About Design v2
Posted 09 September 2010 - 09:15 PM
This thread is directed to the intelligent part of the WoW gaming community and is therefore posted on the three best WoW forums I know of. Elitist Jerks for game mechanics and PVE and also the thread World of Warcraft - Lore & Storyline discussion, hydramist.net for PVP and E-Sports and the German Forscherliga Forum for RolePlay and immersion. On Elitist Jerks I wrote a similar thread at the end of the Burning Crusade in 2008. This thread is a retrospect of the addon "Wrath of the Lich King" and should encourage an intelligent discussion about WoW game design.
WotlK - the beginning
The Scourge Invasion started Wrath of the Lich King and let's be honest - it was fun. Using the idea of the Corrupted Blood incident and combining it with the Scourge was brilliant and really got our minds set on Northrend. Entering Northrend with the zeppelin or the boat and having the time to look around and enjoy the landscape was pretty perfect and then, well then the madness began.
Most players focussed on getting 80 as fast as possible and never had the time to actually enjoy the landscape, the stories, due to a long beta addons already provided the fastest route, which made 70-80 as exciting as stabbing 10000 rats with some exceptions. [Someone has achieved Veteran of the Wrathgate] light up in the guild chats and those that didn't know the video from youtube actually enjoyed everything. A lot of the best quests were skipped and after 700 quests no story in the world would have excited anyone. It was simply too much, way too much. Those that actually took their time enjoyed the quests and even the ones that don't really care enjoyed the Argents Crusades storm on Icecrown or the more badass Ebon Blade quests. The open PVP in the Grizzly hills did not really happen because most players skipped those quests or tried to do them as fast as possible and didn't have time to actually gank each other.
Tier 1: Naxxramas, Malygos, Sartharion and arena season five
It did not take a week to down Malygos and Sartharion+3 fell less than two weeks after the launch of WotlK to Ensidia by abusing the hunters sacrifice. Method's Sartharion3D 10men hardmode is still considered one of the most impressive PVE videos. Due to the levelling rush and playing the same raid twice every week most of the PVE crowd got bored pretty soon, while the PVP scene had to deal with the new hero class. In my opinion the death knight was not too strong because Blizzard failed at balancing but rather to make sure that the new class would be a success. Mutilate rogues, retribution paladins and arcane mages came close to the dks god mode and the term "got wotlked" was born. The first tournament however did not go to the favorites with Serennias DK/hunter/paladin team (mostly because the hunter could not play his class at all) but to the up until then completely unknown Korean mage Orangemarmalade. and his team HON (later known as Button Bashers and now fighting under the label loaded.black).
Why the rush?
Let us look back and imagine that levelling for tier one only went till 72 or 73. Naxxramas would be the only raid (except Archavons chamber) available and only accessible after six weeks, like the first arena season. 200 instead of 700 quests, no need to rush the levelling, time for perhabs six well-tuned 5man instances and one month or maybe two to farm Naxxramas, reputation, 5mans, professions, honor. A minor patch could have introduced Coldarra, two new 5s and the Malygos and Sartharion raid. Players would actually remember quests before doing them the second time. Our economy would probably also be more stable and I guess that at least 500 players would not have lost their jobs or quit their college/university. For this patch levelling till 73 could have been added and also the Wrath Gate cut scene as a finale for the first tier.
Tier 2: Ulduar and arena season six
Well only Ulduar, but Ulduar is still considered the best raid ever done in WoW. Nostalgic memories for sure, but the hardmode/normal mode thing was rather interesting and the special boss Algalon got everyone excited. Still the fight in Ulduar was the Mimiron Hardmode and if I remember the nostalgia in the Benefactors Bar correctly this fight is considered to be "the best". Ensidia took the race again up until Yogg-Saron+0 which was taken by the Chinese guild Stars and the new PVE champions from Paragon came second. Algalon and Yogg+4 were the last world first end bosses that Ensidia scored after they had dominated as Nihilum and SK Gaming from C'Thun and Kel'Thuzad in the old Naxxramas. Algalon and Yogg+0 kept the PVE players going and even though they raided the dungeon twice per week the fun was there. For PVP nothing really new came out except some needed nerfs at the end of the season. RMP is comp was finally considered to be the skilled comp and SK US victory over TSG. Wintergrasp lost its charme right about that time and miles of whine threads about lags in Dalaran emerged.
