Archive for December, 2010

Forced Content Segregation

Posted in MMO, World of Warcraft on December 25, 2010 by Armada

Like many of you, I read the recent hot fix patch notes from Blizzard that included a change resulting in severely reduced experience for Northrend mob kills @ level 80 and above. Now at the time I did not really think much of it, but after dinging 80 on a new alt this week while in the middle of the Ice Crown quest line, I saw my XP reduced somewhere in the range of 80%… really Blizzard?

It is bad enough that the developers severely nerfed the Goblin/Worgen starting area quest/mob experience in an effort to “force” us to see the new content at length, but now they want to stop people dead in their tracks during Northrend content? Yeah we get it Blizzard; you are proud of your new content. Yeah we get it; you want us to see it and see it NOW. Do you really think people are going to miss or skip over it? What purpose is served by nerfing the 77-80 content (along with all of Northrend) other than to kill the desire of those that were enjoying the quest lines and lore and wanted to complete them before moving on to Cataclysm content?

Some of us… dare I say the majority of us players are not in a hell bent race to level or are trying to game the system along the way. Heck I am not even sure how leaving the experience rate alone would allow one to game the system since the rewards and experience are clearly better in Cataclysm. Was there something unbalancing with finishing Northrend quests that you felt compelled to reduce mob experience to around 200 per kill when we were getting over 1200? Would some level 84’s gain some advantage by face rolling Northrend over cataclysm content?

I think not. Everyone will see the Cataclysm content… ad nauseum. Blizzard does not need to put us on rails like this.

I recently got into a heated “internet debate” over this issue with some very myopic but probably well meaning players who could not understand that some players such as myself can and do enjoy the lore but also want to be compensated for the time; lore and a desire to advance your character are not mutually exclusive. Yet despite this many players love to beat the “if you love the lore, why care about the experience?” drum which as stated is very narrow minded.

First Blizzard makes the quests incredibly enjoyable then adds a hot fix that kills any desire to finish those same quests, in effect telling me “hey forget that old Northrend crap, come quick, look at our new stuff!”. This unwanted and restrictive change only served to break my “suspension of disbelief” along with my desire to enjoy the story/lore and instead kicked me in the teeth with that “min/maxer” attitude lurking in all of us that said, abandon this whole quest line and get 10x more experience in Hyjal or Vash’jir. That is the very attitude you are supposed to be fighting against Blizzard and I have no idea how this could be justified.

At the end of the day, I have proven that the experience in Northrend, despite the lower mob health and even the inclusion of Cataclysm gear still nets you far less experience than if you went straight into the Cataclysm content. While I understand Blizzard’s desire to move us into their new content, I should not be forced down a specific path if there exists no game breaking or unbalancing reason to do so.

Unfortunately this is becoming a pattern with Blizzard. For unknown reasons the developers tend to narrow options in a number of ways and have for years, examples of which I have written about on these very pages. If I want to level to 81 in Northrend, why would you care if it is NOT the most optimal or profitable path? Players love choices; the choice of how to level, what to look like, customization, what gear to wear… removing these options simply serves no positive impact.

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The Cataclysmic Singularity

Posted in MMO, Role Playing, World of Warcraft on December 14, 2010 by Armada

While enjoying the sheer greatness that is the Cataclysm expansion, I have noticed a nice but albeit short lived bye-product of all the new green and blue items that are filtering into our world and this has really got my thought process spooled up. Currently when I step into Orgrimmar and see 50 [insert class here] they do not all look EXACTLY alike.

Unfortunately, I know that this will not last long since everyone will soon be marching toward the singularity that happens each and every expansion where every individual class will eventually look EXACTLY alike in their Tier 11 gear. For a game that is so rich, vibrant and diverse this is a real sore spot with me. So while many are divided (including Blizzard) on the need for “Wardrobe Tab” functionality (why I do not understand since it is an incredible idea), the fact remains that it gets very tiresome seeing the repetition and lack of individuality.

So Blizzard, here is my idea; an mechanic that would provide increased diversity, flavor and customization at a low developmental resource cost. A mechanic that would be easy to implement and thereby make the “that feature would take away from X feature” argument invalid:
Put all the old Tier gear back into the game (Tiers 1-10) and then do a simple database copy of the existing and current (tier 11 today) gear stats over to the older gear art assets on a piece by piece basis. Now create an new NPC vendor in Orgrimmar and Stormwind that stocks all this gear (or create a drop down tab on the NPC vendor if you have the tech) and let the players select from the various looks from seasons past.

Simple huh? Tons of upside… little to no downside.

