Friday, August 27, 2010

Preparing for a brutal wake-up in Cataclysm: Time to suffer!

I had almost forgotten about how it used to be to level a mage a few years back in time.

Do you remember? I always spent half of my time online in a grey blur, trying to find the way to my body (and inevitably bumping into some wall you couldn’t climb).

If I was lucky enough to last longer than the mob I was attacking, I had to sit down to drink and eat before I could think of assaulting a new one. “One mob at a time”. That was my mantra.

And oh, the horror if two mobs turned out to be linked to each other, and they were of the unsheepable sort! You had only one option: Run away little girl, run away!

Survival strategies
As I grew more experienced I became better at avoiding those situations. Some quests required you to kill mobs that were annoyingly grouped up, three of them helping each other out, assembled around a little camp, like the gnolls in Redridge. I learned the hard way to not even think of attacking those. I was way more efficient to be patient and wait until one of the solo strollers respawned again, the one you knew you could bring down without any problem.

I also got the hang of some handy mage moves. Frost nova-blink-turn around. Throw a frostbolt to slow them down, run away, fireball, frostbolt again. It wasn’t fast, but at least I survived.

All this drinking. All this eating. It bored me to death but what was a gnome supposed to do when the self bandaging and evocation was on cool down?

It wasn’t until much later on that I realized that the mage experience was different from how the game appeared to almost everyone else.

Some classes had pets to tank for them! Some classes had armor that actually protected them against damage. I don’t say anything about frost mages, because they had their own ways. But as a fire mage you were utterly fragile. Call it unfair if you want to, but that’s how it was.

Turning into a killing machine
With the arrival of Wrath we entered a new era. Suddenly I could take out not only one, but several mobs, without hesitation, chain pulling as I was questing my way through Northrend.

You’ve probably forgotten it, but at least on my server, the frostweave cloth was insanely exclusive during the first few weeks. Unless you were dirty rich you couldn’t really afford to make bandages out of them, when you could sell them at AH at 40-50 g per stack. This meant that I had to level without having any powerful bandage available, but this turned out not to be such a big problem. In Wrath you didn’t bandage, even as a mage. You were a killing machine.

As time passed, I started to take this for granted. It was easy to play a mage and the harsh life of a cloth wearer turned into a distant memory. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

A brutal wake-up
To be honest we’ve run on auto pilot for an entire expansion. But now, my friends, it’s time to prepare for a wake-up that will be brutal.

Recently Blizzard increased the damage that the creatures do in the beta significantly. And with significantly I’m talking about doing four times the damage they used to do.

I’ve been following the reports about what this means for mages at The Mana Obscure with increasing anxiety. Here’s a little example of what Gazimoff has to say about it:
“The other big change is that creature damage has been heavily ramped up from level 65 onwards. Level 82 outdoor creatures now do four times as much damage as they used to, which is horrendous news for cloth classes with little to no damage mitigation.

Currently, solo questing involves constant use of mana shield, counterspell and frost nova. And that’s for every single pull, just to stay alive. Going toe to toe with mobs in Deepholm is an excruciating experience – you have to work hard to take down a single mob. If you have anything add to the fight, you’re toast. Don’t forget that Polymorph won’t help you there as almost everything you fight is an elemental of some description.”
Ouch.

Like anything in Cataclysm it isn’t set in stone yet. They developers are still asking for feedback. Apparently the increase of damage is intended, as expressed in this blue statement:

[...] The idea isn't for you to be in Godmode, mowing through everything in your path. The idea is - in fact - for you to have to stop to rest, bandage, heal, every once in awhile. If you are reckless you will absolutely die. This is intended.”
On the other hand they say that the intent not is to force players to rest after every single solo pull. Maybe it won’t turn out quite as bad as it looks now in the end. I trust on the beta testers to give developers adequate feedback in the discussion thread.

My views on it
So what’s my personal view on making the mobs more lethal? Am I actually complaining about it, arguing that things should stay as they were in Wrath?

No, definitely no. It’s a wake-up and it will be a bit of a shock, but I think it’s a good step.

Levelling becomes more fun and interesting if you’re required to use a few more of the tools you have in your mage arsenal. I’m looking forward to sheep one mob so I can take down the other one, to frost nova and blink away. This makes me feel like a mage and not just like a generic cast-damaging-ball-of-something machine.