The best raid, the needed DK nerfs made this the best patch in WotlK. Still, imagine Storm Peaks, Halls of Stone and Halls of Lightning with a hard-tuned Loken would only be released with this patch, with Ulduar following some weeks later. Also imagine the really well made balance would have been there right from the start.
Tier 3: Colloseum and arena season 7
Hardmode/normal mode, 10men, 25men, four raid lockouts for one dungeon with only five bosses. Recycled content deluxe. It did not help that the bosses where introduced one by one, it took only some weeks and everyone hated the colloseum. The quests were a bad joke, the new 5men annoyed everyone because of its drawn-out start, that wiped the average random group several times. While the arena, valkyr and the anub fight were pretty decent everyone started to hate the game. On the positive side I could finally get a banner of Gnomeregan. For PVPers the season started with a bang. Hydra7 was released while loaded.black destroyed the new bane of the arena: The beast cleave.
This patch was bad. Everyone was excited about Blizzard's "secret raid" and although the fights were not as bad as many said doing four times per week the same dungeon is soul-crushing. Even Blizzard realized this. If at that time Icecrown would have opened and the story of the "Gathering of the heroes" would have been told in a decent way this patch could have worked better. The arena concept was ok, but everyone knew that they just did not put in enough time or spent it on developing the vehicle combats.
Tier 4: Icecrown citadel and season eight
The five men dungeons were a really good start and even the raid has much love in the design. It was undertuned but this dungeon needed to be accesible. Remember your first attempts at the professor, it wasn't a push-over for most guilds. The hardmodes however were not that hard, except for three of them and even especially except the LK. But as hard as the Lich King Hardmode was, one fight was not enough. Boredom for the raiders, even though Elitist Jerks only downed the HLK on June 23rd. Still ICC is a better raid than most players will admit and we should give Blizzard credit for this. If more hardmodes were tuned correctly this could have been fun. In the arenas the spell cleaves took the beast cleaves crown and the ICC gear turned the buffed resilience into nothingsness, although most rogues use 1100+ resilience now, well they are melees. The only thing that could stand next to the spell cleaves were Shadowmourne TSGs and the god almighty RMPs Loaded and Dignitas. I will spare you the 20 minute matches from ArenaPwnage vs. Team Chris Uckington or other spell cleaves. One match however will be remembered: The RMPs clashed for the first time on a tournament. The link
also leads to some fun spell cleave matches, if you enjoy them.
The levelling was rushed in the beginning which led to a lot of stress and many hours of grinding, hundreds of quests no one noticed while doing them and a lot boredom later on. The approach to level several times per expansion and to open raids a bit delayed would improve the overall game experience. The 10men/25men lockouts are shared with Cataclysm luckily. The hardmode/normal mode idea broke WotlK in many ways. From the endless repetitions of raiding, to the insane ilvl of ICC gear. PVP balance was and is still only fixed if really necessary and never really came to peace with PVE. Both worlds suffer from this. What really worked well was bringing most specs back to being used. Still WotlK will only be seen as success by the sales people. Design suffered.
Once again we are in the beta and some mistakes seem to be repeated. This thread should however not become a "let's say Blizzard how their game needs to be designed"-thread, but rather an intelligent discussion about design decisions and their aftermath. This thread is in no way perfect and a subjective opinion of mine.
Posted 09 September 2010 - 09:53 PM
The impact has lead to an arguably more competitive sphere. While sites like Wowjustsu tried to approximate your guild's progression by checking gear, wowprogress (and other ranking sites) now go mainly off of achievement dates and achievement completion. Other guilds can check how many times you've killed X boss simply by going through your achievements. People can link their achievements to others, and everyone knows exactly what they're referring to. Previously, players would need to link "achievements" through gear (PvP shoulders, Raiding gear), leaving some players clueless as to how "good" someone was perceived.
