Tobold's Blog
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Open Sunday Thread

Those of you likely to leave a comment already know what this thread is for, but on the off chance that somebody new passes here on a Sunday, I have to repeat myself every week: This is the open thread where everybody can ask questions, discuss, or propose subjects for blog posts. I'm not promising I'll cover them all, but I do usually get around to discuss the subjects that evoked the most interest.
Are you tempted at all to try out new content on public test realms before it goes live?
Try TF2 Tobold.
I'd like to raise a thorny question that has led to many disagreements in raids (particularly PUGs): who gets to roll on what?

Let me give a concrete example to explain the problems. Last night I was running Naxx-10 with my (not very well geared) resto druid as one of only 2 healers. The stated loot rules were: "main spec need rolls first, off spec need rolls second". A useful cloth item turned up that was a huge upgrade for me (Sash of Mortal Desire), so I duly rolled and won the roll. The other healer didn't need it, but a shadow priest also rolled and lost. The raid leader then decided to over-rule the roll and hand it to the SP anyway, because he could only use cloth. Now this wasn't a case of anti-druid bias (this leader has a raiding resto druid alt) and wasn't a problem for me in the end, because the SP refused to accept it on the grounds that I'd won the roll. But it did make me think about why such disputes occur. It's clear from reading various web forums that many cloth wearers think that druids (or shaman / paladin) healers are somehow "cheating" by rolling on cloth (even if they genuinely need it to do their job), as they don't have the option to roll on leather, chain and plate.

What do other people think about this? Should itemisation be changed to fix it (e.g. allowing variable armour types such as those that exist in heirloom items)? What's the fairest way to deal with the issues in the meantime?
Should itemisation be changed to fix it

I am generally against everything that makes loot distribution easy: Badges, class specific items etc. Distributing the loot is one of the fun activities in a good raid. It is an easy way to identify raids that will fail eventually, no matter what the loot rules are..

I'd be interested to know what you see as being a good way of solving this problem. What are the signs that a raid will fail that should be avoided?
A good raid tries to achieve something together. The people actively and honestly try to find out who should be given a specific loot so that the raid benefits the most. Obviously sometimes there are different opinions. In that case people should never try to get something for themselves, but actively try to give it to somebody else.
To quote somebody: "Don't ask what the raid can do for you, but what you can do for the raid". :)

The signs that should be avoided:
People who think that it is their right to get loot as reward for their work during the raids. This is, however, not so much a failure of these people, but a failure of the raid leadership. The leadership of the raid needs to implement a culture of selflessness and common purpose.
Do you think WoW is reaching a point where it has too many skills and talents?

A lot of skills and talents are seeming quite similar at this point, or seem like blizzard people through a bunch of mechanics into a hat, picked out 2 or 3 at a time, and made them into skills or talents. Some of the similarity is no doubt to make classes be able to perform competitively in most situations, but some also seem to be blizzard running low on ideas.

Guild wars has also run into some similar issues it seems with too many skills, and repetetive skills, and while the large numbers of skills don't make it obviously less fun, there will be some skills that get underused, and possibly cause extra balance problems. Any other thoughts?
"The leadership of the raid needs to implement a culture of selflessness and common purpose."
Shhhh - don't let Gevlon hear you say that!

"Do you think WoW is reaching a point where it has too many skills and talents?"
An interesting point, Dillon. Perhaps they need to focus on "new" spells that more clearly replace the old ones. Right now, my action bars are getting full. Let me suggest an example of what I mean: a version of fireball that does the same damage to the original target (or at least in line with what it would have been if it carried on to new levels), but also does the associated DOT as splash damage to nearby targets. That would be clearly better than the original, but wouldn't need a whole new set of game mechanics.
What do you think about the possibility to let skills actually drop more in dungeons? (Vanilla WoW tried this once a little bit).
A skill book with a better fireball for example, or a skill that replaces fireball?
Wouldn't it be more fun if you could actually not only increase your effectiveness in the endgame, but also change your game play (rotation etc) ?
This comment has been removed by the author.
Err, let's try that again.

@Nils (second post)
I agree with you, but it's not always so easy. Often the key roles (main tank, etc.) and most dedicated members of a raid are also part of the guild leadership. For raid progression, it's vital that the core members (the ones who show up the most) receive the best drops. What happens when the main tank is also the Guild Leader? A good guild won't have a problem, but you'll sometimes hear whispers of "how come HE always gets all the good stuff?"

