Archive for the 'rob pardo' Category

Your Mom! Beyond opposites and 1-dimensional design: Can the core/casual assumption be upheld?

It’s a funny thing. I’ve long been worried about the whole hardcore vs casual thing. And I wanted to post about it for a while. Now a wave of magazine articles and blog posts got ahead of me. I forgot though if I ever discussed Wolfhead’s last post. Even if I did I want to mention it again, as part of a wide arc about widely held models of gamers among developers, vis-a-vis gamers view of the same. Fittingly the post by Wolfhead from June 2007 is titled: “Are MMO’s in Danger of Becoming a Spectator Sport?“. This post really is of interest in the light of remarks of game designers. Jeff “Tigole” Kaplan, the WoW lead raid designer, has praised the rise of e-games and respectability of gaming as a serious endeavour in various video interviews, I specifically remember one at BlizzCon 2007 and Blizzard has featured exhibition games of top ranked raid and PVP guilds and runs public arena tournements.

So in a sense these are two sides of the same coin.

But before I go on I want to contrast another two sources, one is hard to cite though. One is a recent “scare” by Raph Koster (and I think I have figured him out, he sure knows how to create buzz by taking extreme positions or at least controversial titles, titles like “death of high fidelity games” is another example verifying that theory) compared to a much more level-headed discussion as the title feature of the 4/2007 issue of the German game dev magazine /GameStar/dev called “Casual booms, background, analysis and forecasts” (my translation, all futher english quotes from that source are also my translation) which contains the opinions of many game developers ranging from casual only developers to Igor Manceau of Ubisoft and Tim LeTourneau of Sims fame.

While Raph thinks that casual gaming threatens the “core gamers”, none of that scare appears in the discussions of the other developers. For example Igor Manceau emphasizes that casual games are simply different “The best [core] game is the one that keeps players in the game the longest [..] With casual games this is completely different, because the point is to repeat the incentive on a daily basis rather than within a playing session.” I.e. for Manceau a casual game just has a different focus, and is not better or worse. It emphazises fun for short sessions but repeatable on a daily basis. I think some “core” games like WoW could learn from that design difference even. But the clue is that the difference in design outlook is value free. Short game sessions are “OK” in fact desirable. 

Even then, what unifies all the discussion though is the tacit assumption of two categories describing player populations well: core vs casual.

It’s part of game dev lingua, of game dev assumptions, and also of gamer language who worry about game tuning and gaming experience enough to post about it.

The more sophisticated will allow this to be a one-dimensional object, a line continuum between the extremely casual (whatever that is) and the extremely core (whatever that would be). The graph posted by Nick Williams in his Gamasutra article (also a “scare”) about a supposed dilemma for nintendo. I also remember Jesper Juul, an academic studying game design used a linear continuum to categorize games along casual vs hardcore in a talk I heard. It’s very interesting to note here that in Juul’s graph World of Warcraft was the most hardcore game on the chart. (Sidenote: Casual games always existed, but they didn’t get that label. Tetris, mine sweeper, little computer people, duck’s ahoy? What is new is the label and the awareness of it as a separate design and market.)

Contrast this with what Jonathan Blow had to say at the Montreal Game Summit about WoW (via gamasutra):

Blow believes that according to WoW, the game’s rules are its meaning of life. “The meaning of life in WoW is you’re some schmo that doesn’t have anything better to do than sit around pressing a button and killing imaginary monsters,” he explained. “It doesn’t matter if you’re smart or how adept you are, it’s just how much time you sink in. You don’t need to do anything exceptional, you just need to run the treadmill like everyone else.”

Does that sound like a description of a hardcore game to you?

