Friday, June 19, 2009

It's the End of the World as We Know It!

Post #100, and appropriately it's the one where my game suddenly gets a bit strange.

So, about thirty seconds after I watched that trailer last night I heard about the 3.2 PTR Patch Notes. In it's own way, this was a wave of unstoppable water. For a patch that seemed only to be an interim between the next big slew of content... the changes it brings are, quite frankly, staggering:
  • Experience from Battlegrounds. I have lost count of the number of people who've wanted this. It is possibly THE most significant change to the game in the last four years, and it will mean you have total flexibility in the way you level. It also means if you don't want to level you can just stop but still enjoy the content. You pay 10g and you switch experience off or on. You gotta wonder if it was really that simple, why did it take so long... I suspect Warhammer was enough of an incentive to make it happen. It will also mean that I NEVER have to play against a twink in a low level BG ever again. For that fact alone, we salute you Blizz :D
  • Complete BG Revamp. So not only is there a new BG, but ALL the old ones get a revamp to make them faster and less hassle. I assume that Blizzard hopes this will reignite the interest in Arenas as well. Part of me thinks this could easily have the totally opposite effect, and that this could spell the end of Arenas completely. I don't need my friends to be online when I play, I can just play with 10/15/40 other random people and still get a decent level of PvP gear regardless. As we're now seeing with the End Game content, having the best gear is not really neccersary. Having the right gear is more than enough.
  • Conquest Badges from Heroic Instances. So, we're back to the situation that we were on the Island of Dailes and Sunwell: you don't need to run Ulduar 25 any more, or indeed ever. It's just there for those people who want to see the content, it's totally irrelevant for gear. Of course it would have been irrelevant anyway, it's just how Blizzard keep the content relevant for the vast majority. However I have to say, the timing of this seems off. Yes, in shock news I find myself thinking that content is being devalued far faster than it has been before. No this is not a bad thing for me, far from it, meaning I can gear all my alts to a very good standard. But I do feel sorry for those people who will see this as a kick in the Achievements.
  • The Future of Instancing. 5 man normal/heroic. 10 man normal/heroic. 25 man normal/heroic. Heroic instances all with Hard Modes. So, that's nine types of instances, ALL WITH THE SAME TOKEN REWARD. Never was your gaming experience so varied. Or dependant on skillz ^^ It's going to sound the death knell for the player who's not quite good enough. You can't just scrape by any more, you will have to bring something to the table. Or you can just pose in your Tier 8 gear in Dalaran and reminisce about the Good Old Days. The choice is yours.
  • Class Changes that Actually Make Sense. Hunter Traps now have separate 30 second cooldown categories: Fire (Immolation Trap, Explosive Trap and Black Arrow), Frost (Freezing Trap, Frost Trap) and Nature (Snake Trap). A hunter can have one trap of each category placed at one time. I'm still having the vapours over this, PvP just got a great deal more interesting :D A customizable totem bar will now be available for shaman allowing the storing of 4 different totems. These totems can be placed on the ground at once in one global cooldown for the combined mana cost of all 4 totems. Blimey. That's a great idea, why didn't they think of that earlier???
  • Profession Changes. All potions stack to 20. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Chef's Hat's actually been made useful (and quite right too for 100 bloody awards). Players with 300 or higher cooking have a chance to find a Waterlogged Recipe in the Bag of Fishing Treasures awarded by the Northrend fishing dailies. This item can be traded to other players and rewards several Dalaran Cooking Rewards when turned in. I think new recipes will not be far off either, PvP food is a distinct possibility, or possibly levelling food. Don't scoff, if I'd said six months ago that Blizz was gonna do all of this you'd have laughed at me... Oh, and for you pet lovers... 8 new pets have been added (not including Argent Tournament rewards). Raptor Hatchlings can be found on rare and elite raptors throughout the game world. In addition, an Obsidian Raptor Hatchling can be purchased from Breanni in Dalaran. My fawn comes a step closer...
Ok, it's all too much for me now, I need to go and have a lie down... but not before I remove the old PTR version from the PC...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

All Change (Again)

So, for those of you living in a bunker, 3.2 is happening 'soon', probably as early as Friday if the PTR clearance is to be believed. In the slew of information that's appeared since the start of the week (class changes, profession changes, mount changes) it's this blue post that has caused the most interest here:

In the next major content patch, the construction of the Crusaders’ Coliseum on the Argent Tournament grounds will be complete, and it will hold new challenges for players. We’d like to share some details on the new dungeon, which represents the next tier of content for the game, but keep in mind that this is still in development and subject to change. The Crusaders’ Coliseum will include:

  • New epic 10 and 25-player raid dungeon with five encounters, with each encounter being unlocked one week at a time
  • A more intuitive structure for harder encounters. This raid dungeon will have four different versions: 10-player, 25-player, 10-player Heroic, and 25-player Heroic, with each one using a separate lockout.
  • Each of the Heroic mode instances has a new tribute system that will limit players on the number of attempts they get in the Coliseum each week to present a greater challenge for the most battle-hardened heroes. Additional rewards can be earned depending on the number of attempts left in the tribute run each week when the final boss is defeated.
  • New 5-player dungeon with three encounters that will include Champion’s Seals as each one is defeated
  • New tier of armor and weapons that are modeled with Alliance- or Horde-specific themes

So, first phrase that jumps out at me there is the next tier of content for the game. We'll be going from an instance where it's a ton of bosses and a load of effort and several days to get to the items you want, to what (if I'm reading this right) is a raid instance in the style of the Vault of Archevon in Wintergrasp: 5 encounters, one unlocked per week.

