Dungeons Compared Across WoW, SWTOR and TSW

Everyone’s been running dungeons this weekend, it seems – but not, as you might expect, Mists of Pandaria dungeons.

No – instead we’ve got a series of fascinating posts looking at the dungeon experience in other games, and across all MMORPGs:

  • Redbeard writes a really interesting piece recounting his experience in his first SWTOR dungeon” You stop worrying about damage meters and trying to fine tune your threat management; you just roll with it and do what is best for the group.”
  • Rohan sums up the differences between SWTOR and WoW endgame, focused on dungeons“I think the biggest thing is that TOR has the balance between AoE and single-target almost perfectly correct. Sometimes you AoE, and sometimes you single-target individual mobs. Crowd Control is often used, but it is not absolutely required.”
  • Stubborn recounts positive experiences in the dungeons of The Secret World and Guild Wars 2, both of which have come in for criticism from other players” I’m really not sure why there are so many criticisms of the GW2 dungeons flying around. They’re supposed to be tough. A little chaos that requires some improvisation is a good thing. Apparently not everyone shares that sentiment, though.”
  • And Gordon at We Fly Spitfires laments the death of tanking as a mechanic across MMORPGs” as much as I love both the playstyle and roleplaying aspect of being a tank, I appreciate the evolving nature of MMORPGs.”

Personally I STILL haven’t managed to get into a GW2 dungeon (blame a really hectic work schedule), but I’m looking forward to them – they sound like just my cup of tea.

What MMO are you playing right now, and what do you think of the dungeons/instances in it?

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MoP Report: One Week In, Is The Thrill Lasting?

Mists of Pandaria is one week old – so is the magic holding, or is Pandaria starting to pall?

  • Ben at The Asylum Wall enthuses about the MoP Pet Battle System“The speed of the battles will lend itself to filling in those small gaps of inactivity better. Waiting a few minutes for that third guildie to be ready for a scenario or LFD? Suit up your mini-gladiators. LFR queue? Pet battles. Got fifteen minutes to kill before the raid? Go.”
  • Zinn gives us a “one week in” summary, from initial feelings of overwhelm to thoughts on the daily grind“Eventhough the quests might be quick and easy, I can’t feel but think that it is unjust as some classes and specs have a much easier time with quest farming than others.”
  • Erinys has hit level 90, and gives us her view from the level cap, from dailies to Heroics to pet battles“The choice is overwhelming as is the feeling that you should ignore the “fun” ones (Tillers/Anglers/Cloud Serpents) whilst concentrating on the rest in the run up to raids and the arena season starting. “
  • Rowan Blaze returned to WoW for the Pandaren starting zone, and gives us impression from the PoV of a Guild Wars 2 convert“Another aspect of WoW (and SWTOR) that I do not miss is the competition for resources with other players. After having trained in skinning, I forgot that I was capable of doing so and turned around to a recent kill, only to find another player skinning it.”
  • Fari the Achivement Hunter rounds up her experiences with both cooking and fishing, one week in“Can I be honest? I was totally and completely skeptical about what people call “Farmville” with the Tillers reputation, but it’s a lot more fun than I expected! “
  • Kadomi has hit 90 one week in, and gives us an overview of the experience so far, from leveling zones to the rep grind“I do however not mind the old-fashioned reputation grind. In a way, that makes reputation more meaningful to me. “
  • Derevka gives us a quick overview of his experience from 85 to 90, touching on both leveling and what’s coming to be the early endgame bugbear, the reputation grind of dailies“I have to really stand up and applaud Blizzard for Mists of Pandaria; it really is probably one of their most polished expansions to date. “
  • Jed gives us his impressions too, as someone who played particularly the Jade Forest thoroughly on beta and in Live“I much prefer the new quests as they definitely convey the “we are at war” concept that blizzard has been pushing on us for this expansion. “
  • Darraxus gives a quick overview of his mid-leveling impressions“I am really enjoying the questing so far. There are lots of little interesting quests, and many have given me fun items instead of just a weapon or piece of armor. “
  • And Zellviren closes the day off by waxing extremely lyrical about MoP’s profession design. Spoiler: he’s really, really impressed“This is flat-out great design. It’s imaginative, it’s fun, it adds legitimate gameplay value to professions that many players like, and it manages to do all of that without ostracizing raiders who merely want to get their performance bonuses.”

