WildStar: in defense of attunements

Jeromai and Syl have been looking at the attunement for 20-man raids in WildStar, and they are at best bemused and at worst concerned about what it all means for the game. I admit, I don’t really understand the problem. I am not planning on raiding in WildStar, but I sure will do the attunement chain because it looks like fun!

I mean hey, to each their own, but that list doesn’t seem to contain anything terribly exotic. Kill some world bosses, grind some reputation, speed run some dungeons, do a few special events — for the most part it’s activities that most players will be doing anyway. Syl described it as “excessive” and “excruciatingly frustrating” (note that neither of us are high enough level to have actually tried any of this yet), and I don’t understand where the frustration comes into it.

To be fair, so far content in WildStar has been pretty challenging! I did the level 20 dungeon last night, and we died a whole lot before finishing it. If you don’t want challenging content — and that is entirely reasonable — then you probably won’t enjoy it right now. I like a challenge, and I am really enjoying this.

There has been much written in the past few years about the “journey” in MMOs, and how we’ve lost sight of it in many ways. This attunement, my friends, is part of a journey. It may not be a journey that you want to take, and that’s okay, but to declare that it plain shouldn’t exist while simultaneously bemoaning the lack of GAME in our games is baffling.

Now, it’s totally legitimate to prefer that a game has no barriers to entry for raids! In fact, there is a game that already does that extremely well, and that’s WoW. It’s there. You can play it. Millions of people do.

But I get irritated when a game actually tries to appeal to players in a different way than WoW, and then a number of responses (generally, not Jeromai and Syl in particular) are a snobby “they’ll nerf it in six months” or “they’ll go free-to-play” or “the game won’t survive without appealing to the most casual market possible” and suddenly we don’t like innovation, we don’t like niche markets, we just want any nails that stick out to be slowly hammered into being just… like… WoW.

Of course attunements are a time sink. Games are a time sink. I did every weapon challenge in Bastion over and over again until I got the gold prize. That was a time sink! I did every combat encounter I could find in Costume Quest even if technically I could have stealthed by so I could grind levels on my character. That was a time sink!

Syl commented that “I don’t pay a sub to get a fat barrier of entry shoved into my face like that”, and I totally cringed when I read that. It’s the exact same argument that people made in WoW like five years ago, except many of the people who I see making it now don’t play WoW anymore in large part because they find it bland. These things are not unrelated.

It’s okay to not enjoy or play something! It’s okay to find X game suits your style more than Y. But man, I think these complaints about WildStar’s attunements generally boil down to “someone is playing a game in a way that I don’t play a game, and I don’t like it”. I’ve been struck by that madness myself at times and I’m sure I will again, but I think it makes for a weak analysis of games.

Author: Jessica Cook

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28 Comments

  1. Difficulty is not to be despised. But how difficult are we really talking here? And how relevant? How much of that attunement chart is about getting you ready to raid, proving that you can hack it (something Blizz is considering again for WoD in its own way) and how much is just a matter of them wanting to put in a speed bump to slow down access to 40 person raids because Carbine is afraid people will leave before they can get more content on the table?

    I remember some happy times in WoW with attunement and just generally having dungeons and raids be connected to tasks in the non-instanced game world. But the moment you start in on “grind faction,” happy memories fade.
    Wilhelm Arcturus´s last post: Shroud of the Avatar, Virtual Real Estate, and Keeping Control

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    • I am mostly tired of the idea that artificial barriers = challenge in MMOs. The list looks like daunting homework and a tool to keep the average player away so raiders can feel special and that’s honestly a sentiment I am totally over in MMOs. Content people pay for should be reasonably accessible, I don’t know why that’s such an arrogant wish of mine. Or asking that friends can join each other with relative ease for any activity – or why is flex raiding so popular in WoW? Whom does it hurt?

      I hear Liore on the journey though and that’s absolutely a way to look at it (even if personally I don’t appreciate striking achievements off a list). I have written posts pro progression and raiding hoops myself in the past – I don’t even consider myself very casual. However, Carbine just strike me as extreme here and that’s my initial impression of what I agreed is early times. It feels like a cheap move of “let’s pile it on” to me just so that carrot stays far out of reach for long enough. We’ll see how they wrap all of this up in meaningful ways, via lore or some overarching story I can’t wait to see unfold.

