Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Don't Like Guild Wars 2

After playing Guild Wars 2 for a week or so, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that I simply do not like this game. Here are my reasons:

1. No Stories

I play RPGs for the stories. It's not the only element, but it's the most important one.

Guild Wars 2 doesn't have stories, other than a single main questline (which is not particularly well written). All the hearts have terribly simplistic situations, with simple resolutions. There are no interesting characters, no twists, no plot other than the vaguest semblance of one.

There were 17 quest hubs or hearts in the first human zone. I don't remember a single one.

2. The Grind

Go to a heart. Kill or click on stuff until the bar is filled. Go to the next heart in order of level.

I just don't find this process interesting. The events and main questline do break up the monotony, but it's not enough. It seems extraordinarily linear to me, without even a decent story to make up for it.

3. The Combat is Bad

I don't like combat in GW2. It's boring and involves a lot of waiting for cooldowns. It's also very fiddly with all the long cooldowns. It just doesn't feel visceral or fluid.

Even the touted combos are boring. Someone put down a field? Click your finisher ability and random stuff happens.

Now, I can see how someone might like this combat. It has the potential to be very strategic. But I prefer a more immediate style of combat.

4. Character Models and Animation

I don't like the character models and animations. They simply do not look good to my eyes. All the models feel like there is something wrong with them. Especially the human models with their matchstick legs.

Now the environment and other effects are very nice. But not the character model which is on-screen all the time.

5. Playing Alone Together

For the most part, the presence or absence of other players simply does not matter in this game. At most, a fight might be slightly easier because another player helped out. But even groups of players are nothing but a zerg.

In other MMOs, the presence of another player affects my gameplay. Maybe I have to kill mobs in a different area because she's killing stuff over here. Maybe I have to wait for her to finish something before I can proceed. Maybe we'll group up so things go faster. Maybe we don't and things go slower. Maybe she'll get that ore node before I will.

The other player and I both inhabit the same world. Our actions affect each other. Maybe sometimes this interaction is rough and negative, but it's better than the smooth nothingness of GW2.

I think the element that pushed me over the edge here is the fact that resource nodes exist for all players. If I see a copper ore node, and someone else runs up and mines it, the copper node will still exist for me. I suppose it's very convenient, not having to worry about other players "stealing" your nodes. But at this point are the two players even in the same world any more?

There are a few times when the presence of other players matters. The biggest is reviving a downed player. At those times you can almost see the game that could be.

Conclusion

Basically, I just do not like GW2. The only element I really like is the weapon and skill system. The events are okay as well. But I just do not find the core mechanics to be fun, and I'd rather play a game with interesting stories. I have not seen anything yet that would keep me playing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

F2P, Subscriptions, Raiding, and Community

The Old Republic announced that, as part of its F2P conversion, raiding would remain subscriber-only. Many people, including myself, knocked Bioware for that decision. However, after some thought, I wonder if that is the right decision. It might be an unsuccessful decision, but it might also be the only path to preserve proper extended raiding.

Whenever I see people advocate F2P, they always enthuse about how this will let them enjoy the game on their schedule. It's common to see points like, "I have the freedom to play for a couple nights, then go try something for a few weeks, then come back." And that's certainly true. It's a lot easier to dip in and out in a F2P game.

But consider the viewpoint of the poor raid leader. She absolutely does not want raiders who play for a couple nights, then disappear for a few weeks, then come back. She wants people who play on a regular schedule.

By making raids subscriber-only, The Old Republic is potentially allowing people to signal their commitment to the game. That they will log in and play regularly enough that a subscription is a good value to them. That they will make the type of dependable raiders that a raid needs.

I fully expect the pool of people able to raid will shrink, perhaps even shrink greatly. But the people left in the pool should be more dedicated, and could end up forming steadier guilds.

To take a larger view, I wonder if this extends to community in general. Community bonds are formed through repetition. To joining the group, and seeing the same people every time the group meets. You know, you log into your guild, and the same people are playing, and they greet you and you greet them.

But with F2P, and everyone logging in at random, will the same bonds form? Or will what passes for community end up being weaker.

I guess I don't really see the point in playing an MMO if that community isn't there, if you don't see the same faces whenever you log in. You may as well play a normal multiplayer game where everyone is anonymous.

Perhaps by abandoning the subscription model, MMOs are weakening what makes them special.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

More Impressions of Guild Wars 2

First part found here.

