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Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Mike Morhaime makes a statement that they are not going to impliment RealID features on the forums anytime soon. I wonder if this is because they decided like most of their players that it was a dumb idea, or the fact that a lot of people have canceled their subscriptions over this. I suspect the latter.

It would be Blizzard themselves. Lum at Broken Toys quotes several Blizzard employees and bloggers response to change the way the forums there work to basically make it so that instead of your characters name being displayed in a post or a question – the name on the billing statement is posted (may be your parents, or friend who pays for the account).

I think the immediate result will be that people will stop using the forums completely and revert back to 3rd party forums. Blizzard would then lose a lot of valuable feedback and in some cases have to use 3rd party forums to deal with a lot of the existing issues that are solved on Blizzard’s own forums (an issue Aion has). The other thing is I think people will lose trust in Blizzard themselves – which as I’ve said before is a far more serious issue.

Favorite quote from the link above:

Syncaine, blogger:

Can this thing launch already? This is like watching a car accident, only instead of seeing the flaming wreck after it happens, you’re like Nicolas Cage in that movie no one saw where he can predict the future, and you actually get to wait for the car wreck to happen right in front of you.

Train wreck indeed. Based on the backlash I’ve seen so far – it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they delayed launching this.

And if you don’t think its so bad – someone has already tested the waters – with hilarious results.

So I moved with my friends from the realm Staghelm to Korialstrasz, and to be honest I’m kinda regretting the decision. For one thing the guild he joined I was rejected from, so I haven’t been on a raid in weeks, but the biggest problem is just how many noobs are on that server. I’ve run into players wearing gear with stats that don’t benefit them what-so-ever, people who use resist gear as their main set of gear, and people doing less damage than my poor Shaman has ever done – even at lower levels.

Its really pretty awful :/.

I noticed a good article over on eldergame.com that discusses some of the changes happening in World of Warcraft. It’s worth reading even if you aren’t into video games because software developers from all spectrums run into the same problem to a lesser extent. The article touches on a couple of things really, but three things stand out to me. First is that the major design decisions have been handed off to another team at Blizzard as last February. This was apparent at last years Blizzcon when the designers for the dungeons and raids panel didn’t feature Jeff Kaplan – former lead designer of the game, and a game designer for Everquest, but a relatively new team (to me at least).

Second – game design and balance on a live game is really hard because of the human factor. Interestingly enough several design decisions made a huge amount of difference in several of the professions I had worked on in game. One example:

Alchemy: Alchemists make potions to buff players, restore mana and health. They also do other things like transmutes (changing one resource into another resource) and combat elixirs (basically buff potions that increase your abilities). Elixirs and transmutations are the most expensive to do and have limitations as a method to balance the profession against the game and the economy (for instance – alchemists can only do one transmutation every 24 hours). In the last expansion (Burning Crusade) they introduced 3 specializations you could pick: potions, elixirs and transmutations – basically all it did was when you made a potion as an alchemist you’d sometimes get 2-4 extra ones for free. If you did a transmutation you’d sometimes get 5 extra from one item transmuted etc. Well I picked potions, because healers (who tend to use a lot of mana) were going through them like no-ones business and it was very lucrative.

So sounds good so far right? Well then they changed the way healing works in the game. They no longer made it beneficial to downrank healing spells (in other words – use lower level spells that consume less mana) – which increased mana consumption. This part sounds good to a potion specialist right? Well… they increased player mana regeneration in the game, and gave several classes replenishment abilities that help restore mana to the party your player is in. With a properly constructed raid its actually very hard to run out of mana without doing anything special.

It gets worse too – they introduced a hidden debuff (wasn’t actually hidden in the beta) called potion sickness. In combat you can really only take one restorative potion now. When the character is in combat different game mechanics take effect (you don’t regen mana as quickly, you cannot revive someone from death – stuff like that). In a single raid at most you could drink 11-12 potions (one for each boss), but like I said you probably won’t need to when everything is going smooth.

The net effect is – no-one really needs stacks and stacks of potions for raids anymore – pretty much the only thing that is essential is stacks of Elixers/Flasks. I made 40 mana potions for my shaman last winter and I still have 30+ left… All this because some game designer decided that in game raids were too consumable driven (whoever has the best buffs wins). Even funnier – the older style potions I still have stacks of as well because I just haven’t gone through them like I used to.

Most players probably like this decision. I did for the most part, right up until I realized all the effort put into making my warlock a potion master was pretty much wasted. Now I have to pay some NPC a bunch of money to unlearn my specialization and start a new one – which is a pain actually because the quest is material intensive and it involves materials only found in older zones (2 of the specializations require runs through older dungeons) – which means lots of grinding. Sounds like a hassle.

My druid ran into the leatherworking problem mentioned in the article as well – I have loads of patterns in my leatherworking notebook for quivers and ammo bags, but its been a good long while since any hunter wanted me to make one.

