Greedy Goblin

Monday, November 16, 2009

Different challenges

Spinks gave me lot of thinking with this old post of hers. She said "it speaks to something in player mentality where someone who levels naked (in game) or beats Ulduar in blue gear will be widely respected, whereas a group who go into a raid instance ‘blind’ so that they can figure out the strategy themselves will be mocked for not looking it up like everyone else. The player base values some challenges more than others." Figuring out our own strategy is a challenge. Why no one bothers to do it? And if someone does it, why is he mocked instead of respected?

Tobold mentioned his challenge-idea many-many times: "players rarely try to push the envelope and go for orange or red quests and monsters. There isn't anything in the game that would prevent them from challenging themselves, but the majority goes for the safest option with the best rewards for the lowest risk of failure."

Let's classify challenging content into three groups:
  1. raiding ToC or Ulduar hard modes, doing high rating arena
  2. leveling naked, clearing Ulduar in blue gear, leveling without killing monsters, duoing Loatheb, 8-manning Gruul (on 70), soloing RFC on lvl18, leveling to 80 without dieing, being a melee hunter
  3. going into a raid without previous knowledge, figuring out what the boss do; leveling without questhelper and WoWhead, solving the puzzles of the often lore-packed quest instructions; leveling only via orange-red quests.
No doubt that all are challenging on different ways. If people would have their own reasons for "fun" they would distribute more-or-less evenly among these challenges. Some would still arena, others solo instances, others would level their n-th alts via some self-imposed restriction. Yet the distribution of the challenge-seeking people is very uneven and fit exactly to the "respect" value of the actions:
  1. Many-many people do it, and highly respected. Such people are the "elite" of WoW.
  2. Few people do it. While such action is respected, and can get widespread attention, these people are rather considered "weird" than "idols".
  3. No one does it fully, those who do it partially are mocked and looked down
It's easy to say that people simply surrender to the opinion of their peers and do what's respected. The interesting question is why these challenges gain different respect from others?

My answer is that this respect is based on visibility and cheatability:
  1. Very easy to show and very hard to cheat. You have "celestial defender" over your head, you have ilvl258 items on you, whatever colored protodrake below your butt, anyone can see them. Besides actually beating the challenge you can only gain the title, mount and gear if you outright cheat the game like Karatechop or if you somehow get the "elite" to boost you (that's harder to do than actually beating the content).
  2. Hard to show and moderately easy to cheat. No in-game thing (title, achievement, mount, gear) proves that I was among those who cleared Ulduar in blues. You can only know it if you have read it somewhere. Also, the proof that we actually were in blues is hidden between the log lines. Only those can actually verify it who are skilled in WoW fight parses. These parses can be tricked by uploading a tinkered combat log and even a legitimate log cannot 100% prove that we did not wear some epic gear to reach certain caps (tanks are especially good examples for that).
  3. Impossible to show and extremely easy to cheat. There is absolutely no way of proving that you have not used external sources.
To gain the respect of peers you must at first show off your achievement, secondly must prove that you did it without cheating. Only hard-to-cheat challenges qualify as "respectable" and only easily visible challenges are convenient for this task.

Of course if people would not care about the opinion of peers they would do any challenges that fit them, ignoring if others see and believe it. The fact that most players choose "type 1" challenges, proves that most people surrender to the opinion of other people (not all as some would surely keep doing it if it wouldn't be respected). The most obvious example is that the very same feats became very popular after Blizzard implemented the achievement system, highly increasing the visibility of the actions. Before that, only a few bothered to do all quests or get exalted with n factions (some did). I'm 100% sure that if Blizzard would create achievements for "clearing low level instances with groups where everyone is 3 level below the endboss", the trade chat would be littered by "LF2M geared lvl13 tank and healer for RFC achievement run".

