I used the Raid Finder for the very first time on Monday night. It was an… instructive experience.
One thing that I learned about myself is the fact that I felt compelled to seek out raid videos/strategies even for LFR difficulty. It is not (just) about insulating myself from group embarrassment, it is about mitigating that awful feeling of not knowing what I am doing. I hate that feeling. At first I believed the feeling to be unique to multiplayer games, as I certainly do not hit up GameFAQs or Wikis the moment I get to a boss fight in a single-player game. Indeed, wouldn’t that be cheating? Or, at least, cheating myself from the actual game.
But you know what? I hate that feeling even in single-player games. If I am dying to a boss repeatedly and have no idea why, or there does not seem to be any clues as to different strategies I could try, I most certainly hit up Wikis. I enjoy logic puzzles as much as (or more than) the next guy, but I must feel certain that logic is applicable to the situation. With videogames, that is not always a given: quests that you cannot turn in because you didn’t trip a programming “flag” by walking down a certain alleyway or whatever. There was a Borderlands 2 quest that I simply looked up on Youtube because I’ll be damned if I walk across every inch of a cell-shaded junkyard for an “X” mark after already spending 10 minutes looking it over. Playing “Where’s Waldo” can be entertaining, but not when you have to hold the book sideways and upside down before Waldo spawns… assuming you are even looking at the right page.
Things got off to a nice start in LFR when the dog fight consisted of just tanking all three dogs in a cleave pile the entire time. The second boss seemed to have an inordinate amount of health, but he too dropped without doing much of note. I died twice to some insidious trash on the way to the troll boss; those bombs are simply stupid in a 25m setting, as I found it difficult to even see them among all the clashing colors and spell effects. Final boss dropped pretty quickly as well, although I almost died a few times towards the end once people stopped coming into the spirit world with me.
By the way, the queue for the 1st raid finder was 15 minutes for DPS. Might have been a “Monday before the reset” thing.
I joined a guild healer for the 2nd raid finder immediately afterwards, although the average wait time of 43 seconds was a bit off. Was killed by a combination of friendly fire and damage reflection during the first boss, but he otherwise went down quickly. I managed to avoid falling to my death during Elegon (thanks Icy-Veins!), but was killed by an add the 2nd tank never picked up; that will teach me to do something other than tunnel the boss. The third boss… made little sense. I spent a lot of time killing adds, as I could not quite understand what was up with the Devastating Combo thing other than I must have been doing it wrong. Eons later, the bosses died.
It is becoming somewhat of a running joke for my guildies since coming back on how much random loot I pull in. The prior week I got ~8 drops from my first 5 random dungeons, for example. This time around I got three epics from my first two LFR forays, all three of which came from the bonus rolls. I was not around for the Cata LFR days, but suffice it to say, I would not have likely came away with that much loot in a more traditional PuG.
Overall, LFR was a pleasant experience. While I can certainly empathize with the criticism of LFR – it was pretty ridiculously easy – I can definitely see the logic behind Blizzard’s moves here. Some raid is better than no raid, low-pop realms like Auchindoun-US wouldn’t support a robust raid PuG community, and to an extent even the “nothing ever drops!” LFR sentiment encourages organized guild raiding in a roundabout manner. Whether this remains satisfying in any sort of long-term manner remains to be seen, but honestly, it is better than the alternative of… what else, exactly? Running dungeons ad infinitum?
Yeah… I’m not sure about this whole WoW thing anymore. Again.
I have not really bothered logging in since the last time I wrote about it, which means I am less than 10 quests into the expansion on any character. On Tuesday, I had an extra long length of time available to play, so I buckled down for the long-haul. Before heading out of Stormwind again though, I decided to continue feeding Auctionator some additional data and perhaps looking into pimping my 85s a bit with some blue gear. Or, hey! I have alts with professions that need leveled, so why not kill half a dozen birds with some AH stones in the form of buying some crafting mats?
Let’s see here… wait a minute…
I thought Auctionator was bugging out on me when it completed the AH scan in literally two seconds, while also stating there are 52 epic items scanned. “That can’t possibly be correct… can it?” Yes, in fact, it can. A generic search for epic items in all categories reveals a total of 137 auctions (presumably 52 unique items). Now, it is certainly possible that I have missed a major announcement when it comes to scaling back BoE epic items, and Wowhead is telling me there are are only 134 epic non-BoP, non-heroic raid items in this expansion.
