Tag Archive: content accessibility


As the content drought in WoW stretches towards a summer wasteland, I was interested to hear about a new MMO that’s just been released. Players in its Beta have been praising it online for ages. As I’ve virtually run out of things to do in WoW until Legion (which hopefully will be sooner rather than later) I thought I’d give this new Black Desert a go. It’s a ‘buy to play’ title, and because of the unctuous praise it’s received, I thought I might as well splash out and buy one of the launch bundles. I envisaged I’d be playing it throughout the summer. The game was advertised – and reviewed – as the ‘new generation’ of MMOs. But sadly, if that’s the case, it looks to me as if the genre is moving backward.

When I play a new MMORPG, I like to be able to pick up the basics fairly quickly. Most I’ve played share a syntax, in that components of their User Interfaces share common elements, so that you know pretty much from the start how to move your character, how to use combat skills, how to access your inventory and so on. Obviously, there are differences between games, but not generally to the extent where you can’t work things out and get into playing straight away. Usually there are good tutorials to help with that too. Whenever I’ve run into an MMO whose UI feels utterly alien to me, and/or the tutorial aspect is lacking, it’s put me off playing. I want the way I operate my characters and interact with the game to feel instinctive, not baffling. Black Desert is absolutely baffling – not just to me but to several other members of my WoW guild who are currently trying to play it.

OK, I accept my own prejudices concerning how I like to play are colouring my views of this game, and it is – I understand – typically Korean in the way it operates. Many players who are currently raving about it online are probably already familiar with that style. But to me Black Desert lacks that familiar syntax I look for in a game, which allows me to immerse myself quickly. The complication of learning completely new systems interferes with that immersion. I feel annoyed at having bought this game, purely on the recommendations of gushing reviews, most of which showed videos of characters in combat within the visually stunning world, and slavered over the character customisation. What wasn’t so obvious in these reviews was how you actually play. If I’d been in the Beta to try the game out for myself, I’d never have bought it. Usually, you can trust reviews that come out of a game’s Beta to at least warn people about the downsides. Perhaps I looked at the wrong reviews.

The default mode of character movement is to use the keyboard – I personally prefer using a mouse for that. The default mode of combat is using the keyboard too, but not through the number keys as in most other MMOs. You might have to use – for example – the F key in combination with the left or right mouse button, or with Shift as well. It often also involves memorising a longer series of ‘combo’ button pressing. I’m used to having quick and easy action bars to access combat skills, which are numbered 1 to 10 and can be activated either by a number key button or the mouse. In BD, you can, to a degree, change the UI so that you can move with the mouse, but it’s clunky. Also, you *can* have a basic action bar of 10 slots, but some skills can’t actually be put on it at all. I had to read several web pages to discover how to put *any* skills on this apparently grudgingly-provided bar, and then discovered that there is a ‘mana tax’ for using it rather than the main key combos. Another MMO I played, Aion, uses skill combos, but much more elegantly, and you learn how to get the best from them as you level and acquire new skills. The combos are baked into the key strokes and don’t require any memorising. In Black Desert you get loaded with new skills that require memorising different key sequences almost from the start. There are only two quests that teach you some basic moves, and there is a pop up video you can elect to have on screen that shows the key sequences. But having to peer repeatedly at this while fighting isn’t good. OK, you’ll learn the sequences eventually but really… why? Just seems needlessly complicated and adds nothing to the common combat mechanics found in other games. The combat system owes more to Street Fighter than to games like World of Warcraft. On top of all this, you have to use the Tab key to swap in and out of combat mode, which is often annoying when you find yourself in the wrong stance, chucking fireballs at a hapless NPC merchant. You have to hit the CTRL key to gain control of your mouse, which you need to do so you can click on elements of the UI. Normally, the mouse only swings the camera about. Again annoying when you have to keep doing it, because camera mode swings back into action constantly. You have to use R to interact with anything. I prefer to use the mouse to click on NPCs, loot, mobs, gathering nodes and so on. I don’t like that combat and interaction with the world are what amounts to different stances, and you can’t do them simultaneously. Constant swapping just becomes a tiresome chore and if you’re the kind of player who prefers always to use the keyboard to move, you’ll no doubt get sick of finding yourself flailing around wildly with your weapon instead of walking up the road.

I suppose that with determination I’d get over this unfamiliar way to play so it would become as instinctive as how I play WoW, Rift, Guild Wars, Aion, Wildstar and others. (Tera I couldn’t bear for the same reason I find BD difficult.) But for me, BD’s failings aren’t just down to combat, movement and interaction. The game simply isn’t newbie friendly. Economy and commerce are a huge part of the game, and very complex, (which will undoubtedly keep the game fresh for a long time for those who master these aspects), but it’s all gobbledegook to me. I’ve only just worked out how to get my horse in and out of a stable and to ride it. I got this mount as part of the bundle I bought, but have little idea how you get a horse otherwise, other than you have to be level 20 and then start taming them in the wild, or something. (That might be completely wrong, by the way.) The intricacies of getting more horses, then breeding them to sell, remains an impenetrable mystery, as does the whole ‘become a successful merchant’ feature. I’ve bought a house but it’s not doing anything. I seem to have bought a farm, or am at least renting it, but have no idea what to do with it now. Workers are mentioned, but I don’t know how to hire them. There are crafting professions but I’ve not found out how to learn them yet. You can apparently build boats, and have trading caravans… somehow. There are different currencies, and a core mini-game to do with earning good reputation with named NPCs, all of which again have to be studied online if you want to understand them properly. And even then, there’s a huge amount of information to take in. What tutorials do exist in game miss out important tips or else the translation to English isn’t quite right. I think lots of breadcrumb quests would have helped, that led players to learn about how to get a horse and cart and fill it with produce from their farms, and then sell it, along with a quest to find and hire workers, and so on. Nothing in this game flows naturally for me.

The developers seem to take for granted that players will be familiar with the style of play, which of course might well be the common MMO syntax in its country of origin. Other Korean games have been franchised in the West, and generally get a makeover to make them comprehensible to their intended market, but sadly I’m still in the dark about how to access most of BD’s features, and I’ve had it for about three weeks now. The difficulty of finding out what you’re supposed to do has put me off playing, so therefore I don’t play as much as I normally would with a new title, and consequently I’m not learning it. Vicious circle. Even searching online hasn’t been the greatest help. I’ve found bemused players trying to get information on forums, often to meet with that tiresome scoffing response from ‘expert’ players, who’ve been with it all the way through the Beta, and who scorn anyone who can’t get their head round the arcanery. I can’t see this MMO doing well in the West. People want to get into a game and get on with it as soon as possible, not have to try and find info online every five minutes about its most basic aspects.

