Archive for the “Cataclysm” Category

You… you….

No.

I can’t believe it. I won’t accept it.

No. Not just no, HELL no.

Someone hold my coat, I’ma gonna get my claws bloody on this one.

Someone give me the name of the rat bastard fink that is responsible for this insane travesty of all that is right and holy!

I swear, when I find out who’s behind this, I’m gonna gut ‘em.

First I’ll skin ‘em, and THEN I’ll gut ‘em.

And I’m not even a skinner, so it doesn’t matter if I use a damn spoon or not, it’s STILL gonna hurt.

Can you believe this crap? I swear, this time they’ve gone too far. Screw writing my congressman, not that he’d give a shit.

Oh, hey, you know what the definition of a congressman is?

A member of the second group put up against the wall after we finish shooting all the lawyers.

You think you’ve got things under control. You think that you’re on top of the world.

You’ve got plans. I had plans! Damnitall, I had plans!

And then they go and do this.

I just…. I just don’t know what to do.

<sniff>

You know, I try so hard. <sniff>

I really do. I keep those embers burning, ya know? I never give up.

No matter how hard it gets, and some days, it’s really damn hard, I just stay with it, ya’know? <sniff>

<sniff>

It’s like, you know, just when you think you’re up, they gotta drag you right back down, man.

I just… I mean, man… I just don’t know if I can take this anymore, man. Just, just game over, man, game over. Maybe we should just roll over and put them in charge.

What? What do you mean, them who? What am I talking about?

Good lord, where have you BEEN?

Haven’t you HEARD?!?!

It’s right there in Black and Green.

According to the tooltips, Swift Flight Form, Flight Form, Aquatic Form, Travel Form, Bear Form, Cat Form no longer make you immune to Polymorph.

They did it. Those damn Mages finally went and did it.

I never thought they would, but they finally got their hooks into someone in Blizzard and made it happen.

It’s the big one. The balloon just went up. Screw DEFCON 5.

Damnit, I WARNED you all it was coming!

I tried to tell you. I warned you, and did you listen? Hell no.

I told you, first you give them a forum to talk, and then you give the short ones a soapbox so they can reach the mike, and then you let them assemble without hosing them down with the firetrucks…

The next thing you know, it’s all over. It’s all Bears in sheep form, BRK wandering around drunk looking for the cheese dip, and drunken Mages having their wild depraved parties with NOBODY TO MAINTAIN SOME DAMN DECENCY ANYMORE!

Well, okay, no, *I* don’t maintain the decency… I’m talking about those other Druids in the Annarchy guild over on Dark Iron.

The point is, we were safe! We had protection!

And when the Mages are around, you know you bloody well NEED all the protection you can get!

As I always say… if you’re planning on hooking up with a Mage later, you better darn well make sure you’ve got protection with you.

What’s next? huh? What’s bloody next? Are they gonna make Druids wear a thong like Jong?

You KNOW that doesn’t go with our fur, dagnabit! You’ve got to have baby smooth skin, freshly waxed to pull that off. An all over Brazilian body wax. You know, like Jong has.

I can tell you one thing… this just proves beyond a doubt that Mages are a more powerful force than Hunters ever will be, even counting BRK.

Because if the Hunters had their way, we’d be tameable pets tomorrow.

Comments 28 Comments »

Before we leap ahead into the Cataclysm of another expansion, I’d like to do my traditional pre-expansion look back on the joys of WoW past.

Most days, day in and day out, it’s kind of the same old thing, right? Especially when an expansion or content patch is this long in the tooth.

Ahhh… but there are those moments, and you know you’ve had them, where the everyday game is eclipsed by sudden pulse-pounding excitement, chills, thrills, surprises and “Holy crap, that was cool!” moments.

The one truth to those moments, is that once you’ve had that moment, you’ll never experience the magic in quite the same way again. The best we can hope for is to try and recapture the remembrance of that magical moment while playing a once and future alt the next time around.

I was talking with Cassie about this, and for her several once-in-a-gametime moments sprang immediately to mind. For this retrospective, it’s these special, magical, once in a lifetime moments of Cassie’s I’d like to visit.

