Greedy Goblin

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The good old times

Longing after the "good old times" common among WoW (and other MMO) players. Larísa is annoyed by it as it reminds her constantly to what she missed. Tobold claims it's just a fallacy, people change and claim the World changed around them: "One relatively well-known example is very old people, whose taste buds have deteriorated over the decades, swearing that `sugar was sweeter when I was young`. No, it wasn't, it just tasted sweeter to that person when his taste buds were still in better shape." Tobold also points out that the only way that games could get worse is that game companies "entered into a huge conspiracy to make games worse", what is nonsense.

I claim no less that gaming experience become worse on average, and yes, the huge conspiracy to make games worse exists. Let me explain. Once upon a time there were no computers at all. The RPG games were played on a tabletop with a lousy human being the DM, telling the story only in words, while our eyes (our most important information collectors) seen nothing but real world guys in real world clothes drinking real world beer. Yet the tabletop games were played so they couldn't be that bad. People are capable to extreme amount of abstraction as long as there is something they can immerse into.

The gaming platform matters, and it's easier to be immersed in a WoW dungeon where I see the monster swinging his axe than in a table-top game where just a RL guy says "and then the hobgoblin grabbed his axe to smash X". However, exactly because tabletop games could exists, platform can increase gaming experience by a little. If I'd have to guess, I'd say that if the nerve-connected interface like the Matrix can provide a 100% immersion, than WoW can give 90% and a table-top can give 60%. Remember, you can't set too low baseline as people did play tabletop. I don't question that the current WoW is a better interface and could provide 5-10% more immersion and gaming fun than Everquest if all else are the same.

But it's not, and here comes the evil conspiracy that entangle all gaming companies: accessibility! They all want money and they all recognized that more subscribers = more money. But by making their games more accessible, they opened the door to a factor that harm our gaming experience more than any platform/ruleset/content upgrade can compensate for: morons and slackers.

Try to imagine that you are playing a tabletop RPG and the DM is just telling the "hobgoblin grabbed his axe to..." sentence when one of the players interrupts him: "i cba 2 listen to this crap just gimme teh loot already". Impossible, right? Such idiot could never play any more RPG since no one would ever invite him. Or can anyone remember a Nefarian or even an Illidan attempt where someone shows up in unenchanted gear with no consumables and no clue about strategy saying "lol itz justa game letz zerg it FFS"? Or main tank in Sunwell Plateau AFK in bossfight, returning after 5 mins "sry had 2 bring down the garbage"?

Yes, back then the game implementation was lousy (8 debuffs anyone?). Yes, back then there was less content and the companies bypassed it with more grinding demands. Yes, you could play one spec/class in endgame. Yes, the graphic was worse. Yes, yes, yes, the game was worse than today. But the gaming experience was much better since there were no M&S around, at least not anywhere near the endgame.

Identifying the problem allows solving it! We have more than pointless whining, hoping that some miracle fixes our game. It won't. However we can fix it by joining guilds that keep the M&S out. I know it's not perfect solution. The M&S will still jump up and down in cities, block mailboxes on mammoths, pollute our random BG, WG, random HC and so on. But at least, in our raids the gaming context will be like in the old days and our guild chat will be free of anal jokes.

Actually, wanting the game companies to protect you from M&S is wrong, even if their existence ruin your gaming experience and they appeared only because the game was nerfed. You should be able to defend yourself instead of whining to some government to protect you. /gkick, /gquit, /ignore are your weapons. Use them! There are progression guilds on your server. Most of them demands attendance and offers only a few spots (like "moonkin, tank paladin, restoshaman currently"). If you can't/don't want to qualify to these criteria, join The PuG. Of course the guilds can't provide 100% protection, some M&S always sneak in, and poison the air around themselves until kicked. But they provide enough protection to make the gaming experience good once more.

Zack found Killstuff (why do they always have names like that), the warrior, who bid on hunter loot in an ICC25 gold bid raid. After he figured out that agility is not the best for him, he tried to sell it to the hunters.


Yaggle said...

