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Archive for February, 2010

On Raid Difficulty

I was ruminating over the difficulty of WoW yesterday, and as luck would have it, a blue post over at MMO champion caught my eye.

Players try to play that card a lot, that skill isn’t a big deal because the mechanics are all pretty easy to understand, and therefore it’s the class mechanics that are to blame, not the player. I don’t buy it. I’ve seen the world first, or even server first kills of difficult bosses. Those players aren’t just good, they are exceptionally good. They are probably ten times better than the guilds who get those kills a month or two later, and that’s really no exaggeration. In fact, skill plays such a gigantic role that we have trouble balancing harder encounters. The skilled players can beat them without new gear while the second tier of players can never beat them. Now you can try to argue that all tanks are of about the same skill and it’s the dps or healers that really make up the difference, but I don’t buy that either. I’ve seen what the best tanks in the world do. They are really good. Don’t dismiss them as being just lucky or dedicated.

Most long time WoW players might read this and guffaw. WoW PVE is supposed to be ezmode, surely? But is it? Is it really? Perhaps, compared to some truly punishing niche games such as Final Fantasy Online it is. But take a step back and compare WoW ‘s large-scale PVE to some others in the genre. Warhammer Online’s group PVE is dead simple, and for a good reason – the game is a lot more oriented towards pugging it’s content. Champions Online and Star Trek Online share this philosophy as well. In all cases you won’t find players complaining about the easy nature of the PVE in those games, but rather the lack of variety and content. Same goes for many other MMO’s. LOTRO’s instances are variable in difficulty and can be soloed. Dungeons and Dragons Online, almost everything can be done in small groups and encounters are, relative to WoW, very simple tank ‘n spanks, with the occasional twist. In fact, in general within the MMO industry you’ll find PVE encounters which are constructed not to be progression blocks but rather built for casual enjoyment. WoW remains one of the few exceptions. As easy as we, who’ve been playing this game for years, might say things are, the reality is that they’re not. Last night on Rotface 10 I, again, realised how hard raid content in this game can be. Even though it’s currently somewhat easier than Burning Crusade.

In fact, I believe’ EZMode’ isn’t the issue at all. Running out of content is. And there’s nothing that can realistically be done about that. In order to extend the lifecycle of content, the only option is to make it harder. That also frustrates people, especially the regular 9-to-5’s who are Blizzard’s biggest customers.

I believe that content for the highly skilled needs to remain. Of course. But, in fact, current ‘normal’ mode might not be ‘normal’ enough. I believe that, perhaps, Blizzard should consider detuning 10man raiding down another notch and offer a third option, beyond 10 and 25. Offer 5man ‘raiding’. The same instances but tuned to be simple and easy enough to pug or grab a few guys from your guild together to run. De-tune the rewards, of course – ICC 5mans could drop gear with the same ilvl as the regular current ICC heroics. All instanced content, in fact, should follow the same hierarchy. Perhaps, in future, 5man instances could be buffed up to offer 10 and 25man difficulties, and of course normal and heroic modes for both. This would simplify things, make more sense across the board, and offer a large volume of content to people of virtually every skill and gear level.

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Blue Girls = Profit?

So I’ve noticed a trend. If your movie or game has blue alien girls in it, you will make a zillion dollars.

Cases in point:

The Na’Vi

The most recent massive scifi smash hit, Avatar, pretty much revolves around blue girls. Oh, there’s blue guys too, but no-one really cares about them. It’s all about Neytiri getting all jiggy with some paralyzed human. Lucky bastard.

Twi’Lek’s

While the Twi’Lek of the Star Wars film may not have had much screen time, they certainly did make an impact. The Twi Lek slave girls from Return of the Jedi have spawned an Internet subculture of blue alien girl fetishists that persists to this day.

