Archive for the ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ Category

Thoughts on Gear Progression, Raiding, and WotLK

So it’s been forever since I’ve posted, and I’m going to take it slowly for now.  I actually have a lot to write about that I’ll get to soon enough, but something small (with the potential for vast expansion later if I choose to.)

So I was just reading Tobold’s post and the comments, which got me thinking about character progression and raiding in WoW.  What I realized is that the only real need to have really good raiding gear is to continue to push for more raid content.  On a related note, you only need to have really good PvP gear to push to become more dominant in PvP.  Shouldn’t there be other venues to put the gear that you’ve obtained to use?  Sure you can go run heroic instances with it, but you already have better gear than you are going to be able to get from there if you have really good raiding gear.  I really don’t even know what I’m looking for exactly, maybe entire zones that are more challenging/rewarding (but can potentially be ran through solo) or 1-man instances that really put your skills and gear to the test.  Who knows, I just know that I’m frustrating with the role that gear plays in WoW.

Am I alone in thinking this way?  Am I the only one who wishes there were more ways to put your raiding gear to use other than to continue raiding?  This is ultimately why I will not be purchasing WotLK.  In that vein, if you don’t like the direction Blizzard is taking their game, then this is the only way they are going to listen. Just like voting, one person doesn’t necessarily matter, but if enough people participate, then it will.  I was tempted to buy WotLK just for the 70-80 content, but then I realized that I’m paying for much more than that, and I don’t want any of the other stuff.  I also know exactly where I’m going to end six months from now if I start playing again, which is exactly where I was six months ago when I stopped, and that is debating whether raiding is worth the time and effort, and the answer for me is no.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the game if you know you’ll enjoy it, I just know that with Blizzard being the leader of the MMO industry, I am going to do what I can to get them off their asses and start thinking the way they did when they first built World of Warcraft, instead of thinking about how they can simply retain their customer base, because that’s honestly all I see them doing right now.  

Hopefully that made sense.  Whether you agree or disagree with me is your opinion, I just know that I expect more from Blizzard and I’m not going to pay them if I’m not happy with their product.



Is World of Warcraft Reaching Its Potential?

I suppose some context is in order, seeing as World of Warcraft has entirely dwarfed any other MMO (especially in the non-asian markets) with around 10 million subscribers. Yes, Blizzard is incredibly sucessful and WoW has already turned massive profits after 3 1/2 years on the market. However, I am quite sure of one thing: If they had released as many expansions as EverQuest 2 has and in the same fashion (not just end-game content) they would likely have 2-3 million MORE people playing than they do now. Even with Wrath of the Lich King, there is STILL no fresh mid level content. Sure they added a couple new 1-20 areas with Burning Crusade, but what about the part of the game that many players by now dread, the 20-60 areas? Heck, after level 30 or so, even the Alliance and Horde players are funnelled through the same content. I for one have made six characters that I have gotten to level 25 or higher, but only three of those have reached and will ever reach level 70 or higher unless content is added for level 20-60 characters. Don’t get me wrong, I really want to spend more time with these characters, but I can’t keep running through the same zones over and over again.

This is something that EverQuest2 has continuously added to their game, along with many other improvements and additions. They have released four expansions already with a fifth on the way. Holy cow. Granted, a much smaller percentage of their population is max level so they need to focus on the lower and mid-level content, but the sheer volume of content that they release is staggering. Granted, it’s not all going to be as picture perfect as what Blizzard releases, but seriously, four full-blown expansions to one. That’s tough to justify in my book. In any case, I can understand Blizzard wanting to focus more on higher level characters because that’s where a lot of their players are, but not all of them max-level, either.

Seriously Blizzard, how long do you expect people to keep running through the same content before they get tired of the game? A rather small percentage of your customers are raiders, which means that the leveling process is all the rest of the players really have, and after a while (if it hasn’t already happened) they are going to get sick of re-rolling characters that have to run through the same content every single time. The raiders might do it because that’s how badly they want another level 70, but it’s probably not going to be because they enjoy the leveling process, and if the non-raiders have nothing else to look forward to, then they probably won’t do it at all. WAR is supposedly going to have six entirely different paths to max level. SIX. Whether they are going to pull this off, or whether you actually need six at release is uncertain, but it’s much better than having unique content for all races up to about level 25 or 30 and then having them all go through the same set of zones and more or less the same set of quests from that point on.

