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What if all raids were end game raids?

What if all raids were end game raids
Sometimes the forums come up with some interesting discussions. Poster Locomonkey over on the EU forums posted this doozy of an idea, which Taepsilum then responded to in detail. They both have me thinking about the idea as well -- what if every raid, from the original 60 raids to the Cataclysm level 85 raids, was updated to level 90? What if, when the next expansion came out, all the Mists of Pandaria raids as well as all those previous raids were in some fashion made current with level 95, or 100, or whatever current endgame happens to be? What are the pros and cons of this idea?

I'm not going to dredge over every point already made, you can go read Locomonkey's original post, and Taepsilum's well reasoned list of what the pitfalls to avoid in such a system would be. Instead, I'm going to speculate on how you could address those pitfalls. How do you make a system with so many potential raids tuned and balanced, deal with all the updated loot from those instances, and keep from drowning raid groups in choices? My suggestions are as follows:

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Mists of Pandaria

Valor points and player choice

Valor points and player choice
I get very frustrated with the valor point system. One of my characters is at the point where the only thing to do with valor points is upgrade gear, while the other struggles to accumulate enough valor to buy anything. Worse, they're on different servers, so I don't even get the buff when I cap valor on my main. Plus, in order to even spend valor, I had to grind a whole bunch of reputations so for a while I had valor and couldn't even spend it.

So it was with interest that I saw this forum thread detailing one player's issues with valor, which were interesting to me precisely because they weren't a problem I was having - instead, the argument seemed to be that the player was wasting effort and doing enough in a week to generate over 2000 valor, but the cap meant that more than half of that weekly play was meaningless. That kind of surprised me, because I only cap valor when I clear all the raid content, but I could see it after thinking about the issue. What was even more interesting to me was the idea presented that the valor cap served as a punitive measure punishing players who were running enough dailies, doing the daily scenario and heroic, and hitting each LFR in a week.

Vaneras responded, and those responses are worth discussing I think.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items, Mists of Pandaria

The balance between new and old content

The balance between new and old content
In some ways, the development team on World of Warcraft has to constantly pay for their own successes. Nostalgia is a potent force, and players often look back fondly on their favorite experiences and want to experience them again. The recent patch 5.1 changes allowing max level players to enter and solo older raid content is a testament to how much goodwill there is towards these older experiences. In both Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, older dungeons were revamped and raised to the then-level cap as heroics, and two older raids (Zul'Gurub and Zul'Aman) were brought into Cataclysm as five man dungeons to tie into a further storyline.

Today, while reading the forums I came across a post by Nethaera that really sums up the difficulty in this kind of balance between player nostalgia and new experiences. One of the things I think Cataclysm showed us was that there are limits to how much time players will accept spent on revamping old content and that Blizzard really has to focus on what's new in order to keep the game moving forward. As much as we all love a good soak in nostalgia, it's never as good to actually eat the leftovers as we convinced ourselves it was.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria

WoW Archivist: How forum trolls broke a CM

A Tseric post from 2006
WoW Archivist explores the secrets of World of Warcraft's past. What did the game look like years ago? Who is etched into WoW's history? What secrets does the game still hold?

Last week, I included some passionate but mostly reasonable discussion of debuffs on the official forums from the earliest days of WoW and beyond. The official forums have always been a rough and tumble part of the game -- an area that Blizzard has always wanted to improve.

Trolls invade

One can speculate about a dozen different reasons for why WoW's official forums have been so full of jerks. Is it because there are just so many players and thus so many people with forum access, raising the statistical jerk demographic? Does the game's immense popularity encourage people to demand more of the company that makes it than any other in gaming? Does the ongoing passion for WoW simply make the forums the best place to troll on the Internet?

The forums have become gradually better over time, but the vanilla and Burning Crusade eras were completely out of control. Caught off-guard by the game's explosive early popularity, Blizzard's first team of community managers found themselves overwhelmingly outnumbered in their own forums. They couldn't possibly hope to keep up with the sheer volume of threads being generated. The CMs did what they could, but it was a losing battle from the start. The trolls took the forums by storm, and Blizzard never fully ousted them.

