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Archive for the ‘WoW’ Category

Lok’Tar Ogar Mr. Metzen

So it took Chris Metzen retiring to break me from stasis and get me to blog here again. I don’t know if anyone will see this but today I’m letting my inner 12 years old out to thank a man that was rather influential to a little nerd like me.

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Now, I know that in recent years mr. Metzen has been a somewhat controversial figure in the gaming community for reasons mostly relating to his stories which have been described as comic book level writing aimed at 12 years old boys with all that it entails. Shallow storylines, objectified females characters and plot holes so deep that they turned into black holes that sucked into them any semblance of sense from the rest of the story.

Of course, he also had his defenders but one thing that everyone seemed to agree on is that he had an energy and passion for the games he worked on that was rarely seen. In many ways, he was still a 12 years old letting his imagination run wild and telling you about all the cool things that were happening. He had an enthusiasm that was contagious and even managed to get me excited about Warlords orcs of all things.

So what about me? Well, back I was …12 years old… I stumbled upon Warcraft and soon after Warcraft 2 and surprise, I got totally hooked. I would play the game every moment I could and I would read the manual with all the cool art (blood!) when I wasn’t playing. I still have that manual somewhere. Later on I moved to Diablo, got hooked again and from that point I was pretty much a Blizzard fanboy.

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I’ll keep this short and say that I just want to take a moment to thank Chris Metzen and wish him all the best in whatever he wants to do next. For me, he’s always been that lucky nerd that managed to make his DnD game come to life and I enjoyed that ride a lot over the years. He might not have been perfect but I’m willing to forgive a fellow geek who just wanted to share his fun and exctiment with me.

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Legends speak of a fabled beast, the WoW-killer that is prophesized to one day come and steal away all the WoW players to a terrible and dark place where they would have to play some other game. Luckily, a group of players, the WoW-knights, are ever vigilant against such threats and have in the past led many crusades against such terrors. So far they’ve been mostly successful and WoW has remained the king.

Lately though, we have seen the rise of the dreaded Final Fantasy XIV beast. A monster of 4 million players (and climbing) that is snatching away players and even worst, keeping them !!! Tales of woe have reached my ears that even the new WoW content did not bring back the wayward sheep. Whether or not this beast is the fabled WoW-killer remains to be seen but for the first time in a long while, WoW is threathened and the knights are taking notice.

As usual, the first strategy put forth by the Knights was to ignore the FFXIV beast, thinking it was feeding off attention and thus, would die from starvation. It’s a proven strategy that has worked in the past but this time it failed. The FFXIV beast is from an old lineage and it can draw on the followers of its predecessors for sustenance. This beast does not require WoW players to live and that makes it that much more dangerous. Now one would think that since it doesn’t need WoW players both can live in harmony but the beast is hungry and it wants more! Even worst, it offers a lot of things that are similar to WoW so that it can drag away unsuspecting players to their doom.

So the Knights reverted to their second strategy, try to exorcise the beast by recanting the holy incantation of the WoW-clone. Since FFXIV includes so many of WoW features, surely it is but a pale copy. Players would always prefer the original that had been refined over many years to perfection. Sure FFIXV could hide behind the illusion of New but such things past and once people curiosity had been satisfied they would return to the original, better game.  The WoW-clone strategy is a proven one that has seen success many times in the past especially when it’s combined with the New Content superweapon. Let the New illusion fall off, launch New Content superweapon and every goes back to normal.

To everyone horror however, for the first time ever a game has not only resisted but prospered despite these attacks. Even worst, FFXIV has launched its own Heavensward new content weapon recently and the damage is telling. Players not coming back to WoW, some even leaving to go join up with their wayward friends. Guild groups have died, raid bosses stand undefeated… it is a dark time.

Desperate for a new strategy, some Knights are now studying the FFXIV beast in the hope of stealing away what makes it so attractive. There’s clearly something else at work here and it’s just a matter of figuring it out. Once that’s done they can take away the features, include them to WoW, people will come flocking back and everything will go back normal.

We can only hope so.

This part is for anyone who might be a bit too confused by the above. FFXIV might or might not be the WoW-killer, time will tell.