Asari

Mass Effect gained notoriety for it’s portrayal of human-on-blue-alien sex, and certainly became one of the most popular and best selling console RPG’s ever. The Asari of the Mass Effect universe are unashamedly ‘slutty’ – walk into any spacer bar/club and you’ll likely see a couple of them shaking their violet derriere’s. Bioware was even smart enough to do away with the whole male gender thing, and made asari a unisex race.  Yep, that’s right. No blue dudes to compete with. Absolute genius on Bioware’s part. A galaxy full of delicious blue babes to delectate over?  Sign me, and about a billion other gamers worldwide, up.

Draenei

And last but certainly not least,  our favourite MMO has our favourite blue girls, the Draenei. Draenei females are hailed by the entire WoW population as the sexiest, sluttiest beings in all of Azeroth. Oh, sure, Blood Elf chicks are pretty hot and have all the right moves, and Night Elves are also kinda blue..well… purple, and are probably responsible for the whole naked-stripper-on-a-mailbox thing. But the award for hottest blue girl has to go to the Draenei ladies.

If there’s a lesson to be learnt here, it’s that massive, blockbusting success is as easy as injecting your very own blue alien race of skanky hoes into your movie or game.

Crazy? Perhaps. Or perhaps there’s some psychology at play here that I can’t quite fathom. Either way I, for one, certainly cannot object to more blue girls. Kirk would be so proud of us.

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If you could do it all over

Spinks asks the question – if you could go back in time, what would you change?

This is something I’ve often wondered about, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.

Most recently, I think I would have shelved the Death Knight at 58. Oh, I love the class and all that, but it has problems. Stigma being one, broken mechanics another. Surprisingly, it’s been hard to get over the ‘all DK’s are crap’ sentiment that seems to pervade the entire WoW playing population, even if some of it’s in jest.  Being a constant running joke gets a little tedious. I would’ve thought my skin would  be thicker, but I guess it’s not. Second, the class has tanking issues, serious pvp issues and even some pve dps issues. I still dislike ‘hating around’ the rune system, and fact remains that a large reason I still play this class is because I’ve invested so much time, gear, achievements etc into it. I suppose the smart thing would be to call it quits and reroll, but with Cataclysm relatively around the corner, doing so now remains a hurdle I simply cannot bring myself to vault. So I grit my teeth and soldier on, still managing to find some enjoyment out of the class.

Second, instead of picking a mage to turn into my ‘main alt’, I’d have gone with a rogue. I’ve always wanted to play one, but at the time I thought picking a clothy would be a nice change of pace. No surprises a few months later when I confirmed what I’d known all along. I don’t really like playing clothies. I like hitting/stabbing things.

Going even further back, I wouldn’t have wasted all that time in Warhammer. It really wasn’t a very good game at the time. It’s better today, and I think starting out now would have been a better idea. Sadly, the game is forever tainted thanks to my early exposure to Tier 4. I don’t think I’ll ever really recover. No matter what Mythic does to fix it. That ship has probably sailed.

Ultimately, if I could go all the way back, to Day 1 when I rolled that first dwarf paladin, I’d tell myself this:

Make a warrior, and stick with it. You will be nerfed, you will be buffed. You will suffer in PVP, you will excel. But through it all, you will always, somehow, be awesome. Oh, and stick to that first big guild you join. People matter more than progress. Weather the storm. It will pay off in the long run.

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PVP INC

Saw this trend at the tail end of BC. Blizzard breezed in and started handing out phat pvp lewts to keep people interested after they’d blasted through the content. Of course, by ‘people’ I’m talking about the hardcore here, most of the rest of us were still tooling about in early Black Temple let alone Sunwell. Of course, content is even easier now and it will be a matter of weeks or maybe a month or two before most guilds clear ICC. And then it’s a loooong wait of 6 to 9 months at least, before Cataclysm arrives. How to keep players playing? Simple. PVP. PVP is great for two things. It self-scales and is self-regulating. No matter how much gear you get, your opponents will probably have the same or better. And now matter how many tricks you learn, your opponents will learn how to counteract them.

Of course, this makes PVP frustrating to many. Too often it feels like you’re stagnating, like you’re making little headway. So at best, a renewed focus on PVP can merely buy Blizzard some time.

