Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Differing Dailies: Reliable, Rotating, and Random

In our world of quest-based PvE MMOs, repeatable content is a necessity for extending longevity. If there is nothing to do, players go elsewhere. The most popular approach to this is daily (or occasionally weekly, twice weekly, etc.) quests, and that is our compare-and-contrast essay of the day. (Do not steal it for high school English class unless you define many of the terms we are taking for granted.)

More specifically, the topic is how you structure those daily quests. I call some “reliable” in that they are unvarying. The same daily quests are available every day. “Random” dailies will have a pool from which some unknown ones are pulled each day. “Rotating” is the halfway point: a pool that moves in a consistent manner, so what is available is reliably known but not constant.

World of Warcraft is the trope codifier for dailies. When I played (late WotLK), they limited you to 25/day, and everything was always available. That is one of the great merits of reliable dailies: everything is available. There is no artificial scarcity. If you want it, it is there. If you like X, X will be there for you every day. You can set up a routine, and as a developer, you want to promote having your players log in consistently. Consistency is a kind of virtue. WoW also included some randomness, like the daily fishing and cooking quests. Didn’t they extend that with the Cataclysm solo endgame, with so many of the daily quests available per day?

I find randomness good for mixing it up, breaking up routines that lead to doldrums, but it is frustrating when you want something to come up and it does not. If you are randomly picking one of four quests, there is a 53% chance that one of them will not appear in a given week. When instant gratification takes too long, this can be bad. It forces on the player what is probably a good plan (not doing the same thing every day), but players resist being forced into anything.

The Lord of the Rings Online™ is another “always everything” game. Skirmishes extended this by giving a daily bonus to a menu of instances you could pull up. That content was usually available at all times, but the quest bonus was 1/day. (I say, “was,” but I presume this continues in Isengard.)

The daily or weekly bonus seems to be the easiest approach. You can get a bonus for doing each piece of content over each time period X. The numerically equivalent but less friendly-sounding version is to have diminishing returns for repeating content.

Guild Wars goes for pure “rotating.” The wiki has a list of when everything is coming up for the 7 dailies. This contains some of the merits of the other two approaches, in that what is available is known in advance and can be planned around but is not a constant each day. Embark Beach is a Schelling point; hundreds of options would spread the players everywhere, while a small set of daily options focuses grouping. Of course, as with random, if you do not like the daily option (any of the 7?), you are out of luck, and everyone with whom you might want to group is being channeled away from you. You do not even get the hope that your choice will randomly come up tomorrow; you can see on the calendar that it will be up in mid-March, that day you will be on a business trip. Guild Wars has the additional interesting bit that you can pick up but not complete the Zaishen missions and get to them tomorrow. I am a new player still going through the campaigns, so if the mission of the day is one I expect to get to later this week, I can store that bonus.

League of Legends has a generic “first win of the day” bonus. You get it for any map, PvE or PvP. That seems to be just a “come back every day!” incentive, as it cannot channel the players anywhere, although there are few enough options that channeling seems unnecessary.

Because I have not played every MMO, the door is wide open for reader commentary on how game X did it. The hard part on doing the comparison is that daily content is usually at the level cap, and how many MMOs have you played at the level cap for any meaningful length of time? Oh wait, you read MMO blogs.

I know which site I am writing for, but please resist the urge to say, “Guild Wars 2 events will solve this” unless you can tie it back to the daily-specific focus. You know how much it pains me to have skipped City of Heroes because their repeatable content has (had?) no time limits on repeatability, although there is a task force of the week bonus.

: Zubon

Newb Boon

You do not need a comparative advantage to be the best at something [FTFY] to enjoy the benefits of trade, nor does your trading partner. Even if you can do absolutely everything better and more efficiently than I can, it will still benefit you to trade with me because you do not have the option of doing everything at once. I may shovel well, but if I am also a pretty good obstetrician, it will probably be more productive for me to pay someone with fewer high-value options to dig.

If you were to start playing World of Warcraft right now, you could make decent money farming copper. The enemies are not gray to you, so you would not be the most efficient farmer, but people who earn lots of gold per hour are happy to give you a bit of it on the auction house. On a non-trade example, when I went back to Asheron’s Call with a fresh account, I financed several dozen levels by hopping a portal to a high-level hunting zone and scavenging a pack of trash loot that players left in their wake. If I had thought of it, I could have made a service of being the town-visiting pet from Torchlight, if anyone would trust a new character with their stuff/money.

