The Gap Between Good and Great

Warlords of Draenor received a news spike last week with the release of a bunch of notes on what we might see in the pre-release patch coming 6 or more months from now.

I wanted to inject a little sanity into this right from the get go. These are notes about what might happen before it’s ever been tested in something that ain’t going to be released for over 6 more months. Get a grip, people.

Anyway, gotta keep pumping air into the news bubble for WoW, so we got patch notes.

As expected, Twitter and the forums began to churn with excitement, enthusiasm and outrage.

The most common complaint I’m seeing in this first pass is that the changes are Blizzard ‘dumbing down’ the game.

This seems to derive from the stat squish, abilities being removed, some Glyphs being given automagically as you level, the removal of hit and expertise, the easing of facing requirements for the use of some abilities, and so on.

Complaining about dumbing down the game. Another way to phrase that would be simplifying the game, wouldn’t it?

What would be the drawback of a simplified system? Or put differently, what are the benefits of a complex system?

Seems to me someone desiring a complex system wants there to be a great deal to learn and master in order to become great at playing their class.

So that same person would not like a simplified system where the gap between a great player and a good player narrows. The larger the gap, the shinier the epeen. The narrower the gap, the more any gap can be explained away by class burst or imbalance issues, not skill.

The point here is to have an opportunity to shine as you excel at playing the game in groups.

But what goes into this gap between good and great performance? It’s not all just hit after all.

You’ve got baseline class abilities, stat optimization on gear and player skill.

Basically, in order to be a great player, right now you have to know what your key abilities are and exactly how/when to use them, you have to know what your most important stats are and reforge/select gear to maximize them, and you have to be able to PLAY.

You know, move your butt? Pew pew? That part of the game where you’re actually playing kind of thing.

So what’s the problem?

Yes, class abilities are being streamlined according to the patch notes. Fluff is being removed. Baselines skills and spells are being highlighted so it’s harder to get lost as to which you’re expected to use.

That doesn’t mean a player will know how to use them, it simply reduces the likelihood that a Destruction warlock will run an entire encounter spamming Fel Flame.

Now the gear thing, I can almost see the QQ there. After all, a reforging calculator is not currently built into baseline World of Warcraft. In order to be at the ‘optimal’ levels of Hit and Expertise, a player has to know about reforging, know about the character pane and how to find your levels, understand about your effectiveness and miss chances against mobs at various levels above yours and that raid mobs are plotted in as three levels higher than you, and all that jazz.

Right now an easy way for someone to feel special is to properly reforge their gear, and reap the performance benefits over people who don’t. A lot of that is going bye bye with Warlords.

And of course then there is skillful playing.

This is the tough one for your diehard e-peener, because some of those players that don’t read websites or know about reforging or what stats to use or what the ‘optimal’ rotation is for their class have the temerity to be fucking righteous players.

As Keanu Reeves once said, “This is for rubber people that don’t shave yet.” They can get out of the bad and stick to a bosses’ ass like a remora on a shark.

Can you imagine what it’d be like if they weren’t kept from realizing their true potential through things like obscure reforging systems and opaque hit and expertise ranks?

Let’s flip this on it’s head.

What is the biggest complaint in many LFR runs?

That so many of the players in them are on low-geared or new alts that aren’t properly reforged, gemmed or enchanted and where the players don’t know how to use their class skills.

When you think about it, is it really SO BAD that Blizzard takes steps to address some of those issues?

What, you don’t want Blizzard to simplify aspects of the game, but you do want to bitch about how miserable LFR is.

Is it such a terrible idea to contemplate that new players not have to reforge hit and expertise before stepping foot in LFR? That some class abilities be pruned and others enhanced to make it clearer what to use?

The average DPS or HPS or TPS will go up overall. The gap between these players and the leet will narrow.

But it will still be there. Those gems and enchants will still make a big difference. Your gear drops from crafted items and normal raiding will still help you shine.