How many hours of non-raiding content will Wrath of the Lich King offer? It’s tough to say exactly, but you can be sure that it’s not 18-20 months which appears to by WoW’s expansion time-frame. It’s likely half that, so come next September-December, when there are 6-8 new quality MMO’s out, as well as WAR and AoC which have both had time to dust themselves off after a few months, where is that going to leave WoW? Seemingly with more raiding, more upper-level content, and no (significant) improvements or addition to their mid-to low level content. After three or four re-rolls with no new content along the way, there is only one place they are going to find what they are looking for, which is at the end, and that content can only hold their interest for so long, especially with all the new competition on the horizon.


WotLK Raiding Changes: What do they mean?

By now I’m sure that everyone has heard that raid instances in Wrath of the Lich King will be built for both 10-man groups as well as 25-man groups. This is causing quite the commotion, most of it is positive, and I have feel the same way. I think many more players are seeing this as a positive than players seeing this as a negative. In fact, I can really only think of one group who wouldn’t like this: the hardest of hard-core raiders. The guilds with players like this. They don’t feel that every player should have the right to see the content that they busted their humps trying to get through. Well, my friends, you are quite wrong. Last time I checked, everyone was paying the same monthly fee, and that same monthly fee bought the same content for everyone, not just the people who have more time to raid or are part of a bigger guild than the rest of us. Now let’s take a look at just what this means.

On the positive side, smaller guilds will have the same access that bigger guilds have simply due to numbers. This can’t be understated, due to the sheer number of players who will be able to participate in more than one raiding instance, which is currently available to them now. Obviously, there is a difficulty factor to be considered, any getting any 10 players together will not necessarily mean that they will be able to get through the content. They will still need to be skilled players who know what they are doing.

On the negative side… well, whiny elitists will only get whinier because they aren’t so elite anymore, and everyone will see what they get to see. The one thing that I did see that made me side with them A LITTLE BIT was that they would have to run through these instances with 10 man groups and then again with 25 man groups. That said, I still think they just need to suck it up and deal with it. Why? Because there have been far too many instances in the history of WoW (MC, BWL, AQ40, Naxxramas, SSC, TK, BT, SP) that have been restricted to an incredibly small portion of all WoW players, and the rest have never (or barely) set foot in these places. The number of players who have been to Karazhan are infinitely higher, and do you want to know why? It’s because they require 10 players, not 25 or 40. Why wouldn’t you want to allow all of your players to see this content? It means that a great deal more players will have a lot more content that they will have access to, which means they will be happy players for much longer, which in turn means more money for Blizzard. Smart, huh? They have realized that money isn’t being made by keeping the hard-core raiders happy. It’s being made from the other 9.5 million players who deserve to have access to all content, regardless of guild size. If they can keep the hardcore raiders happy in the process, that’s great, but they are after all a very, very small percentage of the player base.

The other thing to consider is that gear will be better from the 25-man raids. Don’t even try to tell me that this isn’t the ultimate reason you are raiding in the first place, either. I really don’t think most people raiding Black Temple right now are doing it because it’s fun. After the fifth time or so you’ve run an instance, you’re primarily doing it for loot. Don’t get me wrong, the first time you set foot in a new instance and every time you slay a new boss, you are completely stoked. This can fade rather quickly, though. Let me tell you from experience; When you get into high-end guilds that run Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau, they aren’t doing it to socialize and hang out with friends. They are there to conquer and get “phat lewtz.”

You might say that this would still be the case for 10-mans. Players will just get bored with those eventually, too. This isn’t quite the case with Karazhan however, because it’s not quite as intense as some of the higher end raids (once you get used to it.) Once you get a solid group of players, it can become a social event. That said, I don’t know how the difficulty of 10-mans will change (if at all) with the expansion, but even if they do get harder, smaller guilds will still have the option of attempting these instances, rather than simply wishing they could. Then, if they struggle and can’t complete the content that the hardcore raiders can, they can stick it in their face, but anyone should at least have the chance to have a go at it.

The other option that this leaves players is to leave their 25-man guilds to form smaller, more tight-knit guilds with their friends, and still be able to enjoy the same content as the guild they just left. Granted, they won’t get the same gear as before, but at least they can still experience the same things. Having smaller guilds oftentimes (not always) means less drama. For one thing, you don’t need to organize nearly as many players to get through a raid. The chance of players getting at each others throats for one reason or another is much smaller, as there are less players in general. Small guilds aren’t perfect, however, and there are still a lot of benefits to being part of a bigger guild.

I can see one problem forming already, and it affects the larger guilds. It’s the same problem that players faced with Burning Crusade. When everyone first starts getting to 70 and players are looking to raid, I can tell you who’s going to be filling those raid slots in the 10-mans… officers. It will be interesting to see how this gets dealt with.

