SWTOR FAIL- Heroic Flashpoints, WoW Cataclysm successes, and GW2 Hype Control

Ah, it’s not too long ago I remember the Pot being virtually all WoW, all the time. Well, those days are well and truly over, it would seem – today we’ve got three great pieces about three great – and different MMOs. Let’s roll!

  • Lono at Screaming Monkeys draws attention to the parlous state of SWTOR Heroic Flashpoints“The gear requirements for different roles are insanely different. My gear and skill is sufficient for healing but not for dps. If this was well designed, my gear and skill would be insufficient for both roles.”
  • The Renaissance Man at Children of Wrath turns to look at the other side of Cataclysm, in his report on things Cataclysm got right“T11 was a great raiding experience. Encounters ranged the full gambit of skill levels, and were never subject to the asinine blanket nerfs to current content that gutted the later tiers. The afterglow of T11 is one of the last things that keep me still raiding in Cataclysm.”
  • And Spinks sounds a note of caution as the raving about the Guild Wars 2 beta spreads – remember, it’s still a beta being reported on by fans“Initial impressions from betas of long awaited games are often highly positive. People are so happy the game exists at all that they focus on the strengths of the game rather than the weaknesses, and beta players are generally more upbeat and co-operative than players in live games. “

What game are you following right now?

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Holy Trinity Woes, Cataclysm Final Grades, and the Anatomy of a Mega-Meme

It’s all going a bit meta today, as we examine not just MMOs, but the blogging around them. Plus, a movement starts off, and Cynwise explores the pros and cons of WoW roles.

  • Gnomeageddon started off a little blogging meme lately – which grew into a total monster. Read the story of the ‘six’ meme – _”
  • A friend suggested Tzufit of Tree Heals Go Whoosh write a “final report card” for Cataclysm – but instead, she’s encouraging the entire blogosphere to submit their thoughts“I loved the idea, but I hoped it might make for some really interesting posts from around the blogosphere rather than just on my own blog. “
  • And Cynwise has been pondering the nature of roles, classes and class image in WoW – and the unfairness of that system“Warcraft has an exclusionary class and role design philosophy. That’s okay, it adds interest and spice to the RPG part of the game.But it also presents an insoluble problem for class balance. And we, as players, have to deal with the fallout from that problem – constantly shifting class abilities, utilities, and balance. “

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SWTOR Companions, MMO Couples, Cataclysm Wins and Account-Bound Achievements

A great grab-bag of different links caught my eye over the last day or so – let’s get going!

  • A lot of people are criticising Cataclysm at the moment, but Shintar’s bucking the trend with a great list of things she loved about the expansion“Despite of all those flaws, I really got a lot of enjoyment out of the Shattering. I had fun discovering what had changed and what hadn’t, and I brushed the mothballs off low-level alts that I hadn’t even touched since Burning Crusade. I probably spent more time levelling alts than doing things at endgame, and I had fun doing so. That’s got to count for something.”
  • Darth Hater has a really interesting summary of the current state of SWTOR companions“Tank companions. Everyone gets them, and everyone quickly learns just how terrible they are at actually tanking. In most situations a heavy-armor clad DPS character will actually have better survivability than a tanking companion. “
  • Fulguralis at Killing Em Slowly speaks up on the “MMO Couples” conversation, singing the praises of couples-heavy guilds“Which brings up what I believe to be the biggest benefit of gaming couples, mechanics-wise: they’re in the same room. When my wife is tanking, it’s like she has a built in bonus camera in the form of the pew-pewing warlock. While she’s watching the All Crotch All The Time channel, I can warn her of adds or other impending doom.”
  • And Harpy’s Nest speaks up on an issue I know quite a few people are concerned about – the downsides of switching to account-bound achievements in WoW -_“Think of all the repeatable content which suddenly becomes irrelevant. You complete the Explorer once and you never have to do it again. Done Loremaster, great, now you don’t need to visit Stonetalon Mountains on another character ever again. “_

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More Cataclysm Miscues, More on Slut Plate, and More Shire Pls!

Moar! We wants moar!

