Tag Archive for World of Warcraft

Allow me to retort…

Ten Ton Hammer’s WoW site has posted The Top 5 Reasons World of Warcraft is the Best MMOG.

JuliusAs the title of my post says, allow me to retort.

They say: You are never alone in Azeroth

But you are alone… so very alone. Sure, every zone on every server has players in it, but most of them won’t talk to you, largely because they don’t need to. With the game being so eminently soloable, why bog yourself down with socializing? WoW has become the epitome of the alone together, or together alone, style of play. If you aren’t in a dungeon or on a raid, all those other people are just background.

They say: Endless content means endless fun in Azeroth

Even more, they say that most games give you a single quest chain that goes from zone to zone. Easy to hold against a new game… but WoW is nearly seven years old. And still… have you played it recently? While there may be many zones to choose from that are appropriate for your level, especially after Cataclysm, there still remains only 1 real quest chain to progress you through the story of the zone. Skip some quests and others won’t unlock, you have to start at the beginning of the zone and play through or else all is lost. And once you get to the top, unless you like starting over and forcing yourself to play classes and races that weren’t your first choice, you’ll start repeating content, endlessly. Welcome to the grind, leave your fun at the door.

They say: The value for your money is insane compared to modern standards

All MMOs, even ones that aren’t WoW, are insane values for your money. Once you’ve bought in to the $15 a month fee, you can play as much as you want. The question really is, what sort of value are you getting for your time? They choose Netflix to hold it up against, and for pure money, if you still subscribe to both disc mailing and streaming, WoW is cheaper. But if you go with just streaming, because honestly if you are a real MMO player then you’ve got a DSL, cable or other high-speed connection, now Netflix is half the price. And what will you do in WoW? Dungeon Finder? Battlegrounds? Like with the previous item, unless you like playing Alts, you’ll be repeating the same content over and over. With Netflix Instant, on the other hand, as long as you don’t crave watching only the newest releases, you can watch movies and TV from all genres. A little horror, some action, a romantic comedy with the significant other, a TV show you missed that all your friends say you should have watched, cartoons for yourself or with the kids, documentaries, and so much more. If you want, you can even repeat content over and over on Netflix. Every December I watch a couple dozen Christmas movies on Netflix, I’ve seen them before, but they’re still good. Value is where you find it.

They say: There is nothing like community

I can almost agree here. WoW’s community is HUGE. Which enables you to find a niche of it you enjoy, surround yourself with them and isolate yourself from the rest of the people who are out to ruin your game. Don’t want to play with spoilers? Too bad, the community is going to ruin that for you unless you play alone with all chat turned off. Want to role play? Better get on an RP server and then find a group or guild that likes to RP the same way you do or else you’ll find yourself at the butt end of jokes or power players. And for Pete’s sake, stay the hell away from the cesspool of the official forums… unless you like that sort of thing, in which case, go, join in, and accept that other people will hate you. Want to raid? Be prepared to play their way and install the add-ons they demand. Oh, and while we are on add-ons, what about PlayerScore… the add-on that lets people judge you before they even get to know you. There is nothing like community, but there is nothing like community. This is one of those strengths that are weaknesses deals.

They say: The game is the most complete experience available

The game is polished for sure. That’s what Blizzard does best. And leveling is easy, whether you want it to be or not (you might enjoy the low-level game, but you’ll need to repeat it with other characters, be overpowered for it, or actually consciously disable your experience gain to play it). And the classes are all well-defined and have their own flavor and niches… all which boil down to tank, healer, dps. The dungeon finder works by putting a tank, a healer and 3 dps characters together. And when you use it, forget about actually seeing the dungeon. Go go go! If you stop and smell the roses, you’ll find yourself booted out of the group. In the end though, I can’t disagree with this final point. WoW is the most complete experience available. It is filled with tons of good and tons of bad. You can enjoy it, and it’ll break your heart. It is fun and boring. It is everything you want, and everything you want to avoid, all at the same time, mostly because Blizzard wants to cater to everyone, despite everyone wanting something different, some in direct opposition to each other.

