Removing player skill crits you for 1.034%

Put this one under “accessible” benefits please.

WoW dev Ghostcrawler is wondering why the meta game in WoW includes (or excludes, depending on who you ask) a large section of the player base, and more or less defines the culture of the game. What’s funny/sad about this is not just that a dev himself can’t see the answer, but other bloggers are missing it as well.

The reason you chase/enforce getting every last % of optimization out of your players is because that’s the only thing separating them. When you have removed all player skill from your game to make it more ‘accessible’, the only thing left as a challenge is number crunching, learning the pattern, and repeating what you just watched on YouTube. And when you in turn tune your game to that assumption, why in the world would you wonder why your players are playing it that way? ESPECIALLY when you (to mask the lack of actual content being added) yourself gave them even ‘better’ tools (achievements, gear score) to sort through the thousands of empty number husks you call players.

There is a reason good Darkfall players don’t obsess over ‘maxing out’, while people who constantly find themselves bleeding on the ground complain about the grind. There is a reason a ‘vet’ can roll a new character and in less than one month put up a PvP video showing how he wrecks ‘vets’ in PvP. It’s also the same reason you will see people with beastly characters still boring themselves to tears grinding out a 4th melee mastery to 100 in order to ‘catch up’. In Darkfall player skill matters, far more than chasing some silly 1% of X, and so the ‘meta’ game is spell combos and group PvP tactics rather than where to spend every last talent point or acquiring this exact gear loadout.

It’s also the reason Twitch in League of Legends, a champion generally considered not ‘top tier’ gets banned in one of the biggest LoL tournaments to date; the guy who could have potentially played him is so skilled with that particular champion that it made sense to ban him. Now if you theorycraft the numbers out, Twitch is not the absolute best champion, and so if LoL was WoW he would have been ‘gearchecked’ out of the match. But like Darkfall, League of Legends is more about player skill than YouTube memorization, and so things like that happen (and often).

So if you want to ‘fix’ this problem in WoW, don’t tweak the talent trees to balance them, you don’t make encounters not gear dependent in a game all about chasing gear, and you don’t add yet another bar to fill up to qualify; you just add player skill into the equation.

Of course, then it might not be as ‘accessible’ to the walking number husks, or the ugly fact that not everyone is a ‘hero’ in terms of player skill will come out. I wonder which direction Bobby will go…

Chuck-o-the-day: Even Switzerland supports Chuck Norris.

56 Responses to Removing player skill crits you for 1.034%

  1. Mala says:

    I think you are underestimating how many people out there are really terrible at WoW. I don’t know how they manage it, but they are very bad.

    Granted, I think your argument still stands so long as you make an argument about some sort of base level of skill/understanding of the game mechanics that is extremely reasonable to achieve.

    The Dev is swinging and missing big time though. The reason optimization matters so much from my point of view is that you do it because it makes up for mistakes or possible mistakes. Its the same reason add ons are helpful in boss fights. It isn’t that remembering to run when the boss does some ability is difficult, its that the one time it saves the raid because your phone rang and distracted you for a second makes it worth all the times you didn’t need the extra help.

  2. Jezebeau says:

    Another part of the reason it matter is because most people don’t have the last raid on farm when a new one comes out, and optimization helps pass gear check fights (particularly when also making up for lack of skill by other raiders).

  3. Ob says:

    Comparing modern day WoW to Darkfall is like comparing grapefruit to eggplant. They’re different – vastly so. Your readers get it. These aren’t the droids we’re looking for. Move along. Move along.

    • SynCaine says:

      Them being different is… kind of the point here? Plus it’s not like WoW is from the era of no-skill MMOs either. Games before, during, and after WoW managed to incorporate at least some level of player skill, while WoW has increasingly been doing everything possible to remove it, and now they are seeing one side effect of that initiative.

      • Ob says:

        Yeah, it’s quite OBVIOUSLY the point. As you’ve pointed out here a time or two in the past. WoW is horrible. It’s the worst game ever. It’s only for noobs and children that want to feel special. Blizzard should die. Darkfall is the best thing ever. It’s for REAL gamers. Jaded gamer is jaded.

        • Anti-Stupidity League says:

          Huh? Ghostcrawler is pretty much agreeing with Syncaine’s point in here (or vice versa) – i.e. they both would like to see less number-crunching meta game within the game – so what you’re saying is that you believe that Ghostcrawler is just a jaded gamer who thinks that wow is horrible, kiddies game.