But what is being presented to me here is truly ridiculous. Aunchindoun-US was always a low-pop server, but as my early posts under PVsAH demonstrated, there was at least a functioning marketplace where you could be a big fish in a little pond. What I am seeing is not a little pond, it is moist patch of earth. Checking even the expansion staples like Ghost Iron and Green Tea Leaves only confirmed my suspicions. My faction’s AH officially qualifies as a failed state.
This discovery completely killed the mood, and I logged off. It is obviously possible to level up and even raid without a functioning economy, but why would you? I have mentioned before that I want to play games I can invest in, or at least feel the simulation of investment. Knowing the economy is dead, knowing the server is dead, and knowing that Blizzard isn’t ever going to bite the goddamn bullet and put realms like Auchindoun out of its misery means my incentive to push forward is dead. Server transfer, I hear you ask? Literally $250. Otherwise, if I have to abandon all my alts with all their professions (and pay $25 on top of it all) just for opportunity to have fun playing your game on one character… well, I politely decline.
For the past three expansions, Blizzard has been solving all the problem elements of low-pop servers except the one that matters: the server itself. Play BGs with everyone else, run dungeons with everyone else, raid with everyone else, and now even quest with everyone else. Isn’t it about time you let us be with everyone else?
While providing a very similar experience, what Rift has going for it is a smaller community.
At first, I could not help but laugh. There is context for the quote, sure, but it struck me as funny regardless to take what would normally be a negative quality (few people are playing your game) and spin it as a positive. Especially when it is an MMO one is talking about, where the whole idea is the “a lot of people” part.
It is undoubtedly true that an MMO “community,” such as it is, has an impact on one’s enjoyment of a game. I read threads like these on the Guild Wars 2 forums, and the sort of hyper-competitiveness inherent to the dungeon-running culture presented there makes me not want to bother at all. The people running these dungeons are getting them done in 20 minutes, whereas it will take me hours to get a similar level of competency all while I slow them down (assuming I am not kicked to begin with).
Incidentally, this is why you have LFD tools: there will always be abrasive social encounters when grouping with strangers, but at least with LFD you are not dependent on their goodwill to zone in at all. As long as you have reasonable expectations (i.e. not expect four strangers to wait while you soak up the atmosphere), you will be fine.
I believe that Keen is probably correct that Rift’s smaller community is a positive, assuming you are into that sort of thing. Fewer people means less of an audience for trolling, more reliance on social contacts to get things done, which probably all contributes to a Cheers-esque atmosphere. Or at least a “we’re in this foxhole together” atmosphere. So… yeah. The fewer people that like your MMO, the more you will like it. And the converse – the more popular your MMO gets, the less you enjoy it – is probably true for many as well.
All of which means you can never say bad things about hipsters ever again.
I usually do not participate in theme weeks, but Stubborn’s recent Individualist vs Collectivist post struck a chord. A discordant one.
But first, as always, we have to define the terms of the debate. Throughout Stubborn’s post, for example, he seems to be using “grouping” as interchangeable with Collectivism. While grouping is certainly something Collectivists do, that is like calling me a Landscape Artist when I mow the lawn. The intention matters.
But rather than get too philosophical about it, I have an easy quiz you can take to determine whether you are a Collectivist, or at least have Collectivist tendencies. Have you ever felt:
- Shame, or
- Guilt, or
- A sense of obligation
…to do or refrain from doing some action in an MMO? If you answered “yes,” congratulations comrade, you are a Collectivist!
I knew the precise moment my WoW days became numbered: six weeks after having killed the Lich King in ICC. There I was, logging on at 9pm sharp, trying to drum up support for yet another ICC run that I did not want participate in, let alone tank and raid lead. So why did I do it? Because I knew that 4-5 of my guild mates wanted to do it, that if I did not personally pull the group together the raid would not form, and that each raid which failed to form would drive said guild mates further and further away (into other guilds, or simply away period). Collectivism is about putting the needs of the Collective ahead of your own. You sacrifice your own enjoyment for the benefit of the whole, because the guild/group/corp/etc is intrinsically linked to your own enjoyment.