When I started to do "type 2" challenges instead of "type 3", I also surrendered to this trend, since otherwise I couldn't write anything here that people would care about. "type 2" is the furthest I can go without absolutely leaving the society (of WoW). However I made this choice consciously. The social people simply say "raiding is fun, RFC is boring" and "read the strat ffs lazy noob" without having any idea why is it "fun" and why can't they go in blindly?


Sean said...

I think you have a good point.

I offer this alternative theory though: People who don't read up boss strats are frequently also M&S. There is no way to differentiate them with those seeking challenges.

Those seeking challenges are looked down upon because their actions conincide with the M&S noobs.

Sven said...

There are various practical obstacles to your type 3 achievements.

- In terms of the orange questing, that's fun the first time you do it, but the second or third time is not so interesting. Levelling your 4th or 5th alt is more an exercise in efficiency than challenge if you've already overcome the challenge the first time.
- Orange questing is something that's very easy with some classes (e.g. hunter, warlock), but next-to-impossible with others. There's a wide variation in the soloing ability of different classes.
- To take the "figure out the bosses yourself" approach, you need everybody in the raid to have the same attitude. It's rare to find a raid where nobody has done it before.

I'd suggest it's those practical problems, rather than a social reasons, that makes this kind of challenge less common.

Anonymous said...

Consider for a bit the overlap between type 1 and type 3 - the people who kill a boss before there is a boss strat to read. The people who level without questhelper and before questhelper has a guide to follow. Its a lot of the reason some people participate in 'cutting edge' raiding/levelling - or simply want to play on the PTR, buggy as it is, its often a lot of fun.

Can't really apply it to PvP tho.

Townes said...

I can't speak for more than myself and my guild.

But I had some of the most fun in Wrath when it first launched and we did go into the new instances with no clue about what the trash or bosses would do. And beat them. We didn't look it up.

Raiding is different, but I don't remember looking up what the spider bosses did or anyone telling me. I think we walked into Naxx, though we looked things up later.

Despite the fact that socially, even a blog like this would have told us we were M&S for not preparing well. We had fun. This is an observation I expect you don't like reading over and over in the comment section, but many people - maybe most -just do what is fun.

Lite said...

No, Soloing a lvl 11 instance as lvl 18 is not a great feat of strength.

Raiders read up on whatever strategical piece of information they can get their hands on before entering a raid because they want to clear whatever content lies ahead of them - Fast.

Guild X : Knows the boss tactic before entering
Guild Y : Does not.

Which of these 2 guilds do you think would win the race in being the first guild in the World/Continent/Realm to kill boss?

Some of us play for the competition. Don't bitch at us for going in prepared in our quest for victory.

Unglar said...


Another type of challenge you may find interesting: permadeath.

Karthis/Andrew over at Of Teeth and Claws wrote a couple of articles about the concept in the DDO game and specifically mentioned the different challenge that brought to playing the game.


Xaxziminrax II said...

>Orange questing is something that's very easy with some classes (e.g. hunter, warlock), but next-to-impossible with others. There's a wide variation in the soloing ability of different classes.

How is this an "obstacle?" Actually, you just created MORE challenge by doing orange quests on a priest! If you are not up for that much of a challenge, then you roll a hunter. If you are up for more challenge than a hunter, roll something in between.


Dear Lite,
World-firsts are challenges in their own right. I don't think Gevlon ever said anything here that spoke out against them. Perhaps you should read the post again.

Unglar said...

To add to my previous comment, here's a link to one of the articles:


Anonymous said...

There actually are achievements for completing things with below average gear, you just never finished your Ulduar 10M run which was the reason for you to not earn anything provable.

Herald of the Titans (

And for the Colosseum:
A Tribute to Dedicate Insanity (

They both give a title aswell.

Zach said...

Another challenge you have skipped over/ missed is trying for a certain time... for instance a 1 hour clear of a certain instance...

Blizz started this with Zul'Aman bear runs, and with CoT:Strat runs... there are people who try to challenge themselves to do a run in as little time as possible.. .this is probably one of the most useful ways to "challenge" yourself, as it actually serves the purpose of maximizing your time playing...

