Friday, March 28, 2008

Tiger Woods raids the Black Temple

One of my readers, Ben, left such an excellent comment on a recent thread discussing the different motivations of casual and hardcore raiders, that I decided to copy and paste it into this new thread:
This whole argument becomes a lot more absurd if you use a different context as an analogy. Let's go with golf. Golf is a sport with a very low barrier for entry. People of all ages and skill levels play and enjoy it, but there are those who play at a high enough level to compete professionally. Let's say you and your friends have a regular game you play every weekend. You don't have the skill to enter any PGA tournaments, but you're respectable amateurs. One week your friend announces that on an upcoming vacation you'll be given the opportunity to play at Augusta, a world famous course that's beautiful and requires strategies beyond anything you've seen in your golfing career thus far.

You've seen the pros play this course, so you're vaguely familiar with how it works, and you've talked to a few friends who've been there before. Still, nothing quite prepares you for the actual experience. You struggle through it and eventually sink your putt on the 18th green. Your score isn't pretty, but you've finished successfully, and you feel like you've grown in skill slightly for the experience. If you did this every week you might not be half bad at this course.

As you're walking toward the clubhouse, Tiger Woods comes running toward you, wearing his green jacket, medals around his neck, brandishing his most expensive club. He's yelling that you're a bunch of noobs and it's not fair that you got to play this course. He points out that since you got to start from a closer tee than the professionals you didn't actually accomplish anything of value. He goes on to say that he played through Augusta years ago and he's done it many, many times since, so he's clearly better than you. Finally, he insists that none of you is allowed to buy anything from the gift shop before storming off the way he came.

The idea of this happening is ridiculous, and yet it's exactly what's happening in WoW. The high level raiders are the WoW Pro Tour. The rest of us are just amateurs. What's really sad though is that the analogy can continue to another level - we play for fun while the complainers seem to treat it like a job.
This is exactly why I think that raiding should be made more accessible, not more elite. Enjoyment of raid content isn't limited to people who can spend 40+ hours per week raiding. Raiding isn't just about the epics, it is a different mode of gameplay. Sometimes it is just plain fun to hang out with a larger group of friends and try to figure out a new boss encounter.

The ideal MMORPG offers a large range of different modes of gameplay: PvE, PvP, solo, small group, large group, combat and non-combat. And it gives out rewards in a balanced way based on time, effort, and skill, with each activity being worth pursueing and offering its own rewards. Unfortunately World of Warcraft is moving further and further away from that model, and towards a far less attractive model of compartmentalization: Instead of having players able to do a bit of everything, they are encouraged to excel at one single activity, and then rewarded in a way that makes all other activities not worth doing any more. That not only diminishes the scope of the game, it also leads to situations like the one in the analogy, where the top dogs in one activity feel they are superior to the players pursueing different goals, and try to shoo them off their turf.

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