Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 02, 2014
 
My first World of Warcraft dungeon group

My very first dungeon group in WoW was a group of 5 shamans going to Ragefire Chasm. We didn't even know at the time that we weren't supposed to do that. We figured that shamans could both tank and heal, so we had all the bases covered. And that first group finished that first dungeon on the first attempt, although in hindsight we were obviously doing it very wrong. And that is the reason why World of Warcraft still has millions of subscribers, because it ramped up the challenge level rather slowly, and didn't make us newbies fail on our first attempt.

I am sure that MMORPG veterans of the hardcore persuasion will love Wildstar adventures and dungeons. But if the very first adventure in the game already requires Teamspeak to beat it, it means that a large majority of players is absolutely excluded from dungeon content. You can't have exclusive hardcore stuff without excluding people. And I believe that will be very bad for the long term health of Wildstar. You simply can't finance a game with only hardcore players, and even if you cater to them it isn't sure they will remain loyal to your game.

Comments:
On the Exile side, my group finished our first Adventure without TeamSpeak. It was a random group from the dungeon finder, even.

I won't lie, we died a lot. I was mostly confused, and when I rezzed I didn't always know how to get back to my party. There was a lot of frustration.

But we did finish it. There was never a time when I thought we might not. Maybe we got lucky and picked all the right options.

It was all pretty chaotic but I mainly attribute that to everyone being new to the whole process. I don't remember my first dungeon in WoW, but I know that I didn't even understand the concept of what a tank was for at the time.
 
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that the Wildstar approach might be a smart bet. I'm the typical soloer (I think) which means I will probably not see any of the group dungeon at all unless by some miracle my wife gets into the game with her gang and they form a guild and drag me along. So that content might as well build up as a challenge to the people who like doing it, right? The thought that it can't be completed easily on the first run sounds like a plus to me....and I'm not hardcore by any stretch. I'll keep wandering around on my sci-fi not-forsaken killing monsters in the forest of the not-elves in not-Pandora. (Despite noticing the derivates, I am having fun in the game FYI)
 
I agree but I can report that the first adventure isn't that hard. I joined a PUG with the group finder for the first Exile Adventure and we got through it with one wipe but the rest was your basic tank and spank. The telegraphs on the last boss were ridiculous, but I didn't die if I didn't get out of the way in time so it didn't seem to matter. So at least the *first* one isn't a hard barrier to entry.
 
My perspective is that forcing people to group in meaningful ways to complete harder content together leads to good things for your game's community.

You will lose a certain % who are too shy, too anti-social, or quite frankly, just unable to find the right fit.

BUT - the one thing that has been proven to me repeatedly is that games which encourage players to group in meaningful ways with other players create more lasting relationships and that is more (not less) likely to keep people playing a game beyond it's one free month.

If there is no point to group in a meaningful way, in my opinion, you don't really have an MMORPG. All you have is a shared world were everyone is playing the same single-player game together. There is an appeal to that, but once I'm done -- there is nothing to keep me from staying longer.

If you really pinpoint the decline of WoW, I'm willing to bet that you'll see a nice corollary between the decline of 'hard' raid content and the rise of 'easy' raid content.
 
Actually, the decline of WoW started shortly after Cataclysm launched. The same Cataclysm that brought back "hard core raiding". :)
 
Tobold, you hit the nail on the head. Warcraft ran into this problem years ago when they made heroic dungeons more difficult at the start of Cataclysm. Those dungeons with PUGS were painful and Blizzard got a lot of flack for it, which is why they made them easier. You'd think that other game devs would learn from the mistakes of Blizzard.

I think the Wildstar devs in their attempt to differentiate themselves from WoW with "hardcore" dungeons and raids will end up biting them in the long run. It will be a combination of players being frustrated because the group content is difficult and also the hardcore players having no tolerance for those less skilled players, which will alienate the less skilled and drive them back to games they are more comfortable with, like WoW when Warlords comes out.

What's really funny is reading the Wildstar guild recruitment forums where players are trying to form casual raiding guilds. Those will be the first to die from frustration.

