Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Raiding and Time Management Issues

My guild is moving along steadily. We're currently 7/7 Heroic Emerald Nightmare (Ahead of the Curve!), but now we're running into time management issues.

It's actually kind of interesting how things have turned out. I think the guild leadership expected to be a casual Normal-mode guild for the most part, and maybe work on a few heroic bosses in the time left after the Normal raid ended. So we've ended up with a Normal raid on Friday where everyone in the guild is welcome to come. And then we have a Heroic raid on Saturday which you have to "qualify" for. 

The qualifications are really low, but it's just enough that you actually know the correct rotation for your spec and have minimal gear. But it's kind of indicative of the mindset of the guild, in that they see Heroic as "not for casuals".

The problem, however, is that even though we raid two days a week, it's sort of like we only raid one day a week, but in two different worlds. Friday we do 7/7 N EN, and there's maybe enough time to poke at Odyn. Saturday is 7/7 H EN, and again, barely enough time to poke at Trials of Valor.

If you add to that the casual inclination to farm gear before tackling something hard, and you can see how--even though we are relatively successful--we're kind of stuck at the same time, and not really progressing forward.

To me, the best solution would be to see if we can take the Friday group to Heroic EN. The vast majority of the raid is the same for both nights. (Though a lot of people now play alts on Friday.) If we can kill 3 or 4 Heroic bosses on Friday, I think that would free up enough time on Saturday to make solid attempts on Trials of Valor.

But I don't know if that squares with the way guild leadership views Heroic raiding. Ultimately, in their heart of hearts, I think they still believe we are a Normal mode guild, and the majority of people in the guild aren't really ready for Heroic raiding.

Monday, November 28, 2016

An Interesting Twist on Faction Warfare

The Old Republic is launching its latest expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne, tomorrow. One of their new elements caught my eye. In the expansion, you declare if you are Light Side or Dark Side. Then doing stuff generates points for your side. Whichever side gets to LS/DS 5 first "wins", and that side gets gear faster. But for the other side:
During the “Victory State”, that side’s influence can be seen and felt throughout the galaxy. Powerful bosses loyal the victor’s side will appear on Tattooine, Alderaan, Hoth, and Dromund Kaas or Coruscant. On each of those worlds, there are 8-10 possible places the bosses may appear, and a 25% chance in each spawn area that the boss will stay and face battle. If the losing side can defeat these bosses they will earn bonus Command Experience as well as a chance to earn Dark or Light Tokens. For example, if the light side wins, light side bosses will randomly appear on some worlds. If dark-aligned players defeat these enemies, they have a chance to earn Dark Tokens. These tokens can be used at the special cosmetic item vendor mentioned above.
The losing side gets extra bosses to fight, as well as a boost in the next war. This is a pretty neat consolation for losing, as extra bosses/content is always fun. It's also very flavorful, as the new bosses represent the winning side oppressing the losing side or flaunting their power. I think this is a pretty decent attempt at making a mechanic which encourages the sides to switch winning and losing, and keep everyone from defecting to the winning side.

The only issue I see is that it would have been ever more flavorful as Republic versus Empire, rather than Light vs Dark. But I guess SWTOR has moved away from that faction division.

Friday, November 25, 2016

RPGs, Stats, and Conversations

I decided to try and finish some of the unfinished games that I have hanging around. I'm currently working on Pillars of Eternity. The first time I played Pillars, I was very enthusiastic at the start, but lost interest somewhere in Defiance Bay. This time through, though, I think I've put a finger on what caused me to stop playing.

I created a paladin, as normal. In Pillars, the paladin's main stat is Resolve. But many of the early Resolve conversation options are, well, not quite paladin-like.

The early Resolve conversation options are very aggressive, almost intimidating the opposition through sheer force of will. As an example, take Rorschach's famous line from Watchmen: "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me." That's the kind of high-Resolve conversation options the early part of Pillars contains. I suppose it is high-Resolve, but it's not exactly paladin-like.

(Though perhaps Rorschach is a paladin, after a fashion. He certainly was the only one who stayed true to his beliefs, unflinching in the face of overwhelming opposition.)

A Paladin?
In any case, I think last time I was regretting making a character with high Resolve, and wishing I had spent my points in Perception or Intelligence. I think that's what caused me to drop away from the game the first time.

This time, though, I realized the issue, and simply ignored Resolve lines that I disliked. I'm also not really trying for "perfect" results, but just taking the outcomes as they happen. So I'm making more progress, and more fitting Resolve options are coming up later.

