WoW’s legacy on the MMO players mindframe.

Tobold has a post up today about training players in WoW, and what can be done to improve the sad state the PUG scene is in.

I think the PUG scene in WoW is hopeless though, that game is too far into easy mode to make any reasonable changes. Between guild hopping, welfare epics, PvP being quasi-solo, its no wonder WoW players don’t stop to teach others about agro, CC, builds, etc.

In direct contrast, EVE has an extremely helpful player base, old and new, and is often considered the most complex game to understand. In addition, one of the primary recruiting tools used by Corps is the offer to train new members in whatever field they wish to focus on. Corp hopping is rarely seen in EVE as well.

Which leads to the greater overall problem of designing a game that hand-holds you through everything and gives you rewards regardless of success or failure. Everything is all peaches until you add any amount of challenge, and all of a sudden a player is required to understand something beyond auto-attack.

That alone will be one of the worst legacies left by WoW, the massive dumbing down of MMOs. Outside of a much smaller minority, most WoW players expect everything for nothing, and generally get it. Oddly enough, even WoW was not originally as dumbed down as it is right now. The original WoW at release was, believe it or not, actually a bit more challenging. Still by far the easiest MMO out, but not in the state it is now. It will be interesting to see what the reaction will be when that majority tries something with a bit of challenge to it, or will all future MMOs with mass market dreams continue the ‘massive solo online’ trend set by Blizzard?

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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14 Responses to WoW’s legacy on the MMO players mindframe.

  1. jon says:

    Over the past six months or so in returning to WoW, I’ve harbored these feelings. There really isn’t a challenge to the game…at all. Battlegrounds are repetitive. Arena does take strategy, but gear takes precedence over skill. No risk at all…but you get rewards, even for failing.

    Switch to EVE. Basically, nothing is handed to you. You have the starting quests yes but if you lose your ship for whatever reason (player killed, mission, doing something stupid, etc.), tough luck. Thankfully, the player base, both in-game and out, is quite helpful in assisting new players learn.

    Needles to say, I get much more satisfaction in playing EVE than WoW.

  2. Talyn says:

    While I will 100% fully agree that there is no hope for the PUG scene in WoW, at least what it was when I left over a year ago, but I also can’t help but wonder if one of three things is happening: was I incredibly lucky in groups, are you incredibly unlucky in groups, or are you simply jumping on the “let’s bash WoW, it’s the cool thing to do” bandwagon?

    Seriously… “easy mode.” WTF is so easy about WoW? WTF is apparently so “hard” about every other MMO that makes WoW so “easy?” Leave EVE out of the equation for now, it’s out there doing its own thing… just stick with the Diku-based games like WoW. Every damn one of them allows solo play — even EQ did. Every damn one of them is turn-based “walk up to the mob, stand still and auto-attack with the odd smattering of pressing skill attacks then waiting on the cooldown.”

    Everyone praises EQ for being so “hard.” It wasn’t “hard” other than by and large, it *was* forced grouping until they listened (omg SOE? Listen?) to their *players* and made it more soloable. What EQ was, and still is, is *primitive* which is not the same as being “hard” or “complex.”

    The designs of old have failed. PK, forced grouping, meaningful travel (oh don’t make me laugh, that doesn’t even exist), pretty much everything the so-called “hardcore” pine for daily… failed.

    What I suspect most of the so-called “hardcore” are the most pissed about? Is that this perhaps used to be a little geeky clique, something only those who were knowledgeable or skilled enough even knew about, much less participated in. Now it’s becoming more mainstream, mostly due to WoW and to a lesser degree, Second Life. The “commoners” have invaded, and the “old-school” elitists don’t like it. They want their private little clubhouse back.

    Has WoW truly “dumbed” down their game? Or have they simply catered to what their customers have asked for? Walk outside — people are fucking stupid. Put ten million people in one virtual place, all of them emboldened through the power of anonymity, and asshattery will prevail. The internet dickwad theory is out in full force. That will happen anywhere. If EVE suddenly had ten million subscribers, I will flat-out guarantee you will see a very dramatic drop in the overall virtual IQ of the community. In other words, it would become WoW in Space simply because of the more diverse population of fucking stupid people.

    Incendiary comment? Sure. Intentional? You bet. But I also have to call ’em like I see ’em — and one thing I’ve noticed over my years in this genre is that pretty much all players are completely full of shit, myself included, but the hardcore seem to be overflowing with it.

  3. syncaine says:

    Consider some of the many changes to WoW since release.
    Cheaper training costs, quest items now ‘shine’ so you don’t miss them, NPC’s show up on the mini-map, cheaper repair costs, summons and portals all over the place, removal of most elite mobs pre-60, free gear at 70. The list goes on, but you get my point.

