“If you don’t want to learn, please don’t play”

by on November 8, 2011

In WoWland, Patch 4.3’s coming toward us with a number of eagerly awaited features – Transmogrification, Darkmoon Faire Island, and of course the new dungeons and raids – and one feature that’s causing longing and fear in equal measure.

Looking. For. Raid.

It’s obvious from reports on the Public Test Realms that initial LFR tests are not going terribly smoothly. A lot of people are calling for Blizzard to either make major changes to the tool, or alternatively are expecting them to make the already simplified Dragon Soul version for the LFR even simpler.

And against this backdrop, Zellviren of Piercing Howl’s recent impassioned rant on the subject of difficulty seems as perfectly timed as his message is controversial: if you can’t learn to play the game, you shouldn’t be playing it

“I was, until recently, of the opinion that end game content had been too highly tuned for the vast majority of the playerbase and that it needed to be toned down a bit. The levelling process was far too easy, however, and didn’t actually prepare anyone for these instances before they started slamming their heads against them. Over the weekend, I was tanking Zandalari instances on my recently-dinged death knight when it hit me.

Heroic dungeons, including the Zandalari duo, are NOT hard. At all. They are really very easy, and only require a small amount of attention and ability to play your class, regardless of role. Normal raids, particularly on their ten-man setting, also fall into this category; they require little more than a bit of gear which is easy to come by, and some patience to learn how the fights work. They are NOT hard by any stretch of the imagination and any claim to the contrary means the complainant simply isn’t putting in enough effort.

With this fact slamming into me with the force of a piano landing on Elmer Fudd, several other revelations hit me. The most damning of which, and the one that I’ll cop the most flak for, is this: If you don’t have the time to devote to learning how to do heroic dungeons or normal mode raids, you have absolutely no business playing an MMO.

Saying “this one’s going to be controversial” is a bit like saying “Italy’s debts are getting bankers a bit worried”. I can imagine very few WoW players not having a strong opinion after reading this – excellently written and clearly heartfelt – article.

Do I agree? I’m not sure. On the one hand, I completely agree that the ongoing quest to remove much of the challenge from the game – particularly, as Nils said a few days ago , the levelling game after level 10 – is a big problem. And I’m a huge fan of the Demon’s Souls series, which espouses exactly the opposite philosophy – they’re hard, they expect you to learn, and they’re proud of it.

On the other hand, bits of raiding clearly are very hard for most people to learn. And I’m not sure how to judge the ease or difficulty of raiding and dungeons at this point – what I consider easy, as a nearly 7-year veteran of the game with a facility for maths and speedreading, may not be at all easy for most people.

I’m looking forward to the debate on this one!

So, should Blizzard be actively looking to get rid of people who can’t play their game, or should they be trying to make it easier?

Update: Piercing Howl has posted a follow-up piece responding to the many comments on this article.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our other posts from these categories: World of Warcraft

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Tesh November 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I think it might be fair to tell people who don’t want to learn to stay out of raiding, but MMOs are more than that. Or at least, they should be.


Hugh Hancock November 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

@Tesh – What about dungeons, though? The article starts talking about the Zuls, after all – should those be the domain only of the guy with Learn2Raid in a pinned browser tab?


Nils November 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm

This is like saying that it should not rain while I am outside. Everybody is entitled to his opinion, of course, but blaming player seems pointless to me.

What can be said is that MMOs need to be easy to learn and hard to master. WoW is hard to master, but it’s also very hard to learn, unfortunately. WoW is like the teacher who always gives you an A no matter what you do. And then, suddenly you are maxlvl.

WoW is hard to learn, because it doesn’t teach. You can play the game with click-to-move (enable it in settings) for a long time. But once you reached maxlvl this way to controling your character turns out to be a bit … problematic ..


Wilhelm Arcturus November 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm

In the midst of what is otherwise another elitist screed about how the game should be focused on him and his needs, I seem to detect that his real concern is that a proposed “looking for raid” tool will lead to raids being dumbed down.

Did I get that right?

If so, that is probably a legitimate concern. Certainly the 1-60 dungeons feel watered down after their post-dungeon finder/post-Cataclysm adjustment, at least relative to Burning Crusade and Lich King dungeons.

Still, this “I hate this game and most of the people who play it” approach makes me ask why he is still playing. If it is for his guild and his regular group? Why not get them to go try another game?

