Motivations for raiding are more complicated than casual versus hardcore

On Of Teeth and Claws, there is an interesting discussion going on about raid motivation classifications. Casual versus hardcore raiding is really something that doesn’t even make sense to me at this point – as neither ‘casuals’ nor ‘hardcore’ are actually a homogeneous group, and both groups seem to be unhappy with changes that are made to raiding. What matters is NOT just how much you can raid, but the attitude you bring towards raiding, and WHY you are raiding.  When people can clear all the instances in 1 day or 2 days, you can’t just use # of days raiding as a metric that’s worthwhile. In the days of Naxx, “casual” raiders actually took longer to clear the instance than “hardcore” raiders because some of the “hardcore” raiders got it down to a 3 hour clear of all the hard-mode content, whereas the “casual” raiding groups just took longer because they were slower at getting through the “normal” bosses, and were more prone to wiping. However, hard-mode versus normal bosses doesn’t even really define differences in why people are raiding, or how much they dedicate themselves to it.

Here are where I see continuous categories (the first two are from Russish’s quote on the Teeth & claws post, the third one was recommended by my boyfriend when I talked to him about the article). I really don’t see just high or low scores on these dimensions, but a range where people can fall in the middle, high, or low – and this can make it hard to find a guild that is a good match for you, and can cause a lot of problems in guilds, even if you all agree to raiding the same number of hours a week:

  • Looter
  • Challenger
  • Social

For the looter dimension, you can care a lot about the loot you get from the instance, or very little, or somewhere in the middle. It’s not an all or nothing thing. I like upgrades, but raiding while also beta testing for 2 expansions shows me how temporary and nearly worthless striving for gear upgrades really is. So, for me, I’m usually low on the “looter” dimension, but I’m really not a “casual raider” by any sense of the term. If we really didn’t care about the looter dimension, we’d all be off running Molten Core with our buddies just because we could. So, somewhere, most of us care at least a little about the gear upgrades in the highest level content – it’s just a matter of how much it drives your playing.

For the challenger dimension, it’s all about how much you enjoy the thill of harder content where you are more likely to wipe, and how well you are willing to prepare for the instance. I actually would rank myself pretty high. I really hate the fact that even Ulduar can be run with PUGs, and I frequently get in arguments with my RL friends who would score very low on the challenger dimension. It’s not that I have endless time to dedicate to raiding, it’s that I want it to cost people time & effort to get their rewards, and I hate the feeling of loot just being thrown around for anyone with a pulse, and I dislike the idea of super easy content. However, at the same time, due to being in graduate school, I’m not ranked as high on this dimension as some other people who do have endless amounts of time to raid. However, I expect to wipe on bosses, and get a thrill out of seeing “new” content, and strive for really challenging fights that put my skills to the test. I’m willing to farm reputations, materials – I spend time reading as many boss strategy guides as I can. I spend time learning the ins and outs of my class and my spec so that I can bring the highest quality to whatever I do in the raid instance. It’s not about killing all the hard-mode Ulduars, but about the attitude you bring even to 10-man raids – it’s the thrill of knowing what you are doing and battling against what feels like something that isn’t possible. Easy one-shot kills are boring to people scoring high on the challenger dimension. I like to think that the thrill of seeing “new content” comes in as part of the challenger dimension, even though “new” doesn’t have to mean “hard”.

