Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Seen any sheeps lately?

While people endlessly debate the relative importance of skill vs. gear, in the end it is obvious that you need both. Some people will always die at Heigan, no matter what gear they have. And nobody runs Naxxramas naked. The harder an encounter is, the more you need of both skill and gear. But when a challenge is easier, you need less. And as to some extent you can substitute one for the other, for the easier challenges you can choose whether to do them with little gear and lots of skill, or with lots of gear and little skill.

Where I am a bit disappointed with in Wrath of the Lich King is that people chose the lots of gear and little skill option for running heroics in so many cases. Certainly all PuGs do, which is maybe understandable, as you can verify a person's gear before you start, but have to assume he isn't very skilled. But that PuG approach ends up teaching players the general way to do heroics, and then even guild groups are run using PuG strategies: No crowd control at all, gather all mobs using AoE tanking, and then kill them with AoE spells. Blizzard even had to boost some classes AoE (e.g. Rogues) to make them playable in that environment.

When was the last time you saw a crowd control spell like polymorph sheep used? Contrary to popular belief Blizzard didn't remove those spells from the game. And I'm certain that heroics could be run with groups in much less good gear if we started to play better again, using crowd control like we did in the Burning Crusade. AoEing heroics down works, but needs better gear, and that somehow removes the purpose of running heroics in the first place. Everyone is expected to have gear better than the blues that drop, so most of them end up getting disenchanted, and the whole heroic loot is reduced to the one epic dropping from the final boss. And the fights aren't much fun, because the AoE strategy is dumb and repetitive. Another fine example of Raph's "players optimizing the fun out of games".
I think when I complain that the game is 'too easy', the loss of crowd control is the primary thing that I'm referring to. Unfortunately it seems that the vast majority of players don't want crowd control. Try mentioning this on the official forums and you might have one or two people chiming in that they miss it, you'll also have a ravening, pitch-fork bearing army of fanbois telling you how much better the game is without it. (spamming AOEs is apparently fun now)

I've found it makes playing DPS mindless. I always enjoyed a bit of ice trapping on my hunter and always rolled Survival even when it was the lowest DPS spec because I felt it brought something extra to make me useful to the group. In wrath I can't remember the last time I got to trap something, but I do have Volley (hunter AOE) bound to my middle mouse button.

On the up side, if you have a group that enjoys 'the old ways' you can actually do instances undermanned. It's a really fun challenge and you really have to pay attention and use everything you have at your disposal.
Do you really think using polymorph or other crowd control makes an instance more fun? If I've done an instance ten times before and I know exactly how each fight is going to play out, why would I not want to complete it in as little time with as little effort as possible?

PvE is not hard, quite the opposite really. That said, I don't feel the need to make it unnecessarily more time consuming by doing it the 'right' way.
Yes, the most fun I've had in WOTLK were those first few days of running heroics with my guild. We had a small core group of 80s wearing all greens, blues, and a few crafted epics - a paladin tank with 22K HP and only 500 defense, and me healing with only 1250 spellpower and 10% crit. That's the last time I saw a sheep (actually, a shaman Hex frog) - early December, as I recall.

I'm with Plastic Rat in that there are some odd challenges to be found now with the difficulty level so drastically reduced. Our paladin tank (now with around 32K HP) can 2-man regular Azjol-Nerub in tandem with a poison-cleansing healer, and this is actually a decent way to make gold.

I don't begrudge Blizzard their decision to make the game so much easier. There must be a calculated financial reason for tuning the game this way. But when even casuals like me (whose guild just downed Kel'Thuzad on Naxx10 for the first time 8 days ago) are getting bored with WoW now, the warning signs are there. Perhaps the boredom is being projected to reach critical mass a week or two before Starcraft 2 ships?
That said, I don't feel the need to make it unnecessarily more time consuming by doing it the 'right' way.

I think doing PvE with crowd control is LESS time consuming, because you can start doing heroics the second you hit level 80, and don't have to solo grind daily quests for a long time to get all that gear that is required for the AoE method. More playing together, less solo grind, sounds good to me.
As usual the problem revolves around reward/time spent to obtain it. It boils down to it, there is no way around. Given a fixed reward (blues, epics and so forth) the only parameter players have control on is TIME. if they want to maximize the reward/time ratio they have to work on reducing time spent to obtain it; particularly if you have to repeat the same content again and again to get it.