What it is however is a game that has combined the better aspects of WoW with the better elements of the storied tradition of Final Fantasy and added some features that the developer felt would make the MMO better. Kinda like WoW combined the best parts of Everquest and Warcraft lore while adding some improvements to make WoW.

FFXIV is not a WoW-clone. It’s a variation on the MMO genre that WoW helped define. Most people playing it enjoy it for itself and not because they want WoW with a Final Fantasy theme. If you ask FFXIV player why they play that game they will give you a range of reasons but none of them will be “because it’s like WoW”. In fact many might answer “because it’s not WoW”.

So here’s the big secret for all those WoW players who are looking at FFXIV and wondering what features they should copy to bring back the players. FFXIV is not stealing players away from WoW, these players are actually enjoying FFXIV for being FFXIV. World of Warcraft is losing players who are tired of playing it.  

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One of the features that get often praised about FF14 is the clever social engineering that gets people running older dungeons over and over again. There’s roulettes to complete for tomes, pets, cards and Zodiac weapon drops to get just to name a few. The veterans get something out of the experience, the new players get to run stuff and it adds diversity to endgame content.  One of the key elements of this feature is to sync levels and items to certain ranges just to make sure that you still have to pay attention to mechanics. It’s simply a great system.

Today I saw this post from Blizzard announcing Timewalk which will be Blizzard version of dungeon syncing. Your level and gear get scaled down to whatever is appropriate for the dungeon and off you go! At first I thought they were stealing FF14 system but then I realized it’s only a weekend event that will net you some cosmetic gear. I’m quite puzzled by this move.

New players not included

Right off the bat the first thing that strikes me is that in order to be eligible for Timewalk you have to be of a higher level than what the content was originally intended for. For BC content which was level 70 you have to be 71+. This means that new players coming up the levels won’t be included in the runs. Sure they can go at 71 and still benefit some but by that point they are in Wotlk content and might just want to continue leveling that way instead of running old dungeon for cosmetic rewards.

The strength of the FF sync systems is that it populates the lower levels with veterans who have multiple, meaningful incentives to run the old content. They might be grinding their legendary weapon, gearing tokens for high level gear. Being paired with newer players will even grant them a bonus which encourages the vets to take the newbies under their wing. Sure there’s also cosmetic incentives here too but I find that character progress remains the stronger motivator.

And on the new player side they get to have people to run dungeons with, to show them the rope and get integrated in the community before they reach max level.

WoW system on the hand feels made for players already at endgame who just want to get a few transmog items and maybe a token or two. The new player, which is the point of the whole system, gets left behind.

Weekends only

The other big surprise is that Timewalking will only be available certain weekends. Why would you allow access only during certain weekends and create pressure on the players to play at these specifics time. With only marginal incentives (cosmetic and a few tokens) I don’t think the pull will be strong enough to get players to subscribe only for that. I think that it might just become a source of frustration for people who might not have time to play during the specific time slots.

So why gate it that way? I really don’t get the reasoning here.

 

So really… why Blizzard? Why would you not take the opportunity of Timewalking to bring players of various levels together ? FF14 did it and it’s a resounding success so why not just steal that idea like you usually do? Nostalgia alone won’t revive the old dungeons so why?? What are you thinking?

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From WoW to FF14

Recently I discovered the wonderful Miss Mojo and her blog. I feel a bit ashamed that I haven’t done so sooner but it is what it is and if you are not already following her I suggest that you do. Earlier this week she posted about MMO wanderlust and settling on a MMO home which has sent me on a bit of soul-searching. For the better part of ten years I considered my home MMO home to be WoW with often a game or two on the sides. Since last year however that changed to FF14 being my home and while I know that I changed, Miss Mojo’s post got me to ask why. This is going to be a train of thought sort of post so fairly warned be ye.

If I try to be objective and compare both games, WoW and FF14 are very similar and I’d even say that WoW is the more refined and polished of the two. WoW has become so polished that there’s this sense that everything flows together and you just have to follow along to get to wherever you want to go. Everything is laid out so that it’s easy to know what to do and how to do it to achieve whatever you want to achieve. The raids, the music, the quality of life improvements, everything is there to help you out. I truly think that overall WoW is the better designed game out of the two.

