Quote of the Day: On Endgame

I had forgotten how good the Blizzard designer notes usually are. This is another great example of designers sharing their thinking about MMO endgame, with reference to Pandaria. (They are also very open about where they think Cataclysm failed.)

No developer wants to hear "I want to play your game, but there’s nothing to do." For Mists, we are going out of our way to give players lots to do. We don’t want it to be overwhelming, but we do want it to be engaging. We want you to have the option of sitting down to an evening of World of Warcraft rather than running your daily dungeon in 30 minutes and then logging out. We understand we have many players (certainly the majority in fact) who can’t or aren’t interested in making huge commitments to the game every week and we hope we have structured things so that you don’t fall very far behind. The trick is to let players who want to play make some progress without leaving everyone else in the dust.

This. This is why you never bet against Blizzard.

42 thoughts on “Quote of the Day: On Endgame

  1. > This is why you never bet against Blizzard.

    They mentioned something that most player realized at the latest during the first month of Cataclysm, probably even as early as during TBC. And they haven’t delivered yet.

    I think we have to wait and see if what they ship with MoP will solve this issue. Only after that can you say that “this is why you never bet against Blizzard.”. 🙂

      • Joy, I’ll add that to my list of why I’ll not be getting it 😉

        In all seriousness wow suffers due to its gear treadmill mentality. This is prob just confirmation welfare epics will be alive and kicking.

      • I think the phrase ‘welfare epics’ is one of the most disastrous PR things anyone has ever said about MMOs. There is nothing wrong with people being able to get gear via multiple paths.

      • If they made the gear on par then yes, but it never is. Usually its for players to skip content tiers and be ready for the latest ‘endgame raid’ or simply for a mere power boost for non raiders

      • Yeah, WoW is a bit different these days. Every patch, people mostly focus only on the latest raid so returners, new alts, etc really need a way to be able to gear up for those raids. This is the actual mechanical reason why people need to be able to gear up either by buying stuff, earning tokens from dailies/ LFG, or whatever. It benefits raid guilds too because they should have a better stream of new geared recruits (compare with TBC when the number of recruits who were geared for cutting edge raids was pretty minimal.)

        Also it doesn’t really harm anyone if non raiders have some gear progression – yeah, they don’t need it in the same way that raiders do, but people like progression and having raid gear isn’t really a badge of anything these days. Plus if they ever decide they want to raid, there isn’t a huge barrier.

      • @Pit If it was for the sake of +5 stats, the gear wouldn’t be obsolete. The difference is 10-30%. This is the same for all games except the impact is on 40-60 base stats. In WoW, all base stats are between 200 and 400 right now and support stats can be in the thousands. Add to the fact that WoW is even more stat based than skill based today, you can see the problem get compounded.

        This completely eradicates the value of any previous tier of gear – minus achievements and now transmog. This, I think, is the main reason for WoW’s extremely long dev time between patches. They know that the content they give out in any given patch (minus an expansion) will become obsolete with the next one.

      • Well no its not the same in all games. Guild wars and now guildwars 2 have static stats at endgame. The reward is the actual gameplay experience + vanity gear. It removes the treadmill, keeps content difficulty constant and its always relevant.

    • Indeed it is.

      It convinced me that the last thing I ever want to do is give Blizzard money that might pay Draztal’s salary for what is, frankly, bad trolling.

  2. I’ve always thought in response to the gear treadmill blizz should design the gear system to be part dungeon gear and then raid specific gear. If you have raid specific gear then that gear stays current for that raid without it becoming useless and since dungeon based gear would be uniform across an expansion someone showing up late would never be to far behind.

    I know personally all that gear I raided hard for getting tossed aside each major patch is somewhat annoying.

    Secondly by not dramatically increasing the stats throughout an expansion many of the older raids still require some difficulty and aren’t just blow throughs. With the implementation of LFR normal raiding should have it’s difficulty stay relatively uniform imo.

    I can say without a doubt that when I play WoW I want meaningful progression not simply hamster wheeling the content trying to keep up. Until Blizzard has a gear structure where your gear and time is relative for an entire expansion I find it hard to feel like alot of it is worth it.

