Hardmode SWTOR continues, GW2’s Perfect Storm, and How To Shut Your Mouth

Some really interesting discussion today – from ongoing talk and experimentation with SWTOR’s Hard Mode Flashpoints, to a great discussion from Kurn on What To Do When You Know More Than The RL…

  • Syncaine isn’t as enthused by Guild Wars 2 as most of the blogosphere – which isn’t a surprise. But he’s got some interesting points on why Guild Wars 2’s release might be a Perfect Storm for them“For many ‘casual’ players, it will be the first MMO in a long time/ever that is not a hotbar smashfest, that has PvP as a feature rather than an afterthought, and that is more massive than a four-person insta-queue silent loot collecting trip (sorry, silent but fully voiced loot collecting trip). “
  • Rohan has an excellent argument on making DPS roles hard – that SWTOR’s problem is that it has no DPS meters“Good play requires feedback. Good dps requires feedback. And the best feedback for DPS is a combat log and damage meters.”
  • Lono at Screaming Monkeys has been doing more testing of SWTOR’s Hardmode Flashpoints, and conclusively believes they’re badly tuned“The more I do hardmodes and play through them the more I see a pattern emerging. Either the bosses are crazy easy, or crazy hard. There’s no middle ground. More than anything this speaks to me of one big pervasive issue.”
  • And Kurn is musing on a topic many of us have faced, one way or the other – what to do when you know more about an encounter than the Raid Leader“it’s not exactly shutting your mouth. It’s more like holding your tongue until you have an appropriate time and place to discuss those things.”

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Why “Just Turn The Nerf Off” isn’t really an option

The Dragon Soul nerf is a non-issue, right? I mean, if you don’t like it, you can just turn it off.

I’ve heard that argument a lot in the last two months – and, indeed, I’ve been on record as saying that it does mitigate the nerf. All the time, though, I’ve had this sneaking feeling at the back of my mind that, like Ben Goldacre says, “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”.

Well, Adam Holisky made that argument as the conclusion of an article about the Dragon Soul nerfs yesterday, and it has prompted two of the deep thinkers of the blogosphere to rise up and present some pretty solid arguments that, well…

You can’t just turn the nerf off.

First up, we have The Renaissance Man from Children of Wrath. He argues the point from several angles, but his key point is that turning the nerf off requires absolute consensus in a raid – and he’s quoting Ghostcrawler in support of his point, too! –

“One of the primary arguments that people make against these kind of nerfs is that they wanted to see what the content’s really like, not to be given their kill as charity by the developers who take pity on them. The dissenters claim that they can simply turn off the nerf, and everything will be the same as it was before. This is not true. Raiding is a team activity. You need nine or twenty-four other players to go along with you in order to raid with any serious degree of success. While you might get enough satisfaction to justify turning off the debuff, you need consensus within the group. The odds of everyone in the group agreeing with you is slim, and even one person in the group who would rather raid with the debuff will put the group in a very awkward position. You’re asking them to sacrifice their personal progression, not for an achievement, not for loot, not for a mount, but for something even more trivial, for your pride. If they give in, then they feel resentful at your imposition, and if you give in, then you feel disappointed with the instance. Ultimately, the very fact that a choice had to be made alters the dynamic of the raiding experience, even if you choose to turn off the buff.”

At the end of his post, TRM says that “If Blizzard had made it an actual choice, they would have given an incentive to raid without the Power of the Aspects.”. And that’s where the second of the learned essays on the subject today, from Anafielle at Sacred Duty, picks up.

Her essay is reasonably long and worth reading in full – it totally changed my mind on the subject – but the key point she makes is that without some reason or reward for turning the buff off, saying “Just turn the buff off” is no different to saying “just raid without food and flasks”, or “just use the wrong number of healers” –

“Achievement and meta drakes require very weird strats. No one would do those fights in those ways without the achievement there, but it’s there, so we do. There’s an achievement in Ulduar and in TOGC for completing tasks in specific ilvls of gear. There were 22-man achievements in Naxx– same deal. There are even achievements for things like dealing with X number of pugs. And you know what? Some people really do farm trash for gear. So sometimes we do jump through those silly hoops– when we get a reward in return! (One day there will be an achievement for that, Esoth. One day.)

Farming is another example. Say I went and killed 1000 of a certain mob. I would be willing to bet no one sits around killing mobs because they want to kill 1000 mobs. But if they get reputation, or achievements, or a non combat pet, or just gold or a drop they want– then believe me, there will be people farming!

Rewards. A task with a reward is meaningful. A task without a reward is meaningless.”

Once again, today’s posts are on my “I hope Blizzard are reading this” list. I’d love a reward for completing DS without the Aspect buff – and it would indeed make the choice feel a lot more meaningful.

Do you think that people complaining about the DS nerf should just turn it off?

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Comments now working again

Sorry about the briefly broken comments – they’re now working again, so if you commented and it vanished, please do try again!

We had to turn the site off and on again, and it would appear that the database didn’t like us pulling the power very much. :)

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But playing WoW is so UNPRODUCTIVE!

We’ve all known someone in our lives who thought gaming was an inexcusable waste of time – or at least, I suspect most of us have.

