Archive for the “Patch News” Category

According to MMO Champion, Deathwing will arrive tomorrow, and depart in a blaze of glory about 4 hours later, most likely. Okay, I’m kidding.

I know that it’s like this every time we get a new content patch, but it sure does feel like the raiding guilds have about exhausted what the Firelands had to offer.

Poor Ragnaros has died many, many times now, hard modes have been trounced, and Legendaries have been dissiminated.

Lots of Legendaries, from the chart MMO Champion put out a week ago.

You know the Firelands have been out for a long time when even *I* have killed Ragnaros!

Strange Days.

Deathwing will arrive (officially) tomorrow, and we will begin the process of getting geared up and experienced enough in his ways to destroy him.

Seeing the entirety of the Firelands and taking down Ragnaros has led me to think about the various mechanics of the fights and all that is required to match them. How did we get here, and where do we go from here?

In looking back over the years, the one distinguishing feature of content releases is the Skill Level arms race.

When Vanilla WoW first came out and we hit end game, did anyone envision where we would someday get? Maybe we should have.

With every expansion or content release, the challenge for Blizzard grows.

The mission? Design content that is challenging AND fun.

It’s got to be difficult enough that it will take a while to learn, but not so difficult that it breaks the spell we are under when we pursue ‘progression’. If the difficulty includes too much grinding or random chance to succeed, then people lose interest.

It has to remain somewhat challenging even after the path to success is learned, to keep interest alive once mastered.

It’s got to be unique enough to be fun, for a given value of fun. Plus loot, new loot of ever higher ilevels.

Now, it’s got to be all that, plus it’s got to last long enough that the next content release has time to be designed, programmed and tested for release.

Sounds daunting, but that’s just one side of the arms race.

The other side are the players.

Over the years, I have watched in amazement as the player base has built tools to arm themselves in direct opposition to the Blizzard Design Team.

Granted, I’ve taken part in this myself, but it’s still amazing to me what has grown.

As fast as the content is developed, the players build tools to help them beat it.

Website forums for theorycrafters and class experts, individual blogs, web-based optimization tools like Ask Mr Robot or World of Raids, combat log parsing tools, addons, addons, addons, geez I mean Deadly Boss Mods represents a force-multiplying escalation all on it’s own.

As the content gets more challenging, the players rise to the challenge, get better prepared and more experienced. Teamwork, by necessity, improves.

The next round sees more complex mechanics… and the players improvise, adapt, overcome, and then craft new tools (or improve old ones) to speed it up and make it easier.

As with any arms race, there is collateral damage.

Oh yes there is. How would you like to have to design a brand new MMO in this landscape, where the majority of MMO players have been hardened in the fires of 7 years of Azeroth raiding?

And of 7 years of Trade Chat?

Blessing of Kings is taking part in the SWTOR Beta, and todays post highlights a fun fact; chat trolls using story point spoilers to try and ruin your game.

As an MMO developer, how do you arm yourself against this type of scenario, when your opponent (the player) has had 7 years (or more, counting how long the genre has really been out there with Everquest and others) of experience on you?

A new MMO nowadays has to come up with a solid concept, and then design a game not for what players expected and would have enjoyed 7 years ago, but for what people are used to seeing, and subverting, now. Within a week of launch it will have to face the test of the cynical and jaded MMO gamer, whose expectations get higher every day.

Deathwing is doomed, but even as the patch warms the servers in pre-load position, content developers are hard at work preparing the next payload for delivery, aiming at a moving target. They have to design for the players, as they think we will be at that future day, after we have absorbed the lessons we learn from the Deathwing raids.

Isn’t it amazing? This is what it means to be part of a game experience as it evolves, and growing with it. And we get to go back with our modern, up to date characters, and visit the content that was designed for the player of yesteryear whenever we’d like, to remind us of how far we’ve come.

I love it. Yes I do.

The new patch comes tomorrow, and despite the rise and fall of Deathwing, the one thing I think I am most looking forward to is the resurrection of raids to go into old content, to satisfy those transmogging urges. Getting friends together willing to do Serpentshrine Cavern or Black Temple or The Eye should be easier than ever before.

At least for a few months. :)

Where will the developers take us next year?

Who can say? It depends, at least in part, on how well we adapt to and overcome what Deathwing has in store for us.

You have to wonder, do the developers of other MMOs watch and even play WoW, just to get an idea of what the modern, experienced raider learns to handle?

Isn’t that a trip?

