Friday, July 9, 2010

Good news: They’re disarming the noob traps!

OK, it’s Friday night and God knows it’s been an awful, absolutely awful week in the WoW community. They’ve placed an elephant in the living room and it’s almost impossible not to look in its way. But let’s pretend it’s not there, just for a little while. At least I need a break from it.

Some bloggers have suggested that it’s just a cunning manoeuvre of misdirection when they release the news about the new design of the talent trees in Cataclysm. I don’t care. I’m gong to talk about it anyway. It’s a brave move since I’m not a theorycrafter at all, but hey, I suppose an average player is allowed to have an opinion as well.

In short my overall impression is that they’re on the right track with this. I think it sounds like a good idea to cut down on the amount of talent points, get rid of some uninteresting talents and make players focus on one of the three trees right from the start. Of course I might change my mind about it once I’ve seen how the mage tree will turn out. But the basic concept is great.

Taking away the noob traps
The best thing about the change is that they finally, after all those years, have decided to disarm some of the worst noob traps there are in the game.

In Cataclysm it will probably be harder to distinguish a new, clueless player from a veteran and maybe we’ll see a little fewer of those “Did you buy that character on e-bay” remarks.

I remember when I first hit 10 with a character. I didn’t have any idea about what to do. I think I figured out as much as the fact that I had a talent point to put somewhere (which isn’t evident for everyone). I might even have figured out that there were three trees available and not just the one on the top. But I’m pretty certain that I picked my talents randomly during my first months of WoW playing, until I eventually stumbled upon some mage guides – actually in the official forums of all places (sic!) It wasn’t until I found that guide that I understood that I would have an easier time in game if I picked the talents systematically and not just whatever that “sounded” good.

I happen to have a talent for browsing huge amounts of information, picking out the relevant pieces in a very short time with little effort But I’m also aware of that I’m quite extreme in this, and that it’s unfair to expect it from every player that comes new to the game.

In my opinion you should be able to get yourself a decent, usable talent spec, based entirely on the information you get as you’re playing the game.

It might not be a min-maxed spec; it might not be the choice of the experts at EJ. But regardless of how you use your talent points, you should be able to get a spec that is good enough for basic questing and instance running. Raiding is another issue; I believe it’s reasonable to expect that a player is ready to do some research using out-of-game resources when you’ve come that far into endgame.

Picking a shampoo
Until now there have been plenty of ways for new players to make fools out of themselves with their talent choices. And I don’t blame them! The descriptions of the talents all sound equally tempting and unless you already know the class pretty well, there’s no way you easily can figure out which talents that matter and which ones that only are there for decoration.

It’s about the same as when I’m standing in front of the row of shampoo bottles in the store, and everyone is announcing that they’re good for one thing and another and finally I just think “screw it” and pick the one that happens to be standing closest to me. And when I get home I get scorned by my children, because of course it was a useless shampoo. But how was I supposed to know?

And that’s why you’ll run into levelling mages, running around in instances with talents such as prismatic cloak or improved blink. They just don’t have a clue.

In Cataclysm we’ll be presented, or rather steered into picking one tree or the other as early as level 10. In reality that’s how more experienced players have played it all the time (with exception for the more experimental minded ones like Tesh, who enjoy tailoring special specs combining several trees, but I believe he’s in a minority).

It’s a certain sign that you’re new to the game if you happily have picked a little bit of everything for your spec. I don’t blame those new players. They’re following common sense. Of course it sounds like a good idea to train your character to be “allround”, knowing a little bit of everything! A little bit of healing, a little bit of tanking, a little bit of dps… Why not? If you’re a mage and have got a frostbolt and a fireball on your action bar, it makes sense to improve both of them. How could you know that you’re inefficient and laughed at behind your back?

The New Deal will put an end to this.

Good for alt levelling
And the completely new players aren’t the only ones to benefit from this. It will make my life easier as well, even if I’ve been around for a while now.

I have a confession to make. Whenever I start a new alt, I’m filled with enthusiasm. There’s something about the quick levelling and the innocent, worry-free joy of discovering a brand new starter zone (I haven’t seen them all yet, after 3.5 years of playing), that makes me excited. But as soon as I ding 10 the worries start.

“Crap!” “I just got my first talent point. And where am I supposed to put that, so I use it well (and don’t make a fool out of myself)?”

It's almost more of a burden than an asset. I know very well that there’s a ton of available guides on internet, I just need to alt-tab out and go and read them. But sometimes – quite often to be honest – I don’t want to! I know there are players who get a kick out of putting together excel sheet and making lists over what gear they’re going to get where. I’m not one of those. I just want to enjoy the content and learn the basics about my class in a fairly intuitive way, as much as possible by what the game teaches me.

I’m pretty sure some of you consider this lazy, and maybe it is. However I’d absolutely go and look up a lot of stuff once I was approaching end-game. But at level 27? No thanks. I’d love to be able to pick some talents knowing that they’ll probably serve me well enough.

Getting an identity
I’m also happy about that the specialization will come much earlier. Exclusive talents will be handed out as early as at level 10, which means that we in reality will get a game with 30 subclasses rather than 10 classes, as Green Armadillo points out in a great analysis of the changes. Blizzard mentions as an example that frost mages will get their water elemental as early as at level 10. In my opinion this will not only make the game more fun – it will also foster the players so they’re more likely to know how-to-play their class once they reach end-game. They’ve been specialized into it for such a long time and become used to use all sorts of abilities that previously were tossed at them towards the very end of their levelling.

Finally I’m delighted at the idea that they want to pace the development of our characters better. Something fun and interesting will happen for every level we gain. When we’re not training new abilities, we’ll get talent points to spend. And since they’re getting rid of boring filler talents, those points will mean something, giving us access to fun abilities rather than just being a stepping stone on the way to a talent we’ll get in the far distant future.

Everything that makes levelling more fun is a good thing!

I bet we’ll hear a few complaints over this. Some players might argue that the game is dumbed down again. But I’m pretty sure that the min-maxing theorycrafters still will have plenty of calculations to do – maybe more now than before, since there won’t be as many apparently crappy talent points that you can skip altogether.

When Cataclysm hits, the first toon I’ll level will be my mage. (Provided I’m still playing the game because… you know…) But I really look forward to level an alt as well – not only because of the new classes and the rewamp of the zones, but thanks to the changes in the talent trees. No more noob traps. More fun talents. Yay! Go Blizzard!

Friday conclusion
See what I just did? I managed to write an entire post about Something Else. And it felt good!

About the elephant thing: I saw a blue comment in the EU thread by Wryxian that somehow made me feel a little bit hopeful.

Here’s a couple of quotes:

We want to acknowledge that within this thread there remains a lot of unanswered but important questions and some very valid concerns that we have not yet been able to address. We want you to know that we are still listening and still gathering your feedback and taking it into consideration. We are not, in any way, ignoring your concerns, your questions and your feedback; in fact it is quite the opposite. Your feedback has been delivered to the people who need to see it, and it continues to be delivered. […] We're listening, we're working through the feedback, and we're discussing it internally. When we do have more answers, updates or information to give about this announcement and about our internal discussions, we will be certain to update you here in the forums. In the meantime, please continue to provide your feedback as it is not in vain and we are taking it into account.

Thanks very much for being patient with us while we work through the process of gathering, delivering and discussing the feedback, questions and concerns you've been posting in this thread. We greatly appreciate that you have been, and continue to be, engaging with us here and expressing yourself with patience and admirable candour.
I don’t know why, but it sounds as if he means it. Maybe they’re taking some impression after all? Let’s say so and enter this weekend with peace in our minds.

For my own part, I’m more likely to slip into LOTRO than into Azeroth. Yeah, my 14 day free trial has passed, but I bought another month to have a closer look at it. It’s beautiful. You should see how cool my Lore-Master looks when she swings her staff, painting runes in the air, summoning her raven!

And no one asks for my name.

Here’s to a good weekend.

Edit: The elephant is gone! So let's focus on the talent tree changes!


KiwiRed said...

I'm torn between putting some time into DDO and LotRO, or maybe reinstalling Morrowind and getting some old-school single-player RPG action in.

Some time spend not stressing over WoW would be a good thing right about now - watching the RID thread on the forums grow like a slow-motion car crash can't be healthy.

Anonymous said...

Good news, everybody! They've rethought their requirement for RealID!

The slime will continue to flow!

Magma said...

Dariush said...

I have to say that I came at this change from a completely different direction and my initial reaction was rage-filled when hearing about the talent trees. Since then I've calmed down and noticed the positive side to this all. Still I'm not happy and that's because Blizzard killed my hybrids. I know, they're rarely the most efficient builds, but I love my arms/prot warrior, my Demo/Destro hybrid and above all, my mutilate preparation rogue. Hybrids are what makes WoW fun for me; sacrificing dps for the tricks you can get by combining specs. Then again I prefer PvP to end game raiding (though I've done both). I'm going to wait and see how this pans out, but I am finding myself leaning in towards cashing out my WoW account. At the very least, 20 level 80s and a million in gold should be worth a house payment or two.

Cozy said...

I started playing WoW jointly with my husband in about February 2005. I was a paladin and he was a hunter. We dinged 10 (or whenever you got your first talent point), and I looked over all the options, and went for a better devotion aura, as the only one of the first six options that would help us both and his pet.

It's obvious now, but it continued that way for the next 4 talent points, and I ended up as one of the few pre-Burning Crusade protection paladins for that reason.

I really like the new ideas.

Kurnak said...

We have simmilar opinions in this matter (just posted something simmialr in my blog). I remember the old times when I started with my warrior. Back then there wasn't (formerly, or any specialized site (except the class foruems I've never visited) to help you with talent picking. I just took a look at the choices. Fury? Seems too barbarian-like... not really my idea of a warrior. Protection? No thanks, I like my warrior to do some serious pewpew. Arms? Hey, this looks like you're some kind of knight or well trained soldier. And I was arms until level 63, a very painful talent tree that suffered serious rage starvation and damage was just "meh!". I just picked what talents looked best to increase damage or added abilities that would help me in doing that damage. Thanks goodness nowadays trees are more balanced and you can level using almost any spec.
Now it's just a matter of finetuning. First months can be a real pain until trees are correctly balanced.

Tesh said...

Oh, yes, I'm in a minority. ;)

Overall, I think the streamlining is a good idea, but I instinctively resist being forced into something. Many of my articles are about *expanding* options, not restricting them.

If they give me infinite free respecs from any town like Guild Wars, I'll roll with their silly "stay in your tree, NOOB!" design. It just feels so... heavy handed, even if it does make things easier for new players.

Making things easier by restriction rather than education never sits well with me.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

In game design (as with a lot of other things), you have many trade-offs. A common one is the trade off between power and ease of use. In general, the more power you give the user, the harder something is to use (usually because you give the user the power to mess things up).

This change is about taking away power and giving ease of use, from what I've read. Great for new players, not necessarily ideal for the advanced players. If I still played WoW, I'd be disappointed right now, I suspect.

Apple said...

LotRO sounds SO AMAZING to me, and I really wish I could take a loot at it, or Aion, or Knights of the Old Republic (I think it is), or one of a lot of MMOs that I've seen out there.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, WoW and EVE Online are the only ones available on a Mac. And I tried EVE Online. I didn't much enjoy it. I'd much rather hack and slash than fly around in a pretty ship doing pretty much nothing.

As far as the talent tree changes go, I'm pretty psyched about them myself. :D I'll probably have to level a fresh Pally just to find out what the new Pally levelling experience is like - TAUREN PALLY ZOMG.

Barrista said...

I'm not too thrilled with them redoing the talents. It seems they are trying to do a compromise between LotRO's class traits and WoW talent trees.

I'm glad you are enjoying your LM. I have one as well and love watching them cast with a staff. Unfortunately, I have to reign in my alt-itis and work on my 2 favorites if I want to get anywhere.
If you can find a jeweler (or if you are one), you can get necklaces which will change the type of damage your pet does as well.

Vigorless Fragmentary said...

"But regardless of how you use your talent points, you should be able to get a spec that is good enough for basic questing and instance running. "

this has always been the case.
anyone with half a brain to read talent (or gear-) descriptions can build a functional character in wow without ever consulting pages like EJ. wow is the most accessible and easy MMO out there for crying out loud.
so i don't think there are any such 'traps' in wow or have been - but there will always be people either too stupid or simply too lazy to grasp simple concepts in a game. i have played a lot of games before wow and still do and none of them makes it as easy for you as wow does.

and in the end its important that there is some amount of self-responsibility required to play a game or character right. I sure hope it will never get to the point where it's all so pre-arranged for every player that he doesnt need to think or read for himself anymore or make the right choices. it lets you spot the people you'd rather not group up with right away. i don't know about you, but I don't wanna play a game I love with people that don't even care enough about it to learn some basic things.

I guess in the end it comes down to a question of balance - but do you really get better at something if the possibility of error is decreased by the system itself?

Larísa said...

@KiwiRed: Yeah. I spent last night in LOTRO. Even if the battle about our names was over, I wanted to see something else for a while and forget about WoW. It felt good tbh.

@Dariush: You are what I'd call a true hybrid - not a player with possibilities of several pure different specs. And I can understand that this must be really frustrating for you. From my perspective I'm fine - I'm just following the cookie specs provided by others anyway. This just makes it easier. Less clicking to fill out the points...

@Cozy: Nice story, thanks for sharing!

@Kurnak: Oh, warrior is one of the classes where I'd really not have a clue where to put the talent points. I don't even know what the difference is between a fury and an arms warrior.

@Tesh: hm... yeah. You have a point. I don't know how it could be done better. Maybe give players an option. "we suggest that you pick one speck and go for it, this is the default alternative, but if you really really want to opt out and be able to put points in the other trees you can click on this button. Just be sure you know what you're doing".

@Brian Psychochild Green: Well... I've heard positive reactions from players in my guild who are extreme veterans. Maybe they like me don't appreciate the excessive clicking you have right now. I tend to miss a point here and there and then I sit there staring at the trees stupidly, trying to figure out exactly where I clicked 4 points instead of 5.... I think many players don't really enjoy the game most for the meddling with your talent points. They'd rather be done with it nice and easy and take off for the fun stuff. Killing dragons.

@Apple: Oh, I didn't know that the MMO market is so limited for mac users. That's sad.

: I'm still trying to figure out the trait thing. I don't quite understand it, but then I haven't looked at any out-of-game information what-soever.
I'm trying out a few classes and races so to get an allround view of the game. But I really love what they do with the staffs, it's great. Almost as fun as the instrument player from my ministrel.

That sounds a little bit harsh to me tbh. I can't see how it makes the game worse though to get rid of talents that only clueless beginners use. What's the point of having them there? As a distinguisher, who has looked up out-of-game info? Does it really make the game more fun? I agree though that I prefer playing with people who put some effort into their characters. As long as they still haven't lost their hearts and civility.

Vigorless Fragmentary said...

I do not follow you there, whats the connection between putting some effort in and having a heart? by your logic a good player is heartless and a noob is a good guy? you lost me there.

They've tried to get rid of meaningless talents and grinds in wow since the very beginning. a lot has improved already. they continue this effort but the fact that some still consider the game full of 'traps' kinda shows that no matter how simple they make the game, there will always be people that cannot handle the simplest things on their own. is it really blizzard's job to make everything fool-proof?
if there is no challenge in a game anymore, whats the point in playing? wow = shiny chatroom?

That was my point really, sorry if anyone feels offended. personally and as a gamer I simply start losing interest once things become too easy. but I know that's the way wow is going and it's not trying to attract 'gamers' in the classic sense, but a new mass of people that like to 'hang out' in games while achieving the same goals as someone that actually put in effort and time.