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Blizzcon 2015 Legion Thoughts

So we have had all of the panels, including the staged Q&A where the unofficial one was at a different area not broadcast….

I said to my wife Lissanna of Restokin last night over the phone since I did not go to Blizzcon and she did that I was remaining hesitantly hopeful about Legion.  I was right to be hesitant.  I honestly love the idea of all the systems they highlighted today and yesterday about Legion, with one exception.  They are doubling down on the flight paradigm they went with in WoD which was a worst implementation of the MoP design.  The only up side is that the achievement will be in game at launch, just not able to be completed until a later patch….  I have 2 words in reply.

FUCK THAT

I say this because I really like flight in WoW, it is one of the major distinguishing features that WoW had over almost every other MMO.  FFXIV Heavensward has flight as well in the expansion areas, and they implement it zone by zone while you level.

I hated and I mean hated leveling in MoP after the first time due to flight only available for gold at level cap.  I hated even more in WoD that it was locked behind an achievement that was not even in game at launch because you did not know when the suffering was ever going to end.  The only saving grace and reason I was able to level 5 characters before saying fuck it in WoD was because the Garrison supplied everything I needed.  I did not need to go out into the world unless to quest and the bonus areas made that a little more tolerable.  However the same assholes that hate flight, devs and players, hated the garrisons as well and the convenience they provided so they are gone in Legion as well.  So there will not be the slight escape from the pain that garrisons provided in WoD.

To be clear:

  • Every time I was knocked off a mount by a mob when I needed to get across the zone I was in for my next quest, I was missing flight, and pissed that it was not in the game.
  • Every time I had to run halfway through a zone to get to the path to go up a mountain that weaved all over the place to get to an objective, I was missing flight, and pissed that is was not in the game.
  • Every time I wanted help or was willing to help others and saw they were on the other side of the map, I was missing flight or Guild Perk “Have Group Will Travel” and was irate the neither were in the game.

Honestly which ever DEV said Travel was content and needed to be meaningful really does not need to be a dev anymore, I really hate to say that since I am a programmer myself and would not want any of my users thinking the same of me, but seriously someone at Blizzard in power has their head shoved up some nether region and seriously needs to get it extracted.

I would really rather be happy with the scaling leveling zones, or the Artifact Weapons, or Class Halls, or finally Alliance Lore without Orc focus (but I know they will screw that up), or the profession redesign, but all of these activities will be affected by Travel and therefor if I hate the travel part I will despise all of this other content.

Posted in MMOs, System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


Future Game Development Models

This topic has been on my mind a lot recently due to 2 games now under development.

EverQuest Next Landmark (EQNL)

Star Citizen (SC)

Per my earlier post I am currently in the closed Alpha for EQNL and it has devoured my gaming time.  I get in and start building something and will spend several hours on something and decide that I just don’t like it and start over again.  Not to mention the current grind required to gather some resources to improve your tools and extra pre-made models that you can craft.

Star Citizen was a Kick Starter wonder and the company continued a similar model after completing many times over their initial funding drive.  Now every couple of Million raised by pre-selling ships and in and out of game items and features they add new expansion based content or new ships.

I mentioned this to Lissanna last night while making food and we both agreed could you Imagine what the result would have been if Blizzard had released a tool set pre-cataclysm saying we want to redo the world here are the tools and let 1K if not 100K people building their own versions of different zones and continents, then all Blizzard needed to do was pick the best from those and meld them together into 1 world?

Well that is what SOE is doing with EverQuest Next via Landmark.  It is like the Star Craft 2 tools but for an MMO and not a RTS.  I did tweet about this concept as far at the limits of Twitter will allow but the limits of what game studios could do in the long term is staggering if they could successfully harness the power of their respective fan-bases.  We know old world WoW has already been modeled in MineCraft to a limited extend.

Just a post for future thought, given current Alpha and eventual Beta stages of EQNL, I am sure I will have more posts about it in the future.

By the way if you like the looks of Landmark at all I suggest at least spending the $20-ish bucks to get into the Alpha or Beta and help refine it as well.

Posted in System Mechanics


IMO Eclipse Mechanic Change that is Needed

With 5.4 patching today I thought I would bring up a subject on Druids that has bugged me for a long time.  Now I don’t play Warcraft anymore, the game is no long designed in such a way that I find the content appealing in the first several patch cycles of an expansion and if you don’t like the start of an expansion why would you bother to play it later.  but that is a side tangent to the Druid mechanic I want to discuss.

Every version of Eclipse since it was implemented has felt clunky and ungraceful to me.  Because of this clunky feeling while enjoying balance when leveling I would never do anything other than solo and random battleground pvp with said spec.

