Being an avid World of Warcraft player, I felt the need to respond to Jeff’s latest MMO Weekly, which discusses WoW, its various supposed pitfalls and how the game is, in the author’s words, killing itself.

There were many examples given in this week’s article to back up the claim that WoW had gone off the track and made the same mistakes that other MMOs had done in the past, but quite frankly I found nearly all of them invalid. I’ll tackle the main issues that Jeff brought up, and tell you the way I see it.

Firstly, to say that Blizzard is only catering to 5% of the game’s playerbase is way off. This 5% figure comes from a report so old, I can’t even find it anymore. It referred to the amount of WoW players who were at true end game, i.e. raiding the very hardest content at the time. When the news came out that such a small fraction of players ever got the see WoW’s hardest boss, it was a much-needed slap in the face for Blizzard. Players wanted to see end game content, and they didn’t want to have to be in the world’s top raiding guilds to do it. Blizzard also stated that they wanted players to see it too. Raid sizes were reduced down from 40 man to 25 man, making it easier for smaller guilds to attempt top end raids, and heroic instances were introduced, some of them rewarding raid-quality loot, but it didn’t end there.

In Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard really went to town and introduced 10 man raids alongside 25 man ones. When this announcement was made at the WWI in Paris last year the cheer from the crowd was deafening. Bleeding edge guilds certainly weren’t happy with losing their exclusive access to the hardest encounters in WoW, but this change meant the majority of level cap players would finally get the chance to see end game content.

So in fact, far from alienating the majority of WoW’s players, Blizzard opened the end game up to them. If anything, some people complained that WoW was becoming too easy when WotLK launched and groups had completed the raid content within days. But since then,  Ulduar has been added which has stepped up a difficulty level. Players need to have gear from the starter raid, a re-vamped Naxxramas, to be able to progress in Ulduar, and gear from that raid is needed to tackle the upcoming raid, the Argent Coliseum. This keeps the latest content challenging without making it inaccessible. It’s up to individual players if they find raiding a chore or a grind, but it’s so popular right now, I really don’t think that’s the case with the majority of players. Join the LFG channel at any time and you’ll see pug raid groups looking for more members, even to Ulduar.

The article also states that ‘hardcore’ players who see end content aren’t any more skilled than casual players, they just spend more time playing, meaning that Blizzard rewards players with epics for simply ‘grinding’. Having been an active raider for a while, I can confidently say that raiding, and more importantly being successful at it, is most definitely not grinding. A tremendous effort goes into learning the tactics and usually dying week after week until you and your guildmates finally beat that boss. It’s a learning process, which takes time, obviously, but there is indisputably skill involved. Often, group members that aren’t up to scratch have to be replaced with others, people have to work hard to get enchantments, flasks and the best possible gear before being considered for the raid – that’s not grinding, grinding is killing a mob over and over again to level up, while eating a Mars bar and watching TV over your shoulder. Progression raiding requires 100% concentration and effort. So is raid loot disproportionate? I say no.
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Jeff goes on to say that at end game, developers stop giving us nice fun instances, and replace that with DICC (Difficult and Increasingly time-Consuming Content). So is raiding all there is to do at level 80? No way! Heroics are the first port of call, and Jeff should love them – all the instances that we enjoyed forming groups for and tackling while we leveled, but re-tuned for level 80s. And we can do them virtually from the moment we reach level 80. I reached level cap on my most recent character on Sunday, and within 3 hours I was doing a heroic instance, which gives me emblems that I can use to buy raid gear, not the “second-rate loot” Jeff mentions. Who says you need to be hardcore or elite to get good gear? 

Back in vanilla days, and possibly in areas of TBC, players would certainly have to set back several hours to complete a raid or even some heroic instances. That’s all changed with WotLK though, heroics are just a little harder than a 5 man level 80 normal instance. Blizzard designed all instances in the latest expansion to take players no more than an hour to complete, and heroics don’t take much longer. Four hours per game session is an unrealistic view of obtaining raid gear in WoW these days thanks to heroics. Sure, if you’re raiding you can set back that much time, but it isn’t necessary, and even if you do, many casual guilds can clear the full Naxxramas raid in one evening now.