  4. Sean Boocock says:

    In the linked thread, Ghostcrawler is commenting on a player perception problem, one that is endemic far beyond the scope of WoW. People don’t interpret statistics correctly nor appreciate risk well. As one of WoW’s lead designers, and a PhD science in a former life, Ghostcrawler knows that the amount of randomness baked into the combat system and the nature of the group composition outstrips any 1% optimization the player makes in their talent build.

    Great players know that. Most others don’t care. The vocal minority that post on message boards and hold court in global channels are the subject of conversation here, and I don’t think there is much Blizzard can do to shake them from their false convictions. If people want to use the game as a way of exerting their perverted intellectual dominance over others less inclined to misinterpret the same information (or who frankly don’t care), go ahead. These people exist in many online communities and as your blog has demonstrated in Forumfall as well.

    As to whether WoW is a skillful game in any respect, I guess I’ll agree to disagree on that point. If your definition of skill is constrained such that only PvP games that have free targeting are skillful then no, WoW is not a skill based game. However under most any other description, the organized PvE encounters particularly on higher difficulties as well as the current and upcoming organized PvP game types are skill based. One’s success is a function primarily of one’s skill, a point Ghostcrawler was trying to make, and the stratification of players at the top levels is indicative of that.

    • SynCaine says:

      “One’s success is a function primarily of one’s skill, a point Ghostcrawler was trying to make, and the stratification of players at the top levels is indicative of that.”

      That’s exactly the part that is untrue, at least to a large extent. Without top-end gear (and of course a max lvl character) you can’t even come close to being top-end viable in PvE/PvP, can you? So it’s only when you remove what makes WoW WoW, gear, that at the very highest level finally what a player does actually matters (and even at this point, if you don’t watch YouTube and read EJ, you don’t stand a chance).

      If top-end PvE/PvP in WoW was in fact more player-skill based than all about the numbers, you would see people dominating in sub-par gear, lvl 75s taking down lvl 80s, or something like a prot warrior dominating PvP not because of his talent spec, but because of the player behind the character.

      The minimization of skill in WoW is exactly why you don’t, and it’s like that by design. When you allow player skill into the equation, feelings get hurt when the majority realize they can’t keep up.

      • Ob says:

        Reading you drone on and on about how bad/easy/nub-friendly WoW/Blizzard is really makes me smile, :) How has Darkfall been of late? Oh wait, you’re not playing much because there’s little going on/to do. Why aren’t more people creating content?

        • SynCaine says:

          While this might shock you, one player taking a break does not mean the whole world stops, even one as big a deal as myself. Don’t worry, shortly I’ll be back and you will once again get to read about my DF adventures while you afk a BG to collect your epics.

        • Ob says:

          I really can’t wrap my head around why it bothers you so much that for many people, collecting epics and gearing up in the themepark is FUN!!!! Yes, WoW is huge and has a profound influence on MMO development. That said, I don’t see Eve/Darkfall and similar fare going anywhere anytime soon. Will they ever see WoW-like success? Doubtful. And do you honestly care? I gotta believe you don’t. Maybe I’m wrong. Seriously though, I get where you’re coming from and I feel your pain. I love music. What passes as such these days, however, makes me sick. KMFDM is one of my favorite bands in the world. They don’t get radio/video support. They’re never going to sell millions and millions of records. I’m ok with that, though. The fact that Justin Bieber, Jonas Brothers, and so much of the R&B/rap drek that passes as music these days is wildly popular just doesn’t affect me. I’ve still got what I like. You still have Eve and Darkfall. And I have to believe they won’t be the last of their kind. Whatever man, I like your blog, read it everyday. I just don’t see WoW and its ilk as the root of all evil and the end of MMO gaming as we know it.

        • SynCaine says:

          You are reading too much into it. This blog, at times, is about MMO design, and this post in particular is about the negative aspects of lowering the amount of player skill required in an MMO, about the effect anonymity (thanks to cross server and the DF) has on a community, and the amazement that a company as experienced as Blizzard can’t see the root causes.

          Nothing at all to do with wishing less people played WoW or more played DF/EVE.

