WoW Classic: The gentle nudge towards being social

WoW Classic beta has started, and people are posting about it. This post from Rohan, who’s blog I can’t comment on without jumping through a dozen hoops thanks to the Blogger platform, highlights a major reason why I think overall Classic will be more successful than current WoW; the subtle design that nudges people towards grouping and being social.

The post talks about a typical “kill 30 of X” quest, and Rohan comments that due to zone chat not working, solo’ing the quest is kind of boring (bonus boring points for doing it as a Pali). We know now that years later, this ‘problem’ would be solved by Blizzard in a few ways. First, the time to kill anything goes way up for everyone, so it simply doesn’t take as long to kill 30 of something in post WotLK WoW as it did prior. Second, the quest design goes from 30 to 10 mobs, or from 30 of a specific mob to a smaller number of anything that remotely looks like a goblin. Finally, every class is able to solo efficiently, so regardless of what you are playing, the pace is basically the same, and that pace is set to hyperspeed compared to Vanilla. Oh and you basically can’t die, because death = bad and progress = good.

Grouping with other players inherently has some disadvantages, right? First you need to actually form the group and be in the same place, which takes time (sometimes a pretty long time if people are being slow). Then you all need to be on the same quest, or want to accomplish the same thing (run a dungeon for example). That doesn’t just automatically happen, so again effort is needed. Finally you have whatever game design roadblocks exist, be it kill credit only going to one party member, mobs only dropping one quest item, or an XP penalty for being in a group.

Short-sighted game design ‘fixes’ the above issue by making the game more solo friendly, or by making grouping as easy as possible (group finder, everyone gets credit, everyone gets the item, you only need one item, etc). The result is a streamlined game, where you are never more than a moment away from ‘the good stuff’, and all the ‘bad stuff’ like waiting for a group or looking for mobs is gone.

I saw short-sighted because we know what has happened to WoW, and most will be re-reminded come Classic.

What Vanilla did so well was that while it allowed for solo gameplay (unlike EQ1 back in that time), it encouraged and rewarded grouping. You generally benefitted by being in a group, especially a decently organized one (guild group). This push towards grouping lead to people finding guilds, which lead to social hooks sinking in and people staying active and playing/paying longer. You’d run a dungeon you don’t ‘need’ to help a guild member, while in a world where everything is solo, you only run that content if YOU need it. That leads to you consuming content much faster, and eventually ‘running out’ and moving on from the game.

While I have long stated that WoW being as popular as it was happened due to a combo of good game design and luck, the fact remains that the baseline design of Vanilla did have a lot of good things going for it, and in contrast to today’s MMOs, a lot of that good design was around pushing people to be social.

Which is pretty ironic if you think about it, as back in 2004 WoW was viewed (mostly correctly) as overly solo friendly compared to its peers. Perhaps the upcoming success of Classic will, wait for it… inspire some Classic clones and we get a decent, actual MMO titles at some point. Crazy huh?

Posted in Blogroll, MMO design, World of Warcraft | 4 Comments

Battle Brothers: Initial impressions of Warriors of the North expansion

The most recent Battle Brothers expansion, Warriors of the North, is exactly what I want in an expansion for a great game; more of the same. I think the worst thing an expansion can do to a game you enjoy is really mix it up, because that always runs the risk of changing the stuff you liked into something new that you don’t.

WotN’s biggest addition is alternate starts. Prior to this expansion, every game of BB started the same, with the same ruleset. Now there are a bunch of different starts, with unique game rules and starting units. The start I have the most experience with right now is the peasant militia, which allows you to field up to 16 units in battle (vs normally 12), a roster of 25 total, but you can’t recruit higher-tier backgrounds.

The big change for that start is of course being able to bring 4 additional units to a battle, as that is HUGE. The drawback is that since you can’t hire the top-tier backgrounds, I’m expecting that late-game things might be difficult. On the other hand, 16 brothers with top-tier gear is still very powerful, and while you won’t get those ‘perfect’ recruits (Hedgeknight or Noble with great starting stats/stars), a lot of the lower-tier backgrounds can still turn out really powerful if you find the right hire.

Additionally, since you can’t hire the more expensive backgrounds, your wage costs stay low, especially at higher levels (high-tier backgrounds scale up faster in cost), which means more funds for buying better gear or hiring new recruits fishing for awesome stats/stars.

I’m very much looking forward to the other origin starts, especially lone wolf and the raiders.

The other major addition is the new enemy faction; barbarians. The have a very aggressive approach to combat, with most of their units being somewhat glass cannons. This makes them more dangerous than raiders, as raiders tend to be more balanced/random in their gear, while barbarians favor 2h weapons and usually don’t use shields.

What’s cool about the new faction is you can also loot their gear, which brings new options and looks to your band. I haven’t faced the higher-tier barbarians yet, but even the lower level thralls do drop some decent armor and helms to help you in the early game.

Much more as I continue to dive in, but if you enjoyed Battle Brothers, you absolutely must get WotN.

Posted in Random | 1 Comment

Additional thoughts on Enderal

I’ve been chipping away at Enderal for a bit now, and have seen enough of it to give some initial thoughts. Overall its fantastic and well worth the price (free), but it’s not flawless.

Graphically it looks as good as Skyrim is likely to look in 2019. The world is beautifully built, the lighting is really excellent, and even the character models look much improved from what we normally see in Skyrim. All of this graphical excellence does come at a cost, and even on my top-end rig, the frame rate does dip below 60 at times (Enderal runs on the original version of Skyrim, which is capped at 60 FPS). I imagine the game would be 100% unplayable if released back when Skyrim originally came out.

