Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beginners Bane: Part IV: Mechanics

Warcraft has a long history of being a good game.  It has been around for a long time in terms of gaming and as such has a very expansive world which can be overwhelming for the new players.  This will be a series about the problems with warcraft from the perspective of the new player.

Part I:  Abilities
Part II: Flow
Part III: Gold
Part IV: Mechanics

Mechanics are the double edged sword that could kill a game that has been around as long as warcraft has been and many people do not realize how complex of a balance they can be because of that.

If you make mechanics simple and basic you could upset people that have any level of experience in the game and if you make them too complex you could scare off some of your current subscriber base and any new players.  It is a balance that always needs to be adjusted.

This is the reason for continued nerfs to content that people are always complaining about.  That is how blizzard tries to balance things, a noble effort to say the least, but one that does not go unchastised by the advanced and experienced players.

Just look at this expansion alone and the success, or lack thereof, of pugs in the game.  You would have a much better chance of pugging a full clear for the current raid than you would pugging a T11 raid.  Even if people grossly out gear T11 now, it is still not puggable content because of the mechanics involved for anyone that is not an experienced player.

This is where the beginners bane comes in.  They make the mad rush to top level and then get thrown into the current raid tier and try to learn as they go but it is hard on them because the game is built around people that already have experience.  So where you and I had the opportunity to start off small when we where new, they get thrown into the bigger picture instantly.

Something like BWD was a handful for people that never raided before.  We might think it was no big deal but for someone with little or no raid experience it was a lot to swallow.  Even a fight like ODS which was probably one of the easiest council fights ever for the experienced raider it was like, OMFG what do I do, to a new player. 

There were four bosses, each with one AoE spell, one single target spell and a mechanic that is handled completely differently.  Then they needed to keep track of two of them up at the same time and doing both the mechanics.  And they needed to rotate interrupts, move to things and from things, switch to adds, spread out and stack up, it was just like every single basic fight mechanic all in one.  Every single basic fight mechanic... to me and you.   I loved it, new players that never raided hated it and I do not blame them.

To a new player there was nothing basic about it.  It was a whole buttload of information to absorb for someone that is used to killing that one thing in front of them and it might do one thing that you can step out of or stand in because it won't kill you anyway.

That fight alone is the perfect example of beginners and mechanics.  It was a starting fight, so it was meant to be easy but to someone that never raided before it was not.  As the raid leader for a casual group of players and someone that lets everyone raid even if they have no experience I needed to explain that fight dozens of times if not more over the course of this expansion and I know what new players grasp and what takes them time. 

Moving from everyone when you have lightning?  Easy for a new player to understand.  Switching to slimes?  Easy to understand.  Run if the slimes fixate on you?  Could sometimes be a bit for them to handle.  Move when the fire is going to hit you so it doesn't pass through anyone else?  What the hell are you talking about.  Some parts of it were easy to teach.  Some parts of it were hard to teach.  Put them all into one fight and you had a raid leaders nightmare for a completely new raid group that never raided before.

This can be a huge turn off to the new player because they do not have the chance to ease their way into raiding.  They have no library of knowledge to fall back on like we do, so that can't just say, oh yeah, this is like the XT fight and I need to be away from everyone.  For us, being we have done it, that does not even seem like a mechanic any more.  For a new player, that is something new to learn.  This creates the great divide.

While I do think dragon soul was a bit too easy when it first came out the only reason I think that is because there was nothing new for me really and my guild has been basically the same core for most of the expansion.  We've been there and done that with all the fights there.  It was also an easy fight to explain to new players and it progressed very well.  Two things to point out on the first few bosses.  Three on the one after.  Four or five on the next.  Maybe 6 on the one after and the final boss was a simple attack what I call out for fight.

Like it or not, dragon soul is the future of raiding if blizzard really wants to include everyone, which is their expressed intention.  Like it or not, it is a very good thing for the game if they do that.

Keeping things simple gives new players the chance to learn to raid and all raids should always start off easy to remember that not all of us have been raiding for years and those few that do end up left out because they are still not capable of it, the nerfs that come later on for them.

That does not change the fact that raiding is the beginners bane.  Their first steps into a raid can really be a turn off for a new player if they get unlucky enough to be in a group that doesn't understand everyone needs to learn somewhere.

Mechanics can make it impossible for a new player to advance and even more so if there are no people out there that are willing to teach them and wipe over and over with them.  Mechanics are a beginners bane that can make or break this game and the sad part is that the best way to handle the mechanics issue is to do what most people would call the dumbing down of the game.  I say it is not dumbing down, it is just giving the new players the same chance to learn that we had.  Not everyone will be lucky enough to get into a guild like mine that was willing to wipe 100 times on something we should have been downing on week one.  Most guilds only want players that know what they are doing to begin with. 

