Thursday, March 13, 2008

Syncaine on difficulty

Interesting article on the difficulty of World of Warcraft from Syncaine of Hardcore Casual. His problem is similar to one I mentioned not long ago: World of Warcraft in most situations offers only a single difficulty level. But while I was talking more about the difficulty level of group content being too hard for some people, Syncaine explains how the solo content can be too easy for other people.

Soloing quests in World of Warcraft is trivially easy. By definition everyone is able to do it, regardless of skill, experience, dedication and amount of available time. So if you design quests to be doable by the worst possible players, they are far too easy for the good players. And in extreme cases, like Syncaine's, your level prevents you from receiving quests that you would already be able to do, being a few levels lower but well equipped and a good player. Of course there is a certain amount of bragging in that statement, but also a kernel of truth.

I usually do quests of around my level when leveling, but I do so without excerting any effort. Yes, it's "easy mode", but for relaxation I don't mind usually. I could do higher level content, but that would actually slow down my leveling, as a mob that takes you twice as long to beat only gives like 10% more xp. Sometimes I do a few crazy hard things like soloing elites to challenge myself, but it isn't something I'll do all day long, especially if it isn't even rewarded. And while the chance to die against a higher level mob is obviously higher, the "challenge" is strictly numerical, the harder mob only has more health and hits harder, it doesn't act any more clever than the lower level mob. If you really want to apply your superior skill in WoW soloing and actually get rewarded for it, you'll need to do things like AoE farming (where my skill frankly sucks, because it is based more on speed than on tactics). The best I can do is playing cleverly in a way that I kill more mobs per hour, using less downtime, and that still isn't very exciting.

With World of Warcraft having so many servers, I sometimes wonder if it shouldn't have servers with different levels of difficulty. Would you want to play on a hard mode server, where doing a quest of your own level solo was pretty hard and involved a couple of wipes before you fully understood the encounter? That *is* the current gameplay model for raiding, so why doesn't it exist for soloing, at least for those players who'd like it?

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