Greedy Goblin

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fall of the leet king

Undergeared update: Last Saturday (when ICC5 HC was the program) there were not enough raiders online. I hope it's just RL and not them being scared. However you can still join. You can be any class/spec, bust most needed are healers, warlock, priest, warrior (both tank and DPS). You can create alt or transfer unless the char is in heavy raiding.

In the previous post several ways were displayed how to make a game hard. Considering how many people demand a harder game, it's strange it doesn't exist. One would think that the demands of the customers always meet with supply.

Strike that, Blizzard could make a harder game with 3-4 clicks. They just dedicate some servers to "hard server" and give everyone a "-20% damage, -20% healing" debuff. Of course it wouldn't be a perfect solution, but it literally wouldn't cost a thing. Then they could optimize the content difficulty to make it just killable on these servers, and the normal servers would get it automatically downsized. Strike that, they could even publish content on these hard servers first, using them as half-PTR, so the inevitable bugs doesn't bother the more casual players (HC players won't cancel subscription for a single bug or queue).

It's win-win. The casual players would be happy to not meet with "elitist jerks" who judge them after their (lack of) gear and achievements. The HC players could play together. Everyone would be happy(er than today). Why do Blizzard miss this great opportunity?

Surprise, Blizzard makes billions and not mistakes. Blizzard misses this "great" opportunity on purpose. Because the opportunity is not great at all. It would be great if there would be HC-s and casuals in the game. But vast majority of the players are not casuals or HCs. They are socials. Let's see the clear definitions:
  • HC: someone who spend lot of effort to be good in the game. He reads material, do calculations, tests at the dummy. His aim is to be as good as possible, measured by a position in the toplist.
  • Casual: likes the game atmosphere and use it as an escape from the real world. Doesn't care about being "successful" in a video game, doesn't care about gear or skill as long as he is able to do content.
  • Social: couldn't care less about the game. It's just a tool to meet with people and be member of a group. He wants to be accepted and respected by people, mostly his group.
Being social does not make you a useless 600 DPS spellpower hunter. However the socials of any group are below the non-socials (or less socials) of the same group. Some examples:
  • The classic: 600 DPS spellpower-cloth geared, ungemmed, unenchanted hunter (or rather DK recently). Has absolutely no clue about the game. Usually a member of an absolutely non-raiding "fun guild". Doing HCs for gear.
  • The most common: 1500-1800DPS, tolerably geared and enchanted guy. Can possibly be a high-stamina/zero avoidance tank who can't hold more than one mob or a single fast-heal spamming healer. He is usually in a "casual raiding" guild, farming older content and the first bosses of the current.
  • The l33t: 8-9K DPS, EJ-copy and paste talent, plays night and day. Reads what the raid leader tells him to read and do what the raid leader tells him to do blindly. He is in a topguild, brag about his l33t DPS and only the raid leader knows why he is never assigned to interrupt or kiting job. But the raid leader is wise enough to keep the reason secret. He always uses l33tspeak, despite the real elite never does that.
While the ways these socials experience acceptance and respect are different (unconditional acceptance, "I'm fairly good player and a good person", and "I PWN lol"), they are all common in one thing: They would be absolutely unable to do the content they do with similar socials. The classic needs the LFD tank and healer, the common needs that 5-6 skilled people in the raid who make the kills happen and the l33t couldn't tie his shoelace without the raid leader yelling it to him on vent.

Despite the common belief, the keyword to a successful MMO is not "easy". "Easy" would simply make the game solo. Leveling in WoW is very easy and most people do it solo. That's not what the social wants.

The keyword to a successful MMO is "boosting". The game must be planned and built in a way that it forces the casuals and the HCs to boost their share of socials. This boosting must be subtle. The social is not a purposeful leech. No social (not ingame, not IRL) ever approached a productive person with the idea "I don't want to work and want you to give me resources for nothing". The social honestly believes that he is just as good as the other guy, and any difference between their performance is the product of bad luck or factors out of his control. In game the "bad luck" usually goes to "BiS did not drop", and the factor out of control is "play time". The social player honestly believes that given same luck and time he'd be just as good as the other groupmembers, therefore deserves respect and acceptance.

