Entrenchment

I have been collecting some of the Ghostcrawler tweets in regards to MoP alt-unfriendliness and the overall Blizzard pivot away from alts and back to mains, e.g. entrenchment of old subs vs new ones.

Q: Is the plan in Mists to have raiders go through each raid and let the new ones pile up or use LFR to leapfrog tiers?
A: Want to err on the side of the former. If you want to do 5.2 raid, you can gear up in 5.0 LFR. (source)

Q: Upgradeable gear is okay for honor gear, but it shouldn’t be for Conquest, as it’ll take months to catch up. Thoughts?
A: Problem with catch up (PvE or PvP) is it encourages everyone to play less. We like playing more to feel like it’s worth it. (source)

Q. is there any point in forcing people to be revered with golden lotus to do shado pan dailies?
A. Didn’t want fresh 90s to have to do GL and K and AC and SP and go crazy, then finish in a month and have nothing to do. (source)

Q. Do you want people to be entertained or do you want people to grind? For many the two are mutually exclusive.
A. Big challenge to MMO dev: players say they want quality but may also unsubscribe if they don’t have enough quantity. (source)

Q: How do you feel about the players getting to 90 just now and not being able to play arena competitively due to being behind
A: We want to reward players who keep playing. Too often in the past catch up was so easy that it trivialized accomplishments. (source)

Q. But you brought this trivialization of content yourselves starting with patch 3.2 >.> … what have you learned since then?
A. We learned not to let players catch up so trivially that it negates everyone else’s accomplishments. (source)

Q. Greg, you need to stop blaming the wrong things for cataclysm failures. Catch up mechanics dont hurt the game
A. We just disagree on that. I understand you have very strong feelings about how things should work. (source)

Q. efficiency is more fun than non-efficiency. non-efficiency = time wasting = frustration.
A. I don’t buy it. Some of the most fun things in life are stupidly inefficient. I think being inefficient in an MMO is a social thing. (source)
A. We call it the Mechanar syndrome. Players didn’t farm Mechanar because it was our crowning achievement in dungeon design. (source)

Q: linear progression was the worst idea you ever could return to.. you leave behind lots of alt-players and returners.
A. We understand that. But the alternative is that other players feel their accomplishments have no meaning if rapid catch up exists. (source)

I am having a difficult time trying to comprehend at which station Ghostcrawler’s logic train got derailed. “Catch-up” mechanics do not invalidate accomplishments; new raiding tiers do. Nobody cares about your Tier N achievements when Tier N+1 comes out, because why would they? Progression and envy are ever-moving targets, so “catch-up” is irrelevant to those desiring one or the other (or both). So we are left with… who? The people disappointed that their hard, planned obsolescent work was rendered meaningless by the next patch but “oh wait, at least I can try the next tier right away so it was worth something“?

No, it just doesn’t fit. What fits is that in the very nervous design meeting that took place two years ago when Cata was hemorrhaging players, it was decided that every goddamn trick in the book to extend playing time was tossed up on the Mists whiteboard. Burning Crusade slideshows were dusted off and replayed. “Things for Player to Do at Cap” was underlined, twice. Removing catch-up mechanisms does, in fact, “generate” several additional raid playthroughs that would not have existed otherwise. But in that TBC playbook, Blizzard glossed over the postmortem section that warned “You can never go home again.”

Raids (etc) have shelf-lives independent of their necessity for linear progression; old raids become mentally reduced to roadblocks, just something you have to endure on your way to where you actually want to be, i.e. with everyone else. It’s tough being proud of accomplishments nearly everyone else achieved months ago, nevermind how the first boss of the next tier has drops that blows your endgame gear out of the water. And this is besides the fact that the longer the raid has aged, the smaller the pool of people willing/available to run it. Queues go up. Mistakes are less tolerated. It becomes a vicious, decaying spiral… which is precisely why the “Current Tier” model of Wrath and Cata was the better design.

I get that people are sad that raids like Ulduar become irrelevant in mere months. But that happens even in linear progression models! Ulduar ceases to be Ulduar when the people zoning in are just there to get a high enough ilevel to unlock ToC. The magic of these places is not wholly contained in the encounters themselves, but in the Time as well. Being there when the whole server was struggling to defeat the same bosses, congratulating each other on loot, and knowing that each gear drop was the best in the game (at that time). That was when Ulduar was Ulduar.

You can’t go home again.

So, yeah. I don’t buy it, Ghostcrawler. Even if the devs truly believe they are going back to linear progression out of deference to the high school quarterbacks of the moot accomplishment world, they are going about it in the wrong way. iLevel gating was a huge improvement over attunements precisely because it was more flexible. Removing or reducing the catch-up mechanisms is simply bringing back the Keys, complete with all its (alt-unfriendly) baggage. If Mists does not lose players over this – relegating the new player or recently returned to the back of the bus under mountains of required, outdated content – it will be because other areas of the game improved enough to compensate.

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Posted on January 7, 2013, in WoW and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. The way I see it, they will have to buff the droprates of older tiers of LFR significantly. In the past, new players would be run through old raids and the gear funneled to them (because no one else needed it). This is absolutely not going to happen now, because everyone hated it, and there is an expectation that everyone achieve “raid-readiness” on their own time due to Wrath/Cata structure.

