EverQuesting: Holly Longdale was right about casuals and raiding
How’s the weather over in EverQuest? Well there was a doozy of a storm that rolled through recently! I am going to admit that I was actually shocked at the response that Producer Holly Longdale’s comment about raid targets on EQ’s progression server stirred up. She originally told me,
“What we don’t want to do is instance raids, which is what casuals want us to do because they want to fight Nagafen. Casuals shouldn’t be allowed to fight Nagafen… that diminishes the achievement of others. That’s part of the challenge: You have to be better than the other guy; you have to be more strategic that the other guy.”
I honestly thought EQ players would celebrate that sentiment as it seemed to bespeak the heart and history of the game. Apparently I was wrong. There have been some heated discussions on the topic — and not a few raging rants. In some cases players brought valid points to the discourse; in others, there was only whining, complaining, and insults.
All in all, as a casual myself, I think Longdale is right. But that doesn’t mean everything is perfect in progression land, either.
Probably the biggest stumbling block in that quote is the word “casual.” Casual is one of those gaming terms that no longer has standard definition (even worse, some folks sling it around as an insult). Whoever hears the word will most likely apply meaning based on his or her own definition founded on personal life experiences unless the speaker clarifies what definition is being used. In the case of that E3 interview, I interpreted the comment with my own understanding of the term, which basically boils down to a player who spends maybe a few hours a week in the game. It’s a person who plays casually, which may also mean simply not a raider.
With that in mind, Longdale’s remark makes perfect sense to me. I am the quintessential casual specifically when it comes to EQ: I do not play it often, my character is lower-level, and my skill at playing my class is far from maximized. I jump in for fun. And I fully expect to not be able to face the raid stuff. No one in that category should. Those who just saunter into the game a couple hours a week absolutely should not have any chance at beating Nagafen. Maybe stroll up and become an insta-Naggy snack, but not raid seriously. Raiding is a type of gameplay that is by definition a more dedicated experience that needs time and preparation. It’s not my favored style of gaming, but that doesn’t invalidate the playstyle for those who do.
Here’s my long-held belief: If I put the time and effort into something, I should be able to access it. I don’t want games to slam me into a paywall, denying access to things based on my pocketbook, but the idea of blocking me from things because I haven’t put in the sweat equity (like prepping to kill Naggy) is perfectly fine. More than that, I prefer it. To me it’s a bit like saying I should be able to play in the World Cup simply because I love soccer and have played without spending the years training, conditioning, preparing, and practicing. I do not now, nor will I ever, believe that any person deserves to reach the highest echelons of whatever by the mere fact that they exist, and I do not think players have the right to defeat major raid bosses just because they log in. That’s just not what a raid is.
In it to win it
The second stumbling block in that quote was the word “fight.” Longdale said casuals shouldn’t be able to fight Nagafen, but I did not get the impression at all that she didn’t think they should have the opportunity. Instead — and this is again using my understanding — I had the sense that she was saying they shouldn’t be able to beat that massive raid dragon. Let me explain.
When you step into the ring for a fight, you usually have some expectation that you have a chance to win. If not, why bother stepping into the ring in the first place? OK, so maybe people want to just see how long they last (I have totally done that, too!), but for the most part, people who approach a raid do it with the intention of beating it, no? This is why I could easily interchange the word fight with defeat in this instance. Should those who play infrequently (casually) expect to win a fight with Naggy? No. I bet a lot of the grumbling would have vanished if she’d used the term “defeat” instead of “fight.”
Something that I am sure most of us can agree on is that everything in a game will not appeal to every player, nor would we want it to. The only way that would happen is if we were all identical (and thank heavens we are not!). That means that folks playing EQ will have different aspects of the game they prefer and will focus on. Some players want to be raiders; some do not. Those who want to raid should be able to put the time and effort in, and those who do not will have other stuff to do in game. As Longdale responded in the official thread,
Hey folks. Context is everything. As a team we decided that raid targets will remain contested in the base game (this means not instancing them). Organized guilds will usually kill more raid targets and get more sought-after loot than players who are not organized.
Casual players are a huge portion of our player base and the majority of the content is made with them in mind.
Check out that last line again. If the majority of content is made for the majority of players, why can’t there be something for those whose big focus is to raid? What is wrong with having a bit of content that only the highest tiers and those who have dedicated themselves to it can enjoy? If there is no story locked behind it, no blockade to accessing other content, then why the heck not have content that is only for those who dedicate themselves to that one aspect and put in the time and effort? As long as players who are trying to put in the sweat equity are not blocked from doing so by game mechanics (real-life circumstances don’t count), I see no problem with raid content’s being inaccessible. And I am not alone in those thoughts. As one commenter on that thread expressed, “As long as it’s the difficulty of the game that stops me from seeing top content then that seems perfectly reasonable.”
Progression server problems
Back to the comment I made above about not everything being for everyone. That is true. But it has been presented that perhaps the population of the EQ progression servers is weighted much more heavily towards raiders who want that experience. In that case, it becomes a vital demographic to take that into account when thinking about content. And if the game mechanics themselves are causing issues with people accessing the type of gameplay they want, then there definitely does need to be some investigation into remedies.
Numerous concerns have been raised in the thread about how multiboxing has adversely affected raiding and how the removal of PnP and nearly complete removal of GMs from the server have exacerbated problems. I agree with folks that the multiboxing raiding parties keeping others from the content is an issue that needs to be addressed. I’d hoped a new server that forces one PC per login would help; perhaps it would be much better if Daybreak granted free transfers from the current progression servers to that one for anyone who is interested.
Additionally, if the people who have put in the time and effort to prepare themselves for the encounter are not able to ever try it because of people being supreme jerks repeatedly, then yes, that’s a problem as well. If a toxic — not competitive, but truly toxic — atmosphere is hindering the game, addressing those issues is key.
Don’t take my word for it
Although there is plenty of vitriol in the official discussion, I also find great merit in the comments of a number of folks. Not all commenters are toxic ragers; some offer very well-thought-out points and counterpoints aimed at enlightening or finding a solution. One such post was made by AngorfLadroTholuxeP, who outlines the concerns that accompany non-instanced raids. Will everyone agree with this poster’s points? No, but this is the kind of discussion that can help move things in a positive direction. I sincerely hope the devs manage to wade through the sludge and find the gems that unfortunately get buried in the onslaught. And I do so hope the issues that are plaguing the progression servers get resolved so that those who are there for their EQ experience can have it.