Black Desert doesn’t have end game like the majority of other MMOs – there are no raids and dungeons with their enforced gear ladders. I don’t disapprove of this, and do appreciate it offers a new form of character progression – the idea apparently is that you level constantly in such things as trading, riding, farming and so on. As BD would always be my secondary game, (if I could be inspired to play it more), I don’t mind at all being free of the usual end game activities. Trading and becoming a better horse-woman sound pretty good to me for a game I’d play casually. But I can’t get round the way it works. Some people won’t mind, and will no doubt consider my criticisms trivial, if not misguided, but given the amount of other players we’ve noticed floundering around in the game, I wonder how many will feel like me and simply write off bitterly the cost of buying it.

As for the acclaimed character customisation, while you do get a lot of it in some respects, in others it’s limited. (Aion, I think, still holds the crown for having the best character creation in any MMO I’ve tried.) Classes are restricted to one gender, and one class is the obligatory Anime schoolgirl type, which, with a fair amount of tweaking on the character creation screen, you can just about change enough so she doesn’t look too disturbing. Who plays these deliberately provocative ‘little girl’ characters anyway? I always find them very creepy, if not downright perverted. One of the NPC races in the game is comprised of what look like tiny children, who may or may not really be adults – haven’t worked it out yet – but I found one with facial hair that was quite… odd. I know this sort of thing is common in Far Eastern RPGs, and it’s clearly a cultural thing, but I don’t think it translates well beyond their home countries, and I’m not the only female player who finds the idea of scantily-clad, pre-pubescent girl characters with their knickers showing somewhat repellent. But the downsides of the characters are a minor gripe in comparison to the rest of the game.

To be fair, BD does have a ton of features and activities within it, and the world itself is beautifully designed. I understand it’s huge too, although I’ve barely left the starter area. Because I spent money on it, I’ll persist with trying to learn it for a while longer. I don’t want that money to have been wasted. But I’m disappointed with the lack of guidance. Even its most newbie-hostile aspects could have been tolerable if the tutorials had been thorough and well-written. I’m not averse to trying games that do things differently, but only if I’m given clear instructions on how to play. Black Desert just doesn’t do that for me. At least it wasn’t marketed as a ‘WoW killer’ like other MMOs, because it certainly isn’t. It’s ‘buy to play’ at the moment, with a cash shop, and maybe if it goes ‘free to play’ it’d be worth giving a try. All I can say now is don’t waste your money, unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of time getting to grips with the Korean style of playing, or are already au fait with it.

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While WoW is the game I play the most, I also dabble in Rift – less so since WoD as I’m kept busy in WoW with what game time I have. I’ve kept visiting Telara, the world of Rift, over the past six months; tinkering about because I do love the atmosphere of that world. Nightmare Tide, Rift’s latest xpac, came out a short while before WoD, so I played it pretty relentlessly during the weeks I was waiting for WoW’s new xpac to hit, knowing I wouldn’t be spending as much time in Telara thereafter. I didn’t manage to get a character to level cap in that time, but recently – having levelled nearly all of my 20 Nordrassil WoW characters to 100, and a bit quested out with Draenor – thought I’d grind out the last two levels on my main in Rift with the benefit of some hefty experience potions.

One thing that struck me when I went back to Rift to level was that I didn’t feel as immersed in the game world as I do in WoW. I think this is partly down to the nature of the Nightmare Tide xpac – we were carted off to the dimension of Water to help out with various calamities, but our faction leaders and familiar figures from Telara didn’t come to fight alongside us or appear constantly as such figures do in WoD. Consequently, you feel sort of isolated from the main world. In WoW, we have a lot of well known figures from Azeroth making the journey with us to Draenor – some of them lose their lives for it – but as a Defiant player in Rift, I missed those old faces, such as Asha Catari and The Faceless Man. It didn’t feel like the faction was doing anything *together*. The new races in the Plane of Water don’t appeal to me that much. The mermaids are cool, and so is the strange aquatic beast, Fenric, who isn’t quite what they appear, (that character is probably the best), but there isn’t much characterisation otherwise. Fenric is the only NPC who travels with you throughout the story, changing and growing themselves, much as Yrel does in WoD. But Fenric is a one off. The ruling class in Draumheim, the major city hub, are all bonkers, living in hallucinations and delirium, and their madness started getting on my nerves rather than amusing me. I didn’t warm to any of them. The baddies are just out and out baddies, generic RPG almost, spouting clichéd lines and lacking the nuances of the Draenor warlords, with their distinct characters.

I also missed the levelling experience of WoD. We take so much for granted in WoW. Rift sometimes seems like the retirement home of all the disaffected WoW players who complained WoW was too easy. Levelling in Rift isn’t. Yes, you can pick your way around carefully and not get into too much trouble, but much of it seems geared towards group play – even during questing. You can’t just plough in and take on multiple mobs and expect to emerge unscathed. With questing gear alone it takes a while to kill things and while mobs aren’t as sensitive as they were in earlier days of Rift, they still get annoyed with you at a fair distance. You often have to search for quest objectives that might be in difficult to reach places; constant lengthy fights with irrelevant mobs gets tiresome after a while. Even without flying (and regular readers of this blog will know my feelings on that!), levelling in WoD was – and is – fluid and satisfying. You don’t get stuck in bottlenecks of difficulty where you can’t progress alone. In a game of this type, I think that’s the way levelling should be, an interesting, colourful journey – save the hard stuff for level cap.

So, going back to Rift has made me appreciate WoW more. I realised how much of WoD I like. One thing I’m utterly satisfied with is the garrisons and I’ll be disappointed if we don’t get something similar in the next xpac. But I can’t help thinking that due to the fact a lot of players seem to dislike garrisons, Blizzard might possibly jettison them, rather than tweak them carefully to iron out their weaknesses. Such is Blizzard’s usual response – go to extremes. For me, garrisons have enabled my army of alts to have purpose again. The follower missions are great for getting them gear, so it’s possible to raid with them, with premade groups, not just LFR. My warlock and mage are both around the 660 ilevel mark, with others not far behind. I like the fact that if I haven’t got time to go out farming for mats, (without flying, a vile chore), I can just send the alts round their mines and herb gardens for a while, gathering enough to support those who need mats for their professions. The only farming I tend to put off, even when it’s needed, is trapping beasts for my barns – one each on Horde and Alliance. That’s a chore, because we have to taxi to Nagrand for it, and with some classes those elite wolves must be pretty annoying, as they pack a punch. I have Hunters for both barns, which makes the job easy enough, but even so, lengthy. It’s fine for passing the time when I’m in a queue for group content, but that’s about it.

