World of Warcraft LFR Improvements

Wowcrendor has a great video on LFR summed up. He only spends 30 (or so) seconds on the topic (which is a parody) but he’s managed to capture part of the essence (or rather frustrations) of LFR. While I do think LFR has been a positive boost to World of Warcraft, it still stinks of pugs and all the problems associated with pugs that Blizzard has yet to address. Here are some obvious issues:

  • Starting encounters prior to having a full raid. Some of the lower encounters do not require a full raid group but the thing at the end is it doesn’t hurt to have everyone available.
  • Staring encounters and then leaving. Basically, your ninja pull.
  • Griefers on encounters like Morchak where extra mobs are ninja pulled and wipe the raid.
  • Ninja looters that take items for (hostage) trade.
  • The ridiculous wait times. Mostly on healers, who occasionally are the ones starting the encounter then leaving.
  • Guild groups that need on everything and prevent others from obtaining any loot.
  • The DPS kickers.
  • The DPS penis insecurity (IRL) meter.
  • The AFKers/DCers who do nothing but ninja need on everything when the encounter is finished.
  • The loud mouths who won’t shut up no matter what (especially Mondays).
  • Roll composition enforcement.
  • Impatient people.
  • People who just don’t cooperate nor listen whatsoever.

I think Blizzard is partly fixing the looting aspects, which is great in the upcoming expansion. Honestly, that fix is required at this very minute because it’s such a severe problem. I don’t know if it’ll fix every problem but I like the fact that looting will become more “personal” in LFR or raiding in general. That said, the other problems are equally severe and need to be addressed. Here’s a few solutions to the ones above:

  • To resolve the ninja puller situation, I suggest making encounters be initiated only by the leader of the raid. If a person has a little flag above their head, they better know what they’re doing.
  • Encounters cannot be started prior to a full group. Once a full group is available and an encounter is started, people should not be able to leave until a wipe or until 3 minutes have passed. I mean, if you’re “in combat”, then you shouldn’t just be able to mystically teleport back to your home.
  • Kill recount. Seriously. It has no business in LFR. It’s becoming Gearscore 2.0 and we all know that Gearscore destroyed WoW during Wrath of the Lich King.
  • Enforce a minimum DPS/healing/action type of thing for looting. This can be calculated on through some averaging of abilities that one can use for an encounter. That way people aren’t just sitting around and doing little to nothing and then receiving loot. This might also address part of the issue of people complaining about lousy DPS in encounters. Even if the DPS isn’t great, you won’t be able to kick people for being undergeared. But you can kick people for doing absolutely nothing.
  • A pull meter. I have no other way to describe it but there needs to be a way to recount which people enacted a pull. The problem about encounters like Morchak is that you have excess mobs that can be pulled. Either get rid of them, make them unattackable, or define some mechanism to indicate which player intentionally pulled them.
  • More flexible raid encounter compositions. They said queuing up as a DPS was better than before (in comparison to LFG) but I think that’s only compared to the time of tank queues. The real problem I’ve seen is that healers are never in abundance. Although PVE Scenarios are supposed to address the whole group composition problem, raids definitely need to be better thought out so that people don’t fall into one of three categories. And if it still is the case, then permit the types of people required for LFR to be more flexible. For instance, why not provide some mechanic to offset the lack of healers?
  • Permitting cross realm joining for battle.net LFRs. I like what they did for LFG so it would be nice to see this feature implemented with LFR as well.

Now, the other issues are more psychological issues with people. I don’t know anything outside of my idea of enforcing some sort of preferred personality type of grouping that will resolve this problem. Obviously, you have battle.net email addresses you can exchange, but because people are together for a brief time, there’s little expectations set where people can create a setting to better know each other. Maybe there should be a tavern inside the game where people from different realms can get together and chat and exchange email addresses.

If World of Warcraft Was the Titanic

and I was on the only life raft (with a power motor) and saw the entire WoW community floating in the stream screaming to be saved, I would take out a big book and start reading it while powering my boat in the opposite direction. That’s how I view the WoW community at large. I don’t think it’s worth saving but the people involved don’t contribute much to the world regardless. There potentially are the one or two exceptions, but in my experiences the people in the game leave me with little hope for humanity.

