Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Unintended Consequences of Anti-Toxicity Systems

Jeff Kaplan made an excellent post on the Overwatch forums about matchmaking. It's definitely worth the read. The most interesting part, however, was this section:
For example, we recently realized that “Avoid this player” was wreaking havoc on matchmaking. One of the best Widowmaker players in the world complained to us about long queue times. We looked into it and found that hundreds of other players had avoided him (he’s a nice guy – they avoided him because they did not want to play against him, not because of misbehavior). The end result was that it took him an extremely long time to find a match. The worst part was, by the time he finally got a match, he had been waiting so long that the system had “opened up” to lower skill players. Now one of the best Widowmaker players was facing off against players at a lower skill level. As a result, we’ve disabled the Avoid system (the UI will go away in an upcoming patch). The system was designed with the best intent. But the results were pretty disastrous.
Essentially, players took a system meant to avoid toxic players, and instead chose to avoid players who were simply more skilled.

Another issue with this system is that it didn't have a cost. I think time and again, games have shown that when an action does not have a cost associated with it, people will abuse it. Think vote kicks from MMOs. Then the action gets removed or hedged with excessive restrictions, such that it becomes fairly useless.

Imagine if avoiding a player cost 50 credits (the currency for the cosmetic items). The amount of people who abuse this system would drop drastically. But if there was a cost, everyone would complain that they had to pay "real" money to avoid the people harassing them. Yet the end result is that we lose the avoid ability entirely.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Low Level Notes from the PTR

I took a poke around the public test realm this weekend. Trying to avoid spoilers, I didn't do anything major. I made a few low-level characters and took them through the first few levels. Here are some observations:

  • Classes now start with a specialization. Paladins start as Retribution, Druids start as Feral (and start the game in Cat form, no less), Hunters start as Beastmaster, etc. I think the other specializations unlock at level 10. Overall, I think this is a good idea. There's no forgetting to specialize, and no "generic" abilities which are only used in first 10 levels. You also don't get two abilities that don't synergize, because they are meant for different specializations.
  • Judgment has a new animation. You throw a golden hammer at the enemy, and the hammer returns to you. It also sometimes chains to a nearby enemy, but I can't tell if that's intentional or a bug.
  • I think the Hammer of Justice animation changed. A giant hammer drops from the sky on the enemy's head. I don't really like it. I miss the simplicity of the current spinning rising uppercut animation.
  • The default nameplates have changed. They're cleaner, and enemy health is represented as a thin red line, instead of a fatter bar. There's also small health/mana/resource bars in the center of your screen under your character. These bars only appear in combat, and fade out otherwise. I really like these new nameplates.
  • The quest helper minimap graphic has changed. It's now this transparent outline instead of a shaded area.
  • There's a nice animated flair on the XP bar when you get a large amount of XP. It's snazzy.
  • The initial class quests that send you to your trainer are gone. I guess it makes sense since the abilities have all changed. Still, it makes me a little sad. I liked that little nod to your class right at the start, with the notes expounding the philosophy of the class.
  • Armor starts as the max armor type. Paladins get plate, hunters get mail, etc. The item still looks the same as previous, like mail or leather. This is a bit weird with mail armor that looks like leather (those night elf shorts you always get), but plate that looks like mail looks decent enough.
  • Otherwise quests appear to be all the same as live. For low levels, it looks like only mechanics changes.
I didn't poke around a great deal, but these are some smaller impressions of what you can expect in Legion at low levels.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Which Players Should Be Mentors?

It's nice that FFXIV decided to mark all the jackasses in Duty Finder. They're the ones with a crown beside the name.

For those of you who don't play FFXIV, the crown denotes a "Mentor", a high-level player who is supposed to help new players. However, in my experience, people marked as Mentors are equally likely to be the people who are unpleasant in groups.

There's no denying that the Mentors are qualified players. FFXIV has quite high requirements. You need to have at least three classes at max level, a tank, healer and a damage dealer. You also have to have done a thousand dungeons, which is a crazy amount. As a result, Mentors are the top slice of people in the game.

However, I'm not sure if they are the best players to advise new players. Being edge players, they have a tendency to use and expect edge strategies. Giving too specific and complex advice instead of ensuring mastery of the basics.

Also, and this may be a skewed perspective, they also seem to be most impatient, especially on older content which is trivial for them.

In some respects, I think the people below the edge tier would make better mentors for new players. They would still be decent at the game, but would be closer to the new player experience, and better able to give advice from that perspective.

To put it into a WoW perspective, currently you need to be a Mythic raider to be a Mentor. It might be better if the Heroic raiders were Mentors, and Mythic raiders expressly prohibited from being Mentors to new players.

It's kind of like a university, where professors give high level lectures, but graduate students are the teaching assistants and help students with problems. A lot of time a professor is too far away from the student experience to really see the issue.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Heavensward Story Finale

The latest installment of FFXIV's main storyline came out today in Patch 3.3. This was the finale to the main expansion storyline involving Ishgard.

I thought it was an excellent and satisfying ending. The story was concluded well. The final boss fight was intense, and very well done. There were a number of callbacks to earlier parts of the story. FFXIV also spent a fair bit of time on the denouement/epilogue, winding down the story nicely.

This is actually an area where a lot of MMOs and videogames fall down. The climax comes right at the end of the game with a final boss fight, and then the games ends, maybe with an NPC congratulating you. I really like FFXIV's approach of taking its time to wind down, showing consequences and outcomes for the major NPCs.

All in all, Heavensward was an excellent expansion and storyline. I've mentioned this before, but it's ironic that it took a Japanese game to give us a classical story about knights and dragons.