Tag Archives: Wrath

Who matters most?

So apparently it’s a thing right now, where because a Mythic World First Guild decided to stop being a Mythic World First Guild that people are clamoring that Blizzard do something, because won’t you think of the poor Mythic World First Guilds?

As usual, I have some strong feelings about Mythic Raiders, raiding in general, and Blizzard’s “catering” to players.

When things come up about Group X vs Group Y in WoW, it always boils down to one thing – Whoever is talking thinks they deserve something, and the other side thinks they don’t deserve that thing.

So. Who deserves a thing in WoW?

Who deserves the gold? Who deserves the gear? Who deserves the mounts? The pets? The Titles? The Legendaries?

Does anyone disagree the answer is – People who spend time and money?

Those are literally the two most important things in most people’s lives after all. Time and Money. They are a weird balance board. It fluctuates at high and low ends of the spectrum obviously, and has weird connections to seemingly unrelated things. But despite how much I hate goblins – they aren’t wrong. Time IS money.

We can’t say “Well anyone who pays for WoW deserves all the things.” (Though I do actually think that SHOULD be true.) Because… well, we all pay for WoW right. If I have to run Stratholme 166 times to get my Baron Rivendare’s Charger, I don’t want someone else getting it just for logging in. (Honestly, I really don’t care, as long as *I* have the mount.)

So for WoW, the real thing isn’t money. Because we can’t BUY a thing straight up. And it’s actually not “fair” to gate things behind money like that. See, WoW is based on the precursor to Mobile Games Monetization. (It really is, even if they don’t have a direct route to a la carte purchasing – which they should if they wanted to make bank, but again I digress – the ability to buy with Dollars things that can be traded or sold in game for everything means that it’s doable.) Mobile Games are based on two ideas – more players is always better, even if 90% of the players pay nothing. And two (this is the important one for this conversation) Players are either going to give us time or money. That’s why all the “currencies” in mobile games are used to speed things up.

Do you want to spend a month farming a thing – or pay $10? As someone who earns more than $10 an hour – it’s TOTALLY worth it for me to throw $10 at a game (especially if I like it, support your game devs) over waiting a month. (Also I am wildly impatient.) There are people like me who don’t mind the money. There are other people who are super proud of reaching the same achievement without spending a dime.

But in WoW, this transaction – money to thing I want in game – is not direct. It’s very roundabout. I have to buy tokens, wait for tokens to sell, then trade gold for carries. For the sake of this discussion though, let’s assume this is not REALLY doable (since it’s cost prohibitive, and limited by Blizz since you can only buy so many tokens.) (Also, it’s how it was BEFORE the tokens, and I feel it still holds true.)

So then, if we all pay the same amount of money into Blizzard, shouldn’t we all get the same amount of stuff? All the mounts? All the pets? All the gear?

Hurm. That’s not very fun though is it? We enjoy the seeking, the striving to get a thing we want. So the currency Blizzard is asking for isn’t money, it’s time. They want us to spend TIME getting an item. Here’s where the breakdown happens though: Elitism – and players who think they deserve something because they “worked harder” for it.

If we go back to the mount example. An Elitist would say “Because I ran the dungeon when it was current, because I got the mount when it was a 1 in 1000 drop, I deserve it more than someone who farmed it at level 80.”

But they didn’t earn it the same way I did. They were just LUCKY. At 15 minutes a run, times a 166, it took me 2490 minutes to get my mount. That’s 41.5 HOURS. At minimum wage (in California), that’s over $400! FOR PIXELS! Someone who ran it at level, could have gotten it on their first run (okay probably not but rng is rng).

So which one of us DESERVES it more? Hint – both of us – we both worked for it, just in different ways.

Ah. That’s the key right there. We got the same result – we just got it in different ways. Also he got his like 6 years earlier than I did.

People talk about Mythic Raiding like it’s the people Blizzard is making the game for. It’s not. They make the game for all of us. If it was just for Mythic Raiders, do you REALLY think Pet Battles would be a thing? At all?

People talk about Mythic Raiding and say “Well if you were willing to devote the time to it, you could do it too!” Actually, it’s not about time. It’s about skill, what we find fun, and willingness to be unhappy while working towards a goal. How much time does a Mythic Raider spend playing WoW? 40 hours a week? Like a job?

My slash played, since 2005 when I started playing, averages out to 5 hours a day. That means in a week – I spend 35 hours playing – on average. Obviously some weeks are more (Legion launch!). Some are less (Person 5 get here faster!). But in the end, I spend almost as much time playing WoW as I do working.

The real question is – why is their 40 hours of play being valued at a higher rate than mine? Why is my 40 hours leveling and capturing pets not a valid path to a best in slot piece of gear? (Since that is ARGUABLY the goal of a game like WoW, a loot treadmill.) Why isn’t it valid that someone who PVPs 40 hours a week earn gear on par with Mythic Raiding? It is just a loot treadmill right? Aren’t we on the treadmill? Why don’t we get the loot?

Less than 1% of players saw Naxx. So they remade it for Wrath. And nerfed it. People were pissed. Why? Blizz was “catering to casuals”. No – Blizzard was catering to PLAYERS. People who paid money for their game, paid the sub, and likely spent just as much time as everyone else in game – but maybe weren’t driven to focus on raiding as the end all be all of the game.

Do I think people running a raid 40 hours a week deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Oh yes. Do I think people running dungeons 40 hours a week deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Yep, them too. Do I think people leveling pets 40 hours a week and beating the Celestial Tournament deserve mounts/pets/titles/legendaries? Hell yes, that shit is hard.

“But Joyia, if you make it so that people can get the best gear from running dungeons – people won’t run raids!”

Ahhh, that’s where the Mobile Game Monetization comes back in.

Mythic Raiders == the Whales. They put up with all the “pain and suffering and omg why would you do this this isn’t fun at all” and get the loot fastest. Us “filthy casuals” who spend just as much time in game if not more – we get it too. Just slower. And over a greater length of time. The currency here is just pain and suffering.

That’s why the progressive buff in ICC was such a great thing. (The Mythic raiders don’t need it or care, my little casual guild can progress to the end!) That’s why Badges of Valor were such a great thing. (You got it in a drop, that’s cool, but if I keep killing bosses I will get it in 3 weeks!) That’s why NOT REMOVING CONTENT LIKE THE GROVE WARDEN AND ICC MOUNTS IS SUCH A GREAT THING. (Seriously Blizz, put that shit back.)

We ALL pay to play the game. We ALL pay in time – casual and hardcore is NOT determined based on time spent – but rather the bullshit required to defeat a SINGLE aspect of an impossibly large game.

We ALL deserve the rewards and cool things that comes with it.

To Nerf or Not to Nerf?

When Blizzard announced their intention to nerf t12 in preparation for t13, I immediately though, “Oh thank god.” No anger, no rants, no sadness, merely a soothing sense of relaxation and peace.

What the hell?

Peace?!? Soothing relaxation? A tension I didn’t even KNOW was there was pushing on me. The tension of progression. Snapping at my husband. Ignoring chores I needed to do. Being unhappy and frustrated with my hobby. I didn’t notice that it was there until it was suddenly gone. Why do I care if we wipe on Aly for two nights this week, we have downed her once pre-nerf so post nerf, we got it in the bag.