    WoW is easy because at every single step up to and including 70, it tells you EXACTLY what you need to do. No MMO before it has been as on-rails as WoW, and that ride on the rail is made easier and easier each patch. WoW is basically one patch away from teleporting you from an NPC to quest mob and back, or teleporting you to the next zone when you ding.

    Yes it’s a game, but part of the enjoyment of ANY game is the satisfaction of overcoming a challenge. What challenge are daily quests, other than not falling asleep? What challenge are BGs, when everyone wins anyway? Or even instances that are so dumbed down, any group with half decent gear can overcome anything using brute force?

    Yes most MMOs share a common set of standards, such as hotkeys, level, skills etc, and if we zoom out far enough, they are all the same. But zoom in, and the details start to show. Does every MMO hand you a full set of gear when you ding for the final time? Does everyone auto-win in PvP? Is every area balanced so that a monkey mashing buttons at random can complete every quest, or at worse hit the level cap a day or so later than the average? Does every MMO hand out enough gold to make it virtually meaningless outside of the massively overpriced top-end extras?

    And how can you say the designs of old failed? Simply based on the fact that WoW has a massive sub base? Last I checked, those other games made real decent money before and after WoW, and I doubt anyone associated to them would consider them as failures. Sure MMOs have been refined over the years, but that does not mean going forward every MMO has to be an on-rails ezmode experience.

    As with any business, what the customer ASKS for, and what they NEED, are two very different things. People ASK for ezmode WoW, but we will see if that is exactly what people NEED, long term. The dramatic changes to WoW have not been around for too long, and already we are seeing a large uprising over the dumbed down content.

    Should EVE ever get close to millions of subs, unless CCP dumbs down the game, you won’t get the type of community WoW has, regardless of size. Size is not the main factor, the style of the game is. The fact that WoW LETS you be a retard and run with it is the reason so many people do it, just like they did in UO. The fact that EVE strictly punishes you for acting stupid is the reason most don’t. Even the Goons don’t randomly PK every ship they see, they know in order to play their type of game, they have to have limits. Just like they know that in SL or WoW, their are no limits, so why not push things as far as possible.

    As for PUG experience, drop into any BG and read general chat for a minute and you will get a great idea of what I’m talking about. Or just watch the map in any BG and see the dots moving around, especially in AB.

  4. sid67 says:

    its no wonder WoW players don’t stop to teach others about agro, CC, builds, etc.

    “Teaching” someone how to play isn’t always well received. For one thing, I personally get irritated when people state the obvious or talk about things for which they have no clue. In my experience, as soon as someone starts doing something along these lines, the PuG just falls apart due to bruised ego and flaring tempers.

    This is why effective PuGing requires a solid leader who knows how to mark the instance. In many ways, the lucky charms end up acting as the guide or teacher. Sheep the Moon. Sap the Star. Kill the Skull. Trap the Square. X is Next. If you can get the group to follow those types of simple guidelines and are diligent about marking, then even inexperienced players can figure out how to contribute. The reminders are also simple. Keep the Moon sheeped. Tank away from the sheep. Focus fire on the Skull. Keep the Square trapped, if it gets loose kite it to the tank. Those types of things “teach” but they also aren’t things that will blow your group up.

    One thing I’m getting tired of that seems *new* in the last year or so is this “the Tank should mark” idea. That’s all fine and dandy when the tank is good at marking, and it sucks ass when he isn’t good at it. I would rather have someone mark who a) is good at it, and b) knows the instance well enough to mark it. If that person is the tank, great. If it’s not – then don’t make the tank the leader just because he is pulling.

  5. syncaine says:

    But Sid, does that not make the general IQ/maturity/acceptance level of the average PUG just one step above pre-school? Is it not in pre-school we are taught to play with fun shapes and colors?

    Think about WHY the average PUG gets so offended when you ask for something as simple as CC or agro management, and why they might accept simple shapes/colors easier? Why does that happen in WoW far more often than in other games? The average PUG in LoTRO is far more receptive to others than in WoW. Is it just that all the bad apples play WoW, or is it the overall design ideas in WoW that fuel this type of behavior?

  6. sid67 says:

    I would choose to think of it as a mechanic in which we improve communication. When we abbreviate “be right back” to “brb” are we dumbing it down? I would think of that as simply efficiency in communication. Does the introduction of in-game voice chat dumb down the game? Voice chat certainly makes things easier and simpler to coordinate.

    I think Talyn hit it on the head when he said that EQ isn’t more pure, it’s just more prehistoric. As MMO games evolve, we will continue to see more things designed to replace frustration with better gameplay. The charms are just one example of that evolution.

  7. syncaine says:

    Oh I agree with the charms overall as a design, I think they certainly help. My point was more of why PUGs seem to accept the charms, but not other concepts just as common to grouping.