My regular group managed to move on when we felt Cata was too easy.


Tesh November 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm

@Hugh Hancock – I’d say that dungeons on the leveling curve are a perfect place to do the teaching that Nils suggests. Actually, I’d have solo dungeons that give you NPC groupies so that you could learn grouping mechanics in a more explicit, paced manner. And have the game teach you there.

Even with the current system, though, I’d say dungeons are fine for anyone. Certainly some will screw up, but that’s how you learn.

That said, I would also like “learning raids” since the larger groups really do play differently from 5-man dungeons. I only say that it’s fair to demand an attitude of learning in raids because they are designed to be the “hardcore” skill-intensive areas. I think it’s fair to tell people that if they don’t want to learn the hardcore skills that the part of the game that demands those skills really isn’t going to be kind to them.

I’d not ban them or mechanically keep them out, if that was even possible, I’m just saying that it might be useful to tell people that raiding demands something of you. It’s not really about elitism in my mind, though, it’s about information and expectations. I teach art here and there, and I have no compunction telling people that if they don’t want to learn what I have to teach, they won’t get much out of class.

I dunno, maybe that makes me a jerk, but it just seems like honesty to me.


The Renaissance Man November 8, 2011 at 6:54 pm

I firmly believe that no game should be actively trying to cull it’s player base, outside of actively detrimental accounts like botters and griefers. However, at the same time, I also think that a game cannot be tuned specifically for the lowest common denominator, because the bottom portion of the player base is unspeakably bad. To the extent where I’m not sure if they’re being played by a human being, or their pet cat sleeping on the keyboard.

The most important thing Blizzard can do is release properly tuned content. The players will either be good enough to complete it, or they won’t. Most importantly, they’ll know where they stand. By consistantly nerfing content, especially while it’s still current, Blizzard is giving players an inflated sense of their own ability. I do not believe that when guilds that have been clearing normal mode firelands for a month now hit Dragon Soul and get bounced, “Use LFR difficulty” isn’t going to be an acceptable solution in their eyes, because they were clearing normal mode last tier, why should they have to step down this tier? Even though their actuall ability level places them squarely into the LFR difficulty target audience, their percieved ability levels will cause them to be dissatisfied.


Paul November 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Difficulty in raids was ramped up two ways. First, encounters themselves were made more complex. Second, rotations were made more interactive.

These two effects both use up part of the difficulty budget. And if spells and rotations are not going to be simplified, the encounters are going to have to be.

I think Blizzard may want to add some very lightweight PvE raidlike content,just so people can practice rotations. This is one of the nice features of rifts in Rift – everyone gets tons of practice on tank&spank bosses. The PvE battlegrounds mentioned at Blizzcon could serve this function.


Megaman November 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Kill ‘em all.


Pathak November 9, 2011 at 4:33 am

I’m going to add to the flak.
“If you don’t have the time to devote to learning how to do heroic dungeons or normal mode raids, you have absolutely no business playing an MMO. ”

Perhaps that should be revised to “playing this MMO”.

When I first started playing WoW, I didn’t know what raiding was. It was enough that there was this virtual world that you could explore, do quests, do some PvP, and spend quite some time earning money for that first level 40 mount.

Since then the emphasis has become dungeons and raids, rather than being something else you can do while playing WoW. Cataclysm made it abundantly clear that WoW was now all about the raid. That’s when I decided it was no longer for me, and left.

I played RIFT for a while, but once you get to end game, you can partake in an arduous PvP grind, or raid.

There are other MMOs out there that don’t depend on the raid. I’m just not sure any of them are PvE. I sincerely hope that other MMOs will come into existence that don’t rely on raiding to keep subscribers. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Torchlight MMO and the Reckoning MMO, to see what they offer.


Babb November 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

Honestly, he’s right.
Heroic dungeons are very simple.

The ZA/ZG bosses for example typically have no more than two or three abilities that the group actually needs to be aware of and almost all encounters can be explained in 30 words or less.

Considering that the individual boss mechanics are very repetitive, once you’ve seen a fight 3 to 5 times, there shouldn’t be any more surprises.

Sure, everyone has a ‘first time’ to see a boss and the best way learn is to do.
But if you don’t know, ask. I’ve yet to see a dungeon group kick someone who asks for advice on a boss ahead of time. As the fights really are easy enough to explain in 20 words or less, it only takes a few seconds to give a brief rundown…far less time than a wipe recovery takes.