The first one for Cassie, literally the first, was when she was playing her first ever character, her Rogue, in Elwynn Forest. She was questing, and exploring, moving through this unfamiliar, strange new online world. Her video game experience, while extensive, had to this date resided solely in platformers and console RPGs such as Spyro the Dragon and Kingdom Hearts. An expansive, persistant online world where she was free to roam and explore to her heart’s content was wildly new, when framed against such a background of “on the rails” linear storylines.

It was while she moved ever deeper into Elwynn Forest, clearing the way and feeling like a badass, stabby stabby, that she ran into that diabolical archfiend, Hogger, for the very first time.

The moment was exhiliarating, terrifying, and in the end, a brutal, bloody defeat. Hearing her cries of rage and frustrated bloodlust, I rushed to her desk to see what was the matter. That was when I had the dubious pleasure of explaining that, oh yeah, Silver Dragons around mob portraits, and mobs with unique and personal names, were generally BAD THINGS. Yeah, I know, thanks for the news flash, any more things I might like to add? Like daggers do damage and traveling without a mount sucks? “Umm, no dear. Love you!”

The next memorable moment came soon after, as Cassie traveled on foot walking along the road from Elwynn Forest to Westfall, and picking up quests along the way.

This moment also evoked cries of anger, and I again went rushing to see what had happened. There Cassie lay, her body broken and bloody upon the road of Westfall.

“But… I was on the road! They’re not supposed to eat me if I’m on the road!”

Oh yes, that was truly a memorable moment full of surprise, shock and dismay. Not even traveling upon the road will grant you safety in the deadly world of Warcraft. Plus, I have to say, in the coyotes’ defense, Cassie did look mighty tasty.

Yep, just leaving the castle of Stormwind some days is putting your life in your own hands. Or, to put it a different way like Martin Sheen expressed in Apocalypse Now, “Never get out of the boat.” 

Another moment for Cassie that she remembers with stark vividness is when she was questing on her own in Loch Modan. She has a policy, where she will never cause harm, or by her inaction allow others to cause harm to innocent little critters. Bunnies and squirrels of the lands, rejoice, for if I were to look as if I might target one, my ass, it doth be grass.

This softhearted kindness, however, does not extend to that most dreaded of ursines, “Ol’ Sooty.” Ol’ Sooty, the massive bear possessed of a strength and power dwarfing that of Hogger, at the time of this telling still a mighty Elite, normally resides up in her mountain lair, overlooking the small village down below.

But not on this day, oh no. No, this day, while Cassie strolled peacefully along, Ol’ Sooty apparently had heard about this most tasty of travelers, and descended from her mountain cave in order to path back and forth along the trail, where any questor scurrying hither and yon to and fro from Thelsamar may run across her.

Cassie, seeing a bear wandering out in the open, took aim and fired.

Ah yes. “Bear in the open, 30 meters, fire for effect.” “Hit.” “OH SHIT!!!”

You could hear the cries of anguish all the way to Mississippi, I swear. “A big damn bear just fell on me!”

Ever since, as she levels new alts, she makes a point of stopping by Loch Modan to “say hi” to Ol’ Sooty… from the barrel of a gun.

Not that she holds a grudge, or anything. Oh no…… far be it from ME to ever suggest such a base canard.

Last but not least of Cassie’s recollections, is the day she sought to level her Rogue’s lockpicking skill.

She had read that just up the road and over the hill from Lakeshire was a wonderful spot for young Rogues to pick lockboxes that respawned quite speedily.

Nobody, however, thought to warn her that she should watch for PACKS of HUGE FREAKING ORCS hiding behind the trees looking for tasty Rogues to eat.

In her own words, she was “brutally assaulted”. I asked her, “What, by the orcs?”

No, by all the people that, when Cassie complained to friends about being ganked and dying, told her “Oh yeah, they always do that.”

Not. Helpful.

In conclusion, I’d like to add two moments for myself.

First, is the incredible tension being on foot, without a mount, brings when leveling without a flying mount in Hellfire Peninsula. Whenever that ground shakes, my head whips around. “Fel Reaver? Where? Oh shit, RUN!”

Which is a laughable idea, considering those bastards move like the wind. A foul wind. Nothing says “Another poor sucker’s getting eaten” quite like watching from a distance as a Fel Reaver pauses, and then breaks into Formula Mach One mode across the plains in hot pursuit.

