Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Glory Days

...and BACK WE GO To TBC. Again ^^

Why is it that so many people love The Burning Crusade as an Expansion?

Is it because it was the first of its kind and instead of everything breaking and becoming utterly pants when everyone got to 70, the entire experience got even more addictive? Was it the insane difficulty of just about everything to the point of Guilds disintegrating over their inability to co-ordinate Boss mechanics? Could it have been the fact you needed a Degree in Geography to navigate yourself around Karazhan and that the weekly lockout often wasn't enough time to even complete the place? Was it Daily Dungeon Quests or Professions Specialisations or Arenas or even the fact that the music was spine chillingly beautiful or maybe it was Gathering Raw Materials from thin air as an Engineer... and the list goes on... and on. It was the Expansion that showed that Blizzard did in fact know what it was doing, that there was life past 60 and that we were here for the long haul. 30 levels later, Blizzard have freely admitted it is these 'bygone' days of awesome it is attempting to return to to recapture the feeling for Warlords, and not simply because we're going back to what would become Outland if history continues as we know has been the case for some time.

Blizzard are reinventing the past in a new present, and not simply because it makes it easier to reuse the old models without people complaining they're only recycling. A lot of  the greatness of the past is to do with individual perception, but there's also a groundswell of opinion that will quietly pull you to one side and admit that all this talk about ability bloat and complexity of choice is all well and good, but the real reason people loved The Burning Crusade and want that feeling back was because it was PROPER HARD. It wasn't about your iLevel or your Achievements, it was all about being able to play well, and use what you had to beat encounters that you simply could not grind your face into the keyboard to complete. It was about understanding and using Crowd Control, on what your Spec could and couldn't do, about line of sight pulls and all five/ten/twenty-five people really doing the business together. It was NEVER about gathering everything up and AOE-ing the crap out of it, because that was cheating. It was Reputation Grinds and Keys and Gating Content so that when everyone completed the next level of Sunwell stuff the ENTIRE Server came and stood on the NPC's and because it was the first time this had happened, it was fun and not griefing.

Time for a Pre-expansion event? We hope so...

Somewhere between TBC and now a lot of people became right miserable gits, because they changed. The game also evolved too, some might say not always for the better, but with the benefit of almost 10 years of hindsight I'd say everyone has some lessons to learn. That's what Warlords is becoming, a new way of doing things, and I think those already complaining that they don't want to have to start again should make an orderly queue for the nearest Exit. It is time to be re-educated in how Warcraft works best, and that is in its ability to re-invent itself and surprise us with what we are capable of doing. The trick is, as it was from the end of Vanilla into TBC, to not think that change will be what destroys us all. Don't make me get the motivational posters out for a second time in a week, you don't need to panic that you'll be unable to cope with everything because it'll all be different. We've done this four times already and Warcraft's sub base is on the rise again. These are not the desperate last actions of a dying game, far from it. This is Evolution.

From Many Lara, handle it!

Discussing Evolution generally is both a serious and often contentious business, and if we apply it to Warcraft it is quite easy to draw parallels in many areas of basic theory, not simply regarding the game itself but more significantly in this case for the people playing. The 'adapt or die' mentality, in it's most basic form, applies to any gamer regardless of the interface they use: if you can't grasp how the basic mechanics of your programme, you either fail or walk away. If Blizzard can't make the game both simple to grasp but a challenge to play, people will lose interest, and over time they have. The undoubted issue in this expansion, one I still see people complaining of even now, is that you can be more than capable of doing the work and producing what is needed but if your gear isn't good enough, it won't matter. The game has become obsessed with too many stats and huge numbers and (some would say) not enough human input. I can attest to a portion of this: as my gear gets better, my damage increases disproportionately to the amount of continued effort I have to make, because the maths in game is broken. Gear does not make a player, it never did. Somewhere between TBC and here that basic fact just went missing, and now Blizzard are pretty much redesigning everything from the ground up to compensate. Will it dumb down the game? Who knows, but what it will do is force everyone to make a choice: relearn, or off you go.

It's not exactly adapt or die, but it is your decision to make.

LFG World Boss Need Heals and Tanks

Undoubtedly TBC was a Golden Age, but Evolution is affected by external factors, not simply those that govern any given Ecosystem. There's a lot of competition out there these days, your Elder Scrolls and Wildstars and League of Legends trying to grab a piece of you and convert you to another way of thinking. However, with a measure of irony that has not been lost on me, what's the game most people have been playing this last week around me that's not Warcraft? Diablo 3, which Blizzard have pretty much re-invented from the ground up in anticipation of their latest Expansion. If you want proof Blizzard know what they're doing because they really understand their franchises, then there's a shining example and no mistake, guv. It's still the EXACT SAME GAME it was before but with all the bad bits cut off and replaced with 86% MORE AWESOME. Better loot, social abilities, sensible crafting... it's all there, and when you get me playing it for a couple of hours because my Internet's not great but it doesn't matter when I'm playing alone, you're really onto a winner. These guys know how to handle change. They also listen to criticism and act on it. Really, they do.

