On MMOs in General

March 16, 2009

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

One of the biggest challenges that exist for MMO games is the fact that your Box sales (copies of the game) will never make you as much money as would your monthly subscriptions.

Blizzard has overcome this problem by producing a record number of 14+ MILLION subscriptions to the game worldwide. At the average rate of $14.99 per month Blizzard is making $209,860,000 A MONTH. That’s revenue of approximately $2,518,320,000 every year. Two and a half BILLION dollars a year.

Blizzard is not hurting for money, and the costs on keeping servers stable and running (which they don’t do a very good job of) is sub $10 million a year.

So why is the game taking a turn for the worse? Why are the classes losing their distinctions and more of the “devoted” fans leaving the game and yet blizzard is turning a blind eye? It’s the money!

You see, when you make a $2.5B yearly gross revenue for doing basically nothing, you are disinclined to change the game in a way that would cause people to be either frustrated or confused. As only 5-10% of the game’s population actually cares about the way their class works and not just the numbers they put out, Blizzard is free to do whatever they want with their game as long as it maintains mass appeal and is easy enough for anyone to feel like they are a champion.

Add to these facts the idea that Blizzard is primed to release Diablo 3… they want you to stop playing. They want you to go and buy D3 and forget about your monthly recurring subscription for a while. Re-read that last sentence real quick: Blizzard wants you to stop playing WoW and buy Diablo 3. It means more money for them if you forget to cancel and let your recurring subscription run for 2 months without playing.

After all that is said and done, Starcraft 2 comes out… a release for which they want the exact same effect.

Then you have the second generation WoW… You see where this is going I hope.

This is the problem with a game studio that has other active franchises developing an MMORPG. They, the studio, do not want you to stop playing their other games because this leads to people in that company who have domain over the IP (intellectual property) leaving and forming their own company. This, in turn, removes potential revenue from the big studio. To justify keeping those people from going out and stealing all that money they have to keep them onboard to develop their franchise, and for THAT to happen, people MUST play those games.

I think Blizzard is screwing up their game on purpose. I think this is a marketing strategy designed to keep us all from walking out the door and leaving blizzard with a mere shell of a $2.5B/Year gross income.


A Quick Rant on PvP in WoW

March 15, 2009

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

A long time ago a video was made and posted on youtube that was just over 30 seconds long. It made a simplistic depiction of WoW PvP combat using the analogy of Rock, Paper, Scissors. If you haven’t seen it, you should… right now. Go watch.

Or watch it here:

The reference I make here is to the traditional mechanic of balancing something in a game. The reason that PvP is currently (in this author’s opinion) unenjoyable is that Rogues are capable of beating every class in the game without much effort at all (except for possibly other rogues or mages). I’ve heard people attempt to argue this point with me by saying, “Trinket out of the kidney shot and you’ll be fine.”

The truth is that you WON’T be fine because a smart rogue will just blind you and resume his rotation. You die and you didn’t once get to play your character.

I would like to make it clear that Blizzard has fucked up pretty bad with the DK changes for this patch. Not because there are a lot of class nerfs, or changes to skills that cause us to lose damage, or little things changing like the duration on diseases… no. Blizzard fucked up this patch because they forgot that Death Knights are a hero class.

In an earlier post I made a reference to Star Wars Galaxies and how Jedi were what a hero class is supposed to be: difficult to obtain and beyond the scope of balance. Death Knights are NOT that class. We have been homogenized down to work exactly the same as every other melee DPS class. We have had defining talents removed from our trees. We have been changed to such an extent that now there is no such thing as an Unholy DK tank (unless he has > 59% avoidance unbuffed) any more, and Blood is almost to the same state (a 30 second Last Stand w/ bonus healing on a 1 minute CD is too good to invalidate blood as a tanking spec).

If Blizzard doesn’t get their act straight in the next 4 months, I quit. I’m making that publically known right now. I will most likely change all my account info and sell, or give away, my account. This is utterly ridiculous.

-Surazc Out

What’s a Tank to do with Dual Spec?

March 13, 2009

TGAPGeorge – Warrior Tank

Okay, so I’ve found a flaw in the upcoming Dual Spec extravaganza for Tanks… actually there are two.

The first flaw has been talked about already. And that is the fact that Tanks are very gear dependent. Being so, we spend a lot of time and trouble — a LOT of time and trouble — in getting that gear. So much so, the typical Tank only has a few pieces of DPS gear.

