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The useful distinction between casual and hardcore

The useful distinction between casual and hardcore
Earlier this week, WoW Insider's Matthew Rossi argued that there is no point in distinguishing between hardcore and casual players, and that doing so actually detracts from the game. I, however, don't agree and will be presenting a counterpoint in this article. So, if you haven't read Rossi's side yet, be sure to check it out first.

Now before I explain why I think the distinction between hardcore and casual is useful, I think it's necessary that we all be on the same page as far as what hardcore and casual actually are. I found Rossi's argument against the usage of these words particularly flawed because he was working around an assumed and rigid definition of what a hardcore player and a casual player are. Toward the end of his article he pointed out that the casual/hardcore metric doesn't work when you consider the various ways in which some players are engaging with the game. Not every player raids, he explained, but that doesn't mean they can't be hardcore.

Now, I agree with that for the most part, but I disagree with his understanding of hardcore and casual. You see, hardcore and casual are not and have never been part of any metric. It's actually impossible for them to have ever been since the definition of casual and hardcore is subjective. Ask any two people what kind of behavior distinguishes a casual player from a hardcore player and the answer will be different in some way ... And if the definition of something varies from person to person, it can't logically be used as a standard of measurement.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding

The useless distinction between casual and hardcore

The useless distinction between casual and hardcore
If the words 'casual' and 'hardcore' ever had a useful role in determining the differences between players in World of Warcraft, and I am not convinced they ever did, they no longer do. A player who wants to have an alt of every single class at max level and makes that happen is not playing the game casually even if she never raids. A player who collects several hundred pets and levels many of them through pet battles, or has a similarly high number of mounts, or determines to go out and get every cooking recipe in the game (including Dirge's Kickin' Chimeraok Chops which you can't even get anymore but somehow he finds a way) is playing the game very seriously indeed.

Quite frankly, despite the fact that I raid a set schedule, I often feel like I'm significantly more 'casual' than many players who never raid at all. I know I play a lot less - I definitely do not log on every day, I don't run LFR unless I missed a boss in normal (because I want a shot at my Secrets of the Empire off of that boss) and I don't do pet battles, farm, or even do daily quests anymore. So with my roughly fifteen hours of WoW a week, 12 of it spent inside a raid and the other three futzing about older raids for transmog gear, am I casual or hardcore? And does it matter?

Ordinarily I'd explore the answer in the paragraphs to come. But frankly, the answer is no. It doesn't matter. It is so far from mattering that the light from it mattering won't reach us for fifty thousand years. What matters is finding out what players want to do with their time and letting them do it.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria

Night elf priest iron-mans to level 90 with no greens, no talents, and no deaths

Night elf priest ironmans to level 90 with no greens, no talents, and no deaths
It's a world first for night elf priest Lyssan of Vek'linash (US), who has bypassed death, gearing, talents -- all the conveniences of modern-day Azeroth -- to hit level 90 in the player-created WoW Ironman Challenge. A report like this would normally include the winner's class specialization and gearing, but not for this player, yet the Ironman's brutal ruleset prohibits not only those basics but also death itself.

That's right: If you die during the WoW Ironman Challenge, you re-roll. Period.

Here's a look at the grim core rules of the challenge:
  • No items equipped other than white or gray items.
  • No heirlooms.
  • No talent points -- no specialization. You may train class abilities.
  • No professions, primary or secondary, other than First Aid.
  • No food or water above vendor-quality white items.
  • No groups -- no BGs, no instances, no raids, no quest groups. No guilds.
  • No enchants, scrolls, potions, elixirs, or glyphs.
  • No outside financial or equipment assistance (including gold or bags from other characters).
  • The Big One: If you die, ever, you delete that character and start over at level 1.
The next closest participant in the Mists leg of this event is currently level 87. Kripparrian, the player-run hard-mode competition's former title-holder in Cataclysm at level 85, does not appear to have leveled in Mists of Pandaria.

We'll have a full interview with the triumphant Lyssan next week, after she takes a well-earned holiday rest! (And if it were me, I think I'd go out and die a few times, just for sheer relief ...)

Filed under: News items

Blizzard clarifies the raid finder's role in gearing progression

Blizzard clarify LFR's role in gearing progression
Blizzard blue Taepsilum posted today on the EU forums regarding the role of the raid finder as a key part of the gearing ladder. It has been regularly mentioned how the raid finder in Cataclysm became a vital part of gear progression, offering items that were an upgrade from Firelands normal gear and -- with procs and set bonuses accounted for, as well as the half-tier increase in item level for drops from Spine and Madness -- upgrades from Firelands heroic gear.

I posted a while back about the purpose of the raid finder and how while it was intended as a means for folks who didn't have access to a raid team to see content, it became a rung on the gearing ladder. Well, it seems that Blizzard is taking steps to change that. Matt Rossi posted earlier with more information on the loot changes, and Taepsilum's post only serves to add weight to the notion that the raid finder will be adapted to serve its intended purpose.

