Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I'm not really happy about patch 3.3.2 of World of Warcraft, because the patch notes start with a long list of encounters in heroic dungeons that have been shortened. Bosses use special abilities less often, wait times have been reduced, and so on. It all reminds me very much of the kind of players you encounter in a pickup group whose first and only words in a dungeon are "Gogogo".

Speed runs not only kill any possible social interaction between players, they also teach players how to play badly in a group. Nobody lets the tank get aggro any more, as the dps classes are fighting to be on top of the damage meter and start blasting full power the second the fight starts. I've even had dps pulling. Nobody is using crowd control any more, not even in the hard fights where it would be quite useful, like in the Halls of Reflection. Everybody just mindlessly spams AoEs: AoE taunting, AoE damage, AoE healing.

Of course the root of the problem is heroics giving rewards way beyond their difficulty level. Heroics were designed to be run in iLevel 187 to 200 gear, but nowadays often are run by people in iLevel 245 gear to get the emblems of frost for the iLevel 264 gear. That is like running a dungeon 5 levels below your own.

Blizzard really shouldn't give in to the demands of the speed runners and shorten heroics even further with patches. If anything, they should make heroics somewhat harder and more challenging, not nerf the bosses even further.
I disagree about the boss fights that got changed. If a boss has a "special" phase and a "DPS" phase (like Jedoga Shadowseeker), then the fight gets weird when the DPS phase gets very short.

It doesn't make the fight harder or easier if Jedoga is constantly going up or down. Making sure the special phase doesn't dominate the fight makes the fight better.
The constant delusion of wow: first, a challenge is presented. We, the players, are struck with awe. Then, it is being toned down. We succeed in overcoming said challenge. Dopamine floods our neurons, Blizzards mission is accomplished.
I totally agree. Dungeon runs are idiotic nowadays. Its just a rush without any challanges. You cant really notice the difference between trash and bosses any more.

No tactics, no crowd control, no time to loot, no time to read npc texts, no time to have a look around :(
Massively multiplayer Mortal Combat.
I felt the same way when I first read those patch notes, Tobold. But then I realised that this (they way you describe it) is exactly how I too play the heroics now. Many, if not most, people have now run all these instances to death. We're farming them. Not for loot, but for those little trinkety emblems. We are doing that because we want to, presumably (Pavlovian as we are: ilevel is the new purple :)).

The random dungeon system – which you have professed to be very pleased with earlier and which admittedly makes it very easy to find groups to run with – is based on success, not social interaction. It's completely goal-based: click a button to get four emblems of triumph and two emblems of frost in 20-45 minutes at a difficulty approximately on par with a normal daily quest (read: none at all). If the dungeons generally were hard to complete or took too long then the DF would be less popular.

All of the instances are easy now (except perhaps the heroic ICC instances). People want to get through them like they do daily quests: to obtain something. They don't click "find a random group of people" to actually meet someone or to overcome a challenge they've already overcome a year ago. They (we) do it to get their emblems and move on. And many instances are great for this: kill, move, kill, done. But some contain artificial stops. Stops that used to be dramatic or necessary but are now only in the way. Very few groups can even pretend to be "escorting" Brann. Most groups would Kill Svala just after her first sword drop unless she insisted on doing it three times. Anomalous becomes immune to damage during his lightning phases, and that's *its* only way to get a new lease on life. This is all tedium. Nobody wants it, and it leads to an unbalancing of the DF system: "damn, VH with all that waiting... I'll just drop and do the random on an alt" or so.

So, after some consideration I don't see this as Blizzard "giving in" to complaints. I think they're balancing the dungeons so that people don't think less of one shooting gallery run than another. Except Strat, of course, which I understand is "complicated to fix".

For new challenges: if you heal and the tank looks solid, ask him to put his dps gear on. It's fun to heal through crits and stuff, makes you feel alive. Or ask the healer to dps!
Open question:

Did the old system (pre-Dungeon Finder) involve communication, CC and a large volume of players?

In TBC, a lot of people were running Ramps/Slave Pens to min/max in the way you've described...
"I'm not really happy about patch 3.3.2 of World of Warcraft, because the patch notes start with a long list of encounters in heroic dungeons that have been shortened."

@Tobold, re-read the patch notes. This isn't Blizzard catering to the "gogo" crowd. This is Blizzard shortening annoying and unnecessary fight mechanics that no longer make sense. Having The 2nd boss in Nexus go immune to damage 3 or 10 or 100 times in a fight doesn't make it harder, unless you mean it's harder for you to stay awake...

That's a pretty much direct quote from a blue poster BTW and I totally agree with it.

In every case I looked the change in 3.3.2 to a fight removes or shortens an element that artificially makes the fight longer without making it more difficult. Given today's average gear-levels this is a welcome change.

