Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some thoughts about nerfs

If anyone has missed it, there’s a golden opportunity now to power level your cooking skill almost for free thanks to the Pilgrim’s Bounty event. Tobold thinks this skill is given away too easily and adds: “Where is the fun in leveling a tradeskill when you can level it for a handful of silver in an hour?”

The following discussion is interesting. There are different views on this matter and good arguments to support them. Some commenters aren’t too fussed about it. After all it’s “only” cooking, a “nice to have” but not altogether necessary profession. (If you just have the gold you can buy any buff food you need at AH). A profession like enchanting would have been worth worrying about. Cooking – not very much. If this gives new players a chance to catch up on their cooking, it’s just a good service.

Others point out that it’s just in line with the current development to make everything more accessible to players with less gaming time at hands. Be it gear, be it raid bosses, be it XP or, as now, cooking (although it’s only for a week).

The discussion about cooking in Pilgrim’s Bounty points toward the good old, never-ending debate: what has all this nerfing done to WoW? Is it improving the game or destroying it?

Providing opportunities
I’m always a bit torn when those matters are brought up.

As I’ve said many times before I sincerely support the philosophy to provide raiding opportunities for all sorts of players, on different skill levels, with different amount of experience, making the base level of raiding less exclusive and time consuming. As long as there still are challenges for top-end raiders available (and there are), it’s good not only for the business, but for all players. We can be certain that when real life restrictions will prevent us from raiding on a regular schedule in our guilds there will still be opportunities for us. It isn’t the end of the game. And if your raiding team is skilled enough, there’s no need to spend 4-5 nights a week raiding to fight for the top positions on the progression charts. You can go very far without becoming a “no-lifer”. It’s easier than ever to keep up the balance with your real life.

On the other hand, I also must agree with some commenters who think the make-things-easier-and-quicker-policy has gone a bit too far. You dould ask: Are we really playing the game if we’re making the process of levelling cooking to max so quick that it can be done in 30 minutes, just standing on a spot buying cheap mats from a vendor? What exactly is fun or enjoyable about that? Isn’t the process of developing your character in different aspects a huge part of what the game is about?

A part of an MMO
One of the commenters to Tobold’s post, Beltayn, nails it:

“It seems like so many people hate most of the many small things that have always been part of an MMO.Questing, grinding, grouping, craft skills, everyone seems to be trying to find a way to make them go past more quickly... It's like saying: "I love playing football... except the part where you go outside, work as a team or have to kick a ball. That part sucks and I try to get it over with as soon as I can because it's annoying."Seriously, how long till we realize that for some people, if they actually hate 90% of the game and don't have time for most of it, they just shouldn't be playing an MMO?”
Longasc writes something in the same line:

“They cannot produce really new content as fast as players can consume it, not even Blizzard. In former times grind bridged the gap between new content and people grinding for the old content. By no means I want to defend mindless grind, but allowing people to complete everything imaginable easier and easier, faster and faster, cannot be the answer either.”
Exactly. Levelling professions, collecting materials and recipes for gear, doing long quest chains for attunements, those activities aren’t necessarily just plain boring and horrible grinds. They’re a huge part of our game play. This is what WoW, as well as many other MMOs are about, take it or leave it! If you don't like it you can play another sort of game!

When all those activities are nerfed to the ground for the convenience of the players, what other things are we supposed to do when we’re online? The pace that Blizzard has for producing new content isn’t overwhelming to be honest. And it shouldn’t be! I want them to stick to their philosophy of producing high-quality, well-polished content rather than rushing things. But if they do so, they need to keep the playerbase occupied with meaningful things to do.

Customers aren't always right
Maybe Blizzard has listened a little bit too carefully to the demands from the customers. Players complained loudly about what they thought was “grinds”, so they took it away.

Being customer oriented is a good thing, but you have to be aware that customers aren’t always right. We’re not game developers, we don’t know what we want in the long run and how the solutions we suggest will affect our enjoyment in the game.

What I ask myself is: was levelling cooking really that horrible in the first place? Does it deserve to be considered an appalling grind? And even if it was, and players complained that it was tedious, couldn’t there be better ways to deal with this than to turn it into something that could be done more or less automatically, standing by an NPC, altering between the “buy” and “cook” buttons?

Maybe the levelling process would become more interesting, challenging and fun if you added some more quests (not the silly one at 225 where you just buy the ingredients from vendors or AH), offering exclusive recipes and rare ingredients? Make an in-game-movie, a phased event from the "chef" realm? Whatever.