However I think it’s important to balance it well and not go from one extreme to another The scenario that Gazimoff describes, where you barely can take down one single mob doesn’t sound much fun to me. Running abut in the mists of death gets old quickly. And I cringe at the thought of spending excessive amounts of time just sitting on my ass, drinking and eating – especially if other classes with self healing and defense mechanisms will be better off.

Having a meal together with the rest of your party is one thing; I can put up with that. But I hate it when everyone else have to wait for thast slow mage to finish her recovery. Like I don't appreciate when other classes can level up way quicker, taking down several mobs at a time when a squishy barely can take down one.

If I’m going to struggle and suffer as I'm levellinging in Cataclysm, it should be the same for everyone else. Give me a better protecting shield or let the mobs hit harder on classes that have more protection than cloth. Whatever that makes it even.
I'm mentally preparing myself for hard times, the brutal wake-up in Cataclysm. Are you ready?

36 comments:

thebellman said...

I feel your pain with the fire mage. It's quite incongruous leveling through BC and vanilla with someone who can hurl great fiery mountains of fiery fire, yet be as fragile as a soap bubble.

I suspect that this is part of Blizzard's desire to strongly encourage group play, and while I look forward to the challenge of dealing with more powerful mobs as a clothie, I'm not looking forward to the challenge of finding cooperative players to play cooperatively.

On the other hand, I hope that this means that instances will be less of a walk in the park - I find it really common to be running instances with tanks (often alts) while leveling who think they can just chain-pull the whole instance, running through with no planning or strategy. Equally I find it common for DPS to be pushing the tank to play this way. I think this is because in a lot of WOTLK you can get away with just blundering through without care or strategy. Bring back CC! I want to sheep things again!

Indy said...

I found leveling as a fire mage in vanilla a different experience, though I guess I did drink a lot (I didn't mind it, since I could make it myself). I'd kill most mobs before they got to me.

That was probably due to my gearing strategy... I grabbed all the 'Fiery Wrath' pieces I could find, so when my fireball hit, it hit HARD. (I pulled with a frostbolt for slowing, though.)

In BC, though, it was somewhat painful leveling; at the time I thought it was because I was using the fire/arcane raiding spec instead of the fire/frost elemental spec I'd used to level with in vanilla, but perhaps the fundamental problem was the increased mob health. I started playing alts, though, and ended up switching my main.

Klepsacovic said...

I'm glad to see that mobs won't be trivial anymore. Hopefully it stays that way for a while. I do hope that kill xp goes up a little, so leveling doesn't slow down too much. Besides, it makes sense that tougher mobs would release more of that mythical experience cloud when they die.

Shintar said...

I like the idea of outdoor mobs becoming a bit more challenging again, but I do have to admit that I'm a little worried about Blizz possibly overdoing it. My holy priest is extremely squishy even in ICC25 gear, and I'd hate to be completely unable to solo anything in the new zones because they are tuned to be challenging for a plate-wearing dps class. And that's not even considering what it will be like with alts: when you hit 80 in level 72 quest greens in Cataclysm, it might simply be impossible to move on to the new zones without gearing up from old raids first.

Dyre42 said...

Well since I lvel as a BM Hunter. Yeah I'm ready. Worst comes to worst I can always just stand there, heal my pet, and autoshot things to death. That however would be really really boring.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone mentioned it, but there's a possibility that there's a bug with caster mob damage and that enemy magic damage is currently too high across all levels in the beta. So, like with everything in beta, don't count your chickens too early.

Leah said...

I love it. I've been leveling some alts here and there, and its ridiculous how easy it is, unless you artificially ramp up difficulty. On my hunter, I've been overpulling orange mobs like crazy (baby marksmanship hunter, my pet JUST got thunderclap), so that I could kite and trap and actualy play her instead of sleepwalking through levels.

remember the stair event in Zul farrak? the one where you have to kill the groups little by little? well lately, we've just been doing something that you only do when you greatly outlevel the place, or if you are looking to wipe - pulling the entire mess of spawns all at once AoEing them down and then waiting for 5 minutes for next wave to spawn to be AoEed down. oh its fun the first time you do it in a demented cackle sort of way, but once you get over your god luck powers - its not fun anymore :/

I'll be really really happy when more interesting leveling comes back.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you, when I started playing the game there were 3 classes I couldn't level because I died too much: Mage, Rogue and Warrior.