Skills

I adore the skill system in GW2. It's diverse and elegant, with lots of choice and restrictions to make it very interesting.

You have a limited number of ability slots. Only about nine or so.  The first five slots depend on the weapons you have equipped. Each class has a different set of abilities for the different weapon types they can equip.  Slots 1 to 3 come from the main-hand weapon. Slots 4-5 are provided by the off-hand. A 2H weapon gives all five slots. Slot 1 is an auto-attack.

As an example, my Guardian can use swords or maces, along with shields and off-hands. A sword gives more offensive abilities, while the mace is more defensive. The shield gives protective abilities, while the off-hand leans more towards healing.

So changing weapons means something, it actually changes your gameplay. It's not just cosmetic. This also allows GW2 to make weapons feel appropriate. The sword is all slashing finesse, while the 2H mace is slow and hard-hitting.

Slot 6 is a healing spell. There are four or so different spells you can unlock, but you can only choose one at a time.

Slots 7-9 are extra abilities. You unlock them with skill points that you get as you level, and you can use any three.

The Guardian has a lot of abilities which have both a passive and active component, including abilities that you can activate to give friendly players around you a buff.

There's also traits, which are virtues for your class that you can invest in and they give bonuses to specific stats. For example, traits for the Guardian include Honor and Zeal. Very Lord of the Rings Online, in fact.

I really like the skill system in GW2. It's structured, but also has a lot of options. Weapon choice means something.

Combat

I'm not certain if the observations in this section are Guardian-only, or if they apply to all the classes.

The combat in GW2 is ... odd. At first glance it looks like standard MMO combat, but it really isn't. There's no resource involved, so ability use is governed entirely by cooldowns and the situation. But it doesn't seem like there are enough abilities to form what we would traditionally think of as a "rotation". In particular, GW2 seems enamoured of medium-term cooldowns at the expense of short-cd rotation mainstays.

Now, my thinking on this might be skewed because I'm coming from a SWTOR marksman sniper, which features a very formal A-F-X-X rotation with something like 9 regular abilities. (It's actually a little excessive, and I actually want to write a post about it sometime.)

But GW2 combat is like having a paladin with auto-attack, Crusader Strike, and 6 abilities that each have a 1 minute cooldown and are highly situational.

So what does actual gameplay end up like? You start auto-attack, and hit Crusader Strike on cooldown. Maybe use a cooldown every so often, but those abilities can only be used once per fight, and you'll maybe use only 1 or 2 of them.

Now, maybe this is better in PvP, where it could become all about moving and timing those medium-term cooldowns.

But mundane PvE is a little boring, with lots of waiting around for the next ability to come off cooldown. I find myself gravitating to the weapons that have abilities with shorter cooldowns, just so I have more buttons to press.

Crafting

So far, crafting is pretty similar to crafting in other MMOs. I just want to mention something that I thought came *this* close to amazing, but GW2 didn't take that last step.

Among your inventory is a "collection", which is a grid of every single crafting material in the game. You can send crafting mats directly to your collection from your backpack. This is huge for preserving bag space and organizing crafting mats. I really like the collection, and hope that more games steal it.

Unfortunately, when actually crafting things, the game does not look at your collection to see if you have enough mats. It only looks at your backpack. So you have to move mats from your collection to your backpack before crafting.

You can see how much more streamlined crafting would be if the crafting UI could draw directly upon the materials in your collection. They're so close, and they just didn't take that last step.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

First Impressions of Guild Wars 2

I picked up Guild Wars 2 late last night, and gave it a whirl. Why exactly was this game hyped up? Admittedly, I've only played for a day or so, but I've seen nothing yet that would warrant the fervor of the GW2 partisans. There are lots of nice, small touches, but nothing amazing.

Character Creation

There are five races and eight or so classes. Character creation has lots of sliders and buttons. I would have really liked a "reset to default" button, though.

The human females generally "need a sammich", as the saying goes. There didn't really seem to be any equivalent of SWTOR's body type 2 or WoW's human female. Either too much on one side or the other.

I did like the Sylvari art, the use of leaves and plant forms for hair and ears. That was very clever.

I also liked the use of additional choices to flesh out the character, like what god the character followed, or what spirit animal, or even greatest regret. I do wonder if those choices were orthogonal enough though. Sometimes it seemed like there were obvious choices for the magic users, and obvious ones for fighter types.

I also like the history for the races, especially humans being a race in retreat. Very different from the standard "humanity waxing" storylines.

