Tank vs dps, round 5

Lono commented yesterday that he feels the hard mode flashpoints in SWTOR are overtuned, with the ‘hard’ part relying mostly on boss enrage timers. What this means in practice is that that the group needs to provide more dps, which means that it’s the dps who get the extra difficulty. He proved this by healing a hard mode successfully in his offspec and with dps gear (ie. the requirements on healers were very low).

I’d concur with this. We’ve run Black Talon in hardmode successfully, but in Boarding Party we couldn’t get past the first boss (it’s the group with multiple elites). So two issues:

  1. a tuning issue, some of those hard modes are either overtuned or are tuned with the expectation of specific types of dps and
  2. the difficulty isn’t spread across the roles evenly

My perspective is based on playing a dps juggernaut, and I’ve had some experience at playing melee dps in WoW so I don’t believe  lack of dps is down to my incompetence. It could be that the instances favour ranged dps over melee, or that juggernaut dps isn’t up to scratch, or that I’m not in full PvP or raid gear, or that my guild mates are rubbish (which they aren’t). However, groups in SWTOR only have 4 players so if an encounter IS favouring one type of dps over another AND is tightly tuned then they need to fix it, because otherwise it’s making things too hard if even one of your dps is ‘the wrong type.’ And personally, I’m not going to sit around whining about being forced to PvP to get gear upgrades to run instances in, I’ll just quit or play an alt once I feel I’ve given it my best shot and it wasn’t good enough.

It’s also confusing to the player base when the gear requirements for raids are lower than for flashpoints, and if that was intended then it’s something that needs to be made clearer. I have strong feelings about this from TBC when tanking heroics (if you weren’t playing a druid so had access to good crafted tanking gear) was absolutely horrible until you had Kara gear.

Tobold has taken this opportunity to throw some hate at dps players and snarking about lack of responsibility. This is just bizarre to me. So much hate. I have no issues with tanking, and spent a lot of time doing it in WoW. I’d probably be tanking in SWTOR except that we have a fair few tanks already and dps  are needed, and I know fine well what my responsibility is as a dps player. Do so many tanks and healers really hate the dps players that much? I don’t recall that I ever did – well maybe the really rude guys in random PUGs but that’s because they were really rude.

Maybe I was jealous that I had to endure gearing up from raiding to tank heroics where they could just hop in as soon as they hit level 70 (this is TBC, remember). That was in fact still a tuning issue, and it wasn’t right then, and it isn’t right now even if this time it’s the tanks/ healers getting the easier ride.

But on another level, he’s not seen how the emphasis has been shifting to dps in WoW over the last couple of expansions. More enrage timers, more need for top dps just to be able to clear normal mode raids, more raids failing because they have good tank and healer players but can’t get the dps … it’s been a trend. (Not a good one, I hasten to add. I think with X good players of any role you should be able to clear a raid/ instance where X can be less than the total if it’s not absolute cutting edge end game.)

On the cost of MMOs

Tobold argues today that MMOs are too inexpensive on the grounds that the average US consumer spends $58 per month on hobbies.

I noted on following that link that what it actually says is:

The average monthly cost of Hobbies in the U.S. is $58.

The median monthly expense, which is sometimes a better indicator of typical spending behavior, of Hobbies in the U.S. is $23.

Median. What that means is that most hobbies are not actually as expensive as $58 per month (which is probably closer to what you might intuitively expect.)

The other issue I have with this argument is that many MMO players probably see their hobby as gaming/ computer gaming rather than just one specific MMO. So their monthly hobby spend is split between the MMO and whatever other new games they are buying, probably spread across multiple platforms (eg. mobile phone apps, console, PC, etc).

The other huge argument is that a virtual world environment becomes less pure as a simulation the more people can bring real world funds to bear. There’s a concept of ‘the magic circle’ in games/ simulation which affects how good the simulation is and how easily people can become immersed in the game world.

So really, to me, if MMO devs want more of the monthly hobby budget without weakening the games, they should be looking harder at bringing more aspects of the game offline. This means the spin-off cardgames, the conventions (hi blizzcon), the t-shirts, the community stuff, the branded phone apps, etc. Which is I think where people are going — virtual shops can only go so far, after all and only appeal to certain types of player.

And still, the average (median) hobbyist in the US spends $23 per month on their hobby, which is not a million miles away from the average subscription when all’s said and done. I think game devs get their pound of flesh.

Some Star Wars: The Old Republic Thoughts

So there’s been a lot of buzz about SW:TOR this week, it’s E3 week anyway so it’s hardly unexpected.

1. New Trailer

Vwoom Vwoom blue tentacle girl lots-of-jedis plane-crashes-into-a-building bullet-time DROID omg-that-battle-looks-awesome vwoom

It’s exciting, it’s beautiful, it looks like Star Wars, I’d go see the film if it came out tomorrow. (Incidentally, does anyone else think that ‘plane crashing into a building’ has become cinematic shorthand for a really really evil enemy?)

Tobold is grumbling that the hype machine is kicking into action too soon on this MMO. After all, it probably won’t be out for years (I reckon 18 months at the absolute soonest) and when it is, it probably won’t look anything like this trailer.

I’m undecided about hype, but I do think he misses what trailers are all about. A game trailer simply isn’t the same kind of beast as a film trailer. It isn’t supposed to be an edited highlight of the final version, carefully cut together to make sure you get to see the only funny line and some total spoilers.

It is a simple appeal to mindshare. It has to say ‘Hey hey hey! Look at this gameworld! Does this look cool? Is this a world you might want to come explore virtually? Do you wanna be like this person? How about this one?’.