I think the most indicative thing of what this raiding tier had become for me was the replacement of a glyph. Seems like such a small thing right? I replaced the Glyph of Fear with the Glyph of Shadow Bolt. Such a tiny thing. But I had been looking for ways to push my dps just a bit farther… Just a bit… Enough to nerf my cc and utility to eek out 200 more dps. The thing is, I *hate* those DPS. I hate them. I love utility. And I really loved my utility when I had more of it. Why was I pushing my dps? Because my raid wasn’t progressing.

Casual doesn’t mean what it used to. It used to be that casual meant just a few hours a week. Now casual means medium levels of gear and people who barely know how to stay out of the fire. When Blizzard made raids more accessible, they had people who didn’t know how to raid, raiding and loving it. But now those same people expect to raid, and they can’t. In Cataclysm a raid can’t carry 2-5 people and be fine. Everyone needs to carry their own weight.

Instead of running with whoever you wanted to, now you have to run with people who know how to raid, and possibly hurt the feelings of those who are less good. For those who would jump in and say, “L2P NOOB!” Remember, WoW has always worked to cater to the path of least resistance. What is the path of least resistance when it comes to learning new, painful boss fights, to not keyboard turn, and how to play their class to the fullest to overcome the challenge or just saying “Bah, this is too hard. I liked Wrath better” and canceling their account? The 1 million subscriber dip points to the truth.

Some people are saying “OMG this is unprecedented!!!” Hello, I would like to introduce you to the ICC Buff. Remember the one that started at 5% and grew to 30% over the course of a few months? Instead of a slowly growing buff to the players to make the fights easier, they are just nerfing the bosses across the board.

This brings me to my point. Blizzard knows. This is a company who has built their entire business on balance and stats. They *know* how to balance. They do it more than any other company. I would bet every piece of gold I have that they have massive amounts of data flowing in on everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t have huge files where they can look at every single classes’ dps on every boss in t11 and t12. We use WoWLogs, which is close, but flawed. We run sims that are best estimations. They have the real deal.

They know exactly how many players have been in Rag’s room. They know how many guilds have downed him. They know the percentages. They know what people are dying to. They know what fight people are by passing. They know everything.

People on these blogs and forums talk about the difficulty being fine, talk about how the nerf is too much, too soon, they talk about how well their casual guild is doing on heroics… Wait, what? I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but if your guild is on heroic modes, you are NOT CASUAL. My guild is casual. No attendance requirements, no spec requirements, no “stacking” to get the best buffs and we are 6/7. But even without my guild, only 6 guilds on my entire server have downed Rags. Only 6. And only 2 of them are 25 man guilds.

Wait, before you say, “Oh well your server just sucks.” I agree, it does. We are ranked 164 in the US servers. I thought, well that makes sense… OH BUT WAIT. THERE ARE 241 SERVERS. That means almost 80 servers are below us. 80 servers with HOW MANY PLAYERS? Including my old server. Including the other server I used to play on. I always thought we were the far end of the universe, apparently we aren’t! We are on the low end, but not near as bad as I thought.

Blizzard knows. They have the numbers to back up their decision. It may be different on your server or in your guild, but the WoW world at large is struggling and not seeing progression. If the end game is where the game really begins, shouldn’t more people see it?

They tried a valiant effort with Cataclysm to return to the harder style of Burning Crusade, but you can’t put spilled milk back in the jug. Players got used to raiding in Wrath. Players enjoyed raiding in Wrath. Players are leaving in droves because raiding in Cata isn’t nearly as fun. And Blizzard surely has the numbers to prove it and back it up.

LfNm for PST

Raiding is in a hard way right now. And everyone is speculating as to why. Then recommending answers. For what must be the 3rd or 4th time today I saw a blog post on “how to fix raiding” that immediately bounded off into rather large changes.

I shook my head, as this person clearly had only a passing grasp with game design. One of the big rules of game design is meeting player expectation. Players come to the game expecting something. As a designer, you have to meet their expectations. You can’t just start one way and shift 90ft to the right whenever you want. The player may not follow you.

So, as a game designer, how does one identify what is “wrong” with raiding and then how do we speculate how to fix it?

First, identify “good” raiding.

This is a bit difficult, as everyone has a different opinion of “good”. So let’s look at what we have. I will list the raids I have experience with.

Burning Crusade: Everything but Sunwell. From Kara 10 mans to Black Temple Warlock tanking on Illiadan.

Wrath: ICC, Ulduar, and Naxx. 10 and 25, for all 3.

Cataclysm: 25 for BoT, TotFW, and BWD, and 10 for Firelands.

Okay, so now that we have that, I will say that I liked ICC/Naxx/Kara best of all of those raids. Everything else aside, those are simply the ones I enjoyed most.

Step One:

What went right in the old raids?

1. Running Old Raids – Blizzard has shown they would like us to run old raids. Weekly quests, not allowing tokens to be purchased, etc etc. They want this to be our “play” night raid. Burning Crusade did this better than Wrath though, because there were no 5 mans to gear up in. Every week, raiders were back in Kara. Regardless what people say about running the old stuff, it made it easier to go back and farm that item that might have been missed, or to train new raiders while running mildly older stuff with overgeared people.

2. Achievements – Okay, so BC didn’t have achievements, but there were so many weeks I remember raiding just for the achievements. Also it is worth noting this is not a good reason for everyone. In Wrath though, it was possible, and in fact happened often where you would get an achievement without actually *trying*. Not all achievements should be like that, but having some would remind people they are there.

3. Balance of progression – In BC I remember when I realized our 25 man guild took about 2 nights to get a boss down for the first time. But once we had it down, it stayed down. In Wrath, some of the more complex bosses took multiple nights, but as always, once it went down, it stayed down. In FL it seems like having a boss down doesn’t mean we are more likely to have it on “farm” later. In fact weeks can pass between the first down and the second down.

4. Overgearing the encounter – Some might consider this “cheating” the fight, but really what it is, is playing an RPG. This is a core game design truth in RPGs. The player can put sufficient effort into one thing and do that one thing well enough, that it allows them to over power the enemy. In both BC and Wrath there was a way to generally get gear over what your guild’s current progression was. This allowed you to be more useful when running that progression. This really worked best in the Wrath 10 vs. 25 model.

5. Split gear between 10 and 25. Everyone hated it. The fact that gear was so much better in 25 vs 10 mans made 10 man guilds feel like second class citizens. Also things like the legendary was limited to 25. Making it seem like Blizzard was saying “only people who raid 25 are real raiders.” BUT this also allowed Over gearing. It also really only worked when considering that 10 and 25 were separate lockouts. All those itemization issues we have in Cataclysm would be much less painful.

6. The ability to carry – Not the idea that a raid can have 2-5 dead weights and still pull of heroic modes, but rather that a raid can have 2-5 deadweights and do most of the normal mode. In ICC it was arguable that until Sindragosa, a raid of 20 could pretty easily knock it out. In Burning Crusade it was really only Illidan, Archimonde, and Vashji that gave guilds with “not great” players trouble. (At least on my servers.) Why is this important? Because we want to raid with our friends, NOT with elitist jerks who min-max and do everything perfectly. I would rather raid with people I know irl than with people I have never met.  The ability to carry less awesome players meant we could play with who we wanted and still do the things we wanted.

Step 2:

What went wrong?

