Sunday, July 15, 2012

Is raiding easier or just more accessible?

Now I remember the first time I got to a boss that everyone had been talking about and how awesome it was to see it for the first time and feel like I had accomplished something by getting there. This is almost gone from the game which is sad but that yielded the advent of great tools like the raid finder. The vocal "majority" of the community laments the loss of "hard" and inaccessible content because of the loss of this feeling of accomplishment. While most of this comes from purely nostalgia some of their worries and complaints are valid. Dragon Soul was the first raid wherein you could see the entire raid in an easier version easily accessible to everyone with an hour to play. Combine this with the dungeon finder and basically a huge majority of the player base can finally see all of the content. But sadly this does lead to a loss of wonderment when you do actually do the raid because you have already seen all there is to see without any real feeling of accomplishment. Before the raid finder it felt really cool to see a new boss and even if you knew what he did already, you still had that feeling that you can only see him because you killed everyone else.
Ragnaros in Molten Core
 This leads to one of Blizzard's largest problems at the moment... How to balance accessibility with difficulty? Right now Blizzard uses heroic modes to up the difficulty of encounters for the hardcore players and the raid finder to cater to players with less time. While some people say that all raids should be difficult on their own that is just not true. Back in Vanilla less than 1% of players killed a boss in Naxxramas and below 5% killed anything in Molten Core, this is because of restrictive raid sizing and gearing. Even in BC most players never killed Illidan before he was relevant or even Magetheridon. When people pay for the game they should be able to see most of it's content so Blizzard's steps towards accessibility is extremely nice. You can show me graphs of player growth and say that in Vanilla and BC player growth was higher because the content is better but that is just not true. Common sense would say that the growth was higher because that was the time period where the game was starting to become more publicized. The most noticeable growth would actually be during WoTLK when player activity increased because more players could finally see content. Now this leads me to the actual point of this post causes and solutions.
The Raid Finder is a large reason for the lack of wonder when doing new content. Does that mean we should scrap it? of course not it is an amazing tool and lets people see content on multiple characters and I know from my experience it is extremely nice to have when you need to take a break from the game or your unable to raid because of RL issues. Other causes are raid accessibility (such as the lack of attunements) and encounter mechanics in general. My solution will seem kind of crazy but I do believe there is merit to it. I read a post a long while ago on WoWinsider about how the actual size of a raid can effect it's "epicness" and feel. Some raids feel right in larger sizes and some feel better in smaller sizes. Raids like Ulduar in my opinion feel good in both sizes but Naxxramas and Firelands felt better in a 25 man setting, whereas raids like The Bastion of Twilight and The Ruby Sanctum felt better in a 10 man setting. But since all content is balanced around both difficulties now it's impossible to make a raid that truly feels good in both 10 and 25 man settings. This can lead to a feeling that a raid doesn't quite "fit".  Another issue is that 25 man  raids are hard for some guilds to field and the two raid sizes don't exactly scale at a 1:1 ratio. Bear with me there is a point to all of this. I believe that the solution to all of this at least to some degree is to in every tier release more raids with less bosses. That way tiers can be set up thusly.... have one raid with say 5 bosses that has a slightly lower ilvl gear drops than the other raids. This provides your stepping stone raid which is a good thing because it gives players direction. Also have this raid accessible through the raid finder so that players can still see content in that more relaxed setting without a large time commitment. Then have two other raids with say 4 bosses that have a higher ilvl than the other raid and require the first raid as a prerequisite. These raids should not be accessible through the Raid Finder that way players in these raids are seeing them for the first time in the setting they should been seen as where getting past bosses means you have never seen the next boss before. Now you have content more easily accessible to casual players and raiders also get their gated content. Then hard modes would only be in the latter 2 raids and should be modeled after Ulduar which I strongly believed was an excellent model for hard modes that was too short-lived. It always feels better when you feel like you made a boss harder by doing something other than toggling a switch in your UI. Blizzard's challenge should be to get people to the level where they can raid then let them go their own way. Have heroics still be challenging but reward a purple at the end for everyone's efforts like the Wrath and BC dungeons did (but just make sure the epic is a lower ilvl than raiding epics because that was just frustrating).
 This leads to my final point about raid sizes. Instead of balancing around 10 and 25 man sizes make each raid 1 size. But change the raid sizes to 10 and 20 man sizes and make them scale at a 1:1 ratio or close to it. If a raid has 10 people today it has 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 5 dps. Then why do we have to settle with the awkward 25 man when we can change the raid to 20 people and have 4 tanks (one with a dps OS), 6 healers, and 10 dps. It would be much easier to scale raids that way and can keep the feel of larger and smaller raids unique. In fact it would also make the downsizing easier, because of your in a 20 man guild you can easily split to run the 10 man instance one night then form back up to do the 20 man the other. It even leads to the possibility of smaller guilds working together because they can just put their groups together and bam you have a 20 man ready to go. Overall this is how I would like to see raiding....... -1 instance 6 bosses (Raid Finder Accessible) (No hardmodes) -leads to...... -2 instances either 10 or 20 man or some combination of the two (higher ilvl than the previous)(use the previous as a prerequisite)(hard modes) I believe this would solve a lot of the problems on both sides because raiders could have their gated content and feeling of wonderment and the more casual players will still have their raiding content that is easily accessible.
 I would also like to refer to the post on WoWinsider which is also about this topic.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Tale of RandySavage and the Consequences of Cross-Realm Play