For some players, achievements were just enough of a glimmer to give them a bit more fun in the game. While most players aren't "achievement whores" floating above 10k points, there are a lot of players who enjoy doing things differently for the challenge. For example, killing Koloran by destroying both arms at the same time is a bit more fun than just executing the simple tank-n-spank, and having that achievement rewards adds a bit more to the excitement. Finding out if you can do Loatheb without spores (or the modern version: Blood-Queen without bites) is simply fun. It would have been interesting in Burning Crusade to get an achievement for having no one get hit by a Void Reaver orb, or killing Al'ar by killing his embers only, or killing the Illidari Council in a different order.
The thing that I don't like about achievements is that the system seemed to fall apart as Wrath of the Lich King expanded. The original implementation and the Ulduar achievements were really well done, but Trial of the Grand Crusader and Icecrown Citadel really lacked entertainment from an achievement standpoint.
Players are only going to do an achievement if they think the entertainment value outweighs the time required. A lot of players will never grind out old quests or old reputations because they don't think the value is there. Some people think 10 achievement points are "worth it" no matter the cost. I'm the kind of guy who enjoys achievements, but simply won't grind them out either. Icecrown really lacked achievements for this category.
Posted 09 September 2010 - 10:17 PM
Nostalgic memories for sure, but the hardmode/normal mode thing was rather interesting and the special boss Algalon got everyone excited
You can single out Algalon/Ulduar as a prime example of how innovative hardmode implementation can elevate the quality of an entire instance. Simply having hardmodes in an instance, will not necessarily accomplish the same thing - as TOC and ICC have shown. Questions to ponder: Was ICC made a better instance because every fight - including BQL, Rotface and Gunship - had heroic modes? Did the fact that TOC had heroic versions of all 5 bosses, elevate the quality of that instance? Was Ulduar made a better instance, because Freya, Mimiron and Thorim had their hardmodes - and culminated in a visit to Algalon?
Algalon/Ulduar was identified as a success by the community, and perhaps can be considered one of the design highlights of WOTLK itself. And it's no surprise that "Algalon style bosses" are a mechanic Blizzard already announced will be used in Cataclysm. Not referring to the actual Algalon fight itself or fight mechanics, but the way it was implemented: Only available Via completion of pre-requisite hardmodes, needed to finish the quest chain rewarding the key to his room.
What Algalon did was give people compelling reasons (aside from loot) to care more about hardmodes in an instance. Guilds and players had something exciting and tangible to aim for, whilst slaving away with the rest of the hardmodes. The notion of working towards an 'exclusive boss' was a very powerful incentive. More so than gaining the ability to kill Heroic Boss X, after having killed Normal Boss X many times before (Like Icecrown and TotGC). Killing Yogg+0 might have realistically been out of reach for all but the best of the best, but working towards Algalon really was the realistic goal for most.
Compelling implementation also takes into account actual fight mechanics: Nobody was impressed by the differences between Heroic + Normal Gunship / BQL / Rotface. However, hardmode Freya, Mimiron and Thorim felt like new fights. People recognised that, and appreciated it.
And, of course, Blizzard nailed a few other things with Algalon. The fight itself was aesthetically stunning, had mechanics that engaged the whole raid (via Big Bang and Black Holes), rewarded a title, and offered an organic conclusion to the story of the quests/lore surrounding the instance itself. It was the full package, culminating after fun 'best fight of the expansion' hardmodes like Firefighter and Freya+3. This demonstrated that simply 'having hardmodes' for every encounter will not necessarily make an instance better - like TOC and ICC have shown - but implementating hardmodes in a compelling way like Ulduar, certainly will. And tying it all together with boss-exclusivity incentives like an "Algalon style boss"? Absolutely.
