[WoW] In which I predict shortages of tanks and healers for MoP instances

One of the new WoW features going live in the expansion is changes to how loot is doled out in quests and instances. No more need/greed rolls or eyeing quest rewards that can’t even be used by your class nevermind your spec, the future has the game doing any random loot rolls privately and offering you only rewards tailored to your character’s current spec.

Cuppy voices concerns that she wants to heal in instances but her (druid) levelling spec will be melee dps – and wonders how she can gear up for instance healing. I was wondering about that also but she notes, via Grumpy Elf, that vendors in villages will be selling gear equivalent to that area’s quest rewards to cover off-specs. (So what is the point of the quest rewards then? For the cash maybe? Don’t ask me, I only play this thing.)

I can see a similar dilemma for players who play a different role in raids than in instances. So for example I’m planning to dps in raids but happy to tank in instances if needed. At the moment, you get to roll on all the class-wearable drops regardless of your current spec, so I could queue as dps or tank, let the LFG pick what it needs most, and still roll on my preferred gear. But this new system means it would be pretty suboptimal of me to offer to tank instances while I’m trying to use them to gear up for raids; I would only get tanking drops.

(edit: No, I’m an idiot and read the Blizzard blog wrong. Quest and LFR (random raid finder) loot will be tailored for current spec, instance loot will still be on need/greed, if I read it right.)

So ignoring me being wrong, you can still use your support offspec to instance and pick up loot for your dps mainspec (or vice versa). Although I do wonder if the questing and LFR loot model will start to shape player expectations to be even more vehement about people rolling for offspec loot.

Also if you offtank or offheal in raids,  for those encounters where you are playing your offspec (ie. an encounter needs an extra tank or healer), you will have zero chance for a main spec loot drop. Again, it might be smarter not to offer to help the raid out unless you don’t need any main spec drops from that boss.

I would have preferred a system that lets the player pick the loot they prefer when they queue, and allowing that to be for a different spec than the one they are currently playing.

[WoW] Something old, something new: life as a returner

Demons in Well of Eternity

Story of my life

Last time I wrote about WoW, I touched on my first impressions of the game as a returner. The overwhelming chaos, rudeness in groups, how intimidating the game can feel when you’ve been out of things. This week I have persevered with things, played around on some alts, and had my hand held in one of the new heroics by a very patient guild group. I don’t feel as much like a fish out of water any more, and while I’m better able to appreciate some of the things I always liked about WoW, there are mechanics from SWTOR that I really do miss.

  • AE looting (this is coming with Cataclysm I think)
  • Every class having a way to heal up quickly when out of combat.
  • Every class being able to res out of combat.
  • Sending your companion to sell your vendor trash
  • Ressing near your corpse or outside the entrance to your current instance, rather than miles away at the nearest graveyard.
  • A built in configurable UI. Yes, WoW has addons, but this would be easier. (I don’t think there’s anywhere in WoW where players are advised to check out addons incidentally, you just have to know what everyone does and where to find the current popular ones.)
  • I do miss having a companion to heal/tank/CC/ dps but WoW PvE is just easier than SWTOR so it’s not really a big deal. I’d only really want a healer or tank in WoW.
  • Writing that generally makes sense. WoW has some very well written quests but the consistency isn’t really there and in some zones they messed up quite badly (Dragonblight can get very confusing if you do the questlines in some orders rather than others, for example.) It was also rare in SWTOR that an NPC would send me off to do something for some reason and I’d think ‘how did he know that?’
  • Stories that I care about. SWTOR can also be hit and miss with these but they hit more than WoW does. This feels like more of a Cataclysm issue to me, because I remember Wrath feeling a lot more focussed and motivating.

I still feel a bit overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information that WoW throws at players. My characters all seem to have zillions of abilities. Running heroics feels as though it requires memorising hundreds of encounters (possibly multiple times if you play more than one role). How on earth do people remember it all??