    • Of course, buffing droprates requires that people can run lfr to begin with…we’ve never seen what the queues for non-current-tier lfrs look like. DPS queues for Terrace are 30-45 minutes now, I don’t think not being current content will reduce that number. Valor points may keep people coming back to the easy ones, but we’ll have to see.

  2. “It’s tough being proud of accomplishments nearly everyone else achieved months ago, nevermind how the first boss of the next tier has drops that blows your endgame gear out of the water.”

    Why? Well, I guess that’s a bit of a rhetorical question because I know why, but I think it’s silly. I often see players say some variation of “I don’t need to be the fastest, I just need to be able to work through the content at my own pace”, but I suppose few people actually mean it.

    Back in Burning Crusade we were months behind the fastest guilds on the server, and we didn’t care. It was fun to get through all the raids at a pace we found comfortable, and who cares if some other guild was there before us? Mind you, that was when Blizz released the full slate of raids at the start of the expansion, which I’m sure had something to do with it.

    I agree with a lot of what Ghostcrawler is saying here, which feels weird. More and more I am sad that Pandaria wasn’t magically released instead of Cataclysm… I would probably still be playing WoW now were that the case.

    • It was fun to get through all the raids at a pace we found comfortable, and who cares if some other guild was there before us?

      If you had a full, stable group of friends as raiding partners, then I suppose no one.

      On my end, we had a ball going through Kara late, but once our 10m team started faltering in ZA, things came undone pretty quickly. The last 2-3 spots were an ever-revolving door, with people getting geared up only to bail once their 25m application went through. Rationally, who could blame them? The incentives to stay simply don’t align unless you are raiding with close friends, which is a big, Prisoner’s Dilemma-sized problem. We needed warm bodies (to stick around), they need to get geared to leap-frog up to current content.

      And god help you if your guild got stuck somewhere. That’s when the knives come out.

      I’m glad you had fun with that model, but I didn’t. The difference is you can still progress at your own pace in a Current Tier model if you really wanted; Ulduar was still there, no one forcing you to equip ToC gear. The other way around doesn’t work.

  3. ““Catch-up” mechanics do not invalidate accomplishments; new raiding tiers do.”

    I don’t agree. In Vanilla and TBC, new raid tiers would come out and people would still be working on the old tiers. It was only in Wrath that the model switched. Blizzard is trying to back away a little and find more of a middle ground.

    See this post of mine from 2010: Raiding: Progression or Single-Focus

    • What I am saying is that nobody else cares that you cleared Kara (etc) past patch 2.3. Your guild get server-first SSC clear? Old news when BT is up. If you are the type of person who doesn’t care what other people think, the type of person to whom these accomplishments remain something special even when newer content is available… then you’d be happy in either model anyway.

      This is where my confusion comes in. To whom is this middle ground appeasing? It comes across less of a middle ground and more of a “splitting the baby.”

  4. I think if you want to jump in and play at the highest level without needing to develop your character first you might be playing the wrong game.

    That said, you’re definitely reading too much into what GC is saying. Raid Finder has already replaced the mid-expansion 5-mans as the gear catch-up method, and is not going away any time soon. Nobody is suggesting going back to BC-style gear progression where players would leapfrog from a T4 guild to a T5 guild to a T6 guild once they had enough gear from each.

    Ulduar ceases to be Ulduar when the people zoning in are just there to get a high enough ilevel to unlock ToC.

    I giggled at the retcon.

    • I think if you want to jump in and play at the highest level without needing to develop your character first you might be playing the wrong game.

      WoW has just about been the in the “wrong game” column for more years than the “right” one.

      Be that as it may, we’ll see how the gambit plays out.

  5. When content stays relevant longer players will burn out quicker. Players will remember this later on. The most fun is first time one kills the boss. Anything after that is always less fun until one gets completely sick of it. Inbetween these are the rare epic gems. The anecdotes you will still remember years later. Silly mistakes, rare drops, and last but not least social stuff. Ulduar was phased out too quick for two reasons, but the fact it was phased out too quick contributes to the legend of its content (I am not denying the content was high quality though). The 2 reasons are: ToC was released too quick, and Ulduar became irrelevant because ToC normal was faceroll. ToC HC wasn’t hard enough for hardcore raiders and a contrast to Ulduar’s hardmodes (tho there was mount runs for ToC HC). The contrast of Ulduar being a big raid and ToC being small is also apparent in the overal contrast. Result: grinds, boredom, altitis, unsub. The last raids of an expansion (DS, ICC, etc) were phased out slowly (= contributes to players having less positive memories) because of being end of expansion Blizz focussing on next expansion. Instead of an interim like RS we got straight new expansion with Cata -> MoP. I also kinda see ToC as an interim given it was only 5 bosses.