Lite said...

"it speaks to something in player mentality where someone who levels naked (in game) or beats Ulduar in blue gear will be widely respected, whereas a group who go into a raid instance ‘blind’ so that they can figure out the strategy themselves will be mocked for not looking it up like everyone else"

Quoted by Gevlon.

The difference between the player leveling naked and the player attending a raid with no knowledge of the encounter what-so-ever is who it affects. Leveling by yourself, naked, only hinders yourself whereas being in a raid you would be an annoyance and a burden to bring along.

Orcstar said...

Challenges come on different levels.

What's a challenge to one might not be to someone else.

The real question is, why should everything grant you "bragging rights". A lot of people do challenging things (for them) which are fun and give fullfillment, just not, or not big bragging rights because around the corner there's alway someone better to put you down.

People seek do challenging things they often just don't brag about them.

This weekend I did entire Molten Core duo with my brother. (which gives me limited bragging rights). But it wasn't about that, it was about the challenge and fun. I don't want anyone to come around the corner saying "noobs you duo, noobs it can be done solo". So while it was for me and my brother an achievement, I keep it to myself.

Anonymous said...

Elite groups simply don't like to do things without mods like DBM which thinks for you, and not reading tactics from sites like EJ and Tankspot, cause they want to do the encounter as clean as evenly possible.

Granted that it is possible to do a encounter without the proper tacts and make up your own, but this leaves "newbies" to think for themselfs, which is a dangerous alternative.

It's all about taking down the boss as clean as possible, nothing else. Elite raid groups HATE to wipe simply cause no one read the tactics.

Carson 63000 said...

I would add that people who go into a raid instance blind so that they can figure out the strategy themselves often (not always, but often) do so with a smug attitude of superiority, that they are better than the pathetic masses who need to read a strat to do a raid.

Obviously attitudes like that are going to attract hostility. My experience has been that that's the most common driver.

All I've ever said about raiding blind is that you better be damn sure that everyone in your guild shares your love of it, or you'll be raiding blind and alone pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

Ah, achievements, the one that made those rare crazy people who did it for their own fun to meld into a much bigger crown of those who do it to have 10 more points than the Joneses.

There were people who played Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza and fished up Mr. Pinchy, who got 40 exalted reputations, Bloodsail grind, collected pets before even achievements were introduced. There were even dedicated websites and blogs to such things like fishing or pet collecting. But those people were much rarer before. So why achievement system changed that?

Carra said...

The whole idea of getting respect from your peers is a social issue.

Goblins shouldn't worry about that.

Jesus said...

I've done every TBC and WotLK 5 men istances without knowing shit about what to expect inside.

That's easy to do, it just requires 4 other people who shares the same pov about PvE challenges.

Finding 9more, or 24, while being sure they are competent players as well is not that easy, and that's why I gave up on not reading tactics for raids.

As for the "leveling naked" or "raiding ulduar in blues" I personally do not find it attractive, cause a very important part of wow is (for me at least) to improve your character, and giving up on gear totally defeats that aspect of the game.

Anonymous said...

I believe the assumption that the vast majority of people only do category 1 is a bit flawed. They are probably a majority, but there are many more people doing category 2 and 3 types of things than you realize. As you state, the category 1 types are the ones that are visible, by definition! Furthermore, by your own argument, the people doing them are the social people who want to make sure everyone knows all about their achievements.

I think there are many people out there doing their own versions of category 2 and 3 types of challenges. Why don't you hear about them? Because, as you explained, there is nothing to be gained by telling people about it AND the kind of people which do these things don't care about what other people think.

An accompanying anecdote: I haven't raided or PvPed heavily since vanilla WoW, but I spend lots of time leveling alts by doing things like trying to solo all of the northrend quests, 2 manning all instances at as low a level as possible, etc.

Also, I didn't hear about any wipes in your low level instance escapades. If you don't fail at least once then you didn't go early enough for it to really be a challenge! ;)

Anonymous said...

