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Making the World of Warcraft more trivial, one post at a time…

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If you weren't a designer, but a hardcore WoW raider, do you think you would think the game was too "casual" these days?

Quite possibly. I have this theory that, when you're a really elite hardcore gamer, what you really want – what drives you – is that sense of competition; really having that gap between you and the less skilled, and more casual. That's what drives you, and that's not different no matter what game you're playing: WoW, Counterstrike, Warcraft III, games like that. You strive to make the gap as big as possible.

So I certainly think that there is that sense that "Hey, I remember back when I had to walk uphill to school in snow both ways, and other players don't have to do it as hard as I did!" There's naturally going to be some resentment, but in the bigger picture, it doesn't diminish their accomplishment at all. They're still better and more skilled – but the gap has changed.

via www.warcry.com

That's from an interview with Rob Pardo of Blizzard, that I've had open in a browser tab for days, but have only just got around to reading. I think it's a really telling quote in light of our recent discussion about the state of WoW.

The short of it is this: Blizzard is interested in providing you with challenges as hard as they have every been, but not in pandering to a sense of extreme superiority over others.

Now you can argue about how well Blizz are doing at providing that challenge – and it seems to be clear that there's a certain segment of the market they're not pleasing at all – but it seems very clear that vast differentials in gear and access between the most committed and the average players are a thing of the past.

Ooh, this looks interesting:

As part of our ongoing rollout of the NEW TypePad we are pleased to announce new social blogging features and the launch of TypePad Micro: a completely free level of TypePad focused on easy sharing of text, photos, and videos.

A new form of blogging is emerging — somewhere between the status updates of Facebook and Twitter and the full-length posts of classic blogs — focused on being easy, fun, and connected. Think of this middle category as a bridge between blogs and social networks, tapping into the connectedness of networks with the freedom, control, and independence of blogs.

Chroma

via everything.typepad.com

The blog platform I (and no other WoW blogger that I know of… :-) ) use, Typepad, has just launched its first free offering. Rather cool.

Sort of Tumblr/Posterous-like in its conception, rather than a head-on competitor to Blogger or WordPress.com.

Sorry, no WoW content here, just some gratuitous testing of the new Reblog feature…

My guildmate Dale has also plunged into the debate, with a lengthy and, I think, quite insightful post from the perspective of someone who is pretty hard-core in his game time by anyone's standards:

And… I am not bored with WoW yet. Ok, I go through phases lasting 2-3 days where I might just "not feel like playing", but not because I am bored, rather because I want to do a different kind of activity. (ie. non-computer)

So why am I not bored, while less "hard core" players like Lissanna are?

I think it's because for Lissanna, and many of the people who commented on her Blog, Raiding is the main reason they play WoW, and they have run out of fresh raid content.

I play far more broadly than that.

I think the nub of this issue is that WoW has become a lot less forgiving, over time, of those who choose to only concentrate on one aspect of the game. I went through a bad period of WoW ennui, similar to that being felt by the raiders now, because I'd run out of Northrend questing to do. That's my absolute favourite thing to do in the game: PvE questing, both solo and in groups. I enjoyed the Northrend questing experience. It was simply fantastic. And it was done. I had no more of it to do. No more questing, in fact, until the next expansion. I nearly quit then, because I realised I had precisely two choices: find something else to do, or quit the game until the next expansion. And that "something else" proved to be, well, everything. I craft, I raid, I do heroics, I do dailies, I grind reps, I pvp and I do Achievements. I mix them all up, so I don't get too bored of any one thing. If I get bored of all that, I still have alt levelling to do.

And perhaps that's the point I was really trying to make on Saturday. WoW is a game that, in the Wrath age, rewards a broad-brush approach to play. And which can be very unforgiving if you only have one or two aspects of the game that really appeal to you. Questers are faced with the knowledge that they have no major new content until the next expansion. Raiders can easily get bored or frustrated if a tier of raiding doesn't meet their expectations. Even PvPers get bored of fighting the same battles again and again. The trick for Blizzard, with the next expansion, will be to try and square this circle; to reward the generalist without boring the specialist to tears. Or maybe that can't be done, and both Blizz and each of element of the player base will have to make their choice. 