I ended up creating a Human Guardian.

Oh, I should mention something about names. I think names have to be unique across the entire GW2 universe. So your regular name is probably taken. I know 'Coriel' was. But GW2 allows you to put spaces in the name, so you make a last name, and the combination is very likely to still be available. I named my Guardian "Coriel De Rohan". I really like this solution. It's a solid mix between uniqueness and availability.

Main Quest Line

The main quest line seems decent enough. The writing and voice acting is okay. Better than TERA, but not up to SWTOR or TSW. There was an investigation-style quest where you had to question different parties and accumulate evidence against a powerful noble that I thought was rather neat.

Hearts

A main conceit in GW2 is that there are no "side" quests. Instead of quest hubs, you have a "heart" on the map.

In a quest hub, you would have four or so NPCs. One would give a quest to kill 10 boars. Another would give a quest to collect 15 trinkets. Another would give a quest to search through poop. And the last would tell you to kill 20 bandits and their leader.

In a GW2 heart, these are not discrete elements. Instead of you have to (all numbers made up) accumulate 100 points, where you get 5 points per boar, 2 points per trinket, 10 points per poop, and 6 points per bandit. And you can do any combination of things that add up to 100 points.

So if you really hate killing boars, you can avoid that entirely. Or you can just do stuff until you hit the required total.

What I find is that this lacks context, lacks those small stories that weave together. For example, in Elwynn Forest in WoW, I really enjoy the Young Lovers questline. It's nothing amazing, you take a note from Maybell Maclure to Tommy Joe Stonefield, get Grandma Stonefield to direct you to her old suitor, the alchemist William Pestle, kill some mulocs for ingredients for an invisibility potion, and give the potion to Maybell so she can elope. Nothing amazing, just a short little story. But I guess I'm a romantic at heart, so I always enjoy doing that questline.

The thing is that, so far, the hearts in GW2 really lack that. They're just a bar on the screen to be filled with repetitive tasks. And the tasks don't really build on each other to form a story, except in the vaguest, most general sense. (There are bandits attacking the farm. You kill the bandits. The farm is saved.) It's also very UI-driven. At least normal questing has a semblance of interacting with the people in the world.

Now, in the end, maybe normal questing is just the same. That the stories of side quests are just an illusion, a fig leaf over reality, and it's all about filling up many smaller bars instead of one bigger bar. But it turns out that I like--and maybe even need--that illusion.

GW2 Hearts are quests for people who think that skipping through instant quest text is too much work.

Events

Events are basically a cross between public quests from Warhammer Online, and rifts from Rift. They're a public quest which is not always available. Instead, they sometimes "activate" like a rift and appear on your map. Then you do the event, and get some rewards. They differ from rifts by being more varied and not just monsters spilling out from another plane.

Sometimes it's an escort quest, sometimes it's a quest to kill a special monster, sometimes waves of monsters are attacking a certain point, etc.

Because the starting point is unknown, events are something that you don't really plan for. Instead you do them when you come across them.

They do make the world seem a bit more dynamic, and break up the questing a bit. But they do repeat, and if you stick around in the same area, you'll see the same event pop over and over.

I like events. But they're not revolutionary, they're evolutionary. A better Warhammer Online public quest.

Combat, Crafting, Skills

See this post.

Initial Conclusions

GW2 is an okay game. But not one that deserves anywhere near the hype it is getting. To be honest, so far it really feels like a better Warhammer Online.

Heh, it occurs to me that GW2 is the game where the "bears, bears, bears" promise from Warhammer Online was finally fulfilled.

Again though, this is early impressions. I haven't gotten very far, and I haven't been able to try out this WvWvW, as I've been on overflow servers most of the time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Penny Arcade on F2P

A few days ago, Penny Arcade posted a comic that matches a lot of my feelings on F2P:


I preferred those days too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Collectivism in MMOs

Stubborn wants us to write a post about Individualism and Collectivism in MMOs. Truthfully, I don't think I really understand those concepts. But here are some observations.

It seems to me that guilds become more collectivist, or display more of the attributes associated with collectivism, as they get more and more hardcore. Loot Council, higher attendance requirements, higher performance requirements, more shaming for those who don't meet said requirements, more expectations in general.

Guilds at a higher level demand more of their individual members, and thus are more able to act as a single entity. So why would these players chose to subordinate themselves to the group?

