Posts Tagged ‘WoW’

The More Things Change

April 1st, 2011 1 comment

Role-playing games are an escape from reality. We play to forget the hardships of a day, and to enjoy the company of friends. We play because we would rather be these other people, at least for a few hours. But the few moments we can steal away from the dreary day-to-day are still at the whim of Real Life. Sometimes, we can no longer make the commitments that we made when we started gaming. Sometimes, we’re no longer having fun with these characters, or this party, or this DM. And sometimes, Real Life says “Enough.”

And we stop.

It’s lamentable. It’s tragic even. With bittersweet farewells in character and mixed feelings out, we try to reconfigure the game to deal with the absence of characters and players who we had previously counted on.

And that’s the rub. We did count on these people. We counted on the storyteller to keep telling stories, or the tank to keep getting all those big, bad monsters not to hit us. We counted on the healer to keep us alive. We counted on the rogue to gank bitches and take names, damn it! We counted on our friends, and we can’t any longer.

So how to move on? How to deal with the absence introduced? Well, that depends on a lot of things, but mostly it depends on whether the person who is leaving was a mere player on a stage, or if he was the storyteller.

If the storyteller’s gone, then nine times out ten it’s the end of the game. It’s a little different in a LARP, where players have a lot of investment in the games themselves, but if it’s a tabletop game, or if it’s a raid, that might very well be the death knell of it. You can kiss that game good bye, and those stories probably finish without ending. Maybe that’s the greatest tragedy; the game got started because the people around it wanted to tell a story, and they’ll never have that chance any more. The sour feelings and wishful thinking that the game could be resurrected someday almost pale in comparison to the story having never reached a “the end”.

It’s far more common, and far more muddy, if it’s a player who leaves. If one player leaves, usually the person in charge (the ST or raid lead) will try to fill that place in, try to get someone new to pick up the slack. This usually works, but doesn’t usually work well. New party dynamics have to be figured out, new relationships have to be established in an already established order. Can it work? Like real world relationships that have problems, it’s really only possible if everyone left tries to make it work. The new player has to do their best to fill the role expected of them, and the rest of the group has to try and accommodate the new. It’s more disastrous if one person’s leaving triggers an exodus, and suddenly, a noticeable percentage of the game just isn’t there anymore.

In either case, if the remaining people want to save it, they have to make the decision to try to save it. They have to be willing to put in the effort to do the heavy lifting, and to deal with the new that has taken the place of the old. It’s hard for the people who don’t make the decision to leave, but instead decide to try and rebuild, knowing they’ll not only be a little sadder, but that the game they’re now playing is not the game they agreed to play when the game began. All games change over time, but rarely do they change so radically.

On the other hand, the players might not want to save the game. They might just want to reform, with a new idea. Play a different game, raid with completely different characters. Moving on from what was to what will be, what could be. The possibility of having something new to take the player’s mind of the old is a very alluring concept. Since the old game failed, after all, you have all this free time to fill it up with a new game.

There is also the decision to just tough it out. Maybe you don’t need that person in the way you thought you did. Maybe you can get on, ignoring the limp, the phantom character sensation as it were. It doesn’t always apply, of course. You need a storyteller, and you need a couple of players, but you can sometimes make do with less. Maybe you had more than you needed to begin with, and it’s actually a blessing in disguise. Your games are faster now, streamlined without that extraneous part of the group.

But ultimately, the problem isn’t with the person who’s leaving. They’ve made their peace, and their decision, and carry on with their lives. They knew what they were doing, and when the finally put their foot down, there isn’t a lot that another people can do about it.

No, the problem is with who’s left.

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You’ve come a long way, Blizzard.

December 10th, 2009 3 comments

This week, patch 3.3 went live for WoW. MMO-Champion had been predicting it for a while, and we all knew it was going to be messy and chaotic like patches often are, but out of the stampede of players, clamoring to get new content, something amazing arose. In the hubbub and the hoopla of tens of thousands of people trying to storm the new five-man dungeons and 10-/25-man raids, the random instance tool came quietly, and changed the way I play this game.

It might be the single greatest thing seen over the last two expansions. Honestly.

