Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Optional

Suzina at Kill Ten Rats confessed that she bought gold to purchase dual specialization on her first WoW character at level 40. For the purposes of this post, let us ignore the whole "buying gold" aspect of the story. What's much more puzzling to me is why Suzina felt she had to have dual-spec at all.

To me, it seems that Blizzard put the 1000g price tag on dual-spec specifically to signal that dual-spec was optional. That you didn't need it while leveling your first character, and was more of an extra for experienced players leveling an alt. And I agree with this view. You don't need dual-spec until heroics at max level. Before then you can tank or heal in any spec. Every class has the basic tools necessary available to all specs.

Sometimes it seems like this genre has no concept of the term "optional". Something is either absolutely necessary, or it is useless. There doesn't seem to be any in-between. Another example is professions. Professions used to be more or less optional. But many people complained that professions were useless, and profession perks were added. Now, having two professions is mandatory, just for the extra profession-specific perks.

There is a huge debate on the EJ Benefactor forum about the state of Wrath endgame. The people in Royalty guilds are very unhappy because they feel that--to be competitive--they are forced to do 10-mans, 25-mans, alt runs, and daily heroics. Because every one of these activities has a small benefit, they all become necessary and no longer optional. 10-mans give extra Emblems and some Best-in-Slot gear. Daily heroics give extra Emblems. Alt runs grant you extra attempts on attempt-limited bosses.

And yet, if these activities have no benefit, they become worthless and will not be done at all. There is no in-between, no state where sometimes you do a 10man, and sometimes you don't. You either do the 10-man every chance you get or you never do it at all. Sometimes it feels like players are completely unable to moderate themselves.

Is it possible to design elements that are optional and yet have decent rewards? Or should Blizzard be heavy-handed and formally restrict players from going overboard? Should they combine 10-man and 25-man lockouts? Should they restrict dual-spec to level 80s?

Maybe it's better for the designers to assume that players will have no sense of moderation or sanity, and will take every possible step to gain any potential benefits. Then design the game to severely limit the amount of possible steps to keep players from hurting themselves.

20 comments:

Ngita said...

But are not those who feel you should be free to make mistakes?

In a wider context is not the "nanny state" seen as bad?

If their is nothing to be gained from running 10 mans and their is nothing to be gained from running heroics does not make the even more arduous 3rd option even more compeling? Which is useing alts ,preferably of the same class/spec and gear level as your main to learn the content?

After all this situation arose from trying to offer a 2nd teir of content where the barriers of entry where not as high and try to prevent raiders from overdoing it by continuously repeating content until it died.

Klepsacovic said...

Character advancement has replaced any innate fun from an activity. This means that if something doesn't advance your character it's a waste of time. Whether an activity is fun on its own doesn't matter so much anymore.

The cooperative aspect of the game drives this as well. We expect others to do their fair share and we don't want to be a burden, so we do what we can to improve. But we all have different standards for what is enough. This ranges from "show up" to "do everything possible between this raid and the next to be better prepared."

And then that word comes in: lazy. Anyone doing less than us is lazy. Anyone doing more means we need to pick it up because we don't want to be the lazy ones.

The sad part is that we could skip all the grinds and gold sinks and save all that frustration and have so much more fun by instead playing the best with what we have. Turn off the TV and stop being distracted and you'll get out of fires sooner and hear calls on vent more easily and generally play better. This would yield a greater gain than running exhausting and unfun grinds, and yet since we have no standard of enough, we do the grinds.

Hairymuppet said...

I think stuff like the achievement "Glory of the Hero" is the option activity with decent rewards, tho it's only style/status rewards and not gear rewards. :P

Maybe we could have some sort of instance count system for the entire week, say start off with 7 points each Tuesday reset. Each daily heroic uses 1 point, each 10 man 2 points, each 25 man 3 points, etc etc. I can't get the numbers right, the weekly raid would screw it up even more, but it would be good to stop the whole attitude of "I have to get all 3 of my 80's to do their daily heroics every day", where it definitely seems like if you miss even 1 toon on 1 day that you're falling behind.

spinksville said...

Those 'royalty' guilds are sounding more like lemming-like slave guilds now, huh? :)

The real problem with this sort of thing in MMOs is that it's functionally impossible to stop really determined people from spending more time to get even the teeniest possible flake of extra character advancement.

But I do wonder how much the hardcore guilds enjoy the extra hours even as they complain about it. And if the content was tuned so that they could beat it without those extra 10 man runs, they'd be complaining too!

Rohan said...