Prior to WoD, I’ve always had my two mains, a Druid healer and a Hunter, who’ve stepped in to work as our raid team required them. I’ve had a couple of tanks, who are not needed at the moment, so would, but for WoD, be languishing doing nothing. My next two characters – semi main – were the warlock and the mage, but often they didn’t get much to do, if anything. Now, with the boost of follower missions, it’s possible to have multiple characters capable of end game. I can pick and choose which ones I’ll do LFR with each week – there’s no rush after all . These occasional visits help augment their gear. If there’s ever a situation where we need one of these classes present in our raid team, I have a fairly decent character waiting in the wings, who can be brought up to scratch without too much effort. With my mains, at present I’m healing in our guild raid team exclusively, but have kept my Hunter pretty much on par, should I need to swap to him at any point. I adore this flexibility, which we’ve never had to this extent before. Other guild members have also got a couple or more characters at a decent level, which helps with team formation when members fluctuate. Blizzard have got this aspect just right. Small and medium sized guilds need this flexibility, and the ability to gear up a character to an acceptable level pretty quickly in a personnel emergency is great.

Going back to garrisons, another thing I love about them is the followers themselves. If you bother to ask one to help when you’re defending a garrison invasion, some of them have cool animations and spell effects, as well as great-looking armour and weapons. A friend of mine had the gnome warlock Ranni Flagdabble along the other night when I went to help him with a garrison invasion, and this little gnome spontaneously erupted into a huge demon form to fight. I also particularly like the priest Rorin Rivershade, and her gorgeous armour has tempted me to brave pvp so I can farm honor points for a similar set for my own priest. (There are a lot of older pvp armour sets on sale for honor at the pvp vendors on Serpent Spine wall in Pandaria, many of which are stunning.)

In a way, Rift has player housing with the dimensions, but those buildings you create, and the landscapes you can transform, are empty. There are no NPCs, so they’re like ghost towns, as if everyone has just left. Rift players who are into dimensions plead for some life in the form of critters and humanoid NPCs, but Trion don’t seem keen to devote time and resources to granting that wish. In WoW, we have life in abundance in our garrisons. When all your followers are at home, the garrisons are busy and full of residents. Nor are they just static – they appear to be getting on with their lives, talking to one another, wandering about, going for a drink in the inn… Rift dimension addicts would kill for that!

I’ll really miss my followers when we leave Draenor. They’ve become as familiar as my actual characters and I enjoy seeing them mooching about the garrison. I came across two having a row the other day, and one of them burst into tears as I passed by. I wondered what they were arguing about! I like the way Blizzard has made an effort to give these 100s of NPCs their own little character traits. I don’t want to leave mine behind, and would happily take all of them with me into whatever adventures we have next. I wouldn’t mind levelling them up again, in the same way my characters will have to level, perhaps swapping in some new team members now and again, if someone interesting pops up in the inn. But I’m more or less resigned to the fact they’ll remain in Draenor. I can see myself going back to visit them, once they no longer have to work by going out on missions and are always around the garrison.

Another thing I think Blizzard has done really well is the changes to the subsidiary professions. While the crafting professions have become a bit tiresome, Cooking, First Aid and Fishing are now easy to level. It’s possible to get all your alts to top Fishing without too much effort. That has never happened before, mainly because Fishing was such a grind and so time-consuming. Now, it’s a great thing to do (along with barn stocking) when you’re queued for a dungeon or LFR. Passes the time and is very productive (even more so when you have Nat Pagle ensconced in the Fishing Shack). The more proficient fishermen and women can provide the fish for the daily quest for alts, which awards a whopping 15 points, so you can steadily advance everyone’s Fishing level without having to pay too much attention to it. You need *something* to do while you’re queuing, after all. Cooking and First Aid are also mainly levelled by fish, so Fishing helps max them quickly too. I’m still surprised that it’s most likely all of my alts will have top Fishing by the end of the xpac. That’s unheard of! I still think Archaeology needs some work (shudder), and in the next xpac I hope Blizzard makes changes again to the crafting professions, but they shouldn’t touch the subsidiary profs now – they’re perfect as they are.

One thing that most players seem to agree on is that the levelling aspect of WoD is really good. It’s polished – no other word for it – and I really can’t see it can be improved upon. There are shaky areas in the game, which I’ve talked about on this blog, as have many others on their own blogs and on forums, but really when you look at the competition, WoW still deserves its crown. I’m fond of Telara and my characters in Rift, but if you think crafting profs are now grindy in WoW, go there for a bit. It costs a fortune to level them and they’re really fiddly. All of them. There’s no fast track method to gear up alts, even if crafting materials are easily acquired through minion missions. But those minions are just pictures on a mission Window, they’re not there with you inworld.

I’m not sure Blizzard will ever be able to perfect such aspects of the game as raiding, dailies, class changes, and pvp, since players have so many different requirements, and what pleases one lot of players greatly disgruntles many others. But the aspects that are constant Blizzard generally does well. Crafting, hmm, still needs attention – finding that balance between commitment and result without making it too fast or too slow. As for the story, whether you like the way it’s done or not, there *is* a story, a history, and people within it. It’s not just tacked on as an afterthought.

People tend to look back on earlier days of WoW as some kind of Golden Age, but the improvements to the game and quality of life changes have lifted it miles above its formative years. We just tend to forget all the bad stuff and concentrate fondly on what is perceived as good. I think it’s time we reflected on just what’s so good about WoW *now*. I can remember thinking I’d never get to see places like Black Temple and Serpentshrine Cavern, but now every raid is available to all – at different levels of difficulty. I can remember thinking I’d never be able to afford the faster ground mount in Vanilla. It took me months to grind the gold for the slowest mount. Now, gold comes easily and there is an abundance of mounts – account wide. I won’t go further with the comparisons because it’s old news, but it’s also good to remind ourselves of the changes. WoW is never going to be the perfect game we’d all like, because there are millions of visions of that perfect game. But despite its shortcomings, there’s no doubt: it’s a damn *good* game.

Coda: as Blizzard are renowned for their spectacular pendulum swings, are we looking forward to an xpac that’s flying only? 😉

Like everyone madly awaiting news of the new WoW expansion, I’ve got my own wish list of things I’d like to see to appear in the game or things that could be refined or changed. Here is my top ten!

