SoO LFR Raid part one was ok

Sunday daytime a few weeks ago I had an unexpected few hours to waste online and I finally got the queue to pop for SoO part one, after a 1 hour 10 minute wait.

I am so very late to be just doing LFR Siege of Orgrimar, that it is sort of scary to think about how “behind” I am. It was Jan 19th when the Part One achievement ping’ed on my main character.

It gets me thinking that the concept of behind is funny in MMO terms. The folk who are setting or breaking records were done with this patch in Hard mode content months and months ago. The guild (Insidous Nagrand-US) has been doing hard modes for ages, and with two darn healthy 10-man raiding teams they are kicking Garrosh and his cronies in the groin on a regular basis.

As a section it is OK. I didn’t have my socks blown off by the strats or by the difficulty. I saw a heap of people die to the HUGE BLACK SWIRLY BEAM in whats-his-name-in-the-middle. I guess it was too tricky that it can go in one of two directions VERY VERY SLOWLY. I kept my well-fed buff through the entire run, which means that I’ve kind of let the noob-DK team down.

Anyway, I don’t mind being behind. I’d like some magic wand to make the queue times less than one hour, but I also feel like an absolute troll for even saying that. A player who logs in during the odd blue moon doesn’t like waiting one hour for an LFR? Cry a river rookie-boy. As a wise-crack, but altogether wise guildie suggested – or roll a Tank and man up!

I think the last thing the “LFR community” needs is my DK strafe tanking a Boss as a noob. I’m almost certain that after my Tanking an LFR run for the Lei-Shen fight a few players left WoW  in disgust. I could almost taste their tears and hear the breaking keyboards.

I love tanking, it’s not that it’s not fun at all, it’s that others don’t seem to love watching me learn. Grin.

Happy raiding, you dedicated folks. Very jealous. I’ll see it all eventually.

Freeloaders in SW ToR

Star Wars: The Old Republic

It’s old-ish news now that SW-ToR is going free to play, where a freeloader can get almost all the content, and the raiders pay our way. I started thinking about what it might mean. For me its a win-win that is very attractive – I plan to freeload on it.

As a positive the populations on the servers will increase, and that may assist with keeping a sense of community and an economy flowing. Having five times the players in a zone is a great thing when you are looking to “live” in a setting.

What I don’t understand is how the “all but raids” free play will generate revenue. Tobold posted a similar thought, and the comments seems to think this too. So what do the SWToR Devs know that we don’t?

My thought is perhaps the raid content will soon be the defining feature, and the next set of raids will be good enough to act as a revenue stream. If the devs can create compelling raids for raiders there is an angle. They might be so good that people play for fun for free, but pay for raids. That would be a big call. Raiding in WoW is considered good enough to generate revenue, and a segment of these serious raiders are likely to be targets for that strategy if it is right. An advantage is that money is no barrier to entry to the rest of the game right up to raids, so many people can have high level characters who are raid ready. A disadvantage is the raid history so far, so the content will need to be amazing, and then also well communicated to the wider community.

It does ignore though that there is an opportunity cost of a free game, where the time spent playing is not played elsewhere. Free is not enough for some players when they miss out on something that is valuable, even when it costs money (I’d rather eat good food that costs something, than free junk).

Or if not raids then what else? Vanity gear and pets? Rubbish. Sure they get money, but its still not enough to keep the game floating for 1-2 years.

Pay to win model where good gear is purchasable through a backhanded cash sale? Even worse, and would be a kick in the guts to the subscribers.

Playing many games, casually.

I’m in that happy state where I get to play many games. World of Warcraft has taken a significant backseat due to real life events, and along with that I’ve chosen to look into the MoP Beta and the Diablo 3 Beta. The odd distracting iphone game gets a look too.

Playing of the big three games very briefly and casually is actually more satisfying in the short term than trying to play one game solidly. Initially I would doubt that to be true. In a nutshell I think being moderate has pushed my expectations, and I now find the small elements of fun amongst a range of games. For now its working. I am looking forward to the official release of Diablo so that I can see the full content and play online with some friends that it is hard to hook up with in other games. I would still like to get SWToR loaded and play that in the future when my PC has been upgraded, as the content was impressive enough that I think it will be a fantastic distraction.

There is also a set of play-by-post tabletop RPG games that distract me, and between them, the healthy posts from the players, and the rest of life short stint gaming is still working. So for now a quick 15 to 30 minute session will do, with much gnashing, power-ups, and gear to be swindled from the nefarious foes.

Happy gaming folks.

No more casual vs hardcore?