What according to Blow is cheap food to get the masses addicted, is the extreme end of hardcore in current gaming for Jesper Juul. I actually asked Jesper what he meant by a “casual game” and he said something along the lines of that a casual game is that you can pick up, play immediately for a few minutes and drop immediately. Clearly in that view WoW isn’t casual. There really is nothing interesting to do in WoW for just 3 minutes, just traveling to where you want to continue from your inn will take up that time and returning to the inn may or may not be immediate depending on whether your HS is available (or if it is even set to a desirable location!). In fact 10-20 minute trips are not unusual.

But I don’t actually care to take a position regarding whether Blow is right or Juul is right. In fact they are both right with some mental flexibility (and possibly modulo some specific reservations).

It much rather goes to show how deeply ingrained the tacit assumption of the words casual and core is in individuals minds and how these can be extremely stark, and also have utterly incompatible uses.

The Raph & Nintendo scare posts can be understood if one is an anxious gamer who considers WoW generally to be rather casual. While the positions of most developers in the GameStar/dev/ magazine take a more neutral position and embrace casual gaming as a separate category of gaming.

But even going back to the WoW design Rob Pardo discussed the design assumption of core vs casual (see the first blog entries I ever made). What is interesting about Pardo’s remarks is that indeed Blizz realized that the casual market is faster growing than the core but they tried to define game content for hardcore (instanced, grouped) and a path to become hardcore as entering instanced content.

There is a lot of data that Blizzard has that I would love to see. Specifically this specific one: What is the time spend in game by average long-time subscription gamers? And also: How many subscribers enter dungeons?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually turned out that most gamers even if they don’t play that much do enter dungeons in WoW. In fact Nick Yee’s article about how people play mostly alone in WoW actually gives the surprising indication that at level cap players spend 60% of their time grouped, i.e. don’t play alone (casual) at all! (People only play alone a lot while leveling, which may be more a function of levels causing dividers for joint play.)

And I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that in fact Jesper Juul is perfectly right in classifying all current WoW gamers as hardcore by some rather meaningful metric derived from the data that Blizzard has! But of course someone who expects hardcore to play 7 days a week for 4 hours at least will have to see a large fraction of the player base as casual. Because 5 days a week for 30 mins to 2 hours or even just 2 days a week for 1 hour is a vanishing fraction of time spend in the game. Of course I wrote about the extra time-dimension with respect to hardcore vs casual very early on.

But this doesn’t cover it really. Because the tacit assumptions run deeper. Read the following list of assumptions:

* Whoever doesn’t like PK/PVP isn’t hardcore

* Treadmills are ways to cater to no-skillers aka “skill is not accessible”

* Pressing buttons is easy aka “if a macro can do it it’s easy”

* Your mom sucks and so do games she would like

I disagree with all of these because they collapse dimensions of what makes games good. (Or just make assumption without testing them or are assumptions that having nothing to do with games but flow into categorizing players as hardcore vs casual)

Let me just pick up the last one because it appears in the arguments I quoted above.

Raph quotes a post by IQ212 who talks about the mass market of casual gamers based on the Mom example. While Raph concludes that “Core gamers are almost certainly going to have to adapt to a world in which a lot of developer attention is going towards a much broader array of titles than in the past.” IQ212 however actually had a positive intend with his Mom example. He writes:

So as you consider the gameplay, theme, platform, difficulty level and marketing of your game, consider your mom as a mirror of the mass-market. Don’t ship without observing your mom playing your game cold, and seeing what she finds fun, rewarding and challenging. Doing so could expand your market reach, and the average American represents a potential market of 300 million people.

Note to the guys making “Panzergruppe Tactics 4: Eastern Front”, you already identified the 59 people who will buy your game, so good luck with that.

For the rest of us making games for the mass-market, we’ll keep thinking about your mother.

Clearly he doesn’t see anything wrong with your mom finding a game “fun, rewarding and challenging”. IQ212 doesn’t paint a mom that has no sense of fun, of reward, or of lack of interest in challenge. Rather he pains a Mom who for her specific gaming need has a right to access fun, reward and challenge.