1. The Mighty Wall of Leveling

Creating a new character now from level 1 is daunting to say the least. Maybe not so for a new player, who has so many exciting things to discover and explore, but for the veteran wanting to try a new alt it’s not a happy prospect. You might have leveled an account full of characters already, or even two accounts, or have another set of characters on a different realm. Do we really need to grind though all those quests and zones we might have done over a dozen times before? I think Blizzard should do something to remove that wall of leveling for alts. I’m not sure what, because there are different ways it could be implemented. I’ve read the suggestion that a ‘micro transaction’ of real money could be involved via the game store, but by experience we know that Blizzard’s concept of micro is rather larger than anyone else’s. I wouldn’t like to see another £15 cost added to the services. What would be better would be the ability to create a character of higher level, perhaps just before the level of the current expansion, or at least higher than Death Knights begin at now. If new races and classes are introduced, whether in the next xpac or one after, people will want to try them. But for many the wall of leveling will be a huge turn off. I wonder how many Pandaren are languishing unplayed just beyond their starter zones? I know for a fact in our guild it’s quite a lot.

2. Guild and Player Housing

As I’ve played several MMOs that already provide these features, it’s something I’d love to see in WoW. While it won’t be for everyone, many players enjoy creating imaginative homes. Buying items for such things can create another gold sink in the game – which we’re always told is needed. Again, as with some other games, items could be sold via micro transactions in the Blizzard store, as long as they’re not too expensive. I liked the way player homes were introduced in Rift, where you got a quest line to acquire your first one. During this, you were rewarded with a decent amount of ‘furnishings’ to start you off. Some players excel at landscaping and interior design and can create some pretty eye-popping domains. The best of player housing includes grounds to the main building that can be landscaped. In Rift, your ‘dimension’ (as your home is known) can be open to the public if you want it to be, so other players can admire your creativity. You might even pick up some commissions!

As for guild housing, I think it’d be fun to have a guild quest chain to acquire and start building your castle, palace, mansion, or whatever. Players could gather resources or donate gold to help with the construction. Features could be added as they’re earned, such as rooms like a Trophy Hall, where the heads of boss kills could be displayed, vendors, crafting areas and so on. In Runes of Magic, high level guild castles have grounds where players can farm resources, much like the farms we have at Halfhill in Pandaria now. Guild Housing in other games is instanced, so everyone enters through the same portal. It would be cool if the Guild Halls could be themed to particular areas, so (like in the original Guild Wars) you could choose the appearance and ambience of your Hall to suit your tastes. The Arathi model could be an old time castle, the Durotar one an Orc fortress, a Duskwood one like a haunted mansion, Stranglethorn like a jungle tree village, and so on. The potential is vast.

Blizzard has always maintained that guild and player housing would empty the cities, but if the portals for them were situated in cities, and things like the AH and the Bank (which let’s face it is the only reason players visit cities now) are still in the main square, I can’t see it making much difference. Especially if guilds could have ‘open nights’ (or days, weeks, whatever), so others could enter certain areas of their domains. This could aid in recruitment. Apart from Orgrimmar, Stormwind and the current City of the Year in whatever expansion we’re in, the cities are pretty much dead anyway. In Rift, on the housing interface, there is a list of dimensions you can enter. It couldn’t be that difficult for Blizzard to do something similar. It would be cool for guildies to have somewhere to hang out together that they have created themselves.

3. Character Model Overhaul

Well, we’re all waiting for this. It might happen in the next expansion, or partly, or it might not. I think we can conclude it will come eventually. What would be a welcome feature is the ability to customize your character much more, including the option to have different skins, i.e. Taunka or Yaungol for Tauren, and so on. The majority of MMOs now allow you to adjust all aspects of your characters, allowing for a more realistic array of different appearances in-world. While you might not be able to change the height of your gnome or goblin, (as a giant of either of those would be plain silly), you could perhaps adjust their weight or body shape. We could do with far more face and hair options, or the ability to tweak those ourselves.

4. Vanilla Pet Model Overhaul

Some of the original companion pets in the game are a pretty horrible lump of polygons – rabbits, prairie dogs, frogs, etc. Most of us use at least some of these pets for battling, if we’re into it. The humble rabbit can be a dreaded foe, hard as it might be to believe. It would be great if the old pets were tarted up a bit to look like the rest of the pets, i.e. realistic.

5. New Races

While I love new races being introduced, especially if they’re exotic, the point I raised first – leveling – is the only downside, unless you’re prepared to pay for a race change. I’m torn between the desire to have a cool new character, such as an Ethereal, Saurok, Naga, Vrykul, etc, and the heart-sinking prospect of leveling another character from scratch. So, for me, new races should only be introduced if an option is given to start at a higher level.

6. New Classes

While I read of players’ desire to have Demon Hunters, Tinkers, Battle Mages, Bards and so on, I wonder if any new class could be different enough to warrant its introduction. To me, those desired roles could be better fulfilled by offering them as new and exciting specs for existing classes.

7. Inventory Space

There can’t be a player in game who doesn’t want something done about our lack of storage options. If tabards, toys and other paraphernalia we tend to collect and carry about with us can be made like the pets and mounts and placed in our spell book, that would free up a lot of space.

6. Gear Sets
An extension of the above point, I think it’s clunky that we have to have different sets of gear for different specs, and these items have to be carried about with us in our inventory. Either make it that one set of gear functions for all specs or let us have a wardrobe feature like in Rift, where such gear sets are stored on the character, and easily changed, and not in the bags.

7. Gear Customization

We’ve got used to gemming, enchanting and reforging, as it’s been introduced a step at a time over the years, but it must be a daunting prospect for new players. I don’t like the way that changing only one piece of gear can mean a whole reforge is needed, which often doesn’t come cheap. Reforging is fiddly if you don’t use an addon like ReforgeLite to do the work for you. Otherwise, you have to use third party web sites to get the relevant information, unless you’re adept at working out all the stats yourself. Personally, I don’t want to spend a lot of time doing that. I think it’s time Blizzard overhauled the matter of stats on gear and made it more stream-lined and comprehensible. Do we really need 3 types of gear adjustment? Just seems like too much to me. Stats should be designed more cleanly so that reforging isn’t needed and gear enhancements are a boost rather than, as with reforging, a necessity to reach certain caps.

