Tobold's Blog
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Nerf or bringing the flow back?

I usually don't read patch notes of the public test realm for World of Warcraft, for the simple reason that it's a test realm, and the patch notes tend to get changed before going live. But one bit of news about patch 4.0.6. caught my eyes: In future you will be able to farm justice points in normal dungeons. The daily normal random dungeon has it's justice point rewards doubled, and the bosses in the "reputation" dungeons now give 30 JP each, up from zero.

The result will be that people who currently have problems doing heroics for whatever reasons (too long, too hard, too likely to fail in a PuG), can run normal dungeons instead, and get beyond the iLevel 333 reward level of the items dropping in normal dungeons. And as success always depends on a combination of skill and gear, this ultimately will make heroics easier.

Now of course some people like heroics in their current difficulty level (I like them in guild groups), and will claim that this is Blizzard catering to the lowest common denominator and nerfing heroics. But for those who feel stuck, because they already got all possible gear from normal dungeons and can't make the jump to heroics, this change will bring back the flow of the game. Having the option of running normal dungeons to improve gear, instead of farming daily quests for reputation gear, is more fun to a lot of people.

So what do you think about these changes? Are you crying "nerf", or are the justice point rewards in normal dungeons bringing the flow back into your WoW?
The conditions for achieving flow state are always subjective. The exact same content is too easy for one person and too hard for another. No amount of nerfs or buffs will change this.
I'm indifferent. History (read: Wrath) has shown that there are people who somehow manage 2k DPS in iLevel 264 gear. Also good gear doesn't improve your ability to minimize damage (aiming at DPS here, not tanks). So in the end me and my trusty tank will still get 3 random DPS.
One of those will be a good player.
Another one will do good damage, but will get damage like hell.
And the last one will do crappy damage.

In the end that change only affects those who really were stuck because they couldn't master current heroics. And I never had any illusions about that, it was bound to happen. Blizzard wants you to see all raid instances at least on normal difficulty and they will do everything short of a guided tour to see it happen.
It's a slight nerf, but it's really ok. There are a lot of people around who are already "finished" with Heroics (myself being one of them) by having no more upgrades and by having completed the Meta-Achievement to get the Volcanic Drake. I have no problem at all with my terrible alts being able to spend a little while in normal dungeons to smooth the gearing curve, and not needing to have a bag full of crafted ilvl 339 PvP gear.
I'm quite happy with this upcoming change.
I will be doing more normal dungeons once the change comes through. It might also decrease the wait time (more people queueing up for JP).
Once I have a few JP items, I will then start doing the heroics.
Though I'm still unsure if this will change player attitudes (it may make them worse!).
It's a percieved nerf second and a desperate try from Blizzard to populate raid content first. The leaked schedule for upcoming Blizzard games gives many hints about the patch cycle for Cataclysm. The 2nd tier of raid content will come much sooner than we're used to be. Compare raid popularity of Cataclysm with early Lich King. Compared to Naxx, the 1st tier of Cataclysm is dead in the water. Blizzard needs people to play it as soon as possible, before tier 2 renders tier 1 futile. This is why they not lower the barrier of entrance, they just smash it. Next up, raid nerfs big time in about 6 too 8 weeks, if 4.0.6 goes live next week. Heroics 1.0 in Cataclysm were supposed to be the Nax of it. The school for players to get into raiding. If they skip it soon, raids have to be dumped down too. I don't even want to think about steping from 5man normals into raids.

This points all fingers of one of the major flaws of their content strategy. Contemporary chunks of content require a very slow stream of updates or else...
I think increasing the JP per heroic boss was unnecessary, but giving JP per normal boss is right. This is because people who do not have enough gear to do heroics have no other recourse to fill slots (that can't be filled by rep) but the crappy 70 JP from the daily normal once a day.

This will hopefully stop players who can't do heroics trying to force it (ex. carrying some non-spec gear with higher ilevel in their bags to cheese the requirement) and dragging the group down.
I'm not certain how much this will affect things, aside from making raid leaders make sure their raiders aren't wearing all justice-point gear. If people don't have the coordination for heroics, they don't have the coordination for raids.
Irrelevant change. Those who couldn't do a heroic because of being terrible, still cannot (it's not their gear stopped them).

For fresh lvl 85s it's a welcome change as they can replace greens faster.
Really, I wonder how many people are capped at ilvl 333 and unable to do heroics? I asked this question in a previous post, but the comments were already so far off topic that it was sort of lost in the middle of it all.

My suspicion was always that people were boosting their ilvl to the minimum 329 through having useless (but high ilvl) gear in their bags. These same people then rarely ever run normals and just try to force heroics while ignoring the proper progression.
I think it's a good move by Blizzard. They have pleased some people by not nerfing the actual heroics, and pleased the others by making ilvl 346 gear more accessible.
Technically speaking, they are nerfing heroics. Just not with this particular change. The heroics are already nerfed on the PTR; this is just another change on top of that.
There are a few. But most of the changes are visual, or just designed to make the fight how it should have been. Some are even made harder.
It seems Blizzard has two tricks for raid progression.

Bonus JP: Allows people to gear up for current/future content (instead of TOC which everyone hated apparently).