I’m a fair way behind most people in leveling in MoP, but still – it is indeed still great fun.

So, one week in – what are your thoughts?

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The Debate Over Guild Wars 2

A month in, and Guild Wars 2 is attracting plenty of controversy. Prominent bloggers are claiming that its end-game is lacking, whilst others are still loving the game. So, what’s going on, and will GW2 stay the course?

  • Syl writes a lengthy, well-considered article rounding up and commenting on the controversy, considering the MMO player mentality and MMORPG history back to Ultima Online” If there’s one universally defining aspect for this genre at all, it’s that MMO worlds are created to be lived in, rather than be played through. GW2 has some gamey aspects for certain but its clear lack of endgame and progression, its attempts at a “flat” gameplay experience maybe more alike to Skyrim, emphasize this very oldschool virtue.”
  • Syp writes at length on the social nature of Guild Wars 2, which has also taken some stick, saying that just because he’s not talking to other players doesn’t mean he’s not socialising with them“Guild Wars 2 reminds me of testimonies I heard from Journey. Not the band, that game where you played as a silent, anonymous character who would sometimes pair up with other silent, anonymous characters. People raved about how it made them feel connected to another person, even though there was a barrier of communication between them. “
  • And Windsoar also takes on the social aspects of Guild Wars 2, but she’s far less impressed with its social nature“The GW2 model, at least for outdoor auto-group type raiding doesn’t make me invest in others, which means I have less reason to want to talk to them, help them, or form relationships with them. As a result, I fail to see how we can say that the GW2 model encourages socialization. “

Personally, I’m enjoying Guild Wars 2 a great deal, for most of the same reasons that Syl cites – it’s a flat, open, highly explorable world, and the lack of rails makes it more appealing to me, not less. But I’m also playing very casually – I haven’t even hit level 30 yet. Would I find it as appealing as a hardcore player? I don’t know.

**What do you think? Is GW2 succeeding in shaking up the genre, or failing at holding long-term appeal.

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Is It A Three Monther and more

As we draw to the close of another exciting post-MoP day, here’s today’s final roundup of interesting reads in the blogosphere:

  • Avatars Of Steel argues that no MMORPG creator has any choice these days but to lower their prices to compete“For all the wiggling and squiggling that will ensue, competition has now made monopoly/cartel ish money no longer possible. “
  • Syncaine makes an interesting argument in his ongoing jerimiad against Guild Wars 2 – that it fails as an MMO when you get to its endgame“Being nice to others or having lots of options in terms of where to level or how to get gear or where to collect crafting mats is all pointless when, once you hit 80, it all does nothing for you.”
  • Chris at Game By Night references the dismissive phrase “Three-Monther”, saying that these days, all MMORPGs are three-monthers“normal players do not play for two hours a day, every day. They do not buy each new MMO just to compare it to the last. There is a reason things have become more casual and it’s not because the hardcore is increasing in numbers.”
  • And Keen responds to his argument, saying that the reason for a lot of 3-monther MMOs is lack of innovation in the MMORPG industry“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination. If the reality today is a stagnant market full of 3-monthers, maybe it’s time for someone to do what Blizzard did with World of Warcraft to stand out: Address the problem head on, create a working, viable alternative, and give the players what they want by imagining something new. “

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Will Guild Wars 2 be a “Three-Monther”?

As we wait with bated breath for Guild Wars 2, there’s an elephant-in-the-room question: will it actually last?

Today we’ve got two bloggers both addressing the question of Guild Wars 2’s success, failure or longevity from radically different points of view – but they’re both interesting, well-considered arguments.

First up, Azuriel of In An Age looks at the weak points he feels could still bring Guild Wars 2 down, including dynamic events and its “flat endgame”:

“I only today ran across these two Youtube videos that answered one of my fundamental questions of what happens at endgame, and it was surprisingly succinct: you continue gaining Skill Points for each “level” you gain past 80. Moreover, you can spend said Skill Points in a variety of ways (you likely will have purchased all the character Skills long before this point) including transmuting mats and… more cosmetic gear. I do not find cosmetic rewards in of themselves particularly compelling, but at least you gain something for sidekicking with your friend’s alt or whatever. Not that you always need a reason beyond their company, but let’s face it, it is better for everyone involved that it is incentivized at least in some small way.