        • Anti-Stupidity League says:

          He’s not reading too much into the blog post, he didn’t even read it. He is a wow-kiddie, therefore if you criticize his favorite toy, he’ll just throw a temper tantrum and hate you, no matter what your point may have been. Haters gonna hate.

      • Sean Boocock says:

        “If top-end PvE/PvP in WoW was in fact more player-skill based than all about the numbers, you would see people dominating in sub-par gear…”

        But that’s exactly what you see. To give but one example, 10 out of 12 of the heroic mode versions of the last major raid instance in Wrath of the Lich King were cleared in under 24 hours after their release by a Finnish guild, Paragon. It took weeks for most other top 50 guilds to even get that far, most stumbling in the face of encounters so tightly tuned that one player’s mistake at any point would cause a wipe. Paragon didn’t have access to the heroic level gear that dropped in these harder difficulties, nor the stacking buff that was implemented to let more casual players see fights that were deliberately overtuned for most players.

        This is a story that plays out with the release of each expansion and content patch. The best players race in and work through the content using the last tier’s gear. Slightly lesser skilled players have to farm gear from the introductory bosses to give them a leg up against encounters that the elite players can muscle their way through by dint of their organization and skill.

        Since you highlighted one of Ghostcrawler’s threads, it reminded me of another. In response to a thread on raid balance/tuning he observed that the best guilds aren’t two or even ten times better than your average guild but a 100 or 1000 times better. There is a very high skill ceiling in WoW, not only individually but collectively as a group.

        As for PvP, well I can’t speak to it having
        not played much. I thought this Ghostcrawler quote was appropriate though:

        “The Arena game is designed with gear being a big reward that in turn makes you more powerful in Arenas. If you don’t notice an improvement when you get better gear, then the reward structure is a lot less meaningful. The trick is to make the starting gear good enough to get you going. If this was a racing game, we couldn’t start you with the rusting old jalopy, but we can’t start you with the Ferrari either.

        BTW, if that isn’t your style, we expressly made the tournament realms where you can skip over the whole gearing up side of the game. But we don’t want that to be the main way players experience WoW with their “real” characters.

        My only observation there is that the same players that dominate arena PvP on the live realms also do so on the tournament realms where gear is taken out of the equation. Funny that.

        • Ob says:

          Syncaine, I agree with you, to a point. Much of what WoW offers requires merely a modicum of skill to be successful/feel like a hero, whatever. Yes, it’s very accessible. Yes, WoW is gear-based. Can’t you even concede that there do in fact exist portions of the game that are NOT the easiest thing ever, that every player CANNOT be successful at? Be it tightly tuned hardmodes or arenas. Seriously? For some reason, I picture you at your desk, gritting your teeth, hands over your eyes, chanting, “No, no, no. It’s all easy. It’s all easy. It’s all easy!! It’s the worst, worst, worst!!”

        • SynCaine says:

          I’m sure 1% of the game still caters to the ‘pro’ WoW gamers, even if that 1% is just a difficulty slider now that even ‘heroic’ things like the LK are easily doable by any random group of 10 WoW-kiddies.

          That just further makes my point though, in a way. When you have to try so hard to identify difficult content, and its difficulty is only in relation to what the rest of WoW is, that’s not saying much.

          Again, this post was to point out the flaw in that design decision, one that now even Blizzard themselves are at least realizing. Too bad Cata won’t actually fix it, but maybe in 2015 with the next content update.

        • Pitrelli says:

          Well since Im playing in cataclysm beta I’ll point out the need for player skill in even 5 man dungeons has increased 10 fold.

          Also I did chuckle at your dig about next WoW content in 2015, exactly how long did Darkfall take to get up and running?

          Your trying too hard these days Syn, get back to what your good at aka writting about games you actually play.

        • SynCaine says:

          We’ll see how long that Cata difficulty is kept intact once the masses get to it. After all, WoW had some reasonable content for a while, before the cries for ‘accessible’ became too great and the nerf stick started swinging. If it holds though, that’s a good step.

          As for Darkfall, are you talking about the team half the size of Blizzard’s QA department (or smaller) that is about to release their second expansion this year, and the 4th overall? Because if my math is correct here, that would put WoW and DF even for number of expansions to date, with one game being released right around the time the other was being designed on paper.

          Of course it would be unfair of me to point out that only one of those games is still using it’s previous three expansions content, or that only one had those expansions for free, or that only one has plans to add DX10 graphics and character model reworks ‘soon’, or that only one is just about to release a massive overhaul of it’s ENTIRE world, not just pieces. Again though, that would be totally unfair and really apples to oranges given the size of the dev teams and the budgets.

