Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blocked Player Advancement

Let's say that a player with a max-level character cannot raid for whatever reason. How then should she advance her character as the game progresses?

Options

There are three options.

1. She can't advance.

Also known as Vanilla WoW. The players only option is to quit or reroll a new character. This is a potentially viable solution, but the viability depends on how many people end up quitting. This option also probably has the highest "conversion rate" of raiders. If the only way the player can advance is raiding, than a lot of people will give raiding a try.

In all honesty, I think that this option might actually work better now than it did in Vanilla. Because of the 10/25 split, and the normal/hard mode split, it might actually be a lot easier to get into raid groups, or convert smaller guilds into raid guilds.

2. Advance through new content at her level

Blizzard makes new 5-man content. But new content costs resources to create, and there is a finite amount. As well, each "tier" of 5-man content fragments the player pool further, and makes it harder to assemble groups.

3. Advance by repeating existing content

Essentially running the current instances and either upgrading the gear that drops, or giving points to purchase better and better gear.

Analysis

Obviously, Blizzard has chosen a mix of options 2 and 3. New 5-mans are released every so often, and as the raid tiers are added, you can get better gear from Valor Points.

There is one further point to consider. Does advancing her character mean that the player must earn the best gear, or is it enough that the player only earns better gear than what she currently has?

Consider the idea that Valor Points don't exist. A non-raider would have gone up to i346 gear with some i359s from reputation. When the troll 5-man instances came out, she would upgrade all her i346s to i353s. When Firelands comes out, she upgrades those i353s to i359s, which are now available for Justice Points (which reset when the new raid comes out).

Would that be enough advancement to satisfy the non-raider?

Personally, I think it's good enough. And it has the side effect of removing Valor Points from the game. Let raid loot drop from raid bosses. If you want the best loot in the game, you get to deal with the random dungeon generator, as in Vanilla. I would change the Tier tokens to a single token for each armor type, and that would be enough. When Firelands comes out, those tokens can go on the Justice Point vendor.

This would be cleaner and simpler, and remove the need for over-geared people to run heroics. Heroics would remain the province of those people who needed to run them. People wouldn't expect everything to be AoE'd down. It would also have the side-effect of encouraging more people to try to step up to raiding, rather than just grinding heroics. But heroics also offer loot one step below the current raid tier, keeping a heroic geared character a viable recruit for all but the very edge guilds.

15 comments:

Carson 63000 said...

I don't think it's quite fair to say that in vanilla WoW, a max-level character that could not raid for whatever reason could not advance, and had to quit or reroll.

Now, I'm not saying for a moment that vanilla WoW wasn't the epitome of "raid or die". If you couldn't raid, your advancement cap was much, MUCH lower than that of a raider. But if you genuinely wanted to perfectly optimize your non-raiding character's gear, that was a goal that could keep you busy in the non-raid instances for a long time.

I remember the horror stories of people doing 80 Baron runs, or whatever, to get their blue set pants. Funny thing is, they probably weren't even the best in slot - people just liked the idea of the full 8-piece set. For any given slot, you could debate which was the best instance blue, but whichever it was, it was going to take you a number of runs to get it, especially in those days of 10-man instance zerging, when any of those other 9 people could be a cloth-wearer that ninja-need-rolled on your Valor pants. Not to mention that organizing and running instance PUGs was quite a chore in those days before dungeon finders. If you dreamt of getting one of the epic drops, like the Baron's runeblade, or the epic crafting patterns, well, forget it - it's just pure luck to get one of those even if you spend your life pugging.

And then the few scraps of "casual epics" that were tossed out to the non-raiders were certainly epic grinds. I'm talking about things like the Cenarion Circle and Argent Dawn epics that you could get for collecting some obscene number of tokens from repeatable quests. I know that as a raider, I looked at them and thought "even if I wanted that, no way would I spend that much time and effort".

Redbeard said...

It would also have the side-effect of encouraging more people to try to step up to raiding, rather than just grinding heroics.

But is there a problem with a lack of people raiding? Seems to me that a non-raider such as myself is a rare bird these days. Most people I know in-game either raid or would like to but can't due to out-of-game issues. Even the casual guild I'm in Hordeside has far more people raiding than not, and some of those that do raid are ambivalent about the time sink involved in a Cata Heroic instance run.

That isn't to say that there aren't good ideas in your suggestion, but I don't believe that encouraging people to raid is an issue right now.

Andrei said...

OP points are based on raid-centric game design. What if there were no raid dungeons and progression was based on small group content? Raids would be reserved to only world events and open epic encounters.

Shannara said...