Of course cooking will go back to where it was before after this week is over, so the commenters who say that it isn't a big deal are right. Still: this isn't the last time they'll speed up a game process one way or another. And although it sometimes is necessary, they need to be careful and think things over thoroughly before they do those things.

There are more solutions to player complaints about grinds and demands for flexibility, than to just nerf everything to the ground.


Lasitus said...

What? No mention of the kazoo comment. I had a good laugh thanks to Toxic. It helped calm the rage fit I was in when I wrote my comment.

Your comments about Blizzard listening to it's players too much reminded me of the saying from Bill Cosby “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

Elnia said...

My initial not very thoughtful reaction was posted on Tobold blog. But upon further reflection I think it's actually quite appropriate to have done this with cooking. Thanksgiving here in America is about two things: cooking and eating. And Blizzard actually nails that quite well in their new holiday. So to have a one week event where cooking is a freebie is not only not a a big deal in this case it quite fitting.

MomentEye said...

I think the 'nerf' is overstated.

This is a temporary event. It provides a big boost to anyone whatever level their cooking is at but only as much as they are willing to work for it in the time period.

How many alts will miss out? How many new toons will have to wait for next year if they want to get the big power level?

I see it more as a big 'marketing ploy' to get people who have let cooking slip back into the fold.

Copra said...

I won't be doing those Pilgrim's Bounty quests due to the fact that I'm not able to login to the game during the time the event is up. Being the doom and gloom I am, I could say that by having this kind of restricted opportunity to level up a secondary skill -which is quite useful if levelled up at proper time- is short sighted and makes us not able to complete the quests very much disadvantaged.

Then again, it's a secondary skill which should have been levelled up already.

On the other hand, the scheduling you mention isn't necessarily as easy as you lead to understand: I for one cannot commit to any raiding even if I wanted to due to my work and other commitments and every so often that couple of hours needed just to prepare for a raid is all I have to give. Am I playing the wrong game, then? No. I'm just asking for something else -as meaningful in game context as raiding- to do, and that is something the end game isn't giving at the moment. And as long as pugging is the playground for the most selfish ba... pigs to romp, it's out of the question for a casual like me.

But yes, everytime Blizzard comes up with these artificial passtimes like ToC or Pilgrim's Bounty, it signals that they are not prepared... Sad but true.

C out

Stabs said...

Personally WoW passed my limit a few months ago and I've moved on.

I think it was a wonderful game but it now seems targetted at people who aren't me.

Saithir said...

Eh, how are secondary skills (the same ones you usually powerlevel anyway in an hour or two with just a bit more effort and gold spent - and by effort I mean "find a cooking guide that lists all needed mats, and then find them on AH or grind them if there's none"), suddenly a challenge, and therefore requires talk of "nerfing" it?

I know that all that talk about making everything so easy for everyone is trendy and stuff, but seriously. Secondary skills were never ever challenging. You looked up some cooking guide, went to AH, bought or farmed mats in needed quantities, spent some time cooking, done. Oh, if you were unlucky you had to fish in Eastern Plaguelands for a while or kill some Outland beasts.

If they would introduce a first aid based event, that would make it easier to level by making special race themed medpacks (Darnassus herb packets, dwarven beer-based painkillers etc - think exactly Pilgrim's Bounty but with first aid) for cheap mats, would you say the same? And first aid is even less of a challenge, everything you need is on AH in large quantities.

Personally I've used the event to level cooking on my druid alt, becase he couldn't set up fish feasts in raids with his 220 cooking, and I'm the one that's usually providing them on the other chars. I didn't care previously because it's an alt I don't play or raid much with, so I only had it maxed on my two main ones I raid the most with. But with this event I would be stupid if I were online and not used it.

Staffan said...

The problem with Cooking, compared to other professions, is that the recipes aren't readily available. If you want to level, say, leatherworking, all you have to do is get a big enough stack of leather (either from the AH or by skinning it yourself), go to the trainer, and get to work. As one pattern turns yellow or green, other patterns become available, and you can just keep chugging away.

But cooking is different. The cooking trainers have very few recipes available, so you have to travel to all sorts of weird parts of the world to acquire them, sometimes from quests and sometimes from vendors (who might only be around for a limited time, like that goblin caravan in Desolace). And each recipe uses a different kind of raw food, which just makes it even more complicated.

