Archive for June, 2014

So after a quite a few pugs, I have successfully tanked both Kel Voreth and StormTalon, Wildstar first two dungeons. It wasn’t easy and it took a guild group to overcome StormTalon but it is finally done. I learned quite a bit beating my head against the wall but I’m more amazed than frustrated that Wildstar had me research and try out a lot of things just to beat those two dungeons. It may look like it but Wildstar is not WoW or any other MMO I’ve come across so far.

So with the hope of maybe helping out a few other tanks out there, here’s a quick list of random thoughts and tips.

  • StormTalon is by far the worst of the two starting dungeons to Pug. Not because of the encounters but because it’s the first choice of most players and every run there’s at least one or two person who runs in thinking it’s going to be like WoW. Rude awakenings follow.
  • Kel Voreth last boss is something special. He even features a bullet hell phase. I was floored by how fun (and chaotic) that fight was.
  • Tank stat building. I made the mistake of going in with a heavy focus on Tech in order to get as much Support power as I could. Big mistake. Unlike other MMOs where you focus on a single stat, a balance of support and health was necessary here.
  • Both instances are tuned for level 20 players in level 20 gear. Don’t go in with your questing greens expecting to tank and have no issues.
  • Damage reduction talents, life stealing amps and shield regen talents are your friends. Take them, use them.
  • Having a guild team makes all the difference in the world. It’s like running two different dungeons.

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First forays into Stormtalon

Yesterday I finally got to try Stormtalon, one of the first proper Wildstar dungeons and I did so with a bit of apprehension to be honest. I kept reading how hard it was and how it was turning people away from the game and so on. I did some research on the instance to prepare myself and took the plunge with a good old pug. How did it go? Not so well if you consider that I didn’t get to complete the place in either of my two runs but I still had fun and I believe the problem here lies more with the players than the game.

But first a quick recap.

  • Run 1 was a short affair. The dps insisted on running the place WoW style and just face pulled everything, paid no attention to target priority, interrupts or even dodging telegraphs. After it became obvious that they wouldn’t listen, me and the healer left.
  • Run 2 was a lot better but in the end the healer just couldn’t keep up with the damage of the second boss. This run was a lot of fun and most of us were learning the fights and the details as we went along. The healer gave up after a few tries on Aethros, saying he didn’t feel like he could heal it. It was getting late so I was fine with things as they stood and figured I’d try again soon enough.

Teaching the players

So is Stormtalon hardcore? Nope, not at all. Is it harder than Ragefire Chasm? Of course it is, way harder, but that’s because Ragefire Chasm is ridiculously easy. The mechanics I’ve encountered in Stormtalon were dodging bad stuff on the ground, giving priority to a mob over another, pulling carefully, using my cooldowns to reduce damange and placing an AoE under a boss.

These are all mechanics we’ve seen before multiple times in WoW and other MMOs. It might surprise people to find them in the very first dungeon but I think it’s great. Realm Reborn did the same thing and by level 20 you had a proper raid fight with Ifrit as part of the storyline. Looking back now it was easy but for the first timers it felt like a real challenge. And the difficulty kept going up from there so that by level cap players were familiar with rather complex fight mechanics that you would see only in the harder raids in WoW.

What I’m saying is that people will learn. What seems super hard now will become easy as people learn to deal with the mechanics. Then as they progress and the mechanics keep getting harder, they will keep learning and it could just be that by the time they get to max level they will be able to handle really complex fights. Don’t underestimate players, they can and will learn if given the chance.

However, if someone idea of a good raid is only facepulling everything without any thought to strategy and tactics then I’m fine with them leaving. I don’t want my MMO to be dumbed down to that level.

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That lack of time-travelling cars

Lately, to my great surprise, I’ve been defending Wildstar decisions a lot and not only on this blog (in fact it’s been mostly out of this blog). The discussion also usually revolves around the same points, the game is too hard, long, hardcore with me replying, of course it is and that’s a good thing.

