Mild mannered bloggers over at Are We New At This? and High Latency Life are tackling an important issue in blognation. Why all the hate on WoW? I mean, it has eleventy (.2) billion subscribers! Something must be going right over at ActiBlizzEnron. It is a curious (and good) question in many ways. Chris Cavelle tries to calm the masses and instead suggests we all enjoy some Mila instead.
Thing is, I hate Mila.
I mean, she was talented in that 70's show, but her newer work in film has just been so much shallower.
I always have preferred red-heds to brunettes
I think she is losing weight, and I prefer curves to stick-women
The kids these days may like her, but I prefer a classier ladies - like Kate Beckinsale
Too much photo-shop
(See what I did there?)
All joking aside (and I really don't dis-like Mila) and light-fun-poking at the topic - personal tastes leads to criticism - constructive or not. While I prefer to read opinions that are constructive, people are going to write what they feel like. WoW is held as the 'standard' in MMO'ing, love it or hate it. Their design decisions, as proven by the whole failed-wow-clone design cycle syndrome, has impacted the direction of the genre for many years. Current and Ex-players like to wax their opinions on that impact, and the secret desire for every gamer to have every game "made just for me" (tm).
Just like everyone critiques every speech, decision, and outfit worn by the POTUS due to the perceived impact it has on people's lives, they do the same with things that impact their hobbies. Perhaps that isn't an entirely relevant analogy, but you wouldn't be able to guess the difference in importance reading some of those constructive criticisms (including some of my own.)
I played WoW for many years through the ups and downs, and had my fun with it. I'll no doubt pop back in next expansion to see if it's improved (for my tastes - important qualifier - I know many like it just as it is, even if sub numbers are shrinking). I think personally, I "hate" on WoW because the experience doesn't work for me like it used to. And because I still secretly want to play it, I complain about it. So I can still be involved in the discussion somehow.
Of course, if you wade through the mass of WoW 'bashing', you'll find some great gems in there that would indeed improve the game - and not just for whomever the author may be. You can see Blizz pushing for some (perhaps) real big changes (dissolving the holy trinity?) and adding features they swore up and down they never would do. Who knows, maybe Blizzard will Transmogrify their development. Will be fun to see. And bitch about.
Never fear my friends, I predict WoW complaining will drop to an all time low on December 20th.
I think MMO nostalgia makes us funny people. Just yesterday I was thinking about EQ and the amazing times had there with people I still consider 'amazing'. Hell, I even went to my first ever guild message boards (circa 1999) after a 3 year hiatus to go say "hi" and see who was still kicking around and posting (long after the guild being retired). Funny enough there were people still poking their heads around there from time to time.
Of course, that led to a EQ1 trial download, and boy, is that game ever ugly. After dying to starter mobs a couple of times (yes, that's right, starter mobs can kill you!) and running out of mana halfway through my second fight, I had to laugh at myself. This was the world that made me fall in love with MMO's and the concept that gaming can reach a far greater audience than a saved game file on my hard drive. It had slightly less graphical appeal than minecraft. I lasted all of fifteen minutes before logging off, promising myself to actually give it a fair shot when I had more time, and left to go read some blogs.
My first MMO was EQ, then DAOC, then WoW. I played pretty much every MMO in between in either beta tests, short stints, or trials, but those three are the only three that captured my playtime for any significant period. All three are very different, of course, and are as reflective of a time period than anything to do with MMO.
What do we want from a MMO? Hard to figure that part out when I'm not even sure I know what *I* want. My off the cuff response to 'what does Isey want from a MMO' is pretty quick and easy to answer:
"A non-instanced, strategically paced, skill based, single world, sandbox style, relationship conducive, emotional driven fantasy world that I can enjoy in chunks of one hour (or less) two to three times a week (or when family/work time allows)."
Long answer, I love the thoughts behind this guy, and this guy, although it's hard to envision how the three would combine into an actual playable game (and I could easily link another half dozen bloggers who write about games I would play).
Ok! Easy enough. Let's get to work on that.. wait a minute.. does that really sound so good?
