2 MMO assumptions that are getting flaky these days …

I am really enjoying levelling characters in SWTOR. One thing I personally get from levelling characters in a new game is a reminder about things I like or dislike about diku type MMOs. I like that when levelling, no one really cares about your spec or gear as long as you are helping the team (in PvP) or able to complete the instance (in PvE). And of course if you are soloing, no one else needs to care anyway. So it’s all about you figuring the game out yourself and trying out different strategies/ builds to see which you prefer. You are free to experiment.

I recall that back in the dawn of my personal history in MMOs, I happily ran PvE and PvP on the same character in (mostly) the same gear and if it was sub-optimal then I never noticed and never got called on it. When I first heard of people keeping multiple sets of gear (I think it was druids in WoW beta), I thought they were obsessive min-maxing crazies. That’s how unintuitive that playstyle seemed to me in those days.

Even in vanilla WoW when I was priest officer in a 40 man raid guild, when I personally was taking things a bit more seriously, I knew fine well that at least one of my healers raided in shadow spec because they couldn’t be arsed to respec after PvP (note: this was before the inspect function allowed you to check other people’s talent trees).  I could have called them on it, but we were doing fine and it was more useful that they turned up regularly. We cleared AQ40 with that team, incidentally. The main thing was that they switched into healing gear when they were healing, and that seemed to make the difference.

1. What if I don’t want to play the same character in PvE and PvP

I like playing melee/ tanks in PvE, but I prefer playing healers/ ranged in PvP. There, I admitted it.  I find playing ranged is just flat out easier, and playing healers in PvP is something I learned back in DaoC.

So the MMO eat-all-you-can buffet, wide-variety-of-content model doesn’t work too well for me in this respect. I like my Sith Warrior, but I don’t want to PvP on her because I’m not finding it fun. It’s not that I’m determined never to queue for a warfront with her ever again, it’s just that the PvP gearing requirements need you to grind this stuff and I don’t like the playstyle enough to do that. Clearly it won’t matter if I never PvP – I’m not a completist, I don’t care about the achievements and titles. If I miss out on PvP gear then I miss out on it.

I just don’t like that I have to choose between my preferred PvE type character and preferred PvP type at character creation. Sure, I could have picked a different class, but I’m finding the baseline assumption that at the beginning of the game you’ll be able to make that choice to be irksome.

In comparison, the space flight minigame is independent of your character class, so not dependent on your choices at the beginning of the game. I find that a more appealing model. I don’t want more flexible respec options, or complex Rift-like multiple talent trees to choose from, I just want to be able to earn PvP tokens for my account (ie. to buy PvP stuff for my warrior IF the PvP gear happens to be better for PvE than what I have) on a character I’d prefer to PvP on.

If that was in place, the PvP game could actually be even more separate and more developed from the PvE one. (The goal of having an integrated PvE/PvP game fits better for sandboxes anyway, once you have all your PvP taking place in instances then they might as well be treated as separate minigames.)

2. Stop tying the stats to the gear

There may be players out there who absolutely adore having bags full of gear and having to laboriously click through the whole set to change any time they change spec/ function in the game.

I do not.

Even with WoW wardrobe-like addons that make changing gear a one-click proposal, I resent all the time it takes to set up. I don’t have an objection to collecting the stuff (although it’s not my favourite thing in the world either), but the faffing around with inventories is not a high point of the genre. It would in fact make me happier if I could switch spec or role without having to touch my gear.

Or in other words, I wish devs would stop tying the stats to the gear so tightly. Either use stats that can apply equally to any role that class could fill, or else find some more creative way to tie the stats to the character. Let me change gear for cosmetic reasons only (ie. more similar to real life).

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17 thoughts on “2 MMO assumptions that are getting flaky these days …

  1. Well said , PVP was fun in SWTOR till I got to 50 , now I am outclassed by all who have done the gear grind making my grind very laborious:(

  2. I think this is one of the biggest crimes of disassociation in WoW and, indeed, causes dungeoneering to feel pointlessly different to PvP. Ultimately, resilience takes the blame for this and not without cause; you can’t compete in PvP without a lot of resilience, and you can’t compete in PvE properly until you shed it all (by “properly”, I mean heroic modes).