This shift was mentioned yesterday on the Q&A with the Devs at Gamescom, but it bears repeating for all the raid finder naysayers out there. When Blizzard knows millions of players will see content, it makes it easier for them to justify allocating resources to it. It's really hard for Blizzard to justify putting the huge resources to design a raid into something a fraction of players will experience. WoW Insider had a message direct from Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas in which he restated this point:

The existence of LFR justifies the creation of more raid content for casual and hardcore players alike.

See Taepsilum's post after the break.

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Filed under: Raiding, Mists of Pandaria

The danger of assuming personal experiences to be universal

The danger of making personal experience universal
Whether or not you can believe it, there are players right now who have not finished regular Dragon Soul. Some of them raid less often, some of them started later, some of them lost players, and some of them just raid more slowly than you.

And yes, you may be a better raider or have a better raid group than they do, a more skilled collection of people. You also might have a better class comp or have gotten lucky on a few occasions when they didn't. Some groups lost key players at the worst possible time, had real-life issues to contend with, or simply started later than everyone else.

Why do I bring this up? This forum thread on the EU forums, where Draztal ( who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite CMs) is constantly forced to deal with a mindset that does not seem to understand that each raiding group's experience is personal to that group and cannot always be extended to the game or all its players as a whole. Now, not every poster in that thread has that issue; there are some good ones in there, and you should read it. But it's a mindset I see over and over again.

The game is large, and no two raid groups have the same experience playing it. Some raid groups loved tier 11; others were bored or hated the fights. Some raids had fun in Firelands; others found it repetitive or disliked the zone's tendency to be all one color. (I still say Bastion of Twilight had exactly the same problem, but that was alleviated by its being one of three raids at launch.) Some folks have enjoyed Dragon Soul; others dislike the mechanics or the use of Wyrmrest art assets.

Having these differences of opinion is a fine thing and can be good for the game and its community -- when you acknowledge that they exist, and when you realize that your own strongly held opinion about the raid finder, heroic modes in raiding, or the superiority of this fight or that fight is rooted in personal experience to some extent and that experience will never be shared with everyone. That goes for things you love and things you hate equally.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Cataclysm

The hardcore game is dead

The Hardcore is Dead
It is a concept long familiar to World of Warcraft players: the hardcore raider. The women and men who were on the cutting edge of raiding content, who had the absolutely best gear, who played the most and knew the most about the game. Back in classic WoW, I was absolutely this person. I raided. It was all I did, really. My tanking gear was so good that players would stop me in Ironforge to comment on it. We killed everything first up until a new guild came to our server, then we traded kills with them until the end of the original game and the launch of The Burning Crusade.

Cut to the hunt for BC kills. A lot of people I knew were burning out. Some of the encounters were seen as having been tuned too high, while others lamented the loss of 40-man raiding and the shift to 25s, especially with Karazhan as the 10-man raid having caused a lot of guild drama. "Raiding is too easy now. You can go with 10 people to some raids. It's lost the epic feeling of 40-man raiding. Look at how much faster raiding goes now than it did. We used to struggle to learn each boss; now the only real challenge is in end bosses like Kael and Vashj. Gimmicks like legendary weapons and orbs have replaced knowing your role and class."

What am I getting at?

Nostalgia is poisonous. The people who bemoan how easy raiding is now are the same people who defended BC raiding from the old curmudgeon MC/BWL raiders who felt like the BC raid game had dumbed down raiding. It's always better in the past, because the past has passed and become perfected by memory. At the time no one would have said it was the pinnacle of raiding -- far from it. People were still going back to Naxx-40 at level 70 and still having a hard time running it. People sang its praises as the ultimate raid right up until it was removed from the game.

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

Jay Wilson and other Diablo 3 developers answer (almost) everything

Three Diablo III developers stopped onto Reddit tonight for an AMAA -- "Ask Me Almost Anything" -- where they answered questions from all over the internet. Most of the questions were gameplay-related, given that these guys are developers and not dudes involved in the creative aspects of the game (story, etc). There are a lot of great answers in here: fixes coming for common complaints, overall design goals for the future, and more. Check out the full transcript after the break, but here are a few interesting points:

  • Non-trash white items like potions and pages will have different item colors in a later patch, and an option to filter out trash white items completely is also being considered.
  • An "auto-skip cutscenes" option is being considered.
  • Bosses will drop rares the first time you kill them on any difficulty, not just normal, in a future patch.
  • Legendary items are getting a big buff to be more attractive and unique.
  • Auctions can be canceled in patch 1.0.3.

