Stories of the Week

I thought it might be fun to experiment for a month or so by summarising some main gaming related stories of the week on Sundays, with some links and comments.

Warhammer Online takes your lunch money

Another nail in the coffin of the subscription based MMO was placed this week, as Mythic Entertainment made one of the worst possible customer relations faux-pas and billed many of their playerbase several times by mistake. i.e. to the tune of several hundred dollars (plus any bank related expenses if the account went overdrawn). Charges are being reversed, but it’s likely that the PR damage has already been done. wasdstomp gives his personal experience of being charged 16 times.

Now, if you engage in a lot of online commerce, then it’s quite likely that you’ve had to deal with mistaken payments on at least one occasion. This happens more frequently than anyone likes to admit. Arkenor relates a billing error from STO, for example, although this isn’t anywhere near the same scale as Mythic’s screwup.

But still, there’s an element of trust in passing credit/ debit card details around online and although the system is only as secure as users can make it (and it is a good idea to check through your monthly statements regularly, just to keep an eye on these things), this kind of breach of trust is the sort of thing which persuades players not to bother with MMOs at all.

Having said that, old timers are used to all sorts of wacky game-related screwups and as long as the company turn it around, fix the problem and reimburses everyone speedily, many of the playerbase will give them a second chance. Especially if EA (Mythic’s parent company) could sweeten the deal with … say  … beta spots for a certain upcoming MMO which really could use some good word of mouth.

It always makes me sad to report bad news about WAR. There were so many things to like about that game, it feels like kicking a puppy.

Anyhow, if you were affected, Chris at Game By Night has some advice on practical advice on how to sort out your refund and complaint, from a banking insider.

Apparently WoW has an expansion coming out

No dates yet for Cataclysm but various press outlets report that they’ve had emails about registering for the press beta.

And in case you somehow missed it, Blizzard have been coming out with some class previews for Cataclysm, including wide ranging changes and new abilities. None of this is yet set in stone, but is a useful pointer to where they are heading.

One of the early reviews was for priests, who will get an ability to pull a raid/group member to their location (Leap of Faith). This received a lot of kneejerk reaction, including a stern shake of the head from Tobold, and epic QQ from Tamarind.

Personally I think it sounds like fun and I hope that this does make it into the game in some form. But the fact that I could think of at least three ways to grief people with it before figuring out even one legitimate use doesn’t bode well.  I think something a little more subtle (maybe a spell to wipe threat from a friendly player) would have been more priestlike, but then that has different issues in PvP.

What I like about the idea is that it shows that Blizzard understand that standing passively at the back is one reason that healing isn’t as fun as it could be. So giving priests more power to affect a fight directly, rather than at one step removed, is one of the ways they are exploring to make heals more fun.

Other high(?)lights of the preview:

  • Bye bye tree form (Will try to comment more on this next week since I do also play a resto druid – basically I’m really happy with the proposed changes.)
  • Bye Bye blood dps and unholy/ frost tanking builds. (I guess the great DK flexibility experiment either failed or was too much effort. DK tanks are my prediction for more overpowered tank next expansion.)
  • Mages get the bloodlust/ heroism analogue. (I wonder if they should have just removed that buff from the game or toned it the hell down, it makes way too much difference in 5 man instances and I’m still not sure whether 10 mans are balanced around it – Blizzard claims not but is that really possible?)

And there were also announcements about the rage normalisation changes and hunters using focus instead of mana, neither of which was unexpected although they’ll both be sweeping change.

Over the next few weeks, a lot of current players will be analysing these previews and trying to decide which class to play in Cataclysm. The classes with the sexier updates will attract more people. I didn’t really see anything which made me wonder ‘why the hell are they doing THAT?’ Well, except maybe leap of faith …

One thing is for sure, that’s a hell of a lot of balancing for Blizzard to try to get right.

And if you were wondering about the paladin update, that isn’t due out until next Friday (16th). For the class which has most epitomised Blizzard’s Wrath ethos,  will it be more buffs, the nerfbat, or a complete redesign? Paladins have certainly rocketed in popularity over the course of the expansion, and they were never an unpopular class. But has Blizzard decided to call time?  Personally I’ll call it a win if they can make it impossible for low level tankadins to forget Righteous Fury (their tanking buff).

7 thoughts on “Stories of the Week

  1. Re: Cataclysm changes

    While not quite on the scale of SWG’s NGE, it seems like there are a lot of really radical changes in store. Reading about the Tree of Life changes for Druids, where they claim “giving up so much offensive power seems unfair” is funny; it’s been that way for, what, 5 years now? Why is it unfair NOW?

    On the other hand, I’m sure they’re looking at the number of people who left the game because it’s become old hat. Shaking things up and getting people interested in the game again will do wonders for their sub numbers.

    Personally, I figure I’ll resub a month to check out the new mainland if you can see it without the expansion. Most of the proposed changes elicit a big “meh” from me. I’m just not burning to go re-visit my Druid anytime soon.

    • My memory of treeform is that it was introduced with TBC (or just before) and initially it reduced the druids movement speed by 50%, and you could only cast HoTs. But in TBC HoTs were so good (especially lifebloom) that you actually could heal without ever using anything else. So druids stayed in tree form all the time in PvE and just cast a smaller range of spells (and moved more slowly).

