Here are some random new pieces of information on the upcoming expansion:
- Humans and Orcs are slated to receive updated character models next
- Pandaren may have a “dragon turtle” mount
- There are 8 core buffs, and they will be shown as a number on your UI (e.g. 5/8), with information on which ones are missing
- Character customization has been revamped, and if you have played the Diablo Beta, you will be right at home with it
- The giant statue in Jade Forest will be destroyed as a direct result of the Horde-Alliance war
- Guild experience caps will be removed
- Here is an interesting statistic, during The Burning Crusade, less than 1% of the player base saw the Sunwell raid
- We could see content patches every two months, since raid tiers are “supposed” to last four months, with smaller content patches in between
- World bosses are back, with Anger in Kun-Lai Summit and Fear in the Dread Wastes
- World bosses will have unique mounts in their loot tables
- “The new LFR loot system will grant a bonus roll when you have an item purchased from one of the Pandaren factions. These tokens can also be used to purchase the normal epic gear that is usually associated with factions. This extra roll works in all three difficulty levels. If you win a roll in LFR and the boss has no item for you, you will get gold instead.”
- Quests of all difficulty levels above (and including green) will give a flat amount of guild experience, allowing lower level players to contribute to guild leveling
Hodge Podge Analysis
Most of this actually sounds fine. I have always been a fan of world bosses, so that is a plus point in my book. The buff management system also seems intuitive. Instead of looking through 25 odd buffs to see if you are missing anything or using addon help, one glance will tell you which critical buffs are missing.
More content is a double-edged sword though. Putting out content faster implies Blizzard may not have enough time to polish everything properly. Let’s take a look at some silly and largely meaningless statistics for number of raid encounters in each expansion:
- Vanilla WoW – MC (10), BWL (8), AQ40 (9), AQ20 (6), ZG (6), Naxx (16) = 55 Total
- The Burning Crusade – Karazhan (10), Gruul (2), Mag (1), SSC (6), TK (4), ZA (6), Hyjal (5), BT (9), Sunwell (6) = 50 Total
- Wrath of the Lich King – Naxx (16), OS (1), Eye (1), Ulduar (14), TotGC (5), Ony (1), ICC (12), VoA (4), RS (1), = 55 Total
- Cataclysm – BoT (5), BWD (6), TotFW (2), Firelands (7), DS (8), BH (3) = 31 Total
I know they also (re)released the Troll instances, and create three solid instances leading up to the Deathwing conflict, but they added more instances to the previous expansions as well.
My point is that we are getting much lesser content at the end game with Cataclysm. One could say that the 1-60 new player experience revamp may have taken a chunk out of this, but I fear that with bi-monthly patches, we may be getting more content patches, but lesser content in them.
Maybe, Maybe Not
Some features are still up in the air. They are either under debate, or they will be implemented shortly after launch.
- Titles, if made account-wide, will be available on other characters only after you reach the level where you earned it
- Mounts will be account wide, and this will happen shortly after launch, if not right at launch
- There might be another Troll dungeon, bringing the number to four, after Zul’Farrak, Zul’Gurub and Zul’Aman. It will be called Zul’Panda. I made that last one up.
- The 10-man and 25-man shared lockout may be revisited.
- A third battleground, which didn’t make the cut, is modeled after DOTA
- Pet battles may come to WoW-Remote
- Visible librams and quivers may not be implemented by launch
Maybe, Maybe Not Analysis
Account-wide titles and mounts are a no-brainer. I know MMOs are very much married to the grind, but if you have put in a significant chunk of time to obtain something rare on one character, it is just cruel to force you to start the grind again on a new character.
The 10-man and 25-man shared lockout is a tricky subject. As much as people moan and bitch about how this is taking away loot opportunities from them, two facts will always work against the reversal of this decision. First, it would imply that larger guilds would have their work effectively tripled, with the 25-team splintering into two 10-mans, or three 10-mans (with reserves/alts), every week, and therefore put a lot of pressure on players that have grown accustomed to one lock-out. Second, it would be ridiculously unfair to small guilds that only (can) run 10-man content, as they will miss out on nearly 5 times the amount of loot they could get their hands on, if they were a 25-man guild.
The DOTA battleground got cut from launch, but apparently it will still make its debut in Mists. I am very excited about that!
Visible quivers might be cool for (cross)bows. But what about guns? Do we get an ammo pouch? Or perhaps a criss-crossing bullet vest?!
What Got Cut
Some things got cut:
- There will be no Tri-Spec
- Monks will have an auto-attack, the previous plan was to only have specialized attacks
What Got Cut Analysis
Tri-spec would have been nice, but it is not a game-breaker. No auto-attack really would have made monks unique. Oh well!
