Blizzard drops a Cataclysm bombshell: Guild levelling, raid lockouts, and so much for alternate advancement

I mentioned in news yesterday that Blizzard had announced that some projected Cataclysm features have been dropped. There will no doubt be more – we haven’t heard anything about the dance studio lately, for example. Here’s all the new information from wowhead, who were invited to the PR session for being a good, well behaved fansite. (Never let it be said that Blizzard don’t understand how to use rewards to get players/fansites to behave.)

The realities of coding a big project are that an idea which looked good on paper might prove too difficult or time consuming when it comes down to implementation. Or maybe there are design issues which weren’t obvious at the blue sky phase but that become crippling later on. So given that Blizzard likes to make lots of blue sky announcements years before the release of an expansion (which I think is just a bad idea), it’s inevitable that some of them won’t make it to live.

And with both of the big dropped systems – guild talents, and path of the titans, it’s fairly clear where the design issues lie. Also, as I said yesterday, it’s a good sign that they’re publically finalising the scope on the expansion. That means its moving into the final implementation stage.

So lets talk about guilds in Cataclysm

We do know that guild changes are to be front and centre to the new expansion. Guilds will be able to rise in levels, which they do via players doing stuff (quests, raids, battlegrounds, the usual) and via guild achievements (which involve lots of players doing stuff). There are 25 guild levels in total and at each level, the guild gets a new perk.

We don’t yet know what these will be but they may well include new mounts, tabards, livery for mounts (your mount can show your guild emblem), cloaks, and possibly other fancy things like extra % gold/xp for members and teleports (imagine being able to teleport to dalaran as a guild ability, rather than from an expensive ring).

So the intent is clear. If a guild has lots of active members, everyone in the guild will benefit. Blizzard measures activity via achievements because that’s what they’re like. RP guilds won’t be getting anything for organising cool events because it’s difficult to measure. I hope Blizzard can at least find a way to let guilds petition for one off achievements or guild xp for organising cool stuff (maybe via a feedback form.) But doubt that they will. Social or casual guilds also may lose out – Blizzard is very clear now that players are expected to ‘do game stuff’.

Also if you want to access these new guild rewards, you may need to pay with cold, hard gold. And you’ll need to have earned enough reputation with your guild by doing stuff. ie. not by sucking up to the GM as is traditional. Again the intent is clear – you need to be active within that guild to be able to access those rewards which the guild had earned.

We don’t know how hard it’ll be to become exalted with a guild but can probably assume that if you stay in the same guild all expansion, you’ll get exalted very quickly and by doing exactly the same things as you would to level the guild anyway.

Goodbye to guild talents, and good riddance. The original idea with guild talents was that as a guild levelled up, the GM could spend guild talent points to customise that guild. I’m delighted to see that concept go. It would only ever have been fun for GMs, and would have forced guilds to specialise in PvP/ PvE/ levelling/ etc. Plus the potential for inter-guild drama about how to spend the talent points was high.

I’m still on the fence about many of these guild plans. They aren’t bad in themselves, but I wish Blizzard could be less controlling or find ways to let players decide what sort of behaviour they want to give guild reputation for. I’d also like to see guild rep for helping people in your guild do stuff – like lower level group quests and the like. It seems wrong to me that this isn’t mentioned.

Path of the Titans dies in a fire

If you haven’t been following the press releases closely, you could be excused not knowing what this was. Path of the Titans was intended to be an alternate advancement scheme for WoW. Players could pick a titan of their choice, and by following/ doing stuff to help it, they’d be rewarded with points to spend in an entirely new set of non-class specific talent trees.

The idea is that this would broaden out the game and provide an alternate method for advancement for players. But no more, this concept was canned at the PR meeting.

I’m saddened because it sounded fun and different, even though it would probably have just been some kind of daily quest grind in practice. One of the big complaints about Path of the Titans was that if it affected gameplay, then raiders might feel forced to do it. And I suspect this is the underlying reason that it went. Lots of new abilities to balance, and disagreement on whether the Paths should be mandatory for raiding or not. Blizzard has a lot of stuff to balance for Cataclysms – big class redesigns, big crafting redesign, for example. And that’s probably limiting how confident they are in adding a whole new layer of complexity at the same time.

The argument of “raiders will feel forced to do X” is a rod that Blizzard has made for its own back. Actually, as Gevlon is proving, you don’t need to be pimped out to do normal mode raids in WoW. But in the minds of the playerbase, raiding is still a trial by fire and raiders must PROVE THEIR DEDICATION by doing every possible grind which the game allows to maximise that last % of damage/healing/ etc.

What this all proves to me is that for Alternate Advancement to really work, it truly needs to be Alternate. So whatever type of character progression is offered, it has to be something that is perpendicular to raid progression. ie. probably not to do with improving your character’s fighting ability. The reason EQ2 has alternate advancement which does improve fighting skills is that SOE have shown no interest in making raiding more accessible, and their raiders don’t whine if they are asked to jump through more hoops.

