Monday, June 28, 2010

APB Review

If you are an MMO gamer, don't be fooled by the persistence of the world in Realtime World's new online GTA-clone All Points Bulletin (APB).  It's not for you.  I'd argue that it's not even an MMO.  It's a shooter with driving and great customization options that just so happens to take place in a single persistent world instead of the usual structure of separate servers for each match.

The core gameplay consists of receiving a mission that gives you an objective and some opponents and sets you loose in the city.  Each mission is more like a miniature Warsong Gulch match than a warcraft-style "quest" - though sometimes you will be Fed Ex-ing an item from one place to another - sometimes in an actual delivery truck, even.  Nonetheless, such quest-like mechanics end up bearing more resemblance to capture-the-flag than deliver-the-parcel.

If you can accept the analogy: APB is like Halo or Call of Duty if you got to hang out in the map between matches instead of going to a "find a match" menu.  Except it plays exactly like Grand Theft Auto, with very basic first-person shooting and challenging and sometimes wonky driving.

Interview Reveals that RealID is a Scam

Can't believe it took me nearly 2 months for me to come across this interview. In USA Today!

Holy crap.  Blizzard's plans for Real ID are beyond what I even imagined.

So back at Blizzcon, Blizz announced that they were going to be using to add cross game/faction/server communication.  This sounded great.  It would let me ask a friend logged into WoW if they wanted to come play some Starcraft . . . in the form of a whisper to their character!  Yay!

Oh wait.  Now it turns out that they weren't adding cross game/server chat as a benefit to the players.  It's simply bait to create their own social network to get a piece of the Facebook revenue pie.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Scott Jennings is absolutely right about RealID

Read about it here.  And do not use RealID.  This thing needs to look like a gigantic waste of money on the next ActiBlizzard balance sheet.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New Post at VTW: Mass Effect 2 vs. Final Fantasy 13 Deathmatch!

One ring.  One cage.  Final Fantasy 13.  Mass Effect 2.  A metal chair.  


How To Keep Raid Tiers From Being Skipped

If you are a new raider who hit level 80 some point after ToC came out, it's possible you have never seen Naxxramas (beyond weeklies, at least).  Ulduar is the best raid instance WoW has ever had, but despite the Accessibility Doctrine, very few people have seen Yogg-Saron.  This isn't because those instances are too hard, or because those people don't want to see lore.  It's simply because the rewards in those two instances are completely obsolete.  Heroic 5-mans give tokens that will buy you gear that blows the drops from those raids out of the water, and some 5-mans even drop gear on par with ToC 10 itself.  There's no efficient way to advance your character in the old instances, so very few people do them.

Blizzard could fix this right now while giving players an entry-level raid experience to learn from before going into "real" raids. 

Have bosses in "obsolete" raids drop a ton of emblems.

Make it so raiding Naxx is a more efficient way to get emblems (currently, Triumph Emblems) than heroics.  The earlier bosses should drop fewer emblems than the later bosses, so going deep into the instance would feel rewarding.  Maybe have the final boss also drop a Frost Emblem on top of the Triumphs.  This will be even easier to balance in Cata with the move from emblems to points.

And it fits in very neatly with Blizzard's current design philosophy because you can only do it once a week.  Instead of having to log in every day to do a heroic, I can get similar emblems from spending two hours at a stretch on one night doing Naxx.

Combine that with the upcoming weekly cap on emblems that forces you to choose how you want to earn them, and it's even better.

For this system, an "obsolete" instance is one that drops gear a tier behind the current lowest level emblem.  So using Wrath as an example, Naxx would have gone in the Dungeon Finder with inflated emblem rewards in the same patch that released ToC.

The best way to do this would be to put the older instances into the Dungeon Finder.  There are obviously major challenges with putting together, say, an ICC 25 group in the DF.  But with content as easy as Naxxramas, it's easily justifiable, especially with the new raid lockout system that let's you have more flexibility.  Just have it use the same minimum gear requirements as ToC 5 or the ICC 5 instances so you don't end up with an entire group in just greens expecting to be carried.  At the same time, I anticipate most of the people queueing for these will be on the low end of the gear scale, perhaps even being able to use a few "obsolete" drops from the raid in a few slots.

Seeing how Blizzard plans to automatically scale point acquisition as new raids are released (meaning that, for instance, when Tier 13 comes out, Tier 12 raids will go from "frost emblems" to "triumph emblems"), it worries me that we'll see the same abandonment of the early tiers that we saw late in Wrath.  And that would be a shame.  Giving players a reason to visit obsolete raid instances as an efficient way to advance their character would have a myriad of benefits, from breaking up the monotony of running the same raids over and over, to giving new raiders and new alts an appropriate training ground for raiding, to simply preventing good instances from becoming ghost towns.

