Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top 5 Things I Am Glad They Changed In WoW

There hasn't been a top 5 for ages, and I intend to remedy that right now!

I always cringe when I hear someone go "things used to be so much better". Although matters usually go up and down, in games they generally tend to go in a direction that is aimed to please us gamers, well at least the majority of us, which can be both good and bad (this is something I intend to write a post about in the future). Overall I think it's just nostalgia talking though, looking back on how WoW worked back in Vanilla, there aren't very many things that I honestly miss and wish we still had. You just have to read through old patch notes to get a reminder of how things we take for granted today weren't part of the game a couple of years ago. Remember when all hybrids had to heal? Remember when warriors only ever got to tank? Blizzard have definitely developed the game into a more accessible game, and overall I think that is a good thing. Eventhough you might enjoy the hardcoreness of a game, it almost certainly won't have you stick around for 6 years. We're all lazy inside. So here is a top 5 of things I am glad they've changed, as a reminder to us all that everything wasn't that awesome back in the day. Although it's easy to become vague and say stuff like "I am glad they made feral druids raid viable" I am going to try to be a little more specific in my choices.

5. Making lowbies more accessible
Ok, I know I just told you I wouldn't be vague, but just hang on a sec and I'll get to the specifics. Eventhough I could say that there are a couple of things they changed about lowbie leveling that I am especially happy about, there are so many things that are good that I just have to mention at least a few. How about giving lowbie casters their regen tools early on in the levels instead of way late? Remember how you had to drink after every mob when leveling that mage? Yeah that was back in BC and Vanilla, but come Wrath, Blizzard had realized that leveling a caster shouldn't be torture. Overall, casters have benefitted the most from the changes made to lowbies. Blizzard have done a good job with identifying the troubles of each class and how they could make it easier for them, like when they recently swapped the levels at which you got Nourish vs Healing Touch as druid. Casters still fall behind in damage and questing efficiency compared to melee at low levels, but the difference to how sucky they used to be is huge. Adding BoA gear for the people who have already leveled a character to max and just want to get another char through the process quickly is another good idea. Giving all classes a really useful skill at level 10 (well at least most classes) to get you kick started into your newly chosen spec is also a good idea. So there are many things Blizzard have done to make the lowbie leveling more enjoyable, and I am very glad they have.

4. Being able to respec more freely
As far as I've heard, Blizzard hadn't initially planned for respeccing to be a big thing in WoW. In their other games, respeccing isn't even a possibility, like in Diablo (unless you hacked the game!). One point at the wrong place and you had to live with that mistake for the rest of your gaming hours. Finding out half way that you rather wanted to be a Novamancer rather than a Daggermancer was tough luck. Reroll or be happy with it. Looking back at it I'm not really sure why game developers ever thought that making specs the one time choice that they were was a good idea. Blizzard however did implement the possibility to respec, just in case you had actually misplaced a point or did realize after 35 levels that you rather be arms than fury. But it came at a high price, that also didn't have a cap. Blizzard quickly noticed however that the respeccing possibility was very popular, and decided to put a cap on the respec price. Eventually they even allowed us to keep double specs! Respeccing is a huge part of what WoW is all about as it allows us to really experience everything about our class. I don't even want to think about where WoW would be today if Blizzard had never allowed us to respec our characters (like in Diablo) or only allowed us to do it a limited time or to a very high cost (as in early WoW). I don't know how many times I've just switched one point here and there to tweak my spec, and it has also allowed hybrid classes to really feel like hybrids. I definitely wouldn't say no to being able to get a third spec, which would allow me to fully play my class at any time without having to go and respec at all. But maybe that is too much to ask.

3. Making the cities less sucky
Imagine this - Auction House is only available in one major city (Orgrimmar and Ironforge), there is only one postbox, one bank and one of just about everything in every city. ONE. Sounds ridiculous you say? I agree, yet this is exactly how Blizzard had initially designed the cities. Being in any other city than the ones that had an AH was basically useless, and so everyone gathered in the major major cities (oh the lag I used to have in IF was majestic). Since then Blizzard have given every city their own Auction House, now even several Auction Houses. They've put out loads of more postboxes and in some cities even several banks and other stuff that people need all the time. And I can only do /bow and say thank you, because having to travel all the way between the Smithy and the postbox in Orgrimmar when skilling BS SUCKED SO MUCH!

2. Making raids from 40 to 25 and 10.
I actually don't have a problem with 40 man raiding per se. I just don't like it the way it was implemented. Although I wasn't part of a 40 man raiding guild back in Vanilla, I did occasionally get to jump in when they were in desperate need of healers and allowed my then shadow specced priest to come heal (!). If that doesn't say a lot about how 40 man raiding worked, I don't know what will. Although I can see the fun in being this huge group of people battling the evil forces of WoW, in the end the practical business outshadowed the fun, at least for me. Being one of 6-7 priests in the raid group wasn't particularly fun, because it meant I had to raid for months to even get to smell some nice gear. If I were lucky enough to actually have the boss drop the priest stuff. And how much gear did the 40 man bosses drop anyway? 3? 4? On 40 people? Compare that with the 6 pieces we get today in 25 man. You might say we're spoiled now, I'll say - how the heck did we stand it? Officers feel burned out now, and it's understandable if they've been at it for a couple of years. Managing a guild is probably a lot more work than being a kindergarten teacher. But imagine the work in trying to administrate 40 people? Getting them to sign, picking who does what, explaining tactics and get everyone to do their job. Back then you actually needed class leaders. I find it kind of funny too that so many guilds have trouble getting enough people for their 10 mans, just imagine getting 40 people for a raid.

