Saturday, October 22, 2011

WoW goes Kung-Fu Panda

By now I suppose all WoW fans have read the news about the new expansion, so no need to paste here details. I feel Blizzard is hammering the nails on WoW's coffin, at least in the western market. Pandarens were always a little joke in WoW universe, and now become a playable race and theme for a expansion. Very, very disappointing.
You've been running around Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms, then Outland and Northrend, thwarting the plans of the big baddies, following a good chained history and then... everything goes to a halt and something new is introduced, disrupting totally the chain. By that time Deathwing will be just a dead husk, but what about of the threats still looming around? Old Gods, Burning Legion... they aren't going to kick back and relax while we're in Pandaria learning kung-fu!
WoW subscribers have been going down since Cata was released. Almost everyone felt the expansion didn't bring anything really new that was worth to keep playing the game and went away looking for greener pastures. In this case it seems Blizzard considers american and european markets dry and looks to attract a raising market like the asian and specially the chinese, focusing the entire expansion on chinese lore. Will it work there? Probably. Previous expansions, specially Wrath of the Lich King were hard to be introduced there. Chinese specially find undead and skeletons very disgusting, a taboo. So an entire expansion based on creatures they dislike wasn't going to work (Blizzard had to change several mob models for the chinese version). So they're now fully betting on the chinese market with something they like. I wouldn't be surprised if after Mists of Pandaria we get Sands of Arabia or Snows of Caucasus as the new expansion.
But at least, one good new (and also a good hook to keep playing): if you commit to one year of WoW gameplay you get Diablo III for free. A good marketing trick to secure player base.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Facing the end of Cataclysm?

Things start to catch speed. In two days we've had some news that will impact the game heavily.
Yesterday was turning threat into a non-issue for tanks. Hit hard from the begining and don't fear to lose aggro as the fight goes on. On one hand it's a good idea: dps usually outgear tanks quickly, or if not, the dps ramps up faster than threat. That makes a lesser geared tank struggle to keep mobs on him and end loathing the tanking role (as it happened with my warrior duign WotLK). While this means tanking will be easier (and hope more people decides to queue as tanks) we still have to see what Blizzard intends to do. They want tanks to be more active without having to worry about losing aggro, or "more fun" as they say. Right now as tank you have to take care of: aggro, moving mobs, interrupts (or at least be in the interrupt rotation), catching adds or perform special actions (like intercepting some beam, activate any machinery, etc). Even decursing yourself is in your to-do list. Taking aggro management out of the list already leaves tanks with several thigs to perform or take care of. Adding more things may end backfiring and make tanks life more miserable.
The second thing has been announced not long ago: next expansion will bring the Deathwing raid. The aquatic raid of the Abyssal Maw has been discarded because they say wasn't convincing enough and story wasn't fitting. There are two big implications here: first is this will leave a big unfinished story: after all the struggle in Vashj'ir and the Throne of the Tides we won't know how things will end for Neptulon and Ozumat. Again Blizz will be the king of unfinished plots. The second and most important is this can mark the end of the Cataclysm expansion. By october/november this patch will be most likely out in the streets, so the Cataclysm expansion will be done in just one year instead of the typical two years lifespan. Of course some extra patches can be released after (like Ruby Sanctuary on WotLK) but the expansion plot will be finished. Now there are two ways: either we'll be one year grinding old content/extra patches with no determining content or Cataclysm will be the shortest lived expnsion with just one year + the time it takes to get next expansion finished. There's a third way also, let me get my tin foil hat: Cataclysm is finishes after a year and then we get the expansion 4B: Mists of Pandaria. After the storm that created the announcement of the trademarking of the name within the videogame category and all the speculation wether this would be the next expansion or just a stand-alone videogame, today's announcement of the Deathwing raid could mean we get done with Cataclysm and then we move to Pandaria until the next "official" expansion (I think next one was the Emerald Dream one) is relased next year. This would also address the only 5 new levels that Cata brought, so we can set foot on the Emerald Dream (or whatever is next) as level 90.
Anyway, ditching out the Abyssal Maw so fast and with that vague explanation and announcing the final showdown with Deathwing is worrying. Another sign of the end was hinted by Shintar some days ago when she wrote about how disappointing were the Molten Front story-wise. I felt the same, after that long and boring grind you expect some epic ending and you just get a letter with a mount. Maybe they ditched the grand finale due to the same reasons they did with Abyssal Maw: Cataclysm is facing its end and they have no time to add other content.
WoW is showing his age and Blizzard acknowledged also that they've lost almost one million subscribers in the last 6 months. Adding more content is not enough anymore to retain people, specially when you've been playing since first days. No matter how many dungeons, raids or dailies you add. It's all the same. Bigger weapons, shinier armours, different colour cloaks, but it's the same. If WoW really wants to keep being MMO #1 needs to add something entirely new.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Little bits of awesomeness

