Thursday, December 17, 2009

Feature or fault?

Yesterday was the time for few hours of low level static grouping: only our rogue couldn't join us this time. The four of us took the WSG first because it was the daily BG. As we are using the ingame voice chat due to a)convenience and b) being lazy, I was a bit surprised that the group chat settings worked inside the battle party and it seems that they override the BG party settings. Which means that our petty troupe chatted the battles away, either disturbing others or not: no one commented on our chatting in any form or function.

The other thing was our run in Ragefire Chasm (we had to take set dungeon, as the LFD complained about one of us "not meeting the dungeon requirements" in random): the voice chat doesn't work there at all it seems. At least it doesn't work when we have a substitute to fill the group up. Which in fact complies with the information Blizzard is giving about the LFD: the communication and trade between different realms is restricted.

However, the thing which was disturbing was something I dismissed the last time. As we came out of the dungeon, we couldn't get out of the LFD until we left the group completely. So we had to assemble our party anew after the dungeon. This doesn't make any sense: we join the system in a party, and after doing the dungeon we have to disassemble and form the party again to go to another dungeon.

This is the feature I hope Blizz could tweak out. It should be possible to run several dungeons with the same party, I my honest opinion, so that you could group with even the same random dungeon group for several dungeons in a row. Someone else has written about the same, too, but I forget who it was.

So the question is, is this must to break even pre-formed group before going for a new random dungeon a feature or a fault in the system?

A letter to home

Dear Mom and Paps

It's incredible how time flies in this business of being a hero: it feels like I just left home at Dun Morogh, but it has taken me several weeks already. Sorry that I haven't taken time to write, but being a hero is very, very busy thing!

First of all, I have to take care of my henchmen, who want to travel with me. I just cannot neglect their needs and requirements, so we're pretty constantly having breaks either to skin the animals our hunter kills (partly for food, too), collect herbs for our herbalist and such. What I wonder the most is the uncanny need of the warro warol the funny guy with this demon type: he has to keep drinking, else he becomes sober. Or that's what I've come to expect, as he's not very sensible when he hasn't been drinking in a while. Also my healer does the same, but she's just so prissy that she does it more discreetly.

We ventured quite fast to Kharanos, the nearest dwarven settlement on our way to Ironforge. I have met - and killed like a good hero - several troggs and even some trolls, and even visited the entrance to our beloved home, Gnomeregan! That area is infested with the sickly creatures you described as Leper Gnomes, but I have this feeling in my tummy that they are not the worst we'll see when I enter the town of our forefathers. Already I have gathered some information that there may be something very wrong in Gnomeregan as whole.

I have met some wonderful people already, some from the pages of the adventure collections I read from the Dun Morogh library. Can you believe, I have discussed with King Varian Wrynn and Ms. Jaina Proudmoore! King Wrynn was quite a grumpy fellow for a human even, but he stated that he had not heard about Uncle Bickers who left with Prince Menthil's army to high norths. And Ms. Proudmoore: She promised to have a discussion with me later on, and boy am I waiting for that.

But the life of a hero isn't all walk on roses. Just yesterday me and my party went and helped the Alliance forces in the Warsong Gulch, where the Horde tries to hinder the local forestry operations. We fought hard and evenly for the demo dima owning the area, only to be called back right after the last battle had been fought. It seems that I'm more capable of taking hits from the enemy without hurting myself than the rest of my group, but I'm also the one who sees the enemy go down right into the face!

The other day we also found out that there is a way to get teleported to another part of the world and fight the demons and beasts described in the fairy tales and old crones' stories! We went and found ourselves in a cavern which was obviously beneath a strange city: I can only guess that the librarian (the funny gnome with his blue demon) was right when he stated that we were underneath the Horde capital, Orgirir O r g r i m m a r. (I had to ask him to tell me how to spell it, it's hard enough to porn pron say it right). 

But the place was partly the dream of a dwarf due to the lava and warmth, but it was full of troggs, some lava-stone men and evil orcs. And one huge and scary Demon, which I killed after a looong fight. It's strange how such a huge thing can have such small stuff that I, your little boy, can easily wear. You see, I found a nice pair of wrist bracers from it, which make me feel myself very, very agile.

But there are good days in being a hero. We saved earlier the town of Thelsamar from Horde invasion with my henchmen and an odd help from a strange warrior coming from afar. Well, there was only one Horde, but he was killing our troops like flies, and we also died several times. But being a hero benefits from your motto, paps: never give up even if it takes your life. So the spirit healer was very much occupied during that fight, until this strange cold warrior came with it's undead friend and banished the Horde longear. I wonder if she came from where Bickers went? She said though, that she hadn't seen Bickers anywhere, so I'll have to keep looking for him.

Anyhow, I'm now resting in Ironforge, which is just as big -or even a bit bigger- than I remember from our Winter Veil trips of old. As Winter Veil is here, I wish you have a warm and secure one there by the hearth.

Take care and I'll write you again, hopefully sooner than later.

Your third son


PS. Thank you for the woolly socks, they fit nicely into my boots. However, I'm not sure how long we'll be in Ironforge after this, as it seems we have to go to the Human areas soon. So don't bother to send me anything: instead, I'll send you a part of the treasures I find while being a Hero. It is so fun!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To aspiring tanks

Two links to help all you tanks not sure about yourself as leaders or your skills in tanking heroics. Worth reading and acting upon:

Tank Hard post On Being A Tank.

Spinks in Welcome to Spinksville on Overcoming the Fear of Tanking.

In short: Get a grip of yourself, grab your sword and shield and just tank it.

There isn't really a shortcut to great tanking. Or leading a group.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leading or not

It seems that 3.3 patch has incited the blogosphere to a new rage again, with most of the posts being very enthusiastic about two things in the patch: LFD and Icecrown.

Naturally, as those were the main things the patch introduced.

I'm going to delve on the LFD tool a bit more. Tarsus of Tanking for Dummies wrote about the tanking in LFD and listed things why majority of the people do not want to tank in LFD tool. He based this on the fact that tanks get grouped in seconds, while even healers have to wait for a while, at least. The list was as follows:

  1. Playing a tank is more expensive in terms of gold than other roles.
  2. The learning curve on tanking is steeper.
  3. There are less “slots” open for tanks doing the end-game.
  4. Encounter Design makes you feel “fragile”.
  5. No one wants to failknight tank or look at the big bear butt. 
And I have to agree on almost all of them. On the last one I'm not as sure, but then again, being a tank mainly I don't have the luxury to evaluate other tanking classes except our own guildies and by far the big butted gear IS the tank I will refer to in my performance. Granted, our experience both in game and in tanking differs quite a lot... 

But then again RJK from The Savage Coast wrote a nice recap on his experience as a tank in LFG and as it happens, his 3rd point strikes a chord in me: I am a careful tank, too. Or at least I try to make sure things work and everyone is prepared. Of course, there are deviations from the rule, like the wipe I caused in PoS by charging without checking the healer's mana... but most of the time I am way too careful, to the point of frustration especially in LFD PUGs. However, I'd rather be safe than sorry and I have to refer to one phrase that has stuck into my mind from a blog post sometime ago. I don't remember what blog it was, but it had this rule on fast:
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. Slow is fast.
So if I prepare and move one step at a time, I will end my job faster than hurrying and fumbling from the beginning. And boy is this hard to understand in some PUG's.

Due to my (in)experience as a tank -overall- I don't trust my judgement in heroics I've run once or twice with vastly over geared guildies. This tends to lead into problems in PUGs in which the leadership is bestowed on my shoulders: I don't want to lead if I'm not confident on what I'm doing. This leads to the post Larísa from The Pink Pigtail Inn wrote about taking leadership in a PUG. Especially this I find both familiar and very comforting (to know I'm not the only one thinking like this):
I rarely try to take the leadership when I’m doing group activities in WoW. It isn’t because I’m afraid of leading other people; I think it’s rather because of my lack of deep knowledge in other classes and game mechanics. I’ve always thought I would make a poor instructor to tanks and healers what to do, whom to heal or which mob to charge, taunt, whatever, so I’ve happily left those decisions to others, more experienced players.
Instead of asking the question Larísa is asking about how to take leadership, I would like to ask how to politely decline from leading? I've stated directly in the PUG's that I'm in this dungeon for the first, second or even third time just to make the rest of the team to understand that I really don't know the instance so well. But how about the new ones? Is it reasonable to have a group in which healer and/or dps have ran through the dungeon and the tank hasn't, and the leadership is put on the inexperienced tank?