    Unfortunately, it’s argued that resilience is necessary to avoid people being globalled… As if that doesn’t happen as it is. But I’d rather they went the whole hog in pandaland and just made resilience a base stat that scales with your level. Not only does this remove the need for two sets of gear in your bags, it potentially helps low-level PvP to become more balanced.

    Hands up if you’ve been killed by a single Avenger’s Shield. o/

    For me, I’d just ditch the whole valour/conquest and justice/honour points and have one set of points that deals out gear from either vendor. Call me crazy, but I don’t think you should have to grind out two sets of gear to take part in two separate activities. I’d much rather skill was the deciding factor, as many a person tells me it already is.

    And considering gearing has been a nightmare this last year, another available vendor can’t be a bad thing.

  3. Hear, hear.

    It’s so strange to come to MMOs after playing RPGs and LARPs where your equipment really doesn’t matter very much at all. (Vampire, surprisingly, was the least gear dependent experience of all for me.) There’s a spectrum of gear importance in the genre ranging from immaterial to gear-defines-the-character, and WoW feels like it’s right at the end of it. (I can’t speak to SWTOR or other MMOs, but I assume they are similar.)

    I’m all for saying that you need the right tools for the job, but having a character be literally defined by the clothing they wear is really, really odd when you think about it too deeply.

    Personally, I’d rather play a MMO which adopted a FUDGE-like tiered model for all content that awarded gear with special powers, so you have an incentive to run all kinds of different content instead of a linear progression. 5-mans give Good quality gear, Heroics give Great gear, raids give Superb gear, and Heroic raids give Legendary gear – but only in specific conditions. Molten Core, for instance, drops gear that’s Great overall and Superb against Fire/Earth elementals. Serpentshrine gear is Superb against Naga/Water creatures. Heroic ICC dropped Superb gear, Legendary against undead. And so on.

    It’ll never happen, not with the WoW model. But I can dream. :)

    And the split between characters versus account really irks me in many ways. Why do I have to earn tokens on one versus the other? It’s all currency!

    Great post, Spinks. Thanks! :)

  4. PvP was the glue that kept me enjoying WoW when the raid burnout hit.

    That changed with the ‘PvP is another gear grind that has tiers just like raiding’

    Arenas taught me that ‘competitive’ PvP is a joke in any game with a gear grind – and the reason people love games like Call of Duty is because no matter how good or bad you are – everyone is geared the same so you aren’t cheesed out by someone bracket dumping so they can one shot you with nothing you can do to defend yourself.

  5. The Secret World looks like it will solve both those issues. Their gear system seems to be purely cosmetic with ‘chakras’ handling the stats. And their trait system means players can use a single character to take on all the different playstyles. Will have to see how it works in practice. Guild Wars 2 seems to be a more tradtional in both of those aspects, but builds might give enough diversity in playstyle, and the appearance on gear can be changed though players will likely have multiple sets of gear, though with only 4 stats, there’s a high damage or a high defense set or a balance and it’s likely players will favour one that suits them. For both of them though I don’t think you can actually get away from having multiple sets of gear/chakras to be optimal, I suppose it’s how easy swapping will be, if the player could tie gear setup to build, and one button handles both changes.

  6. 1. I think I’m missing your point… did you PvP on Spinks in WoW? Because I’m not seeing a difference between WoW and SWTOR there. (Or, of course, my memory could be completely shot – Spinks was a warrior, though, not a paladin?)

    SWTOR, at least for the moment, doesn’t appear to have an equivalent for Resilience, just Expertise (unless I’ve missed it!), so at least it’s just one stat to worry about. Playstyle, of course, is a whole different issue.