I think the key is reciprocity. A player is more willing to sacrifice if she can be assured that everyone else in the group is sacrificing as well. If she is assured that everyone else is as committed to the guild as she is.

As well, this form of collectivism cannot be imposed on people. The right of exit in MMOs is very strong. It's trivial to leave a guild, or even to quit the game entirely. Every collective in an MMO is a collective because the individual members choose to be so.

This is, of course, very different from collectivism in the real world. Very often, the collective is enforced through shame and other rules. And they usually have tons of "free riders" who exploit the collective for their own benefit.

I wonder if that's a way of looking at the extended endgame. Rather than one collective, or a mass of individuals, it's really several smaller collectives, each with slightly different properties.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Holy Paladin Talents in 5.0, Part II

Link to Part I.

Tier 4: Friendly Cooldowns

Choices: Hand of Purity, Unbreakable Spirit, Clemency

Hand of Purity protects against DoTs and other period effects. Unbreakable Spirit speeds up your big cooldowns. Clemency allows you to use your Hands more often.

My choice: Clemency

The big question in this tier is just what will Hand of Purity protect against. Depending on what effects the bosses have, Hand of Purity might turn out to be an amazing cooldown. But it might not either. Being able to double Hand of Sacrifice can be very useful in reducing tank damage. Not to mention being able to use a double Freedom to free two people from a root.  Clemency is the more versatile option, but Hand of Purity may end up being more powerful on specific specific fights. Unbreakable Spirit isn't bad, it might allow you to get multiple uses of Lay On Hands, which is a lot of healing and mana back, if you don't need your Hands in that fight.

Tier 5: Throughput

Choices: Holy Avenger, Sanctified Wrath, Divine Purpose

Holy Avenger gives you the Ashbringer when you activate it. I'm pretty sure the other two can't top that.

More seriously, Holy Avenger would give you another throughput cooldown, It spikes Holy Radiance and Holy Shock by 30%, and allows you to cast more WoGs and LoDs. Very large amount of healing for minimal mana. Sanctified Wrath increases Avenging Wrath and allows you cast more Holy Shocks. Divine Purpose will give you 25% more WoGs, but spread out randomly.

My choice: Divine Purpose

The name of the game in early Mists is going to be mana conservation. Divine Purpose gives you more free heals over the course of a fight. Plus, it's one less button to press.  Though the Ashbringer is quite tempting.

Tier 6: Damage and Healing Ability

Choices: Holy Prism, Light's Hammer, Execution Sentence

You only get this tier at level 90 in Mists, and I don't have any experience with these. So this is all just first glance.

Holy Prism is on a short enough CD that you can work it into your regular rotation if you want. Light's Hammer is great for stacked up AoE phases. Execution Sentence looks like a really strong tank healing spell that you can match up to boss specials. So I think this tier will really depend on what your role is in the fight.

Another aspect of Execution Sentence has is that you don't have to damage the mob. It's damage or healing. The other two are damage and healing. This may have important ramifications, especially if threat or crowd control are issues.

My choice: Execution Sentence

I don't really want another button in my regular rotation. I don't think that Light's Hammer will be really effective in 5-mans, because people will be spread out. We will run a lot of 5-mans in the early part of Mists. So Execution Sentence looks like the most useful choice, especially if we continue our traditional role of tank healer. But this tier will depend a lot on the specific fight.

Conclusions

This will be my standard build for Mists:

Pursuit of Justice
Repentance
Sacred Shield
Clemency
Divine Purpose
Execution Sentence

A lot of passives with a focus on tank healing. It should be solid for running 5-mans and tank healing in raids.

However, there are a lot of other viable choices, that you may prefer based on your playstyle and fights that you are working on. I think Blizzard has done an excellent job with the new talent system.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Holy Paladin Talents in 5.0, Part I

Here's an overview of the talents (as they exist on Beta now) for Holy Paladins in Mists of Pandaria. I do have some playstyle biases. This is from a max level PvE healing perspective. As well, I generally prefer passive abilities to active ones. I already have a lot of buttons to press, more buttons probably won't help me. So take my advice with a grain of salt.

Kurn has posted her look at talents and glyphs, which is an excellent overview as well.

In this post, I'll cover spending holy power and the first three tiers of talents.

Holy Power

First, a thought to how we will spend Holy Power in the expansion. There are essentially two styles.