The good old days was Everquest when an Innkeeper would run out of his inn to kill an M&S and give him xp-loss. The non-M&S could learn to avoid this, avoid dying in Kithicor forest, and if an evil race, learn to navigate through Highpass while invisible(not as easy as it sounds, invisiblility has a random duration in EQ unless they fixed that for M&S also by now). But then just like all games, they made it easier for M&S, in order to get subscriptions up. Now all you need to do is use teleport stones to get across the world.
And it's not fun, but in the good old days, it was.

Alrenous said...

Being accessible also means the game is only minimally challenging and the stories are only minimally deep. (Dunno why since hardly anyone reads them. Their complexity is irrelevant.)

Which are the opposite of the two main things I want from a game.

I actually like not fully understanding the story on the first run through. I want to have to think about it, and to play it again. Ha ha, fat chance that'll ever happen in the future.

I have a special category for games I liked because they were frustrating. At the top are Metal Marines and Final Fantasy Tactics. Both wiped the floor with me until the floor was completely spotless. The key was I could see myself improving. I was furious and I loved it.

On the other hand I've wanted to play a spell-slinging plate-wearer since forever, and now I finally can. Also the flavour is almost exactly what I wanted. For example, I think shields are lame and boring.

Glyph, the Architect said...

That is the most expensive abyss crystal I've ever seen. If I was him, I would hang onto it forever as a trophy. First place in Dumbass. It would occupy slot 1 in my bank so it's the first thing I see every time I open it.

Anonymous said...

Actually a quick thing here, while it is true that our eyes are our main input for perceiving the world I do not think they get over immersion as well. I am of course talking about tabletop gaming, I play it myself alot and the fact that I am sitting together in a room with 3-5 other people and we are all doing our best to make up an enjoyable session can often make things alot more immersive. When I play wow I can push a button, and it can crit and that's about it. In a tabletop I can tell my DM how the hell I wanna hit it and he can affect my bonus and minus compared to it. In WoW I don't have to interact with the NPC's anymore than clicking the button for accepting a quest or buying an eternal fire/repairing/some other junk like reagents, If the dude who sells armor hates my characters guts he hates it, nuts to my character he has to get his armor somehow else. If WoW can't change the course of action based on my characters action, WoW can't let me play a diplomat that reasoned to Arthas nor' rallied an army, The only place that WoW is actually more immersive than a tabletop game is the auction house, The rest of it is trying to immerse into a picture with yellow numbers on it.

Everblue said...

The irony is of course that currently "hunter gear" (being mail with agility and intellect stats) is often better than plate for dps warriors due to the amount of armour pen and attack power on it.

So you have a double moron, I suppose.

Grookshank said...

A big applause from me for that paragraph.

"Actually, wanting the game companies to protect you from M&S is wrong, even if their existence ruin your gaming experience and they appeared only because the game was nerfed. You should be able to defend yourself instead of whining to some government to protect you."

Whining about M&S instead of avoiding them, complaining about your horrible realm/guild, etc. is just feeding the trolls. Take an active and positive role and find people you like to play with. There are a lot of them around.

Cralis said...

Hey Gevlon!
Being a long time follower, first of all I want to say that I love your blog and I hope you continue for a long time.

However you say that agility is not best for warriors, while this is mostly untrue. I play a fury warrior at a rather high level, and I know for a fact that for example of the 6 best warrior rings, 5 of them have agi.
Also the best warrior chestpiece is in fact leather(Ikfirus' Sack of Wonders hc), with mail (Carapace of the forgotten kings hc) following not far behind.

I'm getting all this data from my spreadsheet in case you're wondering.

The reason for this is that plate items often provide more stamina then leather/mail items, and only 3 dps stats. For example plate items might have str/crit/hit, while an agi item would have agi/crit/hit/arp.

I realize as a warrior you'd be rolling on other people's gear while you have dedicated plate dps gear for yourself, but in a gold bid raid I don't see how this is a problem.
Of course the example guy is an idiot for bidding then disenchanting, but I'm talking about the general case.

Olga said...

