The Death of a Rogue

I’ve been using the Asmiroth moniker for over 20 years (that’s painful to write), and my first WoW character was a dwarf rogue on launch day.  I ran a rogue-specific website at the time, wrote guides (that paid for my PCs for a LONG time), and was more than well versed in that class.  I played Rogue as a main character up until Pandaria, where I started to really mess around with alts.  In particular the Monk, which I’ve mained since.

Rogues in just about any RPG setting have been interesting to me.  The idea of hiding in the shadows, coming out with bursts, then hiding again is a rather unique class trait.  There’s an irony here in that the typical rogue mindset is that of a loner, but in practical terms they often require other people to excel – what with the backstabbing and all.  This worked in something like Everquest where group combat was the default.  Less so in WoW where the single player experience has been taking a larger foothold.

As the MMO space has evolved, the multi-role aspect has really become the gold standard for way forward.  FF14 does a spectacular job on this, but doesn’t actually have a rogue class.  This model allows an individual to continue to participate in the game, filling in the role they see fit (heal/tank/damage).  WoW at launch focused on classes filling a single role well.  Those that could do multiple roles, usually did so at a penalty (hybrid tax).  Game moved forward and more and more hybrid classes have come to shore.

Which means in WoW there are only 4 pure damage classes left – Rogue, Hunter, Mage, and Warlock.  Only one of those is melee.  And the game design over the years has been ultra punishing for anyone in melee range.  It’s not that it’s impossible, just that if you want to play a melee DPS role, you need to always be moving, which requires a level of player dexterity and awareness above and beyond those at range.

So, the Rogue is limited to a specific role, and mechanically at a disadvantage.  What benefits do they bring?  Group stealth is one, where this has a niche application in time-based group trials.  They are great at locking down single targets, especially in PvP settings.  It should be relatively high on single target damage but due to the melee range challenges, they actually rank middle of pack, with 4 other melee classes ahead of them.

The above issues reflect tremendously in day to day gameplay.  Single player efforts are at a disadvantage compared to pretty much every other class due to poor defensive options.  In group settings, aside from high tier timed dungeon runs, they provide minimal benefit.  Combined, it makes rogues less fun to play.  Maybe if the game reverted from the AE-trash / Focus-boss structure it would help, and the full skill set could be leveraged.

I will point out that the rogue lore in WoW is second only to Paladins, and crosses both factions.  I absolutely loved the Legion class hall.

For now, if you’re looking for a leather-based, mobile, melee option… you’re better off with a Demon Hunter.  They do nearly everything a Rogue does, but better in nearly every aspect.  Monks are even more versatile, but their DPS spec needs some tuning.  Their tank role is the best in the business, which is a nice offset.  Plus they heal.

End result is that my Rogue sits in the inn, unlocking boxes sent to him in the mail, at expansion max level, waiting for the day he can come out of retirement.

BfA Pathfinder

Naithan had me thinking with a recent post about flying in BfA.  A long time ago I had completed Part 1, which was mostly a rep grind at the start.  At the time, the rep grind had some significant tangible benefits related to gearing and vertical progress.  Really doesn’t mean much today though.

Part 2 is another rep grind, specifically with the 8.2 factions (Nazjatar and Mechagon), and given the large rep boost it turned out to be about 3 days of effort with the reputation boost active.  A Mechagon contract plus all the quests and dailies for each zone gave me the boost.  So maybe a week now that the rep boost isn’t active.

Now we get to cover the actual benefits of flying.  I decided to level my rogue to test it out.  I did a few levels on the ground, a few in the air.  Air was faster, but only when put against negative zone flow design.  Blizz world design has 2 modes – open exploration, and then funnelled experience.  The funnelled experience doesn’t benefit from flying.  You go from A to B, and the path is part of the experience.  The open world design has spread out targets, and then “trash” blocking the ground path.  The western part of Stormsong (Naga area) is a super good example.  Flying allows you to pick your targets, and since the majority of EXP is from quests, this is a major speed boost.  The difference in BfA is large, but not as large as it was in Legion.

World quests also benefit, since they are spread out and the drop in/out aspect is a HUGE timesaver.  Fairly useless for people who have access to flying since they’ve likely got all they need from WQ already (except alts).  Material farming also isn’t that great.  Both 8.2 zones have plenty of trash drops that are worth 100g, which blows any farming route out of the water.  I made 5,000g running those 2 zones in 30 minutes and vendoring everything I found.