Then follows a longer convo about how a game doesn’t need to be for everyone, how it’s important not to try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one and how copying WoW endgame setup might not be the best idea. Mind you, this is coming from people not playing WoW because it’s too easy, casual, dumb, boring, etc…

I feel like the arguments have been laid out here and elsewhere and now we’ll have to wait to see if Wildstar gamble will pay off. Nobody, not even Carbine or Blizzard, has a crystal ball or a time travelling DeLorean and while they can make educated guesses, no guarantees as Cataclysm so aptly proved.

At long last we have a MMO made by a good team, who has all the required quality of life improvements, who has raiding, pvp, housing and tons of stuff and who has made a statement about taking it’s endgame in a different direction than WoW. How come people are not cheering for it?

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The debate about Wildstar difficulty and raid sizes continues to rage and I have to say I’m baffled by some of the logic and arguments I’ve seen on some blogs and forums. So today, a short history lesson.

Most people now agree that WoW was at its peak in terms of design and player satisfaction during the time of Burning Crusade. Subscriptions number support this as this expansion saw continuous and sharp increase of the player base. In essence, WoW was at its most popular while it was still pretty difficult and still had attunement quests.

As WoW lowered its difficulty and tried to cater to more and more type of players with its endgame, it started to lose players. By now, WoW is at its most accessible and yet most bloggers and critics out there are openly dissatisfied with it and again, the game keeps losing numbers.

Now, Wildstar looks to be similar to WoW Burning crusade and the same people who keep criticizing WoW current state are now demanding of Wildstar to make the same changes that led to WoW current situation. Lowering difficulty, making multiple version of raids, easier access, etc…

WHAT IS THIS MADNESS??? You want to fix a game (Wildstar) by copying another game (WoW) that is by now viewed as an horrible mess by most critics and players…. Again, you want to make a game better by copying decisions that in fact made a game worst…

If you don’t like Wildstar difficulty, there’s a game called WoW that has evolved just for you. If you don’t like WoW and Wildstar I’d suggest you try some other MMO. If you don’t like those either because they are too much like WoW… then you might want to reconsider playing MMOs altogether.

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Wildstar week 2 roundup

I don’t know what it is with Wildstar but I am leveling sloooowwww. After nearly two weeks I am only 17, I made a grand total of three levels in the past week and while I’m not playing tons, this is still way slower than what I’m used to.

The best part though… I don’t care at all. Somehow Wildstar managed that though trick of offering enough to do at the lower levels and thus not pressure the players into leveling. There’s still people rushing to endgame but a lot of players are taking their time and it shows. For once, it feels like the journey to max level matter and it’s not just a hurdle to overcome to get to the real game. Kudos Wildstar, you managed something I have seen few games do.

Right now I’m questing through Galeras and I have to say I do like the zone a lot so far. The conflict with the Domion is well done and it really showcases a lot of the greater story elements that I was mostly oblivious to until now. For the record, I do not trust the caretakers… at all.

On the tanking side, I did some more Hycrest with guildies and it felt like I had good control most of the time so there’s that going right. Sadly though, lag was playing havoc with some group members and turned the last fight into a wall so we eventually had to give up. Not easy healing or staying alive when the screen moves every 4 seconds.

So that’s pretty much it for week 2. I do love what I’m seeing out of the game so far and I hear about more and more players trying it so things are looking good I think.

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Read part 1 here

Yesterday post and the discussion that followed in the comments made me realize that there’s more to this topic than just “is this good for Wildstar or no”. Gunboat in particular was making a lot of the same arguments that were floating around in 2005-2006 surrounding WoW raiding, namely that hard doesn’t equate with good or engaging content, that it leaves out a large number of players and that players/guild that won’t succeed in this environment will get frustrated and leave.