If not for the challenge of doing something, why bother?
Why do we level-up? The whole "to get better gear" argument is lame. What is the purpose of "pretty clothes", aside from making it easier to kick opposite faction butt or to view the end game art? How pathetic are we? "View the end-game art? Art you wouldn't pay to see in a museum, you/we spend an obscene number of hours and $15 dollars a month to see? Curiosity kills more than just cats, it killed my toons too. QQ

Anonymous said...

Actually people do care about their character outfits, like small girls like to dress their dolls nicely (no idea what small boys do, but surely they have something of that trait as we see in WOW). Why did people complain about Outland levelling gear? "It's all mismatched and different colours, makes my char look like a clown." And then we had Nothrend, with mundane gear being all dull, dark colours and overused few the same designs of cloth, leather, mail and plate. Only when people started to get the raid sets their characters stopped looking like some haggards. And even now you hear complaints from ret paladins or feral druids that their typical gear looks "half of my class set and other half of a DK / Rogue".

Oh, and I'm so glad Blizzard gave us option to hide helmets and capes. From what I've heard, it was upon player request too. Especially got tired of half the WotLK capes looking like the shroud of blood / northern wind from DK starting quest. Doesn't match anything at all.

Anonymous said...

The type 2 challenges you list tend to inconvience the player - added challenge for that player.

The type 3 challenges inconvience other players... added challenge they may or may not want.

The difference is simply my right to inconvenience myself vs. my right to inconvience others.

Anonymous said...

Category 3 challenges (figuring out what the boss does) can easily be done in two different settings.

You can do it first on the PTR when the current raid is open for testing. I managed to get on a 25-man PuG of Icecrown and throwing yourself blindly into the trash was exciting (except for the morons that left after two wipes - you are there to test, wipes will happen).

The second time these challenges can be done is at the very beginning of an expansion. I remember doing Nexus and UK with guildies and we would just throw ourselves at the boss. Tank would face it away from the raid, melee DPS would stand at its back, healer would heal.

Try it, get on the PTR alone or with friend and try the new 5-man instances or go to ICC when it is open.

Quicksilver said...

Ok, I understand that the classification you've chosen suits the arguement you are trying to make about social reconnaissance, but, the same challenges you've chosen can be rearranged to fit similar categories with completely different meaning.

Lets take your 3 categories. I would say that number 2 and 3 are actually the same. And if we unite the two we get:

category 1 where you use all available resources to reach the said goal,

and category 2 where you gimp yourself in some manner in order to create a more "challenging" task.

So my explanation to why the categories 2 and 3 are rarely done by people is just that: why on earth would you gimp yourself in order to have some challenge?

For example, if you are a good athlete looking for some challenge in real life, you go climb tough mountains or do an expedition to the north pole... you dont cut off one of your legs and try to win a marathon by humping...

I think people appreciate more giving the best they can or order to overcome a difficulty (best as in skill, gear and game play) rather than use limited resources or abuse glitches in the game.

And of course this is why all the socials admire these achievers and that's the spirit blizzard built the game in...

Glyph, the Architect said...

"So my explanation to why the categories 2 and 3 are rarely done by people is just that: why on earth would you gimp yourself in order to have some challenge?"

My guild does all raids completely blind. People who come with us who might have done a fight before are forbidden from saying anything about how the fight works. The reason why is because you get a much more satisfying feeling when the boss goes down if you came up with the strategies yourselves.

To take your mountain climbing example: Sure you could climb difficult mountains. But once several people have already climbed that mountain, the path to the top becomes more well known and then you're "gimping yourself" by taking a different path to the top.

Anyone who isn't completely retarded can look up the fight, read the strat and watch the video, and then do it. I've always been one of those guys who thought that looking up the strategy guide was cheating.

Sven said...

@ Xaxziminrax

How is it an obstacle? Well, the different soloing ability of the classes can easily turn a particular quest from hard, but possible, to impossible. Impossible isn't challenging, any more than trivial is - going into a fight which has a foregone conclusion isn't interesting.

