Well, seems like the talk of the town these days are Wildstar endgame’s focus on hardcore players. From attunements to 40 man raids, it’s obvious that Wildstar is making a very bold statement and we’re all very curious to see how it turns out. So far opinions are divided into two camps and it’s a fascinating discussion. Myself, I believe that it’s a smart move but before going into my reasons, here’s a quick summary of the positions.
- Endgame focus on content that will be seen by about 5% (that number is based of Vanilla WoW numbers) of the player base excludes the vast majority of players who have the same rights (15$ argument) as the hardcore ones.
- Additionally, story elements /cosmetic items hidden away in content that casual players have no interest is bad practice. Most casuals want the whole story and they should not be prevented from seeing it.
- Many MMO players do not have the time or interest to commit into hardcore raiding. Not providing a casual alternative is dismissive.
- WoW numbers increased as it became more and more accessible (BC, Wotlk). The decline of Cataclysm and Pandaria is due to other factors (game age, quality of content, etc…).
- At this point in time, casual players’ attention is very hard to retain no matter what. Effort should be focused on keeping the players who will play your game for the long term which includes hardcore raiders. Green Armadillo has a great post on this.
- By making the content more challenging and harder to access you are making it last longer for raiders and provide long terms goals to many players. While only 5% of the players might see the content, many more will be involved in the process.
- Larger raid groups mean larger guilds which mean healthier communities which are central to long lasting MMOs.
- WoW became popular while it was at its more hardcore and became a phenomenon during that periode (Vanilla/BC). The peak it reached during Wotlk was thanks to the critical mass it had achieved before and casualization led to its decline in Cataclysm and Pandaria.
- Most other games which used WoW later raiding setup have been doing poorly.
Good arguments on both sides and like Green Armadillo was saying, it is a huge gamble to take on Carbine part.
The glue that binds
I already said that I believed that the decision to reintroduce hardcore raiding was the right one and I do agree with most of the arguments of camp hardcore but for me it goes way beyond the actual raids.
MMOs are very much interconnected beasts and as much as some people would like to pretend otherwise I’ve found one common thread in every MMO I tried which is the more united your community is, the better the game is doing. The more fragmented it is and people are not staying.
A fragmented community means that you’re playing only for the actual game content (storyline and raids) and maybe a small circle of friends. Small groups fall apart easier and if that circle falls apart you might keep playing to see the single player content but once that is done, little reason to try to find a new group. On the flipside if your part of a healthy connected group, then you will probably keep playing past the game content because you are now playing for the interactions you have with these other players. In this situation, raids, dungeons, pvp become the background and an excuse to be together but they are not the main reason you will be playing.
So what does 40 man raiding and hard attunement chains bring? It creates bigger communities from the top down. Raiding guilds, the vast majority of guilds are just bigger. Hardcore guilds will be tighter on numbers but casual raiding guilds become a lot bigger and provide a place for social members to be. Usually, social players thrive the more players there is around and the casual raiding guilds will give just that. On top of that, since attunement takes longer and raids are harder, that content will last a lot longer and achieve the impossible goal of keeping casual players in your game more than 3 months.
For the hardcore, the achievers, they get to show off their achievements and crazy mount and gear. Back in Vanilla you’d see hardcore players hang out in Ironforge between raids just to show off. It might sound petty but if it makes them happy, why not? Plus it gave a goal to a lot of other players too.
The mysterious casual-hardcore player even gets a spot either as a prime raider for the casual guilds or backup in the hardcore guild who need extra bodies too.
That I think is the real strength behind 40 man raiding. Maybe only 5% of the player base will actually complete them but it will bind together so many more player as well as bringing stability to the game community. It will ultimately provide goals to a vast majority of players who will keep playing to reach that goal in their own time while the hardcore will be enjoying the prestige that comes with completing hardcore raids. It will generate theorycraft, guides, videos and a lot of other activity surrounding the game just so players can be part of that 5%.
It may look like madness right now, but I believe there just might be genius in Carbine gamble.