    What we see in MoP is an artificial way to make those who “were there” and “grinded” feel good instead of jealous (akin to TBC) while forcing those who come back to play the “catch up game” by playing that content. Its very important one understands the whole WoW gameplay is build around the subscription. Literally everything. For similar reason you cannot make a level 90 character; you gotta start from level 1. Hence you are forced to play the game, which costs you playtime. Time is limited therefore the amount of time you get to play content which is new and relevant is less for you as returning player, but… you quit playing. You didn’t pay Blizzard your sub fee while others did. Blizzard removed a method customers used to pay less for the game. They’re rewarding their loyal customers; something they did not do during WotLK and Cata. In Cata I can understand: lack of content. MoP? More than enough content. Tons of metagames.

    This mechanism did not work in the past because of lack of content. It was tough to get 10 players to do Kara and then change of size of content. Now, the people who’d like to catch up have a tool available to make them meet each other in a reduced difficulty and controlled environment: LFR. Region-wide you will get in contact with other players who are coming back to the game. Will LFR suffice? We’ll see. 30-45 min queues for DPS is same as my experience a few weeks ago, and for me not acceptable. People need to see this for what it is: an experiment. Blizzard is constantly experimenting. You can be sure Blizzard will evaluate this new system. While I applaud people who think critical of such experiment I also want to say: lets give it a chance!

    As for the alt unfriendliness. It is a direct consequence of the above but not something Blizzard gives priority to (if you enjoy your main and stay subbed that is the primary intent). Playing alts has advantages. To put it simple without nuance since my post is already getting long and I’d like to make one more point: you learn the game better. But it also makes the difference between a main and an alt less big. I’d also argue many people were playing alts because of lack of content for their main but I disgress.

    “Raids (etc) have shelf-lives independent of their necessity for linear progression”

    What I wrote above about ToC/Ulduar agrees with this statement yet I don’t fully agree with it.

    Example:

    Alice, hardcore player, spend 20 hours in her life defeating Sha of Fear HC.
    Bob, casual player, 6 months later spend 2 hours in his life defeating Sha of Fear HC.
    Charlie, casual players who took a break, has not killed Sha of Fear HC. Charlie will have to get LFR and ilvl 496 (MoP VP gear) to gear up for the next content. Since Sha of Fear HC is _for_Charlie_ still a difficult boss he has the _option_ to kill it. He doesn’t have to though but if he hasn’t done yet that part of the content is still relevant (the notion of “so many already killed it before me why should I care” holds true till some extend and may apply for Charlie). Very different from design of TBC. Heck, even WotLK/Cata is worse in some regard because instead of purely grinding LFD for badges/VP players and having to do previous content on normal, players can now grind any old content for “the old VP”. There’s simply more choice available now. You weren’t able to grind FL dailies for a common currency you were also able to grind in dungeon, normal/HC raid, LFR, … it was seperate.

    The above example is only true inbetween major content patches because there is a fee for expansions. When a new expansion is released people return to a game. That isn’t when people leave, that’s when people come back or start to play! Buying the new expansion entitles the player to the “hard reset” where everyone’s equal. There must be a significant difference between patches which provide small content (like 4,1, 5.1; no reset), new content like raids (4.2, 5.2; small reset) and new expansions (4.0.3, 5.0.3; reset).

    Follow the money. Seriously, in game design like this you need to think economically. Not everyone is able to do so, and Blizzard doesn’t like it when you do though. Blizzard doesn’t want its playerbase to realize the game is designed around the subscription fee, to keep you paying. There is one thing Blizzard dislikes you to do: think or discuss subscription fee. And rightfully so. Your telco does not want you to think about your phone bill every day either! If WoW would have microtransactions for patches and content it’d be much more apparent what people were paying for (and hardcore players would pay a more accurate amount than the casual). Instead, don’t wake the sleeper and changing the scheme would be very costly. You’ve also reported on how non-sub game who promised to not include grinds (GW2) started to include grinds (very interesting observations).

  6. I’m not sure why you’ve hailed the death of catch-up mechanics. Excluding craftable epics that massively boost your ilvl:

    A new level 90 will be able to jump into tier 1 LFR (ilvl 460) within a week of lightly playing heroics/BGs and scenarios. Sha of Anger will award epic boots on the first completion and chances at ilvl 496 gear.

    2 weeks of LFR should see them hit tier 2 LFR (ivl 470).

    4 weeks in they should have sufficient VP and reputation to start buying epics. If they were clever and went straight for the 5.1 rep grind, that means ilvl 496.

    By now, they should be able to join tier 3 LFR (ilvl 480?).

    If, during this month of play, a guild/PUG was kind enough to boost your through the normal/heroic raids, you will catch-up even faster.

    And new raid tiers will almost always be accompanied by a new reputation (with top tier rewards) to boost players’ ilvl.

    I believe that Blizzard has (rightly) shifted the end-game progression emphasis from heroic dungeons to LFR.

  7. It’s not only about making returning player happy.

    You have to show the current player base that it is not ok to take a few month break and that you wont be able to fully recover if you do.

  8. Just in:

    @mumper @ghostcrawler will drops rates for 5.0 lfrs be increased to aid in catchup for alts/new players to 5.2 content?

    Greg Street Greg Street ‏@Ghostcrawler

    @Gorndar Yes.