Onto another subject; it's always super fun opening up the RMT debate bag. Here's a slap to the hornet's nest: Subscription Driven RMT
Fascinating idea, Trenton.

Assuming I've understood you correctly, under this model, any gold farmers would get to play for free by buying subscriptions on the AH, but would make no RL money directly from your approach. However, they could still, in principle, use that free play time to grind gold that they could sell on the black market. Presumably that would have to be at a lower exchange rate than exists in game, or they'd get no sales.

My main concern is that it might increase the incentive to hack accounts, in order to sell the user's subscription gems. Any thoughts on how to address that?
@ Trenton Kennedy.
To be effective, the raid leader needs to use the force of example. I've done similar myself and it is quite rewarding in the end - even if you don't get every item. And .. never forget: It is much more fun to out-dps / out-heal / or even out-mitigate other players with inferior equipment than with superior equipment :).
You raise some interesting points Sven.

You're absolutely correct that gold farmers would be able to play for "free". They would be able to take part in the service just like any other player. In fact, by using the system they might even be paying less gold than if they were to sell the gold themselves and buy a subscription. Here's some math:

Let's say a Gem of Longevity is worth an average of 1000 gold.
Using game RMT system: 1000 gold == $16
Or a rate of: 62.5 gold / $1

Ignoring the factors I bring up in the next paragraph (which significantly alter this rate), to compete, the blackmarket rate of selling gold would need to be:
63 gold / $1
To pay for a normal priced $15 subscription, it would take 945 gold.

So, best case (for the farmers), they pay a bit less gold for a subscription by doing it themselves. However, as you said, to be competitive, they'll need to significantly increase the amount of gold they sell for the same price. Nobody is going to go to an illegal third party, who they have no idea if they can trust, just to save a few gold. It needs to be worth it for players to take the risk, and many won't, no matter how good it is. The farmers will also have to compete with themselves, just like they do at the moment, which will drive that blackmarket rate lower and lower.

So let's say they lower their rate to 75g/$1, about a 17% increase (I would still argue this isn't enough of a bonus to warrant the risk).
That means a normal subscription of $15 would cost 1125 gold. Significantly more than using the legit subscription RMT.

Small picture, you could say that they benefit because they can play the game for less. Big picture, I fully disagree. At the very, very least, I don't think this sort of system would benefit farmers any. In fact, I think there's a very good chance that it will make things more difficult for them. I have a feeling the added competition (along with players having a legal and safe alternative) would force rates to be significantly lower than they normally would be without such a system. Meaning, farmers will be paid less for their time.

On your second point, I think it's absolutely a concern. These Gems would definitely need to be trackable (both for this reason and to avoid duping exploits). Realistically though, I think the incentives for hacking an account have already reached a critical mass. The value of doing so is already increasingly "worth it". It's a broad security concern that needs to be addressed (and not just with MMO accounts).

This actually made me think of something else. I never really pictured people having more than one or two subscription gems on them at any one time. I figured people would just use or sell them when they got them. This isn't necessarily true, which raises an interesting concept.

The value of 1 gold tends to go down over time but a Gem's value would always stay the same (only its exchange rate would change). I wonder if people would use such a system as sort of an inflation guard. Meaning, if they know they're not going to be playing for awhile, or if an expansion is going to be released, they could buy up as many Gems as they could afford and then cash them out after the price change. They wouldn't be making any real value, but they wouldn't lose any in the process either. Sort of like a virtual Certificate of Deposit. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it's certainly interesting.

Absolutely right, that's the best case scenario. I've been in guilds where that was present and guilds where it was unfortunately absent. I don't think we disagree, you just seem to be more of a "glass is half full" kind of person and I'm a "glass is half empty because some clod knocked it over."
nils said:
"I am generally against everything that makes loot distribution easy: Badges, class specific items etc. Distributing the loot is one of the fun activities in a good raid. It is an easy way to identify raids that will fail eventually, no matter what the loot rules are.."