And why does it always have to be the tank leading? Wasn't the marking capability given to all in the party?

But for me the best part of the LFD system has been the fact that I get to work with different kinds of groups: some work, some not. The wiping is a monster to me, which I try to avoid the best I can, so I'm learning new things from my class and my play style. I learn from one challenging run more than several too easy ones.

The badges are an additional bonus as long as I can do my job. Not as a leader, but as a warrior.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hits and blunders (YAWP)

LFD is a wonderfull tool, which connects total strangers across the battleground to fight either select or -more often- completely random Wrath of the Lich King dungeon. It works like a clockwork, is simple, fast and very entertaining, most of the time.

And with that prelude I'm off to my weekend.

All well and fine in the world of Azeroth. I met both exceptionally working groups as well as one or two obnoxiously intolerable dps divas, mainly from the DK persuasion: I wonder if DK's have somehow replaced the most obnoxious group of all times -that being the Huntards- as the most self-centered players in the game? Then again, lets not let the few rotten apples to spoil the whole basket: there were also excellent DK's with whom I ran the Random Dungeons. Too bad they were guildies, but what can you expect? :P

The total anonymity of the LFD tool is yet to surface, for people are very polite and nice to each other. Only in few of the random groups I found people eager to chat, the most vocal was this one mage who's main phrase was "gogogogogo" after any and all encounters. But then again, that run through Drak'Tharon was very smooth and fast.

There are few annoying things about the LFD tool, too. The first, which started to pick me the first time I ran it, is the fact that a) you can be 'denied' from a group before it launches and b) of someone declines the group invite for a reason or another the whole group is returned to the queue. The first one I cannot explain because I haven't tried to be a leader yet, but the second is annoying example on how dumb the piece of program is. It makes a selection from the set population, but cannot make a reserve list from which to amend if any of the individuals rejects the invitation. Probably this can -and hopefully will- be tweaked in latter versions.

One nice thing, though, for the DPS classes over there. As I grouped with a guildie, a DK, we got a random group running within seconds. So in a way he was riding along with me being a tank and in constant need from the system. All in all, it pays to stick with a tank in this sense, too. As we found out, we saved each other's butts more than once, and the groups we ran from wipe more than once. Imagine that tank and DPS save the day after a triggerhappy paladin -the healer- decides to tank a miniboss and few adds... It was fun and furious and all the cooldowns were used, but we prevailed. And were the only ones alive when the dust settled.

The only thing that didn't go as well as I thought was the finale of the weekend, in which I decided to go with guildies into the IC hc 5mans chain. Forge of Souls was a blast and went so fast I didn't even know what happened. Really, I had to ask before we entered the portal to Pit of Saron what just happened. I was just keeping the mobs and bosses on me and trying to keep them hitting me, mostly without a problem. Old rules of not standing in anything and avoiding the blasts applied, FoS was surprisingly easy. For the group, that is.

Pit of Saron was something else, though. At least for me, as I have this problem with moving and tanking at the same time. Add to that multiple mobs and I'm having really hard time.

Forgemaster Garfrost was already somewhat hard on us, as the healer got eaten alive by the cold stacking on him on the first try. This was the first wipe in the whole run, but not the last... sadly.

Ick was the second, and I'm not sure as of yet, why. Maybe it was me, not moving the boss enough to help the dps to be in a spot without the toxic sludge, or something, because on the second run it went smoothly. The ramp up to the passageway proved to be problematic. My computer had frozen earlier due to some UI issue, but now I got DC'd. Luckily before a pull, but never the less. Something's wrong with my 'puter, as this wasn't the first nor the last case of freezes and odd behaviour. But up we went to the Scourgelord Tyrannus.

Which was the wipefest. First pull: I didn't know what hit me, but it hit well over 17k overkill. Second pull: it hit even faster and harder. Third pull: my screen froze just as Tyrannus jumped off of his mount. I came back to witness a wipe.

So. It left a very sour taste in my mouth.

Things to be happy about. New shiny shoulders for Laiskajaakko: it cost 45 Triumphs, but was worth it. Pupunen left Outlands and is now capable of Cold Weather Flight in Northrend: she'll next start running the random dungeons, too.

To do: find a good DPS gear set for Laiskajaakko's Arms build. He's lacking a decent dps set for runs in which the tank is better, which are usually guild runs. But it would be nice to see the instances from the dps point of view and to see how other tanks do the job, especially in the instances I have trouble with mobs.

All in all, a good solid weekend of fun.

How about yours?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Teaser within the game

Last post was about the wonderfull new LFG tool, which works across Battlegroup servers. No more waiting and queuing for group to complete the one you are missing or having a group quest for: just plug in and you're done!

But what has gone unnoticed, in a way, is the Weekly Raid: Daily 5man instances were replaced with the Weekly Raid. Which is even more goodies for someone like me, who has been complaining how Blizzard has forgotten and voided the older content in favour of the new one.Why?

The Weekly Raid is one boss from Naxx, Ulduar, Trial of the Crusader or Malygos or Sartharion. Only doable once a week, resetting on Tuesdays.

It's a teaser of the full raid instance! It's a way for us who have never seen the places to visit it and see if we want to trek any further, and if we can make it in there. Another excellent move from Blizzard to make the game even more casual friendly and cater the people with restricted playing time.

As the group for weekly heroics will be aimed to do that one boss only, the LFG tool will come to help. Or the Looking For Raid (LFR) part of it: if you notice in the teaser Weekly that you can do it, you have already at least that one boss achievement under you to prove that you have at least seen the instance.

And another killer of old WoW. No more tedious planning and scheduling, just pop in to LFR, make your preparations and off you go. Got 2-3 hours to spare? Go for it!

Loving it even though I haven't done it yet. For our guild the current plan is to run the Weekly on Sundays, and it will replace our former weekly Ony run. Guess am I signing up on that one?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

WoW is dead, long live the new WoW

Bold statement, I know, but as far as I see it the WoW we have grown to know for the last 5 years died with the 3.3 patch and the changes it brought.

Take a moment to reflect on that.

As everyone and their mother-in-law are charging through Icecrown Citadel's first wing in all possible group sizes and both difficulties, my interest is in the 'minor' tweaking which seems to have gone almost unnoticed in the blogging: the new, improved LFG tool.

I have told earlier that I have a low level warrior on pvp server. He's actually a tank to be in a static group I started with some old pen and paper RP friends, and we're -coincidentally- playing on Wednesdays. Yea, the patch day.

So the Icecrown madness and the high end gaming was off of my list when I learned the basics of the LFG system:

  • you can enter as a group
  • random instance system works on all levels
  • the system is battleground wide instead of the earlier server wide system
  • you get teleported to the instance from within the system.
So we, at our tender teens, decided to roll in. Four characters, so not a full group. As I know that Ragefire Chasm is the lowest in level requirements, we decided to try that one out. One of the major interests in there was the fact that two of our group -being hardcore Alliance players for the last 5 years or so- had never visited the place, this provided the excellent opportunity to do so.

The tool is fast and easy to use, quite unlike the earlier one. The group was filled with the much needed dps (human warrior from another server) and the group balance was excellent. Despite the fact that warrior at low levels is a pushover and not much of a tank, yet.

Why I claim that the WoW we have learned to know is dead? And that WoW is going to live long and prosper due to these changes?

First of all, the tool opens up all the instances and dungeons at their appropriate levels to both factions.We teleported directly to the Ragefire and directly back to where we left from. And you could do that while in instance, so you can go and empty bags, repair and all while in the instance group!

This feature alone brings all the instances to the easier reach of the players, and the battlegroup as the player base makes sure you will find your group in no time, around the clock. This makes the grouping  easier and more available to the casuals and un-guilded people!

As I mentioned in the Attention Span post, people are looking for faster content and in smaller chunks at a time. Preferably meaningfull and fun experience. Now the easy to reach instances provide this possibility to everyone in the game, not only those in guilds and raiding. Blizzard brought the content to the players and took away the toil to get to the content.

World of Warcraft is now much more casual friendly than ever.