That said, I have a big problem with the argument that the vast majority of WoW players do not see an endgame, and thus GW2′s lack of one is no big deal. Yes, raiding is only experienced by ~20% of the playerbase (although LFR undoubtedly changed all that). However, an order of magnitude more players run dungeons as an endgame activity, satisfying the urge of character progression via Justice/Valor Point purchases. Nevermind farming Honor in random BGs. Ostensively both activities exist in GW2 as well – although there are what, 3 BGs (all Conquest) and 8 dungeons? – but running, say, dungeons over again is going to be the equivalent of WoW’s upcoming Challenge Modes. Does anyone thing this is going to be a long-term retention solution?

By the way, I find the “everyone just rolls alts” rationale amusing considering it cedes the progression point. Gaining levels and better gear is fun, and that is exactly why designers try and transplant that same feeling into the endgame via incremental gear upgrades.”

I’m particularly interested by Azuriel’s arguments about GW2’s dynamic events. They’re a very brave, mould-breaking step, and I’ll be interested to see how they pan out – but his predictions do sound horribly plausible.

On a more optimistic note, however, the originator of the “Three-Monther” term, Keen, has been considering whether GW2 will be an MMO that only lasts most players three months, and he’s actually pretty optimistic

“ArenaNet fans are been big on pushing the abstract philosophy that all of GW2 is “end-game” because your character is capable of experiencing the same types of things throughout all levels. Whether or not you subscribe to that, I’ll leave up to you. What I like is how a max level player can come back and experience the lower levels. If a new dungeon is added at level 10, we can go back and see it for ourselves and scale down.

Then there are events and true “end-game” activities (that ironically even AN refers to as end-game despite a lack of end-game… wrap your head around that one) which can always be added to the game. There’s Orr which is focused entirely on events and not on quests (hearts) and taking key locations fighting through event chains with everyone working together; Orr sounds awesome. I’m sure there are more, or more will be added.

WvW is probably the saving grace for GW2′s true end-game. Despite being able to WvW from level 1, a level 80 will have major advantages over lower players. Regardless, WvW is dynamic and a form of gameplay that can be experienced over and over and not become quite as stale as say running the same dungeon a dozen times — at least for me.”

It’s going to be a fascinating few weeks after GW2 drops, not least to see how the straight-up “New Game vs Blizzard Patch” battle goes. But around November will be more interesting still. Which game will stand, and which will fall – or at least lose ground?

What do you think? Will GW2 be a three-monther?

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Four Intelligent Critiques Of Blizzard

It’s a valuable role for the blogosphere surrounding any subject, from politics to MMOs – to speak truth to power. And today, some of the best-known thinkers in the MMOsphere are giving intelligent, constructive, and accurate critique to Blizzard.

Of course, Blizzard get a lot of things right – as WoW and Diablo 3’s massive popularity show. But that’s not to say there aren’t some things they could be doing better:

  • Anne Stickney at WoW Insider tackles the problem of female characters in WoW, and doesn’t pull her punches as she demonstrates how few independent, interesting characters are currently active in WoW lore“it’s not that women don’t exist in the Warcraft universe — they’re all over the place, honestly. It’s that there is only a handful worth of them that have enough character development and story to warrant dedicating a column to them.”
  • Bravetank didn’t intend her post to be a critique, I think, but her description of the ennui she’s feeling at max level is both interesting and telling“So what should I do then? Just grit my teeth & get on with it? But I can’t!!! (I’m saying this in the whiniest tone imaginable by the way.) Surely gritting my teeth is not what this game is about? Surely that’s not what I pay good money for?”
  • Chris at Game By Night writes in passionate opposition to Blizzard’s (since repealed) 72-hour quarantine for new Diablo players“It is morally dubious for a company to take your money for a full product — as the $60 price point would imply — and then give you something less and limited. “
  • And Kurn writes a really interesting, thoughtful post looking at the ways in which the WoW playerbase is not given access to good information on how to play their game“Our poor mage friend, whose sad, sad armory started this two-thousand word post, might not be such a tragic, ignorant soul, if only Blizzard had bothered to tell him that he doesn’t need spirit. Yet, they don’t tell him that. They don’t even tell him he needs hit rating (although the hit chance/miss chance table is certainly a step in the right direction).”

