WoW 5.1 Controversies: Brawler’s Guild, Ore Drop Rates, Stealth Nerfs

Is WoW 5.1 great? Or is it awful?

We’re hearing both sides of the argument at the moment, on a wide variety of issues. Stealth nerfs to ore drop rates and some classes? Brawler’s Guild? We’ve already covered some of these discussions in our Friday 5.1 roundup – but here’s the latest…

  • Saxsy is extremely unhappy about both the ore drop nerf and the apparently huge stealth nerf to Fire mages“The nerf effectively removes thirteen item levels from my equipment. My 486 item level that was one of the best in my raid group’s? Now it’s no better than 473, which is probably someone they could pick up from LookingForGroup or Trade.”
  • Big Bear Butt speaks up about the Brawler’s Guild – and in contrast to Grumpy Elf on Friday, he’s absolutely loving it, and tells us why“Seriously folks, it is exactly how I pictured it. Except, I was having too much fun queueing and cheering people on to leave my desk for another beer.”
  • Big Bear Butt also speaks up on the ore drop rate nerf, and his feelings are dramatically different – he loves it“And now, they’re clearly paying attention to the desires of those who make the Auction House and game economy their playstyle, and despite it meaning it’ll be a teeny bit harder for me to go out and get my own mats when I want them, to me it means the opposite of “Blizzard hates the players”.”
  • And Faris goes over all the changes (although not the stealth nerfs) and gives a point-by-point opinion on each“Since 5.1 came out on Tuesday, I’ve probably spent a good 8-10 hours down in the Brawler’s Guild. Best part? I don’t even have an invitation yet. “

What do you think? Were the ore nerfs warranted? Does the Brawler’s Guild rule?

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Can You Estimate Difficulty? Is “MMO” one genre? And more MMO Thought

It’s been a bumper week or so for Deep Thinking about MMORPGs as a whole and as a genre. So, join me for a look at the latest in heavy-duty consideration of the genre we love – if indeed it is one genre after all…

  • There’s something of a zeitgeist around the idea that MMORPGs aren’t really a single genre any more, and Syncaine runs with that ball in a discussion of whether “virtual life” games like EVE are in any way similar to “short-play” games like Guild Wars 2“And yet, currently, MMO gaming (supposedly) caters to both players; Those with enough time to play MMOs as virtual worlds to be lived in, and those with enough time to just experience a bite of content before logging off. It’s no surprise that games who try to attract both have spectacularly failed overall, while games who aim more towards one or the other can do well.”
  • Zubon writes a really excellent post about all the times that developers have failed to accurately estimate difficulty, and what that means for discussion of MMORPG design“Guild Wars 2 has a pop-up warning when you start the cooking crafting skill, telling you that it is more expensive in terms of time, silver, and karma than the other trade skills. Cooking is the fastest, cheapest, easiest craft to take to 400 skill, notably having the last points available for a few hundred karma worth of peaches where other skills require dozens of drops or even globs of ectoplasm.”
  • And Clockwork looks at the various approaches to economies in MMORPGs, calling for more MMOs that lean toward “realistic” and even primitive economic systems“Perhaps making me a bit of an island in the MMO market, I’d like to see an MMO that eschews the auction house model. I would like to see a market that is a little more towards the “realistic” side in a game. I’d like to see a fantasy MMO where the crafting/economy are connected.”

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Weekend Roundup: Of Interest To All MMO Players

Next up, the interesting posts of the weekend that don’t apply to any MMO in particular. Mostly looking at how MMORPGs work, there’s some really interesting stuff in here:

  • Shintar looks at the Problem of Spoilers when discussing MMOs, asking what constitutes a spoiler for a game story?“I remember when the game had just come out, some people considered even things like revealing the name of your first companion a spoiler. “
  • Eric at Elder Game writes a particularly fascinating piece exploring the idea that Auction Houses may actually harm some MMORPGs“If players have to go window-shopping among various player-run stores (like they did in SWG), players have a hard time telling what the absolute best price is. Therefore prices don’t rapidly dwindle to nothing, which means crafters get to have fun pretending to be craftsmen. “
  • Spinks wonders whether the reporting on overachieving players – whether PvPers, levellers or AH players – demotivates everyone else” I made my peace long ago with the fact that I’m not hardcore, not much of an achiever in games, and probably not that good at them either. But it doesn’t make me engage more with the game either. “
  • And Alexander Brazie looks at the role of positive reinforcement in games as well as in dating“In fact, much of gaming is actually a rewiring of the explore, experiment, reward/punishment cycle that helps humans learn and grow. Put this cycle to good use and players will find your game more satisfying. “

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Secret World Servers, Market Manipulation, Moving Wallpapers and Immersion Failure