          In WoW defense though, they do have Bobby :)

          (And WoW is so easy, I’m not trying hard at all here)

        • Broze says:

          “Also I did chuckle at your dig about next WoW content in 2015, exactly how long did Darkfall take to get up and running?”

          Oh come on, Pitrelli. Darkfall is averaging two expansions per year in its first year, with the June 2010 expansion set to be released soon.

          And don’t try to pull the typical “WoW has 500 times more players than Darkfall” crap. We all know that only the amount of content provided should scale with player count (i.e., revenue), not the complexity of deploying that content or the importance of ensuring it’s free of major problems.

        • Pitrelli says:

          but Darkfall in MY OPINION is a very poor game, just as syncaine views WoW. The fact it took them 8 years to develop it.

          I cant comment on the two expansions for size and quality as I onlt played Darkfall shortly after launch.

        • Pai says:

          It’s not purely gear-based, either, since I have seen multiple examples of people with the ‘right’ GearScore still failing miserably to actually manage to reach anywhere near their dps potential.

          In fact, I would almost say that the obsession with stuff like GS actually allows more incompetents leeway, not less, since it can make even people who can’t play their class ‘look right’ to a mindless number-crunching mod.

        • Mala says:

          -My only observation there is that the same players that dominate arena PvP on the live realms also do so on the tournament realms where gear is taken out of the equation. Funny that.

          This misses the point. Yes, skill does matter to some degree, but it doesn’t matter nearly as much as gear and level. Give the very best PvP player in the world a level 70 character and give me (someone who has done maybe…3 arena matches ever) and level 80 in PvP gear, and I will win. Why? Because I’ll have an enormous health pool not to mention his attacks will all glance or miss.

          There is wiggle room for skill in similarly geared characters of the same level. Woo boy, that really knocks Syncaine’s argument flat…

  5. Pitrelli says:

    Hmm from experience the only skill you need in darkfall is being able to find your way around a clunky ui which looks like it was designed in the 80s ;)

  6. Ob says:

    Now I get it. WoW suffers from flawed design decisions, in that the vast majority of it is easy and accessbile. And that the DF has destroyed communities. It’s a wonder that guilds even still exist. Do you honestly believe that for an MMO to be fun, it needs to be difficult? If that’s your opinion, cool, I respect that. I just don’t agree with it. And really, I didn’t find Darkfall to be any more difficult than something like Call of Duty, or Oblivion. FFA pvp requires patience, sure, but I wouldnt call it difficult. And I happened to love things like having to drag items from a corpse to my bag. Really created a sense of danger and tension, and I loved that. I really like open world pvp. I miss the days of TM/Southshore slugfests. I guess I went into Darkfall expecting more of that. The world just felt so empty. I just can’t get into something that requires so much grinding and where larger scale fights don’t break out very often.

    • Mala says:

      -Do you honestly believe that for an MMO to be fun, it needs to be difficult

      I know you weren’t addressing me here, but to me it isn’t so much about difficulty, as it is about the way I can improve myself, not improve my characters. Then again, I’ve more or less given up on the RPG genre of late because I just can’t stand the thought of slogging my way through another one anymore.

      Syncaine has been playing a lot of LoL lately, so I think thats a far better comparison than even Darkfall. One of the the things that makes competitive RTS gaming so engaging is that you watch the best play and you know that you have the same exact game they do, and look at what they can do with it. Same basketball, same football, or whatever. If the NBA were WoW the players could wear rocket packs and still claim to be superior to those of us still jumping. The point being, whether or not they are actually better (and a skill disparity might and probably would exist) isn’t actually the deciding factor insofar as there are other inequities.

      • SynCaine says:

        I’ll just add that while WoW is one extreme of the gear vs skill ratio, LoL is on the other, with DF somewhere in the middle, in that gear/character still matters somewhat, but is neither the be-all-end-all like in WoW, or the ‘everyone is even’ of LoL.

        I like both styles, since I enjoy the RPG/MMOness of DF, and can also enjoy something closer to WoW. My issue here with WoW is that Blizzard removed most of the player skill (among other ‘dumb down’ changes), making the game a snoozefest if you don’t enjoy strict gotta-catch-em-all ‘gameplay’ (that you can now also just pay to skip).

