Old-School WoW Raiding and the Design of Difficulty

There’s been an interesting discussion going on through the blogosphere over the last few days about difficulty in raids, and just how it can be designed.

It all started off when Klepsacovic of Troll Racials are Overpowered posted a piece about how WoW fight dances can challenge different player levels

“Tobold had a useful classification which I can’t find, but it roughly divided raids into three types: One stressed a few pre-selected players (Garr banishers, jugglers in ICC), another stresses the average (any DPS check), while the last stresses the worst players (puddlefire on Arthas). The first allows for good players to carry the raid, whether with good or bad players, meaning that if you can find a few solid players, they aren’t likely to leave because the raids are succeeding. The second allows good players to carry bad players, but they must make an extra effort (or tuning must be low enough), so that they may down the boss but still feel cheated. Finally the last encourages serial dumping of the lowest players because no one can help them and even gear may not fix the problem.

I think WoW has been shifting from the second category (average) with some use of superstars (seriously, I was awesome at banishing, I even figured out how to make it something worth bragging about because I was so awesome) to ever more of the third type.”

Syl of Raging Monkeys then built upon that blog post a couple of days later, with a dissection of how the change from Vanilla to now has affected raid leaders and raid makeup

“I don’t wish to be in a guild where every person is exactly like me (despite a healthy narcissism, that’s just boring). Nor do I mind slower learners or players who simply fail at the odd mechanic, and those who might fall behind a little due irregular playtime – as long as you can compensate for them somehow during specific encounters. (Assuming of course that they’re otherwise awesome).

“Only, this gradually stopped being the case in WoW after the 40man era. Encounters became highly technical, focused on individual performance and unforgiving in ways that wouldn’t let us make up for lower bracket players – there was suddenly a real, hard line. We could only stand by and watch with increasing frustration as they went through the motions, again and again. We became helpless spectators of our guildmates’ ordeals, despite all guidance given. Worse: they started to become the “enemy”. If 100+ wipes into a boss, the same few people are still stuck at beginner mistakes, it’s human to start feeling resentful. “

Together, these two posts comprise a fascinating theory as to how we’ve gotten from the Vanilla WoW feeling to the anonymous Cataclysm days. Whilst many people talk about the LFD tool, it’s not just that, but something far more complex – and Syl and Klep together have picked out a large part of the issue.

Meanwhile, on a parallel thread, Are We New At This posts part of a grand retrospective on Vanilla WoW raiding days, which further highlights all the changes between then and now

“In the winter of 2006, Patch 1.9 finally hit, and all manner of pissed off Qiraji warriors started pouring out of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj and infecting Azeroth. This was a great event for many reasons, poor implementation and unforeseen server crashes notwithstanding. First, the guild was hungry for new content; little did they know that the content would kick their ass into oblivion, but hey, at last we had something new and interesting to do. Second, the opening of the gates was an epic event. There were cross-continent quests, feats that needed to be completed in large numbers, and an invasion of Silithus and adjoining areas by innumerable Qiraji and their allies for us to fight off.

“The quest involved building the Scepter of the Sifting Sands, which in turn required tracking down the Red, Blue and Green shards (each with their own quest lines). This scepter was then used to bang a gong outside the gates, triggering a 10-hour event. And this was the easy part.”

I’ve not thought about the Scepter of the Sands event in years, but it’s clear just from reading the description that it could never happen these days in WoW. Events requiring the server to cooperate are a thing of the past – maybe that’s a necessity, maybe it’s just a pity.

And that ties in to Syl’s discussion of the pre-raid requirements of Vanilla – which required you to learn how to cooperate, play your role, and socialise with other players – and all of it ties back to Klep’s discussion of a raiding environment that has moved from stressing the best to stressing the worst.

Interesting stuff.

*What do you think of how the raiding environment’s changed?

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Looking back and looking forward – the Vanilla levelling feel, what to expect from LFR and more

World of Warcraft’s in an odd place right now. Very little discussion is focussed on its present – a kind of holding state waiting for 4.3 and mopping up HM Firelands – but there’s a great deal of looking backward, to Vanilla and early days, and forward, to transmogrification, LFR, and all the other 4.3 goodies.