The looking for raid has only made the beginners bane issue harder to deal with by creating an atmosphere where everyone says, it is only looking for raid, mechanics don't matter, and this is a horrible way to try and teach people.  Mechanics are hard enough for a new player to grasp but to tell them they can ignore them and then expect them to enter a real raid saying they know the fight when they really don't?  Beginners bane indeed.  I am so glad I am not just starting to raid now, because I wouldn't.


  1. This ties in with III, but it also affects this issue.

    Blizzard should do away with durability all together, and adjust the money-output accordingly.

    This would remove the 'wipe tax' (Repair costs) that acts as a catalyst for people getting annoyed at wiping etc. and hence being less patient with others. 'Death taxes' may have made sense in the days when many MMO players were used to PnP play and its harsher penalties, it may have made sense when Raiding wasn't meant as 'content for the masses', but in the current day and age it has no real place in a mass-market game that basically wants you to play with a bunch of strangers during your lunchbreak.

    As an added bonus, the costs of PvE would drop, and hence mechanics like converting XP into extra Gold could be removed (as well as Dailies altogether; pipe-dream, I know) , as they only end up increasing inflation - which hampers new players the most but also destabilizes the game in general.

    1. I don't see them ever removing things that generate gold as that is a major motivation factor for a fair deal of the player base and as such they need to keep repairs in the game because as little as it might seem like a lot of gold is taken out of the game by repair costs.

      They could stop inflation so quests in mists offer the same they do in cataclysm and repairs no longer go up either. But again, they won't for the same reason there is gear inflation.

      As ghostcrawler put it, which I disagree with, they need to make things feel like they are an upgrade or they won't take it and and will not be a motivating factor.

      If I get 3 more agility on one piece over another I will get it. It doesn't need to be 108 upgrade like it is now all the time.

      But for gold, it hold the same and I do agree. If I get 10 gold from a BC daily or from a mists daily why would I do the mists daily if all I were after was gold? I would do the much easier and much faster old dailies. They need to keep increasing gold to keep it as a motivation factor.

      I think gold is an issue, yes, but it one of the few issues that is almost required to be there.

    2. Warcraft has a typical Monty Haul problem (to use the PnP term): too high rewards for too little effort, yet being 'unable' to escape because the 'need' is felt for ever increasing numbers.

      (note that I am aware that the whole numbers issue is primarily a PvE concern, with PvP the only thing that really matters is relatives between players ie if everybody is running in their underwear you'd still have a viable PvP experience as it are the other players that make the game)

      Repairs don't really work as a gold sink because the Gold rewards go up as well, and make people stick to 'safe' content (be it by sticking to safe groups or sticking to safe Tiers) to avoid them - which is why I think they should better be gone.

      One of the problems I already touched upon is the key to what would make the MoP Daily more attractive even with the same gold output:

      Gold is a universal currency (as are, to a lesser extent, Honor and Justice points; Valor and Conquest only last a Tier)

      That creates the issue I mentioned: when I bother to LFD or run Dailies with my capped toons, I get swamped with money, same with anybody that bothers with the '7 Randoms/week, 25 dailies a Day' cr...content.

      ''But you need it to Raid!''

      Perhaps (won't go on about 'on farm' status), but the thing is: you don't need to Raid (if we forget about the highly annoying Crafting issue), yet this gold can be used to go Auction Goblin, buy stuff for the characters I do care about etc.

      Result: plenty of inflation, both because people have more money to toss around, and because they use the 'gold/hr' logic ('If I can do a Random Normal and earn 100 gold easy in 15 minutes, digging up 60 Copper is worth at most 100 gold' etc.)

      So instead of providing more Gold or things that can be converted to gold, those Dailies should provide other rewards with a much more limited scope, like Valor points (note that Scenarios will actualy do that), Mount tokens, Reputation etc.

      That way people would still be doing them, but without swamping the game with Gold.

    3. Over all gold is way to easy to come by. One of my character I have ONLY logged on to raid. No dailies, no randoms, just raiding and raiding only. For two weeks. I've made 12K in those two weeks.

      There is proof positive that there is way to much money going around.

      That is a ds, bwd, naxx, ulduar, lk, rs, os, maly and toc full clear only. Might sound like a lot but you are only talking a total of maybe 6 hours play time for all that and I made 12K from it.