8.3

In 7.3 (Argus) you couldn’t fly.  Daily quest hub, plenty of ways to die, lots of interesting bits.  It was relatively good design but felt punishing since you had just unlocked flying.

8.3 is re-makes of existing zones with N’zoth invasions, and they require flying (Uldum in particular).  The zone design itself is limited by Cataclysm/Pandaria structure, where you have pockets of activity and large spaces with nothing.  It’s a heck of a throw back when you look at from afar.  Flying is not punished, only floating and going AFK.  It makes the dailies go by extremely fast, 15 minutes or so per zone.  This is really odd design choice considering the deliberate efforts in the past years to slow down the pace of content consumption.

Overall

Flying has a larger benefit to alts in terms of catch-up options.  Whether there’s a value there or not depends on what you’re trying to achieve.  There are quite a few time gates in terms of vertical progression (WQ/Dailies), but you could try your hand at dungeons I guess to reach max level pretty quick.  I don’t see why that would matter today.  You’re pretty much just setting up alts for the next expansion, right?

Anthem 2.0

I think a lot of people have seen the Anthem dev blog post late last week, what with Christian looking like quite a few WFH folks.  The last time I heard a peep about Anthem dev work was in the fall, when they were re-tooling.  Which was cool to see that EA wasn’t giving up on what they had poured sweat into.  I do think that Anthem has a lot going for it, but lack of cohesive development (and suspected lack of experience) threw bad game out the door.

The post doesn’t go into too many details, but there are some larger items that poke out.  The team is only 30 large, and they are in the prototyping phase.  I am somewhat surprised by that, as it often means that this is an idea-generation phase of a project.  They throw ideas against the wall and see what sticks.  If you were looking at a 4 year dev cycle, this would be the first 6 months.  But that’s if they were building from scratch.

Anthem has a ton of stuff already pre-built.  The art, music and lore assets are already there.  The combat mechanics (aim/move/shoot) stuff works pretty good too.  The moment-to-moment portions have always worked well.  Sure, there’s some number tweaking required to get the TTK stuff in line, but overall, that part works.

What’s missing is the systems, the parts you can’t see but impact everything else you do.  The vertical aspects of the game are simply broken.  The game locks skills behind weapons, and then puts stats on those weapons.   It also adds skill boosting effects on rare weapon types.  It then balances the game against you having great stats, and access to those unique skills.

I’m going to time travel now, back to when Diablo 3 launched, with a game-built auction house.  Reaper of Souls (RoS) took all the garbage out and delivered a friggin’ amazing game, so it may be hard to recall what D3 looked like.  To it’s advantage, skills were not weapon based.  Player damage was (and to a significant degree, still is).  Game difficulty was based on having god-tier stats, which had insanely low drop rates.  RNG was not loaded, meaning you could find a Barbarian weapon with caster stats as much any anything else.  These stat pools made it so that the AH was the efficient way of powering up (other than grinding dozens of hours).  Sets/uniques didn’t matter because they simply couldn’t roll high enough stats, so there was no real variety in gameplay.  You’d be playing with the same skills at max, grinding the same spots, forever.  If ever there was a poster child for bad game direction, it would be D3 with Jay Wilson (this is a generic topic for later).

D3 launched in November 2012 . Jay Wilson “resigned” in Jan 2013.  RoS launched in March 2014.   1.0.4 gave paragon levels and 1.0.5 gave monster power (which evolved into Torment).  RoS was announced ~6 months before launch.  Dev timelime estimates plug this at RoS starting work before D3 actually launched, and taking a different stride when Jay left.  ~9 months of system design, and 6 months of polish.  RoS didn’t launch with many new systems, it just fixed the broken ones.

Anthem 2.0

Setting expectations here is important.  I don’t think it’s possible for Anthem to launch in a state ready to compete with anything on the market.  The Division and Destiny are stable and successful.  Their systems generally work, but there’s always some number tweaking required.  They add new systems to streamline and add variety to the vertical progression path.

