Ultima Online and the Player Housing Debate

12 11 2010

I wrote this as a comment on Larisa’s (the author of The Pink Pigtail Inn) post about player housing. It got really long, so I figured I would put it up here and burnish it with some screenshots from Ultima Online.

As someone who played Ultima Online (UO), a game in which player housing played an important role (I’ll expand on that in a second), I think there are two important pros for player housing and one big caveat that Larisa mentioned in her post.

The Ultima Online player housing model

Before I get to those, let me explain how player housing in UO worked. Your bank could hold a maximum of 140 items. In UO, this was not a lot of items. There were things like reagents, crafting materials, gold, rare items, house decorations (plays a large role in UO), etc. Far more than WoW has and with no easy things like how mounts are “learned” rather than carried around. In addition, UO has a weight system; each item weighs x stones (stacks of items, such as gold, weigh more or less depending on the amount) and the amount you can carry depends on your strength.

So a house (depending on the size of the house) allowed players to hold secure containers, which could in turn each hold a number of items. Larger houses could hold more items. This was necessary for any player intending to do more than just run around the graveyard killing skeletons (the UO equivalent of, say, killing boars in Goldshire).

The UO graveyard outside Britain

The graveyard outside of Britain, the main city of UO

Player housing also was not instanced or separated from the main game world, which it likely would be in WoW. Instead, houses dotted the countryside (weren’t allowed in cities) and your house was in a specific place that you often got to know well, as though it really was your home. This presents a problem for potential WoW housing: it wouldn’t feel integral to the game world because it likely would be somewhere you teleport to by use of a magic key type item.

Customization is king

My house

My house in UO. Lots of decoration

In addition, UO housing was very, very customizable. Not only could you buy a fair number of types of houses (from small one-room to a keep, with 4 wings and a courtyard), your house came empty. This meant that players (and NPCs sold basic stuff) sold and crafted items for decoration. Rare drops from mobs were often decorative items, unlike the traditional weapon/armour rare drop model. Vanity items played a larger part in the UO economy than they do in WoW, and crafting was also more than a means to creating/enhancing equipment.

The pros and cons of homebuilding

Now that the preamble is out of the way, here are the two pros and one con of player housing in WoW:

Pro 1: Allows players to decorate a piece of the game world, making it their home. Much like phasing quests allowed players to make an impact on the game, decorating player housing lets players directly affect a part of the world. Decoration also has a big effect on the economy and has the potential to make crafting more interesting if Blizzard followed a UO-style model of decoration (easy to do since we have things like Tinkering, Tailoring and Blacksmithing already).

Crafting skills

The various crafting skills of UO

Pro 2: A place to call home. I’m not an RPer by any means, but when I played UO, I always made a point to log off in my house. Even though I could just as easily log off at the inn in a city. In addition to RP benefits, homes give players a more logical way to store additional items. Instead of the traditional method of “bank alts” and “alt guild banks” which are a hassle and don’t really fit into the world very well, having a chest in your house where you store crap is pretty sweet. Things you could also do in your house: craft, auction, bank, get your hair cut, etc. Gold sinks galore.

The caveat: People leave cities to go into houses, leaving cities more empty. The image of cities being empty sucks. It’s always great that cities are filled with people in the streets, yelling crap about Chuck Norris. However, people are always going to need to be in big cities to pug raids, use trade chat, see what guilds might be recruiting, train professions and skills, buy items, reforge gear, etc. Striking a balance between what you can do in a house and what you can do in a city would be very important to making sure people still had incentive to go to Dalaran, Stormwind, etc.

Pipe dreams

I would like to say that, while I think player/guild housing is an interesting concept and generally good for MMOs, I have a feeling Blizzard has no plans to add it to WoW. Adding such a huge thing to a game not really designed with it in mind is a huge undertaking, one I imagine Blizzard will keep in mind for its mysterious future MMO, whenever that appears.





Rotations: What’s Okay, What’s Not?

9 11 2010

In a recent post on WoW Insider, Matthew Rossi quotes a post from Ghostcrawler about Blizzard’s past and future stances on killing/changing certain specs/rotations. I, of course, was waiting for a mention of the once-great 32/39 spec (I’ve tried in vain to find a screenshot of an old talent calc, but to no avail).

