Tobold's Blog
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Thought for the day: Skill-based

If players would really like skill-based gaming in MMORPGs, then how come that The Oculus, with final fight eliminating the influence of gear and being completely skill-based, is the least popular dungeon in World of Warcraft at level 80?
Ahehehehehe, it WAS skill-based - but now the drakes scale with your average item level.

Even so, i think oculus is a horrible place - admittedly i'm terrible at using the green drake, but just in general - it takes so long, so many players fail at it, the (third?) boss, where you hide behind the walls, is just freakin annoying to heal....just a bleh instance, for me.
Because the 3D is very frustrating there. Our apes subroutines don't work that well anymore in that case ;).

Moreover: The majority of people don't really like skill based gaming in MMOs.
Because it also throws away all other game mechanics?
First of all if something is most difficult, than it should also yield a greater reward. But in the Occulus you get the same iLevel 200 epics as in Violet Hold or if you get carried through Naxx10.
Second, riding a dragon with four skills and thus no longer being able to use my own skills effectively means that in Oculus I am not allowed to play my priest, but have to play something else. Most of the challenge comes from one fact: I have thousands of hours of practise with my priest, but not more than 20 hours on the back of an Occulus-Dragon.
Third, I simply don't want to be a dragon, I want to be a priest. If Blizzard forces me to be a dragon thats no fun. It also doesn't help that most players avoid the Occulus like the plague, up to the point where you have people in full Ulduar gear who don't have their "has been in Occulus"-Achievement. The typical Occulus-PUG has at least two players who will simply sit there in the final fight, spam their damage-ability a bit and don't move when the Boss shifts, so you have to do the rest with 3 people. And when you really manage to do it those guys (who didn't tell you beforehand that they had no clue about the instance) get the following achievements:
- The Occulus
- The Occulus (heroic)
- Hero of the Frozen Wastes
- God knows what else..
And its not the bad players who behave like this.. its players I would take into every other heroic without problems. But the nature of the Occulus-fight seems to be so alien to them that they don't even want to understand it.

Two additional things. I'll put those at the end, please ignore them if you don't like them for the sake of the discussion.
- Occulus is no longer an Instance where gear doesn't matter. The power of the dragons scales with the iLevel of your gear now. This change was overlooked by many people, I still see some guys do the Dragonfight naked which is incredibly dumb.
- Its a vocal minority who wants challenge. The average player makes enough mistakes in WoW that everything is a bit challenging.
maybe becuase the "cost" of this skill-based encounter is being ripped out of your comfort zone, instantly changing to a world where key "1" isnt Charge or "frostbolt" etc?

I enjoyed learning this new encounter, but having also to learn a new "me" was a little traumatic.

Standard Human, fear of the new / unknown?
Because players want to play their characters and not a drake with 2 buttons?
IMO, the vehicle mechanics in WoW don't really work so well, especially when flying. The camera angle is wrong, and the controls are not really designed for complex 3D navigation. Action flight sims do a much better job at this.

However, you have a point. Your character getting more powerful (and consequently, fights getting easier) is a huge part of the motivation of playing an RPG. Few people complain about Flame Leviathan, because with the gear scaling, that fight (in +0) is easier than most trash now.

(BTW, those Oculus dragons were recently patched to have some gear scaling as well, so it's the fight is not strictly "skill based" anymore. But from my experience, the scaling is so weak that it hardly matters.)
A guildy was requesting a visit earlier in the week, the general response was that it takes too long.

But then there's also been a general lack of enthusiasm for Malygos which is a similar (and at least to me) enjoyable fight.
I think skill-based is a buzz-word mainly as opposed to level-based, not in the sense in which you mention it.

In that sense, there's TF2 or similar..
1. Clumsy control/feeling: The dragons really clutter the screen, little overview and the controls are a bit awkward 2. You are no longer YOU (your char), but something else 3. it is difficult! 4. It is different to what players are used to. As Hirvox said, it throws away all other game mechanics. It is like the difference between playing soccer and driving a formula 1 car, it is something very different.
Man, thought this would be obvious but... the big outcry of people demanding skill based gaming aren't the ones playing WoW.

Sure, its what they want, but its surrounded by the wrong game. If only one map in a counter strike server rotation turned the whole server into a temporary game of alpha centauri, I doubt many people would stick around. They didn't join the server for a turn based strategy. They joined to shoot each other in the face with guns.