Then, in May 2007, one community manager simply couldn't take it any more.

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Filed under: WoW Archivist

How feedback works and why it matters

How feedback works and why it matters
Lately I've seen some forum posts that confuse me. Perhaps it's because these posts themselves seem confused. Posts like this one, where Librily the worgen mage accuses Blizzard and World of Warcraft's development team of soliciting feedback that they don't actually look at. I find this especially odd on a forum where community managers regularly engage with posters, and I wanted to address what feedback is, how it works, and why it matters now and going forward.

Frankly, it is impossible to look at the design of Mists of Pandaria and not see how much player feedback has influenced the design of the expansion. The 85 to 90 game is everything Cataclysm was not -- it all takes place in a seamless new land, it removed flying in order to provide player immersion, it works the Horde/Alliance conflict into the storyline. It is in every way the result of player feedback being constructively weighted and utilized responsibly. By that, I mean that the game's developers clearly looked at what players were saying they liked and disliked and worked to find ways to address player concerns.

What they didn't do -- what they have never done and cannot ever do -- is simply go to the forums, see who yelled loudest, and give them everything they wanted. That would be absurd design by mob, it would produce an unplayable game full of broken classes and most importantly of all, it would not be fun to play. Games require a ton of work to produce, especially a game like World of Warcraft, and the amount of effort behind the scenes to bring what we get to see and experience does not allow for that kind of design even if it were desirable, which it is not. Game design is not about giving the players everything they say they want, nor is it about doing everything they say as soon as they say it.

Let's talk about how good feedback works, the difference between opinion and fact, and why taking the time to make a well constructed argument is worthwhile even if you don't see any signs of it changing anything.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria

How is World of Warcraft not a cheeseburger?

How is World of Warcraft not a cheeseburger
I love analogies, but sometimes they get used to the point where they cease to be useful. And I find the idea of comparing World of Warcraft to a cheeseburger you ordered to be one of those times. But this forum thread, started by forum poster Otsego (who is surprisingly not undead) comparing the changes in the hunter class to ordering a cheeseburger and getting mayo on it (I hate mayo, by the way) and not being able to get the burger without the mayo. The thread ended up getting a lot of posts from players and Ghostcrawler alike, so I thought it worth some analysis. Seriously, I freaking hate mayonnaise. If this wasn't a family site I would be filling this post with profanity and vulgarity right now about how bad mayo is.

Ghostcrawler's first response to the thread interests me for a variety of reasons. The first reason is this quote:

I've actually used the restaurant analogy myself, because few restaurant patrons have the impression that they're going to be able to go back into the kitchen, give the chefs pointers, rearrange the menu and so on just because they think highly of their own opinions on food.

Clearly he's never gone out to dinner with me. (I kid, I kid, I'm actually a very quiet and shy person in public.) But his later point about the desire to try and satisfy a very diverse playerbase with the game's design resonated with me, and it got me thinking about how World of Warcraft is, to a degree, a victim of its own success. Not only do you have to design each class to fill specific roles in a way dictated by its thematic roots (hunters and mages are both ranged DPS, but how they ranged DPS is wildly different for instance) but you also have to design for a very wide variety of players. That's much harder than simply slapping a variety of options up on a big menu board and being done with it.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, Mists of Pandaria

Mists of Pandaria: Ghostcrawler on valor point acquisition

Mists of Pandaria Ghostcrawler on Valor point acquisition
One of the topics we see and hear a lot of questions about is how we'll gain valor points in Mists of Pandaria. Some posters on the forums are estimating over 30 hours for two pieces of valor gear. Poster Ghatok found this a bit troubling and asked for clarification, and Ghostcrawler gave him exactly that.

The short answer is no, it's not accurate. The long answer goes into more detail, and so here it is in full.

Ghostcrawler - 30hrs for 1 piece of valor? accurate?
To answer the original question, no those numbers are not accurate. Without getting into all of the details, we have features like a bonus for the first activity of the day to encourage players to experiment with lots of different types of content rather than just solving which is the most efficient and running that until you're very sick of it (we call this the Mechanar Syndrome). We can try to put together a blog or some other way to convey all of the different ways to earn valor and how it all fits together.