  7. Ob says:

    I’d like to echo Pitrelli’s above sentiment in that, while I enjoy the occassional Blizzard/WoW jab for a good chuckle, your writings about stuff you actually play are far more interesting.

  8. Ob says:

    Well, you’ve made a believer out of me. Darkfall is the best, WoW is the worst. QED.

  9. Bhagpuss says:

    Sidestepping the WoW vs Darkfall “debate”, I’d like to take you up on the “player skill” element. Player skill is highly relevant in sports and competetive games, but is it really relevant to RPGs?

    Call me a traditionalist, but I thought it was my character that had the skills, not me. I still automatically differentiate what my character can do or know from what I can do or know. In an ideal world I would give my character goals and sit back and watch as he tried to achieve them. My competence or incompetence with a mouse and keyboard shouldn’t impact his “Agility” or “Dexterity”.

    I still think of MMORPGs as an “always-on” tabletop RPG with an automated GM. When I played tabletop, all the “skill” that I was asked to bring to the table was a little imagination and a willingness to use it. I think that should suffice just as well for MMORPGs, and by-and-large I find that it does.

    • Mala says:

      This is pretty fair, I just can’t bring myself to slog through another generic fantasy computer RPG anymore. The fun of table top RPGs is that the game is dynamic, its just your group, the DM can tailor the experience, etc. This is why something like Neverwinter Nights was a fucking fantastic game, because it came as closer to ACTUALLY emulating the table top experience that I’ve ever had in a CRPG. However, MMOs just don’t come remotely close to that for me, and as such they have to rely on gameplay like every other computer game. When stacked up agianst games that have loads of better gameplay, the RPG genre has basically fallen totally off my radar except few instances.

      • Derrick says:

        It’s sad. I’ve long, long felt just like that. MMORPG’s are arguably the worst offenders, which is very depressing given that the multiplayer setting should *help* the game be more P&P-esque.

        Unfortunately, the most important aspects of pen and paper gaming – creative problem solving and simply having fun in a group – are made generally impossible and extremely rare respectively. Encounters in modern RPG’s generally cannot be dealt with creatively, and the game itself pushes you to use various aids/online resources to find The One True Path – be it the wereabouts of the magical whosawhatsit or the sequence of actions to defeat a boss.

        Instead, RPG’s are all about grinding. Who ever went grinding Orcs for XP in a tabletop game? Ever? Hell, in my P&P days, be it D&D or whatever else, XP had nothing whatsoever to do with what you killed. Yay. Lets go repeat a sequence of meaningless actions for no logical reason again, and again, and again.

        Quests are trivial and pointless. Even the most “epic” of MMO quests are typically rather shallow and linear. Most of the time, you’re expected to randomly complete ridiculous, petty tasks for complete strangers, with no thought whatsoever as to WHY you were doing that.

        Gah.

        So sad.

      • Defconquell says:

        Was having this discussion with a friend today about old school tabletop D&D vs. single-player RPGs vs. MMOs

        What Neverwinter Nights did right was opening up the toolset to player map mods that allowed players to design adventures.

        If we could get an MMO where the gamemasters played bosses and had a submission process for player created map mods, I think we start moving back towards the tabletop experience a little bit.

      • Defconquell says:

        Feature request for Guild Wars 2 dynamic quests, if the GMs actually played the NPC bosses and commanded armies of NPC support units, that would be awesome.

        And if you can’t do that, at least randomize the spawns and tactics. For example, one time they attack the town armory from the north, next time the grain storage depo from the south, etc…

        Get rid of events that follow only one script, make players adapt to changing conditions.

        And GM controlled boss units in PvP battlegrounds would be frakking crack cereal. You summon the elemental and instead of doing the same stupid thing every time, it actually starts knocking down keep walls, or AoEing the opposing force zerg rush, or strongpoints a tactical spawnpoint, etc.

  10. Galaji says:

    Wow, the trolls woke up for this one.

    There are so many people ready to jump to the defense of WoW.

    This whole discussion is about trends in the player base (gearscore, min/max’ing) and what causes them.

    Syncaine views the cause of this to be centered around some of WoW’s mechanics. It is natural for him to point this out by comparing it to something he has experience with, Darkfall.

