World of Warcraft Isn’t a Social Game Anymore

That’s right; I’m going to say something bad about World of Warcraft. Shoot me! Many people think that WoW is the be-all end-all game of the last decade and that all new releases are clones. In a sense, that’s true because Blizzard paved the way for other games and it would be very hard to come up with entirely new concepts in terms of mechanics, user interface and general utilities. In short, Blizzard made MMO’s popular and accessible for the masses.

That’s all fine and dandy, but it seems to me that they’re taking it one step to far. I’m talking about the Looking For Group-system (LFG) and the Looking For Raid-system (LFR). LFG and LFR allow a player to queue up and specify their role in the group (Damage, tank or healer); they end up in the queue and wait until a group has formed for a normal instance, a heroic instance or a raid encounter. In my eyes, there are several flaws in these systems that are related to population and the amount of tanks and healers in relation to the amount of DPS. Players with a damage specialization (DPS) will always have to wait far longer than healers or tanks for their group to be formed. This is due to the fact that there are far less healers and tanks than there is DPS. I’ll pull a number out of my hat and say that there’s at least 10 times more DPS than healer or tanks.

That’s a first problem with those mechanics. The second one, and this is the main point of this post, is that this mechanic makes people act like assholes. That’s harsh and very sad, but also the truth I’m afraid. There have been numerous times when my group fell apart before the first boss of an instance was downed. There’s basically one main reason for this: It’s too easy to get another group. What I mean is that if this group doesn’t go fast enough or isn’t good enough for someone’s taste they’ll just leave the group and queue up again rather than try again. Or, even worse is when a group falls apart because they just don’t like the instance. It usually goes something like this: “Oh god, not this place again!! /leave group”. That’s just extremely unpleasant, especially for DPS who have to wait 10-30 minutes before they get a group.

Also, just as a side note: the LFG system is a Blizzard conspiracy! I swear the queue always pops up when I’m on the toilet!

Furthermore, people don’t know boss strategies anymore, and this is especially apparent in LFR. LFR is just too easy. People just stand in fire because they can’t be bothered to move, or don’t even know that they should move. Of course, this puts extra strain on healers (and they usually aren’t the best kind of players … birds of a feather you know) which often results in a wipe even in LFR! And then the shitstorm begins: “Fucking DPS! You all fucking suck, kick the slackers!”. Suffice to say, many more colorful words often follow. Then, after waiting another 10 minutes for a new tank and a couple of healers you finally get that boss down (let’s say it’s Spine of Deathwing, wipes often happen there it seems) and the looting can begin. There are people needing for all kinds of things they don’t need. Needing for off-spec, needing for downgrades (what?!), needing for Tier tokens they already have, etc. This results in another shit storm of “FUCKING NINJA OMG! KICK!).

 

And then finally, perhaps the biggest issue I have with this is that complete absence of the social aspect. Doing heroics used to be fun, you’d meet new people, have a chat, etc. and perhaps even add them to your friends list, but since the dawn of the LFG system the social contact with your group doesn’t go any further than “Hey” and “Thanks for the run, bye”. Well, I’m lying … there’s more chatting (read: name-calling) if you wipe on something). With almost every group member being from a different server there’s virtually no chance of meeting the same people twice. As a comparison, it would be the same as saying “hi” to a random stranger on the street and following them around for half an hour and then leave. This only promotes anonymity and in turn has the adverse effects I mentioned earlier in this post.

The LFG and LFR system can be a thing of beauty and could help stabilize the decline in subscriptions, but it needs some polishing. Perhaps some sort of penalty for leaving a group before completing the instance? I don’t know, I’m not a developer and I have no idea what would work. All I know is that I miss the social aspect of the game more than anything, and Blizzard would do well to attempt to bring it back in some form.

That’s my ranting done; let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below!

PS: is it me, or is the player base exclusively casual these days? On my server at least there’s very little actual real or ‘hardcore’ PvP or PvE going on :S

70 Year Old Grandma Leading Her Own Raiding Guild

That gaming is for all ages is once again proven by this very interesting article over on WoWInsider. This article is a beautiful example of that. A 70 year old grandma wielding a legendary weapon and leading her own raiding guild. Turns out that not all grandma’s sit in front of a burning stove knitting socks for their husbands who’s reading the newspaper. Read the full article/interview below.

