Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 01, 2010
The danger of high rewards

I remember last year's Brewfest in World of Warcraft, mostly because of the Tankard O' Terror which dropped from the event boss Coren Direbrew. At the time I made a handsome profit, because I could buy them cheap while the event was going on, and sell them on for twice to three times the money once the event was over, and the Tankard was the only iLevel 226 boe weapon in the game. I haven't even bothered to do this event this year, because it is so pointless now, something Larísa laments.

Coren Direbrew is a prime example of the biggest flaw of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, a flaw usually and badly described as "Waaaaah! WoW is too easy!". And most certainly, for most players today the Brewfest event boss is "too easy", as in poses no fun challenge at all. But if we look at the situation closer we'll notice that Coren Direbrew in 2010 is EXACTLY as hard as he was in 2009. He hasn't been nerfed, and he still got exactly the same abilities and health. If you went there with a group with the kind of gear people had in 2009, you'd find Coren Direbrew a fun enough challenge. And the same is true for the rest of the game: Blizzard didn't nerf everything to make it too easy, and most of the content would be challenging enough to be fun if you'd go there with a group equipped in the kind of gear the content was designed for.

What went wrong was not that the content was made too easy, but that players were made too powerful. Again people tend to oversimplify that fact and blame "the Dungeon Finder", but to be precise the Dungeon Finder by itself didn't make the game much easier. The real culprit is the level of rewards given out for running heroics. Dungeons which were originally designed to for people to get iLevel 200 mostly blue gear, with a single iLevel 200 epic as end reward, should not have handed out emblems with which to buy iLevel 232 to 264 gear. WotLK would have been a better expansion if the emblems would only have given out iLevel 200 to 219 gear.

The too high reward level didn't serve any good purpose: Instead of making raiding more accessible, it made several raid dungeons instantly obsolete. And because the emblems gave too high rewards compared to the heroic dungeons they were found in, players were encouraged to run heroics completely overgeared. And of course Blizzard couldn't adjust the difficulty level of the heroic dungeons, because they were in fact quite challenging for a group wearing only the kind of gear a freshly dinged level 80 would wear. But for a group in emblem gear heroics are trivial to a point where many abilities became useless, and players just AoE'd everything down. Players always run after rewards, but with the rewards for running heroics being too high, that striving for rewards only ended up destroying the challenge and the fun.

I love the Dungeon Finder, and I so hope that in the next expansion the rewards handed out for running level 85 heroics are more appropriate to the difficulty level. There must be a sweet spot somewhere between Burning Crusade where everybody was stuck in the first progression raid dungeon, and Wrath of the Lich King where emblems made the first progression raid dungeon obsolete. Nobody wants to run the same raid dungeon for a year, but handing out rewards that allow people to completely skip it is not the solution. There should be some raid progression, albeit faster than in the Burning Crusade. And preferably a Raid Dungeon Finder functionality to save us from stupid and tyrannical PuG raid leaders. Heroics should equip people for the first raid dungeon, nothing more.

What Blizzard did in Wrath of the Lich King is equivalent of handing out more levels, without actually providing all that much more content for those higher levels. Not a good idea, that only makes people burn out fast.
The problem is if you make 5-man rewards crappy again, no one will run them after they gear out. Which will make levelling crappy for new players and alts.

People like being overgeared. Sometimes it's relaxing to go do a jokey 5-man with friends and do stupid stuff like see how many times you can pull off the tank or have the Shammie tank. Or see if you can do it in less than 10 minutes.
Since the post wasn't really about the dungeon finder, I won't take the bait and argue why it's not great. :)

On topic, I agree wholeheartedly. But I suspect that I (we) am in a small minority here. In BC, I never raided beyond Kara, because my tiny guild couldn't put together more than 10 people and even when we did it was a rare occasion that we got everyone together at the same time.

Come Wrath, we did dabble in Naxx in the beginning, again very rarely because of the small size of the guild and (for me personally, my own irregular hours didn't help). Since then, I have only raided on a very occasional basis with my new guild.

Just saying this to provide a little background. I'm an outsider, raiding-wise. I have always envied the people who can raid regularly. It's a fun play style and I wish I could do it more. But I envied them more in BC than I do now. I think the reason is that which you put forward, namely that there was a clear sense of progression ("oh, those guys are working through Hyjal") even rather late in the expansion. And even in the last days before 3.0.1, Kara was still relevant for latecomers.