So the flaw, at least for us Tanks, is that when Dual Specs comes out, Raid Leaders across WoW will say, “Hey, Tank. You’re a superstar threat grabber and aggro holder, but we don’t need you for this fight. Flip over to DPS will ya?”

The results will be less than spectacular.

But we’ve all known about this DPS gear problem since 3.1.0 was announced. So what’s the second flaw? The DPS setup.

Dual Specs allow us to have two sets of talents, glyphs, spells, and action bars. I believe Blizzard kicked ass on designing a fun, easy, and not-a-pain-in-the-ass way to do this. So when you do switch from Prot to DPS, everything is set for ya.

And therein lies the problem. Not with the mechanics, but with what it allows you to do. You can be DPS almost instantly. But what have you been doing all this time? What have you striven to learn and perfect?

That’s right! You’ve been a Tank.

So — shazaam! — in three seconds you’re DPS. What do you do now? What’s the best spell progression? Where should you be? What should you be doing? What key are you going to be stabbing — in a limp futile panicked manner — when a mob breaks away to go munch on some healers? (Your Taunt key, of course)

Now for some Tanks — and all I’m Tanking What?! readers — this won’t be much of a problem. We will have researched our new spec, gone out into the boonies for some one-on-one practice, and generally done our best to be our best. For the rest of the Tanks out there… well, I’m sure “Tanktard” will be a phrase that’ll quickly gain popularity.

Here’s where it gets really tricky. We’ve worked so hard to become good Tanks, it’s gonna be very difficult to switch gears to a completely different role. I’m not talking about waiting for threat, getting behind the boss, and letting fly. I’m talking about all our carefully honed skills kicking in during the heat of battle. dualspecoopsIt’s going to be tough remembering that you’re not supposed to be at the top of the threat meter. It’ll be weird hitting buttons normally used for tanking and getting different results.

It’s gonna be hilarious the first few times you switch spec and rush to tank, but forgetting to first put on the heavy plate.

Well, I’m not one to pose a problem without at least taking a stab at the solution.

So here’s my suggestion. Get as much DPS gear as you can. Try to put spells that do similar things in the same slots as their tanking counterparts. And practice.

Lots and lots of practice.

The Saga of DK Normalization Does not Balance Make

March 6, 2009

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

The complete 8-part saga of normalizations and balances is right here for you to enjoy.

So… enjoy!

Read the rest of this entry »

Death Knight Normalization Does not Balance Make – Part 8

March 6, 2009

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

Recap: Normalization Doesn’t Create Balance
Because it was TL and you DR’d

I know that was a LOT of posts to read, and to anyone who actually plowed through that behemoth of a saga, I congratulate and thank you.

Allow me to list, in order, the summarizations of each section and what they mean when tied together:

  1. For a game to be successful, the players of that game must be happy or they will not pay for the game. Ergo, game companies must keep their players happy to keep making money.
  2. Listening to the community of players who play your game is essential to maintaining a working game. Players are the ones paying for your game.
  3. The more players you have, the more restrictive your rules must be. Players are greedy and you can’t keep everyone happy.

The main focus of these three points is simply that a game must make its players happy and make them want to keep playing if the game will generate revenue for the company that runs it. Games that do not accept community input are ignoring the will of the community and are more prone to failing than their counterparts. It also touches on the idea that players are greedy and you can’t keep everyone happy all the time.

  1. The D&D warrior is NOT the D&D fighter because of HOW they put points in their class to determine what they do.
  2. Warriors are NOT Death Knights and should NEVER work like them, as it is against the initial design concept of the Warrior.
  3. Balancing classes according to their role is BAD GAME DESIGN
  4. Blizzard has balanced the Warrior class tanking role by changing shield wall — a defining protection warrior skill/talent — into a Death Knight skill.
  5. The misuse of a skill given to Death Knights has led to warriors finding it desirable. Blizzard has chosen to, in essence, give warriors a death knight ability.
  6. SoE removed the individuality of the classes by balancing them to roles centered around ONE class. As a result, they lost 85% of their players. The remaining 15% would slowly leave over the next 10 weeks.