Now, we are asking you to participate some in daily quests, scenarios, raid finder, challenge modes and the other new systems we're introducing in Mists of Pandaria. One of the pieces of feedback we heard loud and clear from Cataclysm is "I'm done raiding for the week and want to play WoW, but there is nothing to do." I know it's easy to dismiss everything that we're trying to give you to do as grinding, and I don't think we'll be able to change your mind on that until you get in the game and actually try out the content. We're pretty excited about it. Also note that players who raid the most will likely need to earn the least valor, because they'll have so many opportunities to get actual item drops.

For those of you only interested in raiding full stop, we were able to deliver a bunch of bosses for 5.0. So I think it's cynical to say that we're just adding grinding mechanics to stretch out the lifespan of the content. It's more that we're trying to give you something to do in between raids that feels like you're still making progress on your character.

I'll admit that I personally intend to work out the fastest way to get the most valor possible and do that. That is how I play the game. And I'm perfectly happy to play it that way. But for people who complain there's nothing to do, it sounds like Mists of Pandaria is aimed squarely at squelching those complaints.

I will admit, I want that blog post explaining how this is all going to work, and I really want to know if justice points are still going to be part of the picture or not. I still have them on my beta characters, but I don't know if that means anything.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: News items, Mists of Pandaria

The danger of assuming personal experiences to be universal

The danger of making personal experience universal
Whether or not you can believe it, there are players right now who have not finished regular Dragon Soul. Some of them raid less often, some of them started later, some of them lost players, and some of them just raid more slowly than you.

And yes, you may be a better raider or have a better raid group than they do, a more skilled collection of people. You also might have a better class comp or have gotten lucky on a few occasions when they didn't. Some groups lost key players at the worst possible time, had real-life issues to contend with, or simply started later than everyone else.

Why do I bring this up? This forum thread on the EU forums, where Draztal ( who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite CMs) is constantly forced to deal with a mindset that does not seem to understand that each raiding group's experience is personal to that group and cannot always be extended to the game or all its players as a whole. Now, not every poster in that thread has that issue; there are some good ones in there, and you should read it. But it's a mindset I see over and over again.

The game is large, and no two raid groups have the same experience playing it. Some raid groups loved tier 11; others were bored or hated the fights. Some raids had fun in Firelands; others found it repetitive or disliked the zone's tendency to be all one color. (I still say Bastion of Twilight had exactly the same problem, but that was alleviated by its being one of three raids at launch.) Some folks have enjoyed Dragon Soul; others dislike the mechanics or the use of Wyrmrest art assets.

Having these differences of opinion is a fine thing and can be good for the game and its community -- when you acknowledge that they exist, and when you realize that your own strongly held opinion about the raid finder, heroic modes in raiding, or the superiority of this fight or that fight is rooted in personal experience to some extent and that experience will never be shared with everyone. That goes for things you love and things you hate equally.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Raiding, Cataclysm

Would we want content that hasn't been tested?

Would we want content that hasn't been tested
Lately, the EU forums have been on my must-read list due to posts like this one. Poster Ask (no sign of Embla) posed the question, as it is right and appropriate that Ask should do, of whether or not Blizzard could or should release new content without there being a PTR or beta for it.

I wasn't even done sputtering yet when CM Takralus pretty much said what I would have, were I not busy sputtering.

Takralus - "New" content and an idea
New content must be tested. Many, many players enjoy being able to test and give their feedback on upcoming new content, and we put that feedback to good use. But, many more people do not test it, and first experience it when the content is actually released.

The simple truth is that if you do not want to see maps and tactics for upcoming content, it's not too hard to avoid. Neither of those are things that will burn into your mind, never to be forgotten.

The day WoW launched, even that had first been through an alpha and then beta test, where people could play and give feedback for months :P

Even with beta tests, bugs get through. Anyone remember Sinestra? At the time Paragon killed her, they talked about the fight and its issues. One of those issues was that Paragon was one of the first guilds to really see Sinestra, and as a result, the fight had bugs that were not discovered until after Paragon began seriously pushing for the kill. In other words, not testing Sinestra on the PTR had consequences that may be acceptable with a single fight that only a few players will even see while it is current and that will be fixed by the time other guilds go back while outgearing it.