For those of you who are still reading and don’t know what the system is, the LFG engine has been redesigned. They opened up instances to be battlegroup-wide, just like battlegrounds. You queue up in much the same way, except that for an instance you declare what you bring to the party, in terms of tank, healer, or damage. You can choose to enter the queue with a group that you already have, filling in the last few spots you don’t have, or you can just queue in solo and get a full party. That’s when the amazing parts start happening. You immediately get teleported to the instance when the group is formed and ready, saving a lot in the way of travel costs. You suddenly don’t have to be in Northrend all the god damn time, and indeed, I was thinking of setting up my hearth in some place that isn’t as laggy as Dalaran tends to be. Maybe Shattrath City, but honestly, I think my Tauren is ready to go home to TB.

After you kill the last boss in it, you get a reward, which is a small gold amount, and some badges. If this is your first random heroic dungeon of the day, you get two badges of Frost. If it’s not, you get two badges of Triumph. On patch day, I managed to pick up 47 badges of triumph, more than I have in two weeks of 3.2. Granted, all the bosses in Northrend drop Triumph badges now, but the speed involved in just tearing through dungeons radically redefines the fun I have with this game: I don’t have to stop chaining heroics together once I know that my group works. We’re like the God damned Energizer Bunny. I ran through the three new five-mans, OK, VH, HoS, CoS, Nexus, and Drak’Tharon Keep last night, in the span of about 6 hours. 9 dungeons, three of them brand new content, on a patch day. This is fast.

Now, it isn’t all plums and roses. Sometimes, you’ll get a fail group. It happens with every randomized action you take, in real life or not. I got a terrible warrior, who had never even run the dungeon we were in (Old Kingdom), and was proud of his 1.2k DPS. The chances of a fail group go down however when you get people you know in your group, and only allow one or two spots to be filled, particularly if those spots are damage dealers, and as more people get used to the system, especially with the amount of loot being tossed around, I imagine these failures will become less and less.

All in all, I think the random instance tool is a great success, and will be very happy with it for some time to come. There are a couple of other of features about 3.3 that note some attention:

I was hoping for something slightly different with the new disenchanting tool. I was hoping it would just let you break all the greens down into enchant mats, but it requires you to have an enchanter of the appropriate skill to do it. That’s both good and bad news. It means that enchanters aren’t useless, but it also means they are in fact more useful. Not having a main who is an enchanter in the guild will get to be a bigger and bigger problem, especially since the guild has been using a lot of materials. I only got one group randomly with a ‘chanter who could help me, and failed to win any of the items that were sharded. Oh well.

The five-mans are very well constructed, but I fear the heroics to be a bit daunting for players. They seem to be a bit on the long side, and I worry how casual players will get to see this content, because it’s very challenging. The bosses in the Heroic Pit of Souls for example have almost one million hit points, far more than any other boss in any five-man. Hell, the trash mobs almost as much health as some five-man heroic bosses. I suppose I should count myself lucky to have finished it with no wipes on heroic on the first go, but it was very intimidating, even for someone who has two BiS items.

I’m sure, as with all patches, it will eventually become commonplace. For a lot of new players, or recently-turned-80s, this is what will be normal. They have always gotten Triumph badges from heroics, and the LFG system always worked this way. But for me, it seems a small bit of heaven. I don’t get to have to be bogged down by the weight of the game, I can just do what I love doing most about WoW: taking 20 minutes and tearing through some fantastical dungeon.

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Patch 3.2 – The changing landscape of instances

June 24th, 2009 3 comments

I’ll start off by saying a lot changes in the upcoming Patch (3.2, which is already on the PTR) so I’m focusing for right now on the changes to instances.

The two critical changes are the addition of a complete new instance, for 5 man, 10 man, and 25 man content. The second change is about the Emblems that drop off of every instance that drops one.

The addition of a new five man dungeon is fairly exciting, along with a new 10 and 25 man dungeon. For them all to be in one place is a little unexpected, but there’s a kind of precedent in the last patch of Burning Crusade which released both Magister’s Terrace and the Sunwell Plateau, meaning that the high end of casual content had been expanded, as well as the high end of hardcore content. I remember Magister’s Terrace being particularly difficult pre-3.0, so if the difficulty is akin to that, lots of guilds are in for a treat. It was a source of great pride to be able to tank 5-man content that was harder than 10-man.