1. Not enough bosses. I know guilds who could get all of the t11 down in a single night of 4 hour raiding… then they were left with sitting about for a week. The raids were smaller, and more manageable, but overall there have been fewer bosses. At this point we have 21 bosses. At this point in Wrath we had 33 bosses, PLUS an extra tier before we hit the final raid. Now if one thinks about 10 v 25 mans, we actually have 21 bosses versus 66. That’s a THIRD of the content.

2. Holy paladins is this tier hard. No wait, not hard, FRUSTRATING. We know we wiped on Atramedes because the person hitting the gong in searing flame was a bit too slow and the tank had too much sound. One person stand too far out on Magmaw? Gonna wipe. One person miss the jump on Conclave, start running back. The fights have too many instant kill mechanics and too many if one person isn’t paying complete attention the raid will wipe. Worst of all is that if someone disconnects, you might as well just wipe it right then.

3. Itemization – Hey casters, where can I get a 346+ wand without spirit? Seems like a rather complex question. Non-casters or those who don’t use wands would assume there are probably a large number of answers. There aren’t. There is exactly TWO epic level wands for mages and warlocks. TWO. Oh and did I mention NEITHER are boss drops? One is a boe random trash drop and the other is just recently added for valor points. There are FIVE belts though, one of which is easily crafted. Three of which are boss drops. And it’s not just us, how many people do you hear griping about shoulders and bracers? Shaman apparently have the same thing with Weapons in FL. It’s just sad how many people in my guild run with Trollroic gear because they *still* haven’t seen the drop they needed. (I have never seen the Booklight, and I have been running BWD since week 3 of Cata and clearing it since April, just fyi…)

4. It’s always been harder to wrangle 25 people into a raid. But now it’s not just 25 people… It’s 25 well geared, alert, non-drunk, non-distracted, correctly specced, and damn near perfect players. After two weeks of wiping on Shannox because if we lost even 1 person we wouldn’t beat the enrage, we had lost 5 of our long term raiders. The game wasn’t fun for them anymore. It’s no wonder people are breaking down into 10 mans.

So now what?

Well some bloggers say things like “get rid of 10s and 25s, make everything 15s!” or “more content!” or “more difficulty modes” or even god help them “make epics truly epic and have loot drop less”. It’s all I can do not the nerd rage all over their blog. Cutting raids down to 15 doesn’t support the “large scale” raiding paradigm. 10s and 25s is a nice split. The reason 25s are dying isn’t that they don’t want to, it’s that they don’t have the people. People are leaving because the content is too frustrating and they have nothing to do. More difficulty modes is too complex for the style of game. In fact, the current two are more than enough, if people are willing to accept that the variation between the two needs to be greater. And anyone who says anything about LESS loot is just insane. I hit level 85 on Thursday after Cataclysm came out. I was in BWD downing bosses within two weeks. I didn’t get Cataclysmically epic until APRIL. FIVE MONTHS OF RAIDING THREE NIGHTS A WEEK… Even counting for bad rng, that is still ridiculous. And considering the number of people I know who raid ONLY for the loot, I am not surprised subs are dropping like flies.

 

Band-aids and Long Term

1. Immediately, do not pass go, do not collect $200, revert back to the previous 10 and 25 unshared lockouts. This doubles the available content. This addresses the ATROCIOUS itemization issues. This speeds gear acquisition for newer raiders.

2. Achievements that are designed to be achieved in both regular and heroic modes. It seems like all the achievements for BoT, BWD, and TotFW are all designed for “perfect” raids. Giving people goofy and absurd things to do is fun too.

3. Re-tune raids on normal difficulty to allow for “carrying”. This allows normal modes to be for “casuals” and makes them newbie/pug friendly. No instant wipes from one mistake here. But keep heroic modes on the same level as they are now. Precision, perfection, and min-maxing all required to down the boss. The heroic modes scratch the hard core itch, the normal modes cater to people who remember they are here to have fun, not be frustrated to the point of snapping their keyboard in half because one healer accidentally walked into a crystal trap.

3.5 Accept that 10 mans and 25 mans are never going to be perfectly balanced. In Wrath 25s seemed to be easier. In Cata 10s are much easier. Determine why this was (Wrath – not tuned correctly/buffs, Cata – tuned too tightly) and then determine which is the one as a design there is the desire to support. Players will take the path of least resistance. If 10 mans are easier, like now, players will break 25 mans down to 10s. If 25 mans are easier, and there is a good reason to raid them (slightly better gear) players will run them.

4. Fix the itemization. Having a flood of belts, when there are easy and readily available ones just makes it that much more painful when those are getting sharded but that boss still didn’t drop that one upgrade you need to replace a blue. Also while they are at it, they should make it where no more the 2 of the same item can be dropped off a single boss kill. Three pairs of plate tanking boots when we only have one druid tank? Yeah that’s helpful.

5. Accept that casual players make up a large majority of your player base. These people don’t want to be frustrated. They don’t want long boring grinds. They want to have fun, with their friends, and they want pretty epics. At the end of the day it’s still a game, and shouldn’t feel like a job. People already have sucky jobs, and WoW shouldn’t be treating them like a horrid boss.

These are all “small move” changes. They don’t radically change the game at it’s core, but rather are minor tweaks on current design systems. It’s making the game better within the current game. It also compromises and attempts to balance between the two factions of the game, hard and casual.

Mechanics vs. Play style

As a game designer, it is generally accepted that at least 30% of my job is getting the player to do what I want. (Some would say even 90%.) Want the player to slow down and be cautious, make the area dark and play some kind of sound off to his side. If I want the player to move, I drop something nasty where his feet are. So on and so forth.

Blizzard generally does this very well. They want people questing instead of just grinding on kills. So they make it more worthwhile to do a large number of close quests instead of just killing mobs. They want the player to limit their playtime, so they add in the rest bonus to “reward” the player for switching to an alt, or not playing for a while.

Mechanics are used to alter  play style. If a player is rewarded for doing something, they are going to continue to do it. This is especially true when the rewarded play style is the path of least resistance. Players will always find the path of least resistance. Period.

So what this brings me to is raid boss design in World of Warcraft.

Blizzard seems to have forgotten that their game is about playing with your friends. And sadly, not everyone is friends with players who are awesome at WoW. In previous raid expansions there was the “dead weight” slots. These were raid slots that needed nothing more than a warm body in it. A decent raid team could “carry” several players without too much problem. This number changed based on the size and skill of the rest of the raid. It was generally accepted to be 2 slots for 10 man and 4-5 for 25 man. There were even achievements to support this “play style.”

Why was this so important?

Because it meant that even if you were friends with a really nice, but completely brain dead guy, you could still raid with him and do well. No, you wouldn’t be bleeding progression. No you wouldn’t be getting every achievement or even hard modes. But you could fight and see the raid.

But someone at Blizzard decided he was sick and tired of carrying his brain dead buddies. So the raid boss design stopped being about play style and started being about mechanics. (Either that or was just really annoyed at Sarth 3D zergs.)

Sartharion with 3 Drakes:

This fight perfectly explains the mechanics vs. play style debate I feel is very important to WoW raid boss design.

Mechanics: The players clear out the trash, then pull the main boss, with all 3 mini bosses still alive. As the fight progresses, the three mini bosses join the fight and the players have to deal with added fire, void zones, damage, etc etc.

Sarth 3D as it was dubbed was very difficult for 10 mans. It required 3 tanks, which is too much for a 10 man raid. It caused a great deal of raid damage, which required 3 healers. Now, more than half the raid is just there keeping the raid alive, meaning that without 4 amazing dps, the fight would be un-winable for most 10 man guilds. (To be fair it was done, just by a bleeding edge guilds.