      Anyway, maybe it’s a matter of interpretation. I put value in letting players at least step into an instance and try it, fail as they may, while others advocate that entry should already be part of the selective process. Maybe our differences are really as small as that.
      Syl´s last post: [Wildstar] Oh wow, that raid attunement

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      • How is it a tool to keep the average player away? Totally honest question. Like, rep grinds and dungeon runs and world bosses all seem totally within the average player handbook. I sincerely do not understand why you do not consider these “reasonably accessible”. It’s not like WoW where you had to kill the second-hardest boss in the game (Kael, actually probably the hardest one) to access the current raid tier (Black Temple). It’s just speed runs of 5-mans and stuff.

        That being said, I think the overall issue is a matter of perception. You say artificial barrier, I say gameplay. Potato, Pot-aa-to! Some would say, I expect, that being level 49 is a barrier to being level 50, or gathering mats is a barrier to maxing out crafting.

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        • Doing dungeon hard modes with special requirements such as zero deaths, then with added timers, catch 10 world bosses as well as public events, and possibly several more things that will pose considerable difficulty for someone in a small guild or with very restricted hours, or maybe unlucky with the server too, – all that seems very painful to me when putting myself in that person’s shoes. I pugged Arah hardmodes in GW2 without added rules and wanted to kill myself. :D None of this sounds like fun unless you join an active and big guild right from the start. Ofc that’s nice to bring bigger guilds back and all but I kinda feel with those who don’t have time to camp outdoor bosses 24/7. Flexible raiding is a nice thing for those with irregular schedules or smaller groups but I get it, Wildstar just doesn’t want to offer that. I can still dislike it on behalf of whoever it concerns ;)
          Syl´s last post: [Wildstar] Oh wow, that raid attunement

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        • I just wanted to say that I love this comment, Liore, because it pretty much sums up my own confusion about the extreme hostility that some people seem to have towards the whole attunement idea. MMOs are full of “do A before you can do B” type gameplay and people seem to find it perfectly acceptable in most cases. Attunements aren’t really all that different.
          Shintar´s last post: Aurebesh Posters

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    • Hah, Wilhelm, rep grinds are often considered one of the most accessible types of content, but they’re also the stuff I like the least.

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      • Heh, yes, and McDonald’s is probably the most accessible form of employment in North America, but that doesn’t mean we all want to be asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

        I think I made it all the way to Wrath of the Lich King before I had more than one or two factions at exalted in WoW. And then they gave us achievements…
        Wilhelm Arcturus´s last post: Shroud of the Avatar, Virtual Real Estate, and Keeping Control

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  2. I think you are missing the underlying point of the objections to the Wildstar attunement from progression raiders. It isn’t that niche games can’t exist, EVE Online is proof that they can, but for a game that is going so far out of its way to market itself to the hardcore player (“Hardcore” is to Wildstar what “Savage” is to WoD) there is a distinct sense of “been there, done that.” We’ve seen attunements, we’ve seen 40 man raiding and we’ve seen raiding move past them and in many ways get better for it.

    Attunements and 40 mans seem endemic of game design that has ignored the movement of the progression raiding community over the past 5+ years. One of the big stories of MoP from a raiding perspective has been the rise of the low hour guild (using the 12 hour standard that seems common in the community). If you look at the WoW Progress ranks for 25 man over MoP one of the most consistent trends has been more and more low hour guilds in the top 20 and top 40. These guilds reflect a change in large portions of the raiding community, we enjoy raiding, we enjoy killing hard bosses and we still want to compete on progression but we don’t have as much time to raid as we used to so we find ways to raid more efficiently.

    Obviously low hour raiders aren’t the only group in WoW but they are an increasing portion of the top end. This tier a full half of the top 40 25 mans in the US raided on an at most, 12 hour per week schedule. All expansion higher hour guilds have been dying as guilds raiding less than them have started competing and passing them in progression. Wildstar’s fixation on time sinks leaves this rapidly growing community out. Its possible that Wildstar could be successful with a timesink heavy raiding game but I’m skeptical, the raiders who seek glory for their progression at any and all cost seem likely to play the game with the largest mindshare and the low hour raider is probably staying away too. That seems to leave a pretty small subset of the WoW raiding community who Wildstar could appeal to.