So what is it that I don’t like about the mechanic, well to put simple I don’t like the ratchet like bar progression where you only get a pay off at the max and then you need to rush to the opposite end of the spectrum before the buff wares off to get a new buff: wash, rinse, repeat.

The changes I am about to suggest I actually thought would be a cool idea when Eclipse was first introduced but now that I have played something similar, I KNOW it would be an improvement to the class mechanic.

Where did I get this play to “know” that it would be an improvement?  Well I was playing FFXIV:ARR (Final Fantasy 14 – A Realm Reborn).

The class that I was playing was Thaumaturge, and yes it is the analog to WoW’s Mage essentially but so what.  The mechanical interaction between Fire and Ice in FFXIV can easily be substituted for Arcane and Nature in the case of the Balance Druid.  There is even an ability that switches Fire or Ice affinity to the opposite on a short cool down.  While playing the Thaum., and it hit me about Balance Druids, the first thing I did was turn to Lissanna and say I think I know how to improve Moonkin play.

Now I realize this is just IMO, but if we only look in our own little pond for solutions we may completely miss something spectacular in a nearby one.

So how would this work?

  1. Change the Eclipse Bar into a Balance Affinity Bar, keep 1 end Arcane(Lunar) and one Nature(Solar)
  2. Change Astral Communion to be an ability with a 20-30 sec cool-down that converts all  Lunar energy into Solar or vise versa.
  3. Make the Balance Affinity Bar grow over time such that it take 40 energy at early levels to fill up one side to 100 or 120 at top level, this is also a perfect place to place glyphs for end game.
  4. Rather than make the Solar/Lunar buff all or nothing make it based upon a percentage of the energy bar that is filled.  So 40/100 energy = 40% of total buff.
  5. Allow +/- of energy on each cast, and leave some filler spells off of this cycle so you can keep up 100% buff while doing a few other things.
  6. Expand the Buffs to truly explore the hybrid nature of the Druid, and if possible potentially bring the Restokin back into existence.
  7. So for Nature Affinity, Increase Mana Regen and Decrease cost of Arcane spells, and for Arcane Increase Arcane Spell cost and damage.  Yes like Arcane mages, see below.  Additionally add a Glyph that also increases the Healing effect and Cost of healing spells while building up Nature Affinity.

Now #6 is a little self-serving considering who I run websites for but it was due to the flexible class nature in FFXIV that I thought of this.

Even at low-level you can start to have 1 or 2 abilities from other classes that you know in FFXIV and FFXI.  While playing my one character as a Thaum. I would cross class in a heal spell to heal myself after nuking a mob and getting attacked.  The neat thing about Thaum was Fire affinity like a WoW Arcane Mage’s Arcane Blast would build up power and increase spell cost for fire spells and decrease the cost of Ice spells with no damage increase.  While the Ice affinity would cut mana cost of Fire spells and greatly increase mana regeneration.  Then due to a limited mana bar you were cycling between Fire and Ice affinity depending upon whether you needed to Nuke or Regen.  However when it came to large random group world events I would just attack with Ice to build up mana regen and then spam my Off-Class heal on the tanks and other melee or who ever pissed off the mobs the most, sometimes me with healing aggro.  It then dawned on me this is how Lissanna use to play the Restokin way back when, and the Fire/Ice duality and affinity implementation is much more elegant than the damn Eclipse Bar.

Well that is a lot to digest and contemplate I am interested to see if any discussion begins from this.

Posted in System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


Vision of a new Encounter Paradigm – Repost/Update

Since this blog was about as heavily effected by the server FUBAR that occurred when www.restokin.com had issues most of my posts lost the pictures associated with them.  This was unfortunate and given my limited readership restoring or messing with any of the posts I was able to salvage was not a high priority.  Making sure Lissanna’s blog was up and running well was first priority.

With the WoW-Insider linkage about the Pandaren mount I have decided to go and update the images to I think one of my better posts.

Visions of a new Encounter Paradigm

I am in some ways a hardcore player as in I dive into the mechanics of the game and many of the systems.  I am also casual because I find most raiding environments to be annoying, because reflex and dancing challenges I don’t find interesting.  These 2 encounter components are the major way that game designers have decided to make encounter complex and difficult.  So I find my self running dungeons most of the time and or leveling alts.

Anyway I hope some may find he Paradigm described in my prior post interesting.  I know parts of it have been bubbling around the blog-o-sphere for a long time now.

Posted in Game Mechanics, System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


Remove Int Leather, Mail, Plate and Spirit Gear

I saw the below thread on MMO-Champion’s Blue Tracker and it I something I have thought about for a long time, especially with the addition of Monks in MoP.

http://blue.mmo-champion.com/topic/216395-blizzard-ever-gonna-make-int-plates-useful/

I was honestly stumped on the issue until recently.  What changed you ask?  I started to play Star Wars and concepts I had thought were set in stone were changed, different and worked in The Old Republic.

