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Bashiok comments on WoW's difficulty, accessibility


Players have remarked on the changing difficulty and accessibility of WoW (as well as the MMO genre in general) over the years. What once was a raiding environment based on the grueling EverQuest model has evolved into a new type of accessible/challenging hybrid. One of these discussion posts on the forums has been addressed by Bashiok, who gave quite the answer to players who long for the days of grueling grinds and oppressive content.

Bashiok -- Old WoW
I understand and respect gaming masochism. But, I think that changing mechanics to be more reasonable and less punishing is an improvement, not a detriment, to games in general. Many of us Original Gamers pine for the days of D&D-based yore when games were seemingly intended to break us down into sobbing masses created by an uncaring necromancer of pain and suffering, or at least didn't try to avoid it. Overcoming all of the obstacles (I CHOOSE NOT TO SHOOT HER WITH THE SILVER ARROW... NOOOOO) was a big part of what gaming (I HAVE 1 LIFE!?), and especially PC gaming (HOW DO I LOAD MOUSE DRIVERS?), were about. But, I feel we're lucky to now be in an age where those ideals (intended or not) are giving way to actual fun, actual challenge, and not fabricating it through high-reach requirements (I NEED A FAIRY MONK WITH A MAGIC LOCKPICK?).

What we've always been trying to do, what WoW has always been about (and to which much of its success is due) is to make an accessible MMO. Anyone that looks back at the game at launch and wishes it was as challenging now as it was then is not aware of the painstaking effort put into making this game accessible as compared to its predecessors. Since release we've refined that intent, eventually evolving the very few masochistic designs WoW actually ever started with, but ideally still offering those same prestige goals that give that feeling of achieving something great if you're able to pull it off. We've made a lot of progress toward striking that balance and continuing to evolve the game, but it's not something we're ever likely to perfect, and we'll be constantly working to hit that elusive goal. Hopefully it's to the benefit of everyone playing and enjoying the game, and they'll continue to enjoy the journey that a living, breathing, persistent universe will take us on.

People have been bemoaning the rise and fall of difficulty versus accessibility forever, so it is no surprise that posts like this has come up. Cataclysm has made a good number of improvements to the reputation systems and the number of excellent rewards available to players in many different ways, and it has made accessibility a core value rather than a feature.

Bashiok comes from that era of oppressive gaming. Games were hard, in order to keep you playing as well as to provide a challenge. As technology and gaming philosophy change and the MMO genre evolves, the old, oppressive ways make way for the new challenges of MMO design -- namely, growing and holding on to a dedicated playerbase. WoW still has all of the same goals that you have to work hard for and put a bunch of time and effort into. Raiding is still the endgame and is still difficult; prestige gold items are still available and not in everyone's inventories; and, last time I checked, playing your class to a decent degree was still something to be proud of. Believe me, you don't want to go back to the salad days of difficulty.

WoW Patch 4.1 is on the PTR, and WoW Insider has all the latest news for you -- from previews of the revamped Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub to new valor point mechanics and new archaeology items.

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