Tag Archive: dynamic scaling


I’ve made the pitch before (several times) that Looking For Raid should be removed from the game. Blizzard coined the term ‘tourist mode’ to describe LFR’s raison d’être, it allows everyone to access the lore and content of Warcraft. As I’ve often said the only problem is it’s negative effect on other aspects of the game. However, LFR is an easy source of symbolic in game value: gear. Often only suggesting there is something detrimental about LFR provokes a rabid response. “How dare anyone suggest taking our source of gear, elitist…Guilds are toxic, bullying environments full of gaming nerds…I have a limited time to play…I should get epic gear and…er…oh yeah, I want to see all the content or something.” Yeah whatever.

Please, I’m not an elitist, I don’t want to exclude anyone from content or gear. Any argument about the democratisation of Legendary gear, for example, is simply absurd, Legendaries are everywhere, everyone has at least one and that’s fine. My only objection to Legendaries has been making them random drops. If you need raid gear you’re raiding, if you’re not raiding you do not need raid gear. If you want raid gear go raiding. With dumbed down boss mechanics and little or no need to follow any tactics there is no need for the extra gear or tier of LFR. Especially 4 piece tier sets! Gear exists not for it’s own sake, gearing up is a pathway to access more challenging content, not an end in iteself.

Flexible sized and scaling, ‘normal’ raids can service the same audience as LFR without dumbing down raid bosses so much that people simply cannot transition into raids of higher difficulty. You can experience the lore and see all the content. It’s easy to organise on the fly and people do, they’re listed in the group finder all day. People dip in when they like and certainly dip out when they’ve had enough. If you have time to queue for LFR and clear a wing you have time to do a few bosses with a pug group. Time constraints are no a real issue. In fact if Blizzard were to remove LFR the should divide normal raids into four wings. Why not? This would make it even easier for LFRers to simply move to normal raids. The increase in difficulty is minimal, but normal raids do actually introduce mechanics and tactics. Normal has a very rudimentary level of mechanics with requisite tactics: a perfect entry level to raiding and even a stepping stone into heroic and even mythic level raiding.

Guilds were frequently toxic edged, particular around 40 man raiding in vanilla and 25 man in TBC, elitism was the norm. However, times have changed and if your guild is in any way toxic shame on you for staying in it. Quit and find a friendlier one, there are plenty of guilds out there and many, many friendly ones. If you don’t want to interact with a community on any level perhaps an MMO isn’t really for you? World of Warcraft is a massive online, social community. If your only contribution is log on and play solo are you really getting the most out of the game, should the game be tailored to your needs. I’m not arguing that you should be sidelined or left out of consideration, only that the game should be designed around those who are fully invested in all the aspects of the MMO – including participation in vast online community.

We currently have four raid difficulties with corresponding item level gear: LFR; Normal; Heroic: Mythic. Spreading the raider player base thinner, that’s not good for the game. Losing the lowest level would naturally encourage people into Normal, flexible raid groups. What is new in Legion is World Quests and Mythic+, especially with no or very low level (1 – 4) keys, which actually drop better gear than LFR now. World Quests and Mythic+ 5 mans completely address any want in the player base for gear. Normal raid level custom groups completely address the need of all LFR content consumers to access all the lore and content, without damaging the wider game.

Will Blizzard Remove Looking For Raid, I can’t see it. There would be a massive casual backlash. I didn’t raid much in WoD or Legion and I do a lot of pet battling, if you feel insulted by being called a casual ask yourself how I class myself these days?

Filthy, pet battling casuals…

Some of you will have read elsewhere whether or not this expansion contains a new continent or not. In retrospect many of the changes introduced in Cataclysm were very impressive and I loved the Twilight Highlands. It didn’t matter to me that the new zones were cheek by jowl with old zones, however it did feel fragmented and scattered across the map, but is that really a major problem? Look at Scholazar Basin, just one example of a zone that looks odd next it’s neighbours: Icecrown; Wintergrasp; and Borean Tundra. Perhaps being able to scatter zones across the map actually promotes variety of design. Unfortunately. if you take a look at the map of Azeroth and you’ll see we have no expansion room. If we want 7 or 8 new zones we will need a new continent. Blizzard will need to be very clever about reusing old zones, but if the Horde do try to smash Stormwind City and, perhaps, destroyed the front keep and the Alliance destroy their own main bridge into the city to deny us entry that would be something to see. You can see the scope for completely phasing Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms and having max level players lead vanguards of troops into zones, taking the other faction’s outposts and establishing new ones of their own. This is just the kind of design shake up Warcraft needs. Let’s get radical.