What is different for those that don’t play ToR?   Well simply there is only 1 healing class that uses anything like Mana, that is the Jedi Sage healing spec, with mana being Force.  I will state now that I think one of the biggest design mistakes still in World of Warcraft given what has been said is coming in MoP is the reliance on Mana as a resource system.  Hell look at Diablo 3 even and yes we have Mana/Arcane Power like systems but then they get modified to be a little different from each other.

In ToR the Smuggler healing spec heals and has mechanics like a Rogue it was when I was healing my companion with a smuggler that I saw the realm of possibilities open up and how Blizzard has been gimping themselves for so long being tied to Mana, Mana, Mana like EQ.  I realize with how behind every project at Blizzard seems to be at the moment that this change will most likely not occur until the expansion after MoP if ever but there are many other and some better ways that Blizzard could do core mechanics and stats.

Additionally I think a new base stat would need to be added to the mix but maybe not at first.

We would then have the following for Primary stats.

Strength Plate – Warrior, Death Knight, Paladin

Agility Mail – Hunter, Shaman

Agility Leather – Rogue, Druid, Monk

Int Cloth – Mage, Warlock, Priest

The shared slots like Rings, Necks, Cloaks and Trinkets would then only have secondary stats on them and could then be more role specific not class specific.

By making the gear system simpler it also allows greater control over tuning of each spec and over all power balance across classes within a role.  Resto Druids a little behind on the overall Healing output, just tune the Agility to Healing Power Ratio slightly.  The same would be for any of the other healing classes in the Primary Ability to Spell/Healing Power conversion Ratios.  Additionally like melee classes have primary -> Attack Power everything in the end should be based on the Healing, Spell, Melee, Ranged Power and not to the Primary Stats on the character or Weapon.

I have already ranted a bit about my annoyance of using weapon damage ranges and not the universal DPS figure that already takes swing speed into account.

Posted in Game Mechanics, System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


WoW Metaverse Convergence

Well at least we should all hope so.

Mentioned by myself and others recently, me here, by Cynwise here, and by Fannon here, what World of Warcraft and actually all the current generation of MMOs need to do is Converge/Merge their servers in to Environment Settings and not as individual shards.

What this means and why we need it sooner than later.

Take the list of realms for World of Warcraft at the very least all of the PvE servers that are EST should be one logical server, ideally all PvE servers within a region should be 1 super server but to allow for latency issues if the company does have multiple timezone data centers then I could understand grouping only the ones in a particular physical location.   So at the very least all PvE, PvP, RP-PvE and RP-PvP servers should be grouped with like setting servers within a specific data center so that each grouped server would act like what Elune, Sentinels, Cenarion Circle, Farstriders, Proudmore are today.

Why do we need this now or very very “soon” since soon for Blizzard still equals about 6-12 months, and has not actual relation to the meaning of the word soon.  Because if we do not get this or something like it every system in the game will need to be Battle.net centric and add layers of complexity for no good reason.

What systems am I referring, since the LFG, LFR, and BG queuing are already mostly that way, and when we get the gamer tag real id then mostly everything will be that way already.  Well yes that is correct and exactly the reason we just need to move to the next paradigm and not screw around.  There are 2 other major systems that will not be this way one really important to the solo/casual players especially the market oriented players, the Auction House for one.  A multi-realm AH would be fascinating and would help resolve availability issues of resources and crafted items for both high and low population servers.

The real 1000kg gorilla standing in the corner and is the corner stone for the in game social environment Guilds would sill be server specific unless they are completely changed as well.  If Guilds do not get the Battle.net make over like LFR,LFG,BGs then it really going to continue to be painful for guilds of any size to recruit.  Ideally membership to a guild should actually be at the Battle.net level and not the character level.  Then you also set it up such that it is a many to many relationship between Players and guilds so that the Battle.net account is not limited to one guild.  And then with the guilds and the players being cross realm enabled through real id the next logical step is server unification around environment.

I would rather see the server unification first than all of the halfway steps but I know that realistically what we have here is a 18-24 month development cycle on just these features alone.

Oh and by the way yes the same thing could be done for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rift, LotRO, DDO any other MMO still using the EQ and earlier server design.  I am interested in seeing what Guild Wars 2 will do with these issues.

Posted in System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


More on MMOs TNG – Gear, Crafting and Market Systems

After publishing I realized I focused mostly on core and social systems that would be needed in a Next Generation MMO.

While I would say that these 3 features are not necessarily going to make a game a Next Gen MMO they definitely can make or break ones experience with a game.  So in this way they are very important and if not really fleshed out for release they should be near the top of the list for the first few bug and content patches.