He’s pretty much right with all his points and the fact that WoW softened its raiding endgame and that there was a lot of talks about these very issues back then does indicate that players were getting frustrated. We’re getting here into interesting topics here namely quality of life improvements, player frustration and player retention.

But for me the real core topic behind all of these is: Is it okay to let players and guilds fail, be frustrated and even leave?

Think about it for a moment, think about other games that you liked in the past and try to remember how failure was presented and its consequences. The answer to this question is not that simple.

Myself I have changed my stance since 2005 when I was reading and shouting the case for casual players who had lives and needed to be included and lots of other things. Now I think back on that time and I realize that despite the moaning this was probably when I was the most motivated and engaged by an MMO. So let’s dig into this juicy topic today.

Quality of life and casual content

I want to get the Quality of life and casual content arguments out of the way first. 40 man raiding and a more difficult raid set-up does not mean that a game should not have quality of life improvements and content for casuals. Quite the opposite in fact, it should have as much casual content as it can shove in there besides raiding. In the case of Wildstar, I truly believe they have hit a goldmine with player housing and that many people might stick to the game only for that.

Same goes for dungeon finder, flight paths, better laid out questing, multi-spec , resources marked on the map and tons of other improvements WoW made to its game need to be included and improved upon. Lack of these features does not make a game better or bring people together, they are just frustrations.

But what about casual raids? 10 mans and the like? Having multiple raid difficulty doesn’t prevent the hardcore crowd from raiding and everyone is happy right?

I think that’s the reasoning Blizzard had with Wotlk and at first glance I would agree that casual raids and hardcore raids should be able to co-exist… but the reality is that once you go that road, the majority of players will choose the path of less resistance which is the smaller, casual raids. Smaller raids equal smaller guilds, which weakens the community and then you solved nothing.

If we’re being smart, we can look at WoW raid set-ups from Wotlk to Pandaria and how it affected the player community. It did not get better, only progressively worst to the point now that very few solid guilds exists and a good number of players just go solo, do LFR for a while and unsub.

To summarize, quality of life: yes! , casual content: absolutely as long as it is not smaller raids. Now that these two are out of the way, let’s get to the main event.

Is it okay to fail?

There’s a saying somewhere that goes along the lines of: adversity unites communities. Real-world disasters have often, but not always, brought people together. If you have raids that are harder and require more players it would stand to reason that this will bring more players together and for longer amount of time.

The downside of course is that not everyone can and will succeed in that kind of set-up. Prolonged failure builds frustration and inevitably, it will cause people to quit the game. You can’t have hard content without generating some frustration. Alternate activities like player housing, pvp or other kinds of content can help alleviate the frustration but in the end, you’re bound to lose players.

On the other end, very easy and casual content won’t retain players either. I know of many players who quit after completing a few raids in LFR figuring that they had seen what the game had to offer. With no guilds, communities or common goals to pursue in game they stopped playing quickly.

So here’s an interesting question that I wish I had the answer to. If we go by numbers alone, does harder, longer lasting content keep players in the game longer than easy content that you can complete all by yourself?

I believe the answer is the former because that type of content creates bond between players that last beyond the game itself. I have met friends thanks to raiding that I still keep in contact with regularly. I even followed some of them in Wildstar! So just by the virtue of their presence, a good group of friends can get someone playing a game and the best way of meeting these people is through guilds. What is the strongest common activity that a guild can set itself? Raiding of course and bigger raids means bigger guilds.

So to get back to the original answer, is it okay to let some players and guilds fail? I believe so. Yes it generates frustration but I think that is offset by the stronger communities ties it create and that will mitigate frustration. The opposite, make everything casual and accessible, just means that people will quit once they complete content because they won’t have incentive to remain in game.

Well, this has dragged on long enough so on that note, I am curious to get your opinions on the matter.