The post focused on diseaseless Blood tanking rotations in 4.0.1. Ghostcrawler said: “It doesn’t bother us unless ignoring diseases becomes the only reasonable way to play.” In the past, Blizz has killed a few specs. Notably diseaseless Blood and 32/39. 32/39 did some funny things, like focus on Howling Blast, Icy Touch, and Gargoyle instead of using Obliterate. Diseaseless Blood similarly did funny things; both specs were head and shoulders above the alternatives.

And while GC couches this in terms of making changes because some spec or rotation didn’t match up with the core values of the class, I can’t help but see it as quashing innovation in favour of keeping us tight to Blizzard’s vision for us. The example GC uses, of Rogues becoming ranged DPSers, is far more extreme than anything that’s ever happened to DKs. Yes, we’ve sometimes used abilities where clearly we weren’t intended to (for example, the phase where Unholy used Obliterate instead of SS), but we never changed the way the class played in a way that would affect more than our own DPS, as Blizzard suggests ranged Rogues would.

32/39 no more

NO 32/39 ALLOWED

The Great Innovator

I imagine that at some point in Cataclysm, DKs will start doing something odd again. We’ve had a lot of stuff changed in 4.0.1, and probably a lot more to come in major patches in Cataclysm. And I hope that Blizzard won’t feel the need to stomp on really cool things like the 32/39 spec. They didn’t just nerf it down to acceptable numbers, remember (it was definitely OP). They completely destroyed the spec that the rotation was built on by moving Gargoyle and Howling Blast deeper into their respective trees. Because in their minds, the spec was wrong. Similar things happened to builds that spammed Icy Touch, which I thought were also cool.

This has been something of a windy post, but my main point is that I hope we continue to innovate and do really cool, interesting things with our DPS rotations as Cataclysm matures, patch by patch. And I hope Blizzard takes a cue from this GC post and let’s us roll with our weird, non-intuitive rotations, because that’s part of what makes Death Knights interesting.





One-Handed Weapons: A Death Knight Conundrum

21 10 2010

This has bugged me ever since I started Dual Wielding as a Death Knight. It still bugs me to this day. And it bugs me even more given the recent hullaballoo over simplifying stats and making sure each class has access to properly itemized gear. Changes in this vein include: all healers getting mana regeneration from spirit, reforging and the removal of ArP in favour of mastery (ArP was worth more to classes that did lots of physical damage compared to classes like Paladins and DKs whose rotations include magical damage). So what’s bugging me? Where are the one-handed weapons itemized for DKs?

Agility One Handers

Bad itemization, bad!

Oops. This post has been edited to reflect the truth

As excellent commenter Argon pointed out, not only can Fury Warriors also use one-handed DPS weapons again, but there are also a number of properly itemized one-handers for DKs and Fury Warriors that have popped up on Wowhead. So instead of deleting this post, which I considered, I’m going to turn it into a more positive one.

Thanks, Blizzard

Since 4.0.1 hit the servers, I’ve been noticing a lot of little things that just make life easier and more fun. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to give thanks.

  • ONE-HANDERS WITH DPS STATS AND STRENGTH! (Thanks again, Argon!)
  • General UI improvements (everything looks a lot prettier and is generally more elegant now, especially the spellbook)
  • Guild achievements and leveling
  • The amazing transformation of Haste and making it a useful, interesting stat for DKs (it’s really cool to have a stat that isn’t a straight DPS increase like most are)
  • The new glyph system

That’s all I can think of for now. There’s lots more. The only reason I didn’t include reforging in the list is because it’s just so complex and I have yet to wrap my brain around my feelings toward it.





Does Anybody Really Enjoy Faction Champions?

31 10 2009

I don’t try to hide it. Whenever I down Jaraxxus, I sigh at the upcoming fight. I hate Faction Champions. I’d rather lose Eye of the Storm than do this encounter, which says a lot since I’m not a huge fan of PvP. I know there are a lot of other people who don’t like it (and some crazy weirdos who do) so I thought I’d compile a list of reasons why I don’t like it.

