Monthly Archives: August 2011

Expectations, Part 2

So, in my previous post, I explained what I saw.  Here, I’m going to discuss the community, and what I see as causing what Matt Rossi said to problably resonate with a lot of people…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I think that the community’s expectations of both Blizzard and each other are highly broken. Let me explain:

First, the community expects something to replace anything that gets nerfed, dumbed down, or otherwise perceived to be made easier. I’m going to use the Zandalari Heroics, and the Elemental Heroics (the four heroics mentioned in Matt’s article) as an example, but it happens with raids as well.

When patch 4.1 dropped, several things were also changed in the Elemental Heroics, making them easier. Many folks (even those who no longer struggled with those encounters) agreed that in some cases it was very necessary to make the Elemental Heroics even vaguely accessible to someone who didn’t have a guild group to support them. Along with those changes, two new Heroics – the Zandalari Heroics – were added. These were more difficult than the Elemental Heroics pre-nerf. They were also exciting because they were new, challenging, and they awarded more Valor Points.

This makes a certain amount of sense. More difficulty = more reward. Fair enough. But now Blizzard has set a precedent, and there will be clamor if this precedent doesn’t continue. That is one point where the community is very broken – if the new content doesn’t follow the model of the old content by at least awarding more reward for more difficulty, then why bother with more difficulty?

But, let’s take this back to where we are. Two levels of difficulty. Two different amounts of VP gained. I’m good with that. I’m even happy with that. Now add the next element: Community perception. If you ask 10 WoW players,  I’m betting 7 of them will tell you that you need to run your 7 Zandalari Heroics every week (or an appropriate number to reach your Valor Point maximum along with your raiding) or you’re not playing end game right. Why? So that you can get your better gear as quickly as possible.

At the same time, the same people will tell you that they’re bored with the content a month after it’s been released. 6 months until the next content patch and they’re going bonkers, suspending their accounts or quitting the game altogether (or at least thinking about it while they continue to beat their heads against this expectation that they max their VP every week or might as well take a break)

And that, my friends, is where I think the community is the most broken. I remind myself that the most vocal people are always the most unhappy people. But I just don’t see why these expectations are there as a general rule.

I want to be clear here. I’m not talking about hard-core raiders. They’re a different breed altogether, and I think they take the grind of getting their weekly dungeons and their dailies in stride to be able to accomplish what they do.  But Casual Raiders (and don’t get me started on casual) seem to think they need to play like hard-core raiders to be able to accomplish anything noteworthy. 

There’s another thing I don’t understand about casual raiders. They see themselves as failing if they’re not right in the progression pack, and they see themselves as better than everyone else if they’re ever ahead of the curve.  I wonder if disgruntled prima-donas are the ones who cause all the drama – not the specific instance drama like loot going to the ‘wrong’ player, but the generalized drama that happens whenever a raid team gets stuck. If they expect everyone else to put in every ounce of time and effort because they themselves happen to have enough time to do so.

I’ve known a lot of casual raiders in my day, and before the ability to buy gear with points was added to the game, things were a lot simpler. You got you gear upgrades from raids. If you had done the quest or dungeon, or ground out the rep to get the piece that was best in slot before raiding, you were done with have tos.

So maybe the problem is the point system, not the community. But really, it does all boil down to how the community perceives the systems, and the community expectations.

Expectations

A few days ago, I was reading WoW Insider, and I came across an article that actually got me pretty steamed.  While I think it’s an important question to ask, for folks who are doing endgame content: Does the Rise of the Zandalari dungeon tier serve a purpose?  I personally don’t like the answer the author, Matt Rossi, puts forth. And since I don’t have anything tiny guild related to talk about today, I’m going to talk about endgame perceptions because I think at its core, the concepts the community hold are incredibly broken.  But first, I’m going to quote Mr. Rossi, and try to explain why I don’t like his answer. And what I would recommend to Blizzard instead.

“At this point, the Zandalari heroics are used to grind out valor points, then grind out justice points for supplemental items or heirlooms for alts. Yet the Zandalari heroics still give twice as many VPs, and when you’re capped on VPs, reward twice as many JPs as the launch heroics. With the recent announcement of patch 4.3 coming with three new 5-man dungeons, we’re moved to ask: Why not open up the heroics we have to more people?” This is a true statement. And an important point – you get more points when you run these heroics, so people who care about capping those points are probably going to be inclined to run those heroics.  For those not in the know, it’s also important to note that you only get VP/JP for running random dungeons, and only for the first 7 per week. There’s a cap of 980 VP, which is reachable using the Zandalari heroics, but not using the others without supplementing raiding.