It also, ironically, suffers a bit from the speed increase to leveling - all professions do to some extent, but the problem is bigger with cooking due to the different mats used. I believe the game was originally roughly calibrated so that if you did the local quests and hit up the local vendors where you were questing, and used the ingredients you found while killing stuff, your trade skills would basically keep up with the stuff available as well as still be relevant (no making food that heals 250 health when we can buy food that heals 500). But now we level up faster, which means we kill fewer mobs, which means we get fewer ingredients, which means we lag behind in trade skills unless we make a concerted effort to stay around longer in order to grind mats.

Anonymous said...

@ Larisa

Well thank you!! As a person who doesnt really take much notice of the crappy "events" blizzard thrust upon us, finding out that i could power lvl my cooking on numerous alts for bugger all money and not much time was great !!

Cheers my little pink powerhouse

Cacknoob (Cooking power lvler!)

Carrie said...

Personally, I leveled up cooking back in BC. I did fishing and cooking at the same time, so all I needed was a fishing pole, a flint and tinder, and a good pile of wood to make fires. It involved quite a bit of traveling, based on my fishing skill at the time, as well as discovering where to get recipes for the fish that I was catching.

The only part that gave me any trouble was when I had to fish in Felwood, because staring at glowing green water for any length of time is hard on the eyes.

In all honesty, this doesn't bother me one bit. It's good for people like my hubby, who don't want to grind out the skill the way I did, but still want to be able to cook high-level recipes. And to be honest, who ever goes back and cooks any of the old recipes anyway? The only time I ever have was to help out one of hubby's alts with a bit of buff food as he was leveling.

The recipe vendors are always there, anyway, as are the cooking trainers, if it comes to that. Yeah, I had to do it the hard way, but I don't begrudge anyone a chance to bypass that. Especially since it's only around for a week anyway!

Gevlon said...

People don't want epic quests. They want high numbers to show off to peers. They hate the game, hate every aspect of it, but still playing it to be "better" than the next guy.

Anonymous said...

I think the real answer is that Blizzard doesn't mind if you don't have anything to do in WoW for a while. They have resigned themselves to the fact that they can't produce enough content to keep people occupied all the time while still being actually fun, so it's all right if you take a break or have a life apart from WoW when you don't have anything to do online.

Eidlhe said...

To be perfectly honest, after leveling 3 toons to max cooking the "hard" way, this was really nice. I took advantage of this holiday to level the other three alts as far as I could take them. Most of them to 300. Which will mean leveling past that when I get there is that much easier. I know folks think it's a nerf but when you look at altoholics such as myself, it just makes my life easier since I've already done it. AND, it is temporary. So if I get another alt going it will be done the "hard" (read longer) way again.

Fish said...

The issue I have with cooking is not leveling cooking itself. I think that process is ok. The issue I have is that cooking seems to be tied to fishing which is the WORST, most useless, boring activity in the game.

If it was more like other "gathering" skills, find a node, click it, etc, it'd be fine, but I don't have the patience to actually fish (RL or Wow).

I might go through the seasonal stuff on a couple toons tommorow just to do it, as others have said, cooking isnt necessary, more nice to have.

Mister K said...

I also think a lot of this was put in to appease some DK's who complained that leveling cooking was a meaningless or expensive grind for them and that they were wasting alot of time to get cooking up to their level. I agree with Elnia too. it does fit the holiday.

Cazenovia said...

I'll second Eidlhe's comment. I have two maxed cooks and a level 70something priest that's now well on her way to being a third. One I leveled in BC with my fishing skill; one I leveled early in Wrath with her fishing skill & some remembered knowledge of where to go; my third I leveled through this, and I'll need to bring her fishing skill up to par with the rest later.

My concern is mainly the precedent it sets. I was chatting with another 70something with 2 80s who made the comment that he hoped they would do the same for fishing. I.. well, I really don't, but I'm not sure I can rationalize why it bothers me more for fishing than cooking. Maybe the fact that fishing is almost inevitably more raw time put into the game, and therefore means more to me?

.. or maybe it's just that I like fishing more than I like cooking.

lonomonkey said...

I want access to content without having WoW to become a job. It doesn't have to be fast or easy but I don't want to be sitting outside with nothing to do because I can't commit 5 days a week to a game.

Juzaba said...

I think it's worth pointing out that the article (or, rather, the comments that the article quotes) seem to define "MMO" as "DikuMUD-style MMORPG," and suffers for its misused definition.