Now, though, anyone can join a PuG for ICC and kill Arthas (as long as you've done it once before, I suppose). Or so I'm told. I don't feel enticed by raiding with strangers in that way. It's just... unfun. And so I'm still an outsider. But I just don't feel that I'm missing as much now as I used to. In my weird world, that's a bad thing.

But here's the thing: lots and lots of people obviously like that. They PuG ICC all day and all night. They kill the Piñata King all day and all night. Drawing a parallel from your recent posts on popularity it appears clear to me that – although lamentable for us – the current model is working as intended and is indeed good for a very large part of the player base.

Just not us.
I agree that WotLK over simplified gearing to the extreme. And the good news is that Blizzard seem to have realised this. What I have read in blue posts from developers (like Ghostcrawler) is that each expansion is a learning experience and occasionally things may go too far in one direction. Such as getting into raiding was relatively difficult in BC, and when WotLK was developed they new they had to simplify accessibility to raids. What a blue post I read said (and I can't find the link) was that WotLK was a learning experience in that people seemed to have gotten bored faster because gear was just too easy to acquire, so Cata will now have raiding accessibility somewhere between the difficulty of BC and the over accessible WotLK.
I couldn't agree more, 5 mans should gear you for Naxx and no more.

Emblems were a 'kop out' as rewards for heroics... to me, they are no different to daily quests - another 'kop out'.

In essence, the dungeon aspect of the game was turned into a gearing mechanism for raids instead of being part of the game in its own right.

The result was dps warrior tanks, players flagged as tanks to get runs faster, skipping content, lack of learning curve for inexperienced players, impatient mouthy idiots in pugs... sigh.

I'd like to see more options in the dungeon finder, such as matching a full group to the same i-level and a tick box that says 'find me a group that does not wish to skip bosses/content'.

Here's a boring idea... why not make crafting a part of the game to partly solve gear and the over emphasis on dungeon drops and emblem rewards.
I agree with you to a point. And that point is that you make the argument that heroics should take you as far as the first raid encounter and then stop. Now I would be fine with this if there was a Raid Finder as you suggest.

But I think the real solution is what they tried to do with ToC & ICC 5 mans. Make something more challenging in 5 man form but more rewarding. The problem with the Wrath model was that you could get gear better than heroic ICC 5 mans by doing the easier heroics.

My hope is that they create tiers of dungeons that give a sense of dungeon progression, rather than just forcing people toward raiding. I'm not against raiding, you just won't see me doing it much until they implement Raid Finder.
Perhaps dungeons should be tuned for more difficulties then "normal" and "heroic". Every raiding tier can technically open another "heroic tier" that gives "pre-current-raid" gear; with appropriate tuning and few more abilities thrown in it can remain reasonably challenging for any gear level. ICC 5mans were decently tuned on release, and people even occasionally wiped in Halls of Reflections.

It's hard to predict though which level of "content reuse" is tolerable, and which just burns people out like "4 raids-in-a-week Trial Of Crusader". Diluting player pool for Dungeon Finder can also be a concern.
Keep in mind, the Dungeon Finder with its great rewards came out at a time when all of their previous attempts to get people to use the LFG function had failed. They were still worried that not enough people would use it, and players would wait for a long, long time before getting an instance.

Clearly that is no longer a worry. I think with Cataclysm they can have a new 5-man instance difficulty level come out with every patch. Sure, it will divide the player base, but the Dungeon Finder is popular enough now to support it.
The developers have already said that players are too powerful now. Partly this was because of the glyph system, which made players more powerful than they expected, and partly it was due to the introduction of hard mode raids, which essentially added three extra tiers of gear to the expansion that they hadn't planned for.

I understand that the goal was for people to be in 232 to 245 level gear at the end of the expansion, rather than 264 level gear.

Hopefully this will be changed by making 25 man raids give the same rewards as 10 player raids - this should straight away eliminate half of the gear inflation in the expac.
"People like being overgeared".

This is true.

Also, if you are overgeared you can downgear at will. If there was really a demand to experience the "fun challenge" of fighting Coren Direbrew in the gear that was available in 2009, it could easily be satisfied by re-equipping that gear.

Generally, though, people don't take the option to revisit older content wearing the gear they had when they first did it and using the spells and abilities they had back then, even though most MMOs would allow them to do so if they wished.