Seriously, where do these people come from? If WoW is any indicator of people’s alter ego, then it’s a sad state of affairs for the world! Parents should not be having children if they’re raising them to grow up like this. I should definitely grab video sometime now that my system is here to post the immaturity level of people in the game. Hopefully, Blizzard wakes up and will realize that a simple language filter isn’t going to make people behave any better.

World of Warcraft and Eliminating the Kick

I think the LFG and LFR options for kicking people should be eliminated or much more moderated. I got kicked from a group obviously for probably not pulling the DPS despite the fact that I was simply trying to get VP and gear. The only thing I did was receive a Maelstrom Crystal when I used the person’s disenchant ability. I won that fair and square and that might’ve upset some people. I looked up the people and guessed correctly when I discovered that they were from a raiding guild. Now, here’s the thing people: if you kick me, I will report you. You better have a great reason to kick me because I take accurate notes and names and will complain to the GMs whenever possible.

That said, I was listening to Tradechat a while back and heard her discuss how the kick option needs to be better handled. I couldn’t agree more. Some people don’t have the DPS that uber elites are expecting. Some people are just trying to gear up their toons and alts but may know the fights. However, kicking a person who isn’t meeting the standards of some elites isn’t a reasonable excuse. It’s even less fair when guildies can gang up on an unsuspecting player.

I think that just the little note box for providing a reason to kick people is completely useless to the game. The ban time amount isn’t good enough either. There has to be better methods for handling this. I do think that kicking people who have DC’d, griefed, AFK’d for too long, caused friction, etc. are proper reasons for kicking. A few of these can be programatically monitored as well so there’s few excuses for Blizzard not to implement this system.

If there’s one thing that Blizzard ought to work on for the upcoming expansion, it’s the community aspect. The community aspect shouldn’t be combat oriented or somehow related to encounter/quest mechanics, etc. Instead, the community aspect should enforce a better mechanism for patrolling the community and assuring that people act civilized. This game can truly bring out the worst in people because of the lack of accountability. I believe that aspect is what is holding the game back and possibly started the downfall of the game.

Some other suggestions for Blizzard: Ban Recount and any damage meter plugin. Some people have said that Gearscore ruined the game during Wrath of the Lich King. I would like to add that Recount is ruining the game now as it simply is a dick meter. LFR and LFG just become sausage fests of people extolling in how great their DPS is. Well, Recount alone isn’t a fair factor considering that many people are attempting to gear themselves. However, when it’s used as a tool to prevent people from having fun and causing friction in the group, then it’s a good indicator for permanently banning it.

People might ask, “Well how do you monitor poorly performing players?” I think that aspect is directly tied to their contributions. Someone told me that Rift did a good job in allocating loot based on contributions. That makes perfect sense and it’s a system that Blizzard ought to implement in World of Warcraft. That ought to discourage people from dying, AFK’ing, or just facerolling a raid. And what I mean by contributions is not just a DPS meter, but how active a player is during an encounter.

At any rate, the community of World of Warcraft isn’t a great one. But things like this turn the image of the game from poor to horrible. I have an incredibly low opinion of the vast majority of people in this game. But this aspect makes me lose hope in humanity.

Now, I will name names in this post. So here are the fuckers that probably kicked me:

Dellerious (Blood Elf Mage)

Tekkzy (Troll Shadow Priest)

Ryukano (Goblin Blood Death Knight)

They are from the Pantheon guild on Thaurissan. So if you see these people in your instance, do yourself a favor and either leave or warn them that you don’t take shit.

Lost Interest in WoW Today

I was pretty pumped in getting back into World of Warcraft since last week’s project had finished. However, for whatever reason, something just clicked with me tonight and I felt really bored with it. I had been reading various forum posts and youtube videos that weren’t the most positive. Not sure if that killed my interest, but it certainly didn’t help. Similarly, while doing LFR on my Death Knight, I missed out on a much needed helmet. Not the first time nor the last, but it just irks me that gearing has been so painful. I even dread the new heroics.

My feeling is that part of the issue is that I’m mostly playing on my own and I’ve pretty much done everything in patch 4.3 that I wanted to accomplish outside of fully gearing and leveling every toon I have. While I still enjoy gearing, the thing that has been killing me is just repeating the same content over and over.