"If anything, they should make heroics somewhat harder and more challenging"

Fights should be interesting and hard, if possible. However making 5-mans so hard that you would need iLvl-245 gear would lock out that content from exactly the people who need it - casuals, alts and new players - so it doesn't make sense. HoR already walks a fine edge in my opinion, although as you noted most of the difficulty there is because it is hard to get people to CC in a PuG.
I think that the fight mechanics did need to be changed, just not in the way they were changed. It's good that they removed the parts of fights where everyone would just be standing around waiting, but they should've changed it from a set number of occurrences at specific life points to something more like Moorabi where the special part happens based on time, and not numbers. This way players who are appropriately leveled and geared can still enjoy the instance the original way it was intended.

But then I'm also of the opinion that they shouldn't even give out frost badges for heroics. They said they did that to entice people who are experienced to run content with less experienced people. This is not the way it works out a good majority of the time though, so the whole purpose of it is defeated.
Kind of reminds me being flamed, not necessarily here, for stating that WoW was being dumbed down and that wouldn't stop just in raiding...

How much longer until you find "click every X hours" mechanic in WoW? :)

And I'm not smiling because your game is being ruined and you're not having as much fun as before.
About DPS in desperate urge to get in the top dps....

Often players look at numbers in a dumb way... for example, just looking at recount dps numbers without a grain of salt... can lead to big mistakes..

If tank is overgeared in respect with the istance being done, it's natural that all mobs are going do die in a couple of seconds or the like. So any DPS that can't do instant damage will naturally have a low dps.

Also, a melee dps can't get to the mob before the tank and at the time melee dps is next to the mob, often the mob is already dead or has just so little life that all it's needed is a final blow.

So at the end what happens?

one of this two (pick one random at each instance done):

a) Someone will comment that someone is doing too little dps and should be kicked (even if the instance can be done without a problem with the current group)

b) Everyone is in frenzy mode and doing everything to get on top dps and group wipe in a miserable way. At the boss, all dps focus on boss because there's a lot of dps that can be done. No time wasted switching target. And so all adds will wipe the group.

addendum of another consideration:
Emergent behaviour made possible with achievements and being them de facto public. If you look for a PUG raid, you can't get into a group if you can't link achievement for such raid being already done. But if you can't group you can't make it, so you'll never.
As a player you could already know the instance and be a good one. You could have good gearscore, but without the achivement...

As far as I can recall, everyone wanted a paladin tank in Shattered Halls, since that was the one class capable of powerful aoe tanking. Everyone else made do with freezes and sheeping. I believe that's where the universal aoe tanking was born: it was so unfair to the other tanking classes that the pallies got a free ride, so warriors and druids were invited to join the fun.

And yes: even though communication within pugs has always been crude and relatively sparse (on average), the cc instances used to require really did necessitate a dialogue of sorts between party members.
Healers get admonished for over-healing why can dps classes not be admonished for over-damage? It seems to me that it should be simple enough for the damage meters to keep an eye on the threat table. If a DPS class ever hits the top of the threat table any additional damage should count as over-damage and should detract from their score.

But how many PUGs were clearing Shattered Halls HC on a daily basis (pre-nerf) on an average realm?

My argument is the majority of players have always optimised reward and minimised risk.

Rather than fighting this, Blizzard have made it a feature in the form of the Dungeon Finder.
Adding emblems to an instance is an incredibly cheap way to get people to run old content.

All it takes is five minutes to change the drops in the instances from emblem X to emblem Y and people will start running all those same old instances again. This says more about the player base than about Blizzard.

No, Blizzard shouldn't make these old instance harder. New instances should be provided.
Here is what I think is coming next.

DPS only groups. Why bother with the whole tank/healer nonsense, class roles etc.

Just get five people together gogogo.

I am telling you - that's next.
The changes made some achievements easier to pug.

As for the quick runs in general, this is beyond ridiculous and is ruining the game. I went into AH, killed 2 bosses -- done in 8 minutes.

Blizzard needs to slow down the game and get off the tunnel vision trend of linear progression. More depth please!
I agree with Carra. It is a cheap way of doing it.

And the need for speed is natural. These instances everyone is burned out about are pretty much the most time efficient way to get equipment to catch up with players doing the latest content, or they are needed for high end raiders to quickly advance to tier10.

So, people do it...

A better and simpler way to overcome this burnout without actually creating so much new content, as I think I have suggested on your blog or another, is to make these instances scale with gear, or, even better, introduce new mecanics to the old encounters.

Imagine a Loken with 3x the current health who blinks around and cast pushback spells at everyone... just as an example.

Of course, the rewards must scale with difficulty. You cannot simply bring in a super tough encounter with a big risk of wipes and hand out 2 measly badges as a reward.