What about taking a page out of ATITD? Reward groups that take greater risks of having disputes. You could do this by making the drop rate better when the group is using an unregulated 'free-for-all' looting scheme and decrease the loot for groups that use highly regulated looting schemes (ie Master Looter).
Connected with this discussion is a discussion about obliquity:
A rather long, but well written article, from one of the better (economy) authors.
@ Trenton:

Trenton, I'm very interested whenever anyone brings up the notion of adding RMT to either an existing game, or to somehow design it into a new MMO offering. My interest around the RMT debate deals with a point that many gamers often overlook when they support RMT, so I'll ask you directly:

How can a game continue to be a game, with a level playing field for all, once RMT enters the picture? There is no denying the fact that RMT introduces classism into the mix, and it is most certainly debatable that it also introduces a whole slew of other social devices into the spotlight when "real money" enters the picture as a means of "character advancement". I dont want a debate filled with "special mounts", "paid character changes", or "my time is more valuable than yours" memes, but rather an honest look at where RMT is headed in the gaming world and how games can continue to be games once skill, time(spent to acquire things), and effort are replaced with the ability to bypass them all with the almighty dollar. I'm of the opinion that the functioning word "game" dissapears in an RMT scenario and games become nothing more than virtual microcosms of real life...and to me, should not be called games.

I read your article, and the one fatal flaw that you make, is that you seem to assume that the playerbase would accept your pricing terms. You mention that supply and demand would maintain controls on in game pricing, but I hope you realize that in a completely anonymous AH market the "supply and demand" principle goes right out the window...and players who accumulate enough in game currency could, as we've seen in other games, control these items without much effort.
Sven, I don't think the issue is that cloth wearers think that druid healers are "cheating" by rolling on cloth.

It's just the rational realization that allowing all healers equal rights to roll on cloth will inevitably lead to a situation down the road where leather, mail and plate are going to waste, while you have cloth-wearers still wearing inferior gear and waiting for more cloth to drop. Which is bad for the group as a whole.

Whilst there is a possibility that this could occur, you have to look at the odds of it. For that eventuality to happen it would require that:
a) the leather wearer won the roll to begin with
b) a suitable healing leather item dropped later on in the raid
c) that it is in the same slot as the previous drop
The chances of a) are 50% if you are running with 2 healers and both are equally geared. If DPS are rolling on it as well, it's much lower. Let's say 1/4 on average.
The chances of b) are about 10% per boss - assuming a full clear of naxx, that's about 1.5 items on average. Let's call it 2 to make the maths simple.
The chances of c) are 1/8 per item, which works out to a 24% chance over two items.
So there is approximately an 6% chance that this could occur and the other 94% of the time it won't. So in other words, it won't "inevitably" lead to such situations, it's quite unlikely. In the meantime, the hybrid has contributed additional healing for all the bosses on the way, increasing your chances of success and hence your chances of getting any further loot. So I disagree that it's bad for the group as a whole - it's only bad 6% of the time - the rest of the time, it's good.
Sven, I'm not talking across the span of two drops in a raid. I'm talking across weeks. I'm talking what happens when your heavier armoured healers are in full epics, your cloth-wearers aren't, and plate drops become a sidegrade at best. If you give priority to the "right" classes, cloth gear can trickle up when they don't need it. If you don't, the plate and mail can't trickle down.

Rather foolishly I've gone to the trouble of going through the entire Naxx-10 loot list and looked at the implications of the two approaches: "roll only on your classes's main armour type" and "roll on anything with healing stats that you can use". The loot list I used is based on the one at: and I assumed that all items are equally likely to drop (probably not true, but good enough for now). I ignored things like rings and trinkets that every class could use and items that none of them would want (e.g. rogue gear). I then worked out the average time to get to full naxx-10 epics for healers of each class, with paladins being 100% and lower times to gear being better. The results were rather interesting:

"Main armour"
Paladin: 100%, Shaman 133%, Druid 181% and Priest 132%

"Roll on anything"
Paladin: 100%, Shaman 143%, Druid 373% and Priest 272%

Under both arrangements, paladins do best and druids do worst, but the gap between best and worst is greater under "roll on anything". So my conclusion is that both schemes are biased towards paladin healers (and against druids), but the "main armour" scheme is less unfair than "roll on anything".

In plain language, you were right and I was wrong. I've changed my mind.

I've just noticed that I phrased something badly above. It's not the schemes that are biased particularly, but the current loot tables for Naxx-10. It may of course be that the Ulduar or Naxx-25 tables are different.
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