From financial regulation to Just Plain Pretty, here are the other great posts around the blogosphere I came across today:

  • The Godmother asks whether, in light of the financial shenanigans in the real world, we should consider regulating the production of virtual gold“It has become clear that people expect their games not simply to deliver entertainment, but to do so in a way that does not rely on scandalising and sensationalising the environments the gamer plays in. If that’s the case for these issues, should the case not extend to those games that allow the player to manipulate the virtual world to a point where it could be seen to give them an unfair advantage over others?”
  • Keen sits down for some soul-searching as he asks why he’s no longer being immersed in modern MMOs“I remember working hard to build a house in SWG, wondering if I could turn it into a shop and get people to actually visit and purchase my goods. I remember my first two days in EverQuest when a RL friend of mine introduced me to a couple other players — we met in a dark corner of Freeport and in hushed tones they asked me if I wanted to join… their guild. It wasn’t roleplay when I got goosebumps and felt the anxiety of what it meant to associate myself in a game with other people, and what we might accomplish together in this brand new completely untouched world.”
  • And for your daily dose of the Pretty, check out Disciplinary Action’s neat new project – moving desktop wallpapers of familiar Skyrim and WoW scenes

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AH Views, Server Transfers, Rock Guys and more

And finally, some excellent posts from today – it would appear that whilst the MMO community’s news-light at the moment, there’s still plenty of thinking going around:

  • Tobold’s always strong talking about virtual economics, and his discussion of the impact of the Diablo AH on different MMO player types is a very interesting read“Another important difference is that some players play Diablo 3 “for the challenge”. While the AH can postpone the point at which you feel challenged, you will get there sooner or later. Other players play Diablo 3 “for fun”, and it has been showed by psychologists that random loot drops are most fun on a neuro-chemical level.”
  • Altaclysmic discovers that Blizzard seem to have a crack in their anti-profanity wall when it comes to British swearwords“This got me thinking, Knobhead of Kilrogg, is likely to be a character name, so next stop was the Armory. Below are my random findings from the armory.”
  • Big Bear Butt’s Cub is back for another fascinating insight into WoW through a child gamer’s eyes – in this case, talking about grinding, pets, and player cynicism““If I get Pebble, will he fight with me?” Sigh. Oh, do you mean will there be more of a reward for your time and effort other than a standard pet? No, no there won’t. But of course I won’t say that. He just has an honest question. he knows what it takes to get normal pets, and he knows there are pets he has gotten from quest chains, and even pets from the Darkmoon faire dailies. So, if he has to go to what seem unusual lengths, it seems fair to him that there be unusual rewards.”
  • And in SWTOR, free character transfers are starting – from low-population servers to high-pop ones. Shintar is dismayed by this decision, and explains the significant potential downsides of the decision“Even with transfers being free, it’s inevitable that a lot of people won’t use them, whether that’s because they don’t even know that the feature exists because they don’t follow the news, they are only moderately active, or they like(d) their server to begin with. However, many people will transfer, and removing some of the most active players from an already low population realm is going to have dire consequences for those that remain. “

What’s got your attention in MMOs at the moment?

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Where IS the Diablo AH headed?

We all boggled when the Diablo 3 AH was announced last year. We all went into a frenzy of predicting what would happen.

And frankly, we all got it completely wrong.

Today, the hot news in the blogosphere is the Diablo AH, once again, as we look at where it’s going, what it’s doing, whether it’ll destroy your game experience, and just what to expect when the real-money side of it finally arrives:

  • Heartbourne at Lorehound writes a super-in-depth article looking at the theory of supply and demand – more complicated than you might think – and how it is applying and will apply to the D3 AH“One of the basic ideas of economics that gets thrown around a lot by laymen is “supply and demand“. They are really two separate ideas that can be used in conjunction with each other to predict market behavior.”
  • Tobold is left wondering just where the AH is supposed to fit in to the overall balance of Diablo 3“I will be left wondering “Will later difficulty modes be balanced around people purchasing AH gear?”. I mean, I could probably play the game perfectly well without using my healing spell, or without using potions, or without using the right mouse button. But there is something inherently stupid about having to make up your own rules for handicapping yourself so as to balance the game.”
  • Jim at Power Word Gold looks at the effect that Diablo 3 is having on the WoW Auction House – complete with graphs!“The US Alliance auction house average market value was 4.03M gold on May 14 and is now down to 2.97M gold a drop of just over 25%. The global US auction house market value was 1.85B gold on May 14, 2012 and is now down to 1.34B gold on May 22, 2012, a reduction of over 27%.”
  • And I Sheep Things looks at the pretty colossal bugs in the current D3 AH and asks if it’s anywhere near ready for the real-money addon“If we can’t even track digital gold how on earth does Blizzard expect me to pay 5 bucks for something I may or may not get. There is no way I’m getting involved with that until this is long sorted out and servers are stable.”