 

 Gear – Modifiable all the way!

This does not mean that all gear in the game needs to be modifiable in some way.  There just needs to be modular gear for most if not all levels.  This would allow a player to get a piece of gear for one item slot and update it as they level and not having to replace it every couple of levels for better stats.

3 games at the moment come to mind with something like this.

The most limited one is WoW, with jewel crafting sockets.  Some gear like this starts to become available once you hit level 60+ content since jewel crafting was first introduced with The Burning Crusade expansion that ran levels 60-70.

The second most limited is EVE-Online, actually that is how the entire games plays.  You either upgrade ships which are new complete sets of gear so to speak and then mod it out with different modules.  The modules each confer some sort of bonus which is then modified by the character’s trained skill and then there can also be a ship based bonus to 1 or more parameters.  With the exception of Strategic Cruisers there is no way to really customize your look or design in the game.  Then again that does not really matter since the point of the game usually seems to be who can kill who first.

Now there is ToR and it has at this time the best system for this that I have seen yet.  I really like just getting “orange” gear while leveling for my characters and their companions so I don’t have to do the hunt for the next piece of gear every other level to keep my stats near the content difficulty curve.

As a bonus you don’t look like a clown most of the time.

 

Crafting – Let me play the game not stand around waving my hands.

This topic and the next one Market Systems are some of the topics that I am the most vocal about in almost all games I play.  I like to make things.  I always have and always will even if the system is a major pain in the ass I will at least kick the tires on the system before deciding whether it is an activity I actually want to to do in the game or ignore.  Honestly the games with the better crafting systems end up being the games I play more often.  I know I am not a typical hardcore MMO gamer in this facet but it is definitely a facet of the MMO universe that Casual players end up participating in more.  Usually because this is one of the few systems they can actually get some sort of progression out of.  Well in most games except WoW.

I am completely disgusted with the crafting system in WoW and have been for a while now actually.  I have new hopes each patch/expansion and they are quickly crushed under the piss poor design of what materials are required and how to acquire them.  I am looking at Chaos Orbs and Dream Cloth at the moment, Titansteel while annoying at least was available.  This point of contention feeds into the next topic but as it relates to crafting.  All crafting materials need to be BoE or tradable/marketable.

Additionally Crafting materials should not usually be acquired through raiding, and if they are available in raids then all levels of raiding should have access to them no matter what iLevel the pattern is.  I am specifically referring to LFR for this part.  I have been annoyed by the raid drop only pattern and crafting material since Burning Crusade when I really started to get into the nuts and bolts of MMOs.  I started playing WoW about 8 months before tBC launched and started playing MMOs in general a few months before that with EVE-Online.

Now EVE-Online’s crafting and market system are at least an order of magnitude if not more complicated than WoW’s Crafting system.  However there is one majorly important difference between them.  In even I set up one or more production queues limited by a few character skills and I set the order and forget about it until I get a notification that my production run is done.  This is done in “real time” so simple stuff takes seconds – minutes and capital ships take Days-Weeks to complete one run.  However in the mean time you can be playing the game while your queue is processed.  I like this set and forget style many times more than the EQ, WoW, LotRO, Rift, every other EQ/WoW clone in existence style of stand around have the character wave their hands and boom 10-120 seconds later Item is done.

ToR has a system in the middle between WoW and EVE.  Your companions/crew does all of your crafting and gathering for you so once you get more than one companion you can always have them working in the background while your character and your OT/OH/DPS companion is out helping you.  This system more than almost any other thing in ToR is what has kept me playing it to the exclusion of almost all other games at the moment.

In this area I think the initial crafting system that ToR uses is similar to what should be the starting point for a crafting system in the next generation of MMOs.  It allows you to gather materials actively in the game environment or passively by sending dormant crew members out to gather for a predetermined amount of in-game currency.  The crafting process is passive in the background so you can continue to play with out “hearthing” back to town to stand in front of a forge or what ever special crafting place you need.

Market Systems – They are a game unto themselves make the user interface reflect that.

I will be brief and blunt about this.  Every MMO I have played with the exception of 1 has a really shitty in game market system with the default interface.  The only reason Warcraft’s AH is usable is by using one of 2 add ons,  Auctioneer or Auctionator.  I have not played Rift since add ons were added to the game so can’t speak of any auction based add ons there.

I like how Auctionator shows listings of the same price, the ultimate auction interface would be a mix of the 2 add ons.  The only default Market interface that I like that is not a user created addon is the market interface for EVE-Online.  CCP has made many mistakes IMO on many topics, most to support a philosophy of game play that I do not really enjoy.  It is one of the reason that I am only going to support my game time by buying PLEX in their market to burn through the 3-4B isk I still have in game.