More posts on the way, stay tuned!
Empire < Republic.
I don’t know what it is about the Dark Side of the Force, but clearly it is very alluring to human beings. With the Empire outnumbering the Republic forces by a considerable volume, it was only a matter of time before the imbalance in the PvP blew up in the Republic collective, melting faces. My question is this, did no one really see this coming?
Now I love BioWare. Aside from the mediocre Dragon Age II, I don’t think they have released a game in recent memory that has entertained me beyond expectations. What boggles me is how is it possible that so much time, effort, energy, money and resources were poured into a top of the line AAA MMO, and the multiplayer aspect of it is broken? Take Tol Barad for example. It is an open PvP zone most of the time, and anyone can come and go as they please, except for when every 2-3 hours there is a power struggle with both factions vying for control of the zone for the next 2-3 hours. The horrid mechanics of Tol Barad notwithstanding, what is great about this zone is that the system throws everyone out at the start of the fight, and brings in an equal number of players to face off. If 10 horde queue and 20 alliance queue, only 10 from each side will get in to ensure the fight is balanced.
Despite sinking millions of dollars into SWTOR, and, as my friend Matthew would claim, “revamping and or polishing the best WoW has to offer”, somehow they missed this little possibility. The forums are now ablaze with players up in arms about the whole fiasco, some even saying they are thankful for it, because now they can quit before the payment cycle kicks in after the first free month. Ouch. Offering incentives for players to come slaughter one another in world PvP is a great idea, if BioWare can ensure that the an equivalent number of players from either faction will engage in battle. Given that BioWare already had data indicating higher numbers in one faction, this should never have happened in the first place.
I have always been partial to being an early adopter. The initial feedback about SWTOR is positive, not overwhelmingly so, but the kind that piques your curiosity the more opinions you peruse. However, it is BioWare’s solution to this and similar future debacles that will determine if I ever invest in the title. And yes, I too will be joining the Empire!
This is an epic tale, and you know it is an epic tale that ends with one gnome mage taking on, and utterly obliterating, five horde players.
But before I tell you what happens and in what context, I must introduce Sproll.
Sproll, Gnome, Mage
Sproll was a gnome mage in our guild, eternally obsessed with topping the DPS meters, even with DPS behemoths such as Spitachi (more on that in a future post). More often than not he broke the top three. Every once in a while he gave everyone the run for their money. I remember him as a funny, sweet kid, one who never hesitated to jump into the fray, and loved PvP on the side.
Closer to the last days of vanilla WoW, our guild decided to take a break from raiding. We were 9/16 in Naxxaramas, every other instance had been conquered, and the reality of all of our gear going obsolete in less than a month had fully settled in. It made very little sense for us to engage in PvE content after that. Several members of the guild wanted to PvP. One day we all decided to band together and queue for Arathi Basin together. An hour and three 5-cap matches later, we had found our addiction for the next 3 weeks before Wrath came out.
The Battle for Arathi Basin
One time in Arathi Basin we had the four nodes closest to the alliance (Stables, Lumbermill, Gold Mine and Blacksmith) under our control. Team Wrecking Crew (a group of our eight top DPS’ers) was pushing on the Farm to try and 5-cap the game. The remaining nodes were being guarded by two people each for Lumber Mill, Blacksmith and Gold Mine, and one individual guarding the flag at the Stables.
Masterabe and I were stationed at the Lumber Mill, overlooking all other nodes except the deep mine. Zarux was stationed with Debugger at the Blacksmith. We suddenly see the two-person Blacksmith team bolt and chase someone around the Blacksmith. Apparently a small group of Horde had brother through the blockade and had assaulted the Blacksmith. 15 seconds later, with the Blacksmith team nowhere to be seen, a Tauren Warrior, and an Orc Rogue emerge from behind the Blacksmith and run straight for the flag. Just then, I notice that Sproll, who is solely guarding the Stables flag, is actually standing right next to me at the Lumber Mill.
“You know,” he says, “one of us should really go down there and stop that flag from being capped.”
“I’ll go. I can heal and put out some moderate DPS, I’ll keep ‘em busy till the wrecking crew can arrive and take it back.”
Richard, the leader of the Wrecking Crew responds with an affirmative in Vent. They had apparently lost the momentum on the farm anyway.
Sproll, Savior, Badass
This is the part you should pay attention to.
“No,” says Sproll. “Lemme handle this one.”
What followed was the most epic moment I have witnessed in PvP in the six years I have played WoW, and a true testament to the grit and capability of one Sproll, gnome mage.