I for one am glad to be part of the journey, wherever it’s taking us. My concern is, in order to come up with ever greater challenges to fit the lore, someday soon we may find World of Warcraft has hit the same wall many of our long-term pen and paper RPGs hit, once the characters reached level 25 with all the epic items that entails.

Where do you go when the players are looking to kill the actual gods and usurp their place to find some kind of challenge? Do you face down the Old Gods, bring forth the terrors of the outer darkness, face an invasion of demons from space?

Oh wait, been there, done that, got the tabard.

Where do we go once we’ve killed Deathwing?

Apparently, once we’ve killed the gods themselves, the only foes we will have left to fear are the most powerful beings known to Azeroth; our former allies.

But in pitting Horde versus Alliance as the core of the battle… can there be any resolution at the end?

Comments 7 Comments »

This post has the potential to unleash rage and drama in those that read of it. You’ve been warned.

Nooo….. it’s not about the new BOE Blizzard store pet. Well, not MAINLY about the new Blizzard store pet.

As Steven Brust might say, one word on the new pet.

It is a pet. It will be in the Blizzard store. When you buy it with real money, dollars, euros, yen, what have you, it comes to you bind on equip. You can trade it. You can presumably wrap it in that pretty wrapping paper and mail it to a friend.

You can sell it for gold on the Auction House.

Yes. A Blizzard-sanctioned method of turning real money into virtual gold. You pays your money, you gets your in-game gold. And, depending on pet prices on your server, you takes your chances.

My comment is; so?

A few years ago, I’d probably give a shit. These days, the only victim I see is the account hacker that wants his virtual gold to be the only option you have to buy with your real money. And really, screw The Hacker.

The only point of interest I have in the project is to see how much your $10 will eventually be worth in virtual gold, based on the demand for this pet by people who don’t want to spend $10 of their own real money to get it.

My wife is one of those folks who will pay 20,000 gold for something, and that’s okay, but she already pays $15 a month in real money on the game, be damned if she’ll pay more. And more power to her.

I’m sure your opinion will likely differ, and thus, drama potential one.

But no, that’s not the potential drama I really wanted to talk about.

I was reading Officers Quarters on WoW Insider tonight, and a comment Scott Andrews made touched off this little fireworks ‘splosion in my brain housing group.

The Raid Finder is not just for the guildless. Guilds can also take advantage of this new feature in several ways. The first and most obvious is that it will allow your raiders to get practice time on bosses for your own normal-mode raids. Since you don’t get locked to the instance using the finder, you can see the mechanics ahead of time and still raid with your guild in the same week.

I read that, and for a moment, the aforementioned fireworks went all ‘splodie. Then I felt my brain actually jump the track (over the shark, most likely) and spin aimlessly for a little bit. I failed my SAN check, I tried to disbelieve the reality of the text I had just read, but I rolled a 1. Epic fail.

Scott clearly has spent some time thinking about this topic, and already internalized this, but I’m slow and I’ve been busy.  So maybe I’ve missed the discussion somehow on my feedreader. It’s possible, my feeds have been whittled down to a bare smidgen.

Is Blizzard really just about to release a tool that hardcore raiding guild officers will be able to use to require their members to raid hour after hour after hour in ‘does not count’ practise sessions to fine tune their performance before attempting a boss fight in a raid ‘for reals’?

And nobody has said squat?

Sure, I know that the loot drops won’t be as good as a ‘for reals’ raid, and I know that it will be easy peasy lemon squeazy mode, but it’s still the bare bones of the real raid, and as the game progresses, it’s still a tool that will continue to grow with the patches and expansions.

How did this slip under the radar?

If you were an officer in a hardcore raiding guild, and your guild was shaky on the mechanics of movement, target prioritization or mechanic flow for a particular boss encounter, are you telling me you would NOT have your raid members get in a few hours practise where it won’t count against your weekly attempt?

I’m sorry, maybe nobody cares anymore, but it wasn’t that long ago that players in hardcore raiding guilds were complaining bitterly about having to run both 25 person raids AND 10 person raids every single week in order to maximize their possible loot drops and point/token earnings. I believe quality of life and balance between game time and real time were becoming factors.

This may not be in quite the same ballpark, but it has the potential, in the first few weeks of any new raid, to be even worse. That raid team that really, really, REALLY wants to smoke the raid bosses first week… well, how many hours are they prepared to spend running the raid on what will be, for all intents and purposes, Practise Mode?

True? Not true? Molehill that just looks like a mountain?

You tell me.

