Friday, April 23, 2010

Hero Quests

Players have been asking for class quests to be put back into the game. Vanilla WoW had one for most classes: Paladins and Warlocks had to go on a lengthy quest for their mounts, Priests had one for a staff that allowed them to switch classes without having to redo their stats, warriors had one for special weapons...and so on.

There also used to be more quest interaction with professions. Blacksmiths, for instance, had to complete a series of quests to unlock a choice of specific blacksmith branches.

Blizzard's response has been less than promising. They believe that they can only design a certain number of quests per expansion and that by implementing hero quests that there would then be fewer quests for everyone else to enjoy. It is a good point, to be honest. Let's that for Cataclysm Blizzard can design 3000 quests. The implementation of epic hero quests might require 700 quests for all of the classes total. Now, the general player base only has 2300 quests that they can level up with, unless they choose to do their one line of hero quests for their class. But the other class quests are locked to them.

Blizzard's current stance that everyone should have access to everything (all quests, all gear, all dungeons/instances) is actually limiting the playability of the game. If I run my warrior through all of the content, then switch to my horde warlock, there are very few things that will be unique in my second run-through.

They tried to do something about this issue with the Northrend map by making to landing points and allowing the players to choose one side of the continent or the other to begin their leveling process. Of course, by the time either side reaches a certain level, they are all playing in the same zones. But still, it was a nice throw-back to vanilla WoW where you could start leveling from one of several locations and then choose another one later with a different character.

We need more of that. And we need the hero quests put back in for each expansion but they need to be for solo play. Maybe the very last quest ends in an group encounter, that might be ok. The problem is that once the majority has gone through these group encounters several times, they do not want to do it anymore. Calls for help in chat go unanswered for a long time. The poor player might get one or two answers, but they will be from the wrong class or the group will simply fill out beyond them.

Solo content is important to late-comers and players who have "finished" the game and would like more to do.

Key Quests

Vanilla WoW and early Burning Crusade, players had to complete very lengthy quest chains to unlock raid content. Every raid had a key chain. For instance, in BC, you had to do several solo quests and then partially run some 5-mans that you had probably already run before. All to get into the first raid instance. The next instance required completion of the first raid instance and possibly the construction of an item that might require some farming of an outdoor raid boss or another handful of 5-mans. By the time you reached the second or third major raid you might have to run previous content over again for weeks while also completing a large string of difficult solo quests. For some these were good times, for others...not so much.

For the first people in a guild to complete each key chain, times were good...for a while. But after having to help the 30th replacement complete their group/raid key chains, it was more a job than fun. Suddenly top guilds might only be accepting players who had already completed the chains...somehow.

Coming late to the game was show-stopper. Any guild that was willing to take on a new player by then was not getting far. They were lucky if they could even get together enough people for dedicated 5-man runs.

Thus, by the "end" of the game, only small percentages of guilds were seeing end-game content, let alone completing it.

Thankfully Blizzard fixed that. However, as they are so often apt to do, they over-killed it. By removing key quests altogether, they took out an "epic" part of the game. What they could have done is place key quest chains onto solo content. Place a few solo dungeons into the game world and allow players to follow extremely lengthy chain quests to unlock those dungeons. I don't really care what kind of gear would be there, maybe just fluff items (mounts, pets, gear with fun uses...etc).

Why solo content? Why not? So what if the game is multiplayer, no one is stopping anyone from grouping with their friends. But many players just like being in a game world where they can be among other gamers and have to put up with them. For instance, I have a choice to hang out at a noisy club or the bookstore. In one place there is lots of interaction, while the other place is very little.

Anyway, key quests do not have to be out of the game permanently. They could be fantastic tools to occupy solo players. Even hardcore raiders might want to tramp around by themselves once in a while.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A New Level of Loot Acquisition

According to World of Raids (my preferred World of Warcraft news source for no particular reason) raiders who manage to create the Legendary Shadowmourne will unlock a series of rewards that only they can loot. The list includes a teleportation ring and a mount among other things.


To add a twist to these new loot items, the bearer of Shadowmourne can pass on the items if they are unwanted. So a raid leader (I assume) could then decide what to do with them.

Prepare for D R A M A.


Getting Shadowmourne is no small feat and requires the help of 24 other raiders. At the very least you need them to clear the raid instance, even if you are able to legitimately acquire all of the quest items yourself (my knowledge of the Frostmourne quest items is limited since I'll never have the option). There has already been plenty of drama over legendary items in the past, from raid leaders taking them for themselves and then quitting the guild to the "wrong class" somehow getting the items because they are "in good" with the guild leaders. So now, not only do a very limited group of people get the legendary, but the people who helped get it have to hope that the player has some sort of charitable morals and shares the wealth.

But is that fair?

