Greedy Goblin

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Press any key to continue

I'm leveling an alt now to complete a stay classy guild achievement. Of course such alt cannot stay in the guild, after the task is completed (by him or a competitor).

Leveling now in WoW is weird. No, it's not "easy". "Easy" would mean that even with poor play you can "win". Solitaire with one color is easy. Completing a normal dungeon on 85 is easy. But you simply cannot lose during leveling besides being AFK after monster aggro or purposefully pulling 5+ enemies. I tried castrandom macro: enemies were devastated. I tried spamming the most inefficient spell: enemies devastated. Tried melee-autoattack (with a non-melee class): enemies slowly died.

Without any sarcasm or hyperbole I say literally: if you are 6 years old, an adult with 70 IQ, or even a bot, you can "win" the leveling game. Terrible game isn't it?

Actually not. Leveling is fast and pretty entertaining. The scenery is stunning, the quests have a good story (who killed the squatters in Westfall and why?) you can play with Alt-Z to completely be in Azeroth. I was surprised that I can find such easy game fun and was very curious why.

After I reached lvl15 I stopped to wait for my girlfriend who was still in the worgen starter zone. I often paused previously too, watching the really great worgen scenery. After 15 I pulled my chair over to her computer and just watched the little worgen's adventure. It was just as fun as playing myself.

Than it hit me. I'm not playing a game. I'm watching TV. Leveling in WoW is a passive form of entertainment, like films or books. You just sit in your armchair and consume content without any kind of effort.

Then what is the purpose of spells and abilities? They are glorified "press any key to continue" effects. It doesn't matter which key you press, the story continues a bit. With every random keypress, the little adventurer gets further in the story.

The "game" is an interactive movie where you can pause any time, rotate the camera at will, zoom on a feature that you are interested in and at the end you get a nice merchandize: a character from that story. It's like you could bring home a little plastic hero from the movie.

Of course this design has a problem: every story, no matter how monumental and epic, must end. Even the Lord of the Rings and the War and Peace has a last page (even if you don't believe it when you are just on page 100). Then you must close the book and open a new one. Since Blizzard wants you to keep paying subscription, they made the end-game, which is a game. However it's very new and unexpected for the passive consumer of the previous leveling saga. He is expected to do something. No wonder he is upset and spam forums about HC 5-mans being hard. You would too, if after watching an action movie, someone would put a costume on you and expect you to jump over mock buildings and shoot enemies with a paint-gun.

I believe that interactive storytelling can be a new and huge entertainment market. It's fine, and I may become a consumer. But it cannot be mixed with gaming.


Maybe "moron" is not the best word to describe this guy. The mentioned little alt was doing his long journey from the southern regions up to Hinterlands. The specimen joined without invitation, spamming /says and group invites until I got to a flight and get rid of him. Surely he is someone who plays the game for fun just has less play time than I do:

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I made this same argument recently on a forum. WoW leveling is a glorified Choose Your Own Adventure book. I had a different conclusion about it's entertainment value, however. I find it miserable. Leveling was never 'hard' in that anyone could do it, but it used to be possible to find challenges in the world in the form of soloing elites and group quests. Those are almost entirely gone from the 1-60 game at this point and the game is poorer for it.

Squishalot said...

You do know that you have a "Report Spam" button, right?

Like most people, I've been leveling an alt or two for various purposes. On the one hand, my hunter alt (with 7 heirloom items) has a very easy time. Absolutely impossible to die without purposefully trying to, especially once you obtain a pet.

On the other hand, I also started leveling a priest on a previous server with my girlfriend. No heirloom items, the only advantage over a fresh new character was some cash for training and bag space. What I found was that if I don't shield before a fight, or if I choose not to heal, it is actually possible to be killed by just one or two monsters.

Leveling with heirloom items is impossible to lose, especially if at least one item is a weapon. A heirloom weapon, even a caster one, will do more auto-attack damage than anything you can obtain in starter zones. Leveling from scratch with no aids would fall under "easy" - it's not the case that you can set auto-attack and forget unless you are a mail wearer.