@spinks, it's not really the hours the Royalty guilds are complaining about. They'd actually be pretty happy if they were spending all that time on their main characters wiping on Heroic-25 Arthas.

They're complaining because they see all these extra activities as distractions from what they want to do. Yet they feel that the extra activities are something they have to do to be successful at what they want to do.

There are lots of other examples that hit lower status guilds. For example, in TBC, it was expected that every mage and warlock took Tailoring for the BoP cloth sets. Or that everyone would PvP for decent weapons.

Or take professions. No Gentry or Aristocracy guild is going to accept someone who has no professions.

Leah said...

As long as "keeping up and preferably outdoing the Jonses" is a accepted, nay, encouraged by our society, ambitious and/or insecure people well keep looking for any and every advantage that will give them the edge.

We live in a society of constant competition. contrary to popular image of jobless overweight nerd, living in his mother's basement - majority of successful hardcore raiders are also at least moderately successful in their real lives. And they didn't get there by resting on their laurels, deciding that something was good enough and leaving it at that. When you have a job, you have work on keeping it, competing with your coworkers and try to advance, to get promoted, to get a raise, more benefits etc. This predictably spills over to our leisure activities and as long as there's such thing as "world first", "server first" etc, people will strive to be the ones to reach it.

you are right, its all or nothing, there's no middle ground. just like there's no middle ground in corporate world. (or medicine, or finance) Win or lose. no one likes to lose.

Is there a solution to this? I don't see one at this point. the game has been out for to long, the attitudes and views are too ingrained.

Ulv said...

I actually think Bliz have got it about right.

More people now have access to the end-game content than ever before. Taking off selfish blinkers that seem to stem from a sense of personal entitlement that can only be seen as a good thing.

Not only do more people get to see content they pay for but, I would hope, the skills of the player base will improve. Not to the level where everyone is of Ensidia-quality or drive but better than the average was before.

Currently you can choose to run the daily HC on all your 80s, make sure you run VoA10/25 on them all, run the weekly raid q on them all. Raid 10/15 ICC with them all just to gear your main, fund upgrades, etc.

Or you can shoose to play the game how you want to.

Noone forces you to grind unless you have certain goals that you set yourself.

Kring said...

The top end guilds have an unlimited amount of time which they dedicate to WoW. That's fine but it means that they can never be satisfied.

The problem with that is that in WoW you have two progression paths. One is gearing up and the other is "learning the fight". Whatever the fight will be, they will execute it flawless within days. That's why they are at this boss. Here are the options Blizzard has:

- make the boss buggy so they wipe week after week until it is fixed, they used that on level 60 a lot.
- make the boss depend on RNG, heavily. Which means you can only kill him once in a blue moon on Thursday if it's raining.
- let them kill the boss and accept the fact that they will start whining in 2 weeks that there is no content anymore.
- let them farm for their trys. On level 60 it was stuff for flasks on level 80 it's EoF. Nothing changed here.

You can't have challenging boss fights for every day the whole year. Nobody can create them fast enough. There needs to be a time sink for the people who want to sink all their time.

But on what I aggree is that it is silly to force you to do the same thing multiple times each week. They should do something like this:

Limit the amount of EoF you can obtain per week to 32.

- Daily heroics should give 4 which means you can get 32 per week by doing heroics.
- Doing a clear of ICC 25 or ICC 10 gives 26(?) plus the 6 from the weekly raid (upped to 6 from 5) gives 32.

There is no additional EoF gain from clearing ICC 25 and ICC 10. But if your raid isn't that good you can catch up by running the first bosses in 25 and 10 or do a few heroics or do the weekly. You would have a choice how you would obtain your 32 EoF per week and the choice would not be if your sanity supports to do everything or if you accept to fall behind. :)

And before you complain about 4 EoF per daily. In TBC you did obtain 7 BoJ from the daily Botanica which took about 1 hour. Or 5 BoJ from the daily Slave Pens which took something like 30 minutes.

That's roughly 4 BoJ per 30 minutes. And a chest piece did cost 100 BoJ.

In WotLK a DD gets 2 EoF for 40 minutes (20 min waiting, 20 minutes instance). And a chest piece does cost 95 EoF.

So 4 per daily heroic would be much more in line with TBC for DD then the lousy 2.

Gevlon said...

The dual specs, the altruns, the daily heroics are all optional, meaning it doesn't brake your game if you don't have it. Compare them with "leveling up". Leveling up is mandatory if you want to participate in any kind of end-game.