As far as the community goes, I have had enough slightly less bad experiences in groups so maybe I was just unlucky before, but I also feel the game is less friendly than it used to be.

I have also spoken to several players who have just returned to WoW after breaks of up to a year – amusingly we were all in the same random instance together and since I’d run it once before, I automatically became the expert who got to explain it to the others. It was a much friendlier group though, and we did get through it. So it may well be that quite a lot of people are heading back to WoW now in preparation for the expansion.

I also spoke to one actual new player. This was after he had asked a question in Orgrimmar and had a few people mock him in general chat (this is not actually the sort of thing I’d have expected to see on Argent Dawn last time I was around, some mockery sure, but not of basic/ sensible questions). He whispered to me after I’d answered the question to say thanks and mention that he hadn’t been in the game long.

Addons

The easiest way to pick out some addons is firstly to ask around guild/ friends. Or secondly, head to curse.com and check which are the most popular addons. It’s as good a place to start as any, and you can always go hunt around blogs if you’re not happy with the ones you have.

I think I ended up checking a few out but ending up mostly with the same ones I liked previously:

Wot I Did

The easiest way to explain what I’ve been doing in WoW over the last week or so is to look at achievements. That may say something deep about the nature of the game, but I think shows again how well implemented the achievements are. There really are achievements for every play style.

wow_cheese_aug

So the top three here are from heroic instances, and the bottom one is from a daily quest – I imagine every Tom, Dick and Harry can finish off that dragon in under 90s these days but I was pleased with myself for doing it solo when the achievement came up.

I want to talk a bit about how I tried to get the confidence together to run heroics. My guild were great, and we did run the first new heroic together, with voice chat and lots of advice and reassurance. At that point I was thinking “That wasn’t too bad, maybe I’ll try another run with them before I do those on my own.” So I queued for a regular Cataclysm heroic, and the LFG threw me into another of the new ones (I didn’t know it could do that.) At which point I just followed everyone else and hit what they were hitting, and it seemed OK and no one complained.

So presumably with a bit of practice and a couple of upgrades, my dps has gotten beyond the ‘omg what is this doing in my instance’ level to the point where no one is talking to me, which I imagine means it is OK. After that, it felt that a barrier was broken and I was OK with just queueing for them like everyone else. I  feel that I am getting the hang of them now.

Blizzard is clearly going for some ambitious storytelling here with instances set in the far past, far future, and present day. Whether or not you can actually FOLLOW the story I’m not sure, you might need to know what the Dragon Soul artefact is for a start. Or maybe I missed the part where they explained that. I found them all a bit shorter and easier than the classic Cataclysm heroics, assuming your gear is high enough level to get you in the door.

wow_hot_map

Another new tweak is that the instance maps (as shown above) are really very slick now, with brief explanations of the backstory for each boss when you mouse over them. Basic boss guides are also now in the UI, so you can look up every boss in the instance both in normal and heroic mode and find out what it does mechanically.

Of the three, Well of Eternity is a particularly strange instance, which gives every indication of having originally been designed as a raid. It’s  that bit more epic than you’d usually expect; and you get to meet/kill quite a large number of important lore figures along the way. I suppose you can always go back to Outland and kill Illidan later on if you want to see him again, I half wondered whether the game would take into account whether you’d done that (in his far future, obviously) when you met him in the instance. But it doesn’t. The instance also features time travel, stealthing around hordes of demons, and extended NPC dialogues after the final boss has died (ie. when most players have probably already left the instance.)

wow_wellofeternity

Here we’re just chilling with Illidan in Well of Eternity when he … dude, was that really a good idea? (Also we are disguised as night elves, which I personally found quite traumatic.)

I still haven’t had the nerve to try a random raid yet.

Nights at the Circus

wow_faire1

Darkmoon Faire now has its own minizone, and portals to the Faire open where the Faire used to be. This sounds confusing (and is) but basically when the Faire is up, an NPC will be in every capital city who can transport you to your nearest portal – why he can’t just transport you straight to the faire I do not know.