    This does NOT turn it into a “DF is better than ur WoW lolz” post.
    Please take a deep breath, relax the defensive posture and add something constructive to the discussion instead of attacking Syncaine.

    Replace “WoW” and “DF” with game 1 and game 2 if it will help.

    It can’t really be argued that WoW places more importance and weight on player level and items than Darkfall.
    But this holds true for games like Everquest as well.

    Remember twinking out a character?
    This was giving a low level character items drastically above their level to reduce the difficulty in playing that character. Yes it is fun to be powerful, that is not the discussion right now though.
    The point is that it became less difficult and required less focus / attention from the player. It allowed room for more mistakes, allowed more sub-optimal decisions (like pulling adds) without penalty (death).
    In other words…. it made the game “EASY”

    Why do people take easy as an insult?
    If you prefer your games more relaxed and casual, that is fine. Accept yourself and your views. Nobody is attacking them.

    But know that every choice, even the “hardcore” of darkfall creates trends in the community it is a part of.

    WoW has created a community that places a high importance on gearscore and talent builds. It is more common to be turned down for a group / raid when your stats are lacking than to have the group say “hey, we’re going into this a bit underpowered, but let’s try hard and we can do it.”
    (stress on the “more common” part of that statement. It has just become accepted in the community)

    These choices for WoW aren’t being presented as “wrong” for a game. But they are being highlighted as the cause of the problem Ghostcrawler mentioned.

    If you disagree that this is because of the importance / power curve placed on items / levels in WoW, please explain why you feel otherwise.

    Attacking Syncaine or other posters about their choice of comparissons used to highlight a mechanic or point is juvinile.

  11. sid67 says:

    I agree with you on this point. I’ve always maintained that I would rather see “skill” be the difference maker over gear/stats.

    That said, the argument can and should be made that it’s a bad idea to gate content using “skill” exclusively. After all, some players are just going to hit a barrier they can’t every get past and it’s not good practice to alienate these players with impossible barriers.

    So I would argue, the best solution is to gate the rewards based on “skill” but not the “content” or experience itself.

    That’s one reason why I do like the approach of various “difficulty” levels (EZ mode vs. Hard mode).

    However, WoW’s implementation fails in several ways. In particular, the reward for Hard mode is often trivial when compared to EZ mode and there is little to no incentive to do it the hard way.

    The other area where they fail is in the assumption that 25-person content is more difficult than 10-man content. In truth, there is little correlation and 25-man in some cases can even be EASIER.

    Thus, you can get a BETTER reward simply by doing it with more people — not by being better at it.

    Also, “Hard-mode” often isn’t made more difficult by “skill” but dumb luck or by being able to complete an event with some weird caveat (like don’t use the shiny X).

  12. zaphod says:

    As a five year hardcore raiding veteran of WoW I will say from experience vanilla WoW (BWL) and some first expansion content (SSC) was skill dependant. There were minor gear checks for required DPS but you did need a skilled raid of players to tackle the content.

    Because of the massive increases in gear stats WoW is currently very casual friendly where pure DPS wins out over skill. Cataclysm is changing this somewhat but overall Blizzard (and our friend Kotick) is now more focused on keeping paying players rather than keeping the content challenging.

  13. TariqOne says:

    I’m not a WoW fan, necessarily, but I am a fan of reasoned logic, and thus I have to speak up.

    The problem I have with these “skill/no skill” posts of yours is that you simply label something “skill,” in your case, twitch skills, and then definitionally everything not that is a lack of skill. That’s all you’re really doing, and honestly, it really fails to accomplish much that isn’t simply rhetorical. It’s not really all that honest.

    “Skill,” as you use it is functionally meaningless. It’s just a value statement. It communicates that you value twitch play over other types of play. OK, great. Why not just say that?

    Take PvP. To be honest, if you were to pull out a team-based shooter I’d never played, and plop me in a competitive game of it, I’d be able to play it fairly decently in a very short time. My twitch skills, while not amazing, are that of a fairly dedicated gamer who’s played a lot of shooters. My line of sight, use of terrain, spatial and situation awareness are what they are, and I bring that skillset into any similar game.

    On the other hand, if you were to dig up a virtually identical WoW clone I’ve never played and drop me in a competitive arena with max gear, I’d be destroyed. Over and over. I’d probably always play it an exceptionally low level.