If you want to keep your edge, though, you’ll really need to make sure you work on that whole skill thing. Because those newbs be narrowing the gap and sucking on your hind quarters there, chief.

I guess I can see some of the concern. ‘Dumbing’ down the game means the leet have to actually move their ass and learn to play if they want to stay on top.

If not, those rubber people that don’t shave yet will be eating your lunch, boyo.

11 thoughts on “The Gap Between Good and Great

  1. When I was half-way through this post I decided to make a comment with the following:

    “There are people who are both bitching about all the bads in their LFR runs AND that Blizzard is dumbing down the game with their changes. Those are mutually exclusive arguments and hose people are either trolls or should have their posting privileges revoked because they don’t meet the minimum criteria for having a f’n clue.”

    Then you basically said the exact same thing later in the post. So… yeah. +1. I’m at the point that when I see someone use “dumbing down” in an argument, I immediately assume their point is without merit and move on. Unfortunately, Blizzard can’t do likewise.

    I have a similar negative reaction to “there’s nothing to do” compared to “there’s nothing that I want to do”. The former is a stupid, incorrect comment, the latter is perfectly valid… yet I see about 10x more “nothing to do” than I see “nothing that I want to do” arguments both in-game and out.

    For better or worse, all things being equal, half the people involved in anything are by definition below average (literally, half the players playing WoW are below average WoW players… ditto for blog post commenters, or bloggers for that matter…), whether looking at skill, effort, intelligence, whatever… so I try not to take the vocal minority too seriously and I’d encourage others to do likewise. I *WANT* other people to perform better than they are today, regardless of changes in my own performance (or not), other people doing better can only make my game more enjoyable. The only downside is that it could mean more competition for raid spots and I think that’s the simplistic perspective that the “elites” are taking although they likely won’t admit it… but this isn’t a game of linear improvement, it’s a game of relative improvement. If someone is a better player than me today, they’ll still be a better player than me in the new world despite the changes. I might be closer to them, but they’ll still be better. If I can do 80K in i496 gear in SoO LFR and someone else who isn’t as good as me can only do 20K, I’d prefer they do 50K or 60K instead even if I’m only boosted to 85K in the process, or even if I’m still at 80K… that doesn’t make me less good, it makes them less of a carry. This is A Good Thing. I want this to happen. A will still be > B, it just may be < 4B. And that's okay.

    If someone gets their thrills from doing 5x the dps of anyone else in LFR that's fine but they can't turn around and complain that everyone else is only doing 20% of their dps. Well, they can, and do, but they're morons. Skilled, well-geared morons.

    I think that's a big part of the "squish = nerf" argument, too. I understand proportional math to the point that I'm aware that in a 90% squish world my 8K dps is the same as my 80K dps pre-squish but there are some who just can't comprehend that as being true because the number is now literally smaller than it was before (NERF!!!)… and I'm not sure what can be done about that if they aren't willing to just take it on faith based on verification from folks who do actually understand no matter how many times and ways Blizzard tries to make the argument. And that doesn't factor in the "I really do get it but smaller numbers piss me off" folks…


  2. I love you, Bear!

    If the game were to be designed purely for the leet, it would eventually stop being an MMO game and just become an O game. Because the less than leet would leave after the constant tirade of abuse and whinging, and then try getting raids together.

    I would much rather play with people who can enjoy the game with me than sit around waiting and waiting and finally join a group of asshats who measure the joy of the game by how much better they are at it than other people.

    Hats off to you Sir


  3. I,personally, live the idea of a game that is easier to play but still hard to master. My 9 year-old really loves to play the game. He doesn’t understand that 160 hit equals this % and he needs to have so much haste to equal a certainn % to hit the first cap. What he does understand is to move his rear when he is standing in the bad and to watch videos on boss fights to understand when to (and when not to) hit the boss. When to moclve and when to interact with the environment. You give me a raid full of people like that and we will, almost always, down the boss eventually. Unfortunately
    , I can’t let him experience all of the GAME by himself because I can’t be sure that some asshat won’t rip into him because he is only doing 60k when he “should be doing at least 100k on his main at this point in the game”. He actually had some little douchebag suggest that he should kill himself because he was only doing 60k in an lfr Klaxxi raid. He is 9 and this is a VIDEO GAME. Dumbing down the game isn’t going to help with that level of douchebaggery. Only a hammer and a plastic bag is going to solve that . . .


