[WoW] Thoughts on 5.2 – Everybody walk the dinosaur

wow_dino

Sadly, dinosaur jousting is not (yet) in the game

Somewhere along the line, it stopped being acceptable for patches to be referred to just by their numbers (probably because it’s obscure, hard to remember, and vaguely techy), so patch 5.2 should more properly be known as The Thunder King. (Amusing comparison: in Jewish custom, books of the bible are traditionally known by the name of the first word in  that book. This has the advantage of not being stuck with names like “Deuteronomy.”  In WoW, we know our patches by the name of the last endboss.)

This is the big content patch of the expansion, involving a couple of new zones, a big new raid, bunch of progressive daily quests (ie. they are in phases) with associated scenarios as the phase advances, more crafting recipes, open world raid bosses, new pets and mounts, and new reputations. In particular, there are a lot of dinosaurs because REASONS.

I’m having fun hanging out with my guild, getting on with the daily quests, running some raids in normal mode with guildies and LFR, and unlocking the next phase of the Isle of Thunder, of which we are about to unlock the last part. I am starting to feel worn down by it though and I want to talk a little about why that is, and other impressions of the patch.

We got dailies in your dailies

I think the daily quest part of the patch has been really well done. I like the mechanic of having some randomly selected dailies every day, and of unlocking the next phase of the zone after enough have been (collectively) done. It’s pretty cool. This isn’t an “I’m burning out on dailies!” complaint, I quite enjoy them. But the effect of all these extra tiers of dailies on top of the daily heavy MoP endgame and the daily heavy last patch is a ponderous feel of “same old, same old.”

For all that, once you have all the rep and loot you want from the local rep vendors, it does at least give plenty of choice in how you’d like to earn your weekly valor points. I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.

The loot problem with large raids

When I say large raids, I mean raids with lots of bosses. In Throne of Thunder, there are 12 bosses. Not all wings are open yet for LFR so Blizzard have staggered the release of the raid in a similar way to what happened with Icecrown.

The loot problem is that if each boss can drop several items that might be relevant for your class/ spec, that is going to add up to a lot of duplication. I counted about seven different robes that my shadow priest could potentially get from ToT LFR, all of the same item level. (Which happens to be 2 iLevels lower than the robe I had upgraded from the last patch.) Getting loot is great! It’s always nice when the game gives you something. But it’s going to be very hard for me to be even mildly excited about any of those drops.

I know, transmogrification and cosmetic clothing. I should get excited because they all have different looks. But it’s still just a robe and my goblin is a shadow priest (ie. spends most of the time in shadow form where you can’t really make out the gear) so the lure of loot isn’t really pulling at me yet. And this is even before the last wing has unlocked in LFR. I shouldn’t be this blase about drops already.

So imagine most pieces of armour will be present in multiple varieties also. I wonder if it might have been better to be a bit stingier with the drops.

In any case, clearly it’s in normal/heroic mode and rep gear from the raid rep vendor that the more useful upgrades for me will come. This isn’t doing a great deal to motivate me into LFR unless my friends are around, and as soon as I have the few LFR upgrades that I want, I may get my valor points via the easier raids and heroics instead.

Difficulty and LFR

The conversation about difficulty is focussed at the moment on Durumu, the beholder boss. LFR groups fall like flies to this guy, three full wipes is the fewest I’ve ever had before we got him down. This is way out of line with how bosses usually fall to LFR groups.

And the reason is not because the mechanics are especially hard, it’s because there are some very key elements which are just hard to see. If you set up a purple foggy maze on a dark background where the safe area moves around and kill off anyone who accidentally strays into the (hard to see) maze for too long, it’s not a recipe for an easy boss kill. This type of difficulty is a mixture between punishing (if you don’t get it right, you will probably die and no one in the raid can save you), and needlessly visually obscured. It is the second part that is the problem.

On the bright side, having to figure out how to get past an annoyingly hard boss can sometimes bring out the best in LFR groups. After a couple of wipes, people tend to focus more on getting organised, marking the person/people who claim to be good at seeing the maze and getting everyone else to stack on them. And after managing the boss, the raid has tended to feel  more cohesive for the rest of the run – there is a sense of achievement. I think it’s interesting to observe. Even annoying difficulty isn’t always bad.