AS a guide writer, I couldn’t agree more with Kurn. The fact that our guides are so popular is a testament to just how much of WoW’s basic system of mechanics isn’t clearly explained. Indeed, the commentary on our paladin tank caps article alone – where many, many players thank us profusely for explaining how a vital part of the game works – makes me wonder why Blizzard want WoW’s basic mechanics to be so obfuscated.

Do you think these criticisms of Blizzard are fair?

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What DO you do when you’ve hit the endgame?

I’m one of the many people who has been following Bravetank’s trip from Level 1 to Level 85 with interest and fellow feeling – but finally, the inevitable has happened. She’s hit level 85.

Bravetank, it may be noted, is such a refreshing writer partially because she’s new to WoW – so, wheras the endgame and its malaise and change in playing style may be totally obvious to us old hands, for her, it’s new. And that’s what makes her post about it so very interesting, as she struggles to figure out what to do next – seeing a problem so familiar as to become invisible through entirely fresh eyes

“You know when X Files used to have monster of the week episodes and then other more absorbing (in my opinion) arc episodes involving Mulder’s sister, black oil and a man smoking some cigarettes? Well that’s what it’s like. I’m on a constant treadmill of monster of the week stories but the cohesive absorbing nature of the arc- the levelling arc- has gone now that I’m 85.

I miss the excitement of it all – the goals, the discoveries, the newness. I’m aware I sound like a bored partner at a counselling session but at least I’m not sniping about toilet seat transgressions. What can I do to get the thrill back? It’s the 7 day itch here – 7 days since hitting 85 (totally not – much longer- but I’m going with the 7 year itch theme regardless).

Help me. Please. Below is my daily WoW routine. How can I insert some magic into it to stop me waltzing off and having a thing on the side with the Sims?

  1. Log on & drag my sorry ass over to Rokk for my day’s work. Grit my teeth as I make him yet another bowl of spiritual soup and blindly hit my keys looking for the “kill Rokk” button I know is hidden there somewhere when he once again fails to give me the chocolate cake recipe.”

For most of us, the loss of that levelling feeling is so old now as to have become invisible. But Bravetank’s vivid depiction of the sudden lack of purpose at 85 brings it all to the forefront.

What would you recommend a new player who has just hit 85 do? Other than raid with a guild or go for hardcore PvP? Achievements? Professions? What’s as involving and rewarding as the levelling experience? Or is it just a case of “start an alt, or start another MMO”?


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What should we do with the MMO endgame?

As I’ve mentioned before, the MMO blogosphere often seems to get waves of commonality, where bloggers end up talking about the same topic on the same day with no reference to each other that I’m aware of. And so it is today, as we’ve got a couple of interesting takes on the ongoing endgame vs levelling tension in MMORPGs.

First up, Spinks at Spinksville started a discussion of the endgame, and what it should be, based in part on comments on the SWTOR endgame and its disconnect from story

“So the way I see it, there are three main ways to look at endgame in MMOs.

  1. Endgame is the real game. Be it sandbox, ranked PvP, progression raiding or all three, the levelling stage of an MMO (if there is one) is really just an introduction to the game. Endgame needs to be enjoyable ad infinitum as a game in itself. But over time it will tend to mostly appeal to the more hardcore.

  2. Endgame should consist of a wide variety of opportunities for character progression to encompass all play styles, so that as many people as possible can find something they like. This progression can involve purely cosmetic upgrades. It may consist of identifiable minigames. There could be dailies.

  3. ‘Endgame’ is just a plateau between content patches, its main purpose is to keep people logging in and building social ties with their guild/ friends before the next patch. And each new patch should not be gear gated based on endgame phases. (ie. you should be able to jump into new content without having spent X days doing endgame activities first.)”

Spinks is looking to start a discussion rather than provide definitive answers here, and it’s certainly worth reading not only the article (which asks a lot of interesting questions beyond the usual “raiding vs dungeons vs story” dichotomy), but also the comments, where some well-known bloggers are providing some interesting answers.