Then there’s FF14: A realm reborn which is more or less Vanilla WoW with a dungeon finder added on top and a few others quality of life improvement that have shown up in MMOs over time. It’s slower paced, there’s grinding, gating, less content, you’re often sent back over and over to the same old zones. On paper, it’s an old style MMO which I guess I should not be playing since we’ve evolved since then… And it’s not a case of graphics since both game have their own styles or lore or nostalgia since both WoW and FF14 are based on series of game I’ve been playing since I was a kid.  It’s not the “new game” factor either since I’ve been at end game in Final for over a year now.

So why the hell am I sticking with FF14 when there’s a similar, but better made game right next to it? Why did I grind out World of Darkness for 6 hours this week just to get a stupid drop when I have yet to even step in Blackrock foundry?? I’m writing this and I can’t figure out why… it makes no sense.

So what does FF14 does that WoW isn’t? The first thing that comes to my mind is challenge. FF14 is harder than WoW is and that helps keep my involved in the game when I’m playing it. It’s not always super hard mind you and by now I can do the first three dungeons half-asleep but still, it’s harder. The 3 raids making up Crystal tower, the catch-up raid for newer players is still a proper raid with mechanics that if completely ignored will cause wipes. I can’t say the same of  LFR. Gear also has less of an impact than class skill and being able to execute strategies. In WoW there’s often that point where if you gear up enough you can just ignore an encounter mechanics. That rarely happens in FF14. The game will even lower your level and gear when you enter lower level content just to make sure that you have to pay a minimum of attention.

The second strong point of the game for me is the effort put into keeping the world alive through the clever engineering that goes on to keep sending players out into the world and interacting with each other no matter the level. There’s a lot of incentive given to players at endgame to run low level content, complete public quests (Fates) and just go back out into the various zones and explore. This means that for the low-level player coming up there will be interaction and help from the higher levels. It makes the world feels more alive and it reminds everyone that endgame is not just about sitting in a city waiting for the raid queue to pop.

I know that both points are subjective, that someone raiding Mythic difficulty in WoW will find lots of challenge to the game and that it’s possible for someone to go out in the world in WoW and interact with others. I just feel FF14 handles it better.

The end result for me is that when I play FF14 I get more of a sense of accomplishment that is gone from WoW. In WoW I’m ticking off boxes of things to do. Garrison, done, LFR, done, quests, done, pet battles, done, and so forth. In FF14 by contrast I’m beating a mighty primal and I’m proud of it. I’m rocking my Demon healing set and while I didn’t enjoy all those runs to get it I feel a sense of accomplishment now that I have it. Same for the Zodiac weapon grind that I’m doing at the moment. This is used to exist in WoW and now I don’t feel it anymore.

When I get sent back to do Copperbell mines and notice someone with a green leaf over their head (new player), I’m happy and excited to be there as they experience the dungeon for the first time. It may be super easy for me now but I know that I’ll have to explain the second boss that wiped us the first time when I had no idea of how to do it because even if I over gear the place, we’ll still have to no kill the bombs if we want to succeed. It may sound stupid but I enjoy that we have to cooperate and that I get to show the ropes to someone new.

This is running long so I’ll end by saying that ultimately, FF14 asks of me to cooperate with others if I want to succeed. WoW has me mostly complete a list of tasks. I know this is subjective but it’s how I feel and ultimately it’s what made me change my home from WoW to FF14.

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Luck vs perseverance

If I’m to achieve my goals of beating all current content before the expansion, I need to gear up some. However since I have a lot I want to do and my time is limited, I have to be efficient about it. So in order to preserve Tomes of Poetics, FF14 currency for high level gear, I’ve decided to farm World of Darkness for the Demon healing set which is roughly equivalent to the poetic gear. My plan right now is to use Demon gear for the main pieces and complete the accessories with Poetic gear.

World of Darkness works a lot like WoW LFR raids except that instead of being a simpler version of another raid it’s a unique raid, part of a chain of tied together raids. The main difference between WoD and WoW lfr setup is that in FF14 you can get only one piece per week but can attempt the raid as often as you like until you get a drop. WoW on the other hand allows you to get multiple pieces but you can loot the bosses only once, meaning that you can have raids where you don’t get anything.

This means that in FF14 you can just run the thing over and over until you get a drop, like I did yesterday when I ran WoD four times. It wasn’t exactly super fun by the fourth run but at least I wasn’t coming out empty handed like it happened to me a few times in WoW. On the other hand, you sometimes get lucky in WoW and just make out like a bandit meaning you won’t have to redo the run multiples times.