8. Cross Faction Contact

Perhaps the most controversial of wishes, and one shared by many, is the ability to team across factions, and in fact simply have communication between them. We have all these sophisticated races, yet they still behave like primitive bullies and, despite nods towards diplomacy, trade, co-operation and peace, WoW is still very much a school-yard us versus them scenario. I don’t think the rivalry should be done away with completely, and political relations could always be potentially volatile, but as so many NPCs of the opposite faction are willing to talk with, trade with and befriend members of the other side, why can’t players do the same? I know the argument against is that the second W in WoW is Warcraft, but after 10 years of virtual existence can’t the inhabitants of Azeroth start growing up a bit? PvP enthusiasts could still have their battlegrounds where characters fight for honour, perhaps in a more gladiatorial sense than we see now, (and on PvP realms still have their all out dog eat dog situation). Not everyone would have to see eye to eye, or join hands and skip among the daisies surrounded by chuckling kids, but there could be more realism by allowing players to make choices themselves about who they wish to hate, or not hate.

I prefer the Rift model of the factions, where the leaders of each regards the other with contempt for their views, politics and way of life, but out in the landscape, away from the politics, players are able not only to talk to those of the rival faction but play alongside them. You can’t actually team, but you can run around together closing rifts, taking part in world events, and such like. I would very much like to see this in WoW, but I’m aware the game population is probably divided right down the middle about this subject.

9. Resource and Mob Tagging.

Get rid of it. It works perfectly well in Guild Wars 2 that any player hitting a mob gets partial credit for the kill and therefore loot, whether teamed with other players or not. Resource nodes can be farmed by more than one player; they only disappear for you once you’ve mined them and another player can then come along and take their turn. We know that Blizzard can make mobs free for all in respect of tagging, as we see on the Timless Isle. There would be far less hatred and anger among players competing for limited resources and mobs if tagging wasn’t an issue. First nights of new expansions would be a far more joyous occasion if this was brought in – except for those whose pleasure is to turn on PvP flagging and make the whole experience more miserable for everyone. But we could do with fewer of those types couldn’t we?

10. Let PvE Realms be PvE

If people want to attack other players, what are they doing on PvE realms? Ah, of course, your average PvE player is easy meat for them. In my opinion, PvP should only be available in battlegrounds and arenas on PvE realms. Why make those of us who rolled characters on realms specifically to avoid that shenanigans have to put up with PvP players trying to trick us into hitting them and initiating combat and just generally making a nuisance of themselves, i.e. the notorious early days of new expansions and zones.

These are my ten wishes, and I know some of them are highly unlikely to happen, and there is massively divided opinion about others, but there’s no law against wishing, is there? I can also say that my wishes are not mine alone; I’ve seen them repeated across forums by many other players, as well as discussed with friends. Ah well, we’ll just have to wait until Friday when Blizzcon gives us the first of the revelations about WoW’s next chapter.

Rift’s new expansion, Storm Legion, was heralded wherever it was possible to herald. Lots of new features were trumpeted and I must confess I was taken in. I bought the new expansion, and at first, exploring harmless things like player housing and the soul tree revamps, all was good.

My Defiant Ranger’s action bars are now clean and mean, and there is less of the bewildering host of skills that had blighted his bars before. Advice is given from the start on how to distribute points and how best to use skills. This is great for a more casual player.  I’ve played Rift since pre-release, when I was introduced to it because I was reviewing it for a webzine, and liked it so much I stayed. But I’ve only played casually on it, since WoW is where I raid, and do all the serious stuff, and I don’t have time to play more than one game at that level. Even so, I’ve enjoyed all the hours I’ve spent in Telara, up until some of my characters hit top level (50 then) and there wasn’t anything interesting for them to do. The idea of a new expansion was great – more content to work through that I could mostly do solo or with public groups.

I can only compare Storm Legion (as an expansion to a major MMO) to Mists of Pandaria. I’m not a blinkered WoW fangirl. I’m quick to complain when I don’t think Blizzard get things right (or make things worse), and perhaps I am sometimes more of a critic than is fair. But Storm Legion to me, in comparison to MoP, is a huge disappointment. It started off well, with a couple of introductory quests in the new zones. I can’t remember how I got there, since later I discovered breadcrumb quests designed to lead a player there, but because I went through a porticulum I found in Ironpines, these quests now don’t work for my main character. So first downside, intro to the new content isn’t that great or that much of a fanfare. We get this new NPC, some queen of something, but frankly I don’t care about her; her goal and schemes haven’t grabbed or interested me at all; she’s just a typical female fantasy NPC in a needlessly skimpy outfit in what appears to be a fairly cold climate. In comparison to what we got in Mists in WoW, this is rather an anti climax, to put it mildly – well except for the boys who are rather turned on by the new queen in the minimal bikini! That aside, the paucity can’t be down simply to money or resources on behalf of the developers, but also creativity, flare and care.

The new landscape I’ve seen in Rift so far is unspectacular and the one Defiants start in is also kind of bleak. The quests don’t involve me in an expanding drama; it’s just down to ‘kill so many of these and these’. Plus, at level 50 with only quest reward gear from previous content, my Ranger is like a wet tissue. His pet is almost dead after two hits from a regular mob. If I get more than one mob on me at once, it’s most likely a case of ‘hello, graveyard’.  I’ve been playing MMOs for eight years or so, and other kinds of RPG and RTS solo games for far longer than that; I’m not a total noob and have got characters to 50 in Rift before this. I just don’t have the time to raid on Rift or to risk dungeons with PUGs (WoW’s community has irreparably scarred me for that), so my gear is hardly the MMO equivalent of designer label, but surely it’s better for all types of player to enjoy as much of a game as is possible for their play time and style? It’s not the difficulty of the mob fights that annoy me in Rift, but simply that I don’t have the gear to survive them easily. OK this is an MMO that’s set itself up to pleasure raiders, the hardcore players, and that’s maybe why its cities are so empty nowadays. We know hardcore players are the minority in the world of MMO gaming. Rift is trying to compete with WoW, by the look of it, but we all know how well pandering to the hardcore went down in WoW. Basically, it lost the game a lot of customers, more customers than most games would consider themselves lucky to have in the first place. If Rift *also* (please note the also), catered for a more casual market, we might not see Free to Play staring us in the face in the not too distant future, which I feel is a distinct possibility, given what appears to be the size of the community. Only a week or so after release of the xpac, the first new zone was empty when I visited it, but perhaps the players are all hidden in raids. As it stands a casual player is going to say ‘oh fuck it’ after dying multiple times on the first quests of the xpac, beneath that dull, lowering sky. They’ll just go back to WoW or other MMOs.

