The Art of Unlearning

Inspired by two articles – Zubon’s on Scaffolding  and grumpy ol’ Matt’s on Tanking/threat changes in WoW.

The core argument in 2nd post is how BfA will revert a rather longstanding tradition that threat is a meaningless item in group content, and bring back active management.  This reminds me a bit of Blizzard’s attempts to bring back crowd-control into group content – and that died a horrible death.

For better or worse, any game that is meant to played over long period of time has an issue with static difficulty and growing power curves.  This means that as the game progresses, players get stronger (numerically) and smarter (tactically), while the actual game remains the same.  Things just become easier.  The longer the duration of the game without a difficulty reset (an expansion, a large patch, a gear reset, scaling content) then the more players become accustomed to that “easy mode”.

WoW really found this out the hard way with Lich King.  The start of the expansion had some difficulty – in particular with the optional trials on boss fights.  The tail end of that expansion had a lot of length, and the power curve provided a “permanent farm mode” on nearly all the content.  People were simply too strong and the culture of “go-go-go” took hold.

Cataclysm tried to revert that easy-mode to the earlier LK launch.  The start of the expansion had groups dying on the first few pulls.  People had to re-learn to play the game.  Fine, this was a restart after all.  But the devs went a step further and curtailed the power curve by applying mechanics that could not be absorbed through numbers alone.  Even if you were decked in super gear, you still needed to avoid Shatter.  This was not met with smiles.

MoP went a very odd route and said at the start that small group content would only be relevant for the initial launch.  Gear progress was better off in raids and daily quests.  I won’t even both talking about WoD – that was atrocious.

Legion though, there’s an interesting bit.  Dungeons started off quite easy.  Stayed that way too.  What was added was Mythic+ mode, with increasing difficulty.  To succeed at high levels, you needed both good players, the right classes, and adequate stats.  CC/Stuns are required.  There was easy-mode (ala Raid Finder) and then hard mode.

So it’s an interesting model to re-jig the base game towards the lessons learned from Mythic+ mode.  I get the feeling that Blizzard saw that people were able to ignore specifically designed mechanics to progress further than they had planned.  Game the system if you will.  And the majority of the “controversial” changes from BfA are meant to address that exact issue – more abilities tied to the GCD, this threat change, class revamps, breaking down the homogenization of classes.

People that have spent years on “easy mode” without Mythic+ will have to relearn the game. And if WoW has shown us anything, it’s that wide scale base-game changes are rarely appreciated when they add difficulty.  I’m quite curious as to how this all plays out a few months after launch.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Unlearning

  1. I think Rossi is overstating the change. Right now in WoW, a tank can basically hold a group until it dies with a single AoE threat move. What this means is that a tank can run into a group, AoE once, then kite the group around until the DPS kills it, minimizing damage taken. This is a tactic seen in very high Mythic+.

    Surely we can agree that is an excessive amount of threat. Blizzard is dialling threat back so that the tank actually has to stay in combat with the group she is tanking, rather than kiting. Personally, I think you will see no difference in groups where the tank plays normally.


    • I agree that the argument is taken a bit to the extreme. I further agree that threat is beyond excessive today, it is nearly impossible to lose threat as a tank. The core argument is that easy-mode for threat has been drilled into player behavior, and changes to that behavior is rarely well taken. That said, your point about the change being noticeable is the crux of the point. If the change has a minor impact… no biggie. If it’s on the scale of say Cataclysm changes… then let me get some popcorn.


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