Or read this as a bullet:

* Accessibility has nothing to do with challenge, fun or reward (if done right)

Basically IQ212 says the Mom test is good. And the Mom test is actually game dev procedure! Cathy Orr of PopCap located in Seattle who specialize in casual games says in said GameStar/dev/ issue:

At PopCap we use the Mom-test to find out if a game works: Our CEOs sit their Moms in front of the game to gauge the success-potential of the game [..] We leave our Moms alone with the alpha- and beta-version of a game. After 30 minutes, we return. If they are still playing, then we have learned that we are on the right path.”

But Raph reacts to IQ212’s description of the canonical mom like this: “Yah, that’s not us, now is it?” Where “us” is of course us (hard)core gamers who have played for ages.

I actually disagree to that for the simple reason that it mistrusts your mom to identify fun, to identify early access rewards, and to identify early access challenges. But Raph Koster sees hope for the million Mom march on games. “In other words — gamers may not want to become like Your Mom. But Your Mom is gradually becoming more of a gamer.”

This brings me back to Wolfhead’s post. A veteran EQ raider and a WoW raid leader. He grieves the loss of access to design for the core due to time constraints. Wolfhead is not your canonical Mom with no extensive gaming experience. Wolfhead is the growing number of demographics of long-time gamers who have a life (due to growing older). The people who became Moms and Dads and by that virtue cannot fulfill a game dev’s fantasy of gaming 40+ hours a week to access desirable content (like the most interesting and lore heavy content of WoW).

These are the new Moms and Dads that want accessible/”casual” design that isn’t dumb. And I dare wager a lot of canonical moms don’t want dumb games either. After all they are a huge demographics buying and solving Sudoku puzzles at substantial difficulty!

So maybe the tacit assumption that:

* Your average mom is dumb

is just a corollary of the equally false assumption that

* Most gamers are lazy

Certainly the core vs casual dimension doesn’t describe Wolfhead or myself, or some of my MMO playing buddies, some of which I know to be Moms in real life.

Rather than designing along a core vs casual dimensions, people should design based on X-tests, where X are gamers you like to reach. And if a designer thinks they can only design a game that passes a mom test and not a elitist-jerk test they haven’t even tried.

Rather than assuming a 1-dimensional model to design one-dimensional games, maybe designers can learn to not assume silly models, and instead design rich, deep, accessible, fun, challenging, rewarding multi-dimensional games.

Also listening to your Mom may have told you a few things earlier:

* Your mom probably likes collaborative games over competitive ones, if she likes competition it’s the friendly competition of a bridge game and not the one of a ranked boxing fight.

* Your mom doesn’t like the idea of killing other players/people

* Your mom considers grieving rude and doesn’t like game mechanisms that support it (like poisoning carrots or nude pickpocketing in UO)

* Your mom wouldn’t want to spend extra cash to bypass arbitrary game barriers via RMT but accepts if RMT is build into the design as sensible payment method.

The vast majority of people switched off PK in UO the second they were given the change. I think that just means that most of us, the “carebears” are legitimately like your mom – in a good way. And your mom would have the wits to identify those that demean others for not liking to kill people as bullies and those that don’t want others to enjoy the game as rather nasty and selfish.

But of course some absolutely want to exclude others, so if that means ditching your mom so be it? Well I guess we gotta be scared of her now if we believe Raph Koster or Nick Williams. After all, games that are designed for her gotta stink big times. Well, not, if game designers have a clue.

Finally, I love the Mom example for another reason. Noone is like her! Rather than having one model for what Mom wants how about people actually get a clue about what “people” want.

Malcom Gladwell’s TED talk is oft cited recently in the comments on Raph’s blog. I think it describes the fallacy of tacit assumptions in an industry perfectly. And the core vs casual assumptions are one of those that need to die to actually serve soup sensibly to everybody. And that’s not one soup for all, as some seem to be scared of. It’s a whole lot of soup and many types of soup that many game devs seem too opinionated to even think about. But to figure it out you cannot be scared of your Mom, Elitist Jerks or players like Wolfhead. They all are right if they say: “I didn’t find that soup fun or rewarding.”