This saga has focused more on what Blizzard is doing with the warrior class as a result of uneducated trolling on the WoW forums, as compared to a game that did EXACTLY the same thing. Mind, SoE w/ SWG was a game-wide change and blizzard is — so far — only adjusting DKs and Warriors.

Expect more mind-numbing changes and individuality sapping alterations in the next couple of patches.

Click here for the Normalization Does not Balance Make saga in its entirety.

Death Knight Normalization Does not Balance Make – Part 7

March 5, 2009

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

A Last Glance Behind: Star Wars Galaxies in Retrospect
Yes, it is important. Read it.

Unlike a lot of WoW players, I played SWG before the “Jump to Lightspeed” patch was even conceived. I was playing SWG on the Tarquinnis server before the first combat “upgrade,” and it was one of the most fun MMOs I’ve ever played.

For me it was the crafting system that made the game fun. However, others found more joy in the PvP aspect of the game — silly as it was. There was virtually no threat mechanic, and endgame PvE content just plain didn’t exist as we think of it today (think back to EQ1).

Still, for a long time, SWG was fun. Immersing oneself in the lore of Star Wars and choosing a side (Rebel v. Imperial) were some of the best game ideas to hit the MMO market. Unfortunately it also came with one of the worst ideas to hit the MMO market: Jedi.

Jedi were, at the release of the class, over-powered. They were designed to exist in very small numbers and required a complicated, lore-filled series of quests — HIDDEN QUESTS MIND YOU! — to become one. Jedi had abilities that blew other classes out of the water. They were what a hero class is supposed to be.

The justification for Jedi was that a world full of Star Wars lore would not be complete without them, and they should exist in some fashion. Fair enough.

The problems arose when some idiot actually figured out how to unlock Jedi and made a forum post detailing how to do it. Wonderful. Now you have a balance issue. This, of course, leads to what is referred to publicly as The Worst Game Decision Ever Made in the History of MMORPGs to date.

Yeah. It was that bad.

SoE decided that they were going to balance the entire combat system around ONE class: The Jedi. This yielded the “Combat Upgrade” content patch along with a new looking UI and an overhaul of the Jedi class all rolled up into one miserable ball. Within weeks, SWG lost 85% of its player subscriptions. The remaining 15% would slowly leave over the next 10 weeks.

SoE removed the individuality of the classes by balancing them to roles centered around ONE class. Refer to Part 6

Up next in Part 8: Recap: Normalization Doesn’t Create Balance

Death Knight Normalization Does not Balance Make – Part 6

March 4, 2009

Surazc – Death Knight Tank

I’m a Warrior… No, Really, I am.
It just LOOKS like I’m a Death Knight. But see, I got a shield!

As of patch 3.1.0, I wonder why Death Knights will volunteer to tank at all.

Druids get more health; Warriors now have our #1 tanking cooldown as a direct copy of Icebound Fortitude; Paladins deal more damage…

So what do we do? Take less damage from magic? Have DoTs? What makes a DK tank unique from every other class?

One word: Cooldown.

Death Knights are, from their inception, edgy mofo’s. They’ve already been killed once, raised in service to Arthas, and then sent to die AGAIN.   Then, after coming close to death two more times, they traded their life for killing countless thousands of their own kin and countrymen in the name of the Lich King.  Death Knights are fearless.

Unlike those sissy warriors, we live on the edge. A Death Knight with the two best DK tanking trinkets in the game (Repelling Charge and Valor Medal of the Third War) has access to: Icebound Fortitude, a talent-based damage reduction mechanic, Bone Armor or Will of the Necropolis or Lichborne / Unbreakable Armor, ghetto Last Stand, and Super Dodge. That is anywhere from 3 to 5 cooldowns that can, and should be, cycled at all times.

Why then are warriors getting a 1 minute CD shield wall? They don’t live on the edge OR tank with a 2H sword — or, god forbid, Duel-Wield tank. Warriors tank with a shield, they have talents specifically designed around a shield.  Warriors are the masters of shields.

In fact, IBF exists primarily to mitigate the effects of getting parry-gibed on bosses when you are DW tanking, not as an “Oh SHIT” button. Suck on that Trebeck.

The misuse of a skill given to Death Knights has led to warriors finding it desirable.

Blizzard has chosen to, in essence, give warriors a death knight ability. See Part 5.

Up next in Part 7: A Last Glance Behind: Star Wars Galaxies in Retrospect