I think we need a better set of terms for players than Casual vs Hardcore. The two terms cause constant arguments and are about as subjective as calling somebody out for not being ethical.Your ethics are not mine, just like your version of Hardcore will be different from mine.Is it time spent, completion-ism, performance, consistency, background knowledge, or what..? Well its all those things and more.

Once its (obviously) recognised as being subjective, the problem then becomes that the same vague interpretation and personalisation that affects the terms Casual and Hardcore also apply to almost every other set of words you’d use. Viewing any of the options as definitive extremes poor and it becomes an absolute disaster when you try to use one word to surmise a person’s goals.

There is also the problem of viewing the terms in isolation within a single game like World of Warcraft, or broader to all MMO’s, or even to open as wide as possible to any type/style of gamer. For this measurement I’m sticking to Warcraft. The reason is that a measurement of games is too wide, and the same person might play 12 different games, and play each in a different manner. By way of example I play WoW, a few iPhone games, and some basic strategy and card games. I cannot think of a way that the play styles and dedication could be rationalised in a cohesive manner. Solitaire is too different from Warcraft; its comparing Apples to Spacecraft.

Basically its a huge mess, so as a solution I’m offering this post into the already overly populated sea of opinions; in the hope that it somewhat floats.

Joystick had a very logical summary last year, which covered the basics as far as WoW was concerned. If you’re hunting for a reasonable compilation of the basic issues, or a perspective of what the wider community was thinking around the mid-Lich-King days, then its a darn handy resource. Also check out some of these other links, which all cover the types of gamers in the Casual vs hardcore debate in some way. Even a post from the official forums. They’re all good. These linked posts also identify that many of the community fell outside the range of classifications in these posts too. Commenters offered up new types such as “Serious Hobbyists”, or “Definitely Time Crunched”, and so on. The posts, terms, and comments were all fine, but still missed the mark.

I also commented and linked a post many years ago (whoa – in 2008 no less) by a mate of mine who also had a perspective, mainly born from the conflicts found within a guild for the more casual members vs the more dedicated players. My take at the time was based around the amount of time it takes to explain to somebody else:

  • If you have to explain why you’re not hardcore in more than one sentence; you’re talking to a softcore or hardcore.
  • If it starts an argument or takes 15 minutes, you’re talking to a hardcore.
  • If you grief somebody for non-attendance you are hardcore (and a wanker).
  • If you have sacrificed a good time out of game for WoW, then you’re at least softcore. If you didn’t view it as a sacrifice, then you’re hardcore.
  • And if fun is more important than any of these questions; then you’re casual. In which case I’d like you to consider finding a great casual (not softcore) guild on your sever, or join ours.

Three years of time has only slightly changed my perspective, and generally I still hold those comments as true. They are though as lacking as the other posts.

For this alternate definition I’m mainly thinking of World of Warcraft, but I think that some of the logic should apply very widely. What I was thinking was changing from having two binary options to chose from, to creating more a Myers-Briggs personality type play-style measurement, which details what a person is using a short acronym (AELOSF – see below). A few of the pages above offered stylistic templates rather than binary choices too, much like a horoscope; where a player could read the description and pick one that matched them the closest. I guess I’m trying this as I fell through the definitions of both those approaches.

The Myers-Briggs style picks a set of paired terms that are fairly ambiguous, that can also be placed diametrically opposed to each other with a fair degree of logic – and then has the reader pick which they match better to. In effect they pick between the two extremes in the same manner as the Casual vs Hardcore, but where they sit is expanded due to the range of options in the definition.

These are some of the ideas I had for the juxtaposed measurements:

  • Professional vs Amateur – where a Professional is being paid money to participate, and an Amateur is unpaid. There is a very clear difference, although not overly useful to most of the community as I’d bet most people are not paid to play games. I’m not sure if this has practical application or not, and if it was applied, if it should be applied to a game on a case by case basis.
  • Experienced vs Newbie – where a Experienced player is one who is very familiar with the game, and a Newbie is learning the basic concepts. Now this is a far more subjective range, where there is a much greater range between the two ends. As terms they’ll create debate unto themselves, but I hope when added to the rest of the mix the terms themselves will become more descriptive of the player’s goals.
  • Unlimited time vs Limited time – where the unlimited person has high availability to play, and the limited person has almost none. This could also contain a sub-range of people who have interruption free vs constant interruption, but I’m not sure yet if that level of granularity is needed.
  • Optimal vs Relaxed – as to their use of their time and their resources. This is an interesting one, as the style of use of resources is the focus of many blogs and websites, and they themselves are often focused on maximum efficiency. The gold per hour type measurement, kills per raid, and if the player cares how long it takes to get a dungeon done. Some players are very relaxed and are not overly fussed if a dungeon completion takes 20 extra minutes, but others are excited by the prospect of beating a record, or even frustrated by 30 seconds of dead time after a boss kill.
  • Social vs Hidden – is a measure of how important the interaction with others plays is for their valuable gameplay. There are players who raid (which obviously requires other players) but would not otherwise interact with anyone. There are also the players who only play due to the social aspects, and there are players who may as well be playing a solo game, as they talk to nobody.
  • Focused vs Wide range of focus – are you a player who seeks to complete all your chosen activities? Professions, archaeology, or participate in both pvp and pve content, or have a range of alts vs. just one character.