Nothing wrong with the interactive TV show. But I'm curious to see how this experience changes your previous opinion that starter quests can simply be experienced on a L85 main, and that you get no additional value from leveling an alt to experience it.

Hirvox said...

An unguilded gnome DK in strange gear in Hinterlands who is barely aware of the story and has bad grammar.. It's probably a kid who has been let loose on a parent's account for the first time. As long as the parent's aren't using the WoW community as a babysitter I'm okay with it.

Gevlon said...

@Squishalot: http://greedygoblin.blogspot.com/2009/12/sfk-20-and-myth-of-gear-2.html

Squishalot said...

@ Gevlon: You'll note that I specified 'starter zones', and was thinking about specifying pre-L15 to avoid dungeon reward blues, but you've obviously beaten me to it. Heirlooms are the equivalent of blue items, as we all know. If you follow the storylines, you're not going to get any blue items until you're at least L15 (note - this is where you stopped playing temporarily).

Having said that, to obtain your dungeon blues, it's definitely possible to lose, which defeats the purpose of your argument.

Rades said...

Gevlon, have you encountered any of the quests in the early level zones that try to teach players about raid awareness, moving out of bad, that kind of thing? You're definitely right in that it's easier, but I ran into a few of those while leveling a new mage and was impressed with the effort.

Also, that screenshot is as amusing as they normally are. But I have to admit, I chuckled when I saw your character's face, half-turned almost as if looking back in irritation, thinking "why is this idiot still following me?"

Ðesolate said...

Twinking has become quite boring below lvl 80. No matter if you join up dungeons / quest or pvp. Of course this includes BoAs.

I personally started a undead warlock on a crowded server to prove a friend of mine, that making a lot of gold with a low level charakter without any help is quite possible. Priests of course are not the easiest class on low-lvl. As a demolock you simply can't die. Same applys to hunters.

I do not know if you noticed it but classes have different difficulties (you must have unless you never had played more than one class).

@"moron" of the day:
I fear he could be above the age of 18 and has played some time. Theese are the lonly people in WoW searching for company in the new crowded lvl-zones.

Anonymous said...

Notwithstanding the point you're making in this post, I wanted to share the most fun I've had questing in WoW the past five years. The new Forsaken storyline is truly stellar! From the starter zone in Tirisfal Glades through Silverpine Forest, Hillsbrad Foothills and finally in Western Plaguelands, the questing here has reminded me why I love this game so much.

Drama, comedy (oh, the comedy!), intrigue -- it's all there, just like in a movie, and this is a five-star movie to be sure. I highly recommend leveling a new undead character to experience it. Do ALL the quests in each of the zones I mentioned to experience the whole story.

There's even a short series of quests making fun of the M&S in the game. I'll leave it to you to find and experience that comedic quest on your own. Have fun!

Uranax said...

I also suffered from "Press one button to continiue". So I made it simply more intresting. Like pulling 3,4,5 mobs until I couldn't handle them all. Killing mobs without any gear and that sort of things.

P.S: I thougt Thousand Needles was great, quests there start at level 38 if you are intrested.

Zazkadin said...

My biggest gripe with the leveling today is that it is all completely linear. There are no choices involved in what quests to do first. In any zone there is at most 3 quests that you can do simultaneously and they are fed to you in a way that you can efficiently do them, as they all take place in the same area.

I think this linearity is what makes it feel more like watching TV than playing an interactive game.

Old-school leveling meant collecting many quests and trying to discover yourself in what order to do them. You could make smart decisions on how to synchronize different questlines in order to complete them as efficiently as possible. And perhaps you should postpone that hard or group quest for one or two levels later?

The leveling never has prepared you well for the end-game, but they have never been more apart than today.

Samus said...

How easy it is to level is critical to the success of WoW. For the first 200+ hours, it establishes the player into thinking "I am a badass, look how easily I do this."

And you see the effects in their attitude at the end-game. When they fail, it cannot be because they suck. For hundreds of hours, the game proved to them how skilled they are. They will not change their mind just because some mean person points out their DPS is lower than the tank.

Grim said...