    NOTE: In the above paragraphs I use the word we a lot rather than I. I don’t mean to speak for the entire low hour raiding community, obviously I can’t however I have spoken with many low hour raiders about Wildstar and raiding in general and I think what I say above reflects a viewpoint that many other low hour raiders share.

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    • Well, I did low hour hardmode raiding (we called it “casualcore” back then) all through TBC and WotLK. 6-9 hours a week! Also I can assure you that plenty of us existed back in the day. ;) (Get off my lawn, kids!)

      But I don’t really understand how this group is being left out. Why can’t you raid 6 hours a week in WildStar too? Why can’t you do attunements over 6 hours a week?

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      • I realize I was somewhat unclear, the exciting new trend in MoP isn’t low hour raiding, that has been around for a long time but rather how low hour guilds (in the US at least) have really started to take over guild rankings. In T13 the top guild with a 12 hour schedule barely cracked the top US 40, in T14 the top 12 hour guild was 20th with ~10 in the top 40 and now in T16 there are 3 12 hour guilds in the top 20 (25 man because that is the community I pay attention to but I think the trends in 10 man are similar) and 22 guilds in the top 40. These are somewhat arbitrary cutoffs, top 20 and top 40, if WoWProgress organized pages in sets of 30 I’d probably be talking about top 30 and top 60 but the point remains. During MoP low hour guilds went from an interesting novelty of a couple guilds to the majority of high ranked progression.

        The goal of a guild like mine (The Horsemen) isn’t just to complete content on a 9 hour schedule but to compete with and beat guilds with longer raid schedules. We like beating guilds with longer raid schedules because it means we’re playing smarter and/or better than they are. This works in WoW because WoW has removed so many of the barriers to raiding. Not all of them to be sure but more and more, Wrath removed attunements, MoP removed rep enchants (although added rep VP gear) and WoD looks to remove raiding critical reputations and VP. We’re getting very close in WoW to being able to show up and raid without having to do anything else in game and thats outstanding. Wildstar isn’t doing that, Wildstar wants raiding to be exclusive based on time as well as skill and that just doesn’t sound appealing.

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        • Fair enough, Fierydemise — if WoW fits your guild better, that’s cool. It sounds like you’re enjoying it.

          I still don’t see why a low-hour raid guild won’t be competitive in WildStar. The raiding is designed to have random elements so the “ladder” isn’t just a linear one, and honestly at this point the race to 50 is a much bigger issue if one wants to be world first than attunements.

          And if the competitive low-hour raid phenomenon is booming (seems like a good idea to me!), then the majority of competitive raiders will be in the same boat, which means that the playing field is pretty even. I guess we will just have to wait and see how it all shakes out!

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      • I realize I’m saying a lot without getting my point across very well. Let me try to put it another way.

        I enjoy raiding, I enjoy analyzing logs, I enjoy thinking about how to optimize my play to be more successful and I enjoy brainstorming strategies on with my guild on the forums or in mumble. I do not enjoy the more mindnumbing parts of the game, dailies, rep grinding and questing. WoW lets me spend most of my time doing mostly things I enjoy, Wildstar looks like it is attempting to gate the parts of the game I like behind content I don’t based on outdated ideas about time spent and hardcore content.

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      • The challenge for hardcore low hour players would be how to deal with backflagging. Your six hour a week guild can’t afford to spend the time to farm old raid content because that’s their entire raid calendar. Late TBC and especially post WOTLK dealt with this problem by removing attunements and wiping all gear every patch so that you didn’t need the guild (or, worse, some poor hapless “feeder” guild that you joined to gear up and then quit) for your catch-up work. This factor is that that much harder when you have the largest raid size for any content released post 2006.

        More generally, the hostility comes out because these are mutually exclusive playstyles – the “casualcore” players don’t want to be told to go back to WoW any more than the 40-man hardcore want to.
        Green Armadillo´s last post: All In On Wildstar Attunements: Legacy of the Burning Crusade

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        • There is no WoW for 40-man players to go back to, anyway.

          I agree that backflagging is a huge pain. In WildStar the raid bosses will drop a full “attunement” token that can be sold or given to players. The result will be, I think, a nerf over time to attunements. At a certain critical mass, players will likely be able to just buy an attunement of the auction house for their alt. We’ll have to see how it plays out of course, but I like the concept.