    2. Agree completely. It’s even worse when you have to take companions into account. If I’ve Bowdaar out (tank, heavy armour, Str is primary) and a piece of medium Cunning armour drops, I can tell at a glance if it’s an upgrade for me, but then I have to summon Guss and then Risha to see if works for them. Or find it is an upgrade for me if I swap out an enhancement or mod, and then have to do the hand-me-down shuffle…

    • “did you PvP on Spinks in WoW”

      Yup, and my point is that I didn’t like it then either. (I especially remember a period during TBC when PvP was the best way to get Fury PvE weapons and I spend a weekend in battlegrounds – NEVER AGAIN!) Playing a game with similar baseline class construction just brings it home to me :)

  7. I could not agree more on all counts. It is a pain to find that even if I respec between Tank/DPS to fulfil a role in a small 4-man teams (for Hard Modes etc or to make PvP easier)… I simply do not have anywhere near good enough stats, thanks to having only “Tank” gear :(

  8. I have a PvE spec and a PvP spec. They are both marksman. The PvE is designed for maximum DPS. The PvP is designed for survivability and CC. Both are only a few talent points apart, but the difference is fairly massive. I also have two completely different sets of gear, with my resilience approaching 3.9K. I still need to replace both my weapons.

    Here is a third factor. I also have to turn certain mods on or off depending on whether I am PvP’ing or PvE’ing. So if I just got done with PvP, switch gear, switch spec, switch mods.

    Someone should design a mod to automate all that right about now.

    Since I am ranting here is another thing: most classes can have up to three specs, four in the case of druids. So why do we have only two sets of talents to switch between?

  9. Getting people on the mouse wheel for gear is the only way to continue them to keep paying for a game. Grind hides a lot of holes in games.

    It won’t change because there is no one out there willing to sit down and rethink all the aspects of the MMORPG genre. Not only that no one would be willing to sink money into it over a sure thing (grind).

    The only thing left to the ones who refuse to grind is to be content with whatever they get and not see the ending game. It’s annoying but I’ve come to terms with it. One of the reasons why I left WOW.

  10. In many MMO blogs and posts there always seems to be a comment that say:
    Guild Wars did/does that.

    It actually is (again) for this PvE PvP matter: At character creation you can create a PvP only character that is max level from start so you can get straight into the action without going PvE with it first.

    I have no PvP ecperience myself in GW, but they are doing it again for GW2, definitly worth checking on it when it comes out.

  11. I have been playing around with the idea of normalized gameplay. When you enter arena or instance, game would equip you with standard set of gear. Instead of grinding for better gear, game would make thorough statistics about your advancement giving you information how well you did and rank you accordingly. You would get cosmetic equipment, titles, achievements etc. for your success. This way it wouldn’t matter if you start PvP or raiding weeks or months after other players because you would be gearwise on the same level, missing only experience that other players would have.
    I believe that there still would be a huge amount of players that would be interested to do content and have different goals than just gear. It might even introduce new people to genre. And of course you could keep the traditional way and offer both options to players. But I think that most developers and publishers are afraid of something different and trust the old and tested gear grind.

  12. I like those ideas ArMo.

    I would never enforce a no raid options in games. But I would definitely take away the gated community aspect. Everyone should be able to get a basic raid set, through instances, skirmishes whatever (either solo or group). After that it is up to the player if he/she wants to go further and run harder group content and gather a few extra goodies (some raid jewelry, cosmetics, titles etc) to round out the basic set. Or a player can decide to go no further.

    In that way everyone has the ability to see the whole game if they so choose. Instead of just a few. And no one could be denied the grouping experiences because they do not have proper gear.

  13. @Keidot – Guild Wars system is probably not adopted by subscription MMOs, since those need the gear grind to keep people playing.

    What I’ve never really understood though is why the difference in power increases so steeply in games like WoW. One might think that it would be a lot more robust and keep platers longer to improve gear almost infinitesimaly from level to level. Similar for power/hp/mana etc.

    • It’s because WoW’s end game model was based around gear progression acing as a gate to later raids. You did instances to gear up in blues for Molten Core. You needed most of your gear to be MC drops to stand a chance in Blackwing Lair, and so on. If the gear didn’t make big jumps in power then players could jump parts of the progression, and that would never do.
      Of course, this design has problems such as the way geared up raiders roflstomped everyone in PvP with their uber gear, so they had to add a parallel PvP gear progression. And then invent PvP stats like resilience to stop people farming PvP to bypass raids… Basically the whole system is a mess of kludges thrown on top of each other to make gear-based raid progression work with the rest of the game.

  14. Pingback: Killed in a Smiling Accident. » Blog Archive » Second hand point of view from the second hand news

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