Postscript: Raph posted the following reaction on his blog:

I just read Moroagh’s reply post to this… where there’s the mistaken assumption that *I* am worried about the moms taking over. As I said in the opening to the article, I’m commenting on something I get a lot from core gamers. Me personally, I’m not particularly worried.

My post never really was meant as a reply to Raph’s, but rather a post I wanted to make for a while but got catalysed by various source, including Raph’s article.

Just briefly an actual reaction to Raph’s article. I don’t believe that “core gamers” are a homogeneous blob either and I don’t think people who loved wolfenstein were particularly scared/worried by zoo tycoon or mine sweeper or solitaire being around. So I do still hold that there is a kind of scare going on that tells core gamers they kind of ought to be worried, when for years most never have. Taking Nintendo as an example: I have to date seen no evidence that the booming Nintendo DS market in any way diminished Nintendo’s console market or that the existence and scope of Nintendo Wii has honest-to-good alienated many gamers. Some gamers always look at others and peck against them, that’s a completely different matter though. I for one have not noticed any discussion about “core gamers” being worried (beyond the standard pecking that’s always around) until Raph blogged it as a broad concern. I’d conclude that for most gamers it actually isn’t a topic at all and loads of my core friends happily play Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS alongside TF2, Portal, BioShock or Crysis. And they weren’t worried that their Mom played away at Zoo Tycoon or Yahoo Bridge or some variant of Sims. So my answer to Raph’s blog title “What will gamers do?” is simply “nothing” because most don’t even have the concern, so they won’t as Raph postulates, complain. Those that do complain always have complained about their specific needs not exclusively being met (“only the hardcore should be able to kill Illidan”, “PVP is welfare epics” etc etc), and that isn’t new or particular to Mom gaming.

But all this detracts from my post above which really wasn’t in its core about whether gamers are worried about an increasing casual market. It was about how game designers can be more multi-dimensional and experiment/evidence based in their outlook at gamer demographics and game design (learn from the “mom-test” idea), and it was about how the persistent “core vs casual” assumption and debate is rather very flawed and narrow. “Your mom” is just an excellent way to look at these points and I am indeed grateful that Raph and the GameStar/dev/ magazine articles both brought that idea to my attention (I actually read the GameStar/dev/ article before Raph’s blog entry. That both touched the topic of “Your Mom” is a happy coincidence).


Catching up: The leveling curve, alt play and the hurdles

In my very first post I quoted from Rob Pardo’s Austin Conference keynote as transcribed on Raph Koster’s blog. Back then I was interested in how the WoW designers thought about their customers with respect to gaming behavior (beginner vs core, doughnuts etc).

Now I want to cite a different passage from the same talk but this time the interest is the leveling game, alt play and the time it takes for a new leveler or alt leveler to catch up to his level cap and raid attuned friends. One caveat here. I’ll assume that end-game raiding is the primary desirable activity for the leveler. This is important to note because time invested for attunements only affects them.

With that let’s hear Pardo on the leveling curve:

Pacing: the bridge between depth and accessibility. Once you have all those deep features, then you have to figure out how you get from the newbie experience to that core experience. For WoW, that’s done through the levelling curve. When I hire designers for Blizzard, one of my pitfall questions that I ask is “why do you think WoW was successful?” One of the hidden answers is the levelling curve — if you extend the levelling curve too far, it becomes a barrier. You hit a levelling wall. Our walls are shorter and there are less of them.

The short levelling curve also encourages people to reroll and start over. We had some hardcore testers who would level to 60 in a week. There was much concern within the company. But I would tell them that we cannot design to that guy. You have to let him go. He probably won’t unsubscribe, he’s going to hit your endgame content or he’ll have multiple level 60s. In games with tough levelling curves, it discourages you from starting over.

