Tobold's Blog
Monday, March 07, 2011
Call of Warcraft

As you know, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft are two major franchises of Activision Blizzard. And if you play both, you notice some similarities: Scripted events, challenge based on execution, gameplay where if you fail you can try again armed with a better knowledge of what will happen. I’ve been playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare this weekend, as well as World of Warcraft. And on my blog my proposal to split the leveling game from the raiding game was answered with the question of how exactly I would create a pure raiding MMORPG. So I came to the conclusion that maybe a solution to make such a raiding MMORPG would be to introduce elements from Call of Duty, and produce a new game: Call of Warcraft.

As raiders hate the leveling game, that part of a MMORPG in Call of Warcraft would be reduced to a tutorial, of just a few hours length. Players would “gain levels” at a very fast rate, basically receiving a new skill or ability, getting one “quest” or objective to do using that new ability, and being rewarded with a “level”, which gives them the next ability. At the end people would be about as competent in playing their class as they are currently after 200+ hours of leveling to 85, but without the boring kill ten foozles repetitive bits.

Thus quickly arriving at the raiding “endgame”, we can find a solution based on what we know is problematic in World of Warcraft, and see how Call of Duty does it better. To quote Jean-Paul Sartre: Hell is other people. Or to summarize some of the comments in the blog posts of this weekend: Having real people as your guild mates is a problem, because in a raiding game you are looking for performance, not friends. In Call of Duty in single-player mode that is beautifully solved with you being member of a squad of AI-controlled non-player characters. Thus Call of Warcraft should work the same way, and present us with a “guild” of non-player characters, which we can take with us to raid. No more problems with different people having different schedules and real-life obligations and interruptions. And the performance problem can be solved with a bit of clever AI: Your NPC “guild mates” will be programmed to be as good as you are. If you stand in the fire, so will they. If you improve your moves and do everything right, they will play better as well. Especially for the dps (and frankly, who would want to play anything else in Call of Warcraft), one important algorithm in the AI would make sure that *you* are always on top of the damage meter, with the NPCs closely behind. Thus the better you play, the better the whole raid group becomes, without the NPCs risking to outshine you.

Call of Warcraft would have a challenging raid progression via gear. All bosses drop loot just for you, and your AI guild mates will “gear up” in the background without stealing your loot. You will need the loot from the first raid dungeon to successfully tackle the second, and so on. But to prevent you from getting stuck, you can repeat the first raid dungeon and gain additional advantages in the form of enchants and gems from bosses you already killed before.

Just like Call of Duty, Call of Warcraft would effectively have two games: A single-player and a multi-player game. Thus if you don’t want to play with NPCs, you can also via the internet connect to a server where with a ladder system you can find players of similar skill levels working on similar content as you do, and raid with them.

Call of Warcraft would have the advantage that at least the single-player game would not require a monthly fee, you just buy the box for $60. The multi-player game might or might not be free; Activision Blizzard would have to calculate the cost and whether they can afford to offer the required servers and bandwidth for free. But they could certainly charge for downloadable content (DLC), additional raid dungeons released several times per year, both in parallel and in extension of the existing raid progression.

Thus taking all the best parts from Activision Blizzard’s most successful franchises and eliminating all the bad parts from the raiding game, Call of Warcraft would certainly be a smash hit. Or what do you think?
i never played it that much, but isn't that diablo? :)
As raiders hate the leveling game, that part of a MMORPG in Call of Warcraft would be reduced to a tutorial, of just a few hours length. Players would “gain levels” at a very fast rate, basically receiving a new skill or ability, getting one “quest” or objective to do using that new ability, and being rewarded with a “level”, which gives them the next ability.
And this tutorial zone could be called New Avalon.

Thus Call of Warcraft should work the same way, and present us with a “guild” of non-player characters, which we can take with us to raid.
Don't you mean Call of Guild Warcraft?
This comment has been removed by the author.
That would be so stunningly boring. What's the point of a damage meter when you're always on the top?

[long rant deleted]

This just wouldn't be my sort of thing.
I was looking for this exact game today, unfortunately I'm not convinced it could work.

Requiring you to be top dps would effectively eliminate the healing and tanking roles, which would limit the difficulty of fights and remove a lot of the fun. Unless you somehow make all players hybrid and rotate tanking/healing/dps roles.