      Yes this is another post about some of the consequences of cross-realm integration. While there are a lot of good things with cross-realm play, like dungeons are easier than ever, BG queues are shorter, and of course the raid finder there are still consequences that only people who were around before it would know. Back then realms had a well fostered community because you had to find other players in trade chat to organize dungeon runs. This meant that if you were a good player and did your job people would hear and you would get invited to other groups. But if you were bad or a downer this would harm your reputation and you would have a much harder time finding groups. This leads me to the story of Randy Savage that your probably wondering about by now. The story with this one player is a very good example of the consequences of cross-realm play.
      Anyone who played Alliance on Alterac Mountains-US during the beginning of WotLK will know the player I am talking about. RandySavage was a warrior tank who developed some what of a infamous reputation on my server. This player was about every bad player stereotype rolled into one. He was a "troll" in trade chat, he didn't know his class or how to tank, and if offered criticism would get extremely angry and defensive and drop group. It didn't take very long for his reputation to spread around the server and soon people would only invite him to groups at their own peril as he would negative, cocky, and criticize every player in the dungeon/raid when they didn't deserve it. Once is reputation spread he was never invited to groups this kind of thing only happens when a server has a good community. Before the dungeon finder you had to find people for groups so you knew who you were inviting most of the time and knew who to avoid. But now if you get a bad player in a dungeon group you can just kick him or he'll leave and you just sit in your queue for another hoping that they aren't the same. The anonymous nature of these cross-realm tools do nothing to foster a feeling of good sportsmanship because even if they are a pain they will still be able to get another group by just hitting the "join queue" button. Now the dungeon finder and raid finder are great tools that make content more accessible for everyone but I can't help but be a little nostalgic for when servers felt a little smaller and you knew people had farther reaching consequences for their actions.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What do you want in game but can't have?

      There are three things in game that I want but most likely there is no way I will ever have.
1. A Gladiator Title + Mount 
    One of the pinnacles of arena PvP is the gladiator title and mount which is given to the top .5% of arena teams in each battle group. Getting one of these rewards is a huge badge of prestige and means that you are the best PvP'er on your realm. Sadly because one I am not a huge PvP'er and two the fact I just do not play at that echelon I will never achieve one of these rewards.

2. A Server First
    This is in the same vein as the gladiator rewards. To have a title like Death's Demise or Conqueror of Naxxramas is a huge achievement. It means that you beat the best guilds on your server to the hardest bosses available in the game. You can wear the title proudly around your sever and say "yes out of all of you I am the best". And much like the gladiator rewards I do not have the time t commit to a hardcore guild like the ones that race for these. Now don't even get me started on world firsts....

3. The Ashes of A'lar
     The final thing I would like in game is the Ashes of Al'ar mount. This is a gorgeous mount with a graphic only recently shared by the Dark Phoenix of Cataclysm. This mount drops from Kael'Thas in The Eye instance of Tempest Keep. It has a minuscule drop rate of a mere 2% much like Rivendare's Deathcharger (which is actually slightly lower at 1%). With a drop rate like that I'm gonna have to be extremely lucky to ever see its pretty purple text.

Thanks to Blog Azeroth for the topic!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Scourge Chat Logs

Hey everyone I would just like to show you all a link to one of my favorite WoW-related creations ever  The Scourge Chat Logs! These are a great bit of WoW humor centered around what it would be like if WoW notables entered into an AIM chat with each other. Check it out and enjoy! Special thanks to Coffee With Sargeras for creating them.

Do you miss the innocence of the game?