Did you actually raided back then? One week ago i came to TK:The Eye to Kael, to help 3 my guildies kill him. All of them had killed him back in BC, some of them played in Vanilla, so i asked "Mate, what can you say about how difficult is was back then? Was it more difficult that ICC hc, was it like LK hm or like Putricide hm?"
He answered "No, by all means he was easier than LK, it's just that players were less good back then". Addons are better, players are learning, standards are higher. So in fact, HM content now is more difficult than it was back then. Less grind is needed, but fights itself are more complex, no doubt.
So you are missing the whole point really. You need to try LK hm to make statements like that, killing him in normal mode is easy and such, but it's not the whole game, that's the point.

Olga said...

To add up to my previous comment, here's a link
It's top 20 Bosses that stayed unkilled the longest. As you may see, there are a lot of bosses from WotLK there, and the first position is holded by WotLK encounter too. So the game itself is not as easier today as you describe, it just have more layers of easier content, normal mode raiding included.

Maladroite said...

I don't think there were less M&S back in the "good ol'days", they were simply elsewhere - such as in the 5-man dungeons. The reason raiders did not experience examples like Gevlon provided, is that it was far harder to make pug raids. MC/BWL/Naxx needed 40 people and a boatload of flasks and buff pots. TBC instances needed attunements and Sunwell was simply too brutal for lvl 70 pugs.

Still, I do remember guildies that joined raids without having farmed for their flasks, without having read any boss tactics, that went afk too many times (MC raids usually had at least 5 people afk at any given moment...) etc. etc. They too, were M&S.

I do agree with you on actively trying to avoid playing with people you don't like, instead of whining at Blizzard for having made the game too easy. As I see it, WoW has both very easy and very hard content. All you have to do to become hardcore is to find like-minded people who like challenges.

Anonymous said...

@Olga: On your list there's sadly a grand total of THREE bosses from WotLK.
All the other Naxx bosses were in the old Naxx.

Andru said...

In context, Lich King heroic is the most brutal encounter ever implemented in WoW, whereas the earliest MC bosses were nothing more than glorified 'you must decurse all these curses' fights. Some of Vanilla's end-game fights were unbeatable because they were plain broken, and not because they demanded great strategic insight.

To put it into perspective, there's a very thin line between frustration and immersive gameplay.

Sure, there are more morons around. (Let's just concede this point since it's not easily verifiable or disputable. For what's it worth, I agree with Maladroite. The M&S were not visible. The fact that now you HAVE to play with them, ironically makes your mind commit a fallacious deduction.)

But anyone who says that an accessible game means a minimally challenging one is deluded.

The challenge is there. You just have to attempt to do it.

nije said...

The core problem with WoW now (can't speak for other MMOs because I've only played them briefly) isn't the obscene amount of players whose skills/interests are perhaps better suited to facebook games such as farmville (read: M&S), it's the game design that allows them to thrive and at the same time waters down the content.

1) All heroics are the same. Since the average farmville player can't be bothered to learn 12 different dungeons with different game mechanics blizzard just makes one dungeon with 12 different skins. Since they're all "pull and aoe then tank and spank boss" there isn't really any point to having this many.

2) No progression path / Content with an expiration date. Since M&S can't be bothered to follow a progression path designed to a) be fun and b) teach them the skills they need for the next part (it's just a game lol), it is completely eliminated. The moment a new tier comes out, that is patch day - the old stuff becomes completely obsolete. Worse then worthless. There is no point in doing old raids (and therefore no one to do them with even if you don't care about the rewards because you don't get anything you can use later. I remember doing Karazhan until the very end back in TBC, because it was fun as hell and also because you could actually use the stuff that dropped. Thing is, this would be ridiculously easy to avoid just by putting things like 5 triumph badges per boss for old raids and something like the OS bag of goods + inventory bag on the last boss, so the old raids are at least more efficient for badge farm for newer people. So they probably didn't do anything like this (weekly raid doesn't count as it never takes you further then 2 bosses in) on purpose.

So yeah, the good old days actually did exist. Luckily blizzard's doesn't just want M&S money, they want all the money so they will improve in cataclysm (at least based on what I have seen on the beta).