The first 60 levels might be trivial, but 80-85 is not, so it is currently unlikely to find lvl 85s as clueless as a lot of 80s in Wrath were (yes - I firmly believe that the average player has gotten better since Cata).

Btw,
"You would too, if after watching an action movie, someone would put a costume on you and expect you to jump over mock buildings and shoot enemies with a paint-gun"

I would be exhilarated! Action movies put me right in the mood for a paintball match. And Lord of the Rings movies turned me to LARP.

Anonymous said...

I dont think WoW is alone with this. One could assume that most of todays games, as long as they dont belong in arcade or competitive genres, are way too easy to be considered games. After all, game-devs have several real motivations to make them easy. People dont get frustrated (can one get frustrated from being underchallenged? probably not as easy as from not being able to beat the first enemy) and they are done faster with the game (in singleplayer titles), buying a new one afterwards.

For example: Dragon Age Origins does the same thing. It throws beautiful grafics, lots of cutscenes and incredicly easy fights at you (only on highest difficulty, one has to start thinking about what ability to use - and even then you can save/reload unlimited times).

Actually, i found this movie-experience enjoyable, but the replay value is pretty low. And the fights soon become a "let me get over with this as fast as possible" occurence.

If you like a gameplay challenge, try Super Meat Boy, as its some kind of glorious exception to the rule and mindbogglingly hard.

chewy said...

Your comparison with television is very interesting. I'm wondering if this is a strategy that Blizzard have contrived or stumbled upon ? TV and film, as we all know, is probably the worlds most popular pastime with 100s of millions of subscribers. If Blizzard can tap into this market it could be a massive revenue stream.

Will WoW have the next "Who shot JR ?" phenomenon ?

Campitor said...

Some of the begginer zone quest lines are very well thought out and do seem to tell a story. Sadly as you get higher in level all the quests soon turn into kill 10 of this or run all the way to cow-patty Azeroth and return it to the other side of the map.

When I level a low character I like to see how many mobs I can pull without dying just to make it more entertaining, and I like to see how much gold I can make with low level crafting skills, otherwise the lvl 40-85 is just a drag.

Ephemeron said...

"I believe that interactive storytelling can be a new and huge entertainment market. It's fine, and I may become a consumer. But it cannot be mixed with gaming."

Look at the best selling and most beloved single-player games of the recent years (Starcraft 2, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Witcher), and you'll notice a certain trend:

1) All of them are essentially "press any key to continue" semi-interactive entertainment when played at the lowest difficulty level.

2) At the highest difficulty level, they require a tactical and strategic thinking, fast reactions, theorycraft, exploitation of AI flaws and/or hundreds of quick-reloads.

3) They have at least one (and usually more than one) intermediate difficulty levels, so that each player can adjust the level of challenge to their own personal taste and skill.

4) The level of difficulty is mostly determined by player's choice, not by their in-game progress. Instead of following a single fixed track that goes from impossible-to-lose beginning to nigh-impossible-to-win endgame, you can start playing on Very Hard right away, or keep playing on Very Easy until the end.

In order to implement this system in WoW, Blizzard would need to introduce more difficulty levels. Instead of 'Normal' and 'Heroic', let us have multiple possible settings (at least four, preferrably ten). Furthermore, they would need to apply said difficulty to *all* areas of gameplay, rather than just dungeon/raid content. If someone wants to quest in the starting areas while dodging voidzones and juggling cooldowns (on Ultra Nightmare) or absent-mindedly faceroll their way through Deathwing fight (on Super Beginner) - well, more power to them.

Healer24 said...

That "moron" seems sort of like someone who is into rp and just rolled on the wrong server. Or something. Beyond that I have no idea what to make of his behavior.

Anonymous said...

@Grim: 80-85 may not be trivial, but they are still easy and do very little to prepare one for normals, never mind HC and raiding.

@Ephemeron: Agree completely on the need for difficulty levels in all games. Disagree on the way in which WoW should implement them. Vanilla WoW had difficulty levels in the 1-60 leveling game, they were called 'Group' quests and 'elite' mobs. They were simple to avoid if they proved too difficult to solo and getting a group impractical. They were mostly ripped from the world in the infamous 2.3 patch. The Cata rework made it even worse. I say bring those back and mark them as 'HC quests' so that people understand they are for those who are looking for a challenge.