I'm prone to the doom and gloom thinking, and I see some problems with this system. One is the fact that this alienates us players from the server/faction community even further: you group up with people you may never meet again and if they behave badly there is nothing to do about it. If you leave from the group, you get the 15 minute debuff keeping you out of the LFG system for that time. Voting someone out requires the rest of the group to agree. Ninjas are not dead, they will come in with the system.

The other thing is in the RP servers: this may be a boon or doom. You see, in roleplaying and fantasy literature the actual travel may be even more important than the destination. Think about The Lord of the Rings: Dropping the ring into the chasm was pretty simple thing, but Tolkien spent three huge volumes describing what happened on the way there. As the system takes away the need to travel anymore (how do you explain the instant teleportation in RP server? Beats me!), the travel to there loses it's meaning. People tend to take the route of least resistance, as we have noticed. If you have direct tap to closer to the leet loot, you are bound to take it. If you have faster way of gaining better gear you take it.

Which leads to the next thing: questing will get a punch in the gut from this. The WoW we have learned to love, the questing game which it evolves around, is dead as the most efficient means of levelling up. This is pretty strong and harsh, but in our group we witnessed almost two levels in one Ragefire Chasm run, my toon being 1/3 in lv15 when starting and 1 bar below lv17 when we logged out: way faster than questing in group at that level, at least in our group. It took us few seconds to put the LFG up, few more to select the ready check roles and a bit more than a half an hour to complete the dungeon. Not probable in questing, IMO.

And the loot was better, at least 3 blues for the group.

In a way this means the questing is -if not quite- dead, but received a strong competition from the people instancing their toons up. Which is great in a way it provides variability.

But it kills the story.

So, all in all, Blizzard surprised me completely with my pants down. I love the change due to the fact that it brings all the instances to my reach to run.

Thank you. I'm a happy camper for now!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Incredible find within the sea of WoW blogs

Defeat Dragons

Just incredible.

I started looking for blogs about strategies on Naxx, Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel to ease this dumbfoundingly numb day, but instead I found Defeat Dragons blog. Which incidentally combines two things that cross my life nicely: WoW and people management. Work and Joy. Or the other way around.

I know what I'm reading for the coming days. You see, those posts are not something you read once and never return: they keep giving because leadership, teambuilding and management are skills which have to be trained.

So, off you go. Remember to subscribe for the RSS on your way.

EDIT: Thanks to Kadomi I found out that this blog hasn't been updated since June. However, the posts and their ideas are very much relevant even after years, as they are focused on general management, leadership and teambuilding both in WoW and in RL. I will stay tuned to this blog, even though it isn't updated.

Off the comfort zone

Everyone is prone to living in the comfort zone. It's human, and in a way it's also a good explanation on the route of least resistance. Like going to the easiest way to gain proper loot for the next tier raiding.

My steps outside of my comfort zone have included such incredible things as starting a toon on a pvp server, getting my main into the battlegrounds (more pvp) and the last one -yesterday- pugging just for the sake of pugging.

Like I have stated earlier, I have been on the LFG tool as an automation ever since I've thought my gear is good enough to tackle the heroics, but without success. This has excluded, however, the daily heroic, which I have reserved for guild runs for simplicity's sake. And for the fact that there is no name calling in guild runs, but constructive and helpful commentary. If at all.

Now I changed this a bit. I put the daily hc into the lfg and pugged it. As you might expect, the daily hc was an instance I had never visited before, Azjol-Nerub. There is still one instance in the roll I haven't visited (barring Icecrown which launches today), and that's the Anh'kahet.

Needles to say, the run was a disaster and without the extremely over geared group it would have been worse. However, the impact was lower due to the fact I informed them right away I had never been in the instance. Normal pulls: no problem. My threat generation: no problem. Keeping the threat and taking adds: no problem.

The problem was not knowing the encounters, aggro areas and add spawns. Hadronox was my total blunder, as I ventured too far and initiated the boss encounter before we had cleared the web from trash. My wipe.

But then came the relieve: the mage of the group, who formed the party, whispered me how (s)he has done it before, helping me to understand what should have been done. No problemo after that.

And Anub'arak... Pushover in it's own instance. Got three Achievements from it, including Gotta Go, which is way too easy with the current item level being the norm.

Out of there and out of whim I put the Anh'kahet and Obsidian Sanctum 10 to the LFG.

This is the part in which I can say that I met with a group full of the attention span problem players. First of all, the group I was invited to was going for OS10. Namely the party leader stated Sarth+1 to begin with. I informed right away that it's my first time to really tank the instance, second time in there even. But the achievement with 9 players obviously convinced him to go this route, as he checked everyone's gear at one point for the possibility to do the Sarth+3... and I passed the check. Not bad, me thinks.

But the forming of the group took about a half an hour. During which at least three toons were replaced. In the instance the gear and dps checks were quite uneventfull: I had no problem in keeping the aggro of the trash and of the two drakes we took down for the actual event were total pushovers. Granted, I got dc'd before we hit the first one, so I cannot say about my part in that, but the second I was tanking in full and the aggro threshold wasn't even warning in my Omen: I was fully on top of the threat list on the drake without even panicking... something I was expecting from this.

But then it started. Checking, strat and off. First of all, I didn't pull Sarth far enough to help the group dps it: my bad, I was playing the encounter with different strat than the rest of them. My positioning was according to what the raid leader had told, which was different I had learned from strats I have read. No problem, though, I could keep Sarth on me easily and avoid the walls and all. Most of the group did that, too, until the drake came into the picture. And fire elementals.

And that's when the wipe started. Blew my panic button, pot, the lot. Lost two members from the group right at this point, one being the main dps.

"Do you tanks know at all what you are doing?", asked the raid leader. The honest me responed: "Obviously not if you have to ask that question".

New strat, back to the basics of facing Sarth to the side of the area, back to the lava. Now this was starting to sound like something familiar, I thought and went along.

However, there were three new toons in the group, including a DK who seemed to be pretty a)triggerhappy and b)knowing it all better than anyone.

Needles to say it went all down the drain from the pull onwards. Taunt, Heroic Throw, Charge and pull back to the tanking spot. Except that right after the throw the DK took aggro and despite of furious Taunt-spam with Thunderclaps, Shouts and all I couldn't get the aggro back.

Result: one of the fastest wipes I've witnessed.
Result2: one of the fastest group dissipations I've seen.

The party leader and former left right away, followed by half of the group. Thank you, goodbye and so long.

The party leader had the stamina to form the group, have the objective and the second wipe -after introducing new members to the group- caused him to quit on trying. Proves my point: fast and easy gains instead of having to work for it. This guy will do the same again but with extremely over geared group and feels great about it.

What I learned about yesterday's ordeal was:
- My gear stands the comparison in the end game before Icecrown. Of course I wouldn't stand the snowball's chance in Hell in heroic Ulduar or ToC10/25, but I would make it in normals any day.
- In the Sarth group I was the third warrior, and I had almost 5k more hp than the other tank with buffs. That's better than I expected and I'm still lacking some sweet gear, especially my lousy blue shoulders have to be changed.
- Practise makes perfect, but what can you learn from PUG? To endure selfish conduct, some automation on your keybinds and the instances you haven't visited yet.

To be honest, neither run was fun. The Daily because it was so darn serious and the second because it was even more so. The only thing I enjoyed in both of them was the fact that I wasn't the behind the rest of the groups in gear, only in information and instance experience.

Maybe I just have to PUG more. From what I've seen earlier, yesterday was one of the 'good PUG days'...

But it surely was far off from my comfort zone.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Attention span issue

During the weekend I watched my youngest son play on computer. He started off with his DK, with whom he tackled the trolls in Stranglethorn. Due to the fact he doesn't understand English, I had to help with the quests and stuff, only to find out that the only thing he had gripes with was the fact that he couldn't summon his ghoul... And that was only because he didn't understand that he should have gotten some Corpse Dust from the vendor: the warning was also in English and didn't mean a thing to him.

That solved, he switched to Spore, which is in Finnish, so he can read and -most of the time- understand the instructions. He had earlier advanced to the tribal game, which he ran through pretty easily. And created his buildings and vehicles for the civilization game.

That done he had had enough with the Spore and turned to Oblivion. Only to switch to some Club Penguin after killing some cultists and stuff from behind the Oblivion gates.