But still, you have to enjoy the incongruity between raiders being bored stiff on one hand, and yet complaining about the possibility of having more to do.

In any case, Path of the Titans is gone. And it has not really been replaced with anything. Instead, the new archaeology secondary skill will become some kind of collecting game with cosmetic rewards. Again I think the WoW team took a leaf from the EQ2 playbook because a lot of players love collecting things. I think Archaeology will be extremely popular with players, especially soloers. So good job on Blizz if they can come out with a fun implementation. It will also be good for traders because while searching for archaeology nodes, people will probably gather herbs/ore at the same time, which will end up in the AH, one way or another.

Raid Lockouts

I actually have no idea where Blizzard are going with raid lockouts, although I’m in favour of giving players more flexibility about what they do and when and with whom.

So in Cataclysm, you’ll be able to split a 25 man lockout into one or more 10 man lockouts. From a casual point of view, this will be great if we have 25 people signed up to the first raid night in the week but not enough on subsequent nights. It will not make life easier for raid leaders who have to decide who comes on the 10 man night and who stays – eg. if 19 people signed up.

The other change is that raid locks will allow a player to join several different raids during a week, as long as each raid is more progressed than the next. Or in other words, you are never allowed to kill the same boss more than once a week.

So for example, if you miss the first night of your guild raid and they kill the first 4 bosses in an instance, you could join a PUG and kill those 4 bosses and then join your guild raid the next night. I cannot really see this as being good for PUGs, especially if people increasingly drop before the last boss.

But anyhow, we’ll see how it goes.

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7 thoughts on “Blizzard drops a Cataclysm bombshell: Guild levelling, raid lockouts, and so much for alternate advancement

  1. Hmmm a lot of information there and a fine summation by Spinks as usual.
    Like you I’m glad to see guild talent tree’s go. That was always going to be a nightmare and dramamachine.

    I love the idea of cosmetic rewards via a new gathering prof…especially if they keep using the same models for raiding kit (ie Tier gear and same ilevel non tier being identical)making raiders cookie cutters.

    Path of Titans. Hmm. Its a pity this is going but I cant see how it could be balanced. If it gave you any sort of edge in PvP/PvE then the EJ/Arena Junkies would post the ‘optimal setup’ and that would be that.
    Maybe some sort of non combat bonus to crafting? Or make the Titans reward with Guild exp and rep for the player? Or weave it in to reforging…but requireing mats and further invigorating trade.

    I do think Guild Halls would add a lot. Trophies, Guild and craft vendors, maybe a garden with herbs, certainly a forge, loom, anvil etc all instanced for the guildmembers, officers lounge, guild bank access etc makes sense. Maybe a shrine to the Patron Titan that gave a small buff depending on titan rep? Okay i know thats gone…but hey. I can see why player housing doesnt fit with the ickle towns of WoW.

  2. I think it’s pretty clear what’s happening. Previously Blizzard would continue until “it’s done”, but now suddenly that’s not a good motto. Activision?

    I can buy that Archaeology seemed more like a mandatory profession than a secondary, but I don’t see anything wrong with guild talents. And cut heroic instances on release? It’s the most well-funded gaming company in the world for Christ’s sake!

    • I really dislike people taking the dropping of guild talents and PotT as proof that Activision is trying to put pressure on and change Blizzard’s modus operandi. Blizzard has outright stated that they were having problems with the design of PotT and the implementation of guild talents, and frankly, I don’t see any reason not to believe them.

  3. I liked the idea Path of the Titans, but I had a rather strong feeling that, in practice? They’d be theory crafted to with an inch of their lives and the process would probably be as grindy as hell. There’d be the ‘best’ path for each class and spec and that’d be that, which sounds a lot like the sort of thing they’re trying to get away from.

    Though I have absolutely no objection to the fact I have to do ‘Game Stuff’, I do plan to entertain myself by handing my guild leader vast, vast quantities of low level cloth and demanding reputation.

  4. But still, you have to enjoy the incongruity between raiders being bored stiff on one hand, and yet complaining about the possibility of having more to do.

    To be fair, I think these are the raiders who like raiding and not much else, in which case that reasoning makes perfect sense. They want more raid instances but hate having to do anything else to get to raid, so of course adding more non-raiding activities doesn’t excite them. I remember one guy from my guild who was a dedicated and great raider in BC and quite looking forward to WOTLK, but then he quit the game at level 72 because he couldn’t stand the idea of having to spend “so much time” levelling again. /shrug

  5. You make a good point, I never realized that part of what made me excited about the guild talent trees is that I was going to have a good amount of control over how they were utilized.

    Path of the Titans I wasn’t surprised about losing because it seems like it’d be a balancing nightmare not only in terms of balancing the paths with each other, but also balancing the barrier to entry of a new character vs a character that had been 85 for many months.

    I’m thankful that archaeology is going to be like cooking. I really don’t want to feel any pressure to level it if I find the leveling process boring. (you know… like cooking)

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