The past weekend was Canthan New Year in Guild Wars. This is an amazing source of money for a new player. Offering to sell Lunar Tokens for 200g and Fortunes for 600g, I was deluged with buyers. There were quests that rewarded 25 Tokens, and the established players had run them in previous years; they were effectively level 5 quests that awarded 5 platinum. I financed my first set of prestige armor off those. If you could get your newb to Lion’s Arch, you could convert Tokens to Fortunes profitably (if slowly) playing Rock-Paper-Scissors.

An economy that is orders of magnitude above where you are can be daunting, but if you can get involved in it at all, the profits to be reaped are huge.

: Zubon

Forward Progress

The Guild Wars death penalty is wiped when you head back to town, so there are no permanent setbacks. At worst, you can fail to gain. You will usually come out at least marginally ahead: a little gold in your pocket and experience toward a skill point. After an evening of utter failure, you still gained a bit of rep, added 0.3% towards Cartographer, and banked some change.

Item wear is a minor death penalty and gold sink, but it can lead to your losing progress in a night of play. However many hundred times you are supposed to fail a raid, you are losing each time you do unless the raid comes with enough trash to pay for your repair bills (and that is just wrapping in the farming you could do outside the raid). You have heard of people hitting their heads against a wall so hard that all their armor broke and they could not afford to fix it. Then there are the expected consumables of potions, food, scrolls, etc. that get burned for each attempt. Those are dispiriting evenings, when you leave with less than you started with, and that experience cannot be wholly beneficial for player retention (which is funny when the game that avoids it does not have subscribers).

EVE Online is a game where you can lose everything you own but keep making progress because skill training is time-based. You are supposed to lose ships over time. Don’t get attached. Even if you are down some ISK, your skill points keep increasing.

There is something to be said for a lack of consequences. It’s a game.

: Zubon

2012 Predictions

I will now get the highest score of any MMO pundit making predictions. Ready? “It will not go live in 2012.” Whatever we’re talking about, I’m predicting that it will slip into 2013, or later, or just never ship. The game, the expansion, whatever: not in 2012. I’m going to lose a few points, since something will ship in 2012, but I don’t see how anyone can beat my accuracy rate here.

: Zubon

Quotes of the Week

Heartless. on Star Wars: The Old Republic:

All you need to know is that the game is under tight NDA wraps with less than two months until launch.

Melmoth on Mists of Pandaria:

Werewolves in top hats, gnomes performing the dance moves from Bloodhound Gang’s Bad Touch, … ridiculous sexual dimorphism in PC races, non-combat pets, Haris Pilton, giant cow-men riding on chocobos, … shoulder pads you could hide a small village under, remote-controlled fighting robots, … escorting mechanical chickens, ludicrous retcons, kobold candles, Forsaken Death Knights, teleporters, steam car vs rocket car racetrack, … dressing up in a murloc suit, orbital death satellites, pink elekks…

And you’re worried about pandas?

Anjin on arguing about Mists of Pandaria:

When people argue that World of Warcraft is a silly game, they are talking about the world. When people argue that it is a serious game, they are talking about the systems.

On second thought, let’s not go to Azeroth. It is a silly place.

: Zubon

WoW Fortress 2

I was reading The Lazy Geek’s thoughts this morning about the new World of Warcraft (“WoW”) pet store companion. “Real” journalists picked the story up a little later. Anyway it now appears that people can spend real money in WoW in order to buy an in-game salable, tradable item… which, you know, is a luxury item to show off some bling. I make no comment on its effect on the shaky WoW economy (both in-game and out) as I do not currently play the MMO, but I would caution that as we enter the next era of MMOs, this will become more prevalent.

Anyway, while The Lazy Geek’s thoughts were more negative, I couldn’t help but silently applaud Blizzard. They have this sinking ship. It’s sinking slowly and still dredging up tons of gold and oil, yet I have a feeling the captain already sees the end coming. Except, it’s not going to be the end in a sense. Sure, it will be the end of the massive floating ocean liner that engulfs oceans, but the ocean liner could be retro-fitted into something else. Maybe with hats. Continue reading

Gearing Up

Hugh Hancock has some words about the gear grind. My words? “Screw that.” You know there is going to be a new tier within a few months and a complete gear reset in the next year. Keep running on that treadmill, but don’t pretend you’re ever getting anywhere.