Thinking back to Wrath of the Lich King, I tolerated the grind a lot more. Perhaps, part of the reason was that I wasn’t attempting to gear 5 toons simultaneously. But there certainly was more instances and variety back then. I certainly miss the raid of the week instances, Wintergrasp and VoA among other things.

I could go back to PVP but I’m not all that thrilled at the moment, partly because my gear isn’t great and I’d have to grind out a lot to catch up (meaning, either doing random BGs or converting my JP to honor).

Overall, I think the biggest loss for me is just not having anyone to play with. A lot of my friends quit and my guild focuses more on PVP than PVE stuff. So I feel as though I’m missing out in the game in playing by myself. I started doing some stuff with my warrior in terms of preparation work for the new heroics but it honestly is boring doing them again and again and again….

Although I doubt I can do the Dragon Soul raid outside of LFR, it would be nice having more than just one guildie accompany me at a time whenever the (rare) times I do enter.

The Person Possibly Responsible for World of Warcraft’s Subscription Loss Has Been Identified

Blizzard posted a “post mortem” on the dungeon and raid encounters for Cataclysm. Outside of the confused, constant redesign of the talent tree and character classes by Ghostcrawler (who, imo, is also partly to blame for various problems in Cataclysm), Scott “Daelo” Mercer might be considered one of the people responsible for World of Warcraft’s subscription loss as he was identified in this article as being the “lead encounter designer.” I’m amazed that the interview wasn’t conducted from a cardboard box near Skid Row as this person should’ve been fired along with the other 600 recently.

So why am I so harsh in my criticism for this person’s efforts? I would say that one of the biggest issues and potential sore points in this expansion were the instance encounters. Upp’ing the difficulty challenge at the behest of hardcore raiders wanting to reclaim the glory of TBC was probably the game’s nail in the proverbial coffin. Now, if you haven’t read my WoW rants about the failed social bet Blizzard attempted to make, go back  and read it. That said, let me explain how heroics essentially created subscription loss.

The biggest problems with heroics were a combination of the massive time sink, LFG, requiring good players (pre-nerf), the poor assumption about people in LFG and the overall grind that in end essentially told non-hardcore players that they could not progress far into the game. First, the initial heroics were long, hence being time sinks. Two of my friends who quit the game mentioned giving up in instances are numerous wipes that took a few hours. The two friends in question, I can consider, fairly reasonable players. However, both have jobs, families and lives so a three hour instance just isn’t feasible. One ended up staying for a bit longer, but ended up migrating to PVP.

The second problem was combining the hard mode style tactics into LFG. I tried a few heroics out and my assessment was that they were equivalent to the Sindragosa raid in difficulty from ICC. Meaning that you at the very least required coordination and some level of skill. Most people in LFG probably were used to old heroics from WOTLK. People back then were still having problems figuring out simple tactics even in the three ICC instances. So increasing the difficulty level for PUGs made absolutely no sense. Anyone with half a brain could see light years away how this expansion would fail just in this design alone.

The thing about LFG is that you’re getting a broad range of people from around the world into a tiny team. I’m going to say that the average person in this world doesn’t know how to communicate on any effective level. So imagine some casual geeks, drunks, drugged out high school students, adolescents, ESL types, etc. all grouped together. I think you’d have a better shot at winning the lottery than seeing these types manage to get along.

Regardless, the objective of being part of this team is mainly knowing what your role is. Assuming that you’ve gotten this far in trying LFG, we can assume at the very minimal you understand the basics of tanking, DPS and healing. But that’s where you have to presume the most common denominator, which is that someone on a keyboard can press a few keys. Many people won’t install Deadly Boss Mods (DBM), read WoWhead for the encounter, check out Tankspot for how-to videos, etc. They’re going to enter them raw just to check it out.