So we end up with a set of choices, still somewhat binary, but not as restrictive as a single word.

I would be: (A)ELOSF.

This is because I’m an unpaid Amateur but Experienced WoW player, with very Limited time, who always plays Optimally. I highly value the Social aspects of the game, but tend to Focus on pve for a few characters only. The Brackets are there as I think almost everyone will be an “A” as far as World of Warcraft is concerned.

So what are you? What type of gamers are out there?

ps – The Dead Good Tanking Guide as a great comment:

I know, I know – why would you bother reading yet another diatribe about who falls into what category? But I’m working from the knowledge that the same could be applied to EVERYTHING I write, so I’ll continue safe in the knowledge this piece is no better or worse than my usual offerings. 🙂

He’s spot on, and added to my feed reader.

Easy mode raiding, why not?

Blessing of Kings has a nice post about a way to have more transient raiding – its a good read, and worth considering.The post is well thought out, comprehensive, and clear.

If not found in wow, it could be a feature of other MMOs that seek to entertain a more casual play style, which would be a draw card in my opinion. World of Warcraft has most of what would be needed already, or is coming soon in patch 4.3. Odd eh?

As an extension of BoK’s ideas – it would not be too much of a stretch to add Easy mode raids (let the hate fly!).

I know that people might hate the idea of dumbing down the content for casuals (just read the forums), and many raiders would be darn pissy with the idea. But think, if the rewards were less, achievements different, and the lockouts different – the easy mode raids would allow for learning, some side-grades, and a sense of theme and plot without a monumental increase in effort. Where is the difference between Easy mode, vs the Normal and Hard modes when the lockouts were separate for 10s and 25s. Some players thought 10 man fight on Normal were already easy mode. Same people probably hate this idea too – with potentially valid reasons from their perspective.

There would be no direct negative impact on the Normal and Hardmode raiders, except the nudge to their ego. To them the kids in the sandpit playing at war (and eating dirt) are happy, as they are playing a separate game. Yes, it would require tuning to make sure that easy was not trivial, but it would not impact the Normal and the Hard raiders.

An easier mode is different from the “Buff of Nerfage” that Icecrown had. That was an end of expansion way to ensure that everyone could play through content, and it was good too. The buff applied across all, whereas a Easy mode would allow more people time to fight and learn the bosses before the rush at the end. Some guilds may even just complete Easy mode and be happy – that content might be enough for some. For others it will be a step ladder into the content. It would also remove the need to add a “Buff of Nerfage” at the end of the content patches – why bother. If all you want to do is kill the boss, then switch to Easy mode and see the content’s theatrical style. No way in hell you’d be considered a Hardcore raider, but you’d still see it.

Even as I write this I have doubts too though. Who would use it? Would the achievement of Easy mode be considered more a brand of failure than none at all? Would enough people use it instead of Normal and Hard to justify the time investment?

The casualisation of wow has had an affect on a lot of players, and there are as many perspectives as there are players on what the right choice is. facts about subscriber numbers may influence the choices made in the coming patches and expansions too. We’ve already seen a change to threat that some folks don’t like, but others (such as myself) think are excellent. Is this casualisation? Probably, and it helps keep me paying my subscription every month.

One limiting factor that I don’t think was good in the end in Cata was the shared lockout for 10s and 25s. There were ways in Wrath to pug those odd 10s and 25s so that you had extra opportunities to gear. When the shared lockout was first described I thought it might have benefits, but I’ve come around to the opinion that having a wide range of options is actually better than having a strictly defined path. Perhaps the Easy offers a similar option, a separate lockout for Easy mode. This way a low geared toon (all those alts) would run the Easy mode to get basic rewards and confirm their literacy for their role, and then be able to migrate into Normals when they were ready.

For easy mode gear rewards it would make sense to me that the gear drops should not be any higher than the current 5 mans which are considered “hard”. As we’re in p4.2 that means 353 rewards if it existed now. The idea is not to use the gear as a reason to raid, but to offer alternatives to the basic 5 mans that expose the content. Training wheels? Yes, for sure.