My second personal moment, and to show that not all of them have to be “Surprise, you’ve been jumped by an overpowered Elite”, is the entire Wrathgate chain.

That moment when the cinematic first unfolds for you, taking you out of the game and immersing you unexpectedly into the story was just a wonderful thing.

I understand that’s going away in the new expansion. That makes me sad, in a way, but the truth is… once you’ve experienced any of these moments, you can never quite recapture that same magic.

You will never think you’re safe on the road once you’ve been eaten, you’ll have learned about aggro ranges.

You will never idly tag a mob with a Silver Dragon portrait, or the title of Elite, or having it’s own, unique name again in pure innocense. You may do it by accident, but if you do, you won’t be shocked and horrified, because you’ll know what just happened, even as it’s happening to you. Again. Damnit.

Each moment in the game that you learn something new is a good experience, growing, getting better, gaining knowledge and, hopefully, wisdom. And that’s a good thing.

But it does raise the bar for what it will take for us to feel that next magical moment. That new surprise.

Here’s looking back at many long years full of such moments, and hoping that in the years to come, the biggest Cataclysm will be the destruction of our expectations, and a whole new range of magical moments to experience.

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Cataclysm is coming fairly soon now, by all reports. MMO Champion fixed the date of release as being November 2nd, barring some bug delays, and that gives us about a month and a half to go before everything gets washed away in a sea of change.

Be generous, call it two months. Be cautious, and call it only one.

Whichever way the expansion winds blow, this one is bringing some serious changes to the core structure of the game itself, and almost all of the classes.

It’s a good time to really talk about last minute planning and preparation.

Unless, of course, you’re like my friend Occulus, who saved up about 200,000 gold and full heirlooms, a stored Mechano-Hog and non-combat pets against the day he can create his new Worgen Druid.

There may just be such a thing as being TOO damn prepared, after all.

The first thing I want to talk about, and to my mind the most important thing of all, is preparing mentally for what’s going to come.

Change is coming. Specifically, changes to the core mechanics governing how YOU play the character you already know and love are coming.

Let me relate a few hypotheticals for you.

Maybe you’ve been playing a Hunter, or multiple Hunters, for years now. Literally years. You know them, you love them, they rock your world.

The news coming out of the beta, and the Blue posts surrounding the upcoming Cataclysm have made it clear that, come the Big One, your understanding of the core mechanics of Hunters and how they work will be wrong.

In Cataclysm, you will need to approach the class with a fresh perspective, learn how to spec your Talent points in new ways, learn how the new non-Mana system works for you, learn and understand new stat priorities based on Talent spec anew, and also learn how all your abilities and spells work and what speeds/cooldowns they have and work out what to use, and when.

You know this is coming, and there is one more piece to this puzzle. You haven’t really been following everything, you’re not in the beta test, you haven’t grown with the changes as they’ve been implemented and tested. But you HAVE read enough in the Blue posts, and in the forums, to see that current players who ARE avidly following the news of these changes, and presumably playtesting them out, are ranting and raving.

Other players are complaining that this won’t work, or that got nerfed, or this thing is awesome, or that thing is all screwed up.

Some folks have already worked out some kind of shot rotations and mechanics systems where they pop one ability 3 times followed by hitting “X” to unleash a buff, and then something else gets done. You don’t really follow what the hell they’re talking about, because you haven’t even SEEN these changes yet, let alone begun working out rotations.

But what you do know is this; you know how to play your character now, you really enjoy playing it as it is, and you do it very well. This new stuff sounds like they’re changing it all around, and the player comments make it sound like it’s going to be really difficult and complicated. That depresses the hell out of you.

You’re starting to think that, once Cataclysm comes, you might not even play that character you love anymore, because it just doesn’t sound fun anymore. All too confusing and complicated now.

That’s a hypothetical situation, and it could be any other class you’d like to name. Paladins, for example, are really taking some massive changes right in the shorts. (Why do I think of Jong when I say that?)

I’d like to take a moment to address this.

Yes, your class will be changing. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Maybe your favorite spec is changing a lot, while others are just seeing some small tweaks.