Then some enterprising raiders discovered something very interesting.

Play Style: If instead of focusing down each of the mini-bosses as they joined the fight, the players could just focus Sarth and as long as they could burn him in the 90 seconds before the second mini-boss spawned, they would kill him before he became invulnerable.

So they ignored the mechanic of the fight and brute forced it. They made the game about they way they like to play. Burn hard and fast and win, or not quite hard enough and die to purple fire. Even with a decent group, this strat was not easy. My guild at the time would always wipe 4 or 5 times before pulling it off. But we could do it. And it was fun for us. It was still a challenge because pulling that much dps that quickly was not easy.

Of course, once this strat hit the internet, everyone did it this way. It was much easier, if less consistent than the normal strat. Does that make it inherently bad? I say no.

As a game designer it is my job to get the player to kill the boss. Not to jump through hoops until the boss dies. It is supposed to be fun and challenging. Sarth Zerg was still challenging, it just stripped away all the excess “fluff” of the fight and made it what it should have been. A toe to toe battle to the death between us and this huge dragon. It also made us feel like we were playing the game on our own terms. We were playing the game the way we wanted to.

Now, in Firelands the fights are tightly tuned. No more “dead weight” spots. Not only that, if even one person fails, the entire attempt fails. Brain deads need not apply.

Even more so, the fights are very very mechanics based. There is no edge for play style changes to strats. Trying to alter the strat even the smallest bit leads to an insta wipe.

The correct answer is somewhere in between the two ideas. Where people can try to do things their way or strictly stick to the intended way. It makes it feel more like a conversation between the designer and the player.

Blizzard says “Bring the Player, not the Class” but what if the player I want to bring is not awesome? What if the player I want to bring is a good friend but only a mediocre dps? Should I replace my friend with some douche bag who can pull 20k?

The big thing to be worried about when trying to force a mechanic instead of play style is that the path of least resistance might be right out of the door and never playing your game. A bad thing for any social game.

What are we supposed to use? Harsh language?!?

I was a bit distracted by Transmogrification but something else radical happened in WoW last week. Threat was essentially singled out at a bad mechanic and buffed to the point of being inconsequential. Of course, as with all things WoW, some people loved it, some people didn’t care, and some people cancelled their subscriptions immediately. *queue nerd rage*

I reposted the threat changes on my guild forums and it was met with happiness and ambivalence. No one was opposed to the change. In fact a few people responded with, well this will make randoms so much easier.

Of course, I try not to comment on things I haven’t done. The only comment I made on this was “Cata raiding, meet Wrath Tanking” because that is what it sounded like to me.

So this weekend, I decided to try out a bit of this change.

On my DK, I tanked quite a bit in Wrath. I ran a random every day on her, and used her to help guildies farm up ToC and FoS/PoS/HoR gear. I could easily go into a HHoR and tank the instance with my ICC geared buddies, who would nuke away to their heart’s content. Only occasionally did I have to use my taunt, and only occasionally did I have to use things like blood boil as a reaction. All in all, it was pretty easy. I didn’t mind doing it. There was still some skill, tabbing around, keeping my dots up, cooldowns, and the occasional army, but tanking wasn’t so difficult I was unwilling to do it.

When Cata hit and I decided to level my dk, I, of course, thought, “Oh! I’ll just queue for randoms! Insta queues, plus I am helping others get dungeon runs, it’s a win win!” I had this feeling for all of about 60 seconds and then the ugly truth raised it’s head. I was level 80, in level 80 gear. Not terrible for BRC and ToT, but not sufficient to deal with level 81 and level 82 dps who had replaced large chunks of their Wrath gear. I spent 90% of my time chasing mobs (does anyone understand what threat reduction skills are for? Does anyone understand run TO the tank NOT AWAY?) and fighting to keep threat. If I targeted a different mob, even just to taunt another mob, the first one would be ripped away. Of course, dps would die, healers would get upset and leave, and I would feel like crap. Maybe it’s my level and gear I thought. So I leveled up to 83, replaced all my Wrath gear and got down to business. Oh god, Stonecore… after about 5 or 6 runs, I was done. I sent all my dk’s gold to my main, emptied her bags, and cleared her mailbox. She was effectively going on the shelf of unused characters.

When they introduced the CTA bags, I thought, OH! I should go level her now! Surely things are better. Haha, the naivete of youth. Not only were things not better, they were arguably worse. It was a dark time for my dk. I knew how to tank, I just couldn’t actually do it. No amount of death and decay, no amount of outbreak+pestilence, no amount of runestriking and death striking. Those dps were going to pull aggro without trying and there was *nothing* in my arsenal I could do about it.

So I didn’t play her. Until this weekend. Nervous and a bit stressed, I decided not to change anything, to just go in the way I was and see if this 300 to 500 actually made a difference.

Oh did it make a difference.

The only time the dps (including one rather shockingly well geared for regular VP level 85 mage) pulled aggro was on a multi-pull and even then, as the mobs ran through my D&D they would snap over to me. I made it through VP with very few mistakes (most of which were me not remembering how to position mobs). The experience was… dare I say it… enjoyable. Imagine that, enjoying playing a game. Enjoying it enough, I queued again. I went and bought some upgrades and… queued again. At this rate, I was going to max out my jp for the week.

Of course, as with all changes, I looked at the screaming of the ragers to see what the possible “side effects” of such a change were.

“It’s going to be soooo boring to tank.”

Because pressing 1-1-1-1-2 is so exciting, amiright mages? Because staring at five green bars, waiting for them to turn yellow and then clicking on them is the height of adrenaline rush. Because doing the same dungeon for the third time that day is brand shiny new!

Okay, nothing is that bad. But then, neither is tanking without having to worry about threat. There are still cooldowns, there are still adds to pick up, there are still huge pools of bad to stay out of. Only now, the most annoying part of your job is gone. The part that not only annoys you, but also annoys the whole group. No more dps having to stand around wishing they could do their job. No more healers having to heal the sudden clothie tank. Just a meat shield doing his job, while everyone else gets to enjoy doing theirs.

“Way to dumb it down to Wrath levels Blizz…”

Why do dps have 45 minute queues? Why, even at the HEIGHT of CTA, did I still have 25 minute queues? There are 4 tanking classes: Pallys, Dks, Warriors, and Bears. That’s almost HALF of the total classes. Ever seen one of these classes wait in the dps queue? (I have.) Tanking is hard. Tanking is thankless. And tanking is generally not fun.

So there is a tank shortage. Blizzard tried the bribe. It didn’t work. So now, they had to try something else. Honestly, the difficulty needed to be nerfed. The player base simply did not have enough of the kind of people who wanted to do that job at that stress level. I don’t think it was dumbed down, but I do think that by removing one of the more annoying aspects of the equation, it made it easier to understand at do at a level good enough for randoms.

Tanking is still going to be difficult in raids. It is still going to be a challenge in heroic modes. It is not going to be a faceroll (especially since people still have their rotations). But it is easier, especially for people who don’t have the gear or experience.

This is going to solve the tank shortage problem much better than a bag with extra items. It has already brought me back into the fold of tanking on my DK.

Oh Noes the Sky is FALLINGS

Okay not really. But something very unprecedented happened today. Blizzard announced the current subscriber base. And the number is lower than the previous one. By over 600,000 players. Is this the beginning of the end for WoW as the behemoth MMO?