    Why? Quite honestly, my brain doesn’t function well enough to handle that sort of play. Managing a bazillion abilities, facing multiple opposing classes each with their own bazillions of abilities, learning and mastering which class uses which ability, what it looks like when they key each ability, what the specified counter is, managing cooldowns and other abilities and mapping my UI such that I can both locate the proper key and key it at the proper time to effectively counter every ability being thrown at me or a teammate, in some cases knowing which RANK of which ability to key when and how … honestly, it’s simply maddening to me. And in the case of WoW, you have to do all that at the same time while managing movement, line of sight, range, teammates, knowing teammate abilities and weaknesses — in short, many of the things one needs to do in a twitch-based game.

    Whether circle strafing and aiming (and circle strafing and pillar-humping and kiting are all part of your tab-target games as well) is more difficult than the litany of things demanded of the competitive WoW PvPer is really a subjective matter of the skillset you bring to the table. For my money, I’d rather take my chances in a twitch game with a few set moves simply mapped to the interface than set foot in a competitive WoW arena. I appreciate the time and skill it takes to master the ins-and outs of your own class and every other class, as well as the Actions Per Minute and non-linear thought that high-level WoW PvP takes. It’s not something I can do well naturally, and I don’t have the patience or the thick skin necessary to stick it out and learn these things.

    The same goes for you, Syncaine. For all your talk of WoW being easymode and all gear, if we were to equalize gear by throwing you onto a tournament server on the class of your choice, and plop you into an arena game with people you didn’t know, you’d fare horribly. And I’d wager it’d take you quite some time to pull yourself out of the basement. You haven’t played in forever and you wouldn’t have the slightest clue what you were doing.

    Is that skill? Lack thereof? Does it matter? Is there something inherently more noble about catering to a player’s innate hand-eye coordination versus a player’s dedication, monomania, practice, etc.? I really don’t think there’s a universal answer. At the end of the day, whether you label one skill and one not-skill, it’s all just a crafty and marginally dishonest way of saying “I prefer X to Y.”

    • D506 says:

      As an EVE player, a Darkfall-in-theory admirer and someone who really, really can’t stand WoW I have to say it: Well put.

    • SynCaine says:

      Wait, so because 1% of the population, the competitive arena crowd, plays at a certain level (which has more or less NOTHING to do with the rest of WoW other than the annoyance of having to farm up the gear and get to 80), that somehow disqualifies the issue GW was talking about? Because I’m fairly sure he was not even remotely talking about the competitive arena scene, just like that’s not what I was talking about in the post.

      But um… thanks for your reasoned logic, next time hopefully on topic?

    • Defconquell says:

      Very well said, TariqOne. And what you bring up is what I loved about battlegrounds in vanilla. When blizzard brought in arenas it felt like they were “giving up” on battlegrounds.

      What I hear about ranked battlegrounds in Cataclysm sounds like a move in the right direction, but the silliness of Wintergrasp and the beach assault BG from Lich King really pissed me off. I’m really hoping Guild Wars 2 doesn’t suck. Really, really hoping.

      • bonedead says:

        Pfft, what about world pvp? Also, I can’t remember for certain, but I think BGs were added before Honor. Ugh, I hate thinking about that game.

        • SynCaine says:

          BG came after honor v1 was introduced. Farming gold farmers for honor while doing the thorium loop was enjoyable.

  14. tariqone says:

    It’s perfectly germane to the topic, inasmuch as it discusses your rather loaded use of the term “skill” in this and other such discussions as a way to stack the deck in favor of your own values. I’m not against it, just pointing out why it’s just a rhetorical device like “death taxn” “pro life,” and “fair and balanced.” Its an argumentative frame, not a factual or useful word.

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough about that.

    • SynCaine says:

      It fails because YOU assign twitch to the definition of skill, not me. Notice this is a more recent WoW problem, not one it launched with? Was WoW twitch-based in 2004? Was UO or DAoC twitch? Is EVE?

      Arena is, Darkfall is somewhat (it’s not compared to Quake, it is compared to WoW), but the piece is not about twitch. It’s about the fact that gear, stats, and achievements are used to value players in WoW, not what they can actually do (skill).

      Again, nothing about twitch, arena, or what the definition of skill is.

      • Sean Boocock says:

        What this long discussion has represented, for me at least, is another example of the importance of clearly defining the terms of the discussion at the outset. Skill here, like art in similarly themed conversations about games, is an ambiguous term, a proxy for something more basic like “meaningful action”.

