I quit raiding with my WoW guild last week. It was a decision that took its time to come to fruition, but the bottom line is, I wasn’t enjoying it any more. There’s two factors that contributed to this state: Blizzard, and my current guild.
They’re good people, and we had a lot of fun, even though I have only been with them for about 8 months now, which for me, is a very short time. But come raid time, the gloves would come off. Increasingly over the last few months, atmosphere in the raid got more and more tense. Failure in any way was frowned upon. There was a strong expectation that the learning had to be done offline via reading and videos. Now, I think offline preparation is a good thing, but at least for me (and I am sure for some others), this only gets me so far. I need to actually do things to find out how to do things. No video in the world gets me to the point that a couple of wipes do.
Our guild was successful. Very successful, in my eyes. When I joined in the late-Lich-King-slump, the guild was one of the better ones on the server, but it had never been anywhere near a high rank. We peaked out this year in May at a ranking of around 850 worldwide, 400 EU. Things went well, maybe I ignored the early signs of me not feeling so happy. But then we hit our first brick walls, the end bosses on Heroic. We did get down Nefarian and Cho’gall in the end, but it felt like the magic had gone. There was a lot of finger-pointing and blaming. It went to the point where I had the impression that there were distinct scapegoats that the blame went to by default unless there was an obvious other choice. Truth to be told, some people did own up to mistakes they did to take blame off those people, but I still felt uneasy about it. Sinestra didn’t fall to us at all, after some close encounters and about 200 wipes.
Progression was an important driving force of this guild, but as of late, it seems to have become the conditio sine qua non. Fun has taken the back seat. It’s en vogue to play the blame game. Healers blame tanks for their (the tanks’) deaths. DPS blames tanks and healers because the guild enforces a Tank>Healer>DPS priority on contested gear. Officers blame everybody that appears to be performing suboptimally. It’s one thing to call out if something goes wrong time after time. But this is just over the top. I realized today I’m not the only one who feels like this. In the four days since I announced my resignation, two more people have decided to quit, for similar reasons to me.
Enough of my guild though, I’m not on a crusade against them. It was fun while it lasted. Why don’t I just apply to a different raiding guild? A tank with 9/13 kills and 11/13 experience (I wasn’t there on the night of the Nefarian kill) should be able to find a new home somewhere? And this is where Blizzard ties in.
Many people have complained about the way Blizzard has been setting up their raids since Lich King, and I have to agree. They removed raid tiering and went with “the current raid” which was designed for challenge, and “everything before that” which was nerfed down into oblivion. Their goals were actually very understandable. They want to tell a story, and their game setup is geared to raids as the final challenge. Therefore, raids form an integral part and pinnacle of many of their story lines. But in Vanilla and TBC, most people did not get to see raids, let alone the end bosses. How many guilds went and defeated C’thun, or the Four Horsemen? Or, in TBC, Illidan (even after the 3.0 pre-patch nerfs!) or Kil’Jaeden? It makes sense to funnel as many people as possible through this content they laboriously created. They also still want to cater to the more hardcore crowd. So they came up with the very simple tiering of “as soon as new content arrives, the old content gets nerfed so everybody and their grandmother can see it”. The problem with this approach is that everybody playing the current tier is now effectively racing against time. If you don’t kill the menacing boss on time, you’ll be too late and only find his drooling, retarded cousin when you log on after the next patch. Talk about achievement when, instead of a heroic defeat, you realize that Cha’gill, not-as-famous little nephew of the more well-known Cho’gall, died to a double neck fracture he suffered when storming towards you and slipping on the puddle of drool he had left on the ground.
While this succeeds in making content accessible to more people, it comes with two major drawbacks. The first one is that killing the “dumbed down” version of a boss can feel empty. Knowing that this boss used to be hard, but they made it easier so that you, too, could have a shot at him, makes a kill worth much less. It’s like those worthless runner-up medals they used to hand out at running events for children, so “everybody is a winner”. The second is that, because old content gets cheapened that way, it is left behind fast. When ICC came out, how many people still ran ToC? And ToC was a poor stopgap instance anyway. How about Ulduar? All that work that went into one of the better dungeons Blizzard designed became obsolete the moment ICC released. So in the pursuit to make content more accessible, Blizzard reduced the worthwhile content – an unintended (I sure hope) side effect, seeing how there is never enough original content in an MMO.
There’s also my pet peeve, PvP. I never liked PvP, even outside MMOs. Quite frankly, I suck at them, because I’m missing the speed for this twitch gameplay. I was always towards the bottom of the ranking on FPS shootouts with friends; the only time I somewhat enjoyed PvP was back in Vanilla when we ran 15-people guild Arathi Basins. And before they revamped Alterac Valley in Patch 1.7 – because it felt more like a PvE game back then. WoW has this obsession with a unified rule set for PvP and PvE. Very few abilities work differently against players than against non-players. This leads to an unhealthy obsession with “balance”. If one class dominate another class or classes in PvP, expect to see a change incoming that then also changes how PvE works. One of the easiest way to strive towards balance is to distribute abilities among classes. Interrupts? Everybody should have them. Self-dispells of different types? Same, why not? The obsession with balance has recently (since Lich King) also seeped over into PvE, where “bring the player, not the class” is similar to the “accessible raids” slogan: a good idea on paper, but it comes with annoying side effects. Class identity is more and more on its way towards the dodo. Just recently, in their regular “Ask the Devs” column, I found this gem:
A great recipe for class homogenization is to go down the list of every ability and make sure that every class has their own version of that ability.
Of course, technically this is true. Making sure everybody is the same is the definition of “homogeneous”. The text makes it sound like they consider this a good idea, though. And in my eyes, it most definitely is not. I actually enjoy having classes that are distinct from each other, and I’ve seen how our current classes move away from that more and more. If this actually is Blizzard’s design philosophy these days, I fear for the worst.
The New Shores
So, my decision for now is to not raid any more. I’m not sure I will continue to play much WoW for the time being, either. I might reroll on another server where I have some friends from a previous guild (of European players on a US realm – but that is another story I will tell another day) that folded due to attrition. My plan, however, is to diversify the games I play. At the time of writing, I play EQ2 and LOTRO. I also tried out DDO some time ago and might pick it up again to play together with a friend. Over time, I might come across other games I’ll try out, not necessarily MMOs. The purpose of this blog is twofold:
- Document my experiences and journeys in various games. This is reflected in the blog’s title: I expect this to be a rather random walk towards whatever waypoint I choose any given week. One of my role models for these kinds of posts is Wilhelm Arcturus from The Ancient Gaming Noob blog, and to a lesser extent Stargrace from MmoQuests.com.
- Occasionally, I will have the feeling that I have something worthwhile to say about more general gaming-related aspects. These posts will take the form of more discourse-oriented texts, like typical posts by Nils in his MMO blog, or to a lesser extent Tobold in his MMORPG blog.
In addition, I might occasionally divert from the topic of games altogether for some more general remarks. So, let’s see how this great experiment in writing will unfold. Most posts will probably be not nearly as long as this one. I’ll be happy if I can publish an article at least once to twice a week, no matter the length. New shores are awaiting, let’s set sail and see where the wind will take us.