Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More on Attunements

Why have attunements?

Attunements are useful when the answer to "Are we ready for X?" is not obvious. For example, you are ready for Gruul when you've beaten High King Maulgar. You're ready for Magtheridon when you've beaten Gruul. You're ready for Scarlet Monastery when you hit level 35. If you can ask the question, and get a one-sentence answer from someone, attunement is not necessary.

However, the question of "Are we ready for Karazhan?" is a lot more complex, and generally involves discussing relative gear levels. That's why the attunement process works. If your raid can do the attunement chain together, especially Black Morass, your raid is ready to try Kara. They may not blow through it in a single night, but you won't be out of your league either.

Similarly, "Are we ready for heroics?" is another good question. Reputation is a decent stand-in for gear level and familiarity with instancing. Heroic attunement isn't quite as good as Karazhan, because it's easy to do an unequal amount of instances, and end up with Exalted rep with one faction, while not having Revered with another. I did this with Sha'tar and Lower City reputations. Reputation is a reasonable proxy for readiness, but it is not perfect.

But outside of those two situations, it is very easy to state readiness in terms of other bosses or character level. And so formal attunements in-game are not necessary. There are already de facto attunements.

One thing I've always found--which is not intuitive from the outside--is that the raiding playerbase is very conservative. They are far more likely to err on the safe side when it comes to trying new content, or content which they think may be beyond their current gear level. Half the time, you don't need to slow them down, they will slow themselves down.

Does Blizzard need to slow down access to content?

Jehu, in a comment to the previous post, says that:

Blizzard is in business to make money, so they have to find a way to keep emptying people's pockets on a monthly basis. They know that players that want to experience and see limited access content will do what it takes to get there. Hence, beyond the challenge of the actual content therein, there also has to be a way to slow down access to that content so it is not experienced too quickly, thereby extending the amount of time a player stays "hooked" on the game and keeps paying a monthly fee.

I disagree with this statement. How many of us finished WoW 1.0 content? I didn't, and I'll venture that 99% of the playerbase didn't either. And how much of that was because of attunements? Given that attunements in WoW 1.0 were trivial, I don't think they had any effect on the inability of players to complete content.

Blizzard doesn't need to slow access down to content. Indeed, they need to increase access to existing content. Blizzard doesn't lose people because of lack of content, they lose people because the content is not accessible. Putting up unnecessary barriers just hurts this situation even more.


Jehu said...

WoW 1.0 attunements are trivial compared to BC attunements, but back in the day they could have been and in some cases were perceived by players as being as much of a roadblock as what we're dealing with now. Remember clearing BRD just to access MC?

While the methods to achieve the end may vary, the same basic theory remains: the more time a player invests in the game in pursuit of his goals (whether it's raid content or otherwise), the more money the company makes. The attunement process is just one of the many tools that Blizzard uses to ensure players seeking out high-end content do not blow through it too quickly, because in the end, they will. The quicker they conquer such content, the quicker they may become discontent and the chances become greater for the company to lose that player's money.

This same theory applies to the casual player as well. Time-consuming content ensures the player keeps coming back. It may not take the form of a tangible attunement process, but the theory is still there. Long quest lines, instance runs, reputation grinding for epic items/otherwise-unattainable-tradeskill recipes keep the casual player coming back for more, just like the attunement process.

Find out what the player wants and dangle that carrot close enough for it to be desired but just out of reach. That carrot takes on different forms in the game, but it's there for every kind of player.

I don't personally endorse it or condemn it. I'm just stating the situation as I believe it is. I stand by my previous statement, but perhaps I should have worded it more carefully.

doeg said...

Actually, "attunement" is just another word for a ubiquitous video game concept that's been around for years. For instance, in an old-school Nintendo game you might beat 5 levels and then get a password to skip those 5 levels and go straight to level 6 the next time you play -- attunement.

