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Posts with tag difficulty

Things that were harder before

Things that were harder before
I did a post this week about raiding in previous expansions and in vanilla WoW, and how people often say those raids were harder and my opinion that it is easily demonstrable that current raids are if anything more complicated than they have ever been. I frankly believe there is almost no room for comparison between the game at 60 and today in terms of raid complexity and difficulty. Part of this stems from the many different variations on what the word hard means in this context. Something can be harder because it is conceptually or executionally more complex (the difficulty can stem from how much is required to successfully complete its mechanics) or it can be hard because it is laborious and/or time consuming. Was raiding with 40 people in classic WoW more laborious? Absolutely it was. It wasn't mechanically harder, but it was more time consuming and took a great deal of effort to organize and plan. It's the difference between working out a complex multi-stage math problem and carrying five thousand pounds of rocks from point A to point B.

But there were some points worth addressing. It absolutely has never been easier to level, even without heirlooms, than it is right now. Vanilla leveling to 60 took more time and effort than leveling to 90 does today. Even without heirlooms, one can easily and without much stress reach level 20 in a few hours, level 40 in less than two days, and be level 60 within a day of that, and this isn't spending all day staring at the screen either. This is a fairly casual leveling pace. I leveled a blood elf warrior to 35 in two days of rather casual play, an hour on followed by a half hour reading websites or having a snack or even going for a long walk.

It's also far easier to do the following things:
  1. Get a dungeon group. You can queue for dungeons at level 15, and from that point on, all you ever have to do to run a dungeon is hit that queue. If you're playing in the tank or healing role you can effectively chain dungeons all day, and even leveling as DPS there are stretches where you don't even need to quest or do anything but dungeon.
  2. Run a battleground. While you could argue that doing well at BG running as you level up and at max level takes some time and effort, if you want to risk queueing in whatever gear you have, it's simplicity itself.
  3. Getting ready to raid at max level. The game now has catchup mechanisms in place for players who start later. If you just got your alt to 90 and are switching to it for raiding, deciding to give raiding a try for the first time, or what have you it's not the case that your raid group is compelled to run you through previous raids for attunements and keys, much less gearing you through older raids to get ready for the current content.
  4. Find something to do. You could even argue that there's too much to do, or that it feels too mandatory. But you can't argue you don't have options - if you don't want to run dungeons, raid, or PvP there are pet battles, daily quests and scenarios you can do.
So the question then becomes this: is it better or worse for the game that these things are easier? For that matter, are they easy enough?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria

Breakfast Topic: Which is the hardest class to play?

Rogue header
I have been informed by The Management that the answer to this question is a rogue. This is probably objectively true. Rogues are a finicky class to play. Gearing can be an inordinate pain, with new pieces of gear often requiring complete regemming and reforging for optimal DPS output. Rotations, priorities, and situational attacks are also quite complex, and I have a lot of admiration for accomplished rogues. I have a rogue myself, and if I'm away from her for even a few days, it takes me a little while to get back into the rogue play style groove. However, I cannot truthfully say that a rogue is the most difficult class for me. My main is a druid, and I have played feral spec since I started WoW (though I raid and run dungeons mainly as Restoration - I prefer healer queue times, who doesn't?) so roguish game mechanics are pretty familiar to me. No, to me, the hardest class to play would be a death knight.

I have never been able to make sense of death knight mechanics. I can recite them: abilities consume runes, which produce runic power, which is necessary for other abilities. In practice, though, when I play a death knight it always eventually boils down to button mashing, which is not fun at all. So, despite having rolled a death knight at least three or four times, each in an attempt to finally stick with the class, I've given up. Death knights and me, we just weren't meant to be.

I still don't understand why, though, because honestly the concept behind both death knight and rogue mechanics is really similar! It doesn't make any sense that I'd be perfectly at home with one class but not the other. What gives, brain? I feed you and give you sleep when you need it, the least you could do is be more consistent in your virtual-world data processing, okay?! Alas, I cannot change the natural order of things, and death knight mastery will likely remain my World of Warcraft white whale. What about you, fair readers? What is the hardest class for you to play?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

The Light and How to Swing It: What happened to encounters that were interesting to tank?

