In which Blizzard solves the melee vs ranged issue: THE PITY BUFF

Thanks to Fenris@rpg.net for the heads’ up on this one. There is some more information about the next WoW patch available, and one of the notes reads:

Melee classes will be getting a buff that is only active in the new raid to help them compete with ranged classes.

I read this as an acknowledgement of what most players recognise, which is that melee are hampered with respect to ranged as dps (esp in raids). This is largely because of the Cataclysm implementation of ‘bring the class not the player’ which reduced or removed most of the issues with ranged dps while not touching the melee classes requirement to always be in range.

I can only imagine the whining that will ensue if this new buff means that melee outdamage ranged by any significant amount.

But will the new buff and the rogue legendary daggers, entice raids to bring more melee classes along? Well, presumably they’ll bring a rogue along to pick up the legendary gear if they can. Otherwise, I suspect ranged will still be seen as the more flexible option unless Blizzard specifically designs melee friendly fights. I mean, how big does a special buff need to be to make up for the fact that some classes simply have a lot less dps time on the boss than others?

Also, although a blanket buff like this could be seen as acknowledgement of a design failure (of sorts), it offers an interesting glimpse into a future in which buffs become more associated with an instance than with an individual’s gear. We can see also that it fits with the tank threat changes in which a blanket boost was applied to fix a design problem (or at least make it irrelevant). I think that actually might be bang in line with making the game more accessible also. We’ll see.

[WoW] Interrupts, Ghostcrawler admits melee is borked, and some cool links

Yesterday, Ghostcrawler wrote another intriguing blog post about game balance, interrupts, PvP issues and how designers can get into the trap of power creep.

The basic line of thought is that interrupts are too good in PvP (too accessible, too short a cooldown), so casters had to be given better instant spells/ kiting ability. And then *handwave* for some reason Blizzard had to give out more interrupts —

– no wait, this was “bring the player, not the character” and the homogenisation of classes in Cataclysm, and they did it deliberately and now they’re finding that they’re in a power race and it hasn’t worked out so brilliantly well.

Anyway, I think there’s an interesting discussion to be had as to whether casters were intended to have lower mobility as the price for having range (and crowd control). Ghostcrawler implies this is the case:

One of the advantages melee used to have in PvE was on movement fights. If the boss has to be kited or stays in motion, the rogues and warriors can follow along and still deal damage. <…>In today’s PvE environment, that role has almost flipped. Many casters can shoot on the run and take only a very minimal DPS hit to do so.

This is interesting since it’s the first time I’ve seen that Blizzard have admitted that melee have issues in the current tier of raiding. This was obvious to most players from pretty early on in the expansion (I recall having written about it.)

And it’s due to their design changes with Cataclysm, and they don’t seem to have any plans to either change it or improve things. There are more issues than being out-dpsed by casters, because staying in melee with bosses has gotten more difficult – again this is by design which he doesn’t mention here.

And his solution — nerf interrupts – wouldn’t really make that much difference to the PvE side of things on its own. Having said that, they’ve been quite keen on having players interrupt bosses on this tier. I figure that once they decided to give interrupts to all comers, they decided that people might as well use them. Since I like interrupting bosses I’m down with that, but it gets old …

This argument is particularly wearing for rogues and warriors who had interrupts right from the start and weren’t told that they were overpowered until now (at least not because of that.)

Some more WoW links

A few links from bloggers that I have read recently on WoW.

Matticus asks if 25 man raids are slowly dwindling. This was a prediction many people made pre-Cataclysm – is it coming true?

Borsked argues eloquently that raiding is back where it was meant to be in the game, only for the dedicated. And that the WoW player base is balancing itself to having fewer raid guilds.

Boathammer explains why WoW is boring to him as a non-raider

Gaming News: Roguelikes!, Kinect is a winner, should screenshots be exclusives?, LOTRO F2P is a winner too, pre-ordering gets complex, melee misery in Cataclysm raiding, Rift thoughts

I enjoyed writing a series of Gaming News posts on Sundays through the latter half of 2010, but did become very aware of how the gaming news cycles work and how non-news (like whatever random musings Michael Pachter pulls out of his hat) end up becoming headlines.

So I’m going to try to focus this year on stories that are actually news or have some interesting commentary that relates to current gaming news. Feel free to send me links during the week if you see anything you’d like to suggest! All contributions will be attributed.

