I'd like you to meet my good friend World of Warcraft. We've been friends for about two years now, off and on.
I could talk about all the positive qualities that my friend WoW has, that he's always available to hang out when I'm free, that he's got a bunch of other friends, invites me to parties, all those things.
More than anything though, I've always thought WoW was awesome because WoW
wants me to succeed
Now, I'll be straight with you—I've never invested any serious amount of time in any other MMO. But a very good friend of mine once told me that he stopped playing Final Fantasy XI when he realized that he considered it to be a “good play session” when he managed to avoid
-leveling. I suppose it's possible that he was just really bad at MMOs, but thinking back to the days when he was pulling 1900 DPS in Kara with level 68 blues, I'm gonna say that's probably not it. Final Fantasy XI is just really, really difficult—and that's the point. This isn't the case with WoW.
WoW really wants you to succeed, and I appreciate that. Obviously that's not for everybody: there was plenty of backlash against welfare epics. Personally, though, I appreciated the hell out of that. I enjoy a moderate amount of min-maxing my raiding DPS, but I really don't play WoW to be forced to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. (If I want that, I'll just go play the original
Ghouls 'n Ghosts
) I play WoW for a lot of reasons, but very high on that list is to feel like my character is awesome, and it thrills me to no end that I feel like WoW really wants me to feel that way too.
This is, of course, a double edged sword. People got up-in-arms about welfare epics because, by making them easier to get, they diminish the magnitude of the achievement. If they give out free 400 DPS weapons the moment you hit level 81 in the next expansion, having a 400 DPS weapon is no longer special at all, and the people who were grinding for however many years to get Super Frostmourne + 1 feel like their achievement is cheapened.
Sadly, this cheapening effect is very real. Achievements are starting to promote doing things for their own sake, but I didn't grind AV with my warrior to get the
so I could say, “Look! I've got the Season 2 Axe!” I got it so I could do what I did (Tank, DPS, PvP, whatever)
—so if I sunk 300 hours into getting an amazing weapon, and suddenly someone who invested 10 hours can do what I do almost as well, I'm a sad panda. The consolation I can take in the fact that I have the incredibly rare Epic from the impossible Raid Boss, (and the casual player has the “Welfare Epic” that's almost as good) kind of pales compared to the dismay I might feel that the actual DPS difference isn't very large.
And yet, before, there was always something better. At no point in my WoW career could I claim to have the best gear for anything. By the time I had Season 2 junk, Season 3 was out, and so forth. The only true claim to fame I have, I think, is that my 3v3 Arena team in TBC stayed in the four digits, despite having a prot warrior with less than 9K health.
If you're on the cutting edge of raiding, your accomplishments diminish over time, not only because more and more guilds start to beat (and finally farm) the boss you were the first to kill, but later on the bosses are usually nerfed, gear of equivalent level becomes available through easier channels, and so forth. But, there's almost always new areas to push into as this happens. The people who are on the cutting edge and invest the most time stay just as awesome, because they have the most up to date gear, and the people who aren't able to invest as much time get to have gear similar or identical to what the Hardcore Raiders and PvPers are upgrading
of. Because they have the level of gear they associate with the more awesome players on the server, the casual players feel like they're awesome. WoW really wants to encourage feeling that way, because they know that that's what makes people like me keep coming back. At least that's how it's supposed to work, right?
It's more than that, though. WoW has made it's entire empire, as best as I can tell, on being as nice as possible to players. There are usually a lot of places to go to level if you don't like the one you're at. Quests are written with summaries so that you don't have to read the flavor text if you just want to check a quick detail, they remind you where quest turn-ins are, guards give directions in big cities, respeccing is easy with the (now) relatively low price of talent changes... The list goes on and on.
And yet, the biggest complaint that's being thrown around about WotLK is the lack of suitably difficult raid progression. When the less extreme players are able to farm most of the raid encounters, it's hard to come up with too many other channels by which hardcore players can progress significantly faster than casual ones.
Some games make themselves distinct by being difficult, and because of that, Final Fantasy XI, for example, enjoys a significantly smaller fanbase, but one that is substantially more committed to the game than most people who play WoW. Because WoW is so easy, people who aren't particularly serious about MMOs can still play it and enjoy it. Do you play WoW because of that, or in spite of it?
Author and renowned Marketing Blogger
has suggested that there are two ways to keep a large audience: Get your customers to love your product, or make your product as inoffensive as possible. So do you play WoW because you love WoW? Or do you play WoW because you love MMOs, and WoW is the best one out there?
(Elekktion Day, by the way, was the name of my terrible Arena Team. Sadly, I was the Prot Warrior. Hey, I just hit 70, okay?)
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