Matt talks about the issues around maxing your VP/JP some more, and then says “Another difficulty here is one not everyone will agree with, but here it is: When the Cataclysm dungeons launched, their heroics were often very hard to pug. Months later, that’s not the case — so why not let groups that can finally stop and look at all that gorgeous scenery go in and do so? Dungeons like Halls of Origination, Throne of the Tides, Lost City of the Tol’vir and Vortex Pinnacle are magnificent dungeons in terms of art and layout. Their inclusion in the Rise of the Zandalari tier of reward would greatly break up what potential art and music we were going to be exposed to while farming for points.”

And that’s where I begin to have issue. If it’s about farming your points, then having a limited group of options isn’t all that big of a deal. You want to get through the dungeons quickly, and be on to the things you enjoy in WoW, whether it be raiding or buying your next shiny purple.  If it’s about seeing content, then bloody well go see the content, and deal with the fact that you won’t get more points for doing it!

Now, what I would recommend to Blizzard is not as Matt suggests, which is to raise the other dungeons to the level of the Zandalari dungeons, but to drop the Zandalari dungeons down to the level of the others!  Blasphemous? Maybe. But if it’s easier now to get the points than it used to be, doesn’t it essentially drop the intrinsic value of the points? We’re not talking about inflation here, because there’s still limits on how many points of each type you can have and get, there’s still limits on what you can buy with them, and you can’t trade your points around, even among your own characters. So making the now easier content reward fewer points would mean people don’t get as many points.

The problem with Blizzard doing this is that it’ll only be acceptable when patch 4.3 drops, with its new dungeons. They could roll the Zandalari heroics down into the previous tier, and make the new heroics the new shiny. But that doesn’t get people back into the old content to grind out their points.   People get bored with the same old content, and I get that, I really do. But the solution is not to make it easier to get the points. The solution is to make it not matter which content you do.

Guild Bank Stuff – It’s like that one closet

When I inheritted the guild, it came with four tabs in the guild bank. I added a fifth, because we were amassing stuff, and I wanted to keep that stuff organized.   And what happened? More stuff.

Shortly after that, Sonaira and I started minimizing our posessions in our personal lives. We got rid of books, clothes, stuff that would be more useful to someone else than us. We sold some items and gave others away.  Since Sonaira also functions as the guild’s bank officer, she decided to apply some of the principals we used to downsize our real lives to first her own toons’ banks, and then she turned to the guild bank.

She and I go back and forth about the stuff in the guild bank. “We don’t need that, nobody is using it!” she tells me. “But I want it to be available if someone needs a little bump for their professions.”  And then we discuss, and we come up with an appropriate amount of stuff that nobody seems to ever use. 

Every time Sonaira complains that the guild bank is getting messy, I tell the guild to use the stuff. If they don’t use it, it gets auctioned/vendored, and the gold goes back into the guild coffers. Of course, they don’t use it, so Sonaira cleans out, auctions, and puts money back into the guild. And then the members fill the bank back up again.

About a week ago, I had a bit of an epiphany about what to do with all that stuff. You see, there’s guild achievements now, and some of those profession achievements will take a small guild like ours aeons to finish, unless we can come up with a way to get, say, cheap greens to DE for Dust, Dust and More Dust. Well, we have all this cloth, and ore, and leather just sitting around gathering dust. So we spent some time crafting up all those things into greens. And turning around and disenchanting them.

It worked a treat. The guild bank is empty (for the moment), and Dust, Dust and More Dust has gotten a healthy bump to its statistical completion.  While I was at it, I went through all the gems in the guild bank of appropriate quality, and cut them to work on Gemcrafters Extraordinaire… and Sona’s Death Knight spent some time milling, making inks, and producing a nice little stock of glyphs… which are currently hanging out in the guild bank, but will likely get liquidated at some point in the future.

I’ve heard that the accumulation of stuff in guild banks is not the bane of only small guilds, or only non-raiding guilds, but a problem that every guild faces at some level.  Sure, we could have 7 or 8 or 9 or however many the maximum number of guild bank tabs is and have enough “space” for everything, but people would still put stuff in the bank that we don’t necessarily need. What then?

I’m personally kinda proud of our solution to the problem of stuff just sitting around. We’re an achievement guild, so it seems totally appropriate to me that we should use what is donated to do the achievements. Now, about that stuff that can’t be disenchanted, cooked up into tasty treats, or sold on the auction house? Well, I’m sure I’ll come up with something. Too bad guilds can’t create goody bags like Marcia Chase or Catherine Leland give away. Cuz if I could do that, we’d get some very interesting prizes for various contests…

I think it might be time for Shoryl to go buy some ribboned wrapping paper.