Now TBC has increased the level cap. There are new newbie zones, and there are some minor changes to the leveling game, very few quests added, but a number of flight paths which at least help curb traveling time.

Having almost completed another leveling act (will be my third level 70, my first releveled from scratch, started very recently). Time to get to 60 (I have five level 60 characters and one more close) is cut short on efficient leveling by about roughly 12% thanks to leveling experience, flight paths and the occasional quest. Overall leveling from 1-60 is not substantially faster and new characters will still take about the same time to level their first. However taking the total time 1-70 it takes around 150% of what it took to get to 60 efficiently. (All these numbers assume fairly efficient leveling, no more than 8 days to 60 and 12 days to 70).

Hence the time investment to get to 70 is substantial. In addition, questing has actually gotten harder. Why? Because in zones 20-55, zones are virtually empty. There is no grouping help or cursory relief by some trash mobs being cleared and access to quest results being faster. More time is spend clearing trash that surround quest goals than before.

Instancing from 20-69 is generally much harder for the same reason. People in a certain level range are too scarce as people are spread out over a larger range of levels.

Overall I’d say that the hurdle that Pardo has been talking about as success of WoW 1.0 start to appear in TBC just from the lack of retuning the leveling time to about the same time-frame it took to get from 1-60. There is a lack of extra quests (a handful per zone at least would have helped leveling speed, at best there is one occasionally. Exception is a new quest hub in Ashenvale, which new levelers may, however miss if they don’t level in Kalimdor early.

Entry to the raiding game still requires the lengthy Karazhan attunement chain. Comparing to MC attunement, or ZG access this is an additional contradiction to the success model that Pardo describes (and apparently forgot to enforce for TBC design). While on paper there is open access content, in reality Karazhan attunement is completely mandatory. Virtually no raid group will take on people who can raid Gruul, Magtheridon, Serpentshrine Cavern or Tempest Keep without being Karazhan attuned.

Basically the leveling game doesn’t seem to be in tune with the original principle any more. There is a stark difference in leveling structure between the new starter zones, the old leveling content 20-60 and Outlands and to rescue the leveling game there needs to be content added in the range 20-60, to (a) increase the pace to bring the new leveling time to level cap closer to the old one and (b) add variety for leveling.

I for one don’t see myself leveling another character to 70 from 1. If level cap is raised to 80 and there isn’t some serious retuning of the leveling curve, there may be no catching up.

Rethinking Casual vs Hardcore due to WoW TBC

There is a longstanding discussion in the MMO community, that talks about casual players and hardcore players. These discussions are often tricky simply because the very definition what a casual player really is and what really makes someone a hardcore player always appears as an undercurrent in the discussion.

If I sat down and tried to put me into one of the two categories as a say, WoW player, I’m really kind of hard pressed. I’ve read and even contributed to theorycraft discussions, I have lead raids for a long time, I have developed boss strategies, I have lead my primary class in the raid group, I have seen a lot but not all of WoWs original content. Looking at this description I’m probably hardcore.

But I have never had a server first, I’ve never raided 6-7 days a week, more like 3-5. I abhor potting and have never gone into anxiety disorder if a few items didn’t have the best of the best enchants on it. I never raided to participate in a global or local “who kills a boss first” race. Raiding was always a collaborative activitiy and not a competitive one (and more on that a little later). And I actually never have had a server first and I don’t even care.

In my raid group I was at the hardcore end of the spectrum. We had people who had virtually no enchants, who raided typically 2 days a week, we never obsessed about gear or spec, and WoW raid design up to mid-Naxx allowed this to be possible.

There isn’t a whole lot of discussion that I know of where developers themselves outline how they feel about content and types of players. Or how to deal with blurry boundaries between these types of players. Rob Pardo of WoW fame gave a keynote at the Austin Game Conference in 2006 and did touch on this issue. Raph Koster took notes and put them up on his blog.

