Thursday, February 19, 2009

Power players and rule players

My recent post addressed a touchy subject of class vs. player. This time the class which I so readily deemed as the cream of the crappy players was Deathknights, because the recent PUGs I've been have been dominated with them. It's no wonder since DK's are the flavour of the month ever since the WotLK hit the shelves. After all, it's the new class and it starts from the high level right away.

The earlier source of the crappy players was Hunter class. The reason was pretty obviuos: hunter was -and as far as I know still is- probably the easiest class to level, being able to tank and dps at the same time with the proper pet and generally the most soloable class in the game. At least when compared to the beginning classes anyway. Of course, Paladins were the flavour of the month earlier, but honestly speaking, they seldom caused any problems in PUGs by stealing aggro from the tank. Instead, they caused more trouble in the healing ranks and loot, as Blizzard so generously added +INT and +Spellpower PLATE in the game.

In the previous posts discussion it was mentioned time and again that it's not the class that sucks, but the players playing them. And I wholly, totally agree. As the end game instances are designed more in the lines of "bring the player, not the class" ideals, the player part should come more important in the grouping, too. But as the levelling has been made faster, smoother and even more soloable, the game is actually removing the only tutorial it has: the current levelling game in WoW is single player content, where you should be learning to play the class and play in group. By speeding up the levelling so that the beginning toon overlevels the instances and improtant content, Blizzard has removed the tutorial to the grouping. 

Which leads to the interesting dilemma with the raid content: it has to be dumbed down so that the average Joe has even the chance to experience it. And at the same time the earlier raid content is trivialised and generally forgotten as content, instead of making at least part of it mandatory -or prerequisite- to the new end game content.

This wasn't what I started to write. Content part follows.

In pen and paper RPG's there is a proper name for the current WoW min-maxing players: Rule Player. That means the players that know the rulebooks better than the GM running the show, knows the strengths and weaknesses of all monsters and encounters in the game way before they are entered into the scene and know the best possible gear and only look for it. Tobold actually mentioned that the main interest for majority of p&p RPG players is "the game being more about minmaxing your character through his adventures, to make him stronger". That is the way of the Rule Player, not the roleplayer as such. Roleplayer goes by the flow of the story and things happening to the character, naturally trying to strenghten her/his character on the way.

WoW has steered the MMORPG into the swamp of different playstyles, and is actually encouraging the Ruleplaying part of the game time and again. As a matter of fact, I just watched my son play yesterday and saw this in it's brutality.

My son and his friend played earlier on a private server. Fun server that is, giving them lv70 on the first or second kill, giving Illidan farming rights with purchased gear. Well, they had fun in there, as they could play together. When 3.0 hit the game, the was removed (yes, I know that the private servers are working again) and they had a problem.

It was removed when my son's friend got half a year's subscription as Christmas present. So he rolled on the same server as my son. My son has played a hunter for sometime now, on a couple of servers and he's really testing the possibilities of the class. I would even say that he is a good hunter, not because he's MY son, but because he gets invites to instance groups he has been running before. We discuss the roles of the classes from time to time and I help him with the best of my abilities to find the information he's looking for.

But his friend is the extreme case of rule playing. He also rolled a hunter. He knows jack about hunters except that his cousing told that it's the best class. He seeks for the information about the 'best talent build' and goes with it. But he never learned to play that build. He seeks the information about the best possible gear at the level range they are and -quite obviously- steals them in the PUG's they run. He's the classic -oops- kind of ninja: "Sorry, it was a mistake... but I'm wearing it already".

Guess which has the better gear?
Guess who gets more instance time?
Guess who gets compliments and who gets the shouts?
And I bet you can guess which one of them will be prepared for raiding when they hit the end game.

The funny part of this is that my son feels sorry for his friend, who thinks he knows it all but hasn't experienced any of it. He's trying to keep his friends feet on the ground, but his friend just has his head full of his own expertise that he cannot see the truth.