The Burning Crusade fixed the faction disparity and we got Alliance Shamen and Horde Paladins. The factions were expanded, Alliance with Draenai and the Horde was strengthened by Blood Elves. Wrath of the Lich King gave us the a whole new character class: the Death Knight. In Cataclysm we were gifted two more new races Goblin and (don’t laugh) Worgen. Mists of Panderia delivered a new cross faction race for the first time: Pandarens and a new class: the Monk. Not surprisingly in retrospect Warlords of Draenor gave us nothing in this respect. In Legion were were back on track with another class choice when the Demon Hunter was added. We’re not getting new races as such, but Battle for Azeroth is introducing Allied Races. Current race re-skins, but if we get new lore and starter areas I don’t see a problem, it’s like getting a new race. If Blizzard put their efforts into new starter areas and appropriate lore-rich quest lines that add flavour and character to the new Allied Races then that will be very good. If this is just a lazy short cut to delivering more recycled content then the warnings of Legion will cast a long shadow over this expansion.

Being based in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms may present some design problems for the questing and levelling, but my real fear is for raid design. Legion looked like a very tired cut and paste of instance textures. The Tomb of Sargeras and Antorus, the Burning Throne were indistinguishable from Hellfire Citadel, with a few design elements from Ulduar tossed in. The Emerald Nightmare was a lazy portal hub with zones ripped from old Azeroth then warped around a little. The Nighthold was the only raid tier in Legion where Blizzard seemed to make an effort. Suramar City and the architecture of that zone most definitely needs to be utilised further. Post Legion I think there is mileage in telling the story of the rebuilding of the Nightbourne‘s home. I also don’t think it’s too much to ask that the devs try to design some new raid interiors and stop the heavy reuse of the same mechanics across the expansion. Warcraft has a long and proud history, I’m not suggesting there should be no reuse of boss mechanics, just make it more subtle and vary it some.

Pet Battles are the ultimate in casual content. Get involved, don’t get involved it has absolutely no bearing on lore, narrative, player power or indeed any other aspect of the game. If you are not interested in PBs, whatever I was to put on my wish list, even if Blizzard delivered it all, it would make no impact on your game whatsoever. I’ve given up on anything that can rival the Celestial Tournament we were given in the Timeless Isle patch of Mists of Pandaria. So why not recycle it Blizzard? Swap in some new Pet Masters, with new pets and make sure you maintain the same level of difficulty. You could actually introduce new Pet Masters with every patch, that’s three or four new groups across the expansion. Can’t beat the Celestial Tournament centent? Then just do what you’ve done with everything else: recycle it and update it. Just don’t nerf the difficulty and we’ll be golden. As it’s instanced you can add four new Tamers with every patch, but maintain all the old groups. Easy to do and fun play.

Questing and levelling processes have already had a major, and post 7.3.5, a worldwide overhaul. The dynamic scaling technology has made every zone, every activity relevant in terms of levelling experience. This means Blizzard get’s concrete feedback about the success or failure of individual quest lines, hub and zones. If any quest line is particularly bad, tedious or onerous people will now vote with their feet, skipping the content completely. There is not feeling of being locked into level specific zone or quest line, you can go anywhere and do anything within the zone of your current expansion bracket. I hear a lot of dislike expressed for Dread Wastes, Spires of Arrak and latterly Suramar (three zones that, perversely perhaps, I really enjoyed, I absolutely loved Spires of Arrak). If everyone really dislikes those zones only a few of us will stay and play there. Perhaps Blizzard will even be able to patch new questing content into those zones during an expansion life-cycle, but they will certainly know what people like, what is working and what isn’t and the design direction they should take going forward.