So, dungeons are are gonna be either a 5 man equivalent to raiding, or just simple grinds.
As part of a healer/tank team, I have written a macro which can warn people who are pulling ahead of the tank that they'll not get healed if they keep doing that.

The "OK, but you don't get heals or taunts" approach is very effective in curbing the excesses of over-enthusiastic DPS. Only really works if you're with a friendly tank, though.

I misunderstood your post. With what you said in reply, I'm in complete agreement :)
You all make some very good and interesting points here, and some very much worth thinking about.

However, isn't one thing getting lost: are you having fun? I completely agree that it's silly and ridiculous and all that, but... I must reluctantly admit that I'm having fun with it. Bring a couple of guild mates, pop a couple of randoms in and off we go. It's relaxing and fun.

I realise it'll grow old, and I realise that part of the fun is the knowledge that I'm very slowly earning badges to buy more purple stuff, but... fun it is.

Perhaps I'm just a silly old stooge.

"DPS only groups. Why bother with the whole tank/healer nonsense, class roles etc."

I'm pretty sure you could run most heroics today with an off-spec tank and healer (eg a ret-pally and a shadow priest).

You'd need someone able to absorb some damage and someone who can toss a few heals out.
i agree completely with oscar. you know what guys? wow is an easy game. and it's made easy on purpose. and i'm tired of being being vilified as elitists when they state the obvious. if you're having fun, that's all that matters. if the game gets to the point where you're no longer having fun, put your money elsewhere.
Nobody is forcing anyone in ilvl 245 gear to run dungeons designed for ilvl 180. If it's too easy to play due to overgearing, one could always try something else that is harder.
I think its just a few rotten applies ruining the experience for others.

Indeed, it only takes one to ruin it for 4 others, and having this happen more often, compounded by increased anonymitiy and detachment to other players, perhaps leads us to think there are just so. many. rude. players.

I haven't had too many bad experiences with LFD. Sure, a couple "gogogo players," even in PoS, but I have only had 1 person in about 30 runs who has dropped or needed to be kicked because we wern't going fast enough (he wanted to skip 2 bosses).

I guess as the tank I have a little more say, I can control the flow of a run. I always start the instances with "Hello, I'll keep a quick pace, (healer), let me know if you ever need a break, same goes for anyone else :)"

Doing this helps assume a leadership role. Most people would rather follow the leader than dissent, specifically for fear of others who are following the leader. So sometimes class/role is less important as leadership skills.

If someone asks to skip a boss, we do a quick vote. I decide, if anyone wants the boss, everyone does the boss.

The system is far from perfect, I admit I only run for badges as well. The changes were more to ease the flow of boss fights, rather than dumb them down, but i wouldn't be against changes to existing instances, like slight scalling with gearscore.
As for making Instances scale I think it would be to hard. What they need to do is make heroics harder in general so that you need to run them on normal first OR make another level above heroics. Like have normal, heroics, and lets say Elite.

I seen many times that someone runs heroics and gets the achiv for both heroics and normal. you should not be able to run heroics before normal. Ohh wait isnt that how it worked in BC (um yes it did).

Anyways my solution on all this is to work on my level 60 hunter now and just pvp for fun on my 80 priest while my 80 shaman main sits around picking his nose and all my other alts in there 70's watch him.
I agree. Runs are becoming too fast, and too easy. A recent SM graveyard run I made consisted of three AoE sessions - start, middle and end. It was over in about 4 minutes.

I am also starting to see "tanks" coming in without Prot spec, no shield, and say nothing when questioned about it. Obviously trying to queue-jump.

Given there is generally little to do for the healer these days, the groups might as well be 5 dps.

I had a guild off-tank that basically tanked in his dps gear plus a shield. He was giving the "real" dps a really hard time keeping up with him.

Another example was a druid healer with ridiculous gear that ended the instance as #2 damage dealer - in part due to my (tank) gear, but it was hilarious anyway.
I think if any class is handicapped more by this form of pugging... it is the warrior tank.

With very little sustained AOE tank talents it is impossible to control aggro. If DPS players understand this and wipes are avoided then I really don't have an issue.

However, from my experience with gogogo style of play... it is so hard to stop some halfwit hunter from pulling before I have looted or simply targeted a mob before I engaged the mobs.

If you slow down a bit you get a hard time, or hassled for not holding aggro and often quite aggressively and rudely.

Fed up of explaining time and time again... I now have a few macros depending on level of aggression from my pug-mates I'll use one or another.

Basically saying behave, tanking works like this and if you do this once more you can find another tank.

I'll leave the group... preferring the deserter buff to dealing with arrogant morons ruining my run.

As a tank I can get a group in seconds usually... they will have to wait far longer to get another tank.

Another argument for why this game has become a get to 80 as easy possible and funnel players into raids. The lack of challenge in WoW pre 80/raid play becomes far more transparent.
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