“Times change” the loathsome Garrosh Hellscream uttered in final moments of the Warlords of Draenor cinematic. Indeed, as time rolls on, most of us will see some change in our WoW-playing routines and I’m no exception. Years ago, striding the fields of Azeroth was one of my primary pastimes, with several evenings a week devoted to playing WoW. Nowadays, my time in-game is more varied. Without guild (by choice) and with other obligations and interests, it’s rare I spend even half the amount of time I used to playing. I know I’m not alone in this. Whether it time, circumstance or both, there are many of us out there who play infrequently but still treasure it when we do.
As accommodating as the game is for casual and hard-core player alike, those of us in the former camp may sometimes feel like we are playing catch-up, constantly chasing a frontier that relentlessly runs away from us. This is a natural consequence of the way the game works; the more you put in (time), the more you’ll get out (gear, titles, mounts, reputation etc.)
Whilst it’s easy for the guileless observer to sneer that we don’t deserve nice things because we don’t display the requisite ‘commitment’, we casuals are still entitled to enjoy the feeling of progression and reward that comes from playing the game. Although features like Raid Finder and Group Finder are of great benefit, how can a casual player maximise that sense of accomplishment and not feel like they are moving at a snail’s pace? This question is what I intend to explore and hopefully provide some tips and guidance for those wanting to make the most of their time.
First, to outline the parameters for this post, I am writing this for those who have a playstyle and setup comparable to my own. Specifically, this is a post for those who have no more than a few gaming sessions a week, are not in a guild (or in a relatively inactive one) and don’t have an army of online friends with whom they can plunder dungeons and raids. Of course your own situation will be unique so please tinker with what follows to suit your own needs.
Our initial quandary requires some deep thought and chin-stroking in sage fashion. What are your goals? Is it a general desire to progress and increase in power or have you got your eye on a specific reward? As a starting point, eliminate those things which you know to be unobtainable; not in a Mythic raiding guild and don’t have time to raid? Probably best forget about that World First boss kill. Inexperienced and unsupported in PvP? Then that top tier Gladiator title might take some work!
When establishing goals, it’s important to be realistic. Try and decide what you want to achieve but within your own limits. Try to quantify the amount of reliable time you’ll have in-game and then set your objective. If there are several things you’d like to achieve, note them down and see if you can prioritise them in order of what you want to attain the most. You can then focus on them in order or even engineer ways to progress multiple things at once.
Setting out a strategy
You’ve made your plan and decided on your goal. How do you achieve it in the most efficient manner? An effective method is to take the goal and map out the routes you can take to it. There are usually several ways to achieve a more generalised goal, fewer for more specialised objectives. However, by breaking things down into smaller tasks, the overall experience will be more manageable.
As an example of a general goal, let’s say your top priority is to run Heroic dungeons using the Dungeon Finder. With an item level requirement standing in the way of those glorious instances, the first hurdle is hitting that benchmark. The most straightforward way of doing this is questing. Not only is this the most efficient way of levelling up, you’ll also pick up gear and acquire reputation, boosting your item level and providing access to powerful items from faction quartermasters.
Additionally, questing can be combined with running normal dungeons which yield gear and often feature in the conclusion of storyline quests. If you have the appropriate professions, you can also collect trade materials as you quest, enabling you to craft upgrades to your gear.
So far, so good, but this is hardly a revelation; it forms the basic experience of the majority of players as they head out into the game world. The real challenge is for a player who can only snatch the odd hour’s play here and there and how they condense the above into that timeframe.
Let’s take that hour and consider our options. The three paths available (questing, dungeons and collecting/crafting) all contribute to the overall goal of gearing up for Heroics but compete with each other for time. A player could quest, collect and queue for a normal dungeon simultaneously but that would have drawbacks.
Suspending questing to run a dungeon might allow the player to obtain a lustrous new item. It could also take an inordinate amount of time to complete if a group is inexperienced or has fractious members. It might end prematurely if a tank or healer flies into a rage and quits or has to leave for more mundane reasons. There’s no guarantee of an item reward either, or at least one that will be an actual upgrade for the player. Focusing on collecting trade materials is similarly problematic as well. Most recipes require significant resources to craft and consequently, take extended amounts of time to collect materials for.