Anonymous said...

Do you consider The Sims a game? I certainly do. And I play it for the fun of creating a house, a neighborhood, a story. You cannot "lose" in the Sims and the choices are generally not life or death but options for how you want to develop your story. It takes effort to be poor and homeless and even then, it's not "losing" because there's no right way to play. For me, it's not whether I will "win" but how I will play. The experience of interactivity, choice and agency replaces the experience of avoiding potenial failure.

Leveling also requires more than just random keypresses. Random actions would include days spent running around Brill, swimming out to sea and killing low-level mobs. Actually progressing entails choosing actions that yield XP, travelling to a level-appropriate zone, targeting quest mobs, etc. These may be trivially easy, but they're not going to happen without conscious choice and deliberate, goal-directed actions from the player; it's not actually passive. Contrast this with a film where the hero saves the day no matter what I do.

Stubborn said...

In the pen-and-paper game community, there's a concept called "cooperative storytelling." Personally, I hate it; it's basically playing a game without any die rolling or mechanics; you just sit around and work together to make the story 'interesting.'

WoW leveling is a little like that. If you truly cannot fail (define failure, too), then there's no really relevant mechanics. However, I still enjoy the leveling (to a degree) because I do read the quest text and so forth. After the first run through, though, it loses its luster.

To counter this, I've done things like see how long I can go without dying (making a "permadeath" toon, for example. I've also worked on things like never dropping a quest, only taking on one quest at a time (that was terrible - I don't recommend it), and staying in purchasable gear (whites and grays) as long as I could. You'd be surprised how long a mage can survive a group wipe - sometimes long enough to get to the entrance of the dungeon (:

None of these really did much for me, of course, but they acted as a small additional difficulty to increase the interest. Not by much, though.

Anonymous said...

This is why I believe that Blizzard is shooting themselves (slowly) in the foot by having this dumbed down and simplified leveling system.

Ideally questing and doing dungeons should be equipping players with the skills, experience and behavior/communication ability to handle high level dungeons, heroics and raids.

But the game seems to be getting further from that.
Low level dungeons are an utter joke, quests can be slept walk through and the rise of phased zones ensures there are few if any group quests, and next to no interaction with other players.

No wonder we see so may antisocial spellpower gear equipped DK's that pump out a majestic 3k dps in a level 85 dungeon and bitch when people have the nerve to tell him what to do.

Ellifian@Khaz'Goroth

[edit] P.S. My 'bottomfeeder' record in LFG is a L85 DK doing 1.1k dps.

Nikodhemus said...

I've done the Goblin and Troll starting area's, and I had a lot of fun with it... quests are varied and interesting, if a bit silly. Right, it is really hard to die in one on one combat, but i'm ok with that... i'll have to try the Alt+Z trick on an alt just for fun!

I agree with the point of no 'Group Elites' in the early zones, kinda makes it a bit lame... that's why I enjoy leveling in Outland so much. With the world broken, Outland is the new Old School zone, with Group quests and HARD regular content. I'd actually like it if they extended the level's a bit... mad it from level 55-70, then 70-82 in Northrend or something like that. Actually, I also wait for the day of a revamp of the expansion areas as well!

Péter Zoltán said...

Leveling really depends on class, gear and level range. For example I'm an experienced warrior player yet I found lvl 1-10 very hard on a new, heirloomless warrior post 4.0.1. Mobs just barely died before me and pulling more than one was sure death. Then I dinged lvl 10, specced prot, equipped a shield and barely ever got scratched, I could pull and survive 4-5 mobs easily.

I have a blood DK alt, it's pure faceroll. Up until the Cataclysm zones I could pull almost any number of mobs and survive. I think 16 or more was the number I could not survive in Grizzly Hills.
Even in Cat areas I can safely pull 3-5 mobs.

Leveling my epic geared priest at the start of Cata was much harder. After lvl 83 or so I really had to manage my mana and health to survive and maintain the multimob dot chainpulls. That was challenging. The blood DK is not.
So it all depends...