Meanwhile, over at Children of Wrath, The Renaissance Man is dissecting the problems with WoW’s endgame vs levelling balance, specifically for when Mists of Pandaria extends the level grind again

“This is an MMO. If you wanted a defined end state, well, Diablo III and Mass Effect 3 will both come out soon to sate your hunger for single player games with multiplayer tacked on. And threes, lots of threes this year. MMOs, particularly subscription based MMOs, are a treadmill. The entire plan is to make it so that you can’t “beat” the game, and then shelve it until the sequel comes out.

Which brings us back to the people complaining about the expansion. I think they’re right. Why should we pay $50 for a box that lets us keep running on the treadmill we’re already on? What’s the point of another five levels that endgame players are going to blitz through blindly in less than a week, and tacking on another five levels for a new player to wander through? The barrier to entry gets taller and taller, and as a result, the leveling content prior to the current expansion get stretched thinner and thinner, to the point where current players can go from Winterspring, to Hellfire, to the Borean Tundra, to Hyjal without spending more than a few hours in other zones. Level 58-80, and new players miss 90% of the content that exists in those regions. “

This one’s definitely a proposal post, answering some of the questions that Spinks asks – as well as widening focus to look at the reason some people are dissatisfied with endgame in the first place. Whilst it’s WoW-specific, a lot of the design concerns TRM discusses are equally a problem in SWTOR or other MMOs – indeed, whilst the piece is focussed on Mists of Pandaria, its discussion of the levelling/endgame break is arguably even more appropriate to SWTOR right now.

Interesting stuff, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more thinking along these lines in the near future!

So, what’s your take on the state of the MMO endgame?

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Weekend Links: The Ghost of MMOs Present

Today’s weekend link collection seems to have come in two parts: those discussing the state of MMOs present, and those looking to the world of MMOs future.

So, for starters, here are the great blog posts of the weekend talking about the current state of MMO play:

  • Dude, Where’s My Bantha?, a new SWTOR blog, digs into the rather …specific romance options for male Republic characters in SWTOR“It’s almost as if Bioware think that everyone playing The Old Republic fantasises about being the kind of tough, strong and ruggedly handsome man that damsels in distress everywhere need to shelter them from all the ugly in the world.”
  • Corellian Run Radio has a great summary of the story in the Star Wars universe that leads up to SWTOR“The Sith fight the Republic because they feel that the Republic damned them and sentenced them to death, now wanting vengeance, following the conclusion of the Great Hyperspace War. The Republic fights for political and social reasons, along with the idea that if the Empire wins, the citizens of the Republic will lose their freedoms, ruled by the tyranny of the Dark Lords.”
  • And Melmoth at Killed in a Smiling Accident talks about why he’s stopped playing LoTRO even though he still has a lot of play options available“Having spent a not inconsiderable amount in the store in the past, I can say for certain that Turbine would still have my custom if they’d just opened up some basic options at the end-game outside of the standard raiding treadmill.”

How are you finding the present state of MMOs?

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Snow Crash, Love, Hate, And Dreams Of Violence – Tuesday Links

Again I see that WoW’s no longer dominating the news today. Indeed, partially bolstered by the total silence from Blizzard on, ooh, anything, we’re looking at another 5050 split today, between the scrappy contender of SWTOR (if a multi-hundred-million-dollar game can be a scrappy anything), and the tired giant WoW.

  • Cynwise writes a fascinating and extremely long post on the future of WoW as a social network“The advantage Warcraft has over Twitter is that you can do stuff with people while talking to them. You can go play a video game with people while chatting with them! You can have a real avatar, one that like moves and talks and walks and can wear clothing and kill Internet Dragons!”
  • Aldous the Boozekin is having a rare moment of sobriety as he discusses how he both loved and hated Firelands because it was so hard – and easy“Dragon Soul is, in my opinion, far easier as a whole than Firelands. I think the majority of players would agree with me here, but I could be wrong. But what exactly is it that makes it so much easier? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
  • Gazimoff has hit Level 50 in SWTOR, and wonders if LFD is actually essential for modern endgames“Today the MMO landscape changes at a much faster pace – in six months I could be playing Guild Wars 2, The Secret World or the Mists of Pandaria beta.”
  • And Klepsacovic at Troll Racials Are Overpowered finds that SWTOR’s choices don’t always keep up with their storytelling“Even if I really want to kill him, even if I have already rejected his offer in order to kill him, I cannot kill him. Nope. I am magically compelled to take him on as a companion.”

Don’t forget to vote for the People’s Choice Awards !

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