Anonymous said...

maybe the whole hard mode is what strongly influences the picture.
back in bc, raids kinda started on normal mode and progressed to something similar to today's hard mode. the filter process was done by the tiers. now we have an ass-load of steam roll and almost only hard core demands for hm-raiding.
there is no difference to before, it is just called lichking hardmode instead of black temple or sunwell.
the difference is that the normal modes are too simplified now which leads to a higher moron-percentage.
And this pisses people like me off who like a challenge for fun and not 'really hard work'.
This thin line between 'wipe for a single minor mistake by 1 out of 25 people' and 'steam roll/zerg' is the problem.

Anonymous said...

@Olga: the list shows that many 'old school' bosses are equivalent (or harder) than WOTLK hardest heroic mode encounters. Basically, it shows that in old times most raiders were equivalent to current 'hardcore hm raiders'. Essentially, in WOTLK Blizzard didn't implement any real heroic modes - they created _easy_ modes and called them normal modes, renaming previous 'normals' into 'heroics'.

The One and Only... said...

sorry... but no videogame will ever be as good as the good old pen&paper days!!!

Anonymous said...

When I play wow I can push a button, and it can crit and that's about it. In a tabletop I can tell my DM how the hell I wanna hit it and he can affect my bonus and minus compared to it. In WoW I don't have to interact with the NPC's. I do agree with you on actively trying to avoid playing with people you don't like, instead of whining at Blizzard for having made the game too easy. As I see it, WoW has both very easy and very hard content. All you have to do to become hardcore is to find like-minded people who like challenges. But anyone who says that an accessible game means a minimally challenging one is deluded.

Duskstorm said...

1. No way that WoW is 90% the immersion expierence of the Matrix. The Matrix interface to an RPG would be.. unreal. The only thing that would suck is that you'd hate getting hurt, so you'd scurry to the nearest town as quickly as possible to hide out in an Inn. And you know what? It'd still be awesome.

2. I actually had more fun when I was a terrible player. Just getting in to Karazhan and looking around was amazing to me. I didn't care if we wiped because my expectations were so low. Now that I have more skill, my expectations are higher.

Blastoise said...

#5 The Lich King (Heroic) - 42 Days from Heroic Putricide's death (first pull). March 26th 2010

What?! It doesn't make much sense. LK HM went down mere days; in february; after blizz opened the frostwing hall; at least the 10 man version. Why are they counting from HM putri?

Anonymous said...

As I see it, WoW has both very easy and very hard content. All you have to do to become hardcore is to find like-minded people who like challenges. Some of Vanilla's end-game fights were unbeatable because they were plain broken, and not because they demanded great strategic insight.

Anonymous said...

I'd claim there were even more M&S during Vanilla than during BC.
One reason was that WoW was the first MMO for a lot, if not the majority of players even back then and even avid gamers weren't exactly used to do some research and crunch numbers in order to advance in a videogame (plus it wasn't really necessary for the most part). a lot of people never made the switch from noob to decent in vanilla. after all, if the boss dies, everythings fine, that's how it is in single player games after all.
Back in Vanilla it took less than 20 somewhat competent players to boost the mouthbreathing/afk'ing/watching porn rest through pretty much everything but some of the classic Naxx and AQ40 encounters.

when kara came around people actually had to pull their weight.
yes, indeed.kara.
when doing it in quest/normal dungeon blues you couldn't afford someone being on follow half the time anymore and, even more importantly, with the raidleader being the kindergardener for only 10 toddlers instead of 40, it became apparent to everyone and not just the hardcore people. add ons becoming more widespread also did their share.
wotlk obviously made things worse again, but vanilla wasn't the golden age concerning m&s, looking back I think m&s ruined my experience more than today and I do pug icc 25 everynow and then as I'm in strict 10 man guild.
back then it was 10+ players not even grasping the concept of not standing near a dragon's tail, now it's ~5 people not kiting their little ooze to the big ooze. that IS an improvement, a sad one, but still!

Anonymous said...

One other thing that made vanilla raids tougher than now is that you could NOT be healed through stupid. Hell, sometimes you could not be healed through unlucky.

I still see "pro's" today who stand in stupid or do not use all their talents to mitigate damage taken, because than they wouldn't be as high on the (retard) dps meter.

Hopefully we will see a change come with Cata such that personal survivability is valued just has highly as damage done.

Nielas said...