On the social dimension, it really comes down to how many people you are willing to raid with, and how closely you feel the need to be attached to a guild. Some people want all the stuff from raid instances without ever stepping foot in a dungeon with more than 5 people (and they would even sometimes prefer to have crafting equivalents, or to get gear out of 2v2 arenas to lower the number of people they have to interact with). People low on the social dimension could even want a lot of loot and want challenges, but really just not like raiding. On the other hand, I’m very high on the social dimension. I want to raid with as many people as possible, so I really like the 25-man instances, and I miss the days of 40-man instances. As a healer, I get more fun out of having more health bars to watch, and I like the epic grand scale of having a lot of people in the raid instance with me. I also really just like being around other people in the game – I like the social aspect of it all. Other people really like raiding in the 10-man dungeons, even if they enjoy challenges and want access to high quality loot, because they fall more somewhere in the middle of the social dimension. Perhaps they’re only willing to raid with their close personal friends. There are also people who want to raid with a bunch of people they don’t even know, so long as it fits their time schedule. Some of the group of people who love the fact that you can PUG Naxx & Ulduar are sometimes driven by where they fall on the social dimension – they just can’t commit to a certain guild and group of people to raid the same content week after week, even if they fall higher on the challenge & loot continuums that are sometimes considered more “hard core”.

Conclusions - What makes developing this game hard is that all 11 million players have a different reason for wanting to play this game, and everyone who raids has a different set of goals and reasons for wanting to raid (and people who hate raiding have just as many reasons why). It’s really not possible to cater to everyone if you think of these dimensions (and all the other motivating factors) that people bring to this game (for raiding, leveling, PvP, farming, crafting, etc).

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7 Comments

  1. Posted July 13, 2009 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Great post.

    Casual v Hardcore hasn’t really fit for a long time. Whenever I use the terms I tend to write “casual” because I’m really using it quite loosely – casual can mean so many different things. I don’t think we’ll ever lose the hardcore/casual labels.. but casual captures such a broad range of players that I think it’s dangerous to use it – it’s generally seen as an insult.

    I get tired of the “casuals are ruining the game” and “hardcores just want Blizzard to give them special treatment” garbage that gets thrown around. Everyone wants to enjoy the game, and it’s very hard to balance – especially when you have such polar opposite groups as the hardcore 20-30hr+ a week raiders pushing for firsts, and people who only play a few hours but still want a taste of the content (and then many others in between).

    I really don’t care what anyone else thinks, I’m standing by my opinions that I think there should be something that sets the skilled players apart from the unskilled players (regardless of how many hours you have to play each week, mind). And hard modes don’t really cut it (IMHO). They’re an additional challenge, but just don’t seem terribly impressive to me. I feel sad that the skilled, dedicated players don’t really have much anymore that advertises the fact that they are skilled and dedicated.

    Of course that will spark cries of “you just want to be leet and/or stroke your epeen.. too bad” etc. But honestly – I don’t think it is unreasonable for the players who really are more skilled than the bulk of subscribers to have something that sets them apart, something to aspire to.

    I don’t think that’s unreasonable, I don’t think it’s selfish. Hard work and skill should get you more recognition and rewards.. I don’t really care what anyone says to the contrary.

    The only problem is that I don’t know how to balance the various wants (including my own) so that everyone is moderately happy. I know what *I* want – but I don’t know how to weave it into any kind of suggestion for a solution. *shrug*

    And regardless of what I want as an individual – Blizzard will do what it believes will please the majority of its customers. We may not like those decisions and changes, but we have to accept them, ultimately.

  2. Ardol
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    @ Keeva

    I see what you mean about wanting something to strive for and something that sets you apart, but making raids more accessible makes sense from a design perspective. Why design content that only a small percentage of the player-base is going to see? If raiding weren’t as easy as it is, it would make more sense to develop solo content like the Argent Crusade than to make more raids, if only so that more players will see it. I think hard modes have the right idea; let every see the same content while giving high-challenge players something special just for them. Unfortunately, I don’t raid, so I can’t say whether or not they are cutting it.

    And, BTW, with achievements, you do have something to aspire to that sets you apart: the 310% speed mounts. Ride one of those bad boys and people will know that you have accomplished something special.

    “I get tired of the “casuals are ruining the game” and “hardcores just want Blizzard to give them special treatment” garbage that gets thrown around.”

