Sunday, March 25, 2012

Well, here we are again

It's always such a pleasure! After a round of crazy personal stuff that I don't need to explain to you I've begun playin' games and kickin' Nass again, and that means I played a fair bit o' WoW and am just getting curious enough about games like SW:TOR and GW2 to write some words about them. So this is the place for those words.

Just so there's a short bit of actual content in this post, here are my top and bottom 3 favorite zones this Cataclysmic expansion, and I think I'll write a short little retrospective about each. Maybe do two at a time. Sound good? Good.

Top three (in no particular order):
-Thousand Needles
-Kezan/Lost Isles
-Molten Front

Bottom three (in a certain particular order)
-Sunken Temple
-Tol Barad

I'll post links to the articles in this sucker when they're written n' posted.



Monday, February 28, 2011

Cataclysm Levelling: A Really Entertaining Highway

I have recently begun leveling through Uldum, due to my need to do something between 40 minute heroic queues (as you can't heal a heroic unless you have disproportionately better gear than dps, which basically means you need to do offspec roics - more on this later) and something very strange came to my attention. All throughout Uldum - not to mention in Hyjal, Twilight Highlands, and low level zones from Thousand Needles to Stranglethorn to Gilneas - I never ONCE met another player.

Not once.

Okay, this is a lie. I met another player. I've probably met a total of 12 players in leveling. Every time it's followed by a bout of annoyed cursing, as they've just jacked my Cinderbloom and they couldn't show the bloody patience to let a druid who's trying to farm his alchemist's stone get a gorram CINDERBLOOM I mean CMON it's like the worst herb since Dreaming bloody GLORY.

But anyway.

I have never whispered another player. I have not /said a word. I have not /yelled, /facepalmed, or "/join 1 WTB Tank for Durn the Hungerer, Willing to pay 200g! Whisper plx!"ed in Uldum once. There have been no group quests (the exception, Ring of Blood Mk III, proves the rule), there have been no reasons to group. The only point of other players, gameplay-wise, is to steal kills, loot, herbs, experience, and time.

This, needless to say, is not a very healthy thing for a MMORPG. In fact, WoW from levels 1-58 and 80-84 is not an MMORPG - it is a MSORPG (Massively Singleplayer Online Role Playing Game). Meaningful (say, repeated more than once) contact with a person is never necessary; it's never encouraged; at times, it seems it's actively discouraged. Dungeon runs are 1-offs with people you'll never see again and perhaps won't even talk to the whole run, group quests are gone, 'public' quests like the battle for Undercity do not need more than one person ever and frankly can be annoying with just two, Microdungeons have gone the way of Laird the Fish vendor (R.I.P.), and Blizzard does not seem to care/notice.

Why? Probably because their multiplayer at level cap is their main focus of attention, and the community all gets there eventually - and the vocal minority exists at level cap. But what about those millions of customers who shell out 15$/month for what has turned into a single player game? The Altaholics, the casualcore levelers, the RP levelers, the millions who enjoy getting characters to level 40, deleting, starting afresh - you may not know them, but I do, and they're there, maybe not on blogs but playing the same game as all of us Raiders and Mount Collectors and Illustrious Master Alchemists and Herbalist Ninjas and all of us - so Blizzard, please stop shutting down their potential social connections, let low level guilds grow again, encourage people to meet during leveling, because it's fun and interesting and doesn't deserve to go away.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

O frabjous day!

Callooh! Callay! I chortle in my joy! Because blizzard has seen fit to respond to my most recent post with a wondrous statement:! Experience is being reduced for dungeon quests! Success! Triumph! Happiness for all!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An Old Solution is a New Issue

Leveling some characters on a RPPvP realm (I normally play on a normal) in the post-cataclysm has given me an interesting yet vaguely annoying feeling - I level too fast. Way too fast. I mean, I should be progressing to the next zone when I've barely completed the first quest hub. While I am not required to move to the next zone, it does mean that questing provides no challenge whatsoever, which is much less fun for me. And I was on a new server, so no twinking, and no heirlooms! "Egads!" You must be saying. "Where could we have gone so wrong?" There are 3 simple reasons: Random Dungeons, Past Habits, and Tons of Content.

Random Dungeons
In the old days zones were structured as follows: Intro quest(s), Exclamation Point Explosions, then Dungeons. The Intro quests were just to give brief exposition; they could be as brief as a one-quest story bit from Hemet Nesingwary in STV, or as intricate as a couple quest chain. the Exclamation Point Explosion (which has all but disappeared in the Wrath/Cata world) was when your minimap would be flooded with fifty quests and you'd refer to Wowwiki or your leveling guide, or your pal who just leveled the wrong way. Dungeons could be instanced or microdungeons, like Jintha'Alor, and you'd have a smattering of quests that let you go into the dungeon and beat up some trolls or naga or what have you. It was not this organized, but it was what was behind the design.

In BC, they refined their ways to the form above. It worked well; at normal speed of leveling, you would get through every quest and every dungeon and be very prepared for the next zone. Then... well, then came XP nerfs (which I won't write about, because they should be taken into consideration when Cata was designed) and wrath. Oh, I should note - you could intentionally make the game easier by doing more lower level quests, or harder by doing fewer harder zones. 

Then came random dungeons. Dungeon quests are now offered in instances (so they are removed from the lore of zones), making people think of them more as separate bits of 30-minute content. XP-ridden content. You can level a good number of times without actually doing quests and not getting bored of dungeons. With a new dungeon ever couple levels, it's quite profitable to at least run them a few times and out-level what the zone thinks you should be. 