    The other thing that needs to be done is some sort of PvP stat for damage output like Rift has with it’s Vengeance. Having people cross over with PvP gear who simply aren’t ready for the PvE content that PvP gear gives access to is annoying. Besides, if we’re into the copying Rift thing, steal their Hardmode dungeons were you get 5 mans in raid like experiences. Being able to premake 5 man groups for the harder content would be good for server community, again something Blizzard needs to work on.

    Anyway I have to agree though, never write Blizz out. They’re rather good at solving their problems. I’ve yet to find a game with better overall combat, though Rift sure was close.

    • I could get on board with this, as I often think that gear inflation is too high between tiers and that’s where half the problem lies; if there was a six-point jump in item level between one tier and the next, and no needless nerfs, tiers don’t end up redundant the second a new patch lands.

      But pointing to Greg Street as the solution is an error, Spinks. Out of the trio of Chilton, Stockton and Street, the latter is by FAR the least competent. He’s the cause of these problems he creates, then can’t solve.

      • Some of the problems he identifies are fairly deep systemic issues with the genre, I think. I don’t know if anyone can really solve the issues around ranged/ melee for example, even GW2 ended up just giving everyone a ranged weapon.

        But the reason I think his analyses are important is that he is able to communicate clearly that the problem is understood (which isn’t always the case in MMOs). You can’t really look for answers before you understand the question.

      • The problem is that, as far as WoW is concerned, he’s causing most of the problems. Things like dungeon queues, Vengeance, LFR and a need for “more content” are all self-licking lollipops of his own making. He seems fairly good at trying to treat effects rather than causes, and causing more problems in their wake.

    • “I know personally all that gear I raided hard for getting tossed aside each major patch is somewhat annoying.”

      This is the reason my partner finally ditched his WoW sub; maybe he’ll be back some day but that in particular was just too frustrating for him. I think it makes raiding seem less and less relevant, but it definitely looks like a design decision from Blizz to do things this way.

      One of the reasons I like the quote in this post is that he highlights two divergent goals: to give people progression goals when they log in, but not to leave anyone too far behind (this is more of a deal for casual raiders than for true casuals I think.) I suspect this is just inherent to MMOs — the progression is such a key element to so many players. As Pitrelli says above though, there are games like GW which keep a much flatter endgame gear progression.

      • It’s partly Kelindia’s point about pretty much all gear being worthless from patch to patch (as an aside, surely it makes sense to give players more content, not just replace content?) but it’s also this culture of artificial limitations that you’ve just described.

        I’d love to believe that Blizzard genuinely want to create an experience that allows people to sit down for an evening and just get shit done that isn’t raiding or grinding heroics, but, frankly, with all the caps on everything (especially the ridiculous facade of “we’ve removed the cap on daily quests!” which isn’t true at all due to the way dailies are rotated) I really do struggle to have faith in that design philosophy being anything more than lip service.

    • The system that I thought had promise but wasn’t implemented properly was the radiance gear from LotRO. They made radiance a general benefit which really defeated the purpose. If you had (in heroic instances, raids, and around world bosses) an environmental effect that seriously debuffed characters but could be offset by the gear you gain in instances and raids it would let you stabilize the gear baseline. If the offset effect was a reward that could be applied to gear, or an item for a special slot, it would help even more.

      This would reinstitute gating, which Blizzard is against, but it would be a different type of gate. It would also keep the older instances alive as you would be raiding or running heroics to fill gear slots rather than to gain currency. There is a role for currency purchases but that should be for people, like me, who really don’t want to raid anymore but like running the occasional instance, doing dailies, or the like. Even if the base stat of the gear, useful for all content, was roughly equal it would not be raid gear as it lacked the offset stat. I’d also suggest that there should be a unique look to the raid sets as standing out is still one of the concerns of some raiders; for good reason really, that is a part of the social game.

      Do I think this will ever happen? Not a chance in the world.

      • WoW had this once. It was called “fire resistance”. (And if the huge bags of today were available back in vanilla, it would have been awesome.)

      • Somewhat, yes, but FR came out of the item budget while I’m suggesting something that is not budgeted. Nit picking, but that is the model that I think would work.