Every week, WoW Insider brings you The Light and How to Swing It for holy, protection and retribution paladins. Protection specialist Matt Walsh spends most of his time receiving concussions for the benefit of 24 other people, obsessing over his hair (a blood elf racial!), and maintaining the tankadin-focused blog Righteous Defense.

Cataclysm has been a fairly, er, cataclysmic expansion when it comes to the status quo of tanking. For starters, threat was decimated with the introduction of Vengeance and nigh removed from the game with the recent buffs to threat generation. Likewise, variability in the number of tanks a fight required seemingly died along with Halfus Wyrmbreaker. And, perhaps most troubling of all, the profession of tanking has generally been made less and less interesting as far as encounter design is concerned.

What makes a fight "interesting"?

If you think back to some of the fights in previous tiers, the most interesting ones were always the most demanding ones -- the ones that required you to juggle multiple balls over the course of the encounter. These balls could be one of many mechanics. To name just a few:
  • Picking up adds that are dynamically joining the fight
  • Shepherding adds to a specific location
  • Hitting cooldowns to counter a near-death attack
  • Moving out of hazards constantly
  • Taunt swapping boss on a debuff
  • Combating the threat output of buffed DPS
And countless other tropes that I've neglected to list.

Reading any of these, you can think of a number of mechanics that Blizzard has constantly repeated that encompass them. It's a fairly limited bag of tricks, and Blizzard has done a bang-up job mixing and matching a handful of them and compiling the resulting smorgasbord into some of the fights we have known and loved.

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Filed under: Paladin, (Paladin) The Light and How to Swing It

Breakfast Topic: Are heroics really heroic?

Uh-oh, it's semantics time again, combined with a trip to the way-back machine, even! I still have nightmares about heroics back in The Burning Crusade when they were first introduced. In order to even get into heroic dungeons, you needed a key, and to get that key, you needed a certain amount of faction reputation. When The Burning Crusade launched, you needed to be revered to get a key; this was later reduced to honored. Needless to say, it took a very long time before anyone could step into heroic modes -- and they were difficult, to say the very least.

Trash respawn timers were tight. If you were lucky, you could get to the first boss before the trash started to respawn on you, and if you wiped on the first boss, you got to enjoy the experience of clearing all that trash all over again. Bosses were incredibly difficult, as well -- healing was an absolute nightmare. These days, in comparison, heroics are ridiculously easy. No, I am not kidding you. They are a breeze compared to the early days of The Burning Crusade. You don't have to work to get into them other than obtaining the appropriate gear, and once you're inside, the bosses aren't that much of a struggle.

So that leads to the question we were pondering in work chat -- are heroics these days really heroic? Sure, the items you get from the dungeons are better than your normal dungeon gear, but the difficulty of the dungeons isn't really ramped up anywhere near the extreme that we saw in The Burning Crusade. To me, heroic mode still equates to that antiquated BC model, where heroic meant hard mode, and hard mode meant You will want to stab yourself in the eye with a fork three pulls into the place.

There is something to be said about the sheer relief and sense of accomplishment you got when you cleared one of those old dungeons; you really felt like you'd done something great and played to the best of your ability. In Mists, we're looking at an endgame that doesn't even have normal mode dungeons -- at level 90, you simply leap into heroics. My question is whether or not the term "heroic" even has meaning at this point. We've gone from hard mode and a rep grind, to a slightly less severe rep grind, to not needing a key at all, to heroics you can simply AoE through without having to think too terribly hard about any given thing.

Should heroics still be called heroics? Or are they simply regular dungeons that give better loot, now? What do you think?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Breakfast Topic: Would the Raid Finder difficulty approach work for 5-man instances?