I can't really take seriously complaints about having to do something a certain way when the option to do it another way is available but unused.

The underlying point about better tuning of reward systems is well-made, though. I see this as a fundemental flaw in token systems for gear, however.
Raid finder will never happen, since the "tyrannycal" raid leader is the only thing that saves you from wiping on the first pack of monsters at the door. Even with full 251-264 gear, good luck clearing Marrow trash with an "everyone is invited" group.
@Gevlon: maybe the first few times there would be trash wipes, but given enough time with a Raid Finder everyone would eventually become more than competent to be one-shotting every ICC boss.

The sad truth is that WoW is simply not challenging enough any more for those players looking for a bit of depth in the gameplay and instead is catering for players who want to smash one or two buttons and little else, and there lies a big problem for Blizzard - the very players that Blizz are catering for are the same players that would drop WoW in a flash when the next latest and greatest thing comes along; maybe Blizzard have long since realised this and are simply avoiding the inevitable and focusing on keeping those players happy for as long as possible by spoon-feeding them content that requires little to no effort.

The way to encourage overgeared to carry on running the HCs is to keep the higher token rewards for completing the daily random HC.

Keep the original tokens for the original loot and only have higher reward tokens in raid instances and that would keep them alive throughout the expansion. Sadly Blizzard have not done this for Cata but maybe theyy can use the pricing of rewards to balance the reward:difficulty ratio.
The problem with removing Frosties from the Heroic LFD is that overgeared players doing their daily are the lifeblood of LFD. If you removed Frosties, LFD at lvl 80 instantly dies a horrible strangling death and we're back to 'Raid or GTFO' at the level cap again, just like Vanilla and BC.

Which is great for those of us who liked Vanilla and BC, but not so great otherwise. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the fundamental distinction between people that have a serious problem with the status quo and those who don't; raiders feel like 5-mans are giving too much reward. Non-raiders think that raiders can go to hell.
almondo; I know that 'WoW is dumbed down to cater to the lowest common' is a popular meme these days, so I don't really blame you for being infected by it.

But it's bullshit. You should know better.

WoW 'is catering for players who want to smash one or two buttons and little else' when both raid encounters and class mechanics are far more complex than they were in classic WoW? Feel free to compare the raid encounters in Vanilla WoW to those in LK; it's not even a context. Naxx-40 was the only raid in Vanila that even approached the complexity of modern raid encounters, and many of them simply wouldn't pass muster; is there any fight in Naxx, even KT, that has as many aspects to manage as Putricide or Lich King? And it's not even close when regarding class mechanics; there is no class in the game that is easier to play now than they were in Vanilla. Full stop.

Again, I know it's popular to bitch about WoW being dumbed down. But it's really not so. What's been removed is a lot of the outside bullshit that used to make getting anything done a pain in the ass. Travel is easier. Finding groups is easier. Leveling is easier. Finding and using the meta-information to accomplish any of these tasks is radically easier.
The actual Direbrew fight was not that much more difficult a year ago - he might have lived for 30-90 seconds instead of 15-30 seconds, but he already felt undertuned. I do not remember ever wiping to Direbrew, which was good since a wipe would have cost someone their summon for the day.

The thing that makes this year's edition feel so "easy" is that you don't need to spam LFG for a group, you don't need to travel to BRD (or to the guy in the group who had the remote), and you don't need to kill Direbrew five times. Now you're in and out in under 60 seconds. It's not actually easier, it just takes less time.
If Blizzard goes ahead with their current plan, the situation will repeat. There are no Emblems in Cataclysm, but two different kinds of points, Justice (JP) and Conquest (CP). During Tier 11, Justice give you Heroic level rewards and Conquest Raid level rewards. You get Justice from Heroics and Conquest from Raids. This works great. The problem is once Tier 12 come out, Tier 11 gear moves to Justice points. Here we again have Heroics giving rewards far better than what drops.

What is overlooked is WHY the Developers have to do this. It's because of the pvp / arena system. Each arena system, the pvp gear gets updated, and last seasons gear goes to to available from mindless bg farming. Without Heroics dropping competitive gear, all players would be incentivized to go after the pvp gear, and use it for p v e.
I agree, I have always though that they should go back to the maintaining an actual progression though all the raids. While some elite guilds will simply leave behind those who don't keep up, there are also a lot of guilds that will run the older raids once in a while simply to gear up their second string raiders.