Option 1: Build to 5, WoG, HS, WoG, now have zero HP.
Option 2:  Build to 5, WoG down to 2 HP, then build back to 5. Always keep 2 HP banked for emergencies.

Now, Option 1 allows you to do a large amount of burst healing, for minimal mana in 3 GCDs. But you have to build back up to 5 HP every time. Option 2 is more or less our current playstyle, only you go 5 HP to 2 HP to 5 HP. The two HP is banked and only spent in a great emergency.

Both options do roughly the same amount of healing in the long run. All that changes is how the healing is distributed. In Option 1, the second WoG comes right on the heels of the first WoG. In Option 2, the second WoG comes much later than the first WoG.

I am a fan of Option 2. I don't think we will need to burst like in Option 1 regularly. A regular healing cycle like Option 2 is more than enough. As well, Option 2 allows you to burst in emergencies.

Tier 1: Speed Increases

Choices: Speed of Light, Long Arm of the Law, Pursuit of Justice

Speed of Light is a large speed increase on a long cooldown. Long Arm of the Law is a medium speed increase for a short time which you get every time you Judge. Pursuit of Justice is constant increase, that also scales with Holy Power.

My choice: Pursuit of Justice.

It's always on. A Holy Paladin doesn't need to Judge, so that would be an extra button. Plus, if you play with 2 HP banked at all times, your speed will be a minimum of 125%, and often 130%. That's more than enough to keep you moving out of the fire quickly.

Tier 2: Crowd Control

Choices: Fist of Justice, Repentance, Burden of Guilt

Fist of Justice allows you to stun twice as often. Repentance is proper crowd control. Burden of Guilt adds a  significant slow to your Judgement.

My choice: Repentance.

Good CC is always useful when running instances. Burden of Guilt requires Judging, so that's out. Fist of Justice is useful, but stunning is often less useful in PvE. However, on specific fights, especially in raids where things are immune to CC, a shorter CD stun might be very useful.

Tier 3: Healing

Choices: Selfless Healer, Eternal Flame, Sacred Shield

With Selfless Healer, after Judging 3 times you get a free, instant, super-powerful Flash Of Light. Eternal Flame is an upgraded Word of Glorgy, tagging on a decent-sized HoT. The initial heal of Eternal Flame is exactly the same as WoG, so Eternal Flame is a straight upgrade.

Sacred Shield is similar to our old Sacred Shield, but built slightly different. To be honest, the old version was a bit confusing, and I think the new one is more straightforward. Sacred Shield is a "shield HoT". Every few seconds the shield refreshes itself to its initial value.

My choice: Sacred Shield

Selfless Healer requires Judging a lot, so that's out. Sacred Shield is something you just keep on the tank, and it will do its job, preventing damage nicely. Eternal Flame is a pretty good choice, but you know have to target EF more strictly than WoG. WoG you can just drop on anyone who is hurt. With EF, you probably want to target someone who will take more damage in the future, so you don't waste the HoT. Personally, I tend to just throw WoG around randomly whenever I have enough Holy Power. As well, preventing damage is usually a bit better than healing it, so I lean to Sacred Shield.

Later Tiers

Link to Part II.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Cinematic



Blizzard released the Mists of Pandaria cinematic today. It's quite good. Not as good as the Wrath of Lich King cinematic, but then, very little is.

Technically, the video is superb. The detail and animation is amazing.

However, I think the cinematic doesn't have a lot of "weight" to it. It's funny, and has some nice humour, but I don't think it's particularly memorable.

The one thing this video does very well is introduce the concept of a "third power" in the game. You have the Horde. You have the Alliance. And now you have the Pandaren. The video makes it clear that they are a new and powerful people.

However, the video sends somewhat mixed messages about the Pandaren. Are the Horde and Alliance uniting against the Pandaren? But the Pandaren seem like good people, what with the fighting for home and harmony. Of course, the idea that each faction is trying to woo the Pandaren seems really hard to convey in a short, rousing, cinematic.

The video doesn't really give much of an indication about this expansion, or a reason to do anything. All the previous cinematics have a call-to-arms vibe, while this one basically says, "Hey, there are Pandaren Monks." Leaving the player to ask, "And this is important why?"

But maybe that's not a bad thing, reflecting a quieter and not-so-urgent expansion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chevin Acquisition Event

The Old Republic is conducting it's second live event: the Chevin Grand Acquisition Race. It's an interesting study in multiple completion paths in an MMO.