Yes, today we’ve got more of all sorts of things – more evidence that 25-man raiding is dying, more on the Slut Plate controversy, and more little things that Cataclysm was missing…

  • The Grumpy Elf continues his series on tiny things that went missing in Cataclysm as he asks where in the world is Helmut Nessingwary?“Every step we have taken in the game, with each advance we have, there are always new adventures to be had with the greatest hunter to ever live. He will always have some big game in his sights and he will always seek us out to assist him. He has become as much a part of our lives as anything else in game. “
  • Graylo has been analysing the numbers, and he’s got bad news – 25-man raiding is definitely dying“I think these numbers point to the decline of 25man raiding very clearly. As you can see the kill rates on 25man have declined with each tier of new content going from 17.45% in T11, to 13.21% in T12, to 11.28 % in T13.”
  • Apple Cider follows up her “Slut Plate” post with a discussion of just why language matters“You cannot acknowledge that words have power but say it is all resting on the people who are audience to grant that power to said words. No, the power of words is precisely why word choice is so thorny to begin with.”
  • And Syp at Bio Break wonders something that I’ve considered too – could we have an entire MMO just set in the Shire?“We could actually get to know our NPC neighbors and each of us would develop growing relationships with them — love, friendships, feuds, political buddies, etc. Every day, we would log in not knowing what adventure and events are happening right outside our front door, and major events could even shape the landscape (figuratively or not) of the zone for years to come after.”

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Before Mists of Pandaria: the Bucket List phenomenon

Over the last few weeks, there’s been a strange sort of movement growing in the WoW blogosphere.

It all started with Cynwise, who wrote a piece entitled “On Making A Bucket List for Mists of Pandaria”, in which he shared his remaining goals for each of his characters before he considers himself done with WoW until Mists of Pandaria hits

“Is it too soon to be talking about making a bucket list for Cataclsym? I don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it, indirectly. And maybe it’s time.

By cancelling my recurring subscription, I’ve accelerated the end-of-expac mindset and have to start thinking about what do I really want to get done in game. I’ve placed a constraint upon myself – not a hard constraint, but a soft limit that challenges me to define what I want to do, see if I can do it by a specific date, and then evaluate if I’m still enjoying playing enough to justify purchasing another month. Or three. Or if I should take a break.”

Cynwise went through his remaining goals for each of his characters – a lot of which turned out to be focussed around professions – and in doing so, started a blogosphere trend.

Achievements Ahoy was next on the list, putting together a personal list and calling for others to do the same.

And now Tzufit of Tree Heals Go Whoosh has joined the party, with a two-part article, the first part of which looks at things that anyone might well have missed in Cataclysm

“Somewhere along the way, Vashj’ir got a bit of a bad rap (I was in no way responsible for helping with this). If MMO Champion’s statistics on the subject are correct, only 70% of level 85 characters did enough of the questline to get their Subdued Abyssal Seahorse mount – and that’s only a dozen or so quests in! A lot of players tend to skip over it when leveling for a variety of good reasons. During 4.2, it especially didn’t make sense to take a toon through Vash’jir when you could level from 80-82 in Hyjal since you would need to do the majority of the quests there to unlock the Molten Front dailies and get your free epics.

As I’ve returned to that zone on alts after hurrying through all of the quest chain on my druid at launch, I’ve started to realize just how immersive and interesting the lore is there. Blizzard is unlikely to attempt an underwater zone like this again, and while it can be a little frustrating and (for me) disorienting at first, once you get used to the feel of the place it’s a total blast. The lore, the scenery, and the epic storyline all make it worth the time you’ll spend feeling like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, totally disconnected from all society.”

I couldn’t agree more with her on Vash’jir – whilst it can drag, at its best it’s a genuinely immersive and innovative bit of storytelling, reminiscent of Zangermarsh in its strangeness. And the rest of her list – roll low-level toons and ignore the Dungeon Finder, play Throne of the Four Winds at least once, and others – are all great suggestions too.

More than that, though, I’m fascinated by the phenomenon. WoW is a huge, sprawling game now, and it’s easy to miss great things. And with something of a yawning gap opening up before MoP, I’ll be interested to see how many people start deciding to investigate the unexplored corners of the game, and what new things they find there.