Also, some guilds are simply slower or get started later and provide a way group by which some players who are new and behind can get in on the raiding. but what is their to get in on if you end up skipping the first two raid tiers of the expansion?

Fact is, someone who joins a guild late can get geared up pretty quickly and naturally simply because the rest of the guild is so well geared. That's how my priest got geared up for raiding back in T5.

The only variation on the theme that I wouldn't mind seeing would be to have the heroics as part of the progression. That is, for each raid tier, add two or three heroics that are a half step between that tier and the previous. A bit like how HoR is more difficult or how Magister's Terrace was back in BC.

But they need to stop obsoleting their own content the moment something new comes out.

But they are specifically going to offer only two tiers of tokens now so it seems that they are specifically planning to be stupid again.
Coren was designed to allow level 78s queue for him and have a chance. 6k gs people are equivalent of 85-87 now.

I have six 80s that do Coren in 1-2 minutes for 19 gold and 2 frosts each. Not bad! Mindless,yes. Fun, no.

But then, wow is not about fun -- it's about gear -- period.
"The too high reward level didn't serve any good purpose: Instead of making raiding more accessible, it made several raid dungeons instantly obsolete."

It definitely did make raiding more accessible. People who are new or had taken a break are able to come back and raid with their friends, or in a PUG, or in pretty much any guild they want, rather than having to find some starter guild still doing Ulduar.

Gevlon made a post a while back about who you would find doing the earlier raids, under a BC model - let's say Ulduar. Good, experienced players have moved beyond those raids and are doing ICC. So the only people doing old raids are alts, new players, and what Gevlon calls "M&S" but I'd call weak players, who aren't good enough (for whatever reason) to have made it to the next raid dungeon. The first group just wants other alts of experienced raiders, the third group is bound to be a miserable failure. So you have to get lucky and find a group of people at the same progression level you are, and hope your role is needed and you get along with them, as you won't have many choices.

You continually lament the lack of raid tier progression, but you don't give any credit to the trade offs you get for getting rid of it. There wouldn't be any PUGing of ICC without overpowered badge loot.
But I thought that simply the existence of 10 man versions of all the raid content was supposed to make everything more accessible. I simply don't think that it is in fact necessary for them to bypass previous tiers with each major update in order for things to be accessible. It would take time for people to work though still but that is not the same as making it inaccessible to a small guild.

And for that matter it is not like their isn't still some progression. People still can't go straight from quest blues into a 10 man raid. They do still have to work though the Heroics phase of progression. So why is it suddenly impossible for them to work though the other tiers as well once something better has been released?

I think having people work though the tiers would also provide a much more solid sense of accomplishment. Even if the top flight guilds have moved on to bigger and better things, the smaller 10 man raiding only guilds would still be able to do it like everyone else did, just a few months later.
Blizzard felt like the tiered progression model of Vanilla/TBC left too many people unable to do BT/Sunwell.

If those raids were all 10 man but of the same difficulty, they would not be very accessible to the audience they're talking about.
You could make them easier (10-man normal vs heroic) but I still think plenty of people would feel stuck not being able to ICC successfully because their gear was good enough.

You can get pretty far in ICC with blues, with the 30% buff you'd probably be able to kill LK in Naxx/Heroic epics. So there's still no real tiering unless you have attunements, or don't have the buff, but those are separate issues. ToC is also much much much easier than Ulduar, so there would still be no point in doing Naxx or Ulduar when you could do ToC if ICC were too hard.

Blizzard's stated goal was that more players should be able to fight and defeat the Lich King. You can say the badge loot was a bad trade off but it's a fact it did help achieve that goal.
Blizzard has admitted that gear inflation got out of hand this expansion. This is because when they started out, they weren't really considering heroic/hard modes and their effect on ilvl inflation. So instead of the 25/10-man ilvl split, you'd now have 25-hard/25-10HM/10. Which just sort of let things spiral out of control stat-wise. Cata is allegedly fixing this.
As long as Blizzard has learned the lesson, that 'accessibility' doesn't = 'anyone can skip ahead to the last raid'

They had already taken many measures in WOTLK to make raiding more accessible. Less farming required, easier intro raid(s), 10-man settings for all raids, all crafted gear being BoE... etc. etc.

