Archive for November, 2013


on Flying in Warlords of Draenor

Yesterday I took one of my alts out for a spin.  Its a level 90 ret paladin in a mix of Timeless Isle gear and level 85 quest rewards.  I never play him.  He was leveled to 90 without even leaving Jade Forest, by running instances and scenarios.

He is my engineering character, so I needed to go out and kill things to get the world drop recipe for the daily engineering cooldown.  This involved me actually killing things by myself for the first time since I was level 85.

I quickly found that I had no memory of how to play the character.  I didn’t recall what any of the buttons did.  I figured out about four or five through trial and error.  I was able to take on a single level 90-91 foe in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.  If I accidentally pulled two, then I was in trouble.  I really, really sucked.  I must have died 6 times just fighting random mogu in the northern Vale.

So, I flew.

I hopped on my flying mount and hovered around.  I would drop in when I could find a single mob.  I’d fight it, loot it, then hop back on my mount.  If I saw a mining node in the middle of a mogu camp, I’d wait until the mogu had pathed away, drop down, mine the node and zip back into the sky.

This is not new.  Its been the way of things at the level cap since flying mounts were introduced.  People like it.

I’d claim that it is terrible game design.

They put those mining nodes behind the mogu camps for a reason.  The idea is that they are not easy to get to.  They are guarded.  Let me be clear – if I had to fight my way to them I would not have been able to.  I am currently awful on my ret paladin.  Therefore, the flying mount is simply letting me – the completely unskilled paladin – bypass the game mechanics to get the mining node.

I can’t tell who is complaining more about this- the “elitists” or the “casuals” (as vague as those terms are).  Elitists could fight their way through the mogu to the mining node with ease.  The lack of flying would just be a time sink for them.  The casuals don’t want to be bothered fighting.  They want their mining node with a minimum of hassle.

I don’t think either of these is a particularly compelling argument, and they both smack of entitlement.

The main complaint seems to boil down to the concept that questing and running around are no longer part of the game at the level cap.  Once you hit the level cap, all of the things that you used to deal with are now an inconvenience.  You should be above all of that – literally – by flying over it.

Look at the Dread Wastes.  That was a complete zone that was essentially designed to be played at the level cap.  Most of us dinged 90 either in Townlong Steppes or in the first few quests in Dread Wastes.  Then, we’d play through the rest of the zone to get pre-raid gear, or for reputation.  I point this out to reinforce that Blizzard does create non-raid content for players at the level cap, and flying above it would negate that content.

I’m hoping that we find in WoD that there are vast amounts of things to do other than raid once we hit level 100.  If that is the case, then keeping us grounded is the right thing to do.  Let us play through that content the way it was intended by the developers.  If it takes an extra month before we can fly, then so be it.  We’ll have plenty of time in Draenor left once we get our wings.


on Ghostcrawler

The big news lately – Ghostcrawler (Lead Systems Designer Greg Street) is leaving Blizzard.

First thing is – good for him.  Anyone who has the ability and the bravery to move on to something bigger (and hopefully better) has my admiration.

In reading the various forums, I have found quite a bit of venom spewed at Ghostcrawler.  He doesn’t deserve any of this, and the people who use their internet anonymity to spew this crap are, for the most part, vile, small-minded sheep.

Greg Street became the face of Blizzard by making himself accessible, whether by posting in forums or, more recently, through Twitter.  He held conversations with players on their likes and dislikes in the game.  More often, it was the dislikes since the people who like the game rarely take the time to go on Twitter and say so.

Because he made himself so available, he became the symbol that people focused on.  Players who overestimate their intellect would throw their thoughts up on Twitter and expect Greg Street to simply agree with them or bow to their unbreakable logic.  Of course, this rarely happened, which led to great gnashing of teeth as people felt ignored.

Mr. Street was a great asset to Blizzard as he could stay level-headed in the torrent of inanity and vomit spewed at him.  I personally could not bear to read most of the Twitter feed because much of what I read often made me ashamed of the human race (or at least the gaming part of it).  I would not have lasted a week in Mr. Street’s position without going postal.

Those who blame all of the game’s woes on Mr. Street are simply not thinking through the vast complexity of game design.  However, in him they found a scapegoat.  Thus, the herd of internet cattle have banded together to take their final shots at his back as he rides off into the sunset.

