The following editorial contains views that are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the views of Allakhazam.com
If anyone’s been keeping an eye on Blizzard’s changes within World of Warcraft, they would have noted that there has been a consistent push towards getting casual players more gear. In particular, arena rating has become easier to achieve, and therefore arena gear has been easier to acquire. Now, the moment cool gear becomes easier to get, you don’t need to be bulimic to predict the myriad of responses that would come. Bad Zoolander references aside, should Blizzard have done this?
World of Warcraft PVP has often been considered one of the few places where rewards do not correlate directly with the amount of time one has to spare (except in the era of the Grand Marshall and High Warlord). Rather, when an individual is seen sporting full Season 5 Deadly Gladiator gear, the general populace assumes that this is a player who really knows how to play the game. The general disagreement with easier arena ratings can be summed up in one colloquial phrase: “baddies getting free gear.” Straw man arguments aside, the quarrel stems from the belief that skill and dedication are pre-requisites when it comes to rewarding individuals.
Even in the context of video games and enjoyment, there still remains the belief that “if you’re bad, you should not prosper.” If you’ve got no legs, nobody will pick you for their dodge ball team – this is the nature of competition and competitive people. World of Warcraft arena is really the exact same thing: it’s competition. When people get competitive, they don’t take particularly kind to someone receiving the same rewards that they got, but with less work. It’s undeniable to say that World of Warcraft is an MMORPG first and a competitive video game second. In an RPG, progression is gained through all avenues. As well, an MMORPG is really a competition for progression; players compete to get the best gear first, and they compete for the rare gear so that they can be envied and admired for having it. In this way, in a competition for tangible things, if everyone gains access to everything, then the competitive aspect of World of Warcraft as an MMORPG fails. If Blizzard thinks that players shouldn’t care what kind of gear other players have, they’re absolutely wrong. People always enjoy working hard and achieving things that normal individuals do not have: if someone worked hard all their life for five million dollars, and then someone else, who sat around drunk for the entire time, inherits eight million dollars, who would you respect more? Moreover, do you think that the hard worker would be OK with someone gaining the same rewards, but for less work? At the moment, there are very few noticeable items that players can only get by skill and dedication alone: things like the traveling mammoth are really only a matter of time, thanks to daily quests. In short, competition is what makes things fun; the problem is that in an MMORPG, the score is kept in gear and progression, and Blizzard appears to be making it far too easy to get points.
The biggest counter-argument to the above is the idea that if it is easier to get gear, then this, in turn, will lead to more competition. Blizzard has not been subtle about their desire to transform World of Warcraft into a viable e-sport, potentially even the biggest e-sport since Counter-Strike. If arena gear, and by extension arena participation, became more prevalent amongst the casual community, then this would add an incredibly fertile demographic to the backing of competitive WoW. Colloquially speaking, ‘baddies’ constitute a large number of World of Warcraft; from a business sense, getting them involved ends up benefiting everyone else. I believe that this was a smart effort by Blizzard to get a vaguely indifferent demographic interested in competitive World of Warcraft. Even top players should realize that without an audience to participate, there is simply no reason for them to try as hard as they do. If anything, Blizzard should implement more avenues by which casual players can participate in competitive WoW; allow players with 2200+ ratings the opportunity to ‘substitute’ in a team that has less than 1600 rating; that way they can bring in newer teams while still maintaining their own personal ratings.
In retrospect, however, the only real problem I have with making a lot of rare gear accessible (or easier to access) is that many dedicated players feel as though Blizzard is catering entirely to the casual player base; top players are losing out on the feeling of individuality and exclusiveness that they previously enjoyed. Feel free to throw a “cry more” into the debate, but players will work just as hard (if not harder) for things that allow them to feel unique, or allow them to separate themselves from the crowd, especially if these unique things are very difficult to obtain. Implementing more aesthetic (or only slight upgrade) opportunities, and offering them to the really dedicated player base will at least allow them to retain their ‘wow’ factor, even if it doesn’t come with the ‘why does his weapon do 2x the damage of my weapon’ feeling. Rare titles were a good start, but there needs to be more titles, more tabards, more mounts and more things that allow the really skilled and dedicated players to feel like they’re appreciated by Blizzard, and not simply a shrinking niche market. World of Warcraft may be aiming to become a competitive e-sport, but they cannot hope to keep both the MMORPG style of competition in tandem with the PVP form of competition; the two need to be kept separate. As well, there should be small, tangible little rewards for players who still want to play this game with as much dedication as they did a few years ago; even if it’s just a different coloured mount, or a neat looking hat (that shoots lasers!).
Christopher "Pwyff" Tom