I have never seen any 352 items in the T2 heroics, only 353 ... ;)

Rohan said...

Redbeard, that's just a side-effect. It's certainly not the main benefit or goal.

I do think that there are a section of players who could raid, and would even enjoy it, but who are content to stay with the "safe" path. If the game has an upgrade path of solo -> 5-man -> raids, it's not the best of ideas to make one of the early steps too comfortable. That keeps people from moving on.

But more important is to make life easier for players at their respective stages. Causing people to change stages would just be a bonus.

old wow bastard said...

Even with the current JP/VP system people are getting bored and leaving or are leveling alts up to 85 and starting the grind on them.

I brought a new prot warrior up to 85; I need a MH, Helment and Neck from ZA/ZG and I'll be full 359/353.

He's been 85 for two weeks.

He's also almost capped on JP at the moment, so the minute 4.2 drops I'll pick up 2 tier pieces, and run 3-4 instances to grind out the JP for the third.

Outside of the VP grind there's very little left to do on this toon, after 4.2 drops.

So I'd have to disagree that the current heroics would be enough content for people if they only gave JP.

kadaan said...

I think the main issue isn't necessarily content tiers, but the lack of loot depth. Back in vanilla, most end bosses would have loot tables with around 20 items. Bosses now have half that, making it much easier to get all the items you want/need. With the absence of dungeon sets, there's also no "I want to collect my 8-piece set, even though those 8 pieces aren't BiS."

Because of these shallow loot tables, players don't need/want to run dungeons and burn through content tiers in a matter of weeks. I recently started playing my Rogue alt. In less than two weeks I went from greens/quest blues to 353 average ilvl without setting foot in a single raid, and no longer have any desire to play it because there's no real advancement outside of raiding for him.

The 1-2% drop chance epics in vanilla were also a carrot that made some people want to keep running dungeons. Pristine hide of the Beast and the Chromatic Carapace had people running UBRS over and over again.

Masterlooter said...

I don't like the current implementation of Valor points either. I really don't grasp the concept of "run Tier X instance 10 times to buy Tier X+1 gear." It's the only place in the game where this happens.

If they're going to continue to make the leveling game trivial, they need to offer more to do at max level.

IMO, they need to draw more clear lines among player groups. Raiders should know the path of 5 mans -> Heroics -> 10/25 Raids. There should be a completely seperate path for those that want to progress on a solo level. The rewards can even be the same if you want, just different paths.

Currently you have "soloers" and raiders doing the same content, each with different end objectives.

Also, there were things to do in Vanilla at max level aside from raiding. Although it depends partially on each individual's interpretation of "advancing your character". Raiding was just the most straight-forward.

old wow bastard said...

@kadaan

I'm not sure if deeper loot tables would keep people around. Killing the same boss endlessly in the hopes that the RNG will go in your favor gets old fast.

Some people will put up with it, but your average gamer, when faced with the prospect of potentially doing the same thing 10-20 times without a guarantee of a reward, will stop playing.

Blizzard tried this in Vanilla and TBC and evolved to the current model to prevent burnout and keep people playing.

old wow bastard said...

@ kadaan

I did forget to mention though, I agree that re-implementing dungeon sets would be a good idea.

A decent set with a good set bonus could potentially keep that gear valid, even with available, higher level, crafted gear.

Bristal said...

You are describing exactly my position in the game, and like you, I'm fine with it. I use the Dungeon Finder almost exclusively for group content (guild is kind of dead).

I loved the new 5 mans, they were like raids to me. I drew a pro group once, but I wiped a ton in those instances and loved it. No raging, everyone learning and being patient in my experiences. I think I've done each 3 times, and got an upgrade nearly every run.

They are outside and very beautiful, lots of interesting mechanics to learn, and hexing the frogs afterwards was fun.

The other 5 mans (other than StoneCore and the cat place, not so much. I have a hard time queuing for them, but likely after 4.2 they will become uber-AoE fests like WotLK with everyone gunning for justice points.

Once I get my full tier 11 I am hoping to occasionally PuG into the old nerfed raids while I work on the new daily quests.

I'm quite stoked about 4.2.

Raiding current content, skillwise, is certainly doable for me, but it's just too much time and commitment. I enjoy playing the game more spontaneously.

Archeology, pet and mount collecting, and old quests have gotten me through the past few months.

--G! said...

I am one of these people. I've been playing WoW since vanilla (actually right after AQ opened) I have never been in a progression raid.

Back in vanilla I had two choices, raid or re roll. That's what actually started my alt addiction.

I didn't raid back then because I knew someone IRL that had MC on farm. From watching him I saw that being a raider was brutal back then - when you weren't raiding you were farming mats, making pots and spending the other nights a week just getting ready raid.

