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Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

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Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Aanar » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:13 pm

Patch 4.3 leaves me with pretty mixed feelings. It's been fun picking up various characters that got stuck at some point in 4.0 through 4.2 and getting gear for them from the quests, 5 mans, and LFR. But I wonder how long it will last until boredom sets in. If pug raids start being put together, I could see trying some normal raids. Anyway, something with 4.3 just seems amiss and leaves me wondering where they went wrong with the whole expansion.

Their sudden about-face in difficulty is pretty jarring. Good games have a very gradual ramp up in difficulty. A simple example would be something like Tetris where the blocks very slowly start coming faster and faster. Or a 1st person shooter where a player plays through on easy which slowly gets harder and lets them get better. Then starting on normal picks up where the end of easy left off and similiarly for a hard mode.

The difficulty curve for Catyclysm at launch seems like it was way too steep. Since the questing was linear they couldn't put in anything too tough. The normal mode 5 mans seemed well enough, albiet short lived. I think the difficulty of the heroic 5 mans have their place, except that the gulf between their difficulty and the preceding normal 5 mans was too large. If there had been a medium setting (basically their current nerfed state), I think that would have gone a long ways.

One problem the designers are faced with is the large bell-curve in player skill, so who do you design the content for? Do you try to stratify players so they play with people of similar skill or do you try to lump them together? Blizzard's strategy for PVE seems to lump them together. Putting VP rewards on random heroics is a pretty big carrot to lure in the skilled to help get the "bads" through (Except where the 4.0 heroics were hard enough this wasn't possible and we all know what a disaster the dungeon finder was during this time). And designing the 25 man LFR so that a few bads can get carried is a pretty clear efort to lump players together.

I'm not a pvper, but from what I understand of Arena matches, you generally get matched with similar skill oponents so you win about half and lose about half. I didn't raid during BC, but it sounds like the raiding tiers kind of worked similarly -- stratifying players out amongst all the tiers depending on their progression.

One concept I read somewhere that made a lot of sense was called "falling off the wagon". Basically, players need (fun) content to do while pursuing short and medium term goals (i.e. gear upgrades, downing the last boss of the tier, etc.) Once you finish all the content, you get bored and quite (falling off the wagon). If the only content a player can get upgrades from is too hard for the player, they get frustrated (and quit), thus falling off the wagon. The other thing that happens is the player population progresses past them and they're left without enough pepole doing similar content. This happens a lot later in a tier when ever raid groups/pug wants to see that you have the achievement for already doing it. The gear resets we get now with every major match in large part help catch people up that fell behind. But the downside is it makes it a little meaningless to work too hard on any gear unless you're in a guild persuing world/server-firsts, especially late in a content patch since a reset is just around the corner.

Part of me wonders if another mistake was merging the lockouts & ilvl of 10 and 25 man. Every guild I knew that did 25 mans in WoTLK is only doing 10s now. Typically, they just gather up their most skilled 10 players and shun everyone else. Thus, a lot of players got left behind. There really aren't 1 in 10 players that want to lead a raid. Needing 25 left enough teams looking for a few people to fill in their ranks that a lot of us common-folk at least got a slot now and then. With 25 slots, you (usually) could afford to have a couple people learning the ropes and after they did it a few times, they moved up to core and you had room to bring in a few more new people. A lot of the 10 mans for 4.0 and 4.2 seemed to be designed around if 1 person messes up, it's a wipe. Basically, a lot more unforgiving, and quite embarressing if you're the one messing up (to the point of often stop trying to raid) and quite frustrating for the other 9. Quite the difference versus a few people being able to finish off Heigen if you had a lot of people struggling.

Part of me wonders if lumping the whole player population together isn't really needed now that they have the dungeon and raid finders. After all, it's quite easy to get a dungeon group for your level 25 nowadays versus virtually impossible before dungeon finder (and well after the bulk of the player population levled past 25). I think the dungeon and raid finder makes it possible to re-introduce some stratification.

I know they promised to fix the loopholes for the current simple ilvl check. But I think adding on a layer of required acheivements might be a good idea too. Imagine if you couldn't queue for Heroic Vortex Pinnacle until you had the acheivement for succesfully avoiding all the static cling by jumping in the normal mode. If they could implement this it would open up the possibility of a design like this:
Easy: Boss avoidable ability #1 is damaging but the encouter is still doable if a few people get hit every time (avoiding it all unlocks normal)
Normal: Boss ability #1 is now insta-kill and ability #2 is added that is damaging but not lethal. Succesfully completing the mechanics unlocks hard.
Hard: Boss ability #1 and 2 are now both insta-gibs and has a 3rd ability that does more dmg, or makes it a little harder to avoid 1 or 2.

It gets harder to make it fair for things that are coordination rather than an individual effort like jumping for static cling. There are abilites only tanks have to deal with (positioning, cds) and ones only healers do (dispelling) and ones that are on the dps (killing the right things like adds, enrage timers). You don't want people continuing to faceroll until they get a group that can carry them to an acheivement so they can be a burden on the next difficulty.

The other thing a mmorpg design seems to need is a way to "grind" once you've hit a wall. We all remember the original Hogger because for almost everyone, the the first time we got the quest and tried to down him, he kicked our butt. Some of us tried some clever tatics and succeeded, some of us got friends together, and some just came back after we ground out of a few levels and had some better gear. We do a similar thing at end game too. If your raid group is stuck on boss #4 of a tier, you go back and farm bosses #1-3 for gear and farm VP for gear. More healing output and more dps and stronger tanks makes almost every encounter easier.

If normal mode Ultraxion requires an average 30k dps (made up #) from each dpser and you can do that on LFR easy-mode and do all the purple button pushing correctly, why not award an acheivement that lets you queue as dps for a normal mode LFR version of Ultraxion? I realize there's more mechanics to the fight on normal of course, but it gives the player a goal for their 5th time doing easy LFR Ultra (getting the acheivement) and once they have it they now have a new goal to work on (downing normal mode Ultraxion).

If done on a large scale (virtually all group PVE content) and done well it could segregate out players so you're playing with people of similar skill, which I think would be a good thing. I hate when I get in over my head and am the one causing all the wipes just as much as I hate it when the same person keeps wiping us repeatedly. I guess you might lose the players that expect to be carried once they realize they can't anymore.

What do you guys think they did well in Cataclysm and where did they go wrong? What can they improve on for Mists of Pandora?
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Nikachelle » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:24 pm

Their schizophrenic attempts at moderating content difficulty is what has driven me nuts this expansion.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Aanar » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:27 pm

Nikachelle wrote:Their schizophrenic attempts at moderating content difficulty is what has driven me nuts this expansion.


If only I could have said it so simply insted of my wall of text. :)
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Shoju » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:38 pm

It depends really on where you fall in the world of WoW as a player really. Nika is spot on with that. Add in a lack of new dungeons, a small raid tier, a completely linear raid tier, and several other points, and you have cataclysm in a quick and easy nutshell.

Honestly? They killed the paladin for me. As stupid and repetitive as it sounds, this game got a whole lot less fun in a hurry after I main changed.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Holyblaze » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:54 pm

Shoju wrote:It depends really on where you fall in the world of WoW as a player really. Nika is spot on with that. Add in a lack of new dungeons, a small raid tier, a completely linear raid tier, and several other points, and you have cataclysm in a quick and easy nutshell.

Honestly? They killed the paladin for me. As stupid and repetitive as it sounds, this game got a whole lot less fun in a hurry after I main changed.



THIS! All of it! I must admit thought I have all the other classes that I so enjoy playing, so that has helped. I know that all of this will not be enough till MoP comes out though. Shall see.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Amirya » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:54 pm

Pretty much it's all been touched on. Probably the biggest issue for me that hasn't been covered is the linear questing mentioned.

80-82: Vash'jr or Hyjal (and to get the dungeon quest for the Vash'jr dungeon involved completing the whole. damn. zone.)
82-83: Deepholm (and to even start working on unlocking the faction involved completing the whole. damn. zone.)
83-84: Uldum
84-85: Twilight Highlands

There's no side questing except in Uldum with the Harrison Jones stuff. You can do that, or if you want, you can work on Ramkahen. If you're a mana-user (holy paladin; priests; mages; warlocks; boomkins; ele/resto shamans), you'd wanted to start your questing in Hyjal to get the rep for the Arcanum (prior to BoA); if you were a tank, you'd want to start in Vash'jr to get the rep for the Arcanum; if you were str/agi dps, it didn't really matter except for rep rewards.

Inscriptions (shoulder enchants) remain BoP instead of BoA. So I only have 3 characters who have inscriptions - Ami, who is exalted with Therazane; Glori, who is only honored with them; Indi who is a scribe. Because honestly? I can't be arsed to complete the whole goddamn area in a zone I find dark and depressing (beautifully done, to be sure, but too dark for me). Not another 8 times. Maybe if it had started you at friendly once you retrieved the pillar fragment from the Stonefather or something.

Ok, I guess it was more than one thing. :|
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Astronomic » Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:58 pm

The problem with the gating of randoms via achievements or something like that is over time you will get a disproportionate amount of bads in the early ones, too many for a couple of goods to carry and that will cause the goods to suffer to because they cant down it on easymode cuz they are surrounded by tards.

You new alt of yours hits 85 gets some gaer and ques for LFR. if the gating has been out for a fwe months you will literally be in a sea of bads while the goods have already gone on to the higher difficulties.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Sabindeus » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:03 pm

Aanar wrote:Part of me wonders if another mistake was merging the lockouts & ilvl of 10 and 25 man. Every guild I knew that did 25 mans in WoTLK is only doing 10s now. Typically, they just gather up their most skilled 10 players and shun everyone else. Thus, a lot of players got left behind. There really aren't 1 in 10 players that want to lead a raid. Needing 25 left enough teams looking for a few people to fill in their ranks that a lot of us common-folk at least got a slot now and then. With 25 slots, you (usually) could afford to have a couple people learning the ropes and after they did it a few times, they moved up to core and you had room to bring in a few more new people. A lot of the 10 mans for 4.0 and 4.2 seemed to be designed around if 1 person messes up, it's a wipe. Basically, a lot more unforgiving, and quite embarressing if you're the one messing up (to the point of often stop trying to raid) and quite frustrating for the other 9. Quite the difference versus a few people being able to finish off Heigen if you had a lot of people struggling.


Having to carry a 25 man raid with at most 12 good players (often less) was what pissed me off most about every expansion that wasn't Cataclysm.

Here's the secret I think certain raiders can't come to terms with: a large population of WoW does not want to have to game on everyone else's terms. I personally stopped raiding in 4.0 just because I was sick of having to show up or disappoint the rest of my guild who could not progress without me. Not because I disliked the content or anything, I was having a blast. But I just couldn't keep it up 3 days a week constantly... Sometimes I just want to do other things with my time. And 4.3 is actually the patch that has made me the most excited for WoW that I've been since 4.0 came out, with LFR and Transmog. Now I don't NEED to spend effort and heartache to maintain a guild in order to see the content.

I think it might be that some people enjoy the constant whining bitching and drama that comes with running a large raiding guild. To those people: I am sorry that the advent of 10 man raiding interrupted your grandiose guild enjoyment, but it definitely was a boon to my enjoyment of the game.


All in all, I think Cataclysm is my favorite expansion next to Wrath of the Lich King. WotLK I think I liked more just because of the storyline not favoring the stupid Horde and Thrall mary-sueing it up.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Koatanga » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:06 pm

Nikachelle wrote:Their schizophrenic attempts at moderating content difficulty is what has driven me nuts this expansion.

This is exactly right.

They drove away casuals at the start with difficult heroic instances, and now they release raid content where the first four bosses can be facerolled.

We're a casual guild raiding 5 hours a week, only taking down Shannox in FL heroics. But in our first raid reset, without even doing much homework beyond reading strats on Icy Veins, we downed the first four bosses of Dragon Soul.

We approached the first boss and said "what does this guy do?" and "let's find out" and still one-shot him.

The new Baradin Hold boss is so trivial it's no wonder they didn't even bother making new trash for the place.

Tank threat was stupid this whole expansion. The vengeance mechanic created tank-swap problems and provided no threat when you needed it and massive threat when you didn't. Finally they just threw in the towel and made threat irrelevant, which is boring as hell in the absence of active mitigation.

Gear levels are ridiculous. With only 5 levels of separation between Wrath and Cata, they had to inflate gear levels to make it relevant, but I reckon they went off the deep end. With another xpac coming out, they have to do something about their inflation.

Then there are chaos orbs, the economy in general, epic gems, enchants that have not improved since 4.0, lack of new glyphs or inscription-craftable items relevant to new tiers...

This xpac started quite well, I thought. The difficulty of heroics was a refreshing change from Wrath. Then they simply lost the plot.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Astronomic » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:10 pm

Koatanga wrote:Tank threat was stupid this whole expansion. The vengeance mechanic created tank-swap problems and provided no threat when you needed it and massive threat when you didn't. Finally they just threw in the towel and made threat irrelevant, which is boring as hell in the absence of active mitigation.


That's why I switched to DK this patch.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby mavfin » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:11 pm

Nikachelle wrote:Their schizophrenic attempts at moderating content difficulty is what has driven me nuts this expansion.


[Big wall of text, you've been warned]

Keep in mind that this is all my opinion, and that the difficulty in question was ok with me, when in groups of good people.

Well, my opinion is that heroic 5-man difficulty was too high at launch, which made LFD a disaster, pushing away a lot of players who liked to do a lot of that. And, they were too long. Many runs in LFD would take an hour or more. Heroic Deadmines is fun for organized people, but likely to be a two-hour boondoggle for a pug, *if* they even finished it. ZG/ZA were even worse. Fun for organized groups, a disaster in LFD. Of course I know that's going to be a very unpopular opinion here among some who already complain the game is too easy. Doesn't matter if it's too easy for us. There's a few million casuals who just want to log on and have some expectation they can finish a 5-man that night, and if they find that half the time they don't finish, they'll quit. They did, in droves, imo. Also, lack of puggable T11 pre-nerf drove away a lot of people who pugged ICC. Again, the raiders loved the difficulty, but, the masses hated it.

4.3's new 5-mans are much more puggable. 4.3's LFR and normal also show the same direction. Back to Wrath accessibility for the masses. As Nika said in another thread, all that's left for the people wanting a real challenge to wipe to is heroic raiding. I know that's not a happy thing for those who live on challenge, but, it's a business decision to slow the bleed of subscribers. They'd rather lose 50K challenge-seekers than lose another million puggers falling off the wagon. In their place, wouldn't you?

Ok, since I'm likely to get flamed anyway, here's my theory on how this worked. Anyone who's canceled a sub knows they have exit polls. Ok, so when they had 4.0 and 4.1 in the pipeline, they had the 'normal churn' exit data, and quite a bit of what they had at that time was from raiders tired of farming ICC, because they were all done with it, and of course, many of those people probably cited 'game too easy' or something similar when leaving. Most of those people came back at Cata launch, but, they had given that data to Blizzard. Between that exit data and forums, they acted on the data they had, and did what they thought was the way to satisfy the most people. Keep in mind that the (time) casuals were the people most likely to not be (and indeed never be) 'done' with ICC/Tier 10, so they were the least likely, imo, to exit the game in that time.

4.1 was already planned, as was 4.2, before they got the exit data from the 600K losses in one quarter. That clued them in that they had something wrong, but, as with most design pipelines, there was a certain amount of inertia. So, even harder 5-mans were released (ZG/ZA), and those were an even bigger disaster in LFD. At about that time, people started brick-walling in T11, so they did the nerfs, which of course, the more skilled players hated, but, the casuals still liked. If I remember correctly, the nerfs for T11 came at 4.2; i.e. ~six months.

4.2 came with Firelands, at a similar difficulty to the un-nerfed T11. Three months in, Blizzard saw that a lot were brick-walled. Somewhere in this time, they probably were getting the exit data from the 1.7 million loss quarter. I'm guessing they saw that it was the casuals, as the OP in this thread noted, 'falling off the wagon' because LFD was a disaster, and pug raiding almost nonexistent in many places. So, we get 4.3, with LFR and Wrath-style 30-minute puggable heroics. Also, LFR has dropped LFD DPS queues down to 10-15 min most of the time, rather than 30-40, and you can 90% of the time expect to finish and get your VP. Also, VP cap is now 1000. They've gone back to frost badges, more or less. 7 5-mans per week *or the equivalent* is what you can get. So, people don't fall behind on VP so easily, either. Again, bad for the hardcore who would like to get ahead quicker, but happier for the masses. There's a pattern here, imo.

It remains to be seen if this helps, but, my opinion is that the masses are happier. Will they stay that way? I think it's more likely now than it was in early Cata.

Again, this is all opinion, i have no data other than history and my own observations to go on, and my own interpretation of things Blizzard has said. For example, Mike Morhaime mentioned something about content going too quickly at Blizzcon. Well, some say that's because the game is so easy people slam through it. That may not be what he meant. It may be that he was thinking about casuals 'falling off the wagon' and quitting the game because they couldn't complete the content at a decent pace, or LFD being a disaster.

I try to look at it from a business standpoint, and not say that the game needs this or that based on what I want from it personally. Blizzard has millions of people to satisfy. They're not going to be able to cater to everyone at once, though they're trying, with 3 difficulties of raiding. However, if heroic raiding is your thing, I wouldn't expect the other 2 difficulties to challenge you much, but do keep in mind there will be people that find normal challenging, no matter what you personally think of them.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby fafhrd » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:19 pm

Pinpointing which specific change is where they 'went wrong' is a little futile imo, what went wrong is Blizzard. Their vision of what game they want to produce is no longer the game I want to play, and it hasn't really been since the end of BC. I'll stick out this current expansions raid tiers, but don't expect to do any signficant playing of MoP, and don't think most of my guildmates of the past 7 years will either.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Sabindeus » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:29 pm

I personally think it's unrealistic to have a video game you play constantly for 7 years. If you move on then so be it, that's the cycle of video games, right?
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby mavfin » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:30 pm

Sabindeus wrote:All in all, I think Cataclysm is my favorite expansion next to Wrath of the Lich King. .


I would have to agree, especially since 4.3. In the interests of full disclosure, I've probably played more since 4.3 launched than I played in all of 4.1 and 4.2.

As for Fafhrd, I would have to say, that in my opinion, they tried to make the game to more satisfy your category of player at Cata launch, and lost a couple million subs over the next six to nine months. In my personal opinion, those roughly two million weren't primarily your type of player. I think it was the opposite. If the people leaving were your type of player, why isn't 4.3 harder? I'm not personally attacking you; what you want to play is what you want to play. I'm just saying that you're not Blizzard's target now. People who want a hard game, and nothing but a hard game; i.e. no easier difficulties for anyone, don't make for multi-million player MMOs.
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Re: Where did Cataclysm go wrong?

Postby Sagara » Thu Dec 15, 2011 2:47 pm

I enjoyed Cata quite a bit. Maybe not as much as BC and Lich King, but i can't even pinpoint a cause. I think it has a bit to do with Arthas' storytelling that was compelling to me (fallen hero type), where Deathwing was more of an absolute evil that you have to beat back one way or another.

Maybe that's it: Where Arthas was an Antagonist, Deathwing was merely a catalist, and the good stories happened on the sidelines (Leyara would a vilainous example, where Kalec is a heroic example).

Otherwise? It was a decent x-pack, with a lot of work put in to give us things to DO outside raid nights. Not always successful, but the concept is what matters to me.
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