Are you planning a pre-Mists bucket list?

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Three different views back over the last year of WoW

It’s syncronity day in the blogosphere today, as three different people all write excellent, interesting pieces looking back on their last year, and beyond, of raiding and WoW:

  • Reliq at Azeroth Observer writes a thought-provoking piece on the changes he’s seen in a year of Cataclysm“The guild poked the initial bosses in BWD a few times to varying success, but it wasn’t until I pugged into a group which cleared BWD, Throne of the Four Winds and (almost) Bastion of Twilight over a weekend that I may as well have run through the streets screaming “I WANT TO RAID!”. It was addictive as hell.”
  • Variant Avatar writes a sterling piece on a major achievement – his guild’s seven years of history so far“We have never been a world or server first guild, what we have been is a community first guild. We have seen members get married, graduate college, have kids, change jobs, experience tragedy. However through it all our guild has rallied around its own. “
  • And Manalicious has a great discussion of her guild’s evolution from a top “strict 10-man” guild through Cataclysm“We no longer had our elite strict ten ranking to use as a recruitment tool. At the height of our achievements, we were ranked tenth in the US (among strict ten guilds) during ICC. This was an awesome way to attract the kinds of players that we wanted. That method of recruitment was gone.”

As the last patch of Cata arrives, are your thoughts turning in retrospective directions?

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Did Cata actually make WoW too hardcore?

Now here’s a point that made me stop, think, and then go “oh, yeah, that explains a lot!” – the argument that Cata, far from dumbing WoW down, actually failed because it made the game cater to the hardcore.

Don’t agree? Then go and read Nils’ fascinating editorial on the subject , and see if, like me, he makes you change your mind:

“Some starting zones are pretty damn hardcore. As an undead you can’t win against even two mobs of your level during level 4-6. Accidental pulling of two mobs might look improbable to you, but it’s certainly not improbable for a new player who still has to learn about aggro ranges and how to move his char. The leveling becomes trivial only after lvl10.

The open world, which used to be a fun game full of instant action and the chance to get a useful random drop, was turned into a dailies-only minigame, which was so repetitive that only the hardcore, who grinded for the external reward, engaged in it. Logging in daily to grind for external rewards is not casual.”

It’s a really interesting analysis, and I honestly can’t find fault with it. Nothing to do that’s interesting except raid? Optimised for rapidly getting to the endgame and then grinding? Sounds, I’m afraid to say, like today’s WoW to me!

At the same time, several other bloggers have been musing on similar themes:

  • Tobold responded to Nils providing further evidence for his theory, by studying Cataclysm and Bartle gamer types“I think most people would agree that casual players are more likely to be interested in exploration and socialization. And World of Warcraft over the years has become a less social world in which there is less to explore.”
  • And Syncaine, meanwhile, has been wondering whether in fact the casual gamer is a dying breed“Gamers today ‘get’ gaming and demand more from their gaming than the bare minimum. This is only going to increase as time goes on. More and more people are going to grow up with gaming being as much (if not more) a part of their lives as TV or movies. The kids growing up on Club Penguin today are not going to transition from that game to Farmville.”

Do you agree with Nils’ argument? And do you think that casual gamers are, in fact, a dying breed?

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A Healer’s Lament

Whilst the Kitten Standard was occupying the front page today, another topic crept out of the WoW woodwork, and potentially one that’s more serious for the game.

The current raid content contains fights that wildly differ on the number of healers and sometimes number of tanks required. With the nerfbat swinging as often as it does, that exaggerates the changes even more – a fight that used to require one composition suddenly requires another.

And so today we have two healers lamenting the extremely awkward situation they find themselves in, where they’re forced to either sit on the bench or take a DPS role they don’t enjoy for half the fights in the raid.