  1. Randomness. In very few other fights can you get gibbed so easily, especially while CC’d. I can break fear once every two minutes with my PvP trinket, but when I can’t break out? More often than not the melee champions start chasing me and kill me while I’m CC’d. Is there any other encoutner in Wrath where something so random can happen (and happens frequently)?
  2. I don’t get to DPS. I spend most of my time in heroic FCs casting Chains of Ice on the Death Knight and the Rogue to keep them off our casters. So basically I end up running around, away from the kill target, to cast Chains. That’s boring. It’s not the same as having a few interesting gimmick-things to do in an encounter, like switching essences in Twin Valks.
  3. It’s not PvP. One of the irritating things about this fight is that I would likely perform better if I used a PvP spec. Since it is a raid, and not a battleground, I find this to be something of a design flaw. I’m all for some off-the-wall talents being useful sometimes (like reduced Death Grip cooldown to help with Sparks on Malygos) but when it’s better to completely nuke your DPS in favour of a bit more survival? I’ll pass, thanks.
  4. Morale. I play on a PvE server, so there are a lot of people in my raid who just don’t like PvP. Whatever people say about FCs, it will always be a PvP encounter forced into a PvE situation to me. Again, this is bad design in my opinion. If anything, this is the kind of encounter that should be put behind a PvP barrier like Wintergrasp, since at least the flavour of PvP is retained. So when we do this fight, and half the raid is irritated even before we wipe, well, it just doesn’t help the raid’s morale.

So why don’t you like Faction Champions?





Onyxia and the Raiding Doldrums

16 09 2009

Ulduar has been out basically forever. Trial of the Crusader and its heroic modes are…well, not really the most exciting raids ever. I still think that a tournament was one of the worst ideas for a raid, regardless of the lore reasons. A whole raid in one room is simply not as interesting as a place like Ulduar was when it first came out.

As well, the normal modes of most ToC fights are basically jokes. Compared to Ulduar, where fights like Mimiron and Yogg-Saron actually required some solid playing to down. So how does this tie into Onyxia? 3.2.2 – I think – should be skipped. I know it’s mostly for the 5th anniversary of WoW, but I can’t help feeling like it’s only going to make Icecrown feel further away.

Some raiders I know are sort of in autopilot these days and I can’t blame them. Ulduar after months and months is pretty boring and ToC isn’t much better. Icecrown is supposed to be the saving grace of an expansion that’s had its fair share of rocky moments, but we have to get through 3.2.2 first. Personally, I couldn’t give two shits about Onyxia coming back. Some are excited, but remember how many people liked Naxx after a few months?

At this point, I really just want to see Icecrown. Enough of raids that only tangentially involve Arthas or are easy/boring. What’s keeping me playing isn’t the current content but what’s on the horizon: Cataclysm and Icecrown.





Faulty Thinking And The Armor Penetration Nerf

5 09 2009

In a recent blue post, Ghostcrawler stated that the ArPen nerf going live in 3.2.2 (on PTR now) was intentional. He claims the reason for this nerf is that people were focusing on ArPen at the expense of all other stats. So it needed to be nerfed to make sure that melee DPS and MM hunters wanted other stats.

Does anyone else see the faulty thinking involved? Ever since I hit 80, I’ve been gemming pretty much purely for Strength at the cost of socket bonuses and other stats. As it stands now, especially with the ArPen nerf, Strength eclipses Crit, Haste, and ArPen. So why are they nerfing ArPen as opposed to buffing Haste and Crit to make them valuable stats for DKs?

Instead of avoiding gear without ArPen, as GC stated was the case, I often find myself choosing gear with sockets and caring very little about the stats, be they Haste, Crit or ArPen. How is that any better? I’d prefer it if they were useful rather than simply stuff that isn’t Strength on gear. That’s what I like about my Mage – Crit and Haste are both valuable stats, which makes gearing choices a bit more interesting than simply taking whatever has the most Intellect, or whatever it might be.