With 4.3's introduction of the Raid Finder feature, more players than ever before have the chance to see and participate in the deaths of some of Azeroth's most destructive villains. The design concept is simple: Take a raid that's fairly difficult on normal mode and ridiculously hard on heroic, and simplify it to the point that 25 random people who've never met before can emerge victorious with a little effort. Casual players who don't have the time to raid on a weekly schedule get to see endgame content, and heroic raiders can still flex their egos with higher ilevel loot and the knowledge that they were able to take on some of the toughest encounters in modern gaming and win.

Assuming this works and everyone remains happy with the Raid Finder system, is there a future for the Raid Finder model in the Dungeon Finder system? We know now that Blizzard has entirely revamped the 5-man system in Mists of Pandaria, offering new PvE encounter zones, timed instance runs, and no normal versions of level 85 heroic dungeons.

But what if Blizzard decided to follow the Raid Finder system instead and redesigned 5-mans with three tiers of difficulty? The first tier, the Dungeon Finder mode, would be designed to be easy enough that five puggers with no voice chat could queue for it and win. Normal mode would require five dedicated players working in coordination with one another but would still ultimately be easily conquerable without significant effort. Heroic modes would require hours of wiping, retuning of strats, and a dedicated group of players.

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Filed under: Mists of Pandaria

"There are no simple solutions" -- Design diversity in WoW

In a recent post on the forums, Bashiok responded to the idea that 1.35% of all WoW players have completed normal Firelands and what that does or does not mean for the recent changes implemented to the raid instance. It's a very interesting and information-filled post that I think deserves a thorough examination, as it reveals elements of Blizzard's current design philosophy and how and why it chooses to alter raids from their initial difficulty levels.

I intend to go over the entire post carefully, but here are some highlights to ponder up front:
  • The 1.35% number is just plain wrong. Blizzard has its own numbers that it's not going to share, but the 1.35% is probably as accurate as could be expected without access to Blizzard's internal data gathering.
  • Blizzard's design intent is to make content for all of the playerbase. "It's both a blessing and a curse that the WoW player base is as large and diverse as it is."
  • Players raid for many different reasons, some challenge, others loot, and others just to see the content. Some players are happy if they just see a boss once, while others enjoy weekly clearing.
  • The idea of being willing to wipe a hundred or more times to clear a boss, a staple of the raider mentality for years, is not appealing to most players.
OK, so now that we've picked out a few highlights, let's go over the entire post and really consider the implications of designing for as many players as possible.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Lore, Hotfixes

Breakfast Topic: The best class choice for new players

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the Aol guest writer program that brings your words to WoW.com.

I'm living a dream that many guys out there have: My girlfriend is actively learning how to play World of Warcraft and is enjoying it. After a couple of false starts, she finally found a class that suited her.

First, she tried a warlock. Too many things to remember. Keeping DoTs up, keeping up with soul shards and collecting them, keeping tabs on her demon in battle. It was too much for her.

She tried a hunter. Taming her own pet was cool at first, but then she had to feed it and manage it in dungeons. Throw Feign Death, Deterrence and Disengage into the mix, and it was not her cup of tea. She's flying back 10 yards into other packs of mobs and feigning death every time the cooldown is up because she's afraid of the tank yelling at her for "doing the aggro thing." I was dismayed that a hunter didn't work out, because I always deemed it the default starter class for new players. At least it was for me.

Then came the paladin. Oh, blessed paladin, how she loves thee. At first, all she had to do was run up to the mob and hit it with Judgement of Light. The only "tricky" thing I had to teach her was when the Judgement of Light button was dark and wouldn't let her use it, it meant she needed to apply her Seal of Righteousness again. I even put the Seal right above the Judgement so she wouldn't forget. She was actually having pure joy with her new class. She didn't wonder if she was doing it right. She didn't worry about forgetting something. Just kill, kill, kill and love every second of it.

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Filed under: Paladin, Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

15 Minutes of Fame: Psychologist and games researcher John Hopson

From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

What keeps gamers hooked on their game of choice? Chances are, it's an element of the gameplay that was teased out with the help of games researcher John Hopson. The experimental psychologist and beta program head for Microsoft Game Studios examines what makes gamers do the things they do and then designs ways to keep them happily doing just that -- most recently, in titles such as Shadow Complex, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach.

