As I explore more content in TBC (Hellfire complete, working on Zangermarsh now) a new issue has arisen, or rather I’ve noticed an issue that has likely been going on since just after launch.
The better and smarter you play WoW, the easier it gets.
Now the above might seem obvious, but if you really think about it it’s somewhat strange. One enjoyable aspect of any game is overcoming a challenge and feeling good about it. Let’s take a game like Civilization for example. At first you are just learning the game, so you play it on an easy difficulty level. Since you are only learning, the game still offers a decent challenge, even though it’s limiting itself and not playing as well as it could. As you get better, you turn the difficulty up and are rewarded with a tougher challenge. The enemy will double cross you, tech faster, etc.
WoW and many other MMO’s are the exact opposite. Their peak difficulty is right at the start, when you don’t fully know your class, you don’t know exactly how to complete quests, and you don’t have access to a higher level character or an auction house full of gear. The better you understand your current MMO, the easier it becomes, yet unlike other games there is very little you can do to increase the difficulty in a natural way. Most games limit you in accepting higher level quests, and WoW makes it nearly impossible to kill anything 4 levels above you no matter your skill, due to hardcoded rules that apply a huge penalty.
My current situation goes a bit further. Due to being in a very solid and experienced guild (we are all former hardcore raiders), we regularly run the 5 man instances in Outland, usually whatever is 1-2 levels above us. As these runs are usually a success, we get a good amount of blue gear in a short amount of time, and generally can’t use that gear for a level or two. What this means is that when I hit say level 64, I already have 4-5 blue pieces of gear with a level requirement of 64, meaning I’m using it at its most powerful point. Add in fully available gems and enchants and the power scale goes up even more.
Given my situation, it’s no wonder that when I do a quest designed for a character my level, that quest is a joke in difficulty. The difficulty is not tuned to someone in near-perfect gear, but rather for the ‘average’ player, someone in a mix of greens a few levels below them. The problem is I can’t skip those quests and attempt tougher quests, as those are simply not available.
So my real problem is that until I hit level 70, and make the choice to get into raiding, there is little I can do to increase the difficulty. Would it be that difficult to implement a few difficulty levels for quests and instances? Something along the lines of heroics, but instead of just giving you a max level version, the difficulty scales for that level. So when we zone into Ramparts for example, we can select easy/normal/hard. The loot and quests would be the same, but maybe the experience gained would be higher the tougher setting you pick. Tune the difficulty to allow imperfect or under geared groups to succeed at easy mode, a balanced and reasonably equipped group to succeed in normal, and a near maxed group to enjoy hard mode. Simply adjusting a few damage modifiers or adding a mob or two would be enough to change up the difficulty.
Is this something that’s technically more difficult to implement than it seems, or is it simply an oversight by the current generation of MMO games?