I would also expect that Bind on Equip gear would not drop so as to not flood the market. And the gold rewards would be significantly reduced so that farming was not attractive at all. Likewise the quests that were needed for special story paths would not complete in easy mode either.

I would have also liked a Normal and Heroic mode for the ZA/ZG 5 mans too, but I guess the same time in tuning and scaling would have been needed – with a low potential audience. A scaled approach such as  ZA/ZG Normal offering 346 and Heroic with 353 is not a terrible idea. It changes nothing about the step up, but makes the ZA/ZG part of the runs that a PvE player uses to get geared.

So Easy mode raids…way off base, or something that you’d use? Let me know.

Whats news lately?

Well it has been a slow few weeks in blogging, until Blizzard started drip feeding information about the expansion to the community at which time everything exploded. Overall meh! I’m waiting to see what the cohesive picture is. Random information with no real detail has limited value.

In other news my alt-ism has taken off in a very solid way. As I thought, the prospect of playing one toon when getting into regular runs is difficult is a game-breaker, so much so that Ive pondered pugging those ICC runs. If I can get a group without having the LK-Dead achievement. Grr.

Mortigen my main is now just doing the daily when I play, the weekly sometimes, and otherwise odd runs. Basically this means I doubt I’ll see much more of the end-game content now, and kind of resigned to enjoying runs when they happen.

Keeping a light and fluffy attitude will help me not go insane and like the process of playing a well geared toon in 5 man runs. And so onto the alts update after the break.

Happy gaming.

Continue reading

Best use of Frost Emblems for casual players?

Emblem of Frost iconIf you are a casual, or leveling and gearing alts – then you’re probably not going to have 400 Emblems of Frost to purchase 264+ ilevel items for all gear locations. Instead you’ll probably run the heroic daily, get 30-60 badges, and look at what is your best purchase.

It begs the question of what is the best use of Frost Emblems for casual players?

My list in order of priority would be:

  1. One Trinket. Without question. These are often the most difficult to get, and will last you the longest. I’d say that get your first trinket, and then maybe another slot, rather than buying two trinkets. However if you are a dual-role class, maybe get a trinket for each spec if you’ll use them.
  2. Belts & Cloaks. They are cheaper than the rest, and often harder slots to upgrade than the Feet, Hand, Chest, Shoulders, and Head.
  3. Then your Class Tier gear.

Happy killing.

How to have a casual Alt character?

Been struggling with which toon to play other than my Death Knight, and circling around the problem of so little reward for so little time spent. Adding an alt as a casual toon will mean even less time playing the already casual Death Knight; which will slow the even further his advancement. But I really feel the need for an alternate to always doing melee tank or dps all the time. Just a quick break on another toon now and then is what I’m after.

So what are good strategies for gearing a casual alt? Continue reading

Badge trade-in value vs Content

So a Conquest badge can be downgraded to others, but that means they have a 1 to 1 value on the lower ilevel gear, so why would you? Getting a small upgrade from a 213 item that costs tokens that can buy 226 is rough. And sooner or later the patch 3.3 will be released and we’ll see Triumph badges instead of Conquest from heroic runs. The heroic badge gear is basically dead now, and it will become even more dead soon. That lower gear might actually still be usable though, which means you’re spending expensive badges to get lower gear.

For the casuals (like myself) this means that the time I spent grinding out Conquest badges is somewhat wasted when the Triumph badges replace them. I know this is a leg up for raiding, and it also facilitates content for more people – but I think its flawed at the moment.

It does not make total sense to me, as the effort involved in getting to a nice set of 226 gear in many gear locations is not a small task. You really have to work at it and run heroics a lot. Then when the switch to 3.3 happens the casuals go back to running the same content for slightly better gear. Opportune moments will see them in the new content now and then, but nothing changes really. Perhaps they might be well geared enough to then try ToC’s last few bosses, and some of the end of Ulduar. So casuals don’t actually see much in the way of new content, instead they spend longer in the same old runs. Any way you look at it the fast track to upgrades will involve grinding heoric 5 mans, and that content is not even close to new.

There has to be a better way to get more folks into the later content. I know it is not fair to just boost these players up too quickly, as it slaps the more serious players in the face, and sends a bad message. I also know that Blizzard wants us to keep playing, and a prime driver for playing is seeing new places, bosses, content, etc. Its a Catch-22, and I have no 100% solution.

The degree to which this makes sense to you as a player probably relates to where you are in the content. Folks already clearing Uld 25 and ToC 25 probably don’t care what happens to the old heroic runs, except the daily. Folks who don’t care what they run, or are leveling new toons are not affected either. The middle ground is where this takes affect, and they are a very hard area to design a challenge for, especially when everyone else can also make use of any perks/nurfs placed on these mid range players. You can’t offer too much without upsetting everything.