So, today we have an entertaining selection of time-shifted goodies for you:

  • T.R.Redskies is looking back to the Vanilla levelling experience, and fond memories of levelling without end“Even after I learned about it, I didn’t feel like “leveling” to 60 — there was so much cool stuff to see, so many wonderful zones to explore, so many different races with very different attitudes to get to know.”
  • Piercing Howl feels that the item squish is Blizzard being hoist on their own petard“You want to know the most absurd part? Blizzard tried solving a problem caused by stat inflation by… /Drumroll… Inflating stats.”
  • And Azeroth Observer is putting together some ideas on how to survive the Looking for Raid experience“Take the rage you can see in 5-mans, or the blame-throwing, temper-tantruming, ninja-pulling, fire-standing, AFK-ing, troll-baiting, name-calling, gear-epeening, noob-accusing, achievement-bragging, “I-have-an-85–STFU”-ing and “OMFG Y U C***S FAIL”-ing you get in every other random group of strangers, and multiply it by two (for WSG, say), or five (for your dungeon runs), and the entire operation will be Blue/Adults-Only/Past-the-watershed pandemonium.”

So, what are you looking back or forward to?

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The evolution of WoW NPCs – a retrospective

The humble NPC has been with us a while now in the World of Warcraft world, from Captain Placeholder onward. Initially purely static characters, over the years Blizzard have experimented with a number of techniques to liven their characters up, including ongoing storylines for minor NPCs that evolved with the expansion.

WoW Insider’s Know Your Lore, a column I usually find a little bit too obscure for me, has a great piece up today talking about the “evolution of NPCs”, and in particular, highlighting some of the most notable examples of growing and changing NPCs from WoW Vanilla and TBC

“The saga of Cro Threadstrong Cro Threadstrong has to be one of my favorite NPCs of all time. He’s the leatherworking vendor in Shattrath City, tucked away in his own little stall down in Lower City. But Cro had an issue that players were immediately alerted to after spending any small amount of time in Shattrath. See, Cro had his wonderful stall, but a cart filled with fruit blocked the stall from passersby. Cro, being a reasonable Orc, attempted to solve this issue as any reasonable Orc would: by yelling about it. Repeatedly.

Cro’s cries could be heard all over Shattrath. “Does this fruit vendor not value his life? YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME, FRUIT VENDOR!!” Players wondered who the heck was yelling and what on earth the problem with the fruit vendor was. Exploring Shattrath soon revealed the location of Cro and his nemesis the Fruit Vendor — a polite, somewhat absent-minded little old lady named, appropriately enough, Granny Smith. Granny didn’t quite know what that Orc was yelling about, nor did she always hear his bellows.”

This is less an examination of the role of NPC in the game, and more a retrospective on some of the great minor storylines in the game. Nonetheless, it’s an excellent read, particularly for people like me who saw much of this stuff in passing, but never got the whole story. Did you know the guy shouting about the fruit vendor in Shatt had an entire storyline that evolved over the TBC patches? Nor did I.

Apparently the series will be continued next week, with Wrath and into Cata. I’ll be interested to see what they highlight – I can’t think of anywhere as lively or memorable as Shatt’s Lower City in the later expansions, but I may be missing something…

Am I being a philistine? Were there great cameo NPCs in WoTLK and Cata too? And do you think that the column missed anything from TBC or Vanilla?

Quote taken directly from Anne Stickney’s column on WoW Insider” .

Find “Know Your Lore” at http://wow.joystiq.com/category/know-your-lore/ .

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World of Warcraft Enchanting: How It’s Changed Since You Last Played

WoW is much more of a part-time hobby for a lot of people these days – more and more, we at the Pot see people unsubscribing for six months, a year or more, then coming back when new content appeals to them.

But if you’re coming back to WoW, particularly after a good while off, or even if you’re just swapping back to a character you haven’t played in a while, it can be a damn confusing place. So, here’s the first of our quick guides to what’s changed in WoW since the Olden Days – starting off with the profession that has probably changed the most, Enchanting.