All that, and he's a WoW player to the core. "I mostly play in the two semi-official Microsoft WoW guilds, and lately I've been a hardcore player in a casual's body," he notes. "My wife and I had our first child a few months ago, so we've both dropped raiding and have been levelling alts instead since that doesn't require a fixed schedule. So far, we're both up to 5 level 80s apiece. :)" We thought it was time to turn the tables on Hopson, a loyal reader and occasional commenter at WoW.com, and ask him for his perspectives on WoW from the inside out.

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Filed under: Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

Breakfast Topic: A random topic

a·chieve·ment - n.
1. The act of accomplishing or finishing.
2. Something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance.

The achievement system was introduced back just before the launch of Wrath of the Lich King. There wasn't really any purpose to the achievement system, although some achievements give pets, items, or titles -- the main purpose of an achievement seems to be just... something to do when you've got nothing else in mind.

Personally, I love the achievement system. I like being able to plug away at something tedious and somewhat mind numbing every now and again, regardless of the fact that those points really don't mean anything. What bothers me though, and has bothered me since the first cries of an achievement being too difficult to complete is the little voice in the back of my mind that wonders if people realize what an achievement is supposed to be.

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Icecrown raid difficulty to be set on a per-boss basis

Blizzard is once again changing the way in which we trigger heroic modes of encounters. First there was Sarth, where you left up mini-bosses. Then there was Ulduar, where you (sometimes) triggered a particular event by defeating or leaving up particular bosses or objects. Then in the Trial of the Crusader you had four different raids to do depending on your difficulty setting.

Now in Icecrown Citadel, Blizzard has appeared to reach a final solution of sorts -- potentially even going back and changing the way hard modes in Trial of the Crusader are triggered. Difficulty (hard mode on/hard mode off) of the upcoming Icecrown Citadel raid in patch 3.3 will be set on a per-boss basis.

The full statement after the break.

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Filed under: Patches, News items

Crusaders' Coliseum difficulty is a test for Blizzard

I've suspected this on the podcast, and I'm sure many people have figured this before, but Crygil makes it absolutely clear: the four difficulty levels set up on the Crusaders' Coliseum is just a test for Blizzard. This isn't at all the standard, it's just something different they're trying with this format of dungeon, and they'll be watching to see how players respond. As Crygil says, it definitely doesn't mean that they'll be going back and revamping the old dungeons to reflect the new layout (where 10 and 25-man raids each have their own Heroic modes), and the corollary is that it doesn't necessarily mean that Icecrown will be like this, either. They're giving this a shot, and if there are issues with it, they'll go back to the old way or consider something else.

Will it work? My guess is that it will. Besides the fact that players will always run the heck out of the game's latest raid (and Blizzard can definitely use that as justification that it's a popular way to do things), I think any move that gives players more options will be received well. Some guilds will try to run all four modes all the time, and will get sick of the instance way before any new content shows up, but I think most folks will just choose one or two difficulties to run every week (say, 25-man Heroic with their guild, and 10-man Heroic with a PuG), and get their gear from there. Whether we'll see this again in Icecrown, however, I'm not sure -- this seems like a setup for a lower-tier instance that everyone gets to run, not an expansion-ending, top-of-the-line raid. Blizzard may go back to the normal 10 and 25-man setup for Icecrown, and then bring this scheme back for instances in the next expansion, whatever that may be.
Patch 3.2 will bring about a new 5, 10, and 25 man instance to WoW, and usher in a new 40-man battleground called the Isle of Conquest. WoW.com will have you covered every step of the way, from extensive PTR coverage through the official live release. Check out WoW.com's Guide to Patch 3.2 for all the latest!

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Raiding

The opposite of Heroics

Reader Malos on Nagrand sent me an interesting idea that I thought was worth some discussion. For a long time now, I've been a big fan of the idea of turning the old instances into Heroic versions -- I think it would be really fun to play Deadmines as a level 80, or roll through Scarlet Monastery for badges. But obviously the problem there is that Blizzard already has enough to do -- they're focused on creating new content, not revamping old instances that people have already played.