For one, I disagree that Wow is currently the game that it started as - a polished & more casual-friendly Everquest. It focuses more on PvE endgame, and even PvP endgame, than it does on the leveling process. That shift in focus was a distinct design change, and failing to recognize that is going to lead to some twisted conclusions.

Cataclysm is surely going to try to re-emphasize the leveling and exploration process. But until then, Blizzard is continuing to try to get everyone into the endgame, where, as many have said before, the "real game" begins.

There's lots of room for debate about what makes for a better game: endgame focus versus leveling focus. But people who fall back on arguments like "all MMOs are time-intense leveling grindfests" are shutting their eyes to a much broader section of the genre.

Bristal said...

I agree that this is GREAT. The farther out we get from the original WoW, the longer (and lonelier) the trek for new players, and repetetive and dull for alts. I wasn't even going to level cooking at all with my 2 alts but now I will because it's doable and unique.

Come on, it's COOKING. The game has to expand and adapt to drive interest, and it really comes alive during popular seasonal events.

Larísa said...

@Lasitus: The kazoo comment is great and would have been quoted if this post hadn't been written before it appeared at Tobold's.

@Elnia: I think it's a great thing to build a seasonal event around cooking, and very fitting, yes, but I'm not entirely sure the power level thing is only for good. It's not a big deal though. It's merely an example of an ongoing, more problematic trend.

@MomentEye: yeah, I don't think this will last either. As stated above, it's the general nerfing that can be questioned from some aspects.

@Copra: yeah, that's my point. When they take away meaningful activities outside of raiding by making them quicker, what's left for non-raiders to do?

@Saithir: admittedly some players look up cooking in a guide, levelling it quite painless. But is that really the way to go? Maybe they should do the opposite, making it tougher?

@Staffan: actually it maybe isn't such a bad thing that we're forced out to see the world, especially with the incoming instant portals to dungeons in 3.3...

@Cacknoob: glad to help out!

@Carrie: oh, the time when we carried wood and flint and thunder... I ALWYAS had this on me. It made me feel prepared for anything!

@Gevlon: I'm not quite as cynical as you are, but yeah, you have a point...

@Eidlhe & Cazenovia: Honestly I don’t understand why you would want cooking on more than one toon. Larísa is perfectly able to cook for Arisal as well. But that’s only me maybe…

@Fish: I’ve got mixed feelings for fishing. On one hand it’s quite boring. On the other – it can be sort of relaxing in it’s own peculiar way. I think Tim Howgego’s inspires me a bit too. I WANT to like fishing because of it!

@Mister K: oh, the poor DK:s… Yeah, I figure it might be more painful when you can’t let it accompany the levelling process naturally.

@lonomonkey: same here! But who said that you have to do EVERYTHING in the game? Why not make cooking levelling into a deep, meaningful and – yeah, maybe even time consuming – activity that you can chose to do, or not to do?

@Juzaba: I share your passion for endgame, I really do. But I know not every player does it. For some players the levelling process IS the real game. It’s an interesting point you’re making though. Maybe WoW can’t cover both perspectives at the same time, they need to choose. But if so, why can’t we get toons that are 80 from the start?

@Bristal: I agree that the seasonal events make it come alive! I don’t mind them, on the contrary. I’m just reflecting on the general nerf-and-make-it-quicker trend. I think it requires some deep thinking. There’s a backside of pulling it too far.

gnomeaggedon said...

I loved this nerf/boost.

I have finally managed to get a 2nd toon to level cap, no mean feat in itself. But that has been at the expense of many things such as professions and even my main.

These days people are creating and transfering toons left right and center. People a powerleveling stables of characters to ensure flexibility for themselves and their guilds.

In reality there is no reason to level cooking, non whatsoever. If you have a main withax cooking, or even a friend you don't need it.

However, given the opportunity to skip all the fishing, recipe hunting, AH trolling and low level mat grinding, I jumped at it.

I don't pay $18 a month to grind cooking, I pay it to play the content. Unless I have another toon up in 11 months time the benefit of this event has ended for me, but at least my two max level characters are now self sufficient.

It has also added something meaningful to an otherwise meaningless achievement event

Larísa said...

@Gnomeaggedon: the point I'm trying to make is: why can't we make cooking into content instead of something we'd rather skip and rush through? Isn't it the character of the cooking levelling that is the problem? Make it more interesting, instead of taking it away, is my suggestion.