    It’s similar to daily quests really. If you tell people to log on and grind mobs for an hour each day, people complain about the grind. Put a ‘quest’ around the daily grind, and all of a sudden its this wondrous gameplay improvement Blizzard has ‘granted’ the players.

  8. Funak says:

    First of all interesting topic. Just small ideas of mine. Syncaine the difference b/w LoTRO and WOW is that LoTRO players are also fans of the LoTR –> awesome book, great movies… Due to the fact, there are not many that behave like what I have experienced in WoW. Just one of many examples, I don’t see “stupid and not appropriate” names in LoTRO as it was/is in WoW. But there is a big BUT, there is total of 4 million characters (not players) in LoTRO, which is what 2 million actual players. That cannot be compared to the 10 million WoW player base. WoW is easily accessible and always was. The childish(not in a bad sense), comics like design attracted also my wife. She never played any pc game before. Which is not a bad thing, it helped to promote the MMO genre in general. One small thought about the EVE. I like EVE, but I don’t consider challeging the fact, that you don’t know how to enter your newly bought ship. I had to ask in the rookie chat. Which is in my opinion sad.

  9. sid67 says:

    80% of WoW players are sheep. They are taught to be sheep early on because the solo game is “on rails” as you so accurately describe. When they reach 70, some of the sheep bleet and baaa until they find themselves in the Battlegrounds where they follow the herd around. If they instance, they need a “leader” who can provide them direction by marking the charms. If they are in a Guild, then the officers and the guild leader herd the sheep and let them know how to spec and when to be ready for the raid. In the raid, the raid leader tells them what to do and where to be and provides them a “job” to do. Gear acts as the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick to help lead the sheep around. Dailys are embraced because the provide the sheep some guidance on what to do when not being led around by the nose. They put the game “back on rails” for players who only know how to follow. You are either a sheep, or you are sheppard.

    Is it the game design at fault? Well, it certainly encourages the behavior, but I think it has more to do with the broad appeal of the game to the masses.

  10. syncaine says:

    See I think your last statement is the basis for our disagreement. I don’t think the fact that WoW has 10 mil subs explains why 80% of that 10 mil are sheep. I think the fact that WoW says ‘be a sheep, its ok, I’ll hold your hand till the end’ is the reason people go into sheep mode. When actually learning and trying get the same exact result as coasting, whats the motivation?

    I know using EVE is a bad example, but look at that game. Day one EVE says ‘be smart, figure this out’. Now ‘be smart’ includes asking for help, which you will receive, but the point still stands. In WoW you don’t need to ask for help until you are 70, geared, and want to see the 2% of the game you have not seen yet (raiding), which happens to involve group play and knowing something about the game mechanics.

  11. Funak says:

    I think that you will find that 60k “smart” players which is the most players I have seen online in EVE also in WOW, but you will came across the other 9 million people who are not. I think wow is a good game, but the people there suck (at least the ones I came across).

  12. sid67 says:

    Great example. That’s why players burn out on EVE after two weeks. Whereas, with WoW, that same player receives direction until they make it all the way to 70 before facing the same issues. By that time, they have a significant time investment and emotional attachment to the character and are far less likely to cancel the subscription. So to my point, the game has broader appeal to those players who would have quit a game that provided them less direction early on. So do we blame the game that keeps them interested or do we blame the individual player? My take is that it’s only an issue because the game has broad appeal. Of course, it’s a double-edged sword because the game has broad appeal because it’s “on rails” compared to a game like EVE. The result is that we have sheep and we have sheppards. The problem with that is that your game experience is only as good as your sheppard.

  13. Talyn says:

    Whew, I was so worried that my comment would be considered a personal attack — I’m glad it wasn’t, it was not intended to be but my late flight arrived and my crew dragged me away before I could finish editing.

    How can I say the old-school designs have failed? That one’s easy: show me old-school designs in modern games. You can’t. There aren’t any, other than Vanguard, and since the goal behind VG was a throwback to the old games anyway, I’m not so certain I’d call it a “modern game” other than it’s use of the Unreal engine. Where’s *real* player cities? Gone. Where’s PK? Thankfully, that is also gone, unless you’re into the Korean F2P scene. Where’s “meaningful travel?” Oh yeah, that never existed other than in the deluded minds of masochistic fanboys. But I digress…

    What if EVE suddenly had WoW’s population and you don’t think 1) the community would be very WoW-like and 2) CCP wouldn’t bend under that type of pressure to “dumb” things down? CCP has the population they were after. If EVE grows a bit, that’s all fine and good, but EVE has always catered to that niche crowd. Most EVE players enjoy EVE because they “get it.” EVE is their private little club and the mainstream are not invited, nor are they welcome. If the mainstream suddenly arrived en masse, I sincerely doubt CCP would hold up with the current EVE — it would be simplified a bit, streamlined a bit, and certainly do a lot more hand-holding in the beginning.