Sadly, I see more hunters and deathknights like my son's friend than the likes of my son. And that really is scary when thinking about the population massing to the high end of the levelling.

Soon there will be no way to have challenging instances with the lots of these attitude jerks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How on earth...

I dug Laiskajaakko out of the dust again, after running with Pupunen through the Love is in the Air quests and collections. Ran some nice quests with a completely random PUG, which really made the questing a blast. Even though this warrior of mine is already lv65, I took the call for tank in ramparts.

And to be honest, it was the worst nightmare of my PUG experiences so far.

First of all, there were two DK's, one of which was the know it all. I was the highest, but this DK was lv63, and the next 62. So we were already out levelled the content, anyhow. And they started yelling for marking the targets...

Ok, I mark, I charge, I tank.


I mark. Check.
I charge. Check.

And I find out that the DK, who isn't tanking, has pulled the one I'm charging with his darned Death's Grip, and pulled the rest of the mob to the rest of the group! "Tank, attack the skull!" is what I get in the party chat.

"The Skull FFS!!!"

Yea. Right.

So the next marks I made deliberately so that I charged the secondary mob. And took care of the 2/3 of a normal group in there, rest of the group dealt with the single mob the DK Gripped. 

What I didn't tell you is that in the group the healer was a druid who had just switched to resto, and was healing his first instance. And he was doing very nice job, though overhealing like no tomorrow. I, as a good tank and healer lover, made sure he had enough mana to burn through the mobs, so I waited for him to gain some...

"Speed up", "If this tanking takes this long I will tank", and so on from the DK.

So I speeded up, but that wasn't enough for the DK. He took up marking, tanking, dps and ran the show alone. Well, I have to admit that the rest of the team bit their lip nicely and patched the blotched mistakes this know it all made.

Just to show what the mess was: the party almost wiped at Nazan, the dragon, the final boss. Why? The DK stole the aggro from me when the dragon started spewing fire, pulling the fire on our clothies.

It was my fault, naturally. But what I still don't grasp is the fact that why did he die as he knew it all so well?

And how on earth can one tell these guys to stuff it and play in the group?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Love is in the...

Hell yes. It's that time again, when all the adventurous souls in Azeroth are running around, handing 'Love Tokens' to complete strangers and expecting to receive gifts for that. Stupid, but so darn addicting.

Because of this I was sure I would be able to enter instances easier: faulty thinking. Instead, at least on the server I'm in, most of the lower level instances were either 'unable to launch' or the new one 'instance couldn't be found'. I heard that it included also the Outlands instances on Saturday, so there must have been some real rumble and running in Northrend.

It sucks. Really. I had again some discussion about this with Dreathon (who has since joined a raiding guild, high on Naxx), who pointed out that it would be best if Blizzard would keep the lowbie instances open and operational. My view is that they are directing the 'open' status to the top level instances because of the fact that Thunderhorn-EU is one of the first generation servers and very, VERY top heavy levelwise. 

As it happens, another good friend of mine who wants to stay anonymous for the time being, stated that Blizzard might as well close down the less used instances to make the instance server strain easier on their system. That was being said after the 10k "Instance couldn't be initialised" note we had gotten from BFD, so it may be a bit biased.

So that's the kind of love Blizzard had for us. Yes, it is in the air. And it's not encouraging the levelling players to do instances.

At least on peak hours, when they are playing, too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Belated Valentines post

Oh dear, dearest,
You couldn't believe what I've seen
on my journeys around the world.
Sandy beaches of Tanaris,
Horrid hives of Silithids,
Monsters beyond nightmares,
and the beauty of it all.

No sight, sense or sound, 
can ever replace your beauty, 

in my heart.

My Love.

(This post has been posthumously written for Matticus' Valentines challenge)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Social tool candy for a change, please!

I just read a couple of posts about player housing and guild housing. While these posts are more on the actual implementation of the housing system, I'd like to approach the housing -and the inadequate social tool- issue from another point of view.

