Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
More than just target dummies

World of Warcraft 3.0 has target dummies in the cities, where players can test out spell rotations etc., although you also need some damage meter addon to make full use of that. But is that enough? One of my readers wrote me with an interesting idea: Why not make a training "raid dungeon" as well? A place with various challenges similar to raid boss encounters, where people could train not to stand in the fire, and move to the right position at the right time. For example there could be a Heigan dummy, where you have to go through a flame rotation three times back and forth. Or a Sartharion dummy with flame waves. If you get hit, you don't die, but there is a display how often you got hit. If you manage a certain time without getting hit, you get an achievement.

And while we are at it, why not a similar place where people could train things like healing, tanking, or aggro management? The healing challenge would be similar to the The Balance of Light and Shadow epic quest. The tanking challenge would require you to hold aggro, while the dps challenge would be about doing a certain damage without grabbing aggro from an NPC tank. The problem with World of Warcraft is that you can very well arrive at the level cap without ever having played in a group, and without ever having seen a raid encounter. And learning all this group play and positioning and timing stuff during your first raids risks to get you and others killed. So if Wow is so solo-centric, it should at least offer a solo option for training group and raid encounters.
Why not add a solo-dungeon like in good old single player roleplaying games that is catered to the individual class with decent loot at the end? Convert the ultimate MMO into ... Diablo?
Well there is the drake quest in Coldarra which has you fly drakes that have the same skills as which is needed in the Malygos fight. So this is somewhat true in this case. Any others that you guys can think of?
People have been asking Blizzard for class/role-specific challenges since release, and the answer has always been the same: They don't want to make content for only a percentage of the customers. If you make a tanking challenge, DPS and healers are shut out and so on. That's why class quests are still lacking. And now that the stated design goal is "Bring the player, not the class", I doubt that any "training" encounters aside from completely generic ones will be implemented.
A think a well designed henchman system could achieve much of what you are trying to do Tobold. Let a player hire up to two henchmen (for example a healer could hire a dps and a tank). Henchmen would have a hiring cost and would fill up slots in a group but they would allow solo players to tackle some small group content and they would be useful for filling empty slots in a group of human players. Perhaps more importantly they would allow solo players to learn the basics of tank/heal/dps and possible even crowd control. Of course human players would always be better and would be needed for instances and tougher group challenges. Henchmen would need to have decent AI and should also have a simple control interface (like pets).

I guess the Guild Wars model is very like what I am asking for but I think Guild wars goes too far allowing players to make full groups of henchmen. By limiting the number of henchmen in a group to two you allow solo players to learn while still keeping the need for grouping with other players in order to overcome tough content.
I am reading with amazement... What has happend with learning to play by trial of fire? Anyone that entered their first MMO, being it WoW or EQ, EQ2, DAoC etc. you learn your first (group) encounters by playing the game an making mistakes. Your example of getting an achievement for doing a certain "training course" sounds like another reason for people to shut eachother out of group content (like currently is often happening based on gear). Imho it takes the fun out of grouping, getting friends etc. (the reason why I play. Are the normal 5 man dungeons and open world group encounters not there to have people get adjusted to more challenging content?

Ofcourse you can say it is just an option for people. They don't have to. However at the same time it sounds like we're building a real life bureaucracy. "Young man, first get your fishing permit before you can fish in that pond".

@mbp - Henchman is a nice idea that worked well in Guild Wars. I could see it work in WoW, but also fail by making grouping even more unnecessary for many.
@DeSlisser I think that Guild Wars did Henchmen a dis-service by making it possible to solo almost the entire game with henchmen. I think that reducing the number of henchmen would strike a better balance - allowing people to learn grouping while solo abut making it necessary togroup with real players for harder stuff.
What has happend with learning to play by trial of fire?

That worked when there were still real groups going to Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines. Having the learning by trial of fire happen in Naxxramas is a bit too late.
@ Deslisser -

"Trial by fire" doesn't work for a game that is built upon accessibility. I learned about threat and the DPS-Tank-Healer team because friends introduced me to the game, and I've learned more since then by doing internet research. But many players don't have those friends to explain things so well, and the internet as a resource is very much hit or miss. "Trial by fire" seems to be completely counterproductive to supporting a thriving casual and non-gamer community. Which is why I always found the Blizzard-implemented shroud that hides so many game mechanics from new players to be odd.
Never force players to group. Incentivize it, sure, but never waste players' time by forcing grouping. It's pretty obvious by now that people like soloing MMOs, whether or not purists like it.