I think blachawk is right when he suggests that after a while even more challenging or apparently more interesting strategies (using sheep instead of AoE) become repetitive and many player just try and maximize the rewards obtained over time. I do not blame them, a dungeon is boring anyways after you have ran it 10 times!

my "one cent" idea here could be to introduce some new forms of reward. Instead of offering a reward after content kill (which will inevitably lead to the strategy "kill it as fast as we can!") it might be interesting to have diverse challenges (driven by quests for example) in a dungeon to get unique rewards. Examples might be a) complete the dungeon without using AoE; b) finishing a dungeon with a limited amount of healing; c) make your way through a dungeon killing only 10 trash mobs.. and so forth, you get the idea. The result would be to incentive new strategies and varied group combinations that do not necessarily rely on gear to get that unique reward. There are few examples of this already in WoW, in Dire Maul. It might also be a way of revitalizing old content.
My fiance and I started running heroics as a tank/healer team very soon after we hit 80, when he really didn't think we were geared enough for it but I pushed him to try it anyway. We still didn't use CC. We AoE'd the place down and succeeded because we know our classes inside and out, we used to AoE heroics down in under an hour as a pallytank/healer team in BC days. I echo the "why make things more time-consuming" sentiment and am a little insulted that AoE-style automatically equals "overgeared and underskilled" in your eyes.

The thing I find funny though is how back in BC, some DPS classes (I remember shamans and ret paladins in particular) were complaining rather loudly that they were never being invited to heroics because they couldn't CC. Hey look, 3.0 rolls around and now shamans and ret paladins have a CC... but now nobody uses CC in instances anymore, your heroic groups don't care whether you have CC or not, and instead, certain DPS classes got to start complaining that they weren't being invited to heroics because their AoE damage is too low. How times change.
AoEing doesn't need better gear, so long as the healer can keep the tank up and the dps don't OOM before the mobs are dead. In most cases, AoE on more than three targets is equal or better DPS than single-target rotations, and requires less effort. Single-target rotations tend to scale better with gear by better fulfilling the multiple stat requirements of talent synergy, but AoE tends to be stronger by comparison in weaker gear. Yet, if one has stronger gear, one can afford to be lazy because everything will be dead in one to two AoE cycles.

As much as people keep telling me TBC heroics were too hard, most of them they were "too hard" because they required five people who were all paying attention. Tanks had to watch for adds or aggro that would kill a squishy in one to two hits. DPS had to keep their assigned targets CCed because an appropriately-equipped tank (read: not badge & raid) generally could not survive tanking more than two or three mobs simultaneously. Healers had to play damage control because no plan survives contact with the enemy (or friendlies, for that matter). Then again, I'm in the camp that believes that heroics should be scaled to be uncomfortable until you're at least partially equipped from them. I ran my first heroic, Ahn'Kahet, before I'd finished Zul'Drak in mostly Nexus and low-to-mid quest gear, barely came in on top of the damage meter, and we got the achievement for Elder Nadox.

WotLK is a self-help project designed to give undue reward to people who suck at video games.
That should read "my first Wrath heroic" but you get the idea.
I think the real change is not so much the difficulty level but the capabilities of the tank classes. Pre-WotLK, only paladins could generate enough threat on multiple targets to realistically AoE tank an instance; with a warrior tank, you'd need CC in any pull with more than 3 mobs to prevent the healer from getting mulched. So even if you AoE'd everything down with your paladin tank, you'd still get to use your CC when you ran with a warrior.

Nowadays, since every tank class has some respectable form of AoE threat, every tank acts like the paladins did back in BC. If you can hold aggro on all six mobs, why not?

(For what it's worth, I find WotLK vastly more entertaining as a prot warrior. In BC, tanking felt frustrating--the skills provided by Blizzard were not the skills I needed to do my job. In WotLK, the class feels much more capable of fulfilling its role.)
@Kiryn , I think you're misunderstanding what Tobold is saying. Or I am :)
Ever been to a PuG where a newly-minted level 80 DK tank with 20k health tries to AoE tank a trash pack of 5 mobs and dies in 2 seconds? I have :) No, AoE tanking is not a sign of less skill, but AoE tanking when your gear doesn't support it, is. Not in all cases, but in PuGs it usually is.

In PuGs when the tank is someone random, I never see CC used even when it is clear it would make the pull easier by a mile. That is something I miss from BC.