1 Something of an aside, but this is one reason I stopped listening to Twisted Nether for a while. There was a whole succession of guests who were only interested in the raiding game, and I just got a little bored. Once there were enough other episodes, covering other playstyles, I listened out of order and caught up. 

Tomorrow, I will return to the subject of yesterdays' post, as it's clear people have grabbed the wrong end of the stick and run with it.

But today, I shall leave you with assorted randomness:

Lavacrab 

This was a deeply, deeply gratuitous achievement. I noticed that I was only missing a lava crab, so off I went to find one. They're small little pests. /target lava crab is your friend here. That, or being a gnome…

And I just did my first boss kill movie in an age for my guild blog:

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p align=”center” class=”asset asset-video” style=”text-align: left;display: block; margin-top: 0px; margin-right: auto; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: auto; “>Hope you're all having a fab weekend.

The average player is probably about where I am – heading into Ulduar weekly, doing some Heroics for sweet T8 loot, and starting to tidy up most of the solo content in the expansion. It's increasingly looking like I'll be "done" with Wrath by the time Cataclysm hits, with maybe enough time to get a second toon to 80. 

And that's why I don't subscribe to the "WoW is in decline" feeling you see expressed in the Blogosphere whenever another big name blogger quits. Almost by definition, if you're a big name WoW blogger, you're not an average player. And Blizzard is, more than ever, tailoring the game to people who are average. That means that the above average players are going to burn through that content quickly – but then, that's what the hard modes and weird-ass achievements are there for. For a small group, for the one who are dropping late-instance bosses a few weeks after new raid content is added, that may not be enough. But I have a feeling that they're a small, small part of the player base.

I'm actually enjoying the game more than I have ever done right now. Dailies in the morning, heroics with my guildies in the evening, raiding once a week most weeks, and some work on Loremaster when I have time left over. It's great fun, it's the right balance of time (my other half isn't grumpy about my playing any more), and I genuinely feel like I'm making progress each week, be that bosses down, new gear, reps done or cute little pets acquired.

I have a feeling that Blizz have WoW in a really sweet spot right now, one that will keep a very large number of players happy for a very long time to come. If they can up the pace of the expansions a little – getting Cataclysm out by the spring of next year and the next one by the summer of 2011, I think WoW will cruise into it's tenth anniversary with big numbers still playing.

Right now, I certainly hope so.

That said, we decided to have our first ever peek at Ulduar once we were done with malygos.  We went on to drop the first two bosses, one-shotting the Flame Leviathan and two-shotting Ignis:

Shutit
Hotpocket
And then we wondered across to VoA for a quick look. We've only dropped the first boss in there before.

And now, we've cleared it.

That was a frighteningly successful night's raiding. 

So, Blizzard surprised us all yesterday by opening up in-game pets for sale on the Blizzard store. One of them, the Pandaren Monk, is linked to charity, in that Blizz gives 50% of the proceeds of his sale to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. (I'll address my thoughts on paid pets being a good or bad thing in another post.)

Here's the little fella in action:

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I bought him partly out of curiosity, partly out of my duty as a half-assed blogger to investigate in a half-assed way, and partly because some of the money goes to charity. But mostly because Pandaren are just cool.

The process is very straight-forward. You login to the Blizzard store using your Battle.net account, and purchase the pet. I had a card on file from a previous purchase, so it took under a minute. You're then taken to an association page that presents you with the accounts within your Battle.net account. As I've only got the one WoW account, that was my only option. You click a button to associate the pet with the account, and you're done.

Mail How does this work in game? 

Well, and there won't be any surprises for those of you who have had other "special" pets in the past: it arrives by mail. Who from? One Chen Stormstout, the pandaren who could be found in Warcraft III. That's a nice touch.

From there the process is oh, so very familiar. A nice wee bit of character text:

Pandaletter
And yes, for those who are concerned about such things, it is a Bind on Account item:

Accountbound

To me he looks bigger and more detailed than the other pets in the game, closer in scale to a pet with a Pappa Hummell's buff on them than a normal pet. They seem to be trying to give some extra value to the paid pets. But one thing they won't be is rare. There were dozens of them in Dalaran last night, on our low pop server. 

We've definitely entered a new age of WoW. But is it a good thing or not?