After he quit on the computer.

All in all, the whole cycle took him three hours and he got bored to the computer gaming as entertainment.

This made me think about my own gaming and the way my kids are playing. For the kids, there has to be action, instant, constant and in fast cycles. Even our oldest son does require this, and he gets that from the BG's in WoW. Levelling isn't constant action enough and it seems that it's not as rewarding as the BG combats in personal level for him.

While levelling I was very content with the fact I could choose my own pace in playing. The furious action parts came in good moderation and almost when I wanted them to come. It wasn't like war in any way, it was a trek through the forests with some chores to do. It wasn't 99% waiting for the 1% furious, brutal, confusing chaos war is described to be.

What BG's are to me, anyhow.

Now as I think of the playing in the cap, it's the same, actually. 99% of time I've spent in the level cap has been waiting for the Heroic, doing repetitive dailies and reputation quests, and 1% running the heroics and instances. Main reason to this is of course me, myself and I for not being able to come up with anything else to do.

I have a pretty good attention span to things I'm doing, unlike my kids: but they are kids and they shouldn't have the same ability as I have. But I've noticed that the main complaints about WoW -especially it's content- comes from the issue of making the game more 'casual friendly', making the game playable in small chunks. Good example of this is the fact that the Trial of the Crusader is actually playable in very short time, as well as good old Onyxia.

Is this trend going to continue over to the Cataclysm content?

Are the MMO's and online games changing to cater the shorter attention span, much alike music videos?

I mean, DDO is excellent in that sense that the dungeons are very short and fast to complete and they are always readily available. And they are scaling easily from solo to epic content, making them cater to all kinds of compositions.

I know this may sound funny from me, after all the rants about not having time to allocate for raiding or committing to the game, but I don't want to see this happen. I don't want to see a MMORPG to be split and cut into music videos with fast cuts from action to action without anything in between. What is lacking from the game -WoW in this case- is the lore content in the cap. Sure there is the gearing content to prepare you for the more difficult content, but there is no lore to support that grind-killing of heroic instance bosses.

The levelling game has the story of the character -growth story- to support, even if you are speed levelling through it all. Your character develops and picks up things from here and there, even if you are not paying attention to it. At the cap all this comes to halt and suddenly you are depending on other people. I know it's possible to live with 6 hour friday gaming -and raid- like a certain Gnomeaggeddon successfully does at least according to the lates Twisted Nether Blogcast. He does, however, confirm that his raiding in addition to PUGging quite a lot comes also from friends asking him to raids they cannot fill up, which brings out the other people into the equation, too. But for me that doesn't make a story or create a need to make myself miserable in a PUG.

So in a sense the game for short attention span people serves its purpose, but for me it works only if there is a reason for the short, small chunks of action at a time. Say a large compound of dungeons/instances which you can work out in as long or short sequences as you like sounds perfect: current raids are like this, so why not the up and coming ones, too.

To answer my earlier question myself, yes, Cataclysm will continue trend, because it has to. It can be done well and it can be done poorly. Either way, Blizzard is going to do it the Blizzard way.

Polished to the max. Either for good or bad.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What is real and what is not?

This week has been for pondering over the status of WoW in the MMO genre as whole. Sure it's big, it's beautifull and it's blogged about a lot, but at the same time its the initial touching ground on MMO's for a huge amount of people. Year in and year out there are new players joining the game which has grown to be an institution and phenomenon rather than just another MMO in that particular gaming niche.

While reading the blogroll I have -and some sidesteps from the posts I read-, I came to a revelation. Again, you might say, as the posts of this week have been more or less the same: notes and realizations of different things in the game and it's relations to other MMOs.

That is, how real are the concerns and opinions we in the blogosphere bring out to the 'average player' of WoW?

Or how closely our thoughts and thinking correspond with the ones of a player who has never played any other MMO than WoW?

And of course this leads to the question, to whom are we really writing and bringing out thoughts out to comment...

The class specific blogs, which serve that certain audience serve their own function, but how many of those are read by the -supposed- millions of possible players of that particular class? How many of the readers are as well versed in their class as the one who is putting down her/his thoughts about how the class should be played and how it works in theorycraft?

And how many newcomers to the game really find the blog which would help them onwards to advance the game the way it was 'meant' to be progressed?

Not many I suppose. Like I have stated earlier, it's hard for me to find time to read the websites and guides on how to enhance my playing and gear and how to tackle the instance bosses. As if that wasn't enough, I know that it's neigh impossible to remember the strategies at the moment of truth, when encountering the boss for the first (ten) time. I learn by doing, not by reading.

I seriously doubt the concerns the blogosphere voices out are of any concern to the average WoW player. The Joe or Jane Doe, casual hardcore occasionally raiding daily quester is happy and content with the content Blizzard hands out and when it is handed out only because they are not in a rush to experience it all and play for fun only. Sometimes the newest movie or the TV-show is more fun, so they do not play. So what.

WoW is just entertainment. More that than a game.

So why bother?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Is there a comparison?

Made a funny (?) note for myself today: there are no blogged responses to my yesterday's plea for features and aspects of WoW which make it so much better than, say, EQ2. I made that remark to Twitter and got my eyes opened by Stargrace and Kadomi: as the two launched at around the same time, most of the WoW players have never even tried EQ2.

Now I'm not saying that it's a fact or the truth to void all other truths, but this may be the case. Dechion mentioned that he wouldn't know if (quote)"EQ2 would come to my front door singing christmas carols"(end quote).

Also a good note was that WoW players don't seem to have a reason to defend their choice of game in the same extent as the ones playing the underdog EQ2. As it was mentioned in the comments of the post, EQ2 started with no backing from the previous IP (being EQ) while WoW had strong backing of Warcraft-series and especially the Frozen Throne expansion. EQ2 was also very resource heavy on the then current computers compared to WoW which still would run on a (pretty high end) toaster.

But the idea or note which struck my fancy was the fact that if majority of the WoW players have never tried EQ2 or any other MMO so far, how can they say that WoW is the best MMO or the best for them? Considering the current selection of active and devoid MMO's available, there has been a lot from where to select the daily medicine dose. EQ2, Warhammer Online, EQ, Age of Conan, Aion to mention some on the fantasy side.

Thinking of this it's no wonder why the term "wow tourists" has been coined and from where it brews from. The players who have entered MMO's with WoW as their first ever who have tried the competing one only to notice that the game cannot deliver the same playability, stability and content from the start as their first choice after (currently) five years of honing and tweaking, patching and nerfing casual friendliness.

The point of comparison is scewed and thus makes the appearance of a single WoW killer impossible. Everytime a new MMO launches, it will be compared with the updated, upgraded WoW, even though everyone should know that any MMO launches incomplete. So did WoW, but that truth is lost in time already.

So what are we to expect from the future. Small baby steps from different companies slowly gnawing the player base of WoW? "WoW2" or similar from Blizzard to make the doors of Azeroth close once and for all? (IMO Cataclysm is this)

Or that one game that comes from the left and takes the whole MMO population off guard?

But the only thing I'm sure of is that the current games have a comparison point which is not on level with the launching games at all.

Too bad: so much wasted effort only because people want more of the same.

We are so lazy, comfort seeking and selfish after all.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Turning the table: Calling out WoWers!

Syp from excellent Bio Break called for all EQ2 players blogging to list "features or aspects that were better in EQ2 than in World of Warcraft".

I want to turn the table around: I'm calling on all WoW players/bloggers to come up with as wonderfull lists of features, aspects or things which make WoW so much better than EQ2!

If the stars had been differently, or the phase of the moon the other way, could this current situation be the other way around? That we'd be asking why EQ2 was better than WoW, and that EQ2 had more subscribers, still?

The launch, as far as I have come to understand, was a disaster for EQ2, but afaik it wasn't smooth on WoW either. Could this disparity in 'fame' come from the long living IP of Warcraft RTS compared to the EQ's earlier success in MMO genre?

So I challenge thee: come up with features or aspects that make WoW better than EQ2, explaining why EQ2 could not replace WoW even over time.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll do this with other games later on. Who knows?


Logged in to my main -prot warrior- yesterday after almost two weeks of real life induced hiatus from the toon.

I was shocked.

There he was, standing outside Dalaran bank, all geared up for action, and I didn't have a clue on what to do!