@Merial, you are right, the reason for more AoE is the increased ability of all tanks to AoE-Tank and hold agro even on targets that are not their primary one. That doesn't explain why tanks who are under-geared for the instance don't at least try reduce the chance for a wipe... speaking as the healer, if would make life a lot easier for me if PuG tanks tried to use CC :)

AoEing heroics down works, but needs better gear, and that somehow removes the purpose of running heroics in the first place

@Tobold, this isn't correct. Having good gear does not remove the purpose of running heroics. Additional reasons include but are not limited to:
1) Getting a specific item drop. Even if your tank has 4 T7 pieces from Naxx he might still want the tanking trinket from AN.
2) Gearing up for off-spec. This is especially relevant now that dual-specs are coming.
3) Getting badges to buy badge-gear you are missing.
4) Getting faction rep.
5) Getting achievements.
5) Getting specific items, e.g. the drake from timed CoT event.
6) Having some fun with friends and guild mates. Leah said it well in a comment on a post by Gevlon: "they see them as a weekly party, a game of checkers with their friends. the raid is a setting, a framework." - The same holds for heroics.

If you are finding trash boring, then you are playing the wrong game. MMOs and dungeons are as much about fighting trash as a team as about fighting bosses. It's only WoW that gives you just the candy without the meal. Unfortunately like so many spoiled brats the players have lapped it up until they're in running around on a sugar rush wanting more MORE MOAR! LEWT! BOSSES! LEWT! Completely forgetting why we actually play the game and what made MMOs fun in the beginning.

If you want to complete an instance with as little effort as possible in as short a time as possible, why are you even playing the game?

And Jezebeau, you're my hero for today with: "WotLK is a self-help project designed to give undue reward to people who suck at video games." Very siggable, if it doesn't get me flamed and banned.
This was what I was always complaining about right from the start of WOTLK. The game became too easy. No more need for CC resulted in Mages, Warlocks and everyone else using AoE Nuke spells for well over 90% of the whole damage done..

The mobs were spread so far away from the others so that you could not have a "bad pull" of more than one group. Some bosses had fascinating abilities, but you could easily just endure it and go on.

And Plastic Rat and the others are damn right, even the normal and not so brilliant players get bored by now. SOME challenge and appeal is needed. They removed not only sheeping, many playstyles and strategies are simply no longer needed in Heroics, even in Raids.

Blame Ghostcrawler. He had the best intentions, but giving Rogues AoE abilities only shows were the game is heading. Make every class similar, interchangeable. The result was that some classes became the "Princeps inter Pares", something they totally wanted to avoid. EverQuest was based on the principle that certain classes had their specific strengths and weaknesses.

Blizzard wanted to make it easier for people to raid, not to require this or that class specifically - honorable intentions! The result was what we got, classes getting more and more similar, but some still being clearly better than others for the task at hand.

I just wonder that people did not notice this earlier. Everyone breezed through WOTLK dungeons at their first try for sure.

This has become a game of spending time every day and grabbing loot, loot, loot... and despite the pretty environment of Northrend, the game became empty and shallow.

Ghostcrawler had the ideas, and Kalgan nodded. Tigole is now working on the new super secret next gen MMO, and he is quite right. You need no raid and dungeon designer for such a kiddie style lootfest world.
"AoEing heroics down works, but needs better gear, and that somehow removes the purpose of running heroics in the first place."
No, it doesn't.

Hit 80 and started doing heroics within a week of release. Didn't need to CC anything. Was still in mostly 70 epics and 80 quest gears
The reason why people AoE down heroics is because they're that easy.

Tobold's claim that people need better gear than the heroics themselves give to AoE down everything is completely false. The only reason why people require better gear than the heroics give is because the people RUNNING the pug have better gear than the heroics give. They're not here to boost you through the instance, and they don't WANT to boost you through the instance. They can always find someone better, so why bother taking along the subpar newly minted 80, when they can find someone with just as good gear as them?
Thing is, even if someone undergears and CC would make it manageable, the idea to do so, even when suggested is ignored. I was in a PUG, and the mage and I were all, we can Sheep and Hex, please let us do it so you don't die instantly, so we can do this instance, cause it takes 3 hours to form a group.
Apparently a lot of people forgot what it was like to be a non-CC class in BC. I remember be turned down for tons of groups with my enhance shaman, "sorry were looking for a third mage". Hell even during the first part of BC I got turned down on my warlock for the same reasons. I am glad Wrath isn't that way.

