Sunday, January 29, 2006


World of Warcraft - Structural Issue

In World of Warcraft, advancement above level 60 requires raids and/or groups. The numbers needed for these raids are in the range of 30-40 characters. Everyone needs to work together, but since you can literally solo to 60, most people don't have extensive group or raid experience.

Following excerpt from this article

"But because [World of Warcraft] from Level 1 to Level 59 is so easy, there are a ton of Level 60 users who don't know how to be team players and don't have the time or inclination to learn. And that is the root of the current conflict. Casual players complain that they can't get rewards comparable to those earned by hard-core raiders, like the Claw of Chromaggus or Mish'undare, Circlet of the Mind Flayer. Raiders like me often respond that casual players just want a handout.

And caught in the middle are Mr. Kaplan, known online as Tigole, and the rest of the Blizzard team. For the game's newest high-end area, called Ahn'Qiraj, they set up a system earlier this month that essentially requires most of each server's population, casual and hard-core, to work together to amass huge amounts of war materiel like bandages and metals before the gates to the dungeon will open. Naturally, the population on some servers has responded by pulling together (much respect to the Medivh server for being first to open the gates), while on dozens of other servers, like mine, the war effort is progressing more slowly because casual players don't care about opening a high-end zone."

I'm not sure what they expected, but this outcome for opening the gates to the first expansion seems totally predictable to me. I talked in a previous blog about how the group and instance experience in WoW was far less organized and effective than in other games such as DAOC and Everquest. Since players don't have to play in groups to advance, they generally group only when they have to. This means that for the most part, the groups you are in are pretty bad by EQ standards. Pulling, healing, buffing, and knowing when and what types of attacks to use are important skills, but many players seem unaware of how to do anything except solo. Hence, the group dies to things it shouldn't.

Raid and group requirements are scattered throughout your entire character career in Everquest. Since you can't solo much at all, you have to work together in groups.

Yes, it is a downer to have to find a group or guild that fits, but the alternative is, like Anders mentioned in one of his EQ updates, a quick ride to upper levels then abandonment of the game, if you don't have either previous raid experience or can change tactics at level 60 and actually learn how to raid or group.

The idea that the entire server will be altruistic enough to open up content for a very few in WoW is reminiscent of the way that some guilds tried to get key pieces in Everquest for Vex Thal. Some seemed to think that casual players would just send a tell and let the raiding guilds loot the pieces. Quickly, though, the raiding guilds had to up the ante. Spells, cash, etc. quickly created somewhat of an incentive. I got several nice spells this way.

It was amusing to read through discussions on the forums from some high-end players would seemed to think the rest of the server would waste time helping them open up a dungeon that the majority would never see. The justifications included "people should help us for server pride" or "it's self-evident that we're uber, and sheer force of reputation should make other people do what we want" and "if you help us then we'll help you". (that last one doesn't even pass the laugh test, since guild membership in the high-end guilds is very restricted and the rules very clear about 'helping' others outside these raiding guilds. Cash talks, vague promises of later "help" doesn't.)

The problem was quickly solved by economics, and due to the fact that the high-end guilds simply applied the necessary time to the time-sink of collecting key parts. The initial complaint period died out, and the raiding guilds blew through Vex Thal on their way to whatever was next.

It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I finished my Vex Thal key. The content has been in the game for quite a while, but I have to go at the pace allowed by real life and other interests. I quietly collected the parts and waited until I found the right guild and the right time.

In WoW, the mechanics of the game are different. Adding in high-end raid content at the very very end makes for the exact situation described in the article. Although, the donations are not without personal reward. That should be made clear. There are some minor rewards if you turn in stacks of "war supplies". But, the rewards for quests and the general experience of PvP instances and even random monster slaying are better. Especially since the war supplies are things like copper bars, cooked fish, and bandages. These are things that are tradeskill related. Since I'm interested in Blacksmithing, I don't really want to give up any ore or bars to open high-end content when I can use it to skill up.

In the end, what Anders observed people saying about WoW within his EQ guild has re-appeared in this and some other articles. Blizzard is responding to the request for difficult end-game stuff by putting it in an expansion. However, the game leading up to the expansion doesn't prepare you for it along the way. You have to make the transition from solo to raid style of play on your own, or with the advantage of playing another game.

All in all, it's really nice to be able to solo through a game. It's fun to be able to play for a short amount of time on short notice, and for me, it makes it worth it to have both Everquest and WoW accounts. I suspect that Blizzard will end up introducing more "high end" expansions in the future. They'll have to make the call on whether or not to expand vertically or horizontally, and whether or not to engage in MUDDification arms-race style expansions, or continue with the original solo-friendly game.

If all the expansions require level 60, are raid-oriented, and get progressively harder with great improvements in gear at each stage, then the entire first edition of the game is simply a time sink tutorial.

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