So… That’s That

I realize this screen shot is a cliche. I joked about it with Matticus the other day. It’s as striking as it is matter-of-fact, but definitely over-dramatic. Many have traveled this path already, and their departure is no different than mine.

I’m sure by now most of my readers knew this day was coming. I’d already stopped playing the game, and the only reason it remained on my hard drive was so I could get screen shots and video footage for the Cataclysm review.

I’ve already discussed most of my reasons for quitting the game, but I haven’t really talked about one of my reasons. So let’s summarize:

  1. I’m generally burnt out on WoW. After seven years, that’s what happens.
  2. I think WoW is becoming outdated and hasn’t changed fast enough.
  3. I’m not optimistic about the future of MMOs.
  4. I want to focus on more than just WoW.

I don’t want to dwell on most of these points, because I’ve already written entries about them. But the second and fourth points deserve some elaboration.

On the Rate of Change in WoW

Recently, Ghostcrawler (Greg Street) posted a blog entry on the World of Warcraft community site talking about how they approach development. In this entry, he was very forthcoming about their philosophies when it comes to making changes to the game. Specifically, he talked about the concepts underlying changes that are implemented in new expansions.

We hear from players who say “My dude hasn’t fundamentally changed in years,” and they want something, anything, that makes them look at their character in a new light. We don’t want to fix things that aren’t broken of course, but we do want to make sure that a new expansion feels all new. Expansions are opportunities to reinvigorate the player base and the gameplay itself. Therefore, you shouldn’t always view a class revamp as meaning your character is horribly broken and adrift on a sea of designer ignorance and apathy. We probably won’t ever reach a point where a particular class has reached perfection and no additional design iteration is necessary. Change, in moderation, is healthy. (Source)

 

That Greg would write this particular entry immediately after I finished my review of Cataclysm is as coincidental as much as it is convenient. It allows me to get in one last comment on the issue before I close up shop.

Over the past couple years, I’ve come to really like Greg. There was a time I didn’t, but I’ve warmed up to him with each intelligent post and each project he’s worked on. He’s proven he best understands what the game needs and what the players want—things like closer oversight of class balance and quality-of-life improvements that come with systems like the dungeon finder. He’s also proven he is aware of some of WoW’s issues, both existing and developmental in nature.

In this case, he leaves a lot unsaid, because he is toeing the company line. He doesn’t want to reveal to us what changes he personally thinks are needed, because that can be perceived as acknowledging explicit weaknesses in the game, which many investors and company men view as “bad PR.” But he is forthcoming about the fact that changes need to be made to keep the game fresh, which is more than what many employees of a company will publicly admit. And I like that sort of honesty.

One thing I do contest, however, is that “Change, in moderation, is healthy.” Personally, I think more than moderation is needed. When TBC was released, the amount of change was enormous. Heroic dungeons were introduced. Raid bosses were more complex and challenging, across the board. Resilience, the arena system and a linear honor system were added for PvP. Off-specs were made much more useful than they’d ever been. Raids were downsized from forty to twenty-five players. And the entry raid dungeon only required ten people. These were all incredible changes, and some were shocking. And what happened? The number of subscriptions increased. In part, due to releasing the game in other countries, but also because the game was improving. But we haven’t seen this degree of change for a long while.

I’d argue the amount of change needed now is very large. The quest system (at least for the end-game) needs to be revamped, with introductions and conclusions playing out using the in-game cut-scene engine (or some variant thereof). Of course, the ability to skip these scenes and to check the quest log must remain for players with short attention spans. The way abilities work could also do with a fundamental overhaul to make them more enjoyable. A nice start would be to either scrap or change abilities that cause players to lose control of their characters. However, I don’t think changes to abilities should be limited to just this. I’d like to see more emphasis put on the abilities you choose to use. Not in the sense that one spell does more damage than another, and then goes on cooldown, forcing you to use other spells. I’m talking about making each spell different in style, like using EMP with a ghost in Starcraft 2 on cloaked units, or against units with energy. I’d like to see some radical changes made to certain abilities, like making (for example) pyroblast work like a targeted projectile, exploding on impact with the ground (maybe even bouncing a few times before it resolves). Things like that. As it stands, most abilities fly at your targeted unit and simply do damage or perform a simple function.