Best Roguelikes 2010

Any fellow fans of Roguelike games out there? Andrew Doull posted the results of his Roguelike of the Year poll (981 people voted!)

Winner by quite a high amount, with a total 39% of the vote was ToME so if you are a fan of the genre and want to see what’s hot at the moment, go check it out. It’s F2P of course. No, wait, I mean it’s freeware, you can play for free and if you like the game and want to support it, you can donate.

Kinect ships over 8 million units, coming to PCs ‘soon’

According to Steve Ballmer (Microsoft’s CEO), they have shipped 8 million Kinect units so far. Winextra (the link above) do some figure checking and conclude that MSoft have actually sold 2.5 million units, the 8 million figure is the number that they have shipped to suppliers (figures for how many of those have sold are not actually in yet, they might all have done). In any case, this is an astounding figure for a controller which is still not very well supported with games and requires a large amount of room space to even set up.

I’m still hoping to see someone take a shot (sic) at making a Kinect based shooter, I think out of all the current genres that would benefit from being able to drop the controller, it’s sports/ dance games, FPS and ‘point and click’ adventure games that would benefit the most. But really the ball is in the developers’ court at the moment. There are probably some awesome things that could be done with it, as soon as people can imagine them.

And my gut feel is that the biggest Kinect application, in the end, will not actually be a game. Maybe it’ll just be people using it for controlling the TV, maybe Kinect Avatar will spark off a whole new slew of virtual world mania, but this way of interacting with technology is only going to grow and spread.

However, I still find it creepy to think that my computer might be watching me. It’s bad enough with the cat.

Exclusive Screenshots

One thing you will notice if you read professional gaming blogs/ sites is that there’s a strange cosy relationship that they sometimes have with developers. I’m not sure at what point money changes hands, but this is why you’ll see exclusive interviews, screenshots etc on sites that you normally would not touch with a bargepole (Ten Ton Hammer with your annoying popups, I’m looking at you).

The guys at Rock Paper Shotgun went head to head with this culture this week when they published exclusive screenshots from another site WITH ATTRIBUTION and got threatened with legal action for their pains.

Standard internet posting etiquette usually states that it’s ok to quote other sites as long as you link back to them. We normally consider this polite. But how does that fit in with the idea of exclusive screenshots? I think swiping exclusive screenies should probably be off limits but there is also a point at which you have to say ,”the internet just doesn’t work like that.”

John Walker at RPS commented, “”But really, the idiocy of publishers giving out adverts for their games like precious, secret jewels has got to end. It’s self-defeating, and it’s deeply tedious for the readers of every other site/mag in the world who want to know about a game they may want to play.”

It’s certainly tedious for readers to be directed all around the houses for information rather than just being able to pick it up from their favourite news feed. In fact, I’d rather be able to pick up my gaming news straight from the official site and my pet bug is developers (Mythic used to do this a LOT) who publish all their news as exclusives on random news sites rather than on their own.

LOTRO revenue triples since they went F2P

In an interview with Ten Ton Hammer (podcast interview, no transcript), LOTRO’s executive producer reports that revenues on the game have tripled since it went F2P.

That’s great news for Turbine, and it’s unlikely that we’ll see any figures from Codemasters to be able to compare the EU numbers (or see how much of an advantage Turbine had from launching their version several weeks in advance). So we can assume that they’ll continue to do whatever they are doing. More bizarrely marked horses for all!

Perhaps not such a great result for players who don’t particularly want to be spammed with inducements to check out the cash shop, especially if they are already paying by subscription.

Rage Quit Jane offers another analysis of F2P players, “Thanks Suckers” (for buying expensive shiny cosmetic stuff for real money and keeping the game going). The bloodsuckers she’s talking about are the new EQ2 race which is being sold at a premium to people who want one now, and will be offered free to subscribers in a couple of months time. Or maybe she’s just talking about SOE.

The complexity of pre-order offers

A couple of pre-order deals that made my radar this week are the slew of Rift pre-order special deals, and Dragon Age 2 announcing a DLC which is included free if you pre-order the signature edition – ie. only if you PRE-order, as opposed to last time where you got the DLC free if you bought a copy that wasn’t second hand.