These consequences would absolutely be ruinous if they were felt by everyone attempting to do normal-mode raiding content. To a degree, not running a PTR or beta test is irresponsible on Blizzard's part, especially with content meant for the majority of players. I really think the responsibility for walking into a raid fresh, unspoiled by tips or beta testers, is on the players. Better we have some spoilers than untested content.

And yes, we had both an alpha and a beta for World of Warcraft. They didn't translate to having everyone know everything when it went live. Heck, half the time, it just confused you because stuff changed so much. I really fall on the side of those who appreciate beta testing.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

No-brainer talent and cookie-cutter builds

I was reading the forums the way I do recently, when I came across this thread. In it, the original poster Strawberry asked for examples of talents in the new talent system that players would always take. In the current talent system, as an example, no fury warrior would avoid Flurry. You'd be an idiot to do so.

Ghostcrawler
chimed in, indicating that he wanted to increase people's awareness of the thread and get them participating, because the thread was useful. The reason it is useful is because no-brainer talents are something Blizzard's trying to do away with in the new talent scheme, and the only way to really know what talents are must haves is to have people tell them.

The entire purpose of the new talent system is to promote choice and do away with the cookie-cutter builds of the previous and current talent paradigm. Cataclysm actually ended up with a lot more choice than previous iterations -- you usually have a few talent points left over when you're done getting the basics down -- but Mists of Pandaria is poised to remove the concept of going elsewhere for a spec or copying someone else's build entirely.

This got me wondering. Assuming the thread does its job and helps identify talents that are too good to pass up right now and make adjustments to bring them in line, will that make the game harder or easier for new and inexperienced players?

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

Why we don't need an end boss in Mists of Pandaria

Getting back to our roots
In answering a forum post about the point of going to Pandaria (and let me just say, it's kind of a sad thing for me when adventurers need a reason to go to a new land and kill stuff for loot), Nethaera has gotten me thinking about Mists and what it says about us.

Frankly, it's not just the big bad syndrome at work, either. That's certainly a part of it: We're conditioned by The Burning Crusade, Wrath and Cata to think of expansions like series or seasons of a television program, with an overarching threat at the end that ties the experience up with a nice little bow and unifies what we did. While The Burning Crusade effectively subverted this itself with the Sunwell Plateau raid (dethroning Illidan as the end boss of his own expansion), both Wrath and Cataclysm held true to the paradigm. Really, they almost had to. Even though there was a raid after ICC, no one mistook Halion for anything but a teaser, and there's nothing going on raid-wise in Cataclysm after Dragon Soul.

With Mists of Pandaria, we're returning to the feeling, if not the execution, of classic World of Warcraft, with the world itself and our exploration of it being the focus. This doesn't mean that the previous expansions didn't have plenty of world to explore. But Mists of Pandaria sets up the theme of players and their actions and what they do to the world as well as what the world does to them. The world is full of wonders and terrors, and rather than picking one and building the expansion around it, we get to see what trouble we can get into.

I find this a fascinating return to form for a few reasons.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria

Zarhym clarifies the Mists Black Market Auction House

If, like many people, you're looking forward to the Black Market Auction House in Mists of Pandaria, Zarhym has a post for you. Zarhym points out that the BMAH is not intended to be a reliable means to gear up a character.

Zarhym - Black Market is starting to go too far
No one should count on this even being close to a viable option for gearing up a character. If you can raise that kind of gold in the game, you're going to have much better success paying your way into raids for gear than hoping the right items appear for you in the black market AH (which doesn't include set pieces), hoping you can afford to outbid everyone else on your realm, and hoping you're the last one to bid before the auction ends.

Sure, it'll have some of the best rewards for sale. But that doesn't mean it'll be remotely reliable for one person to gear up quickly. It's the black market, after all. :)

Ultimately the system is going to benefit the extremely wealthy and the extremely lucky. But in all likelihood the benefits won't at all be consistent, even for those who can pony up the gold.