However, if you get the impatient type who assumes  you know everything, have max gear, and possesses an attitude problem (which many people do in LFG and LFR), you’re bound to run into a large number of difficulties in expecting encounters to go smoothly. I think that some of these designers don’t play in the game just as a regular observer. In my estimation, they have no concept of reality when it comes to what their audience truly is like. In doing some research, I pulled up this guy’s mug shot and it’s clear that he probably is (was?) a table top gamer at one point and probably a Trekkie. Hey, we all idealize how the universe out to be, but there’s something called a reality factor. This guy apparently doesn’t seem to perceive it.

Lastly, the thing that I noticed was that the people who quit mostly attributed ending their subscription because they hated the grind. Here’s how I believe the average gamer perceives this type of game. You level up your character to 85 (or whatever max level) then you’re left with limited options in terms of progression. You could go farming or max out your professions (utterly boring), focus on PVP or try raiding (assuming that you want to focus on a single character). Maybe do some achievements too. More than likely though, you’ll probably want to do most of the cool content just to see the end of the story. And of course, you want to get more gear to have a sense of progression for you toon because you already maxed out your toon in terms of levels. I mean, where else can you go from there?

We’ve been taught that the game essentially is one massive grind. But what happens when the grind becomes utterly frustrating where you just realize that the people in the game suck and that you’re never going to get anywhere because you’re just going to have to spend way too much time just to get a single item? That’s what killed my friends’ motivation with the game. I do have a few other friends who still play but they’re teenagers with tons of time on their hands and no responsibilities. So they can handle the 2-3 hour instances with numerous wipes. However, the ones I know who play purchase play time. To me this is a pretty big indicator when it comes to how you structure your game.

In reading the forums, I noticed a ton of protests from what appeared to be “hard core” raiders and such. Hopefully, Blizzard takes their complaints with a grain of salt. You have to realize that these people only make up a very tiny fraction of the entire game’s population. Most people who will play casually don’t give a shit enough to bother posting. And I think many of these people probably have far too much time on their hands (maybe as dedicated gamers) or don’t have a time consuming real occupation. But who would you choose to design your game around? People who don’t have jobs or people who have jobs and can pay for a monthly subscription?

Some of the comments were plainly absurd. For instance, one person felt that heroics were all about wiping. Or that guy TotalBiscuit believes that failure is part of a game. Now, you have to realize that these people are not normal people. They don’t have real jobs nor families (at least they don’t appear to) so they can get away with spending a great amount of time wiping. But I think these people are delusional and have no concept of reality. Let me explain why.

I already established that the game is a giant grind fest. There is absolutely no denying this aspect. The problem is that it, indeed, requires a great amount of time for anyone to devote in order to achieve anything significant in the game. Never in my life have I ever played a game that requires so much time for me to devote just to get one simple item. An item that can take me anywhere up to two weeks to receive. TWO FUCKING WEEKS FOR A SINGLE ITEM THAT WILL BE REPLACED. Yet I need that simple item to make any progress into the game. So for me to make progress, I need to devote additional time. Maybe the item might drop but other people will grab it, despite not really needing it. So I might have to wait another few weeks before getting it.

Now, people like TotalBiscuit don’t understand the concept of “time is money.” They seriously don’t, which is why they want hard mechanics in the game. They feel that people should get guilds. Some of us aren’t that lucky and have to deal with the cards we’re dealt with in playing with subpar guilds, average players, etc. But here’s the thing I don’t understand. Why is wiping for several hours such a great thing? How is that great game design? How is draining between 10-25 people’s time simultaneously a great thing (outside of Blizzard making more cash)? I think this desire is utterly selfish and damn egotistical for a loud mouthed Brit to be saying.

On the other hand, someone as gullible and naive as this Scott Mercer seems to have bought into the forums or players like TotalBiscuit. But the thing is that your populace who might’ve started 7 years ago in its conception may be working now and raising their families. They can’t afford to wipe for 3 hours at a time just in the hope of getting a single piece of gear.

Here’s the other thing. Many of the old school players I think were horribly brain washed into thinking what “WoW ought to be.” The ones that don’t smoke crack will tell you about the 40 man raids that were grind fest that led to a piece of paladin gear for the horde (back in the vanilla days). That type of game design is just a plain indicator of lazy design. That said, these old school people are now trained into believing that every little thing must be painfully earned “because that’s how they did things back in the old days.” Again, I think this whole grind fest thing is a horrible point of game design. It doesn’t scale into real life, although it might give Blizzard money initially.