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Filed under: News items, Diablo 3

Take the WoW Ironman Challenge

Forum user Jahjin, a troll priest from the Moonglade (EU) guild Twisted Tusks, has posted the rules of the World of Warcraft Ironman Challenge, a grueling, self-imposed challenge designed to take the leveling experience of WoW to a new level of difficulty. Blizzard has even thrown its support into the ring, wishing players embarking on the Ironman Challenge the best of luck.

Blizzard is no stranger to Ironman-type challenges. Both Diablo and Diablo II featured rough hard modes that would cripple those who were not the best. Frankly, the fact that there are players out there putting together these difficulty challenges probably makes a lot of folks over at Blizzard very happy.

Some of these Ironman Challenge rules are pretty brutal. Death is death -- if you die, delete. End of story. Better make it a PvE realm choice, if you want to curb a lot of nonsense-deaths. You aren't even allowed to use talent points, including the one to pick your specialization. No specialization is a rough road to take. If this is your kind of thing, brutal self-hatred, you're going to have a ton of fun.

Head over to the official WoW forums to check out all of the rules and FAQ. If you do decide to try the Ironman Challenge, share your progress in the thread.

Filed under: News items

World First: Paragon defeats heroic 25-man Ragnaros

After just a few weeks of Firelands raiding, DREAM Paragon has defeated Ragnaros on 25-man heroic mode, earning them the world first and the Firelord title. DREAM Paragon announced the news on their website, promising their kill shot and comments in the near future. Congratulations to Paragon for this world first.

The heroic version of the Ragnaros fight adds a whole new phase to the encounter in which Ragnaros regains his full Firelord strength, steps out of his swirling molten pool, and becomes mobile around the platform with his new firelegs. Cenarius, Hamuul Runetotem and Malfurion Stormrage assist the players in tackling Ragnaros' many abilities in this new phase, finally putting out the Firelord's lights for good.

Heroic modes for the Ragnaros fight and others in the Firelands were also not available on the public test realm, making it that much more difficult for these hardcore raiding guilds to get time in on these encounters.

I am excited to hear about Paragon's time with these bosses in the Firelands. At only seven bosses, the Firelands is one of the more accessible raid zones, with a time commitment that feels far smaller than the monolithic endeavors of the past, like ICC or Ulduar. Has Firelands presented enough of a challenge to the top of the top guilds? Whatever the case, congratulations again! I hope that my guild will be at heroic Rag's door in the near future.

Filed under: Raiding, Cataclysm

Officers' Quarters: Scorched by raider burnout


Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available now from No Starch Press.

It's been more than 10 months since Blizzard introduced major endgame content to World of Warcraft, and raider burnout is at an all-time high. In times like this, hardcore players often look to casual guilds as a refuge from the demands of more serious organizations. It's not always a bad thing, as I'll discuss, but sometimes taking in these hardcore refugees can lead to major problems. This week, an anonymous officer tells his tale:
Hi Scott,
I'm currently an officer in a guild that started as a social/leveling guild, but toward the beginning of this past summer, we had some level-capped players who decided to take on raiding content. We were having a lot of fun at first whether or not we successfully downed bosses because we were finding a way to stay socially active in our social guild.

During this period, one guildie and I became de facto raid leaders because we were always there on raid night and always the two who got the groups organized. This was when I also got promoted to an officer position. The problem I'm facing now is that we ended up recruiting a couple of new members who had burned out on hardcore progression raiding and wanted to take a more casual approach to raiding.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

Breakfast Topic: Oops, I've been acting like an elitist jerk

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

So there I was, fresh off a rant to a friend in Vent about what had just happened that night during what was appearing to be a common occurrence in our raids. I was frustrated (in my own defense, it was just one of those nights when nothing goes right, no matter how hard you try), and that's when it happened: The deep-down thoughts of ZOMG, how hard can this be, people?! spilled out into a diatribe on why I can't stand to run with the lot of them, since they "just don't get it and probably never will!" I named names. I pointed fingers. If there was a bridge to burn, I had brought along the dynamite for extra explosive-y goodness! I was good, they were bad, and I was there to prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It was at that point I realized I had become the bane of every WoW player: the Elitist Jerk (OK, not the Elitist Jerks -- those guys and their forums are awesome). As soon as I had finished my speech, the notion of "it's lonely at the top" had a whole new meaning. Once I had out-classed my friends, they stopped being chatty with me in Vent. It was one lonely night after another. I missed them.

Elitism can strike at any time. The important thing is realizing how to harness, control and manipulate what you know into a vessel that can be used to help those around you become better at their own game.

My story ends well. Once I was able to use my powers for good, my old friends didn't hold a grudge. Besides, what's really important in the game for you? Is it the camaraderie of your friends or the satisfaction of being the best?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

Defining Playstyles: Beyond casual vs. hardcore

In a recent Totem Talk post, I made a loot list for enhancement shamans that have access to ICC but are not progression raiders, because they are either alts or they are -- drum roll, please -- casual. That's right: I used the c-word without context. Casual. There, I said it again without context. Excuse me while I duck from the rotten vegetables being thrown in my direction.