Here’s to you, Greg.  Thanks for everything you have done.  The fact that I still play for hours every week and give my $15 a month like clockwork is all the evidence needed to show how the game has succeeded.  The fact that the haters pay their subscription fees too is even greater validation.


Can WoW ever recapture that old feeling?

Blizzcon came and went this weekend.  As far as I know, I’m the only person in my guild (there might be one other) who bought the virtual ticket.  In guild chat Friday and Saturday night, no one was chatting about the new revelations unless I brought it up, and then there were only a few quick replies.  There was no excitement.  No buzz.

I don’t blame Blizzard for this.  They are doing all they can.  Coming up with new ideas for games within the game, taking us down lore paths that are fascinating and interesting, and streamlining the game experience.

I think much of the problem lies with the time between WoW and the old RTS games, Warcraft I, II, and III.

When WoW first came out, a significant percentage of players were drawn to it from their love of the RTS games.  I know I was.  Seeing your favorite Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness scenes and zones brought to life was a wonderful experience.  This is in addition to the EQ players that came over to WoW because it was the next Big Thing.

When Burning Crusade came out, I remember so much buzz being about the role that the old RTS games played.  The Dark Portal, Karazhan, Outland, and others were all prominent in Warcraft II.  Many players geeked out over this, even though Warcraft II was over 10 years old at the time of the Burning Crusade expansion.  The excitement was infectious, and others were prompted to look up the lore or read the novels to join in on the geekfest.

Similarly, when Wrath came out the characters and settings were taken from the Warcraft III RTS.  The Arthas storyline was a favorite, and dedicated fans of the RTS series couldn’t wait to face him.  The story was much fresher this time around – there was only six years between Warcraft III and the Wrath of the Lich King expansion to WoW.

For the Cataclysm expansion, the developers went with other figures from Warcraft lore – Deathwing and the Aspects.  However, this expansion, while steeped in lore, brought less connection to the RTS game series.  It still pulled characters from the classic stories as told in the novels.  However, in this expansion we see Blizzard drawing their lore very much from novels rather than their own prior games.

with Mists of Pandaria, it seems almost like the writers ran out of lore.  They created the continent of Pandaria out of thin air based only on presence of some peripheral characters in the RTS games.  At this point, they are making things up as they go, and the veteran players can sense it.  Gone are the familiar settings and characters.  Gone is the connection to the RTS experiences of the past.

Think about it – why is it that at every Blizzcon, players cry for the return of Alleria and Turalyon?  Why is there so much interest in fighting the Burning Legion again?  These are the heroes and villains that we are familiar with.

With that in mind, Warlords of Draenor is a good idea.  Bring back some of those classic names.  Go back to the days of Ner’zhul and Durotan as played out in Warcraft II.  Try to recapture that old feeling.

But, Warcraft II was twenty years ago, now.  Most WoW players haven’t played it.  In fact, the RTS games won’t even run on modern computers.  Even though a return to those settings is good in principle, I think we have lost a critical mass of the RTS players, and its getting hard to generate that excitement.


A return to loot distribution systems?

In Mists, (and even in Cata) my guild got away from using any loot distribution method other than /roll or need/greed.  In 10-man raids, the itemization on gear made it suitable only for two or three specific specs, and as a group of mostly friends we never had any drama.

In Warlords of Draenor, with larger raids due to flexible raid scaling there is bound to be more conflict.  Add to that thee revelation that gear will alter its stats based on the spec of the character that equips it.  That means that a single leather piece can be rolled on by ALL druid specs, ALL monk specs, and any rogues.  Depending on the secondary stats, a single plate drop could be rolled on by ALL paladin specs, ALL death knight specs, and ALL warrior specs.

Will this force us back to a loot distribution system?  I was happy to be rid of that for the past two expansions.  We used EPGP back in the day.  Might have to reconsider it.


Classic WoW:
Dinaer - 11 Assassination Rogue
Cepheid - 13 Prot Warrior
Cartho - 11 Elemental Shaman

Retail WoW:
Dinaer - 120 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Cartho - 120 Elemental Shaman (US - Quel-dorei)
Derence - 120 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 120 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 120 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 120 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
November 2013
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