  3. I’ve found that Blizzard always has some very intelligent thoughts about what does and doesn’t work in their game. However, when they then come up with a solution to whatever problem they’ve identified, they tend to unintentionally break three other things instead. 😛

  4. In addition to the comments that Shintar already articulated, I’d also point out that there’s a big difference between what Devs think and what the bean counters think. In the corporate world, the bean counters have the power, and some great ideas get cancelled because it costs too much money.

    • I’d be astonished if Blizzard is in the business of canceling great game design because it’s too expensive.

      Look at costly games: let’s try SWTOR. Costly because of its voice-acted story. WoW instead has a mostly textual delivery occasionally enlivened by cutscenes. The cutscene at the end of the Wrathgate series of quests (if I remember the name right, the one in Wrath that had the Battle for Undercity), felt more epic than my main character’s SWTOR story did because it culminated a long series of drab quests with one awesome piece of cinema.

      That’s both cheaper and better. Or, in fairness to SWTOR which does have awesome quests, it’s cheaper and valid.

      I know Blizzard use the “lack of art assets” excuse a lot and that’s a synonym for cost (as they could always hire more artists) but I don’t think we should believe them. I think that too much change too soon is bad for a game (it was very overwhelming in Rift). If pumping out expansions quicker would double their subs they could launch a new dungeon every week. (Think of modding communities or dungeon builder tools – SWG’s dungeon builder got over a million dungeons with a tiny player base).

      • It’s funny you say this, Stabs, because one of my WoW alts is in Dragonblight and working towards the Wrathgate at the moment. I’ll give some feedback on how epic things seem when I get to it (I mean, with the experience of having played SWTOR for the last 7 months under my belt), but lemme tell you, the quests are DULL.

        Also, however popular Wrathgate was with players, they didn’t do anything that worked that well for Cataclysm. And MoP, as BBB comments, isn’t really being sold on its epicness.

      • Whatever happened to the Path of the Titans alternate progression lines they talked about? (was either wotlk or cata but got cancelled)

      • Well, we can take the Wrathgate as an example.

        Wrathgate was the first in-game cutscene used by Blizzard, and for 2008 that was state of the art. But what also made it memorable was the Battle for the Undercity afterward, wherein you found yourself in phased versions of Org and The Undercity, fighting to take it back from Varimathras.

        When Cata came around, Blizz dumped the Battle for the Undercity portion of the Wrathgate scenario entirely. It’s now just a cutscene and nothing else. It now rings hollow, because it’s been done before by Blizz.

        In fact, TOR’s voice actor interactions are the natural next progression from Age of Conan’s version. Only about 1/5 of the quest interactions there are voice acted, and your character doesn’t get any facetime at all. That said, AoC does 80% of what TOR does, only that TOR goes all the way with acting.

        If WoW were created today, they’d probably go with all voice acting, because it is the state of the art. Maybe people are too used to clicking through and reading what ten rats they have to kill afterward, but WoW is far more endgame oriented than TOR is. WoW’s quest architecture is geared toward getting people quickly to endgame; if they wanted to fix that they could, but after Cataclysm I doubt they’ll ever revisit old questlines and their architecture again.

      • I can’t really agree with you on the voice acting Redbeard. I logged into SW:ToR for a bit before my six months were over and I found the quest dialog annoying. The side quests mostly didn’t mean anything but I had to spend the time going through making false choices. Why false? Because the quest was going to happen whatever I decided. The wheel ‘o morality didn’t really help because what I would have done or said if this was an actual RPG, and not a computer game, was not available. Entirely understandable, unless someone really nails AI and decides that the best use is video games it will always be a canned list of options. For me, returning for a bit to SW:ToR after being away for 8 weeks it didn’t feel any more immersive than Rift or WoW. Actually, being in an area where a rift pops was more immersion.

        That’s why I finally decided to try GW2, despite the really annoying evangelists that invade any thread that dares to question the supremacy of the king incipient. Hopefully the DE system can capture the early feel of Rift. One of the better times to be had in an MMO was the head start period where dozens of under-leveled characters where hurling themselves at invasions to try and clear the next leveling spot. It really felt like a living world, and one that needed help from a mob of armed wackos.