What's the lesson? If Hardmodes in Cataclysm meant nothing more than a UI switch you flicked, a goo you dodged, and +13 ilvl loot - it's a missed opportunity for a mechanic which Ulduar demonstrated could really do so much more for an instance.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 03:42 AM
The biggest problem WotLK had at release was the absurdly easy raid content and how long we where forced to endure it. Enduring months of farm content aside, I'm hopeful the first tier of raids will have some challenging hardmodes that will take some time to be completed by most guilds.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 07:29 AM
To talk about the game design of WotLK and its patches and not even make mention of the dungeon finder and huge rise of successful raid PUGs shows a severe lack of awareness of WoW's general population. As presented, this is a thread about the entire game design, not merely hardcore raiding. Realize that Blizzard has far more on their plate than pleasing the less than 5% of WoW's populace that cleared heroic LK. Most people haven't killed normal LK. A large number haven't even seen Icecrown. I have friends that have played WoW since release and didn't step foot in ICC. They play for the levelling, for random dungeons (not even necessarily heroics), and for battlegrounds. To state that WotLK was only a success to the sales department implies that because you are not happy with the raid design, everybody must be unhappy. This is simply not so.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 08:52 AM
Secondly, I doubt staggering content would be a viable solution to slow down the hard-core mentality. Staggering/gating raid content has already proven to be extremely unpopular. Not to mention a host of balance issues as you have different levels for different tiers - keep in mind some of the new WotLK skills were trained at level 80. You'd also make any lower level content outdated instantly.
I get that maybe you didn't enjoy WotLK leveling, but to make an entirely new topic dedicated to assuming everyone else sharing the same mentality and throwing some half-ass attempt to stagger content seems pretty dumb.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 09:51 AM
And yeah pretty much your entire post is extremely subjective and not at all the opinion of a significant number of wow players.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 11:04 AM
Staggering raid content across levels would be a terrible idea because it would mean every instance except the very latest was always obsolete. Once people had access to level 75 and the accompanying raid instance, there would be no point in going to the 72/73 instance.
Drak'Tharon and Gundrak are low to mid 70 instances. That does not make the *heroic* versions of these obsolete however (compared to the "end game" instances).
Gating the leveling process is a bad idea because of other reasons. The main one: homogenizing content for a heterogeneous crowd. We have enough of this already.
EDIT: obiousyl I can't read. Disregard the first comment about the low level instances.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 06:00 PM
Most players focused on getting 80 as fast as possible and never had the time to actually enjoy the landscape, the stories, due to a long beta addons already provided the fastest route, which made 70-80 as exciting as stabbing 10000 rats with some exceptions. [Someone has achieved Veteran of the Wrathgate] light up in the guild chats and those that didn't know the video from youtube actually enjoyed everything. A lot of the best quests were skipped and after 700 quests no story in the world would have excited anyone. It was simply too much, way too much. Those that actually took their time enjoyed the quests and even the ones that don't really care enjoyed the Argent Crusade's storm on Icecrown or the more badass Ebon Blade quests. The open PVP in the Grizzly hills did not really happen because most players skipped those quests or tried to do them as fast as possible and didn't have time to actually gank each other.
Quest design shifted in WotLK. The quests themselves are still fairly static, but they changedhow you get the quests. In BC, quest hubs were quest hubs. You gathered up everything, did a circuit returned and picked up the next batch. Nagrand is the showcase for this, though you can see it everywhere. WotLK is more of a rail shooter. More quests are chained. Most hubs start with one, two or possibly three quests. This does offer the possibility for better storylines for more interesting reasons for collecting 10 bear asses. But at the same time, for me it seemed to reduce the options available. You had to do all of the quests because the other quests only become available once you complete the previous. This can lead to problems. For example, in the Borean Tundra, say I feel a bit off torturing some digital whosit with a cattle prod and decide to pass on that quest, that means the flight point to the Coldarra and the Nexus never open up. Sholazar is similar to Borean Tundra. If you don't follow all of the Nesingwary quests, you won't see the Oracle and Frenzyheart.
You mentioned Grizzly Hills. For the Alliance, opening the quests for the whole zone means you have to interrupt the very interesting Winterguard Keep chain. If you decide to pass on that one and forget to come pick that quest up, you can't quest at all in Grizzly Hills. The quests are simply not available.
You get to decide, do you want to do a zone or skip it. Once you are in a zone, you are in the zone and on the ride, few deviations possible. But that's the only real choice for most of it. And you have to do one of the two starter zones for the most part.
For me, this seems to really cut down on replayability.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 08:19 PM
That's by and large the vast majority of the userbase of these forums, and certainly the perspective you'd expect a design critique from in a forum post here.