  4. The game needs new players to stay alive. It’s ok for those of us who have been playing for a long time to know all about hit caps, expertise, reforging, what gems to use, what rotations blah blah; you can’t expect that from new players. If you want those new players to stick rather than give up and go play some mindless Xbox shooter, then either things have to be a lot more transparent (which they aren’t right now) or things have to be made easier.

    I don’t feel that the game will be worse off for getting rid of hit and expertise. Trying to get the right gear to be close to the hit cap was always a pita for me. Anyone remember getting a piece of gear only to moan about how terrible the stats were on it? Happened to me plenty of times.
    Reforging gave us a change to change that piece of gear that wasn’t so great into something more useful, but as Blizz said, people are using external programs to sort their reforging out, so what is the point of reforging if you don’t even work it out yourself?


  5. This is an echo of what Talarian said really, but here’s the Extra Credits video on Depth vs Complexity.

    Ultimately what we need to ask ourselves is what we really are after: a more “difficult” game or a game where we have more choices that matter? Because if you think about it, its fairly trivial to make something difficult. You can ask someone to do something that is difficult for the brain to process, such as asking them to process several different sources of information in a short period of time or even at the same time. You can give incomplete information. You can ask someone to do something that is physically difficult, such as testing their reaction time with a extremely high watermark (which from my own observation seems often to turn away players who have a handicap, a poor connections or who are older). These are all things our games do but do they actually add all that much depth? Perhaps incomplete information encourages players to experiment but in games like wow the community really hates when you experiment since there’s nearly always a known and accepted answer.

    Once I know the answer to the hit/expertise cap, there’s really nothing more to it. Sure I might have to swap stats or gems around or reforge my gear optimally but it no longer feels like I’ve scored a victory or discovered something new. Its a solved problem for me. Especially since there really is no class or spec that I’ve encountered that does not give priority to the hit cap. It was always the first hurtle I jumped, and once I jumped it, it suffers severe diminishing returns on fun encountering it again. It is added complexity that does not earn us enough in actual engagement to continue to be in the game.


  6. Blizzard has made this an extremely difficult balancing act to master. On one hand, they wanted more people to experience more of the game. I have no idea of the numbers, but to put a guess on it lets say that 20% of people in the late part of BC raided. One out of five, maybe. These people were the true hard core gamers, because it was freaking HARD just to break into raiding. There was no magic number to hit, then a button to push. You had to do research man. Or have a really, REALLY patient friend help you just to get attuned to be able to START raiding.

    Now, I’d say that closer to 80% of people are raiding. This, in of itself, should be a great thing for everybody. More people get to do cool and fun things, means more people stay and pay for the game, which in the long term means more expansions.

    The downside of that, is you have to make it easier to break into the end game, and the complaints comes from old raiders that say “back in my day, blah blah blah”.

    I take my hat off to Blizz for trying to keep the game going. I don’t always agree with it though, and have at times been just down right against it.

    I never minded having to get hit/Expr capped, it made the game interesting. I did mind reforging, because it made the math pretty complicated, so much so that out of game tools because the “norm” for people that wanted to min/max their toon. Glad to see reforging go away, it was just a gold sink in my mind. I don’t know what will happen with the removal of hit/Expr, but it does kind of feel like a “dumbing down” of the system.