Really. I was shocked by the fact that there was nothing which a)interested me, b)called me to do it or c)no-one asking for a group. Granted, it was kind of early for guild activity, but still.

The guys in Channel Massive gave this thing a name, sort of, when they described how WoW changes from 'lore-content' to 'raid-content' (or it might have been even 'grind-content' in some context) and the whole concept of the game changes at the level cap. I wholly, totally sign this definition: as there was no 'lore' reason to go about, I felt this character had nothing to do! Sure I could quest the greyed out quests just for the fun of it, but at the level cap those quests provide no challenge, their rewards are questionable (apart from the gold part) and -because of the fact that the quests are designed for levelling up- they do not further the lore for this character anymore.

So -encouraged by my recent low level PvP experiences- I did the unimaginable. I went for BG's. But, due to my nature, I changed by basic keybinds before that, to accommodate more of my important buttons around my moving keys. So whereas the 'old' movement was in WASD, I switched that to ESDF, freeing QAZ for more action packed fun. I also got around to create macro for my panic button (Shield Wall, Last Stand, Frenzied Regeneration combo), which got a perfect place to reside besides my little finger.

So off I went.

I have some old Arathi Basin quest pending, so I decided to go for that first. What a mess. The first round we got around to possess only one area and lost fabulously to the more organized horde group. The next round we were faster and capped all the control points right from the beginning. Only to lose them one by one to the -obviously more organized and clever- horde.

Note that I stated at the beginning of the former paragraph that I have a quest in AB. I still have, because we just couldn't win the game in the two tries I got myself into. I just couldn't continue watching the mindless running around of the alliance troops when horde was working in pretty organized groups of three. In the first match we got to keep that one control point only because I and two other players stayed to protect it (paladin and hunter): the rest of the 'team' just went on from flag to another with no mind on defending the points.

In the second match it became even more evident that the alliance troops just ran from one flag to another with no idea of defending.

So I decided to see what it would be in some other bg. And I went for one I hadn't seen before.

The Strand of the Ancients.

Honestly speaking, I didn't have a clue what to expect. Heck, I didn't even know what I was supposed to do, but thankfully there were enough people to fight for and against, so it didn't matter. It seems that I entered the first SoA pretty late in the game, as it was lost pretty soon after I joined. Still I made myself into the middle of the roster, which is amazing considering my button smashing tactics.

The second run was better: I got in from the beginning. It proved to be more fun than the AB, mostly because everyone seemed to know the objective. Then again, the alliance people split up to strike both sides at the -approximately- same time, and that cost time. Horde, however, pushed to the same gate with all their force, disregarding the other, and were able to push faster to the final gate.

Needless to say that we lost.

What I learned from the foray was really that it's complete chaotic mess.

And that my new keybinds didn't help at all, as I was more or less at a loss with the keys to push as soon as something started to happen. In PvE encounter I still have some time to think, but in PvP environment the buttons should be hardwired to the nerves so deep that you do not have to think.

I made it to the top half of the rosters, though, so this experiment didn't go too bad. Considering that I was in my PvE tanking gear and protection spec, I might even say that it was a good show.

Now I have even more reason to hope for my schedule to clear up and that I can get into guild run events. They suit me better, for sure.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Questions, questions...

How do you break the routine that you login to your AH mule first and soon find out you spent all your time in AH?

How can you plan your weekly gaming time, if your RL commitments come up with evening activities within 2 days warning time?

How come the blogosphere is contemplating on quitting and restarting WoW just now, when the next content patch is at the door?

Which is better: to have an active development team tweaking the game time and again and -more or less- regularily, or to have a team which comes up bigger patches at slower pace, which are to be patched time and again, furiously after the big patch?

Why cannot it be Christmas already?

And why can't I win in the national lottery for once?

Darn it!

Monday, November 30, 2009

PvP reflections

I took the plunge yesterday. I have a low level warrior in a PvP server which I started as an experiment to see how the PvP server and PvP in general would feel like.

I'm disappointed.

The mentality is a lackluster. Sure, the feller is still in the first bracket of WSG (lv10-19), so I haven't met any real 'world pvp' as of yet. In addition to this, the starter areas are void and empty: I've seen a handfull of players in my journey to the Battlegrounds, even the big city is pretty quiet.

But the PvP... I've stated earlier that the game is too gear centric to be interesting in PvP: the one higher in level and with better gear wins, always. That's the way it simply is, there is no avoiding it. The guy who has had the luck to gain blues (or heirlooms, for the matter...) has the upper hand to the Jack the Rabbit who has plunged through the mud to get where he is.

As if that wasn't enough, the system is playing the game, too. I mean in ruining the PvP. As you are roaming in the battleground, you can hide behind a pillar, wall, tree stump, what not. But you cannot really hide, as your nameplate shines like a star above you. Not only above, but through the walls and floors of the flagrooms!

Frustrating to be ready to ambush an opponent's player who just stops dead right before you are about to pounce on him/her, and starts the last preparations for your demise. To which you cannot get in time to disrupt the preparation.

Then again, you might get lucky. I won a one-on-one against a 4 level higher player, barely, but still. My warrior beat that rogue good.

That's the only thing that has made me feel good about pvp so far.

The other thing completely is the hacking. In WSG at low levels you can still find the speed hacks, which enable the player to cap the flag within few seconds after the game has started. Obviously the hack is faulty, as the player cannot reproduce that feat after the first try. Or the guy using it was just a dumb schmuck in addition to the fact he was hacking.

What bugs me most about the hacking is the fact that it ruins the game for all the players in the battleground: the opposition feels cheated, the team mates feel cheated and the dumb bugger gets reported.

So to make the PvP in WoW is IMO a big joke, with no real skill needed, just enough butt to get the best gear for the job before entering the battleground. And then relying on the fact that the rest of the team thinks the same about working in the field of glory.

Which they most probably will not do, anyhow.

Can't say anything about the arenas, but I presume the gearing component is present in there, too, and in as great extent as in the normal bg's.

We'll see, if I ever get that far. I'm more inclined to the PvE grind than the PvP one.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Minor reflections

The last post was about a week ago, and due to real life (work) commitments I just haven't been able to either blog nor play.

However, due to my INTJ/INTP Briggs Myers-personality, I have had a lot of time to think and ponder the game and my approach on it. And my current situation and interest in it. As a side notion, I find it somewhat strange to be also ESAK in Bartle, which would suggest some clear extrovert trait, too...

The recent post has created a quite active chain of responses and responses. The overall notion of the responses is though that the game is as it is and shouldn't be changed in any way. Whatever the discourse of the comment is, I got quite fast the impression that there are really no instances people run for fun in WoW: only the glint of new loot -or loot which helps to move along- is the reason to commit to the group activity of an instance run. So instead of running the instances as they are meant to be ran at certain level ranges, people solo through the game to the cap and only then 'solo' the lower level instances, too, for the achievements. If they bother.

The mere mention of the approach that the instances are passed this way points out the flaw in their design to me: they are not fun as themselves. Maraudon is passed because it's not fun (it's too big, too winding and too messy to be fun), Blackrock is too long/big and so on to be fun and at the end game the Oculus is generally passed because it sucks. Which is the short version that it's not fun because it takes too much time to run through and the resulting loot is not equal to the time spent.

Wanted or not, all but one comment point this fact out. And the idea of having the instances scale up to the party entering, giving them the appropriate challenge is met with similar fervor.

I understand that the time has passed on the older content: new content voids the older one. But why is it so? Instead of growing the game within the confines of the world created, the designers have taken the easy route and created new areas for each expansion. Easy route in that sense that they haven't had to accommodate the new quests and scripts to the old content, and perhaps even change the old content to accommodate the new one.

Thus bringing on the Cataclysm, which wipes off the design flaws and faulty design of the original content. Only to be replaced with what? More of the same?

Anyhow, that's pointless as it's based on opinions and not facts.

My reflections on the game has been quite much on the same level with the earlier ponderings. Am I having fun when I play? If not, why is it so? What do I feel about the gearing, dailies, content now?

And to be honest, I am confused in a way.