A lot of the systems and styles us fogeys keep discussing and clamoring for are things that have been already been dismissed in current and future game design as 'quality of life' improvements. As much as I say (and think), I want that 30 minute boat ride to Freeport, or having to speak in different languages to a complete stranger on that boat to improve my Erudite (15) language skill, it's easy to remember fondly but harder to actually play that way again. That 30 minutes would be half (or all) of a current play session for me.
And, while I can sit here and write about the systems, styles, and innovations I want (or think I want) from a MMO, the systems themselves do not really matter. I want a MMO that can illicit the emotion of the games I used to love. And I'm not sure that is entirely possible, but still remain hopeful.
What I do know is that in 10 years from now I probably won't be searching down my old WoW guilds to see if anyone is still kicking around.
Last week Crabby McCraberton wrote a WoW Dev Blog on hotfixed changes to threat in World of Warcraft. Basically, they are removing (or working towards removing) threat as a variable in gameplay. They feel there are enough variables for tanks to worry about. This came on the heels of tank-bribery, CC changes and other mechanic adjustments to make tanking less stressful, and hopefully create an influx of tanks.
I always believed the whole idea of threat and tanking to be silly beyond reason, but understand there weren't many other creative ideas in play to replace it. This of course sparked an article, and mostly-wow-type-level-of-discussion on Wowinsider.com on whether it was time to "kill" tanking.
I think it is, and have thought so for some time. Whether or not that is actually possible in WoW itself - or if the devs would actually be innovative and do that - is doubtful
My personal experience in MMO's has mostly been as the healer. I had a natural affinity for it and the challenges that went along the responsibility of making up for players mistakes. On my 17th (or was that 18th?) return to WoW, and my solo nature of advancing my character after the advent of the dungeon finder tool, I decided to give tanking a shot. The insta queues for tanking and subsequent rewards for doing so actually work out wonderfully for a solo-MMO player - assuming that you have the requisite patience, modicum of "skill" required, and thick skin to enter the LFD. My playstyle (30 minutes here and there) meant I could log in, instantly get a group, accomplish something, and logoff. As a DPS toon, my first 30 minutes was spent waiting in the queue.
I came to really enjoy tanking. It fit my style and playtime, and I became pretty good at it. Problem for me was that I didn't *love* the class I was playing (Paladin) so I levelled up my Druid and tried him tanking. Same result. Loved tanking, not the class. OK, will try levelling my warrior - sigh. Just don't love the class! So while I spent a few months improving queue times for my DPS/healing friends, I couldn't settle in on a class liked to tank with.
My favorite class in WoW, heck, even one of 'all time', is the Shaman. If I could 'tank' with my Shaman I would probably still be playing today. The class style and totems just really works for me.
That puts me firmly in the belief that if you give a player the option to play what class they want to play, and the way they want to play it, those holes may be finally plugged. Just sayin'.
I haven't been following it closely,but my understanding is that GW2 won't require the trinity and as such, may be worth picking up - if indeed there is a class choice that resonates with me.
Blizzard seems intent on taking a new direction in Cataclysm - making the game more challenging. I'm very curious if the follow through, and if they do - even more curious if they stick with it.
The basis of the change, without going into too much detail, is making CC required in instances again as well as making healing more challenging. What is surprising to me is that WoW today has been built on accessibility and easing the game every step of the way. I wrote recently how my Shaman had managed to beat pretty much the most challenging of bosses in PUG's. The game has hit its high subscriber base from designing every class to be competitive in any role it can assume.
I'll give a brief history of my experiences in WoW and how I have seen things change, and then chat about whether this move is possible, advisable, and/or sustainable. After the break.
I am part of a WoW guild. I have spoken briefly about it in the past in a few topics, but nothing major (you know, the one I used to be GM of, yadda yadda). It's going through a change right now, and the people that founded the guild are mostly gone. It was a great guild and will be interesting to see as a "casual" player what happens with it. They are working on their 4th GM right now. I have a Guild post lined up for the future. This is of lighter fare.
I still read the boards, and Clawdia/Orvie updated a thread that was/is kinda cool. It's in private guild forums so I can't link it.
Since the guild was formed at the beggining of Burning Crusade, we have had 12 kids born into guild members. Hell, that's a solid 10 person raid group (with rotations, even). It's a fun thought - a group of adult gamers grouped by an in game tag sharing parenting tips for newborns (after they read the Yogg-Saron strats, mind you)
Puts things into a fun perspective when gaming and real life collide.