As you can see from the screenshot, it is very purple. This shows Spinks standing on a hill looking down at the Faire. There are minigames, none of which really grabbed me, quests you can do which raise your crafting skills, and some achievements to be gotten.  The crafting perks will be particularly great for people trying to eke out those last few points when raising tradeskills.

wow_faire2

Spinks is shown at the bottom here, to give an idea of the scale.

Preparation H

The whole process of getting ready for a new expansion can be seen in two different ways.

  1. It doesn’t really matter whether you put any effort into it or not, the new expansion will render most things irrelevant and you’ll be just as able to make gold and farm materials after it has dropped as before.
  2. Get everything ready so that you can level your characters/ tradeskills etc as quickly and smoothly as possible.

I’ve never been big on overdoing the preparations so I am mostly just looking at clearing my inventory of things I’m not going to need any more and deciding if I want to level any alts. I figured it was a also good idea to level my alt with Enchanting so that he can disenchant any drops I pick up while levelling, which also gives me a good excuse to check out the Cataclysm levelling zones again to see if I didn’t properly appreciate them last time round. (Poor warlock, he only ever gets levelled at the end of expansions, to just high enough level where he’ll be able to buy the next tier of tradeskill.)

One thing I notice immediately is because of the transmogrification mechanics, I take much more interest in the green drops and quest rewards. Even if it isn’t an upgrade, it might have a really cool look that I’d want to keep.  I still feel piqued though that they put transmog in after I’d gotten rid of my Tier 10 warrior gear.

The only other thing on my bucket list is to attempt to get Pebble as a pet. This explains why I ended up getting that daily quest achievement, shown above. (It’s part of the same set of dailies that can eventually reward with the pet.)

What are those blue remembered hills…?

WoW is still a very pretty game, here’s a couple of screenies I took from levelling alts.

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wow_twilight

[SWTOR] My experience of endgame

Here’s a couple of screenshots from Kaon under Siege, the most recent flashpoint. It has many zombies, of which the top picture shows us disposing of one (yes, this one’s a screamer). Also there are some cool darker areas where you get to grab little floaty torches, as shown below. Arb and I were a bit girly about our torches and shrieked when the torches went out, and looked frantically for the next box of torches. The guys in the group were much more stoic.

It was a good, fun instance though. Looking forwards to the next one.

kaon

So, SWTOR endgame. I don’t really have a thoughtful summary for this yet, so this is in bullet point form. My experience is based on being in a friendly casual guild where we don’t yet have enough 50s to consider ops (raids) but when there are at least 4 players on of appropriate level range and role who have time available, there will often be an instance or hard mode run.

  • Dailies: I have been sticking with the Belsavis level 50 dailies, since they’re quicker and easier than the Ilum ones. I am not doing them religiously every day, or cleaning them all out when I do spend time there. Slacker? Sure. But I’ve made enough tokens to upgrade all the armor/ hilt in my gear, and it’s possible to solo one of the [Heroic 4] Belsavis dailies by judicious death runs so my companions all now have orange weapons with blue level 50 mods (because that’s one of the quest rewards as well as the daily tokens).
  • PvP: I may have run the occasional warfront but that’s about all, I’m not gung ho for PvP.
  • Instances: Have now completed all the normal ones and one hard mode. (I’m not big on PUGs, I suppose I could but the demand for melee dps isn’t high and gearing for tanking is a work in progress.)
  • Datacrons: Gathering Datacrons (one-time permanent buffs) is a much more engaging game than I had expected. Some need pinpoint (and frustrating) jumping skills, others include odd forms of transport or exploring detailed areas of the grid you hadn’t noticed before. It’s all quite intriguing. Teppo has the patience of a saint and organised a guild run to pick some up from Balmorra and Nar Shadaa. This was enlivened by me *accidentally* attacking a PvP flagged Jedi Knight we ran into who promptly returned with a raid group. So we had a lot of running battles on Nar Shadaa in between Holocron gathering. This reminded me a lot of DaoC, where it was standard tactic to annoy a high level enemy character in the hope they’d bring their friends out to play.
  • Matrix Shards: These are a special type of Holocron. I decided to collect the three shards I was going to need for my dps warrior matrix cube relic. This probably needs to be the subject of another post because it turned out to be quite involved but I’m dead proud that I did it! Gamewise, it made for an interesting and quite engrossing solo sort-of quest.
  • Space Game: I am getting more into this. Currently stuck on Polith Minefield (I can do all of it except getting all the turrets on the minelayer right at the end – feel free to offer any suggestions! :) ).
  • Crafting: I haven’t really been bothered to do much of this except for guildies. I seem to make enough credits from dailies that it isn’t necessary.

