Game’s Too Easy? – Questing “Difficulty” Changes!

Questing

Hello and welcome to the series “Game’s too Easy?” Within, Metro will sarcastically discuss any number of assorted topics in an attempt to dispel myths and hearsay surrounding such. The focus of today’s discussion will be the process of leveling, with the goal to fully understand the progression from “classic-style leveling” to “cata-style leveling. We will also dispel the rumor that classic leveling was intentionally made challenging, while newer iterations were intentionally dumbed-down to remove said challenge.

Before we step inside the vast pit that is this topic, let’s first establish something that should be regarded as indisputable fact. Time changes all. Yes, it may slay kings, ruin towns, and beat high mountains down, but it also changes both the game, and the people who play it. This should be obvious to most, but it is an inherent flaw that exists with this argument that I feel needs to be apparent before it can properly be discussed.

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Let’s attempt to clarify by exemplifying, shall we?  Examine the development of mathematical studies and the introduction of technology via calculators. If we go as far back as the 1960’s, we will find people in their teens studying mathematics, learning to do long division with pen-and-paper configurations. The first time learning, a lot of mathematical equations and formulations seemed like quite a challenge. However, after doing it a few times, they were encouraged to learn shortcuts and memorize the basics, so the “challenge” turned more menial, allowing their experience to progress.

Fast forward to the 1990’s, and we will see this progression in full effect. Here we see children of the same age as previous learning math, but being formally instructed with a calculator alongside their pen and paper. The generations before them understood how menial the task truly was, and the educators decided to foster the use of technology, as to elevate the rate at which learning could be accomplished.

Finally, in the year 2014 we will have children not only learning to use calculators, but learning to use computer simulations to study geometry and physics. Fifty years in the cycle has changed not only the educators (in this case are the game’s creators,) but also the students (the players). Now, bring it full circle! What happens when we force a child with an ipad to do math by hand?

And so we have arrived at the point! Let’s not forgot this walk through time, as it is a near-flawless lesson in what this game has come through. With this firmly in our mind, we can begin our discussion at the most logical place: the beginning.

World of Warcraft was officially released in the US on November 23, 2004, but had been in development since 1999, being first announced in 2001 at the ECTS trade show. At this time, they were claiming the game to be an open environment which fostered exploration and allowed players to do what they please as they please it. It was boasted that quests were “optional,” meaning that if players wanted to just simply play the game and explore, they could continue to do so without being locked down to one zone – a concept that had revolutionized the market. The concept launched with the game, but of course players seeking an elevated level of success would not simply explore for 12 hours straight, and it soon became apparent that there was an optimal path that could be taken.

At this point, we arrive at our first “challenge” impasse!  At the time, questing was a method of gaining experience, but not all quests were equal. Some were quite challenging to

Notice the lack of "!" on Minimap, a feature not added until 2.0!

Notice the lack of “!” on Minimap, a feature not added until 2.0!

complete alone, or as a certain class or spec. Others took you half way across the world, but gave less experience than ones that could be completed in the zone they started in. Many quests would result in you dying multiple times, wasting both gold on repairs, but also playing time. So over the weeks following launch, players who had much experience with the quests began to develop routes to follow. They began to understand which quests gave the most “experience per hour,” and were able to identify exactly how and where to complete each quest. Eventually, this culmination of knowledge became “thottbot,” a database that would collect information such as location of the quest mobs, or where the quest item can be found.  This became an invaluable tool for anyone starting out, as it allowed them to access the information formally only gained through grinding.

Hopefully you see now, that this “Classic leveling” is akin to the 1960’s mathematics example of earlier. Most people learned the hard way, as it was the only way to complete the task, but those of a higher understanding eventually created technology that could be used for future generations. This is exactly so in Classic world of Warcraft, and when you hear people talking about things being a “challenge” it is important to remember these truths.

Now we can fast forward, as we did with our education comparison, many years in the future, where technology has become rampant. Over the years of World of Warcraft’s history, the people who learned how to maximize their questing experience developed addons such as Quest Helper, or Cartographer. These addon’s utilized the already-experienced map and quest knowledge of the developer to trivialize a lot of the game’s original “challenge;” which we have come to call “inexperience.”

Questing Technology independently created integrated into default game.

Questing Technology independently created integrated into default game.

With Cataclysm, we have seen an entire overhaul of the questing system, and many people criticize the integration of addons into the default package. They claim that it makes the

game too “easy,” but what they really mean is experience is less valuable. You see, there is no inherent “challenge” in the menial questing, as there was void in a teenager’s learning of mathematics. Technology has been developed in both cases, and once used by some people, it is only logical for those in charge to help those less fortunate by providing the equality in tools.

It is important to remember these lessons as the game continues to follow this road. Questing should be enjoyable, but a means to an end. The game has grown so much at max level, that continuing to keep vestigial remnants of old systems in just to prolong the system is frivolous. The game has progressed from a system that didn’t even have quest tracking on the screen, or !’s on the minimap, to having full walkthrough-type arrows on the world map, but this is simply as we have seen with the education example. The age of technology is the age of convenience, and to deny this is simply living in the past.

Thanks for reading! As always, we encourage comments and discussion here at Stratics, so if you have any thing you would like to add, it would be my pleasure to continue the conversation! 

 

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