Keep in mind – all of this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In WoW they have gone from one or two guilds who could complete raid instances to easily a dozen, but you can quickly see how positive changes can affect the product in a negative way.

Someday I can talk in detail about similar decisions about positive changes to Acrobat that affected users in a unforeseen way. The issue with MDI vs. SDI for example (since its public knowledge). I really can’t tell you how many bugs were with one, but not the other (good example – play with annotations on two different PDF files with the properties bar on…) and the extent having this option increased testing time (you would have to do all UI tests on all 30+ supported platforms twice as an example). The major issue is its a deprecated feature in Windows – there are platform bugs as well with MDI that will NEVER be fixed by Microsoft. If I were a product designer the way I’d address this is keep SDI, but introduce document tabs similar to Firefox. This may not be a good solution either as it would introduce a whole new set of problems and it would involve a lot of engineering effort to write a whole new window handler. A quick search on Google and there are still plenty of people upset about all this. Alas – not my issue anymore :).

Broken Toys has an article on why WoW achievements suck. I don’t think they all suck, but this week’s was really poorly designed. Oddly enough I managed to complete it, but it made me feel more like a rat in a cage than anything else. I did feel good completing it, but it really made me think about game design in a critical way. I think its OK to have PvP achievements in a game, but I would qualify they should serve to promote battleground rule sets, sportsmanship and cooperation – not single player goals.

Anyhow once you finish it – you get to put a title on your player “Matron” if your a female or “Patron” if you are male. Not quite sure if Blizzard looked up the meanings of those words… But there you go.

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Oh on Children’s Week! So this is one of the odder holiday events in game – basically you cart a Draenei orphan (who’s parents were sadly killed in some war) around to do various things and see various things. Upon completion they give you a pet, and she “writes” you a letter thanking you for all the fun adventures. There is also a series of quests to do with a human orphan as well – who also gives you a pet for your troubles. The human boy doesn’t write you a letter, but here’s a picture of the letter she writes: (you can click to make it bigger).

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I’m thinking of leaving the raiding scene so I can focus on getting my life sorted out, all my excess things sold off or given away and focus on getting a new job that I like (if that means going back to school – so be it). I’m sure the guild will survive without me.

Honestly I get the impression that at least one person I play with – who I thought of as a friend really doesn’t like me all that much, and thinks that because I’ve been unemployed long enough that I’m a lay about not trying hard enough. When it stops being fun to play with your friends – I really think its time to move on. Who knows – I might eventually move to another realm to play with some other people I know. I enjoy the challenge, and I think I’m a good player (it took a while…) and would like to surround myself with other good players.

I’ll probably hand around to finish the various in game “holiday” events because I’m almost done with those achievements anyhow.

Wouldn’t be a post of mine these days without a picture:

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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:

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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.

Raiding can be an emotional thing sometimes – especially when you are trying to kill a boss for the first time, and you’re really not all that ready, or there are players who constantly die to avoidable effects the boss uses.

Take “Gruul the Dragonkiller” – in the guild Dragonfire we weren’t all that great to begin with, our DPS (damage per second) was lackluster at best. Gruul has a simple mechanic – he grows periodically and starts dealing more damage. So its prudent for the raid group to do as much damage as possible before he grows too much and kills our tanks. Eventually around 20 growths or so he’s hitting our tanks for 10k hp per swing – which isn’t easily healable. This particular time most of the raid was dead – there were maybe five of us alive with the boss at 1% – the combat log was saying that the tank was being hit for a lot, but was also dodging a few attacks (it was a druid named Ominovin I believe) boss dies and we celebrate much in the same way as the videos below. I have a habit of looking through the combat log just to see what killed him… behold:

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I was surprised enough I took a screenshot. 277 damage – almost brings me to tears :). I should note – I never did once ever die from Gruul’s shatters or any other effect he did in all the times we downed him. Check these out: (none of these are my videos, but I thought they were cool – a small bit of bad language… – like I said – sometimes a bit dramatic)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXWPGAlRN6A – keep an eye on the shaman in the lower left.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oju6cjG3vJM – generally just good drama – Ragnaros a good while back was the last boss in the game…

No matter how easy a boss is or becomes – the best times really are when you just barely beat a boss for the first time because it was a deserved kill.

World of Warcraft there are several battlegrounds (or bg’s as the locals call them). They are cross realm instances (meaning they cover a huge amount of people) where players of both factions (Horde/Alliance) do battle. Every player you “kill” gives you honor points (usually 8) which you can save up and buy stuff with. Horde almost always win… Not sure why, but lately I’ve been taking screenshots and I have a theory:

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See the patten? The Alliance is inherantly lazy. The first screenshot I came in late at the last flag capture – still managed to get 23 hk’s (honorable kill), and come in pretty high in damage done.