So it probably sounds as though I don’t do much in endgame, and that would be correct. On the other hand, I’m also busy with work and often don’t have much time to log on and I am finding enough to do when I do want to be online. I need an endgame like this where most of it is purely optional because I don’t have the time or energy to grind. On the other hand, my gear is fine for hard modes at the moment, and probably decent for ops as well (the rough rule of thumb I’ve heard is 1200 in main stat), when we get round to them.

The main lure away from endgame is playing alts. I do find it awkward that the legacy system encourages players to play alts of the opposite faction but there’s no guild system that can support having characters from opposite factions. So if you do this, you lose access to guild chat and being invited to guild runs etc unless your guild uses something external like voice chat.

The other thing with alts is that if you enjoy playing in duos (which I really do in this game), the alts are off the table unless the other person is on and wants to play the appropriate alt. I may need another solo alt I think…

The big surprise for me from endgame is that I’m enjoying the Datacrons much more than I had expected, even though the really jumpy ones are immensely frustrating. SWTOR Spy have a good guide on how to find them all.

The Shape of Things to Come

This morning, I spent some time back in Middle Earth, mostly because I’d caught up with yesterday’s twitter comments. There’s been a new development, and it’s actually hit the EU servers at the same time as the US ones (nice work all involved). Five mysterious relic stones have appeared throughout Middle Earth, and are heralded by a letter that appeared on both Turbine and Codemasters’ forums:

Numerous residents of Oatbarton and the surrounding communities were aware of my intention to submit plants from my pipe-weed crop to this year’s Growers’ Festival. You may contact me for names of good, honest folk who can attest to this, such as my wife Opaline or our good friend Rosalyn Smallburrow, also of Oatbarton.

I have not changed my growing habits or techniques since last year, so there is little reason to expect that my submission for this year’s festival would be of lesser quality than my previous, prize-winning entries. I do not mean to boast, but my pipe-weed plants were shaping up to be of even higher quality than in years past! You can speak to the individuals noted above for their opinions, and they will certainly agree that my pipe-weed crop was proceeding exceedingly well for the season.

Given those facts, you can see that I take a great deal of pride in the quality of my pipe-weed. Imagine my alarm when I woke up this morning, drank my morning tea, prepared a small breakfast, and took my customary mid-morning stroll to observe my plants… and found them withered, brown, and wilted! They will win no prizes in this state! They are fit only for compost now! Unimaginable!

Right in the middle of my field, someone had placed a tall stone block bearing unpleasant symbols. I do not know what to call it, but I would not like it anywhere, let alone in the middle of my pipe-weed field: the pipe-weed field that was thriving yesterday, but after the appearance of this horrible thing is no more!

Starting in Oatbarton, I went to investigate and opened a deed to find five mysterious relics throughout Middle Earth. Now, being a lazy (but honest) Captain, and making use of the fact I wasn’t online on the day all of this broke, I cheated and used the guide over at Casual Stroll to Mordor, which gives locations of the stones. You don’t need to do that, there’s no real sense of hurry!