The voice work is pretty hit or miss for me. A lot of it is good to great, but you do notice the occasional inconsistency, and some of the actors are REALLY bad. The writing itself is very good however, so even bad voice acting still mostly delivers interesting dialog. The random chatter of people in cities or enemies as you fight them is also a step up from Skyrim.

Gameplay mechanics are good, if perhaps a bit too complex. I get wanting to evolve Skyrim, and to add more depth, but sometimes it feels like there is complexity for the sake of complexity, or skills/abilities that only work when specifically combined with something else. Getting the combo to work does feel rewarding, but only the first few times, and in a game like this, you end up fighting A LOT, so repetition has to feel enjoyable rather than a chore.

The game is also a bit too into itself with some of the systems, where if you know all of the information, things click, but if you just try to approach things casually, you are going to struggle. Many of the quests aren’t directed, and while some of them you can figure out, a few I’ve had to look up, and once I had the answer, still couldn’t figure out WHY that was the answer.

The game doesn’t auto-scale like Skyrim, which overall is good, but the swings in difficulty can be pretty extreme. More than once now I’ve had the first few steps of a quest be very doable, and suddenly the next step appears to require you to be significantly stronger. The good here is that this encourages you to find stronger equipment and really take advantage of food, potions, and enchanting, but it can also be frustrating to run into a brick wall of an enemy and return later to finish that quest.

I’ll likely write more as I get deeper into the game, at least until this Thursday when the next Battle Brothers expansion is released, but again if you own Skyrim and enjoy that style of game, you should enjoy Enderal.

Posted in Random | 4 Comments

Epic Game Store exclusives walkback

Back in December I predicted that one of the differentiator points Epic was trying to have with its store, the 2 week long return policy, would end up being changed. It then got changed in Jan, to be exactly the same return policy Valve has with Steam.

Another competitive advantage is exclusive, and now Epic is attempting to walk back the negativity related to that practice. Tim from Epic tries to rope Steam into the picture, by saying they will drop exclusives if Steam lowers the cut they take from devs, but that entire line of logic is comical. First, the two items (exclusives and dev % cut) aren’t at all related, so why group then? Second, does the gaming industry, which is currently thriving, really need Tim to come and ‘save it’ from big bad Steam? Third, this still doesn’t solve the core problem with the Epic store; it stinks from a feature perspective compared to Steam, and that’s mostly why players have been so against Epic exclusives.

I predict Valve won’t comply to this demand (because they don’t need to), while I also predict that Epic exclusives will slowly dry up. And once the exclusives dry up, Epic’s store will become that thing you need to have to play Fortnite, much like Origin and whatever Blizzard calls their launcher are just things you have to deal with to play those companies’ titles (or ignore them because they aren’t on Steam, as I suspect a decent chunk of people do).

Give me one version of a PC game store (Steam), just like I really wish there was a singular entertainment platform like old Netflix.

Posted in Random, Rant, Steam Stuff | 2 Comments

Battle Brothers next expansion out May 9th!

Obviously buying this the first day I can, as Battle Brothers has quickly become one of my favorite games in recent years.

This expansion adds a lot of great stuff, including different options and rule-sets to start a game, a new enemy faction, a rework on how to acquire legendary items, and lots more.

May 9th can’t come soon enough!

Posted in Random | 2 Comments

CR: Trophy Road is a good addition to the game

A big update has hit Clash Royale, bringing a new card (earthquake), balance changes, and some upcoming game modes. The biggest addition IMO is the introduction of “Trophy Road”, which adds rewards as you move up in trophy ranks.

The system is more enjoyable than the season-end chest as its more immediate, and the rewards come in smaller chunks, which means more rewards for smaller increments of trophy gain. The smaller gaps means pushing towards your next reward doesn’t feel as daunting, or leads to people basically not caring about trophy amounts towards the end of a season if they aren’t close to moving up.

This change also speeds up progression in the game overall, which is something that SuperCell has been doing in both Clash Royale and Clash of Clans. Until recently, progress was the main driver of revenue, as the game allowed you to spend to progress. Now however progression is being slowly phased out by fluff, be it skins or emotes, as a source of revenue. This is a good direction for the players, and hopefully for the company as well with more sustained revenue.

With progression being faster in both games, as well as the quality of updates being really high of late, now is an excellent time to start up or return. Come join us in Supreme Cream!

Posted in Clash of Clans, Clash Royale, Inquisition Clan, RMT

CoC:Pay to get it now

Small item for today, but I thought it was kind of brilliant.

In Clash of Clans, the last updated added seasons, where for $5 you get additional rewards for completing tasks (if you don’t pay you still get some rewards from the free tier). The final paid reward for the season is a skin for the barbarian king. There are very easy daily tasks, and then longer weekly tasks that unlock. Since not all tasks are open right away, you can’t earn the skin until later.

Well, except if you just spend gems (paid currency) to earn points towards rewards directly. The primary (at least IMO) reason for including this option is for those who are close to the final reward towards the end of the season, but for whatever reason can’t actually get there. Rather than frustrating them, the game allows you to pay a bit more and still get it. It’s a good option for allowing people to get the fluff they might want. It’s not like there is any real prestige or bragging rights for earning the skin; its overall super-easy if you just play the game daily.

What I didn’t expect, though perhaps should have, is that people are spending gems to earn the skin NOW because they don’t want to wait. Anyone currently using the skin has paid extra, because its impossible to have earned it by just playing. And again, this is kind of brilliant of SuperCell, because why not collect more money from people if they REALLY want the fluff now, and are willing to pay you more for it?

Posted in Clash of Clans, RMT