It's true that many people FEEL everything mandatory if that gives them a small benefit. That small benefit can mean the difference between being server first or server second.

However this does not make the activity mandatory. It just make them stupid.

Trotter said...

I solved this problem quite simply.

I don't play the level 80 endgame.

Dorgol said...

One of the first comments I saw after Blizzard announced that ToC would have a "Heroic" and a "Normal" mode (instead of activated hardmodes):

"great now I have to run the same content 4 times a week instead of 2"

I was floored by the statement. "Have to"? Really?

That mindset is foreign to me. It comes back to that age old adage - if you aren't having fun, why are you doing it?

PYITE said...

I feel different about it each day, but in the end it all comes down to me.
I get to choose which days I feel like running a random heroic on each of my 80s, and maybe even getting in a daily dungeon run on my low level lock.
For most of my guild we are reasonably casual, but we want to raid. I do quite enjoy that all of us are able to run these heroics, get some badges, gear up and get to learn these raid encounters together. Pre Wrath, I was lucky to get into Kara a couple times, but never anything else. I never really thought I would be running ICC, but we have almost cleared the first part in 10 man, and it has been so of the most fun I have had playing the game.
I am not sure if I have gone off your topic, sorry if I have. I do know of some folks that don't understand the optional part of it, but there are some that do.

Anonymous said...

"to keep players from hurting themselves."

And who is lacking in moderation now?

Apparently you read the EJ forums, so I will assume you have at least a moderate grasp of the idea of min/maxing. In a world where you are min/maxing most things ARE as simple as mandatory or worthless. There are some that aren't, but those are few based on the stupidly simple concept of what you're doing.

If you are not a min/maxer then the landscape changes. This is a very basic concept that you should be able to grasp.

sam said...

Design a game that follows Pavlov's theories Check

roll in the money because addicted players won't stop. check.

Freak out trying to deal with Addicts. Check.

Just part of the design cycle for this kind of game

Akasza said...

"The people in Royalty guilds are very unhappy because they feel that--to be competitive--they are forced to do 10-mans, 25-mans, alt runs, and daily heroics. Because every one of these activities has a small benefit, they all become necessary and no longer optional."

As you're talking about dual specs, professions and farming badges... That's the reason I stay away from "elite" guilds on my server. I am in "casual raiding guild" (9/12 icc10) and we enjoy our time a lot, doesn't matter that we are "ages behind" in progression, our first guild kills feel great, feels everyone put their effort and enjoyed their time, people help each other instead of belittling...

While I see the "elite" guilds make pressure to make all the stuff "mandatory", and I don't talk about "having your gear gemmed and enchanted", of course we do that too, but stuff like:
- declining someone's application because he "didn't put enough effort into his toon for not having dual spec" (the char was pure dps class)
- laughing at people's profession choices, and I'm not saying someone had no professions at all, but for example melee dps with swordguard embroidery "why the hell did you roll tailoring??"
- enforcing their "only right spec and glyphs" while the original choice wasn't bad at all, example, they declined a prot. paladin for having 2/2 improved judgment instead of 1/2 (any prot. paladin knows there no "imba" choice where to put that second point to progress to vindication) and glyph of hammer of the righteous "instead of judgment or salvation". Funnily enough I saw another paladin in different guild laughed at for having glyph of judgment "instead of hammer of the righteous".

It's really sick how they tell people to play their game to every single detail, I'm not talking about professionless unechanted 0/0/71 specced nublet, only people who seem "ok" to me.

It's especially funny with dual spec... why do they demand it even from pure dps classes if they have one accepted "the best dps spec" overall?

Of course, when I raised those points in discussion in one thread about "elitism" on my own realm, I got jumped by "better than thou" people and got called all sorts of insults summed up I deserve to be kicked out of any possible guild.

Why can't they let people have fun, especially the pressure towards "everyone reroll BS + JC" is sapping fun from the game, professions were meant to be a choice.

P.S. One more "enlightened" comment from the forums by some player from "elite guild":
"I wouldn't even consider application from a player who decided to spend his dual spec for solo or pvp purposes."
What the hell, stop being so greedy, people maybe want to pvp too instead of devoting everything to "your guild".

P.S.2. I wholeheartedly agree with your post, and also I think sometimes it's better to not have choice at all than to have illusionary choice which is actually "another mandatory stuff" which only adds more and more grind to the game. Glad they didn't make fishing give raiding bonuses...?

Anonymous said...