Here’s our quick-start guide to what you need to know, what has changed since TBC and even Wrath, and what’s just not that important.

Changes To Enchanting In Cataclysm

If you’ve not played in a while, there are some assumptions you might have about Enchanting that aren’t true any more.

  • You don’t need to carry a ton of rods around. These days, rather than all being separate, Enchanting rods are used to “upgrade” to the next level of rod. As a 525 Enchanter, you’ll just need a Runed Elementium Rod to do all your enchanting.
  • You can now sell enchants on the Auction House. Wrath of the Lich King introduced Enchanting Scrolls, which you can use to make your Enchants portable. That allows you to easily sell enchants without having to bark on Trade for ages, and also means that…
  • Enchanting now makes tons of money. It used to be that Disenchanting was the only easy way to make money, but that’s no longer true. Read our guide to popular Cataclysm enchants for tips on easy ways to make gold with Enchanting, if you’re so inclined.
  • Disenchanting isn’t as useful as it used to be. Blizzard introduced “auto-disenchant” in dungeons – if one of your party is an enchanter, everyone gets the option to disenchant loot. That means that the market for disenchanted materials is no longer as hot as it used to be – although you can still make good money.
  • Enchanting’s no longer the only way to augment your gear. Wheras in Vanilla it was Enchant or Nothing, in Cataclysm there’s a dizzying variety of upgrades for gear, from gems through Blacksmithing and Leatherworking items, to reputation-based upgrades. Just because you’re an enchanter doesn’t mean you won’t be hunting the AH for gear enhancements.

Stuff That Stayed The Same

Not everything’s changed – sadly, in some cases.

  • Enchanting’s still expensive to level. Very, very expensive. There are a number of ways to make it cheaper, but it’s still going to cost more than just about any other profession (Jewelcrafting might be worse) to level it to maximum. Your enchanting rods alone will cost thousands of gold, particularly if you buy all the materials from the AH.
  • Tactically, it’s probably better to let someone else be the guild enchanter. Enchanting gives you a couple of nice ring enchants, but isn’t going to have a huge impact on your utility in a raid or dungeon. Then again, neither’s any other profession, and you can make a bunch of gold from Enchanting.
  • Enchants are still vital. Whether you’re an enchanter or not, enchants are still the greatest improvement you can make to your gear, even considering new professions like Jewelcrafting. A single weapon enchant can make a noticable difference to your DPS, healing or survivability, and other enchants are, slot-for-slot, generally more powerful than the gems that can be put in their place.

So is it still worth taking?

Absolutely. As of Cataclysm, Enchanting is still one of the strongest professions – if you want to put the time and effort in, it’ll make you more gold than any other profession bar perhaps Jewelcrafting. Its personal buffs are decent, taking it helps out your guildies in several ways (Disenchant in dungeons and having a pet enchanter), and with the Scroll market, it’s no longer only a profession for people who really, really like talking in Trade.

Get out there and enchant something already!

Anything we’ve forgotten? Let us know below!

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Retro-spectacular! Keys, Vanilla Heroics, and reaching Gold Cap

To round off our half-week of retrospectives, today we’ve got 3 really rather cool ones – each of which, frankly, probably deserve their own post, but that way I’d be rather overloading your RSS readers.

So, with no further ado:

  • Keys are about to disappear from WoW forever, and Kurn’s looking back and remembering the pain in the ass that was aquiring the things in the first place – and all the good memories that went along with that. I actually sat back and grinned for a moment, reading this and remembering all my own memories of the Onyxia attunement – really great post.
  • Klepsacovic at Troll Racials Are Overpowered is discussing the oft-quoted theory that Vanilla didn’t have Heroics – and he disagrees. I never did the Dungeon 0.5 quests, so it was an interesting read!
  • Finally, Fox Van Allen over at that little-known site WoW Insider is writing about his three-month journey from 20k gold to the gold cap. This is a REALLY interesting post, both from a practical method-comparison point of view and also looking at something that very few people manage.

So – will you miss keys? Do you miss Vanilla-style progression? And is there any chance you’ll ever hit gold cap (in any game), and if so, how?

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