5 advantages of patching the day after the US

Gone are the days of old when players on European servers had to wait months to get our patches; presumably while code was translated, bit by bit, into metric (which is, by the way, infinitely superior to imperial measures, except when it crashes space orbiters).

We still patch after the US but these days, we can expect our patch the same week. In WoW, the European patch is done the next day, and I think in LOTRO they usually aim for the same week also.

While it’s a shame not to be all starting on the new content at the same time, if only because of spoilers, there are some real advantages in the delayed patch.

  1. Problems with the US patch are usually fixed overnight, before we get them. Our patches are generally smoother. I know my raid group confidently schedules raids now for patch day. Although sometimes we suffer lag (from everyone else doing the same thing), we certainly had no major issues in Ulduar and I’m looking forwards to taking a peek into Icecrown tomorrow.
  2. Patch time is also usually shorter. We rarely get the long extended maintenances that the US servers do, which is the other reason we are confident to schedule raids for patch day evening.
  3. Addons are up to date. Although most of the addon writers have been working on the test realms, there are always some final tweaks to be done when the patch goes live. But by the time we get the patch, that work will mostly have been done.
  4. Guides and Tutorials are tweaked and available. This isn’t an advantage if you planned on writing one but if you are a fan of researching content before you try it, you’ll benefit from more polished guides. US players will also be able to warn you about any killer bugs to avoid.
  5. Advance warning of AH swings. If you enjoy predicting how the economy will turn after a patch, you can get a one day heads’ up from the US servers as a guide. Generally what happens there also happens here.

Patch 3.3, one for the alchemists?

Being an alchemist in WoW has always been a solid choice  from sheer utility if you actually like to just make things and sell them. It is also a solid, but unexciting money maker. Transmuting epic gems and selling flasks to raiders won’t make the massive amounts that inscription can manage, but doesn’t require the time investment either.

In any case, patch 3.3 has some perks coming for alchemists:

The titanium transmute is coming off the cooldown. This is the big one, and it’s an interesting tweak. The only use of titanium bars (which are what alchemists transmute) is in making titansteel and a few jewelcrafting recipes. Titansteel is in high demand for making all sorts of high end craftables — including whatever recipes will drop in the new raid. This change will mean that titansteel is no longer reliant on rare titanium ore; instead the bars can just be transmuted from saronite.

The price of titanium bars and of titansteel should come down … assuming people notice the change in the patch notes. But the ore (used by jewelcrafters to prospect epic gems) will remain as rare as ever. Or in other words, if you’re planning on buying titansteel, wait until after the patch.

Alchemists will be able to transmute an epic gem every day as well as the titanium.

And also, the start of a new raid instance is always a good time for alchemists. Every raider will want flasks. Lots of non-raiders will want potions to help out with learning the new 5 man instances also.

Icecrown: The self-nerfing raid

Blizzard have really outdone themselves with this one. The plan for opening up the Icecrown Citadel (the raid instance which is coming with the next patch) has been released. They’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it. It’ll have bosses gradually being unlocked as time goes on, bosses only being unlocked if you kill previous bosses within a limited amount of tries, and the whole instance actually coded to get a bit easier over time by dint of a raid buff that increases as time goes on.

So imagine a self-basting chicken if it was a castle full of undead. Instead of Blizzard having to take it out of the oven every so often to pour fat over it/ nerf it, they can just leave it in until it is done.

Larisa echoes my thoughts on forcing limited attempts. It punishes people who wanted to go into the instance blind, or who have raid members with poor connections, and puts undue stress on the learning side of the encounter. Limited attempts is something you do to spice up farm raids.

Self-nerfing raids forces people to raid to Blizzard’s schedule. This has happened to some extent anyway but if like us you raid on a relaxed schedule, it’s hard to know what that will really mean for the difficulty side of things.

I think what they’re aiming at is that the limited attempts (and the number of attempts allowed also increases over time) should  let the hardccore stay ahead of the rest for a short while at least. The autobuff should make it easier for PUGs to form towards the end of the raid’s lifecycle.

But none of this is really ideal for players who would prefer it if their own raid group could select the difficulty. A group like mine doesn’t need limited attempts, we already have a relaxed schedule and aren’t going to sweep through the instance in a week. All that does is add extra stress for us. But since we’ll also be gearing up and getting more practice in, I’m not sure we need the increasing raid buff either.

