Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A further look into the den of the hardcore players

I the beginning of November I published a post where I briefly gave you an idea about the content of an interview with Kungen and Marilyn of Nihilum, published in a Swedish magazine. This interview was announced to be continued in the next issue and by a post commenter I was requested to report about that one as well. So here I am, once again, translating and referring, while adding a few thoughts of my own.

Bad timing
First of all I must feel a bit sorry for the magazine about the bad timing. The last issue hadn’t been out in the shops for more than a few days before Nihilum announced the merge with SK Gaming and the birth of the new guild Ensidia. In this second interview this change is acknowledged, but it’s apparent that the editor has thrown in a few lines about it in the last minute – the interview was probably made during the Nihilum era.

But that’s not the end of the changes. One of the guys interviewed, Marilyn, isn’t a member of Nihilum/Ensidia anymore. According to himself he was booted for starting a blog/website of his own, something that for some reason didn’t work with the agreement within the guild.
You can read his side of the story on his own blog: Marilyn. Yes, Marilyn has joined the forces of WoW bloggers, and I’ve found the few entrances I’ve read quite interesting; he’ll probably end up on my blogroll. (By the way the blog is in English, if anyone’s wondering.)

Are they happy?
Now over to the article. What’s in it that caught my attention this time? Well actually I didn’t only feel admiration for those guys – which I still do – but I also felt something else - pity. There were things shining through in this article which made me wonder if they’re always really happy about what they’re doing. A few quotes indicated that there are times when they feel sort of caught. They’ve chosen a way to play the game which is extremely demanding and now there’s no return. To be competitive raiding every night for many hours isn’t enough. You have to raid all day too.

When Nihilum were fighting for the first kills in Black temple, all the top guilds started their raids at 5 or 6 pm, and when Nihilum pushed it and started at 2pm, others considered them insane. But in Sunwell SK Gaming started raids at 7 or 8 am and kept raiding until 5 am next morning.
- They raided 20 hours a day, which meant that they put a new standard of raiding times.

Nihilum couldn’t get enough players being able to raid that much and they lost the first kills of M’uru and Kil’Jaeden. In WotLK this won’t be a problem, Kungen says. If they need to start at 8 am, they will be able to do so. But it’s not a development that he or Marilyn likes. It’s just the way things are now.

- You don’t feel well sitting in front of a computer, focusing hard over such a long time. I felt bad through the whole of Sunwell. It was a pain, Kungen says, suggesting that they should open the instances at a certain hour, so that all the top guilds could start at the same time.

- Then you would be able to see which guild was the best one in playing. Not only which had the players who played most time.

Kungen admits that he can feel the effects of getting older. If he sits in front of the computer fifteen hours a day he’ll get a headache. A few years ago he wouldn’t feel a thing.

They also seem a bit surprisingly uninterested in the game – or rather any other perspectives the game offers except for the fight for first raid kills. Everything else has lost its luster. “If we aren’t raiding I’m not logged in for any more than a few minutes. I’ll rather play DotA”, as Kungen says.

Frustration at Eredar Twins
They talk a lot about the frustration they feel when players aren’t performing the way they expect. The Eredar Twins fight is pointed out as extremely frustrating, when people failed at the same thing over and over again. “Every one has given all they had in four minutes, focusing, taking pots and giving pep talk to each other. And then the last guy seems to be asleep when he gets Conflag. Then you really get pissed off”, Marilyn says.

At this point they had several other guilds close to them – every try counted and could be the one that made it. It took them seven to eight tries going down to 10 to 30 percent before they made it.

It was after Eredar Twins that Nihilum had some problems. They lost some players – or kicked them. Some players didn’t turn up in raids and had to be replaced in last minute. The concept of unlocking bosses, which forced them to wait for weeks before proceeding, was one of the reasons that players lost interest and motivation. And in the end Nihilum lost the final first kills.

At the same time they seem to think that it’s natural that this would happen sooner or later. After being on top for two and a half year you aren’t as motivated as the ones that are coming from “below”.

Easier for the casuals
There has been a lot of writing recently about how Ensidia is blaming Blizzard for making the game too easy. It shouldn’t be possible to beat the new instances as quick as they have, according to their press release. In the interview, however, they give a more nuanced opinion about it.