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  3. Thanks for proving that I am not the only person in the world who saw that infographic and thought: oh, how fun!

    TBC attunements and stuff like the Champion of the Naaru title are some of my all-time favorite memories of WoW. And I have not ever been hardcore in the slightest!
    Kadomi´s last post: Wildstar: Addons Corner – Chat and social improvements

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  4. Other than what I said above, in this case it’s a matter of exclusivity for me and not one of playstyle disagreements, Liore. I am never against that. But the issue precisely with barriers like this one is that they essentially do not allow more casual people to experience certain content, certainly not in time, whereas people above an average time budget get to enjoy whatever. To use the logic of a comment I just received on my blog: hardcore players are not hindered from doing casual content by means of game design, are they?

    Now I do see the issue of barrier nerf = taking something away for those players and one can certainly argue for their side. I just happen to argue for the other side, in theory anyway because I am not nearly as invested in this topic (yet) as I might appear to be. ;) but yeah, I will always be pro an accessibility in balance with progression.

    Funny enough unlike for you, to me this is all exactly like WoW and not unlike WoW. I raided in vanilla and it was considered hardcore, the way WS raiding seems right now. I am all for innovation, there’s nothing innovative about Wildstar to me other than the combat system. So my assumption about 6 months is simply a guess based on past experiences, nothing more. I remember saying that TSW would go free-to-play because it seemed likely and some people didn’t appreciate it then, either. As bloggers we have hunches or make predictions all the time and yet some of them seem unwelcome due to some arbitrary rule I probably haven’t heard of. We all come from different places and argue from our personal viewpoints, not sure why that makes me a snob.
    Syl´s last post: [Wildstar] Oh wow, that raid attunement

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    • To be clear, Syl, I don’t think you’re being a snob, and I think you are totally welcome to blog about whatever you like, whenever you like! But I also don’t always have to agree with your take on the issue. ;)

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      • The fact that we do not always have to agree is something we have established long ago, I believe. :)I was speaking generally about the perceived snobbery as you called it, which is probably true in some cases but in others really a sign of people being terse and resigned because they’ve seen it go down like that before.

        To be fair, I am totally a snob sometimes :D especially where cosmetics and hats are concerned!
        Syl´s last post: [Wildstar] Oh wow, that raid attunement

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  5. The End Game is what you do at the End Game. WildStar’s Attunement is accessible in itself and provides a fairly decent amount of content that LOOKS FUN. As soon as we can get over the ‘End Game = Raiding’ limitation, I think we can embrace the inclusion of challenging runs of already challenging dungeons, as well as world bosses and events.

    Without the Attunement, many people would skip doing the hardmode versions of dungeons or bothering with most of the world events. Mostly because they are wired by previous MMOs to believe that the raiding content is the only point of max level. Afterward, they’d complain that WildStar lacks content.

    It’s a vicious cycle.

    I’ve always preferred attunement systems. Yes, it can seem like an artificial barrier, especially when the individual parts of the attunement are outrageous or difficult. But I know that MOST players will skip content to go straight to wherever they can get the best gear the quickest. Hardcore and Casual alike, people typically prefer the path of least resistance if they see it.

    Attunements make sure that people do things in not only the right order, but in one that promotes all content getting done equally. Even in current themepark MMOs, people still ask things like, “What’s the most efficient way to hit max level?” Questing (as much as I hate it for other reasons) does try to spread out people across all of the game’s content.

    I look back to EverQuest and remember specific zones that were more or less mandatory if you wanted to level quickly. These would change based on expansion since newer expansions often introduced newer lower level areas that were significantly more efficient. Many players missed out on a great deal of content because they wanted to progress by any means necessary.

    I think the same can easily be said about modern MMO players at the End Game level. They want to progress by any means necessary, and that means removing all barriers so they can go straight to collecting their epics.

    Of course, that’s a perspective from someone looking at this from a fairly hardcore vantage. There is the other angle of wanting to be able to play with friends, and attunements being an unfun barrier of entry dividing you from your friends. That can certainly be a problem, but there is zero way for me to tell how that will play out in WildStar. I don’t know if the World Events will be easily puggable; I’m not sure about the rate of faction gain, etc.