All others either had pets or could heal. Hell, I never agreed with people who dreaded to level a priest. Maybe it was slow, save mana for shield and heals while wanding mobs, but I wasn't in a situation "mob is on my face, then I die".

At the moment, I level a warrior because prot. warriors were immensely buffed, I can laugh at people who say warrior takes more skill than for example a paladin, not really, paladin can just heal more, yeah, as a warrior you won't outlast elite mobs with near infinite HP, but normal mobs pose no threat.

I've read that Cata buffs rogues a lot, recuperate, more armor on leather, vanish-fix, less powerful stuns but better toe-to-toe combat.

Seems that mages are left in the ditch. :(

Ephemeron said...

Heh, at least you could conjure your own food and water.

Back when I levelled my priest in Vanilla, buying water from vendors was a noticable expense.

Perdissa said...

With reference to the hard-to-kill mobs in Cata, are they hard to kill for a geared toon? Or only hard to kill for a toon fresh out of Sholazar Basin?

I mean, I expect to struggle like I did in Hellfire Pen back in BC when I was wearing greens from the mid-40s, but I would be really shocked if my geared toons don't mow thru the mobs in the starter zones.

Gazimoff said...

Hi there! Thanks for the link :)

@Perdissa I'm using a mix of ICC10 and 25 gear on a copy of my main mage, plus new gear that I've picked up from questing and instancing.

I think that there's going to be a shift in how I play mage for solo grindwork, using a technique called firedancing. You can find more info on the theory on the mage forums at the link below, but in essence it means that you continue casting while moving. I'm having to practice it at the moment as it's a little tricky for me to pull off, but I'm hoping to get a video of it up soon.

http://www.manaobscura.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=113

Hope this helps!

Chimpeh said...

If you're a high level mage I wouldn't really worry about most monsters. For all you care they could one shot you if you get hit in melee, I would be more worried about caster and ranged mobs. If they do significantly more damage you're kind of screwed, and I've always found those kind of mobs frustrating on my mage.I never leveled with fire so I don't know how well you deal with melee mobs, but with Arcane and Frost it was always really easy.

I like the way they try to make solo less of a killing spree and more of a thoughtful process, but with the majority of people having well geared characters I doubt it'll end up that well. Granted 4x damage sounds a bit scary for my melee classes the damage an ICC geared class does is pretty absurb aswell.

Besides a few of my 80s which I don't really like to gear up, all my favorite alts are sitting around the gear level where I can kill level 80 mobs in a matter of seconds, so I'm not too worried about Cataclysm.

Dàchéng said...

Why are mages squishy? What is the lore behind mages being unable wear metal armour? After all, shamans can; so can paladins; and they're both spellcasting classes.

Syl said...

haha I feel for you Larísa! I can tell you that leveling a healy priest for the first 40 levels wasn't any different from your experience, 2 mobs max. at a time and oh I remember those packs up on redridge hills!

That said I really welcome harder mobs in wow, I don't like the feeling that you can kill everything and anything really on your own in an MMO. In the FF MMOs for example, there are outdoor bosses that cannot even be killed by an entire guild - yet they exist and run around. you could ask what for? IMO it adds to the mystery and authenticity of a fantasy world: you should always be 'scared' to go to certain places. I really really miss that in WoW atm.

this makes teamwork more essential too. as long as they keep it fair and don't design these mobs so it only affects us non-pet clothies again only though.
as a priest I have still hardly any way to take on hard hitting or multiple mobs, we dont even have all the cool CC you mages have. =/

Ardol said...

