Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More "casual" stuff; latest big changes

I opened an enormous, squirmy can of worms when I posted about "Casual vs Hardcore". Not that I was the first to do that, of course.

And as I mentioned, Blizzard is clearly making it their new direction to offer up more of the game to what most people refer to as "casual" players (although the definition of casual blurs according to your own personal views and ingrained stereotypes). Part of this is to apparently make raiding "easier" (more accessible in their view), but there have also been a number of other changes over recent months to allow people more flexibility in order to play with their friends.

Whether or not you like or agree with these changes is a very personal thing. Personally, I sit on the fence somewhere between wishing the game wasn't getting easier, and appreciating that it makes much more sense for the vast majority of people to be able to enjoy the game and have changes made that allow them easier enjoyment of it.

While there are some changes and nerfs that I think cheapen the game a little, I'm certainly not one of the people saying that "casuals are ruining the game"; I think that is extreme.

I think we should really refer to this as catering to the "socials", not "casuals". The term casual really seems to carry a negative stereotype, and for some reason casual is synonymous with "scrubby". We know this isn't always the case - there are plenty of players and guilds who play on casual schedules due to real life commitments, but are just as skilled and dedicated as the "hardcore" players.

Blizzard have recently announced two interesting changes - one slated for 3.2, the other for "sometime" - that should be pretty big for social players.

Latest changes for socials

Two new interesting changes have been announced for the future.

1. The ability to change your faction (ie Horde to Alliance or Alliance to Horde), transforming your character to that of the opposite faction, while keeping your class (and I assume, most possessions). This is a future change, for sometime down the track (likely in a major content patch, or it may even be something implemented in the next expansion).

2. The ability to extend your raid lockout period by one week, to allow groups to keep working on an instance if they want more time. This will be released with Patch 3.2.

Faction change

This is pretty huge. It's a great change for people who rolled a particular faction and perhaps found themselves segregated from friends who play on the opposite side. Social players will be able to opt to change over to the other faction to find a new home with friends on that side. It also means that players are able to experience the other side of the game - without "throwing away" the progress made on your main character.

Future changes will allow you to change faction, in addition to already
being able to change your character's gender, appearance, name, and realm.

So you can go experience the Horde side of Warcraft without throwing away your gear, achievements and whatnot, and have to start over. Considering that I have actually done this twice now, I couldn't help wincing a little :P

For raiders and PvPers, things are a little less cut and dried, and although not much has been announced yet (we need to be patient!) Here are my questions:

- what about faction specific reps? Will they be erased, or will you get the equivalent - eg Stormwind=Orgrimmar, Exodar=Silvermoon, etc? What about PvP reps that are faction based (one would assume these would just swap over, surely)?

- will you lose achievements based on the above?

- what about faction specific mounts? Will you lose them? Or will you magically score the equivalent city's mounts (as above)? And the PvP mounts?

- Would you lose your Wintersaber/Ravasaur if you had one? Yiiiiikes. That would be tough to give up! Such is the price of faction flexibility though, I suppose..

- will "Realm First! Level 80 Night Elf" disappear, or forever live on in your Undead's achievement pane as something worth a giggle every now and then?

- will people keep their Black War Bears and still be credited with killing the leaders of their OWN faction?

- will this mean a way to transfer BoA items to the other side?

Obviously there are standard questions like "what's the cooldown period" and whatnot.. but I'm more interested in what will happen to your statistics when you take the plunge and go to the dark side. Interesting stuff.

I don't know that I could change Keeva, I love her too much as a character. I don't see her as a lump of pixels to be shunted around at will to do whatever suits me. Much like Caoimhe, my first druid who was "retired" when I rolled Keeva, Keeva is now on hiatus. She may come back later if I want to play Horde again, but for now she is on a break.

But then, part of me can't stop thinking about all her achievements, titles, long ground-out reps, and those 5 Legendary shards in the bank..

Something else I wonder about is whether this will cause massive faction imbalance overnight on servers and battlegroups where people have long wished they were on the other side. What if a battlegroup notorious for terrible Horde players all suddenly change to Alliance? :P

For raiders, it will mean that you might no longer have to consider uprooting yourself and your guild to move to another server to boost your pulling power and find new recruits. If Alliance isn't working out for you but you spot a great Horde guild, it will be easy to make the switch without having to relocate all of your characters. As a raiding guild, you'll suddenly have access to twice as many potential players - we may see some cross-faction guild mergers happening rather than entire guilds relocating to try to boost their numbers.

It should be interesting to see how Blizzard are going to handle this, and what it will mean for faction balance on the realms. Will we suddenly see a massive shift one way or the other? Or will people casually drift from one side to the other, according to PvP and raiding opportunities that pop up over time?

Future changes?

So far, to allow players more flexibility without having to reroll or start over, Blizzard has introduced:

- server transfers
- paid name changes
- PvE to PvP transfers (which was never going to happen)
- paid gender/appearance changes
- faction changes (in the future)

Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if further down the track they introduce paid class changes. I'm also waiting for account-wide achievements, reputations, special items etc.