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Icy Touch Spam Fail

Another thought regarding 3.3.3 PTR. If Icy Touch is going to be generating ‘a lot’ more threat, how much threat are we talking?

Will it be enough to completely forgo using Death Strike/Obliterate/Scourge Strike in our tanking rotations? Will that free up talent points by not having to sink points into Death Rune Mastery? What about Annihilation, Improved Death Strike and Scourge Strike – will we simply drop these from our specs entirely? Will our rotations on single mobs simply default to, say, Icy Touch , Plague Strike and Heart Strike, as Blood, completely dropping Death Strike and the whole death rune dynamic entirely? And if so, is that going to be any fun at all? Do we need ‘dumbing down’?

The more I think about this the more it seems like a terrible idea.

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Allods Brouhaha summarized.

20 dollars for a bag?

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So, big news to DK tanks everywhere. Some more buffs are heading our way. In our current state any buffs are welcome, but let’s have a quick look at them…

1: Icy Touch will generate more threat.

More threat is welcome, particularly following the realisation that ours is somewhat gimped in Icecrown tanks to the 20% dodge reduction debuff. Since Rune Strike procs off dodge and parry, dodging less translates directly to less threat. The ICecrown ‘radiance’ debuff is, therefore, particularly crippling to DK tanks as it reduces not only our mitigation, but our threat. A high-threat Icy Touch is welcome, but is it the right buff? Consider that, now, outside of Icecrown, our single target threat might very well skyrocket, well past what other tanks are capable of. Now, at the moment there’s no math or testing to support this claim but it’s a possibility we need to entertain. Putting our threat gen on single targets outside of ICC well ahead of other tanks might be a mistake, particularly with Ruby Sanctum coming up. A better approach would be looking at how to make Rune Strike proc at the same rate within ICC as without. Perhaps by having it simply proc on damage taken, instead of damage avoided.

2:Will of the Necropolis internal cooldown removed.

This is going to mean a flat 15% damage reduction when we dip below 35% health, period. That’s pretty huge, and puts it at, or possibly ahead of, Ardent Defender. Do we want this? First off the benefit seems so large that it’s going to turn Blood into THE preferred tanking spec by a significant margin. It’s already somewhat superior to Frost on single targets but, combined with Icy Touch, this is potentially going to make Blood tanks the single best maintanks in the game. Is this a good idea? I think what any DK tank wants is to merely be on par. Personally, I’m not sure buffing us up to Paladin levels is the way to go about this, at least not unless Warriors and druids get these same buffs. A better strat would be to bring Paladins down to DK and Warrior levels, although I can see how this would not be a popular move considering Paladins are the most populous tank class right now.

These are the two biggest buffs. Unholy Armor will also increase strength somewhat more than as of current, which has the added advantage of increasing our Parry rating, but I suspect the difference will be hardly all that noticeable. Otherwise, Frost is getting little in the way of mitigation or effective health, and instead gaining more threat thanks to the reworked Endless Winter and currently undocumented buff to Glyph of Obliterate. Frost threat is welcome, but none of these buffs address our single biggest concern. Which is our inability to reliably mitigate spike damage when being attacked by a number of fast-hitting mobs. The single biggest reason for this continues to be our complete lack of a block or block-like mechanic. Both the other plate tanks have a shield block, and druids can approximate it with Savage Defense. We need the ability to reduce a set amount of incoming damage flatly instead of by a scalar means. The simplest way to do this remains changing Blade Barrier to a flat value based on some statistic, like strength, instead of a percentile.

So, while these buffs are welcome, they’re welcome for all of the wrong reasons. We welcome these buffs because, right now, we’ll take anything we can get. Like starving orphans. We shouldn’t be holding our bowl out asking Blizzard ‘please sir, can I have some more’. We should be saying, please sir, can I have something else besides more.

That said, these are PTR patch notes, so nothing’s set in stone. Hopefully testers will test, and come up with some conclusions as to whether these changes truly help us where it’s needed.

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