Initially, on twitter (thanks to all the people who were tweeting about this, it helped me get a sense of real occasion and also some of the speculations about the stones), there were many suggestions of what these relics could be – my favourite was that they might be tied to the five Istari (love ties to lore, after all). But, it became clear quite quickly, and from doing the deed myself – that these are heralding our new instance and raid cluster, due for February-ish. First of all, the title you get for completing the deed is ‘Calm before the Storm’. The relics all take aspects of debuffs in LotRO (there’s a fear one, a poison one, a disease one, etc), plus of course a big Evil one which almost certainly signifies the raid. Additionally, they’re all located near walled off locations, closed doors, possible instance entrances. And as mentioned by Roll One Hundred, they each signify one of five gaunt-lords (named in the comments thread as: Ivar the Blood-hand, Ferndúr the Virulent, Drugoth the Death-monger, Thadúr the Ravager, Gortheron the Doom-caller by Merric of Casual Stroll to Mordor). Interesting times, so we have the basis for a storyline leading up to the release of the next instance cluster for LotRO.

There’s some talk on forums this morning that simply doing this deed will be the gating system for allowing you to start these instances (sorry, couldn’t find the reference immediately). Remember, we’re losing radiance-gating (HURRAH!) and this seems a neat way to do it. When Turbine were asking what people would prefer to radiance, one of the options was deed-gating. It’s also become clear that you can’t complete the deed if you don’t have the relevant quest packs for the areas. So, any free-to-play players will need to stump up the cash for the various areas if they want to progress through to this deed. We have no idea if it will be a gating system though, but it does suggest the new instances will be spread throughout Middle Earth, perhaps another way to ensure quest packs are sold and used (which, in my opinion, makes  sense and would be the same as having to pay to get access to the instances!).

I have to say, I’ve been fairly down on LotRO lately, mostly due to raiding and kin issues, but this little deed sparked my attention again and showed how Turbine can drop little neat things into the game with little fanfare and manage to get us all that little bit interested again, even if you only do the deed for the cool title (which was my initial spur!).

calm

[Cataclysm] A few thoughts on tanking and instances

(I will write a more inclusive view on Cataclysm when I’ve seen more of it. At the moment, I’ve been posting thoughts more or less as they occurred to me. There’s a lot to like, though. A LOT.)

I’ve had a chance to run a few instances now, mostly with my guild but a couple with PUGs also. I don’t feel I have the mental stamina needed to tank a PUG – but sometimes it ends up happening anyway. i.e. If the tank is really struggling with a boss and I know my gear is better I’ll offer to switch. This is not to say that gear is the be all and end all, but 30k extra health isn’t to be sniffed at either. We’ve been running normal instances. I’d suggest that unless you really are in a hardcore guild, consider running normals for awhile before you move into heroics. They’re plenty hard as it is, you can pick up some nice blue drops, and it’s a good chance to really learn them.

The good news is that threat hasn’t been an issue. I haven’t done any reforging, on the basis that I’d see how my gear held up first and then decide which stats might need to be boosted. Or in other words, in levelling quest rewards and a couple of blue badge rewards (I had some points going in to Cataclysm to spend), I haven’t had any need to reforge for more hit or expertise to tank normal instances. I don’t imagine it’s necessary for heroics either – only in raids where the bosses are higher level.

Second good news is that protection warriors do fine. Maybe we have to work harder than other tanks, maybe we don’t have the crazy self (and group) heals that paladins do (although victory rush puts up some big numbers) but I haven’t had any issues with either tanking groups, picking up adds, or holding on to bosses.

Having said all that, here are a few tips:

1/ Get used to using crowd control. It’s probably worth marking up any group where you are not absolutely sure what each mob does. At least while you are learning.

2/ Assume people in PUGs will not know what the bosses do yet so take time to explain (or make someone else explain) before you pull one.