For some of us, that person might even be us – or at least part of us. Bravetank’s back today, and she’s doing what she does best – writing a tremendously brave, honest post exploring the psychological side of gaming. Today, she’s talking about something that I think will resonate with a lot of people – the guilt of playing rather than doing something ‘productive’

“I’ve been really enjoying WoW lately but with that comes all the old guilt again. I work really hard at my job but cannot escape the guilt I feel at coming home and, after having some food, going on WoW to relax. The more I enjoy it – the guiltier I feel. I think I was happier having all the bad runs and aggro (literally and metaphorically). Perhaps that made it seem more like a job! The more I’ve enjoyed playing and gaining achievement, mounts, levelling, seeing new dungeons (I’ve discovered I haven’t done half the Burning Crusade dungeons- went in Magister’s Terrace for the first time yesterday) then the more guilty I’ve become.

And I don’t want to be. This is something both my husband & I enjoy, but I also have time for family, reading, exercise, my dog etc. And as I’ve said I work very hard (see I must convince you of that fact or that’ll be another three hours of stress) and I’m totally committed to my job. So why am I guilty about something that gives me pleasure? Would I feel the same if this was a more “conventional” hobby? I don’t know. “

I’m reasonably sure, based on private conversations, that this issue affects a lot of people, and I’d like to commend Bravetank for being so open in talking about how it affects her. We’re conditioned as a society to feel guilt about not working “hard” enough, even when there’s solid science out there to show that optimal working hours are far less than most people think. And perhaps this is why many of us can turn MMORPGs into a job themselves, with dailies, schedules, grinding, and so on.

(Or perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular – because they can feel like a productivity simulator?)

At the same time, Brian “Psychochild” Green writes on the same topic today, and arguing that we desperately need to be ‘unproductive’ sometimes

“As much as it would be awesome if we could be 110% productive all the time, our brains don’t work like that. A lot of research into learning and memory shows that we need sleep in order to better form memories. Introverts (which make up a sizable portion of creative types and programmers) get re-energized when we’re off on our own; so, if you do something that requires a lot of interaction with others, you might need to get away for a bit.

Also, our brains don’t automatically shut off if we are doing something else; I’m sure many people here have had the experience of our minds solving a difficult problem when we’ve moved on to something else. Sometimes doing something else that simulates the mind gets you unconsciously thinking about a problem in a different way. Games like RPGs tend to encourage problem solving and exploration, so it can put us in the right frame of mind. “

This is a sensible, well-argued post, and one that’s very timely. Brian also goes into some ways to tell if you’re gaming too much, or if it’s not having a positive effect on your life, which are also valuable. I’d perhaps have liked to see a few links to the science he references (hint – read Slack and Peopleware), but nonetheless, it’s a damn good thing to have someone reminding us that taking time out to play games isn’t just OK, it’s actively good for us.

Do you ever feel guilty about playing MMORPGs?

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Cows in Space! GW2 in Beta! Houses with HUUUUGE doors!

I’ll be honest, there’s no link between the last of today’s recommended posts – they’re just all really interesting, even if you don’t play the games they’re referring to.

  • Eric at Elder Game unlocks the mysterious door to MMO Developerdom again, this time exploring the reasons why MMORPG houses are so damn wierd“I’ve been surprised by the number of people who don’t realize this little bit of MMO trickery: most houses in MMOs are Disneyland fantasy houses, tiny models that couldn’t possibly have an interior.”
  • Ravious at Kill Ten Rats offers a detailed and interesting roundup of his experience in Guild Wars 2’s PvE content“We instantly organized. The two players stayed on one front while I maintained the other. There was no question as to how we would beat this event and whether we would participate. There were no words said. We just played.”
  • And Green Armadillo at Player vs Developer defends the Crew Missions in Star Trek Online, saying they’re more than just Cow-Clicker In Space“The game where my ship and crew exist to travel the galaxy searching for things to do is both fun and original. It also feels appropriate to the lore – hijinks like we saw on the shows can’t possibly happen every single day in the 24th/25th century, or the universe would have ended by now. “

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Is Being DPS hard? Should it be?

Well, it seems that the kerfuffle over SWTOR’s Heroic Flashpoints has broadened out into a general discussion of difficulty for DPS. And at the same time, elsewhere on the blogosphere other people are musing on the overlooked aspects of DPS difficulty.

Is being DPS hard? Is being pure DPS hard? Should it be? Let’s go to the phones…

  • Spinks hits back against Tobold, arguing that actually, there IS a problem with SWTOR’s Heroic DPS balance“It’s also confusing to the player base when the gear requirements for raids are lower than for flashpoints, and if that was intended then it’s something that needs to be made clearer.”
  • Rades at Orcish Army Knife highlights a little-discussed point – the fact that pure DPS need offspec sets too“The only real solution is doing exactly what any hybrid character has to do to play their offspec – collect and prepare a second set of gear. However, this is harder than it sounds, because quite honestly, it looks really, really bad.”
  • And The Grumpy Elf muses on improving his final grade as a DPS“So when I evaluate my numbers I notice that the biggest problem with them is that I am not using all the tools in my toolbox so the fact I was doing okay means nothing. I was not doing all I could. Have to love DPS. No matter how you do, you can always do it better.”