“Any type of intensely time-consuming content in WoW is glorified and yields great loot, and normal content does not.”

So, assuming ‘normal content’ here means anything except raiding and Arena (I’ll discuss that in a moment), this is wrong. Short heroics that I would consider normal content offer wonderful rewards, and that will improve again in the upcoming patch. Where I do agree with Jeff, however, is that some grinding is rewarded with nice loot. Daily quests which are available to all players, the Argent Tournament ones spring to mind,  now also reward gear equivalent to raid loot. It’s not necessary to be organised or skilled to obtain this stuff, just willing to log on and do the same quests for a month, but it’s an alternative to heroics for casual players.

Another thing mentioned in the article was the necessity to complete long quest chains and yet more grinds to be able to enter heroics and raids – not anymore Jeff. In TBC, Blizzard significantly reduced the reputation required to be able to enter heroic instances, and completely did away with the notion in WotLK. Now all you need to enter heroics or raids is to be level 80.

The Arena is the next topic, which is dismissed as another straightforward grind. I would like to point out that Jeff does actually say that Arenas require players to “organise the other players on your team” “play consistently” and “win some matches”. Again, I consider the term “grind” to be completely out of place in regards to anything that requires players to have any sort of organisational and playing skills. The Arena is somewhere newbs fear to tread, and for a good reason; the most skilled PvP players roam these lands, and no one should enter them lightly. Go in unprepared and get your behind handed back to you on a plate. The more you lose, the lower your rating drops, and the less points you gain, making the gear hard to obtain. So, you must have some skill, and some PvP gear, to win.
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“A highly skilled player in good dungeon-quality gear has absolutely no chance of ever doing this.  They have to be wearing very good, raid-quality gear to have a chance.  Thus the arena system is unique, in that it encourages players to engage in one form of DICC (obtaining raid loot) before they engage in another (i.e., set foot into an arena match).”

Even good raid quality gear isn’t ideal for Arenas, which is why, back in TBC, Blizzard introduced ways for players who attended heroics and raids to obtain PvP gear by making PvP items available to purchase with Badges of Justice. A whole starter set of PvP gear is available with Emblems from heroics now, and epic PvP gear is available to ‘pug’ groups through the VoA instance in Wintergrasp. No grind necessary.

To claim that Blizzard ignores the majority of its players by continually pumping out “DICC” is, in this fangirl’s opinion, utter rubbish. There’s now more casual content than ever before with plenty of dailies to do, heroics which ultimately offer raid-quality gear, and easy-entry raids. Emblems from casual heroic 5 man instances enable players to buy heirloom items, which make leveling up new characters even easier, another favourite of casual players. If a certain columnist had been paying attention to WoW much in the last year or so, he would know that “hardcore” and “elitist” players, that elusive 5%, have been crying as Blizzard slowly made the game more and more accessible to the rest of us.

Grind? Yes, there’s plenty in the game, just like every other MMO out there. Rewarding players for completing difficult content – sure, why not? There has to be an incentive for working hard to get through it and do better through practice. Of course we’ll find it increasingly time-consuming if it’s more difficult. But to say that raiding and Arena is merely a grind and there’s no skill involved is wrong in my opinion, as is the claim that ‘normal content’ rewards are second rate.

I’ll raise this point as I close; If raiding is just a grind, something that any Tom, Dick or Harry can do given enough time, then how come only 5% of players ever managed to be truly successful at it in the past? If time was the only factor in beating raids, every player who spends all day in the game, and I know a few of them, would be decked out in WoW’s finest gear – and they’re not. They’re still learning the fights, striving for better gear each week to give them that extra little boost to make them more efficient and farming mats to make sure they have all the required consumables for the next try.

Raiding and Arenas are fun and, yes, they can be time consuming, but you have to be a very good player to do well in them, not just one with a lot of spare time on your hands.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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