For the starting place on the market system for a next-gen MMO it will need to have features similar to either EVE’s set up or one of the 2 auction add ons for WoW.  Other market/resource systems really will need an entire post of their own to do the topic justice.

I wanted to get this follow up to my earlier post so I could clear my plate so to speak before moving on to some other topics and these topics in greater detail.

Posted in System Mechanics


What needs to be in a Next-Gen MMO or MMO TNG

This is going to be a pie in the sky post where I will list the features and or systems that in my opinion will need to be present in an MMO at release to be considered a MMO of the next generation.  There is the potential for a current generation MMO to transition into a Next-Gen MMO through patching but then that MMO will be a transitory MMO present and part of both generations rather than being of only either generation.

Servers?  What are Servers?

After writing the title and thinking about how to say it I realized that there will still need to be a few “meta” servers/settings but not as we see them to day, i.e. no Elune, Farstriders, Sentinels, ect….  The servers of TNG will be PVP, PVE, RP-PVE, RP-PVP with language specifications of the standard form of communication between players.

To my knowledge at the moment there is only one MMO that really does something like this now and it is EVE-Online.  However due to the steep learning curve and other in game factors EVE has not really become mainstream.  Griefing Bottom feeder behavior being the normally accepted method of play there is the main one.

Player Based Rewards

To borrow a bit from the matrix here is a modified quote.  I grabbed the quote from IMDB before modification.

Spoon boy: Do not try and reward the Character. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no Character.
Neo: There is no Character?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the Character that is rewarded, it is only the Player.

This is extremely important when a company owns more than one online game or a game that encourages multiple accounts do to some in-game limit or restriction.  I shake my fist in anger at Turbine on this one especially as Turbine points for LotRO is different from Turbine points for DDO.  Turbine get your shit in order and converge your systems.

Several games sets are already set up in a way that will eventually allow for this type of reward system.

  • Battle.Net 2.0
  • Sony Station
  • EA Origin
  • Steam
  • XBox Live
  • Play Station Network

I am sure there are a few others but these are the ones that quickly come to mind.  The more options, rewards and setting that are set at the meta-account level and not the individual game level the longer and more likely companies will keep some form of subscription revenue for their projects, this is doubly so if you have cross game rewards or rewards earned for current and other games at the same time.  We are already very familiar with this type of set-up for the collector’s editions of Blizzard products having something for each of the games currently on Battle.Net at time of launch.

KISS Logistics

As in Keep It Simple Stupid Logistics.  This is a vague need but is critical in current and future games, it is how easy to use and powerful are the tools built into the game to ease working together.  The bare minimum of yes we can have groups, raids and guilds is not enough anymore.  Rift’s dynamic open world group/raid system was a step in the right direction but was sometime a real pain in the ass (PITA).  As hot as the flames in the flame ware about the Looking For Group and Looking For Raid systems in World of Warcraft are those are 2 very powerful and useful systems to have available to a games player base.   Most WoW players in some ways rightfully decry how horrible it has made the community, because it allows for PA Internet Fuckwad Theory which is correct for the most part.  However this is the one advantage of the One or Few Worlds and Infinite Shards setup mentioned in the first requirement.

The Looking for Guild System in WoW was also a nice addition to the game and not spamming General/Trade/LF (Guild/Group) channels.  It is a system much like how EVE-Online works for Corporation Recruitment the equivalent of Guilds in most games.  However it is a single search system where the player looks for a guild and applies.  This really needs to be expanded to be bi-directional search especially after the Gamer Tag System is implemented, this then allows both the player and guild to post their interest in being recruited or applied to.  Then officers in the guild can search to see who is looking for a new guild and see who has time availability that matches the guild so they can recruit from both in server and cross server.  This actually leads into another big requirement for a true Next Generation MMO.

Player-centric Organization

Essentially what this means is that groups, guilds, any other organization in-game is made of players and not characters.  This also means that the player can belong to many guilds, yes this is technically true today because the guild structure is tied to the character but that is so EQ-esque.  This would allow the player to be in multiple guilds and see chat of each at the same time, just a new channel per guild.  Yes /g will not be as simple anymore but then those can be preferences per chat window if need be.  There will need to be iteration on this of course but it is something needed in future games.

Grouping Graph

This could be as simple as EVE-Online’s current Alliance/Corporation setup which is a tree or something completely new that allows guilds or other player organizations to map out their relationships with one another and allow for dynamic shared/combined guild chat channels.  You could then have the same large group of players that have their characters organized by what they want to do with them,  PVE, RP, PVP but still communicate no matter what Toon/World/Shard they are on.   The more tools to simply bring people together the better, just as long as it is not forced and can be opted into not out of.