Contrast the above with Stubborn’s assertion that Diablo 3 ranks highly on the (arbitrary) Collectivist scale:
D3 gets the most collectivist score because it has no add-ons, heavily emphasizes grouping at harder difficulties, and has individual loot. I’d give it a 5, but I have hopes for more collectivist MMOs to come around, and besides, it stinks.
Do you care about the other people you group with in Diablo 3 beyond their potential function as loot efficiency creators? Do you feel guilt for leaving such a group, or a sense of obligation to stay, or shame when you “fail” them? Probably not.
But… maybe you do. In which case, this debate becomes even more abstract as we are awkwardly forced into quantifying how much a game may or may not encourage Collectivist tendencies in players. Is the game anti-Collectivist, or are the players simply pro-Individualists (read: rational entertainment consumers)?
Here is how I see it: Collectivism is something you bring into the game from the outside.
A game can force you to group with other people in order to play, but whether you identify with that group is 100% up to you. Everyone readily agrees that WoW’s random LFD groups are five individuals looking for loot, but Trade Chat groups were not the opposite by default. Did I have a higher tolerance for failure back in TBC? Yes… because if I did not carry that terrible player through heroic Shadow Labs, it meant I was playing zero dungeons tonight. Walking that player through detailed text explanations of each boss encounter was necessary like wearing a shield and pressing Consecration was necessary – in both cases I was simply pressing buttons, not connecting to another human being.
Perhaps I should just quote Samus, who needs nominated for Best Metaphor of the Year:
Any social element is IN SPITE OF the design of these games. You are sitting in a room with all the chairs facing the wall, praising the room for the great conversation you still managed to have.
Having said all that, I can still agree with Syl vis-a-vis being glad that MMOs like Guild Wars 2 are moving towards “bonus instead of malus” incentives for grouping. If I wanted to be social (the most important step!), many MMOs would make being social difficult; simple things like penalizing group XP, throwing quest barriers up, and placing people in awkward Mineral Rights scenarios (“You take the Copper node.” “No, you!”). These days, I would also include general looting rights, even in raiding. While loot system is traditionally the backbone of a raiding guild’s identity – Loot Council vs DKP vs Main spec > Off spec rolls, etc – it can also be divisive. I might like playing with Bob, but if he is in a guild with Loot Council… well, we can no longer
be friends raid together.
Ironically, in a certain light, relaxing these grouping barriers actually seems to make games more Individualistic. And it does. Everyone says LFD is the most Individualistic, community-destroying feature ever… and then praise GW2’s auto-grouping, auto-scaling, individual looting, no-words-necessary Dynamic Events in the same breath¹. And the multiple guilds thing, which is great, but sort of undermines the whole guild loyalty/identity thing though, right? Maybe, maybe not.
I feel like this is one of those rare situations in which the otherwise terrible relationship cliche of “set the bird free, and if it comes back, it was meant to be” is applicable. After all, even a sociopath can fake relationships long enough to get the loot, so to speak. A Collectivist cares about the Collective, and will return even if they are not penalized for leaving. A closet Individualist on the other hand… well, they need the handcuffs in spite of themselves.
Of course, the thoroughly legitimate fear is that there ain’t that many Collectivists after all. And I am inclined to agree. So it is simply up to you to decide whether or not the chance of fake becoming real via going through the motions is worth all the cognitive dissonance and hand-waving.
I say open up that cage and let’s see what happens.
¹ LFD might be worse for basically never grouping the same people together again, but simply seeing the same few dudes in Events multiple times is not all that more social by itself. It is the difference between paying for gas at the pump and paying the cashier inside.
This news is technically more than a week old, but there was a blue post made by Zarhym that really struck me as… well, read for yourself:
Having said all that, yesterday we discussed low-population and faction-imbalanced realms with our developers. They have some pretty bold and spectacular plans for addressing this in anticipation of implementing some of the features we plan to in Mists. I just don’t have a lot of information to share with you at this stage of programming and development.
My first reaction is in the title: bold and spectacular… server mergers? Assuming that is not what they are doing, well, what are they doing? What could they be doing?