Well, I could probably keep going for hours on this, but I have somewhere I need to be, and I really wanted to get this up before I left. Hopefully it’s coherent enough to follow in any case. Let me know what you think.


Trash Mobs — What’s the Point?

With all the talk about raiding and gear ownership, it really got me thinking about instances as a whole. What about instances can really be changed or improved in some way? This immediately brought to mind trash mobs. Trash mobs are something that have really just bothered me ever since I started raiding (and instancing in general.) Since I didn’t play EverQuest (for more than a week or two) I don’t know whether they started there, or whether they were popularized by WoW, but they seem like one of those things that were implemented once for whatever reason, and from that point on were a fixture in raiding and instancing with little or no regard for their function. If they are there, they must be serving a purpose, right? Let’s consider what all trash mobs are good for:

1) They provide the potential for a random epic/rare drop (as well as small amounts of gold and vendor trash.)
2) They increase your reputation with a faction.
3) They fill space, and make the instance seem more alive.

That’s really all that I could come up with as to why they are included in instances. Some might consider them to be a sort of “gear/skill check” but in all honesty, they are far easier than any of the bosses that you’ll face, with very few if any exceptions. They take up everyone’s time for virtually no benefit, so here is a list of reason why they should be removed altogether as well as suggestions to deal with it.

1) The random epic drops that fall from trash mobs can simply be an addition to the gear that the bosses drop (with the possibility of two or even three items.) As for the gold, it’s never really been enough to matter anyway. No one goes to a 10 or 25-man with the idea that they are going to get gold. They go for gear, and more than likely expect to lose gold for repair bills. Increase the gold drops on the boss (to about 25g each in a 25-man,) or forget about it.
2) Reputation? Drastically increase the amount of the reputation you get for killing the bosses to scale with the trash mob rep. This makes more sense anyways because, after all, they are the reason all the trash mobs are there to begin with.
3)Think of all the time you would save by not having to deal with trash mobs. It would more than cut raiding and instancing times in half. Not only that, but it would prevent re-clears. If you’ve proven that you can kill the mobs once (which, again, aren’t nearly as tough as the bosses,) why force you to do it again, and kill all that much more time? The challenge is with the boss fights, not the trash mobs which keep players from heading straight to the bosses. 25-mans and heroics have timers in place already to keep people from killing the bosses over and over again, so it’s not as if players can kill the bosses, reset, and kill again for more loot anyway. All it would do is free up more time for the players (or allow them to have more time for attempts on bosses.)

The only real reason to keep trash mobs in an instance that I see is because they make it seem more alive, but then again, how “alive” is it if you walk into a room with 6 sets of mobs, and you can pull only one without the others barging in? Perhaps they could leave a few additional guards around each boss, but there is no reason to fight through 30 sets of mobs to get to a boss. Seriously. If you REALLY want to leave trash mob encounters, make them all similar to Gruul’s Lair, and nothing at all like Tempest Keep. Also, if you insist on forcing reputation grinds on players, give them other areas in the world (possibly right outside the instance) to farm rep, but don’t stick it in with the raid.

They aren’t required and they serve very little purpose (other than to annoy,) so why should they be there?


Gear Upgrades in WotLK

As Robert pointed out in his comment on the release date on WotLK, the gear that millions of players spent countless hours obtaining prior to the Burning Crusade became obsolete by the time most players hit 63-64. Sure, there was some gear that you could keep until 67-68, but it likely wasn’t any better than the green items you recieved from quests.

I think this was a feeling shared by a great deal of players, and almost unquestionably amongst raiders. if you were decked out in tiered gear, be it 1, 2, or 3, it was tough to destroy that gear for a quest item less than halfway through the expansion.

While I understand that they wanted to even the playing field for those players who hadn’t had the chance or the desire to raid before the expansion, they should have done a better job of scaling the tiered gear to last longer into the expansion. Until you hit level 70, and started to run the toughest 5-mans, there should have been no reason to upgrade from tier 2 or 3 gear. Yes, tier 1 could have been upgraded as it wasn’t entirely difficult to get, but the others were a different story.

With that said, I think WotLK won’t follow this path. I think (or hope rather) that Blizzard will fix the mistake they made with the first expansion and make higher end gear last longer (something like 78-80.) If they do end up with a similar situation to Burning Crusade, I will likely play my way to 80, though I would have serious issues ever raiding again in WoW.