Calm down. Put away your last log out plans. It’s really not. It is however likely the beginning of the shift.

What is the shift? Well, Cataclysm was hailed as the return to the “true essence” of WoW. Harder heroics, rarer epics, harder raids. No more sailing through heroics with the greatest of ease. No more spamming chain heal. No more buffs that are incrementally increased as you play through the expansion. Also, despite ICC being out longer without a patch, currently, we are way behind schedule in raids as compared to both BC and Wrath.

I have already talked about the problem. The shift is going to be Blizzard’s solution. Let’s hope that the designers working to “fix” the subscriber loss are a bit more in tune than Mr. Morhaime. Players aren’t churning through the content faster, they are getting bored with the content faster. There is a huge difference there.

I know people who bashed their heads against the wall of Arthas for 7 WEEKS. (*raises hand*) But in all that frustrating time, it was never boring. We were running alts, running 25 mans to get better gear, running heroics, all the while returning to our little 10 man to fight the good fight. Many of those same people have left the game, despite having bought Cataclysm and played for the first few weeks.

Why? Why are people leaving?

The game hasn’t changed. It’s still the same old thing.

The game has been artificially increased in difficulty. Dying from a random something doesn’t make the game more challenging, it makes it more frustrating.

In Wrath, if you were stuck on a boss, there were options. You could go to a 25 man and get better gear. You could farm the early bosses on 10 man. There was something easily obtainable for each slot. Now, it’s not the case. My guild has been 9/12 for over 2 months now. Despite making progress and getting a ton of gear. The truly sad thing is that even though we can’t down the end bosses of each raid, there is NOTHING we can do to improve our chances. My character has every available upgrade other than the few that drop off those bosses. We are a competent bunch. We made progress through the first parts of the raids fairly consistently. And suddenly faceplanted into the wall of Cho’gall, Al’Akir, and Neferian. In Wrath, we would just do some more 25 mans, and over gear it a bit, then bam, get the boss down. Now, we sit there, impotent, as we watch raiders get bored with wiping for weeks on end and bail.

I trust Blizzard to do what is necessary to keep players. The shift is coming. They are going to change *something* to make the game not boring. Something to decrease the difficulty. Something to bring players back. But they better do it quick.

Carrots on Sticks

Even More Update Goodness: I have read several other blogs about the subject, but here is one of the best. His whore analogy is just superb and spot on, and his arguments are valid. The thing is, I understand why Blizz would never do as asked. Maybe they will consent eventually to add raid mounts to the bag (Ashes of Alar might just be enough to drag that bear back in) but for the TCG they *can’t*. If they do, it devalues the TCG and takes away one of the major selling points of the cards. And don’t get me wrong, while I would love to have those mounts available in the bag, it will never happen, because Blizzard makes too much money on the licensing fees for the card game.

I really feel the biggest drawback of this fix is that it doesn’t allow the tank to queue with anyone else. Even allowing the tank to queue with just one other person might take the sting out of it. Pocket healer, trusted cc-er, or just that one person you always play with. You are still taking 3 other people out of the queue, so it is still a win, but seems less… whorish… than it is forcing them to queue alone.

 

UPDATE: Blizz announced that the bags WILL IN FACT BE BIND ON ACCOUNT. As I said “Make the bags Bind on Account so we can pass them off to our alts. (Then I would be 85 on Pandara in a heartbeat.)” my response to the announcement was “BRB LEVELING”.

 

I have talked about the Tanking problem a few times. Since the dawn of the Random Dungeon Finder the players of WoW have developed a skewed vision of dungeon running. I barely remember running a few dungeons on my warlock prior to the introduction of the LFD tool. They were simply too time consuming, too prone to failure, and far too difficult to find a group for.

But LFD changed all of that. Dungeons were readily accessible in a matter of minutes. Loot rained down on the World of Warcraft. It was wondrous. And it spoiled us all beyond repair. Seriously. We are spoiled rotten little children demanding more things when we have already been given the world.

The average time to get a pug group together PRIOR to the LFD tool? 4 hours. And then 2 more hours to clear the dungeon because the chances of everyone KNOWING the dungeon was slim to none. The average time I have to wait in the DPS queue for a dungeon? 40 minutes. Which is just about the time it takes to do all of the Tol Barad dailies, killing every fox along the way.

But nooooooooooo people gotta complain about something, so they chose to complain about their 40 minute queue times. To be fair, the queue times for LFD have been slowly increasing through Cataclysm. I have talked about this before. So Blizzard decided to answer the problem with a carrot on a stick. It worked for Oculus right?

Here’s the thing though… I have a tank. I have debated on leveling her. Why haven’t I leveled her despite having leveled 2 healers and 2 dps at 85? Tanking sucks. I hate random healers who aren’t very good. I hate random dps who can’t wait two seconds. I hate RNG fights where one mistake leads to me dead on the floor. So now Blizzard offers me a carrot. Am I going to level her and roll through dungeons with her now?

Nope.

But I LOVE minipets! I LOVE rare mounts! So why wouldn’t I leap at the chance to get them?!? Oh right, because like MOST other collectors, I collect my pets and mounts on ONE character. I collect them on Joyia. Who is a Pure DPS. If I could tank with Joyia, I would be all over this like a starving man on a steak. Bad DPS, rude healers, wipes would all be ignored with the joy of working towards a rare mount. I don’t want those mounts on Pandara, I want them on Joyia

There are so many other solutions… offer it as a reward for any dps who has to wait more than 40 minutes in the queue. The tanks are already being rewarded, with an instant queue. Make the bags Bind on Account so we can pass them off to our alts. (Then I would be 85 on Pandara in a heartbeat.)

Or they could fix the real problem. Wrath proved that the problem isn’t there aren’t enough tanks and healers. My dps queue during peak times in Wrath was 15-25 minutes, HALF of what it is now. Why was that? Oh right. Wrath dungeons were easier. Wrath tanks had better threat generation, gear, and to be honest, their skills were better tuned. Revert Swipe to it’s old cooldown (none). Give Thunderclap back it’s massive aggro. Increase the threat of Death and Decay and Blood Boil. Revert Consecrate back to it’s Wrath glory. Lower the CD on all tank “panic” buttons. (Just by 1/4th or 1/3rd.)

Or even give classes the ability to tank. Make Beast Mastery like Feral Druids. There are talents they take to get a tanky pet or to get a dps pet. Bam. One more tank. Make Demonology like Bear tanks. Metamorphosis is a form a lock goes into to tank. They have their “big” health pet that splits the damage through soul link, and their skills in demon form generate aggro. Bam, one more tank. Enhancement shamans – they are already halfway there! Give them a few modified skills, and a crit proof skill, bam, tanky tanky.

Another option is to change the group size going into 5 mans. How much of a change would pulling in an extra dps do? 1 tank, 1 heals, 4 dps. Not only would this eat up more of the surplus DPS, but also it would mean less caring when one dps isn’t pulling their weight.

I don’t think their solution is a solution. I think it is a bandaid on a gushing head wound. They need to address the problem, not the symptoms. The problem is role imbalance. And this addition, isn’t going to get more tanks running dungeons. It is just going to get people who *don’t* like tanking and healing to tank and heal, which just exacerbates the problem by having under or poorly geared people, filling roles they don’t know how to play, and causing frustration all around.