As an AH junkie and IRL entrepreneur, I’m finding all this fascinating.

What are your AH predictions? And are you buying gear on the Diablo AH yet?

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Diablo 3 Controversy Roundup: Freefall Auctions and Straightjacket Socialising

Diablo 3 is continuing to attract controversy, as discussion rages about its arm-twisting socialisation aspects, and the innovative worldwide auction house continues to develop.

Today we’re rounding up the latest commentary on the most controversial features of this semi-MMO:

Economy

  • Jim at Power Word Gold covers economy concerns he doesn’t share (RMT trading companies taking over) and concerns that he does – massive, rampant deflation“With no reason for “good” items to ever leave the game it would seem that as the supply increases the prices for both the Gold and Real-Money Auction Houses will only drop.”
  • Diminishing Returns also covers the apparent-inevitable downward spiral on the AH, as well as some of the ramifications of that spiral“It is now far cheaper to buy an item rather than craft it through the random blacksmithing process and it makes better financial sense to vendor magic items rather than salvage them for crafting materials.”
  • Is the AH cheating? Today Rohan is looking at the way that the deflated, over-supplied AH seems to trivialise game content“Outfitting your character through the Auction House really changes the game, at least in the beginning. The difficulty becomes much lower. I’m just rampaging through stuff with my Barbarian, and am really not playing it as if it is hardcore. “

Social Elements

  • Covering both socialisation and AH elements, Stubborn at Sheep the Diamond is concerned by AH trivialisation, but wonders if we’re just being too damn polite social-wise“I don’t have compunctions about telling my friends – and they are friends, people I’ve known in the real world for years – this, because I know they’ll respect my decision, regardless of whether they understand it. That’s what real friends do, and why they’d help move the bodies.”
  • Meanwhile, Glow at Glow’s Branches is amazed at the fact that Diablo enforces socialisation, but doesn’t offer good tools to do it with“Sure, as a group we all swapped BattleTAGs on our WoW guild forums, and looked forward to playing together in D3. But now that we’re in D3, there is absolutely no way to chat together as a ‘guild’. “

What do you think? Are the AH or the social aspects of Diablo fine?

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Diablo 3: Specific Points – talents, auctions, battletags and more

Diablo’s already sparking off a lot of discussion in the blogosphere.

Top bloggers are singling out some fascinating points about the game, and the discussion’s only just getting started:

  • Tobold has visited the Diablo 3 AH, and believes that his predictions of low prices are confirmed“. On the live servers people quickly realized that there is no such thing as bind on equip in Diablo III. Every item you find or buy, you can sell back on the AH later, even those that you used and replaced by something better. That means that each players every day is producing a constant stream of blue and better gear to feed into the economy, far more than there could possibly be demand for. “
  • Remember Diablo 1? Tales of the Rampant Coyote does, and looks back to the time when Diablo arrived, and proved a dozen hypothetical design questions at once“My attitude when I played the game – especially playing multiplayer for the first time, was “Holy Crap! They did it! These guys finally did it.” These discussions and arguments had been going on for years, in the vacuum of the Internet and bulletin board systems. It had all been theory, and the talk had felt endless.”
  • Windsoar at Jaded Alt offers us a useful resource – a “what’s changed?” guide between Diablos 2 and 3“IF you have friends on your list who are ALSO playing Diablo 3, AND they have a public group, you can enter their “dungeon” from the character selection page. You can also choose to join public games at any time during your dungeon.”
  • Matticus looks at the Diablo talent trees as a prequel of what the Mists talent system will offer WoW“I’m hoping Diablo 3′s skill system, now that more people are exposed to it, will help open some eyes and encourage understanding to those who were vehemently opposed to Mists talent system. “
  • Vidyala at Manalicious looks at the downsides of Diablo’s always-on, never-invisible social gaming“With our current expectations of connectivity, it can seem radical or selfish to say “I’m not available at the moment,” but trust me – sometimes everyone needs a little space to get lost in the world, virtual or otherwise. “
  • The Godmother at Alt:ernative looks at how Diablo 3 effectively hooks players into a new social network“I can entirely understand the frustration of the lone player: I think the biggest single failure last night was that Blizzard didn’t make it clear that D3 is a new generation of game. It requires you to bolt yourself into an existing social networking framework, even if you have no need or desire to be part of it. “
  • Beruthiel at Falling Leaves and Wings responds to players complaining about server downtime with the example of Blizzard’s astonishing decision to compensate people whose preorders were lost when a retailer folded“Blizzard is going to absorb the loss of GAME’s poor business decisions, to ensure that Blizzard’s customer’s aren’t getting the short end of this particular stick. I haven’t done a ton of research on if other companies have taken similar steps in the past – so I cannot say that it is “unprecedented” – but I will say that this is extremely rare. And amazing. Really, really amazing.”
  • Gaming For Introverts struggles with the way Diablo 3 gives you no option but to be social“When I group with other people I feel this need to be efficient, and to be really good at playing the game so I don’t cause wipes or failures. Suddenly I’m not stopping to take in scenery, or paying much attention to the lore audio clips that play in the background. I don’t want to stop moving for too long while staring at my skills or the stuff in my inventory.”
  • Finally, Scary Worlds is upset about Diablo’s DRM, but wonders if outrage can get in the way of enjoying a game“Thinking back to my DRM chats and how much people hate it, I just wish I didn’t know about it. People like me ignore great games because they have a beef with DRM or asshats like Orson.”