This is a gold sink, plain and simple. It's a way to bleed off the vast amount of gold some people are acquiring, because when you buy an item from the BMAH, your gold doesn't go to anyone. It's a fancier, more random vendor, and if you're trying to use it to gear up your character, you'd probably get better results with the actual AH. Blizzard seems fine with this not being something designed to benefit most players, and I think that's the best way to approach it.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: News items, Mists of Pandaria

Odin the All-Father's Diablo 3 account hacked

Odin the Allfather's Diablo 3 account hacked
Someone has had the audacity to hack Odin's account, and He is demanding that Blizzard restore His items immediately. In a post on the Diablo III general discussion forums, Odin insists that not only should His items and gold be returned immediately but also that a human sacrifice be performed. He blames Blizzard for giving his data away, since his system is completely secure, and therefore it must follow the rules, else be cursed.

Here's an excerpt of the All-Father's complaint:

So I'm Odin, the All-Father; I am Iron Grim, the One-Eyed. I'm the Longbeard, Lord of Ghosts, Wise One... you get the idea. My gaming rig is engraved with protective runes, and my firewall is a wall manned by Heimdell, who sees and hears any threat to the residents of Asgard. Every day at sunrise, my entire system is massaged with a poultice of angelica, burdock, comfrey, dill, and moss provided by Eir while a healing galdr is chanted over it. My ISP is two ravens that bring me news of all the happenings in the world and is always 100% stable and secure, personally watched over by the birds. Don't ask me how they do it; I'm not spending another day on that damn tree just to find out. It's powered by human sacrifice, although I have no idea how this could be relevant; I've just seen others with the same problem posting it.

Given that personal info has never been leaked by Blizzard before, it seems unlikely the hackers got the All-Father's info from anywhere but Him or one of his subjects on Asgard. He describes a seemingly impenetrable system, however, protected by magic, herbs and faithful creatures. Someone with access to His computer must have responded to a phishing email or was otherwise careless with His login info.

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Filed under: Diablo 3

EU fansites giving away Mists of Pandaria beta keys

If you're living in Europe and waiting patiently (or even not so patiently) for an invite to the beta for Mists of Pandaria, then consider these fansites -- for they are just giving them away. CM Nakatoir posted the list of participating fansites with stashes of keys to give away on the forums, making it all the easier for you to find and enter as many as you can.

There are also threads linked for German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian players, with a French thread on the way. So get out there and enter some sweepstakes. There's nothing to lose and a possible Mists of Pandaria beta slot to win.

If you're an annual pass subscriber, however, you should already have access to the beta. Just head over to your Battle.net account page and check for the Mists of Pandaria beta account. From there, you can download the client and log in to start experiencing all the beta fun.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Blizzard, News items, Mists of Pandaria

The glyph of the future

Variations on the glyph system are a subject I think about all the time. I have ever since Path of the Titans was announced and then scrapped. I understand why it was scrapped, but it did disappoint me. It sounded cool, and I wanted to play around with the options it would provide. Recently, forum poster Madcapmcgee has asked all of us what kind of glyphs we might want to see introduced to the current system. Do we want cosmetic glyphs? If so, what would we want? Vanity glyphs? Quality of life glyphs with no direct effect on combat? And what do we want for our prime and major glyphs?

For myself, I want a glyph that lets me dual wield polearms with Titan's Grip. I have a Hellreaver, and dang it, I want to swing two of those beasts around. (Well, technically, I have a Kiril, but transmogrification means I get to have a Hellreaver.) I'd also like to see a glyph that reduces the cooldown on Heroic Leap out of combat so that I could use it like Blink, a glyph that caused me to grow every time I hit an enraged state (which is why I grabbed that Kiril that was on the DE chopping block, frankly), and finally, I'm dying for a glyph that makes Mortal Strike automatically add the Rend effect so that I never have to Rend manually again.

What do you, the viewers at home, think? What glyphs do you want to see in... the future!?!? (Imagine this in my best Criswell impression.)

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is the next expansion, raising the level cap to 90, introducing a brand new talent system, and bringing forth the long-lost pandaren race to both Horde and Alliance. Check out the trailer and follow us for all the latest MoP news!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

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