The only gems that matter

The only gems that matter





Sometimes The Pen Is Mightier

3 09 2009

Tristan, over at The Elitists’ Podcast, wrote something I found interesting (source):

Algalon is not a fight you bang against until he dies. That fight is fought… on combat logs, and in discussion threads on guild forums.

I haven’t fought Algalon yet, but after thinking about this, I realised that there are two kinds of fights, execution-based fights and planning-based ones. To explain the difference, I’ll compare a few encounters.

Execution

An example of an execution-based fight is Heigan, in Naxx. It’s execution-based because the mechanics of the fight basically force a certain strategy. When there’s bad stuff coming out of 3/4 the floor and a spellcasting debuff around the boss, it’s pretty obvious that you’re going to stack your ranged away from the boss and stand on the safe part of the floor. So the fight comes down to your raid being able to stay alive during the dance and cleanse some stuff. That’s the entire fight.

Aside from bugs that allowed you to hide in one corner of the room and avoid the bad green stuff completely, Heigan doesn’t really require any kind of planning as long as the raid is aware of the mechanics. A lot of Naxx is like this, perhaps to its detriment. Look at fights like Patchwerk, Grobbulus, Gluth, Thaddius, etc. Every Naxx pug I’ve done has used the same strategies for all of these encounters, which I’m taking to mean that there isn’t a large element of planning to them.

Planning

Tristan used the example of Algalon, but since I haven’t been there yet I’m going to use Anub’arak. The execution element of Anub’arak is fairly simple (execution here meaning avoiding getting hit by spikes, using permafrost to the advantage of the raid and killing the adds in a timely manner). During an attempt on this boss last night, we were executing everything well. Unfortunately, the boss enraged before we could get into the Locust Swarm phase. What this meant was that our strategy was flawed.

Since we didn’t always tank the adds close to the boss, we lost a lot of damage on the boss and the adds from cleave damage, both from ranged and melee. So the fix is to change our strategy to maximize damage on the boss while also getting the adds down quickly. So the planning element of a fight comes, in this case, when the execution aspect of a fight is not so rigid as to predetermine strategy.

Another example of a planning fight is Vezax. The execution aspect of this fight includes avoiding Shadow Crash, interrupting Searing Flame and properly using Saronite Vapors to regenerate mana (on normal mode, anyways). But unlike Heigan, you can’t just explain to your raid “avoid crashes, DPS the boss and interrupt” in order to succeed. You have to create a strategy to maximize the uptime of Shadow Crash DPS time and get the best placement on the Crashes. I doubt that every Ulduar pug uses the same Vezax strategy, unlike Naxx.

New direction?

If you compare the encounters in Naxx to ones in Ulduar, you may notice that Ulduar bosses, especially the later ones, are more planning-based than execution-based. Even relatively straightforward fights like Kologarn have some leeway in strategy. You can choose to only DPS the Right Arm when it grips someone in order to minimize Rubble, or you can kill the Right Arm and Left Arm whenever they are up. While not all Ulduar fights are planning-based (Razorscale is pretty clearly execution-based) on the whole they are more malleable when it comes to strategy.

Sometimes the optional choices in fights, such as kill orders, are linked to achievements, as with the Assembly of Iron. Other times they are simply decisions that need to be made, such as with Freya’s summoned elementals. Before going into the fight, you need to decide which elemental to DPS first and what % to stop at, when to switch, etc.

Encounters in the Trial of the Crusader are something of a mixed bag. Faction Champions is a strange combination of execution and planning because the “execution” aspect changes based on what your strategy is. Jaraxxus, on the other hand, is more execution-based. With Ulduar it seemed Blizzard was placing more weight on the planning side, but now I’m not so sure.





[SPOILERS] Initial Reactions to Cataclysm

22 08 2009

Keep in mind this post contains spoilers for the new expansion, so if you’re not into that sort of thing you should stop reading now.

That said, I thought I’d share my reactions to a few things that’ve come out.

Armor Penetration removed completely, Haste changed to increase rune refresh rates (no longer melee speed), no more AP on gear

These are the major stat changes that are going to affect Death Knights. For one, gear selection will now be limited to strength gear (with the exception of Reforging, which you can learn more about here) since Agility gear won’t have any AP to make up for lost Strength. This means itemization will have to be better spread out to accomodate DKs (we’ll need 1-handers with Str) and definitely other off-pieces with it as well.