People playing wow didn't join up for a skill based even playing field. They joined up for... whatever WoW is...
That's faulty logic. You are asking why a single skill based dungeon plopped in a huge game of level/gear based progression isn't more popular. The same would be true of a level/gear based grind dungeon thrown into a skill based game. It doesn't fit with the rest of the game.
I don't think the Eregos fight is any more or less skill-based than anything else in WoW. The problem is that it throws a bunch of new skills at everyone that have little do to with how they usually play. Imagine a boss fight where everybody is handed a level 80 character of a class they've never played before, so you have to explain things from scratch to everyone and still expect to wipe a lot - that's how the Eregos fight works, and yes, it's annoying.

Though I have now done the Oculus so many times that I actually understand all the drakes reasonably well and don't mind it so much anymore. But in the early days I really hated it, wiping over and over because nobody really understood how the drakes were supposed to work together.
As has been said, your gear affects your drake.

I don't like vehicle combat, period. I leveled up a Paladin. Or a Shaman. Or whatever I'm playing. I didn't level up a flying dragon. I want to play what I chose to play.
If you're a dedicated WoW player at this point after all of the changes, you're less likely to be in search of a skill-based MMO. Blizzard has systematically drained the skill from the game.
Vehicle-based encounters are generally tolerated much better by players as an introduction to the instance than as the frustrating final encounter.

Consider the popularity of Flame Leviathan in Ulduar 10/25 (A much beloved encounter) and Normal/Heroic 5 man Trial of the Champion - which begins with jousting.

Compare those to the final boss of Occulas, and Malygos with the frustrating 3rd phase drake fight - no matter how well you did or how long you spent learning the first 2 phases, none of it helps to complete the arcade-like experience of phase 3. Someone's skill as their own class no longer translates to their ability to help win.
First of all I don't think that MMORPG player who ask for their MMO to be more skill-based want it to be only skill-based. They are playing a RPG (in most cases) for the character advancement. You take that away and they might as well be playing TF2 or Dota. Oculus takes (took) all your advancement benefits away from you, turning it into a very bad vehicle combat game.

That is the second point - Oculus is clearly horrible. As people have pointed out, the 3D controls are bad and the dragon abilities are incredibly limited.

Compare Oculus to the (hard mode) Flame Leviathan fight. I know very few people who dislike that fight. You get to stay in 2D (which helps massively) and both your movement and the way in which you use your abilities matter a lot. The fight also provides a nice divergence from your usual tank-heal-dps trinity which can be refreshing.

Oculus replaces tank, healer, and dps with more boring, contrived, and 3d tanks, healers, and dps.
I agree with several of the comments here.

The final fight in Oculus is clumsy, vehicle combat is ill-designed, the visuals make it difficult to gauge positioning, the controls are unfamiliar.

Otherwise what's not to like.
It's a clumsy instance which forces people to play as something they've no experience or wish to play as.

This is a shame, as the individual bosses are quite good.
A funny thing happened-

When Flame Leviathon came out, i moaned and complained with the best of em. First time going in there i thought "Hey this is alot of fun! in a week or two, it'll probably feel like Oculus or Malygos though."

And I was wrong. Even doing 3 towers, (and looking forward to 4) i enjoy the fight immensely. They did a great job. There is so much to do, and much more complexity compared to Malygos/Eregos fights.

Maly(dps)-112-112-112 [move right] except the camera angle makes it hard to see exactly where i am, especially in a mass of 24 other drakes. The thing that honestly bothers me the most is the stupid camera angle. Instead of using skill to get out of the lightning area's, i just go right and guess "about" how far should get me out. It works, most of the time, but it's a pain in the butt.

Oculus-I enjoyed the last fight, atleast the first (and only) time i did it. What annoyed me was getting back up there after a wipe. [cast drake], dismount, walk, [cast drake], dismount....etc. Learning the instance we must've spend half of our time just running back.

Overall, though, if they even think about adding more vehicle fights, the UI/abilities need to be revamped. Generic 1-2 attacks are very boring a system that is supposed to be new and exciting. In almost all vehicle fights i feel confined and restrained, instead of an unstoppable killing machine.
I personally dislike vehicular combat as we see it in Warcraft. Therefore by default I dislike running the Oculus. Oculus happens to have two skill-checks, one of which is not useful in any other encounter in the game - the mage boss happens to be OK as a kite and hide behind LOS (or use an immunity).

Vehicular combat would be improved if players could use their own character's abilities while on the vehicles, like hover discs in P2 Malygos.
Because the vehicle fights are boring.
I prefer skill based combat over gear, But i hated it for the simple fact that i spent ages learning and practising how to be a top druid healer. I did not after all that learning to be thrown onto a drake completely different to my druid.
its not really skill based. its gimmick based. every fight in that place is a gimmick. once you figure it out and actualy stick together? you can sleep walk through it. and sticking together doesn't require skill, it requires basic cooperation and teamwork. again - not actual skill.

on drakes... you get 2 buttons at first. 2. its almost like playing a lvl 1 character. getting used to moving around in 3d can be challenging but if you had flown around before (and vast majority of people have by that time) - its really nothing special. for the last fight, you get one extra button (congratulations, you just hit lvl 4 !)

honestly - the only drakes that even requiers any extra thinking, is a green drake, but once you get used to the idea of it basically being healthfunnel like warlock and his/her pet? also, nothing particularly special as long as people work together.

people don't hate Occulus becasue its hard. people hate it becasue you work as a team or GTFO. its very unforgiving to those who are in their own world, padding dps meters.
You know why I don't like Oculus and Malygos? Because I'm flying a dragon... how the hell am I flying a dragon? It's a freaking dragon! Why doesn't it just do everything for me? I just can't get past the simple logic that I jump on the back of something and then can control all its movements and abilities.

Flame Leviathan you are atleast driving a tank or shooting out of a turret. I like FL because of the teamwork that occurs in the vehicles. I'm a demo driver and I have a good friend that keeps me loaded on pyrite and uses the boost properly. As a result I can keep a full stack on FL even while being chased at his top speed.

My Vehicle's survival doesn't depend on someone else healing me. Unlike the drakes to where it requires everyone to know what they are doing.

There can be fun and challenging... and there can be annoying and challenging. Oculus falls into the later.

Otherwise.....what's left to like?
Meh, I think players just hate change. People complain that they cannot AOE while on a moving mount...what are they going to do when CC is reintroduced as a mechanic of an encounter? QQ more as well?

Occulous is an instance that takes you out of your comfort zone and pits you against a different type of Mob, forcing you to learn new ways of dealing with the encounter.

The majority of problems with the Occulous are linked directly to the ability of someone being able to learn a new set of keybinds, and effectively using those abilities in the fight.

Sounds like Skill to me.

It almost seems as the majority of players want to be able to faceroll their way thru any encounter anymore. Sad, that.
It's badly designed and as Grimmtooth wrote -- clumsy.

Also, it's not really skill-based. It's the still the same 1-2-3 hotbar mechanics of any other class -- it's just unfamiliar.

It would be like starting on level 15 of Tetris without knowing how to even move the game pieces.
Only the final boss is fought on the drake, excluding a few trash mobs before that. That's 3 out of 20 minutes for the whole instance on heroic. Each drake has 3 abilities for that final encounter not 2.

The only annoying thing about Oculus is all the whining about it that you have to put up with when trying to get a party together.
It's one of the few fun places that still have some challenging elements in it.

Get a grip people.
You've come to my restaurant for 15 years. You go there for the steak. You've come for steak once a month for fifteen years and you've loved the steak every time.

You come in tonight and my menu is all veggies.

"There are a lot of people who want veggies," I tell you, "so I made the change."

Unfortunately for you, the veggie dishes aren't particularly good, even in the eyes of vegetarians. So you go to your friends and find out that only one out of the ten of them like the veggies at my restaurant.

"Veggies are so unpopular, why would this guy change his menu?" you ask.
...because WoW is NOT designed to use the Z axis.
I actually like the Occulus, I'm guessing unlike everyone else who plays WoW if I go by the comments.

To me, its relatively fun, and the 3 different drakes with 5 players allows for different strategies than just 3 DPS, Tank, Healer.

But I'm not going to worship the place either. The worst aspect of it is that because it does require some skill and organization, its absolutely horrible for pugging, which for a lot of the playerbase, is the only way they do 5 man heroics most of the time.

Try leading an Occulus run with 4 people who have never done the place before. You can explain the drake abilities in detail and take the "hard" one yourself (emerald) and you're still probably going to wipe multiple times.

And unless they've fixed the place, half the time when you go to run back, your damn drake summoning item has disappeared and you have to run all the way around and get a new one.

So, its a good instance, but its horrible to pug. Considering that a good chunk of the WoW playerbase has to pug heroics and Occulus, I'd argue that ultimately for most people, the waste of time of wiping with people who don't know wtf is going on isn't worth it.

Killing one boss in ToCr 10 gets you 3 Triumph badges. Wiping multiple times in Heroic Occulus only gets you 2 Triumph badges...if its the heroic daily. Otherwise, if you just want Crusader badges, run Heroic Azjol Nerub in 15 minutes for 3 badges. WoW players will always maximize their rewards and time.
As someone already said you've got the wrong end of the stick (or you're gently trolling us).

Skill-based games like Eve and Darkfall feature characters that develop through specifically progressing one particular skill so that each character is different and has customised strengths and weaknesses.

This is nothing to do with platform skills like jumping or dodging novas.

It's simply breaking up the spreadsheet that makes a high level character into separate elements.

In a level based games your character still gets numerical skills that are independent of player skills. All level 80 WoW meleers get 400 weapon skill in their main weapon, no level 70 character has this. This has nothing to do with how well people play their characters or the type of instance they like.

Most advanced players prefer skill-based systems over class based systems partly because they perceive a power gamer advantage. That's why a lot of fantasy skill-based games see guys in plate with twohanded swords and heals. Or bows if bows are more powerful than swords, whatever.

Skill-based in the context of what players are asking for is essentially Custom Character Class.
What Nees said: "Because players want to play their characters and not a drake with 2 buttons?"

I spent all this time learning my character and how to control them well. I can ONLY play the drake in that specific instance, so what's the point of gaining skill at it?

It's the same reason I hate jousting, although jousting is used slightly more often.

Still, when I say I want skill based, I mean skill with the character I play every day.
Skill-based games like Eve and Darkfall feature characters that develop through specifically progressing one particular skill so that each character is different and has customised strengths and weaknesses. This is nothing to do with platform skills like jumping or dodging novas.

I clearly wasn't talking about level-based vs. skill-based game design, but about the old discussion of whether gear or skill is more important.

But in spite of you completely missing the core of the discussion, I totally agree with you that player skill in dodging waves of flame has nothing to do with MMORPG gaming. It is just an added gimmick, which tells you nothing about how well a player understands his character class, just like the Oculus final fight is.
I love Oculus. One of my most favorite instances in WoW, right next to Azjol-Nerub and SFK.

The thing that bothers me the most is HOW EASY Oculus can be, yet if you go in with idiots, you might as well just hit your head on a wall.

I don't think anyone capable of raiding all current dungeons should have ANY issue with Oculus.

And now, for all those complaining that the dragon changes WHO you are,

WHY is the CHESS event in Kara so popular?
Last night I beat Hogger with my wife as a level 8 Paladin and levle 8 Rogue. (Hogger is a level 11 Elite with about 800 health.) We weren't successful at first, but some perseverance paid off. It took strategy, and dare I say, *some* skill. Thus I conclude WoW is what you make of it, and still has the elements to be a skill-based game if you make it out to be that way.
@Pangoria, the chess event is popular because it's a short diversion. Everywhere else in kara, you play your own character.

People loathe Oculus because it's such an unnecessarily clunky instance design. If you removed the "must be mounted" trash fights, and added ports between the platform instead, I'd imagine people would have a lot less issue with it.

As is, it's a bad instance for much the same set of reasons as Wailing Caverns. No clear progression path, too easy to die in stupid ways to inconsequential situations & bosses which are overly spread out.

It also adds a new flaw of its own by enforcing linearity by making you perform tasks to unlock the bosses. In other words, the downside of linearity (lack of choice) combined with the downside of non-linearity (the ability to get utterly lost).
People say they want skill based gaming, but what I think they really want is to have skill based game when there is an in-game mechanic in place to represent skill.

In WoW, for example, you have ability originating from gear which does in fact make your skills more powerful, but since it originates from something you wear, most people dismiss it.

Secondly, you have your actual skills. Weapon skills, for example, must be learned and leveled. However, these skills are so easy to level (and some skills like spell abilities are automatically maxed) that they're inconsequential really. I recently leveled my unarmed skill from 12 to 397 in less than 45 minutes.

That leaves the innate skill of the player as a person - not the skill of his character. When that is the only skill left bare, many people will seem to like it but hate it in the end. This is because the average person does not have nearly as much skill as he thinks he does.
Ah ok, I thought you were basing

"If players would really like skill-based gaming in MMORPGs"

on blog posts from various people including Syncaine on how superior skill-based design is to level-based design.
WoW. Skill-based fight. Least popular.

Congratulations, you just figured out how to get 11m 'average' gamers to subscribe to something while watching TV.
Because most people playing WoW don't want a skill based game, if they did they'd be playing something else.

When your entire game revolves around a heavy emphasis on gear and a minor emphasis on skill, having a single instance that turns that around is not going to be popular.

That would be like declaring First Person Shooters aren't popular if WoW had a shooter instance and nobody went there.
"WHY is the CHESS event in Kara so popular?"
For the same reason that vehicle-based quests are so popular. They are a change of pace AND they are usually so easy that you can't possibly mess up. Chess Event could basically be soloed and lets not even talk about the difficulty of quests like "drive a steam tank" in Dragonblight. The few vehicle-based quests that are actually difficult are much less popular than the rest.
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