In the end, you should decide for yourself if World of Warcraft is worth playing, and I say this even to the people who are playing it right now. It is easy to play, almost, one might say, addicting. But ask yourself, “Is this really how I want to spend my time?” If it is, that’s fantastic! Do it, no judgments, as long as you’ve made that decision consciously and with forethought. But if it isn’t, do yourself a favor and step away, cancel (actually cancel, don’t just “not log in” while still paying for it), try some other games or some other activities. Make sure that if you are playing WoW it is because you want to play WoW, and not just because you haven’t taken the time to think of something you’d enjoy doing more.

There. I’m done preaching.

The story of my gloves…

One of the things I’ve come to loathe in modern MMOs is the item grind and the lack of attachment that comes with it.  In World of Warcraft, I don’t care at all about my items because the chances are pretty high that I’m going to replace them soon.  It might be a couple of days, or a few hours, or more often than I would like just a matter of minutes.  I recall one day in particular where I upgraded my character’s pants seven times in just two hours of play.  I probably could have kept any one of those since each upgrade was just a couple of points, from 120 armor to 122 or 8 strength to 9 or adding a stat bonus the previous pants didn’t have, but I felt no attachment to any of those pants.  They’d been so easy to obtain that the stats were all that mattered.

And the appearance, but when the game practically forces you to look like a rodeo clown trying to maintain a cohesive and good look is practically futile.

In my perfect MMO, character stats would be on a smaller scale.  No more crazy strength of 874.  There would be a cap, 100 is a nice number, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for the old table top D&D standard of 25.  With a smaller scale, a single point increase from a magic item would have noticeable impact.  Magic items would then be more rare.  In fact, I’d probably place true magic items only at the end of long quests, coming from incredibly hard boss mobs (assuming the game even had them) or through the arduous labors of master craftsmen.  The obtaining of a magic item would be a story you could tell.  Rather than “Yeah, I got these gloves from delivering pies from Joe to Stewart.” your story would be more along the lines of “Well, about three weeks ago, I undertook a small task for the local sheriff…” and spiral off into a series of deeds and fights or harrowing escapes.  More importantly, those magic gloves would take a long time to replace, if ever.

Over the long haul, your character would become a graphic representation of the stories you could tell, instead of a collection of the best gear you’ve obtained lately.

I think this desire, this design, springs from the years I played EverQuest as a monk.  In the early days, a monk could barely wear any gear, and he was 70% effective even naked since his gear was so weak and he fought without weapons.  Thus, every item that I wore was something I obtained through playing the game.  Some of it from long quest chains, some of it, later, from slaying dragons and other rare and dangerous beasts, from invading the planar homes of the gods, crafted by dear friends using rare materials obtained through adventure.  Even as the game changed and the design encouraged monks to wear more gear, and more monk wearable gear became available, I’d been playing one way so long that I continued.  Every item I carried was a story.  The Treant Fists were a tale of a lost weekend in the Gorge of King Xorbb, the headband of the Ashen Order and the sash of the Silent Fist that eventually lead to the Robe of the Whistling Fists and the Celestial Fists, the Iksar shackles, the Shiverback Hide armor, and so much more.

I’d love to see a game, or perhaps I’ll have to make one, where I actually care about my gear beyond the numbers it increases.

Too much carrot, not enough stick

You might have noticed a lack of my Sneakin’ Around and other WoW related posts.  I’ve cancelled World of Warcraft again.  The truth is that I absolutely loved playing in a strange way, but not enough to feel like a $15 a month charge is money well spent.  But what really drove the nail into the coffin was the constant feeling like the game was broken.

It isn’t broken.  Not really.  But I play MMOs for two things: community and immersion.  The enemy of both of those things is leveling.

It was almost impossible to play without leveling at an absurd rate.  The experience rewards for quests are so out of whack that I can’t finish a line of quests, finish a story, without being horribly overpowered by the time I read the final mission.  That boss who is supposed to be hard to fight isn’t when I’m now three to five levels higher than him.  My other option is to chase quests that have the most challenge and ignore the story.  Abandoning quests just because they go green made me feel bad.  “Hey guys, I know was helping you with your problem, but, ah, I’m gonna move on to the next area now. Hope things work out!”