Well this is a good start, I will go into more detail on each of these in future posts.  I wanted to get the general concepts out there first before getting deep in to examples and or ways some of these could be incorporated into existing games that I am familiar with.

Posted in System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


Blizzard DKP

So last night a few guild members and I ran the LFR, we were 6 out of the 25 members in the raid.  As I was recounting a few loot results, Lissanna glared at me and stated how she did not approve of what we/I did.  We did not do anything that broke the rules of the system, it did break the unspoken conventions that most players seem to apply to the loot system but that is a different matter.

Essentially all 6 of us agreed to role need on everything we could and let the rolls sort it out.  This is what I call live by the roll die by the roll.  Now if we did win something that was not ideal or was labeled dps and was caster and a melee got it pass the item to a caster in our group.  This then would be bettering our group and while somewhat adversarial to the other 19 it is collaborative and cooperative within our group.

While I am torn on whether this type of collaboration should be allowed, it now is and given the shitty loot system in WoW it is really the only way to play, other than getting really lucky, which is bullshit.

For the LFR players are bitching up a storm on how the loot system needs to be fairer or more intelligent.  While that would be nice there are always going to be winners and losers and people bitching about something.  The answer is actually very simple and straightforward, which means that if it is ever implemented it will be 2-3 expansions from now or in a different game.

The Answer is Blizzard DKP, with a change to the loot tables for LFR.

All Boss Loot tables will only consist of Tier Tokens.

Each Boss will drop 2 Token and no other loot in LFR.

Each Boss will award 1 Blizz-DKP Point/Token.

In each LFR Instance and Capitol there will be a Blizz-DKP Vendor.

Each Vendor will have all the other gear that would normally drop in the LFR level of the instance to purchase.

At the end of each Tier all DKP is converted to JP like VP is now, (May need to raise the cap on JP).

Blizz-DKP is earned each boss kill regardless of whether the player qualifies for loot or not. 

Given a normal full clear of Dragon Soul on 25 man we would see 8 * 4 = 32 pieces of loot.  Given a 25 man raid that is  1.28 pieces of loot per player per week.  So if we halve the # of loot drops because we will still have the tier tokens drop randomly from the bosses, that works out to an average of .64 pieces of loot per person per raid tier per week.

So what should items cost then.

Most pieces of gear should be worth 12 Blizz-DKP, 2 handed weapons 24 Blizz-DKP.  Now given rarity and stat point cost each actual piece would be acceptable to be worth 10-15 or even 18 for 1 handed weapons of a higher item level and 30 for 2-handers that are of a half tier higher.

The most important part of this whole system transformation is the last requirement that I bolded above.  This is important because we want to reward players willing to help kill bosses that they no longer qualify for loot from, i.e. reward their effort.

I have long hated the random loot system, actually for the entirety of my time playing wow.  It is not a major break as most of the other systems seem way to grind-y and I have come to accept that we need at least a little of the “Slot Machine Loot System” to keep the monkeys addicted to the chance of loot.

Yes I do realize that there will be some that will completely whore this out and run enough LFR to purchase LFR items in every slot the first week.  My opinion on that is, who cares.  If they are having fun and they help others complete the instances at the same time then so be it.  If you have the time and patience to do that more power to you.

I think this hybrid loot system which is very similar to the JP/VP system with the exception that it is for gear in the middle of the 2 which makes it different.  At the end of every tier of content the left over DKP should be converted to JP just as VP is to reset each tier.

Posted in System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


The Vision of a new MMO Encounter Paradigm

I was debating about having a further play on words by attempting to create an acronym that would spell Escaflowne or change the title to be something like Record of Lodoss War but in the end the acronyms would be so contrived that it was not worth the play on words.  This is all because I have watched a lot of Anime lately while leveling alts, I did that to keep from wanting to claw my eyes out doing the same quests for the 6th, 7th, 8th + time, I am now up to 8 85s.

I like the new stories and how the quests are tied to a story in Cataclysm more than they were in Wrath I just wish they were a little less connected so we would have more yet small stories.   This way more quests hubs are available to pick and choose from.  Anyway this is side tangent is not what I want to bring up in this post.

So this is going to be one long post which will be essentially 2 parts.  The first part on content difficulty and the second part will use existing binary encounters and show ways that they could have been designed for greater granularity and teaching of mechanics.

Part 1 – General Theory on Content Difficulty:

Realm of Infinite Possibilities

For this lets use this blue-red gradient image represent the infinite solution space that is all encounters with varying mechanics and hp/damage scaling also taking into consideration number of players.