I’m debating right now which is the better system. Slower but mostly guaranteed drops as long as you persevere or trust to luck and be less likely to burn yourself over a short period of time.

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I suppose the writing was on the wall and I didn’t want to see it. Because of reasons outside my control I won’t be able to keep raiding in WoW, at least not in any meaningful way. I won’t go into details because frankly, the whole thing sucks. I was having fun raiding with a good friend of mine and now that won’t be possible anymore and no matter how one’s logic tries to rationalize the whole thing, the whole thing feels like a failure.

Where does that leave me with WoW? I’m not sure anymore. WoD had a great storyline, fun zones and even decent dungeons and raids if you don’t count LFR. The questlines have been done, the dungeons completed multiple times and now that raiding is dead I’m not left with much. I could do the horde side once but beyond that, things are looking grim. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back for the expansion, even maybe renew to see the new raids as they come out but that’s it for now.

I could start guild hunting, try to find the rare gem of a guild who magically fits all my criteria and me theirs but I’m not sure I have the energy to go through the motions again. Meeting new people, hoping things fit, hoping the guild doesn’t fall apart because reasons and so forth. Like someone else said, I’m getting too old for this.

If anything the whole thing drives home the point that my best time in WoW was with Eff the Ineffable back in Cata which became Snark side in Swtor. I’m still pissed at Bioware handling of the game which killed us in the end. I know Alas tried to bring back part of the gang together for WoD and I didn’t really help which in hindsight I probably should have. Hopefully I’ll learn some lesson out of the whole thing.

I wish I didn’t have such a downer of a post today but the combination of this BS and RL issues has been messing with me and just writing this did help sort a few things out. Thanks everyone for your patience.

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Let’s have blitz LFR

Remember a few days ago when I said I’d try to be more positive? I still want to do that but today I’ll criticize.

The last wing of Highmaul has been released and with it the last boss Imperator Mar’gok which I had the displeasure of facing using the dreaded LFR. To be fair, LFR is not a fault here, it does a fine job of finding a group and getting them going which is after all its purpose. Don’t blame the tool, blame the one using the tool I suppose.  Which leads to the first question, why make a wing with a single boss in it? Seems a bit wasteful in terms of queue time, especially for DPS classes.

So Imperator Mar’gok in its LFR state is a pretty boring fight. It’s about 12-15 of button mashing and hoping your group is smart enough to switch to adds whenever they show up. My group wasn’t that smart so the place ended up taking nearly an hour to complete. A long and painful hour.  I had to fight falling asleep fighting a boss I met for the first time and resist the temptation of going afk and watch Youtube while the rest of the group was killing the boss. I have a nagging suspicion though that some of my fellow puggers didn’t resist that temptation.

I’d like to blame Mar’gok for being boring but the truth is that LFR has been that way for me since Pandaria.  Bosses takes too long, fights are boring and I have to fight off falling asleep. I know I’m not the only one feeling that way. We do LFR to round out gear, complete our legendary quest but we’re not in there for the fun factor.

It’s not big surprise either that it’s so boring. There’s no challenge involved in it. As long as you have one or two decent healers and at least one good tank, the fights become tank and spank and most if not all mechanics can be ignored.  In the worst cases they literally become the same as fighting a practice dummy. I don’t any players who find fighting practice dummies exciting and even less who find that fighting multiple dummies for over half an hour to be a productive endeavor.

Dear Blizzard, I understand the reason why we have LFR difficulty raids. It allows even the most casual players to see content and it’s a great catch-up mechanism for gear. I also get that you need to put incentives (Legendary quests) to get the more experienced players to go in there to help out. I think we’re not that far from perfection… except that it’s boring as hell.

I’m going to offer a simple solution. Make the fights go faster, a lot faster.  Why not aim for 5 minutes per boss and another 5 for the trash leading up to it. Every ten minutes, a dead boss. If you want to add mechanics to the boss because there needs to be a bit of challenge go for it but keep the fight short. Either the group masters the mechanic and is done within 5 minutes or they don’t and wipe.

If you want to steal this idea, I allow Blizzard Entertainment to use any suggestion contained in this post.

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