MMO gamers seem to be lamenting the fact that everything starts at the "endgame" in current mmo-land. The grind/level mechanics exist mostly to slow you down to getting to a point where you can start having fun. While that sounds back-ass-wards, the common argument in support is traditionally "Developers can't create enough content to keep up with the players".
I don't disagree entirely. Developers can't create the current type of content to keep up - or can they? I am not going to get into alternate schemes (where players are the content) or anything crazy or off the wall - I'm just going to look at our good friend WoW and understand where all their content - and developer hours - went into their game. After the break of course.
World Building: End Game in WoW, to narrow it down to the final two instances, are indicated in the map below.
If you are generous, you can expand around those dots a bit, but honestly the entire game is funneled into those two spots (which are really just entrances into instances, anyway). That is an awful big waste of programming dollars, don't you think? Especially for a game whose 95% of "end game" content exist in instances anyway? (Depending if you count Wintergrasp as "end game", or the Argent Tournament).
Quests: The WoW quest system, while mired in mediocrity (typical escort/kill/collect) is a HUGE part of their development costs. WoW currently has 8027 Quests (searchable at wowhead.com, at least). How many of those are "endgame"? 223. WoW has 7804 planned obsolescence quests. While you could argue the quest system is just a means to an end to GET to the endgame - how many 5/10/25 man instances could you build in place of the 7804 one off quests?
Instances: WoW has ~80 pre-cap instances, (when you count instance wings and heroic modes) and only 22 targeted for max level. Isn't that split in reverse? Shouldn't there be 20 instances before the cap, and have 80 instances when you hit the cap - wouldn't that make it harder for players to "run out of content" fast when the game truly begins?
Arenas/BG's: Pretty much all instanced except for a few world ones - but think about how many we could have if resources were allocated to play the game for fun from the outset, not just burn 5 days /played to get to (slim) endgame.
I could link to various posts of mine and others who believe the level and time to level gap needs to close, keep the relative power closer from first level to final (so everyone can play together, regardless of how long each have been playing) and there are still plenty of carrots to dangle if you like grinding through achievements, etc. I just can't help but wonder of developers focused their time and resources at the true "endgame" how much content would we really have there - especially if the majority of content that we just use once per character and throw away, was spent on end game materials.
Just a thought.
Credit: The old Wowinsider.com
Suzina over at KTR posts about a couple recent gaming experiences in LOTRO. It's a good read for several reasons, but mostly because it captures the essence of what is great about MMO's - success and failure. I shared a snazzy yet true golf analogy in the comments section about "hooks". MMO's live on hooks.
Psychochild made a comment in the thread about the beauty of Suz's post (we are tight like that where I can nickname her unashamedly.) and that those are experiences you can't have in single player games - and my first reaction was that he was right, followed up with a "wait, is he?" The answer is yes and no. Suspense suspended after the cut.
Lots of little gaming going on. Will touch upon them.
1) LOTRO revisted: While I am trying to organize friends to go through the trial, nothing concrete is set up although a little interest and a couply people hopping on Brandywine. I said this before and I will say it again - the fact that LOTRO doesn't allow you to play their two new classes WITHOUT buying MoM is a terrible design decision and puts me in a bad mood immediately at the character creation screen. I wanted to test drive the Warden for the trial again - it made my list of favorite fantasy classes although I only got to level 10. My beef with this is that the characters start at the exact same spot as the previous character classes so not having them available upon start is just a silly money grab. I am trialling the game to see if I am going to resubscribe - let me choose the character I want to play. The high end zones included in MoM have no impact on the class selection - it will be months before I even get to MoM - so let me play them dammit! To be fair, they do have a 10 day trial for MoM - but on the welcome back weekend I can use my old box (that I paid for). Maybe I do want to resub, and maybe the game is fun enough to buy the expansion (when I get there) - but it will be awhile before I get there, and I want to do it as one of the new classes. We are off to a poor start, me and LOTRO. So I rolled a Champion, and if all goes well I am going to have to drop $40 bucks on an expansion and reroll to a character class I want to play. Shame on you, Turbine.
More random stuff after the break.