As it has been stated earlier in my posts and comments, the social surroundings -or the community- of the servers is more or less a very shattered and incoherrent whole. The lacking social tools -both guild tools and lfg system- have resulted a situation in which the players are playing a solo game in social environment: much like the business world today. Everyone is trying their best to maximize their personal gain from the grind, so to speak.

The main aspect which I think is lacking is the communality: people are separated from each other, only looking for their own benefit. The guilds provide the smaller community to all who want to participate, but they imply their own rules. In PUG's the rules are even more ambiguous, resulting the PUG from Hell status to many of them. Guilds are considered stepping stones on the way to the much famed End Game, where the fight is over the few minutes of fame in the current top guild one is able to get access to.

People are not really asking the right question from their guild. Nor are they willing to answer the right question posed to them.

There is no achievement for being in a guild and making it to prosper. 

If we compare the fantasy RPG MMO to the actual 'fantasy', the difference becomes apparent: in fantasy the hero -or the antihero- groups to overcome the opposition. Guilds are ways to gain more power and esteem, as belonging to the right guild can be considered as a career move. Currently the guild tag doesn't mean a thing ingame. Belonging in a guild is more a habit than actual need.

You can PUG easier than get an impromptu guild run set up, even in a larger guild.

What could guild housing and/or player housing solve?

First of all, it would promote the feeling of belonging: I am part of this guild which has this guild house. My house is in this city, neighbouring these people.

Feeling of belonging is a powerfull motivator.

After applying this simple way of making the Guild meaningfull, the rest of the Guild status strenghtening stuff would be easy. Guild totem giving a buff to members according to levels, guild store for additional buffs only for this guild and so on. Something to make the Guild mean something to the player.

I loved EQ2 guild experience system. Guilds have levels to which all the experience the members gain contributes to. The first time you dinged the guild gave you an enormous boost, and the scarcer the dings get, the more meaningfull the mention in the guild log gets.

I contribute, I'm valuable.

Well, that's what the achievements do already, don't they?

How hard is it, Blizzard, to work on the social tools for a change?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Looking for Good Guild!

Well, that's the shout I've seen in trade, general and even LFG channels lately, and it has made me thinking over the whole situation of guilds as whole.

My response to that call has been to ask in return for the caller to define good guild. I've only gotten one response stating "to form an arena team"... Hardly what I would a good guild to be.

Most certainly a good guild is depending on the phase the player is going through in the game. Like I've been commented in my earlier posts, currently it seems that WoW guild system cannot deliver anything more than a well maintained friends list in terms of grouping and instancing. Well, perhaps the guild chat.

Lets see the phases of a WoW player.

1. Entry to the game
Newbie, noob, newcomer. All is great and fine and lovely and it's all ooh's and aah's until the grind gets you. In the first 10-15 levels you really don't need a guild to guide or help you, and the first instances are a blast with a PUG (like a PUG could ever be a blast while levelling...). At one point or another you will encounter a quest or challenge you need help with and a helpfull levelling guild is what you look for: a group of people to help you get more levels, help you with your questions and -most importantly- to belong to.

2. Levelling stage
From certain point on (your mileage could vary) you will be levelling on rails. Levels pass you by, you overlevel instances faster than you'd like to, and you find yourself looking for boost runs, specific gear and hidden profession trainers. Levelling guild you joined is still the one if it's doing it's job, and you're relying both on their help and your own knowledge of your capabilities. For some -like me- this is the best part of the game: stories, quest lines and challenges.

At this point the Guild Bank will become your friend, if you so choose, as you will be needing materials for your quests and profession training, but also being short of money the now and then support of the Guild Bank repairs.

3. End Game
At the end, you will be seeking for the opportunity to raid. If your levelling guild has that function, the better. If not, you'll be seeking for the guild who would recruit the power leveller like you. The guild selection becomes a crucial question at this stage, as you will be requested to work with the guild, not the other way around.

