Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Discussion with Tobold

Related to Tobold's post on nostalgia yesterday, I emailed him and we started a discussion. The discussion was in German, so it would be useless for this blog. I translated it into English as well as I could. In yellow you can read my emails. Tobold's are cyan. I let out a few personal parts

Hi Tobold

Out of interest:
Do you really think that nowadays games are better than older games in every single detail and that all discontent is explained by nostalgia alone? I wrote a post last Friday, arguing that there is a selection process at work. Do you think that is completely wrong?

The entire blogosphere is full of nostalgia posts at the moment. It seems very noncredible to me that nostalgia is the whole truth. Nobody denies that nostalgia plays a role.

Thought experiment: You put WoW from 2010 into a time machine and transport it back into the year 2000. Which game would all these bitter veterans have played, EQ or WoW? I think WoW, and I think that also applies to the people who claim that EQ was better.

You are right in that this is not the whole truth. But the rest of the truth is unflattering. A lot of what veterans miss is that they have been a small elite and nowadays everybody plays. I can understand that well, but it is not especially nice to refuse to give the other kids a place in the sandpit. Nor is it nice to not respond to the wishes of a broader public. In my opinion, a lot of what Wolfshead writes is very insulting. For example the idea that games nowadays are more stupid and address more stupid players.

Mmh ... As you know there are differences between you and me when it comes to ‘world vs. gameplay’. An age-old debate. We could discuss in length what is more important, but we can certainly agree that you consider gameplay more important and I consider the ‘world’ more important.

Would you agree that WoW moved in the direction of gameplay in the last 10 years? Probably – a few weeks ago you made a post saying that you are glad about it. :)

Would you agree then that this fact, combined with the fact that I am less glad about it, also is responsible for the fact that I consider WotLK (in parts!!) less enjoyable than Vanilla WoW?

Would you agree that this is “part of the truth”?

If you are talking about WoW only, I agree that there is more gameplay, but not less world (unless you insist that a world you are not forced to walk in is not there). I just don’t like the generalizations, like “all games of today are dumb”. There are a lot of games with a lot of world and not a lot of gameplay.

And Cataclysm will make WoW a bit more difficult. So, even in the case of WoW one cannot say that it becomes dumped down more and more. The pendulum of balance is swinging.

Before I rejoice about the first compromise in a year: So you agree?


*rejoicing* :)

And you say that *I* consider discussion PvP? I have never rejoiced like that about the fact that somebody tells me that I have been right.

I do not rejoice about ‘winning’, but about having found a common ground.
All you just agreed to was that nostalgia is not 100% responsible (perhaps just 99% responsible).

99% is not my opinion. My opinion is that nostalgia is about 20% responsible. But we just made a first step! The next one would be much more difficult.

We agree that nostalgia is not 100% responsible. Is it not nice to have a discussion go like this: Trying to find where we agree and then step-by-step addressing what we do not agree on?

In comments I haven’t made it so far often, if ever.

I never said 99%. My guess is a bit more than 50%, let’s say 60%. And nostalgia does not describe the phenomena completely. “Burn-out”, for example, is also part of it. “Strange, somehow these games are not fun anymore after 10,000 hours. Probably the damn patches are responsible”.

Mmh.. Neither your blog post, nor your first email today seem to be consistent with this. It appeared to me that you considered 100% to be correct. (Go read my email and your first answer again, if you want).

In this case all our emails have been for nothing. However, now there is even more reason to be happy: We even agree that there are a lot of reasons for people to consider WotLK (in parts!!) worse than Vanilla. This is in addition to nostalgia (at least 40%).

In this case you should perhaps tell Oscar, Bhagpuss, Askander, Tallyn and Syl. Judging from their comments they also thought that you were talking about 100%.

In my first Email today I wrote:
“Do you really think that nowadays games are better than older games in every single detail and that all discontent is explained by nostalgia alone?”

Why have you not answered: “No, in my opinion nostalgia is only responsible for about 60%”?

Well, in my opinion

You: Argument 1
Me : Argument 2
You: Argument 3
Me : Argument 4

Is a lot better than
You: Argument 1
Me: You are so right, holy Nils.
You: I love you, too.

Just because I answer with some argument that does not mean that I do not agree with anything you said. And if you have a look at your comments at my blog, I cannot remember you partly agreeing with me. Either you had a completely different opinion (rarely, and with some bite to it), or you attack full force, although I certainly had said something reasonable in a long blog post.

On the contrary, if I write something that is 99% correct, I get endless hate-comments about the 1%, just like some time ago by Darren.

You criticize that I try to lead the discussion and .. yes, you are right.