An idea would be if badges are more valuable as they get rarer, then perhaps the items that are purchasable with heroism, should also have a purchase value in the other badges too. In this way a badge of Conquest would buy a few Heroism, getting the lower items faster – and that seems to be the goal here: to get folks with average or low gear to the point where they can compete in the new content. eg, 1 Conquest buys 5 Heroism, 1 Triumph buys 5 Conquest. and so on as they are upgraded (so 1 Tri = 25 Hero, but do you really care if somebody has 25 H-badges quickly when you compare iLevel 213 to 232-245). This way the really old gear gets used quickly, but only for a short period of time, and the grind is still the same for the really nice badge reward items. Sustain the grind at the top end of the badge reward system, but make the lower end faster to gear through.

Consider that we we’re getting badges from 5 mans anyway now, so spending the time to get an item which takes 10-12 runs to get, should not matter if that is any type of badge. Its still a major upgrade for 10-12 runs of a basic instance, and possibly a minor upgrade too, but not to gear that is going to break the system by being devalued, as it is already devalued by the better gear. 

I’m torn between the view that this is making the gear too accessible, and the opinion that this will help reset the playing field.

What is the value of normal players? (rant)

I’d love to put some “uber-hardcore-1337” gamers into an exam and give them an essay topic:

Players that are not hardcore still add value to Warcraft. Discuss.

Most would not even get into the room, and those that did might suffer under the tyranny of pen and paper. 🙂 There is no way you’d give them a computer, as they’d just start logging in, or trolling the forums about it. But in all seriousness, the opinion and total subjectivity of what is normal performance, and who should get access to what content keeps coming up. The 3.2 token drop change only fueled the fire.

We’ve (the work wow’ers) chatted about this a while back at lunch, and they noted I’ve made some pretty extreme statements around performance expected from fellow guild-mates and other players, and I’ve sworn out loud many times when confronted by somebody that does not meet my standards. Shamefully. And then I probably don’t meet the standards of hardcore either. Probably the hardcore players would find my Priest a joke, and be hard on Mortigen’s progression. I’d be a token screen breather, and relegated to farming silver in the backwaters of Arathi Highlands.

From now onward (or until the next ass-hat drooler pug wipes us on simple trash in VH) I’ll try to ponder and absorb some thoughts on Normal players. And lets call them normal players, as calling them casual might be implying that they don’t really care or commit to gaming seriously.

So a few mantras and thought that I’ll keep foremost in my mind about normal players:

  • a normal player is an ok thing (repeat this while doing circular breathing)
  • they are more tolerant of the mistakes of others (in other words cool and relaxed)
  • they might make a few mistakes themselves (still learning or juggling RL too)
  • they are not elitist jerks, and might still have an interest in improving their game play
  • they are willing to sacrifice being on the cutting edge of content in favour of other life choices

Lastly why do I like them so much? Because I am one.

My real life takes precedence over WoW regularly. I kind of like the fact that I can geek it up and still have social skills, a full time job, and a solid relationship. But damn me, I really love WoW too. Death Knights are 100% solid fun (please don’t roll one, we’re full), and the small percentage of things that Warcraft does not do right is totally blown away by what it does right. Especially so for normal players.

So beyond proping up the financial side of WoW, and providing an ongoing whipping boy for hardcores, what do they provide to you?

Time poor? What tasks remain viable?

Having time to play wow is a luxury, and recently its been taxed significantly.

Life, relationships, and work are all consuming more energy at the moment, and while I don’t begrudge it specifically, I’d like to find a way to play effectively for short periods of time.

Which raises the question – What tasks or activities remain viable when you are casual? How best to play with time, to get more playtime?

Continue reading

casuals – not for hire

This post started as a sidetrack to a forum posted question from a guild-mate about the types of players our guild should be looking for to participate in 25 mans for progression, and what loot system is best for the guild.

We were talking about changing the loot system so that it was better for the regulars, but still usable for casuals and PuG players, who are currently needed for 25-man content. Its a bit random but you’ll get the gist.

The post got me thinking, and seriously considering two points, (a) what can casual players reasonable expect from end-game progression?, and (b) is the 25 man raid really a long term goal for me? But first the back-story…

Me: lastly why would a casual or a player who can only rarely raid be bothered in this system? The rewards are very highly skewed [edit: while talking about dkp vs other loot systems].

Guildie: Do you wish to have these players in a 25 man raid guild that is progressing strongly?

My answer was yes. Continue reading