Comments 16 Comments »

Just a quick update, on my last blog post I specifically rushed to the awesome idea of a Rogue being able to go back, get the Warglaives, and finally raid with them.

Nope.

A Blue commenter has specifically remarked that Legendary weapons will NOT be allowed to either have their image be changed, or to supply their appearance to another item.

My editorializing will now begin.

How completely frakkin’ stupid! If the whole point is that you have to possess the item in your own inventory, then why in the hell would you NOT want to be able to display that you have a legendary? Why?

Are Legendaries SUPPOSED to rot unused and unseen in a bank?

Just… on top of the greatest news I’ve had in a few weeks about the game, to drop that bombshell of just STUPID is amazing.

And I don’t even have a Legendary!

Comments 12 Comments »

I don’t even know where to begin, but since that’s a beginning, let’s roll.

Today, we are told, I’m still not believing the words I’m typing, that patch 4.3 will include Gear Transmogrification.

You’ll be able to change the current appearance of your gear to match the appearance of any other comparative type of gear.

Plate shoulder to plate shoulder, leather chest to leather chest. Possibly even two-handed staff to two-handed staff, and one-handed swird to one-handed sword.

This feature, no I swear to you I am not kidding it’s been confirmed by Blue post on the official forums, goes hand in hand with the new Void Storage, which apparently is intended to have about 150 inventory spaces… for the storage of your old gear.

Items you put in Void Storage, according to Blue posts, will have enchants, gems and crafting identifiers removed. It will be put in the digital equivalent of long-term cold storage.

The subtext here? You will have to possess, currently, an item of gear in order to be able to apply that gears’ appearance to your currently worn gear.

Maybe it will have to be placed in Void Storage to have the pattern be available at the Transmogrifier Vendor, that sounds very reasonable to me. It would make Void Storage a form of “recipe list” for appearance patterns.

Holy shit. Just, holy shit.

Do YOU want to PvP or raid in the armor sets, the MATCHING armor sets of yesteryear? Do YOU love role playing and having cool outfits, and regret having to wear a cobbled-together clown suit to achieve performance?

Well, kiss the clown suit goodbye, my friends, and say hello to a whole new game of planning your special outfit and then going out there and GETTING IT.

Did you always want the twin Warglaives from Black Temple, but once Cataclysm came out and the Legendaries were obsolete as effective gear, you lost the fire in your belly to get them?

Have you always loved the Blackened Defias set, and wished you could wear the whole thing and still be as effective as everyone else?

Just… holy shit.

I know that my first thought, my very first thought was, “I need to transfer my Rogue to my new server, so when this change goes into effect I can be wearing my full Dungeon Set 2 while raiding. With the twin Season 1 PvP swords.”

I know it probably seems stupid to you. Maybe I’m one of the odd ones, getting excited about this.

But just holy shit! I am!

I am excited as hell to go back and review the appearances of every set in the game, decide which appearance I would LOVE to have for my character, and then go out there right the hell now and start working on building it.

How about you? Are you like my Rogue, and have a freaking insane kick-ass set ready to go for your favorite character, just waiting for this to go live? Do you have twenty?

Are you like my Warrior, who intentionally leveled Blacksmithing and acquired every single recipe and built the full Imperial Plate set and kept it, just for a “Worgen about town” outfit, but it’s really nothing all that special?

Or are you like my Druid, who has nothing waiting in the wings, because I was always in forms and it didn’t matter if my gear looked like I failed clown school?

It’s such a simple thing, and yet, our view of the game is what we see around us. We see other players around us, all the time.

When every player you see will be able to look exactly how that player wants, I think it’s going to have a major effect on the world. Instead of people wearing random crap, everyone will have a choice, and who among us doesn’t want to make our own decisions and USE those choices?

Kick ass, Blizzard.

Comments 22 Comments »

From out of the blue yesterday came a new Dev Watercooler blog post from Ghostcrawler, where he revealed that Blizzard has decided tanks shouldn’t have to worry about generating enough threat to hold mob aggro against crazy DPS.

Specifically, tanks on the starter end of the gearing grind shouldn’t be crushed under the weight of trying to hold aggro against raid-geared DPS going balls-to-the-wall in a pick up group.

Ready? This isn’t some “we think it would be nice to someday…” announcement. The hotfix apparently went live today, August 16th, and right now all tanks in their tank mode will have their threat generated from damage boosted, going from 300% threat from damage to 500%. They’ve also ramped up the rapidity by which Vengeance builds in the first few seconds of a pull.

Surprise!

