Blizzard Wieghs in on WoW’s Difficulty
A lot of people have a bone to pick when it comes to the overall difficulty of World of Warcraft – many of them go right out and say that they think the game has become easier over time, that Wrath of the Lich King was probably a low-point in the simplicity of the game and the changes made during that period made the game so simple that you could play without paying attention. Those same people are generally grateful that Cataclysm has seen the pendulum swing back in favor of a more difficult game overall.
At the same time, there are plenty of people who think that the game was fine early on in Vanilla WoW, and hit a pretty broken and difficult period in The Burning Crusade. They’ll say that the balance and difficulty were adjusted in Wrath of the Lich King, and the game found its sweet spot during that expansion, and that the changes in Cataclysm to make the game more challenging were unwarranted and the game now has just too steep a learning curve to really be accessible to anyone but people who play all of the time.
I’m curious what you think, but before we get to that point, Bashiok – one of the blue posters at the official forums – had a few things to say on the matter, and they’re worth reading:
I understand and respect gaming masochism. But, I think that changing mechanics to be more reasonable and less punishing is an improvement, not a detriment, to games in general. Many of us Original Gamers pine for the days of D&D-based yore when games were seemingly intended to break us down into sobbing masses created by an uncaring necromancer of pain and suffering, or at least didn’t try to avoid it. Overcoming all of the obstacles (I CHOOSE NOT TO SHOOT HER WITH THE SILVER ARROW… NOOOOO) was a big part of what gaming (I HAVE 1 LIFE!?), and especially PC gaming (HOW DO I LOAD MOUSE DRIVERS?), were about. But, I feel we’re lucky to now be in an age where those ideals (intended or not) are giving way to actual fun, actual challenge, and not fabricating it through high-reach requirements (I NEED A FAIRY MONK WITH A MAGIC LOCKPICK?).
What we’ve always been trying to do, what WoW has always been about (and to which much of its success is due) is to make an accessible MMO. Anyone that looks back at the game at launch and wishes it was as challenging now as it was then is not aware of the painstaking effort put into making this game accessible as compared to its predecessors. Since release we’ve refined that intent, eventually evolving the very few masochistic designs WoW actually ever started with, but ideally still offering those same prestige goals that give that feeling of achieving something great if you’re able to pull it off. We’ve made a lot of progress toward striking that balance and continuing to evolve the game, but it’s not something we’re ever likely to perfect, and we’ll be constantly working to hit that elusive goal. Hopefully it’s to the benefit of everyone playing and enjoying the game, and they’ll continue to enjoy the journey that a living, breathing, persistent universe will take us on.
I have to hand it to Bashiok partially for slamming so many old school gaming references into such a tiny addition to the thread, but he has some good points too: there’s a sense of nostalgia among people who have been playing video games – especially PC games – for a long time and remember the days when games were still fun and exciting, but far more punishing and difficult. But he does pose the question: does difficulty and punishment for making the wrong decisions make a bad game? Does a strict game with rigid gameplay styles automatically equate a GOOD game, or does it just make it a game that some of the most dedicated and determined gamers will love but no one else will ever play?
It’s a difficult line to walk, I have to admit, and while I have no real complaints about the difficulty level in Cataclysm (while I will be one of the people to say things in Wrath of the Lich King were a little on the easy side, and I thought Burning Crusade was a good place, especially with some of the changes Blizzard made at the tail end) I can see how difficult it is for them to walk it. At the same time, I think it’s clear that Blizzard isn’t fooling themselves: they know they can’t make everyone happy, and they shouldn’t try to – stick to their principles and their guns, and the game will continue to be successful.
What do you think? Is Cataclysm just too damned hard, or are people complaining about nothing? Sound off in the comments!