Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WoW: The Pursuit of "Fair"

The major point of contention between WoW players, in my experience, is based on the dichotomy between casual and hardcore players. These groups take on different labels depending on the context and particular individuals involved but I think that generally speaking the split is between those for whom WoW is a primary concern in their life and those for whom WoW is one of many hobbies they enjoy. This scenario is not unique to WoW, of course. Practically any activity will for some be primary and for others secondary. With WoW, though, the problem is the view each group has towards the structure of the game and the degree to which the game itself creates a feeling of fairness between these two groups.

Back in "the day" the highest quality gear was only available to players who raided, which is to say players who invested a significant amount of time in group play focused on defeating the most difficult bosses in the game. This obvious lack of balance pissed off non-raiders and so, over time, new paths were created to obtaining high level, quality gear. Unfortunately the situation is such that there is still not a perfect balance between these two groups. And what I'm trying to figure out is whether or not there could or should be.

Last Monday my guild and I spent four hours trying to defeat Archimonde; all eighteen attempts ended in failure. Last night my guild and I spent two and a half hours trying to defeat Archimonde; all seven attempts ended in failure. Now, given that the highest level bosses in the game who drop "the best" gear are so difficult that they require weeks of failed attempts to finally defeat how can the game be structured to provide equal rewards to both players willing to make this investment and those not willing to make the investment?

That is not to say that raiders are somehow correct and that non-raiders need to stop playing. Rather, if one individual is willing to invest 6 hours a day in WoW and another individual is willing to invest 6 hours a week in WoW how can the game possibly be structured to reward these players equally?

Let's abandon all the particulars of WoW and participate in a thought experiment. Every time you press the 'j' key you get 1 point. These points can be used to purchase items that allow you to press the 'j' key more quickly. Is it not a statement a fact that someone who spends 6 hours a day pressing 'j' will accumulate more points than someone who spends 6 hours a week pressing 'j'?

Certainly WoW can be changed to allow multiple paths to any given end. Personally, I think that to achieve this end all items ought to be available to all players. As with the thought experiment above there ought to be one standard currency (Badge of Awesome) with which one may purchase any item in the game. Winning in PVP games, defeating PVE enemies, defeating Raid Bosses, completing quests, etc. all ought to give Badges of Awesome which can be used to purchase any item in the game. This removes all requirements on players to follow any particular path and rather allows player to choose how they want to accumulate Badges of Awesome and so purchase gear; it would to some degree create the feeling of fairness.

But, again, will not players who play six hours a day amass more Badges of Awesome than players who play six hours a week? Would not the Badges of Awesome awarded have to reflect the degree of difficulty of any given Boss, Quest, or PVP match? Would not the player base be able to discern the most economical means by which Badges of Awesome could be amassed and simply farm the hell out of those particular means?

Most importantly: Would WoW be as enjoyable if the particulars were removed and rather the game became little more than farming Badges of Awesome?


kylebrown said...

The game currently is designed to reward someone who plays more. Playing six hours a week, a player would be lucky to attain more than 1 epic a month. Even a pvp grind requires at least 5 hours to attain a single piece of gear. By the same standard, a person could tag along on a Kara run, and attain 22 badges (roughly half of a comparable piece of gear to buyable pvp gear) plus pick up as much as an 5 or 6 pieces of gear in a single 4 hour excursion.

To attain the best pvp gear (arena) a player must have good gear already and be in the top 5% of teams, or wait 6 - 10 weeks to get a single piece of gear. I think the two are very closely balanced. People just don't want to believe it.

_J_ said...

But they're not balanced in terms of what the gear allows a person to do. PVE gear is not as good for PVP just as PVP gear is not as good for PVE, generally speaking. To get gear of a specific type one has to follow that specific path.

And I don't know whether that is the issue for people or if the issue is something else.

Particular items dropping from particular mobs is not unique to just gear. Motes of Fire do not drop from Water Elementals, for example.

I've made the shift from "These people are just wrong" to "These people may have legitimate concerns", because it is sort of shitty that the only way to get a Tier 6 helm is to defeat Archimonde and many, MANY players will never do that.

But is it really a problem that some players will never get a Tier 6 helm or are they just bellyaching because they aren't willing to do what is required to get the item? I don't know.

I think some people just whine and bitch because they want the game to hand them full Tier 6 sets without any effort. But there may be some legitimate concerns as well. I just don't know if those concerns are sensible or not.

kylebrown said...

In the case of specific items they are whine asses. If you want something do the required work. But I think the paths to get gear are balanced well. You get gear which is good for the purpose of the method in which you attained it. To me that makes sense. To pvp for a month to get a belt that will only be useful in a late 25 man raid dungeon seems contradictory.