Raid period extension

In 3.2, raid groups will be able to opt to extend their raid period to 2 weeks.
A new feature has been introduced in this build, you can now extend your raid lockout to make them last one more week. This is probably very useful if your guild is trying to get a specific boss down and doesn't really need any other loot in the instance, you can just get one more weeks of tries without having to clean everything in the way.

As quoted above, this is going to be very useful for hardcore and casual guilds alike, if they are working on a particular boss but can't quite get it down on the last night of the week - VERY frustrating!

While progression guilds will probably be interested in this for the weeks when they are working on new content, I think that it will be even more exciting for casual guilds who only raid for a couple of hours a few nights a week (or less), or sometimes find it hard to put a group together. They won't lose their progress in an instance because they can choose to continue the following week.

Obviously this means sacrificing a week of drops from those earlier bosses that you're already locked out of, but it does give you that flexibility of being able to decide whether to keep pressing on with new content, or start over for more gear.

There hasn't been any clarification yet about whether this would mean you could be "trapped" in a 2 week lockout if you go along to a pug and they decide to extend to 2 weeks; I think that is the main concern at the moment.

A change that helps everyone progress at their own pace

This is definitely a change that is great for casuals and hardcore alike; although I'm sure there will be some people complaining that it is catering to people who are bad and can't kill bosses. Personally I think it's a really great change for the guilds out there who love to raid but can't always field a team or have real life commitments that eat into their playtime.

A hardcore guild might raid 4 nights, 4 hours at a time; a casual 2 nights for 4 hours. Now the casual guild will have the option to raid for 16 hours in one lockout period, like the hardcore guilds have been able to - but do it over a fortnight if that's what their schedule allows. It will still be slower than people who can devote more time, but without the hassle of having to spend the bulk of your raid time reclearing the instance to get a few tries on the new boss and then run out of time.

That is something that was always frustrating - granted you would get gear along the way, but spending 3.5 of your 4 nights just getting BACK to the boss you're working on, having a few tries and then running out of time... ugh. At least this way you will be able to say, "Ok, we're out of time.. let's keep trying next week."

Should be interesting to see what the options will be to reset the lockout after that first week has expired though. Will individuals be able to opt out? Or will they be locked in? Will guilds be able to do an extra night or two, then opt out and have the rest of a normal lockout to start the instance over?

I may not agree with all of the changes that Blizzard has rolled out over time, and yes, I am "hardcore at heart" and not afraid to admit that I DO think skilled and dedicated players should get greater rewards and recognition.. but I still recognise that there are players out there who simply don't have the time. I'm all for changes that help these players raid when they want to and progress at their own pace.

I can see a lot of positive things coming out of these changes - for both types of players.


Kender said...

Here's what I want to see with the faction changes.

Draenei Horde Priest instead of my Blood Elf.

I came over to the red side!

Keeva said...

I've seen a number of people over the years asking to be able to defect, betray their side somehow, and join the other.

Who knows.. we already cross paths in neutral cities.. maybe one day?

Kender said...

It's true - apart from my tauren druid, my favorite race is draenei, and priest as a secondary healer class.

I just love my guild too much to play Alliance and leave them behind!

masterkevosavi said...

For the raid lockout extending, I assume it will be on a per person basis. Really, all that is needed is a single individual (ie raid leader) to extend their own lockout time. When it comes time the following week for a guild to continue their attemps, they would just walk in, and the game would ask if they want to be saved to this raid ID (which happens to be the same ID that they were all working on the previous week).

This way anyone that wouldn't be able to go (say, a few people that you pugged or something) the following week, they would no longer be saved to that ID as normal on the reset.

Seems like a great idea!

Uthadys said...

The change to instance lockout extensions definitely might take griefing up to another level.

If it saves everyone, then pugging could possibly become extremely dangerous for everyone.

If it only saves the ID per player, someone else could save the ID too and steal the instance. That's not to say that they couldn't during the regular hours of the week, but it'd leave the window of opportunity open.

If based on the leader of the party, what about partially cleared instances, in which leadership shifts over from one person to another? This occasionally happens in pugs and rarely in raiding guilds (though I do remember some superstition about if [player x] forms the group, druid/warlock loot'll drop again; if [player y] zones in first, it'll become warlock/warlock loot, etc), but it might hamper the ability to consensually extend the lockout period.

Or, let's take this a step further and look into -why- this might be taking place... maybe the new instances are going to take a significantly longer time to clear. Right now, a solid night of raiding is a full clear of naxx/os/eoe or (for most) clearing a lot of Ulduar, and working on the next boss and/or achievements. Blizzard might be designing new raids to satisfy the very hardcore of the hardcore players by ramping up the difficulty of the instance as a whole (like pre-TBC AQ40 & Naxx40), but keep the content available to more casual raid teams by extending the lockout period. Such a change would also probably give the hardcore raiders a more definitive sense of accomplishment for completing such a raid in one lockout period whereas the casual raids have to work on it for a solid month or more to do the same.

What a intriguing, yet potentially scary train of thought.