Monday, January 5, 2009

Lich King: Casual vs. Hardcore Gaming

Granted everyone who talks about video games is talking about World of Warcraft’s new expansion pack Wrath of the Lich King but I was finally able to sit down last night and bang out some end game content for the first time since hitting level 80 and it got me thinking to myself. I said “Hey self, didn’t this game used to be a lot harder?” I pondered that question while talking on AIM and browsing the web on my trusty laptop at the same time as I was engaging in a 25 man raid on my desktop PC. As I pondered that question to myself I realized that the fact that I was able to multitask like that in the first place while running this 25 man raid for the first time meant that yes, this game has gotten a lot easier. Now here’s when old jaded Ryan goes tells you about the good ol’ days and how you kids today don’t know what it was like.

So let me tell all you spoiled brats about the good ol’ days. I remember back when me and my trusty tank would bang our heads against Molten Core and BWL bosses until the sun came up (quite literally despite having a job that at the time started at 6 a.m.) and dag nabbit we liked it! So then after a two year hiatus I came back and jumped into the long since released BC expansion pack and found it about the same. By the time I came back most of the raid dungeons were released and I found that the difficulty curve was about the same as I was used but with the welcomed exceptions of the raids taking less time and not having to organize 40 people. Heroics were also a welcome addition and even my raid savvy guild could still spin our wheels on ever-frustrating heroic boss encounters. So let’s cut to Lich King end game shall we? First off, getting to the new level cap was surprisingly simple. I remember the slow crawl from 60-70 in the BC era and the even slower crawl to 60 in the original game that made reaching it come with an actual sense of, dare I say it, accomplishment. Leveling to 80 was reminiscent of being a kid and needed to do simple chores around the house before I was allowed to go outside and have fun. So after making my bed and doing the dishes in Northrend I was ready to bring Fuzzycakes the priest into a new era of wintery raiding.

Heroic 5-Mans: Aren’t these supposed to be more difficult than the regular versions? Now granted I’m happy to not spend 2 hours in a single dungeon anymore but aren’t there supposed to be more than 3 trash mobs between bosses? And didn’t the word “heroic” use to mean that it was “hard” and not just a scaled version of the dungeon with level 80 gear. Of all the heroics I’ve run so far, which is honestly only about half of them, I can honestly say that not one single boss fight has challenged me. Ok well Blizzard put in achievements for boss fights to go “hey look over here, it’s a mini-game to hide how easy it is” but even those barely add any real depth to the fight. Also, I’m not saying that every boss fight needs to be as complicated and intricate as the crossword puzzle in the New Yorker but I think we can handle a little more than the standard ‘tank and spank’ especially on the last bosses.

Raids: Now don’t get me wrong I think the option to run a raid dungeon as either a 10 or 25 man encounter is brilliant and wonderful. And so far I’ve only run a single 25 man and that’s it but even that took little time and effort. My rag tag band of jumpy, twirly avatars dropped the bosses like they were trash mobs and the trash mobs like they were well… something easier than trash mobs. I thought it was an issue of being over geared, which I certainly knew wasn’t the case on my part so I checked the other members and nope, they were all about the same as me. All in all I was left confused and bitter.

So here’s my question: Casual vs. hardcore fans, which is more important and which am I? There was a time I’d call myself a hardcore raider but that was a long time ago and now I make more of an effort to eat and sleep and leave my desk. I suppose it’s one of those issues where Blizzard is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. On the one hand if they make end game easier to accommodate the more casual raider then they piss off the hardcore elite. If they keep it difficult and keep upping the bar to give new challenges then they’ll risk further alienating their casual players. Maybe someday in magical fairy land game developers will be able to strike a balance in gameplay without caving in to either a difficulty level of Machiavellian proportions or running around bludgeoning their poor game to death with a Nerf Bat.


Aaron said...

This is why I left WoW and started up LotRO. WoW was and is a great game, but it's simply a primer as far as MMO's go. What WoW has done to introduce MMO gaming in the mainstream community is awesome. However, it's simply far to easy to reach end game. I am by no means a HARDCORE gamer, but I also feel like I'm far from casual. In WoW, I never truly felt a sense of accomplishment when I beat a raid dungeon, or dinged a new lvl.

I advise anyone out there bored with WoW, or just interested in something new to check out LotRO. It's got enough "casual" content for anyone, it's got amazing vista's, and for anyone out there who never thought it possible, an actual storyline and cutscenes that make you interested in more than just the lvl grind.

Epic Fail said...

See that's my problem, I fall somewhere in the giant limbo between casual and hardcore that MMO's typically ignore. I will agree that most other MMO's are far more in depth and challenging. Anyone else remember how hard it was, and therefore satisfying, leveling in EQ was? My problem is that any fantasy based MMO that I play will always be hurt by the fact that I've set my bar at WOW's mark because it is a well constructed game. For me at this point to really get into an MMO it has to be something different and refreshing. I'm hoping the Knights of the Old Republic or Stargate Worlds MMO's help me break the WOW habit.

aaron said...

Well. . . honestly, LotRO is that game. It's a shame that people aren't recognizing it yet. But if it's a different setting other than fantasy you're looking for, There's Eve Online, a truly excellent game, but it's pretty hardcore. I'm crossing my fingers for Old Republic . . . SWG was my first MMO and I want to recapture my glory days as a bounty Hunter.

Epic Fail said...

Yeah I just missed SWG as I got into MMO's shortly after that game's downfall. I've heard mixed things about LotRO and am meaning to check it out at some point. Eve Online was just too involved for me to pretend for a second that I could play it casually. My honest prediction for Old Republic will be that playing as jedi/sith will be the most boring class.

aaron said...

I agree with that completely. Try LotRO. . you will not be dissapointed. . with the introduction of Warden and Rune Keeper, and Moria, it's a different game then when it started. It really is an amazing piece of work. Just the opening quests alone will knock your socks off.

Epic Fail said...

I swear Blizzard knows when I'm getting tired of WOW because it gives me a night where things go right. Last night the guild banged out a 25 man OS run with 17 people and a bunch of heroics. Closing in on a mammoth mount too.