Monthly Archives: March 2014
50 Shades of Casual, Part 2: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boost?
And so, here we are again, friends. New controversy over something that benefits those dirty casuals and new players again. The recently introduced paid Level 90 Character Boost (herein after known as “the Boost”) in the World of Warcraft. For the low, low (not really so low) price of $60, you can mint a brand new 90! Without lifting a finger to level! Just lift your wallet, and it’s yours! “What is this game coming to? It’s pay to win now! There are going to be tons of people with new 90s who are under-geared and don’t know how to play. They’re going to ruin this game! You think LFR was bad before, just imagine what it will be like now! That’s it, I’m canceling my subscription! This game is no longer fun for me because these people didn’t ‘earn’ their 90’s like I did! With blood, sweat, and tears. I walked in a blizzard (no pun intended) to level this toon, and I had no shoes, and it was uphill… BOTH WAYS!!!”
Yeah, ok. Calm down and sit back down in your rocker, Grandpa. This is some of the reaction I’ve read about the Boost, both on the official WoW forums and on social media sites like Twitter. The paid Level 90 Character Boost Service is now live through the Blizzard store. One free Boost is given with the pre-order of the WoD expansion. This means that, as we speak, the unwashed masses of newborn level 90’s are swarming across realms like locusts. But what does it really mean in terms of game play? More importantly, what, or who, does it hurt?
What you get for your $60 is one character taken from level 1 to level 90, given $150 gold, 4 embersilk bags, a set of 483 ilvl gear, a stack of food, a faction specific mount, artisan flying, and regional flying skills trained. If you Boost a character level already at level 60 or higher, you also get existing professions and first aid maxed out. Well, gosh, doesn’t seem too OP to me. It’s not like you’ll just be able to trump all the heroic-geared players, auction house gold makers, and the poor embersilk bag sellers! OK, what else ya got? Nothing? Well, how the hell is that pay to win? The 483 ilvl gear will get you into the lower LFRs and the Timeless Isle. Not exactly raid ready for a heroic 10 man, if you know what I mean.
“Ah,” the critics say, “but the people who Boost their toons won’t know how to play them.” That is indeed likely in a lot of instances. Does this mean they can’t learn? No. We all had to learn. It might mean experienced players may have to help educate them if they’re grouped and hope to make it through a dungeon. But does that really hurt anything, other than the misplaced sense of elitism that they’re above helping new players? And who’s to say a Boosted character belongs to a new player, anyway? You know what I intend to do with my free Boost? I’m going to roll a boomkin on the Horde side to play with my friends over there. My Alliance main has been a boomkin since 2006, and I refuse to transfer her to Horde. I guarantee you that my newly Boosted Horde boomkin plays the exact same way as the Alliance one. Even if I wasn’t familiar with a class, I’ve been around the game long enough to pick it up quickly, and let’s face it: end-game specs and rotations are seldom the same as those used for leveling. You always have a learning curve when you hit end game with an organically raised toon.
The truth of the matter is that “Character Boosts,” in some form or fashion, have been around since the inception of the game. How about paying someone to power level your toon? Remember when you saw toons for sale on eBay, complete with epics? And please, let us not forget Recruit a Friend. The latest iteration of RaF gave one “grantable” level to one of the recruiter’s characters for every two levels the recruit’s character earned. So, for instance, I created a second account to be a recruit for my boyfriend. We leveled two pairs of toons to level 80, a total of 160 levels for me, the recruit, across both toons. That allowed 80 grantable levels I could give to a toon of his. We took his level 1 druid to 80 in one shot, granting levels. So, how is that any different from a paid Boost? The money for sub time comes out to be almost the same. I guess we had to work at it a little, but he wound up with 3 level 80s while only physically leveling 2, and that’s with the triple XP that comes with being grouped together under RaF. Again, here’s an (almost) max-level toon that hasn’t been played, and has no gear. Looks like practically the same end result to me as the paid Boost.
And what is this obsession with a WoW “work ethic,” anyway? There’s an assumption that if you don’t want to level a toon, you must be lazy. WRONG!! How about… no time? No time to squeeze in a LFR or Flex raid here and there, PLUS level a toon. I just heard someone say in a podcast that if you couldn’t get a toon to level 90 by the time WoD came out, maybe you should get into another game. Really? Find me the hours to do so. Or find the hours for any one of a number of people with outside responsibilities, jobs, families, and a desire for a taste of real life. Does that really make them lazy? Or do they just not have the same luxury of free time that someone else might?