Sproll mounted up, took a running start and dove off of the Lumber Mill. Just as he launched off, he dismounted and activated slow fall. He then maneuvered to land, ever so valiantly, amidst the two classes designed to physically rip mages apart. He proceeded to sheep the rogue, who, oddly, wasn’t in stealth at the moment, and POM-Pyro’ed/Fire Blasted the warrior. A few more shots and the warrior fell.
I spotted three incoming horde players from the bridge on the Gold Mine side. Sproll had maybe another 15 seconds before he would have to deal with four horde players alone.
“Richard, I need you at the Blacksmith NOW! Sproll will get creamed in a few seconds, we got three additional horde incoming!”
“We’re trying to die, so we could rezz with full health, but we’ll run back now!”
I calculate in my head quickly. Richard was too far away, if he came on foot, it would be too late for Sproll. If Masterabe and I went, the Lumber Mill would be vulnerable. The Stables were already unguarded. We were in a tough spot.
In the north, I could see Richard’s Wrecking Crew backing away from the Farm, but that was going very slowly. The three horde players were too close to Sproll. He made an executive decision. He knew he wouldn’t be able to fight off four horde players, so instead of killing the rogue, and calmly re-taking the Blacksmith with still another 30 seconds to spare, he re-sheeped the rogue and bee-lined for the flag, hoping to cap it, and buying our team some precious extra seconds to get to the battlefield.
“Richard,” I yelled in vent. “Change of plans, I need a blockade of the eastern road.” (A blockade of the eastern road implied he would converge on the bottleneck between the Blacksmith, Lumber Mill and Farm, and prevent anyone coming from the Farm to approach either of the other two locations.) Richard confirmed that he was on it.
We could jump off of the Lumber Mill, but there wouldn’t be enough time to heal and then run to the Blacksmith to engage. So I bubbled Masterabe and myself, and we dove off. We swam across the short body of water, one that felt like an ocean at the time, and finally looped around the ramp to the Blacksmith flag.
And that was when we were treated to the greatest thing we have ever seen in our lives.
There stood Sproll, two of the four attacking horde players dead at his feet, the rogue still sheeped, and a lone Troll Priest at half health as Sproll lobbed fireball after fireball at him. We were so dumbstruck by the spectacle, we literally stood there, our character seemingly frozen in place, because both Masterabe and I were in fits of laughter at this little gnome mage, who had, for all intents and purposes, taken on five horde players and wiped the floor with them. And true enough, after the Troll mage was dead, he chugged a pot, and proceeded to melt the rogue’s face off as well, with zero interference from either Masterabe or I.
That is the story of Sproll, one of the many, many memories I have of WoW.
And then Milamber found $5.
This was bound to happen. We are exactly four weeks, unless my math is off, and it usually isn’t, from the release of Cataclysm (EDIT: thanks for the confirmation, Tobold!) The blogosphere is abuzz with opinions regarding the end of Wrath and the pending beginning of Cataclysm.
A lot of things are now happening in the player-base simultaneously.
The End of End-Game Raiding
First and foremost is the boredom, either brought about because your guild has been farming endgame for a while now, and there is literally nothing left for you to do anymore. Or because they never got to end-game, and they are so close to “greens that are better than purples” that they see no point in raiding. In any case, fewer and fewer people are motivated to engage in end-game raiding, especially if the primary motivation is loot, because said loot will be obsolete in less than a month.
The Lazy Subscribers
Another is a sense of lethargy for some players, regardless of their endgame persuasion, they are just tired of the existing grind and just need something new. This group includes players like me, who, for one reason or another, just cannot bring themselves to play another few months leading up to the sparkly new content that will once again spark their interest. I let my subscription run out about two months prior, not because I had conquered all content, or because there was nothing left to do. I got tired of two things. First, the inability to raid with my friends because my geographical location is nine hours ahead of EST. Second, because despite my love for WoW, I find myself increasingly aware of the endless grind for better gear. Once you make it to level 80, the only way forward, especially in PvP is to farm more loot. Whatever the case, I won’t be back before Cataclysm.
The Overzealous Overachievers
This is a special band of individuals who go into hyperdrive mode when an expansion nears. They have neat little lists of all the things they want to accomplish before the new content hits, especially if the new contents changes or removes some of the older contents. The list items range from normal (explore all the kingdoms) to completely luck-based (obtain a raptor mount from Zul’Gurub) to the utterly insane (Complete LoreMaster when you never even touched one of the two vanilla continents). These are the people that (probably) spend the most amount of time in the pre-expansion hit world.
The Biggest PvPenis
And finally, PvP explodes as more and more players are logging on primarily through force of habit, only to realize they haven’t much to do online, and then join the BG queue to fill that void in their hearts known as pre-expansion blues.
Everyone is talking about the expansion in one context or another it seems.