 

Note 1: This would be an EXCELLENT time to bring back lost pets like the vampire bat, scorchling, etc etc. It would also be a great place for rare mob drop pets like Gundrak Hatchling, Whelplings, Foxes, Sewer Rat, Crawler…

Note 2: Would it be different if they added super rare/unobtainable mounts back in? (A la ZG Tiger, ZA Bear.) OH HELL YES it would be different. Tank would be leveled and tanking like NOBODY’S business. Not only would I do it, but I would SERIOUSLY campaign for the ability to have a paid mount transfer service.

I’m sorry, Do I know you?

It was a pretty exciting day. Patch 4.0.1 was a BIG deal. It was the change from Wrath to Cataclysm. It should have been a day of celebration, exploration, and excitedly discussing things with guildies. But the day was marred by the unexpected.

I logged in, double checked my gear and immediately dove into specing my new talent points. Alright, all done, summon up my felpuppy and start heading… wait a tic.

“Who the hell are you?”

The felhound standing at my side was called “Rhuudym”. MY felhound is called Phryluum. This… IMPOSTOR… was wearing the tag <Joyia’s Minion> below it’s name.

“You are not.”

Weirded out by this impostor, I decided to summon my Imp. Maybe Laztip would know what was going on. At the end of my spell, Paztog answered my call.

“Ahhhh! What happened to Laztip?!?” The imposter imp said nothing. I was really feeling terror now.

“Blue, don’t fail me…” Calling my voidwalker into existence. Poof!

“Oh thank the gods, Klath’dok! What the hell dude?!? Where did everyone go?”

“Sorry mi’lady. There was some catastrophic event that ripped through the nether. We all seem to be hearing different names and voices calling through the magics to us. It’s bedlam down there.” It was all I could do not to hug the big blue guy.

“I have a raid tonight. Arthas and all that. What am I supposed to do? I don’t know that felhound! He might try and take my hand off.” Klath’dok had no advice for me. I mean, I know I am a warlock. We are inherently evil and not to be trusted. Even the very demons I was trying to call were originally enslaved by my fel powers. But in some twisted form of Stockholm Syndrome we had become friends. We trusted one another. We worked as a team. We were connected, and not just by soul link, but by health funnel and dark pacts!

I summoned back the impostor, who just glared at me balefully.

“Alright you. I don’t know you. You don’t me. But I have this thing to do tonight. It’s lots and lots of killing. You should like that right?” He seemed a bit more interested.

“So truce then? I’ll take care of you for now, and we can both just muddle through until the Nether Guardians get this ‘mix-up’ figured out.” He blinked his eyes, but made no other response.

“Either agree, or I am gonna have a new felhound pair of boots. And I’ll use the imp instead.” He chuffed, and finally bowed his head and tentacles slightly. Good enough, I thought.

It would eventually take a week for my friends to return. Their return was met with joy and celebration, on both sides of the bond.

This event resonated several important things within me. First, Warlocks do have a heart, despite it being madly in love with destruction. Second, we knew their names. Not just one, but all of the demons we enslave. They are as much a part of us as our spikes, skulls, and bloody robes (not our blood). Third, despite years of howling for the ability to rename these little snots we had become accustomed to their names. We knew them. And when they were unexpectedly changed, we rebelled in one voice to change them back. There was the most heartbreaking thread on the forums, Warlocks looking for their lost minions, asking that someone, anyone care for their loved companions until at such a time this error could be reversed.

Welcome back Phryluum, you were missed you ugly little mutt you.

The Crypts of Karazhan

As a fan of Lore and writing in World of Warcraft, I have read many of the novels and extra material written on the game. One such novel is The Last Guardian, which covers the story of Medivh and his tower, Karazhan.

In the Burning Crusade Karazhan (more commonly shortened to Kara) was added as a 10 man raid instance. It was essentially the starting point for fresh 70s wanting to get geared and get to raiding. By the time I hit Kara it was already on farm by my guild. I loved Kara. Even after 5 months worth of running Kara every single week, I *still* love Kara. It was exceptionally well designed, with beautiful attention to detail. Not to mention all of the bosses and NPCs were heavily tied to the story of Kara. Knowing Moroes from the book, then fighting him in the instance was beyond cool for me.

The only minor point I objected to was the fact that the in-game Kara had no “mirror”. In the book, the character Khadgar discovers that Medivh is actually possessed by Saragas (the biggest bad in the Warcraft Universe), and below Kara there is a mirrored version of the tall eerie tower. They must battle to the depths of this mirrored version to trap and defeat Medivh.

Then one day, browsing the main WoW forums I stumbled on a fascinating thread: The Hidden Places of WoW. It detailed out of bounds areas that a player could go and visit. These were mostly unfinished areas that had interesting areas around them like the Greymane Wall. Here I found mention of a place called the Crypts of Kara. Apparently behind Kara there is a graveyard called Morgan’s Plot, and a crypt that had a doorway, with rooms beyond it, but the door wouldn’t open. The poster explained that you could get beyond and explore the area, by using a simple trick.

By entering a duel with another player you could be feared through the invisible barrier. Once inside you can explore as you wish. I watched several videos and decided I had to go visit. So I gathered up some guidies and away we went.

The very first thing we noticed was the atmosphere, seemingly without much effort put into making it detailed. I am not sure if it was the lack of mobs, the lack of sound effects, the minor use of dark Duskwood music in one back corner, or simply the knowledge we didn’t belong there, but this area felt far more eerie and disturbing than anything else in WoW, including areas like Scholomance and Stratholm.

The first area is called The Well of the Forgotten.  I immediately noted that the name was printed in yellowy orange text. As opposed to the standard white. This room contained a well, without a barrier preventing someone from falling down it. One of my guildies immediately jumped down. The rest of us turned and investigated the next area The Pauper’s Walk.

This looked like something out of the Paris Catacombs. Niches in walls filled with bones, dirt floors, and low ceilings. It opened into a larger area, that looked like it could be a space for mausoleums and other crypts. Our guildie was messaging us about the huge pile of bones. I returned to the well, and leapt down. Despite falling what felt like a character killing distance, I landed, barely alive, on a huge pile of bones. This area was named The Pit of Criminals. Well, at least now we knew what the Well of the Forgotten was used for. The Pit contained pools of water, and huge piles of decaying bodies and putrefied remains.

We continued to explore, finding the Tome of the Unrepentant. (Perhaps it was supposed to be Tomb?) This is the first point where I really began to feel that this area was rough pass, unfinished work. This design had been abandoned before it could even be truly blocked out.

Then came perhaps the creepiest thing I have ever seen in WoW. The Upsidedown Sinners. The flooded room was filled with dark green water. Chains crossed the deep room. From these chains hang hooks, slightly animating, moving back and forth implying a slight ebb and flow to the water. There were also bodies. Dozens of them, suspended upside down. Some by their feet, with weights on their body pulling them downward, some by their hands, their arms distended with the pressure.

My guildies asked for my water breathing spell, so we could spend more time, floating about and taking pictures. After a long stay in the deeply disturbing room, we returned to the surface and swam out, to the final area, the Slough of Dispair [sic]. This room was a deep earthen pit, that clearly was designed for the final boss fight. When a player moved into the pit, the view of the door and walls passed out of view. It truly made me feel like I had been pushed down into this great gaping mass grave, from which there would be no return.