Does the Boost help dirty casuals like myself? Yes, because there are classes that I’d like to play at end-game that I absolutely know I won’t be able to get leveled while still maintaining activity on my current stable. Will it help new players, some of which may be under similar time constraints? Absolutely! Are either a bad thing? NO! Ability and/or desire to purchase a Boost has no serious impact on anyone else’s game play. They won’t be showing up in regular, flex, or heroic raids anyway, because raid leaders will be able to sort them out. They’ll be in LFR, where normal-mode raiders really don’t need to be. Struggling with the rest of us casuals. Adding players and subscriptions to the game. Boosting server populations and stimulating AH economies. Yeah, that’ll really ruin the game. Tell me another one, Grandpa…
50 Shades of Casual, Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Time-Challenged
“Oh, these stupid casuals. They just ruin everyone’s fun in the World of Warcraft. Blizzard is killing the game catering to them. They don’t know what they’re doing, they’re never prepared, they want people to carry them, and why can’t I get an LFR group that isn’t full of them?” Sound familiar, casuals? Or maybe you’re one of those “real raiders” who says these things. Well, it’s high time to bust right through the “casual” stereotype and talk about casual players in their many different forms.
Among a self-proclaimed “elite” subset of the WoW player base, “casual” is a dirty word. If you’re a casual, you clearly paid for your toon on eBay, or (even worse) are a new player. Everyone know casuals are the only ones who die standing in the fire. If you’re a tank, you can’t hold aggro; if you’re DPS, the tank can do more damage; and if you’re a healer, you’re just fail. The worst nightmare to one of these über gamers is getting an LFR full of under-geared or new players. They won’t be able to blast through this optional content in 15 minutes, and even worse, they may actually have to help someone learn something. Oh, the humanity!
I can’t speak for every player who has been called a casual. A casual can, in fact, be any one of the stereotypes perpetuated by these “elite” players. But there are other shades of casual, too. What about folks experienced in other MMO’s but who are new to WoW? What about the person forced into “casual” status due to real life constraints, not incompetence. And this is probably an ever-growing number of gamers, considering the aging player base of the MMO genre.
The best way I can describe this is by using myself as an example. I am a casual. I’m not ashamed to say it. I work a ten hour day, my commute takes about 90 minutes each way, and for health purposes, I cook fresh food for dinner. I sit on two different boards outside of work, both of which have scheduled evening meetings as well as emergency and committee meetings. My schedule is unpredictable and insanely busy. And somewhere in there, household chores and time spent with my horses has to be carved out. Finding game time some weeks is like squeezing blood from a rock.
So, because I’m a casual who only has LFR gear, does that mean I don’t know what I’m doing when I raid? No! I wasn’t always this busy. I was a progression raider through BC and WotLK. I started raiding Cata before WoW burnout set in. I would squirrel out of work, grab some take out, and rush home to make raid four nights a week, three hours a night. I loved raiding, I loved getting gear, and I enjoyed the teamwork involved with a set raid group. I am also very responsible, and now that my life is more complicated, I don’t like to leave anyone hanging when my schedule has to take an abrupt turn. So, I’ve turned to LFR.
I may be a casual, but I don’t take raiding casually. Even LFR. My gear is gemmed, enchanted, and reforged. I’ve at least reviewed a video of the fight before I go in for the first time. I study my rotations, make sure I have the appropriate add-ones, and put in my best effort on every fight. Each new raid encounter is sort of a combination of old mechanics, with a few new twists. I consider myself an experienced raider, so just because I don’t have a lot of time to run content doesn’t mean I can’t pick up on instructions quickly. I try to get in on some flex raids for better gear, but most of the time, I’m home too late or have too little time to do anything but a wing of LFR. And honestly, some flex groups consider me under-geared in my upgraded LFR drops. You know… sort of like a casual.
But, let’s say, for the sake of argument, I was a new player to MMOs in general, WoW to be specific? The longevity of this game we love depends upon new players coming into the fold to replace those who leave for good . It certainly must be discouraging to these players to face people who will put them down, criticize their performance, or say “/uninstall, noob!” We, as veteran players, whether experienced “casuals” or “elite” hardcore raiders, should feel a duty to make these players feel welcome, not scare them off. Some casuals won’t want help, and won’t take it seriously. But for others, you might open their eyes to a whole new way to play their class, see more of the end game content, and provide utility to their LFR group. We don’t come into the world knowing how to play games at a high level. We had to learn. And I’ll bet we all had some kindly, patient, long-suffering soul who helped us figure out what to do to become the players we are now.
Go easy on casuals. Look past the LFR gear and lack of in-game raid achievements. These things don’t tell the whole story about a player’s potential. You may be surprised what experience these folks can bring to your group. Or you might just be the person who opens the eyes of a new player, to show them all that is achievable in this World of Warcraft.
Next Week: 50 Shades of Casual, Part 2: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Boost?