Do you think DPS – or pure DPS – have it easier?

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Thursday Controversies! Diablo RMT AH, SWTOR customer service, EQ servers sold

It’s a controversial time in the blogosphere! So controversial, in fact, that today there are multiple Strange And Somewhat Concerning things happening in multiple games, all on the same day.

So, buckle up, as we get down with the controversy goodness:

Blizzard to charge up to 83% of Diablo III RMT trades

Blizzard have revealed that the minimum price for an item on the Diablo III Real Money AH will be $1.50 – but that they’ll take $1.25 for any successful sale.

  • Tobold calls it a stupid regressive tax system“The real-money AH will resemble Tiffany’s more than Walmart, with relative low numbers of items posted at relatively high prices. For once Blizzard should have copied CCP and hire an economist before making changes like this.”
  • In An Age briefly touches on this announcement, finding both Diablo III announcements recently curious“I am beginning to wonder if these margins won’t start creating a space for the gray markets to move in.”

SWTOR customer service woes

SWTOR’s customer service seems to still be having problems.

  • The Niquisition was somewhat confused when their English-Language ticket recieved a response in French“Is your customer support team so inept that they can’t read four words of a ticket and determine the language it’s written in and therefore cannot send the appropriate response ticket?”

SOE sells EU servers

Sony have made the curious decision to sell their EverQuest 2 servers in the EU to a third-party company – and one with a very bad reputation. Subsequently, critics on the SOE forums were banned for “excessive negativity”, according to some reports.

  • MMOQuests has made a rare negative post about the situation, calling for a boycott“Put yourself in the position of the US military personnel who has been gaming on a EU server and now that they’re finally home, are unable to play with their friends because they must move to a US server, no longer having access.”
  • EctMMO thinks the decision is just plain wierd“I’m really puzzled over the company ‘selling’ off their EQ2 EU servers to what is known as a shady company that has poor support and security, thus segregating their community.”

What do you think of these ongoing controversies?

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Weekend Roundup

Once again, the weekend has provoked a floor of interesting blogging. Here’s the cream of the crop from the last few days!

  • Your “er…WHAT?” moment for this week comes courtesy of Windsoar having a VERY strange experience in LFR“ – You are nothing but a DPS farmer. – What’s a DPS farmer? – If you don’t know, you’re just showing that you are one.”
  • Poneria at Fel Concentration has a brilliant list of activities to de-stress with in WoW“I used to walk my felhunter through Scarlet Monastery’s Cathderal by putting him on Aggressive and strolling the grounds, but now that the Aggressive pet stance is gone and Assist took its place, it’s just not the same anymore.”
  • Cat at Flavour Text Lore writes a fascinating post detailing the academic work she’s doing on WoW’s mythological roots and usages“In Zelda, new iterations of motifs (such as Link’s green tunic) often derive their significance from earlier titles that are ultimately still set in the same universe, whereas in the case of the Thorim/Loken/Sif story, we are participating in a retelling pre-existing ‘real-world’ myth which has been transposed from its original setting into Blizzard’s constructed one with mostly superficial alterations.”
  • And Nerdy Bookahs closes the weekend off with a “First Impressions” article on the… Hello Kitty MMORPG . No, seriously – “I first heard of Hello Kitty Online in Warhammer Online. It was mentioned in the same way that people called others “carebears”. “Go play Hello Kitty Online!” – I thought that was just a joke but decided to google it as some point and was… shocked to see that this game actually exists.”

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Controversy Monday – Raid Nerfs, LoTRO for-pay items and more

The MMO blogosphere isn’t short of controversy at the moment, it must be said. For me, that’s making it a really interesting time – there’s a lot of serious thinking going on, a lot of really interesting debate and discussion, and I’m starting to get the feeling that this is one of those times when everything’s genuinely changing and progressing.

Specifically, over this weekend there have been some great posts on a variety of the top controversies right now:

  • Holy Word Delicious argues that any WoW raid, by definition, has to be at the right difficulty level“By choosing to play World of Warcraft, by choosing to raid in World of Warcraft, by choosing to play any game, you are entering into an implicit agreement that the correct difficulty level is chosen by the game company producing it.”
  • Tobold is concerned that the Diablo III community is going to be more hostile and unpleasant than any other games community before it“Diablo 3 is a negative sum game. No real value is ever created in that game. The only thing that is happening is a transfer of real money from some players to others, with Blizzard taking their cut.”
  • Justin Olivetti at Massively calls Turbine out in a powerfully-written editorial about their real-money item sales“If this doesn’t give Turbine pause to reconsider, then not only will the gear remain indefinitely, but the door is cracked even wider for future travesties.”
  • And Tusks and All believes that it’s impossible for Blizzard to ever recapture the classic WoW feeling“Blizzard needs to understand that nothing they did made Vanilla “great”. Systematically it was a terrible game: you had to grind for days to get specific resist gear, had to grind days and days to get good PVP gear, had to grind for hours to get mats for raid buffs/potions, had to grind days and day to get a single level.”

What do you think?

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