The first thing I’d like you to do is take a mental step back from all the rhetoric. Get your head out of the midst of all the little details, move back from worrying about what cooldown Swipe has, or how many Talent points you can put into whatever.

Look for a moment at the big picture.

Yes, things will change. And yes, the playstyle you enjoy now will likely be changed.

The thing to keep in mind is, most classes have a reasonably easy way to play, and a min/max micromanaged optimized way to play (however you’d like to refer to it).

No matter how you play now, go to Elitist Jerk’s website for a moment and take the time to read the theorycrafting threads for your favorite DPS spec.

In most cases, there are incredibly detailed instructions on how you simply MUST play. Tons of research, comparisons, spreadsheets, graphs and more.

Just because all of that exists does not mean that you HAVE to use any of it.

In many cases, the difference between one player using the ‘optimized’ techniques, and another clicking whatever ability happens to be off the cooldown or sounds good, is about 100 to 200 dps.

Gear makes a big difference. How that gear is chosen based on knowledge of hit caps, expertise caps, crit rating, haste and mana regen makes a big difference. What lag you experience in 25 person raids makes a big difference. Whether or not you’re trying to carry on a typed chat conversation with your BFF at the same time as you raid makes a big difference.

If the worry of having to deal with a new system soon stresses you out, remember… you can play your own character however you are comfortable with. Don’t sweat it. You don’t have to do what everyone else does.

Many people out there play their characters to 80 and have a wonderful time without ever ONCE visiting any out-of-game resource. Maybe they’re not ‘optimized’, but they’re close just the same.

I have an example.

I am leveling a secret Death Knight. I’ve never managed to maintain momentum past level 63 before, and I’m now almost 67.

Cassie has also played a Death Knight, she leveled hers to 80 and really enjoyed it.

We’ve both played Blood spec.

When I was chatting with my buddy Melpo the other night, he asked me what I thought about my DK. I told him what I was enjoying the most was how much fun it was to manage/juggle my Runes as Blood spec.

With my Talents, when I trigger a Death Strike, one Frost and one Plague Rune become Death Runes, Runes that can be used by any ability.

As a Blood spec, I get the Heart Strike ability, which is powered from Blood Runes.

I find it fun to approach a ‘snack’ mob, unload a Death Strike which gives me 2 Death Runes, hit 2 Heart Strikes using up my two Blood Runes, fire off a Death Coil from the built up energy, maybe two, and then another Death Strike to get two more Death Runes. By then the mob is, generally, dead. Yum!

This lets me then approach a ‘dinner time’ mob, and eat his ass alive by chaining 6 Heart Strikes as fast as the GCD lets me. I find it hilarious good fun, juggling my Runes like that.

Maybe the second mob died faster than the first, maybe not. That’s not the point. The point is, I’m having fun controlling what abilities I’m going to have available on the NEXT mob I fight. I enjoy planning various rotation strategies in advance, and being able to choose to ‘unlock’ Heart Strike to be chained 6 times in a row (8 if you consider the Blood Runes coming off cooldown by the end of shot 6) if I damn well feel like it.

Cassie overheard the conversation, and said afterwards that she felt like she didn’t play her Death Knight ‘right’, because I’m sitting here doing all this juggling and managing of Rune cooldowns and playing with Plagues and using Brain Freeze for no apparent reason all the time even when the mob is a millisecond from death to interrupt that Fireball, and she “just hits whatever button was off cooldown first”.

Here’s my reply to that, to her and to you.

Did the mobs die?

Yes or no. Did the mobs die?

Did you live? Did the mobs die and you lived, and lived quite handily at that without heirlooms or other cheats?

Did you have FUN doing it your way?

Then who gives a shit if you hit whatever buttons came off cooldown?

Seriously, I beg you to hear me, and think about it.

If doing what you do sees the mobs die, you live, and you are ENJOYING it, then that is enough!

Now, carry that forward into the new expansion.

Do not worry NOW that people are talking about complicated rotations in beta threads. Do not worry that people are up in arms about this thing or that thing, or whatever.

Go forward knowing that whatever you end up doing, irrespective of what anyone else is doing, if you are killing mobs, if you are surviving your fights, and if you are having fun doing it your way, then you’re doing it exactly right, and anyone who says differently can kiss your ass.

