As I’m sure you are all aware, dear reader, Blizzcon was last weekend which means we MMO types were inundated with news about World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Warlords of Draenor. Tomorrow’s podcast is talking about everything that was announced, from MOBAs to new character designs, so let me now focus on a tiny part of all the news.
(If you prefer watching an unedited podcast, it’s up now here!)
(Oh, and if you are looking for non-Liore Blizzcon commentary, I really liked Green Armadillo’s thoughts on the whole thing.)
As I wrote in various pre-Blizzcon comments around the internet I was seriously hoping for a profession revamp announcement but instead what we got was.. profession nerfs, I guess.
There were two pieces of news that affect professions and I suspect the economy in general:
1) The need for enchants and gems on gear will be reduced considerably, with more recipes for enchanters and jewelcrafters but fewer opportunities to use them.
2) Garrisons, aka The Big Farm, will let players craft items “even in professions they haven’t trained”.
Enchanting and Jewelcrafting are the big moneymakers for crafters at the moment for obvious reasons. And while I dig that Blizzard wants to simplify getting new gear without having to go through the “I can wear this as soon as I gem, enchant, and reforce” dance, the changes to enchants in particular were delivered with what I I felt was a slightly smug, hand-wavey “we’ll figure out some way to make it up to enchanters later” aside.
(And don’t forget that these changes will trickle down to other professions and gold-makers too. Transmute mastery will be less profitable for alchemists who make raw gems, and even auction house flippers will see a slower market for gems and enchants and therefore less opportunity for profit.)
So okay, this sucks a bit for crafters and gold-makers, but changes happen. Then we get the announcement that Garrisons will let players eventually obtain items outside of their actual chosen professions. To be specific, Garrison NPCs can run missions that return both Garrison-specific crafting items and existing materials. Blizzard’s official page on Garrisons gives an example: “[i]f you assign a follower to a mining mission, you could receive ore…”.
Bah, humbug! Obviously much is up in the air as to exactly what Garrison minions will gather and in what quantity, but in general I dislike this idea a lot. Not only does it deal yet another blow to gold-making, but it also further dismantles one of the last remaining useful aspects of professions, which is inter-dependency.
(This exists in some form now through the ore, cloth, etc. seeds at the farm, but the Garrison expands on the idea and makes it even easier.)
In short, I feel like I got the opposite of what I was hoping for — instead of a profession overhaul or at least buff, they’ve been weakened further, making crafting less useful and less economically viable. I’m sure things will change over the coming months, but for now it seems like the crafting economy will be taking a few big hits in Warlords of Draenor.
So I’ve played a lot of Hearthstone. A lot a lot. On the Massively Speaking podcast a couple of weeks ago Syp mentioned that one of the reasons he has been enjoying the game is because it isn’t the “type of thing you’d play for hours”, but clearly he is not a compulsive overachiever. Like.. a friend of mine. Yes.
(I get excited about learning new things, and this is my first CCG okay?)
In Constructed I’m 2-star Gold rank, and I haven’t been tempted to get much higher than that because I hear once you hit the Master tier suddenly it’s a big legendary card party and I am not prepared. I can beat all the expert NPCs handily with low level decks, and I have a few constructed decks that I feel pretty good about (Shaman and Warrior in particular).
And I am still terrible in arena. And by terrible, I mean really really bad. I have never gotten more than 2 wins in a round, and going 0-3 is not unheard of. It doesn’t matter if I have never played the hero or I play it all the time, or if my deck is all common or has two epics and a legendary. I do my dailies for gold and play arena every time I get 150 together, so every couple of days at least, and yet I think I’m getting worse, not better!
My inner overachiever is starting to panic. I don’t want to be awesome (not yet anyway), just “good”, with all the blissful mediocrity the word implies.
I keep my decks to a mana curve that peaks around 3 or 4, make sure I pick 15-20 playable minions in each deck, and I’m fairly familiar with which minions are routinely better than others. I’m trying to stay aware of tempo and not just blowing all my cards at the earliest opportunity.
I know it’s tough without specifics, but do you, dear reader, have any Hearthstone arena tips? I’ve been watching Trump’s Twitch channel when I can, and watching Northern Lion learn to play in his videos, but I’m not getting any better!
Help me internet, you’re my only hope.
The most excellent Syl wrote a great post today about why she thinks achievements are one of the worst things to happen to MMOs. And with the standard caveat of “there’s no wrong way to play games and it’s good there is a wide marketplace so everyone can find a game that suits them”, I feel I have to stick up for achievements.
Warning: this post will probably totally out me as a Neanderthal who does not appreciate art and beauty
Achievements absolutely break a game’s immersion.
I think immersion in games is wonderful.. in the right game. If you’re playing The Stanley Parable, immersion seems almost critical to the experience. (No, I won’t say why. Go play it!) I loved slapping on my headphones and getting lost in the world of Mass Effect, wandering my ship wondering if Garrus was finished with his calibrations.
In general, though, the MMO genre doesn’t seem well suited to being an immersive experience. First, and most obviously, however lovely the fantasy world is it’s also filled with other people, many of whom are doing things like shouting “lol butts” and dancing on tree stumps in their underwear.
And although MMOs have done quite a bit of innovating in the last couple of years, they still haven’t really solved the problem where you kill a terrible monster to save a village and it respawns a little while later. (Perhaps EQ Next? We’ll see.) Plus most MMOs seem stuck on the idea of having in-game events that mimic real life, something that absolutely pulls the player out of a fantasy environment.
In general the MMO genre by its very nature seems like a poor place to look for a truly immersive game experience.
Getting Some Satisfaction
People play games for all kinds of reasons, but one popular reason I think — or at least it is for me — is that real life is hard, you guys. It’s hard for different people in different ways, but for me finding “satisfaction within” is not always an easy task (particularly as someone with depression and anxiety issues), and it takes effort and practice.
For example, I will spend roughly four months of my life doing housework. I will never finish tidying my house, but instead will do it on a regular basis for the rest of my life because it needs doing. We do these things often with no real reward or acknowledgement. I do not get an achievement for getting to work on time all week, or for remembering to get cat litter on the way home, nor should I expect one.
In a game with achievements, after I catch 50 fish I get a happy noise and some digital confetti. You did it, player! Check that off your list, you accomplished a thing! Obviously not all achievements are the same (catch 50 fish vs What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been) but frankly I enjoy a little validation in my life, even if I know it’s virtual and very silly.
I find sandbox MMOs (and sandbox games in general) just mimic some of the very things I am playing games to forget. I don’t want to be lost in a strange and unfamiliar world! As I said in my post on Skyrim a long time ago, my idea of escapist fantasy is not being a helpless half-elf with no shoes and no direction in life, hiding in a cave. My escape is being validated in silly game ways for developing my character.
Casual Bartle Achiever
There are a number of valid holes in the Barle Test character theory, but I still find myself drawn to the basic definition of the achiever: “[Achievers] will go to great lengths to achieve rewards that confer them little or no gameplay benefit simply for the prestige of having it.”
I like to Get Things Done. I like checklists and forms. (Yes, I am that person who will do my family’s taxes because I find it kind of fun.) I add my own “twist” by trying to do these things as optimally as possible, which often requires a little research and planning ahead. Achievements provide a framework for these things.
Additionally, as someone who no longer raids, achievements are great for limited playtime. I can log on and spend 20 minutes working towards an actual tracked goal.
I find total sandbox games to be overwhelming. It feels like graduating high school — you can do anything you want, so what do you want to make of yourself, huh? Huh? Oh no, you said you wanted to be a bow and arrow rogue but that isn’t optimal and now you’re an unemployed middle aged elf who still lives with their parents.
While I respect that people are Explorer-types, I don’t get it myself. What happens when you make it to the top of that hill and see… the next hill? At what point do you get a sense of satisfaction? Serious question.
Syl said in her post that “The journey is the reward” in games, or at least should be that way, but for me that’s opposite from the truth. Life, real life, is all about the journey. I do that every day. It’s quite rewarding, but also often boring, scary, and difficult in equal measures.
I like games in large part because they are not my real life, and mostly “the journey” is just a period of time when my character is not as powerful and awesome as she could be. I realize this makes me something of a philistine who eschews art and mystery in favor of research, goal-setting, and sweet, sweet victory hats, but hey, whatever makes us happy.
The Extra Life Marathon is over for another year, and it was great fun for a great cause! Myself and Ellyndrial seemed to handily stay up for the full 25 hours, particularly with the support of friends and guildies who kept us company on Mumble, in games, and in Twitch chat. I also gave out a whole bunch of games for Steam and Origin, which is always really fun for both me and the winners.
As for the highlights of the 25 hours of gaming, top of the list has to be Magica. I don’t even own the game, but it was free on Steam for the weekend and so a bunch of us figured we would give it a shot. It’s a little too twitchy for me to play on a permanent basis, but it was still a lot of fun and the action helped keep me awake.
If nothing else Magica has friendly fire and some amazing ways to “accidentally” explode your team mates, something which I always enjoy. I described the game later as “Diablo meets Typing of the Dead” which is somewhat accurate: there’s lots of click-to-move and strings of letters representing elements that combine to create complicated spells.
I also dropped $4 on arenas in Hearthstone at like 4am, which while fun was probably not the smartest investment. I am terrible at arenas while wide-awake and fully functional! I did get to play a ridiculously amusing combo of Ragnaros followed by Mind Control on the high value minion my opponent played to counter, but my best arena record remains 2-3. Yes, I really am that bad but I enjoy playing a lot (which is what counts) and I figure practice makes perfect.
Also you know you play too much Hearthstone when…. the Pandaria loading screen in WoW makes you automatically think “Mogu’shan Warden, 1/7, substandard taunt card.”.
Anyway, thanks to everyone who donated and who participated during the marathon in Twitch or Twitter. Overall the Extra Life folks raised over 3.8 million dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network, which is pretty great. I am already in for next year!
Hey, look over to the right. See that Extra Life donation bar? Gooooooooooooooooooal!
Yesterday I hit my fundraising target! Many many thanks to everyone who donated. Between myself and Ellyndrial, reppin’ as Team Totally Legit Publishing, we raised almost $1000 for the Children’s Hospitals of BC and Oakland. It is downright heartwarming.
To celebrate all this philanthropic joy, during Saturday’s 25 hour gaming marathon I have 25 games to give away! They include the following:
- Crysis 2
- Dead Space 3
- Medal of Honor
- Mirror’s Edge
- Command & Conquor: Red Alert 3
- The Sims 3
- Metro 2033
- Saints Row: The Third
- Titan Quest
- Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
- Assassin’s Creed 3
- Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery
- Dungeon Defenders + all DLC
- Beat Hazard
- Super Hexagon
- Battlefield 3
- Awesomenauts (+ Cluck Costume)
- English Country Tune
- Thomas Was Alone
- Little Inferno
- Dead Space
- Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box
(Eagle eyes might notice that yes, I do buy extra copies of good Humble Bundles.)
I’m gonna give some games away over Twitter and some in the Twitch chat. I’ll be streaming all 25 hours, and if you have the time do stop by to make sure I’m still awake. The fun starts at 9am PST on Saturday morning.
And thanks, you guys, for being awesome. :)
I will end off this post with an amazing thing sent to me by Jonas of Foxy Gamer. It’s totally my new desktop, picturing Liore, smasher of things and hero to cats:
No matter what you’re up to this weekend, have a good one!