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Monthly Archives: March 2009

I took the plunge and tried out Warhammer Online today with their 7 day free trial. To be honest its not that bad. It does suffer from the worst problem a designer can face working on an MMO however. And that problem is basically the entire time I’m playing I’m actually thinking that I could have more fun playing World of Warcraft.

Oh sure – when first playing WoW was really boring too and I quit playing, but then some friends at work invited me to play with them on their server and that was certainly more fun.

The problem as I see it is three-fold. One is that my friends play WoW, and since playing MMO’s is dull without friends I’m not likely to switch unless they do. Two is I have a max level shaman with tons of nice gear, loads of achievements and its a class I’ve felt attuned to playing. The thought of leveling another character in a different MMO to max level honestly makes me want to have a nap.

Three the game to me still lacks polish in some areas. I tried a number of classes (on both Order and Destruction), but I thought the most broken was the “Shadow Warrior” – she has a bow and an infinite supply of arrows, and when monsters get to close she has a sword to attack at close range. If you started your ranged attack, the mob would start moving in, and if you waited until it was in melee range and tried again it would say the target was too close. However, if you started the ranged attack while the monster was still moving in and finished with the monster right in your face it would let you finish the attack. World of Warcraft hunters don’t get to do this sadly… Her bow doesn’t seem to have a string – its hard to roleplay when your gear doesn’t look or feel remotely finished. Warhammer fans go on about how much better graphics are over World of Warcraft, but to be honest it was about the same or worse depending where you were, that and Warcraft hunters get strings for their bows:

strings

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ave_cropped For the too long didn’t read crowd the answer is – only kind of, but there are like always a lot of qualifications to that answer. For instance players were buffed considerably (in most cases) in patch 3.0. The main raid instance, Naxxramus, in Wrath of the Lich King was actually recycled from an instance that was actually made before the Burning Crusade expansion came out and designed for 40 level 60 players. Also in the last few years Blizzard has made these dungeons available to players in the “Public Test Realm” or PTR.

When it comes down to it – most WoW bosses have been about how well can you execute. In other words, are players staying out of the fire, grouping up when necessary, spreading out when necessary etc, picking up ads and dealing with said ads when necessary. Like Diku style muds before you have the so called holy trinity of combat systems. Tank takes most damage, healers heal damage and dps does damage. If fights last too long or people are taking too much damage healers and dps run out of resources (like mana) and the boss kills you. Better gear helps a raid because it makes you take less damage, heal more damage and do more dps with more resources. Better execution helps because people aren’t standing in fire and players are better at handling of boss mechanics like ads, or debuffs or general things where raid members take more damage otherwise.

This execution is in turn improved with practice, however Blizzard has taken the odd step in allowing players to practice these newer bosses to their hearts content in beta form on the PTR. In fact a colleague I know from Adobe is right now doing just this so they can claim realm first titles, and bragging rights to help with recruiting dedicated players in the future.

Reason I think this is a problem is these same players will spend hours and hours working on bosses in practice mode, then turn around and do it for “real” on the public realms in a week and then complain on the “Dungeons and Raids” forum that raids are too easy, more content please. Blizzard will eventually cave in and tune these raids so that you only get the really good loot if you beat them in their challenge mode (like beating the boss in a certain time, or engaging the boss within a certain time) – in which case these players are either really good at the game, or are really good at finding exploits to let them beat it within that time period (I’ve personally seen such exploits in use in places like Zul’Aman and Obsidian Sanctum to make these encounters considerably easier and quicker).

Naxxramus like I said was recycled from an instance designed for level 60’s. When it was released it was extremely hardcore, and the only people who dared enter were the ones who had spent months and months acquiring gear from Tier 1 and 2 raid instances like Molten Core, Ahn’Qiraj 40 and Blackwing Lair simply because most players couldn’t mitigate the damage, or deal the proper DPS to down the bosses inside without it. However its the same reason hardcore guilds like Ensidia were able to clear the entire thing within 2 days of its newer release. They had done it before at level 60 plenty of times and had near perfect execution. Even players who hadn’t done it before had practiced its level 60 version at level 70 (which I did actually), and therefore had a a fair amount of practice to do it again at level 80. Is it that easy? If you’ve never done it before no, it’s actually quite a challenge.

It’s also a bit easier to get gear. in the last expansion most of your Tier 4 items would come from a 10 man instance called Karazhan, however 2 pieces came from a 25 player instance called Gruul’s Lair and the chest piece came from a different boss called Magtheridon – without all this it was difficult at best to progress to Tier 5 content (which was 25 player only). If you were a guild who specialized in 10 man raids you had to rely on pickup groups. Gruul was a nightmare to execute well without extremely good players, and similar with Mag’s lair. Gruul had a lot of random elements which made the fight quite a bit more difficult and the boss before him (High King Maulgar) required a well done initial pull, and 4-6 tanks (two of them kind of gimmicks and not real tanks) and a specific kill order. Even with good gear, if the pull wasn’t done well some of these bosses had abilities that could one shot most players if you got too close – it was kind of chaotic. Both these instances were actually nerfed only after Ensidia complained that they were tuned way to high for entry level players and that even hardcore guilds didn’t do them because they were too much of a pain.

Naxx comparatively speaking has no real gimmicky fights like this – and none of the bosses really have random abilities that can wipe you out if you get unlucky (well maybe Sapphiron if your tank isn’t a warrior and he/she gets chilled and can’t charge back in). Also every single piece of Tier 7 gear except for the gloves drops in the instance – so you can gear up rather quickly with your own guild. This in turn makes the instance easier and easier as time goes on, and should in turn make future raids easier.

So in my opinion – its not really easier, just better designed.