You are welcome to send a question to me tomorrow and we will discuss that question and that question alone. Considering your emails today, if I had responded to all I disagreed with, we had been jumping around like bouncing balls, always past each other. Just like in the comments: The one guy says 1+1 =2 and the other guy does not say “You are right”, but criticizes the space in front of the =.

A discussion, to achieve some kind of result, requires a precise question to be tackled. If there is no moderator, the participants themselves need to concentrate on the precise question at hand.

Of course, I could have responded to burn-out and vanilla raider epeen. But that have just been distractions, have they not?

My offer is serious: You are welcome to lead a discussion with me and I will try to not distract, but come up with a true answer to your question. And if you can detect some inconsistency on my part you have ‘won’. And so have I!

Well, you cannot expect rhetoric on the level of Aristoteles or Cato on the internet. If Wolfshead writes that WoW and Farmville are the same, I will NOT say: “I agree in so far as I also welcome Cataclysm becoming more difficult again”. That is not the core statement of his post. If some discussion on the internet concentrates on a core statement it is already one of the better discussions.

The kind of discussion you would like to have, were only possible if the starting point were moderate. If Wolfshead just writes a hate post and claims things that are not true, there will never be a moderate discussion. On all objective scales of complexity, World of Warcraft is far away from Farmville, with thousands of players in between. If WoW were as simple, we would not have gigabytes of databases and thousands of addons. That these databases and addons make the game more simple is true, but it is not the responsibility of Blizzard, but the responsibility of the players. And if millions of players work hard to make a game more simple, it cannot have been that simple to begin with.


  1. I've already responded on the 'thought experiment' on tobold's blog and find it a very weak point to make. what it basically proves it that he doesnt think wow is good because it IS good, but only because he compares it to a game many years older which can only fail in a direct comparison where you list 'measurable features' the way he does. which can only fail too, because it wasn't designed to cater the same kind of audience in the first place. does that discredit its quality?
    using the same logic, all the wow fans of today will talk about wow as if it was shit at some point in the future, as soon as the game has found its competition.

    we fly spitfires has actually discussed this topic in his most recent post: http://blog.weflyspitfires.com/2010/09/13/are-mmos-really-better-now/

  2. I would call the time experiment a distraction.

    In my opinion the problem is that there seems to be no will to start a debate that has even a remote chance of providing new insights.

    There are many good discussions in the internet. Extreme blog posts that respond to extreme blog posts do not add to them.

    For what it is worth: Tobolds newest post is a little bit more balanced. I doubt it is a start, though.

  3. Nils, that is because you don't WANT to debate. You only want people to agree with you. And if they don't, you roll them over with walls of texts and the like.

    It is impossible to debate with you, or Syl, because you are fixated on a far too general idea "WoW is too easy". You don't consider at all the details, like WoW is too easy FOR WHO. Or whether WoW is too easy IN ALL ASPECTS.

    I would for example totally agree with you if you said "For somebody who isn't on his first character, the solo leveling game from 1 to 80 in World of Warcraft is too easy." That is totally true. Thus when Cataclysm makes leveling somewhat harder starting with level 65, I think that is a good move.

    But I don't think that World of Warcraft is too easy for everybody in all aspects. Even with the 30% buff, most players aren't Kingslayer, thus haven't reached the end of the game, and probably never will. And lets say level 1 to 20 in WoW are pretty much a perfect difficulty level for somebody playing his first MMORPG.

    What you are basically saying is "WoW is too easy FOR ME". I believe you. If you'd state it like that, no problem. But once you generalize, or like Wolfshead even exaggerate, the whole debate collapses.

    So, test question:

    In your opinion, is World of Warcraft as easy as Farmville?

  4. A few points, Tobold:

    1) I do not consider raiding in WotLK too easy. I do think that not all level 80 items should be 'epic', though.

    2) I do consider dungeons a few months after release too easy. The reason is, of course, the character progression.

    3) I do consider leveling much, much too easy. Leveling with a feral druid, most of the time, I could not have died even if I wanted to.

    4) Since ICC heroic is obviously not too easy, it should be clear that when players say that WotLK is too easy, they are not talking about heroic raids.

    5) For new players, leveling the first few levels can indeed be difficult. But after playing for 10 hours and level 30 they are not new players anymore. Being new can be a problem, but ~10 hours are enough to learn to level without dying.

    6) If I were only talking about me, this blog would be completely uninteresting for any of you. And rightfully. It is easy to say things about yourself. Who would deny you to know how you feel?

    7) Is WoW as easy as Farmville? Are you kidding me ?

    Such debates on our blogs would be much better if we first tried to understand what the other guys wanted to say and then comment.

    Commenters who disagree that WotLK is too easy, because heroic LK is hard, basically complain about the space in front of the =.
    1+1 =2.