    People just like to look for excuses as to why they aren’t enjoying the game as much as they want to. Metaphorically, it’s easier to blame a fellow diner than to bite the hand that feeds you, so “hard core” players blame casuals for dumbing the game down and “casuals” blame hard core players for making the game inaccessible. Truth be told, I think the game is definitely geared towards the casuals now, and while that is a good thing in raids, I don’t think it’s a good thing outside of them… but that’s another topic.

  3. Atoyot
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Great Topic!

    Our guild just went thru this same discussion.

    We classify ourselves as a “casual raiding guild” to eliminate alot of the griping that goes on.
    We do not post “requirements” for players to have to participate but only ask that you participate when available.

    As I have seen before in other areas of the gaming industry the WoW clientel is getting older now that they game has been out a few years. The needs of these people are now different than previously. They have less time to devote because of real life which leads to changes & a definitly more casual atmosphere.

    Hardcore players & guilds are still there to get their firsts & BiS gear but the casuals are gaining on them fast. Even “Hard mode” achievements are being accomplished by casual players. Even some PUGs.

    IMO the only thing seperating Hardcore & Casuals is simply time. The amount of time put in to accomplish any task/quest/achievement, etc be it hardcore or casual is roughly the same.

    So what it comes down to is how fast do you or anyone else want to reach your goal & how much game time does Blizz think a player will need to reach that goal.

    How soon will a player who plays 30-40 hrs a week run out of things to do & want new content.

    How many PVP events is a player willing to continously do without other new content?

    How many different toons is a player willing to bring up to that same point with no regard to the attachment to each toon.

    Too many thoughts .. I’ll stop my babling now.

  4. Moohtree
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I really don’t think time put is the only difference … I see people who are on a lot more but are just not as interrested in raiding. To be good at your class, you need to research it, learn how to play it, spec correctly and then practice. This will not change regardless of the difficulty of the raids.

    Now maybe raids are getting so much easier a player who’d like to see all the content will not have to learn how to play his class correctly to actually see it. I mean i saw a druid healer with 71 points in resto and 24 stam gems in his blue sockets, and he was ulduar 10/25 geared … /Cry

  5. Leirynn
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I mostly raid for the challenge of it. I’ve never looked at DKP on my guild’s website, so I just go for upgrades where I can. What I do want (and what I keep pushing for) is for us to drop Yogg before 3.2 comes out. Sadly, that’s only likely to happen in our 10s.

    On the social part, I tend to gravitate towards 10s as my preferred bracket of raiding. Mostly, that’s due towards skill. I love my guild and guildies, but for some reason, we’re having a terrible time on 25s. People just don’t listen to the raid leaders or pay attention, don’t show up prepared, sign up for the raid but then don’t show, etc.

    Even our 10 man progression group is having problems, but that’s more due to real life issues popping up. Still, it’s rather frustrating. I love challenges, but I’m stuck at the moment…

  6. Watreskell
    Posted July 13, 2009 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Everybody is a loot whore at heart :) Just kidding. But really, now that I have seen almost all of Ulduar 25 (Algalon maybe never, but oh well), I continue to run it 3 times a week for those sweet upgrades. I am in a decent guild, who some would say is very much about the “social” aspect, but that isn’t why I run 25 mans predominantly. Raiding poses the greatest challenge and provides the greatest rewards. All three reasons are important, but I guess it is different for each person.

  7. Posted July 14, 2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I loved this article Liss! I’d also like to know who are those magic people that have more time on their hands than grad students. I have a lot less free time now than I did then, but maybe that’s because of the wedding planning thing.

    In any case, I think hardcore is a word that hardly applies to how I play. I pretty much am just on for raids now, so my play time is a lot less than many “casuals.” I guess I am a raid-centric player?

    I might add “achiever” to your rubric. There are folks that want to complete all the game’s tasks. While I might think ooh! I want to unlock the new dailies for the Argent Crusade, I just won’t do it very quickly.

    I’d be medium to high on all of your categories but low on achiever.

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