A game where AI players are just you but lagged 10 seconds behind could be interesting. Tank for 10 seconds, then heal, then dps. But then consider player movement for the entire fight where you need to dodge abilities that haven't happened yet but will to your clone in X iterations...
That would be a rather boring and soulless game. Isn't it kinda the point of playing DPS that you try to play your best? However to measure your best you need other DPS who will be better than you or worse than you. If you meet an overwhelming majority of worse DPS than you you can conclude that you are good. If every DPS is below me by design, whats the point of even playing DPS? Plus, for a lot of raiders the kick is in playing together with other _people_. If you let them play with NPCs first they won't even get whats so great about raiding and will leave before finding their place.

But another question: How would the "endgame" of a pure levelgame look like? Just a "Congratulations, you beat the game" after you reached level 85 would be boring.
What you really want is a game where "the act of raiding" IS the game. You progress, gain levels, gain loot, gain whatever by RAIDING.

You don't do crafting, questing and other "fluff" to eventually raid. You JUST raid!

In Guildwars, guess what, if you want to PvP, you roll up your max level character and PvP. You progress your character while PvP'ing , you gain rewards while PvP'ing. Simple. If you want some PvE flavor, you grab some henchmen [NPC AI] and go quest, if you want to do this with other players you replace the NPCs with them.

I don't really understand where this whole "endgame" thing came from, and why it's a different game from the "actual game" . I do know it's most certainly the CHEAP SOLUTION when your "actual game" do not have any longevity at all.

If Blizzard could make a game with 500 levels, which only 1% of players would ever hit, then "raiding" would not be an "endgame" activity but part of the ACTUAL GAME. I believe EQ had something like this, players did not rush to the level cap and then sit there doing raids, they raided while playing the "actual game" ! .

So what is WoW really? Shouldn't it be called "Raidcraft" and they might as well drop the lvl 1-85 nonsense , give us all a big lobby with a list of all the dungeons, and give you levels,xp,rewards as you do them? As you level up, you unlock more dungeons..and so on and so forth.
Yes, this is Diablo and I liked it just fine. :)

I enjoy the PVE and leveling more so than the raiding itself. Especially since I have a life. Unlike most of the hard core raiders I don't have 3+ nights of 4+ hours to give to this game. It is much easier for me to jump in for an hour or two here and there. It becomes "work" to raid. The coordination with other guildmates, the time, etc. I'd love to the option of having AI henchmen to jump into a dungeon with me when time doesn't permit a full raid.
Didn't you just described Guild Wars, only giving it a Blizzard bashing name instead?

Anyway from what you wrote it looks like a boring single player dungeon crawler, worse in the MMO aspect than pretty much everything else.
Blizzard bashing name

Why would you think this is "Blizzard bashing"? If anything, this is directed at the players, not the developers. It is the players, the raiders, who keep telling me that they want performance from their guild mates, not friendship. That the leveling game is "useless".

I totally agree that this would be a soulless game. Thus it should be perfect for the kind of soulless people who raid for "performance" with no regard to the social aspects of a MMORPG, the lore, the world, and other gameplay aspects like crafting.
Actually the name you gave it is very appropriate, as it would no longer be a "world" of any kind at all.

But it still is a bit of Blizzard bashing if I just read the first few sentences of your post. It all goes back to the "I'm not raiding because it's all repeating dances" post not so long ago, doesn't it?

I wonder - if you could make one raid instance in WoW (let's say another dragon raid in Dragonblight, but for current levels of course), what would that boss be like and what elements that encounter would have?

Would people doing it say "this raid is fun" or "this is the hardest raid encounter I've ever done" and most importantly, why?

I know that you already pointed at EQ raiding as being hard, but it's not that easy to compare it if I haven't played EQ at all - movies are quite rare and don't really show much (mostly due to being old and blurry), and lists of boss abilities aren't that much helping if I don't know the context of average player health or how hard/easy is to heal etc.
You described Guild Wars. (Which you really should play through at least once - it's cheap enough now.)

I actually re-installed Guild Wars this weekend, and had a blast using my full group of Heroes to complete some quests I never got around to. It was a lot more fun than I expected after all this time.

The good thing about my computer AI group, is that they are will to go anywhere I want to, any time I want. They won't complain if I respec them or swap them in and out of the group. They don't moan or quit the group when we wipe.

