May 10, 2010

How To Deal With Not-So-Fun Content

Tobold blogs that he has problems getting his alts past level 60 and gives an explanation as to why. I feel like that too actually, that the real game ends at the start of Outland. The transition from vanilla content to TBC content shows a huge change in design philosophy, from having quests spread around to having a few big quest hubs. Also the setting changes, but that's not really a problem for me.

This drastic change in how levelling is done makes me feel that TBC is just tacked on to the vanilla game, and the fact that walking through the Dark Portal also obsoletes a ton of old level cap content doesn't help. I have the same feeling about WotLK, it obsoletes all the TBC endgame content, but at least the questing philosophy hasn't changed.

So WotLK feels tacked on to TBC which in turn feels tacked on to vanilla. And now Cataclysm is not too far away, and it will probably feel tacked onto WotLK again. Yet I still suspect I will enjoy the third expansion the first time around at least. I am odd in that regard.

I'm saying this because I actually loved my first trek to 80. My second one not so much. And my third... gah. I don't think there will be a fourth unless they decrease the experience needed from 70 to 80, something I believe they will do eventually, they already did the same to 1-60 and 60-70. It won't change the fact that Northrend levelling content is damn annoying (to me) though. At least there will be less of a slog to get through it.

I hope Blizzard will make Cataclysm content more replayable, especially the revamped 1-60 content. I am pretty sure they will take away what I like about vanilla levelling, the spread out quests approach, in an effort to get people to endgame even faster. Personally I'm not too fond of doing it this way, but I have no power to influence that decision. What I do hope though is that they make at least two different paths you can take so even the second new alt will find him/herself with new content to see. Up to level 60 at least.

At least there will be more heirlooms to speed up the process even more. I just wonder how high the experience multiplier can get? 50%? 100%? Maybe they'll even add heirlooms with a minimum level of 60, these bringing the total up to 200%, like RAF. If they do this then they might even allow trading of heirlooms between the two linked accounts so that the bonus remains until level 85.

That's an easy way to deal with boring content, by making sure you spend as little time as possible in it.

April 22, 2010

Random Running Around Grounds

So I somehow managed to do four battlegrounds today. That's right, four. Not one, but four. That's the most battlegrounds I've done in a day since arena season 1 stuff became available for honor. The reason why I ended up doing this is a story in itself, including some bosses in some ridiculous joke of a raid instance and a black riding chicken. In short, I needed like 1500 honor for my 70th mount. (Don't worry, I am getting somewhere with this.)

I used the random BG finder, simply because I couldn't be bothered to, you know, select a BG on my own. Any would do and I might as well let the game do the thinking for me. (Yes, I do that in raids too, the playerbase makes sure I won't have to think.) The one I got was Eye of the Storm. Horde roflstomped it and I got the achievement for winning the damn thing. Yes, I do BGs that rarely.

This motivated me to try again. So I hit the random BG button again and got that random island that got tacked on with no explanation at all apart from some paragraph mentioning resources. That excuse has been bandied out a lot in Wrath, and by gosh, it works. Wars usually are about the acquisition of stuff to wage more wars with.

Anyway, Horde lost that place. Twice. Then the fourth BG I got was Warsong Gulch. Which Horde roflstomped. I mean it. My first WSG in years and it was perfect.

No, this post is not about Horde/Alliance favouring various BGs. It's about something I noticed in these four BGs that hasn't changed at all. And that is the fact about how little coordination there is in them. That's what turned me off WoW PvP back in the days actually. Arenas are too twitchy to me, and BGs too uncoordinated. There simply is no strategy involved apart from people running around like headless chickens in the hopes that what they did would in some way make us win. I am not saying that's what actually went on in their heads, but it's what it looked like. And this was all accompanied by someone shouting "gogogogo [random objective]" in BG chat. My personal strategy was akin to the one employed by Dirk Gently when stalking people; look for a c(h)ar that looks like it knows where it's going and follow it around. Heck, it won me half of today's BGs, so apparently it works. But then it lost me the other two so from this tiny sample size I guess it's random.

I see BGs as two armies clashing together over some arbitrary objective that has a weak lorewise significance. I easily forget about the lore part, but the armies clashing part annoys me. Not because of the whole clashing together stuff but because I keep thinking aren't armies supposed to be led somehow? That's what ruins the experience for me. A lack of leadership. I don't mind being bossed around by someone who clearly knows what he's doing, but I haven't had that since vanilla. Actually, I was that bossy guy back then, after learning from another bossy guy (or girl, I only knew his/her ingame gender, which as we all know, says nothing at all apart from whether the character has pixel boobies or not).

This whole "trusting someone to know what the smurf to do" thing no longer exists, and I blame the cross realm BG feature for that. You don't get to know the good leaders anymore because they'll most probably be in a different BG than you the next time around. BGs work though, because everybody gets honor no matter how crappy play is going on. And why do BGs except for honor? BGs are like heroics in that regard. Turn up and get phat epix.

I do miss the army thing. But I am not holding my breath for it ever coming back unless rated BGs actually turn out well.