So Malos has a solution: instead of tweaking the instances to us, how about tweaking us to the instances? He suggests a set of gear, much like the Heirloom gear, that matches your character to whatever instance you happen to step into -- if you enter Deadmines, it powers down your level 80 character to an appropriate power and level for the instance. That way, all Blizzard has to do is make one set of gear per class (that could even scale upwards, so they never have to make it again), and boom, every instance could be played at the standard difficulty by any character any time.

Will it happen? Probably not. But I really like the idea of tweaking the players, not the instances, and I think there's a lot of possibility there for Blizzard. They've had such a tough time trying to balance out content for all kinds of players (including all of the hard modes and extra gameplay in Ulduar), that it might be interesting to try and measure the difficulty by going the other way -- balancing players out for all kinds of content.

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, News items, Instances

Breakfast Topic: Which role is the hardest?

This is a pretty old post, and it's a question that's been asked before, but it's still an interesting one: what's the hardest role in a raid? Ghostcrawler says he doesn't find one of the three roles (tanking, healing, and DPS) to be "hands down harder" than the others, although he does call tanking and healing "probably more stressful."

As someone who's done all three in raids a fair bit, I feel pretty confident saying DPSing is hands-down easier than the other two roles. Of course, it varies fight-by-fight, but typically the most that's asked of DPS is "don't stand in the fire" and sometimes "switch DPS to X." It does take some research and work to get the optimal rotation down, and some classes (like Death Knights) have it harder than others (cough Ret Pallies), but the raid just doesn't rely on your split-second reflexes the way it does for tanks and healers. Heck, last night I caused a wipe by just saying the wrong thing while tanking.

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Classes

Top five toughest and easiest raid bosses

Jinzuku over on Hyjal has a fun idea: list your top five toughest and easiest raid bosses. C'thun, M'uru, Kil'jaeden and Sarth 3D are appearing on most of the lists -- the old Four Horsemen and even C'thun's trash are also getting called out by Bornakk. Personally, I haven't raided much of the hardest content, but on the hard side, I'd have to say that General Rajaxx gave my guild a rough time, Ragnaros didn't go down easy, and Twin Emps didn't play well with us (or a lot of other guilds, either).

Easiest? Chess (duh), I always found Baron Geddon to be pretty easy (though no less fun), Attumen the Huntsman, and Venoxis was a knockover, too. But as you can see from the thread, people are all over the place -- some of the hardest bosses in the game for some were simple for others. And while some guilds fly through content, others can bump their heads on bosses for quite a while. I wouldn't put him on the hard list, but I know a few guilds I've run with had quite a bit of trouble with Moroes while they were first starting out.

And it's no surprise that most of the hardest bosses in the game came near the end of expansion cycles -- AQ40, Naxx, and Sunwell. A few people in the thread predict that we'll eventually see the Lich King on these lists, and given that Blizzard goes tough when you get a couple content patches into an expansion, that wouldn't be a surprise at all.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Bosses, Forums

Ulduar will be 64 harder

Pushed by players to answer just how hard Ulduar really is, EU CM Wyrxian has an answer: 64. Apparently, the instance will be 64 harder than the current Wrath instances. In other news, the recent patch 3.1 changes will make playing the game about 75 more fun, and the ammunition change alone will put Hunters 23 higher than they've been in the past. More news as we get it.

Joking aside, obviously Wryxian says Ulduar will be harder, but it's not easy to put a number on difficulty. He says "it has to be experienced to understand." Blizzard has already said that they want to change things like mana regeneration to be less frantic and more strategic, so it'll be interesting to see just what kinds of mechanics appear in Ulduar -- odds are the difficulty probably won't be of the "Bosses that hit really, really hard" variety, but rather that we'll see more situations where the raid's attention is divided x number of ways. Maybe 64?

At any rate, the PTR should be up soon, if not tonight considering all of the reveals Blizzard has done this week, and then we'll have a better idea of what the next raid has in store for us.

Filed under: Patches, Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Raiding, Forums

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