I was ruminating over the difficulty of WoW yesterday, and as luck would have it, a blue post over at MMO champion caught my eye.
Players try to play that card a lot, that skill isn’t a big deal because the mechanics are all pretty easy to understand, and therefore it’s the class mechanics that are to blame, not the player. I don’t buy it. I’ve seen the world first, or even server first kills of difficult bosses. Those players aren’t just good, they are exceptionally good. They are probably ten times better than the guilds who get those kills a month or two later, and that’s really no exaggeration. In fact, skill plays such a gigantic role that we have trouble balancing harder encounters. The skilled players can beat them without new gear while the second tier of players can never beat them. Now you can try to argue that all tanks are of about the same skill and it’s the dps or healers that really make up the difference, but I don’t buy that either. I’ve seen what the best tanks in the world do. They are really good. Don’t dismiss them as being just lucky or dedicated.
Most long time WoW players might read this and guffaw. WoW PVE is supposed to be ezmode, surely? But is it? Is it really? Perhaps, compared to some truly punishing niche games such as Final Fantasy Online it is. But take a step back and compare WoW ‘s large-scale PVE to some others in the genre. Warhammer Online’s group PVE is dead simple, and for a good reason – the game is a lot more oriented towards pugging it’s content. Champions Online and Star Trek Online share this philosophy as well. In all cases you won’t find players complaining about the easy nature of the PVE in those games, but rather the lack of variety and content. Same goes for many other MMO’s. LOTRO’s instances are variable in difficulty and can be soloed. Dungeons and Dragons Online, almost everything can be done in small groups and encounters are, relative to WoW, very simple tank ‘n spanks, with the occasional twist. In fact, in general within the MMO industry you’ll find PVE encounters which are constructed not to be progression blocks but rather built for casual enjoyment. WoW remains one of the few exceptions. As easy as we, who’ve been playing this game for years, might say things are, the reality is that they’re not. Last night on Rotface 10 I, again, realised how hard raid content in this game can be. Even though it’s currently somewhat easier than Burning Crusade.
In fact, I believe’ EZMode’ isn’t the issue at all. Running out of content is. And there’s nothing that can realistically be done about that. In order to extend the lifecycle of content, the only option is to make it harder. That also frustrates people, especially the regular 9-to-5’s who are Blizzard’s biggest customers.
I believe that content for the highly skilled needs to remain. Of course. But, in fact, current ‘normal’ mode might not be ‘normal’ enough. I believe that, perhaps, Blizzard should consider detuning 10man raiding down another notch and offer a third option, beyond 10 and 25. Offer 5man ‘raiding’. The same instances but tuned to be simple and easy enough to pug or grab a few guys from your guild together to run. De-tune the rewards, of course – ICC 5mans could drop gear with the same ilvl as the regular current ICC heroics. All instanced content, in fact, should follow the same hierarchy. Perhaps, in future, 5man instances could be buffed up to offer 10 and 25man difficulties, and of course normal and heroic modes for both. This would simplify things, make more sense across the board, and offer a large volume of content to people of virtually every skill and gear level.