But Blizzard do still need to fix it because it’s annoying to die to stuff you can barely even see.

Getting the community to interact

In this patch, Blizzard have put a few new elements in to try to encourage more interaction. The Isle of Thunder has some rare elite mobs which drop desirable items (including a key to the new solo loot-grab scenario), and which need a few people to kill. You also don’t need to be in a group or raid to get loot if you have helped with the kill  I find that general chat on the isle is often used to report when one of these mobs is up, as a general invitation to people to come and pile in. So it seems to be working as a way to get players to communicate and invite random others to help. What they don’t tend to do is tell you where the rare mob is, so you’ll have to learn those locations on your own (or with the help of a handy website).

There are also a couple of new world bosses which need huge numbers of players (ie. more than one full raid) to kill. These also have been pretty successful in encouraging interaction. Word tends to get round when one of them is up via guild chat, trade chat, general chat in cities and everyone is welcome to come and pile in. Because you need that many warm bodies.

So do I like to see this kind of thing in the game. I think it’s worthwhile to have bosses with fairly simple mechanics but that require large numbers of players to kill, alongside content that is more difficult, more solo friendly, or favours elite groups. How busy/ popular those mobs will be when people no longer need the loot is hard to say. I see far fewer Sha of Anger (world boss from the start of MoP) groups being formed now than I used to, for example.

Do we expect every patch to be a mini expansion now?

There are some real bonuses to having patches that involve self contained zones and reputations and  easy stepping on points for players who had taken a break. Mostly because you can draw players back in who had previously gotten bored with the expansion  to see and play the new content.

The downside is that more of the things you had done previously in the expansion will feel deprecated. The rep and loot from the last patch will soon be replaced by the rep and loot from the current one. Keen had a good point I think where he argues that he wants time spend in MMOs to feel like an investment.

I see Blizzard trying to find a balance in which your achievements from the beginning of the expansion still feel valid and useful later on. For example, time spent maxing out the farm is still useful – you can still grow useful stuff on it. Mounts and pets are still useful and valid if you want to use them. Knowing the heroic instances and earlier LFR raids is still useful, they are good sources of valor points and knowing the fights will make it easier for you to shine/ your raid to kill them.

This balance between valid current content and deprecated old content has always been a point of contention in themepark style MMOs. In some ways, the games always feel purer a few months  after release — after the worst of the release bugs have been fixed but before the first expansion is released, because it simply isn’t a concern and all the content is current.

I wonder whether other MMOs find a better balance than WoW does.  I know in LOTRO I always used to feel that the older content felt more valid than old WoW raids, for example. I’m not sure if that is still the case.

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12 thoughts on “[WoW] Thoughts on 5.2 – Everybody walk the dinosaur

  1. I find the “group up” encouragement from Blizz very interesting, since they seem to have eliminated that from the game in the lower levels.

    When I was gearing up my Rogue with BC clown gear in Hellfire Peninsula, I discovered that sometime between mid Cata and now the Arazzius the Cruel quest became a solo quest. Now, I don’t know if that means that they went through all of the BC group quests and converted them into solo content, but it seems to me that if they were serious about this sort of thing they’d go back and restore a lot of these old group quests to their former glory as well as put some in the revamped Old World.

    • I think Outlands got the full solo bat. Almost all of the old elite quests were turned into solo quests, including stuff like the Nesingwary final named beasts, and such. The only group quest still in is Ring of Blood, and of course there’s never anyone there to do it with you anymore.

      The Isle of Thunder rares to me are a thing stolen from the book of GW2. Anyone can participate, there’s no tag on them, and I expect we will see more similar things in the future while Blizzard implements things stolen GW2 into their game (like the Kor’kron stuff in the Barrens in 5.3)

      • The thing is that the problem with group quests while leveling have always been a lack of people around who also have the quest to do them with. Comparatively, you can be assured of a lot of max level people around to help with Isle of Thunder rares, and also that there’s no requirement needed to gain from it; as long as you helped kill the rare, you get rewarded.

