Simplification or just Dumbing Down?

A post on The Nomadic Gamer caught my eye last week, because I think it touches on something that is on a lot of people’s minds at the moment.

Blizzard recently announced some of the stat changes that will be taking place in Cataclysm. A lot of talent trees will be rejigged, stats on gear are being overhauled, and in particular, confusing stats are being reworked in favour of a simpler framework. And in the midst of this, TNG (link above) posts a complaint that choosing gear will become too simple and that the depth of the game is being reduced. And the rub? S/he is talking about recent changes in EQ2.

This is what we call a trend. In my opinion it’s a great trend, I would love for more emphasis in MMOs to be on working organically within the game. Figuring out complex stat weightings is for the same kind of players who used spreadsheets to generate their old Champions characters. I’m sure there’s a market for that type of game, but it’s hardly accessible to new players, or to anyone who doesn’t want to crunch the numbers. All it proves in the end is who has the desire to go hunting around the internet for someone else’s theorycraft. I’d rather see games find other ways to encourage players to pick sensible gear.

And there are three ways to do this:

  1. Make stats simple and intuitive, make the effect of a new item on a character obvious and unmistakeable. Make it easy for someone who is actually paying attention to gear up in an appropriate way.
  2. Hide all stats. Keep them as obfuscated as possible and find another way to let players know which items suit their character. Maybe give out achievements for collecting sets, more feedback about how skill use changes when a new item is equipped (e.g. the way final fantasy makes your skills depend on what gear is equipped), and so on.
  3. Make it impossible for anyone to equip anything that isn’t appropriate for their character. (This would likely be a less gear based game.) Make it impossible to take any new item that is not also an upgrade.

Of these options, #1 is the only one which current MMO players will want to see.

In any case, I don’t feel that WoW is going to be particularly dumbed down by the changes in stats. It’s more like cutting out the cruft that has grown around the game over 5 years of designers wanting to introduce new and interesting stats to grab player attention.

Farewell MP5, I remember how excited we all were when you were introduced in Dire Maul. But I won’t miss you.

Also farewell, defence. I may miss you just a little bit and will keep one of my old defence trinkets for good luck, but Tobold had the right of you in the end. Gearing for the defence cap was a rite of passage for endgame tanks, and I suppose I will miss that side of things. But no stat cap that key should ever be hidden from the players. They didn’t even have an achievement for it, which would have been the obvious way to point people in that direction.

I guess it would have just encouraged non tanks to get tanking gear. Because if we have learned anything from the whole achievement debacle, it is that otherwise smart and sensible players will do ALL SORTS OF STUPID AND POINTLESS SHIT for totally meaningless achievements that they do not need in any dictionary sense of the word.

((cough. rant over.))

Time till MINE

How long does it take between an item dropping and a player being able to say ‘Oh! That’s gear that is an upgrade for me!’ Or even just ‘Mine!’?

One of the other goals of the stat redesign is to make it clearer which gear is intended for which classes, and to make it more rewarding for players to go with that.

There is a point where I ask myself why they don’t just put a class restriction on gear. If they don’t want plate DPS in leather, why not just make all leather say, “Druids and Rogues only”? Because you can get to a  point where all the bonuses for sticking to your own gear type will lead people to the same conclusion anyway. It’s never been clear to me how Blizzard viewed this, or why. So in any case, they’re going to try to ‘discourage’ characters from taking lower armour types via mastery bonuses, but they don’t want to prevent it altogether.

And it still won’t stop hunters from taking spellpower gear. (Oops, I mean INT gear.)

10 thoughts on “Simplification or just Dumbing Down?

  1. It was the removal of this sort of complexity that eventually led to me leaving WoW. Then more simplified a game becomes, the less engaged I am by it. I *AM* one of those players who found balancing stats to be its own reward, and hated the previous round of “streamlining” – this latest round takes it to new depths, which is disappointing to anyone like myself.

    But then all these trends are why I left MMOs behind…. they’re just not for me anymore, and that’s fine.

    • I prefer my games to have depth via gameplay (the examples of chess and bridge are a case in point), not via obscure stats. But like I say, it’s a matter of taste as much as anything.

      I’m not saying that WoW (or any MMO) has much in the way of deep gameplay either, but adjusting how the stats work doesn’t really change that for me.

      What I don’t understand is why you’d be disapppointed by a stat change in a game you don’t play any more. Would you actually like them to make it more complex, add in more obscure derived stats that do similar but not identical things to existing stats, and so on?

  2. Well I am not too worried about stat simplification – both bridge and chess has extremely simple rules – i can put them together on a napkin. Doubt that anyone ever will accuse them of lacking depth.

    Same can be said also for D&D. Simple rules, quite fun gameplay with lots of depth. What WoW should do is simplify his math models. Give straight simple rules. And let designers and players go wild about what can be achieved with them – we will be pleasantly surprised I think.

  3. I made a post about this on my blog. Tanking stats (if anything) are not getting simpler. With dodge and parry behaving very differently in 4.0, tanking gear choices will be getting a lot more interesting, particularly once we get some information on how the new parry -50% damage buff will work. Will it be multiplicative if you parry or block the second hit? What if you avoid the second hit – does the buff carry? Would you rather have the raw mitigation of dodge or the smoother damage curve of parry?

  4. Considering how Blizzard also stated that they want to make talents “more interesting” I think that what they are doing is moving parts of the complexity to the talent trees.

    Add this to the new Path of the Titans stuff they’re adding and I doubt the game will be any less dumbed down, I would think it only makes the game even more complex, with at least three wildly different things to juggle, all which are complex enough on their own.

    People tend to look too much at one single aspect of the game at a time so they forget that everything in an MMO is interconnected to a certain degree. Stats are not everything that make up a character.

  5. Yar, as I’ve commented elsewhere the stuff about Hit Rating depending on tier of content your on frankly makes my brain die a little.

    I’m really not very positive about what I’ve read so far as it apears its an exercise in change for changes sake. However I could be wrong and I’ll certainly give Blizz the opertunity to prove me wrong. Overall I’ve enjoyed WoTLK a lot, warts and all. So I’ll give Cata the go around. Then have a good hard look at the end game and see if I want in. I guess thats different from WotLK as I was out of the starting blocks like a greased weasle with my eyes on the end game right from release day. This time….not so much.

  6. I have a minor in mathematics and have delved superficially into some of the fascinating calculations to figure out gear upgrades, and you know what?

    Since I got the Gear Score addon, I use that single number to figure out quickly what to “need” on for my alts.

    Of course I will look closer at stats if I’m having specific issues like poor mana regen or something, but please spare us the need to compare 5 numbers between existing/potential gear when the tank has already pulled the next mob.

    Simplifying gear will undoubtedly prevent people in pugs from needing on something they don’t need. I’ve done it myself. And why does the system allow you to need on “unique-equipped” items that you currently have equipped?

    For a sub-80, I should be able to mouseover and know if it’s an upgrade in 3 seconds. And for an 80, it should take no more than 10 seconds even if I haven’t researched every single upgrade in the game.

  7. I don’t know, as a tank I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with all the stat juggling. It’s kinda fun looking at new gear and seeing what changes, but its also a pain in the arse to keep it all balanced and retain your hit/exp caps.

    I’ll miss the defense stat though, it is every tanks rite of passage to hit the cap, and with it all getting shifted to talents it takes away more of the choices in how you can spec.

  8. The question is if a simplified system will also involve no trade-offs. If there is no choice but one clearly better item, and gearscore takes even the minor part to think about it away, then it is all for naught anyways.

  9. Pingback: We Need to be Able to Make Mistakes « Procrastination Amplification

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