The points you bring up are purely taken from a very narrow perspective: that of the hardcore raider.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 09:09 PM
You complain about gating on bosses in ToC, yet think gating of leveling would be advantageous. Either the mechanic of gating functions and increases gameplay or fun, or it does not. Based on the evidence of ToC, it does not appear to increase general player fun. Logistic arguments, such as Sair listed, also argue against level gating.
Icecrown has been raided for 10 months and looks to surpass a year by the time Cataclysm can be released. Ruby Sanctum is a single true boss was frequently cleared in few hours on initial release - it did not do much to extend the life cycle of the final raiding tier. While ICC was very well designed and a lot of fun, the sheer length of availability has slowly brought it closer to the mind-numbingness of ToC. Rather than being ground down rapidly by monotony, it is the long decay of familiarity.
You did not even touch on the topic of badge gear. Revamping the design from BC, where entry level badges could buy one-tier-less than endgame items, Wrath had tiered badges which allowed purchase of tier equivalent items. This has been both a good and a bad thing. It has contributed to the "World of Casualcraft" viewpoint, where the more casual player can obtain reasonably high end gear. On the other hand, it also has significantly reduced the entry barrier to raiding.
In BC if you were a newer player or had taken a break and wanted to join a guild raiding BT or Sunwell, depending on the time you had to be walked through SSC and TK to gain vials to enter Hyjal so you could attune to BT. To reasonably raid Sunwell you needed MH and BT gear. Guilds recruiting new people had to either recruit equivalent geared people (i.e. possibly poach another guild or other distasteful actions), or remedially gear someone so they could attend future weeks.
In Wrath the badge process allowed people to immediately push through and pick up gear from the previous tier via mass quantities of heroics. Desire could be directly seen in willingness to make this effort. The daily heroic also allowed a slow ability to step up to the current tier. This significantly eased issues with guild recruitment. New raiders wouldn't be complete dead weight in ilevel 200s, but would merely be behind the curve.
The BC method ran raids like Kharazan into the ground as badge earning grinds at end content. Wrath moved this off on to 5man Heroics. Arguably there is still a problem because the constant repetition, whether of available past raids or available 5mans, often generates apathy, annoyance, or ennui. This is likely insuperable, as producing significantly greater content would require extreme budget and staff, and would contain its own problems, such as repetition of theme or similar bosses/mechanics as more would be churned out.
A lot more happened, both good and bad, than in the initial post. I'm interested in hearing more design successes and flaws in Wrath.
Paper: "OMG, WTF, Scissors!"
Scissors: "Rock is OP and Paper are QQers. We need PvP buffs."
Posted 10 September 2010 - 09:42 PM
Also, I never felt like Blizzard was ever fully able to precisely target where they wanted normal and heroic mode encounters to be. The difficulty of encounters in Wrath felt all over the place. The variability was to a degree that wasn't there in vanilla and TBC. Just my opinion, but I felt that there was a much larger percentage of encounters that went to extremes, either easy or difficult, than there ever was.
Posted 10 September 2010 - 10:11 PM
The ICC stacking buff was a perfect way to allow all types of people the chance to see content while giving a sense of real accomplishment to those who made it in on earlier buff times. It also had the side effect of making the farm content easier and faster, which led to smoother clears and repeat kills. I think this was a real win, though I wish there was some kind of actual reward and some way to dial down the buff manually, instead of all or nothing.
Ulduar was by far the most polished instance they did, and where their design reached an apex. While heroic modes proved popular, I don't believe arbitrary heroic modes without background are as reasonable.
The grindyness of WoW seemed to reach a peak here. There were so many daily quests along with so many rep grinds, combined with so many special currencies...it just seemed too much. Between Sholazar, the 4 main factions, Hodir, badge grinds, honor grinds, stone shards & commendations, ToC badges, achievement grinds for special mounts, holiday goals, daily profession currencies, transmutations...there was a lot more of repetition than I would really like. I hope that they either allow for less grinding or allow for the grinding you choose to do to apply to more things.
Posted 11 September 2010 - 02:46 AM
So does LFG tool and PUGability of content it protects the player from harsh winds of internets, minimalising the necessity to interact with others, proving yourself as a player, gaining reputation or guild tag while being able to explore dungeons and raids in rather pre-programmed way.