Today, we press forward from the warm, fuzzy territory covered by the Knitting Grandma with two window-rattling volleys in the battle against gamer stereotypes:

  1. You don’t have to be a granny to knit and play World of Warcraft. Even the author of Clique, the preeminent click-casting addon, gets his knit on.
  2. Whether they knit or not, even grannies can be GMs. Of raiding guilds. Who’ve raided since original Molten Core. And top the DPS meters. Wielding Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest. (So yes, that does indeed qualify her to tell you kids to “GET OFF MY LAWN!”)

Meet Marthazon, the 70-year-old GM of Spartans on Dalaran (USA).

MarthazonMain character Marthazon
Guild Spartans
Realm Dalaran (US)

WoW Insider: Level 70 in real life — and of course, GM of a raiding guild in game … That’s not a usual mix! Take us back to how you got started in this crazy WoW endeavor we all love.

Marthazon: I started playing the game on the Alliance side as Marthazon in January of 2005. I had played for about a month earlier as Horde in order to play with my daughter. She had an undead warlock. My daughter, who is 33, knew that I enjoyed the genre of swords and sorcery in literature and movies. I had read Lord of the Rings to my three children as a nightly ritual when they were young. She had bought World of Warcraft when it came out and kept nudging me to give the game a try because she “knew” I’d love it.

And obviously, you did! Coming into the game via grown children who play is a pretty common method of entry for older players, although most folks your age seem to stay on the casual side of things. How did you make the jump into raiding?

I joined Spartans at level 15, and I think that our GM at the time was at level 40 and the highest level in the guild at the time. We did every dungeon in the game as a guild, but our first venture in Molten Core hooked me on raiding. I really loved learning the fights, learning to figure out the most efficient and safest way to down each boss. At the time, the guild was using signups to fill the 40-man raids, and many raid nights we struggled and watched the time tick away before either filling our raid or cancelling the raid.

I turned to PvP when raiding slowed down or stopped. The fact that I managed to reach the PvP rank of Marshal prior to the first expansion says a great deal about the difficulties of filling a 40-man raid.

Marthazon in action

Old school! And now you’re the GM …

During The Burning Crusade, our GM found that he had too much going on in his real life to continue playing, and he passed GM to me in December of 2007. Suddenly I was responsible for enabling every player in the guild to meet their own raiding goals. An in-depth discussion between all officers led to the same conclusion: Move the guild to a set team format and maintain a roster of raiders able to commit to three nights a week. Acknowledge that real life is the more important factor for all players, and do not penalize players when real life prevents participation in the game.

Topping the meters That sounds like a pretty typical raiding guild, then — nothing granny-style about that!

We raid three times a week: Tuesday, Thursday, and we end the raid week with the Monday raid. As I said, we raid with a set team – slightly more than 25 players to hopefully cover players that need to post out. We try to hold to a 25-man raiding format but when we can’t field 25 players, we are able to quickly form 10-man raids — two 10-man raids, usually. We are recruiting and hope our future holds a third 10-man — and give the 25-man raid a better chance at filling spots.

Our members all have my phone and text number, and they are good about keeping me informed about being able to play as I’ve scheduled them. I set the entire schedule up every month and adjust it as players call when they can’t play. Working the schedule every day is the first thing I do in the morning. In addition to the Dragon Soul raids, we also play two ad hoc Fireland raids on the weekends, helping several other guild casters get their own Dragonwrath staffs.

What is the guild currently working on?

25-man Ultraxion; Spine of Deathwing and The Maelstrom in 10-man. The holidays cut into our raiding quite a bit, along with demands for overtime at many workplaces. With the economy so slow, many players relish the extra pay.

Oops

And on top of all that, we spy a Dragonwrath in your inventory — congratulations! Tell us a little bit about the long road to achieving your legendary.

Dragonwrath was quite simply a gift from my guild. I only had to run around a pick up the various items while they killed or after they killed the bosses. The process of collecting the various items takes so long that it requires dedicated raiders willing to show up week after week to make those collections possible. The one solo part of the quest line — the Nexus dungeon — was amazingly fun to do, but nothing compared to the work the guild put in.

Now, your husband doesn’t raid, so when do you get to play with him — or do you?