We took our pictures, said good bye to the creepy area, and returned to Shattrath, and the rest of the world. Everything seemed so much brighter, friendlier, and safer than we remembered.

The Pertinent Question

[quote=”Henghe“]So Joyia, you’re a level designer. Is it common for game designers to spend tons of time creating sounds and layouts, and to put them in games, that they then don’t give people access to? :lol:[/quote]

Yes and No. Yes, it is EXCEPTIONALLY common to spend tons of time creating areas, polishing them, pouring your heart and soul into them, only to have them violently ripped from your hands and discarded due to time, money, or just poor fit with the game in general.

No, those abandoned levels usually do not make it into a game. They are deleted from the game files usually to save space or install time/footprint. Especially for WoW where 12 million people have to download it. Yeah its only 20 mg worth of area, but how much bandwidth is it for 12 million people to download?

After looking a several videos, working diligently to overcome my WoW geekery, and inspecting the video a bit more, I have hit on a few ideas of why this level might have not been completed, and why it might be in the game. All of the following however is sheer speculation on my part.

Theory 1: Shares Space with Other Areas

So first off Blizzard makes WoW with a modified WC3 engine. These proprietary engines usually do not have an in-engine ability to make geometry, meaning you have to have a program like Max or Maya to make all of the walls, items, trees, etc in the game. Then you import these models into the engine which is an open terrain area. (In fact their terrain stuff is very similar to what is used in Unreal, very cool.) So what this means for WoW is that most of the buildings and stuff like Kara are actually created by an artist sitting next to the designer. This likely means that all of the major geometry in Kara, stuff like floors, ceilings, walls, and columns are all one piece, or at least are exported together so as far as the game is concerned are one piece. So it is possible and plausible that the Crypts were intended to be a part of Kara, another wing. However they were cut due to time and polish and could not be removed as they might share geometry with other parts of Kara.

Game developers tend to have the thought that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. A single change can bring cascading bugs or problems. If they don’t have to remove something so the game fits on the disc, it is generally safer to leave it in.

Theory 2: The Depths of Depravity

Also as I stated before, these areas are much darker and have much darker names than normal WoW. It could just be that they decided it had gone too dark and they needed to reel it back in. It is also possible that this area was cut due to the dark tone and possible “teen” rating issue. Ratings are often based not only on the appearance of things, but also the frequency and detail. Though at times I think the rating theory doesn’t really wash, because all the human hanging models are used in other locations (like Scarlet Monastery) and they have done far worse things in Cata and Wrath. Perhaps it was merely the feeling at the time and since has changed.

Theory 3: Time and Scope

It is also possible as these areas have a very unfinished look about them that they were scrapped due to not having interesting enough bosses, not enough time, or possibly the quality of the area just wasn’t matching the rest of the dungeon. Kara was a Burning Crusade launch raid. It was the first expansion, and likely they over scoped. They got it to alpha stage, realized that they couldn’t finish all they started, and chose to pick something else instead of that (likely polish to Kara itself).

The design, while interesting, does not compare as far as quality to other WoW dungeons. With the exception of the Upsidedown Sinners room, of course, but even this room… why does it belong?

Theory 4: Lore

How does it fit? What is the lore behind this area and why is it tied to Medivh? I could see all of this much better under Stormwind’s Cathedral, which has an empty and accessible dungeon. (You can get a Scarlet Crusade quest there and in Cataclysm there is now a section of the Twilight Highlands feeder quests down there.) As it seems more likely for clerics and priests to place labels like unrepentant and sinners on something than Medivh.

On further reflection and re-reading the book, this location is not only completely wrong for Inverse Kara, but it is in the wrong location, has the wrong layout, and has the wrong entrance. The names and locations do not come close to meshing with the original idea. And even if they took liberal adjustments, this doesn’t even remotely resemble the layout of the in-game Kara, which it theoretically should.

We may never know the real reason this area was scrapped and closed off (though if I ever get an interview there, this is the FIRST thing I am asking them). It appeals to our sense of exploration, horror, and mischief. And for that, we love it, in all it’s unfinished glory.

(Note: This post was written in 3 parts over 3 years. It has been sitting in my drafts folder forever, and was only updated today and posted due to the WoW Insider post here.)

A Cataclysmic Problem

It has become a sad little game. Logging onto WoW and peeking through my fingers at the Guild roster or my friends list. Who isn’t going to log in? How many weeks has it been since I talked to that person? I wonder if they are playing Rift. I wonder if they are okay. As far as I know, only one absence is logically explained and has assured the guild he will be back when things get straightened out. But then, he lives in Japan, so I am pretty much willing to give him a pass.

People like to point fingers at Rift. But it’s not Rift. Rift was lucky to come out at the right time, in the right place to fill a void for WoW players.  But it could have been anything, any fun fantasy MMO with pretty graphics that does any of the numerous things players have been begging for in WoW, and they would have gotten a whole slew of dissatisfied customers. People aren’t leaving WoW for Rift because Rift is a better game. People are leaving WoW for *anything* because they are simply tired of WoW and what Blizzard is doing with it.

The problems:

1. Cataclysm is too hard.

For those saying “l2play noob”, shut it, and leave. Cataclysm is too hard. It’s that simple. Fewer people have killed Nef than had killed Kel’thuzad or Prince at this point in the expansion. Call people Wrath babies all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that people like raiding, like getting epics, and like DOWNING bosses. What they don’t like is endlessly wiping for hours because ONE person screws up (and it is never the same person). In a 10 man raid, a team should be able to lose 2 people and still manage to pull off the kill. In a 25 man raid, a team should be able to lose 5 people and still pull off the kill. Take a moment to consider the fights and how ONE person can screw even a 25 man raid.

BWD: Magmaw – one person with a parasite runs into the group, probable wipe. One person jumps on the head and doesn’t know how to work the chain, probable wipe. Omni – A person gets fixated and doesn’t move quickly enough, tanks and or heals get a slime blown up on them, definite wipe. A person doesn’t control their pet, Magmatron’s shield blows, definite wipe. Maloriak – Miss an interrupt? Wipe it up, the tank just died. Chimaeron – Tank’s taunt missed, through RNG I feel the urge to add, wipe it up. Or god forbid, the raid makes it to the final push and there aren’t enough mages, warlocks, and shaman, to spawn things to distract him. Artemedes – One person targeted and doesn’t move fast enough, entire raid wipe.

ToW: Conclave – ONE person knocked off Rohash platform, raid wide debuff, wipe. One tank misaligned his jump, falls to his death, raid wipe. One missed taunt to pull Anshel off his healing thing, raid wipe because he isn’t going to die fast enough. Al’Akir – the master of RNG wipes with tornadoes spawning on healers or tanks and spawning right when wind blasts start up.

BoT: Trash – wipes if one of the cc-ers goes down. Halfus – miss an interrupt, taunt, or big heal on the tank that is holding 2 dragons? Hope the trash doesn’t respawn before running back. V&T – One ranged not moving fast enough, one tank getting sucked into the basement, one purge happy healer, one person not running the right way for fire breath… wipeity wipe wipe. Elemental Monstrosity… what in this fight doesn’t cause a wipe if it happens to a tank or healer? Cho’gall – Slimes resist the earthbind totem? Kiss the healers goodbye.

RNG is not fun, especially when it controls the success or failure of a boss fight. My issue with all of these abilities is not that they exist, because many of them show nice challenging boss fights. My problem is that the price of even minor failure is DEATH. Didn’t move fast enough? Dead. Didn’t run the right way? Dead.