I hope they think of it too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The plot thickens....

More from Ghostcrawler on 10s vs 25s:

25-Player Raids not attractive anymore in Cataclysm?
If we wanted to remove 25-player raids, we'd just do that. We know a lot of players like them. Personally, I will probably keep raiding 25s. A lot of players like the 10s too though, and despite what fans of the 25s might think, offering lower item level loot in the 10s doesn't make them attractive enough. We're going to try instead offering more rewards (which includes loot) in the 25s, especially for the heroic modes. Many (though not all) of the players worried about the reward per effort of 25 raiding are concerned more with the heroic modes.

Upping the loot-per-raider in 25 man hard modes makes a lot of sense.  One of the biggest problems with 10s vs 25s right now is how much easier it is to do normal mode 25s vs hard mode 10s for such similar gear.  And that's not even considering that normal mode 10-man Lich King is much harder than the entire first wing of 25-man normal mode ICC.

 It also sounds like 25-man hards will get more perks, which I'm speculating will include things like mounts.  We'll have to wait and see.  I'm just so happy that 10s are being fairly represented now, but I don't want to let that blind me.  I don't want 25s to die.

Cataclysm's systems seem to be in such a constant state of flux lately that it really makes me worry about them making the November/December deadline, though.  I sort of expected them to be approaching the polishing stage now, not in the thick of developing the new stuff.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paladins Officially Overpowered, Blizzard to Kill 25s.

A highlight from Ghostcrawler's interview at Eurogamer:

Eurogamer: Is there a particular class that you thought needed an overhaul more than the others?

Greg Street (Ghostcrawler): I think the Paladin is one I'd say probably needs some of the most work, it got a lot of work in Lich King but it's still not quite there. Each individual role, the damage, healing and tanking all have problems, in some cases they're over-powered but a little simplistic in other cases, so we definitely want to address that. Without changing - you know, it's a very popular class, I think it's our most popular class at the moment, so we don't want to make it unrecognisable either.

 Told ya!

The amount of gear in the 25 person raids will be roughly equivalent on per-person basis to the 10 person raids. One thing to keep in mind it that we don't plan to allow players to upshift from 10s to 25s, only downshift from 25s to 10s on a given week.

The statements beforehand said that 25person would have more gear per person than 10s, so I wonder if "roughly equivalent" indicates a change in plans, or just not wanting to commit yet to either "exactly the same" or "more".
The number 6 per boss was being mentioned I believe, so slightly more I guess, but anything can change in testing so I wouldn't say that it is set in stone. But we all know you guys won't call us out if anything changes during a beta, right?

So basically there will be no real incentive (gear-wise at least) to run 25 man raids.
There are rewards like badges/gold for the additional coordination involved, but we are trying to avoid having gear be the reason that one style is better than the other.

What a shame.  Still, the proposed system is better than the current raiding system, IMO.

*Saying they are killing 25s is hyperbole.  More emblems really will be a strong draw, especially if the difference is very large.  I expect many people will still do 25s, and with the raid ID improvements I expect my guild will farm early bosses on tuesdays with our 25-man alliance then do progression in our 10-man group using the same instance ID later in the week, for instance.  But giving more loot per person was the key to keeping a balance, and now that that's gone, 25s are going to be hurt much more badly than I had anticipated.  

The overall system is still an improvement in my eyes.

Monday, June 14, 2010

APB "beta" Preview

I preordered All Points Bulletin, the new Grand Theft MMO from Realtime Worlds.  The preorder comes with 2 chances to play the game ahead of release: the "key to the city beta" (read: a taste of the finished game so you can hype it to your friends) and an early start a few days before its release on June 29th North America and July 1 in Europe.  I played the PC version that I ordered through Steam.

First of all, there were still some technical issues with the download and launch of the game.  I'd recommend a boxed copy, which is the opposite of my usual stance.  You download the APB Launcher through Steam, but starting the game through Steam fails to open the launcher, requiring that you hunt down the file in a different folder directory.  Once the launcher starts, you are in for a (at best) 8 hour download of a 7 gig game.  The APB and Steam forums were both overrun with threads complaining about the download speed.  Then, once I let it download overnight and finished the installation, I still couldn't run the game from Steam, and had to hunt down the new launcher in yet another different directory.

I forgot most of that once I started the game. 

More after the jump.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blizzard's Cataclysm Press Tour

Summary: They realized there was no way they'd finish everything in time for a Xmas release, so they cut out most of the new features.

Personally, I'm glad to see Path of the Titans go (just another grind per alt imo) as well as guild talents (no way they'd be balanced, everyone would just take the same ones anyway).

Very nice to see that 25-man raids can be split up if you don't have enough people the second day, and that raid IDs will be more flexible and interchangeable.  Great changes.

I cannot wait to raid the elemental planes.