And the fights weren't really designed to be equally challenging to everyone. I bet the tank busted his ass off, probably the healers as well (I remember they had to take turns in healing to be able to make the most of the 5 second rule), and occasionally some specific class had a specific job, like a hunter kiting and such. But otherwise, half the raid were meant to be dps spam bots, basically mindlessly just spamming their one or two skills, sometimes perhaps react to some mechanic of the fight. Losing one or five was hardly noticed. I can only imagine that some people actually thought it was fun in being able to log on, raid by pressing the Shadow Bolt, Blessing of Kings or Conjure Water key 1500 times and profit. I don't know about you, but I actually enjoy being an important part of the fight and group. I'm not saying that Vanilla bosses were easy, I know guilds struggled for months with some of them. But that was more often due to the boss hitting god damn hard or just having so much hp, rather than the fight being about reactive stuff. And in any case, most of the work was put on the shoulders of the few (tanks and healers mostly), rather than the whole of the raid. I don't think raiding is perfect now, but I definitely think it is better.

1. Removing wep skill
Believe it or not, there are few things in the game that have annoyed me as much as the way gaining wep skill used to work. For any weapon you could use you had to not only go buy the skill in some cases, you had to also manually learn it by swinging at a mob with said weapon until you reached the proper skill level. Going from 1 to max skill could take hours. I can see why Blizzard initially implemented this system. It does make sense that you actually have to use a weapon to know how to properly use it (although it did raise the question as to what those classes did with the weapons that they couldn't use. How difficult is it to hold a staff ey rogue?). But as every game developer knows, there is a fine line between designing something to be realistic and designing something to be fun. Many, many things in WoW aren't realistic, because if we wanted to go poo with our characters we'd play Sims. Realism has always to be implemented into a game so that it doesn't disturb general game play, and skilling weapon was just so dang badly designed it made me cry each time I had to go swing my wepaon at those poor Servants in Badlands all over again. It was perhaps ok on one char, but when I had to do it on my 20th char it was just damn irritating (overall I think more things in the game should be account bound, like certain quest chains and such). Swinging at a mob meant eventually killing it, which meant you had to grind for hours to get your skill to max, and that with every weapon you wanted to use. For melee classes this was less of a problem, but for a caster this was hell. You could argue that a caster doesn't need weapon skill anyway, since they don't use their weapons. True, and I didn't have max skill on my main for several years because of this. And eventhough skilling weapons was less troublesome for melee, they were the ones who really needed it, so with every new melee character you leveled you had to reskill all your weapons. People tried to find a solution to making this as un-horrible as possible. The general solution was to find a mob that couldn't die and go afk while swinging at it. Watch a movie, tab back and profit. So many people did this in fact that Blizzard had to make these mobs (first the servants in Badlands) work in a different way so that you couldn't go afk while swinging at them. Then people found some ghosts in Dire Maul (I think) and went afk while swinging at them. So Blizzard removed those as well, instead of you know, just realizing that skilling weps really sucked and fixing that! Well, finally they did. They threw in the towel and just made everyone have the proper wep skill of their level without having to actually skill anything (same thing with Lockpicking). And I am very grateful to that.


  1. OMG so much yes to your number 1! I leveled my Alliance Hunter with the BOA bow. I can't remember if I got a crossbow or a gun to drop off the Black Knight in 5 man TOC but I equipped it right away because it was a pretty good upgrade. I went about working on my professions as I waited for my next heroic to pop. I dropped my BOA bow off to my bank alt in the meantime. So, my Q pops and I'm back in TOC... with a weapon I had never leveled before or even remembered that I needed to level. I'm pretty sure my average DPS was about 200 for the first fight. Every shot of epic ammo was wasted as I could't hit the broad side of a barn. I am so surprised I didn't get kicked and no one said anything. I was so embarrassed! I guess they thought I was just another Huntard and looked the other way.

  2. Definitely agree with all three points; I think many people who bemoan the more recent expansions tend towards rose-colored glasses or fell into the minority groups that were most catered to during them. Which I suppose is fine and good for them. I also do get amused by people pointing to falling subscription numbers as evidence for a decline. I would be AMAZED if a 6 year old game kept a steady increase of subscribers and players. Eventually people do move on.

  3. You make some really good points. Not everything was better before - and as someone who did quite a bit of 40 man raiding it wasn't as good as people make it out to be.

    Vanilla was fun, but it was also a grind. A very, very long grind. With a lot of travelling on your ground mount, less flight paths...