Are you finding Diablo 3’s social networking aspects disturbing? Do you see gold in them thar dungeons? Let us know what you think!

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The Reality of the Diablo 3 Auction House

We know that the D3 Auction House will be revolutionary, mixing real-world money into a virtual economy. Some people have even suggested it could lead to murder. But as we approach its launch date, what’s the reality looking like?

Today we’ve got a supremely interesting article from Brunpal at Jaded Alt, examining how the Diablo III AH has eventually shaped up, and what you can expect from it in future

“The Diablo 3 AH interface is TERRIBLE. It’s hard to make something worse than the default WoW AH but Blizzard managed it. There’s plenty of interface ideas they could have used from WoW addons but instead they made it worse. Blizzard is taking a cut of everything which stunned me. The AH also has a limit of 10 simultaneous listings with no ability to cancel a listing. It appears to have been purposely designed to be awful. It fails in every conceivable way.

Given all the problems with the AH it will encourage people quickly to find other ways to trade. Since you can trade gold/items directly to other characters (exactly like in WoW) that “other way” is instantly obvious. Enter the grey market.

I expect that a website will pop up to facilitate trades between individuals. Even a simple forum of WTS/WTB listings would be enough. It won’t take long for something more complex to pop up even if it’s just a Craig’s List clone… (Only if there is real money to be made.) Blizzard has no way to stop that short of banning trades all together which obviously will piss off a lot of people so Blizzard won’t do that. My personal guess is that all the discussion around the $AH and how it affects the industry will be moot.”

OK, I will admit I’m an economy junkie. But this is really fascinating stuff – both the raw information, and Brunpal’s analysis. Much of it is waaaaaaay away from what we expected, and it’s all really interesting. Brunpal’s done a great job here.

It may be worth noting that it’s also looking like D3’s economy will be extremely interesting in much the same way as a major motorway pile-up. The combination of virtual hyperinflation, the already-existing D3 gold guide market, the heinous fees, Brunpal’s prediction of a rapidly-emergent grey market, and all the rest means that whilst it’ll be fascinating to watch, I wouldn’t want to be involved in the economy directly in anything but the most casual way. (If you are likely to get involved, Brunpal also gives some tips for avoiding the most heinous of the fees!).

I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about Diablo III’s economy in the coming weeks – but for now, if you’re interested at all, this is the best analysis I’ve seen of what’s likely to shake out.

What do you think will happen with Diablo 3’s economy?

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Guild Wars 2: How The AH Works, Playground or Themepark, and more

The Guild Wars 2 beta is showing, over and over again, that what we’ve got here is something genuinely new. It’s now 4 days after, and the discussions of individual points in the game design aren’t abating – in fact, they’re getting steadily more interesting.

We’ve got some really meaty pieces of discussion of the upcoming MMO today:

  • Ravious at Kill Ten Rats offers a fascinating look at the Auction House equivalent, which sounds like a whole lot of fun“Right click, sell at the trading post. There was a buy order on 8-slot jute bags for 54 copper, and the average market price of jute scraps hung around 10 copper each. It took 20 jute scraps to make an 8-slot bag. Yeah, right I thought… “
  • Werit asks whether World vs World PvP is really a part of the game where NPCs belong“Fighting in RvR will always be about the players since NPCs are usually little more than speedbumps. “
  • Cyndre, also at Kill Ten Rats, muses about how Arena.net surprised him by offering an actual beta“I expected a Marketing Event, and was put-off by an actual beta testing phase.”
  • And Melmoth at Killed in a Smiling Accident wonders if GW2 has managed to be a “playground”, the perfect blend of themepark and sandbox“The Killers and the Socialisers can inhabit the same area and not necessarily get in each other’s way. Meanwhile, the Explorers can wander around discovering all the various parts of the playground (including that hole in the fence behind the bike sheds), and the Achievers can try to involve themselves in as many games as possible, flitting from one to the other without interfering with the game that is being played at the time.”

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