Casual Play: WoW Dishes Out Casual Epics

by Steve Wilson,MMORPG.COM

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Steve Wilson. The column is called "Casual Play" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Wilson. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of, its staff or management.

I'm often grateful that there's one game out there that seems to be catering more frequently to the casual playstyle with every patch. World of Warcraft's latest patch once again shows that if they don't love the casual player then they are at least doing everything in their power to keep us around. Specifically, the changes to the battlegrounds have done more to put end level gear in the hands of the casual player than any other single event to date. Even with my paltry dozen hours a week (give or take a few hours) of play time I have managed to acquire the end level PvP weapon. And that's doing nothing more than something I already loved, fighting in the battlegrounds (at an hour a session as well).

The new honor system is an absolute blessing for those of us who can't possibly afford four to six hour sessions of raiding the same dungeon for the umpteenth time. By slowly accumulating a few hundred points an hour over the course of weeks I was able to purchase the very best item I've ever had any hopes of getting. Sure it doesn't change the fact that WoW is way too dependant on gear rather than skills. At least now there's some hope that rather than being continuously mowed down by groups in their all epic equipment that I can someday be on the dishing out end of that equation.

Prior to the patch, players received an amount of honor relative to the number of kills they got versus the total number of kills of all players for that week. This created an environment where players that wanted the top level PvP gear had to receive more honor than nearly all other players on the server. The only way to accomplish this of course was to play battlegrounds endlessly. My dozen hours of play per week, doing nothing but battlegrounds might yield somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand points of honor. The guys at the top of the food chain were getting upwards of hundreds of thousands. The ranking system used to determine which PvP gear you were allowed to purchase required weeks of getting more honor than everyone else. It was impossible for anyone that didn't treat the battlegrounds like a full time job to have any hope of getting there. Basically a system built for the obsessive compulsive players.

The new system rewards a set number if points for each kill, plus some extras for accomplishing goals in the battlegrounds. The points accrue over time and can be spent when enough have been obtained for the epic level items. A player treating the battlegrounds as a full time job can get an entire armor set in a matter of weeks. Those with my play schedule have the possibility of getting a single piece, as I just did, over the course of several weeks or months. It's flawed in that it rewards the grinders immediately, but still allows casual a chance at epics which is better than what we had previously.

For players that genuinely enjoy PvP this is a huge boon. The casual PvPer actually has hope somewhere down the road of obtaining epic level gear to help even out their performance in the battlegrounds. The PvP items may not be as good as tier two junk, but it brings us dramatically closer to someday being able to perform on a more equitable footing with the obsessive raiders. This will only make PvP more interesting as the game shifts back to being about skill and timing rather than who has more time to invest in raiding. A pleasant side effect is that it also brings in a lot of players into the battlegrounds that might not have been there otherwise. As well as providing an opportunity to obtain high end gear without having to endure the likes of this Onyxia Wipe Animation (audio not safe for some work environments).

This improvement in the game will be met with derision by the hardcore. "You obviously have no pride in accomplishment if you're willing to sell out for such easy fair." And to a degree, they're right. I'm not into it for the accomplishment. I feel a larger sense of accomplishment when I pay my mortgage, or wrangle three kids off to school on time. I play to have fun, to relax, to get away from having to accomplish things. This just allows the casual PvP crowd the opportunity to enjoy the game without being hopelessly trounced by the hardcore who have ruled this arena by the simple fact that they have more disposable time than the majority of other players.

Even with the recent decrease in honor gained form battlegrounds, which effectively makes these items more expensive, relatively few people complained. Just having the opportunity to play an hour at a time and slowly accrue the ability to earn epics is making a lot of players with limited schedules very happy. And happy customers make for longer subscriptions. Even without the looming expansion this change alone would be enough to keep me gleefully hacking away at my fellow players.

And so I have to ask, what's wrong with allowing casual players to earn epic gear over time? It rewards players encouraging longer subscriptions, allows casual to compete with hardcore achievers (eventually), and in this case encourages players that normally might not to try out PvP in a limited format. Casual epics look like a win for everyone.

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