It’s difficult to say that I endorse what appears to be the concept of the instances. I can understand the tournament grounds as a concept for dailies, and for rep and rewards; glory to the knights in the service of their king, and so forth. The problem comes in that I feel very attached to the idea of instances as places for monsters to live and bad things to happen, so it’s hard to get behind the idea of a tournament ground being used in such a way, thematically. That being said, there was a bit of foreshadowing about the Black Knight being an agent of the Scourge, so we’ll see if that’s how it plays out. You’d think, though, that people would notice as it’s being built about the less than subtle signs of blight growing everywhere, and cultists chanting unspeakable incantations praising the Lich King. Edit: After I wrote this section, it turns out that is just a big ol’ Tournament grounds. Still don’t know how I feel about that. Hope the execution’s good.

The more substantial change is going to be in Emblems being dropped. Right now, Emblems are dropped according to the difficulty of the instance or raid. Heroic Instances and 10 man raids drop Emblems of Heroism, 25 man raids and 10 Man Ulduar drop Emblems of Valor, and 25 man Ulduar drops Emblems of Conquest. This scaled system was meant to give incentive to people to try the harder instances (25 man content as opposed to 10), but there was a great clamor on the forums when it was announced that 10 man Ulduar wouldn’t give better than 25 man gear. The problem, as many people (including me) saw it was that there was no tactical reason to run 10 man Ulduar. The progression would not be as good as 25 man ulduar, or even other 25 man raids, since the Emblems, one of the sources of progression that is universal to people, wouldn’t buy anything new. That is to say, though certain bosses drop loot that is better for certain classes or specs, everyone could acquire Emblems. With enough Emblems, you could buy something that was useful to you, even if you didn’t get that ultra rare drop.

3.2 changes this entirely. Everything that dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor will now drop Emblems of Conquest, and the lower two Emblems are being removed entirely. The new instance will have 5, 10, and 25 man modes, and will drop either Emblems of Conquest (the 5 man dungeon) and will feature a new badge, the Emblem of Triumph. The dungeon dailies are being reconfigured to drop Emblems of Triumph as well. This means that functionally, rewards for everyone live everywhere. You can acquire enough badges of Conquest with any raid or instance to get a large number of them to upgrade your gear, including buying you some t8 pieces. The new content is still worth while for the new badges, and heroics and normal dungeons (well, the four 80 dungeons) become relevant again.

Does this make raiding obsolete? Not necessarily. Consider that in one lock out period, you can run a pretty quick Naxx 10 (Let’s call it 3.5 hours) and get 16 Emblems of Heroism. For the same time investment, you might be able to get the same number of badges doing conventional Heroics, but you not only include more people in the guild (something a 10 man guild is interested in) but you have a good time. Naxx at this point can be done almost blindfolded. You don’t have to treat it seriously, and so it’s fun. It’s actually kind of appealing to go into Naxx and just talk about non-WoW stuff, and still get credible rewards, even help out some of the less geared people in the raid.

The equipment being put into 3.2′s raids and dungeons looks to outstrip Ulduar by a fair shake, but I think the ease of Naxxramas might be a compelling enough reason to keep running it. Additionally, Heroics are likely to surge back into prominence, given their speed and ease as well. This change might affect Ulduar 10 raids the most, as they’re the hardest content in the game currently, and since the change will give players gear equivalent to just beyond them, one could argue that they become a raid with no good reason to run. Ulduar 25 might come out unscathed, since it still provides Emblems of Conquest and has a lot of unique items (notably relics and idols) but isn’t being PuG’d on my server, and I don’t know if it is on others.

These changes are dramatic in the world of PvE. Shifting the focus away from the latest raid to older dungeons, while adding worthwhile newer content is huge. I’m not sure of the reasons behind the change, and they aren’t explicitly stated anywhere I can see, but I might suggest that they wanted to gear people up for the end game. Heroics are relatively simple to do at 80. With a little bit of gear, they become sleep-through easy, except Halls of Stone. Fuck Halls of Stone. Nonetheless, with easy access to Ulduar 25 gear that you can make a decent raid set out of, Blizzard lowers the bar as to what’s accessible, and I think that’s a great idea. Ulduar felt too hard for 10 man groups to do, unless they were dedicated raiders. My guild has recently suffered at its sadistic feet, and we haven’t cleared past four bosses. With the 25 man gear soon available to us, we’ll be able to access content that we’ve all wanted to see, but weren’t able to, despite our skill at raiding.

We’ll have to see about the difficulty of the new instance, but I’m hoping for something akin to Magister’s Terrace: a solid yet beatable instance that you might not get in three runs, but that doesn’t screw you on the RNG, and will eventually buckle to your playstyle. Blizzard has said they wanted to make all the content available to everyone, and it looks like this is a good first step.

