Gating Content

I’ve talked about this a few times in the past but it would appear that Blizzard is unable to address the issue with any level of clarity.  From an MMO design perspective, gating is good.  Gating is the proverbial carrot on the stick to get people to log back in again and again.  Gating can be done with time, skill, money… nearly any variable you can think of.  Typically though, the MMO factor is time.

You want to kill the toughest boss?  You need to put in the time to learn the pattern and get the gear to beat him.  You want that special mount?  Grind that faction baby!  You want that unique pet?  Grind out pet battles!

The issue isn’t the fact that there’s a carrot, it’s the type of carrot for the type of horse.  To assume that all carrots are made the same when your game has 10 million players is lunacy.  I know it’s not design by democracy but it’s also not design by hubris either.

Faction gain is currently gated behind not only a time mechanic but a system mechanic as well.  The fact that you are limited to 8 quests a day and that it will take 20 days of quests to reach your goal is one issue.  The fact that those 8 quests can take 90 minutes (damn Goat Steaks) is another one completely.

Putting the 20 day gate in front of a character (not a player) isn’t a huge deal.  It is a large design swing decision from the past 4 years though.   Putting 6 of those gates in front of the player at the same time forces the player to choose which one is a priority.  The hiccup is that they can get those 6 done in 20 days OR they can take up to 120 days to get them all done.  That is a massive variance.  And that’s per character.  Bob forbid you have 2 or more (say one is a pure DPS).   Oh, I forgot to mention that the currency used to buy the rewards for capping out faction doesn’t come from gaining faction?  It comes from running dungeons?  Kind of important.

The system mechanics are another hurdle.  While one faction might be simple (Cloud Serpent comes to mind) others are simply stupid.  Extremely low drop rates, heavy hitting enemies that can kill a fresh 90 in a few hits, fast (and slow) spawns, thick enemy groups and crazy competition make many faction quests a chore to move through.  Anyone who’s done the Goat Steaks quest for the Tillers has probably found the worst quest in all of Panda-land.  Now, it isn’t that these quests are hard that’s the problem, it’s the aggregate effect of it all.  6 hard quests a day is doable.  50 is not.

Finally, there’s the entire principle of putting a dungeon/gear carrot in a non-dungeon/gear process, while still requiring the dungeon process.  Let’s not forget that you can’t simply pick a faction to get all your rewards, you actually need to get them all.

As individual systems, each has value and design importance.  The issue is in the aggregate impact on players.  It’s like a group of people sat in a room, divvied up the various components, designed in isolation and then patched it all together.  There lacks the cohesive vision we’ve come to expect from Blizzard (mind you D3 follows this trend) and that is distressing from a company that traditionally could do no wrong.

Damned If You Do

Are you considering changing the reputation system?  So many dailies are burning us down from the game.  Tabards back?

When we tried limits, folks said we were playing nanny.  When we tried nothing, folks said they didn’t have anything to do.

Blizzard has an interesting problem at hand.  This quote from Ghostcrawler, has a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” mentality to it and I can empathize to some degree.  When you have nearly 10 million clients, you can’t keep them all happy.  When you integrate disparate systems, you’re going to upset some people.

Excluding Lich King, most of WoW’s trajectory has been aligned with the more hardcore activity crowd.  Tangible goals and rewards.  This makes sense in terms of accomplishment and sense of place – makes a bit less sense from a financial perspective if you want to keep 10 million people playing.  The casuals clearly are the majority in games (even 80% of EvE players have never touched NullSec) and therefore subsidize the activities of the hardcore.  Blizzard’s challenge over the past few years was expanding on that casual market – which is has in terms of player ratios.  Keeping them around is a challenge though, especially when you have quality competition on the market (F2P for one).

So for years the hardcore have had the upper hand in terms of game direction.  This expansion is clearly not aimed at their efforts.  Kung-Fu panda and pets does not scream hardcore.  Yet in order to keep that group occupied, they integrated hardcore activities into casual content.  The best raiders have a “need” – real or artificial – to complete casual content in order to progress on the hardcore front.  A true shoe-on-the-other-foot issue if I’ve ever seen one.

Who do you please?  The casual market who is bringing in the dollars?  The hardcore market which consumes the most and gives you the highest visibility?  I mean, does anyone in their right mind care that the Will of the Emperor is a raid boss MORE than the fact that there are hundreds of pets to collect in-game?  The battlefront seems to have changed and you’re never going to please the masses.