Let's not forget that many of these 'old school' players exhibit their own version of M&S Syndrome.

They have this sense of entitlement that their previous successes in old content somehow give them special rights when it comes to new content. They also consider the old 'endurance test' type of content to be the only right way to do things and the only way to measure 'skill'. If you are not 'man enough' to endure the pointlessless of the grinds and endlessly repeated content then you should not expect any success in the game no matter how good a player you might be otherwise.

Tonus said...

"it's the game design that allows them to thrive and at the same time waters down the content."

I agree with this. I think that what is happening is that Blizzard has taken the content and split it at each level into content accessible to various groups of players.

It used to be that the more hardcore and organized players were the only ones who would see any end-game content at all. Self-identified "casuals" did not get the better PVP or PVE rewards because there was only one avenue to getting them.

Now there are many avenues at each level. Each raid zone has a version that is very challenging and accessible to a small group of players, but it also has a version that is much more forgiving and accessible to a larger group of players.

Anyway, the notion of past days being better is just nostalgia. People have a habit of carefully editing their recollections of the past to make them look much tougher ("you kids have it so easy today, but when WE were kids...") or to make them look much more enjoyable ("oh, those were the days! Such fond memories!"). It's not really an objective approach to evaluating past experiences.

Backthief said...

Gevlon, i understand your points about all those slackers, but at the same time i cannot, maybe the WoW culture as a whole, separate "good guild" from a raiding guild.

Do we MUST have a raid mentality in order to separate ourselves from M&S?

Anonymous said...

Table-top games are more immersive than WoW because they engage the imagination and wit of the group. A good group is good at creating "flow". Also, the DM isn't just "some guy". He's the same guy you've been running your regular group with; you probably slept on his couch more than once because a gaming session ran late.

The problems you're describing are with the social environment. It has nothing to do with "accessibilty" or whether it's immersive or if WoW has gotten "better" over the years. The lack of social filtering is the downside of every MMO. You are in a world with people you don't like and don't want to play with. When that happens in real life, we take care of the situation by leaving or not inviting the moron back. The same situation in WoW gets tolerated much more often, in part because the game doesn't allow the same sort of interaction that people would use if it were a table-top game. It lacks the social cues that everybody uses in real life to deal with idiots and the private sphere that keeps strangers from invading our lives.

Anonymous said...

You class people who like to use mammoths near mailboxes into the M&S category... it's not always the 'Lolarthasdk' slackers that do that--on my old server, with one of the top 5 US progression guilds, it was regularly several of the people from that guild who got their rocks off by blocking event questgivers and/or mailboxes that way.

(I guess you'd say they are the 'M' portion of the M&S class citizen?)

Squishalot said...

@ Alrenous - FFT wasn't that bad - once you had a set combination of troops, you're practically invincible.

Metal Marines, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Awesome game that!

Olga said...

Maybe there are more bosses from vanilla there just because you needed to pull together 40 morons, not 25? Really, i've played with people that were there, and they are not by all means incredible or something like that. They are just as good as raiders in good guilds are now. Some are even worse.
Surely, raids today are accessible to total morons, people that doesn't know basics. But if you are talking about average raider, they were just the same as average player today, nothing more, nothing less.
Really, you are trying to convince us that back then there were possible to make a 40 people raid filled with good players. I will not buy that. Even now it's easier to boost some slackers or less geared players in 25 than in 10 mode, so it was even easier with 40 people. For sure there were less good, and maybe no good at all players in raiding guilds back then. And thanks to low accessibility, you had hard time if you wanted to replace someone. I highly doubt back then there were less M&S in raiding than today, if we are comparing with hardmode guilds, not trade chat pugs.
Remember, Leroy was in a raiding guild too.

Anonymous said...

The vanilla raiders I've talked to say the opposite. With a raid cap of 40, there's no quality control on the people you bring and there would frequently be utter crap players that slipped in either because they were buddies with the GM or the raid needed warm bodies to fill slots. The whole excitement when TBC came out with 25 man raids was that you could drop the half your raid that was mostly dead weight. Conversely, you couldn't carry half your raid to purples anymore since there started to be more gimmicks where one player screwing up once would wipe the entire raid.