    But, if the first dungeon’s length and challenge is any indicator, then I don’t think I will mind running them over and over. It wasn’t exactly padded with a ton of mobs, ready to respawn at the drop of a hat.

    I don’t know about you guys, but I actually enjoy playing a fuller, more robust End Game than just zerg the boss, stay out of red, collect items. I prefer having something a bit more interesting to work toward.

    Of course, my preferences don’t matter since the point of every MMO is to appeal to every conceivable person and give them every opportunity to do everything in the game, sans challenge or effort.
    Murf´s last post: Transistor (PS4, 2014): One of Gaming’s Great Short Stories

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    • I’m rather curious as to how this all pans out actually. I think attunements make sense, in moderation. TBC had decent attunements to start but after a year, the barrier for new players/alts was insane. I’m thinking “acceptable” as the kahrazan key. What really sucked, as a mid-tier raiding guild, was being used as a stepping stone for a top tier guild, solely for attunement.

      When I look at Wildstar, I am thinking both that sounds fun but also, holy crap, 12 steps with a bunch of smaller reqs is a LOT. Really looking forward to what the game looks like in 90 days with the existing model.
      Asmiroth´s last post: #Wildstar – Combat Comparison

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      • Yeah, moving forward will be the biggest concern. I think a basic system of attunements that try and keep up with the times/current content might be the best approach. As more and more content is added to the game, I could see some of these attunements possibly becoming a bit too strict as the playerbase concentrates higher and higher.
        Murf´s last post: Transistor (PS4, 2014): One of Gaming’s Great Short Stories

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  6. You know, from a personal standpoint, the list doesn’t look un-doable. It looks like a fun epic check-off-all-the-chievos list that I’m already voluntarily doing in a game like GW2, for example.

    But from an outside game design / what-effect-will-this-have-on-the-playerbase standpoint, these are the things that strike me:

    1) Enforced Time Consumption

    There’s no way to skip it or play an alternate way. It’s do them all this way, or receive a big fat nothing. There’s no voluntary choice, it’s “have to do this.” Feeling obligated to grind something is a step on the road to burnout.

    This one is very personal, but timesinks have become very obvious to me after playing free-to-play games where it’s more profitable to get you hooked to the action and meat of the game fast. The “wait around a lot” “wait till you get to X level, or past this Y mark” kind of design just makes me chuckle because it’s super obvious the goal is to waste the player’s time until they run out of all their rl gaming time for the month, and have to pay up the next month.

    2) Alt Unfriendly

    Sure, the list looks fun to do. Once. When everyone else wants to do it too, and you’ll find enough groups and critical mass for world bosses and dungeons the hard achievement way.

    If one wants to bring a second or third character to raid-ready status later, that sounds a lot less fun and will involve begging a friendly group to do it with you. Which again, might work for a while, but the tenth or fortieth time (cumulative across different players, not one player making 40 alts) might start to wear down on that friendliness. :)

    3) Accessibility for New Players

    How easy is it to penetrate into the ranks of the hardcore? The less easy it is, the higher the chance of a toxic elitist-minded environment at the top, in general, reveling in how “special” they feel compared to the hoi polloi.

    The higher the chance that new players will find the barrier insurmountable and give up halfway, diminishing new blood flowing into that part of the game.

    Lack of new blood is a hop, skip and a run away from losing critical mass, from normal attrition over time.

    4) Exclusion

    All of the above leads to promoting a mindset of exclusion over inclusion. This tends to breed insularity, guilds turtling in among themselves, general PUG hostility.

    That’s not to say a game with all the above is unplayable. One could very well choose to play it regardless, or maybe one actually -likes- all the above for whatever reason, in which case, all power to you. It gives you the sense of feeling special and a super tight knit social community if/when you luck into one, perhaps.

    I just wonder why people who hate the above continue to pay for a game that does this to them. And when they’ll stop, and if subscriber number fallout from that will be noticeable. :)

    In all honesty though, I’d like Wildstar to succeed. It’ll neatly put all the challenge-loving hardcore raiders into a clear niche, like Eve Online groups the open world PvP-loving group gankers, removing them from games that don’t cater to them, and gives us more focused-to-a-particular-type games down the road.

    I just don’t know how it will, unless it figures out ways to attract and keep their casual cohort content and subscribing and paying the full amount for only parts of a game.
    Jeromai´s last post: Wildstar: Holy Hamster Wheel, Batman!