The other activity I mentioned earlier would be PvP: forming arena teams. Knowing nothing about it, I let it be.

Thus the call for Good Guild is a vague one. What are you really looking for: power levelling guild, relaxed casual one, fun guild, achievement whores?

Define what you are looking for and you MIGHT find it.

At your doorstep.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend's over

Had a terrific start for a weekend. Already in Thursday I felt like I had a ton of sand in my eyes and a runny nose accompanied with appropriate amount of sneezing. Bless you, thangk yoo, all that stuff. Friday I lived through, even checked my current AH mule only to discover that I'd made over the 2k mark on the new one, hurrah. So now I'm sitting on about 3.5k gold with my ally toons, not counting the guild bank reserves in.

And then was the Saturday morning, with the Twisted Nether Live Podcast. For me it was pretty decent, the show started at 7:30 am, but for certain Brits, Scots and Irish people it was quite an achievement to wake up at 5:30 am on Saturday morning to listen to the show. Won't go to the details, but it was nice. There are some other reports about the hangover, the best IMO being BigBearButt's one. I will attend to the next one, for certain, if I'm around civilized areas then.

Saturday and Sunday I was relaxing. In fact, Saturday went nicely by levelling Pupunen from 42 to 45, all the while trying to get into Western/Eastern Plaguelands: I know, I know, it's 50-60 area, so I did the cooking quest Clamlette Surprise. Which is a great drag in all possible ways. Zesty Clam Meat drops from all giant turtles, though I learned AFTER completing the quest that Nagas in Feralas drop the clams in masses... In fact, I grinded the Giant Eggs needed for the quest in Hinterlands first, bought the 10 Zesty Clam Meats from AH (yea, lazy me) and as I was in Hinterlands I got the drunken griffon rider quest to gather materials for the stiff drink he needs. Which in turn led me to Feralas, where I fulfilled the quests in Feathermoon Stronghold, killing the Nagas in the dozens and trying to get to the level where I could beat the Irofur Bears and Groddock gorillas. Naturally for their intestines, which you cannot collect from everyone of them.

I admit, I got bored at about the time I had dinged 45, and it was already late, so off we went. What I'm especially proud of is the fact that I manged to do three levels higher quests with Pupunen quite easily, pulling level 46 mobs while being 43 and sometimes even dealing with two at a time. Being holy doesn't really suck.

Sunday was dedicated to AH (another 300g profit) and Laiskajaakko. I started the long quest chain from Winterspring -Sister Pamela- from Jessica Redpath, and travelled to Western and Eastern Plaguelands. What a travelling back and forth that is! However, the story in the questline is excellent and I fullheartedly recommend that to all. I didn't quite get to the point of The Battle of Darrowshire, but I'm lookind forward to the raid (!) level finale of the quest line.

Finally both Bishopgeorge and Förgelös came online and we tried a threesome in Hellfire Citadel: Ramparts. Which went a lot smoother than with a full 5 man group, mainly because there were the holy trinity available and all knew exactly what they were doing: prot warrior tanking, rogue DPS'ing and priest healing. Somehow I started to wonder the damage output of the rogue, because he was at almost half of what the protection warrior put out. Granted, there was 3 levels gap in there, but still. 

We cleared the instance to the last two bosses, and called it a night. Not because the mobs were too much or we were overwhelmed, but because we ran out of time. You better respect the wife aggro from time to time, right?

All in all, great weekend. I only just learned that Förgelös had forgotten to train his lovely lv60 skills, so he was really lacking from the skill side instead of gear. What a relief. Next time we own.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What good are guilds anyway?


I've been thinking over this since the incident I blogged. Especially I paid attention to the situation as I was pruning the guild roster. Sure, The Order, has over 30 toons in it, but only about 10 are active and played regularily. And even some of those I have met only when I invited them to the guild.