However I do wish that at least some CC was required maybe just one spot to add to the holy trinity. So tank,healer, CC and than 2 dps. The only thing that is bizarre is that they gave all this new CC this time and yet they didn't give any to DKs.
The interesting question from my perspective is WHY players want to optimise the fun out of the game. Solid's got a good answer - there are a ton of incentives for repeating the same content over and over again. If you have to do the content once, maybe it's worth trying it when it's challenging, using full crowd control, and maybe planning on being able to do one instance run per evening. Indeed, that's approximately the secone that you're going to get for instances below the level cap (presuming someone doesn't pull in a bored 80 as a favor). Once the developers start putting in "repeat this instance 30 times for rep and tokens because we're not going to have any new content for a year" incentives, well, yes, intelligent players will start cutting corners.
There is still hope for Wrath 5 mans. We haven't yet seen the "Magister's Terrace" of Wrath. Presumably there is some truley horrific and punishing 5 man out there on the horizon.

I don't think so.
At least in the "west", the vast majority of players, the ones who play casually with family and friends and don't frequent gaming forums, must be having a ball right now: doing every heroic instance, full clad in purple and raiding. If they suddenly changed it back to pre-WotLK these players would leave faster than the ones leaving now due to boredom.

People will eventually start to leave for two reasons: no more challenge, nothing to aspire and, of course, Blizz's new MMO.
@Plastic Rat

The first time I read your post, I took you seriously and was preparing a lengthy response; however, I read it again and have come to the conclusion that you are simply writing before you think. If you had been thinking you wouldn't have implied that the repetitive aspects of MMOs are what make them fun (and you CLEARLY did not play early MMOs if you think you know something about repetition). You also would not have implied that your preferred way to play a game (i.e. slower) is the best way to play the game. That would be quite presumptuous. You're free to do whatever you want, but if you think clearing trash is fun after doing the same instance a million times (Kara anyone?) then be aware that you are in the extreme minority of the raiding community.

People think the AoErs are 'missing the point'. No folks, we got the point, we just don't like it. I've been an MMO powergamer for 12 years. I don't need some random noob telling me that I'm doing it wrong. The first time I ran some heroics? Sure we used poly and hunter trap. Then our pally tank got geared up and we started AoEing. We run instances faster, get geared up faster, and we simply get a lot of enjoyment out of blazing through instances.
The first time I ran some heroics? Sure we used poly and hunter trap. Then our pally tank got geared up and we started AoEing.

There you are exactly repeating my point, that with the use of crowd control you can do the same heroic with less gear. Now you call yourself a powergamer, and you probably had many different methods to gear up: Grinding for crafting epics, farming for reputation epics, maybe doing a lot of PvP for those epics as well. Thus you got from the "we need cc" to the "lets just AoE them" stage rather quickly. That won't be the case for players who aren't powergamers that much. You simply choose not to count the time you need to gear up in other ways, but I'm sure it did cost you quite a number of hours of /played time. For somebody playing a lot less, running every heroic once or twice in "slow" crowd control mode is still a lot faster than farming all those other sources of gear.
When you're playing the game the same way you would a job (i.e. lets get this done) and not so much because what you are doing is actually fun, you need to step the fuck back and wonder what you are doing.
Why do you play the game? What is fun about it for you? I'm interested.
I like equal parts high end raiding (things like time attack runs on raids), world PvP, and arena.

I used to enjoy making top ratings using sub-optimal teams back in early arena seasons when that was possible. These days I typically have 1 team that I play seriously and 1 that I and a friend try to make work with terrible combos.

I seem to remember you rolling a frost mage with the hopes of AoEing your way to 70. When you couldn't do AoE, you switched to using +frost gear. How is this a whole lot different from what you're complaining about here? You did what you had to do in order to bypass the part of the game that you thought was boring or repetitive so you could get on to what you really wanted to do.

By the way, this thing about PUGs wanting only top geared players... it isn't new. Maybe it is on your server, but as way back as UBRS days, I can recall PUGs looking for people with the best gear.
I miss CC. I wish WoW had a class like the Enchanter in EQ.
Anyone looking for CC in a challenging environment should try arenas. There you will be CC'ed and need to CC even at the sub-1300 ratings.

As for the "WotLK is a self-help project designed to give undue reward to people who suck at video games" comment, who gets to decide what is "undue"? Who decides what percentage of the $15/month paying population deserves epics?
@changed: I think more important is to ask, "For what are rewards due?"

If all it requires is the subscription fee, fine. Now, we're looking at WoW as a self-worth booster where people pay a fee and invest minimal time against a nominal challenge to be handed what was historically known as one of the highest levels of reward the game has to offer. Green and blue gear can stick around so players get the feeling of progress and superiority (albeit only over players who've been 80 less than a week or two).
Oh, I'm having a ball in this comment box.
Tobold, i may be wrong but i think we are closer to the day where your blog will have a lot of "i told you so" posts. :)
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