One of the wonderful things about World of Warcraft as it exists now is that there are many ways to enjoy the game. Let’s start with the notion that the game probably doesn’t appeal to you if you don’t want to level a character to maximum level. Once you’re there, there’s a panoply of choices for you as to what to do next:
- Raiding (either the 10 man or 25 man variety)
- World PvP
- Pet Battles
- Auction House Gaming
- Completionist Questing (i.e., learning every story within the game)
It’s my intention for this to be an exhaustive list; my sense is that if you asked people what they enjoy most about Warcraft, their answers would come from this list. Moreover, it’s my belief that each of these things is distinct from the others. Someone who enjoys raiding does not necessarily enjoy dungeoning because of the different challenges involved, and similarly someone who likes arenas is not necessarily going to like battlegrounds. If you think I’ve missed something, please let me know.
There are some activities I have not included in the above list because I don’t really believe anyone plays the game for that reason. For instance, I have not included daily quests because I don’t believe people actually play the game to do daily quests for their own sake. I have not included resource gathering because I don’t think people play the game to gather resources. People do those activities, but they are in support of other things that they really like to do. And for the record, I don’t believe LFR should be included as a part of raiding, since the primary draws of raiding (tight cooperation with others to achieve difficult goals) are not present in LFR. I don’t believe anyone plays the game to run LFR.
Maybe I’m wrong on this. Let me know.
Of the activities listed above, raiding stands out for one reason: it is not self-contained. If you want to run dungeons, once you hit level 90 (and arguably much sooner), you can start doing it and never stop. If you want to pet battle, once you hit 90 you don’t have to do anything else. These activities are self contained and anything you need to get to do them or for the most part become better at them you can achieve from within the activity.
Raiding is the sole exception to this rule. In my last post, I noted that dailies are as a matter of practice required for raiding. This wasn’t always the case, but even without that a person can’t simply jump into raiding as a fresh 90. Dungeoning is required to get the gear necessary to raid. Beyond that, because the raid is tuned assuming you have these things, you have to spend a portion of your time within the game gathering resources for food, flasks and potions. In addition, you further have to acquire and spend resources to gem and enchant your gear. (It’s true that you can mooch off of others in this regard, but that simply transfers the burden.) If you don’t do these things and continue to do these things, you won’t get to raid initially and once you stop doing them you will slow your raid’s progress to the point where you risk getting replaced. Moreover, the things you acquire from raids themselves are woefully insufficient to supply the raid, except perhaps once everything is on farm status.
Nothing else is like that. Yes, for roleplaying you can run dungeons to get a desired look, but that’s certainly not required. Gathering resources can help you win the auction house, but you can make a tidy profit letting someone else do that for you (as I have). Only raiding requires significant time spent not doing the thing you enjoy.
There are a few questions that sprung to my mind. First, why is this the case? Second, can anything be done to change this? And third, assuming the answer to the second question is “yes”, should this be changed?
When I look at the above list of activities I see a number of things that I don’t think Blizzard anticipated when they created the game. Battlegrounds, for instance, were added in a late vanilla patch and I’m not sure Blizzard designed the game with them in mind. Roleplay was certainly something Blizzard anticipated, but I’m not sure they specifically targeted it or dedicated significant resources to it. Scenarios, Arenas and Pet Battles were similarly bolted on well after the game was designed.
I don’t think Blizzard anticipated people stratifying their interests in the way many people have. My sense is that they expected that most people in vanilla would enjoy most aspects of the game, including world PvP, dungeoning, farming for gold, and finally raiding. Raiding was intended to be the pinnacle of the game. I don’t say this to be snobby, but merely a reflection that the villains on the covers of each of the three expansions could be confronted and defeated only through raiding. Raiding was the end goal, and to get there required you to like everything else enough to spend most of your time doing it.
That’s another point about raiding I forgot to mention. Most people do not spend most of their time in game raiding. There are exceptions, but my guess is that even hardcore raiders spend at least 30-40% of their game time outside of raids preparing for raids. Most of the raiders I’ve known have spent more time doing things other than raiding than raiding.
The gist is that Blizzard did not intend raiding to be a separate activity, even though it would appeal to entirely different motivations and entirely different people than the other activities in the game. They didn’t see things in that fragmented a manner. Of course if you enjoyed raiding you would enjoy dungeoning and farming for materials. That’s all part of the game! Now, however, the game is stratified in such a way that many specific activities can and are done without reference to the others.
How could Blizzard change raiding to enable people to raid and only raid? There are a few ways, I suppose. Imagine if MSV, instead of being tuned to about a 470 item level, were instead tuned to about a 450 item level. People could hop right in once they were 90 without ever needing to run dailies or heroics or whatnot. That doesn’t take care of the flasks, gemming, enchanting, feast and potion problems, but at least that would be a start. If Blizzard bumped up the rewards for the raids or dropped these items within the raid itself, that problem could be minimized. In short, it wouldn’t be that hard to do. There’s no question that Blizzard could make raiding a separable activity to the point where people could log in to raid and do nothing else.
I’m not sure, and I would welcome all thoughts on this question. There’s a certain part of me that believes the game has become too stratified. I do think of a person who plays only pet battles as someone who is playing a fundamentally different game and I wonder if they might be better served with a different game with that as its primary focus. One of the aspects of the game I find most troubling is that PvP seems completely stratified now, with dedicated players and specific gear able to wipe out anyone who decides to try it for a little bit (and conversely those PvP players unable to do well in dungeons or raids). If you separate out raiding will you end up isolating groups from each other even more, even though you might have raiders burn out less from the activities required to support raiding?
I’m not sure. I think raiding is treated differently than other aspects of the game. I am wondering whether it should be.