Another side effect of this change is that there will be more competition between plate-DPS classes – no longer will some classes refuse gear because it has ArPen or any other stat.

As to the Haste change, well, this one is the most problematic. Unlike casters, who have long 3-second or higher cast times to reduce with Haste, or Warriors who have rage dumps, DKs only have so many GCDs available. If Haste significantly affects the rune refresh rate, how will we (specifically Blood and Frost DKs, who have very few open GCDs) take advantage of it? Obviously it’s very early Cataclysm’s lifetime, so hopefully this is addressed or we’ll all end up in Unholy Presence.

I think the best part (and probably the most intended aspect) of the Haste change is that it will now be a valuable stat for tanks. Unlike the current incarnation, which just gives the boss more chances to parry your swings, the new Haste will be invaluable for most tanks. Since tanks are often using runes for things like DnD and defensive cooldowns more so than DPSers, faster rune refresh rates could be very helpful.

Worgen. Humans turning into wolves. AND THEY CAN BE DEATH KNIGHTS.

I’ll most likely be rerolling a Worgen DK as soon as the expansion hits. I’m really glad I’m Alliance, though, because Goblins are ugly.

As to the rest of the changes made to the world and new zones, I’m REALLY excited about it all. I remember the months before WotLK when all that information was filtering out, and frankly I am far more interested in Cataclysm. Not only is the raid content more interesting (Arthas has been something of a lame duck for most of this expansion, after the initial shock of seeing him pop up in various quest lines), but a revamp of old Azeroth was 100% necessary.

The old content was fine when WoW started out, but since then questing has been made (barring poop quests) just plain better. So admitting that, and doing something about it, is a nice acknowledgement that Blizzard cares about both old and new content. Making levelling better makes the game better as a whole. Much time is spent levelling, whether you’re on your first character or your seventh.

On a side note…

I’m in the market for a new mouse. Wired or wireless, somewhere between 40-50$. I also need a new (preferably a really good one) VGA cable to connect a laptop to an external monitor. Mine is crappy and has some issues. So if anyone out there is fairly tech savvy and has some tips, I’d appreciate it. Any thoughts on this mouse?





Onyxia: Redux

13 08 2009

I like Onyxia as much as the next old-school raider, but this feels really lazy. In the wake of a raid instance with one room and some bosses, why is Blizzard resurrecting old raid bosses again? First there was an updated (and severely dumbed down) Naxx, and now a dragon whose head has hung in Stormwind, whose storyline is pretty much done?

Blue poster Zarhym has claimed that the mechanics will be updated to fit with “modern” raiding. The problem with this, whether or not the encounter turns out to be fun and challenging, is that there is no need for another semi-connected one-boss instance in WotLK. We’ve already had Malygos and Sartharion (and Ulduar, which was equally disconnected from Arthas and co.). If they are going to introduce more bosses, I want them to be undead – something that the Lich King throws at us to show he’s still actually around.

So Blizzard: enough recycling content. There’s plenty of interesting material going on that’s actually in Northrend and hasn’t been done to death (literally) already, so tap into that stuff and leave Onyxia where she belongs – in the grave. (I know it’s too late for this wish, but ranting is better than nothing.)





Lessons WoW PvP Could Learn From DotA

29 07 2009

While I was on vacation, I downloaded Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne to play some DotA, or Defense of the Ancients if you’re not in the loop. Playing DotA (a game made based almost completely on PvP) got me thinking about how WoW’s battleground system could be improved if Blizzard took a few lessons from DotA creator Icefrog. It might seem far-fetched or even pointless to compare a WC3 custom map with WoW, but think of it like a battleground. Each play-through of DotA takes around 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and I realized that if battlegrounds could be as fun, varied, and complicated I might play them more often.

Instead, running battlegrounds often feels more like a long, tortuous grind, especially if you’re not playing with your guild or even a group of people you know. So what does DotA have that BGs don’t?