I love to login. I hate the fact that all I have to do is cooking and fishing dailies, and if I'm lucky, the odd heroic daily. For anything else I do not have time to allocate. I don't have time, nor interest, to sit in the LFG or Dalaran calling for group for anything, because it always takes time from my actual playing to get something running. Because I do not do this or sign to the guild raids (which is another thing covered later) I do not get exercise and practise to be good enough to pass my own scrutiny. Also due to this I do not sign into to the guild runs, because I do not want to ruin the other players fun by being the inadequate tank or poor dps (which I hate to do anyhow).

Add to this the fact that I find the whole concept of gearing up for the instances outside the instances completely folly and stupid concept, and you have a mess.

I want to play the game, but I cannot find a reasonable way to enjoy it the way it's supposed to be enjoyed. Does that make any sense?

It seems that I have to sign the view my brother stated sometime ago: the journey is more important than the destination in an adventure game. In WoW there is no adventure in the destination for me.

One thing that bothers me with the whole end game concept is the fact that the game doesn't 'guide' the players at all. If you do not have the luxury of having time to plunge through the guides and lists within the internet, you are completely out of the game. The game doesn't state that you need to have 540 def to be able to tank in the Heroic instances, nor any other stat which is currently thought to be essential information to be able to advance into the raid instances.

I have said it before and will state it again: I love the game, the overall concept of the MMORPG which is executed perfectly in WoW. This ranting may sound the contrary, but it really isn't: I see flaws in there which bother me, but do not prevent me from finding that nugget of enjoyment every now and then. As it happens, raiding isn't the thing for me with my schedule even though that is what I would love to try at one point or another. However, I see it the way that the game is not designed for a role player or casual player to advance to the point where they can meet and vanquish the Lich King. That's only because the required information of gear, stats and theorycrafting just isn't supported within the game for those who are less fortunate with their internet time.

Quite another point is the fact that to advance within the game you need to be extremely selfish and/or be a member of an excellent guild. That selfishness comes up in both loot situations and in the participation in groups with whatever gear you are in. To enter an instance group or raid without properly preparing ruins the fun for the rest of the group, and IMO that is extremely selfish conduct: me first, nevermind the rest. In guild runs you can expect some tolerance with poor gear, as it is commonly understood that your situation is what it is. But then again, in guild runs you are not participating the 'important runs' and thus are not ruining the possibly first time experience of anyone else.

To sum this up, I urge you all to listen to Veneretio's latest podcast called "That's the game you are tanking". His next post, however, has a valid point, stated much better than I can ever put it.

That it is a people's game. How easy that is to forget when you solo up, gear up solo and live at the cap.


Till we meet again next week.

(Disclaimer: Of course major part of this rant is due to the fact that I do not have enough time to play at the level I desire. Then again, if the philosophy Blizz is trying to instil is "bring the player, not the class", then the game should be made so that you do not have to plough through various theorycrafting sites to overcome the class/player hurdle.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Instance re playability

Had a quick visit in Zul'Gurub to see if the mounts would have dropped. In fact there were four of us, all from the guild, and for me this was the first visit in the instance ever. It was kind of interesting and sad to hear the explanations about the instance from others as we plunged straight to the mount dropping bosses, like this was hard due to that and this fight was interesting because of this and so on. The instance is beautiful and I remember back in the day when I was starting my first real toon in WoW that this was one of the culmination points of the raid progression.

Now it's an empty shell, pretty but neglected. With no re playability what so ever.

As it happens, I was listening to Van Hemlock Podcast (episode #77) this morning and Tim mentioned something that struck a chord with the Zul'Gurub experience. That in Guild Wars there are instances which they know by heart by now, but run just because they are fun. And he made the reference that in Borderlands there are similar instances, too, which you really do not need for the story to progress (after the first run) but which you run for the heck of it only because they are fun.

There are no such instances in WoW. You run them once to get past the content and then you are -at the cap- forced to run the daily heroics time and again, not for the fun factor (as it happens the least fun instances get neglected after a few runs, anyway) but because they are dailies and reward you with badges.

And because the instances are static in their challenge, the ones you pass in levelling are forgotten -and I bet in some cases the newer players do not even know about some of them- just for the sake of getting to the top level.

Cataclysm comes, and changes the world. The instances which have been forgotten from the old vanilla content are getting revamped and changed, and will be no more. Instead of shaking the crust of the Azeroth the instances could have been scaling from the beginning. I'm not putting my head on the platter that the instances of Azeroth will get a scaling challenge levels after the Cataclysm, but I can hope for that.

Because there are no such instances which you would run for fun anymore. Without the glint of a new badge gear or a new achievement in your eye, only for the fun factor of the instance being interesting, beautiful or just pure fun run.

Or are there?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Separation anxiety

Life takes it's toll. That's something I've noticed as of late to be more than accurate description of the current global situation. The more pressure there is to save, the more pressure there is to do your work properly. And beyond.

But that is not enough for a parent with family obligations. Same kind of pressure comes down from the school through the kids performance -or lack of it- and the pressure to keep the family unit going is something you have to experience. Add to that the typical issues with which a home owner (with loads of debt) has, and you have the 'normal' life I'm living in.

Which in turn has resulted that my in game time has dropped down severely lately. I thought it might be refreshing to come back to the game after a few days 'off' of my dose of the crack. But now as those few days have become few more, I'm starting to feel a some sort of anxiety over one thing.

What if my expectations are too high and I'm disappointed -yet again- on the elements I'm missing so much?

I know -in the conscious level- that the game or the community doesn't chance overnight. I also recognise the fact that people tend to forget the unpleasant and irritating things very fast and the 'good' gets the bigger part in the memories. Even in such a short time I think this may be the case.

So how can I avoid the probable disappointment in the repetitive game mechanics, poorly behaving community outside the guild and the incapability of myself to commit to longer term pursuit in the game (thus making me feel like a failure in the guild/community I belong)?

Any ideas?

((note: this is exaggeration and mostly in sarcastic tone))

Monday, November 9, 2009

Genuine emotion

I've been guilty of putting my focus around me and looking for how the game is screwing the newcomer, guildless, homeless player who has the aspiration to become the hero the story in WoW tells about. And -contrary to my beliefs- I haven't been alone.

I know a certain goblin character just got a sore itch in his backside, but I full agree with Guntroll's post. That's how I see the game should be. But as long as the social tools and effect of player/character behaviour is not hardcoded into the game's core, the sociopath will rule the game and the single player aspect will rule the levelling game, making it harder every day to compete at the cap without the social contacts.

Maybe this is the reason why Cataclysm is going to destroy the original content, and bring in new requirements for grouping and levelling? We really do not know enough to even speculate with the Cataclysmic changes about to happen in the gameplay, but I'm hoping the expansion brings something to the social side, too. Like making it worth while to level in a group or to stick with a party for a bit more than just through an instance.

Then again, the changes in 3.3 seem to hint completely different approach: LFG/LFR takes away the possibility of social stigmata of being a jerk on a server -a very slight chance on a server level, even, but still. Instead of making the grouping more profitable to all, the group leader gets the benefits. Sure, a party needs a leader, but what happens when everyone wants to be a leader and there are no one to lead? It's like a certain superhero game: when everyone is a superhero, then no one is super anymore.

Anyhow, from time to time I give a netherweave bag to a complete stranger in WoW. Only once I haven't been thanked, once I got thank you again when I logged next time in with my toon, and mainly I have been thanked a lot. All I have told these lucky ones has been to pay it forward: I can only hope that they have remembered, that a little kindness goes a long way.

Sometimes all to the level cap.

A pet is a pet, a mount is a mount, but...

You can carry around tens of pets with you in WoW, and pull your huge mammoth mount out of your pocket, where you have dozens of other mounts with it -including drakes and such- but as a hunter you can have only one combat pet around you at any given time.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Betting is open

Blizzard Store's vanity pet sale micro transactions haven't gone unnoticed. Several bloggers have posted for and against the mere idea of Blizzard beginning a micro transaction system through their Battle.Net tied Blizzard store and all I can say is what did I tell you. The list ranges from Tobold to Leafshine to Kiasa and so on, so I won't even bother to link them here: all having their own approach to the issue.

One thing is sure, however. The Store wasn't opened only for the vanity pets. It will have more content soon and as time passes it will contain xp scrolls or potions, cloths, mounts and -like it or not- gear: not at the epic level not to 'disturb the game experience' but to help the newcomer/casual without the time to grind the gearing game to take part in the revered End Game concept. 

