A Kingslayer is you! And some thoughts on raiding.

deathofarthas

Yup, this is what a 25 man LK kill looks like (kids, don’t take screenshots before the mob is actually dead — what I did here is wrong).

It is harder to describe what it feels like. We were screaming on voice chat. Screaming the way we hadn’t been all expansion. Because this isn’t just an unusually awkward raid boss at the end of the patch du jour, for my raid group it represents the end of a long journey which we’ve taken together. And there have been up times, and there have been down times. People have left and people have joined. I’m sure there have been times when the raid leaders wanted to throw in the towel from sheer frustration.

Although we all talked confidently about killing the Lich King someday, at the start of Wrath we were scarred from our experiences in the previous expansion. In TBC our alliance was very newbie friendly, we took on lots of new raiders and taught them to clear Karazhan and Gruul. We never made heavy inroads into Serpentshrine Cavern, people tended to leave to join more hardcore raid guilds if they were keen. It’s what I did also, when I wanted to see Zul Aman and the Black Temple.

So it seems fitting to put that in context. I’d seen more hardcore guilds and decided that wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t know how the tanking would work out, or if we would see Arthas die. But like all the other members of our raid, I wanted to try and make it work.

Wrath has been our expansion. The one where the raid game was aimed primarily at raids like mine. No matter how much more hardcore players try to seize control of the narrative and tell us that only the hard modes really count, I think that’s a decision that each player has to make for themselves. Gevlon has a great post up today where he’s looking at  how players decide to define what it means to win.

[Sirlin says] “A scrub is a player who is handicapped by self-imposed rules that the game knows nothing about.”. Very accurate and very true. But why would anyone do that and how to fix them? “the scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations cheap.

In this context, I think self imposed rules such as  ‘I want to raid with my mates’, ‘I want to only raid one/two nights a week’, and/or ‘I want to be part of an established community’ definitely fall in this category. But it’s not cheap, nor does it make a player a scrub. One of the beauties of MMOs is that there is plenty of space for lots of different self imposed rulesets. All you need is a group or leaders that agree with the ones you have picked. And no harm is done to anyone who plays differently, they can just go play with a different group.

So yes, there was a 30% damage/healing/stamina buff in ICC yesterday and although the LK is mostly an execution fight, it definitely helped. But for what it’s worth, last night’s kill feels GREAT.

We played by our self imposed rule and got our self defined victory. So that’s a win. Hard modes await, and we’re not expecting to get the LK hard mode kill. Most of us probably aren’t even interested in that. It’s more about completing Shadowmourne for our raid’s chosen wielder and chilling out with friends until the next expansion.

We were actually the 5th horde side raid to get him. This says more about how few 25 man guilds actually made it to this point in the expansion than it does about our raid alliance, but maybe keeping a casual light-schedule raid together and focussed for this long is an achievement in itself. I know the players who joined us after their more hardcore raids split up said they got a buzz from the kill too.

I wish there were achievements for raid leaders. Because ours deserve them every bit as much as any hardcore raid leader ever did, if not more. For now, the screams of excitement over TS may have to be enough.

We’ve come a long way, baby

longway

If you look back through this blog, you’ll see one of the first entries was me explaining how nervous I felt about being tapped to main tank in Naxxramas at the start of Wrath.

And even before that, like many other players I first encountered Tirion Fording (key NPC in this storyline) back in the Plaguelands, all those years ago. He’s actually one of the big WoW NPCs who was entirely introduced in the MMO and not previously.

Yup, we’ve come a long way baby.

kingslayer

ps. this is the shot from after he actually died, with the achievements at the bottom of the screen and everything to prove it.

pps. naturally he didn’t drop a tanking weapon.

Lies that NPCs tell you, Part 1

lies1

This screenshot is taken at the end of the Culling of Stratholme instance. Arthas, your group’s pet NPC in this timeline, calls out the big boss. Unfortunately, he’s constrained to use the same lines that he used in this encounter in Warcraft III, where he wasn’t accompanied by a party of Azeroth’s finest.

So he says, “We’re going to finish this right now, Mal’Ganis. Just you… and me.” And every single player who has run that instance thinks, “What am I? Chopped liver?” Then he bats at the boss ineffectually while players kill it.

lies2

This screenshot is the last boss in the Trial of the Champion 5 man instance. The Black Knight isn’t so much lying outright as suffering from the worst care of delusional thinking in the entire game.