Usually when you talk about some epics moments in WoW people expects to be about downing some complicated raid boss. But even in lesser grade runs some people may shine very brightly. Allow me then brag a bit about my druid, Lorathiel, who proved to be the star on yesterday's Throne of the Tides heroic PUG run.
Since Cata the druid hasn't been one of my most played chars, even I really like druids due to their versatility. After doing the Hyjal/Molten Front quests I went to Deepholm to get exalted with Therazane, only to find out I was 100 rep points short, so I decided to join a PUG as dps, as usually.
The run was ok but there where two times where we faced a sure wipe if it hadn't been by my awesome druid (boldly bragging here).
First and most important was the Erunak fight. It's been a long time since I saw a PUG go for this boss without anyone asking for it (and usually people demanded a fast run and avoided him). I don't know what went wrong but suddenly the tank (a dk) died. And I don't know what happened to me but I hit automatically bear form and took on the boss, who was still controlled by the Evil One. Let me say you something first: I've never played bear tank, aside in solo quests where I needed it, and my feral spec doesn't include the needed tank skills. And on top of that the abilities buttons somewhat confuse me. I can't tell the difference of Bash from Swipe, or the taunt from the demoralizing roar (I also play with tooltips disabled during combat), so I just went bear and aggroed the boss, pressing whatever was available (ok, I know the Lacerate and Mangle buttons, and that one that autoheals you based on your rage). The thing is I was doing ok and until the octopus didn't detach from Erunak I didn't remember a key ability in druids: battle ress. So when I remembered I could ress the tank and the situation was safe enough I get him up and the healer (who did a superb job keeping me alive) put him in shape to continue the tanking, although boss was almost dead. I really felt proud of my actuation.
The second time wasn't so spectacular. On the mini-gauntlet to Neptulon, towards the end when the door was already open everybody starting blowing up and died except me. Even the hunter who ran in with me died in the end due to the tiny elementals who were still alive. And thinking they were already dead I was in caster form ready to ress people, when they came after me. Luckily they were finished quickly and could start ressing the party.
Things like that make me love the game again when I think all it's back to the boring daily grind of dailies/pug runs.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The counterattack!

So Rage of the Firelands is here (for those who're not aware it's the official name of the patch 4.2), but I don't want to comment about the goodies and nerfs of the patch. Since the release day (for us europeans was yesterday wednesday) I've seen this upon opening the Curse client to update my addons:

You may say... what's wrong with it? We've seen Rift anounces on Curse client before. The thing is since yesterday the Curse client only plays the Rift ad, at least for me. No matter when I launch the client, looking for more updates (still missing some important ones), the ad is always the same. And never before I've seen this with the embedded ads. I'm tired of seeing these tables/stools for laptops, that wave/current generator... but when launching the client several times at different times the ad usually changed. Not now.
So... what's the fuzz about, you may ask. Right, there're no laws against it and I'm pretty sure Rift creators have spent a huge and obscene quantity of money to place this ad during the days when Curse client is most launched, the patch days, specially if it brings new content. Expect to still see that ad in the coming days. But I'd like to ask your (and hence the reason of the post)... do you think it's a clever strategy to place your product during the days where tons of people are going to use the competence's product?  Of course it's an opportunity to reach a bigger audience, but I'd say anyone "pro" enough to use addons (and specially an addon manager) has heard before about Rift or any other MMO that tries to get its piece of the cake.
Doers it really pay back? The people who launches the Curse client today wants to play WoW and dedicate enough time and efforts to taste the Firelands as deep as possible, They won't dedicate that time to test another MMO... and I'd dare to add, one that's so simmilar to WoW.
In our days, commercials (in all kind of media) must stand out in order for people to pay enough attention to them. And that attention doesn't fully translate into success (read they sell more than before). I'm pretty sure you all remember tv commercials of any product that were really innovative, different, funny or beautiful enough (otherwise you wouldn't remember them) but that didn't compel you to buy the product announced.
And the last point... insistence usually ends in backslash. I don't know you, but I'm tired of seeing always the same animation. And this is working heavily against testing Rift or become a regular player. If at least they offered different animations everytime I launch the Curse client...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fresh blood

Our guild has always been small. Since the start people prefered a small guild where everybody knew each other and could playing in good company. Keeping a friendly and nice atmosphere was the key.
This also was the guild's weakest point. Replacing people who stopped playing or moved to other more active guilds was always hard. And when we thought we had some good people they either got tired of the game or worse: once they got enough epics hopped to other guilds, where they wouldn't be accepted unless they had that gear. So tired of being a trampoline for guild-hoppers we decided to shut down recruiting.
Also allying ourselves with other guilds didn't went well. Our alliance with Sempher Fi was good, but once they did a very active recruit campaign no longer needed our help (and also most of the active raiders moved there too. Even I was wondering to move at least one char there at the begining of Wrath). We tried with other guilds during TBC and things were horrible. First runs were great, then suddenly started sending unprepared people, alts lacking gear... so relation was cut.
All of this made us shun the idea of recruiting openly, but the guild was really dying. When you don't even have enough people online to make a full-guild dungeon run, you're in trouble. Action was needed, action that required to take risks and face again possible guild-hoppers or getting troublesome members. With the implantation of the Looking For Guild tool we decided to give it a shoot and test our luck.
I wasn't expecting much from this. First because our reputation as a solid raiding guild was gone and I didn't know if the reputation of a nice guild to stay was still up, since old players in Hellscream are longer gone or already settled in their guilds. We had a decent guild level (15 when we started the LFG experience, 16 right now and soon 17) so this was a good point for us, but I also thought it could bring more bad experiences than good ones, since all unguilded people would be looking for the highest level guild possible just for the perks. So I was expecting to get a lot of low level chars petitions, just for the perks.
So far I'm surprised the exprience has been very positive. Yes, most of the people requesting an invitation are low-mid level. But we've had several requests from 70+ and 80+ players. And the best thing is that people invited is behaving well (so far!). A good portion of them are either alts of experienced players, who are trying a new class or old time players that have returned to WoW and felt lost in a world that has changed completely, not only physically, but also the char specs, the guilds they knew... everything. While most of them are very silent (usually they say hi when logging in and few words more), others have started being very active, talking to old guild members, bringing other alts, running battlegrounds and dungeons. The Guild breathes again, with new blood pumping through its veins, and it's very refreshing to log in and see more than the 3 or 4 habitual players you could find before. It's very nice to see now more than 10 people online at the same time, even if only 3 or 4 are 85s. It's just a matter of time to get enough people ready for high-end instances... and who knows, even raids again.
So thumbs up for the LFG tool. But it still needs several improvements imho. Some of them may be achieved right now by using a plugin called Recruitment Enhancement, but they should be implemented by Blizz:
- Show if the petitioner is online or not. This is very important. I'm tired of going through the list of requesters, clicking the Invite button just to get the message "char not found".
- Add checkboxes to perform mass invitations. Select the desired players and click Invite. VoilĂ !
- Add a button to send a mail to the character. The Send a Message only sends a whisper, and if the player isn't online (something you don't know unless you check it previously) it's useless.
- Add filters to recruitment, like minimum level, specific achievements, minimum gear level, specific spec (i.e: you need a disco healer, a blood dk, a survival hunter, etc), minimum resilience or honor points, etc. This will help hardcore guilds who look for specfic and experienced players.
I'm sure we'll see some improvements like these soon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Improving heroic PUG quality