I believe it was in a recent episode of The Instance that the hosts were talking about the concept of moving towards a server-less solution, or perhaps more accurately a “dynamic server” solution. We can imagine that instead of always logging onto Auchindoun or Earthen Ring or wherever, you simply log into a server. Once that server starts to fill towards capacity, people will start logging into a new server. This essentially eliminates low-pop and/or faction imbalanced servers entirely, aside from very last server booted up.
There are several obvious downsides to such a method. First, everything will be like LFD for servers; the likelihood of you making friends “in the wild” is severely diminished since you probably won’t ever see them again. A possible counter-measure would be to weight the system so that you are nearly guaranteed to be placed in the same “server” as people on your Friends List. Think that DK was a pretty cool guy when you were doing dailies? Add him to Friends, maybe see him again. What happens, though, if your Friends List network splits off to different servers based on their Friends Lists? Even if you make it possible to change servers through the UI or whatever, other issues crop up. For example, how will the AH be handled? One mega-AH, ruled by botters?
Aside from the dynamic server idea, I had the thought about simply moving towards LFR-ifying everything – not with queues, but with phasing. Imagine the following: you’re on a low-pop ghost town (i.e. Auchindoun), and you walk into Westfall for some alt questing. Instead of the place simply being dead, it is fairly vibrant… with people from other low-pop servers. Instead of an empty Auchindoun Westfall and an empty Dragonmaw Westfall, there is a kind of meta-Westfall that both servers share. Their AHs would remain separate, their Stormwinds would remain separate, their Tol Barads would remain separate, but any kind of dead zone would be shared. If a bunch of people congregated in Westfall for some reason, the servers could simply phase out the other side.
Or maybe “bold and spectacular plans” is simply LFD scenarios, or LFR Tol Barads.
All I know is that low-pop and/or imbalanced realms is a huge, systemic problem in two-faction games. In my four years, I never played on anything other than low-pop realms; any time I heard excitement over Sunwell-esque unlocking of vendors or world raid bosses or WG/TB-based PvP objectives, I always rolled my eyes. Those things do not work on Auchindoun, nor on many other servers. Fundamentally, you and I may as well be playing entirely different games.
If Mists is really focused on getting people out of cities and back into the world, Blizzard is going to have a big problem in low-pop realms when everyone is outside and they still can’t see each other.
Once you get that knee-jerk reaction out of your system, the design announcements currently going on at BlizzCon are pretty interesting.
Yeah, Pandas. They really did it. I owe someone $20. But what about the rest?
- Every race but goblin and worgen… interesting.
- Does this mean new animations for all those older races?
- GG tank balance, once again. Historically, Blizzard has never balanced tanks correctly, ever.
- “No auto attack! Devs want you to have this street fighter feel where you punch a lot.”
- Seriously, that won’t work. Blizzard has spent years increasing the passive damage of every melee class because front-loading them in actual attacks leads to 3.0-era Ret paladins murdering everyone.
- Nevermind how Blizzard specifically changed Heroic Strike and other on-next-attack abilities to be more normal abilities specifically because warriors were getting carpal tunnel. Now they want Street Fighter?
- Those racials suck. Nothing like how blown away I was at Goblin/Worgen racials.
- Wonder about what their racial mount will be…
- All that aside, I’m one of “those guys” whose overall opinion on the race will be determined by how the females look. My paladin is a draenei female despite it being the worst race in the game simply because I like the look, for example.
- After the disappointing direction of Worgen females, I fully expect to be similarly disappointed here.
Talent Tree Revamp Reaction
- Change is scary!
- Actually, this sounds fine.
- These choices are actually interesting. Some of them will be extremely difficult.
- Here are some examples of good ones:
Those are some interesting choices. The rogue spread boggles my mind with the possibilities, for example. Shadow Focus would presumably let you Sap, use Tricks of the Trade, and so on without any Energy cost. Meanwhile, Nightstalker would also be useful in a more general sense. Subterfuge seems bonkers to me. Can you imagine? You’re healing some dude from the bushes, and all of a sudden you get a Garrote, Eviscerate, and Mutilated before you even see where it came from. And I have to assume that Stealth breaks immediately if you start capping a flag or whatever, otherwise… very OP.