Past Habits
Face it - Wow had 11.5 million players BEFORE Cata. even if a solid million of players now come with Cata, it's ridiculous to assume that the majority will not have played the game before. That means people leveling will be looking at content with experience; this means people will be smarter. Running dungeons when they're bored, killing a few extra mobs for a bit more xp, making sure your characters are well equipped, not to mention bag space, twinking, and heirlooms. Especially not the heirlooms. People will be smarter, and out-gear and level content faster.

A Bloody Ton of Content
Not a whole lot to say here. There's a bloody ton of content, and not only is there lots, but it's good content. Compelling. And fun. More zones = more XP = more outstripping of higher zones.

Why is this a bad thing? Well, if I want to play the game - and make it a challenge - I have to a) skip fun content or b) not finish any content. Both suck. Or, I could cap my XP. Which is no fun, because I still want to develop my character. Solutions? Maybe a Difficulty slider, or an XP slider, or something? Please? Because your game is fun, Blizz, and I want to play it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sheldras Moontree and his Fair Warning

Sheldras Moontree was the head druid trainer (or so it looked like) in The Park of Stormwind. When Deathwing took a little vengeance upon the trees and happy courtyards, he managed to escape with a few others out to the docks, where he currently resides. When you approach him on a druid, he says an oddly forecasting statement:

"There will be a time soon where the call of the Emerald Dream will take hold in you. You will hibernate for many years and walk amongst the purest of forms. It is there and then that your ultimate training will take place."

Well. What does that mean? First off, Stormrage was only a setback. Obviously we are going to the Emerald Dream at some point, but in no way can it be as peaceful as our Lunar Arborist suggests - because there is no such thing as class-specific content any more, remember?

What I think is going to happen is that some time before the expansion is launched but in a world event, there will be a little class specific content. Druids will be called together and will enter the Emerald Dream. But all will not be as was hoped - and Old God, or one of their puppets, resurfaces there and the entire fight begins. The druids have to open a massive portal to Moonglade (all sorts of potential here), where a huge staging ground is built and (just like in Ulduar) the horde and the alliance aren't teaming up this time.

So the expansion Starts - using a heavy amount of phased content - when the invasion of the emerald nightmare/dream begins. Unlike Outland, where bases and outposts are already made (Honor Hold must've taken months to build), this one's entirely fresh - any quest hub will be the barest of places and entirely phased. Tacking in monthly world events that are seemingly in the works, this hypothetical expansion could be quite epic indeed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Awesome Idea that Never Will Exist

Blizzard implements an item, given through a ridiculously long (perhaps repeatable) quest chain which is profession specific, which acts as an enchantment to any item of rare quality or lower. When it is applied, it turns said item into Bind on Account, scaling based upon your character's level. Totally, totally wicked awesome. Never, ever implementable. Le sigh.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wulfrix on the evolution of rotation complexity

As a preface to this post, it would be widely advisable to go read This Post over on WoWInsider. Essentially, it's a peek into Blizzard's current design focus, and how the game has adapted from a 'Sink or Swim' talent speccing situation to a 'Dog-paddle or Butterfly'. While talents have previously blatantly disregarded the community that is built up around the game, now they incorporate this huge community fanbase into existing design decisions. Interesting stuff, but for one simple issue, which Eyeball2452 correctly points out.

To take a look at this, let's bring in Billo, the brother of Billy from wowcrendor's 'How to Win' series.

Hello Billo! I see you've decided to try to spec your talents.
"Yea! And there's a whole lot of choices to pick! Ooh, I want this one! And this one!"
Hold on, Billo. You need to think hard about what talents you pick. First off, what blogs do you read?
"What's a blog?"
-cuts to MSPaint rendition of EJ-
A 'Blog' is a place where someone who has played the game far more than you ever will tells you how to play it and what to do. And if you don't, people will assume you are terrible, and nobody will ever group with yo. Especially in harder content.
"But I want to play my own way how it suits me!"
You can't, Billo.
"This place sucks! I want to go hang out with Gamon! And the Go guy!"
Shut up, Billo.
 -Crazy Music and Credits-

The issue is that if Billo here never heard from us what EJ was, or read a blog, or heard about WoWInsider, they would never have heard about this 'higher' grade of talent speccing that is necessary for all raiding. Sure, it's difficult now to think 'Oh, who doesn't know what WoWInsider is?', but it took me a solid 3 years of playing WoW to learn about what theorycrafting was (I joined in 2004), and I have seen people play - and raid - in Wrath with less knowledge than what I had in my first UBRS run. Which consisted of Leeroy Jenkins, a Dungeon Companion, and Allakhazam

Blizzard needs to actively support the community in ways it just isn't doing. Knowledge accessible to average players consists of the forums... which would be a horrible first place to learn things... and a couple of well-hidden links on their main page. Adding large featured pages with links to major websites (EJ, WoWInsider, Wowhead, even Graylo and more specific blogs) on the website is a simple way to start, but there is a much more elegant solution.

What is the number one place that people who play WoW look for information? If you answered the GAME ITSELF, you'd be correct. And would also posses common sense. Why in the WORLD does the library in SW not contain Phaela's dissertation on Threat Management? Or a tome of BRK Lore? Perhaps the book seller nobody actually goes to in Undercity might hold some speculative lore from Shades of Gray? Billy and Blind could appear on the big screen in Ironforge! Cranius and Shigihara would perform at the World's End Tavern! The possibilities are ENDLESS, people! Just let the community into the world in a way more than casual references, so that the community can teach the world. Talents are just a stepping stone, people. But without the stepping stone, this brave new philosophy is an adaptation that will split millions.