- You can be critical, but at the same time you have to understand the motivation of Blizzard. They reach an audience that no other game has ever done before, in width and numbers. In the end everything is about money and if they get 20 million of players to play Wrath of the Lich King, well, then they have succeeded. And if there are two elite guilds sitting whining about “welfare epics” – big deal, says Marilyn.

And Kungen adds:
- You have to realize they haven’t tried to make it easier for the top guilds, they have made it easier for the common players who play a few hours a day. They can have their epics now and – sooner or later – get access to the whole game. So I don’t mind that development.

What he does mind though is that legendary gear drops are random. Before Nihilum got their first set of War Glaives they had killed Kil’Jaeden, while other guilds had up to five sets, which gave them an incredible boost. In order to kill M’uru they had to recruite new rogues with War Glaives. Then they could take him down easily after wiping for two weeks.

In stead of this randomness you cold do it other ways, Kungen says, mentioning Naxxramas, where you could make a legendary staff, putting 40 splinters together.

Talking about Naxxramas, they think this is the best instance Blizzard has ever done, considering the wide range of bosses, the diversity in it.

- Just think about Heigan, Marily says enthusiastically. I don’t get how they thought designing him, but it really was a success. The only thing you have to do is running around, surviving the crap coming up from the ground. I’m sure you can five-man that boss today, it was only about surviving the monster. But at that time everyone died at that boss. I think we had ten alive every time we killed him.

- Or take Loatheb where you only could heal once before you got a debuff making preventing it from doing it for a few minutes. Such unique events they haven’t managed to make somewhere else. And then there were fights like Patchwork, with only tank and spank, which really is fun for a change.

They loose themselves into nostalgic memories from all the hours they spent on Four Horseman, which was “disgustingly difficult”. But the worst thing was the timing. They released Naxxramas at the same time as the World Championship in football, and since the whole guild were football fans they were far behind everyone else from the beginning, cancelling a lot of raids. But finally they managed to catch up.

The new Naxxramas version isn’t anything these guys care much about or focus on, it’s something to “run through once”, which they already have by now.

Grateful being Larísa
Well, that’s the end of it. If you understand Swedish you could read the whole interview in World of Warcraft, issue 5/2008.

My thoughts? Most of all I feel sorry for them. I don’t know what it is, but I find the tone in the interview a bit saddening - especially in the light of the later events, ending up in a guildless Marilyn.

I can’t help feeling grateful for being Larísa of Adrenaline and NOT Kungen of Ensidia.

I’m casual enough to enjoy all the aspects of the game, from running around clueless in Winterspring to patting my latest and cutest non combat pet. And I’m serious enough to have the prospect of seeing most of the raiding content and get the challenges and boss kill kicks I need, although it will take me a bit longer than it did for Ensidia.

It really couldn’t be any better. The den of the hardcore players isn’t for me.


Anonymous said...

Your comments somehow reminded me of Monique's Confessions From a Former Hardcore Raider from Girls Don't Game in June. She is a former member of the top US guild Death and Taxes. The mention of raid start times just reminded me of that article.

Thanks for the translations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update and for translating again!

I agree with you, after reading I am also sort of grateful that I am "just" a casual player able to enjoy all kind of different aspects of the game. :)

Gevlon said...

No wonder they burned out. They pushed world firsts ... for what? Just to be able to tell they are world firsts in a video game?

I have no doubt that I will clear the endgame just like them. Yesterday Sapphiron decided to give some shaman loot. I was sure it won't go down since people did not bother get frost res gear and got insane amount of frost damage. So what? The RL switched in another (FORTH) healer and he went down.

No doubt that he can also be two- or at least 3 manned. (tank+2 healers)

I will see and do everything in the game the Ensidia did (sometimes I wish I had at least struggle for it), without the rush, without the mandatory raiding, without all the problems.

Dragon's Den said...

They start at 8am and run a 15 hour raid?

These guys are nuts, sorry, but that's my view. Of course if it floats their boat, good luck to them.

But I find the interview incredibly sad. They've turned what is, after all nothing more than an online fun game, into a full time job.