I am so ready for this change, both on the gear front (I got the best gear out of heroics that I could before giving up on them) and on the mentality front. I've been leveling a shaman alt and a priest alt (enhancement and shadow, respectively)--my shaman is now in Dragonblight, while my priest is in Zangarmarsh--and I'm thoroughly disappointed with how easy the mobs are to kill. Maybe it's just because I got lucky with the classes I picked, but I find it disappointing how easily the mobs are dying to my attacks. I frequently pull two enemies at once on my priest, just to make things interesting, and my shaman once solo'ed an elite that was three levels above him (it was close, though). And I'm not even using any heirlooms or blue gear from instances; just the quest greens. If Cataclysm is going to bring back some thought into how we solo, I welcome the change with open arms. With that said, like Klepsacovic, I hope they release more experience per kill than they would if they were easy to kill.

Fitz said...

I leveled Eka 1-80 in Holy and plan to go 80-85 in Holy. I know all about the drinking after every pull, but I do at least have a nice toolbox of tools for staying alive. Being a mage is probably the only glass jaw worse than a holy priest, but at least you kill things way faster.

By the way, do not forget that cloth armor is getting a lot closer to plate as all the armor types get very close statistically speaking in Cataclysm. They had to up the mob damage significantly so that these mobs are actually a threat to all characters.

Redbeard said...

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I'm looking forward to this.

My best experiences in instances are when the group plans things out and executes to perfection. Even low level pulls. You learn more, you focus better, and everyone knows their role. Nowadays, unless you're in PoS you rarely see the raid markers used in an instance.

Spontaneous cooperative play does still happen in WoW. It happens a lot more often than you'd imagine in the lower levels. I have hope.

Syl said...

@Redbeard

"Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment"

lol, I am even in favor of a death penalty in wow - what does that make me? :D

Larísa said...

@Thebellman: That’s an interesting point actually. Grouping up as we’re questing… I wonder if it will turn out, will people even remember how you did it, after all this time of solo play in LFD?

Will we get a “looking for some company for just normal questing” channel, some help for us to meet up and form groups?

Either that or I’ll have to put my hope to that some of my guildies will turn out to have about the same playing schedule as I have, not speed-levelling in a week off from work…

Because lonely will probably be quite rough.

@Indy: Well, I don’t know… part of why I was so bad off might of course have been inexperience. My first char in my first computer game.

@klepsacovic: It’s a balance of course. With only five levels they can’t let us get the xp too easily or we’ll arrive and endgame and running out of content too quickly. “mythical experience cloud”? Hehe…. You suggest that you should actually be able to see the experience, like some kind of ghosts coming swirling into your mind? That’s how I picture it at least. Sounds fun.

@Shintar: Oh dear. The alts…. Yeah. I reckon the chars in the beta are formed from mostly well geared mains, so you have a point there. It might be even worse than they describe now.

@Dyre42: Exactly the kind of unfairness I’m afraid of. Gief monsters that have a special taste for hunters!

@Anonymous: considering the feedback in the thread I linked to, I wouldn’t be surprised if they changed it.

@Leah: Yeah. I remember how hard the stairs were when I did them with my mage. And how ridiculously nerfed they had become when I made them way later on an alt. I’m looking forward to this too as long as they’re not overdoing it.

@Anonymous 2: Well, we get some nifty new aoe talents with flying spheres and some kind of curtain and I don’t know what. But the problem is that it won’t help us at all in a situation where you can’t aoe anything at all anyway… So yeah. It’s worrying, even though I wait with the huge qq until I’ve seen some more. They’re still working on it.

Larísa said...

@Ephmeron: that’s true. But actually I’m buying water from vendors too now as I’m levelling an alt mage. The vendor water is much better than the conjured you can do at the same level. If you want a quicker drink you need to bring your own.

@Perdissa: I would believe they’re hard for a well geared toon. Like Gazimoff said in his comment. I don’t dare to think of how they are for a fresh toon.

@Gazimoff: But I don’t want to play and dance with fire! Or frost for that matter. I want to level as arcane. Will it be possible at all? Glad if you could work out some arcane techniques for me while you’re at it.

@Chimpeh: I expect to use counterspell a lot more on casters. But like Gazimoff said: whirlwind elements, mobs with silence effects, have always been a pain for a mage.

@Dacheng: Isn’t it like an old cliché sort of? The intellectual scholar, physically weak but with a brilliant mind? And I guess that’s the idea in all RP:s. I haven’t played those a lot, but isn’t it common that you get a certain amount of points to spend and you can’t be best at everything. If you’re good at something you’re worse at something else. And in the case of the mages, we page for our (supposedly) huge damage potential by being squishy.