We do dailies together, and we farm for those ever-needed mats that raids require. It is very rare that we miss a day of playing together. We play together mostly in the morning, logging off around noon. I might return in the afternoon for some randoms and those ever-needed valor points, but I also work at our family genealogy. Afternoons often have me playing, as their ads say, family detective at Ancestry.com.

When it comes to raiding, I like fielding dedicated, knowledgeable people that have that singular desire to figure out what the developers are throwing against us and how to most efficiently down the fight. My husband enjoys the storylines and leveling, but says he has no patience for raiding and the seemingly endless wipes.

Getting ready to raid

Sounds like a perfect blend. So has Marthazon always been your main? Do you play any significant alts?

Marthazon has always been my main. I do have alts — I leveled most races and classes to enjoy their storylines and zones. I have a priest that I can raid at need for the guild when we are short healers. She’s fun … but she’s not my mage. The others are only farming alts and taken down for a spin when I need some mats for something.

What’s the average age of your guildmates, without considering you and your husband?

Average age is around 28 to 33. We have a number of husband/wife players and many with young children and several with children almost ready for college.

Do you find much of a generation gap in social interactions with your guildmates?

Not really. Now and then, someone will say something (especially in trade channel) that I don’t quite understand … I just ask in guild and someone will (usually with much laughter) tell me.

Probably the biggest generation gap I experienced was back when I was around level 40. I should paint in a bit of background first. When I first joined this guild, I was thrilled that so many of the other guildies — the toons — were women. I remember thinking that that held great promise for women being involved in technology. The day came when the guild was running Zul Farrak and one of the players, a female night elf, typed something out in chat that made me say in chat, “That sounds like something a man would say.” The run came to a standstill as the other players took great pains to explain to me (with much leet laughter) that I was the only woman in the guild at that time and why they played female avatars.

Daily quests

Were you comfortable with computers before you started playing World of Warcraft, or has playing been an introduction to that world as well?

Computers have long been a part of my life. My father worked with early computers for the GSA as a data programmer after he retired from the Army in the ’50s, and I’ve always been fascinated by the technology. My last job before retiring was computer tracking a large fleet of commercial trucks and their deliveries. I helped design the in-house program to track the data we needed to maintain, and I acted as the office IT.

When my children were toddlers, we bought a VIC-20 and a handful of text games — you know, the kind where you get a clue like “The bear is sleeping in the clearing. What do you do?” The kids would offer suggestions, and I’d type each suggestion in until we got the right one and the game responded. Two of my children went into computer technology fields.

So you’ve been at this a good, long while! Is there anything in World of Warcraft you feel you’re slowing down at or getting less efficient or effective at as you get older? Would you say that your age is affecting your game?

World of Warcraft is sort of like the French Foreign Legion of games when it comes to age. As long as you can do your part, it’s rare for someone to ask “How old are you?” As long as I can maintain the same focus and the awareness that I want from other players, I feel that I can hold my own.

I’m not the oldest, by the way, in my guild. That honor goes to my husband, who is 72. He doesn’t like to raid, however. He is our AH king, keeping our raiders in repair gold. WoW is an excellent and inexpensive recreational outlet for us old codgers. A lot less expensive than golf.

Marthazon at work

Fair enough! That said, what’s the continued draw of World of Warcraft for you? What keeps you playing?

Living on a fixed income, World of Warcraft provides a lot of entertainment that is fun and affordable. At the same time the game doesn’t require using the car, fighting traffic, crowds, or weather, buying tickets or paying fees. I have to think about what I am doing in game. I’m not a couch potato just watching a cartoon on the TV. Blizzard’s work at keeping the game open-ended and providing new content keeps me coming back.

–End of WoWInsider article–

So what do you think? Personally, I’d like to think that I’d still be so active in the gaming community when I’m 70. It would be quite interesting to see the changes along the years. Furthermore, I reckon that her years of experience (both in real life, and in the virtual world) would give her an edge in several aspects of being a Guild Master, such as people skills and insight. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

PS: Sorry for the absence (again), I’ve been quite busy and I’m working on a few new projects … albeit outside of this website. Stay tuned though!

/Niels

30 Day Game Challenge # 19 – My Favourite MMO

Hah! This one couldn’t be easier … Since I spent 5 years playing this game it’s bound to be my favourite MMO. I am, of course, talking about World of Warcraft. I spent a couple of years on a private server with a friend or two after which I moved on to the official version. I reckon I was the biggest noob on the realm for a couple of months, until I got into raiding. I joined a raidguild and switched my main character from a mage to a Holy Paladin. Turns out the class was exactly the right thing for me. I became quite adapt at healing and in Wrath Of The Lich King I changed factions and joined a higher-ranked raid guild where we managed to kill Heroic Lich King after about 100 wipes I think.