When we started in Jade Forest in WoW, the first quests could be tricky. It got a lot easier 10 or 12 quests in, but even so, it was colourful, story-filled and – most importantly – doable in average gear.  There were even vendors to help players kit themselves out to have more survivability in the new areas, if they lacked it. Storm Legion just feels like a bland blanket of over-tuned mobs, and gods help you if more than one gets to you, unless you’ve been playing Rift since release and are equipped with raid gear. It’s not fun, it’s not even beautiful. Rift excelled in zones such as Gloamwood in the initial release. I’d never seen such a gorgeously executed MMO zone. OK, all I’ve seen of Storm Legion is the first zone, but it’s dull. Just a few treeless hills and some rocks, that’s it.

As a friend said to me as I was moaning about how I’d wasted my money on Storm Legion, that Rift is, and always has been, not that friendly to the casual player. It’s a shame, as there is a lot about the world of Telara I love, and as the sub fees are so reasonably priced (only about £5 a month if you take out the annual sub package), it’s not that expensive to keep up. But if I can’t play the new content, or have to graveyard crawl my way forward slowly in the hope of getting enough quest reward gear to survive better, that’s not going to be a lot of fun. I don’t expect to raid in Rift, but do at least expect, seeing as I bought the game and pay the sub, to be able to do the basic PvE content without too much annoyance or pain, especially when starting off in a new expansion.

No game can get it right for everyone. For those who like their questing tough and challenging, Rift will be perfect, and these are no doubt the kind of players who are part of that world already.  They would inevitably pour scorn on everything I’ve said here. For me, gaming should be fun, and perhaps in that respect I’m a bit lazier than others. When I log on, I feel questing shouldn’t be a constant wipe-fest; save that for raiding.

My sub for Rift runs out in January, and I’m still undecided whether to renew it or not. But ultimately, is it worth paying £5 a month simply to level alts below 50, or hope for some kind of nerf to content if the game does go free to play at some point? I hate to turn my back on virtual worlds where I’ve spent many enjoyable hours, but with games such as GW2 offering such a vastly more pleasurable time, I have even less inclination to visit Telara now. Perhaps this world is where all those disgruntled hardcores ended up, who wept and lamented so vigorously about WoW ‘dumbing down’ and cancelled their subs. If so, I have no reason to be there, since a game catering to that kind of player isn’t going to be my kind of game. Perhaps I just have to accept that, and close the doors on Telara. Part of me will still feel sad and a bit reluctant, though.

It’s quite obvious, when you talk to people who play MMOs, that a large percentage of them prefer solo content, unless they’re with people they already know and trust. Even when they do have a lot of friends in-game, quite often there will be times when they simply want to do their own thing, on their own. Many are glad when difficult content becomes soloable as they level and gear up and don’t have to team with others to conquer it, if they’re after mounts or achievements from such endeavours. I’ve seen the rather baffled objection, ‘but surely, if you play an MMO, a Massive Multi-Player online game, other people are part of the deal. If you don’t like playing with others, go play a solo game.’ But that’s missing the point.

I don’t like playing solo games. I actually enjoy being part of a dynamic, well-populated virtual world. I’m probably less tolerant of badly-behaved players than others might be, and I do tend to avoid situations where I have to be exposed to players I don’t know, in potentially volatile situations, such as pickup groups for dungeons. But conversely, I want to be playing in a world full of other people. Sometimes, I just don’t want to mix with them. It’s not as if, in real life, you do every single thing, every day, with everybody else on your street, is it? But it’d be pretty horrible (for most, anyway), if your house was the only one occupied on that street, or even in the neighbourhood, or the whole town… That would get pretty lonely to say the least.

The thing I dislike most about the majority of MMOs I’ve sampled is the aspect of ‘enforced teaming’, where in order to progress significantly you have no choice but to rely on the co-operation of other players in formally organised teams. But I have seen alternatives, in both Rift and Guild Wars 2, which demonstrate what could be a better way forward for MMOs. Rift didn’t and doesn’t have it down perfectly. The big public events were great when I first played the game, but they got old, simply because they don’t advance your character that much. To be able to tackle even the end game dailies (or some of them), you need dungeon or raid gear, which means taking part in formal team events, which inevitably require research, precise gearing etc etc and all the crap that comes with dipping your toes into PuG waters, never mind the time commitment. Unfortunately, the innovative public events that set Rift apart, and which anyone can join, don’t award much at all. I thought this was a great shame, and it’s contributed to me not playing Rift much anymore, simply because I don’t have time to raid in two games, nor even be part of an active guild in my secondary game. The end zone of Rift, the new island that was introduced in a content patch some time ago, is painful unless you have really good gear. All the mobs are two levels higher than max level for characters, and Rift mobs typically have a lot more bite than WoW mobs, even at equal level. Ouch. Other MMOs I dip into, I do for fun, on a very casual basis. WoW is where I raid and do more ‘serious stuff’. I don’t want that anywhere else. Some players don’t even want that in one game. They love playing MMOs, but they will never be raiders, and why should they be? The most ground-breaking MMO, should it ever appear, will not just revolve around raiding, which comparatively few players see.

So far in GW2 the public events seem better than in Rift. They are more like quests, or scenarios, rather than the Rift model of everyone just piling in and galloping across the landscape, killing various mob groups and bosses. There are objectives to follow, and you don’t even have to team with the others doing it as well. You can all help each other out, for example, by popping down a healing AoE, as my Ranger can, since I’m currently using that particular healing skill for him from a choice of a few. All characters get such choices. AoE effects heal allies, regardless of whether you’re teamed or not. It’s actually fun to join in, because there’s no stress about who’s tanking or healing, or how much dps anyone’s doing. It’s just a case of going for the objective, with as many or as few as you have with you and, from what I’ve perceived so far, the events seem to tailor themselves automatically, difficulty-wise, depending on how many are involved. While you don’t get gear rewards from such events, you do get karma points you can spend on buying gear from various NPCs, as well as fairly decent experience and cash. Quite often, completing the objectives will also help with a task you might be engaged in for an NPC; i.e. the mobs you might have to fight off will be the same as for the task you’re on. Two birds with one stone is always handy!

I really like this way of working. You can solo as much as you like, then take part in public events if you happen upon one, or you could spend an evening actively tracking them down – they are going on constantly throughout the world of Tyria. But it is down to choice. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to take part. Rift had this too, while levelling, but in that game the casual player does run into an immense progression wall at top level. Even though Instant Adventures were introduced, which were instanced scenarios for one to four (I think) players, frankly they are not soloable with the kind of gear I had. The cool thing about them was that you could join a queue, like LFD, to do them. When you joined the queue, there was a countdown to the adventure starting, and ideally others would be queuing too, so you’d have help to do them. An entire zone would be instanced for you, with several objectives to complete. Sadly, the few times I put myself in a queue to do them, I rarely had other people joining me, so it was just a pointless wipefest. The times I did have companions it was great fun. It’s a pity, but Rift’s population has declined significantly, I think. In a well-populated game like WoW those Instant Adventures would be great.