The use of that c-word in relation to an Icecrown Citadel loot list sparked a very interesting comment thread. Most comments were well thought-out, added value and furthered the discussion. Some were, to borrow Adam Savage's favorite term, vitriolic, because of my heinous misuse of the term "casual." I said it again without context. I'm just casually throwing around "casuals" here.

Given the reaction that post received, I started doing some research into what exactly "casual" and "hardcore" actually mean. What I found was not surprising at all: They mean completely different things to absolutely everyone. The MMO population of players, across all games, is estimated at over 61 million people. There are as many variations on play time and playstyle as there are players in the game. Do you really think we can divide this many people simply into two groups of just casuals and hardcores?

I think it's time we move beyond the polarizing definitions of casual and hardcore and come up with some definitions of our own.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion

Officers' Quarters: Private channels


Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available this spring from No Starch Press.

We've all been there: Someone makes a dumb mistake in a raid -- let's call that person Murbu -- and another player says, "Everyone /join ihatemurbu." A few people do exactly that, a few jokes are exchanged, Murbu shows up in the channel to joke around, too, and then people unjoin or simply forget that channel exists. Private channels like that can be fun for some good-natured ribbing. Other private channels can help two allied guilds communicate or allow a group of friends to stay in touch when they splinter off to different guilds. However, private channels can also have a more sinister purpose. This week, one guild leader is concerned about a channel some of his members are using.

Hello Scott,

I'd like to think I'm relatively new to leading a guild, but as my guild has recently passed our one-year anniversary I'm beginning to question that logic. Despite this, I have an issue that completely stumps me and the only reason I can think of why is inexperience. My question is, when does venting your frustration about issues cross the line from harmless venting to serious problems?

Several months back shortly after the holiday break it came to my attention that a few of the more veteran members of the guild were using a private channel to discuss primarily their dissatisfaction with how I ran things. At the time I also led a majority of our raids, and one major point of contention for the group was the way that I lead the raids and their frustration at our overall progression. This might not have been a huge issue, but several of the people who talked about me in the channel were people I considered close friends, people I've known for years throughout many different guilds.

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Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

WoW Rookie: When Rookie Lane crosses Raider Boulevard

New around here? See all our collected tips, tricks and how-to's for new players in the WoW Rookie Guide.

Today's WoW Rookie blows the whistle in a bit of traffic directing at the buzzing intersection of Raider Boulevard and Rookie Lane. This isn't a casuals-versus-raiders debate -- far from it. What we have today is more of a guide on how to peacefully co-exist with players who enjoy the game in a very different way than you do. While we've written on this topic before, reader Peter sent in a request that made us consider that it might be time to revisit the issue.
Hi! I just wanted to say I love the "WoW Rookie" column, and I've been playing since release! For someone who's kinda nervous about jumping into the LFG tool, your Grouping 101 article made it less nerve-raking for me to do so.

I don't know if you could even publish this, but I would LOVE to see an article on how new players can deal with elitists and being insulted in game about their gear and skill level. With all the new influx of players Cataclysm is expected to bring, it would be very helpful (for people like me too) to see how others deal with the various negative people in the game.

Thanks again for a great website and service!

--Peter

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Filed under: WoW Rookie

15 Minutes of Fame: Retirement home

15 Minutes of Fame is WoW.com's look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes -- from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

Is there such a thing as retirement guilds for burned-out players? When Sharaya and Boltac of Vanguard of Norrath spotted that innocuous question on the Blackwater Raiders realm forums, they recognized a familiar face: their very own guild. A collection of former hardcore gamers from the EverQuest era, VoN has become home base for a more casual approach. "We've all done the hardcore raiding thing, which comes with wanting to see everything and do everything in a high-content mass online game," explains VoN officer Sharaya. "We all have had our stints with guilds sporting the usual raid schedules, leveling needs, gear requirements and members constantly preening about scores from tertiary web sites with convoluted ranking systems. In the beginning, we all did this as a choice. It let us see everything, and let's face it -- it was fun.

"But as in most games with such demands, many good players get burnout," he continues. "They don't tire of the game; they tire of the routine. They tire of 'having' to log in to make events or risk /gkick. They tire of the constant fighting over drops and arguing about who gets invited to what. The game ceases to be a game and becomes a chore. It truly is a 'daily.' What we realized is this is not a fault of the game; it's a fault of the guild you're in."

So they created Vanguard of Norrath to offer a refuge from the grind, a place to indulge what Sharaya calls "the ability and know-how to blitz most anything we wanted but ... on our schedule, at our pace and without any pressure." The big surprise? How many other players have been attracted to VoN for exactly the same reasons.

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Filed under: WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Features, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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