In view of this, our in-game hour is at its most productive questing. This could be supplemented by some collecting if it doesn’t divert from questing paths too much but overall, the primary goal would be best served by assigning the time to completing quests.
This method of reduction is the primary tool for maximising the gains of limited game time. In essence, it is taking what you want to achieve and constructing the most effective route to it by eliminating encumbrances. This isn’t the whole story though, as there are other areas of the game we need to take account of. The World of Warcraft changes and develops all the time and so the casual player must adapt to it.
Whatever the goal and whatever the path taken to it, there will be occasions where plans need to be modified in order get the best out of what the game offers. If we take our previous example of gearing for Heroics in a restricted timeframe, we deduced that questing was the most effective means of achieving this aim. Whilst the player could easily focus on questing until the gear threshold has been reached, there will be times when opportunities present themselves that warrant our attention.
These will usually appear in the form of time-limited scenarios such as World Events or World Bosses that can offer lucrative benefits for minimal time investment. The advantages of facing off against current World Bosses are obvious; a short, once-per-period encounter that is quick and offers powerful rewards is something definitely worth the brief diversion it takes to complete.
Also in this vein are World Events such as Brewfest and Hallow’s End which introduce themed boss fights for the duration of the event. Offering respectable rewards for short encounters and short queue times on the Dungeon Finder, this type of event is excellent for the time-limited player pursuing better gear. Even if loot doesn’t drop, the time spent isn’t significant enough to detract from their main focus of questing.
There will be other aspects of the game that fall into this time-limited category such as the Darkmoon Faire or a particular World Quest reward of significant value. As with World Bosses and events, it is important to weigh up the return against the time cost and decide whether it beneficial to pursue. In many cases though, and for our example in particular, you will find it advantageous to incorporate some periodic pursuits into your plans.
Accentuate the Positives
As well as the focused play I’ve outlined so far, there are a few general tips worth expanding upon as they may assist you in achieving your goals.
Rested time is a pivotal mechanic for players with time constraints. The greater the time away from Azeroth, the more rested time you acquire which doubles the experience gained from the slaying of enemies. Although a killing spree is no substitute for dedicated questing, a little tweaking to a player’s questing path can accelerate experience gains. By prioritising quests that involve defeating enemies and squaring off against itinerant foes when convenient to do so, a player can maximise the benefits of the rested bonus.
Speed is also important for a casual player wanting to get the most out of their time. Anything that allows you to move from place to place quicker should be utilised to the full. Something as simple as an item that increases your mounted speed can help enormously for a player concentrating on questing. Similarly, taking a moment to map out where you need to go and how to get there is always a worthwhile exercise. If on a run of World Quests for example, deciding on the most expeditious route can increase player gains by decreasing the amount of dead time spent travelling from place to place.
All that gold jingling around in your bags is another resource that can be employed to further your cause. You might have a specific purpose for hoarding your riches, but there are times when an Auction House purchase can help achieve your objective. As I’ve already mentioned, this could be something basic like a consumable that increases movement speed. But for those concerned with gearing up or boosting their profession ranking, there are occasions when a targeted purchase can give you a leg up on that lofty ladder of progression.
A Focused Methodology
What I’ve covered here will hopefully provide some guidance for those who love the game but lack an abundance of time to play it. I realise there might be an air of project management and coaching babble in what I’ve outlined in this post. No-one wants to turn the game into a chore or reduce the rich tapestry of its fantasy into a laborious set of tasks. However, for some of us, limitations on time in-game are a reality, necessitating a different approach to gaming.
Although the idea of preparation and scheduling seems at odds with fantasy entertainment, the dividends for those with time restrictions can be substantial. With some light planning, even the most irregular visitor to the World of Warcraft can secure a steady flow of enhancements and achievements. We’ll never be able to compete with those who can devote all their time to the game, but that doesn’t make us casuals any less devoted to it.
We just make the journey at our own pace.