@Syl: At least you have heals though! As I’ve levelled my mage I’ve always ran around with health pots to help myself a bit. But it’s not the same. And I too welcome team work, as long as we’ll make it work. People have really gotten out of the habit I think.

@Ardol: The old content has definitely been nerfed. I think they actually want players to bring up their chars asap to end game. The old zones are pretty empty anyway so… Assemble everyone in Dalaran. I suppose. Anyway: I think you won’t get disappointed.

@Fitz: I hadn’t noticed that the cloth armor will improve, getting thicker, protecting us better. That sounds promising. But the reports from the beta testers are still worrying.

@Redbeard: the question is what reason the better fit classes will have to group up with squishy mages? I guess it’s back to the vendor machine role.

Anonymous said...

Are not you a bloodthirsty gnome? Wanting to kill X enemies simultaneusly without fear of reprisals? :)
I am sure the frost spec will allow for some survivability, with the barrier, the elemental that can be used to tank (it's healed from your Frostbolt damage) and freeze melee mobs, and you get replenishment.
There is a glyph that will Evocate health along with mana, as you must already know.
You can also level in instances now, if you're so delighted to burn things.

SpiritusRex said...

Please don't grief us hunters - remember they are totally changing our class mechanics so not only will we be trying to level, we'll be relearning how to play our toons as we do so. I don't think they have changed the way mages operate generally. ;) (Sorry, /rant off, I know you were just making a point.)

On to the point at hand. As long as Blizz boosts all of the classes crowd control ability, I don't see boosting the baddies damage as a negative. Nothing is wrong (imo) with a mage being a glass canon as long as they have the ability to control the situation. There will be nothing more frustrating than having resists occur. In a perfect one on two situation (you vs. 2 baddies), it should be expected to be hard with death quite likely - you are going 1 on 2 with equal level toons. However, by using all of your abilities and skills it should be manageable (using the standard poly one, frost the other and nuke him down. Release the other, rinse and repeat.) Priests can mind control, hunters can frost trap (and/or explosive trap if they feel like getting jiggy with it), druids rooting, etc. The problem with multi-mob pulls is when Blizz introduces the resist. I mean for crying out loud, if you are a level 80+ mage [insert other class here], how realistic is it that you can only poly beasts, dragons, giants, humanoids, and critters? Good god, you are a recognized master of the arcane and you can't poly all things? Or as a priest can't mind control all things? You get my point, I think.

All I’m saying (albeit in a long and round about way) is that I generally don't care how difficult you make the mob I'm attacking (at level, all things being equal), just allow ALL of my skills and abilities to be usable. And, then, if I still fail, then I damn well should expect to die. Maybe if someone dies enough, they will be forced to learn how to play their character properly. Bottom line - make the baddies harder and as long as it teaches us to be better players by knowing how and when to use all of our skills, I’m cool with it.

Gronthe said...

I welcome the changes, I don't want to kill mobs in 2-3 seconds. I'm doing that enough with my Warlock in Nagrand atm, and it's stupidly easy. I enjoy the challenge tougher mobs would bring.

I agree with Klep, that perhaps they should adjust the xp you get from killing these bigger, badder bad guys. I wouldn't want leveling to stall out.

When I first played on my 10-day trial I found the mage to be wonderfully fun, but that's because I only got to level 13. When I started paying to play and ran into the same circumstances as you did with eating and drinking and eating and drinking, I vowed to only roll self-healing classes.

A year and a half later I have a Warlock, and although there are self-healing components to his play, the self damaging always gets more pub. So I'm infinately curious to get to Cataclysm with my little Locky, with well timed life taps hopefully I won't die too often.

Gazimoff said...

@Larisa: I'm getting the same questions asked from a few other mages. Since I'm lucky to have a three day weekend, I'm going to be recording some videos using a level 80 premade of both the arcane and frost experiences.

I'll write a few articles to describe how they play as well, as the videos will probably take a while to edit and voiceover.

Fuubaar said...

I wonder if more people who are plate wearers & Druids will level Protection to gain gobs of survivalbility.