April 07, 2010

The Rush to 80 - Again

When this blog was just created I wrote a post about getting to level 80 as fast as possible. This is a followup to that post. And no, I did not just ding 80 on another alt. I can't stand Northrend levelling, there's just too damn much of it.

I believe that it's the "the game starts at level cap" attitude that's behind this. Blizzard only adds to this by putting all the cool stuff at the current level cap. This isn't unique to WotLK either, back in TBC you had to be level 70 to get a nether drake for example. Heck, you had to be 70 just to have a flying mount in the first place. In a way I can understand this, putting such grinds in the mid-levels will trivialize the grind for capped characters, but this is more of a flaw in the level based system, and not with WoW itself.

Last time I wrote about this it was about how you had to rush to keep up, which is not entirely true any more. This time I will talk about other consequences that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere yet. (That's not to say they haven't, they might have without me noticing, but that's beside the point.) It's about what people will do to get to the level cap as fast as possible. I am not talking about account sharing, it's their prerogative to do that as it doesn't really affect me. What does affect me though is the camping of named quest mobs.

I remember levelling my hunter from 70 to 80 back when WotLK was released. There were often several people camping the spawn spot of named quest mobs, simply because only one spawns at a time. Because of this I used every trick I could think of to skip ahead in the queue, mostly placing a trap on the exact spot. Yes, I was acting like a total asshole. But I had to, or some class with cheap AoE would get ahead of me by spamming it. Tragedy of the commons really, it takes one idiot make the rest fall to his/her level (yes, women can be assholes too, but again I'm veering off topic).

Why don't people just group up for the quest mob? There were rarely more than five people from each faction anyway, and every now and then someone smartened up and invited me so we both would get credit, and I happily accepted. That was rare though. WoW has taught people that grouping sucks, so people won't go to the hassle of actually inviting others for one time occurences like this. That is one thing I will give the WoW haters. WoW encourages anti-social behaviour, and this is just another way the game does this.

I could go on a long rant about how loot is another such factor, but that's an entirely different topic.

I should start writing something on all the "different topics" I've mentioned in my posts, and maybe I will. Time will tell.

March 17, 2010

Whiny Post Day: Flying Mounts

So apparently it's whiny post day, which presents me with a problem. Don't get me wrong, I used to be a proper whiner back in the days, but I got over it. Klepsacovic is like three years late... But whatever, I have flying mounts to bash.

Flying mounts are just like ordinary mounts, apart from the fact they, well, can fly, which is rather practical. Or impractical depending on what you want. If you want to be from point A to point B a flying mount is great. Just fly up high enough, point your nose in the general direction of point B, hit autorun and go AFK to make a cup of tea or something. When you're back you've likely overshot your goal by about half the map.

Land mounts are different in that regard. Usually you have to go via point C and maybe even point D and E to get to point B, and you can't go AFK or Bad Things may or may not happen. At least you get to see the world, which is a major plus the first dozen times or so.

That's my major gripe with flying mounts to be honest, they make the world seem so damn insignificant. You're not interacting with the world at all, just zipping past it. This is especially true for the epic flying mounts, which are zooming around at supersonic speeds. Again the question arises, is this World of Warcraft or Game of Warcraft?

The "old" world seems so much more alive to me for the simple fact I can't just bypass it by flying over it. But that will change come Cataclysm, when flying mounts are unlocked in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms as well. Now that will be a real paradigm shift indeed, seeing people floating around over Orgrimmar will take a while to get used to. Cataclysm will not only revamp the zones, but also what's above them. Newbies will get high level players on flying mounts pushed right into their faces, which depending on each particular newbie, can end up with either going at levelling much harder to get a flyer for their own or simply just quitting.

Don't get me wrong though, flying mounts have their uses and I doubt I will put my money where my mouth is and, you know, stick to my land mount, but I will do it screaming and flailing and making a general ruckus. Because I believe that flying mounts cheapen the world. My last hope is that Blizzard will make more areas like Storm Peaks, that are designed for travel by air.

March 09, 2010

RP is the Sandbox

Tobold posted about how WoW has lots of sandbox elements, which caused a proper stir in the comments. I am pretty much on the fence about whether the examples he made really are good examples or not, but I won't go into that, because I believe Tobold didn't take it far enough. Why? Larisa at the Pink Pigtail Inn posted about her experiences on a roleplay server and while reading that post something struck me. RP is the ultimate sandbox. It is entirely player created (apart from the world it's set in), and to many degrees it allows players to have an impact on the world. Sadly, in WoW at least, it will never have any physical impact on the world, but it can sure change other players to a certain degree, and players are part of the world.

I have only been RPing for a little more than a year, and in that time I have had many fun experiences, and lots of memorable moments. After I started raiding in WoW I never truly felt part of the world, but on my RP characters I do. My little orc is actually living in the world, and what she says and does causes other players to react, and since they are players, it's not according to a script. Therefore any time you encounter another player in-character the exchange will be different. It's like PvP, other players being the content and the world just being a backdrop, only you aren't out to kill each other by default. RP is player created content as well, since it's about stories created by, well, the players themselves. The story of the world itself is again a backdrop on which player created stories can be told.