Probably 90% of Wowers play as a relaxation from their jobs, uni and schools.

you can't help thinking that one day they're going to wake up and wonder what they've done with their lives.

Thanks for the insight Larisa, very interesting.

Captain The First said...

After all this time I still can't get myself to care about the ventures of nihilum / sk gaming / death and taxes etc.

After all, if you have enough time to burn what is there that you couldn't do?

But I'll stop rambling now, no one ever erected a statue in honor of a critic hehe.

Anonymous said...

LOL and there are guilds on my server who raid 7pm - 1am four five nights a week and call themselfs hardcore hahahaha.

Nice blog again.

Chris said...

More power to them. They found what they wanted in the game, and went for it.

Am not surprised about the burnout, tbh as a player I get bored when I am not raiding because the level of difficulty in a normal / heroic isn't there for me. I spent most of BT watching movies while tanking, last place I really paid attention was MH solo tanking it (afk warriors ftw). The game has an audience so wide it is hard to focus, but I think Blizzard are one of the few companies trying to make it work for everyone.

Anonymous said...

What really made my jaw drop was that Nihilum and SK Gaming merged; presumably so that they could have the hardcore of the hardcore.

The only trouble is, Blizzard lowered the standard of raiding rather than making it harder.

It is a bit like a triathlete who has devoted their life to being the best, only to discover that they are now having to compete in a school sports day, rather than an Olympics.

Where do they go from here?

Anonymous said...

@Loronar: well I don't think they're quite that bad affected by a burnout as Monique was. If you asked them I think those guys would deny it. But it really stroke me that they seemed a bit unhappy about the game in this interview, especially in comparsion to the pervious interview, where they were discussing vanilla WoW. Maybe they've reached wealth and fame to the price of playfulness? It has grown to something else than the game they loved from the beginning.

@Jarla: yes, I really AM grateful. I'm not just saying it because I'm envious and never can get there myself. I'm happy where I am.

@Gevlon: well I can understand people pushing extremely for world firsts - it's no difference to pushing to become the best chess player or dancer or mountain climber or whatever. We want to conquer it because... it's there. But the price seems to be a bit too high since they obviously don't enjoy it anymore if you judge from what they're saying in this interview.

@Dragon's Den: they have plenty of life left to live fortunately... They're speaking about themselves as too old, when they're in fact 23-24. Which according to me is pretty young. When I was in that age at least I didn't know much about life, really.

@Captain the First: I find the phenomena quite fascinating - the same way as the life of any other kind of star or celebrety is. I'm interested in things such as personal development and motivation and I think you can learn things from looking at what the ones that are at the top do - how they succeed and sometimes fail.

@Esdras: yeah, I guess we need another expression for the ones that are "hardcore hardcore". They're in another division than the "normal" top guilds on our servers.

@2ndNin: well we'll see what the coming big patches will offer, if it's possible to keep the interest of the most skilled players while still making the game more friendly to casuals. It's no easy task for Blizzard.

@Vlad: well you can wonder how the'll stay motivated after the merge. The competition between them must have been not only unhealthy but also stimulating and fun. But I guess there will come new harcore guilds from below, competing with them. The insance rush will go on... at least as long as there are sponsor real life money, which obviously has been one of the motives for the merge if you beleive what Marilyn and other former members now are writing on their blogs (with some pretty nasty accusations).

Anonymous said...

@vlad - I love the triathelete analogy.

People want all sorts of different things in this game - achievements, boss kills, loot, minipets, RP gear, a full friends list, etc.

These guys wanted world firsts, and they got them.

So now they just need to figure out if there's another way they can enjoy the game until there's a new world first to seek.

Anonymous said...

Draigg's right. These guys are nuts! And I thought I was hardcore (casual hardcore, but still)!

I play the game for relaxation. 15+ hour raids are not relaxing.

Unknown said...

“If we aren’t raiding I’m not logged in for any more than a few minutes. I’ll rather play DotA”, as Kungen says.

Exactly how I feel. I log on to do dailies and log off when not raiding =).

Maybe there is a game over screen for some of us.

I rushed to 80 to be there for the server first kills, not world first but its something. We got it and now after prolly farming the current content for a month or so I can see most of us taking a break till new instances comes out.