This is my D3 banner. #YoureWelcome

Most of the problems with Warcraft are in the eyes of the individual, but there are areas of contention that many of us have identified either in blogs or on forums. These issues are being addressed, actively, and at some point in the next few weeks we will finally have the opportunity to see at first hand if Blizzard intend to return the game to a state where the player is what matters as much as, perhaps even more so than the stuff she wears or the choices she makes. Unlike the process of human evolution, which isn't nearly as easily observed or quantified, we will soon be able to decide if the 'adapt or die' mentality that Blizzard have adopted will indeed have that effect and if players will continue to return as subscribers. Just as summer blockbusters recycle old content time and again to suck in the biggest and most financially affluent section of the movie-going audience, we are about to go back to the time when everything was good, everybody had a great time and there weren't nearly as many online forums or social media platforms to complain in. Whether it works or not, we don't know, but I'd suggest that until you've actually SEEN the content, you don't arbitrarily surmise that it won't work, because until we get the Expansion, nobody has a clue.

Yeah I know, like that's going to stop you.


Jonathan said...

"the ENTIRE Server came and stood on the NPC's and because it was the first time this had happened, it was fun and not griefing."

I think rose-tinted spectacles have kicked in there; no, it wasn't fun then and it was griefing.

Bartosz Szafarz said...

I don't like it how the moment Blizz decides to do something with the world they already have it's called nostalgia and/or laziness. The same with Cata. I know many people don't care about lore and just want new art for the sake of it regardless of excuse, but it's strange to erect a new landmass each time, as if nothing interesting was happening in the world politically or otherwise. Up until Northrend and a part of Cata they had it easier: we knew those lands were there from previous games and books, but they just weren't yet implemented in WoW. After that, they have it harder and harder to introduce new landmasses. Editing existing stuff would sometimes be the only sensible option lorewise to do. They can only use the "mists" excuse once, after that it will get too cheesy. Editing is also the option that gives you the biggest feeling of continuity, like the world has an actual history, things are happening and so on.

In Warlords we have a mix between the two: as opposed to just editing the current world Blizz creates an alternate timeline duplicate, so that they can make it look as different as they can, while still maintaining that feeling of continuity (and nostalgia). There have been criticisms that the timey-wimey nature of the expansions actually breaks the feeling of continuity, but we have to remember that the Bronze Dragonflight guarding the timeline is present constantly in each expansion since back in Vanilla. It's not like the pull time-manipulation out of the blue into the lore. We will have to see.

I wish players recognized each other's needs even if they have nothing in common and contradict each other a bit: those who don't care about lore want new art, those who immerse themselves in lore want continuity. And Blizzard needs to compromise.

Personally, I would be happy if they didn't create any new questing zones at all (maybe just tiny bits like islands or an elemental plane zone here and there) and just change and edit the stuff they already have to reflect the constant evolution of history. But I know that would leave other players unsatisfied so I accept that.

R said...

I started playing WoW mid-BC and played it entirely as a single player game, I'm not sure I grouped with anyone while leveling, ever. Those who comment that leveling is easier now? Pfft, it wasn't anything resembling a challenge back then either. If I encountered a quest I couldn't handle... well, I didn't do it and moved on. 8 years later, now there aren't really any of those infrequent, difficult to solo quests. Apples and oranges these ain't, we're talking 98% trivial vs 100% trivial. They're both bananas.

Once I hit max level the second time and didn't want to level a 3rd I looked into "alright, what now?" I wasn't in a guild, had no idea about dungeons or raids... but there was some sort of PvP thingie. So, I PvP thingied for a bit with the amount of success you'd expect (little to none). Didn't like all that dying and not much killing so I took a break from the game until the Wrath pre-event. That's when I got into guilds (completely by accident), raids (COMPLETELY by accident) and everything else that's come since.

I hate to even write this but I think what most people are referring to about the glory days of BC, even you, is that back then there was a real "knowing your place" thing happening. If you wanted to do something, let alone successfully, it probably required a hell of a lot of effort and more than a bit of skill.*

There was no LFR. Heroics were capital-H Hard. Raids were ... simple but difficult, even if just logistically (how the hell do you fit 40 players in a room that's sized to fit 20 where you need to maintain a 5yd spread between each? There's a fine line, but a line, between difficult and unnecessarily-pain-in-the-ass).

If you raided, it's because someone was (or more likely, many someones were) willing to bring you into it and, more critically, get you up to speed. It did require 35 players to literally waste their time to help out the 5 being boosted, though. In a world with all-day BGs, that kind of thing was acceptable. Today, where a 30m LFR queue (where you can be doing other things while queued!) is worthy of a forum complaint, not so much.

What Wrath managed to do, mostly pro but somewhat con, is to democratize how we play. "Know your place" turned into "hey, that sounds neat, I want to try that..." I'm raiding relatively high-end content today because of that, as are many other raiders, competent or otherwise. It also means that players who shouldn't be subjecting groups to their "skill" are in your/my LFR and LFD runs. Perhaps the pendulum swung a wee bit too far in that direction.

Now, Blizzard is planning to bring back a small bit of the "showing your place" (many may not be aware) by making PG silver a requirement to run random (not pre-made!) heroic 5-man content. It's a small thing but it's a relatively significant thing for them to be doing after 5 years of very much an opposite direction approach. You'd expect the BC glory days folks to be completely on board with that, a surprising step in the direction of pre-gauging competence and suitability...

... but not so much. Colour me mystified.

R said...


* Skill being a relative term, I didn't raid in BC as mentioned but by the first-person accounts I've read, most notably by Shawn Holmes from the EYIA blog, the fights themselves weren't difficult, especially by current standards, but there were far fewer ways to gauge skill. I get the strong impression that a group could succeed back then with significantly less overall skill than is required today for an equivalent fight.