Of course, I realize some of these proposals might not be technically possible with the current server-client architecture. But then that’s why Blizzard needs to be able to change that architecture to meet the demands of desired game design decisions. I also realize Blizzard might disagree with my specific proposals. That’s fine with me. I just want Blizzard to be aware of the fact that I think the degree of change with each expansion needs to increase. And the quality of changes need to be better. Don’t rush things, as it seemed Cataclysm was. Take your time. That’s what you’re known for. Sure, some people might get a little impatient while they wait for the next expansion, but the game is already bleeding subscriptions with the current approach. So take a chance and see how it works out.

On Focusing on More Than WoW

When I say I’d like to focus on more than just WoW, I mean that in two ways. In one sense, it means I’d like to write about more games than just WoW. In another, it means I don’t want WoW to impede some of my goals in life—to possibly go to graduate school or get a second degree; to possibly work on a running vlog where I go around and show people all the trails they haven’t found in the south bay; or to possibly get a full-time job.

In many ways, WoW has always tended to get in the way of my goals and desires. Though, for a while, that was fine with me. I enjoyed playing WoW. And I enjoyed critiquing and writing about it. But when the joy is no longer there, you have to move on.

And so this is where I stand today.

The End of Lume the Mad

This entry marks the end of my time writing for Lume the Mad and my time playing WoW. I don’t want to say I won’t ever return to WoW, because I might buy the next expansion just to play through the leveling zones. But I won’t ever play it to the same extent I did before. Not unless the game changes radically.

Where I go from here is left to be seen. Currently, I am leaning towards launching a general gaming blog. But I could very well end up writing about movies, books, games, running, or some combination of these. Or I could end up doing something completely different, like embarking on a second degree or starting a new job that demands my full attention. I’m still hammering out my plans.

Whatever I end up doing, I will no longer be writing analyses of WoW, guild leading, druids, or anything relating to WoW on this blog.

It had a great run, and I thank you all for everything. And I especially want to thank those of you who have stayed with me until the very end. I really appreciate your support. It means a lot to me.

 

Signing out,

—Lume

Memories of Lunacy’s Raid

To accompany my personal farewell, I just want to reflect on Lunacy’s relatively brief history. Our highlights include:

  • U.S. 49th Kalecgos.
  • U.S. 50th Brutallus.
  • U.S. 40th M’uru.
  • U.S. 64th Kil’jaeden.
  • U.S. 52nd Lose Your Illusion.
  • U.S. 45th Steelbreaker (no VW cheese).
  • U.S. 57th Heartbreaker.
  • U.S. 60th GVH.
  • U.S. 56th Yogg1.
  • U.S. 85th Yogg0.
  • We also placed fairly well on 5-minute Malygos, but WoWProgress no longer has that on record.

We did this all while raiding on merely 20 hours a week (only more than 20 hours roughly three times each expansion).

Lunacy was a fresh guild at the beginning of TBC. Its birth was a result of my desire to create my own guild, and a friend’s willingness to help me co-lead. We started with only a small handful of players looking to raid hardcore at the beginning of TBC and built the guild from scratch. We managed to get the server second clear of Karazhan, and the best legitimate attempt of Gruul on the server pre-nerf (5%), despite the fact that we had only just managed to build the guild to a level where we could raid 25-man content.

We started getting realm firsts with our kill of Hydross, and from there we succeeded to do so on every boss except Lurker (because the guild that beat us did him first, while we focused on harder bosses), and Illidan (due to tank attrition).

The guild’s atmosphere was relaxed, but not to a point where performance suffered. We had really only a few people with questionable attitudes, and they didn’t dominate our otherwise friendly and crazy shenanigans.

Tempest Keep was really where we hit our stride. We took off entire raiding days to do marathon heroic sessions to make sure people were prepared for attunement. Our kill of Kael’thas was three weeks before the next guild on Proudmoore. And the same happened in Hyjal with our kill of Archimonde. A crew of 19 people stuck around after our Kael’thas kill to knock off Rage before the reset so we could be ready to do BT comfortably the following week.

We had our bumps at the end of Black Temple, however, with the guild that beat us putting in extra time while we suffered because we had only three tanks to work with (one of which was often two hours late to the raid). We only lost by 30 minutes, despite the fact that we didn’t put in extra time on BT at all, except a handful of us who would farm trash for hearts. We put in a grand total of two extra hours on Hyjal for the early attunement push.

