Friday, May 25, 2012

No soulbibnding?

Diablo III's auction house has a few changes compared to the one in Warcraft. One that I am hung up on is the lack of soulbinding. In Diablo III, if you don't want the gear that drops from a boss, you can sell it; to contrast, in Warcraft, you either use it or shard it. Even weirder, you can buy an item from the auction house, use it for a week, and then, once you have a better upgrade, sell it to someone else on the auction house. Curious and curiouser.

I really like this change from the perspective of immersion. Most RPGs do not soulbind items, and when I started playing Warcraft, soulbinding felt pretty heavy handed. I mean, I can see a tattoo being soulbound. But a sword? A pair of boots? Why can't I hand it to someone else when I am done with it? This game has "world" in the title, but I can't even hand half the items from one player to another?

On the other hand, how will Diablo III handle the resulting crash in market prices? As things stand right now, the best way to gear up is to buy items on the auction house. Most drops you find in game are only for sharding, and the few that aren't are going to have sub-optimal stats, so you'll sell them. A large chunk of the game is thus nearly irrelevant. In the early game, you can buy ridiculously powerful items for cheap, so a large part of the game--drops and crafting--are just not important.

The best solutions I can think of involve making the price of low-level items higher when bought off the auction house. Either raise the auction house fees, or raise the vendor-selling prices for low-level items. As things stand, I like the mechanics of the auction house, but the prices seem bad for generating the best game experience.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Dpsing on easy content

I've long been a fan of letting healers and tanks switch to dpsing when they are going through easy content. Easy content is a fact of life for playing Warcraft, whether it be because you are working through a raid to get to your progression boss, or because you are running in dungeon finder and raid finder to farm tokens. For dps, they can still have some fun by trying to juke their dps numbers ever higher. For tanking and healing, you just don't have anything to do.

Blizzard seems to be thinking about this for tanks. Here is how they explain the way protection warriors can expend rage in Pandaria:
One of the changes for old time Prot warriors is getting used to not spamming Heroic Strike. Think of HS (and Cleave) as an alternative to Shield Block for times when you don't need to worry about blocking, such as when you are soloing, off-tanking or doing easy content. If you use too many Heroic Strikes, you won't have rage for Shield Block as well. Your other attacks, Devastate, Revenge, Shield Slam and Thunder Clap, should fill in most of the holes in your rotation and should be sufficient for holding threat without HS spam.

Sounds juicy. Will they do something similar for healers, too?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Individual loot rolls improve the social dynamic

There has been a lot of talk about the new rolling system. For example, I just read Theck on Sacred Duty working out the probabilities and showing that it doesn't necessarily improve or decrease your individual chances:
In the new system, your chance of winning is the chance you roll high enough divided by the number of useful items that boss drops for your class. Now, they could set “chance_of_rolling_high_enough” to an arbitrary value, like 10%. That’s what I did in my example. Then you’re truly independent of other players, because you could all win one item, or nobody could, or anything in-between.

It's true that individual rolls don't affect your chance to get loot. Blizzard can already juke various constants to change the rate you get loot, and that will be no different in Pandaria.

What individual rolls give us is a much improved social dynamic around loot awarding. Ever see people in LFD complaining about each other's sack of helpful goods? No? It's a much less dramatic system, isn't it!

One of the ways individual rolls improve things is that it removes raid makeup as a factor in whether you get loot. You can't improve your chances by kicking people who use the same gear as you, and you can't improve your chances by stacking a raid with friendly guildies. If you've played any in LFR (and who hasn't?), both of these kinds of behavior are rather annoying. It's not the way it is supposed to work.

Assuming Blizzard also removes the ability to trade looted items, thus making it a truly individual award, players won't be hounded by after-roll swap negations. When these happen in a guild run, I find it draws us closer together. Both participants will give an honest assessment of how much they need the item, and if one gives the item to the other, they have some expectation that the loot karma will come back around later. In an LFR run, it's almost always fun-sapping. I don't enjoy comparing gear with someone to decide if they really do need something massively more than I do. Also, nobody who asks to buy an item ever asks a reasonable price; I think a thousand gold is the bare minimum for raid gear that you buy instead of win, but people seem to expect to buy items from me from more like a few hundred. I only recall once having a good experience with tradable loot in LFR; otherwise it's been a drag.