In Rift, playing at top level grinds to a halt, unless you’re willing to take the game more seriously and commit to the activities that are de rigeur for most MMOs at the moment: raiding and heroic dungeons (or the equivalent). I really think this has to change. I would go so far as to say that Rift has foundered – and perhaps others MMOs too – because it has designed itself primarily around raiding as end game content, presumably emulating WoW with its vast subscribership. But Rift has nowhere near the population of WoW to sustain it. As has been amply demonstrated, raiders comprise a minority of MMO gamers; they just happen to be the most vocal on the Internet. I’ve no doubt that if Rift had been less focused on this activity, and its small, non-raiding end game content had been less punishing for those who hadn’t got really good gear, (or could at least have worked for that gear through other means that weren’t rep grinds from hell), the cities would not be so dead now. (Just as a note, the rep grinds for factions was approximately twice what it is to reach exalted with one in WoW, and with rather meagre ways to earn it… outside of dungeons and raids, of course.) I believe that in any MMO, group activities should be there for those who enjoy doing them, but for the vast army of players who like to do things alone, teaming with others occasionally with no pressure, there should be other avenues at end game.

So far, in GW2, the gear I’ve bought with karma points gets better as you progress through higher level zones, although you do have to keep on top of it, and make sure you upgrade your gear by playing in zones appropriate to your level, otherwise your major ‘personal story’ instances become more challenging than perhaps they need to be. But if you do keep abreast of it, the gear in the zones seems to me to be the equivalent of dungeon gear in other MMOs. There is even, once out of your starter areas, two levels of gear to buy, one more expensive, and better, than the other. NPCs who give you tasks around the landscape will each offer a particular piece of gear. They’re not rewards. You buy them with karma points, which are bit like valor points, only gained through doing tasks and solo instances. Group instances only become available at level 36 – or so I’m told! The instances I’m doing at the moment (level 33 on my Ranger) are story-based, per character, and soloable, although I believe you can team with others of your class to do them. I’ve not tried that. I’ve treated GW2 rather like Diablo 3. Keep plugging at it, even if I wipe a bit!

The one thing that dynamic public events need to work is a healthy player base. If the zones are empty, they are useless. No one can solo the end parts of such events with elite mobs to fight. So while these dynamic events are a fantastic idea in a thriving realm, if numbers are down they are just redundant.

I know Blizzard is doing much to implement end-game-changing aspects in Mists, but until we play it, we won’t really know how successful that is. The bottom line is that raiders are a minority in any game, even if they tend to have the loudest voices on forums. While I personally love raiding in WoW, as I’m sure raiders in all other games love it as well, I don’t get why big teams should be the only way to go in MMOs. In real life, someone can work alone somewhere and produce an amazing invention that changes the world, or produce incredible art, or any number of world-enhancing things. It seems odd to me that in MMOs, virtual worlds that in many ways mimic reality, we are forced into certain ways of advancement. Surely, the most innovative virtual world will see beyond this. The whole model of MMOs at the moment breeds among players disrespect, resentment, anger, selfishness, and as many other bad traits as you might care to mention. It’s because of the way they’re designed, with competitive acquisition being the ultimate goal. There must be a way to encourage co-operation without all that fallout, so that people enjoy the company of strangers, and perhaps make new friends, rather than reach for the Ignore button with a weary sigh. Well, there are ways, such as Rift’s Instant Adventures, but you do need a healthy population for those. They are not about epeen, just teaming informally to have… well… adventures. What’s not to like?

Both Rift and Aion have solo and duo dungeons, which again are a great idea, but of course take resources to create. The proposed idea of Proving Grounds in WoW is equally good, should it see the light of day. As described by the developers, these will be solo events, tailored so that participants will be encouraged to use every aspect of their characters – perhaps even skills they didn’t even know they had. As it’s so easy to get to top level in WoW now without learning your class in the greatest of depth, this is a superb idea. What would make it perfect, in my opinion, is a tutorial mode for it, so that all those hapless newbies are given an easy version that introduces them to all those skills they never use. Once they’ve tried that, and emerge victorious, then throw the hard stuff at them. They should have the tools to tackle it then, even if it requires a lot of trial and error to succeed. Difficulty is fine, as long as the education is provided to help people deal with it. WoW doesn’t actually educate its players much at the moment. If Proving Grounds could be entered at different difficulties, top level players could test themselves there to see how they’re doing and newbie players could learn their class. These could be far more creative ways of testing your ability and judging whether your gear is appropriate than using training dummies. A far more interesting way to prepare yourself for other group activities, such as dungeons and raids, in that newbies could then approach such activities with more knowledge of how their class works, and therefore be less subject to abuse from the contingent of PuGs who are eager to criticise others. For veterans, they would simply be a way to judge how their characters are performing and perhaps to help with fine-tuning.

The best thing about MMOs is the fact you share the game with perhaps millions of others, but that is also the worst aspect of it. You can’t guarantee meeting the people you’d like to meet while playing. And everyone has different aspirations in a virtual world. Hell is other people. Too many with different goals, desires and requirements. I believe Blizzard is trying to address this difficult issue – let’s face it, it’s never going to be easily solvable – and I think NCsoft/ArenaNet are too. But there’s still a long road to travel.

The 1% Club

While a couple of weeks ago, I talked about some of the finer aspects of Classic WoW – what I perceived to be a better community – there are other aspects of the early game I’m delighted to see gone. There is much debate going on at the moment about how much content should be accessible to who, with a vocal minority insisting that only top end raiders should be given privileges, such as the best mounts and titles, for completing content before others, or even that only a tiny percentage of players should be allowed into that content in the first place. Often, amongst all the howling and yowling, you can identify a familiar refrain of how things were so much better in the past.  And one of those ‘better things’ was that less than 1% of the player base got to see raids like the original Naxxramas. A vocal few clamour for a return to that, so that the peons (the other 99% of players) can only fetch up in a lamenting pile at the gates to these august raids and never be allowed inside.