I don’t think any of these ideas are bad on their own, but I’m not sure how well they all will work together. Can you really throw in some stuff for the hardcore and some for the casuals and bake it all in the same oven? It will be interesting to find out, and to see what players do with it.

Only as good as the last patch

I cannot remember a time when I have been as glutted on awesome computer games as I am right now at this moment. My gaming hours are still very occupied with Dragon Age, which is offering some of the most compelling, immersive gaming I’ve ever had on PC right now.  It is not only a great game, but it also plays right into my storytelling/ RP AND gameplay preferences so it’s absolutely the whole package.

If I want a break from that and some mindless hack/ slay action, Torchlight is still brilliantly entertaining. I find I enjoy it more when I don’t sit down for long sessions — that can get repetitive. But in short bursts it’s very fun and refreshing, and I still have more character classes, more builds, more endless dungeon to try. As if that wasn’t enough, we finally decided to pick up a PS3 so have a couple more great games there (Little Big Planet and Uncharted 2) when we want to sit down on the sofa together and play. I will have more to say about both of those games sometime but they’re both fantastic.

The nice thing about the single player games is that even if I build up a backlog now, it just means I won’t buy any more for awhile until I’m done with them. There’s no special hurry.

But where is WoW in all this? It’s on the back burner for me. I’m keeping up my relaxed raid schedule of one 25 man raid a week, and that’s about it. But why is that? This current patch is simply not compelling and I’ve run out of goals. Until the next patch drops, I’m finding other things to do with my spare time.

Larisa comments that she worries that people think she’s burning out because she’s been critical of WoW recently. I don’t think that. I think they put out an unexciting patch, and I remember noting that it sounded like filler when I first read about the Coliseum. I also don’t see any reason why even a fan has to ooze positivity over a lacklustre patch. By all means find something positive to talk about, but what if the positive thing is, ‘Well, at least we’ll all be geared for the next patch which should be better’?

Compared to the single player games, patch 3.2 offers very very little gameplay. There was one new raid instance that didn’t put up much of a challenge – I enjoyed the new mechanics but they didn’t keep us occupied for very long. Being offered the chance to keep rerunning old instances to be rewarded by a slightly different set of badges which could be turned in for better loot got old before the patch even went live.

One thing this has crystallised in my mind is that WoW at the moment is only as good as its last patch. Oh, there’s plenty of other content in there but I’m done with the rest of the expansion myself, as are a lot of other endgame players. We’ve run the instances, gotten the rep, experienced the quests/ storyline, and capped the tradeskills, so we are very focussed on the new patch content to keep us engaged. Or in other words, many people who played since the beginning of Wrath are now out of in-game goals and bored of the year old gameplay. As soon as a new patch hits, everyone who is endgame-ready will be motivated to switch to the new content — partly because it is new and partly because they will be enticed there with ever increasing rewards. But what happens when they’re done?

Any subscription game needs to keep offering players a mixture of short, medium, and longterm goals to keep their interest in maintaining a relationship with that game. Those are the things which make it worthwhile to pick up a longterm sub, knowing that there are things you want to accomplish that will take months. Goals aren’t enough on their own, but if they’re not there, then you’d better hope that your community is very sticky indeed.

The reason this has become more of an issue now in Warcraft  is that Wrath heralded a new era of accessibility for the game. And that meant fewer long term goals, and a shift in perspective for raid goals. For example, if your goal is to kill the last boss of a raid instance, you can now decide whether killing it on normal mode (possibly in a PUG) will satisfy the sightseeing instinct. Is it worth the extra hassle of finding a raid group just to get the boss on hard mode? A lot of people don’t find that as compelling a prospect as when it was the only way to see that boss die at all. Not only that, but because of the way players are now corralled through the game, many more of them will run out of patch content before the next patch hits.

So these things are in many ways a result of deliberate design decisions. I don’t think the decisions were bad, and I rather enjoy that I’m able to see all the bosses and finish a patch and move on without having to dedicate vast amounts of time and effort. But it does mean that if one patch is less exciting, it’s far easier to either skip it or take a break and do something else until Blizzard provide something more interesting for players to do.

I’ve seen a lot more raid groups recruiting at the moment, so I’m guessing a lot of people are bored with the Coliseum. Will they come back to see Arthas fall in patch 3.3, or will other games — maybe even single player games — have stolen their gaming souls?