Sunday, September 25, 2011

WoW was dumbed down for the Hardcore, Part III

Final part of this series, I think. I figured out how to make reasonably good looking movies and upload them to youtube. And to put my new-found skills to work I created an undead warrior and leveled 1-10 with him. I took snapshots of every level to show you how dramatically the difficulty varies.

I play quite well - certainly better than you would a newbie exspect to play. But I sometimes pull extra mobs to make a point. "Resson the Needler" is almost not beatable at level 7 with a warrior, by the way. And he is certainly not beatable at level 6, which my priest managed to do.

At about level 5-6 it is basically impossible to even beat two mobs of equal level. Later it becomes a bit easier. At level 10 I beat 4 mobs of equal and higher level easily. Even a fight against one orange level 13 (only orange one in the videos) with two adds is finished without even having low health.

If a newbie doesn't put Rend on mobs first, doesn't use Thunder Clap right after and doesn't plan to use Victory Rush effectively, he doesn't stand much of a chance against more than one mob; until level ten. Keep in mind that I don't have any green items and only wear what the quests give me.

Here's the Youtube playlist. Make sure to switch to 720p for highest quality. The entire playlist is about 10 minutes long. But it can be watched one by one.

This should be the final proof that WoW never systematically dumbed the early levels down. Some stuff is absurdly trivial (e.g. drowning, falling damage, level 1-3). But level 4-6 are hell for a newbie. Even single mobs can kill you if you have an unlucky series of misses and parries or some delay in pressing keys.

Once you are LFD-geared and don't actively fight the outleveling of content, the leveling game becomes the joke we all know. Perhaps I'll make a few vids about that soon.


  1. How did you end up making good youtube videos? I have Fraps, but I dont know if that is what you used.

    and if so, what settings, etc?

  2. You could save a lot of time by just learning poor frosty instead of typing "delete". :)

  3. Kring, I hate him with a passion ;)

    Shannara, I might make a post about that. I use Fraps and Virtual Dub.

  4. And wtf is up with this fall damage? Is that only in the first few levels like that or is that new?

  5. I wouldn't say it was dumbed down for the hardcore as much as for a type of player I'd like to call "wannabe hardcore". From my point of view, a hardcore player spends whatever time necessary to reach his goals and doesn't complain. He tackles whatever challanges are presented, and attempts to beat them. He doesn't go "oh, this is too difficult, nerf!".

    However, the "wannabe hardcore" is the player who watches the true hardcore and says "I want to be him". But he's not prepared to put in the effort required.

    These guys often call themselves casuals, but they're not. Casuals doesn't care too much whether they get to kill the toughest bad guy in the game. They doesn't care if they have the coolest and baddest axe in the game. They're well aware that those things are out of their reach and they bide their time and hope they will sometime get there in their own pace.

    The wannabe hardcores wants it now. And they will whine about it, like a child crying for candy. Most parents knows that they shouldn't give the child candy just because he cries about it. Blizzard hasn't learned that lesson.

    In my opinion, the game has never been as casual friendly as it was in Vanilla. Back then, it was a casuals paradise. The game was catered for the casuals. You had a bunch of dungeons that was challenging and fun. The gear was quite crappy overall back then, so it didn't matter an awful lot if you had the best gear or not. You could even jump straight into PvP with leveling greens, and you wouldn't fare much worse than you would had you had a decent set of gear.

    Even raiding was very casual friendly. Most of the time, guilds didn't finish a raid in one night. Gear wasn't all that important either, not until you reached the higher tiers. It wasn't uncommon at all to find partially green geared players in Molten Core raids. The raids themselves wasn't as demanding on the skill either. Pretty much everything depended on your effort. If you put an effort in, you would reap the rewards. If you were a hardcore, you would gain the rewards early, if you were a casual it would take longer. But a true casual doesn't really care.

    The wannabe hardcore do, however. And they complained. And complained. Until they got what they wanted. It's their game we're playing now.

    Sorry for the wall of text! Once I had started, I couldn't stop!

  6. Novead, I think I agree with your comment. But where are those hardcore player you mention? Those hardcore player are the ones who play single player games with perma death. Not for a Steam achievement but because they feel like doing it.

    Those hardcore player are the ones who turn off the 30% ICC buff. Not for a special achievement, but because they feel like doing it.

    Those hardcore player don't use Saronite bombs to bug out a boss encounter, they will even stop using it because they feel like not cheating.

    Those hardcore player don't care that other player get the same gear they get with much less difficult or time-consuming game play. (I mean, that's how it is in single player games)

    Those hardcore player don't need special gear, special colored gear, special achievements, pets, mounts or anything. They play the game the way they do because they feel like doing so.