Before dual spec, i would read about people talking about being expected to know their class at 80. Which was dumb. You level frost, ret, beast master, kitty/chicken, demo, combat and then @ 80 you respec to arcane, holy, MM, resto/bear, etc. You can buy sufficient gear to not need non-heroics, so the first time you heal, you were going to be in an 80 heroic. Not the best system.

The question is: should effort in the game matter? Bizzard $20 tournaments everyone has the same choices and gear. Effort does not matter; only the $20. In WoW, should someone who is too lazy to do the dailes or level 2 professions have no disadvantage? Two valid game choices: how much of success is skill and how much is effort?

Anonymous said...

There is also the Shibboleth factor:

a man wearing a tie to a white collar job probably does not make them perform better. But not making the effort to wear one to the job interview says something negative about the applicant.

One could argue that an extra 23 spellpower is unlikely to change the raid's outcome. But would you really want an applicant with ungemmed gear?

Ben said...

the problem for non-hardcore raiders in understanding the problem of hardcore raiders is they don't optimize as harshly. A hardcore raider will not just be expected, but _required_ (else benched or gkicked) to make any minor change if it results in a slight uptick on theorycraft. This includes switching professions (from patch to patch if necessary), min-maxing every slot, and gathering every possible upgrade.

While for 90% of us, running our one raid per week or doing something for "fun" is enough; for those hardcore players competing for server/world firsts it's either "get the maximum number of badges in a week" or be replaced by someone else who will.

So yes, their gameplay choice is not our preference; but at the same time, all they want to do is play 25-heroic, all the rest of the grinding is just BS to get there.

Michael said...

Players need to be protected from their hardcore guilds.

If a Exalt rep. grind shoulder enchant gave 5 more stam or spell power or something. It would be mandatory in many hardcore guilds to get it. Regardless of how insane the grind was.

Think about some of the old resist fights where we would trash grind MC to get the mats to make stuff at least that was a one off once it was done.

Everything for them is about avoiding 1% wipes. However they will spend far more time grinding something of minimal benefit than the 1% wipe cost them.

Bliz toned some of this down by making Flask/Potions much much less onerous than they were. Farming Whipper Roots, demonic runs, herbs, lvl 30ish fire elementals, grinding AV for weeks for an epic you would only use for a week or two of MC.

All these things were optional, but not if you wanted to run with the big dogz. As long as the most "dedicated" in the guild did these things then so did everyone else unless they wanted to be considered a slacker who would be replaced if someone better can along.

Eboniva - Argent Dawn said...

After reading alot of the comments I found i wanted to throw in my '2 cents'.

Dual Spec
i can't fault Suzina in her choice. Yes Dual Spec is a choice and alot of classes don't need it (Rogue, Hunter, Mage, Warlock, etc.) basically your single slot classes have no benifit from a dual spec, AKA DPS. However you get these classes that can specialize in 2 or 3 roles(Paladin, Warrior, Shaman, Druid, Priest) and Dual Spec becomes a necessity. Sure you can try and heal in shadow spec and tank as a Retadin in low lvl instances, But Why? Your putting yourself in a situation where you are learning to play your class wrong. You wonder why you get shot into a PuG 80 heroic and your healer sucks or your tank can't hold agro? it's probably because they just respecced into that role and are still in DPS gear.

What do I think should happen?
I say Give these classes that are Multi Role classes Dual Spec at lvl 20 for free and then offer it to Single Role Classes for a 100g Fee. Now your no longer Breaking the Bank for people and forcing them into situation's where they feel they need to go buy that 1000g just to be able to play that class correctly.

I'm currently leveling a Shaman and decided i wanted to Heal. So i started right at lvl 15 and Que'd Thru the RDF from lvl 15-58. Specced as a healer i found around lvl 40 when que's started taking longer, i wanted to try a few quests that my killing power sucked, Could i do it? yes, but it was so slow. So i luckily had a 80 on the Server i decided to go HErbing and sold my stock to make a quick 3k to afford me to be able to buy the Dual talent, my mounts, and the Heirloom Book for northrend flying at 68. with my second talents i chose Elemental for DPS. I kill things so much faster and have no Downtime since i don't need to really worry about gear until 80. now i can Que as DPS and Heals and not feel like i'm not pulling my weight in groups. With me being able to do all those dungeons in the right spec i think will make me a better healer overall at 80. Also my Experiences in my DPS spec are helping me now that i'm questing more for 64-80.

My End Thoughts
Yes i didn't really NEED Dual Spec, however i think having it has helped me to enjoy and better understand my shaman overall and allowed me to be a better Healer for my groups.

Eboniva - Argent Dawn