      • Whether or not voice acting as implemented was annoying to an individual, it’s the natural next step in MMO gaming. We have cutscenes, hybrids like we saw all over the place in Uldum, semi acted interactions (AoC), and fully acted interactions (TOR). TOR isn’t the first MMO to have the equivalent of a wheel resolution –Age of Conan at least had it before TOR– nor will it be the last.

        I’ve seen the first ten minutes of Skyrim, and I believe that is the direction cinematic MMOs are moving. Sandbox MMOs don’t require it, but all that graphical horsepower is waiting to be used.

      • The individual argument tends not to gain much traction. I could just as easily argue that the comparative failure of SW:ToR to gain a large (we want 12 million subscribers) audience is because that many people feel the same as I do. Without some significant market research it’s a pointless statement.

        What I can say is that voice acting is hugely expensive. Unless it can be shown that this adds enough to the short, intermediate, and long term player retention numbers to earn out that cost I don’t expect it to be a common feature. And, as a player, I have a hard time understanding what it adds to an MMO. It was novel in SW:ToR but really, does it improve game play? I would argue that it degrades dailies and makes VoIP communication difficult unless you are all on the same quest.

        You are likely right that it is now an uncorked bottle. It will be interesting to see the next attempt and if it can avoid the problems that BioWare encountered.

        For me, though, the natural next step in an MMO is a touch-based UI. At least, once Windows 8.1 or 8.2 is out and the bugs are finally resolved.

      • Actually, I remember a while ago that when asked about updating the older races and the animations, the answer was “the cost is too prohibitive”.

        So money is always an issue.

  5. I suspect that part of the reasoning for removing Battle of the Undercity was that Thrall was no longer in charge of the Horde. Toss into that the revamped Org, and they felt it was too much effort for the return.

    • Plus, has anyone done that on multiple alts? Good lord, it’s annoying. “Gee, 10 minutes until the next Undercity bus arrives, and then I can AoE constantly for the next half hour by myself.”

      • As SWTOR so deftly reminded me, activities built under the assumption there is going to be a large group of people available tend to become frustrating, unpleasent experiences once the initial rush is over.

  6. Pingback: More Blizzard Heart to Heart « In An Age

  7. Isn’t the word epic the opposite of common? When I play a game and go “holy crapola, that was epic”, I don’t do it on the 3rd playthrough or the 20th. Wrathgate was awesome the first time (per faction), the next few, quite a bit less. SWTOR’s flashpoints were interesting the first time or 2, then you get to the point where you remember exactly what’s going to be said. Uncharted on the PS3 is similar, everything is just crazy on playthrough 1, then the next one it drops a lot.

    Perhaps the current step is the “movie-fication” of MMOs. I would prefer that the next step be randomization of content. Boss X has a list of 8 abilities, he will only use 5. A game of simon says. Leave the braindead stuff as an option but add some extra rewards for people who want the challenge of not having a repeating pattern.

    • The problem with that is “random is random”. Blizzard tried it with Halfus Wyrmbreaker, and there were a lot of complaints about certain drake combinations being wildly more punishing than others. For longer term raiders it wasn’t a big issue, but for new players I’d suggest that Halfus was horrendously placed from a learning curve point of view (which, to me, is Blizzard’s biggest problem with WoW), not unlike Ignis the Furnace Master in Ulduar; Halfus, however, wasn’t optional and it was a bit funky to actually have the random element removed in the heroic mode.

      Personally, I wonder what might have happened if you could speak to all of the drakes before hand and activate the two you wanted on normal. If you went for deliberately harder combinations, it could unlock different parts of his loot table. Amusingly, this could have entirely negated the need for a separate heroic mode if players were given the choice to scale the encounter as much as they wanted.

    • “Perhaps the current step is the “movie-fication” of MMOs. I would prefer that the next step be randomization of content.”

      Hopefully they get better at it than Blizzard did in Cata. My character has literally saved the world, but now is apparently, without any say-so or input from me, his player, cowering in fear at the sight of a goblin with a pistol, and he needs an NPC to rescue him.

      I don’t think so.

      I chose to interpret the shaking as stifled chuckling…

  8. Actually I did bet against Blizzard or more accurately their parent company. I short sold the ACTI stock last November at 13.75 a share and today it’s down to 11.48. Not a bad return for less than a year.

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