And lets not forget that unless my friends and I played dozens of alts, we could almost never play together because missing a single gaming session could leave you five or more levels behind your friends.  Slow leveling of old games never felt like work to me, but constantly playing catch-up in an attempt to just be able to effectively group with my friends did.  I supposed I could do what most other people do and just accept the fact that we’ll even out at max level, but the prospect of playing for 85 levels as filler until I get to the real game doesn’t entice me to want to log in.

The reality here is that Blizzard has seen that people are generally happier when they are “progressing” and rather than allow people to actually work for and earn things, they just lowered the bar so that you practically can’t log into the game without gaining something.  And most people seem to want that.  They’ve become reward junkies, the constant dinging of achievements and levels and other random things bringing them joy.  But to me, it’s all empty.  I’ve got over 50 levels and dozens of achievements on one character, but I look at him in the armory and don’t feel any attachment to any of it.  I didn’t really earn it.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t hard earned achievements in WoW, there are plenty, at the high end.  However, the 85 level escalator to get there is full of Fool’s Gold and cubic zirconia.  And I think escalator is the right word to describe the ride.  You get on and it is pushing you forward and if you’d like to stop, you can’t, but you can stay relatively still if you run backwards, working against the flow.

Where am I going with this?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I only know that playing World of Warcraft simply doesn’t get me what I want from an MMO, and I don’t think any of the offerings coming down the pipe will either.  I want a game, where I’m playing the “real game” from the moment I exit the tutorial, and I want that real game to have as few restrictions as possible, to let people make their own rules.  A guild should be a guild because the people want to be a guild, not because raids require X number of people with Y number of tanks and Z number of healers and a DPS output of greater than N.

Back in my EverQuest days, I used to tell people all the time that it’s “not just a game”.  And maybe that’s what I want most, to feel like it’s more than a game, and WoW, with its flashing lights and rapid rewards feels very much like just a game.

Stop with the grouping already!

In MMOs, I am a strong advocate of grouping.  However, even though I often think that people who want to play a game with thousands, or millions, of other people and NOT play with them is a bit silly, I’ve never faulted a game for allowing that style of play (though I will fault them for making solo play the “best” way to play in every aspect – I’m looking at you, World of Warcraft, you and your game from level 1 to 85).  I am, at the core, all about options.

Facebook Grouping

Forced Grouping?

That would be why this makes me so mad.  Plenty of people out there use multiple social networks, and to make things easier they try to link them together so they can make one update and have it show up everywhere.  Facebook has decided that they would like to marginalize certain types of this synchronizing.  If I click that link that says “See 19 more posts from Twitter” it will expand and show me around 2 days worth of Twitter updates, completely out of their proper order in my feed.

Now, I understand, on some level, what Facebook is trying to achieve.  People who play games are often inundated with “spam” from those games and so Facebook decided it would try to clean things up by grouping updates from Applications.  Twitter is an Application.

The fault here is that there is no option to not group updates from Applications.  This is what I get, forced grouping.

There are solutions.  I can use an application like TweetDeck, which posts the same update to multiple sources directly.  But then I need to install TweetDeck everywhere, including my phone, in order to get the same functionality.  But that only solves it for my updates.  The dozens of other people I know who use the Twitter Application will continue to be grouped.  It would be better if Facebook game me the option to choose if Applications were grouped.  Better still, let me choose per Application if I want their updates grouped.

Hopefully, Facebook will get their heads out of their asses at some point and fix this.  If they don’t, it’ll just be one more reason I find myself drifting away from Facebook…

A Week of Tweets on 2011-04-10

  • Plotting. #
  • Inside Job deftly illustrates the causes of the 2008 financial collapse. Reviewed @Shakefire http://bit.ly/h3GDLo #
  • If I could change one silly thing about World of Warcraft it would be to allow turning off shoulder graphics. So ugly. #
  • Arthur last night was better than I thought it would be. Your Highness tonight was worse than I thought it would be. #
  • So slow. #
  • Oh, by the way, Florida lawmakers… uterus. #
  • Redundant code is redundant. #
  • Louis Landon's Reality Not Fantasy is supremely uplifting music perfect for elevators everywhere. @Shakefire http://bit.ly/ezzpEF #
  • Apples 2 Apples is awesome. That is all. #

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Random Daily Adventuring

As I have returned to World of Warcraft, I have become taken by the daily quest.  To many, this is an old mechanic, but when I quit the game these were just called “repeatable quests” because you could do the exact same quest over and over again.  But the daily quest mechanic has evolved and now, for example, the fishing guy in Stormwind actually has several quests which rotate.  You get to do one per day, and the one available changes from day to day.