So what is Blizzard’s response to this? It will get easier as the expansion ages. This is possibly even more short sighted than the “resilience will fix it” comment. Yes, out-gearing the content will make it easier, but that doesn’t help guilds who are losing raiders left and right NOW.

2. 5 levels simply wasn’t enough.

There aren’t enough new zones for 80-85. There wasn’t enough time to feel like we were going from easy to hard. Replacing ICC epics was going to be hard enough, but replacing them with greens at 81 is just painful. At least with Wrath we held on to them for 6-7 more levels. (Some even making it all the way to Naxx.) When I hit 80, I hadn’t even touched Stormpeaks or Icecrown. Only a few quests had been completed in Zul’drak, and about half of Shalozar. Sure, I was one of those weirdos who did both Borean and Howling Fjord, but still, I had a ton of content. And I didn’t do dungeons as I was leveling, so those were totally new at 80, plus heroics!

It also took me 3 weeks to go from 70 to 80. It took me 3 days to do that for 80-85. Even when leveling my alts, it takes a short amount of time. And I always ding in Twilight Highlands regardless of how many instances I do while leveling. At that point, I only have that zone left to do.

3. Old content being revamped is great, but you have to please the bleeding edge too.

There simply needs to be more to do. I am thrilled at the updating of the old world. But where is the stuff in the old world for level 80-85? Where are the quests in Stranglethorn for the bored level 85 to escort newbies down to Booty Bay? Where are the level 85 Argent Dawn quests in Eastern Plaguelands? Where are the quests at the Ironforge Airport?

4. Dye, Appearance, and Housing.

How many years have players been asking for Armor Dyes, Appearance tabs, Soulbound armor bags, and player/guild housing? As long as I have been playing the game.

Did anyone else notice that it is one of the BULLET points on Rift that a player can dye their armor? Champions touts their character customization and creator for good reason. Players like to stand out from the crowd. They like to ROLEPLAY of all things. It’s why I always hate when affliction gets nerfed. I don’t WANT to be destruction. I want to be affliction and I want to be good for my team as affliction. I also don’t want to look like a unicorn vomited on me. Many players site LotR Online as a great example of player customization because of the appearance tab. Tons of WoW players, including myself, love to collect old armor and holiday clothing. Now we have overloaded banks and every new acquisition is an exercise in torment of what to delete.

Blizzard argues that they want players to recognize instantly when someone is wearing a set of armor. They want players to see the pretty art their artists created. This is a fallacy. I play three classes at level cap right now. I played 5 classes at level cap in Wrath. I could maybe tell you distinguishing characteristics of TWO of the armor sets I wore. I could maybe spot 3 or 4, if I was looking at them in game and correctly identify them as tier 10 armor. I know for a fact I can only do it for two sets of tier 11. I am not looking at players to tell how awesome they are, I am right clicking and inspecting to tell how awesome they are.

The solutions: Never present problems without a possible solution.

1. Nerf bat or buff bat. I vote buff.

So how do they fix the difficulty? Well really there are only two easy options. Nerf the bosses or buff the players. Nerfing the bosses is bad business. Then all the “hard cores” start whining about dumbing down WoW. They can’t just toss a buff on the whole raid like ICC, because then imagined elitism springs up.

But buffing players… Now that’s fun. Big numbers is big fun. An amplified, worgen tomed, fully buffed, spell power potted Curse of Doom on Netherspite for 52,000 damage? Yes please. (My point is made by the fact I remember that SO CLEARLY.) But they can’t just go in and buff everyone 15% across the board. They have to be sneaky about it. Buff this ability on this class, buff that ability on that class, buff armor gains on tanks, buff slow heals on healers, etc etc. Stealth buffs? Even better.

2. Patch soon, patch often.

If all the content is going to be reworked old content, it’s got to be fast. Patch every other month if possible. Especially if they are going to continue updating old content. In addition, every patch needs to carry with it minor buffs, minor additions (like to archeology, stats, and achievements), and possibly a pet or mount. Any updates to Holidays and Holiday bosses are stellar too.

Also, note for the next expansion, having the amount of exp to get to 81 be less than the amount of exp to get from 79-80, is not a good thing. The time invested needs to be equivalent to the previous levels. Consistency is key.

3. &4. Fidelity vs Agency. Omg, Kent was right. And suck it up princess. As designed just doesn’t fly anymore.

First off, players are willing to accept things that are expanded over time. Look at archeology. Players are willing to accept shorter dungeons if it means more of them. Players are willing to accept getting poor loot drops if there are more ways to get the odd piece they are missing. Players are willing to accept something not being perfect if it means they get something neat. Fidelity and agency are a trade off, but far too often Blizzard seems to make the wrong choice on which one to go for.

One example of this is the linearity of a quest zone and the inclusion of cutscenes. This is exceptionally noticeable when playing with another player. Ever tried to do Uldum with 2 people? It *sucks*. When one player completes a quest and it auto ports them somewhere while playing a cutscene, the other player is left in an old phase, alone, and has to fend for themselves. I like linear stories as much as the next RPGer, but in WoW, there needs to be a feeling of open world. I can remember doing quests and deciding to not do a “thread” of quests. Just skip it, that one is too annoying, or just isn’t fun, so I will just skip over it to this other quest. Blizzard killed that in Cata though. Each quest is a part of a big long chain. If the player tried to skip over this step, they can’t progress the zone.

This goes for dye on armor and appearance tabs too. Saying this was “as designed” just doesn’t work anymore. Sure when WoW was the *only* good MMO out there, we accepted this. But other MMOs are ripping off WoW and allowing for more freedom. The Blizzard artists need to let go and accept that players want to play THEIR way, not the way an artist wants them to. Yes, someone is going to take Paladin tier 2 and turn it into Hello Kitty pink, red, and white. But just as often someone is going to leave it red, gold, and black and look just as awesome. Also dye can prop up a flailing profession or become a major gold sink.

Even quests that are fairly simple go into this dungeon and kill this dude, or go and gather these rare items for me, in out of the way, hard to reach places, will fill a need in the old world for level capped players. Anyone else remember farming to get a flying mount to get access to the Highland Pools and the Shat’ari Skyguard dailies? I do.

One final point is about Guild leveling and reputation. As I said before, Guild Rewards are a powerful thing. Being in a level 20+ guild on my main and having all my alts in a level 2 guild, I can honestly say the difference is noticeable and painful. It will be slightly eased by the inclusion of a tabard in 4.1 that will help players earn rep with a new guild, but this doesn’t help new guilds. Players aren’t willing to move on to a guild that is a better fit at the risk of losing their perks. I have heard, from multiple people, about recruiting coming to a standstill because players simply aren’t willing to start over on rep or join a guild that is lower level than the one they are in. Guilds advertising in trade that are under 15 or so are practically laughed out of the channel. I have always maintained the best thing about WoW is playing with friends. When the player feels punished for playing the way they want to play or for changing their mind, something is wrong.

It may not be dying per se, but WoW is definitely feeling some pain. I worry about what might happen if this trend continues. People can argue all they want, but the dwindling raiders in my guild and the dwindling people on my friends list speaks for itself. The really worrying thing is that for each player that leaves WoW because of any one of these problems (or RNG), another player is likely to follow, especially if they find a new multiplayer game to play. And so the negative feedback loop starts until there is no one left but the gold farmers to play with.