    But if your goal is to be faster than others or to get rewards others won't be able to get or to get special colored gear to show off then you are one of those "wannabe hardcore".

    You can't get hardcore just to show that you are better than others. That's not the point of hardcore.

  7. Hehe, aye, I might be a bit behind my time. The word hardcore just doesn't sound right to describe one of the scrub raiders of today who leaves after one or two wipes. Then they're not hardcore.

    Granted, the kind of player I see as hardcore are few and far between - a dying breed. But on the other hand, they always were few even from the beginning.

    What is it everyone keeps saying when they complain about Vanilla WoW? "Only 5% cleared Naxx" (sometimes as few as 2%, depending on the commenter). I don't know if that's correct, but it gives a pretty good estimate over how few hardcore players there is.

  8. I agree with the premise of this series. Great job on pointing this out. Now we just need get this viral to the WoW community :)

    I think overall, the whole discussion has produced a few key points that we should all keep discussing: nerfing and who its designed to impact, the disappearance of attunements, the frequency of game/class changing patches, disappearance of unique leveling mechanisms, and the decline of group play and disappearance of its purpose.

    All of those things have created a very alienating gaming environment and, as Nils said, the devs (hardcore raiders) have no clue; they don't get it. And they don't seem to care. I think its a good question to ask whether they are burnouts at this point. There's clearly no long term vision or short term direction of the current game and right now GC takes the wrap for that.

  9. @Kring: I would say your definition of "hardcore" is a bit too narrow. Humans are never that predictable - sometimes you want challenge, while it's all fresh and new, to sweeten eventual success; and other times you just want to be done with this encounter after 3 months of wiping and swapping half of raid team due to burnout, with each of new recruits performing worse then previous one...

    People who turned off buff definitely existed. One of LK HC early kills at 5% buff had it turned off - they were so close to beating it a week before, they decided they don't need a boost.

    After that pretty much noone did it; the top was already taken, and in race for lower spots every percent helps!

    In MMO it's never "just about you" anyway, especially in raiding. It can work in single-player games, but once community comes into picture you cannot turn off 30% buff without everyone agreeing to it... and eventually you'll cave in and turn it on anyway - unless your entire guild is "hardcore", which comes with separate set of difficulties.

    As for saronite bombs... "Hardcore" explorer would definitely look for "creative use of game mechanics", all the time, and will DEFINITELY use them if that will give his group advantage. That's what explorers do - explore, then share with their group! To them, challenge is FINDING "creative use", and beating encounter is just "proof of concept". You trivialize one element of encounter, and then you still need to master other parts.

  10. Shalcker, I don't agree. Just being good at something doesn't make you hardcore. Investing a lot of time doesn't make you hardcore. Being faster doesn't make you hardcore. That just makes you good, dedicated or better then the rest.

    Climbing a 4000m mountain is hardcore. And it doesn't matter if you're the first to do that or if you climb it 50 years after the first person did. Sure, only the first person will be mentioned in history books but everyone who does that is hardcore.

    On the other hand, using a helicopter would be "creative use of game mechanics" and you might even be the first person on that mountain. Sure, you're the fastest but you're not hardcore.

    Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with playing the game the way you enjoy it. And if you enjoy the race, more power to you.

    But my argument was an answer to Novead and while I think that he is right I don't think that the real hardcore player are a relevant population in WoW. A big part just wants to be better or faster and wants the game to be designed in a way to segregate as much player as possible BELOW them. And to get back on topic, I think Nils is right that those player are the reason for the leveling nerfs.

  11. Either things have changed since I last leveled in WoW or I must be far more skilled than I thought I was.

    I've never twinked my characters in any form (ok, once, as an experiment) at that low a level and I don't remember having issues. Sure, there might have been the odd death in places like the Ban'ethil Barrow Den due to respawns and really bad pulls, but nothing more.

    I don't even remember being particularly challenged before I got to Darkshore when I played WoW for the very first time ever. It certainly wasn't too hard. I don't remember any of my (in part very casual) friends complaining either.

    I haven't watched your videos yet (and won't from work ;)) but I frankly can't relate to the issue at all yet.

  12. Scrusi, that's why I made those videos. Spend a few minutes and watch them at home.

    There might be differences between starting areas, btw.

  13. Will do, will do. If I remember, that is ;)

    I do remember my warrior being the hardest to level early on by the way. While I still wouldn't call it hard, I agree that warriors are harder to play at those levels than priests.

  14. Well, the priest videos are really bad quality, but if you watch them you will see that they don't really fare much better. A bit, because they can heal, but otherwise they are as unable to beat two enemies at the same time at level 4-6. They just run out of mana.

