[Blizzard] Plan B in patch 4.3, and Diablo 3 trailer

Happy Sunday!

Let’s start with a link to the new D3 trailer that was premiered last night (this is an RPS link since the Spike TV one is inaccessible to people in my region. )

If you want to compare with previous ones:

Maybe I’m jaded from awesome computer game trailers these days. It looks fine. I just want to know the release date.

Of greater interest to prospective players, Blizzard also released some more details around how the auction house/ battlenet/ money thing is going to work. So you’ll be able to ‘charge up’ your battle.net balance via paying money into your account, but you cannot withdraw money from it – this isn’t a bank. Proceeds of a D3 cash auction can either go into the battle.net balance (ie. if you want to use the money to pay future subs or something), or they can be cashed out if you pay a cashout fee. What this basically means is that you cannot store auction profits on battle.net until you have a decent amount and then cash all of it out for a single cashout fee. You’ll have to pay a fee on every individual auction you want to cash out.

Or as Mike@MMOCrunch puts it, quadruple dipping. This rather makes the cash AH  useful only if you either want to ‘earn’ money for your WoW subs/future D3 expansions or intend to sell rather large/ high value items. I suspect gold selling/ buying for Diablo 3 in large amounts will be the dominant model on the real money AH, and people will just use the gold AH for selling most gear.

What does a successful patch look like anyway?

Earlier this week I asked readers how they had found the difficulty of WoW’s latest patch, 4.3. Thanks to everyone who responded! The main impression I get is that people are enjoying the content, so that’s definitely a win for Blizzard.

But still, I see concerns around how difficult or challenging the raids and instances are (or more accurately, around how difficult they aren’t). I see this as very much tied into longevity. Ideally every player would like to spend their time working towards clear short and medium term goals, and seeing actual progress towards those goals with every session. (The goals don’t have to be gear related, maybe you’re making gold, making friends, or learning how to play your class/spec better.) So there’s an idea that “Well yes, this is really fun now. But what happens next? It won’t stay this fun for long …” It’s like a protestant work ethic – we cannot admit that we are having fun with the new content because dammit, we didn’t have to work hard enough. And it feels as though admitting that a patch is fun right now is like saying that it won’t be fun next week, or maybe the week after.

So–  when a player meets their medium term goals quickly, what happens then? Either they make new goals, or take a break until new goals present themselves. Some people are better than others at thinking up interesting personal goals, and some goals appeal more to some people than others (eg. I’m not motivated by achievements, personally.) And after you have played a game for long enough, maybe you’ve run out of potential medium term goals that can still hold your interest. There are only so many times you need to get the Loremaster or Crusader achievements, after all.

Blizzard is aiming to offer heroic modes as future goals for people who complete the content on normal modes, AND a much larger proportion of the player base will complete the content on normal or LFD mode than previously. Will the player base buy it, and will people then want to spend time working on the harder modes? If so, it’s a good model for Blizz. Lots of fun things for everyone to do and see when a new patch drops, as they check out the content on LFR/ normal mode. And then when they have completed that, extra challenge on heroic. Plus the new PvP season, and any other new content/ daily quest Blizzard can drop in (Darkmoon Faire in this case.)

And all that is required for that to work is for people to really care about repeating content they have already seen in normal mode in a harder heroic mode.  Let’s see how that pans out. I’d also have concerns about how LFR will affect turnout to casual raid guilds. Again, if people are motivated by seeing the content, how keen will they be to turn up to weekly raids to see it again in a harder form?

Still, it’s undoubtedly a good deal for players who wanted to see the cool lore stuff from patch 4.3 and be done with it (assuming they don’t care about harder modes) when SWTOR is released.

[WoW] What goes up must come down: how easy is this patch exactly?

I’m not playing WoW at the moment but after a week of irritating computer problems at this end, my beloved was able to log into the new patch this week and try running some of the new heroic instances with a mixture of PUG and guildies.

His thoughts: They’re fun, but that was easier than I was expecting.

He’s not the only person to have that reaction, Green Armadillo was reflecting on the same issue. BBB seems to have had the same reaction but is assuming this is because his characters had firelands gear, and wonders how a new 85 would find them.

I’ve heard reactions from friends that the LFR versions of the new raid are also easy. Not having seen it myself, I can’t really judge, but that would be in line with how Blizzard were presenting the raid finder (ie. it’s not meant to be frustrating in the same way that regular raiding can be.)

Have you been playing patch 4.3, what did you think? (Will post more analysis over the weekend.)

In which Blizzard solves the melee vs ranged issue: THE PITY BUFF

Thanks to Fenris@rpg.net for the heads’ up on this one. There is some more information about the next WoW patch available, and one of the notes reads:

Melee classes will be getting a buff that is only active in the new raid to help them compete with ranged classes.

I read this as an acknowledgement of what most players recognise, which is that melee are hampered with respect to ranged as dps (esp in raids). This is largely because of the Cataclysm implementation of ‘bring the class not the player’ which reduced or removed most of the issues with ranged dps while not touching the melee classes requirement to always be in range.

I can only imagine the whining that will ensue if this new buff means that melee outdamage ranged by any significant amount.

But will the new buff and the rogue legendary daggers, entice raids to bring more melee classes along? Well, presumably they’ll bring a rogue along to pick up the legendary gear if they can. Otherwise, I suspect ranged will still be seen as the more flexible option unless Blizzard specifically designs melee friendly fights. I mean, how big does a special buff need to be to make up for the fact that some classes simply have a lot less dps time on the boss than others?

Also, although a blanket buff like this could be seen as acknowledgement of a design failure (of sorts), it offers an interesting glimpse into a future in which buffs become more associated with an instance than with an individual’s gear. We can see also that it fits with the tank threat changes in which a blanket boost was applied to fix a design problem (or at least make it irrelevant). I think that actually might be bang in line with making the game more accessible also. We’ll see.

