Because it’s my blog and I can.
I’m expecting this to morph into yet another long-winded ramble that ends when I run out of words. It’s a long, winding trail, but it’s almost cohesive.
Has every one heard the term “Wrath baby?”
It refers to the generation of players (especially raiders) that came of age in the Wrath-era of WoW.
By all rights, I came to gaming age in the Wrath era. New Naxx was my first raid. I had worked on BC heroics, but more as a means to repuation gains for my own insane purposes than gear grinds for raiding Kara. I heard the stories of the raiders that came before me, walking uphill in the snow, barefoot, to wipe countless times in the presence of Illidan or Ragnaros.
However, there is a highly negative connotation to the term Wrath baby. It was in the Wrath era that concepts such as kiting, crowd control, or even more than a passing knowledge of how your class worked were set aside in favor of content being made available for all.
Whereas in vanilla and BC only a select, elite minority ever got to enter a raid, let alone conquer the content, in Wrath the focus was more story-driven and at some point almost anyone that wished to could meet Arthas at his throne.
We all know that WoW started out catering to a more… focused player base – Individuals that had the time and drive to hurl themselves against the wall or follow the appropriate grinds.
Two things happened.
First, that player base aged. Those kids in high school or college are now employed, married, taking care of kids of their own, engaging in activities outside of Azeroth. In some cases, they may have more disposable income than they did before and in some cases they are now responsible for their own monetary situation as mommy and daddy have cut the strings.
Second, the player base has expanded. Expanded in number, and expanded in diversity. People from all walks of life play WoW, not just the pimply-faced awkward teen of yesteryear’s stereotype. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, armed forces, the guy that fixes the slurpie machine, your hairdresser, your tattoo artist, your teacher, the list is endless. (OK, it ends at about 12 million active accounts, but you get the idea.)
Each of those individuals have different ideas about what is fun and what is an acceptable level of difficulty for them to encounter in their hobbies and leisure time activities; leisure time that is often restricted by real life obligations.
Blizzard can’t do anything about the first change to their player base. If they held the secret to eternal youth they wouldn’t be making WoW.
Blizzard actively pursued the expansion to their player base. For better or for worse, it is a staple of a successful business to keep expanding and reaching in to new audiences. Stagnation leads to death.
But you can’t rope 12 million people into a game and expect them to all be at the same level of skill, attention level, interests, etc. It’s also not terribly nice to have a HUGE portion of the game, where developers spend the most time in perfecting the encounters, and dangle that completely out of reach of a sizable portion of the paying player base.
So the pendulum swung from higher-end content being available to only the elite few to virtually everybody being able to at least attempt all content. (I say virtually because my mom still hasn’t seen Lich King. Maybe someday she’ll actually level something past 60.)
In concept, I love the idea. There is a lot of story to be told and all the really cool parts have to have the epic feel that can only be done through complicated cut scenes that risk removing the MMO feel (looking at you, Wrathgate) or through group-oriented content that we band together to beat our heads against.
Blizzard even took what they learned from achievements and variable difficulty settings and continuously refine the structure. Get the story out there for everyone on normal mode. Let everyone see Arthas and partake in his slaughter on a weekly basis. Everyone gets to be a PART of the story.
But what Blizzard couldn’t control is human nature. WoW is an MMO. Meaning other people see you. They see what gear you have. See your achievements. See your titles. And then they judge.
People that would have been content to complete content on normal mode in a single-player game, forgoing Nightmare or Hell modes, are suddenly faced with the pressure to compete on the highest level, even if they have no desire or ability to perform at that level.
It’s not enough that you were there to kill Arthas on 10 normal, it doesn’t mean anything until you’ve killed him on 25-man heroic, blindfolded, with one hand tied behind your back.
And in Wrath, it was almost that easy. Heroics became laughable when everyone was sporting raid gear. Matter of fact, people were complaining about “underperformers” in heroics when in all reality, they were just people working on their first 80 and were gearing up to be able to enter raids. (Yes, there were some real scrubs out there, but a lot of people were genuinely trying to follow the progression path Blizzard laid out. They weren’t maliciously holding up your heroic by virtue of being new and lesser-geared.)
Another new term was born, wrath. Yeah it already had meaning, but now it’s a verb! As in, “I’m in a hurry, let’s wrath this bitch.” At which point, the tank pulls like his ass is on fire and you brutally rampage through the encounter, paying no heed to mechanics. In short, you outgear something to the point where you could walk away from the keyboard and let your cat play for you.
I remember as a new player, BC heroics were HARD. Wrath heroics were hard until I got better tanks, after that they were much more enjoyable and were never on par with the difficulties faced in the BC encounters. Cataclysm heroics were HARD. Of course they were meant to be hard in our quest greens and highly coveted crafted pieces. Add a PUG that didn’t know what a skull on a mob meant and you were in for a rough night.
Now that I’m in raid gear, Cataclysm heroics are no longer HARD. More aggravating than anything else. They are pretty, the encounters have some flavor to them, but I’m not currently in a mental space that appreciates 5-man content. I would much rather be raiding or farming to prep for raiding. (And that’s a whole ‘nother topic.)
Tomorrow, let’s talk about people.