Wrath of the Lich King Release Date Thoughts

I just got a chance to read Cameron’s post about this, and I got to thinking everything through a little bit. Here are a few things that have helped me through my prediction, which I will get to later:

Patch 2.4
I am assuming that patch 2.4 is going to be released in 3-4 weeks, which means mid-to-late March. I am going to further assume that it will take about a month for each server to fully unlock everything on Sunwell Isle, meaning mid-to-late April. Add another three months or so for all of the players to satisfy themselves on the new content, and allow at least the top 1,000 guilds or so a good shot at Kil’Jaeden. This leaves us at the Blizzard Invitational held in Paris in late June, where a playable version of WotLK will be available.

AoC and WAR
Both of these games are set to have a release date which will likely come between May and June. Both games are experiencing much hype from potential players. Blizzard isn’t likely to release their product soon after these games have been released, which means that they will either want to release prior to these games launching or they will do so several months after.

Blizzard has stated that they are unsure whether they will require a closed beta for this expansion, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think they do. I think they know enough about their game and aren’t making enough changes that it would require a beta to take place. This will cut down significantly on the development time.

With all of this said, it all depends on a couple of things. How far along are they in the process now? If they are touting a playable version of the expansion in late June, does this mean that they will have a finished product, and they are pulling a PR stunt to make it sound like it will be “closed to finished” or does that mean it will be close enough to show players while still taking several months to work out the kinks and give players time to try out AoC and WAR, only to decide they would rather play the expansion come September or October? These thoughts coupled with Blizzard’s notorious track record of pushing back the release dates on their products makes it all a shot in the dark, but if I had to make a prediction, I’d have to say… September.


*Obviously WAR’s release date got pushed back. So far back, in fact, that I don’t think it changes anything about this prediction other than the fact that WotLK will be released sooner than WAR.

On Raiding

Now that my fiancee and I are back into WoW, we’re starting to consider our raiding options for the future.  Our server, which I’ll leave nameless for now, is not all that advanced in terms of raiding guilds.  There are five or six who have even began on Serpentshrine Cavern only twelve or so that have done Gruul and Mag’s Lairs.  For now, this is fine.  There are a few dozen guilds who have completed at least half of Kara which will be more than enough to get started.  Basically, we want to join a guild that has completed Kara and can run through it pretty efficiently, basically so that it isn’t just a wipefest.  We’ve still yet to set foot inside the instance, so we probably shouldn’t be so picky, but after nearly nine months of the expansion, there should be enough experience from a handful of guilds (on my server) that this isn’t too much to ask.   Once we get through Kara for a few weeks, it might be time to jump into something a little heavier, which leads to a new problem.

As stated, there are very few guilds that are pretty advanced into BC raid content on our server, and those that are are basically set with the crew they have now, which will make it rather difficult to get into and even if we do, becoming an important part of the guild (which is what we ultimately want) might be a bit difficult.  This leaves the option of possibly transferring servers if funds become available to do so.  This of course is not something that can be done randomly for a popular server.  If this does in fact open itself up, we’d basically need to have a guild offering us a spot before we went so we don’t blow $50 (two characters, Tonks and Anaktoria) only to find that the server we’re on is a very well-established server with no place for us.

Even if we do find a good fit in terms of a guild on whichever server that may be, there is still the question of “what’s the point?”  The next expansion will probably hit shelves sometime between Q3 of 2008 and Q1 of 2009 which leaves about 10-13 months to raid and gain gear that will soon be deleted in favor of 73 greens.  Actually, on a side note, I really hope this isn’t the case.  I think that if Blizzard has any sense, they will make the best gear available now last all the way through to level 80 end-game.  That way people will feel far less resentment and frustration when they drop they gear that took hundreds of hours to obtain just days into the expansion.  Sorry, got a little sidetracked, but it does sort of fit in.  The point of raiding is both to obtain gear (primary reason) as well as enjoy the instances and time with guild members (secondary reason.)  So those are the “points” of raiding, and as for the gear lasting longer with the next expansion, if that happens, I will be much more likely to take raiding quite seriously and pay to transfer our characters to a new server (unless we find ourselves attached to a guild here.)

So there it is.  I’m really torn right now about whether I want to focus more on the guild or on the gear, as our guild pre-BC was a lot of fun and we enjoyed the company, but didn’t advance nearly as far as we would have liked.  I hope this doesn’t come off as too selfish, but we also don’t want to invest myself too fully into a guild that isn’t what we’re looking for.  Hopefully we can find a healthy balance, and not find ourselves crying come the next expansion as we find ourselves typing “DELETE” once again.

I hope that was at least somewhat coherent.