The only, or one of the only positive things about hardcore dungeon/raid difficulty is that it gives the devs more time to work on the next set of dungeons/raids because it will take so long for even the hardcore guilds to complete them.
 
Heroics were tough in Burning Crusade. Unfortunately they let them get stupid easy in Wrath. And there was no way back.

As for Shamans, they could always tank up to about L50.
 
Catering to the hardcore is easy.

Just overtune it and then chant "hardcore" "hardcore" *hardcore* over and over again when people start protesting.

If you can't do it, you aren't *hardcore*

Slammed your head into the wall without any progress and gotten tired? You're not *hardcore* enough, train up those forehead muscles until they're rock solid! Chaaaallllenge all the way, baby!

Feel good about managing to do something 100, 1000+ other players can't! HARDCORE!

I sure hope those other thousand players keep playing and paying their subscription so that the best can feel HARDCORE though!
 
If you discount the brief bump that new expansion bring (ie Cata), I would mark the decline at Wrath.

@Jeromai While that's an excellent example of using label rhetoric to try to prove a point. Unfortunately, you miss the real point.

The point of making content more difficult isn't epeen, it's to force players to interact in meaningful ways to accomplish the goal. Such interaction requires a social component that doesn't exist when people can just randomly follow the same path together and end up at the end.

Without that, you get the Raid PUG and all the horrible stuff that comes with it. I'm not going to write about it here, but I'll tell you that the epiphany moment for me that caused me to ultimately quit WoW and never return was a bad PUG experience.


 
The pool of "hardcore" raiders is small, but they will pay their $15 per month. The calculus is *how many people are hardcore and is that number big enough the NCSoft won't pull the plug?

I hope Carbine has some contingency on hold for that eventuality, would like to see this game keep going for a while.
 
If you compare World of Warcraft heroics with Wildstar, the comparison overlooks that World of Warcraft also has normal dungeons. Wildstar hasn't. The problem is not a game having hard content, the problem is a game NOT having any group content for the non-hardcore.

I could imagine a lot of ways to make group content a "meaningful way to interact". Speeding the game up to 11 so that everybody is constantly button mashing isn't one of them. You don't have TIME for meaningful interaction in a Wildstar adventure / dungeon.
 
I agree with you.

I think it is not just the majority of players who are excluded, but also the potential players who read the positioning. In 2014, just how many want hard, 6-hour, 40-person raids?

I think the unknown time is when WoD launches. No MMO besides WoW has been that successful appealing to the subset, shrinking IMO, of MMO players who like to raid. Some raiders will drift back to WoW; some will stay. Wildstar may be the most interesting place to raid in September, but it is not as clear cut in November. We shall see.

(SWTOR recently said that 10% of their players visited the forums and 3% posted. I assume "hardcore" will always be popular in comments; historically it has not been that profitable.)
 
@sid67 "The point of making content more difficult isn't epeen, it's to force players to interact in meaningful ways to accomplish the goal."

My issue with that sentence is the word "force."

I play games that -encourage- the same thing, while leaving open the option to not participate and still be at the same level numerically and stats-wise.

I enjoy having the option to choose to join in on content that requires coordination, organization and teamwork in a group. I actually enjoy the social experience of playing that way.

I do not need to be shoved into it because it's the only way to access a certain tier of rewards.

I do not need to have other people who don't actually enjoy playing that way shoved in with me because they're only out to get those rewards.

There are enough people who enjoy the group experience without having to force those who don't into it.

If you need to force people to do an activity, something has gone wrong somewhere.
 
I am thrilled Wildstar went with a hardcore approach.

This is finally going to demonstrate that hardcore MMO design is really, really stupid.

I'm looking forward to the massive trainwreck that is now pretty much inevitable. People are failing in dungeons; attunement for raids looks absurd; the raids themselves are "bullet hell".

Good luck, Wildstar devs, and keep your resumes up to date.
 
If you need to force people to do an activity, something has gone wrong somewhere.

Successful games force people to do things all the time. Move out of the fire or die. Kill the bad guy or fail the mission. Defend this point for 60 seconds or lose. Avoid the level 60 zones when you are level 25 or you'll be killed.

