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

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.