This bothers me on a whole range of levels.

I read this that Blizzard are saying that to get the next level of tier you just need to kill a single boss. If you kill him first time, the loot is fabulous, with diminishing returns. So the longer you wipe the more crappy your loot becomes but you're still guaranteed better loot from a single boss than you were in an instance that's huge and impossible to complete in an evening at present. Am I the only person who thinks that's a MASSIVE kop out? Don't get me wrong, if this is the case then every casual from Australia to somewhere beginning with Z where they have WoW will be celebrating. Instant Tier, just add 3 hours and some mates. Of course if you want the Achievements for Ulduar you need to keep on slogging away over there... unless you just wait until you have the next level of tier and then go back and blitz the lot, like we did with BT and Hyjal before Wrath hit... hang on, maybe that's actually the point.

This move is very significant. To me at least it's an admission by Blizzard that their content has a limited shelf life, that as soon as the hardcore raiders crack the encounters it's time to move on. Yes it may take Joe Average a year longer but the content is only as relevant as the first person to complete it, at least in terms of game evolution. Once someone wins, Blizz is forced to reinvent the playing field, even if it means reducing current content for the vast majority to secondary status.

Of course it doesn't look secondary to us, because the human factors in all this mean that the game's rate of decay (for want of a better analogy) depends on how long you have had to play it. So the guys at the top with eighteen hour play schedules and hardcore attitudes are only restricted by how long they're prepared to work at it until they crack it. Blizzard put a weekly timer on the last boss in Ulduar and it meant those people just have to wait until the timers reset, but they still beat the bosses regardless. So Blizzard have now moved and put timers on EVERY boss but they'll still beat those faster than anyone else because whatever restriction the designers put on the timescale it's an irrelevance when time is not a factor. When you don't have to worry about when you play, it won't matter how many locks and times you put on bosses. Some people will always win because they have to.

It makes me wonder where Blizzard can go next. Putting the locks on this instance, opening it up over X weeks (notice it doesn't say over five weeks, it says one week at a time, that doesn't mean those weeks have to follow each other ^^) will give them some breathing space but it won't give challenges to a community who's hunger for World Firsts will never be sated while the game is relevant to them. The biggest issue of course is how you keep people interested, and we all know that time does that for the rest of us without too much extra effort on Blizzard's part.

I find myself wondering if we will ever see a return to the glory days of Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, instances that still challenge the unwary and have genuine wow moments to those who have never experienced them as they were intended, with 40 people. The evolution of the game in four years has been rapid and often disappointing in terms of what it leaves you with: achievement is a difficult feeling to produce in people. As the game becomes less and less about making time and more about fitting in with other things, I sense some of the most important factors are being overlooked: the sense of community that spending time wiping and progressing has created could end up being devalued and lost. If it's all about performance in a limited window, that's also going to start disabling certain kinds of players. This would include me, who often has days when I'm dangerous behind a keyboard. If you only have one shot at the best loots, and it's you that screws it up, what then?

What happens in that case to bring the player, not the class? Does it become bring the BEST player, screw the class?

I have copied characters to the PTR in anticipation of a look see. I'm very interested to see where Blizzard goes with this new development...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

They Don't Like it Up'em!

It's a Wednesday, and I've been a bit lax on the updating again. There are a number of very good reasons for this as well, at least one I'm not going to go into here. Needless to say with the steady trickle of 3.2 updates from Blizzard, there will be a renewal in updatery interest, especially as I am more than a little excited at the prospect of a new 40 man BG.

I have of late been doing a large amount of PvP.

My primary objective has been to Epic P the Hunter, in a PvP stylee. Yesterday I picked up the Honor cloak which means, with the exception of 1 ring and a belt, I now have a totally purple set of PvP gear. I've been running 25 and 10 man WG instances as soon after reset each week in the hope of snagging gears, making sure I've done every WG I'm available for, but of late I've been combining the Steamweedle grind (almost there!!!1!!1!1!!!111) with AV trips (do a run, pick up a spare key, dial a BG) to rack up honor. To give you an idea, I've picked up
all whilst I've been slogging away in Dire Maul. It's a PHENOMENAL amount of honor, but it does show that with a bit of thought and some application, you can gear yourself to an epic standard without the need for ever being part of a Guild.

The most fun has been with the German groups I've faced. Since we got a BG merge with a bunch of other servers the entire face of AV has changed. I will always check when I'm prepping to see if it's a German group because I know what's going to happen if it is:
  1. They all wait for us outside Garv. ALL of them.. well except for the three who always go and take Winterax and then force us to rez at Stonehearth. They camp at Iceblood and use the bottle neck and refuse to let us pass.
  2. They farm kills mercilessly and with ruthless Germanic efficiency whilst sending stealth teams North to pick off the bunkers.
  3. They NEVER kill Balinda coz she's a waste of time.
This then results with a BG that annoys the zergers to Hell, but that I always LOVE. It forces a team into defense, who effectively rides North and recaps every Bunker and GY and as they head south the stealth teams head North again and the entire process repeats, whilst in the meantime we will have forced the main bulk of the force back to the Frostwolf GY. There'll be a team in the Horde base of course, trying to take the towers but the Germans will exploit any lack of defence inside by instantly recapping. So, a zerg is impossible, and most people don't want to zerg by now anyway because of the huge amount of honor they're racking up...

This is the best thing that's happened to my battlegroup for a VERY long time. I am VERY interested to see how these guys approach the new Battleground... gief PTR!

So today, if I hold my nerve and the keys drop my way, I should be 38/40 to the Exalted.

Wish me Luck!