And look at the tanking spreads:
Those… are actually pretty crazy choices. The “obvious” paladin tank choice would be Ardent Defender, but I have never thought it was a compelling button to push every since it was redesigned from its (admittedly OP) passive ability – it was essentially Divine Protection v2, now with triple the cooldown. Now I have choices! Sacred Shield as a Prot tank looks really juicy even with the 60 second internal cooldown, for example. And if I were questing or facerolling through obsolete heroics, Blessed Life would let me unleash some burst DPS with all that extra guaranteed Holy Power.
Here is an example of what NOT to do though:
Yes, I noticed that Repentance technically has no cooldown and is essentially a paladin polymorph. Yes, I also noticed that “Fist of Justice” (lol) is a 6-second stun on a 30-second cooldown, ala early Wrath. Choosing between those two will be absurdly difficult… unless you are Ret paladin, in which case you are just fucked. Holy paladins never could get Repentance, so a “default” HoJ at half its normal cooldown is pure bonus, nevermind the strategic implications of trading it for a spammable CC on a different DR from normal CCs. Similarly, Prot paladins experience pure bonus. Ret paladins though? They lose either their stun or their incapacitate (e.g. their only “gap-closer”), and lose even the lame-ass snare capacity they had previously. More demoralizing is that the mere continued existence of Seal of Justice means there won’t be a snare for Ret paladins for yet another expansion.
There are probably other class examples of options actually being taken away in this revamp, but the Ret one jumped off the page and cock-slapped me. Anyway, back to talent impressions:
- Apparently Blizzard wants you to be able to change talents at any time, ala glyphs.
- Some of those talents are obviously dungeon talents, obviously PvP, etc. Not sure how that eliminates cookie-cutter builds.
- Perhaps a secondary effect of having more difficulty levels in dungeons/raids is that cookie-cutter builds would be less relevant.
- Actually, no, cookie-cutter builds will always be relevant. See: rise of GearScore in late Wrath despite high GearScore being 100% irrelevant to the actual difficulty.
- “Heroic dungeons [in this expansion] will largely be tuned to be about as difficult as they were in Wrath of the Lich King, allowing players to fairly quickly down bosses in PUGs and hit their Valor Point caps.”
- Told you so.
- Okay, technically I predicted Firelands would be easier, which didn’t happen. Not my fault Blizzard is so damn slow.
- Told you so.
- Scenarios sound interesting. The lack of a trinity requirement is pretty novel, WoW-wise.
- Hopefully Scenarios will be a frequently-updated feature, since it doesn’t technically need lore or even bosses to support it.
- Dungeon Challenges, eh? Good luck.
- Christ, they put Challenges in the LFD feature?! Are they insane?
- Okay, it only matches you up with other people flagging themselves as Challenge. Not quite as crazy.
- Actually, completing a successful gold metal Challenge run entirely via LFD should be a tier higher than doing it in a premade group, don’t you think?
- I think Challenges are a pretty interesting feature, but what’s more interesting is how they “normalize” the gear. Seems pretty dangerous for a MMO to even tangentially introduce a feature that makes gear progression irrelevant.
- After all, if they can make gear irrelevant there, why not make it irrelevant everywhere?
- Other than the obvious “it removes replay value.”
- “We are currently not planning to have 90 normal dungeons in MoP.” Ballsy. Or lazy, depending.
- That seems like a clear signal to solo to cap, then group.
- Or continue soloing forever, by getting VP from questing.
- Pet Battling = Path of the Titans, Dance Studio. I predict vaporware.
- Then again… they did play the panda card so who knows anymore?
- “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. [screaming] You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
- If Pet Battling is real, $10 says the store pets are more powerful than normal pets.
- “Pets will be account wide.” Really? Huh. Then I guess the BoE Disco Cub isn’t such a rip-off than it was before.
- You know there will be pissed-off people who bought more than one to have on multiple characters.
- “The plan is to get people back into the world, instead of having players roam around Stormwind and Orgrimmar all the time once they reach max level.”
- And yet no real concrete plans on how they expect to accomplish that.
- Hell, Scenarios and LFR and Challenges all push people back into instances.
- Maybe daily quests with VP will get people outdoors, but that certainly isn’t much of “out in the world.”
- Interesting how there was no mention of new Wintergrasp/Tol Barad-esque zone.
In any case, that about sums it up for now. While a lot of these things sound interesting, Path of the Titans sounded interest too. Time will only tell how many (if any) of these features actually make it to live servers.