This post took me a fair bit of time to write, and with Patch 4.0.6 dropping today and the subsequent nerfing of some heroic bosses, it may lose a bit of its prevalence. Then again, it very well may not. So it goes. I’m posting this, regardless.
Also, it’s a bit longer than my usual posts. You have been warned. 🙂
While there is a negative stigma associated with it, I will say it up front. I am a casual WoW player and I am a member of a casual guild.
What does that even mean? I’m sure you’ll get a different explanation depending on who you ask.
Myself…I would generalize it as “commitment to the game”. Part of that commitment could involve time and part of it could involve objectives. The larger commitments you make (time or objectives), the more dedicated (or “hard core”) you are to playing the game. So, casually speaking, while one person may commit a certain amount of time to the game, they may not have committed to larger objectives (ie: raiding). Similarly, one person may like to commit themselves to a large objective, but they are otherwise limited by time to play the game. Also, by extension of its members, this can be observed on the guild level. Even if the casual guild does go raiding, it’s typically never made into the priority. Nor does the “guild” – via guild officers, more active players, etc. – make demands of its members. They may ask, but ultimatums are not really associated with playing a game on a casual level.
That’s what “casual” means to me when it comes to WoW.
Now, I’m not really trying to stir-the-pot with the “Casual vs. Hardcore” debate – I’m just clarifying my perspective. Heck, while I’m at it, I should state that I’m not really trying to chime in on the “WoW is too hard” sob fest, either; although they’re both related to my thoughts on Cataclysm. I won’t go as far as saying that WoW is too difficult – because frankly, I don’t know, nor do I feel that way.
But I will say that by making things as difficult as they have, Blizzard has made WoW less accessible. As such, the casual player will ultimately be exposed to less content than they were in WotLK.
And for the sake of being melodramatic, I’ll just go out and say it:
The casual player was spoiled in Wrath of the Lich King.
While the more committed/hardcore players were lamenting in the “free epix” and “roflstomp raids”, casual players like myself were basking in the warm glowing warming glow and accessibility of Wrath. Even if they were going horribly wrong, Heroic dungeons took about anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes (Violet Hold) to an hour and a half (Nexus). Our guild had finished Naxx-10 about three months after release. The gear requirements weren’t too demanding and DPS didn’t need to be through the roof. Heck, by the end of Wrath, I had four characters that had completed the first wing of ICC (10 & 25), and mostly in PuGs. Two of those toons made it as far as Arthas with the guild. I experienced almost all the raids fights in WotLK prior to the release of Cataclysm. It felt like I had access to it all.
Indeed – casual players, like me, had it pretty good in Wrath.
Now, here I am three months into Cataclysm. I have three level 85’s, two of them technically ready for heroics, but I have yet to experience them*. And although I do look forward to Cata dungeons being more of a challenge than the AoE-fest that WotLK dungeons evolved into, I’m still apprehensive about them. Not so much learning the encounters and wiping on them, but mostly the fact that I could spend several hours in a dungeon and make minimal progress. A good run in a heroic may take slightly over an hour, but a bad run could take up an entire evening. This becomes tricky to organize when your guild is spread out over five time zones (six, including our friend in New Zealand). It becomes even MORE tricky to organize when you don’t know if you actually have five people online that can run heroics. Sure, I could PuG it, but if I’m going to get my ass handed to me, I’d rather do it with friends.
So, the increased difficulty has drawn out the time it takes to do heroics, which is only the tip of the iceberg. There are still dailies that could be done to assist in the rep grind. As well as grinding the mats to work on professions or for potential upgrades. And who knows what other things I could be doing to advance my character and gear. But, regardless of how long that list may be, time constraints limit me to only one option on any given night. Thus, the advancement is sloooooooooow.
When you take all these factors together and mix it with a casual player, the result is my second melodramatic statement of the post:
Cataclysm is less of a game than WotLK.
And no, I don’t mean that in terms of content. “Then how do you mean it?” you may ask.
Well, basically, someone who can only dedicate so much time and effort to WoW is not going to see as much content in Cataclysm as they did in WotLK. Of course, I can only speak for myself and it’s still early in the expansion, but I’m not really sure I’ll ever see the inside of a Cata raid. Maybe, eventually, I will do some raiding – but certainly not to the same extent that I did in Wrath. I can say with extreme confidence that I’ll never experience the Deathwing fight during this expansion. So, at the end of the day, many casual players are getting a lot less “bang for their buck” with Cataclysm.
Another blogger used this term, and for whatever reason, it bothered me. I won’t say who it was because I’m not really trying to call anyone out or get into a nasty debate. But this kind of label keeps bringing up an analogy in my head. It involves steak, partly because I’m craving steak all the time…bacon wrapped filet mignon… and… *drool*
Let’s say you and a friend have been eating at the same restaurant together for the last two years. The two of you both order the same $30 steak. Every time, you both get a steak and a baked potato with your order. This week, you’ve got a new waiter. You still both order the same $30 steak. His (or her) steak comes out with the baked potato, but you don’t get a side-order. How would that make you feel? I’m guessing you’d be pretty pissed.
Now, I do realize that my analogy is a bit of a stretch, comparing restaurants with MMO’s. But the base principle still applies. For the last two years, I was paying for essentially the same game experience as a “hardcore” player. But now I’m paying the same price for less of an experience than those more committed to the game. Does the fact I want to still have that fuller WoW experience make me “entitled”?
Please don’t get me wrong…I’m not supporting the idea of micro-transactions or purchased content for WoW (outside of the existing vanity objects). To be honest, I really don’t like the idea…but I can see why some people might prefer that business model. I’m just saying that it’s not unreasonable for a casual player to ask for the same experience because they spend the same amount of money as the next person. And that also doesn’t make them entitled.
(Side note: if someone at Bliz reads this and wants to give me back $2 or $3 for every month I didn’t raid, I wouldn’t say no. 🙂 )
In-game, most of the things we get out of WoW are the repercussions of the choices we make. We choose who we spend time with, we choose what we do with that time, and we choose how we do it. So, one could argue that I, at least indirectly, choose to not raid. I could be in a bigger, more raid-driven guild that can work around my schedule. I could choose a guild that is very picky about whom they raid with. I could choose to PuG what content I can. I could choose to push myself to play the game as a grind.
But this is the core of my point. (Yes, I have one… sort of…)
While I could choose to put myself into a situation where I do get to see all the Cataclysm content, I did NOT have to make those choices in Wraith.
I could choose to play with my friends and still experience content, regardless of what we do or don’t do. I could choose a guild that values friendship over recount numbers (or even not targeting the Bone Spikes) and still raid. I could choose to take a night off and relax without worry of being cut from a team or missing something. I could choose to play the game instead of work at the game. I already have a full-time job where I work my ass off. I don’t need to come home and do more “work”.
I didn’t have to make any of those choices in Wrath, but now I do if I want to see everything. Or I could choose not to. And while that choice is obvious for me (hint: friends > content), it’s still a bit disappointing. I have to adapt and choose more deliberately as to how I have my fun.
Mind you, I am also fully aware I left out a very big choice:
I could also choose to quit and play another game.
But I’ll go back to my steak analogy. If the steak is good enough, the potato doesn’t matter so much.
And Cataclysm is still a damn good steak.
(Hrrm, now I’m hungry.)
* – We actually stepped into our first heroic this past weekend. SFK. First two bosses down with some hiccups, third boss, he pummelled us good.