An Unfortunate Downvote

Basically, I am a believer in the idea that people don’t always know what they want.  They generally always think they know what they want, but the elation from acquiring something you want can be fleeting, and often even result in a feeling not unlike buyer’s remorse.  At the very least, many people often forget they ever wanted something shortly after getting it, or said object of their desire doesn’t actually improve their lives or experiences or emotional state in a tangible way.

In other cases, people often think that they aren’t having fun in World of Warcraft (or whatever other activities or hobbies or jobs they do) because of a certain aspect of the game (or job, or hobby) and identify a symptom of a problem instead of the real problem itself.

If it weren’t for the title of this post, some might be thinking that I’m going to make an example of that guy.  Well… no.  Kuroyi of Eonar, I’m going to defend you and analyze why you’re tired of seeing overgeared players in a specific setting.

The fun versus the grind.

Needless to say, Kuroyi gets some enjoyment out of playing World of Warcraft.  He gets enough enjoyment out of the potential game experience that comes with doing 5 player dungeons that it’s a disappointment to him when a player at a much higher gear level prevents him from doing his job (tanking, based on the armory) and actually enjoying playing the game by blasting through and carrying the group with nothing resembling challenge to any of them, even if fate decided to put the world’s three worst players in the group with Kuroyi and the overgeared player.

Convenience is a very easy thing to wish for.  Nearly everyone has seen convenient things being added over time, such as connected flight points, flying mounts, elixir classifications and buffed versions of flasks preventing their use, reputation tabards, dungeon finder, raid finder and so on.  Some of these are obviously pure wins – I don’t think anyone misses having to land at each flight point between your original location and your destination and having to choose the next point, and I don’t think anyone misses having to use flasks and 4-5 different types of elixirs simultaneously for raids, but some of these additions and changes certainly have their drawbacks.

Flying mounts I’ll use as my example – they are cool and very convenient, allowing you to go anywhere you want quickly and easily, and it can feel like a huge drag anytime you can’t use them – Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle being obvious examples.  What people do, however, is look at those locations through the eyes of someone who has had the convenience of flight for several years rather than someone who’s never been able to fly.  Has the ability to fly has made the game a better game?  I’m not even remotely convinced that it has.  Any parents out there can probably understand that someone mentioning a treat or candy to a young child might result in begging and crying for that treat, and that the treat not being mentioned at all can result in a much happier child with more pleasant behavior despite not getting a treat, because the child had no reason to think about wanting it.  This concept with flight isn’t any different.  People don’t grow out of human nature.

I, personally, see two potential problems with the game that sparked Kuroyi’s post.

  1. Many well-geared players are doing something they likely don’t have any enjoyment for because it’s a convenient way to get something they need for what they actually do enjoy – Valor Points.
  2. The player power disparity from gear is so massive that it segregates the player base unnecessarily beyond what skill and time commitment already do.

There were a large number of downvotes to Kuroyi’s original post by people who probably miss the real point of what he’s saying, though the case may be that even he doesn’t understand how much depth there is to his problem and only sees a symptom of it.

I don’t find easy content as enjoyable as content with a measure of difficulty to it.  What I find difficult, however, is not likely the same as what you or others find difficult.  We all have unique measuring sticks, seeing that we’re all unique people with different amounts of time to allocate to playing, different experience levels, and various other factors, so when I say that challenging content is more fun for everyone, I don’t mean that with the idea that game content should be exclusive to a select few.  What Kuroyi is clearly after is a level of challenge that feels appropriate to him in the 5-player heroic dungeon setting, and a desire to feel like he’s making a meaningful contribution to the group.  Nothing against him as a player, but if I were in his group, he wouldn’t be making a meaningful contribution – I can easily solo it all and would have it all dead before he even reaches it much of the time.  Is that supposed to be fun for him?  I may have once had a mild sense of satisfaction from clearing a dungeon meant for 5 people, but it only lasted until I remember that my character is literally 5 times more powerful than those it’s intended for.

The most important feedback.

1. An amusement or pastime.
2. A competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators.

Games are about having fun.  Fun is different for everyone, but what a game is meant to do is not.  Because of this, “I’m not having fun” or “I am having fun” is the most important feedback a game’s developer can hear if the scenario that causes such an emotion in either direction can be identified from the feedback given.  It’s pretty clear to me that Kuroyi’s feedback states that playing with players that are far above and beyond his own performance level isn’t fun to him.

In other words, my opinion in this case is that the most important feedback a game’s developer can receive was an unfortunate victim of a popularity contest among people who missed the point.  The forum vote system failed here, as it sometimes does.  Unfortunately, society and popular opinion suppress the dissenting opinions and people’s knowledge of them and often suppresses people’s willingness to express their feelings, beliefs, and ideas.

Players who are geared and skilled enough for heroic raiding generally don’t have to go too far to hear complaints about how “bad” the LFR experience is because of how poor the performance is of players at a low gear and skill level.  Based on all of this, I have a pretty basic theory.

  1. Players generally want to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution, and therefore do not enjoy playing with players who have a huge gear advantage.
  2. Players want to feel like they aren’t carrying others, and therefore do not enjoy playing with players who are far less geared and skilled than they are.
  3. Players who enjoy a fast run through early/easy content made possible by highly geared players are simply there to get something they feel is an un-fun grind out of the way, in this case, the acquisition of a currency such as Valor Points.

… and from this, I can jump to a couple more conclusions.

1. Valor Points are not fun.

Nothing in World of Warcraft says “grind” more than Valor Points, even with improvements to the acquisition rate as Mists of Pandaria has progressed.  Acquiring them is not an enjoyable experience far too often, and it effectively forces players into doing things they do not enjoy because the character power provided by Valor Points is far too large to ignore due to item level being tied so tightly to your performance.  Valor Points and especially the VP upgrade system have, in my opinion, been the largest and yet least visible disease of a progression method this game has ever had.  They aren’t designed to be fun, they are designed to be nothing more than a time sink.

Some may have heard me say this before, but having a lot of things to do is great for the game.  Having to do a lot of things is not.

2. Huge item level and player power disparities outside natural skill are not fun.

Sacrificing the more Public Relations-friendly method of nerfing raid content through larger DPS increases per item level is the only drawback to reducing item level gaps and DPS scaling from item levels.  Every other impact of reducing the impact of gear is a huge win.  Huge player power disparity does not feel good to very many people.  Huge item level gaps have had a very sour-tasting effect on the instanced PvP landscape at times this expansion, and continue to in world PvP, along with making LFR and the like less fun for everyone, even if most don’t understand what the culprit actually is.


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