They didn't need to blow all of these changes out of the water with these insane gear rewards in heroics.

@Nbarnes: You say that people just facerolling heroics for frosts are the LIFEBLOOD of LFD? LFD would die without it? I don't see it. How do you figure?
Blizzard has realized a lot, and whether or not they are concentrating on keeping the majority of the playerbase happy in Cataclysm is the topic for another post. However, what they -are- doing in Cata is different than anything they have done before: In that they are offering tons of content changes and additions with only 5 levels of advancement.

The thing that bothers me most about WOTLK is that I'm seeing guildless players sporting the "King Slayer" title that they have obtained through pugging. I'd like for anyone that says that WoW hasnt been dumbed down to re-think their position on that based on the relative ease of getting that title now as it appears that "anyone" can get it.

This really isnt more about "The danger of high rewards" than it is the overall trivialization of everything to do with the learning curve, gearing curve, difficulty levels..ect. And as far as the "dumbing down" aspect that everyone seems to love to disagree about - Since the "buff" was added, you now have upwards of 40% progress worldwide with a LK kill, versus only 8% prebuff. The fact that 10-man LK can be done with 6 players is a complete and utter joke. If that's not trivializing, or dumbing down the content, then please, someone explain to me what is?
The levels of gear in WOTLK escalate at far too steep an incline. As people gear, earlier content at the same level should become easier, but it shouldn't become trivial.

I don't understand how you are so shocked every time someone doesn't want to use their imagination for something in an MMO.

Firstly, the whole point of MMOs is to *not* use your imagination, but to have a fully visual and visceral experience.

Secondly, I realize *you* feel imagination is a must. But know this, you are in the smallest of the small minorities/niches /whatever.

What I don't understand is after how long of reading and commenting on blogs have you still not come to understand that almost no one else in the world has your viewpoint?

Every post of yours is the same:
"You have no reason to complain because technically its physically possible for your to do that, as long as your Really, Really suspend your disbelief and completely un-immerse yourself and REALLY pretend something is true that isn't".

Please understand that although you can imagine everything in a game (like that you are challenged fighting a mob when you know you could pull out your 'real' sword and one-hit it), everyone else wants it to really be true.

People don't play MMOs to imagine the challenge of fighting something. They want to actually fight something.

Lastly, my question to you is this:

Why not write a book instead of playing MMOs. It is frankly astounding to me that you could so confuse the two.

Whenever you describe what you want from an MMO, its what everyone else wants from reading/writing a novel. Not from a game that you play online with other people.

p.s. It is Really, Really, Really hard for me to understand how you are asking why people don't "go back and fight old fights with old gear and spells". Firstly, who keeps their old gear for this? Secondly, why not roll an alt instead...? Nothing sounds more boring, convoluted, pointless, or annoying to me.
"And of course Blizzard couldn't adjust the difficulty level of the heroic dungeons, because they were in fact quite challenging for a group wearing only the kind of gear a freshly dinged level 80 would wear."

We didn't have this problem in BC, even though the rewards for chain running heroics were actually quite good there also (badges of justice would get you tier-5 equivalent gear in for most slots in most specs).

The problem is that wrath 3.0 heroics really weren't challenging for those wearing fresh 80 gear unless they were also weak players.

Burning Crusade heroics required more from the players. You could not AoE fest them unless you radically overgeared the content, because only paladins had sufficient AoE threat, and it was hard to keep up with all the damage.

I wiped in BC heroics all the time in pugs. Even good groups would sometimes wipe because of mistakes.

I never wipe in 3.0 heroics with even semi-competent players in fresh 80 gear. In fact you really only need 3 semi-competent players even in blues: a tank, a healer, and one dps.

After that, as long as your other dps are not the kind of mouth-breathing gogogogogogogers that pull random packs on their own, that's it, you'll probably get through the dungeon without wipes.

That was *definitely* not true in BC. If people were not full epic geared, you needed good tank, healer and at least one dps, and you needed the other dps to be at least decent. One bad player would kill you by breaking CC or some other nonsense.

Gear didn't make the 3.0 heroics easy, they were *already* easy. That was part of the problem. There should have been a way to get decent ready for naxx starter gear from normal dungeons and quests, and heroics should have been more... heroic.
Post a Comment

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool