40 Person Raids are not Necessarily Terrible (WildStar)

40 Person Raids are not Necessarily Terrible (WildStar)

While WildStar has generally received praise from press and good hype from players, not everything is happy times in space. Probably the most divisive issue is the female character models and the lack of character customization in general, but close after that is the game’s plan to have 40 person raids.

(Don’t read the comments on that female character model link, by the way. Seriously. It is full of hyper-defensive dudes accusing the author of just trying to suck up to women and the usual “it’s not sexism, it’s marketing” argument and ahhhhh why did I read those comments why?!)

For good or for ill, 40 person raids make people think of Vanilla World of Warcraft, and apparently some people really did not enjoy those days. And that’s fine — my guild was pretty awesome and friendly and laid-back when we were raiding 40s bosses so I had an awesome time, but I realize not everyone had such a great experience and would prefer to not go through those times again.

My guild and our first Ragnaros kill, 2006

My guild and our first Ragnaros kill, 2006

I think, though, that it’s putting the cart before the horse to assume that WildStar’s big raids will be exactly like WoW’s classic big raids. I mean, they could be! But personally I think it’s unlikely, and we don’t really know how that content will play.

For example, after Molten Core a lot of the big raid content in classic WoW required quite a bit of gear and concentration to complete. Naxx #1 and Ahn’Qiraj in particular were extremely difficult when they launched, and had crazy requirements like weird nature resist sets and having 8 well-geared tanks available. I’m just guessing, but I would be very surprised if the bulk of WildStar’s big raid content was that punishing.

MMOs have also vastly improved their group management tools since Vanilla WoW. There are automated group finders, cross-server teams, lockout extensions, and WildStar’s relatively new idea of friend “circles”. Outside of the game, players use social media much more frequently now to coordinate activites, and things like oQueue and Open Raid make it easier than ever to find a spot in a big group on a flexible schedule.

Imagine that WildStar’s initial tier of 40 person raid content, for example, had an automated grouping feature along with it. Or, what if it was tuned to accommodate a more casual zerg style of play? Or some flexibility in difficulty, through group size or triggers like Ulduar?

I honestly don’t know exactly how their big raids will work. Maybe they will be serious-business-hardcore-only right out of the gate! But I think making the assumption that the content will be terrible (or amazing, really) simply based on the maximum group size is a mistake. One of the great things about the post-WoW MMO landscape is its diversity, and I’ll be interested to see how WildStar is planning on updating the now disused 40 person raid concept for a modern audience.

This is not a post.

I’ve been trying for a week to write this post about how Guild Wars 2 in fact did not shift the paradigm of MMOs despite all the claims from ArenaNet that it would, man, but it’s just not working out yet. In the meantime, I suggest you read:

Murf on how soloability is unsustainable in MMOs

j3w3l’s two-part takedown on free-to-play evangelism

Ellyndrial about the sweet weekend of group gaming our guild had

While words are failing me right now I did manage to put my amazing art skills to use to form this highly professional intro for an entirely new creative endeavor. More details in a couple of weeks, movie fans!

Cat Context 42: Favorite Games of 2013 and Looking Forward to 2014

Cat Context 42: Favorite Games of 2013 and Looking Forward to 2014


2014 is upon us, so it seemed like a good time to reflect on our favorite games of 2013 and look forward to what we hope are the highlights of the next 12 months.

Liore, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial compare their lists of the favorite games of the year, which includes a lot of indie games unsurprisingly. Then we look at 2014 and talk about what we’re anticipating, including Broken Age, Witcher 3, and Destiny. (Also, is it just us or was 2013 a crappy year for MMOs?)

In more current gaming, Arolaide has returned to SWTOR and reports back on space battles! Ellyndrial tries a mobile game that doesn’t have microtransactions! Liore is an expert in Horse Mastery, which is really not a game for tiny children!

There was a microphone error this week so the audio is a little janky. Sorry!

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years
* Tevis Thompson’s critique of Bioshock Infinite.
* Horse Master, a game of horse mastery

Gear Scores and Gatekeepers: automated non-solutions to a social problem

Gear Scores and Gatekeepers: automated non-solutions to a social problem

Yesterday two lovely bloggers, Belghast and Alternative Chat, wrote posts about why WoW could use a better player skill ranking system, and ways to go about that. Bel wrote about the Gatekeeper in The Secret World and proposed a similar skills test in WoW. The Godmother devised a detailed way to essentially create an “effort score” for gear instead of just a flat gear score.

With respect to both, I think they are looking for automated solutions to what is essentially a social problem.

To The Logs!

The Godmother wrote in her post:

“How do you ensure that your player base understands that playing your game isn’t just simply a case of turning up, taking what they want and wandering off when satisfied? How can you prove they are capable of actually playing?”

I’m not even sure that Blizzard is in the business of making sure players are capable, but let’s look at this from the perspective of a guild leader. How does a guild or raid leader know that their team is capable of taking on certain raid content? Easy — they play with them.

Way back in TBC and WotLK when my guild was raiding GearScore was a big huge deal. And yet our application specifically stated that we were not interested in the least in what people’s GearScores were. In fact, I don’t think I ever recruited a single person who included it.

Why? Because gear doesn’t really matter when recruiting for a raid team. Okay, yes, you probably don’t want to bring a fresh level 90 in greens to heroic Garrosh but for a group that raids on a regular basis gearing up the new guy is pretty simple, particularly nowadays. Instead, I recruited for personality and previous experience. Once we got someone in their first raid we’d look at their response times, and then after at the logs. Within a raid or two we would absolutely have a great idea of how well the newbie could actually play.

The Godmother has come up with a complicated system that removes high level crafting and other “easy” gearing methods so that players can’t just cruise to a high ilevel, but reading it reminds me of the famous line Laurence Olivier said to method actor Dustin Hoffman on the set of Marathon Man: “My dear boy, why don’t you try acting?”

Forget an automated score, any score, that will tell the world how good one is at WoW. Instead, read logs and watch your raid team. (And if they’re not on your raid team.. then you don’t really need a skill score for them, do you?)

Good Guild Leaders are Jerks. Sometimes.

While The Godmother took on ways to create a better Gear Score, Belghast went a different direction and proposed a skill testing system. He something like the Gatekeeper in TSW, an NPC who presents tough challenges that players must complete individually to unlock Nightmare-level group content.

In theory I like the idea of having ways outside of raids to train your skills. I am a big fan of Proving Grounds, the solo skill test recently added to WoW. It took me three tries to get my Silver as a (rusty) disc priest, and I’m proud of it. But really, isn’t Proving Grounds supposed to be the skill test of WoW? If one is worried about setting a skill barrier to entry, why not just say that everyone has to have the Silver or Gold achievement to join the raid?

The truth is that skill level is not actually the problem that Bel is trying to solve with a Gatekeeper. He wrote in his post:

“It sucks being the one to tell a player that they just are not good enough to be able to do the content. Without hard facts as to why, it often feels like the leader is playing favorites or simply singling a player out unjustly.”

Ahh yes. The gatekeeper is really there to let the guild or raid leader avoid delivering bad news themselves.

I totally understand that having difficult conversations about performance is one of the least fun parts of running a raid team, and I also happen to know Bel fairly well so I know he is a kind person who doesn’t like confrontation, which is a not at all a bad thing to be. However, creating a whole system of raid barriers basically just so a guild leader never has to say a strong word seems like an inefficient solution.

Again, logs are the answer here. Hard facts are available! Performance charts, death numbers. Show underperforming shadow priest X how much better shadow priest Y’s uptime on Shadow Word: Pain is. Write or link guides on your guild forums to proper reforging for Death Knights, or even start a post with “raid tips”. Codify your expectations of raiders and post them where everyone can see.

Those people who are oblivious to how much they’re dragging the rest of the team down? They’re not going to be any happier being told by a robot that they aren’t good enough to raid, and my experience is that it won’t suddenly inspire them to train and become the best. Sometimes, if you care about raid progression, good guild leaders have to be the bad guy.

Robots Can’t Create Caring

I mean no slight to The Godmother or Belghast here. They both seem like awesome guild leaders! But this is not a problem that needs an automated solution and I think creating hard-coded limitations for social problems is a mistake. Not only does it limit the game for everyone through removing things like end-game crafting and making skill checks mandatory, but I don’t actually think either measure would actually fix the issues.

At this point, nine years into WoW, if someone doesn’t care at all about their raid performance then no amount of gear scores or gatekeepers is going to change their mind. Instead, it’s up to the guild or raid or role leader to monitor their own team if they care about this kind of thing — look at logs, recruit carefully, and bite the bullet and have that slightly uncomfortable conversation if someone is letting down the other 9-24 people.

MMO of the Year Waffling and a WoW To-Do List

MMO of the Year Waffling and a WoW To-Do List

2013 was a pretty unspectacular year for MMOs, huh? While some have found their fun in the new offerings of Neverwinter and (revamped) Final Fantasy XIV, it’s sort of mind boggling that the closest thing to an “MMO of the year” for me is… Mists of Pandaria (Amazon link). Which is an expansion. That launched in 2012.

(More on the ish year of MMOs — and the amazing year of indie games — on Wednesday’s Cat Context!)

Even though I am very much enjoying playing it, and I see that continuing for some time, I just can’t bring myself to call Mists the best MMO of 2013. “Best” implies some element that makes a game better than its compatriots, and while Mists is very fun a big part of why I’m enjoying it is nostalgia and the fact that most of my old crew seem to be playing again, neither of which has much to do with the game itself.

So I guess Mists of Pandaria is my pick for the milquetoast title of “MMO I enjoyed the most in 2013″. The marker of “Best” will have to be set aside until we see what 2014 has to offer, though.

Anyway, speaking of Pandaria, over the holidays Ellyndrial posted his To-Do List for World of Warcraft, and I am borrowing his idea!

1) Complete my Vial of the Sands.

Oh wait, I finished this over the weekend! Then I flew an unsuspecting guildie high into the sky and cancelled the dragon effect, but instead of him dying he just got a parachute and a great view of me plummeting to my death. Harrumph. Still pretty cool, though.


2) Finish levelling my monk

Let’s face facts: monks are a hero class, except Blizzard didn’t want to cause a fuss by calling them that. I hate levelling and am generally uninterested in alts, but when you combine heirlooms, rested XP, and the daily monk XP buff even I can (probably) get a level-capped character! Level 42 now and counting…

3) Keep working on the legendary cloak questline

I know that I am way behind the times, but I am sloooooowly making my way through this. I’m on “Chapter IV”, or the final stage, which right now means running LFR again for Titan Runestones. And that’s part of the problem — while I tore through the first few stages, the questline requires a lot of LFR for us non-raider types and man that gets tedious.

4) Get to maximum level archaeology

Wait, what? Archaeology may have debuted with the Cataclysm expansion, when I was technically still playing WoW on a serious basis, but it struck me as a silly time-waster and I skipped it almost completely. As a casual scub, though, I found a reason to pick it up again and that reason is the skeletal raptor mount. I neeeeeeed to be on that mount while hopping mindlessly around Org.

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