Hawley ponders on this trend in more detail, nostalgic for a time when you could just go buy the damned game and not feel that you have to check every possible pre-order combo to make sure you got the best deal.

I think this is one of the downsides of F2P. Not everyone enjoys the process of shopping or having to waste brain cycles figuring out how to get the best deal on something commodity based like a game or book or film. Whilst it leaves a gap in the market for blogs or websites that can do the analysis for you, it isn’t really fun.

Obviously for studios it’s all about the bottom line, but I wonder if making a simple process (buy box and play/ log in and play) into one that involves complicated buying decisions is really a good thing.

Melee vs Ranged in Cataclysm, round 2, and 3

I mentioned a week or so back that I thought there was some imbalance between ranged and melee in Cataclysm instancing. Just to show I’m not imagining it, here are a couple more authoritative views, from raiders.

Paragon got the world first kill on some heroic raid boss last week (has anyone else totally lost interest in the world firsts?), and published a note together with the kill shot on their website.

Dropping out melee characters in favor of ranged ones has been a recurring theme throughout this whole raiding tier, but we hope that it’s over now with only the end bosses and Sinestra left. Here’s to hoping next tier of raiding won’t favor ranged by design. Maybe even go wild and give some incentive to bring in melee, too.

(Incidentally, it’s a sign of how mature a guild Paragon are that they decided to use the publicity which they knew they’d get from a world first kill to highlight imbalances they saw in the game.)

Karuki at World of Ming also writes a very well written, heartfelt post about the woes of playing a melee class (Death Knight in this case) in Cataclysm heroics and raids.

My experience is with heroics at the moment. And I’m getting pretty good now at staying alive *flexes at heroic Stonecore* but the cost is spending more time out of melee range and being more cautious of the mobs. Which is fine, but won’t make the numbers look good.

Also an ex-guildie of mine, who is one of the finest melee dps players I know, isn’t pleased with how dps warriors are working out at the moment. So that’s something to look forwards to.

Reactions to Rift

Out of all the reactions I’ve read about Rift and the Rift beta/s, these two caught my eye. Caveat: I think it’s a very fun game.

Abalieno @ The Cesspit sees connections between Rift and Warhammer Online, in terms of the game engine, the programmers, and other themes, and doesn’t think Rift compares well.

Wolfshead writes about how he thinks combat in Rift could be improved. I don’t think there’s even a remote chance that they’ll redo the combat system at this stage in beta, and it’s not broken in any case. But I really enjoyed his analysis of how combat is the main way we communicate with the game world in MMOs these days.

And one of the reasons I stick with WoW and keep coming back to it is that underneath everything, Blizzard made the basic combat experience very snappy and fun. PvD is wondering though whether some of the WoW classes/ specs are edging a little close to each other in play style these days.

The eternal dance of melee vs ranged

I’m trying to focus on my dps spec at the moment so I’ve been running quite a few instances as an Arms warrior. I’m enjoying the spec a lot, and finding it fun to play at the moment.

But there are times when you wonder if it’s really necessary that ranged classes can do more damage, bring more crowd control, don’t have to deal with fights getting harder when you bring more ranged, and have a lot more room to move around. And they have interrupts too. (This is nothing to do with hybrid classes, incidentally. There are ranged hybrids who are just as good as the rest.) Is that balance?

Muckbeast has been wondering about this too, from a more general perspective. Instead he asks why it’s always so hard to balance melee vs ranged.

He thinks that being able to do damage from range is a huge advantage and that developers pander to ranged classes who don’t think that should come with a drawback.

I think a lot of the problem here stems from too much listening to ranged players who want to do as much damage as melee, also do it from range, AND have tons of escape mechanisms.

I only know that I’ve heard a few people ponder recently whether to switch from a melee warrior or death knight to a ranged class. And I cannot really blame them. I like playing melee but I don’t feel there’s much balance right now. I’m not sure if it’s a particular issue with WoW in Cataclysm at the moment, but there’s a reason our raid group is heavily oversubscribed with mages ….

Cataclysm Screenshot of the Day

cata_daypic10

I’m a sucker for sunsets. These two shots were taken from the air in old Azeroth (being able to fly around the old world is a feature which came in with Cataclysm) – I think the zones are Azshara and the Badlands respectively.