Imagine if we took that design a step further.  What if, instead of entering a town and finding the same five quests every player finds every day, you were to just find five quests?  If you entered town on Monday, the baker, the weapon smith, the bartender, the fisherman and the captain of the guard would have quests.  But if you came in on Tuesday, the baker and the captain of the guard would have the same quests, but now the other three available quests would be the potion master, the stable boy and the inn keeper.  And by “quests” I mean “tasks” because that’s what they are anyway.  The majority of quests in a game aren’t the type they expect you to hold on to and work on for months, weeks, or even just days.  They expect you to take the quest and then finish it within a single play session, maybe two.

And not just quests for single players.  Quests for duos and groups, even daily raid content.  Call it a midway point between current quest design and Rift’s “abandon quests to fight random events” design.  I think it is worth further thought.

Sneakin’ Around: Love Unfair to Men

Most of the last week or so, I’ve spent it partaking of the Love is in the Air events all around Azeroth.  LiitA (not to be confused with Lita or Lita) is World of Warcraft’s version of Valentine’s Day.  There are a series of daily quests where you can spritz people with perfume/cologne or throw bonbons at them, give a lovely charm bracelet to the leaders of the cities, and there is an investigation line of quests that leads to a daily involving fighting some guys and blowing up a wagon.  If you are over level 75, there are other quests, but I’m not, so I haven’t seen them.

In any event, I’ve been doing the single daily item I can do, the spritzing or beaning people with bonbons, and then keeping my eyes and ears open for people selling the charm bracelets (which I cannot make because you have to kill people to get charms).  I earn the Love Tokens very slowly, but I’ve earned enough to buy a couple of rewards.

I’m very disappointed in the dinner suit that men get.  Women get a dress, which looks more like négligée, that is quite sexy.  Men, on the other hand, get a dinner suit, that actually looks more like pajamas.  Not sexy pajamas, but a lame button down shirt and pants combo that I’m pretty sure people don’t actually wear except on TV shows.  Why can’t men get a suit that looks more like a bare chest and sexy boxer shorts?

Of course, I suppose I can’t complain too much.  I mean, it could be worse…

I know, I know, your eyes, your eyes.  Have a scouring pad for your brain.  It won’t help.  Trust me.

Level 19, and handing out charm bracelets to world leaders…  Ain’t love grand?

Once more unto the Rift

Last beta I didn’t get much chance to play.  I messed around the character creator and read up on the base classes and logged in.  The game informed me that my graphics drivers were out of date and I spent what little time I was in game chugging along in a partial slide show.  This past weekend’s beta was much better.  I logged in my already created character, I ran through the introduction area, and I made it through the first few quest hubs.

Most of the game is fairly standard, and that’s not a bad thing.  The UI is familiar without cloning (it doesn’t look like the World of Warcraft interface even though it mostly functions like it), and the game play follows suit.  Others have praised the soul system, and I will too.  I really enjoy crafting my character from three parts and controlling how he forms as he advances.  To me, the simple genius of it is astounding: you climb up the tree adding passive traits (damage bonuses, spell modifiers, etc) and the number of points spent there determines which active abilities you unlock.  It is the best part of a class system melded with the best parts of a skill system.  Add in that you can build several specs on a single character and you come very close to what I’ve always wanted in a game: the ability to play a single character in multiple roles without having to resort to creating alts.  And even if you did decide to create alts, you really only need to make 4 characters – one of each base: warrior, cleric, mage, rogue.

The public group and rift mechanics are also fantastic.  While they can get repetitive if that’s all you do, mixed in with the traditional quest grind it makes the game feel fresh without feeling alien.  Last night on Shadefallen, Freemarch came under heavy attack from Death, with foot holds in every town and all the players banding together in groups to beat them back.  For soloing, I had been playing a Justicar/Shaman/Druid with a fairly balanced build to focus on making me a better fighter and increasing my 1-on-1 survivability.  But once the giant assault began, I bought a second role, used the same souls but spent more points on the Justicar to reduce my threat and utilize my area heals to assist the raid.  It worked out pretty well.  I spent the bulk of the evening switching between those roles, the solo build for the early waves of any rift and then to the raid build for the later waves.  From the builds to the rifts to the raids, it was much more exciting that any other MMO I’ve played.  Even my precious EverQuest.