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Beware the Bear!

May 26th, 2009 1 comment

For all my Feral brothers and sisters, our time is at hand! We can rejoice, finally, after so long and take back our birthright!

Yay new models.

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One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

May 14th, 2009 6 comments

D&D 4th Edition is not WoW in tabletop form, and you’re avoiding it for the wrong reasons.

I think the comparison stems primarily from the “role” aspect that is now a core part of D&D characters, and it’s kind of a bad thing to make a sticking point out of. If you’re going to compare two things, you should compare all of their aspects, and in this case, 4th ed is hardly like WoW at all.

Let’s start with the hardware issue, because it’s fairly obvious. WoW requires a computer with a high-speed internet connection. D&D requires three books, a handful of dice, and paper. This means that D&D tends to be more portable than Blizzard’s little gold mine, and this difference is a fairly simple one, yet very important to establish. Where I can typically only play WoW at home, I can go over to other friends houses and play D&D with them there, or even take it to Cons and libraries, for a totally different experience. On the other hand, it can be quite a hassle to get my laptop set up at some other place, the internet connection of which I’m not in control of at all. I also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a top of the line machine to run D&D, nor do I pay a monthly subscription fee for it (though I could.)

On the other hand, the hardware enables another major difference between D&D and WoW: MMORPG means of course that you are online with thousands of other players. Instead of my core group of friends, I interact with hundreds of people in a week, in a myriad of ways. I buy their auctions, debate with them in trade channel, or PuG Naxxramas. While doing that, I’m listening to my favorite tracks on iTunes, following an e-mail conversation going on between a few colleagues, and surfing the web for pr0… I mean helpful tips about how to help people. (C’mon, it’s what the internet’s for.) This creates, by necessity, a different group dynamic. I know the people I play D&D with, and have for years, but in WoW, I might group with someone who I’ll only know for those few minutes when we’re killing some trash together. This creates a server based community, where some figures are heralded, and others reviled. An Alliance Night Elf Rogue on my own server of Quel’Dorei who goes by the name Hood is a particularly good example. The Horde side of the server actively goes insane when he’s mentioned, whereas I’m told he’s actually a fairly cool guy to the Alliance. The culture that surrounds an MMO is impossible to recreate on D&D’s scale, and vice versa. I can play WoW with my best friends, but it’s a very different experience to enjoy D&D with them.

Then there’s the story aspect of WoW. Even though WoW presents itself as a roleplaying game, it’s not. Yes, they have RP servers, and yes, you are expected to develop a character, and yes, if you break character, it’s technically against the Realm’s ToS, and you could be penalized for it, but it’s not a roleplaying game. In a roleplaying game, you can interact with the story and you have a direct impact on it. Indeed, a story may have been created just for your tabletop group, as I’m doing currently with a 4th ed. game I’m running. However rich and deep the lore of WoW is (and it is, trust me), it’s not something you can direclty interact or effect. If a group of Horde rushes up to Darnassus in search of glory, and kills Tyrande, she’ll respawn in 3-5 hours. She’s not going to be permanently affected, and you don’t have the story to tell of how you killed one of the most powerful characters in WoW’s cannon. Well, you do, but when she respawns, what do you tell your guild? How do you justify doing something that can’t actually be done? When you clear out a raid instance, but still need to go in there for the gear, how do you rationalize the fact that all the monsters are back after just over a week? Whereas in D&D, if your group manages to kill the leader of a small community, if the DM pays attention to it, that could be a pretty big change. Even bigger if it’s a not-so-small community. D&D’s world has more flexibility, and is more responsive to change than WoW can ever be, and that’s fine, because it’s a different game.

Don’t get me wrong. I love WoW. Big fan. I love the friends I’ve made with it, and the things I’ve done with it. This blog concerns itself with gaming, and was supposed to be about WoW in particular. It’s kind of drifted from that, but I digress. What’s important is that I’m a big fan of D&D fourth ed. too. I think a lot of people are missing out because they have preconceived notions of what 4th edition is and is not. My best friend doesn’t think it’s WoW per se, but he doesn’t accept it as D&D proper, because it doesn’t have some setting material from older editions. A good friend of mine is upset for the reasons that it feels too much like a MMORPG.

But it’s not. It’s not D&D 3rd edition, or second, or oWoD, or 7th Sea, or any other game.

It’s D&D 4th ed, and it’s a lot of fun. So find a group, and play.

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