Has anyone not seen this dialogue and thought, “Yes, of course we thought that.”

Thought of the Day: 10 and 25 man versions of the same raid instance

Last night was a very exciting one for our raid. For the first time, we were standing in front of the Frozen Throne, looking at the end boss of the expansion. Arthas is the fight we’ve been aiming for ever since we first nervously zoned into Naxxramas all those months ago. Reaching this point (and eventually killing him) has been our raid’s mission statement – as much as it has one.

And yet. I felt curiously empty looking around the raid and seeing how many people were displaying their Kingslayer title, to show that they’d already killed him in a 10 man raid. How exciting could this moment possibly have been for them?

I do increasingly feel like an outsider because I don’t have that 10 man fixed group in which I can learn fights at the same time as everyone else. I used to enjoy progression fights, but now it is often listening to other people tell us what tactics they used in their 10 mans, whining (on our tank channel!!!) that us newbies to the fight don’t learn fast enough, and smugly showing off their raid achievements that we don’t share. That wasn’t really what I wanted from being in a raid group. I thought we’d all be in it together.

It’s food for thought.

Thought of the Day: Don’t leave me hanging!

Of all the issues with Icecrown Citadel, the most irritating by far is that Mal’Ganis doesn’t make an appearance. How annoying is that? Especially after you did a whole quest chain in Icecrown which ended with him running off and warning you that, “You’ll never defeat the Lich King without my help!”

I guess he was just being a tosser.  Or was he helping by … cheering from the sidelines, or washing his socks, or yelling “grats!” from the safety of his demonic sofa.

Hanging plot threads are very annoying.

Thought for the Day: On limited attempts

Latest raid news this week is that Blizzard has scrapped the notion of limited boss attempts in normal mode ICC. Previously, a raid was only allowed a certain number of tries on some bosses before the boss despawned for that week.

From now on, you can wipe as many times as you like and the boss will still be there laughing at you.

Why scrap that now in particular?

Guesswork says that it was failing to work as intended. The more hardcore guilds ran 10 man raids and/ or alt raids to spend more time learning the fights before going in with their main 25 man raid.  I’ve heard of one guild who all switched both server and faction in order to reset their number of attempts for the week. So rather than encouraging progression guilds to raid fewer hours but to raid smarter, it seems to have wound people up into running many more raids than usual.

Limited attempts might have seemed like a good idea in theory, but when they  are too limited and even an unlucky disconnect can screw up an attempt, it puts a lot of extra stress on a raid group.

However, the main issue with the limited attempts on this specific week  is that in order to unlock hard modes for next week, a raid must kill Arthas this week. So any raid who doesn’t do that will be a week behind on progression. For most of us, this is a /shrug issue. Why Blizzard would care about that I can’t imagine, it’s all more competition for the ultra hardcore which is presumably what they want, right?

But there’s always someone who takes it just a bit more seriously.

So imagine you are a raid guild who didn’t manage to kill Arthas within the limited attempts this week. So you are facing the prospect of being a week behind the other ultra hardcore guilds who did kill him. But what if there was a way to get the hard mode lock without actually killing the boss?

Premonition lured a mage from a successful Arthas kill to join them. So they can use his raid lock next week and go for those hard modes.

All these games merge into one

This is the sort of bizarre metagaming strategy that you expect to read about in EVE blogs. It isn’t an exploit – or at least, it may involve some severe rules lawyering about the raid locks but it isn’t technically a cheat. It does involve one player screwing over a raid guild slightly, although in EVE the mage would also have emptied the guild vault on his way out.

And is it bad if I’m thinking, ‘Oh, Premonition bought a higher ranking bridge officer?’ And now I am imagining raiding as a sport-style strategy game where players buy and sell raiders and then set up their weekly raid fights via tactics for each player.

Fall of the Lich King, End of an Era

arthas_2

Today, the final wing of the Icecrown Citadel is being patched to the US servers, and with it the final chapter in the Fall of the Lich King.

There are no spoilers in this post, but here are a couple of links if you want to know more:

The tone of the cinematic is sombre. It’s not a ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” moment, even though Arthas was a dreadful monster. Instead, there’s a tone of mourning the passing of someone or something who meant a lot to the players, and to the game. The music is particularly poignant, and if you like that, mmo-champion has a link to a longer version.