    40 man raiding was great in the sense that you were just that - 40 people battling something, but the complexity and difficulty in the fights, at least to me, was more in healers going oom, tanks not holding aggro (remember having to wait for 5 sunders).

    There were a few fights with other things of course. But it was no more than - you're the bomb run away from the raid and don't stand in fire kind of things. Maybe a special dispel mechanic. There are some exceptions of course, but the fights can't quite be compared to the insane amount of abilities bosses have these days in comparison.

    Not to mention there was a limit to the number of DoTs the boss could have *lol* So you had to agree beforehand which dotters could put theirs up.

    Nah, Vanilla was nice - but I'm quite happy with things now :P Sure, some things could be improved now as well, but that's always the case, isn't it? ;)

  4. Looking back at it I'm not really sure why game developers ever thought that making specs the one time choice that they were was a good idea.

    I don't think they ever thought that it was a good gameplay idea, but it was one of those things that simply made sense from a roleplaying point of view. Gaining talent points was supposed to represent your character learning something. And once you've learned something, you can't just forget it again at the drop of a hat. You also can't instantly replace that knowledge with something else just because you find yourself wishing that you'd spent the last four years studying something else instead.

    I admit that the easy spec swapping is more convenient from a gameplay perspective, but it would never make my own top five because I also liked fixed specs giving your character an identity. My main used to be a shadow priest to the core. Towards the end of BC I respecced to holy to help out my raid group and it also changed her personality in my head. Nowadays she's just "a priest" because talent specs are swapped so easily that they've lost all meaning.

    I also never got all the fuss about weapon skill. To be fair I'm biased towards casters, and like you said you could easily make it to endgame as one and never even level any of your weapon skills. Still, even on my melee alts and my hunter I found that even if you got a new weapon and had zero skill in it, it never took more than a few minutes to at least skill it up to a "usable" level, and the rest would come on its own eventually. It wasn't until Wrath introduced the weapon skill achievement that everyone went nuts with the idea of "having" to max out all their weapon skills. (I trained mine on a demon mob that was banished by NPCs in Shadowmoon Valley myself. ;))

    Sigh, I guess you know that you're a really old fart when people point out things that supposedly weren't better in the good old days and you just find yourself thinking, "Eh? Was anyone ever annoyed by that stuff? I never had a problem with it." :P

  5. @Tobeume
    I remember having the same trouble when I found some new weapon on a melee char, I couldn't equip it at once, no matter how big an upgrade it was because I knew it would mean having 1 dps for half an hour :P

    Indeed, I'm not worried about the drop in subscriptions and I definitely don't think it has to have to mean that WoW must be a less good game now. As you say, people WILL move on at some point, no matter what the game has to offer.

    Haha, thanks for some more nostalgic memories. I do remember the dot cap! In many cases I remember that things didn't bother me back then, like everything taking ages, but I know I wouldn't have stuck with WoW for as long as I have if they hadn't improved some things along the way.

    I know what you mean about the respecs changing the feel of the character. I still usually prefer to reroll a character rather than respec it. My shaman is enhancement, I wouldn't feel right respeccing it to elemental. I'd actually rather level a new shaman as elemental. I have done this several times and that is one of the main reasons I play so many alts :P

    But being able to respec easily doesn't have to mean going from one spec to something completely else. Rogue and hunter specs are all basically the same for instance, so even lore wise it doesn't really make sense that you couldn't go from Sub to Combat or from Survival to Marksman. And sometimes you just want to move one point here and there, not dramatacilly changing your class but tweaking it. I am glad they allowed us to do that.

  6. Nice post! I agree most with the weapon skill-up point...that was definitely an example, in my opinion, of realism at the expense of fun. Getting an epic weapon of a type you hadn't used before on that character and having the excitement tempered by "Now I have to grind a few hours to be able to use it in dungeons/raids" was bittersweet.

  7. A lot of what you say about the downsides of 40mans is true; but oh, if they actually went ahead in a full team, with an organized guild of like-minded players, there was nothing quite like it! :)
    at lest for the first half it was all tanks&healers, but slowly towards naxx and aq40 they realized that DPS needed to step out of the shadows. I think had they kept going at it and improved fight mechanics further, it would have turned out like it is now, just with more people.

    The thing with 40mans was, they weren't just more epic in size; they were more forgiving in many ways - on things like setup, on things like numbers or individual screwup. you could bring people along that you simply couldn't afford to bring along in a 10man or even 25man mode today. this allowed you (to some extent) to keep a community you really liked over one that needs to be functional first and foremost. it gave you a bigger tolerance range. the smaller scale raids have in a way professionalized raiding in WoW and that's not necessarily a great thing from the community PoV. which is a paradox too, because on of the main reasons to downsize raids was to make them more accessible to everybody. what it really did was break the community down into a lot of levels of guilds.

    And I loved the big class/role teams,'s true, today the entire team works more closely together and communicates, but it was awesome fun having healer teams of 15 people, rather than 2-6. the banter and fun in healer chat was brilliant. :)