The question really is, how long will it take for the basic raiding gear to enter the store?

Granted, like it was mentioned in the comments of my earlier posts this week, that the pets sold at the moment are just a continuation of the TCG loot cards, but making them more easily attainable is the main thing in this: taking the obstacles from the purchasing off, making the buying easier for the consumer is the key. Like Melmoth (I think) in Kiasa noted, now there is no excuse for all, each and every MMO to have a micro transaction store, as the main player has opened theirs. He also pointed out (I think) that whereas other games like DDO have the stuff sold in the Store available as rare loot drops in the game, Blizzard has refrained to do so. Why might that be, and when will the Marine Marine for example be for sale in the store? Or the mini-diablo from the collectors edition?

Do I like the idea? As much as I have liked the gold sellers and micro transactions in any games I've seen them. Does it effect my playing? Not as long as the game itself offers the possibility to acquire the same 'benefits' as the Store. 

Does it matter to me? Not as long as the game is as it is. But when the stuff acquired from the store become a norm like achievements as an requirement for grouping, then it will.

Why do I feel cheated, then? Beats me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I beat the system by a day

The posts I wrote about DLC, F2P and micro transactions and Payable content with their extensive discussions in the comments section just got a new twist, as Blizzard added the purchase able in-game minipets to the Blizzard Store. Leafshine purchased herself the Pandaren Monk minipet, and reported that it was a surprise that Blizzard added this option to the Store.

Well, it's something I can easily sign off as what did I say moment.

How long will it take till we see more fluff items in the store, shiny gear and other options which will 'enhance the game experience' in the Blizzard Store?

Not long is my bet.

Two different issues in one post

I was listening to the Twisted Nether Blogcast this morning and found myself thinking about one thing. And later on when I read the comments on the last few days postings about micro transactions and paying separately for different content I noticed that I could combine these two into a single post (and stop posting for the rest of the week... clever!).

The one thing that started to bug me was that how far the level capped people have separated themselves from the beginning player and how different the actual starting zone game is from the much famed 'end game'. For me the illusion has always been that 'the game starts at the cap', but I have come to notice that actually the game is what you make of it. For me -and for several others, I've noticed- the game almost ended at the gap between the levelling game and end game. And it still is at a standstill, even though I get geared up at almost each heroic run I get into. There just isn't any drive in the gearing game like there was in the levelling game.

What bothered me in the Blogcast was that Daewin told how he had levelled from 1 to 80 within the free trial period. For a content and quest enthusiast I am this seems more of a travesty, as he has been running through the main content in the game by 'power levelling' and completely discarding the background. In my mind, he has exactly played the game to win, maximising the 'win the content' mentality and completely discarding the RPG elements of the game. The race, class and talent build have been just mechanics to use and nothing more.

This sounds to me as extremely alarming in the sense that the content Blizzard has become renown of has been discarded so easily. On the other hand, the preaching that the end game is where the game is does the same: it doesn't matter why we are trying to get to Arthas, it only matters for as long as he is the 'final boss'. What happened to Kael'Thas or Illidan? Where did all the earlier end bosses disappear? And why?

The second thing that struck me was that in fact the game has been changed so that the journey doesn't matter anymore: to be honest, the emphasis of the content has been increasingly in the end game content anyway for at least for the last expansions, and the next one is trying to make a slight shift in there by destroying what we have learned to be a persistent world.

I'm completely disillusioned about the fact that we're playing the game instead of playing the character or role. There is no story to the characters, only the story of the gear and where we got it. The game's levelling design at the moment enhances the illusion that you MUST hurry to the level cap to even experience something within the game, which already has a huge amount of both solo and group content before that. Due to the fact that everyone is ushered to the level cap by the speeded up levelling, the group content is greatly shunned and empty, and next to no new players (and certainly no new alts) experience the group content as a challenge or interesting content.

The disparity between the rich background content of the starting areas and the earlier content and the end game content (both gearing and raiding) proves to me that the RPG aspect of the game is dead to a large extent, and that Blizzard is serving mainly to the level capped population. And is making sure that the newcomer to the game gets this from the beginning levels on, that the actual world of Azeroth doesn't mean a thing in itself: the only thing that really matters is the highest level raid instance, to which the access has been made easier for everyone to try to enter. If they are lucky or persistent enough. The sad part of this is that the players forget the immersion aspect of the vast lore of the world and play the game like it was a some sort of Mario Bros in fantasy land.

WoW has all the content, lore and adventure, but we're playing it for the game mechanics.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Payable content

I pointed out my thoughts about the dlc and microtransactions in my last post, and I thought to continue on the same train of thought with this one. You see, it occurred to me that I have been paying for the raiding 'elites' instance development and raiding without even visiting those instances myself. In WotLK I have been one of the many who has been paying for the development and use of Naxxramas (which I 'lost' in the vanilla already) and Ulduar, neither of which I will not see in a meaningful context anymore. Not with the current toon nor with the up and coming alts, due to the fact that Naxxramas is already 'outdated' gearwise and Ulduar will soon be, as 3.3 hits gold.

So in this sense I could easily see that the content in those -and upcoming- raids could be bought separately from the rest of the content. Granted that Icecrown will be yet another raid which is supposed to be easy enough to enter for the 'casuals', I doubt that everyone will have the opportunity to run it at the designated time before Cataclysm hits Azeroth: we have to remember that there are still new people beginning their journey in the World of Warcraft, who may never experience the vanilla, tBC or WotLK end game content.

So why must they pay for the content they will never see? Much like Outlands for me: why have I been obliged to pay for the content of which I over levelled way too fast and way too easily and was -in a way- forced to move on to Northrend to be able to progress in the content and story?

Genda wrote an excellent piece about the same issue, but he projects his thoughts to the time Cataclysm comes and the new WoW-players are -probably- forced to purchase and pay for the then extinct expansions, too, to enter the game at it's last legs. I would like to as bold as to project this same concern over the current situation with the 800lb gorilla in the room: why are the people who will never see the top part of the content forced to pay/purchase the content anyway?

It's all good money to Blizzard, of course, but is it fair to make majority of the player base to pay for the entertainment of the top tier raiding minority?

That is the age old question which hasn't been discussed for some time now. But which hasn't been answered properly as of yet.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Little charity goes a long way

Being part of the Azeroth United community it's my 'duty' to bring out the ongoing Hearts, Hands and Voices charity event ran by the Azeroth United people. This being said, go and do the good thing either in this or any other charity event which concentrates to helping kids in need.

Thank you and we'll return shortly to the normal schedule.

DLC, F2P and microtransactions

Dungeons and Dragons Online didn't do too well when it was in subscription model, so Turbine released the core game as free to play. Within that package they introduced also DDO Store, from which you could purchase stuff with Turbine Points, which -in turn- you bought with real money. They transferred the core game into the micro transaction payment system, which is very well known in the Far Eastern MMO's.

Turbine has reported huge increase in the subscriptions in addition to the amount of players of the game.

In effect the game has now extended -free to play- core game up till a point, and people are free to try, test and find out if there is something in the game to keep them playing. And according to the figures there is.

Now Warhammer Online has released their free to play endless trial, in which you can play the tier one as long as you like. I think there is also some sort of store kind of service involved, but I'm not sure. Is Warhammer going for f2p, too? I wouldn't mind, haven't tried it yet even though I love the Warhammer setting and tabletop games.

But the other trend in the console side is the downloadable content (dlc) for single player games. You can download -for a fee, of course- more content to your game after a while. This additional content contains new areas, new gear, new opponents and/or new stories to go through. For us MMO people these are the normal content patches, which we wait with much anxiety. But the payment is included in our monthly subscriptions.

Except that in DDO it's possible to purchase this content separately, just like in dlc payment model.

So my question is, is dlc just another way to introduce microtransactions into single player/console games?

Of course it is. But why are the microtransactions so hated and shunned in MMO genre compared to the console games? In a sense they offer the same flexibility: you pay for what you enjoy doing. If the game sucks so far, you don't get the next dlc patch.

In WoW I could imagine the raid content being an example of potential dlc content. Majority of the player base still will not enter the raid content at all. I wouldn't have paid for Naxx nor Ulduar yet, if it had been an option. Then again, it might well be so that I wouldn't have paid for the ToC/ToGC at all, even though the instance is a loot piñata of the best (and worst) kind. So I would have been content with the instances, heroics and dailies for the time being. 