The bottom line is some of the current Tier 11 stuff looks medicore to horrible (my personal opinion) and no one will agree globally on what looks good and bad, so give us choices! Provided that the stats, processes and impacts of the gear are IDENTICAL (and not retroactively applied to old sets already in player possession) then there is no balance issue, just the ability to look different than the other 1,000 [insert class here] on my server. There is so much incredible gear and weapon art work in game from both a PvP and PvE perspective that it pains me to see it is no in game and sitting on a flash drive in accounting (or in actually, being “unflagged” on the DB server).

I just cannot see a downside here. If I reach deep maybe you can say that PvP players are used to sizing up opponents by their gear, but I would argue vehemently that this is a positive, not a negative and I by all acounts, a pretty hard core PvP players. In the end, Blizzard needs to understand that maybe I do not want my Paladin to look like he is about to enter dancing with the stars… hell he is already a Blood Elf, can you not understand that I do not want to make him any more “flamboyant”?

Rated Battle Grounds – Part 2

Posted in MMO, PvP, World of Warcraft on December 12, 2010 by Armada

As we sit here just days after the Cataclysm launch, my thoughts are still dominated by the missed opportunities of the recently announced and forthcoming new Battle Ground system. I may be among a small percentage of players who are casual by nature, but still adore the visceral action of PvP, all on an RP-PVE server no less, but my passion for the challenge of “real players” and a desire to keep the game accessible are important to me.

I received a few emails on the subject of my last blog entry and would like to point out a few clarifications. First, I am a member and officer in a rather large guild and I do not think that our guild will have trouble finding 10 or more solid PvP players for our team. My points in the article and my stance in general are less about my specific need, but more about what I believe would be best for the population at large. The fact is that many players prefer to be solo and having a constriction or requirement similar to that of a Raid or Arena team is an obstacle to that accessibility.

My second point of clarification is really more to do with casual versus hardcore. To follow the generally accepted definitions of the two, one is led to think that the casual player has never stepped into a raid or battle ground and generally treats the game like an interactive face book, while the hardcore are all about min/maxing and blowing nerd gaskets if someone in a raid makes a mistake. The fact is both definitions are, on the whole, wildly inaccurate. I will not try to redefine or level set what the world at large believes, but I will say that from my own perception, casual simply means having greater and easier access to the games content… all of it.

Having said that, I want the PVP mechanic in WoW to thrive and so I have taken advantage of the insight that the past week has given me to do less ranting and little more constructive thought. I have taken a very open minded approach this week to ponder all the angles and to consider the thought process that Blizzard might have been using.

There are a few key points that we need to address and chief among them is, in my opinion, of the primary reasons that Blizzard will not be allowing the ability to solo queue into a rated battle ground; gaming the system. Unfortunately, we have all seen or been affected by the player who just wants to leech off the random group and could not care any less that he is hurting the entire group. Blizzard knows players who are “invited” into a raid will intrinsically have more accountability than some random member from a random server that you may never see again. The developers also realize that creating a raid with a leader who can single handedly remove any slackers has a ton of upside to battle leechers. Lets face it, in the current random battlegrounds, the leader has no power whatsoever, is chosen randomly and save for the color of his text in chat has no impact on the game or the group. That will change in the rated system.

I agree with all of this 100%. However it is still a short cut and only half the potential. While I completely support keeping this mechanic in the rated system, taking it to the next level would include enhancing the system to incorporate a “personal rating” that could and would for all intents and purposes show not only a players ability, but also their commitment to the craft of PVP.

Let me explain.

Blizzard could introduce a system, similiar to the dungeon finder tool that would have the ability to seek out individuals of a certain class and personal rating to be included on the rated team. Now under the current scoring and proposed rating system this would not do a lot of good and therein lies our problem. Individual players and their personal rating should account for a myriad of battle ground accomplisments and factors that include taking and defending flags, killing blows, capturing towers, damage, healing and even achievements like overall character kills and BG specific feats.

While there are no 100% fool proof ways to avoid those that want to “cheese” the system, you can make it less rewarding. If you want to get hardcore about it, incorporate something like Starcrafts “APM” (actions per minute) and create an algorithym that looks at the totality of the characters play. You would of course make it less “Starcrafty” by replacing APM’s with factors like spells cast, attacks made and even movement could all ferret out the slackers while, if done properly, not penalizing those that say are defending a flag and thus not “moving or clicking” as much.

In closing, let us hope that this is just the start of a larger plan for PvP in the game. World PvP is now all but dead in WoW, so the battleground system needs to be robust and provide for the same level of excitement that the old Tarren Mill versus Southshore battles used to bring… only with better rewards.