3/ The good news is, you don’t have to do all the marking yourself. I’ve found that CC classes are quite happy to be asked to mark their own mobs, and they’ll also have an idea of which mobs are positioned most easily for crowd control too. Just assign each CC character a symbol at the start of the instance.

4/ Gevlon has noted that having two healers will help on encounters/ instances where more of the pressure is on tanks/heals than on dps. I haven’t tried heroics but encourage your healer to ask hybrids for help when they know a fight is going to be hard. We used to regularly do this in TBC (I remember on my druid asking shadow priests to switch to healing on a couple of fights in the Arcatraz.)

5/ Heroic leap is great! But … perhaps you don’t need to use it on absolutely every pull, and it will break crowd control.

Cataclysm Screenshot of the Day

cata_daypic5

A couple of screenshots from Deepholm, the plane of elemental earth.  My screenies don’t really do justice to the amazing way the whole zone is lit.

It came from the PUG: Ding! Just going to train, back in a few mins!

One of the new functions which came to WoW along with the random dungeon finder was the ability to teleport in or out of an instance once you are in a random group.

So, for example, if you are in a random instance and one player has to leave (or is booted), the rest could port out and chill until a replacement was found, if they so choose. Or if someone manages to go to an instance without any arrows or reagents, they can port out and get some and then instantly port back.

Now don’t get me wrong, this can be handy, but there was a time when people were actually expected to be prepared before they got an instance group together. And once they were there, they were expected to stay in the instance until the group split up, even if they did get a nice drop or gained a level. It didn’t always happen – there were always people who dropped the group as soon as they got what they wanted, which of course can still happen.

But the phenomenon of people deciding unilaterally to just pop out of the instance to enchant their new drop or train their new skills is a new one. And it drives me nuts. What exactly is wrong with people that they can’t just wait until the end of the run?

I was in a run this week with an alt who is nearing 80. One of the other players in the group hit 80 on his healer. And immediately, it was, “Off to train, back soon.” *bamf* An instance run is like – 15 minutes. Give or take 10 mins while the guy realises that he was in the middle of nowhere when he’d entered the instance, but doesn’t bother to inform the rest of the group in case they boot him.

I think I rather miss the days when people just stayed in their goddamned instances until the run was finished. Just a teeny amount of commitment to the group, not a lot. Your training can wait, you were good enough to finish this run when you came into the instance and you still are.

It narks me in raids as well.

We run three hour raids, with a 15 min break in the middle. That leaves two perfectly viable timeslots if someone really really wants to wear their new shiny drop as soon as possible. You either wait for the break or wait for the end of the run and then go get it enchanted up. Most people do this. But occasionally you’ll get someone who absolutely must go and sort out their upgrade immediately right now or they will explode. No, you will not explode. When I was a kid, and being taken shopping with my grandparents, if I was good I was sometimes allowed to wear my new shoes straight out of the shop on the way home. Now I am grown up I usually wait until I’m home to get changed. I don’t care how excited some player is about some new item, it’s not worth holding up everyone else just so you can wear it RIGHT NOW.

You didn’t need that item to finish the raid. It will be just as nice next session. Or at least you can wait for the break. I wish our raid leaders would put their feet down collectively on this one.

Meaningful Choices, Persistent Worlds

Players often ask for the ability to make more meaningful choices in MMOs. People mean different things by ‘meaningful choice’, it could be:

  • Options available to the player in the future depend on choices they made in the past
  • The game world itself changes based on choices the player has made
  • If you make the ‘wrong’ choice, there are bad consequences for the character
  • Having different options available to  solve a problem. How you choose to solve it is as important as whether you succeed.

It boils down to the player being able to feel like a more important part of the game world. The player’s character’s story is unique and based on choices that the player has made. The game world ‘knows’ the character’s history and will respond differently if they made different choices.

These may or may not be reasonable wishes. I know in single player games, I often save before a big decision point because of having been trained in years of adventure games where a single wrong step could result in my character dying and me having to restart the game. So really, no decisions are particularly meaningful. The worst that happens is I go back to a saved game and choose again.

