after they got 'nerfed' to not immediately tick twice) are a good example. The whole raid doesn't have to learn gong timings, just a couple people. But you'll still have a lot of wipes as you're learning as you discover gongs and figure out when to hit them.

  7. Consider this question: Is the game too hard if there is lots of content *exactly* at the level you are advocating but also some content that is even harder?

    Normal modes are just like you say you want. We could bring along some subpar folks, make some mistakes and win. There was challenge, but not excessive challenge. If Blizzard were to eliminate the hardest difficulty fights then those people who want those fights simply have no place to get them. So why is it a problem that there exist fights that require extremely high levels of performance given that there are plenty of fights that have the difficulty level you want?

  8. I disagree that there are plenty of fights that have the challenge I want. Normal modes, in general, were far too easy for people who were good. Hard modes were impossible with people who were bad.

  9. It took us a number of weeks to get all the dungeons cleared on normal mode. I remember doing a lot of wiping before ever touching a heroic mode fight, so the normal modes can't have been that easy in Cataclysm.

    Again though, I must ask: Why is it a problem that harder fights exist? Should Blizzard refuse to make fights that require everyone to be good? Even though I think there have been plenty of crappy mechanics and a few fights that were simply tuned too hard I still think that having completely savage encounters is good, even if I didn't beat them. Assume for a moment that there is a reasonable selection of fights which meet your criteria for appropriate hardness - is it still a problem that some fights are much harder than that?

  10. Yes, because development time is finite. Adding content that I won't or can't use makes for a game I don't want to play. Note I didn't so much say it makes for a bad game as much as I said it makes for a game I was no longer willing to pay to play.

    Also, having stuff that looks like you're supposed to be able to do in a game but can't is actually frustrating. There are boss fights in Dead Rising 2 that I simply can't beat when I reach them. That is frustrating. I'd rather they didn't exist in the game at all than to have them there as something I can easily run into at low level.

    It took a number of weeks to clear the normal dungeons because a few fights were actually challenging. But to say there was a full suite of bosses that were challenging is a real misnomer.