You worried about DPS meters? I refer you to the above listed reasons why your DPS may vary from someone else that have nothing to do with rotations or ability choices. You worried about raid performance? By the time everyone hits level 85, I’m sure your favorite theorycrafters will have something to say about new mechanics that will have been playtested in live. You’ll have plenty of tools to figure all that crap out then, AFTER you’ve leveled 5 new levels, gotten all sorts of gear upgrades, and found your balance.

There is one thing I know I cannot do. I cannot ease your feeling, in some chamber of your heart, that if the ‘leet’ people are doing super-complicated rotations, you should too. I know. I know exactly what you mean. All protesting to the contrary, no matter how well you do with your own method, that feeling that you could be doing better if you only tried will probably remain.

But I still ask of you, to take that step back, let go of the small shit, the little fears, the minor debates and piddling little worries, and focus on the big picture.

Play your character. Have fun. Do it your way. If they die, and you live, and it’s been fun then YOU WIN.

You can worry about the rest later.

Play it, Blue Eyes!

“And I did it, myyyyy wayyyyyy.”

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According to the inimitable Cassie, who reads the news sites I can’t get from work, MMO Champion has shared info from Blizzard that Zul’Gurub will be gone when Cataclysm is released.

Now, this probably isn’t a big deal with most folks. Be honest, when was the last time most of you went and did ZG? This week? This month?

But this is important to talk about. Plans need to be made.

There are certain unique, ‘flavor’ items that can only be found in Zul’Gurub at this time. Will they be relocated elsewhere? Maybe, but then again maybe not. There are plenty of pets that are special releases, even region-specific. There’s nothing to say that Blizzard will decide to make sure those special items will continue to be available once the raid instance is gone.

Oh, wait, did I get ahead of myself? Are you wondering “Wait, what the heck is ZG? Why should I care again?”

Well, maybe you do wonder why you should care, but there are reasons to go in there, depending on what you like to do.

First, the breakdown. Zul’Gurub is a 20-man raid instance that was added into the original release of World of Warcraft. It was added in patch 1.7 (no, I didn’t know that offhand, I looked it up), and was considered in many ways a stepping stone for progression gear placed between Upper Blackrock Spire and Onyxia/Molten Core.

I know that I ran Healing Druid style in Zul’Gurub and enjoyed it quite a lot. It had challenges aplenty, interesting mechanics, neat fights, and a really COOL troll feel to it.

It was, at the time, a rarity; an open air raid instance you could mount up in, vast spaces to get lost in, Amazonian rivers to get eaten up in if you were silly enough to take shortcuts… and of COURSE you took short cuts. :)

Cool scripted boss fights.

I loved ZG.

Sadly, my guild in Vanilla (word up Divine Might!) had already been doing ZG before I got to the point of being ready to raid, so right as I was getting excited and my Druid was building Zandalar Tribe rep, they were bored with it and wanting to stop going. The general attitude of malaise within the guild when the subject of ZG came up made it a raid that people did for loot, not for fun. Geez, farm one place endlessly, in many cases four times a week, and you get burnt out? How silly.

Me, I never quite got over wanting to run it.

Still and all, it’s got a lot of meat to it’s bones. Much like Scholomance, it’s not your typical modern “in once, seen it all” place to visit.

There are many bosses in ZG, and some of them require special preparations.

There is one boss that can only be summoned if you have gathered the appropriate Herbs in advance, mostly I think from Eastern Plaguelands.

Then there is another boss… one that you have to fish up out of the river. And to fish him up, you’ve got to complete a quest chain to be able to get a special lure, and then go into ZG and fish up special bait fish to load into the lure, just to fish him up one time. We’ll get back to him. :)

It’s not just “go in and blow through”, not for 100%, not without being prepared.

Okay, now, why is this important for us to talk about?

Because of those special flavor items I mentioned, of course!

Are you a Mage? Did you always plan on someday collecting all those neat styles of Polymorph, but just haven’t gotten around to it? You bought the Black Cat Polymorph tome off the lady in Dalaran, and maybe you ground chocolates to get the Bunny Rabbit Polymorph during the Easter event, but you still don’t have your Pig or your Turtle. But, someday. Just not right now. It’ll always be there, right?