Blizzard have been very keen on releasing trailers for Warcraft; each expansion has had one and many of the major patches also. They in no way are supposed to represent actual gameplay. They’re flavour. They’re meant to stir up some excitement. Maybe let the player catch a glimpse of the world they’re being invited to enter.

WAR released a stunning cinematic trailer before they launched. Again, it was never meant to represent accurate game footage. But it did show a cool battle in a city, and showcased some of the races and classes – this did tell players what the game was intended to be about. Maybe the players didn’t all stay, but the trailer helped to stir up interest in the Warhammer background, setting, and game.

My main issue with the Star Wars trailer is that it doesn’t have enough droids. I am still hoping against hope that at least one of the as-yet-unrevealed classes will be a droid of some kind. Meanwhile, I shall shun the hype machine by finishing KOTOR because that will not at all make me pine for SW:TOR …. DOH!

2. Announcement made that SW:TOR will be the first ever fully voiced MMO

Broken Toys points out that EQ2 also made this claim 5 years ago. I will note that not every quest in EQ2 is fully voiced, which is a good thing because it can be really annoying.

More to the point, how much disk space is this MMO going to take? How long to download patches? Will we have to run it with the CD in the machine?

Tune in for more later this week. I’m still hoping that Bioware will have some kind of playable demo to show.

the little paladin who didn’t

This is a guild drama (well, not really drama, just minor rant really)  issue that I read about from Tobold. The basic story is that a paladin was in a raiding guild, he got geared up quickly and then got bored with the content and let his guildmaster know that he was taking a break until the next raid instance was patched into WoW — for the record, we don’t know when this will be, estimate is a few months yet. Matticus, his guild leader, lets off some steam about it here. The Greedy Goblin defends the paladin, but I’m going to do it better ;)

Storm in a Teacup?

As an experienced drama consumer, my first reaction is disappointment. If this is the best we can do for drama these days, then my friends, we have some work cut out for us!

Really this should not be worth ranting about. People come and go from raiding guilds all the time. Real life throws up hurdles, people burn out, sometimes they decide to hop to other guilds or other servers; it’s a fact of life. If you are a guild or class leader, you are basically always recruiting.

In this particular case, Spinks’ spidey sense of over-reaction is going through the roof. OK, a raider left. On entry level raids which the guild has on farm. So how long precisely would it take this guild to gear up a new replacement holy paladin (it just so happens that they are the only class/spec which does not share loot with anyone else — so if holy paladin loot drops, it has to go straight to the new guy)? A couple of weeks. That’s ALL.

So what’s the big deal here? Shrug, move on, say to the old guy, ‘Thanks for all the time spent raiding with us, we’ll look forwards to seeing you back but we will be recruiting to fill your spot so we can’t guarantee you a raid place.” And then recruit an enthusiastic new guy and throw some loot at him/her. It’s not that hard to recruit this early in the expansion cycle and if Matticus’ guild has a good rep — which I am sure it does, he seems like an upfront guy — where’s the problem?

It’s not as if he left to go to a competing guild or a different server. He just got bored and wanted not to burn out.

But we geared him! We own his soul!

I see this attitude a lot among raid leaders and it’s dumb. Once the gear has been distributed it is history. The person who got the shiny earned it by being in the raid where it dropped. By being in that raid, they helped the rest of the raid too. They don’t have to keep playing five days a week for the next six months before ‘everyone’ agrees that they own it.

Sure, this doesn’t apply when a new guy really is being boosted but if the player was pulling his/her weight and contributing to the raid where the gear dropped, then they’ve earned it. In the case of the holy paladin, what else are you going to do with the loot? There’s no one else to give it to. If you run a DKP system and a raider earned enough DKP to buy a drop, then they have already earned it. They’ve earned it from what they did in the past, not from what they may or may not do in the future.

There is certainly an unwritten contract in some raid guilds that when you join, you’ll attend regularly for at least X months but at the end of the day, real life does intervene, players do burn out, and things happen that a person might not have anticipated.

He only raided for loot

My reading of this incident is that the paladin was burned out on the game and just didn’t communicate this well. So how much does loot have to do with burnout?

Well in any MMO, character progression is one of the big incentives to play. There’s always something you can do to make your character better. Some tradeskill to learn, some gear to aim for, some reputation, some realm rank, some achievement or tome unlock (can’t remember what they’re called in LOTRO, mea culpa).

When you get to a point that your character is ‘finished’ it really does affect player interest in the game. I find also that hoping that some cool loot item will drop keeps my interest in raids long after they would otherwise get dull.

I mean, I like hanging out with my friends in raids too, but the loot does add something to it. So I can easily imagine that spending X nights a week in raids that you could run blindfold (I’m projecting, they aren’t that easy for us :) ) where there is nothing left to drop that you could possibly want could lead to burnout.

So, are people getting bored with WoW?

The problem here is people in advanced raid guilds being bored with the content. In a way, it’d be easier if he had made up some story about exams or moving house or wife aggro. But this way, it sends a message to the rest of the guild, who may or may not be getting bored also. ie. ‘He took a break because he was bored — hey good idea, I’m getting a bit bored too, maybe I’ll do the same!’

So it’s a problem for the guild leader. But there’s no reason not to try to be as classy as possible about the whole thing. The guy did not stab anyone in the back (literally or metaphorically). He just was honest.

And if we’re honest, how much of the fun in MMOs is about getting new stuff for our toons and watching them progress to bigger and better things. Higher levels. Shinier gear. Fighting bigger and more exciting monsters. When you can’t do that any more, do you not get bored even a little bit?

The lure of wondering if that awesome bit of shiny loot will drop this week can stave off the boredom for awhile. Or at least it’s something else to focus on. But when there isn’t anything like that to look forwards to? Yeah people are reminded that they’re actually ….  a bit bored.