      When Wrath came in, Blizzard decided to ease up on this as a quality of life thing so they removed the movement debuff from the tree and also let them cast regular heals and decurse without shifting back to caster form.

      At this point, the tree form gives a large enough healing buff that you feel very penalised if you try healing in caster form, and cuts you off from using any damage spells, but doesn’t provide any extra abilities at all apart from that (ie. unlike the feral forms).

      So I think it always has been too restrictive, and they’ve decided that they weren’t really happy with the last way they dealt with it. I also think there’s a good argument for moonkin to be a cooldown and a lot of people would be happy if that was the case because it’s fugly and serves no purpose 🙂

      • I took a break about a year after original (vanilla) launch and came back with TBC, so my timeline for when some of the druid abilities is almost certainly off. I thought Tree of Life was introduced earlier than TBC launch. I never specced pure healing on my character, so I’m hardly an expert.

        One problem with original Tree of Life was that while it worked well in raids, it never seemed to pan out as a primary healer in 5-mans. Maybe our guild Trees just couldn’t adapt, but we usually wanted a Priest or Paladin in 5-mans (usually in that order of preference).

        As far as Druid changes go, I was talking with a friend and I think the designers are not understanding how perception affects things. People play Druids instead of some other “pure” class for one of two primary reasons: the flexibility or the lore/mystique. There’s something cool about a character that shapeshifts into different forms based on what’s needed. I think this is one of the reasons why some Druid players are so against tree of life form being a cooldown: it takes away part of the identity of the character that goes beyond the gameplay aspects.

        Personally, I was always into the flexibility aspect. I liked TBC era Feral Druids because I could DPS and offtank with a simple swap of equipment. Maybe I wasn’t top of the DPS meters (horrors!) nor could I really main tank a raid, but I had flexibility. I even took Nuturing Instinct in order to be able to spot heal if absolutely necessary. One thing I didn’t like about Wrath was that it took away a lot of that flexibility.

        It seems like Druids were always a class with a confused design goal. Originally they were officially supposed to be backup healers, then they became very versatile and brought unique aspects to tanking or DPS, now they have to specialize into one role without having many of the tools available to the “pure” classes. As I said, it just doesn’t excite me anymore. But, I accept the game has moved on from my tastes and enjoy LotRO more these days. 🙂

  2. Funny you mention your mixed feelings for War, because I can’t stop shaking my head on the non-sense they are doing, without feeling guilty. It’s just not fair, how they wasted such a good game.

    I need a hand on Cataclysm Class changes. All in all, I can’t get rid of the feeling that most people judge or complain about the changes of “their” class, without considering the rest.

    Obviously you did read all previews published so far, so what is your feeling about the bigger picture?
    How do you think will the changes affect each other?

    To give you a start:

    We already know, that Healer’s won’t be able to fully heal a tank within 1-2 heals. Mana will be an issue for Healer, so mitigation and avoidance will be a topic again. Warrior Changes, did not mention any changes in short cool down related defense abilities, like Shield block or disarm. So we probably are getting to see, Bosses performing heavier attacks more frequently.
    With the changes to spirit, my first thought that Mana would just be a topic for healers. But when you mentioned rage changes and hunter’s focus, I went through the class previews again.
    Now depending on the way you read it, it seems for me, like Mana for DDs will be a topic again, limiting their potential in comparison to Classes which have a steady flow of action points, like Rogues, Hunters, DKs and Warriors. In the first moment it did not made any sense, because it would be a clear disadvantage of Caster DDs.
    But DK’s rune regeneration will be limited, rage is going to be normalised, the percentage of white damage to the rogues overall-damage is going to be reduced, making “yellow” styles more important.a.s.o. This would indicate, that casters would have the potential to unload a higher damage level for a short time, while non-mana classes would have a steadier level of damage through the whole fight.
    Single Target Aggro and Crowd control could be a topic again as well.

    Regarding your tankadin hopes, I am afraid your prayers will not be heard.
    Looking at the class previews so far, they seem to get problems with every role. Holy needs to become independent from crit. Cleanse does not seem to fit into the new “decurse” philosophy. Holy Shield and Ardent Defender are far to strong in the new “tanking world”. Retribution still needs a decision about it’s way of support and mana dependency.

  3. I am a touch unhappy.

    Rogues are losing their stunlock, meaning I will never win another pvp fight.

    Shamans are losing Bloodlust, meaning I will never get to raid again, being replaced by a far more useful class (On that note, Shamans really do need a redisign at the moment. They’re carrying a lot of baggage that’s been distributed in new, niftier forms to other classes. But they won’t. Because no one plays them)

    And saddest of all, Trees are going away. Which means never again will we see the pure joy that is the tree dance.

    No one looks happer than dancing trees.

  4. Yay, I made the news!

    My thinking is that if you can’t design a watertight accounts server and web-interface, you probably shouldn’t be in the MMO business. Too many companies seem to look at that side of things as an afterthought.

  5. Pingback: General trends, the core tank toolset, and is survival more fun than threat? « Welcome to Spinksville!

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