Saturday, November 5, 2011

There's Something in the Water

We don’t want level-85 players to have a reasonable shot at level-90 dungeons and raids (or PvP opponents) just because that content is balanced for gear that isn’t much better than what the level-85 players have.

What a truly baffling sentence. Ghostcrawler is reflecting on the exponential attribute power progression in WoW, and I think this sentence says, "We don't want level 85s doing what is designed for level 90 characters." He never goes into the reason this is a design mantra for WoW, but I can't help but think of the movie Idiocracy:

Unquestioning and steadfast in their decisions, the WoW designers make seemingly contradictory choices. Why doesn't GC want level 85's to do higher level content? I could only assume it's so players do the leveling "content" first. Yet they constantly assault the leveling game, "The amount of experience needed to gain levels 71 through 80 has been reduced by approximately 33%." That's a patch note from the recent PTR, and those keeping score will know that they've already reduced that experience curve before.

It's almost as if Ghostcrawler trusts no design of WoW-past, not even his own. Only the current design and content is relevant to Mr. Street.

The article goes on, discussing various methods which could bandage WoW's broken attribute system, and then he unloads this gem: "If your answer is that stat budgets don’t have to grow so much in order for players to still want the gear, our experience says otherwise." Silly plebes with your naive remedies; I have data to dismiss your predictable suggestions!

Ignoring the arrogance, what metrics could they possibly have to discredit this simple solution? They can't use data from PTR, because that has bitten them in the ass before (There are huge discrepancies in motivation between PTR and live realms. Honor item costs had to be adjusted after players were getting them in a few hours on live realms.). They can't compare vanilla raiding to BC raiding because there are way too many variables. The only timeframe that I think they could refer to would be the beginning of the Burning Crusade, when after much bitching by players, they increased the attributes on T5 gear to make them more "worthwhile" than T4. (Aside: People don't know what they want, often desiring the opposite of what they say.)

But even this event isn't in a vacuum. Let's assume that after T5 attributes were increased, Blizzard saw a huge swell of players entering T5 raids. Ghostcrawler would like to say this was caused by an increase in reward value. What if players simply finished the T4 content and moved on the T5? What if players had every intention of doing T5 for the marginal rewards, obliged to work their way there slowly by using T4 as a stepping stone? With the margins highly increased, raid leaders rightly assumed T4 was useless and skipped it. Blizzard is in the business of making content obsolete as quickly as possible.


Nils said...

You just wrote the post I planned to write ;)

Kring said...

> Silly plebes with your naive remedies; I have
> data to dismiss your predictable suggestions!

They have data that people do things if the reward is good enough. I assume he thinks that the reverse is automatically true too: People need good enough rewards to do things.

Or it's just to ensure that "his guys" (aka raiders) will continue to have much better gear then the LFR crowd which pays his salary.

> they increased the attributes on T5 tier
> to make them more "worthwhile" than T4

T4 was "partially" 10 man, T5 was pure 25 man. Every conclusion drawn out if this data is worthless.

motstandet said...

Most of this post is speculation, but I really want to know what they are looking at and what correlations they are forming.

I don't understand why it would be so terrible to stop the intra-expansion mudflation. Would it be so bad if fresh level 85s skipped all the other raids and jumped right into fighting Deathwing? Isn't this what happens when expansions are released?

The 25-man flavors have become unpopular because it is easier to field a team of 10. Could GC be referring to this?

And players finish Heroic versions of raids today for slightly better gear.

Azuriel said...

I could only assume it's so players do the leveling "content" first. Yet they constantly assault the leveling game [...]

There is a difference between the 71-80 leveling game and the 80-85 leveling game. The former has been done by everyone in the endgame multiple times already, and the latter is what is being sold to you in an expansion box.

If you are already 85, they could add a patch note stating "leveling speed 1-84 has been decreased 100%" and it wouldn't impact you in any way. Other than discouraging alts and stymieing WoW growth further, of course.

Ignoring the arrogance, what metrics could they possibly have to discredit this simple solution?

The TBC --> Wrath transition when people cleared Naxx in the first 3 days of expansion release in nearly full T6 and Sunwell gear. Hell, I didn't even raid that much outside of 10m in TBC and it wasn't until well past Dragonblight that I started getting upgrades to what I had on.

If you had the Apolyon, the Soul-Render from Sunwell, your very first upgrade would not have been until the De-Raged Waraxe from the level 75 Champion of Anguish 5m quest in Zul'Drak. And even then, it would have been just a 3% upgrade. And the difference probably would have been bridged by the weapon enchant.

Once you get past your confirmation bias ("Blizzard is so arrogant in this blog post explaining the pros and cons of a development idea and asking for suggestions and reaction from the community. Like, totally."), the actual issue is fairly straight-forward. Look at even the Vanilla --> TBC transition. Do they balance Hellfire Peninsula around players in Naxx 1.0 gear when everyone else is mostly in blues and greens? Do they NOT balance around Naxx gear and essentially sell those advanced players a shitty leveling experience for $40?

The option they went with was C) do an expansion gear reset. They backed off between TBC and Wrath and saw what happened (people questing for 5-8 levels getting zero upgrades), and they came back around for Cata's release. Problem is, gear resets increase inflation. So that is where we are.

motstandet said...

Azuriel, yes, players who were decked out in gear had to wait awhile for upgrades. But why is that bad? Isn't that the point of getting uber gear--so that you can trivialize content? I know I was still wearing 4 pieces of T3 well into BC raiding, and I certainly did not mind.