It's not all about the carrots - sometimes it's better to use the stick. But wait, you say, "I don't want to play a game where they hit me with sticks -- it's a game!" To which I say, "I don't want to play a game that just feeds me Pavlovian treats."

But the heart of the issue isn't the word choice of "force" vs "encouragement". The core issue is that challenge is relative. We can use words like 'hardcore' and 'difficult' but it's about perspective. Easy for me may be hard for you.

Everyone likes challenge -- it's a big part of what makes game fun. But most of us want challenge that, while difficult and therefore rewarding, is still attainable.

The catch is that if my skillset is vastly different than yours, we don't view challenge the same way.

Most of these internet arguments are really just about where we think the bar should be set and what kind of challenges we like.

For example, many MMOs, recognizing that not everyone has the same skillset, turn to a different form of challenge -- one that doesn't involve skill, it involves time -- the grind. The task itself is not difficult to complete, but it's a time consuming one.
 
Successful games sometimes succeed in spite of certain aspects of themselves.

Move out of the fire or die. Kill the bad guy or fail the mission. Defend this point for 60 seconds or lose. Avoid the level 60 zones when you are level 25 or you'll be killed.

It doesn't -have- to be binary, you know.

Move out of the fire, or take increasing amounts of damage. In about X number of seconds, you will die.

Kill the bad guy or defend the point in this amount of time, gold reward. Take longer or do something wrong, silver or bronze or some kind of partial reward system.

Be sidekicked up to the level 60 zone, or play a game that gates by something else besides levels, eg. Eve Online, go anywhere you want, just watch out for hostiles and reap the consequences of any less wise decisions you make.

And of course, all this is just debating about opinions and preferences.

But sometimes the problem is people accept blindly that there is only one true way to do things, as taught by WoW.

It has to be highlighted in discussions that it does not have to be always the case. They are then free to choose what they prefer and pay for that.

Take Ultima Online. Once upon a time, no one had a choice and open world PvP was forced on everyone.

Then I hear Trammel came, and when people realized they had a choice to not be subjected to this, many amply demonstrated their preferences and moved to an environment they enjoyed a lot more.
 

And of course, all this is just debating about opinions and preferences.

But sometimes the problem is people accept blindly that there is only one true way to do things, as taught by WoW.


I agree with a small caveat. I think the mistake that many games make is they try to hard to be all things to all players.

Too often developers make adjustments to a game to attract new players or a different audience rather than catering to the audience they have already developed.

EVE is a good example of a game that has always held to the same vision. Over time, they attracted more players with the same vision but more importantly, they have retained the players who always liked that vision. CCP doesn't try to be all things to all potential players.

I believe our opinions diverge because I think it's OK for a game to specialize in a style and exclude certain customers.
 
Tobold, you mentioned in a previous article that you thought it would be a good idea if you could choose the difficulty level of games wasn't fixed but could be modified. Wildstar gave you that option, and you chose the most difficult route through that dungeon, and now you are complaining that it was too hardcore. But you chose the hardcore option. You mentioned that when you chose the newbie options, you could beat it easily.

So what's going on here? You got what you asked for and now you're complaining about it? Do you want the level settable by you, really? Or would you actually prefer the game to figure out how to challenge you but ultimately let you succeed?
 
Tobold, you mentioned in a previous article that you thought it would be a good idea if you could choose the difficulty level of games wasn't fixed but could be modified. Wildstar gave you that option, and you chose the most difficult route through that dungeon, and now you are complaining that it was too hardcore. But you chose the hardcore option. You mentioned that when you chose the newbie options, you could beat it easily.

So what's going on here? You got what you asked for and now you're complaining about it? Do you want the level settable by you, really? Or would you actually prefer the game to figure out how to challenge you but ultimately let you succeed?
 
Wildstar gave you that option

No, it didn't. It gave me the choice between 3 times 3 choices that all looked equally challenging. If a group member hadn't looked up on the internet which combination was easier than the others, we would never have found out.

If you make content with variable difficulty you need to A) label it accordingly and B) give rewards accordingly. Wildstar adventures do neither of these.
 
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