So far I’ve stayed as far away from PuGs as possible. I’ve run the random daily at least once a day since the launch of 3.3, still I just recently got the achievement for PuGing with 50 people. That says quite a lot. Until Chas made this post about his experiences from using the random dungeon finder for leveling. His main concern seemed to be that it had turned into a more efficent way of leveling than questing. He also mentioned that they seemed a lot easier than before, but since he was used to three manning them, that may be the cause, and not the change to how classes works and the addition of heirlooms.
A couple of days ago when little else was going on I decided to give this thing a go on my lvl43 priest. A few things went as expected. There were your ninja pullers, ninja looters, ass hats, italian only speaking and every other kind of twat I’ve come to expect from using the cross server random dungeon finder. I had also expected them to go a bit smoother than usual since most people would be decked out in at least one piece of heirloom gear. I just failed to realize exactly how much bloody easier instancing had become because of it. If you mentioned the words “stairs” and “Zul’Farrak” in the same sentence to someone who’s been playing since Vanilla, they will either nod their head in approval with a grin on their face, or take a step back with a worried look. It is, or was, one of my all time favorite encounters in any 5-man. It was hectic, it required good communication between group players, with only one mana break in the whole event you would think twice about using every single point of mana. It was really challenging, and really, really fun when you pulled it off, which most often didn’t happen until the third try or so. When I saw the loading screen for Zul’Farrak pop up for the first time, I thought to my self “This is gonna be a good way of measuring how much easier instances have become”. The answer was rather depressing. Having gotten the key guy down and released our “friends”, our tank suddenly goes “healer, follow me!”. Surely not? He wasn’t gonna run downstairs? He sure was. And we pulled every single mob. Back in Vanilla you might as well have tried to solo Ragnaros and end up with the same result. But we pulled it off, without too much hassle as well. In fact I was at 25% mana and no people were dead when all the mobs were down. We did the same thing with even less trouble when the second wave spawned.
It seems the instances who used to take up to several hours and some skill have turned into the T10-farm of heroics we see at 80. When someone claims that the games have gotten too easy I’m usually one of those who tend to speak up and say that in many ways it has not. In this case though, there is not getting around it. With the exceptions of the ICC-5man heroics, Northrend dungeons and heroics (when you have just hit 80) currently is the only places where you can get a genuine challenge in 5-mans. I’m all for the “content for everyone” concept, but at the moment it seems to exclude those who appreciate a challenge while leveling up. It also breeds bad players, which is a whole topic in its self.
All of this brings me to what I wanted to talk about. One of the arguments I’ve used the most when discussing the difficulty of the game is that the game might not have gotten easier, but the players better. While the latter might still be true to some degree, the game certainly has become easier skill-wise in certain areas. The big question in hand is how this will affect everything in the end. The amount of subscribers, the community, future game play and so on. Will those who lack some of the challenge jump ship as soon as something of similar quality turns up? Will the number of subscribers stay as it is, increase or decrease because of where the game is heading? Will Blizzard keep things as they are? Or make things harder or easier?
Most of these questions are impossible to answer at the moment, one can only guess. I can only speak for my self. I’ve started missing that sense of achievement. Sure, it’s a game. But it’s beating a challenge that is well made that makes me enjoy games. If the game continues down this path and something better turns up I might consider stop playing. Who knows? I might still have been playing Warhammer Online instead of WoW if not for all the people I’ve grown attached to in Wow.