If the storyline takes a Diablo-esque turn, it shouldn’t really be surprising. Wrath has always been coloured by the more gothic side of WoW, with its themes of damnation, duty, and morally gray decisions.

(It’s only ironic when you think that when players get to see this cinematic in game, they probably will all be bouncing around and wanting to know what loot he dropped.)

There are still plenty of hanging plot threads. But then again, there are still a few months before Cataclysm, there might be time to at least finish the Ebon Blade storyline before the next world endangering peril. Plus we still don’t know exactly what goes on in Icecrown when players get to fight the Lich King for themselves. It’s possible that more NPCs are involved than are in this cinematic.

And also, isn’t it impressive how great music and decent voice acting and animation can distract you from blocky graphics?

Foreshadowing vs The Twist in the Tale

Reactions I’ve read on boards are tinged with disappointment. Not because people hate the clip, but because they had already guessed the plot.

Sometimes, a storyteller just can’t win. Foreshadowing sets players’ expectations, it often leads to a more satisfying conclusion because of being known in advance. Surprise endings are frustrating if there wasn’t enough foreshadowing in the story or if it genuinely wasn’t possible to see that twist coming.

There aren’t many writers who can deliver a genuine punchy twist in the tale, which makes the readers say, “Oh that’s not possible. Surely. Wait. Oh damn, why didn’t I guess that? All the signs were there!”

For me, it works well enough. There is an emotional punch to the cinematic, and enough closure to inform people that we’ve done what we came to do in Northrend, and it’s time to move on. It won’t win Bookers, but it does the job. And the music is lovely.

Links of the week

  1. We’ve seen a lot of discussion about Blizzard’s plans for the Icecrown patch (3.3). Fives writes the clearest and most heartfelt summary of them all. This isn’t just an analysis, it’s a love letter from a hardcore raid leader who sees his game on the verge of extinction. Six words that terrify Blizzard.
  2. The other big topic of discussion in gaming blogs has been some little shooter called Modern Warfare, perhaps you’ve heard of it? (It slays me that this outsold dragon age by about a zillion to one. Expect to see a slew of FPS based MMOs in about 5 years time.) Rock Paper Shotgun explains why the real problem with the ‘moral dilemma’ level wasn’t the moral dilemma, it’s that it was rubbish.
  3. As anyone who’s been keeping up with this blog knows, I’m totally enamoured of Dragon Age Origins. I finished my first play through earlier, but haven’t had time yet to marshall my thoughts. In the meantime, check out what the effervescent Tipa has to say in her DAO review. ElectricDeathRay also has a super review in the form of a love letter, explaining just why he loves the game so much.
  4. Overly Positive has another angle on DAO. In his view, Bioware have put their money where their mouth is and shown us now that they really are way ahead of the field in storytelling right now. So what does this mean for Star Wars: The Old Republic?
  5. The Final Fantasy XIV Core blog asks “What kind of gamer are you?” Apparently I’m a generic gamer, I’m not even sure if that’s good or not. (Or maybe a storyliner – they added that later after I’d read the post!)
  6. Dragonchaser takes a first look at skirmishes in LOTRO and loves what he sees. This is a really neat sounding feature that’s coming out in the next patch. It involves instances that scale from single player up to a full group. It involves randomised encounters. It involves customisable NPCs who can help out with healing, tanking, or dps. What’s not to love? (I think Tobold’s on crack when he says he’d rather play Cataclysm than Mirkwood – but more on that next week.)
  7. octalblack is upset because she thinks that people give Champions Online an unfairly hard time for the cash shop, where WoW gets a free pass. Why can’t people be consistent in how they criticise features? I fear the sad truth is that most people who criticise CO have no intention of playing it, whereas most people who talk about WoW are current players, so that affects how it’s seen.
  8. p@tsh@t echoes the feeling that a lot of oldtime MMO players have, which is that we’re slowly losing the worlds from our virtual worlds. Can the mass market support a virtual world or are we relegated to a shiny 3d chat room with a right click adventure menu?
  9. Anyone else noticed that lots of people are easing up on their MMO playing at the moment because of all the great single player games that have been coming out? Dusty asks (tongue in cheek?) whether single player games are ruining our MMOs.
  10. And in honour of Twilight, here’s an old Halloween link. The Escapist asks whether you can identify these 30 vampires in 30s.

By the way, check out the new banner, courtesy of Veneretio. I think it’s bluerifficly awesome, and not just because  this font makes me think of ice creams at the seaside.

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.