Let me give a concrete example: Alystros in Dragonblight. This is a tricky, but possible, solo for an appropriately specced warlock around L74, but absolutely impossible for a fire mage of the same level (or indeed several levels above that).

If you're looking to challenge yourself, you need quests that are in the "hard, but possible" category, not "impossible".

Rhom said...

I think one of the reasons that the type 1 challenges are most popular is that they are the hardest challenges intentionally built into the game delivered to the players. For most people, some sort of raiding is pushing the extent of their ability (whether that is Uld10 or ToC25 heroic). Not having much experience at it yet, ToC25 heroic is challenging for me, and I'm having a ton of fun working at it with my guild.

I really don't care if anyone other than my other raid members knows if I've cleared any bosses on ToC25 heroic, but I still find that challenge much more interesting than some sort of self-imposed one.

I think it's similar to other challenges you can find in life. For example, I play guitar and I try to push myself to learn new things there as well. Sure, I could try to learn to play left handed, or take off a string or two and try to figure out how to play songs like that, but I find there are always new challenges to be found in just playing it normally. (I also play guitar mostly for myself or just messing around with friends, so it's not to increase my social status at all.)

I think there is something to be said for trying to beat the hardest challenges thrown at you, in this case by Blizzard, and overcoming them. IMO, if you've beaten all of them and can do any raid or get 2800+ arena rating in your sleep, it's probably time to pat yourself on the back and move on to something else. That's what nearly all video games do - present a challenge to the players and allow them to overcome it.

I'm not trying to say there are no social reasons for beating type 1 challenges, but I don't think they are the only reasons out there.

Molinu said...

The other problem with not reading boss strategies is that it expects everyone *else* in the raid group to make sacrifices for the sake of *your* challenge. If you could get the entire raid group to agree to go in blind, there would be no problem. For example, everyone in the 'Ulduar all-blues' run agreed to do the run in all blues, you didn't just show up one day and leave your epics in the bank.

Anonymous said...

Just nitpicking, but Gruul was also 5-manned at 70, with a (dun-dun-duuun) rogue tank -

N said...

Your first category is also different from the other two in that the challenge represented there is set forth by some other person.

People have more respect for achievements which require one to jump over someone else's bar. Holding up your own standard and reaching it tends not to earn the same respect.

It would be fair to call that difference a social construct, if you like.

Unknown said...

I remember talking to my cousin about this a while back. He said he now realised that the most fun he had with games was when he didn't read any sites, walk-through, guides, etc..

At one stage we were in a guild with a few serious game-mechanic dissectors (guys who figure out the inner workings for fun). It was both a blessing and a curse. All of a sudden you had someone who could tell you the optimum spec, best dungeon to go for loot, etc... Being achievement/progress driven this meant only doing the most time effective tasks.

But then we realized that the most fun comes from figuring it out yourself.

The trouble with a single player game with some broken mechanic (e.g. over-powered spec) is that it makes ever other way of playing a gimmick once you know the "min/max path".

Anonymous said...

For a long time I considered mods as cheating. Every time I would check thott I would feel guilty or dumb for not being able to figure it outmyself. I remember the consequences of raids when Void reaver alarm broke, and suddenly loot reaver became a challange. I don't think there are any sucessfull guilds that raid without some kind of boss mod - Theres your next challange. Ulduar - no mods whatso ever.

nicolada said...

There would be a solution to close the distance between challange 1 and 3. And it is having the boss encounters more intelligent. Not just scripted to cast X ability at Y time during the fight but to react what players do.
Faction champions in toc are meant to be more like this way, the fight is never exactly the same. You may have to put up some different strategy. Yes, it would lead to more pvp oriented way of thinking the game, some may like it, others not.

Sven said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Townes said...

And there's a long tradition of a challenge that arose long before Ulduar in blue gear - raiding while drunk. Enough alcohol surely lowers gear level just as efficiently. :)