The bottom line is that people want to play a game maybe for a few weeks then move on to the next game or thing in their life. If people finally realize that a game is utterly pointless and wake up some day, then they’ll simply move on. That’s what 1.8 million subscribers poignantly stated with their dollars. The point of a good game design is to allow people to play and enjoy it, not to frustrate and want to maim other people. If you create a game that lacks any point outside of dangling a carrot, you’re aiming for a short life span.

In the case of World of Warcraft, they need to better design the game to balance between the grind and challenge while providing a point at the end. I think part of Cataclysm’s problem was that everything seemed to need a “mechanic”, which in turn made the game too complex and diverted resources from developing content towards bug fixing. Here’s a dirty little secret: you honestly don’t need to make every little thing special as long as the story is good, progress is shown, new things are discoverable and people are having fun. And the second dirty little secret about good game design is that simpler is better. The people begging for more mechanics really are smoking crack. They should play Street Fighter online.

Regardless, I think this guy should be fired immediately. Someone has to account for all that subscription loss. Also, my friends aren’t coming back to the game so I blame this idiot for making a ton of terrible decisions.

600 Let Go Over at Blizzard

My friend pointed out how 600 employees were let go by Blizzard. Most were not developers but sections that were over staffed. Without question, part of the decision most likely was due to the massive subscription loss in the past year (around 1.8 million). While the finger pointing has occurred, you cannot deny that at the end of the day, someone has to pay for the loss.

Ironically, I wrote up on the message board in response to how Cataclysm’s “hard mode” dungeons had failed (and probably were a huge cause in the decrease of subscriptions) that most people probably never developed a product on the message board and were the same ones complaining that the game needed to be aimed at the “hardcores.” My statement was that content like Sunwell, which apparently had 1% of the population in WoW experience it, can be considered a massive failure because the resources developing the content were practically wasted. As a result, I argued that if I were the boss, I would fire the people responsible for making those decisions.

When I told my friend that I wrote my statement, he remarked that Blizzard probably thought my suggestion was a great idea. Of course, those employees probably hate me to death. But at the end of the day you need accountability. As a public company, Blizzard/Activision must respond to their shareholders. So if you lose a good chunk of change, those people who made such poor decisions should be let go. It’s just reality.

The other way I looked at this situation was a massive warning to the employees at Blizzard. With Diablo 3, the next expansion for Starcraft 2  and Mists of Panderia still in the queue, the only pure guaranteed money maker is World of Warcraft. If you’re bleeding this badly, you have to stop it with something. Also, you’re saying that you cannot let your guard down, which I think Blizzard has been doing, especially as new RPGs and MMORPGs emerge like Star Wars: The Old Republic, Rift and Skyrim.

Internally, Blizzard employees have been telling the media that Cataclysm was a financial success. But that was more towards the beginning of the expansion. The drop off I believe occurred 1-2 months into the expansion. My feeling is that the hard cores would be able to complete the content and not really complain as they felt loyal to the game. However, the casuals coming from Wrath of the Lich King would take at least a month or so to get a toon to level 85. Since there is no great reason to backtrack and do re-made Vanilla content, the only thing left for these people were to PVP, run Heroics or raid.

In talking with my friends that quit, most of them just felt frustrated with the game. A few were good players but lacked the time to do endless PUG wipes and couldn’t deal with the immature players, the idiots or the general frustration. In other words, they hit a big wall and felt it wasn’t fun anymore. And that was just in the first patch.

For some reason though, maybe the numbers weren’t fully published yet, but Blizzard continued on this route until 4.3. 4.1 was a horrible patch. They could’ve made amends to 4.0.3 but seemed more focused on just getting something out, hence revising two raids but sticking with the annoyance factors of 4.0.3.

For me, I think that Blizzard shouldn’t try to re-invent their own wheel each expansion. It’s about setting expectations. Too much keeps changing and it doesn’t feel thought out thoroughly. Perhaps part of that might be a result of this excess 600 that were let go. Either way, I think the remaining employees will have to take their jobs more seriously because they can’t let themselves be fooled into thinking that WoW can sustain their jobs forever.