I was hanging out in my favorite inn this morning where Larisa was discussing the Generation Gap, not between chronologically younger and older players, but against players who who older or newer to the game: an expansion gap perhaps. As an old-dog myself, I was curious to explore how I felt about the game, the changes, and the influx of players that have been increasingly drawn to the world of Azeroth.
I think it’s natural for players to be nostalgic about the game-world they inhabit. I still remember my first MMO, the Realm Online rather favorably, but I no longer play it. It’s not because the game is no longer available (NorseGames took over the management of the game shortly after I left), but rather, that it’s an outdated game-world. Why play in a glorified chat room with 2-D characters when I can see a living, breathing replica of a fantasy character!
Even in World of Warcraft, a game I’ve been involved with since 2004, I have a range of feelings about the changes that have occurred within the game. Sometimes I get the urge to praise the early days, the epic feel, the close knit communities, the original awe I had of the game-world come to life. However, that in no way means that I was 100% satisfied with every aspect of the game-play or the community.
I quit World of Warcraft following the release of AQ. My raiding character, Kiera, was embroiled in a series of guild mergers that sucked up most of the raiding guilds on the server. Personality clashes were rampant. Cries to ban “noobs” from the raiding scene were common. There were no other available raiding guilds on the server due to the powerful maw of my particular guild at the time, and the ability to change factions/servers was non-existant. In order to progress with raiding, I had to stay with my current guild, or find another server and start over.
I considered becoming involved in PvP again. My previous character had largely been a PvP aficionado, spending hours a day locked within epic battles to free AV. However, I couldn’t bring myself to dedicate myself to that lifestyle again, so instead, I quit. Today, when I log onto my most progressed original raiding character I find one that is without an epic steed, that lacks an exalted reputation with any faction, even the Undercity–her hometown. She had managed to save up around 600g over the entire life of her existence, a pitiable amount by today’s standards.
The reason I am still playing today is that the game changed. I would likely have not returned to World of Warcraft if the expansion had not radically altered key aspects of the game. Raiding sizes became smaller, allowing for a greater variety and diversity of guilds. PvP battles became more streamlined, and easier to complete within a smaller time-frame. “Perks” like faster mounts made grinding feel more rewarding. Reputations became easier to achieve. 5-man end-game content became available. A badge system allowed for individuals to work to gear themselves for raiding content as opposed to relying as heavily on guild structures for initial content access. The game-world was different, but it was better in many key ways.
Wrath has continued this trend. The achievement system allows you to have “perks” for grinds. LFD provides a fast and easy way to catapult players through the leveling process or gear their characters quickly for current end-game content. Overall, the game design continues to attempt make achieving your end-game goals seem interesting and fun.
Based on my own experiences, I feel that the changes in dungeons and raids have improved player performance. I know in my 40-man groups, we consistently carried players through content because warm bodies was greater than skill in defeating many bosses. The focus on smaller dungeons, and finer-tuned boss mechanics has actually created a greater pool of more responsive players–players who must learn to adapt, not only to their own situation (omg, the bad!) but also to the resources, limitations, and skills provided by other members of the raid team. The expectation that players will be familiar with an encounter has likewise changed. In my earliest guilds, it was expected that veterans would be spending the first week with their recruit teaching them everything: from rotations, to boss strategies, to how they fit into a raiding group. Now, with greater exposure to all areas of content, the expectation is that every player is prepared to be a part of a raiding team with minimal instruction or guidance, and if they are not, that they are bad players.
I think this last bit is perhaps where newer players feel the strongest gap between older ones. A veteran often states the fact in order to prove their dependability in a raiding environment without coaching or fuss. Additionally, bosses don’t actually change much–oh sure, there’s always a new trick to learn–but having knowledge of how to respond in a boss encounter isn’t an easily transferable skill. Newer players make the same mistakes that their more experienced counterparts made when learning the game, and now expect everyone to have mastered, and frankly, it’s an infuriating and unfair burden on newer players.
However, that gap should be minimal for the majority of the population. Once you’d been involved in raiding content you become a seasoned player. Your credentials from the original game have more than expired in today’s game-world. I doubt any rogues today spend their free time grinding in Azshara, or Silithus, or Winterspring–there’s simply no need. The greatest combination of weapons at L60 is now useless knowledge. Being able to successfully stealth through DM isn’t really necessary. My knowledge of MC strategies is obsolete.
The biggest complaint I have with the current game is the looking for dungeon tool. The LFD system, when you’re not cringing away from your fellow players, generally breeds a certain apathy–if you don’t like your group, just wait 10 minutes and you’ll have another. When you had to form groups yourself you could 1) weed out undesirables before wasting time in the dungeon with them, and 2) made you feel more reliant on those who actually responded because you had to invest time and energy into forming the group yourself. It doesn’t mean the players are worse, or the community has become a cesspool, but rather, that we’ve become more involved in a community outside the one we form naturally ourselves: players met while leveling, running dungeons, purchasing goods and services, or when joining guilds. I remember the greatest complaint from many players in early guilds was that the guild did not provide enough access to non-progression runs. Today’s guild rarely provide access to “common” content such as 5-man runs and heroics because it is expected to be accomplished through the LFD system, actually distancing many a player from their guild.
All in all, I’m happy about the number of players who have chosen to swell the population of Azeroth over the years. The more players, the more robust the game-world (standing around in a capital city by yourself doesn’t feel epic). More players means I get to sell more doo-dads, buy more fun items, and enjoy content more often because there’s always a person around the corner looking to do something fun as well. I have more flexibility in finding the perfect mixture of friendliness and progression that’s right for me. Sure, I’ve met some pretty inexperienced players over my time in Azeroth, but I still try to remember what I did in vanilla WoW: if you train them, they will learn. Overall, I think the player base has become more skilled overall since more of us are seeing the content and experiencing the entire game.
Honestly, my skills from vanilla WoW don’t make me an asset to anyone. My nostalgia is not for a return to the “better” days, but merely a fond memory, shared to create a bond with other players who had similar experiences or to provide a point of comparison when discussing current changes. I think, to some extent, we’re all guilty of that: Wrath players compare the raid dungeons and badge systems since they’ve begun to play. Burning Crusade players compare Sunwell to Icecrown Citadel. Original players just have a bit more experiences in this singular game-world to draw on, but it is not a tool of exclusion, at least it’s not intended to be here, in my tiny kingdom.