It makes me grin that some actually consider this somehow proper. For a start, in whose book of business management is this a good way for Blizzard to deploy its staff, i.e. catering to less than 1% of their customers? (Bearing in mind raid development must take an awful lot of employee hours.) Some players want this exclusivity back because they were lucky enough to be in that 1%. Their tune would inevitably be different if they hadn’t been. I was there back in Vanilla WoW and have many fond memories of it, but I don’t remember so fondly how it was impossible for guilds like ours to raid. You needed 40 people for most of it, even if a few instances were tuned for less, but at that time we didn’t have a hope in hell of fielding a large team of any size, never mind begin learning the tactics. This was because when players reached max level, the loot hornier ones just tended to abandon us for existing, successful raid guilds. We knew we had no chance of hanging on to enough people to start raiding. Our only option would be to join a huge raiding guild ourselves, but we knew we just wouldn’t get on with the politics of them, and anyway, we wanted *our* guild to raid. Thankfully, Blizzard offered that to the smaller guilds in TBC with the advent of true 10 man raids. But the 25 mans were still the province of the hardcores. I can only think wistfully of how great it would have been if we’d had 10 man versions too of raids like Black Temple, Serpentshrine Cavern and all the rest. Like the model Blizzard uses now for raids. No doubt such thoughts are anathema to those complainers who curse the day Blizzard started making raiding more accessible. Really, though, they should simply accept reality. A return to the old ways is never going to happen. Blizzard has grown and evolved over the past eight years; they now want more of their players to enjoy more of the game. While the  hardcores might gibber and foam about how pet battles and farming will be put in for the peasants, so keep out of *their* content, Blizzard clearly regard all of the game’s activities as being equally interesting to players. Which for most, they are. There’s no point weeping for the past. The original Naxxramas was gated not only by its extreme difficulty, but by the cost of attunement to it and having 39 other people to do it with. No one in their right mind would want a return to that. While some might gush about the player base remembering it with affection, I doubt the 99% who never saw the place love it at all.

I’ve seen the more polite end of the hardcore spectrum, (yes, there is one, although some forums might lead people to believe otherwise), rhapsodise about content having a certain ‘mystique’ because it *was* so inaccessible to 99% of players. But it doesn’t feel right to me that so few were allowed to enjoy the game to the full. I’m of the mind that raiding shouldn’t just be available to everyone with no effort to be made on their part. I think it’s good that players might have to work for it a bit, rather than simply tumble into the laughably easy style of raid we see now in LFR. But – things change, time moves on. The past will never return. Blizzard clearly eventually realised it wasn’t the best plan to keep developing WoW in the direction of only relatively few players getting the full experience of it. While some things have been made much more accessible, the hardcores have been given heroic modes as a mollifying gesture, but that’s not enough for them. Some don’t want anyone else even to *see* end game content, at whatever difficulty. (I think it’s important to point out here that the true top-end raiders, in the biggest and best guilds in the world, who achieve all the world’s first raid completions, never stoop to ranting and raving on forums about accessibility. They just get on with what they’re best at and to my knowledge don’t care what other players might do with content after they’ve conquered it.)

Another point to bear in mind, which has been mentioned on various forum threads I’ve seen recently, is that the fond recollection some old school raiders have about everyone being fantastic players back then (as opposed to how they see players now) is entirely false. I’ve read threads where people are saying that some old school raiders now coming back to the game after a long break just can’t cut it. And I can corroborate this. No slur on some of the people we’ve had in our guild, who were considered pretty hardcore back in the day, but some of them are not necessarily good raiders now. In one case, a couple of years ago, a guildie told me another member, newly returned to the game, who was once part of a well known raiding guild on our server in the early days, had taught him all he knew about tanking in Vanilla. I was astonished by this revelation, because the ‘renowned’ old school player was, at that time, one of the most likely to be killed by the floor, if not something else as preventable. The fights we have nowadays are far more complicated than what the old school were used to, and those who’ve not kept up with the changes by playing consistently through the expansions have to learn how to raid all over again. You only have to compare the original Ragnaros, his abilities, and the amount of phases (one) in that fight to his updated, 5 phase, multiple ability incarnation in Firelands. So perhaps Vanilla raiding wasn’t so much about a greater level of player skill than about the organisational ability to herd 40 people of the right combination of classes, in the right direction, (which admittedly must have been an extremely wearisome task).

However, there are things that some old schoolers say that I agree with. I don’t dispute the epic moments they describe when talking of when people saw certain bosses for the first time. There were some colossal lore figures as bosses in Vanilla and TBC. I don’t disagree when such players suggest it should be more of a challenge for people to get access to raiding, if only by finishing one tier before starting another. I get what they mean entirely when they recall how the availability of a new raid in TBC spurred people on to finish Black Temple, because that was the only way they’d get into the new raid. They went for that little extra push, and I imagine it was a great buzz for them to down Illidan when only a week or so before they might have struggled with him. Incentive is a great motivator. As far as I can see, Blizzard is attempting to bring that back in Mists somewhat, which is a good thing.

I don’t disagree that players should strive hard to get through the raids, rather than find them too easy. What I don’t think is right is when the difficulty is tuned so high only the hardcore elite can complete it while it’s current. At one time in WoW’s history it was the norm that even the best raiding guilds would bang their collective heads against a boss for months on end before beating it. Only extremely dedicated guilds can survive that kind of slog. Most will founder on the rocks of demoralised boredom and burnout if raids are tuned too high. Somewhere, there is an acceptable middle ground, and that’s what I think Blizzard is striving to find – perhaps through trial and error, but striving all the same. Heroic modes are supposed to be for the hardcores who want raiding as hard as it can possibly get.

When some dissenting players can give ‘evidence’ of raiding becoming easier, in that bosses are downed too quickly in an expansion’s life for their taste, they neglect to think of one very important factor: the player base as a whole has become more savvy at raiding since Vanilla and TBC. More players are doing it, having started with Kara and working through everything thereafter. This, I believe, is partly responsible for them eating through content more quickly. They have simply become better players. LFR might still be plagued by stumbling numpties, sociopaths and fools, but I’m talking about the mass of mid-range guilds like ours, and the level of skill we have, and which we have built upon, who aim to complete normal modes of raids while they’re current, and perhaps venture into heroics thereafter if they want, or feel ready for, a greater difficulty. These guilds make up a large amount of the player base, and I imagine that most of them welcome a challenge and don’t want to faceroll the content. But neither do they want raids that are guild breakers.

There are arguments for and against the introduction of LFR, which has opened up raiding to all, (of a sort), and the discussion of which merits a topic of its own. But if anything has removed the mystique from raiding, this is it. However, that aside, you can see the development of the game from different perspectives, and there are arguments, just as compelling as those voiced by the hardcores, illustrating why WoW raiding is far better now than it was. It is all down to perception really; there is no ultimate truth, only viewpoint.