Social Study: The Wrath Effect Part 1

betweentbc-and-wotlk

This is a guest post by Mimetir, an oversized owl of a raid leader on The Venture Co (EU). You can find her twitter feed.

Here’s a dangerous statement: Wrath of the Lich King (Wrath) made World of Warcraft/Crack/Crass(WoW) too easy.

It’s one you’ve heard before, of course. But have you thought about the impact that had on players?

WoW’s player base is numerous enough to man a small empire complete with its own inter-tribal competitions, family feuds and military factions. So to bandy such a statement about – even to whisper it – is enough to have it echo around the becrooked spires and bounce between yon bloodied hillsides and have warcries ululated in its wake. Yet many people have said something akin to that statement since Wrath hit our beloved World. Surely there must be some truth to it? Surely, too, players must have been affected by such a shift in play – but how?

One of Blizzard’s biggest goals with Wrath was to make raid content more accessible to players who wanted to raid in The Burning Crusade (TBC) but didn’t have the time to invest or guild to support them. Wrath meant the TBC days of needing to be in a large, battle-honed raiding guild whose Z raiding team were armed to the dyed and pointed teeth, were gone. WotLK was one giant step towards not only ensuring that everyone saw at least some of the insides of raids but felt the sense of achievement as they progressed through them at whatever pace. This was likely a result of a continuous background hum, developing into an angry buzz, from would-be raiders during TBC’s raid progression lifespan. The longer TBC went on the more spectacular the content was; The Battle for Mount Hyjal and Sunwell Plateau were things of beauty, but would-be raiders had increasingly slim chances of seeing such places.

The level of the bar was certainly changed in Wrath. I think there is enough evidence to say that some players felt the unstated rules of WoW had been re-written overnight using pictures sketched with crayons. Other players felt that the rules were crystal clear for the first time. They were now understandable and applicable to them, not just to the few players on their realm who had reputations of being armed to the dyed and pointed teeth. The idea that Wrath’s content was generally accessible to all quickly took root in the WoW community’s shared consciousness.

This idea didn’t automatically mean that all players knew how to approach the now accessible content or what sort of challenge they faced at the beginning of Wrath. I saw a lot of players encounter the new raids; all armed with a new spec, new stats and uncertain expectations. Many players were perhaps unused to being in this position. Perhaps they didn’t understand their spec yet, perhaps the new stats hadn’t sunk in. Perhaps they weren’t used to thinking about raiding and the very idea of conquering them was a seductive yet terrifying high. What I believe Wrath did mean was a sudden internal crisis of confidence throughout the WoW community: the content bar may have been lowered but the pride and competition bars were raised.

Less experienced players could suddenly take part in the same fights as the legendary players of their realm. They may even have felt pressured to do so because players was scoffing at how easy the content was. They might wonder what was wrong with them as a player if they couldn’t do it or couldn’t get to grips with the changes to game mechanics: changed mechanics yes, but apparently such easy mechanics that Dalaran was dead quiet two weeks into Wrath because half the realm had run out of things to do and had retreated behind an army of previously abandoned alts.

Take Heroics as an example: they are considerably easier in Wrath than they were in TBC. The fact that you had to grind reputation in order to get into Heroics in TBC meant they could be a reward in themselves. Many of them had some challenge to them – I for one never finished Durnholde Heroic. Not only was there was a sense of achievement on completing some of them but it was acceptable for a group to be torn apart by wild dogs, because there usually were groups of wild dogs so battle hardened that groups needed to fight them individually and hope for the best. Wrath’s batch of Heroics are quite the opposite: easy and quick, many experienced players find no thrill or challenge in them. A melee player who doesn’t know to get out of poison nova in Heroic GunDrak will probably die and be given short shift for it. Likewise I’ve often seen tanks who kite Xevozz incorrectly in Violet Hold be met with "omg dont u no to kite nub".

Firstly I’d like to know where this monster called "nub" which they want kited resides, and secondly I’d really wish players would remember that not everyone has done all the content and learnt all the tactics already. A quick check to make sure everyone knows a dungeon or is comfortable to ask and answer questions in a friendly manner will go a long way to building trust in a group. It may only take 20 minutes to run the Heroic but a helped player will know what to do for next time, and will feel secure in their ability to give it a go.

My guess is that the experienced raiders have and had their own pressures when Wrath appeared. They had honed their skills and proudly won their rewards – taken down so many difficult challenges during TBC – and now the content is, to their standards, laughable. This may have had a variety of effects on them, including making both them and their past achievements feel depleted. Even achieving completion of the new content and getting the grips with the new mechanics seems trivial. Their reason for raiding was diminished – content was already bested, loot was sometimes not worth farming. The level of teamwork required in TBC raids? Not needed in large chunks of Wrath. Just bring brute force. Naxxramas now floats lonely as a cloud over yon hills, full of drops no experienced raider needs and many didn’t need at the start of Wrath, as a reminder of how abandoned some raiders feel. Players drop out before we get to Archavon every time I run VoA. The unspoken question in these players’ heads is likely "is there any point in this content still existing when no-one needs the loot?"

…and that’s it for this week. Next week we’ll continue in this vein by looking at the extent of Wrath’s effects as a deep rooted problem affecting players’ attitudes and interactions. What do you think so far? How easy is WoW these days, and how do you feel about it? How did you feel about it when Wrath first arrived? Do you think WoW needs to be easier, more difficult or just be given a chance to stabilise? Did *you* finish Durnholde Heroic in TBC?

About Matticus

Matticus is the founder of World of Matticus and Plus Heal. Read more of his columns at WoW Insider. League of Legends player. Caffeine enthusiast.

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