The race to new content

20th November 2008 – 9.35 am

With the release of the second World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, there has been a lot of buzz about people racing through the content. Some of the commentary has been about the folly of racing to 80th level, as well as a more overall amazement at so many players apparently blind to the beauty in the world around them. In attempt to strike a balance I shall try to look at both sides of the argument.

It is true that there is a whole new continent to explore, with many new zones and regions within those zones that have been carefully crafted to instill a sense of wonder in to players. Although many of the quests still rely on killing ten rats or collecting ten rat ears the new scenery, unexplored and potentially dangerous areas, and as-yet-unknown interactions between players and creatures offer a wealth of discovery and entertainment. Yet there are many players who seem to be ignoring most of this world, racing through the content until there is nothing left worth achieving within the world. Any world mobs are no longer a challenge for the powerful 80th level character and any loot found will be immediately discarded as worthless because of the superior equipment already found in instances or crafted. Surely, reflects the player still in the starting zone, these people are missing out on a whole world of content leaving themselves nothing to do, as he stands atop a cliff and basks in the view of penguins on icebergs and mighty fleets of ships, all bathed in the light of a glorious sunset.

To some extent the more casual player is right. Those who have raced to 80th level have missed out on savouring the sights and sounds of the world. But are they really missing out on a grander scale? First, let's see why they may be racing through content to start with. The raiders have all got excellent equipment, no one can deny that, but the good raiders also bring a lot of skill to the characters they play. These are the players who maximise their damage, healing, or threat output whilst balancing with the needs of a large team and remaining mobile and aware of their surroundings, ready to adapt to changing circumstances. Abilities and rotations are worked out at length on test realms or in controlled environments to maximise efficiency. Even as a relatively simple player I can blast through the standard world mobs with no problems and teaming up with just one more person removes any kind of challenge from standard world encounters, so it should be no surprise that someone ready to kill the mightiest enemies in the game would find it even easier.

Raiders soloing world content, or pairing up for efficiency, will breeze through world mobs like they aren't there, because they are good at what they do. I don't think anyone who sees me play Super Mario Bros. would complain that I am not taking time to enjoy the different scenery in all the worlds but would more likely be impressed with the speed and fluidity with which I can race through the levels with practiced ease. Maybe we shouldn't criticise raiders for destroying world content so easily but instead recognise how they've managed to own the class they play to the point where they really seem heroic.

As for raiders bypassing content you just have to ask yourself what they are going to do now they are 80th level. It is easy to mock them for missing out on the world experiences but it perhaps ignores just what raiders do: they fight in raid instances. There may be plenty of world content to keep most players entertained for a long time but there is, or will be, just as much raid content that is as at least as well-designed, crafted and awe-inspiring than the world content, and quite often is even more dramatic and impressive! Whilst many people worked their way through the pretty landscape of Nagrand in Burning Crusade the raiders were in the lofty Karazhan, moving to Gruul's Lair, and onwards to Mount Hyjal and the imposing and mighty Black Temple. Surely, reflects the raider, these players are missing out on many vast dungeons full of the most challenging content by dragging their heels in boring fields, as he stands in an intricately decorated hall that has been designed and crafted to the highest standards, waiting for the order to attack a boss that could wipe the whole group if someone sneezes at the wrong time.

The content in the raid instances is truly epic, with incredible scenery, monsters and fights simply not seen elsewhere. The casual players may scoff at the raiders hidden away in instances not seeing the wonders in the world, but the raiders could rightfully scoff back as they enjoy the immense depth and challenge of the raiding instances that almost no casual player will get to see.

It may seem foolish to rush past content to get to the 'end' of a game, but it would be prudent to realise what the 'end' means for different people. For casual players, reaching the level cap probably means the end of much interesting content, perhaps reluctant to delve in to instances to grind for gear and in no mind to dedicate hours each day to raiding, leaving playing an alt as the best option. For the raider, the end is something different. Indeed, the end of the casual player's game is, in fact, the start of the raider's game, which will only end when all the raid bosses are defeated and the character has a full set of the highest-tier equipment. From this point of view, raiders are far from rushing through the content of the game, they are rushing to get to a point where they can begin their game. And looking at it like that, who can blame them?

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