  15. Aight, I watched the videos. At first I couldn't see confirmation for what you said, as things didn't seem overly hard for you. None of your (deliberately engineered) situations was too tough to run away from and learning to run away when you pull too much is not too hard to ask.

    Then I saw you hitting ten and things went from easy to god mode. I hadn't seen the new lvl 10 in action and I'll agree that it seems much easier from there than before. That doesn't mean that the part before is too hard though ;)

    It should be noted that the swing wasn't as huge as it looked. The combination of MS and the new weapon got you over the hurdle to use victory rush properly. The healing from that then sustained you through the rest of the fight.

  16. Scrusi, the point simply is that a new player has no chance against even two mobs there!

    And later? 4 mobs aren't a problem. Look at my latest post. My priest lvl32 takes about 5.5 times less damage from a mob of his level than the lvl5 warrior! This is normalized for the respective HP.

    I do think that WoW's leveling game 1-85 is never as difficult as these lvl4-6 ! Never again, not in Outland, not in Northrend, do two mobs kill you with certainty. In fact, usually you kill up to four with certainty.

    Do I think that these lvl5-6 are too hard? Well, not for me! But for a new player? More than anything else I blame Blizzard for having quite difficult early levels and incredibly easy later levels. Especially after lvl 20 (read the next few posts :).

  17. I did acknowledge that things got quite a bit easier after level 10, I see your point. Yet "Run away if things go bad" is NOT a hard skill to acquire, not even for the biggest of noobs.
    Furthermore, Even pulling more than one mob took you quite a bit of work in most of your examples. If the game doesn't present you with the issue (or rarely does so) it isn't really an issue now, is it.

    Your observation is correct that things get easier after hitting 10, but I think your proof is rather constructed if you wish to claim (or even suggest) that pre-10 is too hard for the noob.

  18. Ok, so I've played an UD rogue till level 9 by doing all the quests.

    I still haven't got any bracers. Pre Cataclysm, leveling as Alliance, you were always swamped with gray bracers. But I haven't seen even a single pice of vendor trash bracers. Is that a horde issue or did they completely fuck with the low level vendor trash drops?`

    Up until about level 6 or 7 most mobs have nearly killed you when you've killed them. But there is no challenge because it's impossible to pull two mobs at once. I would actually prefer to take less damage but make pulls more challenging.

    I really wish WoW would include some spirit from good old Commandos.

  19. I didn't find it impossible to pull two mobs by accident, Kring. There are several occasions where this is possible, I think; especially if mobs flee.

    And there are at least three rares you will encounter on your way if you keep your eyes open. One Murloc, one farmer (in a house) and that bat. All will probably kill you at their level.

    Moreover, you need to consider that new players don't press buttons as effciently and without lag as we do. Nor do they even move as efficiently. Damn I wanted to finish a post on that ..

  20. Oh, yes, you can die. But that has nothing to do with difficulty. I tried the Bat and didn't have a chance. There's nothing I could do to beat the bat. But that's not difficult, that's just impossible.

    Back in vanilla I started a human. Only the very first few mobs were yellow. There was this field full with red level 2 and 3 defias and you had quests for that place.

    - Collect grapes which grew on the field.
    - Collect a drop from the defias.

    The fun thing was that this field had single mobs and groups of two and groups of three. It was impossible to kill such groups of 2 or 3 at level alone. But you could move around them. And if you pulled them by accident you could run away.

    That was fun because after playing for about 10 minutes the game already told me that
    - I have to be careful what I pull
    - there are linked groups and single mobs
    - you can run out of range from a mob
    - you might have to move around difficult groups

    That was amazing.

    The UD starting area is, at least up to level 9, extremely boring. Watching the shopping channel is more fun.

    Sure, it is possible to pull two mobs but then it's your fault. You don't have to "beat the game" with choosing which mobs to pull because the game only presents single mobs to you. And just hoping that you have enough health to win against an even level mob is extremely bad game design, IMHO.

  21. I agree, Kring.

    This automatically adjusted difficulty that you describe is, by the way, extremely important in my opinion.
    As a dev I would try to create an entire endgame around this one idea.

  22. I just like to add that I've reached level 10. I've watched all your videos and it looked silly but... wtf?

    You're fighting mobs one on one and end the fight with about 10% hp. Then you reach level 10, press the key "N" and in the next fight you end the fight after 2 hits with more than 90% health.

    I know you've made videos of that but... but... but... it's something else if you experience it yourself.

    It took my 3 hours and 35 minutes to reach level 10. I've read every quest and didn't rush but I doubt a real new player would be much faster. I play games for 2 minutes and quit or I finish them. I've never played a game for 3 hours and then decided that it's not for me. There's nothing in the world that justifies this change 3 hours into the game. What where they thinking?