I thought it was an interesting conflict between stats and personality in the more old-school RPGs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Loot System Suite

This would be my ideal suite of built-in loot systems for an MMO. Each system is aimed and optimized for a different audience.

1. Personal Loot
  • Items are handed out on an individual basis, and are independent of other people in the group.
  • Items cannot be traded.
  • Aimed at eliminating loot drama entirely, as you get what the system gives you.
  • Is the fixed loot system for any group activity where you queue for a group.

2. Master Loot
  • The group leader gets full control over who gets which items.
  • Items can be traded with other people in the same group.
  • Aimed at guild groups who want to use their own system, be it Loot Council, DKP, etc, to distribute loot.

3. Need/Greed with WinCount
  • 3 buttons on an item popup: Main-spec, Off-spec, Greed.
  • Main-spec beats Off-spec beats Greed.
  • Each button has a WinCount associated with it for each player.
  • WinCount starts at zero for the instance
  • When you win an item, the WinCount for the button you chose is incremented by 1.
  • Lower WinCount beats higher WinCount.
  • If choice and WinCount are tied, random roll for winner.
  • Items can be traded with other people in the same group. This does not affect WinCount.
  • No Disenchant option, so mistakes with loot are always recoverable.
  • Aimed at pre-made groups who want a reasonably fair loot system that distributes loot widely with minimal administrative overhead.
  • Someone who rolls Main-spec all the time is expected to be dealt with by the group leaders. If people insist on gaming the system, then Personal Loot or Master Loot is a better option.
  • Basically requires more trust, in exchange for more speed and less overhead.

4. Auction
  • 2 button on an item popup: Bid, Pass, with a short timer.
  • Bidding starts at 1000 gold.
  • Bid increases the current bid by 10%.
  • If the timer runs out, the item goes to the highest bidder.
  • Gold is taken from winning bidder and divided evenly among other players in the group.
  • Items cannot be traded.
  • If no one bids, the item is given to someone at random.
  • Aimed at pre-made groups which want to sell items to people, rewarding geared players who help carry the group.
  • This type of system is popular in Asia, so may as well build it in for them.
There would be some other restrictions. Like when you make a group in the group finder, you have to choose a loot system, which is clearly displayed. Once you've chosen a loot system and listed your group, you cannot change it.

This is the type of loot system suite I would like. Each system is very different from the others, and has specific places in the game, or specific audiences, where it is better suited. I think that is a better way to go than four systems which only differ from each other slightly.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Personal Loot is a Corrupted System

I'm going to define a "corrupted system" as the following: The developers design a system for a specific purpose. Someone else comes along, and says, "That system is really cool, but if we make this tweak, we can also use the system for a different purpose." So the tweak is made, but the result ends up weakening the system for the original purpose.

To see what I mean, let's take Personal Loot. Blizzard introduced Personal Loot to eliminate loot drama when grouping with strangers. The game gives individuals loot, and that's that.

But then Blizzard allowed Personal Loot to be trade-able to other members of the group. That immediately cuts against the original purpose, to eliminate drama. Now we have mods like Personal Loot Helper which call out in group chat when you get an item that you can trade and someone else needs. Refusing to trade creates drama.

Blizzard should have stuck with the original plan. Completely eliminate loot drama in transient groups. If you want to share loot, use Master Loot.

Part of my annoyance at Personal Loot is that my guild likes to use it during raids. I have no idea why, as it turns loot distribution into a huge hassle of people calling out tradeable items and having to find others to trade. It's pretty much a dumber version of Master Loot.

Personal Loot has its purpose, and it is an important purpose. It should be designed to fulfill that purpose to the best possible degree. Instead Personal Loot was watered down so that it is usable in a greater variety of situations. But those other situations already had reasonable options.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Did Eve Online Go F2P?

Syncaine is adamant that Eve Online did not go F2P with its new alpha accounts. I think he's mostly right, but its interesting to see exactly why. After all, a pretty literal reading of "Free-To-Play" gives you the fact that people can play a hugely significant amount of Eve for free.

The difference lies in the nature of subscriptions. A subscription is a barrier to entry. If you don't want to pay $15/month, you can't play the game.

But a subscription is also a "cap" on revenue. If a dedicated player would be happy to pay $40/month, she can't. (Well, unless we get into multi-boxing, etc.)

What the F2P games currently do is that they remove both facets of the subscription. They remove the barrier to entry, and they also remove the cap on revenue. If a dedicated player wants to drop $40/month, they'll happily sell her lockboxes or whatever.

