Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 22, 2012
Parallel development

This weekend I finished my first game of XCOM. And I couldn't help but notice that way before the end I had reached a tipping point: Suddenly I had enough money for everything, and some of the battles became rather easy due to the experience and gear of my soldiers. Basically XCOM is a game of parallel development: You get stronger, and the aliens get stronger in parallel. The side who gets stronger the fastest ultimately wins. But as the challenge of the game depends on the difference in stats between the aliens and you, if you develop faster than the aliens then at some point the challenge diminishes.

Games that are solely based on skill don't have that problem so much. If you have a jump & run game in which every level is a bit harder than the previous one, you just have to repeat each level until you master it, and the next will be a challenge again. There isn't a risk that you suddenly outgear the challenge.

MMORPGs have a strong gear component, and thus challenge depends very much on your gear. Leveling up a new character, like a pandaren monk, is already not very difficult. But gear him up with heirlooms, and everything becomes trivial and advancement is crazy fast. I've been running the Brewfest and Halloween single-boss event dungeons a lot lately, and there was a huge difference in performance between a group with level 89 characters in quest greens and a group with level 90 characters in heroics gear.

In World of Warcraft the enemy tends to develop very slowly: More challenging dungeons are only added rarely to the game, and the dungeons that exist don't get harder (and are sometimes nerfed). But both the average gear level and the average experience with any specific dungeon of a group of random players goes up over time. I feel that in the last expansion I tried heroics "too early", before the other players were sufficiently geared and experiences to make heroic runs easy enough. World of Warcraft still lacks a good feedback system for group content: The damage dealers never know that their output was insufficient to beat down the mobs fast enough; they don't see how that causes the healer to run out of mana. The only thing they see is everybody dying, and so everybody ends up blaming the healer. That led to a lot of unpleasantness which then made me quit the game.

Thus I am currently wondering whether I should already try to jump into heroics, or still wait a bit until the gear development of the player base reached the tipping point. Even if Blizzard doesn't change anything on the dungeons, they will get easier to PUG over time.

Heroics of Mists aren't the heroics of Cataclysm. They are slightly tougher versions of the leveling instances. A blue announcement basically said if you join a queue with random people then the content should be easy. Hard content is locked behind challenge mode.

MoP heroics are simple enough. You can carry one idiot fairly easily on all but a few bosses and for most of the instance you can carry two.
In cata I found when you jumped in depended mostly on who you jumped in with. I had a lot of fun jumping into heroics the week of release with friends who had also just finished leveling, but if I had been jumping in with random people whose competence I didn't trust I doubt it would have been as fun.
Jump in to heroics immediately if you can. The difficulty, minus a very few, short areas/bosses spread out over all the instances, is negligible. They exist almost entirely as a soft gate, to pace your ability to gear up.
Has an healer, I would start queuing for heroics a.s.a.p. if I were you.

When you get grouped with a very well geared tanks and/or very good dps, the run is just very boring. You can dps but you don't contribute much and people just won't take any significant damage. When people almost die all the time, that's more fun and challenging.
My Blood DK friend, and I on my Shadow priest can two-man everything. You'll be fine as a dedicated healer.
While gear can be important, so too is the quality of people you are playing with. LFG in the very early stages is often better than you think it would be, because the edge players are the main ones playing. You catch groups with people who are normally raid tanks, for example, and who don't use LFG after they gear up.

Of course, you sometimes have issues with severely undergeared players, but it's pretty good right now.
It's a habitual problem with strategy games. I don't know if I've ever played one where the game wasn't effectively over long before you actually get to the victory screen. Hell, most of the time at least 25% of the gameplay is just mopping up.

That was true in Civ, Master of Orion, all the Total War games, I mean you name it. Just the nature of zero sum games I guess.
Some of the best players Ive ever seen in randoms were minutes after the Hour of Twilight 5 mans were released. I happened to have the day off and it was the way the game was meant to be played. Great communication, figured out the strats as we went, flawless execution. AND very fun.

Same with the first day of LFR Dragon Soul.

See content early and your chance of excellent players is best in my experience.

And life is too short to suffer idiots. If you're in no hurry, drop group liberally when there's drama and the game improves greatly. You're no hero for sticking around when someone starts grinding an axe.
As I understand it you were playing X-com by yourself.

Alot harder for someone else to blame you for anything, there.
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