You're safe just push the green icon.
Edit: spelling english is my second language.
Oscar Wilde, "The Remarkable Rocket"
Posted 11 September 2010 - 03:21 AM
Aldriana: I am an asshole, it just so happens that some of my colleagues are even *bigger* assholes.
[R] [85:Neux:2]: i hear if you die on Good Friday they are going to make it where you can't get rezzed until easter sunday
Khazal: Yeah, I don't know about Magic Rainbow Unicorn Land, but here in Reality, Rhyolith is the worst encounter Blizzard has ever designed.
Posted 11 September 2010 - 09:07 AM
Blizzard just need to set high gear requirements for raids, so that people have to gather atleast some gear from the 5 men dungeons / heroics.
Posted 11 September 2010 - 10:00 AM
I'm only going to mention Naxx for a second. Thinking back, I remembered that 10m Naxx was termed "Normal," and 25 Naxx was considered "Heroic" in terms of difficulty selection. [I believe Ulduar was as well, although I'm more fuzzy on this] This is something they did away with once ToC hit, but I thought it would still warrant a mention, since that was their lines of thinking at the time. 10m was normal, and 25m was heroic.
In Ulduar, not every fight had a harmode, and I believe that was a good thing. If people wanted harder challenges, there were always achievements to go for (although no further loot reward). The interesting thing to me about the hardmodes that there were, in comparison to the hardmodes in later instances, were their activation. There was always a special mechanic you had to use in order to activate the hardmode, whether it was pushing Mim's big red button, the order of enemies killed in the Iron Council, or the destruction of XT's heart.
This seemed to add an extra layer of complexity to the process. If you failed to kill XT's heart, for example, and you still wanted to do the hardmode, you needed to wipe and try again. This could potentially be frustrating to payers, but also added a benchmark to whether your particular guild could attempt the hardmode yet or not. If you simply couldn't kill the heart, you probably also couldn't deal with the hardmode itself. This also added a goal to guilds that couldn't make it yet; progress enough so that you can activate the hardmode. After that, the goal returns to "kill the boss."
The one exception to this was Algalon, whose only mode was hard. Guilds saw even getting to him as an achievement, since you had to complete the other hardmodes in order to even see him. The fight itself was a kind of reward, which was rather unique.
Blizzard changed to a different model for hardmodes in this dungeon. They also changed their definition of what "heroic" meant. Now there was a dropdown menu with the selections of 10 and 25 man, both normal or heroic. "Heroic" was really how hardmodes were termed from then on. There was no longer any sort of activation required within the confines of the instance itself.
There were a few problems that this activation style was trying to address. One was that it could potentially be confusing for a first timer to know how to activate a hardmode on any particular fight, or even to know that a hardmode existed. Mim's red button was pretty obvious, but the idea of ignoring the vapors on Vezax, when killing them strategically was normally an integral part of the fight, could seem counter-intuitive. The other issue I believe was being addressed was that for each hardmode, the developers would be forced to think of a unique way to activate it. This added to development time, and when you look at it from that perspective, it is frankly easier to go with the dropdown menu option.
Each selection in the dropdown menu would allow you to enter a different version of the instance. It would not, however, lock you out from each other version, effectively making four raids. Also, where Ulduar hardmodes would often times drastically alter the fight, the changes to the fights in ToGC were less severe.
Again, the activation of hardmodes changed, although not as drastically. Now, hardmodes could be turned on and off through the dropdown menu, this time on a fight-by-fight basis within the instance itself. This seemed to be in response to a couple new problems that the ToGC model introduced. People would often do the ToC/ToGC instance four times a week, which lead to a faster burnout time on the instance. Also, since guilds could do the same instance four times, there was a higher loot saturation factor, and people geared up fairly quickly in comparison to the previous instances. Now, in ICC, if you wanted to do a hardmode you still could, but you would be limited to a single kill of the boss per week per raid size.