This illusion is what Blizzard is selling. This is the escape from the "cruel" world where the "evil" boss/teacher criticizes his work despite his "best efforts". The product that made Blizzard rich and other game producers fail is not "challenge". That can be sold to a couple 10K diehard gamers. It's also not "gaming fun". That cannot be sold at all, simply because anyone can have fun with zillions of free games. Blizzard is selling a self-deception: "you are respectable, lovable and desired by your peers".

Anything that would anyway hurt boosting would shatter this idea and make the socials leave. The very simple idea of having "hard servers" with -20% damage and healing would destroy WoW, making it to lose 90% of its playerbase. Let's see the effects of such server choices on the 6 groups:
  • Casual: he chooses normal server. Since lot of above-average players (HC, semi-casual, l33t social) left the server, the good:bad ratio is terrible. So if he dares into a group content, he finds himself alone with 4 drooling retards in a wipefest. Result: he either stops playing, or stops playing group content (he is casual, he can do that), or does group content only with pre-selected group (of friends). Depending on how much this satisfies him, he can be fine.
  • Classic social: since no one PuGs, and no one will take him to any pre-selected dungeon group, he cannot get any gear beyond solo rewards. He is forced to try group content with his "fun guild" what will and utterly fail. Failure means frustration, frustration means drama, drama means end of "fun guild". He loses his group, he doesn't have gear and see no way to get it. Stops playing. Please note that LFD was directly created for him: this way he can do dungeon content while staying in a "fun guild" which couldn't assemble a single dungeon group from guildies.
  • Semi-casual raider: if he chooses normal server, he soon notices that he can't find enough able bodies to fill a raid group and go hard server or stops playing. If he is on hard server, he finds lot of similarly skilled players so he is happily PuGging raids casually. He is the biggest winner of the change.
  • Common social: his "fairly progressed casual raiding guild" that gave him some frost badges/week + sometimes a shiny, suddenly loses its raid leader, class leaders, officers, main tank and some of the best DPS, who all went to hard server. While they can recruit enough bodies, strike that they still have enough bodies in the guild, the only boss they can see is Gormok (since he has no trash). He /gquit in frustration and try to find another guild, without any success. Then he transfers to a hard server where his gear breaks to red on his SoH dailies (and stop playing of course)
  • HC: he goes hard server and loves that there are 10-20 guilds competing on hard modes. He can easily find a guild with his class/spec and he can always find competent players to his guild. He is in paradise.
  • l33t social: he goes to hard server with his guild. Soon he recognizes that he is benched a bit too many times. When - after weeks of growing frustration - he asks why even trialists get spot before him, the raid leader answers with a 2 pages list of his previous errors, followed by the line "and that trialist in T9 does the same DPS as you in full T10". He quits WoW in tears or gives a tantrum on the official forums, apply to other guilds and taken to nowhere in the top20 of the server. And quits of course.
Of course no one points a gun to your head demanding to boost X, Y and Z. You could find similar players as you and do group content together. The game developers simply create such a situation when forming this group becomes so hard and long, that it becomes easier to just boost. For example you can still form a dungeon group on /trade, making sure that the DPS is above the tank. But it takes more time than 3-manning the dungeon, boosting two retards doing less damage than the healer. You can also create your own casual raiding guild, but recruitment will be very-very long as Blizzard gives you no tool to somehow measure the applicant's skill. So it's easier to just join an existing "casual raiding guild" and boost the 800DPS "undergeared".

What's the point of this double post? At first to recognize that our wishes for a challenging MMO are a dream. Please don't comment "play EVE online", EVE circumvent this problem with RMT, the socials are boosted by daddy's credit card. Also don't comment "play Darkfall", a game with 30K players practically doesn't exist.

Stop whining! Blizzard is not a neutral party here that you can convince. Blizzard is interested to keep the socials in the game, and actively acting against you trying to protect your circles from the encroaching M&S. Of course it doesn't mean you are doomed and will boost morons for the rest of your life. Not in WoW, not IRL.

Just whining and talking won't make it. Something else will. Later about that.


Brian said...

I imagine a much larger problem is that HC players would almost universally NOT go to a "hard mode" server. Why would they? Every WoW server has at least a few hard mode guilds composed of mostly good players trying the hardest content, so most HC players can find a place even if their server isn't very good...and they can always transfer.