Because of this I find it strange that nobody ever seems to considering roleplaying elements of games when they talk about the buzzwords "user created content" and "sandbox world". Any world out there is a sandbox by definition, it's once the developers of said world start putting arbitrary goals that are being rewarded by the game that we get the so-called "theme park" which supposedly is the opposite of "sandbox".

So why is the "theme park" part of WoW so much more popular? My guess is that it is because it comes with pre-defined goals that are easy to latch onto. RP has no set goals. You have to make your own, just like in a "sandbox" game. Because of this I don't believe that "theme park" and "sandbox" are antonyms. A theme park is what you get when you put goals into a sandbox. My point is that even though there are "theme park elements" on top of the sandbox it doesn't mean the sandbox is gone.

RP in a sandbox with a theme park built on top often runs into limitations though, but this isn't something that makes RP impossible. The playerbase will find workarounds for it, like emote fights instead of proper /duel requests. A fight played out entirely in emotes might look boring to a random bystander since the characters involved aren't moving, but once said bystander reads the emotes and starts imagining them playing out in his head it gets much more epic than any raid boss could be, depending on the emotes. It's like the saying "radio has the best pictures". The best pictures are the ones you make up in your head. Which is why I got sucked into RP. It has the best fights.

And the best of all? No farming for consambles or repair bills needed. RP is much less of a goldsink simply because it ignores the rules being set in place by the goal system.

February 26, 2010

LFD Queue Times for DPS?

Oh yeah, I am back with more paranoiac ideas of how WoW's LFD system really works. Well, I only made one post about it already, and it was more about unforeseen consequences, but that's allright, because that's what this post is about as well.

I have a level 80 DPS character on two different servers in two different battlegroups, and I've noticed some real differences on queue times in LFD. On one server even DPS queue times are almost instant, and rarely more than 1-2 minutes. On the other queue times are easily 15 minutes as DPS, the usual. Why is this? Does the first battlegroup have a more favourable tank/healer/DPS ratio? Perhaps, I but also notice DPS time out on the ready check. It's always a DPS player, never the tank or the healer. My guess is that queues maybe are much longer after all there, at least the interface often says 10 minutes or more, but I get groups much faster than that.

I wonder if it has something to do with those time-outing players. A group is found for them, a DPS fails to respond in time, and I am next in line. But I doubt this, because I signed recently, which would put me further back in the queue. So what else could it be?

Another thing that sets my two DPS characters apart is the fact that one is better geared. She is running around with lotsa frost emblem gear and some ICC10 drops, while my other DPS character only has tier 9 stuff and crappy rings/trinkets. And Blizzard have said it officially that LFD tries to group up well geared characters with less well geared ones. My second DPS has rather average gear, if not sub-average, so she doesn't get any priority, while my first one, the one in ICC10 gear is pretty high on the gear scale.

What also has to be considered is the fact that my ICC10 geared DPS doesn't need triumph emblems anymore, so I only do one random heroic per day for the frost emblems, and she is not the only one in that situation. What does this mean? It means that there are less well geared players in the LFD queue than average/badly geared players. It's like the whole tank shortage. There's a shortage of well geared DPS in LFD because the well geared ones only do one random heroic per day for their frost emblems. It might be they run more than one per day to help gear up guildies, but that is usually done in full guild groups, which doesn't benefit solo queuers at all.

I am looking forward to Cataclysm so I can find out if my theory still holds water when everybody is at the same gear level. Until the first major content patch at least.

February 15, 2010

Being Blessed By Elune is SO Last Year

This year there appears to be a slight overlap between Love is in The Air and the Lunar Festival. I don't mind this, after all the Lunar Festival gives me a strong "been there, done that" vibe, unlike Love is in the Air, which got revamped, apparently due to it being too freaking RNG-dependant last year.

The Lunar Festival on the other hand is hardly RNG-dependant at all, and never was. In fact, it hasn't changed at all since the first time I took part in it four years ago. The only addition was putting elders in the new expansion content, which hardly is "new". It just means we have to travel more. And no, I don't consider giving Omen more hit points and making him do more damage "new". He still looks like like the big brother of one of Varulva's pets. (Which happens to be a pet she never uses due to the fact that neither of her specs is Beast Mastery, and even if she had such a spec she would be using her wolf or bear anyway depending on what she wanted to do, so much for pet equalizing.)

I even got Varulva the title last year just for the sheer hell of it, so I don't see the point in doing all that stuff again this year, even on an alt. Ironically the pant suits look better on my characters than the dresses, and yes, most of them are female. (The characters, not the dresses. At least my male undead bank alt looks fancy in his purple one.) This world event sorely lacks new and exciting stuff to do, in contrast to Love is in the Air, something I commented on in my previous post. The Lunar Festival needs a tiny flying night elf with a bow. Or a flashlight, to keep in style with the event.

At least there are some positive things about this event. I gives my dorfadin and my newly rolled shaman knowledge of the flight path to Moonglade so they won't have to massacre a bunch of bearmen so that another bunch of bearmen won't kill them on sight. Well, unless they for some reason want to go to Winterspring. Then they're screwed. At least the female Orgrimmar revelers are as hot as always.