I've always been a Protection Paladin & I've always leveled as Prot because I have a Warlock companion that can burn everything down while I tank it. If they boost up the Damage from mobs, leveling prot might be a better choice than squishier DPS specs.

Might be slower in one way doing less damage but perhaps faster in that you wont die and could possibly take on more mobs at once?

Thoughts?

SpiritusRex said...

By the way, Larisa, forgot to mention in my comment, have a great weekend! By the way, please make my weekly drink a double as it seems everybody, including myself, has been a little tense the last couple of days.

Redbeard said...

@Syl: I'd say that makes you fascinated with PAIN!

Seriously, I'd be fine with that. IIRC, in the original Baldur's Gate you lost XP every time you rezzed, so you learned to be very cautious.

@Larisa: I hope that the prospect of having someone provide ranged DPS (Mage or Priest) and/or healing (Priest) would be a nice incentive. Even if a Warrior is well geared, that Warrior will have to bandage, drink, and eat. Same goes for Hunters and Rogues. Paladins, not so much, but apparently we have kind of a bad rep in that regard. (One dude by himself can't change it, but I'm trying.)

I'd like to think that people will be more open to spontaneously grouping together, but you never know.

Stumps said...

This is actually one of the things that might draw me back to playing. I don'twant to completely faceroll through the levels to 85. I want them to be significant in terms of difficulty. Blizzard got it part right with WotLK I think; I think they did really well at bringing the story of LK together while levelling, much better than I felt in TBC and in Vanilla. That said, it was all just too easy. Bring back even a smidge of a challenge - no more AoE zergfests, make group roles important again and get each player to think about what they can do to actually aid the group dynamic.

I can't remember a single [group] tagged quest that I wasn't able to solo on my Death Knight....

Make soloing require some thought and caution (I'm not saying make it impossible) and make grouping actually necessary for some things.

And I, like Syl, am in favour of death penalty. Nothing heavy but Risk vs Reward is a huge part of gaming and somewhere along the line that seems to have diminished a long way in WoW.

We Fly Spitfires said...

The curious thing I found about WoW was that opponents seemed to get easier as you leveled up. Priests and Mages for instance have a pretty hard time until about 30+ and then it just gets easier and easier. To me that concept seems very contrary to the idea of a gradual learning curve!

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: But... but... I don't want to play frost! Admittedly I'm currently levelling a frost mage just to see what Kriz is talking about. But no way Larísa's going that path. She'll freeze to death! She's arcane. Or possibly fire if someone insists on it. But frost? I left Northrend to get away from that.
@SpritusRex: Yeah, I'm with you. Harder mobs - but as long as everyone gets the same tools to control them. If not - they shouldn't bother.

And yeah, I definitely needed a drink after the passed week. I haven't blogged about gender stuff but I've discussed it a little in commenting and... it has worn me down. It saddens me. Right now I've gotten a bit of an overdose of gender discussions so I'll try to stay away from it the next few days.

@Gronthe: I honestly think that if I had known what I know about wow now and especially the direction the game has taken with dual specs and buffing of hybrids, I'd definitely have gone for a hybrid. Probably druid. Mages are honestly... a bit outdated. I hate to admit it but I think they are. If they could they would probably get rid of the class completely.

@Gazimoff: Great! Looking forward to see those lectures!

@Fuubaar: We've seen palas and druids growing very popular and I don't see any reason why that trend would stop in Cataclysm.They're really handy.

@Stumps: I've heard people who hope that the raids in cataclysm will be inspired from TBC while the questing was better in Wrath. A combination would be perfect. And yeah, maybe harder hitting mobs as well.

I do think that DKs have an easier time soloing group qs in Wrath than squishies though.

@We Fly Spitfires: It's been so long since I levelled my mage but as I remember it, it went a bit in periods. You could have a couple of levels that were easy and smooth and then it got very heavy and tricky for a while (especially when it had been ages since you last got a new level of your main nuke). And then a couple of levels later it was easier again. But I can definitely agree on that the beginning was very harsh back in the days.

Anolaana said...