I had such good times playing this game, and not because of the game itself but because of the people I met there who still continue to be friends even if I don’t play the game anymore.

PS: I’m not a fan of the way Blizzard is taking it’s cash cow, Kung Fu Panda wtf?

Join us tomorrow for day 20!

Mists Of Pandaria Is The New World Of Warcraft Expansion

Hey there guys, exciting things are happening at Blizzcon but that’s fairly normal! What’s so exciting this year is that Blizzard announced the new expansion for World of Warcraft yesterday. Rumours have been surfacing about the new expansion for months now and turns out some of those were actually right. The new expansion is called Mists of Pandaria.

Anyone familiar with World of Warcraft knows of Pandaren, a mystical race with only a few obscure references in WoW lore. The expansion, Mists of Pandaria, is set in Pandaria a realm inspired by several Asian cultures.

Pandaria will feature:

  • 5 New leveling zones to explore
  • Single, unified continent
  • Influenced by Asian landscapes
  • AH, Bank, and Central Questing Hub
  • There’s 5 leveling zones but they are very large zones, and you won’t have your flying mount

Naturally, there will be a new playable race, in this case the Pandaren. They’re basically big ass panda’s that know Kung Fu. That’s very boldly stated, but that’s the jist of it. Only one new race you ask? Well, that’s the interesting part: All Pandaren start as neutral, and at level 10 you choose for Horde or Alliance.

Pandaren racials are listed below:

  • Bouncy: reduces fall damage by half.
  • Inner peace: double rested XP.
  • Gourmand: +15 to cooking.
  • Epicurean: double stats to food buffs

Pandaren will have Hunter, Mage, Monk, Priest, Rogue, Shaman and Warrior as playable classes. Apparently, they can’t be Death Knights which would make sense since there’s no Lich King around to actually make Death Knights.

The next big thing is the new playable class. Blizzard is going to implement a ‘Monk’ class, a very melee based class that starts at level 1 and as such is NOT a hero class like a Death Knight. Below are the features for the Monk class.

  • Brewmaster – Tank spec
  • Mistweaver – Healer, a healer who can stand up in melee and will let players experience a “new healing style”
  • Windwalker – Melee DPS
  • The class is very martial-arts based
  • Lots of monk-only animations, the healer and tanks will have different stances they can stand in, etc …
  • Monk Races – All of them except Goblin and Worgens

Some other features of the expansion are:

  • Level cap raised to 90
  • New class: Monk
  • New race: Pandarens
  • Pve Scenarios
  • Pet Battle System (Pokemonnn!)
  • New Talents
  • New continent
  • Challenge Mode Dungeons

Looks like there’s going to be quite a lot of changes to several systems and features as well, I’m not going to list all of the here but I’ll add the ones that I think are most important.

  • Spell books cleaned up, got rid of more junk, the goal is to clean up action bars a little more without removing the fun things.
  • Rotations will be improved
  • Spells will be automatically learned, you won’t have to go to your trainer anymore.
  • You will get a new spell at level 87, level 90 new talent point.
  • Talent trees should be fun, and you should have more choice than just a cookie cutter build.
  • There is no new central villain, the story will focus on the war between Horde and Alliance
  • Hunter minimum range is gone! (Shooting a gun from point blank range? Nice!)
  • Hunter melee weapon is gone!
  • Ranged slot for all other characters are gone.
  • Relics are gone.
  • Rogues and warriors can now throw their melee weapon
  • Wands become main hand weapons (no more statsticks)
  • 3 New epic raids
  • They will feature two enemy races, the Mogu and the Mantid.
  • Raid Finder, Normal, and Heroic difficulties will be available for all raids from day 1.
  • World raid bosses will return!
  • Increased focus on max level content, it will reward you with Valor Points
  • More quest choices, and a lot less linear
  • No flying until max level, it’s much easier to keep people on the ground and create interesting quests when you know people won’t just fly away and drop on the boss.
  • 9 new dungeons in the new expansion
  • 6 dungeons will be on Pandaria
  • Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery (Wings 1 and 2) will be back in Heroic Mode

So, what do you think? Excited or not? I’m not sure myself, Pandaren don’t seem very interesting to me from a lore perspective and I reckon we’ve almost exhausted most of the central villains in WoW so there won’t be a new one. The focus on the war between Horde and Alliance sounds interesting, but there won’t be a winning side in this conflict as it would have tremendous consequences. The only thing that really interests me is the new Monk class, as a healer myself I’m very interested in this new ‘melee healer’ style. Still, to me it seems like they’re wanting to stretch their game out for a bit longer. Guess we’ll have to wait and see until new information trickles down from the throne of Chris Metzen.