System-wise, Anthem needs a rebuild.  The grouping/instance stuff is ok, though there are some bugs.  The art style works, though adding extra indicators to spot enemies from the background would be neat.  Things that really need to be looked at:

  • Open World.  Frostbite 3 is used to host large PvP battles.  There’s no technical reason this can’t support better options for Anthem except for development experience/time.  The actual mechanics are found in almost every online game out there.
  • Player skills.  A separate “rune-based” system to access skill loadouts, with achievements/quests/unique slots to unlock the rare variants.  There should be no stats assigned to player skill slots.
  • RNGsus.  There are already massive improvements in this space, where there are weight based drops.  Quality drops are better now than at launch. The gap that remains is the range of random.  A unique drop must always be viable, just not optimal.
  • Slot weight attributes.  There are basic stats (hp/power) and then there are slot stats.  Gloves should have stats that only show up on gloves.
  • Stat balancing.  There are god stats, power stats, and flavor stats.  God stats are things you will sacrifice anything to obtain. Magic Find / Rarity increase is a good example.  They should never be in a game.  Power stats are linked to the damage you deal and take.  More combos, more damage, more health.  These stats are found on all piece, with ranges that reflect their rarity.  In no case should a rare glove be better than a unique glove.  Flavor stats are things that add options to a playstyle.  More flight time, more ammo, clip size and so on.  These are optional stats, that are limited to the slot.
  • Difficulty balance.  A choice for when the player power curve starts to tick inwards determines how difficulty is balanced.   Today the game is balanced around “fresh” players, “maxed” players and then a no-man’s land in the middle.  The gap here is that the power range is so large, that it’s massive jumps between.
  • Crafting.  Adding an RNG element to crafting like Kunai’s Cube would be good.  Balancing the odds on this vs. crafting materials is important.
  • Player structure.  Open world is designed for single player, missions are designed for 4 players.  The group model combat structure works in terms of group synergies, but not in terms of power curves.  This ties into difficulty balancing more than much else.

I think the important thing here is that there’s no re-inventing the wheel required.  The main benefit of coming into the game late means you can refine existing systems.  There are at least 3 AAA games to pull from.  Hundreds of others if you cast a wide net.  There is a “buffet” problem of too much choice, and some systems that just won’t work with each other.  Game direction therefore becomes ultra important.

Time to Wait

This is already a long post, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of dev work left to relaunch Anthem.  30 people in a prototype stage is at least a year from any reasonable launch.  The desire is clearly there.  Now what’s a question is the actual investment.

 

Horizontal vs Vertical

I keep coming back to this topic again and again.  The recent gamer profile stuff kicked this to the front of the brain.

Games can be categorized as vertical or horizontal progressing, to varying degrees.  RPGs are mostly about the vertical (levels + skills), with some horizontal (strategy + tactics).  Fighting games appear vertical (ranks) but are actually horizontal (player skill).  In fact, PvP games need to be horizontal in order to give the perception of fairness (it’s why PvP generally fails in MMOs.  EvE being the sort of exception, but I can’t recall any battle that wasn’t predetermined before the first shot was fired.)

I’ve been playing various puzzle games, and that’s horizontal and quite enjoyable.  Obra Dinn, Edith Finch, Outer Worlds.  You never get new tool sets, just new data to parse through.  It’s your brain that gets better.  I find these games tremendously enjoyable.   Board games as a family are blast in this space as well, and the worst ones deal with vertical aspects (Monopoly!!!).  Building a story and seeing it through is great.  It’s why we watch movies and read books.  Having those be interactive is the next logical step.  The challenge here is that the difficulty curve has to account for the player getting better.  The Witness gradually builds on puzzle complexity.  If you somehow managed to skip to the last puzzles, you’d have no idea what to do.

I still enjoy the vertical aspects.  Getting better tools to address a challenge is fulfilling.  The challenge here from a game developer perspective is not making the content trivial.  Monster Hunter is a decent example, where the scaling of monsters is within a given range and even with the best gear, it doesn’t reach a point where you can totally ignore mechanics.  At least in the context of content that still provides vertical progress.  Other games struggle with this, where the reward loop makes the content increasingly trivial, yet still rewarding (WoW raining purples).  Or in the opposite direction, the challenge is extremely high with no reward (Anthem drop rates).

If the game is entirely based on vertical progression, you’re going to have a bad time.  Thankfully, many folks have realized this and all successful games are based on horizontal progression being a valuable option.  Think of a successful game that focuses on vertical and I’m sure you can find a horizontal progression system that keeps more people active (cosmetics, titles, pets).