Essentially, it's a scavenger hunt. You go to the Chevin representative, and they give you a list of nine artifacts hidden on two of the early planets. Then there's effectively four paths you can take:

  1. You can just go out and explore the planets and try to find the artifacts on your own. Each of the artifacts has a little puzzle or mini-event/quest associated with it. For example, one artifact is broken up and the pieces are in smuggler's crates you have to find. There's nothing preventing you from getting all the artifacts on the very first day.

  2. You can look up guides online written by other players and follow the instructions. Pretty much like exploring, only someone else has done the work for you.

  3. There is a secondary questline running alongside. Your faction's intelligence service is suspicious of the Chevin and have tasked you with investigating. They will send you leads, small quests that will push you in the direction of the artifacts. There are two important elements here. First, the leads are entirely optional. You don't have to do them to get the artifact. Second, the leads unlock at what looks like a rate of one per day. So if you follow this route, you have to wait, and do each piece of the event a bit at a time.

  4. Finally, there's a space mission you can do which gives you artifacts. I don't know too much about this method.
The interesting thing is that the event is not formally gated. If you want,  you can blitz the event in a single evening. But it is softly-gated. The gated questline is entirely optional.

The most hardcore people will search themselves or look things up online. They're also the people who would complain the most about a hard restriction that forced you to slow down. More casual players will be okay with doing one optional questline a day (or catching up to all the unlocked questlines so far) and picking up one or two artifacts each play session. In the end, both sides will get to the same point.

Personally, I'm following the optional quest line. The optional quests are pretty interesting in and of themselves, and I'm enjoying going through it slowly.

Still, I think this event is an interesting experiment in providing multiple paths for completion, rather than just having one path that everyone does. In particular, I find that to slow down the hardcore, you have to make that one path excessively grindy or annoying. Unlocking the Fireland dailies in WoW was a classic example of this.

The Chevin event is taking the opposite tack, and letting the hardcore do the event as fast as possible, while providing an interesting, slower path for those who don't feel the need to rush.

Edit: I think I misunderstood how this event works. Six of the nine artifacts are available in the world, and can be picked up anytime. The other three are unlocked via the secondary questline, and unlock at the rate of one per day. I guess the point is to stretch it out a little bit, but not gate everything. Not quite as cool a setup as I thought it was.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sales and Faction Choice in The Secret World

Sales Performance

Azuriel has a good post on the disappointing sales of The Secret World. To sum up, The Secret World sold somewhere between 50k and 250k boxes, probably closer to 100k. The game did not meet Funcom's (relatively modest, in my opinion) expectations. Funcom is looking at laying off 10% of its workforce in response.

This is unfortunate, because The Secret World is a good game, with several innovations. I've purchased it, and am subscribed, though I'm working through it very slowly. I've only finished the first zone, but am enjoying it greatly.

Funcom is blaming low scores on Metacritic, citing the disparity between the professional reviewer scores and the user scores. First, I do think the reviewer scores are a little low. TSW has a 72, while TERA has a 77, and The Old Republic has an 85. In that context, I do think TSW's score is lower than it should be. Funcom probably did not hand out enough bribes advertising dollars.

However, I do think the high user scores are primarily coming from selection bias. The Secret World is a niche game, and those people who went out and purchased it are probably very happy with their purchase.

I think the real problem with TSW is that their target niche turned out to be too small. Like other game companies before them, Funcom made the mistake of listening to the MMO pundits and blogosphere. Thus they made a game which the literati love, but no one else bought.

According to Azuriel's research, 1.5 million people tried TSW in beta. That's about a 10% conversion rate. 90% of the people who tried the game didn't think it was for them.

Faction Choice

I wonder if this information can explain an observation regarding factions that was puzzling me.

In beta, the dominant faction by far was the Illuminati ("Sex, Drugs and Rockefeller"). Like, there was no contest at all. It seemed that everyone was playing Illuminati.

In live, the dominant faction by far is the Templars ("Deliverance From Evil"). The last few times I've played, they hold almost every PvP objective, even though it's a three-faction game.

I was at a bit of loss to explain the switch. Now, I wonder if the type of people who were attracted to the Illuminati were the same type of people who were not attracted by the game. While people who chose the Templars were the type of people predisposed to like The Secret World. Almost all the TSW bloggers I've seen have been strongly Templar.