And don't call me a noob or asshole when I make a mistake - at least not to my face.
I think you left out /irony off

Although as pointed out, this is pretty much Guild Warsm which seems to have done alright for itself, so probably a Blizzard version would do even better.
Hmmm something which seems to be completely missing in your lasts posts: you assume that performance and friendship are mutually exclusive. This is definitely not the case. You get what you look for: if you look for performance you'll find performance and (maybe) friendship, if you look for friendship you'll find friendship and (maybe) performance. Look for the two and you'll have to search longer, and you won't have 100% friendship and 100% performance, but you'll find yourself a nice guild with enough progression to keep you entertained and enough nice people for it to be good to be around.
@Tonyp51: Are the NPC allies good enough to take you through dungeons alone now? I tried the game when it first came out, but with me being the non-social wreck I was 5-6 years ago, I only used the bots to get through zones, and it got impossible to play after a while since they weren't strong enough.

@Tobold: It sounds like a souless game, but only because you go from an MMORPG into a single player ARPG without really explicitly making that connection. After some forethought, I realized that the game type you're describing is nearly every singleplayer action game out there with RPG-ish elements.

Ninja Gaiden, Demon Souls, Devil May Cry, etc. all would fall under this category. The addition of perfect bots that would aid you in a raid are completely extraneous since they're essentially just computer vs computer and unimportant. Really, all you're looking at is a single-player action romp that gets harder and harder as you near towards the ending.

I'm not quite sure though, why you continue these posts; they seem to be solutions to a problem that doesn't exist, and you come across as being more and more bitter with each and every post.
Sounds like a great game, Tobold. But aren't you 9 years early now? :P
I'd hate it ;)
Well... given that Blizzard/Actievil has a vested interest in making money on games and leveraging their existing platforms. I believe they have answered the question for themselves.

Here is my take. Actievil buffed up for a reason. Kotick has gone on record saying that the Call of Duty (COD) on Xboxlive situation is not one they favor (they don't get a dime from players doing COD online with xboxlive).

So they WANT to create a game and network where they can control the revenues. BUT I suspect that Wow is orders of magnatude more lucrative for Actievil than COD.

What to do? Well they can't take on Microsoft so they will entice the console man-boys over to TITAN and then get the box sale AND subscriptions.

Great idea but here are the unknowns.

Will man-boys do subscription to non-xbox games?
Will man-boys go for something that will play like wow? (degree of leveling content may be as little as Tobold suggests)

Here is what history has shown.

Wow is a PC game where a muti-button interface is required.
Wow has a revenue stream that everyone is envious of.
Wow's subscription model depends on many players playing for many reasons. (not just end game, pvp etc)

So my idea is that if you are interested in making games like Wow (with those yummy subscriptions) then you make wow not call of wow.

If Actievil wants to keep Wow/wowclone rolling in money. It might be best to not try to marry console ideas or they will get what happened in final fantasy.

So the Blizzard/Actievil drama may have a few more rounds to play. Because Acti is incentived to make Call of Warcraft on consoles. Blizzard will be incentived to make world of titan on pcs.

So who makes the most money may win the day... of course Blizz is in the process of killing their cash cow for meat.

Oh and what does Blizz/Acievil do about mobile gaming?

" /equip popcorn"
Oh by the way Cataclysm will find out if players only care about hard end game content.

Given the lack of content in the main game I think that Blizz can test this concept of quick end game progression in situ.
Lol, Tobold turned in to Bobby Kotick for a post. It's a how to make the most money idea without thinking of the mess you'd cause in the gaming scene. Bravo!

It would sell millions but the gamer in me doesn't want the franchises combined.

I would wait and see. A month or two after release is usally good.
Sign me up. And no it isn't Diablo.
That sounds more like a Warhammer RTS game than either of the two.

I assume I sparked this thought experiment when I suggested CoD provided a model for an end game only MMO. However, I didn't mean to suggest automated squadmates; I just meant that you had a system with leveling, but in which a level one character can easily kill a max level character.

The reason your game is going to sound unattractive to people is one of the deep problems with MMOs; which is that the gameplay sucks. No triple A single player game based around killing bosses would ever use a system where you have to stand still and watch your cast bar count down for two seconds. And then do it again. And again. And again. The list of really lame, awful, boring MMO combat conventions would be really long.

So point made that you really do need people for an MMO to be fun. My question is when are we going to see an MMO hasn't been hobbled because of technical limitations or convention? If we get an MMO that would be fun as a single player game AND has the attraction of social interaction, that's what will toss WoW in the rubbish bin of history.