But even with this option, many HC players ARE boosting worse players through content instead of seeking out players of their own skill level, as they could easily do. Why? I think it's an ego thing. Being "good" isn't as satisfying for a lot of people as being better than someone else. I think many, if not most, HC players would still rather be at the top of the DPS charts than the bottom, even if their actual DPS is exactly the same.

Basically it comes down to the sad but true fact that "hard core" and "social" aren't mutually exclusive. You can be incredibly good at the game and still want to look like an important big shot. In fact, I'd argue that's why MMOs are successful in the first place, because they create an environment where good players can SHOW everyone else how good they are. Hard core players don't want to just be good, they want to be better than the average player in the game...visibly better. So even as HC players complain bitterly about how "easy" the game is now, and how much they hate bad players, those bad players serve an important purpose in keeping the HC players interested in the game...they provide the audience to appreciate how awesome the HC player really is.

I'd argue that WoW is so much more successful than other MMOs, it's accessible enough to provide a sufficiently large audience, but with enough difficult content that the audience can't do it all. It's the perfect balance on Blizzard's part.

Stokpile said...

@ Brian
I the people you describe as HC players that wouldn't go to a hardcore server because they want to be better than others and not just good aren't the real HC players to me. They're in the category Gevlon calls the l33t socials. They want to be awesome and everyone to tell them just how cool they are.

Personally I like to be good at something because that's my personality. I want to succeed at whatever I do for my own satisfaction.

It's also a lot harder than people would imagine to get into a top guild without buying your way in. Most if not all of these guilds have their raid core plus a few others to fill in spots when X has rl commitments and can't raid. So no matter how good you are, you really aren't needed.

Zazkadin said...

I think Brian is hitting the nail on the head: nobody wants the "socials" to go away, as they provide the reference frame for the better players to make themselves feel like "HC" players.

Even Gevlon doesn't want them to go away, as his blog would become utterly boring if he didn't have some stories from stupid socials to write about anymore. Also, for someone whose raid experience so far consisted of attending raids he paid thousands of gold for to be invited, I feel a more humble attitude would be becoming.

The idea for hard-mode servers is nice, but it would attract only a few people, just as the Olympics only cater to (considerably less than) the top percent of atlethes. Also, there already exists hard-mode raids for those that want an extra challenge.

The bottom line is (as Gevlon also admits), that Blizzard is making this game for the socials, as they are the norm, not the exception. The game has only been made easier over the years to keep the socials on board; why would they change such a successful formula?

LarĂ­sa said...

Sad to hear that it's so slow and hard to get players to the Undergeared project. Talking is one thing - doing is another. I'm not sure - but I suspect that it can be a side effect of that quite a few of your members seem to have this as a side project. And now that new content is out their ordinary duties and the guild they have put their heart in are calling. Probably you would be better off with some mains.

I agree with Brian that many of the good players - if not all of them - enjoy having an admiring audience. So going to a server where they're not longer anything special but just Average Joe won't fulfill their needs. I might come around to blog about it some day. We'll see.

Orcstar said...

Great article.

Now I need to go and label my guildies.

I'm wondering in what category I fall?

Orcstar said...

Sorry for 2 comments in a row.

One thing where I think Blizzard differs from other games is: "playing field".

Take for instance soccer, you've got divisions there. A one/week training team can play their games every Sunday and win, but they will never encounter a premier league team. It isn't even fun for them to be roflstomped by the premier league team because they have no chance at all. And it isn't fun for the premier league team because there is absolutely no challenge.

If I go play counterstrike, premier players and very very bad players will meet each-other. At some point it becomes no fun anymore. Getting 1-shot time and again without a chance is just no fun. I want to be playing with people of relatively similar skill level.

And here is where WoW distinguishes itself from other games: they get more and more content for different skill levels. A once/week Sunday 3 hour raiding guild can be successful in their league and the 8days/week 26hours/day raiding guild can be successful in their league.

Anonymous said...


everyone would join a hard mode server. which social wants to be "lolezmode"? none.

Broken said...