I welcome the new individual rolls for LFR. I prefer raiding with a guild, and I really like my guild's loot system, and I like after-raid trading when in a guild run. When I'm in LFR, though, there's no social context outside the raid. We're all strangers when we start, and we'll all be strangers again afterwards. It's fun downing a boss with strangers; that much has worked well. It's not fun sharing loot rewards with them, and I'm glad that part of the system is being redone.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cataclysm Final Grades

Tzufit has posted a poll on what different players think about their classes. Here's my take for restoration druids.

Do you feel that your class is better (in that it is more fun to play, more effective, etc.) now than it was at the end of Wrath? Do you feel that your class is better now than it was at the beginning of Cataclysm?

Overall, yes to both. At the beginning of Cataclysm, I enjoyed the new emphasis on direct heals and the return of mana as a meaningful limiter. At the end of Cataclysm, I much preferred the way mastery works. I also quite like tree of life being a cooldown rather than a constant shape shift.

On the negative side, I preferred the emphasis on hots in Wrath. It is still there in Cataclysm, but Blizzard seems to be constantly trying to avoid the old rejuvenate blanketing in Wrath. I feel they should consider the new mastery and the new efflorescence enough that they don't need to keep fighting that fight. Instead, concentrate more on making the hots themselves interesting. In particular, I would find it more fun for rejuvenate to be twice the mana cost but to cause twice the healing.

How much have you enjoyed or found uses for your class’ level 81, 83, and 85 abilities? Given the chance, what would you have changed about them?

Efflorescence is the bomb. I don't remember if that was new for Cataclysm or not.

Did you switch mains during Cataclysm? If so, why did you make that choice?

No. I love nature-loving shape shifters, and I love healing. I'm in for the ride no matter what they do.

What were your class’/spec’s strengths throughout Cataclysm? What were its weaknesses?

Resto druids are amazing at any fight with slow, sustained damage, for example Ultraxion. We also have quite the save-the-day spell in tranquility. However, we're weak if there is burst damage more frequently. Tranquility for one of them, and then what?

Did you enjoy the addition of the mastery stat? What did you like about it, or, what would you change?

The final version of the mastery is quite good. It forces us to cast a direct heal once in a while, which in many cases I otherwise would not. I really hated the earlier version that made us cast hots on top of hots. We should be hotting players that are at low health, and then we should leave them alone and let the hot tick.

How, if at all, did Cataclysm’s revamp of the talent trees affect your class? Did you feel that these were changes for the better or for worse?

I remember liking the changes on the whole. Really, though, I still feel like the talent choices aren't very meaningful. I haven't revisited my talent choices in well over a month. There are only a handful of optional talents, and they don't make much difference.

Did your class experience any significant changes or additions to its lore during this expansion? If so, how did you feel about those changes?

Firelands expanded the lore of druids., and I quite liked it I did the druid half of the Firelands dailies every day for over a month, and I enjoyed doing the druid-related quests that you unlock when partially through Firelands. I hope they do more with Firelands.

Is your class easier or harder for a fresh 85 to learn now than it was at the end of Wrath? Is this a good or a bad thing?

It's much harder. It used to be that you could just blanket rejuvenate everywhere. Now you have to keep harmony up and manage your mana to some extent.

What aspects of your class’ gameplay do you think the designers really got right in this expansion? What aspects were clear misses?

I really wish they'd add partial hot ticks. Haste thresholds are a big pain, especially in 10-man raids where the buffs change around from week to week.

The final version of efflorescence is quite good. It is just powerful enough, and it is just smart enough.

On the negative side, the game designers have had a terrible time with wild growth and with rejuvenation. They keep buffing and then crashing them with no clear direction to it. Personally, I wish they make us back into hot specialists. To prevent mindless blanketing of these spells, they could double both the cost and the healing of them.

The new tree of life is a mixed bag. I love the overall organization of having the new cooldown. However, I always feel awkward using it. I'd find this easier if they dropped the tree-of-life version of lifebloom. Have casters keep casting approximately the same way in tree of life as outside it, so we'll know what to do. It's still quite interesting to try and decide when to cast the thing.

Overall, do you enjoy the playstyle of your class more now, at the end of Cataclysm, than you did prior to patch 4.0 at the end of Wrath? Why or why not?

Same answer as the first question.