I know I'm probably late to the discussion, but since the Call to Arms was announced (and I think everybody agrees this won't solve anything) I've been thinking on how to improve the quality of PUGs in heroic mode without reverting to the Wrath style (AoE whacking). It's not easy since the problem is not located in the instance per se, but the players running it. Most people still steps into dungeons (even in normal mode) with the Wrath mentality: tank should grab half the instance and dps burn them down with AoE.
Let's face it: it's very easy for a frehsly dinged 85 to reach the 329 gear level required for the heroic modes. Using quest blues (ilevel 325 and 333), rep gear (333 and 346) and crafted gear (339, it's pvp gear) you can reach the magic number. I'm betting most of annoying players haven't set up foot in a normal dungeon before going for the heroics "for phat lewt". So here're some ideas that would help getting more prepared players:
- You can't run an heroic unless you've completed it in normal mode. This will teach you at least the basics of the instance: pulls, cc, strats... you can even further strengthen this requeriment: if you're healer you need to complete the normal one as healer, if you're tank you must complete it first as tank. This will avoid dps people signing up as tanks to speed up queues. And you can even restrict it more, by demanding running it a certain amount of times in normal mode so you really catch it. Lesser instances (like BRC or TotT) would require to be completed 3 times while higher ones (like GB) 5 times. This will also benefit players in the way of more chances for getting loot, more reputation and more justice points to spend.
- More craftable gear. This was proposed by Tobold. And I think it's only viable if you apply the previous rule, otherwise you'll have the same problem as now: clueless people in heroics. Also more gear means tanks would require less runs to gear up and queues would grow even more. So the idea is to provide key gear at certain ilevel without "trampling" the gear you can get in normal runs (that ranges from ilevel 308 to 333 iirc). Craftable gear should sit at ilevel 325 and be PVE gear, not the ilevel 339 PVP gear we can craft right now. While this helps PVP players not to die in a battleground when an opposing player sneezes, it causes a lot of trouble in PVE, since it helps people reach the 329 gear level easily and then you get players with a lot of stamina but lacking other key stats. While reforging can help a bit, you can't reforge resilience to turn it into something useful for your class.
- Change gear level requeriment and make it progressive. Why ask for 329 to run any heroic when a place like Grim Batol is harder than Black Rock Caverns? Start with 329 or even a bit more for the easiest ones and require 340 for the harder ones.
- Improve the LFD algorhythm so you get some dps class with proper cc. Running an heroic with limited cc may be doable, but not good for the healer's mental health.
These ideas wouldn't only help improve the quality of players in heroics. It would reduce queue times too since all the unprepared people queueing for heroics would be gone, forced to queue for normals. Yet still we need a way to motivate tanks into running PUGs, specially normal , otherwise we could have a tank shortage in normal queues only, as they progress into heroics. And tanking isn't that hard, as pointed out by several of you. The problem is leading, as Calli nailed it. And again, leading isn't difficult, but very frustrating if the people is not willing to follow you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Holy $#&@!!!

After seeing this video, you take a look at the current PUG issues and you can only cry in a corner and think about leaving WoW and dedicate your free time to a simpler game.

Hats off to Raegwyn.