    Since you directly compared the community, and PUGs, to LOTRO — again, LOTRO doesn’t have ten million players. I’m now a full-time LOTRO player, but I can’t necessarily say I’m a Tolkien fan, as a previous comment intimated that “all” LOTRO players are. I read the books once and they bored the hell out of me. The movies were decent, but not something I’d want to watch weekly. The community is, for the most part, several tiers above WoW’s but guess what? So is the community in *every other MMO* I have ever played. Other than Guild Wars, and… I’ll leave that up to each individual to decide if GW is an MMO to even count in this topic. Interestingly enough, none of those MMO’s have anywhere near WoW’s population. So yes, I see a direct correlation to community population and community quality.

    I’m going to disagree that players in WoW (or any other directed-content, or so-called “linear” game) receive direction from 1 to level cap. You create a new character in WoW and you’re standing next to your first NPC with a big yellow ! and a little window telling you to right-click the NPC. The first quest tells you to go kill 10 of the little monsters you see directly behind the NPC. I forget exactly, but a tutorial tooltip may or may not pop up initially during combat so that you know to click the hotbar skills. Other than that, the “direction” pretty much begins and ends there. Of course, by and large, what we do in the first five minutes of any MMO is what we do for the majority of our play time: combat and movement. So it’s really not like anyone needs “direction” all the way to level cap if the only thing changing is having more hotbar buttons to click. Tooltips don’t pop up every time we learn new skills, it’s up to us to read them on our own and try them out in combat to figure out what they do, and when they’re most useful. The game itself doesn’t spell that out for us.

    Compare that to creating a brand-new character in EQ2 where not only do several tutorial windows pop up almost continuously, but we have a friggin stream of “energy” linked to the first few NPC’s we are required to talk to. EQ2’s noob experience is *way* more directed, on-rails, linear, or dumbed-down (take your pick) than WoW’s yet no one ever mentions that. After the initial few minutes, EQ2 leaves you alone and lets you do your own thing, just like WoW and every other game does.

    WoW certainly does not explain every little detail from 1 to 70. If it did, you wouldn’t see the constant barrage of “how do I…” questions in general chat. Nothing changes at 70 either unless the player chooses to participate in group-based content. Group content has always been there at the lower levels too. But since you’re leveling, it doesn’t matter if you do it or not. Once you’re 70, there’s no more xp to obtain, and if you want the next better set of gear, you now have no choice but to participate in group content. Perhaps there’s the Arena gear, if I understand how that system works, but the player has to choose to participate with PvP to get them.

  14. Ryan says:

    All new games will be considered “dumbed down” unless the consequence of action are severe. WoW has no consequence for failure and that is why “hardcores” reminisce so fondly back to the “real” man’s game EQ1, and look fondly to new hardcore games like AoC and WAR. I haven’t played EVE but just taking from what Syn has said that a new character will loose their ship if they are stupid and thus will tend to “l2p” immediately. Whilst it no longer reasonable or valid to expect WoW players to “l2p” before they reach 70, and even consider them “sheep”…consider in an alternate hardcore universe where WoW implemented EQ1 penalty for death. With just that one change I can swear everyone will consider WoW hardcore – don’t worry about meaningful travel, consider meaningful death…direct and brutal consequence for action. Die at 70 during Skettis cos of those damned birds, oops now your lvl 69.
    Think you can solo some quest mob? but die when you would have succeeded with zergs? oops after the first death, maybe group up? and L2P.

    As you can see no consequence in actions = WoW that we have today. All the other “ezymode” items do not directly contribute to the dumb down, the shining quest items help, and the so called “free” gear helps too. It is the lack of consequence that dumbs down the game.

    Loose in BGs? Penalty, no honor no marks simple see what happens then, want to make it hardcore? put extra penalties and see how fast WoW players “smarten up”

    It’s all in the design of the consequence of action. WoW and newer games will never ever punish people for failure afterall it is JUST a game. In single player games all you ever loose for failure is TIME (back to the save point and start from there) as such there is NO reason for any game to punish people, the old “hardcore” games are an abherration to gaming not paragonic. People get punished enough in real life to require getting punished again in a GAME, people who want punishment go to S&M clubs, I can imagine little kid Joe who after either getting bullied at school, or rejected from prom or got D for maths would want to come home and sit there and get his lvl70 char demoted to lvl69 because he wasn’t paying attention to the monstrous kaliri in skettis…or yuppie James would want to come home after a hard days work at the stock exchange to care about winning AB when he wants to just track down and pound a clothie with his new spec and 2500 AP.

    WoW cater for the masses, and anything that caters for the masses will always be BLAND. See Toyota’s Camry, McDonalds, American Idol.

    Complaining about WoW being dumbed down is like asking for foie de gras and caviar in McDonald – just not the venue.

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