Variety: the spice of online violence

BGs

Each DotA game lets you choose between a large number of heroes and, as the game progresses, items. While variety like this can’t be directly translated into WoW (you only get the gear and abilities available to whatever character/class you’re playing), maybe a similar effect could be achieved. Battlegrounds are already moving in this direction, what with the addition of vehicles, seaforium charges, etc. To go further than this, though: what if a new battleground revolved entirely around vehicles, and allowed you to choose one at the beginning of each BG (or on respawn) such as the Flame Leviathan fight?

This would bring vehicles closer to the way heroes are used in DotA while giving BGs a bit more replayability due to the ability to choose different vehicles each time.

Powerups!

Both BGs and DotA have powerups that you can pick up to buff your character in some way for a short period. WoW has movement speed, damage and regeneration. DotA has double damage, haste, invisibility, illusion (creates two controllable copies of your hero) and regeneration. The difference between the two is that these runes (as they’re called in DotA) are central to successful DotA play, while their equivalents in WoW are nothing more than afterthoughts. Speed buffs are usually wasted (except in twinking and WSG) due to the existence of mounts. Making these short buffs strategic rather than near-useless could add new elements of play to battlegrounds.

There could even be powerups for vehicles, such as armor upgrades, speed boosts (more useful for vehicles since they usually move slower than mounts) and extra siege damage.

Map interactivity

DotA is a lot like the old Alterac Valley, but back when people actually did the quests and captured rams or wolves and turned in armor scraps. In DotA, there are neutral creeps that you can farm for gold, a neutral boss (Roshan) who drops a special item, and neutral shops scattered around the map. This means that there is more to do than solely capture enemy objectives and kill enemy heroes. For example, it offers the choice between “laning” (staying in one of the three lanes present in DotA and fighting the creeps the opposing side sends) or “jungling” (running around in the forest killing neutral creeps, usually unopposed by enemy heroes).

Some ideas to translate map interactivity into WoW are: the ability to pick up items unique to specific battlegrounds; perform tasks other than capturing objectives and killing the enemy; and maybe even teleporters or items that allow you to teleport around the map (not entirely new to WoW either, see this item).

Killing enemies

In DotA, killing an enemy hero gives you gold and experience while simultaneously denying the dead hero time in the lane, experience, and taking a bit of gold out of his coffers. In WoW BGs, killing an enemy doesn’t give you anything, aside from eliminating the competition on the way to capturing map objectives. In Wintergrasp, you gain rank (the only way to get vehicles) but it’s often easier to simply kill the NPCs scattered around the map. This is especially true if, as on my server, tenacity is often fudged up at the beginning of a game, giving one side 20 stacks for a short time.

In 3.2, Blizzard is changing the way honour works in BGs, giving bonus honour for defending objectives and capturing flags or bases. I applaud this change, but also think it should be accompanied by a different one. If there is some in-BG penalty (i.e. something that does not affect your character outside of the current battleground) for dying, it might make you think twice about rushing off headlong into a crowd of enemies, which is a popular style of BG play. In DotA, part of the punishment for death is a long respawn time, which gets longer as you level up your hero. While I don’t think WoW BGs should take on this same method (people, including me, would complain) perhaps dying repeatedly could leave debuffs, akin to resurrection sickness (but with a variety of different negative effects) and killing enemies could leave behind buffs.

This is similar to a mode called “item drop” in DotA, which, as the name suggests, causes your hero to drop an item from his inventory at each death, allowing opposing heroes to pick it up.

A 5-man battleground

People, including me, love small teams of people. I love Warsong Gulch for this reason — it’s really the only battleground that I can play with a full guild group, rather than playing with pugs. If a 5-man BG were introduced, as opposed to a new 40-man, it would make premade BG play a lot easier. It might even allow for a more serious BG, akin to arena, rather than the spray and pray approach taken in most other WoW BGs (which typically rely on large crowds of people running around attacking lone opponents). Playing with strangers generally reduces the amount of teamwork and fun available in a given BG, so a small one might make people take BGs more seriously.

Obviously not all of the features in DotA can translate successfully into WoW since the games are so different, but I certainly think that WoW could do well to craft a BG based on DotA’s successful model.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.