To satisfy hardcore players Blizzard can simple create a hardcore realm. They don't need to try to balance anything but just need to get rid of all the Spirit Healers in the world. Like hardcore in Diablo if you die you die. They can keep rezzing abilities for classes to promote grouping.
Overall for leet players they can really show themselves off to the best and for number crunchers every stat would really be important. This would also promote better play since a wipe would destroy an entire team.
By starting with only one or a few servers it would create a diverse enough population server to keep things rolling.

Tonus said...

I think that Blizzard realizes that most self-identified hardcore players are really socials at heart. They don't want the game to be any harder than it is. They prefer to faceroll content and stand around Dalaran in their high level gear and have conversations in /say about how good they are. The few true hardcore players are tackling the latest content and trying to get the achievements.

There are not enough players who want to content to be harder. Blizzard made pretty clear that they are going away from the idea that you should segregate the game's population into haves and have-nots. If the game seems to be easy, find a guild at the cutting edge and get those realm firsts. If you're not good enough to make it into those guilds, then it would seem that the game is already hard enough for you.

Xaxziminrax II said...

It could just be me, but I thought you covered this subject top to bottom during your "I can raid lead naxx, kick M&S during patchwerk" scheme. That seemed to be the time you first were discovering the idiots types and posting about their personalities.

You're just rehashing your ideas from that post, but in different words. Good for you (get to reach a new audience with new wording), bad for me (have to read same material from months ago).

Indecenthealer said...

This is a very nice post. And while i do not agree with a lot of minor details (like separating the players into classes as you did, or their reaction to a hard mode server), i fully agree that creating a hard mode server would be easy for Blizzard - and a bad idea.

Most people playing WoW do not really want a "hard" game. They want challenges, but challenges they can master. And those challenges exist for everyone (save perhaps the top x% of the playerbase, who has already completed even the most difficult encounters).

To me, there are two problems with it though :
- challenges do not really last. Take ICC10 as an example. When it came out, the guild i am in was struggling to get through, and in the end, had to fold at Saurfang. Now, mere 3 weeks later, it is rare that the guild wipes before Saurfang. So, in a period of 3 weeks, the percieved challenge has dropped significantly.
- except for the top Tier content (ICC currently), all challenges come with an "easymode avoidance strategy". You do not want to run through TotC10/25, or TotGC ? Fine. Grind heroics, grab badges of frost and you have a full T9 set. Add ICC heroics for the pieces are not part of the Tier, you will be geared enough to enter ICC.

This is where the "lost challenge" comes in. People who did not have that option bemoan that those coming after actually have "an easy way to go through" (I did express my own views on that here, by the way). And in my eyes, there is little Blizzard can do to prevent this.
In the end, the game is successful in a large part because they do this. All those calls for a "harder" game are, if at all, loud voices of a minority which would most likely not even join said "harder" game, if it existed.

Sid said...

I totally agree with Brian.

Gevlon, if you paid attention to the complaints of "wow is becoming too easy", the bottom line wasn't that people want a "more challenging game", it was that "Now everybody can have what I have, it's not fair, now I can't distinguish myself from the 'lower class' players. Blizz f*cking communists".

People are socials (most of them at least) the hardcores do hard-modes and all that stuff mostly to flex their e-peen riding a very rare proto-drake in dalaran, as if screaming "LOOK AT ME, I'M AWESOME". IMO the entire concept of MMO's is to become the most awesome player and show it in the face of the rest.

People are angry because now everybody can have epics. The line between "high class" and "low class" is fading...

In vanilla WoW, an Epic was an Epic. Nobody had epics except the most hardcore raiders. A guy in full Tier 3 was elite, way beyond the rest.

People don't complain 'cause the game is easier, they complain because they lost their "elite" social status.

Essequibo said...

The whole idea about unlocking each wing of ICC a little bit later, and selling raid-level epics for emblems is giving a glimmer of hope, that every guild, if they play really good can become one of the top guilds in a rather short time.

There are also some "HC players" with limited playtime, and mindless grinders who spend a lot of time in WoW but are bad players. I can't see both of them on HC server.

CK said...

I agree that "Hard Mode" servers would be a complete failure.

There isn't a way to measure skill so there isn't a barrier to join.

In other words a "Hard Mode" server would have the same ratio of good/bad players as any other server. If anything the "Hard Mode" server would attract alot more M&S since it gives them status.


Unknown said...