10 and 25 Equal – only Normal/Hardmode

Now lets just say for argument’s sake that 10 and 25 man are of equal difficulty and the only difference is in the logistics of forming said group.  Further lets say there are only 2 encounters of the same boss, an easy and a heroic version.  This leaves us with the following image/gradient or gradient with no grading.

 

10 and 25 with Normal/Hardmode

Again to make it a little more complicated lets now assume 10 and 25 are not equal.  I know Blizzard tries to make them equal but in some encounters 25-man raids have a little more give and take than the 10-man versions.  On the other hand sometimes 25 players running around end up causing more problems for one another than 10 players.  This will leave us with the next image.

 

I am not labeling which section represents what mode of content because that is hard to say and it varies between encounters.

The great Divide

Now the discussion gets complicated there are some that view all content on 1 scale of difficulty while others separate the 5, 10 and 25 man content.

For example a commenter on Lissanna’s blog post at Restokin.com named Galashin posted in reply to one of my comments and who I had a bit of a conversation with through the comments posted the following.

Easy: Solo content.
Normal: Normal 5mans.
Hard: (First tier) Heroics.
Heroic: (Second tier) Heroics.
Nightmare: Raids.
(Insanity: Heroic raids.)

Alternatively,
Easy: Normal 5mans.
Normal: (First tier) Heroics.
Hard: (Second tier) Heroics.
Heroic: Raids.
Nightmare: Heroic raids.

My reply and the conversation in general brought me to write this post and just spell out exactly how I hope/wish/would like to see content in MMOs in the future.  I hope World of Warcraft but I won’t hold my breath.

My actual opinion on the great divide is who needs to divide they are both valid points of view and each are a subset of a greater solution space.  I am more interested in the greater solution space.  Additionally both seem to overlook the need for progressive solo play.

The last part about progressive solo play is actually a surprisingly volatile topic when discussing MMOs.  For some reason many get up in arms when someone suggests that the solo play part of the game is important.   The thing is as the solo play improves so do the total number of subscribers.  I will also take it a step further and say that as long as there is some way for a player to improve their avatar(s) their attention to the game will be kept, mostly.  After that point it gets into the Risk versus Reward versus Time Investment equation balancing.  The thing about the infinite solution space is that there is something for everyone.  However this solution space is just theoretical and impossible to implement.  The more money and resources you throw at the problem the more likely you are to approximate said solution but you will only approximate it.

Now back to pictures.

 

10 and 25 man content with multiple levels of difficulty on some bosses others just Normal/Heroic

Now based upon the number of bosses in a tier of content and the number of said bosses that have more than just a Normal/Heroic mode you get 2 gradients, one with 8 shades and one with 16 shades or levels of difficulty.  Admittedly there would hopefully be more bosses than 8 or 16 if you count the different levels of encounter difficulty as a “new” boss.  Also there would be some bosses/encounters that are of equal difficulty.  The point is that as long as the alternative difficulties are not locked out it would allow all guilds and players to take on defeat content at the pace that works for them hopefully without stagnating for weeks or months.  That is the guild/raid group killer, stagnation.

What worked in the past such as the pace of content in Vanilla wow will only work for some and those seem to be a very small minority of the MMO player-base anymore.  I am glad I got into WoW at the end of Vanilla and did not raid before Burning Crusade, if I had, I most likely would have quit wow and never looked back.  I thought some of the requirements on encounters in EQ when I heard about them were insane, no 10-24 hour camping a boss for me, screw that, I have more important/fun things to do with my time.

 

10/25 man Content with all bosses having multiple levels of difficulty

At the very least I hope World of Warcraft can get to this point in future raid tiers.  This would mean that all boss encounters in Raids will have multiple or more than 2 levels of difficulty.   I do not think all fights need to have 4-5 different levels of difficulty but most should.  There would need to be several systems updated and changed to accommodate this but I think in the end it would be a drastic improvement to the game.

I used the 32 slice and 64 slice for this representation.  For example lets take the 7 boss Firelands Raid coming in 4.2, which will have by all indications the SoS set up that BoT,BDW,4W and ICC had where the heroic/hard modes are locked by the end boss of the instance.  At 7 bosses with 3 modes of difficulty we would have 21 slices but hopefully some would have 4-5 so an average of 4 per boss would leave us with 28.  Where as if the opening tier of 12-13 bosses had 4-5 levels of difficulty we would be looking at 48-65 levels of granularity.

I will continue with the levels of granularity segment before I get into breaking down a few existing fights into a more granular mode of progression and finally the reward structure for such granularity.

 

Extending the multiple levels of difficulty to dungeon bosses

Essentially here just take the discussion for 10 and 25 man content and now apply it to 5 man and small group encounters.  This would then give you something like 128 to 256 levels of granularity, just throwing powers of 2 out there to make the numbers relatively simple and uniform.