Sometimes its good to enjoy games for just being games.  Other times, I have a heck of an itch to scratch and it’s good to find the right game to scratch the right itch.  Sometimes it’s a puzzle, sometimes a world builder, sometimes a world destroyer.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2

Call me nostalgic here but the THPS series was a defining moment of gaming.  The soundtrack alone is a super smash.  Remaster coming this fall, announced on Tony’s bday no less!

I remember sitting in a basement playing the first few games in this series with friends.  Everyone took a turn trying to figure out the most insane combo possible, or the way to get up to an area to get a collectible.  Being able to carry a manual for more than 30sec was a point of pride.

I took THPS1 for a ride on an emulator a few years  back.  The gameplay still holds up decent, as does the music.  But the graphics absolutely do not.  It’s impressive what our imagination did to fill in the blanks back in the day.

This looks like a remaster rather than a remake.  They’ll add bits that were added over time (including the Skate franchise), as well as multiplayer.  If they can keep the same tight controls, wacky moveset, skater building, soundtrack blasting, just-one-more-run cycle of the originals, I’m in like gin!

This being Activision, I am sceptical that this will be a “clean” game.  Micro-transactions will certainly be in here, which will as a highly cosmetic game, is expected.  Money making outside of that… maybe DLC for other skate parks.  If it ends up injecting more passion into the THPS/Skate franchise, maybe we can see a new take on it in a few years.

Stoked.

 

 

Jurassic World : Evolution

It’s been on my wishlist for a while now, I must have missed the sales.  It’s in the May Humble Bundle, making it an easy purchase.  Doesn’t include scenario DLC, but it does include some extra dinosaurs.

It is a “tycoon” type game.  You build a park, fill it with murdering monsters, and hope you get people to come buy t-shirts.  Replace the dinosaurs with caged clowns and there really isn’t a whole lot that changes.  ‘Cept maybe I wouldn’t feel as bad when one passes away.

Anyhoot, the main campaign has you build 5 main parks, all with the same goals, though there are slightly different factors for each.  Either you start in the hole, or it’s an island that gets a lot of storms (damage), or it’s some weird shape. Before I go into the game mechanics, I will say that the transition to one park to another is dumb.  Say you have $40m in park 1, you start park 2 with $500k.  All your research transfers.  All your dinosaur research transfers.  You can even transfer fossils (which you can sell for quick cash) but it’s still dumb.  I know how to run a park.  I just did it.  All it does is forces you to swap back to park 1, do some digs, then sell the fossils in park 2.

The game mechanics are simple enough.  Run digs to get fossils.  Research fossils to get % increases to dinosaur genomes.  Use those genomes to breed dinosaurs.  House/feed dinosaurs.  Breed different ones and raise the cool factor of the park, which brings more visitors.  Visitors want to poop, eat, and play.  Build stuff for them to spend money.  Repeat.  Become millionaire.

Of course it’s Jurassic Park, so stuff goes sideways.  Herbivores are simple enough, they get along.  Nearly every carnivore hates other dinosaurs, so you need to spread them out.  They will break their cages, so you need double walls.  You need people to feed them, repair cages, cure diseases.  You need people to tranquilize dinosaurs who get out and see people as a buffet.  Manage power, prices, roads, and a bunch of other stuff and things work (more or less).  This is sort of like disaster management, and some dinosaurs are much more annoying than others (raptors especially).

It may seem complex, but after park 1, it’s all pretty simple.  Where the game comes into play is in the faction management.  There are 3 factions (science, entertainment, security) that offer contracts (mini quests, 3 total at any time), and missions (more complex lists of tasks, 1 per faction, per park).  Raise the faction standing, and there are some minor monetary benefits.  The larger benefit is that the faction stops sabotaging you (like, wth).  Security doesn’t like you?  They turn off the power and dinosaurs eat people.  Faction going up for one, drops the other 2, and doesn’t transfer between parks.  Fine.

Contracts are simple steps.  Sell a dinosaur that’s like X, build Y, make Z dollars.  There are weird ones, like staging dinosaur fights.  There are some monetary rewards, but frankly you just want to raise the bar to unlock some research options.