When the announcement went out yesterday, folks I talked to had a wide range of responses.

Among them were that this was the end of the game as we know it, tanks will no longer have to know how to do anything, skill is dead, everybody dance now or quit in disgust, blah blah blah.

Say what now?

I’ll admit, I thought that the days of there being anything tank-related for me to talk about here were gone, what with the high levels of knowledge and awareness I see among the players I run into every day, but I guess I was wrong.

Let’s talk about what this really means for you and me, mmm’kay?

Tank threat generation has been increased. Not just by a little, but by a metric shit-ton. Threat from tank damage has almost doubled. It’s close to TWO metric shit-tons now, and that’s a lot.

So, it’s all crimson blood spraying and rolling in the clover for tanks now, right? We run in, lay down a few quick swipes, then we can go stagger away from the keyboard looking for a Guinness while the DPS finishes the pull.

Right?

Well, maybe a teeny bit, but not really.

The big reason that it’s not going to work that way is that encounter design, even on trash pulls, has changed a lot over the years.

It used to be that the bread and butter, meat and potatoes pull (it’s lunch time, I’m hungry) was the tank runs in and hits the mob, the DPS burns it down. There would be minor variations on that theme, a few extra adds maybe, a healer or ranged spellcaster that wouldn’t come along for the ride, but that was pretty much it.

These days, just as GC points out, the design has changed.

Now, most fights in high level instances and raids have some kind of mobile component, a multi-mob component, and also what my wife Cassie refers to as a gimmick.

The mobile component is simply something to encourage people to move around. Tornados swooping in and out, rocks falling from the sky, mobs that start cleaving/flaying wildly, stomps that you have to jump to avoid being hit by, green or red shit to move out of, electrical fields to pull mobs out of, the list goes on and on.

A mobile component; Blizzard designing fights where the player needs to think about moving your ass instead of just standing and mindlessly pushing buttons in a fixed rotation.

The multi-mob component. This doesn’t just mean that there was more than one mob standing there.

This is where during the fight you need to be aware of the area around you, including behind you, because there may be roaming packs of adds wandering around, there may be adds that spawn periodically out of nowhere and come running in that the tank has to grab on the fly, there may be adds just like the old days that heal others or do evil debuffs and poisons that need to be killed first or locked down with interrupts, and there may even be adds like in Stonecore or Zul’Aman that, if not stopped, will run off and bring a LOT of friends to your fight.

And finally, the gimmicks. Ah, the gimmicks.

It seems like every encounter has some kind of thing that’s different. Bosses that will fixate on a target and charge them. Mobs that are frozen that need to be drug through fire, mobs that are on fire that will destroy you unless you hit a frozen mob first to get chilled out, mobs that will bubble and you have to go jump around flipping levers, all sorts of stuff.

Gimmick. It’s an unkind term for unique encounter mechanics, but it’s accurate.

Tank threat is buffed now. A lot.

So, how does this change the game?

It doesn’t. It simply smooths out the flow.

If adds come running in, the tank still has to tag them and do damage to them to generate threat. End of story. You will not suddenly, miraculously grab adds and hold them automagically without doing anything to make it happen.

You will not be able to charge in, blast up and tune out. You as the tank will still have to be mobile when necessary, be aware of your surroundings and actively grab adds and distribute damage/threat amongst them, and you will still have to handle the gimmicks of each encounter. 

What you can expect to change is that, if you are already doing everything you are supposed to, you will have a much stronger chance of holding aggro on all members of an AoE group, even if you are focusing on Skull, and the DPS are ignoring your marks to blow up whoever they want.

This change would normally encourage you to prioritize AoE threat generating abilities more. Since most AoE is on some kind of cooldown cycle now, you’re probably already using your AoE abilities whenever they’re up anyway, so, well, no big change there. Right?

It’s not like you can do Swipe spam, no matter how much you would have wanted to. But you can pop it every time it’s off cooldown, and expect it to have tastier results.

Likewise, for DPS players, this does not signal the death of Vanish/ Feign Death and Misdirection/Fan of Knives. Adds will still come in from wierd directions, and being able to send them off to the tank is always a good thing. Likewise, having an emergency “Get them the f&*(^ off of me” button never loses it’s value.

So.

In conclusion…. I don’t know where the hell all the panic I saw came from, or the rage about dumbing down the game, but I for one welcome our new threat overlords, and invite them to come tank at the pug table.

My Warrior and Hunter alts will be sure to make you feel RIGHT at home.

Comments 22 Comments »

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