5 Things I do not hate about the Coliseum

This is the first week in which I’ve run the Coliseum three times, which feels like a lot given that I’m not especially fond of the place. Amusingly, none of those raids involved hard modes, as we simply don’t have enough interested people to form two 10 man hard mode raids and I was apparently non-optimal (which I don’t agree with but I don’t actually like the Coliseum so who cares?)

I am not one to fret about other people beating the same content as me, but you can tell there’s something off with the tuning when my Naxx-10 geared alt can run it and come top of the healing meters. Just saying. It is both too easy and undertuned on 10 man, so there.

In the spirit of positive thinking, I’m listing some things that I like about the current raid instance. There will be another matching post about things I do hate, it will be rather longer.

All Takes Place in One Room

The Coliseum raid is set up like an arena. Players stand in the arena, and a succession of raid bosses get shoved in through the front gate for our killing pleasure. Unfortunately the Coliseum does not feature any of the really good parts of an arena such as being able to place side bets on the bosses, or gouts of blood and people sustaining really horrific injuries.

I don’t find the single room, bosses-come-to-you model to be an issue. It’s a change of pace, and makes the place rather dull from an exploration point of view, but one slightly different raid setup in an expansion isn’t worth fussing about. It also means that there is an explanation for why the raid bosses are turning up, rather than having them all standing around in rooms on their own waiting for us. Granted, it is a fucking stupid explanation (so, the Argent Tournament chaps collected all these really tough raid bosses and decided to make a three ring circus out of things…) but I’ll take my ongoing narrative as I can get it.

I realise that epic storytelling is not what one needs expect of raid instances but we can do better than “You enter a 10’x10’ room. A raid boss is standing in the middle of it.” Blizzard is trying to do this better I think – Ulduar does have explanations for the placement of many of the bosses at least  — but it’s a constant struggle. As I say, at least the Coliseum framework provides a kind of explanation.

I also like that we can see some of the bosses outside, either tethered around the tournament area or in cut scenes as they are captured. It is in fact quite a neat way to let non-raiders (if there are any left) get a sight of the raid bosses, dull as they may be.

And then the floor fell in

I am an absolute sucker for having the environment change around us as a result of things we have done (even if ‘things we have done’ just means setting off the next boss encounter). Call me shallow but I like it when the floor caves in and everyone goes tumbling down into the depths. Collapsing floors were the saving grace of the Malygos encounter and they entertain me here as well.

Anub’Arak

The last fight in the raid instance is rather more interesting than the rest. It features a few interesting twists on old mechanics – you have to run /into/ the patches of ice instead of away from them. We saw that mechanic used on Vezax but everything is always better when there are spikes involved, especially giant spikes that come out of the ground and try to stab people.

I also rather like the phase 3 mechanic in which healers have to try to keep the raid on about half health rather than healing everyone up to full. I think that’s a more interesting healing challenge than normal raid fights, on paper at least.

Also Anub has a really sexy voice. After having to listen to Tirion Fordring and the Lich King, both of whom have me reaching for my earplugs, I’ll settle for my velvet voiced beetle buddy. And when I say buddy, I mean undead giant beetle who is trying to kill me and my 24 closest friends due to being brainwashed by a fat necromancer.

Spikes on Tier 9

Did you know that there are three different ways to get hold of tier 9 gear at the moment? There’s the pure badge version, the 25 man normal token version, and the heroic token version. We’re all going to be in T9 whether we like it or not.

But at least it has spikes.

Easy Alt Gearing

One nice thing about the (lack of) difficulty is that it actually is easy again to put a raid together, bringing a couple of non-raiders and undergeared alts and still have everyone get something that is currently useful for them (ie. badges). I’m all for MMOs making it easy for people to play together.

This weekend I ran a raid along those lines. In some ways it was challenging to have such low dps but I also get a sense of achievement as a raid leader from being able to chivvy everyone through it in such a way that the overgeared guys don’t get too bored, the undergeared guys don’t feel overwhelmed, we don’t wipe more than once (faction champs, my fault for not having one of the healers switch to dps on the first attempt), and everyone gets something that they want – either loot or badges.