There are any number of "attunements" in WoW. For example, the concept of character levels is a basic form of attunement. The advantage of "hard" attunement like a key obtained through a quest chain or instance endboss is that players have a fixed path, and once complete are probably ready for the next challenge. A "soft" attunement, such as giving open access to Kara without attunement and allowing undergeared toons to have repeated wipefests is not good. As painful as endgame "hard" attunements might be, wiping over and over is probably more frustrating (and it's hard to know when you've improved gear enough to try again with reasonable expectation of success).

So to come full circle, it would seem that Blizz is convinced that the way to keep players happy is to have checkpoints along the way that prevent players from repeatedly trying to do something that they are incapable of. I struggled with this on the PvP side -- I started out in there with my blues-and-greens to get gear, but epic-ed out hardcore PvP toons were in there too...

Finally, in regards to trying to slow down the hardcore with attunements -- I'm convinced that the truly hardcore will blow through any roadblocks anyway. They will complain about painful attunements, but they'll overcome them. And what are the alternatives here for the game designer anyway? Realistically, I'd say that the hardcore players will either 1) Be reasonably happy, or 2) Burn out trying to overcome attunements and other checks and bottlenecks, or 3) Finish existing content and become bored.

But in the final analysis, IMO burnout is internal -- you just have to learn to put on the brakes (kinda like the guy working the 70-hour weeks; after a few weeks come diminishing returns in work and attitude). And WoW is never truly "finished" -- I doubt that anyone has done everything there is to do in WoW, and if you think you have, there is more content in the pipeline...

Anonymous said...

I consider myself somewhat hardcore I play every night for about 2 hours. My guild is about 2 weeks away from clearing Kara (started a month ago) Even with what I would call pretty good progress, I don't see us hitting the Black Temple for the next 6 months if at all. Most players WANT to see that content but never will. Putting Attunments in the way will just frustrate the players who want to see the content but don't want to raid 5 days a week for 6+ hours.

If a group enteres an instance which they are not ready for, say for example a heroic instance they are going to quickly find out, so why have the player run around all over the place doing the same instances over and over for "rep"?

I realize this is part of Blizzard's business model which forces us to play longer. But having access to content should not be a boring repeatable journey, I should have the decision run an instance 7 times, and not be forced to do so to get some "key" from "rep".

I totally agree with the previous poster (doeg) who said no matter how hard the content or how many attunements are in the way, the really hardcore players will get past it in no time.

Someone once posted that it would be nice to have a "easy" mode for these high level instances which would drop much lower level loot, like greens-blues so that the non-ultra hardcore could actually walk into the Black Temple/SSC/etc.. and see the content without needing Tier 5 gear. I believe this would encourage players to work harder knowing that they could see the end-game stuff without having to put thousands of hours in.

Just my 0.02$


Aboo said...

"I believe this would encourage players to work harder knowing that they could see the end-game stuff without having to put thousands of hours in."

That is pre-posterous. In essence you believe that by giving someone something for nothing they will be more inclined to work harder to get it??? That makes no sense at all. History has proven that if you give something away, people will take it and get back in line for more free stuff.

PS - I have never been in Kara, SSC or the BT. I've only ran one Heroic instance. I never saw the inside of Naxx and I've only seen the inside of MC once on a 70 PuG.

I am a decidely CASUAL gamer that can accept the fact that I am not allowed to have my cake and eat it to. I AM Kara keyed, but you can't PuG Kara, so I will probably never get beyond it, ever.

The harder you work for something the more you appreciate it. You don't want to work then you just don't get it. I don't understand what is wrong with that?

With 9 million active subscriptions I'm not sure why Blizzard thinks there is anything wrong with it either. :(

Doeg said...

Sorry for the double-post, but over the AV weekend as I locked down one epic PvP gear slot and closed in on a second with my priestess, another attunement issue / problem became apparent.

I cannot run a single heroic because I have no heroic key (= insufficient rep grind).
However, I'm already in all-rare gear with one epic and a second soon, with decent kits & enchants, so from what I hear I'm about right, *gear-wise*, to start on the heroics.

The problem is that if an attunement is a de-facto gear check, then PvP-ers can have the gear and yet still be excluded because they didn’t run the normal instances -- instances that now will yield me few if any upgrades!

Seems to be a problem -- I may just finish my Kara key and skip the heroics.