Watch the trailer for the expansion below and if you want more info you can visit the official website.

PS: The Pandaren starting zone is a giant turtle …

/Niels

World of Warcraft is losing subscribers

WoW subscribers Chart until 2009

Not to worry though, World Of Warcraft is doing just fine. WoW is still the best selling MMO by a mile. Furthermore, Activision released mind-dazzling revenue numbers earlier today. So why such a (large) loss in subscribers? Well, the level they’re at now (+11 million) is pretty normal after a release of an expansion, granted the numbers are dropping faster than in previous expansions but that is mostly due to the fact that players are devouring content a lot faster than say in The Burning Crusade. Because the game is more oriented to the casual player, rather than to the (semi-) hardcore ones.

I myself recently stopped playing after 5 years. Why? Because I think it became boring. This brings us to a second and less positive explanation for the loss of suscribers. Since Cataclysm (and partially during Wrath Of The Lich King) I hear a lot of players complaining that the game is boring and extremely repetitive and catered to the casuals. I can certainly relate to that as it is the reason why I quit. I used to be a pretty avid WoW player, in a top 500 guild and one of the better Holy Paladins around. Bragging aside, it was extremely fun to beat encounters and get gear upgrades.

The constant need to upgrade your gear became extremely repetitive for me in the end. With every content patch new raid content was released with new boss fights (albeit with the same mechanics, fire = hot remember?) and new gear. So basically, you had to start over once a new patch was released. Until that point I was still enjoying the game to its fullest, mind you. Then, with the release of Wrath Of The Lich King Blizzard implemented the Heroic modes. They’re essentially the same bosses, with one or two extra mechanics and upgraded loot, which was in effect the same loot (same name, same look) with slightly better stats. This basically meant starting over again gearwise, with essentially the same encounters. I can certainly understand people getting bored of that.

Moving on to the third cause for the steady decline in subscriptions. Time to face the facts, World Of Warcraft is an aging game. It’s been around for 6 years or something like that so it’s only natural that players move on to different games after a while. Games who often learned a lot from WoW but added in new features, and better graphics. Fortunately for Blizzard no MMO has come to close to beating them, even though really valliant attempts have been made by DC Universe Online and Rift. Maybe we’ll see another dent in Blizzards subscription numbers when the new Star Wars MMO is released, who knows.

Now, what is Blizzard going to do to slow down, or halt the decline in subscriptions? Well, since a lot of players are burning through content they decided to just deliver more content. Morhaime said “We need to be faster at delivering content to players, and so that’s one of the reasons that we’re looking to decrease the amount of time in between expansions.”

I’m not sure this is the right approach, making people ‘start over’ more. Sure, new content always makes for surges in subscription figures, but the goal is to retain those subscribers is it not? Or am I missing the big picture here? Neither do I think that faster and more new content is such a good idea. In the end, they’ll end up rushing every new patch and expansion to a point where quantity takes over quality. Personally, I would prefer slower content releases in favour of better quality, which is what I came to expect of Blizzard after playing Warcraft, and World Of Warcraft. Blizzard delivers awesome gameplay AND stories, it would be a shame to see that take a turn for the worse …

Do you think the world famous MMO is approaching the end of its life, or do you think WoW is long from being written off? Let me know in the comment section below, it’s always interesting to hear other people’s views on this.

/Niels

MMORPG’s – why are they so massive?

Hey there guys and welcome to another one of my articles. Today I’m going to talk about MMORPGs and why they are so popular. MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. Quite a mouthful isn’t it? MMOs as I will call them from now on are online video games where players compete, work together and socialize with each other. There can be thousands upon thousands of people online at the same time.

Continue reading “MMORPG’s – why are they so massive?”