Well, better get off the stick, because Pig comes from your Mage quest chains in Azshara, a zone that’s getting a big stick to the face, and Turtle?

The Tome of Polymorph: Turtle has a 15% chance to drop from that aforesaid boss you fish up in Zul’Gurub, Gahz’ranka.

If you want to get Turtle, well, the book is Bind on Equip, so you could try and buy it on the AH, but I know that, if it were ME, and I had the Tome of da Turtle, I’d be stockpiling them until well after Cataclysm wipes the source from the world. Kinda like speculating in Frozen Orange Juice, hoping for a bad harvest so your supply becomes more precious on the market.

OR, you’re gonna have to get your Mage (or Feral Druid ALT butt) into ZG and farm it.

But wait, there’s more.

There are not one but TWO awesome rare mounts that can drop in ZG.

First, the Swift Razzashi Raptor. He has a chance to drop from Bloodlord Mandokir.

Next, and more famous, is the Swift Zulian Tiger, a very pretty orange kitty mount, which drops from High Priest Thekal.

Now, both have a low drop chance, of course, but your farming is aided by the fact that ZG is NOT on the standard 1 week Tuesday reset. Instead, it’s on a nice, fast 3 day reset, the better to farm your gear to Molten Core levels. You can hit that place twice a week per character. And with the river running through it, ahem, you don’t have to follow a linear “kill every boss” path. You can hop into the drink and swim to where, and who, you want to visit.

Could I give you details on how to farm these three items, what quest chains to take, etc?

Sure, but why bother? Hydra already did it thoroughly a year and a half ago. You DO read Almost Evil, right?

Hey, I love Hydra, why wouldn’t I plug a great post. :)

So this is your early wake-up call. If you’ve always wanted Turtle, now’s the time to either buy the Tome while it’s cheap on the Auction House (around 400g on Kael’thas Alliance side, 700g Horde side), or go farm it yourself.

And with the Bind on Pickup mounts, if you’ve always wanted one… time is slipping away, my friends. Time is slipping away.

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During this weeks downtime, good old Gnomeaggedon had a wonderful post, where he praised Blizzard’s communication skills. You know what the contraction for “good old” is, right? Go’ld!

He frequently has wonderful posts, he is pure go’ld, I’m just mentioning that one because it’s relevant to what I’m going to be talking about.

Oh, and Gnomer, you been threatening me with a rant against one of my PvP related posts for months now. Wassup? Bring it, shorty!

Ahem.

So yeah, Gnomer was very impressed with Blizzard’s communication skills during the recent downtime.

Since he was nice and considerate, that must mean I gotta be contrary and cranky, right?

Sure, Blizzard had some great communication. Well played.

But how about that communication the week before?

You know, the Twitter Developer Chat communication?

Yeah, THAT communication.

I’m very happy whenever Blizzard passes on information to us concerning their plans, and the intent behind them. Most companies restrict themselves to lawyer-approved press releases that are so sanitized you can’t see controversy in them unless you really twist your inner lens ALL out of focus.

Blizzard doesn’t do that. They talk to us. The developers as well as the community moderators. So please, keep in mind that when I do bitch, it’s with a healthy appreciation that at least we have some idea of what they’ve got going on.

I’d rather be told something I don’t like, and have it be the truth, than to be told nothing at all.

Moving on to the Twitter Developer Chat, the subject of class specific quests was brought up. Will Cataclysm have them?

The bare bones answer is, yes. There will be class quests at 20, and another at 50. Or something like that. This is good news, correct? There will be something for each class.

However, the value-added answer was that there will not be, and by implication never be, extensive class-specific quests because it is too expensive for the developers to program into the game.

Why is it considered too expensive? Let’s think about it for a moment.

The amount of time spent on quests for that one class could be better spent on quests that all classes could complete. The decision has to be made, create content all classes will see, or content only one class will see, using a certain finite amount of resources.

Or, to try and clarify Blizzard’s position for us, plucking numbers from thin air, if a programmer costs $30 an hour, it takes 1 hour to design a quest and implement the programming, and 100 hours of programming time ($3000) is budgeted for new quest content, then which is a more valuable use of that $3000? 100 quests for everyone, or 10 quests for each class?