Why shouldn't the bearer of Frostmourne be allowed to have the additional items or at least get first pick?

There are a few details I am not clear on. For instance, how many loot boxes will drop in a raid? One for each bearer of Frostmourne or only once per raid? Obviously the more people who can open the boxes, the better it is for the raid members.

Regardless of the drama to come, is this new level of loot really a good idea at all? Why bother implementing it? Since the looter is able to share the items with the guild, does that mean the items will be able to be auctioned off or is this a kind of test to see if some of the upcoming guild perks will work? Is this a way of pushing people to the Blizzard Store for future products?

Imagine the store offering teleportaion items, tabards, more mounts, other items with special use features (such as the Headless Horseman's Helm or the Summer Festival items) "designer" clothing and stylized armor and weapons (the armor and weapons would actually just be skins, perhaps, that change the look of gear you already wear). The in-game "toys" or fluff add a lot of character to the play experience though they do not actually change the way the game is played.

I can do without any of the items myself, but where is the line going to be drawn? Are we about to divide the player base once again? This time it will be serious players vs. "fun" players. We divide ourselves well enough on our own (Gearscore) and really do not need Blizzard's help.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Star-Spangled Ponies

Well, the Blizzard Store is doing great. The first two pets were a hit, the plushy/pet combos seem to be a hit, and now we have another new pet and also the store's first mount. And what a day it is for Blizzard's shareholders.

At $25, you would think people would be a little slow on the purchase of this one. I mean, really, $25? For something that is guaranteed to bring in a profit? But then when you look more closely, you realize that Blizzard is still feeling their way with the store. They want to see just how far they can go with it and still maximize profit.

First, pets.

Then, pets with toys.

Now, mounts.

Now, we all know that in-game pets are not really free. There is some cost to their development. Also, the more animations, emotes, actions, and other "tricks" that they do, the more time is invested, and time is money. And also testing. Testing is a big deal because it is time spent not actually producing anything.

So, new models with awesome art and features is going to cost more to produce and Blizzard decided that handing them out for "free" was not suitable for this level of quality. It sort of makes sense. After all, World of Warcraft had a specific amount of quality when it was released for the $15 a month price model. Over the years, the quality has increased and feature after feature has been coded into the game and the price has not changed. Technically, we are still paying for the World of Warcraft from five years ago.

The simple fact is that if we are going to continue increasing quality of the game and get some of those high-quality toys back into the game and out of the shop, we are going to have to pay a high monthly fee.

You should expect the fee increase to happen. It could happen with the launch of Cataclysm.

Anyway, upon a still closer look at this new mount, it turns out that it is just a new skin of an already existing in-game mount that drops off of Alganon in hard mode.

So no real effort was put into this store mount. Maybe some testing and fiddling with colors.

Enjoy your $25 re-skinned mount folks, it will be the first of many.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Anything I Like?

Now that I've earned the World Explorer title, I have to ask, is there anything at all about Northrend that I like?

Well, not really.

There are a few spots here and there within the zones that are nice to look at, but overall the content simply does nothing for me. Outlands was similar for me, but there were a few more things about it that I liked.

Northrend is just too dark maybe.

Even the music is lacking.

I wonder if it is a case of over-production? Sometimes when something is too heavily produced it looses an important aspect.

Another issue I am having with Northrend is how crowded it is. There are a few places where there are some wide open vistas, but most of the continent is so packed with camps and ruins and citadels that you can stand almost anywhere and see something not far off. Also, the filters change too quickly. You do not have to walk far at all to suddenly find yourself surrounded by different color. Many zones have several filter colors within their borders.

These quick changes take away from the epic vastness that should be in an MMORPG. I don't know if they can do it, but I would love to see all the content in Northrend simply stretched out to about twice what the map is now. Not every nook and cranny has to be filled with something clever of related to a quest. Unfortunately, Blizzard's level of quality demands that every inch of the game be unique and hand drawn. This means that by adding twice the land mass, Blizzard designers and artists would have to add twice the amount of unique detail. Which would just result in more filters I suppose.

Anyway, those are some of the reasons I am not enjoying Northrend. I fear the day I level an alt enough that he has to go through this zone. I may never have an alt go past level 70.

On the Road Again

In one of my recent posts I told how I was so close to cold weather flying and level 80. But it had been so long since I even logged in I had forgotten I was only at level 76...over three and a half levels to go till cap.

Anyway, the last two days I've ground my way to level 77 and my coveted cold weather flying skill. I also earned the World Explorer title. Still have to figure out where to get the tabard, but it sure is nice to have my second title in the game. I've been sporting Sergent for years. However, now that I have a new title, I'm keeping Sergent displayed. Frankly, it is just more rare and was more difficult to achieve. It shows that I at least used to have some measure of skill in PvP and rather than just had nothing better to do than wander around the world filling in maps.