Rayze November 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

This discussion is perhaps a couple of years late. WoW has been slowly moving away from the “classic” MMO model (level -> grind -> raid) for a while. There’s a lot to do in WoW now and Blizzard are adding even more with every major patch. (Those who say that there is nothing to do in Cata but raid are probably misguided by their blurred memories of classic WoW.)

At the same time, Blizzard are making it easier to enter raids… which is not necessarily the same as making raids easier, though. That’s where I 100% agree with The Renaissance Man: if you tune content in a way, don’t nerf it halfway the tier or you will give the wrong message to players. That’s why I am hoping Blizzard will stick with the three levels of difficulty: having an entry-level difficulty should make normal and heroic content nerfs pointless and not necessary.

Nils is also right. You can faceroll your way through 1-80, then be suddenly faced with “do the right dance or die” mechanics in Cata normal dungeons. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.


Hugh Hancock November 9, 2011 at 10:42 am

Great comments, everyone – really enjoying this discussion!

@Rayze – Interesting – what other absorbing activities would you say there were at level cap? Aside from PvP and possibly achievement-hunting, I can’t think of many.

@Babb – I actually have heard of people being kicked for asking for tactics. But I agree, it’s not incredibly common.

@Pathak – Yeah, I tend to agree. I actually played WoW for about 3 years before even setting foot in a raid – in TBC and Vanilla, the expectation was that only the hardcore raided. However, that success was arguably possible only because the dungeons were actually *harder* than now, not easier.

I wonder how much Zellviren’s rant is actually a direct result of the Dungeon Finder? It’s not that the idiots didn’t exist in TBC, it was just that once you had a decent collection of friends to do dungeons with, you rarely saw them.

@The Renaissance Man – YES. I continue to wonder at Blizzard’s “start hard, then nerf” policy. It just doesn’t seem to achieve many positive results for them.


Zellviren November 9, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Despite the controversy, I stand by absolutely every line I wrote in the original post and don’t regret a word. What I do regret, to an extent, is the people I forgot to mention; namely those who PvP, role-play, collect pets or any of the other myriad things that players get up to.

“Casual players” are not my problem. In fact, these players are the ones who ADD to the world by being a part of it – nobody misses what this community was more than me.

I also never meant to imply that you should spend hours of time, out-of-game, just to commit yourself to raiding at the standard I would expect a member of my guild to. My point is that from the dungeon journal to your tooltips, there are plenty of opportunities to spend no more than 10 minutes figuring out what might be expected of you when you group up with others.

Look at the results of this dumbing down:

Those complaining about the imbuggerance of CC clearly NEVER saw a skilled hunter chain-trapping two mobs, yet still delivering meaningful DPS.

Those complaining about threat probably never tried holding off warriors during TBC when even using Thunderclap required stance-shifting and there was no Vengeance to solve the problem for you.

The ugliest result of this dumbing down is that casual players lose twice.

1) They lose content made for them (heroic dungeons were wonderful for casual players who liked a challenge).
2) They take the blame.

If nothing else good comes of my post, I hope it at least illuminates that this game is going to the dogs thanks to those who spend their online time being abject as well as aggressive.

It’s not to do with those who spend a smaller amount of time enriching the world they inhabit for the “elitist bottom-feeders” such as myself.

One can hope.


Zellviren November 10, 2011 at 12:03 am

Just quickly – I disagree with the Renaissance Man to an extent.

Nerfing current content doesn’t give players an inflated sense of ability, it actually patronizes them.

In my opinion, what can be worse than being told “don’t worry, we’ll make this REALLY easy just so you can see it”?

I agree with your other point though, sir. Properly tuned content, from the start, gives everyone their necessary baseline.

You either shape up, or you ship out. I lost three full progress bosses in this otherwise crap tier because of this and I absolutely, 100% resent it.


Hugh Hancock November 10, 2011 at 10:04 am

@Zellviren – I completely agree, and my guild is not in any way hardcore or elitist.

We raid once a week, and we were still on Tier 11 when the nerf hit. Many of our players are pretty much the definition of “casual raiders” – obviously I’m rather more hardcore in some ways, but I prefer the casual raiding atmosphere and my guildmates are RL friends.

