Archive

Archive for the ‘Expansion’ Category

MoP Floodgates pt. 2: “Hodge Podge” or “Maybe, Maybe Not” or “What Got Cut From Launch”

March 20, 2012 Leave a comment
Click to enlarge

"The hell do you mean 'The rum's gone'"?

Hodge Podge

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.

Click to enlarge

"It may look like a cyclone, but that is a monk's fart."

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?!

Click to enlarge

"We have decided to reuse the opening set from Inception."

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!

“My First Quest in Cataclysm” or “Green > Purple”

January 5, 2011 4 comments

Yes I am back to WoW. I had to. When you play for five years with kids like these, you aren’t left with a lot of choice.

It took a lot longer to get back into the game than I expected. The UI restructuring alone took well over four hours, and you will see it in the screenshot below. I also had to redo my talents, which took a while because I decided to level as a Holy Paladin (shocking I know), learned the new talents, including the faster flying (I can now fly at 409% travel speed, factoring in Crusader Aura and 10% speed increase from guild talents), cleared out my inventory, learned the new mastery for all of my professions and picked up Archeology. I even did the cooking and fishing dailies.

I leveled extensively on my sea horse in Cataclysm, so in the interesting of a varied starting experience, I decided to go with Hyjal. My very first quest was “The Earth Rises”, the completion of which rewarded the Scalded Rockscale Shoulderpads. And I promptly replaced my epic shoulders from Wrath of the Lich King.

Now granted I didn’t raid much beyond half of Ulduar, but come on man, first quest, first green? *sigh*

Click to enlarge

“The Race to Level-Cap” or “Skipping the Best to Get to the Rest”

December 13, 2010 8 comments

Why do we rush through new content if we are always so starved for it?

An interesting dichotomy exists in MMOs, especially those that are subscription-based. Players, generally speaking, get very antsy when new content isn’t available and they are farming the same old (conquered) content for months. The clamor for more content reaches deafening proportions, with the truly hardcore claiming their monthly subscriptions deserve additional content. Then the developer creates the new content, populates the world with thousands of new NPCs, mobs, quests, encounters and events, and releases it.

A week later, the top players have killed the toughest boss in the game, effectively wrapping up all endgame PvE content for the time being. Sure you could argue that:

  • It is only the 10-man Nefarian kill, the 25-man remains to be killed: OK first, Blizzard said 10-man and 25-man and are alike in difficulty, so nah nah na-na-naaaah! Second, let us also not forget that the toughest encounter during the initial days of WotLK was the 10-man Sartharion. And third, the 25-man version was bugged out, and even if it wasn’t, how long before that bastard is killed as well?
  • There is a ton of new content for starting players and those who want to re-roll: Sure, but we are talking about the players who were anxious for new content. This effectively implies they were already playing. And second, because they were already playing the game, re-rolling was clearly a option they had considered and either exhausted or ignored. The new races might cause a few players to test out the new starting zones, but by-and-large, the player who cried for new content is looking for content at and/or above his level.
  • There is Archeology: Yup, and if you would take Tobold’s word for it, it is also quite entertaining. But how long will Archeology keep you happy, or leveling new professions, or freaking fishing?

The point is that there may be a ton of new features in the new expansion, but the feature we are most interested in, new storyline content, we zip through at breakneck speed.

I looked around in the blogosphere, and at the time of writing this post (Saturday):

The list can go on and on. Did I mention it hasn’t been a full week since Cataclysm hit? I am not saying I am any different, hell I’d probably be in my first raid instance by this time. But the fact of the matter remains: MMO expansions are one of the few things in life where the destination matters a lot more than the journey. Perhaps we are genetically coded to get to the finish line ahead of the competition, and much like a 100-meter dash, completely ignore the periphery, the surroundings and the length of track that you sprinted on to get to the end.

I just find it baffling that guilds like Exorsus and Paragon have already cleared all endgame content, and will not be trapped in an endless cycle of repitition till the next content patch. Where is the fun in that? Again, I am not saying I am above all that. No, not at all. I am very much a part of this MMO community, and possess the same mindset for getting there first, beating the competition, but at least I am increasingly aware of how much I am missing on the way.

I’m quite certain that realm first achievements don’t particularly help either.

“Dealing With the End of the World” or “Four Weeks to Cataclysmic Events”

November 9, 2010 1 comment

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.

Opinions Abound!

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.

“Wakey Wakey!” or “$40”

March 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Dragon Age: Origins, for all its monotony in combat at the later stages, was a phenomenal game. It took me well over 106 hours and some change to finish the story arc, my inherent completionist nature partially responsible for length of time I invested in the game. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the evolving story, the intense combat, and lore this epic saga had to offer.

That cost $50.

Dragon Age: Awakening costs $40.

Will Awakenings give me a proportionate 80+ hours of satisfying playtime? Something tells me that won’t be the case.

BioWare just released another mini-trailer for a new type of Darkspawn in the game, called Disciples. Along with the previously revealed Children, as well as several enemies still unlocked, it makes you wonder where these Darkspawn were during the initial campaign. Surely the Archdemon could have used the help, considering he got thrashed by a petite city elf girl! Um, that was my sister’s character. Moving on.

The trailer is linked below. Dragon Age: Awakening will be available March 16. Although I wouldn’t count on that, given the fate of the last DLC, Return to Ostagar.