So, now I'm level 77. Three more levels to cap. Not sure I can hang in there. I think I'll brave the new group system and see if I hit the fast track to leveling. Not sure anyone will let me stay in their groups though. I'm still wearing a mix of Karazhan epics, level 70 dps blues and greens, and one Northrend green sword. I don't even have the best-in-slot gems. All that and I no longer know how to play my character properly in tanking mode or dps.

We will see how far determination will get me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Craziness of Time

Time can be a strange thing.

We are on the cusp of World of Warcraft's third expansion. It is going to happen this year. For Blizzcon next year, we can expect the official announcement of the fourth expansion.

For Cataclysm, we are going back to Azeroth (I predict an upcoming Machinima spoof of "Going Back to Cali"). Chances are very good that the fourth expansion will take us away from Azeroth (at least the one that we know) once again. The designers do not want to keep us in one place for too long. They want to keep us moving.

The crazy thing is that they have already been working on the fourth expansion for at least six months. Maybe even longer. They will have all of this year and likely all of next year to flesh it out and finalize it. The team that is on Cataclysm will probably be sent onto the fifth expansion.

Somewhere around this time (this year or the next) Blizzard will officially announce their next MMO. I predict it will happen this year at Blizzcon 2010.

Seems like a lot to have on your platter but really, any successful game developer will have several projects in development at once.

It's just a funny thing though. We live in the here and now. Lich King is complete. They are giving us one more random raid encounter, then it is onto Cataclysm. But for them, they are living at least six months, or a year or more in the future. For them, Cataclysm is all but launched. There will be a team on hand to work out the three major content patches for the expansion, but there is also already a team on the fourth's crazy.

Something in the Air

When I first began playing World of Warcraft, I had to do it on dial-up. It was not so bad at the time. The original Naxxramas had just been released so most players were busy trying to gear up for it in level-60 raids.

There were plenty of alts running around the old world still, they really had no place else to be unless they were raiding on their mains, so I was not lonely while leveling up my first toon. I was even able to run Dead Mines a couple of times before moving on from Westfall.

As I played more often and in ever growing stretches of time, I eventually found myself playing long into the evenings. At the same time, there was a lot of excitement over the Burning Crusade that was about to drop, and realm populations were on the rise from an influx of new players as well as old players coming back.

I was still on dial-up and had not seen any problems yet. From time to time I experienced a slow-down and some nasty lag, but it was something I was able to work around. But now, all of a sudden, my loading screen was taking a long time letting me into the game.

Then I experienced my first disconnect. I had waited a minute or so for my loading screen to let me through then I caught a glimpse of Stormwind but I could not move. My character just stood there for a while then I was dumped back into the character screen.

The problem escalated until I realised that the population in Stormwind was now a problem. I was eventually able to log in long enough to get out and park myself in Goldshire but I could not enter the city without a disconnect. If I did get into the city, I had to put up with disconnects throughout the zone. Eventually I made a new home with the elves. Far fewer people there. No disconnects.

We finally agreed to pick up cable internet and will never go back by choice. Life was bliss in World of Warcraft again! Except that it was not. Now that things were sort of working properly I could see that I had other issues. I could not raid properly. I had to have all of my video settings down to minimals just to move around. It was mostly OK in close quarters like in most of the Karazhan encounters and in Gruul's, but in the open spaces of Serpent Shrine Cavern, things did not go well at all.

I replaced my video card but I had few options since it turns out my motherboard was obsolete. Which meant my CPU was also a handicap.

I had to drop from raiding until I could overhaul my computer. Oh the sadness. Yes, I was essentially replaced and still being somewhat new to raiding, I was not prepared to see new people in my slot when I was finally able to raid again. From then on I was just kind of miserable. I had the latest and (not quite best on the market) CPU, Ram, Video, and motherboard and now had little joy in raiding. Every time I got in I felt like I was just in the way. I began to complain a lot.

Eventually the guild leaders left, then the guild was disbanded. I joined another guild and got some raid time and they seemed to like me well enough, but they soon merged with another guild and no longer needed me. I went solo for months. I took my first hiatus a couple of weeks before Lich King dropped and found myself simply unable to get back into the game.

My character sits at about 77 1/2 levels. Cataclysm is on the horizon. Back to the old world! If I map out Northrend I'll get my first "big" achievement, my second title, and one more of many tabards. Just a half a level and I can be flying again. Then it is just two more levels to "the end".

Then I can just play around until the expansion comes in. Maybe do some arena stuff and get some new pets.

I don't know. Something seems to be in the air. I really would like to finish this expansion out before the next one drops. I'll be going into Cataclysm with no epics. Maybe not even any blues. But it will be Azeroth and it will be fun again.