That’s the position Blizzard holds. That it is too expensive in terms of allocated resources to program content exclusively for one class that nobody else will see.

In terms of project management and budget resource allocation, it’s very convincing logic. Especially when budgeting the resources required to completely revamp the existing Azerothian world experience.

In terms of the game design of an MMO, however, especially for an MMO with an extremely aging demographic, I don’t think it’s solid foreward planning.

In fact, I think it’s damn shortsighted.

My biggest objection to that logic? The concept, at this stage in the game, that content designed for only one character class will only be seen by a small segment of the players.

Are there still any players of over two years experience in this game that have created one character, and stuck to it, never experiencing anything else?

No. Most players play one main character, and then they start a new one for a new experience in the same game.

Having made that point, let’s back up a little. 

As a developer, you have a decision to make.

Allocate resources to either attract new customers, or allocate them to retain existing customers.

Or both.

I think Cataclysm is a brilliant plan for accomplishing both.

Existing customers get brand new leveling experiences within a familiar setting. I personally think that there is a lot of evidence that people LOVE being surrounded by familiar settings with a fresh new little tweak.

Anyone else love long series of books, TV shows or movies, where the scenery may change, and the plot may be different, but the major characters and genre stay the same?

No, I didn’t think so. Oh no, once an episode or book comes out, there’s never a demand for a sequal.

For existing customers, Cataclysm lets us continue to play in a world with familiar rules, settings, and structure… but the rules are just a little different now, and the places are a little changed now, and the quests are a little different now, and even the locations where Herbs and Ore spawn will be a little different now. And you can fly!

Small adjustments, but overall a comfortable feeling of being at home. It’s just like having a new couch and loveseat, and a 44″ HDTV added to the experience.

For brand new customers, the advertising will entice them by saying, “You never tried WoW before, because you were worried that everyone else already knew everything, and you’d be the noob. But now’s your chance to get in at the beginning, and learn the World of Warcraft alongside everyone else. The rules are new, the world is fresh, and there are brand new races and starting areas to try. There has never been a better opportunity to explore World of Warcraft all over again… for the very first time.”

Okay, so Cataclysm brings something for both existing and new customers.

For the existing customers, though… we’ve all been here before. I for one feel like I can predict the future based on past experiences.

Right now I have every character slot filled. I have had for months.

If I want to experience the new leveling world, there are three possibilities for me;

  1. I delete existing characters I love.
  2. I start up fresh on a new server.
  3. Blizzard lets us have more character slots per server.

What if all my friends are on my server? Then if Blizzard doesn’t open up more character slots, somebody has to get the axe.

If the game was only a year old, or even two years old, that wouldn’t be such an unreasonable expectation. Right?

But as a long term customer of over four years, I don’t think I’m unusual in having almost every slot filled with a character I like, and in which I have invested my time to develop, train and bond with. .

Does that sound super geeky? Bonding with a character in a video game? Of course it does. Anyone that doesn’t share certain geeky video game role playing characteristics with me is even now firing up the comment page to scream “It’s just a video game, get a grip!”

That’s fine, you don’t get it, and perhaps that means you represent the sane point of view.

I can only say that when I look at my level 73 Shadow Priest with maxed Jewelcrafting and Tailoring, I know that I may not feel like playing the character because I don’t currently enjoy her playstyle, but I have too many memories tied up in playing that character with friends. Great times with Legatum Ignavis in Karazhan, uber time spent PvPing in Alterac Valley with my wife to get the awesome PvP epic gavel (which she still carries), even time spent training Jewelcrafting that I just don’t want to lose by deleting her, even though I don’t intend playing her any time soon.

To paraphrase Roy Batty, “All those moments would be lost in time… like tears in the rain.”

Cut down to it,  if I want to hang with all my friends, and they don’t feel like server changing, then I have to kill a long time friend. Digital or not, it’s not cool. I’d much prefer to allow the character to remain, perhaps not logged in by me, but I can imagine at the loading screen that my Priest is out there in Azeroth, somewhere, sipping ale at the Pink Pigtail Inn and sharing stories of Mind Flaying some poor Rogue in Alterac Valley back in the day. Just waiting in pleasant retirement until the day her old friend wants to melt faces once again.