So why would anyone want to be in a guild, if we take off the chit-chat of Guild Channel?

In EQ2 you feel you're contributing to the guild, as the guilds have levels as the players, and the guilds really give you the additional feeling of belonging in the game. The guild means something in there, it's not just a tag to drag along and hope that someone in the guild has done something so remarkable that the tag gets recognised.

Why has WoW failed so miserably in creating the similar situation? The guilds are a laughing stock if you think of the 'benefits' you get from them as player. This is exactly like Crucifer commented in my earlier post: "Guilds mostly have degenerated from focal points of the community with strong reputation links to other focal points to, well, just a chat channel."

And most players are thinking of just that: benefits for themselves. As the soloability of WoW increases, the self-gratification becomes the norm in the game: it becomes more and more a single player levelling game, where you can do whatever you please, regardless of anything. It's beginning to feel that the other player characters are as meaningless as the NPC's. 

At least that's what I felt when I logged in shortly yesterday: I got begged for buffs, cursed because I don't buff people begging for it and challenged to duel three times while I was grinding for a quest. This only shows to me, at least, that people are not playing the game as an RPG (or even the way they would play single player RPG, even), but are playing the game as min-maxing and winning the content.

To me it sucks.

Maybe I'm old, too much standing still in the pen and paper RPG world and too much interested in the real content, so I don't really appreciate the current way of playing the game.

Back to the topic: what good are guilds anyway? I've read a couple of blog posts already stating that people are leaving guilds even at level cap to be able to run heroics more. Raiding isn't anymore only for the co-operative effort of the guilds and honestly speakin, the leetness is gone. Especially in the way that this post describes. Great guest post in World of Matticus, which I agree completely: that is what guilds should seek to be, the springboard for leetness!

As the meaning of guilds has gone down the drain, so has the communication and respect between the guilds. Only a minority of the guilds on the servers have the decency to join the official server forum and state their information to the Guild Information thread. The communication is mostly on the level of "we're more 1337 than yoo" and derogatory in terms of communication. 

I wish every guildleader and officer would do as Megan from Out of Mana and make a resolution like this: 
Playing the game with friends and strangers alike equally is also important. Just because they aren't in your guild, aren't in your pool of gaming buddies, doesn't mean tact and sincerity go out the window. It's easy to remember that story of those crap PUGs with lewlDPS and bash on them in a forum, a post, a whisper.
That would make the game itself more enjoyable to all of us, and perhaps, maybe, the dumbtwat effect would reside a bit.

Blizzard, it's high time you did something for the social tools in the game and introduced the guild housing, guilding benefits and guild levels to the game!!! MAKE THE SOCIAL EFFORTS WORTH SOMETHING, darn it!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Guildhoppers, DIE!

There is something very wrong in the way that guilds and their benefits are viewed in WoW. In fact, it's almost sick already: as the game is getting more and more solo friendly, people -read: players- are looking only for their own short term benefits from every contact they make. Which in turn makes the much discussed community a very fragile at best.

We had our first guildbank rapist visiting us during the weekend. He joined, even signed to the forum which I find pretty remarkable, and took all he could from the guildbank. And left. As I noticed the 'theft' in 5 minutes, I found out he had joined another guild already. Well, contacted their officer, but as I checked, he's still in the guild. Zenazok, Dwarf Paladin, your name is to be known by all I contact in Thunderhorn EU. 

His gain was not that big, because I had kind of anticipated this kind of conduct on the Ally side. Sorry to say, but I haven't seen this many idiots in the Horde side during all the time I have been playing in there, compared to the few months in Ally. The main reason may be the fact that there are so many more players on Ally that there is more room for idiocy, but I doubt it. This miscreant was way too clever to be just the average 12-16 year old teen, and he clearly knew exactly what he was doing.