The gear reset certainly helps the longevity of a raiding game, and it makes the most business sense. But because they've increased the rewards so greatly, they've backed themselves into a corner. That's the point of GC's post.

Hagu said...

I do not think that Blizzard is doing a great job on the leveling game.

However, I think you are being unfair to them with your 71-80 comment. I.e., Blizzard has a philosophy that getting to the level that begins the current expansion should take a set amount of time or at least not be level dependent. E.g., if WoW 10.0 is going from 120-125 then they would want getting from 1 to 120 to take approximately as much time as getting from 1-80 is when the current expansion is 80-85.

Do you really prefer the EVE way where if I have 40m SP more than you when you start then in a couple of years you will have 40m and I will have 80m?

Should it take a new-to-WoW player the same amount of time to level to 80 that it took someone who did it when TBC & LK came out?


I can understand the argument that "good games" should be like chess. However, all MMOs I know of reward, whether by levels or skill points or gear, players. It could be real-time subscription like EVE or Asian grindfests, or leveling or RMT stores.

People run dozens of raids / heroics to upgrade one piece by 13 iLevels. Replacing that with a systems where someone could do level 90 dungeons with all gear 70-90 iLevels less than level-appropriate would be bizarre for a themepark MMO or at least would be shocking to me.

motstandet said...

I'm gonna borrow a page from Nils: what happened to the journey? Why is everyone in such a rush to get to the 'end game'? Once upon a time, people enjoyed leveling. That's almost a horror story today.

Blizzard should eliminate leveling altogether, and let players roll level-capped characters. Too bad the vast majority of their revenue is from people who get mesmerized by the pretty light show.

Yeah, it's a bit unbalanced that someone in EVE could have 5 years of Skill Points on me, but they've been playing for 5 years--they should be rewarded with an upper hand. MMORPGs are not supposed to be fair and balanced.

Azuriel said...

But why is that bad? Isn't that the point of getting uber gear--so that you can trivialize content?

Well, there are a few problems.

1) Questing is literally less rewarding, and subsequently less fun when uber-powered. I mean, this is the exact argument people use in "the leveling game is assaulted," right? After all, you can still do the gray quests if you want to.

2) As Hagu mentions, you don't really want to be in a position where someone's advantage lasts forever. That's fun for early adopters, but less fun for everyone else.

3) The uber-gear doesn't exist to trivialize things so much as it exists to give meaning to killing hardmode bosses more than once. We can imagine a scenario in which hardmodes rewarded nothing. Is Paragon beating that more than once? Probably not.

Hardmode gear does (generally) trivialize the normal-mode content of the next tier, but that is more of a feature than a bug. It would likely be trivial content based on hardmode raiders' skill regardless.

The gear reset certainly helps the longevity of a raiding game, and it makes the most business sense. But because they've increased the rewards so greatly, they've backed themselves into a corner. That's the point of GC's post.

No doubt. But what I am suggesting is that item inflation is the least of the possible evils. Especially since it is rather easily fixed (by squishing stats later).

Masith said...

They may come across as arrogant in completely dismissing the suggestion that gear shouldn't inflate so much but I am arrogantly going to state that they are right....

For years there has been a phenomenon in the wow community where it is considered only the lowest of the low to be motivated by gear. There have been hundreds of threads over the years where people argue that they raid for the challenge and the gear is only a tool to overcome this challenge.

I'm sure for some people this is true but I suspect for most people this is bollocks. They may play for the challenge but a significant part of wow is improviing your character and the only way of doing this at max level is gear.

The fact that gear can make a significant difference also helps with raid tuning. For example paragon kiled heroic rag with an iLevel of around 380 the last guilds to kill him before the first nerf will of had 4/5 weeks of farming heroics and an iLevel of around 386/387. Imagine if after that 5 weeks of faming they had an average iLevel of 381 and that was as good as it was going to get. At current tuning only 3/4 guilds would of been able to kill heroic rag pre-nerf. Alternatively they could nerf heroic rag and the top 30 guilds would of killed it in week one. This continues all the way down an instance. For example my guild spent a month wiping on the heroic Rhyolith soft enrage and only kiled it once we had farmed better gear to make up for the skill gap between us and the best.

If gear didn't improve so much blizzard would lose this natural tuning mechanism which would create much more wall bosses.

Shalcker said...

Gear matters. Witness many people quit raiding, say they are tired and taking a break, or just becoming much more irritable once they get their "bis" set and have absolutely no hope of getting any upgrades until next tier. Or legendary wielders jumping ship.

I definitely enjoy challenge and flow states, but i'm not immune to this effect either. They are not mutually exclusive, so it's weird when people essentially say "it's one or the other". It's both.

Order of numbers does matter, but it is not at all straightforward, involving lots of illogical approximations used by human brain, so it would be quite interesting to see basis on which GC claims that "lower numbers" don't work.

Did they used things like 49.99 marketing trickery? Did they try numbers going _down_ to make your character better instead of up? Perhaps having "balance" points where you want your gear to stay to be optimal, so that you can mix and match + and - stat gear to reach them?

And as for EVE example, 40m vs 80m isn't huge advantage if i understand it correctly (having never played EVE). Specific areas can be capped fairly quickly, and in them 40m will have absolutely same power as 80m.

motstandet said...

Imagine if you could do things with your gear other than raid. Oh what a world it would be.