Missions are multi-step items that explain game concepts.  How to breed special genes.  How power works.  How storms work.  How comfort works.  In general, these are straightforward.  The missions that force you into a negative state often cause cascading failures.  And if things go really wrong, you fail the mission and need to do it again.  It’s cool to teach concepts, but it seems like it was designed by someone who understands everything about the game.  It assumes you know how to complete the tasks without saying how.

The Real Stuff

Frankly, that’s gripes over smaller bits.  You know what matters?  I’m breeding DINOSAURS.  And they look AWESOME.

And really, taking a step back, the gaming cycle feels good. It doesn’t get old to have a T-Rex come out of the shop.  It’s amazing to see a diplodocus eating from the trees.  The monorail is neat.  Building pens feels fun.  Terraforming just works.

And it feels good to go back to a previous park with all the knowledge and upgrades you unlocked down the road.  There’s some optimization options, and getting 5 stars seems much more doable.

Some minor gripes aside, the game is fun and well worth $20.  More than that.

Frostpunk: Refugees

This is the last scenario in the base game, and I’ve taken a solid swipe at it now.  What’s left is the Endless mode, where there are no win conditions, only failures.  Given that the scenarios are always against a clock, and primed full of crises, you’re never really in a balanced mode.  Sure, you may have all your coal needs covered, but odds are you’re low on food, or steel.  Given enough time though, getting balance across everything is absolutely achievable.  Maybe I’ll give it a shot later on.

Refugees

The idea of this scenario is that you’re given a tight build space, few resource to start, and LOTS of people showing up to the door every 2 days.  These people often show up sick too, and with poor housing, you’re going to be rolling in sick people.  And the children, good golly the children that show up.

Combined, for practical purposes you need to pass the Child Worker (kids can work safe jobs) and Overcrowding (double medical capacity) laws.   That raises some interesting design choices in this game I’ll get to later.

This particular scenario best exemplifies the needs of the people, how long you can ignore them, and what you can do manage discontent.  You can go a couple days without food.  You can’t go a night without housing someone or they will get ill.  Ill people can stay at home.  Places with people should never be lower than chilly.  Even though the game says you’re in a bad state, it’s often just a warning rather than a failure.

The “trick” to this particular scenario is all about getting through the first two nights without a ton of sick people.  Everyone needs a place to live, you need a medical spot, and you need to have gathering huts to build it all.

There are 10 sets of basic refugees (and some at various explored outposts), then some lords show up in the final quarter.  If you’ve got the first 10 groups under control, the lords are easy enough to manage.  Faith/Order keepers are needed to break up any conflicts – and they are generally required for other bits anyhow, so you’ll have them.

The last few decision points should be taken at the management level, rather than the personal one.  You’re presented with moral choices, and the decisions here have some minor ripple effects.

Overall it took me 6 tries to get through the first 2 nights, and the rest fell into place without too many hiccups.  The scenario is a good step up from the Ark in complexity, but there’s a lack of decisions at the start that have long term impacts.

Scenario Comparison

In terms of difficulty, it would go Ark, Main, Refugees, passing a kidney stone, Winterhome.  Since you need to get to day 20 in the main campaign to unlock any of the others, you’ll have a relatively solid foundation.

In terms of complexity, it would go Ark, Refugees, Main, Winterhome.  The last 2 demands a fair chunk more planning to get through, and curious decisions points that have longer term ripple effects.  Winterhome in particular has 3 specific choices that mostly eliminate the ability to get the best outcome.  You don’t know that until the end, which makes victory bittersweet.

Overall Tips

There are a couple starting guides out there, but they all generally sum up to:

  • Gathering huts >>> picking from piles
  • Understand the day/night cycle.  People work during the day, and do not work at night.  They don’t sleep, they just don’t work.  If you plan to upgrade buildings, best to do it at night with plenty of free labour and no impact to production.
  • 1 hunting hut per 50 citizens
  • Coal Thumpers are amazing (and don’t cost cores)
  • Wall drills are better than Sawmills (takes 3 cores to max out one wall drill)
  • For most of the game, people are nearly twice as good as automatons in terms of productivity per hour.  Automatons don’t need heat, and work 24/7.  Having them work nights and people during the day is a very effective strategy.
  • Priority research is the beacon, above everything else.  Heaters are next, then get some resource production going.
  • Get an expedition team going ASAP.  The resource gains at the start make a huge difference, and it’s the only way to get more cores.  Ideally you can run 2 teams, with a speed boost.  You also move faster to known locations, so use them as midpoints for longer runs.
  • Outposts for cores only.  The rest you can make on your own.  One exception to this in a specific scenario.
  • Pass laws at every cooldown.  Of great value are Extended Shifts (for workshops) and Soup (25% more food).  Radical treatment + prosthetics gets people working again.
  • Faith laws help manage Hope/Discontent, while Order best manages productivity.  Productivity is an issue in the early part of the game, when you can’t pass the laws anyhow.
  • Hunting huts, beacons, and storage do not require any heat to operate.  This fact saves an insane amount of building space for houses.
  •  Only research things you need, when you need them.  Bunkhouses shouldn’t be researched until you’ve unlocked the ability for houses.

Frostpunk is a solid game.

WoW Realm Pops

Cause I’m a numbers guy.

This isn’t a comparions, just some analytics triggered by Bel’s recent post.  Data points are taken from WoWProgress, since the previous wowrealmpop was apparently sold.  Only for US servers to simplify things.  These are not distinct data points, only indicative.  It’s based on active characters, not players.  Still, the ratios help.  Alliance is listed before Horde for alphabetical purposes.

A few notes to start though.  When WoW launched, it had a tight focus on the Alliance vs. Horde conflict – made sense as it was a followup to Warcraft 3.  The world was more or less split in the middle, with spots in the mid 30s where both factions started meeting each other.  I won’t go into why PvP didn’t work as planned, as that’s a book’s worth of musings.  I can say that expansions alternated between the factions teaming up, and then breaking up. Feels more like a rom-com in that sense.  BfA isn’t any different – it started as a conflict and it’s now in group-hug mode.

Dev choices over the years have broken down these faction barriers, so that the world has been “shared” since MoP.  WoD is a slight deviation, given the 2 faction specific zones, but it also kicked off with a faction war…  At the game stands today, the faction split is a mechanical one.  People can’t group together cross-faction, or effect trade (the AH does work).  Aside from that, the factions are cosmetic and story based,

Why does any of that matter?  Because in early WoW factions meant something game-impacting, while today it only impacts the players you can play with.  In open world content (yes, that existed), you’d be fighting against the other faction for the same resources and no way to really communicate about it.   Nowdays, it’s about server population balances.  If you want to actually see other people and want to play Horde, you’re not going to roll on Stormrage.

Curious Data Points

Onto the stats

  • There are ~505,000 characters.  220k are Alliance (44%) and 285k are Horde (56%)
  • There are 120 servers.  The average would be 4,200 characters per servers.  The median is 2,100 due to overloaded servers
  • The highest pop servers are, with an Alliance / Horde % ratio:
    • Stormrage (PvE) – 26,000 (97%/3%)
    • Area52 (PvE) – 24,000 (1%/99%)
    • Illidan (PvP) – 22,000 (2%/98%)
    • Sargeras (PvP) – 18,000 (94%/6%)
    • Thrall (PvE) – 17,000 (3%/97%)
  • The lowest realms are all connected and around 1,000 characters each.  Except Tol Barrad (PvP) with 548 characters (62%/38%), and Garrosh, which has 864 characters (34%/66%).
  • In general, if a server has ~1,000 characters, it is a connected realm.  The connections are meant to balance the faction ratios.
  • The top 10 servers in population account for 16% of Alliance and 22% of Horde
    • 50% of the Alliance is spread in the top 21 servers
    • 50% of the Horde is spread in the top 14 servers
  • The largest imbalances, for non-connected servers
    • Alliance (all above 90%)
      • Stormrage (PvE) – 97%/3%
      • Proudmoore (PvE) – 94%/6%
      • Sargeras (PvP)– 94%/6%
      • Frostmourne (PvP) – 93%/7%
      • Kel’Thuzad (PvP) – 91%/9%
    • Horde (there are 12 above 90%)
      • Mal’Ganis (PvP) – 0%/100%
      • Area 52 (PvE) – 1%/99%
      • Azralon (PvP) – 2%/98%
      • Illidan (PvP) – 2%/98%
      • Barthilas (PvP) – 2%/98%

Analysis

While not in the list above, WoWProgress lists server ranks in terms of raiding progress.  If you value progression raiding, you do not want to be on a connected server, and you want to be on a faction-friendly server (e.g. don’t roll Alliance on Illidan).

PvE servers tend to favor Alliance, while PvP servers tend to favor Horde.  Racial abilities are the main argument for this items being created, and even if they were removed entirely tomorrow, there are few drivers that would make a dent in this balance.  BfA’s daily quests have highlighted this fact (zone zerging).

PvP servers that have large imbalances as effectively PvE servers.  Which is nearly half of all of the PvP servers.

Character volume has a direct impact on the economics of a server, in both the material aspects (gold/auction house) and players to play with.  If you want to play the auction house to trade for WoW tokens, you want to play on a relatively high pop realm and on the appropriate faction.  The highest pop servers are a double-edged sword in that regard, as you will be competing against many more people for the same resources.

High pop realms are more likely to have stability issues due to the server architecture.  These will hit during expansion launched, large patches, and on weekly maintenance cycles.

New players are better off taking a connected realm, as there’s a better balance of factions and players.  I don’t think there are too many people left on the planet who a) have not played WoW, b) don’t know someone who has played WoW, and c) would start playing WoW cold without knowing someone already playing.

Guilds are the lifeblood of any server.  They have players who are active in group content, and in the markets.  There are multiple examples of servers “dying” due to guild migrations.  This bit of info is a main reason for connected servers.

Connected realms are for all purposes but name, merged servers.  The names have not been merged in order to avoid having to rename thousands of existing characters.

Conclusion

Blizzard’s main tool to keep populations stable is to charge people to move.  For individuals, this isn’t too hefty a price (1 character per faction is sufficient, as you really only need to migrate gold, capped at 1 million).

While the data indicates that people can roll on the “wrong server”, the reality is the number of people impacted by this is minuscule.  That said, WoW could certainly do with a server recommendation based on faction/playstyle.  Or a pop up warning when rolling a new character of the wrong faction on a server.

That’s if factions even matter anymore.  If it doesn’t, then allow cross-faction grouping and a shared auction house.  Keep factions cosmetic and applied to PvP.

Frostpunk : More Scenarios

Once you get through to day 20 (of ~40) in the main scenario, Frostpunk opens up other alternatives.  Instead of starting with nothing, you have a different initial set up, different quests/events, and a different goal.  I’ve closed out two of the 3, and they are wildly different.

The Arks

You start off with a rather simple base, an Automaton, and 4 seed arks that must be kept above cold or it’s game over.  You’re limited in the number of people in the city, and the only way to get more automatons is to to exploring.  In that sense, this entire scenario is more scientific in nature, and the best choices are the most logical.  Get more scouts, increase ability to heat the arks, automate as much as possible.

If you’re able to clear the main scenario, then this one feels like easy mode.

Fall of Winterhome

In the main scenario, around a specific day, you get a visitor from Winterhome that says the city is gone.  It also triggers the Londoners arc in the main quest, which is the intro for the Purpose (Faith/Order) laws.  The Fall scenario explains what happened to Winterhome.  And whooo boy, did it ever happen.

The starting conditions are painful.  There are laws that are passed that you can’t revert, half the city is burnt down (and preventing you from building), the other half is poorly designed (freezing, no food), there 3 dozen amputees (no prosthetics), and a few dozen sick people.  Oh, and the generator is broken.

So you’re dealt an amazingly poor hand to start, barely enough resources to get things going, and at least a half dozen crises to manage every single day.  I tried at least 8 times to get this scenario started properly – and that deals specifically with the best approach to clear the crap and what to research.

I’d like to say that it went well after that.  It did not, and I found myself saving every 2 days in game, as a sort of fall back if things just snowballed downhill.  Which it did, often.

Eventually you come to realize that there’s no way to fix the generator – it will eventually blow up.  You’re tasked with evacuating as many people as possible, but that requires send fuel, food stores, and build quarters to house them.  The last one has 4 levels of success, the final 2 being extremely difficult to achieve.

Expeditions are not as useful here as in other scenarios – you’re given quite a few choices to collect or leave things.  For example, I made a choice to pick up an automaton, and it didn’t cause massive failure, but I do know it prevented me from getting the best possible outcome.

