WoW! Thoughts! — On the Frustration of Repeating Challenges

Thoughts on the what it means to tackle a challenge a second time and fail repeatedly.

About a month ago I made the mistake of tapping on the Peggle shortcut buried in my phone’s app list.  I last played Peggle a few years ago, and remember struggling to complete all of the challenges (specifically the “get 750,000 points on a random stage” challenge).  Out of boredom I started playing again, and after blowing through the Adventure mode, I found myself staring down the agonizingly familiar Challenge menu.  Once again, the menu is filled with completed challenges save two — the Master Tri-Duel and the 750,000 point task.  As frustrating as these challenges were the first time, they have been especially frustrating now.  The duel is especially challenging because the computer KNOWS how the ball will bounce.  Knowing that I completed these labors before has made my failed attempts disheartening.

Oddly enough, the same situation is occurring simultaneously in World of Warcraft.  I am finally up to the Wrathion fight to get the legendary cloak on my Alliance Hunter.  I’m not sure what I’m doing differently that is causing me to struggle this time.  Last time, I had to relearn how to play my class, and succeeded after a few attempts.  Now, I can whittle Wrathion down quite low, but victory has been elusive.  Whereas before I knew I had room to improve my skills, this time, I’m already a better hunter (or at least I should be), and the inability to know what I need to do to get myself over that last hump of the whelp’s remaining health is maddening.

For starters, the fight feels like it is playing out differently.  Wrathion seems to be moving more, refusing to stay in the middle of the room.  I’m trying to strafe him in a circle, to keep the Corrupted Blood mobs in the radius of my ice trap, but when Wrathion nears a wall, my strategy falls apart. As my fights rarely last more than a minute, each failed attempt leaves me waiting a figurative eternity for the Sated debuff to expire.  Plus, since this is my boosted Alliance alt, he lacks the wealth of my main.  Flasks and repairs are beginning to take their toll, which means I’ll need to waste time earning gold as opposed to throwing myself at the young dragon.  If I could clearly see what I was doing wrong, I might feel better because I could estimate just how much work I need to do and effort to put in before I can achieve success, but instead it all seems random and I just need to keep trying until I win.  It is disheartening because I don’t know how many more attempts I will need, and how much that’s going to cost me.

Challenges are good because they allow us to measure our performance.  Either we are successful, or we fail.  The best challenges allow us to learn why we failed.  When the end result feels random (sometimes the bloods spawn take longer to spawn, sometimes the ball bounces directly into the cup) the challenge becomes less about me versus the computer, and it becomes about my willpower versus the number of attempts required to haphazardly have every random event go my way for me to win.  Sports pundits often say things like  “99 times out of 100, the better team wins” but while a sporting match can only be played once, video games allow for the repetition of playing something 100 times.

On one hand, we are lucky that we can repeat our efforts until we hit that freak 1% occurrence when we can achieve victory despite inferior skill, but on the other hand, we have to endure those 99 losses.  While that does teach perseverance, it is incredibly frustrating, and can taint what should be an otherwise enjoyable experience.  Conquering a difficult boss as a demonstration of mastery provides players with a great feeling of success and achievement.  Knowing instead that your victory was simply one of attrition over the a random distribution of events is less inspiring.  Disappointingly, not all victories are created equal.

In a game like World of Warcraft, where the rewards of challenges are legendary items like the cloak, we’re given a highly visible way to share with everyone just how powerful we are.  These reasons are why the more skilled (hardcore) players tend to prefer that the best items be gated behind the toughest content — they like having the ability to show off just how good they are by equipping that.  For some players, that is exactly the case.  For others, it simply shows they played long enough to get lucky, and while that is a skill in its own right, it may not be the best game design.  I’ll look to see what I can do to improve my rotation and increase my item level, and I’ll keep playing Peggle until I understand bounce angles better to place my shots.  I know I’ll complete all the challenges before me.  There’s just going to be much frustration until I do.

WoW! Blurbs!

Just a reminder that the new cinematic (and launch date, and the animated Lords of War) is going to be unveiled tomorrow.  In preparation, the official Warcraft twitter account has tweeted out two images from the cinematic.  While it is great to be teased, you can only blindly view the cinematics once, and having even the faintest idea of where they are going seems detrimental to the experience.  Yes, we could have expected Pandaren in the Mists cinematic, but the surprise at Chen’s reveal is part of what makes that cinematic so great, and I’m glad we didn’t know that he would be featured going into it.  I’m sure the Warlords cinematic will be amazing, but I worry that teasing Grom’s appearance is too much.

Blizzard announced the 10th Anniversary celebration plans for World of Warcraft.  A max level Molten Core 40-man LFR where you can earn a corehound mount.  A 100v100 Team Deathmatch battleground set in the old Tarren Mill vs. Southshore map.  And every gets a Molten Corgi.  And here I was expecting something in tin or aluminum.

New artcraft showing off the troll models.  They look too good to be sitting online leaving negative comments all day. 

Zone previews for the Spires of Arak and Nagrand tease the lore that you’ll be working on when you ding 100 and stop caring about the lore.

So Jonathan LeCraft tweeted that the Emerald Drake would be the reward for earning 250 mounts in Warlords, but then people pointed out that it doesn’t make sense with the lore, so he amended that to the Felfire Hawk.  The Emerald Drake will still be available somewhere as yet undecided.  Feel free to cite this as Twitter successfully allowing the devs to interact with their fans to make changes the community wants, or Twitter allowing the fans too much access to decisions at an early stage.

World of Warcraft has dropped to 6.8 million subscribers.  If they keep losing 800,000 subscribers each quarter, the game will be done by 2016.

A new comic is available that details events on Draenor before we get there – Gul’dan and the Stranger.  Apparently Gul’dan spends some time reading Camus.

Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz
Nick Zielenkievicz

Senior Producer

Host of WoW! Talk! and The Tauren & The Goblin. Sometimes known as the Video Games Public Defender. Wants to play more Destiny and Marvel Heroes but WoW is all-consuming. Decent F2P Hearthstone player. Sad that he lost the Wii that had Wrecking Crew on it. Would be happy if the only game ever made was M.U.L.E. Gragtharr on Skywall-US. Garresque on Ravencrest-US.

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