        What we’re arguing about here is whether the player procedures of game A versus game B are more less meaningful, satisfying, worthwhile, or exclusionary. I agree with tariqone that skill in this thread is almost synonymous with an expression of preference. “I prefer game X” has become “Game X is skillful (art?)”.

        tariqone’s post also reminded of where this move had been made before: in 20th century ethics. Perhaps we’re at the emotivist stage in our discussions about games still waiting for an Austin to give us the linguistic tools we need to move forward. Often I’ve thought SynCaine’s (and most bloggers’ posts) resemble a perhaps naive reading of GE Moore.

        “I know it as an immediate truth that Darkfall is skillful!!”

        “But Mr. SynCaine I must disagree. I simply don’t see it.”

        “Look harder.”

        “But…”

        and there was much table stomping

  15. [...] skill is mostly irrelevant in a gear-centric game. SynCaine makes this point with respect to why players obsess about eking out the last percent of benefit from builds. I think [...]

  16. coppertopper says:

    lol we still calling these Darkfall patches expansions?

  17. Isey says:

    I find it very interesting that WoW is (claiming to, not being in the beta) adding ‘challenge’ back in the game by making healing more difficult and tuning content to require CC again. That is going to frustrate most of their playerbase. Blizzard has spent a lot of time training their own playerbase that 5 mans, and even their core end game content in ICC is just another ride in the theme park. Strap in and get epics.

    I’m guessing it will only be a temporary challenge until you outgear it, but really, when rogue #25335 who thinks Sap is a skill to create maple syrup suddenly has to cc a target with some weird color over their head, players are going to get frustrated fast.

    At this point Blizz should just go with what they have made – it works for them – and I sub on and off again because it is fun. I’ll just look for challenging and engaging gameplay elsewhere.

  18. axhed says:

    nothing makes me feel more heroic than sitting in a newbie area killing noobs before the world has finished loading on their computer. three cheers for skill and darkfall!

  19. Accursed says:

    awesome, another ‘hardcore l33t kid’ blinded by the stupid ‘love to hate’ culture surrounding popular things such as WoW.

    I won’t ramble, Tariqone hit the nail on the head. I believe he was trying to say ‘skill’ has no quantifiable measurement and that ‘skill’ is relative to each person; he goes on to assume (rightly by the sound of it) you see twitch skills/reflexes as ‘skill’ whereas others might see being able to manage abilities, movement, cooldowns, buffs etc at the same time (as in WoW) as ‘skill’. Sorry if you can’t seem to grasp that, but he’s right.

    That’s not to say you’re not right regarding armour and to a degree, number crunching. But on another note, who cares? why does every game in existence have to be only for the pro’s? isn’t that the reason other companies have made games like Darkfall? so you guys can go be pro somewhere else?

    as has been said SO many times, if you don’t like it don’t play it.

    And no, I don’t play WoW.

  20. Joe Re says:

    I notice that SynCaine never defines the term “skill”, but critizes other posters when they speak out what implicit definition of skill they read from the post.
    Arguing whether a game is based on X or not X is pointless if nobody knows what X is or everybody has their own definition of X.

    So SynCaine critizes the current importance of gear and level in WoW. Quote:
    “Notice this is a more recent WoW problem, not one it launched with? Was WoW twitch-based in 2004?”

    At launch, the only form of pvp was open-world pvp, where level differences made all the difference. The first raid dungeon, MC, required resistance gear for everybody to complete. And an endless supply of pots. Fire restistance checks (or nature resistance checks for that insect raid instance, later frost) were then what ilevel checks are now. BWL required not only items from MC, but also a cape crafted from Onyxia’s scales. So saying WoW was not gear/level-based in 2004 is flat out wrong.

    • Xyloxan says:

      @Joe Re: If resistance gear for everybody were REQUIRED to even try an MC run than having that gear was NOT a factor differentiating a successful run from a wipe out. It was skill (defined as in the post by Accursed above).

  21. [...] missing the entire point of a post to go after the bait like the trolls do. Such is the case with this post and it’s various responses here and on other blogs, so I guess a follow-up of sorts is [...]

  22. Callan S. says:

    I pretty much just agree. Take the gameplay out of actually playing and they start trying to work up strategies outside of gameplay, with builds and such.

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