Hard times? Maybe I'll cut back on my AoE tanking, but the only time I try that is when I'm doing [A Valiant's Field Training]. By tuning normal fights to the standard of 2-3x current, I might actually be challenged to level. It might become less boring, especially with changes to skills in Cata. But I'll be ready, templar's sword (or mace) and shield in hand. Some things you just gotta do!

Tesh said...

@We Fly Spitfires

One of the better game design books I read suggested that you don't actually want a difficulty curve that gets progressively harder. That just leads to burnout, especially if it's clear that things will only ever get more difficult. A better difficulty curve meanders a bit in fits and starts, letting players alternate between feeling powerful (more fun for some) and feeling challenged (more fun for others). Also, if the game only ever gets harder, it naturally slows down and feels more grindy. We really don't need more of that.

That said, as I've noted before, I think that a smart game has difficult content and easy content at all levels (or places if you're not using levels). Let players self-select challenge and make various avenues of progress, and leave them to their own devices.

That's one thing that level-based games tend to do fairly well if they are smart, actually. You can always challenge critters of a higher level if you want a challenge, or beat up on weaklings if you want to cruise for a while. The trick is balancing that so the pace of progress isn't hugely divergent, but that's just fiddling with numbers rather than designing a new mechanic from the ground up.

Anonymous said...

I'm leveling a druid through Northrend now and have found spontaneous groups fairly common. One time somebody was asking for help with a series of group quests; in Zul Drak, there were a couple calls out for help with the Amphetheatre of Anguish.

In Grizzly Hills, three of us showed up at the same time to kill 10 mobs of a certain type plus a boss-type guy. They would have died pretty quickly for any of us solo, but with all of us, we rolled over them instantly without any chance of death. One player was so impressed by this that he suggested we keep questing together. That didn't work out, but the opportunity was there.

I expect that when Cataclysm hits, there will be a lot of people out and about with their characters who are now level 80. Leveling with guild-mates aside, I think it will be common for more than one person to show up to do a quest. It will make sense to group up. In the first month or two, I think it will be pretty easy to find help with quests. If the mobs also last longer, that group questing experience will be less of a face-roll and more satisfying.

As the current level 80 population completes these zones and moves on, solo-questing will again become the norm and Blizzard may adjust things to make them more friendly to smaller groups. But initially, I think it's smart for them to tune quests on the hard side. They should be less worried now about an unguilded level 79 player and more concerned with the leveling experience of a socially connected level 80 looking at her options for getting to 85.

Boleuge said...

I really hope it makes people group together to complete quests. I remember Borean Tundra on the opening day of Wrath, the majority of poeple queued up nicely for the single quest mob only for some asshat to jump in and kill it.

If the single quest mobs hit too hard to solo easily it should help with that by forcing people to party up. Though as a feral druid bear form does help alot :D

Anonymous said...

@Shintar - I think there will be zero people running old world raids for the first few month and few after that. So WotLK raids are not an option.

And I am not sure about mobs. I thought there will still be LFD; so people will just be grinding LFD (or BGs) rather than questing. Has anyone seen the hours-to-level for grinding, quests, BGs and instances in the Beta?

Larísa said...

@Anolaana:Wtb a shield that isn’t just a laughable paper protection such as mana shield. A real one.

@Tesh: Actually I always found it a bit depressing how the time you had to spend on one level increased as I levelled my first toon. The first level took 1 minute, the last level before I dinged 70 probably took a month. At least it felt like that. Is there really any good reason for that? Luring in brand new players I suppose… But won’t they be a bit let down as they see how long time it really takes to level?

@Anonymous: You seem to have been lucky! When I levelled my druid a little while ago I was lucky enough to have a friend to party with. But without him I think I would have been pretty much alone. The thing with WoW is that you’re expected to level at a certain point, when everyone else does it. After that you’re likely to find pretty empty zones, especially now with the LFD/hanging in Dalaran system. But yeah, I look forward to more populated zones again, at least for a little while!

@Boleuge: oh yeah, it was neat! I remember that queue in that cave in BT. We were so polite. Standing in the queue, grouping up, making it work as smooth as possible. People behaved far better than I would have imagined.

@Anonymous: Levelling up grinding in LFD rather than doing the quests in Cata? I wonder if that will be popular… OK for an alt, but for your main? Seems as a waste of content and entertainment imo.