Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Problem of Entitlement

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to think arguments surrounding people being "entitled" are ridiculous. Unfortunately, when it comes to 4th Edition, I think the issue of entitlement really is a strong one.

Look at the off-line character builder. When Wizards of the Coast decided (rightly or wrongly) that they weren't going to offer everyone a permanent access to all the game's rules (up to a certain point) for the cost of a 1 month subscription, they pulled it. And there was backlash. A lot of backlash. People felt entitled to it.

But, even ignoring Wizard's concerns (that range from digital piracy to just how much they're really charging for content), entitlement is what Essentials is all about. Rather, it's about fighting that entitlement. Players feel entitled to artifacts. Players feel entitled to Slidespam builds for wizards. Players feel entitled to this and that.

If you take a look at an Essentials Only game-rarity rules, no pre-essentials classes, etc-you really don't see that. And surprise surprise, there's complaints about how the content sucks. Because it doesn't live up to the pre-existing expectations. And that's intentional: the game can't meet those expectations.

Wizards is releasing a lot less crunch, and a lot more fluff these days. And that's partially because it's easier for them to catch up with that much. But in the current market, I ask all players of the game: If you hadn't been given so much before, would you really think what you're getting now is inadequate?


  1. I can't speak for everyone, but I feel that the majority of 4e players (at least those that frequent the WotC message boards and those that I game with) are very much pro-balance, and in favor of the errata that reels in the overpowered elements. I think this is something that WotC has done very well, and they've been doing it long before the release of essentials.

    The specific issue with the "slidespam" problem is more with the method by which the current design team is handling the changes - nerfing powers individually - when the CharOp community has been advocating a blanket errata limiting zone damage to once per turn for a while now (in fact, at one point WotC employees started a thread soliciting the CharOp community's advice and they gave that very suggestion, but were ignored). It's no wonder people were angry. Tackling the problem power-by-power is inefficient, inelegant, and opens up the possibility that something will slip through the cracks. Why add an additional clause to every single power stat block when one simple blanket statement will do?

    With regard to essentials options being underpowered, it's really a mixed bag. Mages, Slayers, and Thieves, among other builds, are all comparable to pre-Essentials classes in terms of power. Complaints are mostly about how boring some of these classes are, if anything. On the other end of the spectrum are horribly executed builds like the Vampire and the Binder. The Binder especially is blatantly and obviously worse than a standard Warlock, and no wonder! It's terribly designed! They basically took away the Warlock's Curse and locked it into at-will and encounter powers, which are by and large underwhelming powers. This says more about the ineptitude of the current design team than about player entitlement (after all, the Warlock was never a particularly powerful class, so the fact that the Binder is so much obviously inferior really says something). At this stage in the game the designers should really have a good handle on how everything stacks up, but they've proven that that's not the case with much of the new content. I'm just hoping that they learned from their blunders, and that Heroes of the Feywild turns out to be better than Heroes of Shadow.

    Finally, I'll concede that you're probably right about a sense of entitlement about the offline character builder. I certainly did the "subscribe for one month to get a boatload of content" thing, and was mildly annoyed when the CB went entirely online. Granted I still mostly generated characters on paper and only used the CB for reference, and it still serves that purpose (albeit un-updated). However, I don't think that player entitlement is the only problem here. Did WotC honestly not think that this would be a problem? I mean, as soon as I learned about the original CB that idea instantly popped into my head. If WotC didn't want that to happen, then they never should have released an offline CB to begin with. It's easy to understand why some players feel jerked around.

  2. Interesting points. I generally don't hear anyone praising rarity, for instance, but that may be simply because I travel among a relatively small group of actual players-players who are very much an entitlement mentality.