 This will be good if they keep taking risks, trying new things, keeping what we like, refining and recasting what we don’t. Pretty much everyone reacted negatively to the garrison, Order halls and mission table tech are pretty much the same as in Garrisions, just rebalanced. Most agreed that Order Halls are much stronger and champion missions less intrusive. If Blizzard keep refining this game mechanic it can get better and really blossom. They will get the feedback they need to keep Warcraft relevant for some time to come.

Player housing is back on the community agenda and perhaps it’s time this was incorporated into the game. All the phasing tech now exists, if it’s structured in a manner similar to Order Halls, or even Guild Halls, rather that the solo player, facebook game of garrison farming then this could be a valuable introduction. At it’s core all of these activities need to be strictly optional. The best thing about Pet Battles are they are potential limitless you can add new content constantly, new pets, new battle, now tournaments and fundamentally the sub-game has no effect and any other aspect of the game. Raiders are not complaining that Pet Battles are content they don’t want to do to be able to raid, equally people doing pet battles has no detrimental effect on raiding.

Housing falls into that category, it extends the number of things to do in game, it is potentially limitless in it’s where it can go, it does not need (and should not be) linked to any other game play system. It could be linked to guilds and finally give back something personalised and a means of creating cohesion and providing group goals to work towards. Banking, auction house and profession trainers should be kept well away from this player housing so players have compelling reasons to leave. However, it might even be possible to provide individuated, phased rooms within a Guild Hall for players to personalise with invite mechanic (à la garrisons) to show them off to guildies. Pet Battles or other mini-games could be built into player housing to incentivise them without detracting from other core gameplay activities.

Fundamentally, Battle for Azeroth needs to do something Blizzard have failed at recently. It needs to utilise their excellent tech systems, like dynamic scaling, to create compelling and interesting content. Scaling has already had a marvelous effect on Timewalking, making those old dungeons not only reward relevent, but content relevent as they still present some of the challenge, therefore fun, we had when they were current. Indeed, I needed to try to remember tactics and work them the last Timewalking I did. Which is in sharp contrast to the abject faceroll they were before.

With just a little imagination and some fresh thinking about old ideas Battle for Azeroth could be a game changing expansion. We need that change.

Despite all the warnings I could give the social, online Friday Mythics Night I had enjoyed has imploded. Drunken snappiness, not understanding or listening, revelling in wiping, cackling “Balls of evil! Balls of evil!”  and sheer, bash head against wall, frustration has finished off an event people were already drifting away from. Who has come off worse from this failure? Well, what a shocker. Me again. Too many people have left Warcraft from my little circle recently. So I wasn’t sufficiently backed up to deal with this stupid drama. My old GM is also quitting the game, she’s fed up with whispers, drama and arse aching (not mine for change). So Legion splutters to a uninspiring end with me seriously looking for even a half decent guild again.

My guild status is a fitting metaphor for Legion in all honestly. Some things have been really good. The zone design and levelling experience has been, the usual, first class. However, the raid offerings in Legion have been…derivative and familiar. The frequency with which we’ve been treated to reused textures, fight mechanics and a general dearth of new or innovative ideas has been staggering. We know Warcraft is thirteen years old and the dev team is shrinking, but never has new blood more obviously been required.

This doesn’t help…withdrawing support for DX9 and no bug fixing.

Textures were lifted straight out of Ulduar and Hellfire Citadel, and particularly badly cobbled together in the case of the Emerald Nightmare (EN). Kicking off the expansion, EN was one boss fight leading up to a portal hub with four zones pulled lazily from around Azeroth without one remarkable or noteworthy boss fight. My overriding memory of EN is ugly, disjointed, cut and shut, ordinary. The Nighthold was much better, however when you set the bar so low…I like the idea of introducing an interesting boss mechanic with the trash leading up to a boss. Why shouldn’t the associated trash demonstrate less powerful facets of the bosses in each wing…it adds flavour and immersion while training the raid how to deal with a boss on the way to them. However, it’s becoming normal to describe every boss in terms of it’s recycled, ad nauseum, core mechanic. Like The Coven of Shivarra, (Tomb of Sargeras) described as new the Elisande (Nighthold): same noose tightening mechanic; balls slow in one section; get through incoming wave to outside. Or Garothi Worldbreaker’s (Burning Throne) Eradication is the new Fallen Avatar‘s (Tomb of Sergeras) Rupture Realities (different name same hokey cokey in, out, in, out). Every encounter has an element of deja vu. Not convinced? Then think about the number of fights in Antorus, the Burning Throne alone where you had move out of lines, green or red? Or what about an ‘area cast’ on the floor that you were drawn to, but had to avoid, before another ‘big cast’ came and you had to rush into the previous ‘area cast’ to avoid said ‘big cast’? Describes several fights? Red or green circles (spiked in the centre) that players needed to soak?

The less said about the Eonar the Life-Binder Event the better…shades of the Hellfire Assault Event, but incredibly, and well done Blizzard for pulling off the apparently impossible, worse.

Legendaries failed to engage again. This time around the items themselves were great, you got one or two and you were very happy, so 100% better than the Ring (that a lot people just could not be arsed with at all), it was the mechanism of acquiring them that sucked. The Legendary Cloak quest chain in Pandaria was long but rather epic and as you completed chapters it became empowered. That worked really well for my money, but someone will always bitch it took too long. Mostly it took time because the content was gated at each patch, increasing the efficacy of the cloak was linked to the progress of the campaign in Pandaria. From a story-telling, fantasy perspective that works just fine, some kids will always want it yesterday. We all got one…I got…a lot. At least four chars had one. Fleety had two: tank and DPS, Sakkara had two: DPS and healing, that’s at least six. Did I lose count? The catchup was great so alts weren’t excluded and it was possible to switch ‘mains’ mid expansion and still progress an appropriate legendary.

Where Legion failed so spectacularly was in making them a random drop. OK everyone got at least one, but many people, who were able to play for many more hours a day, quickly got all of the legendaries available to multiple characters. I have 5 on my main and none of them are BiS. I don’t object to the democratisation, that horse has long bolted, it’s the inability to work for a really, really good item. You should not have three legendary items in the bank unused (!) because the two you have equipped are better. Redundant legendaries?

And grinding won. Those who could quest, dungeon and raid more got more legendaries, sooner or later the current BiS would drop for them, it was just a matter of time. It took until 7.3 and the end of the expansion for Blizzard to decide that Legendaries would be immaterial in a few months (post-Legion) so they could start selling them for easily grindable items. I was very pleased with this change and it would’ve been welcome from launch. Just as I celebrating I read the small print and discovered that you could grind a token that would generate a legendary. The legendary you got was still a random drop. You might never get your BiS in this expansion.

Transmog is awesome!

This is officially the expansion I stopped caring about gear. I loved early expansions where you could get a really good item from a specific place, so you went there and tried to get it. OK, having to run Shadow Labyrinth 41 times (after I started counting) was silly and Platinum Shield of the Valorous was a pretty good blue…that I replaced with the token shield a couple of days laters…but gear lists were a thing and we all loved to work our way up them trying to hit stat targets (usually Hit to be honest). Now I don’t care…I don’t even care what the gear looks like. If I get new gear I pop to the Transmog in Dalaran and reapply my favourite appearances. I only care about one thing gear related: item level.

Blizzard have almost completely recreated the idea of Gear Score now.  Higher ilvl means more of any of the stats and more is more right? Right. OK, itemisation of lower ilvl items might make it deliver more DPS, but not significantly in most circumstances. As a rule of thumb higher ilvl is better is pretty solid. Even using our old friend Mr Robot I rarely encounter a situation when the lower level item is so much better optimised as to be worth opting for. Stat weights? No one cares. Not really. Sometimes you still hear some moron opine that Versatility is just crap and of no value to them and Haste, for example, is their best stat.

Let me help you. No stats decrease DPS output (unless you’ve equipped a tanking or healing piece while DPS-ing). All (DPS) stats increase DPS…it is only the degree to which they increase DPS. Versatility is a flat out DPS increase (incoming damage decrease) stat. More Vers. is more DPS. Haste, for example with warlocks, will speed up shard generation for casting more Unstable Affliction (our big meaty cast). “The amount of Shard generation per Haste rating is less efficient than the flat damage received from Mastery. The value of Mastery is even higher on multi target, making it…” our “best” stat (Icy Viens). However, by how much? Well, one point of intellect will equate to 1.0 point of damage. Mastery: one point will equate to about one and half points of damage, atually 1.55 to be precise. For an Affliction Warlock Haste and Crit. are pretty similar at 1.49 and 1.35 receptively. Versatility is worth about 1.06 damage per point. Valueless? Clearly not. 33% less valuable than Mastery? Well about that. 5 ilvls higher with Vers instead of Mastery? How much more? 33%-ish more points of Vers. than the lower ilvl item’s Mastery? Then the higher ilvl item will deliver more DPS(-ish).

The margins are tiny. Every point of Crit. is worth 1.35 damage (approx.) every point of Mastery is worth 0.2 damage more

Gear? Legendaries? Raids? Meh.

So what has been good in Legion? Questing, levelling, the new zones were all top quality and scaling has made the game so much more accessible. We’ve all wondered where to go and slightly dreaded moving to a new area: mob levels go up and with it the difficulty of questing and our ability to cope with unfortunate multi-mob pulls goes down.

Friends at different character and item levels are naturally reluctant to play with us, for two reasons. Most don’t really want carrying through this game, I, for one, have always wanted to play. I have always hated being dragged through a 5 man with an overgeared tank boasting a friend. I can barely get a DoT on a mob before the tank has moved on and I am left behind. You just have to run to keep up and accept your XP for doing nothing. Nah, mate, no thanks. Secondly, in the case of this higher level, over-geared tank, there’s nothing in it for them. The XP is negligible, if anything, the gear useless.

Scaling addresses just this and lets friends who want play together do that, whatever their item levels are. The experience gained and difficulty of the mobs scale so everyone’s participation is required and the value gained is equal. Plus pick a zone, any zone, and start questing there. After patch 7.3.5 that applies to all Azerothian zones. All ‘vanilla’ zones are now scaled 1 – 60. All Wrath zones are 70 – 80 zones, you can quest in Howling Fjord at level 70 or leave it until you’re 79 and still receive good XP levelling there and the mobs and gear will be appropriate to your level! Or go other places and come back later, in every zone, at whatever stage in your levelling process, completing quests yields about the same experience and the gear that drops is appropriate to you at your level / ilvl. Dynamic scaling is pukka.

After the snore-fest that challenge modes were in Pandaria I wasn’t hopeful about Mythic+. Challenge modes did up the difficulty in 5 mans, extending their longevity across an expansion. However, no one was doing them. They were just everything that was bad about 5 mans, condensed to it’s very essence: a speed tanking, drag-fest; kill everything; ASAP. Not working? Get more DPS.

Mythic+ offered a slightly different approach. OK there were timers, but even if you failed to beat the clock there was a (smaller) reward at the end of the dungeon. 5 mans continued to be a viable source of gear to the end of Legion. While in previous expansions the 5 mans became less challenging as the collective ilvl of groups over-geared the instances, Mythic+ keys upped the difficulty and added new, tricky mechanics and provided higher rewards. As your group’s ilvl (and skill) increased you could take on more and more difficult keys. The rewards scale with the keys genuinely extending the life cycle of 5 man content, making them both relevant and, just as importantly, fun. I’ve loved 5 man instances since vanilla, some of my best, most epic experiences were in Stratholme, Scholomance and Shadow Labs. I actually remember those dungeons more fondly than any raid (except Karazhan, of course). My overriding memories of Legion will be Mythic+ 5 man runs.

All in all Legion has been pretty hit and miss. I think I’ll remember the hits more than misses in retrospect, however as an expansion it has been far from perfect. I’d argue that in places the design has been tired, cut and paste, and lacking in real innovation. It’s easy to say that World of Warcraft is thirteen years old and there’s only so many way you can design boss encounters, but I would counter that a lot of really great pop music has been made with just three chords. If I do engage with all the content already available about the new and upcoming Battle for Azeroth Expansion content, I thought I would complete my reflections on Legion with a manifesto of things I would like to see in the next expansion. My next post will consider what could lift a good, but not great, expansion like Legion to the heights of Mists of Pandaria or even Wrath of the Lich King.

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