I really enjoy the Justicar and Shaman aspects of what I’ve played so far, the fighting cleric appeals to me in so many ways.  If I so buy the game, I can easily see myself playing that for the long haul, though I may ditch the Druid in favor of a different third.  The fairy pet annoys me.

Now I just need to convince the wife and all my friends to switch to Rift.

The Great Divide

So, I’ve started playing World of Warcraft again.  In large part to play with a couple of friends.  The wife and I have been playing a couple of weeks now, but we’ve yet to actually play with the friends we came to join.  You see, they started before us and as such they are about ten or so levels ahead.  We have been trying to catch up, but since they keep playing also we essentially only succeed in keep the gap consistent.

Another friend of ours decided to join us too.  A little later than us.  He’s about ten or so levels behind us and in similar fashion he is trying to catch up but is really only keeping the gap consistent.

People keep telling me that it’ll be okay when we hit the level cap, which will only take a couple of months (or so they tell me).  For the moment, the wife and I are splitting our time between some characters to try and slow ourselves down a bit, which will let the man behind us catch up but lets the people in front of us get further away.

I really dislike this, and it happens in every game.  Well, not in EVE.  Whenever I get into discussions about class based or skill based systems, after going back and forth for a long while I always end up settling on the fact that either system works and either can be better and that it all depends on the quality of the system.  But one tangent that always emerges is that I wish less MMOs were level based.

I understand that, in general, people like levels, because it’s an easy way to measure progress and be rewarded.  Ding! But levels divide your players, which can be good (spreading them out over different level appropriate areas) and bad (you now have to deal with special coding for any PvP interactions around the power increases levels provide and prevention of power leveling, etc).  In my opinion, games need to find other ways to reward people, and to separate power from what is essentially time played.  In EVE, it doesn’t matter if you’ve played for 5 years or 5 months, once you get into a ship the only thing that matters are the skills related to that ship.  And a 5 month player can kick the ass of a 5 year player given the right ships and situation.  But when was the last time a level 15 killed a level 80 in WoW?  Never?  Is it because the level 80 is better or because he’s been around longer?  Neither actually, it’s because the game doesn’t allow people of that sort of disparity to fight in most cases because they are well aware of the futility of the position of the level 15 player.

We need an alternative to levels/time defining power in fantasy games.  And we need ways for people to play together no matter how long they’ve been playing without starting over.

Free to be Super

Champions Online goes Free to PlayAnother game switching to the Free to Play model isn’t really surprising.  I’m pretty sure that most companies are realizing what most players figured out a long time ago: players aren’t going to subscribe to a bunch of different MMOs.  At best, subscription games get tourists, people who love one game but are burned out so go looking for something new to reignite them… and then they go back to the one game they love.  The elephant in the room is that World of Warcraft is that one game for millions of people.  Free to Play lowers the barrier for the tourists down to its minimum (at worst, a big download and install; at best, a tiny download and install followed by streaming out content to you while you create your character and play around in the introduction areas), and then pelts you with bonuses you can buy for tiny amounts.  And earning a few dollars from hundreds of thousands of tourists is better than earning a box sale from a small percentage of that number.  You also avoid people being able to say “the game just isn’t worth the monthly fee” because there isn’t one.  Now you just have to avoid them saying “the game just isn’t worth playing, even for free”.

I’ve always wanted to try Champions Online, but the cost kept me out.  I played City of Heroes for three years, and if that was free to play I’d be there in a heartbeat, but it isn’t.  At least not yet.  Looking over the Champions F2P Features list, it looks like they’ve put a good foot forward and the free parts will be worth playing.  Since Champions doesn’t have separate servers, they immediately avoid the pitfall of EQ2 in separating their F2P players from the rest.  Sure, EQ2 is reporting growth, but I hated that as a F2P player I couldn’t play my old characters from when I was a subscriber and I couldn’t play with my old friends.

Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, this is nothing but good news.  I’ll be looking forward to donning in game spandex next year when they convert.