Final thoughts, and the future
I was honestly a little surprised that Blizzard played around with the mechanics of how raids worked so much within the confines of a single expansion. In each case, I can follow their logic and reasoning behind their decisions, but I sometimes wonder if the change away from the Ulduar-style hardmodes was really for the best. In all honesty it seemed like the most fun option. It wasn't always awesome to have to wipe a raid because your ranged DPS decided to die in the hallway on Thorim and killed your chance at his hardmode, but wiping to a hardmode is still wiping to a hardmode, no matter if it is wiping because of a failed activation, or wiping because you simply couldn't defeat the encounter given to you.
And it Cataclysm, it seems as though the model is again changed. Now, 10m and 25m raids are on the same lockout, with hardmodes selected as they are in ICC currently. They both drop the same quality of loot, which is a pretty drastic change to all the models of the past. Again, the reasons for this are easy to follow. It enables them to keep 10m dungeons from requiring a lower gearing level, and thusly being a faceroll for those with 25m gear, and it also slows down the saturation of gear once a new dungeon opens up. Currently, when a dungeon opens up, people do 10 and 25 man versions of it, because there are usually upgrades in both versions, and both versions have different lockouts. Eventually, 10m is done less because the loot isn't needed; however the influx of better loot from the 10m version (that is, better than what they have from the previous tier) nerfs the 25m dungeon slightly as well, allowing the harder encounters to be beaten sooner because of the higher gear saturation. In Cata, gear is parallel across raid sizes, no neither of these issues are issues any more.
But enough about Cata; this thread is to look back upon WotLK's design choices and discuss them, and I don't want to derail it from that. Overall, it seems like Blizzard has had a lot of different ideas about what they want raiding and harmodes to be, and what each of the raiding model's impacts upon gameplay and player enjoyment is. It seems to me like striking a good balance is a larger chore than maybe some people realize.
Posted 11 September 2010 - 08:00 PM
You hint at the "insane ilvl of ICC gear", but it needs to be stated that this created a huge gulf between new players and veterans. By early 2010, a new level 80 had roughly half the stats of a veteran raider. That gap was filled by GearScore and achievement checks, because simply being 80 meant nothing. New (and consequently hopelessly undergeared) 80s suffer verbal abuse in PUGs and battlegrounds, so gearing-up became frustrating. MMOGs have significant churn of players, so such exclusion ultimately hurts long-term viability. The solution probably lies in my first paragraph: Better pacing of all content, rather than one 2 year block of leveling-then-endgame.
WotLK succeeded in making raid content more accessible, and started moving that way with battlegrounds (or, at the very least, became less obsessed with eSports PvP). But very little relaxed (i.e. "casual") content has been added, even though such content seems to have greater longevity. For example, the popularity of fishing has been almost constant over the last 12 months, with absolutely no sign of declining activity. In contrast, raiding currently seems to be in a lull.
The failure of professions to scale with patches continues to annoy me. iLevel 200 crafted epics were useful for... not long. Most professions were rapidly distilled down to a couple of personal benefits, and became little more than very grindy talent-like choices. TBC started this trend, but WotLK really made it the only reason most players consider professions. Grinding doesn't fit WoW anymore, yet professions seem to be stuck in 2004.
Related, but a little less obviously to ordinary players, was the balance of raw materials to their use: By the middle of WotLK the balance was so far out that draconian fixes had to be implemented, like Orb and Inscription Ink vendors. A potential solution would be to gradually evolve drop/gather/breakdown rates (managed by a human), as a part of the process of operating the game, instead of trying to lock everything for long periods.
Aside from everything else, achievements represent a shift away from transferrable currency. Almost everything of "value" to other players (commonly via status symbols, not least mounts) is now tied to something other than Gold. Very often achievements. I think this has major sociological implications for the game, because of the inability to share "wealth" with fellow players. A subtle change, for sure, but one that's potentially very important to design. Stronger guild emphasis (with value solely shared within a guild) might create a "small village community" ethos, providing a compromise position.
Overall, my conclusion would be to learn to evolve and progress the game within an expansion. The current design still seems to be built on a single-product, "perfect and launch", model. While much is said about how agile browser/facebook-style games development is, it's also lead to agile design. Whether, given WoW's terrifying complexity, agile design is possible, is unclear.
