Wrathbabies.

I see this term getting a lot of traction lately. If you haven’t seen it used, I’ll break it down with a very general definition: a Wrathbaby is a player of World of Warcraft who became accustomed to the lower difficulty levels in Wrath of the Lich King, and developed a sense of entitlement due to “easy epics” and/or a consistent flow of Badge rewards. As a result, they, like babies, expect to be pampered with a similar treatment in Cataclysm.

And they’re not getting it.

Now, I hate terms like “wrathbabies.” “Scrubs” is another term like that, and I think they’re thrown around far too liberally by players who think they’re better than everyone else. And, like with “scrubs,” the moment someone raises a concern about (or outright rallies against) the difficulty level in Cataclysm, a number of players will label them a wrathbaby and disregard any and all of their argument.

For some, Wrath of the Lich King was the first time they experienced World of Warcraft. New players are coming and going all the time. Let’s not forget that WoW is six years old, going on seven — someone who may have put off playing WoW until they got out of college could have very easily entered the game during Wrath. There are many other scenarios that could lead to this, as well. Not everyone has been playing since November 2004. Yes, I have, but I’m a freak. I admit.

So, to these players, Wrath was the end all, be all World of Warcraft experience. Their first raid was the revamped Naxxramas. They never saw Illidan in the Black Temple, but they killed Arthas. Yes, Wrath was easier than, say, Classic or The Burning Crusade, but you can only truly make that distinction if you’ve played through Classic or TBC. If not, then Wrath wasn’t “easy” … it just was.

Now we’re into Cataclysm, and yes, the dungeon difficulty is higher. The heroic difficulty is higher. The raid difficulty is higher. Some players are encountering this and wondering why the game changed direction. Some adapt, but others are stuck. The dungeon difficulty may simply be too much for them, or their class changes (Healers were hit pretty hard) have thrown them for a loop. These players then voice their opinion, and they typically do so concisely, and with decorum. These are not Wrathbabies. They may want the difficulty level lowered, but not unreasonably so. They want a challenge, but feel the current challenge is far too high for “entry level” heroics and raiding and something can be done to smooth out the curve.

A smaller subset of those complaining will wail and flail their arms and, not unlike a baby, cry until they receive satisfaction. These strike me as “wrathbabies,” if I’m to use the term — these are players who simply want a free ride to Epictown.

What seems to be almost universal, however, is that complaining players (sensible and ridiculous alike) feel Ghostcrawler — Lead Systems Designer for WoW — is being disrespectful to them. The main source of this disrespect was GC’s “Wow, Dungeons are Hard!” blog post, where he talked about the difficulty level in Cataclysm and how players might overcome some of the new challenges. With a very prejudicial eye, you could view the article as saying “learn to play, noob” — but really, I didn’t get that. At all. GC handled the communication with kid gloves and was fairly diplomatic throughout.

Now, I met Ghostcrawler at last year’s BlizzCon dinner. He was cool. He didn’t strike me as self-centered or holier-than-thou or obnoxious or any of these things players are accusing him to be. And yes, I do think he is passionate about his job and wants to make World of Warcraft the best game he can. I think all of Blizzard is behind this — they want to make awesome games. So, when I see fellow players saying GC is being a big meanie-head, I’m boggled. No, GC isn’t out to get you. None of the designers are.

That doesn’t mean they can’t make mistakes. They do. Tol Barad victories granting 10 times the normal amount of Honor Points? Mistake. They’ll keep on making mistakes, because it’s human nature. I think they fully expect to be called onto the carpet when they make a big mistake, too — but the dungeon difficulty, they feel, is not one of them. And really, it isn’t. The dungeons are a little harder. Heroics are punishing in places, and could perhaps use a bit of tweaking, but they are not impossible.

Let’s not forget, Blizzard has all the data. They know how many groups are attempting bosses and dying to them. They can look at broad statistics, or focus in on specific fights to see precisely what went wrong. They have more data now than they could ever amass in the Alpha or Beta phases, and they’ll be using this information to make adjustments as they see fit. Patch 4.0.6 will have a few tweaks. The next patch may have more. Patch 4.1 may include many changes to the heroics and initial raids to make them a little more accessible to anyone lagging behind. It can get better.

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