Challenge where you find it

Certainly, many guilds look to the current endgame content for their challenging game play. Even small guilds who don’t raid will look to the current endgame instances and heroics. Some players, particularly those who play rogues and hunters, pursue extreme soloing.

But for some players, these are not enticing ideas.  My partner and I play a Protection and Retribution paladin respectively. And it’s really impressive what two paladins can do. One of our most active guild members plays a Holy paladin. Three paladins, one of each spec, can successfully complete an awful lot of old content. 

Just the two of us could take out the Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj. With our Holy guildmate,  we took on Ragnaros in Molten Core for an easy success. Add in our hunter, and we got C’Thun from the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj in one try.

The three paladins took 4 bosses in Mount Hyjal, without reading any strategies. We did die to Rage Frostwhisper the first time, but the second attempt was flawless – at least in terms of none of us dying.  Two of us had fought Rage when he was current content, but I had never seen him die due to stopping raiding during that part of the guild’s progression. Our Holy paladin also said he’d never seen the boss after Rage.

After that success, Sonaira and Shoryl leapt into the Black Temple. Without strats, we didn’t kill Najentus, but in a future attempt? We’ll very likely be able to kill the first boss in the second to last raid made available in Outland.

Is this hard-core challenge? Probably not. But that’s not really the point. The point is finding the level of difficulty and interest that you’re happy with. Shoryl wants to carry the old instance and raiding achievements, to hearken back to her predecessor’s prowess on the battlefield in Classic WoW.  Sonaira wants a chance to explore the content, which is why we do this stuff without strats, frequently on our own, and certainly only with guildies.

On another note, there’s a secret place in Icecrown that shows the early developmental styles that went into Vashj’ir. I was so excited when I accidentally found it while hunting saronite and titanium to get my chopper built. Sonaira looked over my shoulder while I explored, then looked up why it was there, and what it might be.  I’m still surprised there were faceless ones there, and not nerubians.

Blizzard Announcements and the Community

A few days ago, Blizzard announced that they would be putting a Real Currency auction house into Diablo 3. Since Diablo 3 is still in pre-release beta, there’s always the chance it will get scrapped, but the concept is still out there.  And the first thing the WoW community did? Start speculating on what this means for WoW in the future.

Gold farming is a fact of life in the WoW economy. There’s a huge grey market for WoW gold, and some speculate that the best way Blizzard can stop it is to sell gold themselves.  The announcement about D3 has folks supposing it might be the direction that Blizzard wants to take WoW auctions. Others bring up scary scenarios about deceit, 14-year-olds ninjaing goods they think they can make real cash from and so forth.  We do love to speculate.

WoW Insider’s Mat McCurly doesn’t think it’s likely.  I read many of Mat’s articles with interest, and when I’m not particularly up on a topic that has something to do with the way Blizzard does business, I actually tend to give Mat the benefit of the doubt. But that’s just how I roll. For the most part, that’s because I know that Blizzard will do what they believe will keep WoW on the top of the market, and whether or not I personally like what they’re doing isn’t going to matter all that much. If, for instance, Blizzard were to make all of their PvE realms PvP, I would stop playing. If I were the only one to stop playing, it wouldn’t matter. But that scenario would probably leave Blizzard with a chunk of lost subscriptions, so they’re probably not going to take away my happy little PvE world.

Would I stop playing the game if there was a real money auction house in WoW? Almost certainly not. In fact, I’d probably use it to sell goods, and if I got enough real dollars to buy something I wanted from the same auction house, I’d probably use those funds to do it. But. I’m not a raider or PvPer, so I really don’t care what anyone else does with their toons. I don’t have to vie with anyone who would potentially spend real-world cash on items that are more than cosmetic for a raid spot, or fight against them in the Arenas. So, I don’t have a particular stake in the game.

My understanding of the subject is limited, but I do understand that D3’s looting system is quite different from WoW’s. There’s no “rolling on items” what you loot is yours. What he loots is his. If my experience playing D2 is any indication, getting item sets from Diablo is nearly impossible without some sort of trading system. Diablo also has no professions. The only way to get better armor is for the RNG to love you, or to be able to trade for it.  So, the competition is completely different. Oh, and one more thing, I’m led to believe Diablo3 is free to play, making in-game microtransactions the only way for Blizzard to increase profits over game sales.

This is all speculation. Well, except the announcement thing. That’s about as tangible as we can get before release of a game. Since I don’t plan to play D3, and Blizzard has not announced any changes to the Auction House system in WoW, it affects me not at all. Except that the WoW sites I read are all abuzz.   I’m sure Blizzard is reading at least some of this with interest. After all, what better way to judge the reaction of your audience than to watch them speculate about what you’re going to do next?