Redeeming Exploration and Defending Casuals

Two great posts caught my eye this weekend, both of them looking to the past of WoW, and both of them with great points to make about the future:

First up, Squelchy of Blame Squelchy has been doing some real-life sandbox exploration – by which I mean going out into the wide open world, not actually sitting in a sandbox. And in doing so, he’s been starting to think about his experiences with WoW when he felt that Azeroth was a wide open world too

“Without a doubt, the most epic moment in WoW for me was not a boss fight or a come-from-behind Arena win. It was walking into Ironforge for the first time.

What made it so special? I wasn’t trying to find it. I didn’t even have a quest to go there. I just saw a hill and started walking. “What’s up here?” my little gnomish avatar was thinking. Up to that point I had thought the tunnel from Coldridge Valley to Dun Morogh was pretty impressive. Then I noticed the music had changed about when I passed a small cart on my right. I hadn’t yet learned how to move my camera farther back for a wider field of vision, but with my FPS background I knew how to mouse-look, so I looked up–and there it was, the door with that gargantuan dwarf statue.”

This is a great post in praise of exploration that I suspect will ring true with a lot of us – I know I remember similar things from my time at the very start of Azeroth, 7 years ago. (Hinterlands statue, anyone?). And the massive rush of “Learn from Skyrim!” posts from last year make me think a lot of people miss the feeling of exploring a world. I’d not thought of Squelchy’s archaology connection, but it’s a great idea.

Meanwhile, Reliq of Azeroth Observer has a different bee in his bonnet. In the age of people complaining that LFR is for apes, he’s getting increasingly sick of the backlash against the casual player

“By the time Cataclysm was out, I’d raided, loved running end-game 5-mans, and considered myself a pretty grounded player who knew the basics. I was by no means a higher-tier player – or even medium-tier – but I didn’t mind things being difficult and wouldn’t consider myself a noob.

However, I do consider myself casual, and so the commentary – becoming increasingly poisonous over the following 12 months – of those early months of Cata bothered me. The continuous talk of Blizzard “catering to the casuals”.”

I’m always up for a good rant, and Reliq’s going strong here with a post that’s definitely going to annoy some people. But it’s timely. Whilst the “casual vs hardcore” debate has run since the first guild walked into Molten Core, LFR in particular has heated it up to boiling point right now. And I suspect that a lot of “harder-core” players (like me, arguably) can do with a reminder every so often that actually, the casual gamers have a point too.

Would you like to see more exploration in WoW? And where do you stand on the hardcore-vs-casual debate at the moment?