I knew many raiders who were broke as hell back then because all of their money went into repair bills.

That didn't look like fun to me. So I rolled alts. Once of each class.

My schedule is such that I'm totally OK with running a couple of heroics a week.

I do wish there was something that kept the bored over geared raiders out of heroics. They have the worst attitude, and often act like their time is more valuable than those gearing up (boss skipping for example). Maybe a guild perk that has shorter raids lockouts for guilds that have cleared previous tier content or something.

Azuriel said...

1) 346 --> 353 is 7 item levels. Do you think raiders would be satisfied with Firelands raid gear being ilevel 366? Imagine if the heroic mode upgrades were 3 ilevels. Fun! Keep in mind that ilevel from a gameplay perspective is completely arbitrary - the game can be balanced around an 1 ilevel increase per tier the same as a 100 ilevel increase (although obviously the latter is more difficult). So unless your argument is that non-raiders should be satisfied with less of an upgrade from a stat perspective simply because, the answer is no. Blizzard has stated before that 13 ilevels is some kind of "sweet spot" in terms of stats per effort.

2) Related to 1), non-raiders find themselves in a rather abrupt gear slowdown already. Players cannot queue for LFD groups until their gear is ilevel 329 average. Getting 346 upgrades from JP or Revered+ reputations is rather huge. Going from full 346 to 353 is at least a 50% reduction in stat gain for the same amount of work. If raiders would not stand for it, I cannot imagine why anyone else would.

3) In a Valor-less world, non-raiders would hit that gear wall months sooner than they do now. If we are operating under the assumption that "possible upgrades = content," there is suddenly significantly less content available for those players. Not only is Valor metered out slower, but there are built-in mechanisms that prevent it from being accumulated back-to-back, just like raiding. You can run every single heroic each day. You can only get Valor from heroics seven times a week. How much gameplay would JP-bought gear in every slot amount to? 30 hours? 50? That is less than a month of leisurely play. Getting enough Valor may take those same 30-50 hours but requires them to be spaced out over a series of months. An MMO subscription model only works when gameplay is spaced out; just imagine if raids could be reset daily, and the havoc that would cause with content consumption.

Azuriel said...

4) The LFD system simply does not work when people can "graduate out" of it. And by "work" I mean not achieving the self-sustaining critical mass of success necessary to have a functioning system for when you want to use it. Unless the rate of new people joining the game/veterans rolling alts is greater than the rate of people leaving the system, eventually you start getting those 40+ minute queues which further depresses the amount of people who join the system (since those that need/want to use it get "priced out" by the amount of time it takes to form a group), and it is not too far after that that no one can realistically use it at all (queue times longer than average play session).

Sure, TBC and Vanilla (and 75% of Wrath for that matter) existed with the LFD system. You may not even like LFD at all, and want to go back to the olden days of Trade Chat pugging. Of course, that would also be a time when orders of magnitude less people ran heroics at all ("a dedicated minority" as one Blue wrote it) and, almost by definition, there was less content to consume at all. If working towards gear is content, not being able to work towards gear because grouping is difficult is negative content. I am pretty sure LFD is the most popular feature in WoW, and as Rift demonstrates, it is an essential feature of MMOs going forward.

5) I categorically reject your assertion that creating a 5m gear-wall would "encourag[e] more people to try to step up to raiding." If gear and getting better gear is the premise, then everyone is already encouraged to raid. Grinding heroics isn't easier than raiding - in fact, raiding is the easiest way to get gear by far. People grind heroics for things either because they already had their shot at said gear piece for the week (and thus may as well "load the dice" by 5% while waiting for next week), or they cannot/will not raid (for that week/ever).

There is no intelligent person out there choosing heroics over raids because heroics are faster/easier to acquire gear. They may not like raiding, they might be precluded due to difficulty (in their minds or in fact), they might not have the time for it. But no one is avoiding it because there are easier upgrades in heroics.

Rohan said...

Azuriel, I think the current jump in ilevels between raid tiers is excessive. If you had a character in 346 gear, wouldn't you upgrade to 353 gear from Troll instances?

Halving the increase would be more than acceptable. Besides which, once the raid tiers switches, heroics would only be a step or half-step below raiding.

As for the fact that LFD stops working when people graduate out of it, I completely disagree. If that were the case, levelling instance groups would not form, because people are constantly graduating out of it. Yet I can get low-level instance groups easily. I fail to see why the same principle doesn't apply to heroics.

If anything it might even be arguable that an LFD without the top end might be more newbie-tank-friendly.