We could even extent these design methods to also apply to solo content through class challenges but that in and of itself can be an entire topic unto itself so I will save that for another post, again. I say again because I have described it partly in other posts in the past.

Part 2 – Encounter Breakdowns

I will describe the break down of 4 different encounters to show how I would add layers of difficulty to existing content to show how I hope future counters are designed in WoW or any other MMO. The 4 fights will be Omnitron Defence Council, Conclave of Wind, Atramedes, and Cho’gall.

Omnitron Defence Council

Level 1: In this mode the Trons only have their shield effect when at or below 50 energy.  This would be a long fight as you don’t get the damage buffs from the pools or clouds.

Level 2: In this mode the Trons gain 1 of their 2 abilities.

  • Arcanotron – Power Generator
  • Electron – Lightning Conductor
  • Magmatron – Acquiring Target
  • Toxitron – Poison Protocol

Level 3: Like the current Normal mode.

Level 4: Take the current Heroic mode, but 1/2 the effect of the new mechanic.

Level 5: Same as current Heroic mode.

 

Conclave of Wind
All levels of difficulty will have the resurrection timers on each when they hit 0/1% since this is one of the main tricks of the fight.

Level 1: At this level the Full energy abilities and the all alone debuff are not in play.

  • Anshal- Nurture (Add summoning)
  • Nezir – Wind Chill (Stacking Damage Debuff) to for Tank swapping another key mechanic.
  • Rohash- Slicing Gale

Level 2:

  • Anshal- Soothing Winds
  • Nezir – Permafrost
  • Rohash- Tornado

Level 3: Add the all alone debuff.

  • Anshal- Toxic Spores
  • Nezir – Ice Patch
  • Rohash- Slicing Gale

Level 4: Same as current normal mode.

Level 5: Same as current heroic mode.

 

Atramedes

Level 1:

  • Ground – Searing Flame, Modulation
  • Air – Roaring Flame Breath

Level 2:

  • Ground -Roaring Flame
  • Air – Roaring Flame

Level 3:

  • Ground – Sonic Breath
  • Air – Sonar Bomb

Level 4: Same as current normal mode.

Level 5: Same as current heroic mode.

 

Cho’gall

Level 1:

  • Phase 1 – Conversion, Twisted Devotion, Summon Corruption Adherent, Fester Blood
  • Corrupting Adherents – Depravity, Festering Blood
  • Phase 2 – Fury of Cho’gall

Level 2:

  • Phase 1 – Conversion, Summon Corruption Adherent
  • Corrupting Adherents – Corrupting Crash
  • Phase 2 – Corruption of the Old Gods

Level 3:

  • Phase 1 – Conversion, Summon Corruption Adherent
  • Corrupting Adherents – Sprayed Corruption
  • Phase 2 -Darkened Creations 4/10 – 83,000 HP (1/2 of normal)

Level 4: Same as current normal mode.

Level 5: Same as current heroic mode.

 

Why this is a better paradigm?

If you look how I broke down the abilities each mode adds at least 1 new mechanic per boss/add/phase.  This allows new raiders and guild to enter the content at what ever level they are ready to take on.  Because lets face it, WoWs player base and the player base of any MMO has a lot of Churn between players leaving or taking a break or friends recruiting new friends into the game.  There need to be an introductory mode at all levels of content since WoW and most new MMOs break the initial EQ/FFIX raiding paradigm already.  That being where to be geared for new content you still need to run raids that are years old to get the good stuff, with insane attunement/unlocking requirements.

This takes the simpler scheme that World of Warcraft now uses and makes it both simpler and more complicated at the same time.  This therefore gives the player base more options and my gaming outlook is giving more options to the players is almost always better.  I say almost because sometime options can become overwhelming but that is more in the case of table tops and not the usually rigid structure that are most computer/video games.

Part 3 –  Rewards for different levels of Difficulty

The interesting part is at no time in the past has World of Warcraft been in a better place for the rewarding of different levels of difficulty for the same encounter as they are now.

[table id=9 /]

As shown in the table the key to being able to reward multiple levels of difficulty for a boss is the due to the granularity in the VP/JP reward along with the # of actual loot items.  When it was just loot and a badge or 2 it was difficult to balance across more than 2 or 3 different states.  Now that the tokens are point based and each boss now give between 70 and 90 points, these values can be changed based upon the difficulty of the boss.  The real key is where to set the normal or standard level of difficulty.  I place it at Heroic-1 but there is no reason that it has to be there as I showed in the 6 level reward part of the table.

There is still another issue of how do you gear up alts or new players to jump into content after the first tier of an expansion.  However that is a topic unto itself.

Posted in Game Mechanics, System Mechanics, World of Warcraft


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