I’m quite intrigued as to how I will cope as a player in a game like SWTOR which is heavily story/choice based but where saving isn’t an option. It will be interesting to find out.

On the other hand, we make a lot of meaningful decisions  in MMOs. They just aren’t all long term decisions (although some, like picking a class, are pretty much permanent in current gen games).

If I’m tanking an instance, I’m making meaningful decisions all the time. I’m deciding which order to kill mobs in, who to put the Vigilance buff on, what gear to wear, which abilities to use. Any of those could affect whether or not we succeed in the next pull or not.

If I’m in a well designed battleground or scenario (i.e. not a total zergfest) then I may be deciding which tactical location to go defend or attack based on what everyone else is doing. Should I attack the enemy or retreat to where there are more allies, or a better defensive position? They’re all meaningful decisions.

But neither instances nor battlegrounds offer the chance for permanent meaningful decision making. The best you can do is complete a quest there to hand in later. And I think the fact that they’re such temporary short-term decisions points is why we have more fun with them.

Does permanence make decision making less fun?

The trouble with permanent decision making is that it can be very high risk. If you make a bad choice, you have to live with it forever. You can certainly make permanent decisions in real life (having a kid, for example), but a lot of our real life choices can be changed later. You can change your career, partner, looks, religion, country where you live, gender, and so on.

Making high risk decisions can be fun. But it’s not fun in a game to be on the wrong side of a decision like that and have to restart when you already sunk several months into a game. This is one of the (many) reasons people hate having their characters nerfed – it may negate the reasons they picked that class, which is a meaningful choice in game. In other words, it’s not fun to make a meaningful decision and find out later that it really hindered your progress in game.

It’s also not fun to find that a decision you made ages ago locked you out of content. I actually think most players would be OK with this as long as it also gave them access to cool content that other people couldn’t have, and sometimes you really can’t (and shouldn’t) have everything. But it’s the permanence of the choice that causes the friction.

You can lower the risk by doing research. Spend time reading bulletin boards, blogs, and whatever other information is available. And that is all time that you don’t spend actually making the decision yourself and possibly learning from it. I’m sure some people think it’s brilliant fun to go spend a few hours reading up on talent specs before deciding how to spend points on their character. I’m not one of them. And most games now offer options to respec, making that less of a permanent choice too.

I enjoy having the game respect decisions I have made in the past as much as anyone. It’s fun when an NPC ‘remembers’ what I said or did for them previously or when the game ‘spots’ that I try to avoid killing unnecessarily and reflects that with how NPCs respond and what kind of quests I am offered. It also CAN be fun to play a game where you are stuck with bad choices that you made in the past (at the start of DaoC, you couldn’t respec, for example) – players have to learn to make the best of what they’ve got. But as soon as some people are willing to reroll to avoid this, there’s presssure on everyone else to do the same thing.

But really this is just trying to make an MMO pretend that it’s a human GM. I’ve played with human GMs, I’ve run games as a human (well, I hope!) GM. I know how I adapt my games to what my players do and say. No offence to game devs but the computer game is really still quite a poor simulation of that. Sure, that means that there is scope for them to get better but my gut feeling is that until these games have more actual human GMing involved, there are limits that we’ll have to accept.

Solid short term tactical games is what computers do very well indeed. Instances, battlegrounds, short term goals rife with short term meaningful decision making for players. These are their strengths.

At the moment, MMOs are still in a funk of identity crisis. They’re virtual worlds, and also games. Often they stick the ‘game’ parts behind instanced portals so that we can enjoy them more as games with all the short term tactical meaningful choices that implies. But it becomes increasingly clear that you can’t have your cake and eat it. The more gameish a MMO becomes, the less of a virtual world feel it will have.

It may be that the price of meaningful choices is one that we’re not willing or able to pay.