Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Grandpappy Frostheim on dumbing the game down

Brian Wood

Scattered Shots is brought to you by Grandpappy Frostheim, who spends his evenings in an Ironforge tavern telling young hunters how much harder things were in his day, when they had to kite mobs uphill, both ways ... back when men were men, and women were men too, and pets were next to useless -- but they were also men. You can ask him questions on Google+.

I've said it before and you can bet on the balls of the Titans that you'll hear me say it again, but kids these days don't know how good they got it. In fact, they got it so good that after years and years of complaining about every little thing, these days the kids are actually -- get this -- complaining that they have it too good.

I know, right? Kids these days.

A complaint that's been getting louder lately is that the game is being dumbed down. That because life is easier for these young'uns somehow the game requires less skill than the miserable pain in the backside the game was for us back in my day.

Well, I got some good news for you kids: The only thing that's been dumbed down is the useless, soft mass inside your noggin. In fact, by many measures, substantially more skill is required now than years ago.

Grinding is easy -- it just sucks

One of the principle things that characterize the "harder" days of the old times was grinding. Farming Whipper Root Tubers, running Gnomergan endlessly for repair bot parts, and of course, just grinding mobs in the days before daily quests and profitable raiding to pay all those repair bills. Just about anything meaningful you wanted to do in those days, you had to spend at least three times as long grinding something.

But here's the thing with grinding: It's easy. Grinding is boring and mind-numbing and destroys your soul a little bit at a time, but it's not difficult. It doesn't take skill.

I recall distinctly when my vanilla 40-man raid guild was moving through Molten Core. We needed to get everyone their fire resist gear for Ragnaros, and I took charge of gearing the hunters in the guild. Every Sunday, we gathered 10 to 20 guild members together and took to the Burning Steppes to camp every black dragonkin spawn point.

For two to three hours every week, we would kill every black dragonkin as they spawned, with skinners at every spawn point to collect the black dragonscales. It took us months to get all the mats we needed to get the FR sets for all the raiding hunters in the guild. And this was for hunters who already spent months farming up their DPS gear. And don't even get me started on running every bloody guild member through all those attunement and keying quest chains.

Sitting around killing mobs for hour after hour has nothing to do with skill. It didn't make anyone a better hunter, and it didn't make them any better qualified to raid. And nowadays, you don't have to do that kind of grinding to raid. Raiding still takes time, but you spend most of that time, well, raiding. That ain't dumbing the game down -- no brains were required to grind after all.

Rotations are skill

So let's talk a little bit about something that is skill-related: your actual rotation. Back in my day, here's what the hunter rotation looked like (understand if you were raiding back then you were MM):

  • Put up Serpent Sting (note: you'll have to reapply in 15 seconds when it drops off)
  • Aimed Shot -- a full 3-second cast Aimed Shot, with no haste, sharing a cooldown with Arcane Shot (so you got one or the other)
  • Multi-Shot (yes, we used this for our single-target rotation)
  • Sit around for a while waiting for something to go off cooldown (yes, part of our rotation was literally sitting around firing auto-shots)
That's right, the badass hunter rotation back before the dumbing down involved standing around and auto-shotting for part of the time, and the rest of it wasn't rocket science either. We did need to stutter-step when moving, but we had no aspect dancing to worry about. Come to think of it, we didn't need to move as often either.

I know what some of those kids are saying, that The Burning Crusade was the glory days of hardcore gaming. And do you remember the hunter rotation then? It was running as BM, because that was the only raiding spec option, and spamming your Steady Shot macro over and over and over. We typically bound the macro to our mouse wheel because (and I'm dead serious here) our fingers would get sore from hitting the same button over and over all fight long. It was like playing a mage, only without the cooldowns.

Now compare that for a moment to the hunter rotations of today, which aren't that different from what they are in Mists. Add to that the fact that our global cooldown has been reduced, and we're doing a lot more in less time and having to making constant adjustments on the fly. The hunter rotations take far more skill now than before this supposed dumbing down happened.

Grandpappy Frostheim on dumbing the game down THURSDAY
Fighting the bosses

Boss fights today are, as a rule, far more involved and complicated than bosses were back in my day. There are more mechanics and more fires and void zones and angry floors to dodge. Paladins have to do something other than cycle through five-minute buffs and hunters who sit and auto-shot for a while are doing it wrong.

A lot of people remember the hardest raids of The Burning Crusade with a fondness that is usually saved for loved ones and weapons. To be sure, bosses were tuned so hard only the most advanced guilds had a chance of seeing the content -- and by the way, class stacking was essentially required, so if you weren't the right class, you wouldn't get to go to the raid. Good times indeed.

Let's compare that to Cataclysm. We have access to much easier raids now, with normal modes that are far easier than Sunwell and a Raid Finder that lets anyone see raid content. But if you really want challenging content, try doing the hard modes out of the gate. Look at Paragon, one of the greatest raiding guilds out there with tons of world firsts -- among them the world first 25-man heroic Ragnaros, on which they wiped over 500 times. 500 times. If you want content that requires that much wiping for the best-skilled players in the world, it's still there, but this is not indicative of a dumbed-down game.

The haves and the have-nots

I think part of these complaints of the game getting too easy has nothing to do with how easy the game is. After all, go out in the world and try to kill a mob; the difficulty is about the same as it was back in vanilla times. Go to the hardest raid bosses in the game; they're still damned hard.

No, it's not that the game requires less skill than it used to, but instead it's that there's no longer such a gap between top raiders and the unwashed masses. It used to be that with an absurd amount of gold, the average player could purchase a couple of purples on the AH. Only the elite raiders (and there were far fewer of them back then) could be decked out in all purples. They could just stand around the bank and have players /inspect them with awe. And they did just that.

But in an effort to allow more players to play all aspects of the game -- a very successful effort -- suddenly an average player can be decked out in all purples in less time than it took us old-timers to gather the basic mats for a set of resist gear.

In the eyes of some players, their worth is defined by having something that other people don't have. It's not enough to be a skilled player. It's not enough to have the best gear. They're only happy if most of the world doesn't have gear nearly as good as they have. They're only happy if most of the players don't get to even see the content that they see.

If you miss the days of grinding gear, grinding gold, carrying around a bag full of ammo and remembering your pet food and pet buff food and mana pots and bandages and the rest, then I'm sorry that the game isn't as fun for you anymore. But just because players not as skilled as you can have gear of a pretty color doesn't mean the game requires less skill.

But now that I think about it, if you really do miss those days, you can always head out into the world -- on a ground mount -- and pick a mob to kill nonstop for a couple hours every day before you're allowed to raid. It'll be just like the good ol' days.

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. From leveling your hunter and choosing the best patch 4.2 gear to learning the DPS value of skill, we've got you covered. If you're stuck in one of the nine support classes, why not move up to the big league and play a hunter?

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr