Friday, July 2, 2010

Why the nerf to deaths in Cataclysm might be harmful

We’re right in the middle of another heated debate about the death penalties in MMOs. Is it good as it is in for instance WoW or would we like to see something harsher, a death that really means something?

Psychochild blogged about it the other day, and there’s a very good, intelligent and civilized discussion going on in the commentary section. Regardless of on which side we are (I’ve previously written about why I think the death penalties are fine as they are), there’s a general agreement on that a game with a bigger risk factor never will gain a huge audience, but remain a niche. Or as Tesh puts it:

“If you *do* make a pure hardcore risk game, don’t be surprised if the mainstream doesn’t like it and shower you with money. ;)”
Well, I suppose Blizzard likes the idea to be showered with gold. (Which gives me a an opportunity to quote Tobold’s wonderful one-liner: “is World of Warcraft dying? Not unless it suffocates under a pile of money.”)

So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that they’ve decided to pull this a bit further. They’re actually planning for a pretty huge nerf to the death penalty in Cataclysm, as long as you’re playing grouped up with your guildies. You can read about it in’s summary of the planned guild perks.

The new guild perks
Some of the features perks are “nice to have” but really not anything I bother that much about. Vendor discounts. Extra gold from fallen enemies. Who cares? I never notice what sums they drop in the first place.

But there are a few things that I think will affect raiding within the boundaries of a guild quite a bit:

“The Quick and the Dead: Increases health and mana gained when resurrected by a guild member by 50% and increases movement speed while dead by 100%. Does not function in combat or while in a Battleground or Arena.”

“Mass Resurrection: Brings all dead party and raid members back to life with 35 health and 35 mana. Cannot be cast when in combat. No cooldown.”
Wow. This is a nerf so huge that it more or less makes the Painful Corpse Run to a dark distant memory from the past.

I think we all have our pet peeves when it comes to those runs. In my case I have some special feelings for the path to Archimonde, which I did way too many times to be happy about it I’ve (even though we used to accompany it with Benny Hill music from time to time to cheer us up.) The way back to General Vezax is another non-favorite. The Decent to Insanity was totally cool the first time I saw it but it grew old quickly.

I bet that we’ll be we’ll be using anks, soulstones and bubbles in Cataclysm as much as we possibly can, in order to avoid corpse runs altogether. Mass resurrection, eat and mana up and you’re ready to go in an instant. If you can combine it with the 50 percent increase of mana and health when resurrected by a guild member, it will shorten the time loss after a wipe immensely.

And as if this wasn’t enough, they’re also adding “Reinforce”, which at Rank 2 means that your items will take 10 percent less durability loss when you die. This is just gold though. The nerf to the time sinks are way more important.

Warlock complaints
If you look at the reactions at, most players seem to be jumping for joy. The only ones who are disgruntled are the warlocks, due to another guild perk:

“Have Group, Will Travel: Summons all raid or party members to the caster's current location. 2 hour cooldown.”
OK, I can understand that locks will feel less “unique” and “needed” just like mages did when they put up free portals in Shattrath and Dalaran. But honestly – exactly how much “fun” is it to make summoning portals before a raid? If that is the major point of bringing a warlock to the raid, I think the class is in deep trouble.

Effects on raiding guilds
However, that was a sidetrack, back to the issue about the death penalties. What will it mean to raiding guilds?

Well one thing is that there will definitely be room for more tries during progression raid nights when you expect a lot of wiping. We can expect more of a trial- and error-approach to new content, especially since the information we have so far is that they’re not planning to have a lot of limited attempts in Cataclysm, apart from in really rare cases, “Algalon-style”.

No wonder that this sounds tasty. We’ll spend more time doing the fun stuff, which means fighting the bosses, experiencing the fights. And less time travelling the world as a ghost or sitting on our asses drinking and eating. More fun, less boring. Could there possibly be anything bad about that?

I’m not sure. Maybe. Because while I don’t advocate harsher death penalties, I’m not so sure I want them less strict than they are either. Of course I’ll be happy about it initially. But is it good for the game in the long run? Players don’t always know what is a good design decision when they ask for features, as pointed out by Richard Bartle six years ago.

One effect to consider is that there will be a lot less at stake every time you try to down a raid boss. This will decrease the pressure on the individuals to perform, especially in the kind of fights where one mistake can wipe-it-all (for instance Teron Gorefiend, Blood Queen, Lich King). If you’re the one blows it, you’re not cause half as much trouble as you’re doing now. This can be nice and forgiving for a new player, but it might also affect our motivation to stay focused, alert, trying to bring our best gameplay and perform.

It will probably also decrease the excitement and the adrenaline rushes you experience in a raid. If you can squeeze in 40 tries instead of 20 in a wipe night, will you really put in your heart to every try as you do now?

However painful the corpse runs have been, I think they also give a common experience that works as a sort of glue for a stable raid group. There’s nothing that brings a group together as much as going through hardships. And of course it also increases the sweetness of the victory when you finally nail the encounter. Would our Archimonde kill have been quite as fantastic if we had endured 100 mass resurrections instead of 100 corpse runs?

To sum it up: as much as I’m looking forward to this as a raider, I’m a little bit worried that it might dilute the game experience.

Pugging less attractive
A final thought: I wonder how quickly we’ll get used to the new nifty guild treats, taking them for granted. Quite quickly I’d dare say. I think we’ll feel less than enthusiastic at the thought of pugging a raid, where you’re not only more likely to wipe, but also will have much worse consequences when you do so.

They may have trashed the talent system, but I think the planned guild perks definitely will be motivation enough to bring back the game to a state where most of the raiding is done within a guild and not in a PUG. Like it used to be back in time. Not that I complain though. I’m a guilded player myself and have no plans to change that.

But now time has come to put an end to the last post for this week and call for a toast. I’m going to attend a pop festival and no Ruby Sanctum in the world can complete with that. I hope you’ll get an enjoyable weekend too.

Cheers all!


TyphoonAndrew said...

I think its is a stretch to say that allowing a GM to summon th erai dis marginalising the Warlocks.

ie. Do the battle drums that give buffs marginalise Paladins?

I'm very keen to see some reward for playing in a guild, and think that it is positive that the guild focus in wow will be enhanced. It will bring more drama for sure, but also more good stuff.

As for the death affects, I like wow's balance - often I don't care, and sometimes it bothers me; which I think is the right balance.

Leah said...

I think nerfing travel even more (and yes, I consider body runs to be part of travel) is a very bad idea. more and more I see people complaining about how long it takes to get somewhere and how they need a mage to port them or a "friendly stranger" to transport them on their multi passenger mount. and how expensive mounts are and how tired they are of slow speed ad nauseum.

I'm gonna be a cliche for a moment - back in my day, we walked everywhere till lvl 40, mounts at 60 cost 600 gold minus faction discounts, flying mounts even the basic kind were 1000 gold just for skill (no discounts there) and they had a speed of 60%

we had no passenger mounts back in a day, so if you wanted to get to crossroads from ogrimmar faster? your only option was to ask a friendly hunter with aspect of pack on to group with you and escort you. not to mention handy dandy zeppelins between org and thunderbluff and more convenient ships. Not to mention that if you wanted to run an instance? you had to physically get to it, at least 2 people had to.

and the thing is, while people still occasionally complained? they weren't complaining nearly as much.

Wrath spoiled us.

there's a saying - "give him an inch and he'll take a whole hand" WoW players now have gobbled up the hand already and they are more dissatisfied then ever and blizzard is only making it worth by making things even more and more effortless.

Anonymous said...

I don't see these things as being bad at all; in fact, I fully support them. With mass rezzing, raid groups will be able to get up to full health and mana, get food and raid buffs all while simultaneously analyzing what went wrong without having to wait for everybody to get back. Although against our raid policies, it always seems like somebody is taking an unscheduled raid break after a wipe (which ultimatley turns into wasting an additional 10 minutes). Further, I think the damage to gear reduction is not necessarily about the gold. I think it is intended to also help raiders to maximize their time actually raiding and not doing the ancillary garbage of having to stop inside the portal instance (or God, forbid, like in Naxx, fly to the local repair dude) to get one's gear fixed and then run all the way through the instance before starting again. I really don't see the negative in either of these intended changes as it will allow me to spend my four hours of scheduled raid time doing what was intended - raiding, not corpse running and repairing. And at least in my guild, the actual raiding is what creates the friendship and camaraderie that ultimately becomes the glue that holds us all together. Will have to think about this a bit more this weekend.

Cheers, and Happy Independence Day weekend to my fellow Americans - remember to thank our armed service men and women for making it possible!


Copra said...

I can restate this again and again, but I see the situation in a more dire sense. Now the guilds claim to be both casual, levelling and raiding: after the perks the raiders will be entitled to the most benefit from them, and the rest of the guild just provides the raiders what they need. Gold and guild exp to gain more perks.

Everything aims to provide more to the raiding instead of making the game more social in general. Where is the incentive to help or mentor new players or toons? Where are the incentives on being 'nice' to other -same faction, naturally- players?

Yea, and where is the incentive to the guild to get as many of the members through the raid instances as possible? That would open up the raiding to even more people, thus making it less daunting to us who haven't even gotten the chance to try our wings in there.

C out

Gevlon said...

Didn't think about it as death nerf. However it's not as big as you think. We can already resurrect people, so it's just minor increase.

Now if it only applies to guild members or guild raids, now that's a change, but that's not clear yet.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it is just me, but if your raid group doesn't consist of people who are driven by a desire to do well and succeed, you don't have much of a raid going on.

The first time someone in my (very very) casual raiding guild declared that his wiping the raid was OK because the new penalties are so much less he'd wind up on the very very very standby list until the heat death of the Universe. Of course, none of them would, because we are driven by a personal AND a collective desire to succeed.

I expect that that particular issue is self correcting. If the new Guild management tools can make contributing mandatory then everyone will expect something beyond just the tag. If you get the feeling that you are being used and not getting enough out of the guild, you /gquit and move on.

Jen said...

I think these are great changes, for most of the reasons Anonymous pointed out. I want to RAID, not to corpse run. I don't think anyone felt bad about wiping because they caused a corpse... I think they felt bad because they fucked up an attempt. After all, most corpse runs are already short - we spent 3.5h wiping in RS last night and the corpse run takes 20 seconds.

I still dread the MH corpse run. For directionally challenged people like myself, getting back inside during the waves of trash (before the boss) was challenging... I don't *mind* the ICC-type corpse runs, but I think mass resurrection is a great idea.

(Actually, all the guild perks are amazing, I'm getting even more excited for Cataclysm.)

Shintar said...

My thoughts on this are along the same line as Leah's. On the surface it seems good to let people spend more time doing actual monster-killing instead of running around, but at the same time every time we take another step in that direction it also seems to make people more impatient and they burn out faster.

Also see the dungeon finder: Hey, I never have to run to an instance again, great idea! Now people do it every day instead of once a week, complain how boring it is and get fidgety if they even have to wait ten seconds for someone else in the party. It always comes at a price. :/

tufva said...

On the topic of warlocks I think it is great with the summoning thing. For the longest time (months) we raided without a warlock and it can be such a pain. Someone needs to get their offspec gear from the bank or want to pop to IF in the break to get some gems for new gear, but then their HS is on CD.

Particularly if we may be swapping between raid instances in different areas during the same evening it'll be great for whoever gets there first to be able to summon the rest.

On death penalties, I don't think it will make *good* raiders less focused on getting attempts right or think it is ok to mess up more. But it will make a huge difference for guilds that raid on time tight schedules as they should get quite a few more attempts in per evening.

Zaeni said...

Just wondering, would you be trying FFXIV if it comes out before Cata?

Herc said...

I see it as a good change. Good raiders will always be good. HC guilds who has raiders with a tight sched can get more out of the nights they are playin.

If they are giving us more time to wipe on bosses then it only makes sense for them reduce the penalty of death.

Juzaba said...

Anon & Jen have it right: the big thing that encourages good raid performance, aside from whatever internal desires a player might have to beat a challenge and acquire loot, is the fear of screwing up. Wipe nights in general have become less and less frequent (not every boss every guild encounters requires a night of wiping to learn). Five-player content also sees fewer wipes. This means wipes are viewed more harshly, which in turns means that to "wipe the raid" is much more embarrassing.

For example, the other night my guild was doing Sindy. We pretty much have her on farm, but we had a new app in the raid who'd never done the fight. Before the pull, we practiced the positioning to show the new raider where and when to run. In the last phase, they didn't move fast enough and chained an ice block through the healers. The raid leader saw it and said "Okay, that wiped the raid. It's over."

The new app was devastated. Raiders know that wiping the raid happens, and they can bounce back. But it doesn't take away from that moment of guilt and embarrassment over being the one failure of the group - of being the weakest link. I think those psychological motivators are far more important than "Gee, I better not fuck up my bite rotation or else everyone is going to have to fly on a spectral griffin for 10 seconds."

Gronthe said...

Re: Have Group, Will Travel: Locks need to relax about this one. There's a 2 HOUR COOLDOWN. Basically it could be used at the start of the raid to bring everyone there, including the Warlock who can take a few extra mintues to farm.

But the Lock is still there to fill a vacant spot when someone has to leave early, or any other logical reason. 2 HOUR cooldown...absolutely nothing for Warlocks to complain about. It's a good thing for everyone.

Eric said...

I laugh at WoWs "death penalty". So you lose ten percent durability and 2 minutes running back and buffing again. Big deal. Once thats done youre at 100% to try again. Try Guild Wars, rather than the gear take damage YOU do, each death reaults in -15% hp and energy (up to 60%). This cripples your combat ability.l far more than the odd time you die and a piece of gear breaks and you get b rezzed. Also consider that in GW often if all members get to -60% the party loses and you ge put in an outpost. Similarly if you fail in most missions and high end instances you have to start all over again. WoW death is cake by comparison and dont get me started on lose a level or exp systems.

Malchome said...


LoL you want to talk about harsh death penalty try EVE Online. Even the GW penalty is a only a slap on the wrist in comparison.

If you get podded on top of it you had better make sure you have an up to date clone or you will loose skill point equal to the difference. That could be a day/week/month/year of game time lost. Not to mention the amount of in game currency lost to replace the ship that got blown up out from under you.

Tesh said...

Mal, I think it was Stabs over at Psychochild's place that used EVE as one example to counter my notion as Larisa so kindly quoted me (thanks!), since it seems to do pretty well for itself with a death penalty greater than WoW's.

I maintain that the mainstream most likely doesn't like death penalties... but there does indeed seem to be a significant niche that doesn't mind them.

Of course, I do wonder if there were such a thing as EVE-lite, where death penalties were lighter... would it do better than EVE? In other words, I'm not sure if EVE succeeds in spite of death penalties or because of them... and in the absence of a clear competitor and the ability to nail the difference down to one facet of game design, well, I'm not wholly convinced that EVE is better for having a heavy death penalty, or if it could have greater success if it were less "hardcore" in that facet of its design.


Tesh said...

Mal, I think it was Stabs over at Psychochild's place that used EVE as one example to counter my notion as Larisa so kindly quoted me (thanks!), since it seems to do pretty well for itself with a death penalty greater than WoW's.

I maintain that the mainstream most likely doesn't like death penalties... but there does indeed seem to be a significant niche that doesn't mind them.

Of course, I do wonder if there were such a thing as EVE-lite, where death penalties were lighter... would it do better than EVE? In other words, I'm not sure if EVE succeeds in spite of death penalties or because of them... and in the absence of a clear competitor and the ability to nail the difference down to one facet of game design, well, I'm not wholly convinced that EVE is better for having a heavy death penalty, or if it could have greater success if it were less "hardcore" in that facet of its design.


Iapetes said...

It may be more significant than you realize. With Divine Intervention removed, it'll be reliant on either someone resetting the boss, or using a self rez then a mass rez.

And right now the ICC run back isn't exactly long. Rebuffing takes just as long or longer for us after a wipe as running back does. So I'm not sure it even matters.

Iapetes said...

Also, people laughing at WoW's death penalty and talking fondly of how awful other games are is pretty funny.

Imoh said...

I'm looking forward to the mass summon thing more than the mass res, but for a reason no one has pointed out yet. Look at the announced raids that will ship with cata, there are 3 of them if I remember correctly, and they are spread across the map, if your guild is like mine and you tend to kill bosses quickly then having an alt or standby raider at the entrance to the next raid waiting to summon everyone will make make life a lot easier.

Anonymous said...

Larisa !!!!

Nothing to do with your post (excellent again i see) But could i ask you a favor? Theres a thread on the Sr forums about me being a soldier. Now as i dont play wow anymore i cant log in to reply. Im not a soldier, im too lazy and sarcastic to ever think of doing that !!! Someone has stolen my name for some reason!!! At this present time im playing Global agenda at home, im not in some god forsaken crap hole shooting ppl!!!

It would be good if you could clear this up!


Cacknoob (whos not a soldier!!)

Larísa said...

: yeah, that complaint is just silly. I guess locks feel a bit disgruntled after Wrath, coming from a very OP position in TBC... Now they're afraid they won't be any good in Cata.. perhaps

@Leah: well: the world isn't that great looking in grey shades, but yeah, I think you're right anyway. All those instant-clicks everywhere. Why do they need to make a world at all?

: Don't misunderstand me, I'm really really looking forward to the changes as well. But I have a nagging fear that it might make players slack a little bit more. It will be harder to be as quite as sharp and on your toes when you're risking so very little.

@Copra: I'm afraid I don't quite see in what way a non-raider would be exploited and used by a raider. And if a guild was like that, who would like to stay there? Then you'd surely try to find a better one?

@Gevlon: we can resurrect, but it takes a hell lot of time compared to resurrect all at once.

: well, I belong to a guild with a desire to succeed. But I would like to see the raiding guild that has exactly the same focus and sharpness in every single attempt. There's a reason why you so often down the boss in the "final attempt of the night". Suddenly there's more at stake. And that's why I think that a nerf to the death penalty might have a bad influence on the focus level of any raid group.

@Jen: Yeah, as I said: I think it sounds fine but it will be interesting to see what consequences it gets.

@Shintar: that's also an aspect. More tries in a shorter time leads to burning through the content quicker. Didn't think about that.

@Tufva: we were also without a lock for a very long time, I think a half year, and that was painful.
Now this feature has a 2 hour cd so it definitely won't make the summoning services of a lock unneeded.

@Zaeni: No, I have no plans on that. I'm doing a little bit of LOTRO (yes, I prolonged it with a month to get more of a look.) No room for anything more atm.

@Herc: I don't quite follow. Since 10 man and 25 man shares the same lockout, you won't be doing the same raid instances twice a week. And if you get more tries you can burn through the content even quicker. Sure, it's a great thing to be able to raid at a serious level without having to put too much time into it. But on the other hand, HC players who want to play a lot will run out of stuff to do.

@Juzaba: yeah, that's true. It's definitely more forgiving. But on the other hand - the pressure you feel when you don't want to screw stuff up - isn't that part of what gives you an adrenalin rush as well?

@Gronthe: yeah: actually locks should be grateful. It puts less pressure on them to be early at the raid spot.

@Eric and Malchome : I don't doubt there are games with more harsh penalties and that there are a few players who like that. I on my hand think that the penalty is fine as it is in WoW. Wouldn't really like it worse, but don't advocate it to get nerfed either.
@Tesh: Well, at least I know that players like me definitely would be pretty quickly scared away from games
@Iapetes: it's not long, but not trivial either. A couple of them are slightly annoying, like BQ. Nothing compared to MH though, of course.

@Imoh: yeah, that will actually come very handy. You'll be able to use it twice in every raid - at the first summoning and then later during the night if switching instance...

: I've posted a message from you on the board to clear up things.

I miss you still. It's too quiet on the bridge in IF these days.


Copra said...

@Larísa: someone else made the notion that a shrewd guild could lure in levelling players and their kin with promises and future participation only to make the demands for participating in the raids more strict over time. Like promising a participation in this raid instance only to remove that from the raid calendar because of this new one, and rising the gear requirements to suit the new one.

I can see this happen, surely.

(sad to say, I'm kind of living it atm)

The other thing is to find that new guild: you people make it so darn easy just to go out and find a new one. It's not that easy. It's just about as easy as finding a PUG raid which doesn't check gs and achievement before invite.

You just have to get lucky. I'm not.

C out

Tesh said...

Oh, yes, I think you and I are of a mind on this, Larisa. I don't game to be punished. ;)