The F2P marketing emphasizes the first facet, because it sounds very generous and is good marketing. But I think they actually make their money from the second facet, from dedicated players spending above the subscription cap.

Eve Online's program is fairly unique in that it dropped the barrier to entry side of subscriptions, but kept the cap on revenue. Aside from buying a few ship skins, most transactions are a constant amount per month of play-time.

So Eve Online is not F2P as we commonly think of it. But it is half-way there. If CCP unveils a much expanded in-game store, then at that point we can say that Eve Online has truly gone F2P.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return to Karazhan

In Patch 7.1, Blizzard returned to a fan-favourite instance from The Burning Crusade: Karazhan. The new Karazhan instance is a call-back to the old one, but is designed for a 5-person group, rather than a raid.

Return to Karazhan is also part of an interesting new trend in Legion: a move away from transient content, and towards more extended content. Return to Karazhan are is the third Mythic-only dungeon, and then there are also Mythic+ dungeons. Personally, I think it's a good trend, shifting the balance back. Regular heroic versions of these dungeons are coming in a later patch.

Return to Karazhan is also a much longer dungeon than we've seen in a very long time, maybe not since Blackrock Depths in Vanilla. The first time I went into Kara with a guild group, we only managed to kill 4 bosses in 4 hours. As one guildie put it, "[Kara] isn't a 5-man dungeon, it's a 5-man raid!"

The next week we did better, of course, and managed to down all 8 bosses in 4 hours. But it's still a very long instance, and would be a good candidate for a smaller guild to do over a couple of nights.

The bosses are all very well-done. They're almost all call-backs to the original bosses and share similar themes. Old-school players will recognize most of the fights, but the mechanics are all very well designed to work with a 5-man group instead of a raid.

The first half of the instance is fairly normal, but the second half has this crazy Alice-in-Wonderland feel to it. For example, for one part, you're shrunk down to a tiny size and have to deal with trash like a single normal rat (who hits like a truck, by the way) or a single spider. The boss of this area is a single Mana Devourer, which is a weak trash mob in the rest of the instance which you usually kill multiples at a time. That whole area just makes me smile when remembering it.

About the only negative thing I can say about Return to Karazhan is that the Chess event is not very good. It's kind of boring, takes up a lot of time, and it isn't even a boss with loot. It also comes at the very end of the instance where you just want to get to the final boss. It feels like something that should have been cut, but was left in because everyone would have complained if Return to Karazhan didn't have a Chess event like old Karazhan.

But all in all, Return to Karazhan is an excellent instance.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Legendaries in Legion

I got my first (and only) Legion legendary a couple of weeks ago: [Ilterendi, Crown Jewel of Silvermoon]. So I immediately respecced to Judgement of Light.

It actually works pretty decently. Judgement into Light of Dawn into Holy Shock does a fair amount of healing. Judging more or less on cooldown contributes about 25k dps, and it doesn't seem to really drop my total healing.

It got me thinking about the general design of legendaries in Legion. In many respects, I think my experience is how Blizzard intended legendaries to be used. You get one, and you build your character around it. So each legendary gives you a slightly different playstyle.

But one issue is that you may not like that playstyle. I like Judgement of Light, but it is mechanically different from the other builds, and I can see some healers disliking having to keep an eye on the enemies. Not to mention that it generally works best with some macros to smooth things out.

Another issue is that some playstyles will strictly math out better than others. Ilterendi is consider the second-best Holy Paladin legendary, and pretty close to the best. So it's not an issue for me. But someone who gets one of the "worse" legendaries will be unhappy.

But if everyone gets to choose their legendary, or the drop rate is high enough that you eventually get them all, then everyone will pick the one considered "Best-in-slot". And that seems to negate the whole "build-around" aspect.

The other part is that the legendaries have secondary stats on them, and they might be the "wrong" stats for your class. I do think it would have been better if the legendaries only had primary stats.

Another possibility might have been to have the legendaries be more common, but they have a lower item level base. Then there could be Warforged or Titanforged versions. This way, it would be fairly easy to get access to the "build-around" component, but a player might choose to build around a Titanforged version of a weaker legendary.

Or maybe add an expensive device that allows you to transmute legendaries. A Kanai's Cube. That way if you really did not like the legendary you got, you could spend resources on getting the one you desired.

Also making it completely random was probably not the best of ideas. I think getting a random legendary from a quest to kill the last raid boss (in any difficulty) would have been a better way of handing them out.

All in all, legendaries in Legion remind me of garrisons in Warlords. The system is not quite there, but is pretty close. A few more iterations might have made it much better.