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Well, seems like the talk of the town these days are Wildstar endgame’s focus on hardcore players. From attunements to 40 man raids, it’s obvious that Wildstar is making a very bold statement and we’re all very curious to see how it turns out. So far opinions are divided into two camps and it’s a fascinating discussion. Myself, I believe that it’s a smart move but before going into my reasons, here’s a quick summary of the positions.

Camp Accessibility

  • Endgame focus on content that will be seen by about 5% (that number is based of Vanilla WoW numbers) of the player base excludes the vast majority of players who have the same rights (15$ argument) as the hardcore ones.
  • Additionally, story elements /cosmetic items hidden away in content that casual players have no interest is bad practice. Most casuals want the whole story and they should not be prevented from seeing it.
  • Many MMO players do not have the time or interest to commit into hardcore raiding. Not providing a casual alternative is dismissive.
  • WoW numbers increased as it became more and more accessible (BC, Wotlk). The decline of Cataclysm and Pandaria is due to other factors (game age, quality of content, etc…).

Camp hardcore

  • At this point in time, casual players’ attention is very hard to retain no matter what. Effort should be focused on keeping the players who will play your game for the long term which includes hardcore raiders. Green Armadillo has a great post on this.
  • By making the content more challenging and harder to access you are making it last longer for raiders and provide long terms goals to many players. While only 5% of the players might see the content, many more will be involved in the process.
  • Larger raid groups mean larger guilds which mean healthier communities which are central to long lasting MMOs.
  • WoW became popular while it was at its more hardcore and became a phenomenon during that periode (Vanilla/BC). The peak it reached during Wotlk was thanks to the critical mass it had achieved before and casualization led to its decline in Cataclysm and Pandaria.
  • Most other games which used WoW later raiding setup have been doing poorly.

Good arguments on both sides and like Green Armadillo was saying, it is a huge gamble to take on Carbine part.

The glue that binds

I already said that I believed that the decision to reintroduce hardcore raiding was the right one and I do agree with most of the arguments of camp hardcore but for me it goes way beyond the actual raids.

MMOs are very much interconnected beasts and as much as some people would like to pretend otherwise I’ve found one common thread in every MMO I tried which is the more united your community is, the better the game is doing. The more fragmented it is and people are not staying.

A fragmented community means that you’re playing only for the actual game content (storyline and raids) and maybe a small circle of friends. Small groups fall apart easier and if that circle falls apart you might keep playing to see the single player content but once that is done, little reason to try to find a new group. On the flipside if your part of a healthy connected group, then you will probably keep playing past the game content because you are now playing for the interactions you have with these other players. In this situation, raids, dungeons, pvp become the background and an excuse to be together but they are not the main reason you will be playing.

So what does 40 man raiding and hard attunement chains bring? It creates bigger communities from the top down. Raiding guilds, the vast majority of guilds are just bigger. Hardcore guilds will be tighter on numbers but casual raiding guilds become a lot bigger and provide a place for social members to be. Usually, social players thrive the more players there is around and the casual raiding guilds will give just that. On top of that, since attunement takes longer and raids are harder, that content will last a lot longer and achieve the impossible goal of keeping casual players in your game more than 3 months.

For the hardcore, the achievers, they get to show off their achievements and crazy mount and gear. Back in Vanilla you’d see hardcore players hang out in Ironforge between raids just to show off. It might sound petty but if it makes them happy, why not? Plus it gave a goal to a lot of other players too.

The mysterious casual-hardcore player even gets a spot either as a prime raider for the casual guilds or backup in the hardcore guild who need extra bodies too.

That I think is the real strength behind 40 man raiding. Maybe only 5% of the player base will actually complete them but it will bind together so many more player as well as bringing stability to the game community. It will ultimately provide goals to a vast majority of players who will keep playing to reach that goal in their own time while the hardcore will be enjoying the prestige that comes with completing hardcore raids. It will generate theorycraft, guides, videos and a lot of other activity surrounding the game just so players can be part of that 5%.

It may look like madness right now, but I believe there just might be genius in Carbine gamble.


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