But as the content and challenge lies up ahead anyhow, I would have gotten to the point where I would have purchased the additional content. As all the accounts are now tied to Battle.Net, it would have been possible to purchase a raid instance as you enter the instance itself...

Scary thought. But most certainly something that has been calculated in Blizzard for some time already. How acceptable would you think this kind of situation? Or how possible do you think is the day when WoW turns into a micro transaction based game, considering the current trend of payable name, faction, server, race or class changes entering the game?

Will WoW stay strictly monthly subscription fee based, or will there be 'payable' content somewhere in the near future?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gearing makes perfect (yawp)

Two nights of playing and I'm more than adamant about the fact that it's all about gear and getting the right one. This may be a subjective and biased, but it's based on my current experience in the game.

Friday kicked off with another nice Ony10: isn't it sad to see the old girl go down week after week? This time the action was more contained and I felt like I could follow the flow of the encounter. Though I didn't feel I performed anywhere as well as in the first run... Maybe I was trying too hard to contain the whelps or something, because more got through my sieve than was supposed to. I noticed during this encounter that there is something awry in my UI or buttons, as my Challenging shout just wouldn't go off with one click.

Never the less, I got a nice trophy to change for a perfect trinket. And a great helmet to gem accordingly. Great run, both loot and entertainment wise.

As entertaining and fast the Ony run is, it is not enough to call it a night. So people pulled out a group for Obsidian Sanctum for the achievement Less is More: 8 man run in the 10 man content. Off we went, Laiskajaakko was off tanking the adds and it was a blast. Granted we downed the drakes first, so it was effectively a Sartharion without the drakes (Sarth+0), but still. This granted me with a nice bag to put my future super loot into, a memento to remember this one later on.

And after that the mandatory daily heroic and ToC5, both which were just a blast.

My friday night was so fun I was grinning the majority of the Saturday without understanding why myself. This caused a bit discomfort in the Kempo training, as the rest of the guys thought... well, they had their doubts about my sanity. As if there was anything to doubt about.

Sunday afternoon was yet another game session. I started out with doing the cooking daily and now I can Cook with Style (got my chef's hat), followed by getting the trinket from handing in the Head of Onyxia. The Purified Blood of Onyxia is excellent and for some peculiar reason I hadn't even noticed that it has a huge boost in the def: this caused the fact that I can easily switch at least two of my lower rated def gems to something 'more productive' ones, something I have to spend some time to think about. I was about to get the enchants to my new helm when I got into a guild run of VoA: again a new instance for me to experience.

I made two mental notes in this run. The first one was that I must start upgrading my dps set. This is because I was running the instance as dps because I had never been there and I had no clue on what is happening. Thankfully I had just started testing the Deus Vox Encounters boss addon, which actually told me where to move, what to avoid and when to expect the next nasty thing to land, so I was pretty much secured in that sense. The bosses fell one after another without deaths and by a stroke of luck I got a chestpiece to start building my dps set. That I took as a some sort of guidance from the game to take this endeavour seriously.

The second mental note I made in this run was to keep from meddling with my UI while in a run. You see, I tried to move the main tank bar in my UI before we launched on the second boss, but that bar got stuck to my mouse pointer!! I couldn't release it for one reason or another and thus I couldn't click on anything on screen, not even my action buttons. So the fight went by keyboard (well, I seldom use clicking anyhow, but I couldn't select the target either), while I was trying to find ways to release the bar.

The only solution was to reload UI, which mean't I missed the best part of the last boss fight, contributing only a minor part of the dps there.

Never mess with the UI while in an instance.

Long story short, we went through daily heroic in a group of four: we actually flew through Nexus and found some interesting ways to keep the healer occupied, and I got even more parts to my dps set... which even more felt like the game was trying to tell me something. This feeling was forced even more upon me as I went to turn in a quest in Wintergrasp (yes, Alliance was holding it still), where I first got my Black War Mammoth mount -I needed the fluff this time!- and noticed that there was only 2 minutes for the WG to start!

What a fight that was: I died only once during the whole fight, and that was only in the last minutes before the defence failed. Only because the game next to froze on my computer due to excessive amount of moving things on my screen. But it was fun and furious, and reminded me to check the other battlegrounds if they are anywhere as fun as this one. (I guess AV or AB could be even better as my machine might cope with the smaller amount of players better...)

After the WG ended I decided to head to Borean Tundra to complete the daily fishing quest (which had failed on me three times already: I hadn't caught any of the fishes from the Blood Pools for the Blood is Thicker quest, from three separate pools of blood), and started flying there through Sholazar Basin. My idea was to go along the rim to see if there are any mining nodes to use, and follow the 'shortest' route from SB to the fishing spot.

Sure there were nodes around. At the third one I landed only to notice a Tauren Warrior in there, just finishing the looting. And naturally I didn't realize I was in pvp mode after the WG...

It was the battle of the titans: this tauren was using a two hander, so he was in his dps spec and gear, while I was in my protection one. His strikes caused so much pain and misery, while mine were mere nuisance to him, but my damage mitigation was somewhat better than his. So the ebb and flow of the battle was pretty much on his side and finally Laiskajaakko kissed the ground while I was grinning and giggling madly.

Holy crap. I have to check the pvp side more closely.

And yes, get that dps set going for real.

It's all about gear, rather than skill: if I hadn't had the gear I currently have, I wouldn't have been able to attend to all the three raids I went in, I wouldn't have been able to perform in them the way I did and I wouldn't have felt good about what I was doing in them.

And if I had had the gear, I would have beaten that tauren warrior. I know I would!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bane of anonymity in WoW

The player in an MMO is in fact anonymous being, hiding behind the mask of the avatar name. This leads to the fact that a huge MMO suffers from the same problem with anonymity as the internet: the decent, nice Average Joe turns into a virtual troll and sociopath goblin due to anonymity and wide audience. In an MMO, however, the name the player gives to the avatar is a kind of personality to the character and is a bit slowing down this approach: you are worth your name and your name is all you have in the game.

But still, like Azariel wrote yesterday, the anonymity and not knowing the people you group with leads to similar conduct: if you are not satisfied with the performance of someone in a PUG, you can kick them out without a word (provided you're the group leader). This doesn't help the person to improve their performance due to the problem in the system: you do not get any kind of response or evaluation on how well you are performing unless you are doing so good that people are thanking you for that. In a case of 'poorer' performance, you are called names and told you're either noob or crap player, without telling what to do or how to improve.

No constructive criticism or capability to give such exists in the majority of the PUG's, anyhow.

Now add to this the possibility to group over server boundaries: the audience grows wildly, your anonymity increases immensely and -like Spinks posted- 
You don’t need to talk to the other people in your group if you don’t want to – you won’t ever meet them again.
In the future cross-server PUG system Blizzard claims that they have thought about the jerk factor and tried to find ways to prevent the excessive ninja behaviour this system gives a great thumbs up. However, even though I can see the benefits of being able to PUG fast I cannot see a way to make this viable and reasonable way to improve the game experience. The initial issue is with the Interned Dickwad Theory and the implications it has over the amount of players submitted to the cross-PUG community. The secondary issue is with the lack of criticism and advice you -as a player- will face even more strongly in this system.

But it all comes down to the fact that anonymity brings up the beast within. I can see the conduct which Azariel reported in his post escalating to the point that you get invited into a group, get kicked due to factor or another, get immediately replaced and you never know what hit you, why you were kicked and who you were grouping with, whom to avoid in the later groups. Sure, Blizz instigated that they are expanding the ignore list and that you will not be grouped with the people in the list, but you can already have a name change in the game? Hello?

Or then you get into a group in which there are two friends who are working together: they decide the loot and effectively ninja the instance. You get out, get in again only to group with guildies or friends of theirs... Guess how that will work out?

I suppose that WoW Jackass took a head start to help people avoiding situations like this... but then again, if this kind of system is needed, there should be something to be done on the game mechanics' side.

We are having problems with jerks, ninjas and antisocial PUG groupers already in the smaller, server size scale: the problems are there within the 'confined space' of one server. What preventive approaches can be taken to avoid these problems from escalating in the cross server PUG system?

And will the cross server PUGging be the saviour Blizzard thinks it is?