I believe Tobold has answered this before. He favours boss encounters where there are a large number of abilities randomly used and strategy/synergy is important rather than dancing and quick reactions.

How popular you think this will be depends on your view of the current state of WoW encounters.
@Bernard - ah, must've missed that. However, as far as I don't agree with Tobold and don't like his view of raiding, I still think a specific post like that would be cool to read. :)

Why large number of abilities though - from what I've read the EQ bosses didn't have that many, that's why the question at all.
What you would lose with easy advancement to the endgame would be a sense of investment and exclusivity. Raiding would no longer be the endgame, it would be just a game.

Remove the effort from getting raid ready, and you lose the coolness factor of raiding, or even appearing as if you raid (or could raid).

The presence and visibility of an elite raider class motivates both the e-peen pseudo-elite players, as well as the casual/HC player striving to get better little by little.

Uncouple the leveling grind from the endgame and you destroy both the mystique of the endgame, as well as the basic motivation for leveling (to get there).
@Saithir: I think you are barking up the wrong tree, if not the wrong forest. I never raided in Everquest, but raiding wasn't the *point* of Everquest. Most people never got to the level cap, as that took 2,000 hours, about 2 years for an average player with no alts. The leveling game *was* Everquest.

Raiding was for a handful of hardcore crazies with too much time on their hand. Unfortunately one of those crazies was Tigole, and he went on to make WoW raiding.

But the challenge for the normal player in Everquest was *not* a raid boss challenge, because most people never ever got there. The game was challenging enough without raids.
We already have "Call of Warcraft" - it's called WoW/World of Warcraft!

Is the latest expansion anything but a funnel to raid content?

Will patches not be raid-centric again?
@Tobold - Oh, so EQ wasn't actually hard, it only took so much time that it looked like it?

I don't consider "spend that much time on it" to be a challenge at all (hence why I never got the Bloodsail Admiral title for example - it's just boring grinding mobs for X hours), so I expected something actually difficult.

I guess I was wrong then, my bad. You learn something every day.
I think you're confusing "working with other people" with "friendship".

Working with other, real people to overcome a challenge is something people do and enjoy all the time. Sports teams are the obvious comparison, as the other main area (work) is done primarily for pay.

I love playing football, so I join a team and enjoy practicing and working with my team mates to win games. Some of these team mates will become my friends, sometimes friendships that last past my time on the team, but most of them will remain simply teammates.

A raiding guild is comparable to a sports team, not a gang of friends. That's your disconnect. There is something between hanging out with friends and playing with computer constructs.

I think it's part of the "hollowing out" of the friend concept, mainly driven by Facebook but also by WoW. You can interact with people who aren't your friends. You can enjoy activities you do with people who aren't your friends. That somebody isn't your friend doesn't mean that he's your enemy, or a stranger, or that he dislikes you. It just means your not that close.
@Saithir: Are you deliberately trying to troll, or are you unable to understand? In Everquest EVERY SINGLE FIGHT was a challenge. Pull slightly wrong, and the group wipes. Use one wrong heal at the wrong time, and the group wipes. Don't use your groups crowd control to the max, and your group wipes. EVERY SINGLE FIGHT.
According to you, time was a factor, even if it wasn't the only factor.
And how is time *not* a factor in WoW raiding?
And how is time *not* a factor in WoW raiding?
I never said it wasn't. But surely you can agree it's less of a factor than it was in EQ or WoW Vanilla. The (shortened) leveling process is still there, but reputation grinds, resistance gear and attunements have all been deprecated from the current design. Even the gearing process has a built-in shortcut in the form of points gained from heroics.
As frustrating as it can be, the best part of raiding IS the social aspect. If you remove it (or reserve it for only "elite" players) you drain the uniqueness from the experience.
Are you deliberately trying to troll, or are you unable to understand? In Everquest EVERY SINGLE FIGHT was a challenge. Pull slightly wrong, and the group wipes. Use one wrong heal at the wrong time, and the group wipes. Don't use your groups crowd control to the max, and your group wipes. EVERY SINGLE FIGHT.

Why do I get the feeling that it's more than likely that people just didn't know how to play the game back then? Player knowledge in Cataclysm on average is still going to be way higher than player knowledge in Vanilla, and even higher than player knowledge in a game played in a time years ago.
Actually, scratch that.

Your experience in EQ was essentially the pugs of today. Of course it was hard. All pugs don't even know what they're doing.
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