Following this line of argument, the next step is to find a way to use Blizzard's (rightfully) chosen audience and their motivations to further your own goals. I'll be interested to see what you come up with, as you might actually have a large enough audience to have an impact with a solid tactic.

Grim said...

"The keyword to a successful MMO is "boosting". The game must be planned and built in a way that it forces the casuals and the HCs to boost their share of socials."

Replace "successful MMO" with "USA public school system" and you'll understand why the US left wing political parties are so against private school education (AKA the voucher system).


Anonymous said...

you are mostly right.. but wrong on your assumption that the HC would be happy on a HC server. They would be miserable. Why? Because when everyone is Hardcore... no one is hardcore. In a world of all hardcores there is no one for them to be better then... thus they become depressed as well.

Even hardcores, in spite of your attempts to claim other wise, are still social creatures. Even YOU are a social creature (you are.. don't deny it. You are human. You have a blog and share your ideas with other humans. You desire others to think as you do. Those are all social traits...specially the human part. lol) And all social creatures follow a game of superiority vs inferiority. People don't like to feel inferior. People like to feel superior.

That is what WoW sells. The illusion of superiority. And the carrot that you can get that leet loot and be superior.

Anonymous said...

I think a simpler option would be to release content that was too hard for Vodka/Ensidia/EJ to do. Each week, reduce the HP/DPS of the bosses. A significant reduction each week until there is a world first; as the success ratio increases, the weekly reduction is reduced. When say half the attempts succeed, there would still be a weekly debuff but it would be small. Thus almost everyone eventually could defeat any boss (socials happy). And HC are happy because the achievement would show whether you did it on week 4, realm first, or week 45 faceroll.

A commercial success should allow metrics that enable the casual customers to feel equal while allowing the elitist customers to feel superior.

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that you are not describing a harder game but a harder twitch game. I.e., your point from a couple of posts ago "Faster reaction times required: It's not a hard/easy issue. It's a different market segment issue"

Personally, I want to play a computer game, not a video game. Personally, I think games where 250 milliseconds matter were designed to have something to sell to the stupid people who at least have quick reaction times. I regret the twitch direction that WoW is going. I have no problem reading two hours of EJ theorycrafting on builds and rotations, but find the moving out of the poo on the ground quickly to be silly and juvenile. YMMV.

Also the more you make your hard game about player ratings/comparisons or reaction times, the more it should be on a console. There is a lot of variation on computers - 16GB I7 with SSD and Dual SLI versus a old laptop - while consoles are the same. Or just whether the computer is running XP or Vista, Firewall and Norton Anti-Virus.

My opinion is that the market segment for people who want a "hard game", who want it to involve reaction times, who want to use a personal computer not a console, and who are not already playing EVE Online is too small to be economically viable. I think EVE addresses quite a number of your goals, so any new game in this segment would already have an established competitor.


What % of HC do you think want to play "well" vs play "better than others"? Say Activision did provide a hard-mode server: do you think the people in the worst guild on that server - all very good players but someone is always worst - would be happy since they are playing well or unhappy because everyone was better than them?

Renthala said...

About HC players not leaving to go to HC servers... On my server the best raid guild left for another server that was better known for raiding. They didn't want to be the king of retards so to speak. I also have a habit of leaving a guild if I stay at the top too long. First raiding guild i was in, after about a month I was top dps on everything, even on fights that is was performing other duties. I left a month later. That next guild, took about a month and I was top dps on most things, a month later only had one dps as competition, I left that guild in the third month. I luckily found a guild that has players that give me a challenge every week. For me it's all about the climb, I don't ever really want to reach the top, but just keep getting higher.

Lets be honest, alot of those private schools don't want a voucher system either(in it's current form), cause then they have to consent to some level of government control, at least where I came from.

Kristine Ask said...

The major problem here is the definition of hardcore or "l33t" players. Its not a homogenous group.
Many highly skilled players are not involved in raiding, but other aspects of the game.
Many highly skilled players are involved in raiding, but have no wish to put progress over other aspects (such as how much time spent, who it's spent with).
And then there is a small group of highly skilled players who's drive in the game is to get world and server firsts.

None of these would suck if you got them in a group, but they are after completely different content and challenges - as how the game gives meaning to them differs greatly.
Just cause you know "how to press teh buttonz" doesn't mean that you all want the same thing.