    I appreciate your outlook of “you leet peeps better step up the skill yo” attitude, and can somewhat agree with it. But I also see the other side man. We commenters on here are obviously a skewed bunch of people. We are on a wow blog, reading about wow, studying how to be better (or just here for the sammich stories). I had to scratch and claw my way to the top of the healing meters, starting with a ton of research inspired by a GM that said “Copey, you got to heal more, or we have to replace you. You are hurting the team.”. THAT’s when I learned to do research, learned about food buffs, started fishing, cooking, started trying different builds in order do maximize my healing strategy. Every expansion, that has gotten easier, and every expansion I’ve had to do less research, despite massive changes in the healing and tanking roles.

    And I do believe the game is less of a game because of that.

    I also believe that because of these changes, we still have a game to play, instead of Blizz/Activision closing the doors because not enough people pay subs.

    So I guess we all have to take the good with the bad, eh?


  7. Give people heroic geared properly gemmed reforged and all that jazz and in LFR they will still stand in the bad, put dismal numbers relative to their gear, pull when the raid is not ready and quit at the first wipe it’s not about the gear it has never been its about a good chunk of people who make the game miserable for a good portion of the rest.

    Leveling up, gemming, reforging, optimizing your rotation indicates you care enough about the game as to try to be better at it or at the very least it indicates you pull your weight when on a raid if you have few or very few of this players and plenty of the ones doing wrong stuff intentionally or not it brings a great deal of dissatisfacyion to the group.


  8. You get this for every expansion. By the time came around Mop had truly removed a lot of the game mechanics. The only real remaining mechanic complexity is hit/expertise.

    For fun sometime remove all your talents and glyphs and go into LFR. Shouldn’t be a problem.

    To me the biggest concern is not the reduction of complexity but how that reduction will affect the fun factor. IMO protection paladins were less fun in cataclysm than in BC. Yet in MoP they are probably the funnest they have ever been. Overall the technical differences between MoP and Cata for prot pallys is not that big but the feel is.

    You posted recently about how much a change in haste can change how it feels to play. Same concept.

    I personally hope they don’t scrap reforging. If the difference between the reforgable stats is not big then reforging would be a pleasure. That is to say people who want big booms would stack crit, want to hit faster then stack crit. This should be reasonable with the removal of hit/expertise and the changes to make those stats more equitable in worth(some blue post mentiooned that).


  9. And that, my friends, is the difference between “complexity” and “depth”. Put simply, the more rules that you have to think about, the more complex the game is. The more you have to think about the interactions between those rules, the more depth your game has. The canonical example of a game with a lot of depth but not a lot of complexity is “Go”. The rules are simple, the potential states the game can be in, the number of strategies you can come up with, etc. are absolutely enormous. But anyone can learn the basics in like 5 minutes. Easy to learn, hard to master. It’s the holy grail or the unified theorem of game design.

    This is Blizzard attempting to get closer to that.

    To be fair, there is a joy in being able to wrap your head around a complex system and understand the intricacies. But I think that will be a niche fulfilled by games like Galactic Civilization II and the like, where the rulesets can afford to be ginormous, as you have all the time in the world to fathom said ruleset.


  10. I don’t know, BBB. I don’t think this line is true:

    This is the tough one for your diehard e-peener, because some of those players that don’t read websites or know about reforging or what stats to use or what the ‘optimal’ rotation is for their class have the temerity to be fucking righteous players.

    In my experience, good players who play well (high uptime, proper movement, etc.) are also players who are gemmed and enchanted. Players who don’t enchant/gem are usually bad players all around. They don’t move correctly, they get killed by avoidable damage, they simply don’t do enough damage.

    Player skill and gemming/enchanting are not independent variables, they are correlated ones. It’s not absolute, thought. Someone who isn’t gemmed/enchanted might be a good player. But 9 times out of 10, they aren’t.

    People who care enough to be skilled, to move correctly, to do as much damage as possible, they also care enough to keep their gear in good condition. The people who don’t take care of their gear, they’re the ones watching TV while the rest of the raid carries them.

    You were in the Marines, BBB. Would you really trust a fellow marine who didn’t keep his gun cleaned and in good working condition?


Comments are closed.