     Way back when I first started playing 5 years ago near the end of the Burning Crusade the first character I ever played was a hunter. Now this was no ordinary hunter this was before the advent of all the new talent changes simplified the system. This was a BM/Surv/MM hunter by level 30, most people will know this is not the way to make a good leveling spec. Back then new players had the option to put talents in any tree when they got them so being a new player I just put them in whatever talents seemed good. This is one of my first innocent experiences with the game. The others came later, namely 10 levels later. Back then whenever I leveled to a new zone I always had to go to the community site to see where to go next there was no Heroes Call Board to tell me where to go so I needed to know where to go. I also remember going to the dungeon and raids page and drooling over all the instances I hadn't seen yet and eagerly waiting until I could get to that suggested level range where I could play them. I even remember not knowing about the boats from Auberdine and trying to run to Stormwind through the Badlands, Searing Gorge, and Burning Steppes at a mere level 16 and getting absolutely massacred by every mob with that oh so ominous "skull" icon instead of a level. These are just my leveling experiences.
      I remember when getting to Outland meant leveling got way way easier because the XP needed to level had just been nerved and the quests rewarded more XP than any of the old world quests did. And finally moving onto Northrend presented this whole new area of magic and stories that I soaked up just so I would know what was going on when I hit 80. Then the pinnacle of all of this is when I finally hit 80 (a mere year later after rolling that hunter) and I got to attempt raiding. I remember joining my first guild and listening to their vent conversations while they did Naxxramas, and my first pug when my dps was terrible and I realized that I hadn't trained in Black Arrow since rank 1.... Also this was back when spells had ranks that needed to be trained. And finally after all my blunders with my hunter my second 80 arose and this was my current main Myramensgone the protection warrior. By the time this toon was 80 I knew more about the game and was able to really raid and I will never forget what it was like to approached Kel'Thuzad for the first time with that portuguese raiding guild I was with at the time (but thats a whole other story) and after a few attempts finally downing my first end boss ever.
     Now a days with all of the streamlined quests, revamped talent tree's, and raid finder I ask you do you miss the innocence of the game?

Friday, June 15, 2012

If My Main Was an NPC

     In response to Blog Azeroth's Shared Topic here is what I would like if my main was an NPC.
My main is my 85 orc warrior Myramensgone. In spirit with his name I would like him to hang out in the inn in Orgrimmar and dispense a bi-weekly quest that forces you to go back to an old dungeon or raid to kill a boss. The reason my main will be sending you on this quest is because he thinks that the boss your ordered to kill is the person that has stolen his "ramen". Some sample quest text:
Greetings hero,
Some devilish creature has gone and stolen my ramen! 
Now I know this is very shocking and appalling I hope 
these actions do not offend you but I think that I have
found the culprit this time!
<Insert Boss Name Here> of <Insert Instance Name Here>
has stolen it I just know it! Please go and slay him and bring me his head 
and "hopefully" my ramen as proof of the deed!
Now go!
       My Main would give you this quest every two weeks and as a special reward the boss would have a random chance to drop his ramen and turning this in would give you a bag that had gold and gems in it much like the call to arms bag. So every other week you had to go kill an old boss and try to find his ramen and if you did you got a bag of goodies if not better luck next week! But don't worry even if you find the ramen he's pretty forgetful and will most likely get it stolen by the next time the quest is given :).

Create Your Own Quest.

      A staple of World Of Warcraft is the quest. Every expansion numerous quests are added with new characters and objectives to meet and complete. The whole questing dynamic has changed over WoW's lifetime from the scattered quests all over Azeroth in vanilla, to the linear questing style we all know from Cataclysm. I thought that it would be interesting to see what the player base would do if they had the opportunity to create their own quest.
     I'll start off with my own quest. One of the things about WoW that gets to me is the non-linear timeline of your questing. Now admittedly this quest would have worked better before the Cataclysm but up until Wrath the way I looked at questing was that you started out as a no name hero helping all of the citizens of Azeroth until you were renowned enough to be sent to help in Outland and finally Northrend. Now a days all you have to tell you to go to these new area's is the Heroes Call Board, I thought that it would be cool if an actual in game event was what sent you to these new places.
      Now back in vanilla there was an item Corrupted Ashbringer and when you wielded the Ashbringer your reputation with the Argent Dawn plummeted to hated and your reputation with the Scarlet Crusade went to friendly. With this newfound reputation level you can venture to the Scarlet Monastery and enter the Cathedral. Upon approaching Whitemane and Morgraine you were privy to a conversation between the two that hinted at the existence of Outland. Thats just the backstory that influenced my quest.
     My quest would be what if when questing through a 55-60 zone like say Winterspring or Blasted Lands you came across an NPC or a mob that had a piece of the Corrupted Ashbringer. And that piece would set you on a quest to take the piece to the Argent Dawn, but upon arriving at Light's Hope Chapel you find out your hated with them and there is a Scarlet Crusade rogue waiting for you. This rogue tells you that he has been tracking you and he needs you to take the blade to High Inquisitor Whitemane. When you arrive at the Monastery you realize that all the mobs are friendly with you and when you zone into the Cathedral all of the NPC's remark on your presence all of them sensing the item of power you have on you. As you finally approach Whitemane you are able to turn in a quest that forces you to give her the piece and lets you witness that old conversation. But it doesn't stop there a new quest is immediately put into your quest log which tells you to go warn your respective faction leader (Varian or Garrosh) about the existence of Outland and that they need to commit forces there asap. That way you feel like your character had a real impact on why your in Outland and you have more of a reason to go there than just "The call board told me to".
    There are some problems with my quest like the fact that the Cathedral has been trashed by horde forces and both Whitemane and Morgraine are killed. But that kind of time line issue has never been a problem for Blizzard before you can always treat it like a Caverns Of Time like thing. If anyone if allowed to mess with all that wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff its the people who make the game. Now what are your thoughts? What quest would you create if you had the chance?