Ulduar was a bit too long and difficult to make that feasible. As a player, I did love Ulduar. As someone who wants to include non-raiding friends, Coliseum is relatively quick, easy, and accessible.

Your turn now. Say something nice about the Coliseum :)

Are MMOs getting easier or players getting lazier?

via Bio Break, I was reading a column in GameSpy about the lack of challenge in WoW. Don’t get me wrong, now that I’ve seen most of the raid content for myself, I can understand where that’s coming from (and it’s a subject for another day!)

But. It isn’t the raid content that he’s talking about. It isn’t endgame at all, in fact. He’s talking about the levelling curve and how Blizzard have mostly trivialised it. And if you want to go even faster, you can grab bind on account items that adjust themselves to match the level of your alts. And because they are BoA, once you have finished you can send them on to another alt. Although by definition, heirloom items are only available to players with max level characters, to help speed up the levelling of their alts.

Not only that but people also have easy access to websites like wowhead and addons like questhelper which neatly remove any residual quest related frustrations anyone may have had with not finding things or puzzle solving.

All of these things conspire to make questing and levelling a trivial (but still time consuming) part of the game. Aside from the fact that no one forces you to go look things up every single time you get stumped for more than half a millisecond, what we are seeing is a fundamentally different way in how players respond to in game quests.

They are no longer viewed as fun puzzles. Instead, they’ve become sleepers (or even speedbumps) on the railway of levelling, and the objective of most passengers is to get past them as quickly as possible on their way to their final destination. Levelling quest rewards are largely ignorable. Even if they are useful upgrades, you’ll grow out of them soon enough. Some questlines will have particularly engaging storylines or fun tweaks. Those are the equivalent of the Settle-Carlisle scenic route*. Pretty, a fun day out, and good for photo/screenshot opportunities. But you’d skip them if you were in a hurry.

This is not a WoW-specific paradigm shift.

Looking at newer games, they’ve all been tweaking to make the questing process more streamlined and single player friendly. WAR has its red blobs (which actually fulfil much the same function as questhelper, but more nicely implemented and integrated) which I think have been roundly welcomed. Anyone want to complain that levelling in WAR is too easy? They’ve eased their levelling curve too. You don’t even have to worry about accidentally pulling groups because most mobs can be solo pulled.

I don’t think people complain, because they’re not unhappy with it. And WAR in particular does offer other ways to level, the solo questing isn’t supposed to be challenging so much as to just give you something to do inbetween scenarios.

Why does the levelling curve need to ease off?

This one is obvious. In any level based game with multiple expansions, if you want to make your game appealing to new players, they need to be able to catch up to the pack. Is there any way to do this other than to speed up the low level game?

  • Spread out the pack, either by being very very alt friendly or by spreading the appealing content through all levels and letting players stop at a place they like.
  • Let new players start at higher levels. Still would need some kind of tutorial.
  • mentoring schemes (sidekicking, or letting you help a friend to level faster)
  • Nuke the old content at the start of every expansion. Let everyone start from level 1 again together.
  • Nuke the whole server regularly.
  • DITCH LEVELS! (wait, am I shouting? :) )

I think we’re seeing a paradigm shift on quests and level based games. WoW is, for logical reasons, trivialising its levelling game. This will be less fun for people who enjoyed the challenge (I’d direct them to LOTRO where the quests are much more old-school style), but it’s a strange reason for not trying WoW because the high level quests in TBC and Wrath are brilliant.

The level-by-quest design served MMOs, and WoW in particular well but we’re seeing how it fails in a mature game now. Once you have seen the stories once, you don’t need to see them again. New players need to be able to catch up.

We need a new scheme for levelling. WAR with its multiple options, multiple zones, and public quests is surely on to something. So why is the prospect of levelling an alt in WAR so unappealing?

* You have to love that the Settle-Carlisle railway doesn’t have any pictures of scenery on the front page, although the scenery is the main reason that it’s famous. There is a picture of a station cat on the station page though.