I don’t know *anyone* in our casual guild who was at all happy about them. We felt like we were robbed of an entire tier of raiding, as well as being condescended to rather than allowed to make our own – slow – progress.

I also completely agree on your other points – I WAS one of those chain-trapping Hunters, and one of those frantically tab-targetting tanks, during TBC, and I’ve never had more fun or felt more fulfilled playing WoW than then. It’s an eternal source of disappointment to me that Blizzard has backed away from the brutal difficulty of the TBC Heroics, in particular.


Ben Sanders November 10, 2011 at 12:04 pm

There is a possible corollory to all those points:
If you dont have time for people in your group to be learning the encounter, you shouldnt be playing with them.


Zellviren November 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm

@Ben Sanders – I always make time for those willing to learn. Complaining as I do, then cutting off those trying to improve themselves, would be contradictory and stupid.

As it turns out, I’m considering a European Mentor programme that puts newly dinged 85′s in contact with more experienced players on their server, players willing to help them get to grips with the game.

If you’re not willing to be part of the solution, don’t complain about the problem.


Zellviren November 10, 2011 at 9:20 pm

@Hugh Hancock – Almost forgot you, Hugh; my favourite time in this game, possibly ever, was tanking Shattered Halls on my warrior (still my main to this day).

Using everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in order to succeed was exhilirating. Robbing people of that chance at heroism is, in my view, a huge step in the wrong direction. If I can get a pack of mobs glued to me within 3 GCD’s, I’m not working hard enough.

Yet here I am.


The Renaissance Man November 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm

@Zellviren – The firelands nerfs were the worst ones yet. They were abrupt, far too early, and completely decimated the content. I think however, the most damaging nerf was the 30% ICC buff. It was insidious, almost invisible. It persisted in current content for the better part of a full year, and that instance became the standard by which a raider was judged. The longer the nerfs sit in current content, the longer they have to just fade into the background. ICC in it’s inital incarnation was a moderately difficult instance, I would argue that it was harder than Firelands upon release, assuming you throw out both HLK and HRag. But as the buff crept up and set in, people remember it as a faceroll fest where pugs could stagger in and expect to down 7-10 bosses with ease. Guilds got to 11/12H with very little difficulty. When cataclysm dropped with T11, it wasn’t significantly more difficult than ICC was on release, but because of the amount of people who had successfuly raided ICC with the buff, there was a massive outcry from people who were used to clearing much farther than they did in T11, and when T12 came out, and was of similar difficulty, people didn’t say that Firelands was too hard, they said that Cataclysm raiding is too hard. They had certain expectations that had been built up by months of raiding a watered down tier, and those expectations got reinforced by the nerfs to Firelands.

While the nerfs do come off as patronizing to guilds with realistic expectations of themselves, they also feed into the delusions of raid groups that in all honesty have no business trying to attempt any sort of organized activity. They don’t see the nerfs as an insult, they see it as Blizzard acknowleging them as being correct, and that’s a dangerous move to make.


Hugh Hancock November 11, 2011 at 10:31 am

@Zellviren – Agreed, SH was absolutely fantastic as a challenge – although it was the only Heroic I saw people routinely refusing to take anyone but a Paladin tank on, so it may have been *slightly* overtuned. (Ditto original Durnholde, which I never actually completed on Heroic mode).

Having said that, provided there are other options, I’m not sure that having one or two stupidly hard options in a line-up of Heroics, say, is a bad thing. It means there’s always a white whale out there waiting to be conquered.


bilingue November 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Heads up, the link for the follow up is not working.


Hugh Hancock November 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm

@bilingue – Thanks – fixed.


Zellviren November 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

@The Renaissance Man – I think that’s fair – I didn’t mean to say players ONLY felt patronized, more that it was what I came across when speaking to people.

As for your point about Icecrown, I think you’ve very much hit the nail on the head. I killed Arthas at 5% (I was in a pretty casual guild at the time, but with some very good players) and remember it being very challenging. I recall Dawn Moore from WoW Insider giving out a Holy priest guide to healing it after saying:

“I forgot there were still some people who hadn’t killed it on normal”.

I’m not sure there’s a worse indictment than that.


bilingue November 17, 2011 at 12:50 am

@Hugh Hancock
Np, the same thing happens to me. I wonder if we are using the same plugin :)


Hugh Hancock November 17, 2011 at 11:17 am

@bilingue – Textile? Possibly! I absolutely love the darn thing.


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