  2. I saw one nerf that Blizzard did recently, that would really annoy me if it happened to one of the items I’d obtained. It was one of the Darkmoon cards from one of the earlier expansion, BC I think, it returned a fixed percent of mana per proc. They nerfed it by reducing the effectiveness after a certain level. That pretty much say it all about gear treadmills that the devs go out of their way to nerf items like that.

    Downgrading tokens is another of those ‘necessary’ features that is another annoyance. Lotro has started doing it too after they consolidated tokens, because they can’t have the most active players stockpiling tokens and getting a jump-start or too far ahead. When the main focus of the game is acquiring gear, having to come up with a host of convoluted ways to control and manipulate player progression is a sure sign of the dysfunctioning of a gear treadmill .I don’t know why so many people put up with it, but there is very few alternatives.

    The only really engaging part about any of them is the ‘set-bonuses’ and the like that change up gameplay, but of course the devs go out of their way to make sure that those don’t persist more than a tier/expansion. They couldn’t have players picking their favourite set bonuses to compliment a build, and sticking with it until they change the focus of their build.

    • I still remember having my T2 priest set bonuses nerfed at the start of TBC. But you’re right, there is a design constraint that they need gear to not be too good in future tiers.

      • I remember the Luffa being nerfed because people used it to remove Moroes’ Garotte. They just don’t want us to continue using stuff from previous expansions today, heh.

      • It’s a design restraint but it’s also something I’m getting more and more fed up with. If for example the set bonuses were a separate component, that could be slotted into the newest tier of gear, and being able to access all the set-bonuses that ever existed in the game, you can bet there will be a lot of variety in what player would slot, 2/2/2, 2/4 (or 6). Players with excess tokens could spend them on acquiring a stack of the set-bonus item, and keep them for the future or alts, so there is some way to invest time and then bank your progress. I don’t see the point of making these desirable set bonuses and having them exist for one tier. And introduce level downscaling for each instance, so running past dungeons and raids for their desirable set-bonus items would be a productive task.

      • @Kadomi

        Luffa is probably the best example. Was it so terrible that a trinket could mitigate one ability of one boss. It rewarded player that had the foresight to keep it in their banks. Of course it would have been more fitting if the trinket was a epic quality item that dropped in a previous raid, given it’s powerful effect, and not a one-time only quest.

        It was the way they nerfed it too. Instead of just changing Garrote from a bleed that could be removed with Luffa, they prevented Luffa from working past level 60. Sure it accomplished the same thing, but it just removes some of the fun of keeping a trinket like that in the bank, and remembering that it is there and taking it out to combat some annoying bleed effect applied by mobs.

      • It sounds good until you find your hardcore guilds are all forcing people to reroll so that they can get the Luffa because it’s only available from one levelling quest and if you didn’t get it or (more frustratingly) didn’t keep it because you weren’t psychic, then you’d be SOL.

        I get that it’s fun to be rewarded for hoarding something that most people didn’t bother to keep, but not really cool to punish people for making a perfectly sensible decision (ie. throw out an old trinket).

      • I agree with Spinks’s last post here – going back to content I’ve done when it was interesting for my character when now it is no more, just to get my pass to go forward, is not fun. One of the things I switched to WoW (a couple of years ago) is that it’s actually quite moderate with these and I was able to get gear needed to do new content in fairly recent content.

  3. The untagged rares are clearly their first try to see what to do with GW2 events. I’m quite happy to see them working on that because I liked this part in GW2 and whenever Blizzard copies something they will also improve it.

    What I miss, and what GW2 does better, is that in GW2 you get a (sub)-zone wide announcement when an important event starts and the event is marked on the zone. They should have done that with the Rares. Make them rarer and stronger and then announce when one spawns and mark it on the map. In GW2 it’s amazing to see player pour in from any direction to help with an event.

  4. My favourite bit in 5.2 is a little thing.

    The Zandalari Trolls drop books sometimes, detailing a little character bit about what’s happening with them or about their culture. And one of them is an older troll talking about how he’s trying to talk his son out of becoming a Dire Horn beastmaster and then trying to persuade the loa to help him out when he can’t.

    On The Isle of the Giants you find the aforementioned son’s corpse and then you realise and go aw.

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