[WoW] So isn’t it time for legendaries to become more accessible?

Latest WoW news is that the Firelands, which is coincidentally the most recent raid, is due for a nerfing before the next patch comes out. And when I say ‘due for a nerfing,’ I mean next week. Also, said patch will include a new legendary weapon along with the next raid – a rogue dagger. (Well, it’s a melee dagger but rogues are the only ones who really use them.)

A more cynical person than myself might think that Blizzard was on a quest to use up all the news cycles up until the end of the year. Between Diablo 3, WoW patches, Blizzcon, and WoW watercooler discussions about how they decide who to nerf, it’s all go all of the time.

I think it’s generally agreed (among bloggers at least) that raid progression in Firelands has been slow. Maybe it’s because of the usual numbers dip due to Summer, maybe it’s down to raid difficulty, but fewer raids than ever have completed the instance on normal mode. Ilovebubbles comes out and says what a lot of people are thinking: that raid instance was overtuned. It’s never been a problem if heroic modes are hard, that’s what they are for. But an average guild of average competence would have been able to butt heads against the last boss a few times (if not down it) in Wrath by the time the next raid instance was released. If a lot of people in average guilds of average competence are saying that they’re struggling to even get 2-3 bosses down in normal, then something isn’t right.

I’m not using average as an insult, just a way to distinguish casual guilds who take their raiding seriously as opposed to what bubbles calls ‘stacks of failpancakes’.  Blizzard nerfing the normal raid hard pre-patch is pretty much an indication that they acknowledge the tuning issue.

All of which makes you wonder just how many people actually achieved the current tier legendary at all. Anecdotally, the one friend I have who is in a hardcore raid guild says that they have been finding it a heavy grind. These guys had no issues getting both the legendaries from Wrath and they’re downing the bosses.

So let’s talk about legendary weapons

Legendary weapons have tended to be rare and sought after in WoW. Shadowmourne, the two handed axe from Icecrown Citadel, was probably one of the more accessible variants – it didn’t require any heroic mode kills. Expensive and time consuming, but accessible to raiders who could clear ICC on normal mode.

The current tier legendary can also be obtained from normal mode raiding, but there’s a difference. Firstly due to the raid locks, each player can only clear Firelands once a week (rather than once in 25 man and once in 10 man) and secondly fewer raids than ever are clearing the raid in the first place. So it would take longer even if you were in a raid that got the place on farm quickly. And if you’re an average raid group that would normally take a few months to clear the place on a regular difficulty – you have pretty much no chance of being able to gather enough of the drops to make the legendary. And once the next patch drops, your players are likely to want to move on to the Deathwing raid and not keep farming Firelands so that one person can have a legendary weapon.

So there’s a point where I ask whether this matters. Legendaries are supposed to be rare, is there a problem if only the top raids can get them? And frankly, in an endgame where it’s harder and harder to get players to raid, I think it does matter. Would it have really mattered if the legendary had been accessible enough that a guild capable of clearing the raid would have a hope of getting one?

I find it hard to see people get their hopes up and then have them dashed by either bad luck with drops, or bad luck with Blizzard dropping a poorly tuned instance on their heads. I’d rather see a decent legendary with neat perks and questlines accrue to average guilds, and then let the hardcore guilds have a way to upgrade it somehow from heroic modes.

Anyhow, apparently the next patch will include a rogue legendary dagger. At which point everyone who doesn’t play a rogue mentally tunes out and stops caring about how accessible it might or might not be. But you have to feel for those players who do play and raid and love their rogues (I think least played class in raids at the moment), to have the offer of a legendary weapon wafted in front of them, but wonder if only the most hardcore raids will likely have a chance to get one.

[WoW] Tanking Changes

Ghostcrawler announced some design changes around the threat mechanics via a forum/ blog post today. Basically tanks will be getting an automatic 200% treat increase next patch. It’s mostly due to dps who don’t like having to hold back in instances when they get a lower geared tank. This plays into the issue I was discussing a couple of days ago about there being some barriers to people picking up tanking for the first time.

The threat change won’t make any difference to how tanks play, since they usually go for their best threat rotation anyway. Other proposed changes for more DK-like survivability active cooldowns sound interesting, but are likely to make the tanking classes play more and more similarly.

But there’s an interesting thread running through the post and it’s to do with threat dump abilities (ie. feign death, soul shatter, cower, etc.)

It’s not fun for the Feral druid to stop using special attacks in order to avoid pulling aggro. It’s fun to use Feint at the right time to avoid dying, but it’s not fun for Feint to be part of your rotational cooldown.

I had thought feral druids had a Feint ability of their own, why would it be fun for rogues to use it but not for cat druids? (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen either a rogue or a feral using an aggro dump, but besides that.)

We like abilities like Misdirect. It’s fun as a hunter to help the tank control targets. We are less enamored of Cower, which is just an ability used often to suppress threat. We like that the mage might have to use Ice Block, Frost Nova, or even Mirror Image to avoid danger. We don’t like the mage having to worry about constantly creeping up on the tank’s threat levels.

This is where I get confused, because several of the ranged dps classes have aggro dumps, as well as two of the melee. If it’s bad for one class to have to use that ability, why is it OK for the others?

Anyway, regardless of what you think of threat and the proposed tanking changes, the big question is why this was considered to be so important that it’s being changed mid-expansion. My guess is that instance tanking just isn’t keeping up with strong AE dps such as mages and frost death knights and this is a quick fix.

But it will take some of the teamwork out of instance play, having to adapt to what the tank was doing and watch your threat will become a playstyle of the past.