Raid Buff: Allows people to see current content

Blizzard really ought to craft a formula for their game, like:

1 month out: no buffs, regular JP but titles/world firsts/mounts for hardcore reaiders
2 months out: same as above
3 months out: +10% raid buff (gets 60-99 percentile through current content)
4 months out: +20% raid buff (gets 30-59 percentile through current content)
5 months out: double JP from bosses (gears up 60-99 percentile for next raid content)
6 months out: +30% raid buff (gets 1-29 percentile through current content)
7 months out: triple JP from bosses (gears up 20-59 percentile for next raid content)
8 months: Release 4.1

Numbers are not precise.
No big deal. Reaching Revered and better is easily done in level 85 normal dungeon, and provides ilvl 346 or greater rewards. Might as well increase the JP awarded.
I can't say I care. Throw some gear at people a bit sooner if it makes them happy. I might complain if it becomes valor points, but until then, who cares?
It's good and bad... probably more good than bad.

I don't like that Heroics are being nerfed so quickly, direct or indirect nerfs. I think it was good for people to finally realize how good, or bad, they were at WoW. Maybe it's the old grumpy ex-eltist in me but I'm glad these "Wrath Babies" got a wake up call.

It's good though because it will create a smoother transition to Heriocs and then to raiding.
In my mind this is a two fold change. First this isn't a nerf to the heroics. The current heroics aren't hard because we can't killthe boss within the enrage timer or healers running out of mana. They are difficult because of coordination issues, no gear is going tosave the fire standers. Second when 4.1 comes around you will be able to farm epics from normal dungeon runs and that will greatly aid people with lots of alts that would like to get raid ready. This second part is what I don't like about it. A player should at least have to fight through a heroic to get all Purple gear, not face roll regular dungeons.
Lets face it - outside of raiding there is very little to do in WoW that is fun.

If they want to keep their more casual player base, they HAVE to provide them with incentive to keep playing. Though it does suck that many of the purchasable items are currently best in slot for many classes.

I think it's a mistake by the dev team to expect the average player to rise to the challenge of the new content. It is much easier to just stop playing WoW and start playing some other game.
My main is already in almost all 346. I'm glad I got to enjoy the challenging content.

I think this is more of the "dumbing down" of WoW we were experiencing in Lich King. The heroics are just not that hard in correctly gemmed and enchanted iLvl 333 gear. This takes away the incentive to learn to play well.

This will also gut the demand for crafted epics, which makes me mad because I just spent a bunch of gold leveling LW to make them.
Irrelevant change. Those who couldn't do a heroic because of being terrible, still cannot (it's not their gear stopped them).

-Not quite true. A full set of 346 makes the trash quite a bit easier (almost wotlk-able, but not quite). They'll still fail to the oneshot mechanics, but it should make the trash a bit easier. I'd expect completion to go up a bit, but not quite dramatically.

My bigger concern is the ratio. ~half as many points sounds good, until you factor in that doing a normal (atleast for me) ussually ends up taking alot less time. You can clear heroics nearly as fast once you get them down, but when you're starting, they're pretty darn close to 2x as long or more.

As long as people don't do normals because they believe they're faster JP, i don't really have an issue with it. (as someone who tends to be considered in the "elitist category".

...That said, i'm still more annoyed that they removed the last rope swing for Vannessa in VC.
I believe these "changes" are predictable, and likely scheduled during expansion development.

Early in the expansion they make it more challenging to gear up to heroic level, creating that illusion that you are better than others if you play more. It also encourages guild play.

Later, through a variety of methods, the progression process is made a bit easier. Now the more casual player can gear up in less time, and the repeat trip for alts is bearable.

Each iteration creates interest, and maintains subscription numbers.

I predict another change coming later will be that valuable trade items (orbs?) will be purchasable with justice points, which will make craftable epic gear more available.

Do we really believe that patches, for the most part, are really "fixing" things or responding to forum QQ's? Other than obvious bugs and class balance tinkering, I think it's all planned well ahead of time.
It seems like Blizzard is just inflating gear level, rather than nerfing content.
Gradually increasing the gear rate is a godsend for those of us who are altoholics.
I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the gap between normal content and heroic content is huge. Blizzard tells players to go do normal difficulty dungeons to gear up for heroics, but there's only 3 level 85 dungeons! By giving them more JP for doing regulars, players can progress to heroics just a little faster instead of being stuck to the random normal LFG and hoping you don't get Stonecore or Vortex Pinnacle for the 10th time (which offer nothing to an 85).
Lets face it - outside of raiding there is very little to do in WoW that is fun.

My wife has been playing WoW for 6 years now casually, without ever visiting a dungeon or raid even once. I'll make sure to inform her that she isn't having fun.
I wrote an extensive post about this change. I think it is a very bad idea, but not because it "nerfs" heroics. You can already get 346 gear in five or six slots through solo content, you can get more and three or four 359's by running normal dungeons for rep. JP lets you buy the other slots. This doesn't make normal dungeons more appealing, it marginalizes them by making the rewards that drop in normal dungeons irrelevant.

I don't think that being an awkward stepping stone to heroics is a good place for normals. Half the people running them don't want to be running them, and that is making the play experience of the people who choose to play them for fun worse.
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