City building itself takes time, since you’re always starved for resources.  There is never a time where everyone has enough heat, or is healthy.  You need a ridiculous amount of space to heal people, which either takes engineers or cores.  The game makes both of those options nearly impossible.  That makes the Faith purpose mandatory so you can get Houses of Healing (fits 10, can be manned by anyone).

There comes a point where you’re just scraping by, things are bad, but not horrible.  Then you reach a point where evacuations start and people start freaking out (naturally).  You are presented with the best-of-a-bad-situation decision points, where they have massive consequences.  You’re pressed to put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few, and those decisions are just painful.  And everytime you evacuate people, that’s people no longer able to help stabilize the city.

The entire scenario feels like you’re on an out of control train, heading down a mountain, with no brakes, and certain death.  You’re job is to get as many people off that train.

When it was all over, I saved 200 people.  Nearly 100 people died before evacuation, and another 200 could not be saved.  I don’t know if I’d call that winning.

Meta

Frostpunk is a stressful game.  You’re always trying to think 2-3 steps ahead, and needing to keep dozens of plates spinning at any one time.  The game has a knack for continually knocking those plates down.  So you’re always adjusting, never quite sure what’s around the next corner.

I can’t see how anyone could “win” a scenario without first “winning” the first 3 nights.  Those are make/break milestones and have cascading effects on the rest.  That provides a TON of foreknowledge on what the real scenario is within the game.

When looked at comparatively, the Ark and Fall scenarios are just different side of the same coin.  Both deal with crisis management, but one deals with science while the other deals with psychology.  Heck of a difference…

Gamer Profile

I’ve done so many personality profiles now, I may be one of the baselines.  My work related profile is almost entirely red (get things done), with a decent amount of blue (get the details).  My green (want to be included) and yellow (include other people) barely register.  Pretty sure that puts me in the psychopathic tendencies.  The context of that profile is that my work generally deals with no-fail projects that are not progressing.  When you enter a building that’s on fire, you don’t go asking people how’s the weather.  Once the fire’s out, so am I.  Rinse and repeat.

I remember when I received one of my first complete reports.  I read through it, about 40 odd pages, and highlighted 2 sentences out of all of it I didn’t think applied to me.  Showed it to my wife and she started laughing about how accurate it was.  I can still recall people in my group highlighting entire pages.  Either they lied on their answers, or they are in a river in Egypt.

That said, I’ve found it very useful to run these tests on my teams, not so much to pin people into specific colors, but to better understand what approach works best with them.  If someone needs a pat on the back to get motivated, then for sure I’ll do that.  Also helps them understand how I work too.

 

Gaming profiles have some interest, as they are still being developed.  I’m used to seeing the 4 axis model (Bartle), where I tend to fall into the achiever/explorer type.

Quantic has a 6 axis model, and that level of added granularity makes it easier to explain.  My results here.  You can run your own report from the same link.

quantic basic

This is the basic profile view.  Given I like RPGs and strategic games, this aligns fairly well.  The social aspect is more for the online part, I like single player games more so that multiplayer.  I don’t play for PvP or explosions.

 

quantic secondary

This one is more nuanced, and therefore more exact in the descriptions. Achievement is a good example of that, where I am driving from a power increase perspective rather than getting 100% done.  I have ZERO drive to “platinum” anything.  I’m also driven by community building rather than competition.  A crystal clear penchant for strategic decisions rather than just pure excitement.

The interesting part here is that if I mixed my gaming profile with my work profile, you’d find some correlation.  The mastery & achievement align tremendously well with getting stuff done.   My focus on details at work is a blend of creativity & immersion.  I clearly like building things with people –  I wouldn’t be a volunteer coach otherwise – so that reflection is fun to see.

Quantic is onto something here, as they ask for your top recent games, and some other recent favorites.  Thematically those games help.  I picked God of War, What Remains of Edith Finch, and Outer Wilds as my top 3.  That’s certainly some variety.  The list of questions that follow are straightforward enough, but don’t really loop back on themselves as most profile tests tend to.  That exists because people’s memories are finicky – you may like blue at the start of a test, but all of a sudden another question talks about bananas, and now you like yellow.

It’s an interesting exercise to take.  Certainly made me take pause and think about the games types I do enjoy, or why I may only enjoy one part of a game but not another.