Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hardcore something-or-other.

I bet that title pulls up a host of search engine hits that have nothing to do with WoW.

Anyhow, in the times I'm not in-game, I sift through a lot of blogs and forums online that have touched on (at some point or another) the whole hardcore vs casual debate, the various flamewars that occur, and it always seeds a desire to talk about this scene, giving my current WoW mentality.

Like I've mentioned in a post a while back, my wife and I used to be in a raiding guild in WoW. When the game stopped at 60 (or as some would say, "started" at 60), the raid scene seemed somehow more epic to me than it does now. Molten Core was daunting, and getting 40 people together made you feel like an army, marching forth to victory. Or repeated wipes, that happened a lot too.

"Yes Mr. President, we're making some headway in Iraq, but the 3rd division keeps wiping on trash near the Saudi Border. We're going to replace two of their tanks with some more support units and try some different tactics."

The point is that I've been witness to the 'hardcore' raid game: following the plans, reading the strategies, signing up on calendars, farming for gold and raid materials (we stocked up on a LOT of fire protection potions for Onyxia), and so on. So I understand the existence of that camp. I also completely grok the casual game: log on, play for an hour, none of your friends have logged on, so you log off and find something else to do.

At least, that seems to be the general idea of how hardcore and casual are divided: length of play sessions. I've been online strictly for an Ony run that lasted a mere half hour, then logged back off. I've played for 8 hours straight on a Saturday where, along with my wife and a couple friends, we completed nothing more than a quest or two and wasted more than half the time simply talking with eachother. And yet there seems to be a strict dichotomy for argument's sake: if you're not a hardcore, you're a casual.

Hardcore "what," is what I'm asking. I think there needs to be a set of sliders that identify the individual (and that aren't static, to boot) on a number of topics. I envision the categories falling as such (and granted, the majority of your playerbase will fall in the middle of most):

  1. Min-maxer: How close do you watch your numbers? Do you get a new weapon because it increases your overall DPS by 0.5, or because it's shiny? A casual (0%) min-maxer gets new stuff when he realizes it's been 20 levels since he last upgraded his bland-looking chest-piece, while a hardcore (100%) min-maxer hunts WoWwiki and the Armory for every possible upgrade, and gathers a group if he needs to in pursuit of that new dungeon-drop axe that adds 1 extra agility. I suppose die-hard theorycrafters would fall on the 100% end.
  2. Economist: On the casual end, she doesn't care about the cash so long as there's enough to buy what she wants. The hardcore economist hunts the AH for all the best deals, makes sure to fine tune her sale prices, keeps an eye on the trade channel whenever possible (and uses it for it's intended purpose) and can't see a high enough number next to her gold icon.
  3. Roleplayer: It is an RPG after all, despite the genre making the move to drop letters 4 and 5 from the acronym. This is pretty self explanatory: a casual RP-er leaves well enough alone, might even make fun of the hardcores. They more than likely picked their race/class combo based on best racial abilities. A hardcore RP-er can not only be found writing character bios and comparing with lore for accuracy, but LARPing warcraft wherever they can get away with it. Their character choice had everything to do with geography and backstory, which they'd be happy to share with you.
  4. Loot Luster: 0%: "Why is this item's name in blue? Oh, neat. Hey, where's the next quest go?" 100%: "God, I haven't gotten any loot in a whole week! We need to raid more frequently."
  5. Achiever: The OCD must-complete-all-quests-in-this-area, get-on-thottbot-I-think-there-were-more-last-time-I-played-here player? Yea, hardcore. If quests and collections are simply a means to more xp or a nice side-effect of playing? Muy casual. This would also include your desire or lack thereof to max tradeskills (*cough*fishing*cough) and fill in maps.
  6. Socializer: At 0%, you play the solo game. The rest of the player base is there to buy up your auctions and give you someone to show off to at the mailbox. PuGs are an evil necessity since you can't afford to 5-box through dungeons to finish your questing. At 100%, you wouldn't play if your friends left, or you'd quickly make new ones. Joy in the game for a hardcore socializer comes from helping out new players, collecting mats for a friend's enchant, guildchat sessions, and so on.
  7. PvPer: This one's pretty straightforward. The top-rated arena teams and the honor-capped are at the hardcore end, the casual pvp'er might never fight another player, or pops into the occasional battleground because it sounds like fun that night.
This list could go on and on and delve into all the niches of such a wide-reaching game (I've already thought of some smaller aspects of the game that people get wrapped up in) but I feel most elements can be wrapped up in these seven points. This might be a better system of categorizing yourself than the boiled down hardcore vs casual system. For example, I know I'm a hardcore S, a huge portion of the fun for me in the game comes from being able to play it with my wife. However, having previously been through raids, I'd say I've lost a lot of my loot lust, so would rate as a casual L. If you capitalize anything you'd put yourself over 50% in, you can play with the acronym like so:

I play with numbers to a good degree, figuring out mana efficiency and such (M). I love playing the Auctionhouse game and enjoy being a "wealthy" character (E). I don't really roleplay, though I try to pick a decent name at character creation (r). I've lost a lot of my loot lust, knowing good gear will come with questing and dungeons whether I pine after it or not (l). I love checking quests off the list, maxing out skills, and feeling "complete" (A). The social game is huge for me, I wouldn't play this game if it were single-player (S). I've pvp'ed, and enjoyed it, but I take it in small doses (p).
The beauty of this system is that it isn't specific to available play time in a day, which seems to dictate the current casual/hardcore definition. I've known great raiders that barely had an hour out of the day to log on due to life constraints, and people with nothing happening in their world but WoW that lived in questing greens and had never seen the raid group interface before (nor had the desire to).

What's also nice is the ability to apply this system to the stereotyped hardcores and casuals. As most conversations would put it, the hardcores are MErLasP types, while the casuals are meRlASp, completely opposite. Obviously a flawed system, but it seems to be the grounds for most flame wars.

And now is that time when my brain drifts off and I'd lose points on this if I handed it in to a lit. professor for lacking a solid conclusion. Ah well, the glory of writing my own blog entries: I can just decide "it's done enough" and post it.


Beowulfa said...

Interesting. According to your system I would be a rather casual player, although I feel like a total WOW geek. This is probably because my hubby also plays (go couples!) and we frequently discuss sundry WOW topics. Having a little orclette (hee hee, FOR THE HORDE) also makes one into more of a casual than a hardcore.

Pathos said...

That's a good point, my wife and I will talk about the game to varying degrees while not playing, so it generates the feeling of a more "dedicated" player, i.e. hardcore, when the actual playtime is spent in a more casual manner.

The more I've thought about this system, the more I feel like it could be refined, and the element of "time dedicated to the game" needs to be represented somewhere, as anyone spending 70 hours a week on the game can't very well be in the same boat as someone with an hour of free time a day.

Thanks for stopping by!