Syncaine has a post up about the differences he sees between Ultima Online and World of Warcraft, the most prominent of which, it seems to him, is the tendency for WoW to “prevent bad things from happening to players”. In the interest of partiality, it should be said Syncaine’s opinions notwithstanding, he hasn’t played WoW in quite some time. I remember the older days of vanilla WoW, when everything was blatant and well-pronounced grind, and while I understand where Syncaine is coming from, I would much rather prefer the, uh, I suppose hand-holding for the lack of a better word, than corehounds that spawned every 18 minutes, and running UBRS 40 times to get your guild keyed for Onyxia.
Spinks wonders whether the WoW formula will eventually cater only to the ultra (turbo?) hardcore raiders, and more people will continue to dip briefly into F2P titles before something else half-interesting comes out, endlessly repeating that cycle. I do agree with this point to an extent, but I think it needs to be refined a little. I don’t think people get tired of raiding, or WoW would have died out in 2005. I think people get tired of raiding the same content, a phenomenon to which Blizzard has consistently responded with new content patches introducing new instances and/or expansions.
Psychochild, as usual, has an incredibly well-thought out post about the problem he sees with the MMO industry today. Although his list is comprised of some very broad concepts, what resonated with me a lot more was Wolfsheads comment underneath the post. He says:
“You’ve made some great points! For me, the big culprit is unambitious and risk averse game designers — they create the rules and they set the agenda. The buck has to stop with them. They are the slippery pied pipers that the players follow via a steady diet of rewards and incentivized gameplay.
People are simply experiencing MMO fatigue. I believe MMO bloggers are just echoing the dissatisfaction of the MMO community in this regard. This is a complex subject and there are many forces at work which are contributing to the general malaise out there. Just as the Roman Empire fell due to many reasons, so too are MMOs in decline for many reasons. Here are a few off the top of my head:
1) Lack of Choice – Where are the quality niche MMOs? How is it we live in a 500 channel universe for television but we only have a few AAA+ MMOs to choose from? Obviously, good MMOs cost a heck of a lot of money to create. We’ll have to wait this one out while the costs to produce MMOs comes down much like what happened to the music business where anyone with a computer can produce a studio quality album.
2) Lack of Innovation – Players are bored with essentially the same content (dressed up as “new” expansions) being offered to them. There’s a reason why most TV series — even good ones — don’t last more than a few years. There’s a reason we don’t use cell phones that are 10 years old too. Unless you are selling toilet paper, every business must innovate to stay alive.
3) Lack of Player Freedom – MMOs have morphed into big budget single-player video games with Hollywood cinematics that have more in common with Zelda and God of War than Ultima Online and EverQuest. Players must stay on the rails. The story always ends the same. No deviation. Also, where is the dynamic world we were promised years ago?
4) The Rise of Demographics and Metrics and Based Design – MMOs are now designed to appeal to the widest possible demographic. While this is good for the bottom line and there are some good things about this, there are also a lot of negatives such as dumbed-down gameplay, welfare epics, etc.
5) Convenience Based Design that Panders to Time-Starved, Short Attention Span Gamers – This is all about money and related to #4 above. Instead of the player conforming to the virtual world, now the virtual world must conform to the player. The result is solo friendly MMOs. Travel is almost instantaneous and rendered pretty much meaningless via portals and dungeon finder tools. Loot means nothing as well as it basically grows on trees in most MMOs.
6) The Death of Community – Thanks to solo friendly MMOs, people barely chat anymore and why would they? Community and playing online with other people was one of the big selling points of MMOs years ago, now it’s just a marketing ploy. What community is left is dominated by vulgar jokes and general idiocy on the Trade Channel.”
I particular like point # 5, that convenience-based design which panders to time-starved, short-attention-span-gam- have I talked about Larisa’s post yet?
Larisa, being Larisa, instead offers a list of reasons why WoW is still one of the greatest things to happen to gamers and nerds (a double-whammy category that I am a proud member of, as is, I am certain, Larisa) worldwide. A lot of her points are personal, unique experiences, but then again, that is what online gaming is all about: experiencing the same world through the lens of the people we interact in it with, and through the lens of our own distinct backgrounds, ideologies and experiences.
The sad truth is that when there are no consequences for bad behaviour, people often behave badly. There have been no consequences in PvP for a long while, and maybe it is time there should be.
I have been indulging in quite a bit of PvP lately. The following are screenshots from two recent matches (one in Warsong, the other in Arathi). The lists are sorted by “Healing Done” top to bottom, and you can clearly see what dedicated healing can do to turn the tide of battle.
In the second example, I healed more than the next five healers combined, Horde of Alliance.
Go go Holy Light bombs!