Let Pardo quote the key passage:

It all starts with a donut. Allan Adham (original designer & founder at Blizzard) would draw a donut to explain what Blizzard is about. The middle of the donut is the core market. The casual market is the rest. We see Blizzard as being about both, and that the casual market grows faster than the core.

So in the very design concept Blizzard there is a concept of separation of what they call core (without hard) and casual. Of course one has to be careful here, a core market actually doesn’t define the playing style. And a casual market doesn’t either. But reading this I had a sense that really for Pardo there wasn’t a very strict separation between core subscribers and hardcore players. This comes from the final remark that the “casual market grows faster”.

What is interesting about this is that it also induces a design philosophy. Design the game for both who is perceived as casual by the designers, and for those who are perceived hardcore. That decision itself begs the question: How should they related? How does content for hardcores work for a casual and the other way around. And finally where is the boundary set? What does the core market want and the same for casual market? How is that reflected in the game?

In term of actual design here is where Blizzard apparently set the boundary:

Dungeons too, we wanted them to be a much more hardcore experience, we wanted only groups in there, and so on. The dungeons are there to serve more of the core market. It’s something to strive for, a bridge for the casual players to become a little more hardcore.

The group concept really seems to serve as the defining aspect of the game. You are “a little more hardcore” if you do dungeons.
This definition for the WoW design also is reflected in later remarks by Pardo.

What is interesting here is that Pardo too describes transitions and he describes the tradeoff of having all out access over rewarding certain playing styles.

Tradeoffs. Every decision comes with tradeoffs. designers are greedy by nature — we want everything, moms, dads, cats and dogs playing together. Nothing in game design is black and white, it’s all shades of gray. Whenever we can, we try not to compromise. It usually results in both sides being dissatisfied. If we had solo dungeons, then he group dungeon fans would feel their achievements would be cheapened. So we chose specifically not to have solo instances.

Of course for a long time WoW player and someone who has now played LOTRo the particular description here begs another question: Is the assumption that group dungeon fans actually “feel their achievement cheapened by solo dungeons” true? LOTRo has solo dungeons and I certainly never felt my group dungeon experience cheapened. But I do think there is something true to this given the reactions to WoW TBC.

WoW TBC has changed a number of things. Leveling has gotten more polished and is more streamlined, less travel heavy and more rewarding overall. This isn’t really a change in the core design philosophy, but just something that makes what it did before better. There are other motions that also go in that direction.

Pardo said in 2006:

Bite-sized content: we try to tune our quests for accomplishment in chunks. We aim for a 30 minute session, lunchtime battlegrounds. We are doing more “winged dungeons” in the expansion, because we kinda stumbled upon it. We split up the dungeon into separate wings that can be done in 1/2 hour to an hour — like Scarlet Monastery. This was a lesson we learned during development, so we weren’t able to apply it everywhere in the original release. You want to avoid getting to a place where the content of your game doesn’t allow people to play unless they have X amount of time that night.

Indeed 5-man content can be cleared in 60-120 minutes, whereas a full Uldaman run with a level appropriate group certainly could be longer than 120 minutes. This is an improvement and a realization of a successful concept. In short “time should not weed out too many people from trying content”.

TBC has however also changed a number of other things, specifically around the raiding game. Raiding must be the crown of the “core market” content for Blizzard. But overall things that changed already start in 5-mans. A few things that I think Blizz did in TBC are:

  • Make instanced content more challanging.
  • Make access more time consuming.
  • Make access more linear. I.e. to progress you need to have beaten all early tier content.
  • And by extension exclude some people from content access unless they meet certain requirements.

In the original WoW game there was no pre-raid content that was inaccessible for any player who didn’t have certain prerequisites to show. One could enter Scholo, Strat UD, Scarlet later wings or UBRS with just one person holding a key. So if two people wanted to do an instance together and one had the prerequisite (key), they were guaranteed to have access independent of the second persons requirements.