There has been some discussion in the Blogosphere already about how to make the guildspace and community to last longer. The ideas have ranged from the obvious Guildhousing (alongside with Player Housing) to toons getting special Guild loyalty bonuses or even loyalty gear/fluff. I vote for AYE to all the ideas and even the first implementation that would give the guilds the possibility to really REWARD the long term members.

Now as the situation has gone into such that the guilds are extremely easy to set up and there are new guilds popping up like there was no tomorrow, the value of guilds as whole has gone down considerably. At least in the levelling stage the benefits are negligible, and in raiding stage the support of the guild is mainly to artificially set up a team to tackle the end game bosses. I say artificially, because the same group could work without committing to a single guild. There is no real benefit in belonging to a guild, really. Except for fun and laughter. 

I have always hated the guildhoppers. And I always will. After all this even more so.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Speculative thoughts

The other day in the game, I had a nice discussion about the Blizzards "Secret MMO" project. In fact, it all started from talking about future of WoW, where I claimed that Blizzard will -eventually- release the lv55 starting for all classes. Which was countered by the fact that DK deserves special treatment, being the 'Hero Class', and that there will be other Hero Classes in the future.

Yes and no. Yes, there will be other Hero Classes in the future, but the Old World classes form the basis of the class distribution. And no, even though the hero classes are supposed to be stronger and special compared to the original classes, they cannot be because of the delicate issue of game balance! And this -compared to the whining which started already before tBC that the levelling takes too long and is boring and bla-bla-bla- is guaranteed to bring the pop-up levelling to the original classes. Whether it is a new starting zone or the opportunity to start from a higher level, it doesn't matter, it will come. That's my God's honest opinion.

Granted, Blizzard has already paved the way for this by lowering the 1-60 levelling time considerably. This, in change, results that you cannot even imagine completing all the areas in proper level range, as you outlevel the quests constantly! It's really frustrating to notice all of a sudden that you have only grey matter in your quest log after one successfull instance run (ding twice, yippii!) and that you have to do some to be able to continue the questline. Hacking through more grey matter only to proceed isn't too gratifying, let me tell you.

This effectively lead to the Blizzard's Secret MMO in the making.

I don't see them doing something controversial or new in the sense that we haven't seen it before. After all, Blizzard is more known to take others brilliant ideas and honing them to the polish known to be Blizzard. Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo, WoW; all are great examples of that. And don't even mention the orcs... There is a reason why Games Workshops orcs are green, and even it has been copied without a thought...

What I see is WoW2. Why? Like Danshir posted in his brilliant blog, lorewise the Warcraft world is soon in a void of archenemies. The lore-savvy people are already second quessing the who-what-how of the next big instance enemies after the Lich King: who is there to pose any threat to the world or planning the world domination after the high leaders of the Scourge are gone?

This is where WoW2 comes in. Set in either future of the WoW or to the turmoil before the Warcraft series, it gives the answer to the question: new era, new enemies, familiar world and game functions, only refined to the current standards.

It's common knowledge that the engine behind WoW is outdated: the low end computers today are of higher specs than the high end ones when WoW came out. It needs fixing, especially when you look at the slowing down of the game due to patches upon patches.

The counter argument was that this new WoW would kill the continuity of the characters, and kill the roleplaying aspect of the game. Nonsense: it would be a different game, different reality, different characters. Sony did this with Everquest, and had there been no WoW, EQ2 would be THE game. At least I believe so, and I'm not the only one (/wink Tipa).

Sure, it could be Starcraft, but thinking of the difficulty of making a successful sci-fi genre MMO I doubt that Blizzard-Activision is taking this chance. Fantasy >> scifi in popularity. Sadly so.

Like I stated earlier, Blizzard is genious in copying and tweaking the ideas of their competitors. SOE has shown that it's possible to make a 'sequel' to a MMO, and Blizzard has had well enough time to device a plan to get the best of this. There wouldn't even be a need for the next expansion, if planned correctly: the game would be the expansion!

Enough. I'll go on pushing my pixels in the Old World. There's enough content for me for YEARS!