So, technically, limited replay value in the leveling experience, yes? Us oldtimers don’t have tons of empty slots to fill up.

But that’s okay, let’s move past that and assume that most people will eventually fire up a character on another server to experience the changed world. Or delete people. OR, perhaps they’ll take their max level characters and go questing the old world from scratch. Hopefully, all quests will be reset so you can do it all over again from the beginning.

So you do that on one character. Leveling or questing content from 1 to 60.

And then you do it a second time.

What have we learned from 5 years of playing?

Doing the same quests on different characters year after year gets damn old.

We play multiple characters in the hopes of experiencing something new.

And you tell us that content for one class is too expensive because it wouldn’t be seen by enough people? REALLY?

Sure, if all you’re looking at is the next three months, you might be right. Are we really planning on the game only lasting three more months?

Inevitably you want to see the experience from the other faction. Why? Is it because they’ve got better classes? Not anymore. Is it because they’ve got races you like better than the ones you first picked? Probably not, what races you went with first are the ones you liked best. Except for folks that like the brand new races, and none of the others on that faction.

So why?

It’s to see new quests. To take part in new storylines. To experience something new and fresh.

Well, if there are no class specific quests or content, I mean real class content different from the rest, then what you have is playing a different class through the same old thing you’ve already seen five, ten, fifteen times.

If each class had it’s own rich content at some point, or a little thread that wound it’s way through all the levels that had some good story to it, that would to me add something special for the long term player. Something new that playing that class brought besides a new way to trigger a ranged or melee attack.

I’m not thinking of the next year. I’m not even thinking of the next two years. I’m thinking of where we are now, and how short sighted it feels to hear a developer say that class specific content is too expensive for the return on investment.

When World of Warcraft was originally being developed, going headfirst against Everquest II, they invested in their plan. They couldn’t know how it would turn out, so they brought their ‘A’ game and did the best they could to anticipate what would really attract and retain customers long term.

None of the magazines or news agencies at the time considered WoW to be the big thing that would dominate the world. Everquest II was regularly reported to be the stronger contender for next gen MMO, simply because of the experience and popularity of EQ1.

During that initial development, clearly somebody over at Blizzard thought about differentiating the class gameplay experience in ways other than just stats and playstyle.

Somebody clearly thought that investing resources into making each class leveling experience have something special, something new. Some reason to draw you into the 1 to 60 game all over again, and extend your subscription that bit longer.

They invested at that time in class specific content. Special quest chains to unlock class defining abilities. Rogue quest areas and Ravenholdt. Warrior chains for kick ass weapons. Level 50 class quests for items out of Sunken Temple.

It really does feel like one person had that vision, but spent more time with one class than another. Different classes have content implemented at different levels. In some cases, all the class chains consist of are “go here and do this” to get an item that would have been a decent upgrade. Others have big epic feeling chains that bring special mounts. Even the Hunter class had the raiding gear chain that brought the bow and quiver of awesomeness.

It doesn’t feel like the attention to the classes was balanced, but more like one person had a vision… and then in mid stream had their attention shifted, or their resources pulled, and nobody left shares that same vision going forward.

It’s too bad. I know that, having done it already, I don’t personally look forward to questing through everything for the third time and saying, “What now?”, knowing that the plan is for all classes to get the same basic experience.

When it comes to investing resources in improving the replay value of World of Warcraft, a game meant to be a subscription based long-term gaming experience… I just don’t agree with the idea that class specific content is “too expensive”.

Really, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather they had the opposite opinion; that investing in long term replayability at all levels of content be something they make a high priority.

I know that Blizzard has done a fantastic job on the Cataclysm content. I’ve seen the screenshots, I’ve read a few of the beta reports, and by all indications, one thing you cannot accuse Blizzard of is being cheap on developing new content or redesigning the game.

I guess what it boils down to is my objection to the game design philosophy lurking behind such statements. If you’re going to be a subscription based game, you’ve got to be keeping your eye on things that will improve replayability, and keep your customers in it for the long term.

Saying class specific content is “too expensive” feels, to me, to be back-asswards to that concept.

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