Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Did Cataclysm shoot itself in the foot?

My spider sense is tingling lately about this expansion so far, and it boils down to the spectrum of difficulty in all of the content. It's not that the content is really hard, but that a LOT of the content is hard, and there is not much that one can coast and have some mindless fun.

My hat goes off to Blizzard. They did everything they said they would. There are no face roll player rotations anymore, heroic dungeons require a lot of attention (at least on the first few times through), raids are tuned and balanced (with some glaring exceptions on 10man) and the world and the stories are told where every zone is a nice complete package.

I was very excited going into this expansion. Things are going to be difficult again, things are going to be challenging I told myself. 10man and 25man are going to be equal progression paths, and I can lead a 10man with much less headache than I led our 25man in ICC. It's going to be great! I won't be a stressed wreck raid leader, and I am going to have a lot of fun!

While I am having fun with the raiders that I play with, I am already tired out by the raiding content. I am tired out given I am continuously recruiting replacements for raiders that flake. I am tired out by hotfixes and changes to classes and encounters that need to be relearned regularly. I am tired out by my complex rotation that I have to theorycraft and change when patches hit (I'm looking at you Holy Power CS/HOTR fuckery); compounding the problem is learning my new game pad which I specifically bought to combat the lack of real estate for all the new goddamn buttons that I have to push not just for my main spec, but for my offspec and my shaman's main and offspec. I'm tired of feeling like an inadequate raid leader when other guilds progress faster than we do, and I am tired of letting down my raiders when I fail.

So what changed? Why does this, the introductory tier of raiding, feel insurmountable? I think is has to do with the spectrum of difficulty in comparison to previous introductory tiers. In Vanilla and TBC, there was a LONG "training" you had to go through (leveling up) to get into dungeons and raiding and it was learned ad-hoc based on who you happened to come across in the "Looking for Group" chat. You have new abilities to learn and integrate, but the learning curve was pretty slow. I remember it taking months before I could call myself ready to step into a Karazhan.

Wrath took a little quicker pace. The leveling time was quicker than TBC, everyone got shiny new toys, learned how to use them and then jumped into raids. Rotations were more complex than TBC, but that was buffered by the ease of the first tier or raiding. A player could learn and hone their skills in an actual raid environment while getting that sense of fun and achievement.

I think where the breakdown for me is that Cataclysm is challenging for me on all fronts. Everyone got shiny new toys, and we got shot up the express lane to 85, reducing the time to acclimate to all the new hotness. Raiding has become juggling a 5+ button rotation/priority system, while managing your resources, while paying attention to boss mechanics and moving out of the bad. It is not that those things individually are terribly difficult, but doing them all at the same time is exhausting, not to mention the addictive nature of content progression "Oh grats everyone we killed that boss, now we learn the next boss".

I'm not sure what this means for the game as a whole. I'm not sure this translates to fun for the average player. If I am frustrated right now, I am not sure what this means for people that used to faceroll to loot.

I am having fun playing with my friends. I'm not sure I am having more fun raiding.

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