I think it would be really interesting to see the faction retention numbers from beta, if they exist. Was retention equal among all factions, or was faction choice in beta a good predictor of whether or not one would purchase the game?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hate for The Old Republic

There is a new world event launching in the Old Republic sometime soon, something to do with the Chevin. As I missed the Rakghoul event during my boycott, I'm quite looking forward to seeing this one. So I popped over to Massively to check out their information, and the comments quite honestly shocked me. You'd think that people would be encouraging more companies to follow Bioware's lead in having regular world events.

Like Shintar, I don't really understand the sheer vitriol directed at this game. Personally, I rather like The Old Republic. It does have its flaws, and I can understand people who chose to drop their subscription, but I don't really see anything in the game that deserves this continuing hate.

It's like the level of hate reserved for a really nasty divorce, or a cheating spouse. To me, the venom reeks of "betrayal", and that seems excessive for a video game. I wonder if a lot of the haters were really invested in the game before it came out, maybe to the point of burning their bridges in their previous game. Then when The Old Republic turned out to be human after all, they turned on it.

Another possibility is that the haters think that the MMO audience is zero-sum. That every subscriber for one game must be stolen from another game. Thus by attacking an MMO that has both a significant number of players, and yet seems weak, they can bleed off players to boost their game of choice. In particular, the Guild Wars 2 boosters seem to exhibit a lot of this behavior.

Ironically, the people now in love with Guild Wars 2 seem to falling into the same trap. If Guild Wars 2 proves mortal, unable to stay atop the pedestal, will history repeat itself?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Holy Paladin Changes in Mists

Mists of Pandaria is fast approaching. Let's take a look at how the Holy Paladin is shaping up in the expansion. There are a lot of changes to WoW, but in a way the Holy Paladin really isn't changing. It will play very similarly to the Cataclysm Holy Paladin.

Here are some changes to keep in mind:

  1. Judgment - You no longer need to judge. It does not return mana or give haste anymore. You can pretty much drop this button.

  2. No More Auras - The auras have been removed. Aura Mastery has been renamed Devotion Aura, but works as a damage reduction cooldown. Crusader Aura has become a paladin-only passive. The Seals now occupy the same UI space.

  3. Store Up to 5 Holy Power - You can store up to five Holy Power, though you can still only spend a maximum of three. So you can effectively bank two Holy Power for emergencies.

  4. Intellect Does Not Give Mana - Intellect no longer increases your mana pool. Your mana pool will be fixed in size at max level for the full expansion. This makes Intellect slightly less valuable (though still very valuable because it gives you spell power), and Spirit more valuable.

  5. Holy Radiance - Holy Radiance works slightly differently. There is no HoT, and the target gets twice as much healing as the other people. You still want to cast it on different targets in succession, but it won't be wasted if you cast it on the same target twice in a row.

  6. Light of Dawn - Light of Dawn is not a targeted cone anymore. Instead it's an AoE all around the paladin.

  7. Denounce - Apparently we get a spammable nuke in Denounce. Probably is our primary damage spell for soloing.

  8. Talent Trees - The old talent trees are gone. Pretty much all the important abilities have been rolled into the base Holy Paladin, and we have new abilities in the new Talent structure. I'll look at the talent tree in a future post.

  9. Glyphs - Prime glyphs are gone, only major and minor glyphs remain. Vital Prime glyphs (such as Seal of Insight) have been rolled into the base spell.
I think that's about it. Not needing to Judge is the biggest change in playstyle, but the new Talents will give new abilities to replace Judgement. Otherwise it's pretty much the same as in Cataclysm.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Spacing Out Content

Blizzard announced that in Pandaria they would delay the start of raiding by a whole week. The first raid instance will open one week after Pandaria launches. Two more instances will open a month later.

While I think this is a good move, I don't see why Blizzard doesn't take this further. I must admit that I don't really understand Blizzard's aversion to spacing out content.

Why have this giant glut of content right at the very start of the expansion? It seems to me that when all the content is front-loaded, we just end up with larger and larger gaps at the end of the expansion.  Take the tail end of Cataclysm. It's been eight months since there's been any new content.

Why not release Pandaria without any raids? Let everyone go through all the leveling content and the heroics. Two months later, release the first raid.  Two months after that, release the second raid. Then two months after that, release the third raid. That gives lots of time for Blizzard to add new content into the game, while still giving everyone something new to look forward to every couple of months.

It seems to me that a steady stream of content would be more interesting that everyone gorging themselves at the beginning of an expansion, and then dying off at the end.