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    • I have to disagree with your points 3 & 4, based on the observation I made in WoW that the more inclusive the game became overall, the more elitist and unfriendly the playerbase seemed to become. My theory as for why that happens is that people like to play with like-minded individuals who have a similar investment in the game as they do. If the game “naturally” stratifies the player base, everyone who enters your particular strata is a welcome addition because you know that you’ve got common interests. Whereas if you have everyone sharing the same large pool, you’ll keep running into people you don’t really want to play with and they become an obstacle to your enjoyment of the game, which breeds hostility.
      Shintar´s last post: Aurebesh Posters

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  7. So I was intending to comment with a simple “Agreed!” on this post, but after reading the comments I’ve come to a different opinion.

    I love attunements, from a personal perspective. I love that feeling of actually working through an epic chain of quests to earn access to a part of the game. I’d prefer less group-mandatory parts of the chain, but that’s just me. However, I do recognise the problems it causes from a raiding guild organisational perspective. I was, as noted above, ready to dismiss those problems as less important than the epic quest chain idea, but I think there is merit to making it optional, rather than simply eliminating attunements altogether.

    The problem is, you need a reason to do it if it is optional. I don’t think lore reasons are good enough, or even an exclusive piece of gear (or housing stuff, etc). I think you either need to punish or disadvantage raiders who don’t complete the attunement, or reward those who do it. Punishment rarely, if ever, works or is received favourably. So rewarding those who have done it is the way to go.

    I don’t know what form exactly would be best for such a reward, but it would need to be ongoing, to remind those who skipped the attunement that they are missing out and should go back and do it. Maybe a solo challenge after certain raid bosses are down, which gives a(nother) chance at raid loot or exclusive cosmetic/housing/crafting mats, or a personal roll for companion pet drops on raid bosses, or tokens that allow high-end gear to be bought from vendors, or exclusive access to those vendors (maybe all raiders get the tokens but only attuned ones can use them), the list goes on.

    This would, in my opinion, address the ‘unnecessary barriers’ problems, and avoid the existence of stepping-stone guilds as in TBC, while still giving an ongoing reason to do the attunement.
    Dahakha´s last post: Well Blizz, I guess we part ways here

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  8. But I get irritated when a game actually tries to appeal to players in a different way than WoW, and then a number of responses (generally, not Jeromai and Syl in particular) are a snobby “they’ll nerf it in six months” or “they’ll go free-to-play” or “the game won’t survive without appealing to the most casual market possible” and suddenly we don’t like innovation, we don’t like niche markets, we just want any nails that stick out to be slowly hammered into being just… like… WoW.

    There were a lot of innovations Wildstar didn’t implement. Examples:

    1.) Guild wars 2 style tapping mechanics.

    2.) Content that scales to however many people you have.

    3.) Ditching the tired old quest hub in favor of something more dynamic.

    If Wildstar dev’s really want to innovate, the question is not “what did WoW used to do in 2007?” The question is “what are people who quit WoW sick of?”. When WoW took the crown from Everquest, it was because they re-worked the formula Everquest gave them into a game experience that was unlike anything that came before.

    The generally negative reaction in this posts comments means attunements aren’t the game changer Carbine needs to drag those jaded vets back.

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    • As much as I would love to pretend it’s so, I’m pretty sure comments on my blog are not a great way to actually take the pulse of the masses. ;)

      For what it’s worth, in my WildStar guild of about 30-40 players (mostly ex-WoW players) we are very excited about attunements. They just don’t write about them.

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      • I pay my sub fee and I want a mini-xuen pet for my monk. Why should I have to do pet battles to get it?

        I would bet any money that it would take far more hours in game to farm a mini-xuen then it will take to get attuned to raids in Wildstar.

        Now I’m sure the argument is that a pet takes fewer resources than a raid, but if you like pet battles and you’re having fun, then why do you care?

        To be clear, I’m not going to raid in Wildstar but what I will do is play with my friends and do attunments and carry strangers through them at times because that’s the type of community I like to be a part of.

        And I like attunments. I like long winding challenges that I can do solo or with 1-4 other people in increments. I don’t really want to spend 3-4 hours in a row in a raid anymore, but I do want to spend 1-2 hours doing the new Baron Run!

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