At least a real treadmill gives you the real progress of a lowered % chance to die of heart disease.

: Zubon

Hat tip. I credit LotRO for having an extremely minimal gear grind, in that there are perhaps two or three tiers of endgame gear between expansions, and the tiers are not that far apart. You only need the raid gear if you are doing the one or two raids anyway.

Grinding to the Real Game

In theory, I like League of Legends. In practice, you need ~200 hours of play to get to ranked games, then enough ranked wins to get out of Elo Hell, before you stop seeing so many people griefing, feeding, quitting, etc. As the wiki link suggests, any good player will get through random grief and rise about Elo Hell … over the course of another ~200 hours of play

I have seen less in LoL: Dominion, but I may have just had a good few days. I have also gone days almost every game a 4-on-5 for at least half of it. In Dominion, idiots and quitters are more prominently felt, because capping and defending 4-on-5 just does not work even if the 5 are pretty lousy. One game today featured a player tripling up on the bottom (you usually send 1 or 2), then running past the minions, suiciding into a tower and quitting; the game is decided 30 seconds into it, and now we just wait for the timer to officially forfeit.

It’s a general problem in F2P games: players with no investment have no loss if they’re just there to watch the world burn. Real grognards from games where you paid by the hour (with small communities and active admins) can likely regale us with how you behaved or else. I’m debating how impressed I am that folks will play a game for ~200 hours and then continue to grief/quit/whatever in low-Elo ranked games. I suppose you’ll get xp while being an idiot for those 200 hours, because you keep leveling up win or lose.

I have no idea how the community moderation tools are helping this. I dutifully click the report button after games where folks leave, smack talk, and such, but it’s not like we get a report back.

: Zubon

F2P Quote of the Day

There is one school of thought that thinks F2P means “if you spend enough time, you can experience the whole game for free – paying is just a shortcut”. There is another school of thought that says “you will never see the whole game, unless you pay astronomical amounts of money, and maybe not even then”. There’s a real conceptual rift between the two camps, and some games are finding themselves caught in the middle, or transitioning between the two.
Brise Bonbons

I’d argue “astronomical,” although that depends on the model, and it’s really the models I want to discuss here.

We’re all familiar with pure subscription models, as well as subscription plus a small premium shop (WoW sparklepony, CoX booster packs). WoW, Warhammer, and others now have unlimited free trials along with their subscriptions. Most Western players have limited familiarity with the item shop model in its pure, evil form, although Allods players got a taste. I think it’s clear under these models that you will be ponying up some funds or you will not be getting much beyond the most basic experience; item shop gamers may have been fooled at the onset, but it should become quickly apparent once they’re into it.

The murkier middle comes from hybrid models and games that let you unlock content (“no cover charge”). Wizard101 has a very clear unlock model, in which you just do not get most zones unless you pay for them. League of Legends gives you access to everything, eventually, a little at a time, with some free permanent unlocks and why don’t you just give them $20 to get the handful of champions you really want? Turbine is the headliner for the hybrid subscription/pay to unlock model, with Dungeons and Dragons Online and The Lord of the Rings Online. You could theoretically unlock absolutely everything in LotRO without paying, although you would be creating and deleting characters to grind deeds until your very fingertips wore away.

And there really is tension between people who want to play for free, absolutely free, and those who are willing to pay and/or recognize that someone needs to fund these companies if you want servers to stay up. When I am getting a lot of value from a game, I don’t mind giving an extra $20 to Valve or Riot or whatnot. I look at my Settlers of Catan box and wonder if I should mail Klaus Teuber a check or something, based on the play value received. But I remember having no money, and I can see a bit of that perspective.

And then there are games that are just annoyingly in your face with their pleas for money. See, for example, the LotRO UI re-design that makes the shop the most visible UI item (poor design decision: the shop links are annoyingly present even if you cannot use them to spend more money, such as subscribers/lifetimers at the stables).

: Zubon

Quote of the Day

The only thing that is dead is the MMORPG gold rush, and that is something to be thankful for. It only created a huge number of very bad games in the hope of getting rich quick. Surprise, surprise, video game players aren’t total idiots, and bad games don’t really do well. Especially not if you have a business model where you expect your customers to keep paying for a long time, instead of selling them a game they can’t test first and running with the money before the customer finds out the game is bad.