I get that the loss of mystery is a thing with the newer raids, but not this talk of "accessibility" rather than capability. It reeks of rationalizing sinking more time and effort into a broken system than it really deserved. If it takes me an hour of traveling randomly to find the next leveling zone, that's not a point of pride, it's playing a terribly designed game that wastes my time. A friend asked if I'd recommend WoW right now, and I have to say, wait for cataclysm. Players have told me that to raid vanilla naxx, they had to spend 3-5+ hours a week just farming consumables on top of a 5-day 4+ hour/day schedule, possibly more if they needed one of several reputation grinds. How horribly stupid and inefficient is that? No wonder sites like WoW widows started to crop up, you had to be a real life M&S to be an in-game general or warlord on a populated realm.

There are games I played years ago that I would not now because, simply, I have better things to do with my time now, in gaming or otherwise.

For tabletop gaming, it still has a big lead on production gaming because the GM can improvise. If I want to do something in a game like fallout or planescape: torment, I'm restricted to a set of choices and interactions that's limited to a pull-down menu of values predicted by some developer hundreds of miles away. You can't even become a highwayman in WoW, the closest you get is /roll 10, /emote takes 100 gold from you. No setting traps, no daring escapes, no trouble with the law; the game engine wasn't built to handle it.

Andru said...

What?! It doesn't make much sense. LK HM went down mere days; in february; after blizz opened the frostwing hall; at least the 10 man version. Why are they counting from HM putri?

Because no one cares about the watered-down version that 10 man raiding is. Except for one encounter, 10 mans have consistently been easier than their 25 man counterparts.

Secondly, IIRC, HM Putri was the last end-wing boss to fall, thereby unlocking LK HM.

The gating was not the only stop from killing LK HM, you know.

Thirdly, I feel like the list is flawed. Rightly, the only LK HM kill who should have been counted was with 0% buff, as he was intended to be fought.

Which means, according to this criteria, that he was not killed for...oh, about 6 months and an extra half-tier of loot?

Andrei said...

To me the real issue is not in scaling down raiding content to improve accessibility. WoTLK HM encounter are definitely more complex but vanilla Naxx is arguably on par if not harder than ICC or Ulduar. The difference is that Naxx challenge was in amount of time commitment and less fine tuned class mechanics.

But that's not the point here. I agree with Gevlon that overall game experience has gotten worse but for a different reason. Since initial WoW release Blizzard has failed to add any meaningful game progression beyond raiding. And what was new and exciting in vanilla feels as the same old grind in WoTL - kill the boss get the loot. Gear acquired through raiding is the only real measure of progression. And since there is not much more to do Blizzard had to open raiding for everyone including those who are either well equipped or not inclined to take it seriously.

IMO it is oversimplification to assume that M&S who are defined as such by their raid performances would fail in all other venues as. Some probably would but there are plenty of players who are below average raiders but might be successful in pursuing other game goals. The problem there aren't any. Become a goblin and hoard a gazillion of gold? Unfortunately it is not well supported by game mechanics. You hit certain threshold and it becomes meaningless - how much excitement is it in going say from 400k to 500k except for ever increasing maintenance time? And what would you spend this amount of gold on? Buy ICC HM drake from hardcore guild? But we are back to raiding here. And I'm not even touching on oversimplified game economy (e.g. lack of market differentiation) or limited sales automation.

Collecting achievements? It is not surprising that Gevlon is relegated to amuse himself by running social experiments in WoW...

Anonymous said...

"Being accessible also means the game is only minimally challenging and the stories are only minimally deep."

That is not at all true.

"Easy to learn, difficult to master" is accessible, but challenging. And for a good number of classes, WoW falls into that category. For most of them, performing well enough to kill LK 25 heroic is plenty challenging.

Anonymous said...

I will also say that doing the heroic content in WOTLK (At the appropriate tier) is by far harder then anything in Classic/BC. Yet, ironically, everyone and their mother seems to jump on the "Dumbed down content" bandwagon - even though most of those people haven't even beaten that content.

Koiev said...

I like the guide. but more importantly, i see dalvengyr, and i laugh. I used to play there.