Giving players rudimentary training in group dynamics, even if it's with "training dungeon-only henchmen", would go a long way toward making grouping easier for those who actually *want* to make the switch to group content, rather than tossing them into PUG nightmares. Good game design teaches players how the game works, while bad game design beats them over the head with failure until they "get it". This is especially crucial in MMOs where one bad seed can cause a raid wipe and screw up other players.
If they'd add something worthwhile loot wise in the old dungeons and implement some sort of downranking for higher levels running with lower levels the problem would be solved. Some sort of badge that let you buy useful trinkets or some such reward.

Its a shame blizzard blindly refuses to reward the behavior they want to encourage.
And just to reiterate whats been said before. The Training dungeons are there. The devs just chose to let them become completely obselete. That is the core cause of the rot that is upsetting everyone.
An excellent idea actually, a "practice" dungeon where you can group with NPCs that would function, I would expect, like EverQuest's mercenaries. It should even had a variety of difficulty levels to slowly build up a person's group ability.

You could even go further with this, and have a series for each class to give them a taste of what they will be doing. Like have part of the objective is you're a rogue to Sap a certain monster. I would type my opinion out in further detail..but I have to go to work =(
Never force players to group. Incentivize it, sure, but never waste players' time by forcing grouping.

So very true, and also why I'm paying my $15 a month to Blizzard instead of to Square Enix.


Trial by fire would be great, except apparently raiding is SRS BIZNS, and while it's no longer impossible to get a spot in a raid if you haven't raided before, people still seem to have little to no tolerance for anyone else's learning curve.

I'd love to see some kind of soloable raiding "boot camp" in the game, honestly. My twitch isn't what it used to be, and staying out of the fire takes me a little more practice now -- especially if I'm also trying to pay attention to healing or DPSing or keeping my healers and DPSers from dying.
There is a ton of training material available -- it's called "Classic" and "TBC".

Seriously though, nothing will teach a tank how to dance 1-2-3-4-3 on a certain Naxx boss than by actually doing that specific boss. If anything, allow a skirmish mode for people to practice a raid over and over without having to wait a week for it to reset.
Shawno, how many people are training players with old content? It's there, but is it being used?
There is a ton of training material available -- it's called "Classic" and "TBC".

Most people still can't solo that content, and doing Molten Core at 80 teaches you nothing about how to raid, because you just AoE your way through everything and ignore boss abilities. I really don't want people thinking that doing level 60 raid dungeons at 80 has *anything* to do with real raiding. You just don't need the skills, so it's not training at all.
that, and a sad fact remains that even if you WANTED to do that content as you were actually level 60, no one bothers, because they go to outlands at 58.

They really should tune the expansion difficulties to be for old+5. Like you NEED to be 65 to survive the first mob you come across in Hellfire. This would let people linger at 60 and run MC, BWL, Scholo, Undead Strat, Live Strat, Dire Maul, Zul Gurub, AQ 20, AQ40, Maradaun, plus all the other areas at level 60 that get TOTALLY SKIPPED the instant an expansion comes out.

same with wrath. The first mob you see in Borean tundra shout one shot a level 70, so you need to be 75 in order to begin questing there. Too much of end game BC is totally ignored to get to northrend, and that's a HUGE waste of content.
I like the idea of a "don't stand in the fire" training. There should be more quests while you level up that have you avoid things on the ground. Make mobs in the outer world put void zones or fires on the ground that hurt you if you don't avoid them, don't just restrict them to instances. There were some demons in BC that did this rather well with their flame waves, if you didn't interrupt their casting you had to move to the side or take massive damage. I'd like to see more of that sort of thing.
My gut reaction to 'raid training' is that it's a silly idea because repeatedly wiping has been all the training we've needed for a long time. On the other hand, I was pretty grateful for the existence of Aces High! to train us for Maly. The difference though is that the dragon-riding part is a vast departure from normal WoW gameplay. Blizz probably felt that 'trial by fire' was a bit rough for something we haven't been doing for four years already.

So I don't have a final opinion on training rooms, but I will say that I think they would have the effect of making the entire game puggable by making your average pugger much much more knowledgeable on boss encounters.
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