Blizzard invented the heroics concept to make 5-man content more replayable. But heroic content is not accessible like 5-man content was in the original game. Everybody needs the key hence two people are not guaranteed to be able to go if one has the key.

Blizzard did have game content that required everybody to meet prerequisites before, but this was exclusive to 40-man raid content. No content for smaller groups ever had this requirement. Zul Gurub and the Ruins of Ahn’Quiraj were open access and all other content either had no or the single-player key concept. But even 40-man content access was generally easy. The only real time investment cases (more than 3-4 hours total) are certainly Onyxia (especially but not only horde-side) and Naxxramas. The Temple of Ahn Quiraj was open access content, once the server as a whole met the requirements.

In TBC every raid content needs keying (“attunement” in WoW parlance, a word that came from the first keying process to Molten Core, the quest called “Attunement to the core”). In some sense one can think of heroics as 5-man raid content by their keying type. The keying for Karazhan, the first keyed raid content of 10-man size is certainly more involved than both Molten Core and Blackwing Lair dungeon attunements. Two very short 25-man dungeons need no attunment (Gruul’s Lair and Magtheridon). The first longer size 25-man instance needs success of all raid members in Gruul’s Lair and Karazhan.

To understand the impact of the design decisions made here, I think it’s worthwhile to go back to the concepts of “casual” and “hardcore”. There are really multiple dimensions along one can place these labels. Some people claim that the defining factor is “skill”. I.e. how well the player can play their class, how deep they understand the mechanisms etc. But another important dimension is “time”. How much time is a player online and what kind of activities is he interested spending time on? Is grinding for materials acceptable, is spending time on long attunements acceptable, is raiding for more than 3 hours acceptable?

If one separates these two aspects, suddenly I’m skill-hardcore but time-casual (at least roughly half as hardcore as someone who raids 6-7 days a week for 5+ hours). Of course Pardo’s keynote doesn’t really address in any way what time commitment to the game separates casual versus core.

What TBC before 2.1 had was the following:

  • Increased skill requirements in terms of encounter design and tuning. Hence a more stringent definition of raid-level hardcore by skill.
  • Increased time requirements in terms of attunement design. Hence a more stringent definition of raid-level hardcore by time.

The second aspect is tricky because of the content design itself. While Magtheridon and Gruul are fairly short, Karazhan is very long and has a mid-instance entry to accommodate that. Time requirement for Karazhan is not really low either.

The 2.1 patch addresses a lot of tuning questions. Hence one of the two points got addressed and the boundary between the game-definition of casual versus hardcore by skill got changed. The 2.1 only in two aspects address the time question, namely reduction of consumable influence and introducing a backflagging mechanism for Serpentshrine Cavern, the first longer 25-man content via a drop off the last boss. Nothing else in terms of the time-definition of casual versus hardcore got changed.

WoW TBC raiding by moving around the boundary of Blizzard’s donut concept. By increasing the requirements and linearizing access, the boundary became more distinctly defined and hence also begged the question: Does the game place it where the actual customer set is at? Before 2.1 there were a few aspects that did get extensive discussion. Specifically consumables. This did get changed. But also attunements. This didn’t. Overall entry and continuation of raiding remains more time-intensive than it was in the original game.

In my circles, of skill-hardcore but time-casual raiders, raiding as it was possible has mostly ended. Some have become time-hardcore. Some have joined skill-casual, time-casual groups. Some have quit.

Overall the donut has a more defined separation of hardcore and casual and the question will be, was that a good thing?

The effects of this is yet to be seen. Subscription tracking sites haven’t updated recent time spans, though I hear that MMOGData is looking to fill that gap, that MMOGChart left since last summer.

I’ll leave this for now. The also very interesting question of social groups, diverging playing times and access is another long topic, for another time. This is long enough already.