First up, Beruthiel of Falling Leaves and Wings chimes in with a typically well-argued post explaining the problem and its effects

“People in competitive raid teams want to be competitive. They want to do their best. They want to be performers. And if they are constantly at the bottom, in their off spec role, it will eventually get to them. As can comments that are meant to be a joke, or even comments meant to be helpful, about their performance in their off spec. The other night I bit the bullet and DPS’d for Heroic Staghelm. It was my first time for that fight in that role. I was mildly competitive with some of our lower DPS – but when push came to shove, at the end I beat the tank. I’m one of our top performers as a healer – and what I got to say about my undergeared, and uncomfortable performance as DPS was “Hey! I beat the tank…at least”. Frankly, I was embarrassed.”

Beruthiel explains the problems, point by point, and successfully demolishes the “well, that’s what dual specs are for” argument. A dual spec is fine – but players tend to prefer one role or another. A game that’s unpredictably forcing players into a role they don’t enjoy and can’t do well at is a game with a problem.

And that’s where we come to the second post, from a more personal point of view. Vidyala of Manalicious has been going through the same pains that Beruthiel has been – and in her eloquent post, she talks about just how damn sick of it she is

“I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me. So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself?”

There’s no understating this one – if the design of WoW’s raids are meaning that raiders are starting to conclude they’d rather not raid than be forced into an unfun role, the game’s got a problem, and every raid leader out there has a problem. Blizzard are going to have to think about this one – but so is everyone who’s involved in a raiding guild. How can we mitigate the problem of forcing people to play a role they don’t like?

Any ideas?

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Cataclysm Raids Quick-Read Strategy Guides for Normal AND Heroic

If you like these guides, please tell other people about them!

Our Quick-Read Cataclysm dungeon strategy guides were super-popular, so a while ago Johnnie put his head down and started seriously working on a sequel – quick-read guides for all the Cataclysm raid instances.

These guides are the Cliff Notes to the raid – not a wall of text, but a few lines per boss, just like you might type in /raid before the pull. You can use them to quickly check what you need to know or paste into raid chat to make sure everyone’s up to speed. They cover both Normal and Heroic modes, too!

In these new, exciting days of rapid nerfs, more people are PUGing than ever before. So, if you don’t need a detailed description of the fight, you just need key tactics, RIGHT NOW, we give you:

Enjoy, and good luck with your PUGing!

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The “Virus ate my homework” roundup post

As we mentioned yesterday, the MMO Melting Pot was temporarily rather shut down by an extremely nasty rootkit. That was a double pain in the backside given various people have written some awesome posts over the weekend.

So here’s a quick round-up of the stuff we’d probably have featured yesterday, in shortened form. Sorry, guys – blame TR-Spy and TR-Crypt for eating our homework!

  • A neat offer – Scary of Scary Gamer is studying to become a personal fitness trainer, and he’s offering free advice to any gamers who want to tone up.
  • I Like Pancakes saw the new artwork for Tyrande Whisperwind, and is Not At All Impressed: “What this picture says to me is that Tyrande is Malfurion’s possession, or worse, his puppet. Look at the pose. Look at how disjointed Tyrande looks in comparison to Malfurion. Tyrande is looking at Malfurion; Malfurion is looking at us. Is there any doubt as to who calls the shots in this relationship?” (I completely agree)
  • Shintar has been looking back at her expectations of Cataclysm: “Soaring over the old world was interesting for maybe two weeks, then it just turned into the most convenient way of getting from A to B without having to pay attention to the scenery. I actually find myself enjoying my alts below sixty much more not just because of the new content, but also because they are glued to the ground and actually get to take in the changes in the landscape. “
  • Windsoar has a lengthy and interesting post on a personal dilemma she’s facing around anger and raiding: “Once upon a time, I spent many a raid night walking away from the game angry, furious even…I seriously thought, in light of my promise to my husband, that maybe I couldn’t manage to raid without the fury buff.”
  • And Spinks has a depressing, but thought-provoking suggestion – maybe the days of strongly cooperative gameplay were the sign of a golden era: “The internet in general has been friendlier towards strongly co-operative games than you’d expect. This I think is because the early adopters were blown away by being able to interact online with other people from around the world in real time. “

Any thoughts on angry raiding? Do you think we’ve just left a golden age? And does Tyrande now come off as a bimbo?

All quotes taken from the relevant article.

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