Posted 12 September 2010 - 05:30 AM
Questing and Leveling
This was probably the best yet but if I do have a complaint it's that at certain points the process would provide you with two paths and if you took one to a certain zone you completely missed the other(s). Grizzly Hills was poster child for this; there was great lore and great quests in a beautiful zone but I didn't even see it until my 3rd or 4th alt when I actively went to seek it out.
As much trouble as Wintergrasp caused it was a step in the right direction. I missed seeing players form my own server in BGs and this was a way to get that back. Hopefully Blizzard is able to take what they've learned and make it work in Cataclysm. Back to Grizzly Hills though, it was intended to have an active PvP component and in that regard it was a total failure.
In WotLK, Blizzard was able to get more people involved and that's a good thing in my mind. Ulduar was easily the best for a variety of reasons already given and ToGC was the worst. I'd like to make a few comments about ICC though. First off, I don't mind gating and the gating in ICC was as well done as we've seen yet. Having some NPCs and some reasoning for it made it somewhat less arbitrary than we've seen in the past. The stacking buff was also a clever way to progressively nerf the instance.
Two things I didn't like about ICC were "Icewell Radiance" and the poorly implimented difficulty curve of the hard modes. I understand the need for the zone-wide debuff but really, it was just a band-aid to poor planning in the past that they saw coming two years before it happened. As for ICC hard modes, they were all over the place. In Ulduar and to a lesser extent ToGC the difficulty as you moved through the instance gradually increased. Yogg+0 was at the top and Flame Leviathan +4 was at the bottom and the rest generally fell along a relatively straight line of increasing difficulty somewhere in between those two. The hard modes in ICC were not so expertly implemented. Sure, if put on a scale the early bosses rank in the 1-10 range with later bosses climbing to the 20s and the three internal wing ends rating 30, 33, and 42. Arthas however, ranked a solid 87 for his hard mode.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there shouldn't be a "lootship" or that Arthas is too hard. What I mean to say is that the steps in difficulty them between were poorly spaced. If you look at the state of raid groups right now, there are countless (almost litterally countless) guilds that are sitting at 11/12 hard modes; some have been there a short while and some have been there since the 10% buff or even sooner. If we saw more guilds at 8/12 to 9/12 instead of so many at 11/12 I think the game would be much more interesting at this point to many more players. This is especially true if they could work on any of the 3-4 remaining bosses instead of clearing 11/12 in 2 hours and fighting one and only one boss for the rest of their time.
The LFD system, hands down. I defy anyone to say differently. As much as we might complain about how terrible some of the randoms we group with are and how hard they might make an otherwise easy heroic dungeon, it's been fantastic overall. Getting an alt up to "near-raiding" status in terms of gear and hands on practice is so easy now. Especially for those of us with many multiple level capped toons. Whoever had this idea needs a raise, maybe two raises.
RealID and real names on the official forums. Thank God Blizzard backed down on this but they're going to be feeling the after-affects for some time. Even long-time Blizzard fanboys recoiled in horror at this one. I think enough has been said (and here) about this but it does bear mentioning in a review like this.
I no longer subscribe to the Official WoW Magazine.
"Apologies without change are what you would expect from an alcoholic, not a major business venture."
Posted 12 September 2010 - 06:16 AM
I'd concur with previous posters that it was way too much.
The problem is that there's simply no way, while leveling normally with reasonable competence, to get to the final zones before hitting lvl 80, whether you're one of the "normal players" or just looking to be over and done with it. To paraphrase the ever popular "only 5% of the population ever see that content", who the hell did the 5 man quests that wrap up Icecrown at a point where it was either part of the straight up leveling process or the gear rewards were actuallly appropriate upgrades? My experience, both with rushing a level a day from 70 and across several alts, is that this problem actually gets worse for slower players than it was for rushing ones. When you rushed, you had a lot less double exp and you didn't do multiple runs of the various daily quests - and unless my memory is mistaken, no previous leveling experience has featured this many accessible dailies. My DK, leveled excruciatingly slowly abusing double exp and various daily quests, hit 80 mid Dragonblight.
They spent way too much effort designing quests for a leveling experience that never materialized. Don't get me wrong, the design philosophy of these quests was quite nice in many cases, but there were just too many of them. They could've easily held back the entire Icecrown zone, and then released the same quests, but with difficulty/rewards more appropriately tuned.
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