Fortunately, people in the guild recognized our strengths and didn’t let the loss get to them. As a result, our first week in SWP was extremely strong. We got the U.S. 49th kill of Kalecgos and 50th of Brutallus.

But we stumbled greatly on Felmyst, dropping down to 121st. It exposed the weaknesses we had in terms of situational awareness. But we were determined not to let that happen on subsequent kills, and sat people who did not meet our standards of performance in that regard. This allowed us to improve by 51 places on the Eredar Twins (70th in the U.S.) and M’uru (40th in the U.S.).

Kil’jaeden was also a stumbling point, again showing our weaknesses in terms of situational awareness. But the people who had major problems on Felmyst showed improvement and we still managed the 64th kill in the U.S., despite the fact that we were often running with barely enough people to attempt the encounter, much less repeat M’uru before the major nerf.

Come Wrath, we started having major problems. A lot of our stronger players used the transition from one expansion to another to step away from WoW or raiding. Some of our stronger players remained, but we had gaping holes to fill. And we were never the same. We went through a lot of truly mediocre recruits to find some good ones, but we never found enough to man full raids every day in our schedule, despite the fact that we lowered our standards slightly just so we could man full raids enough to progress.

It’s amazing to me, however, that despite our problems, we were still managing a lot of top 100 kills in the U.S. for Ulduar hard modes, and even one in the top 50. It made me wonder what we could have accomplished had we not taken such a huge hit between expansions.

Alas, our problems slowly caught up to us, and this version of the raid is no more.

There were a lot of fun moments. Even in Wrath. It is thanks to nearly all members of Lunacy’s raid, past and present. Admittedly, not all of you, but roughly 98%. Thanks for making the time spent well worth it! I leave you with some of the videos of our fond memories.

A Farewell to (Hardcore) Raiding

This likely won’t come as a surprise to people on Proudmoore who have already heard the news, but my time as a hardcore raider is over. Lunacy’s existence as a hardcore raiding guild is also finished (though I add “for now,” since we still exist as a social entity and a raid could form under the tag in the future).

The reasons I’m stepping back from the hardcore raiding scene are several. Prime in my reasoning is simply life. However, I still would have stepped away in the future, regardless. This is because the mid-level hardcore raiding atmosphere is extremely stressful and I was losing a lot of the enjoyment that used to come with hardcore raiding. I have to admit ToGC’s design also played a role in my loss of interest.

This So-Called “Real Life” Has Me Running

I don’t think the audience of a gaming blog would be very receptive to the story of my life. You’re here for insight into WoW and the act of playing it. If anything, you probably read this and other blogs because you can’t stand reading people’s personal blogs. But as it is a reason for stepping back, and stepping away from raiding will affect this blog’s content, I owe a short summary of why my life is getting hectic. So here goes:

  1. I’m finishing my BA in English.
  2. Afterwards, I will be applying to enter an MFA program in creative writing.
  3. I’d like to take running more seriously.
  4. Related to #1 and #2, I’ll be taking my writing from hobby to serious pursuit.

However, though I have plans, I don’t have expectations. I don’t expect to become a famous author of bestselling novels, or a Hollywoord screenwriter. I don’t expect to become an Olympic marathoner, though I’d love to break my personal bests. I just want to finish my degree and try things that will either work or not, be it journalism, commissioned writing, teaching, or something I don’t expect.

These are things I cannot do while maintaining a rigorous raiding schedule, much less while leading a hardcore guild. Gaming needs to take a back seat.

Wrath’s Mid-Level Hardcore Raiding Atmosphere Was Extremely Stressful

It’s difficult to talk about issues concerning the raiding atmosphere without being candid about recent events within my guild. However, because Lunacy still exists (albeit casually), I don’t feel comfortable discussing even vague examples that could be applied by our current and former members to specific incidents that may have occurred, no matter how accurate or inaccurate.

So I’ll use ambiguity.

I hate drama. I hate snark. I hate irrationality. I hate not having the tools to deal with people who have problems, be they attitude- or performance-related, because you worry about not being able to replace that person swiftly. When the major reason your guild exists is to progress and defeat bosses at all levels of difficulty, it’s difficult to potentially put yourself in a position where you can’t do that. People who joined to progress become unhappy when you can’t kill bosses, and when that happens you risk falling apart.

On the other hand, if you keep the people with attitude problems around, you risk driving others away. And if you lower your performance standards, you hurt your progression. So by not doing anything, you also risk the guild falling apart.

If I had 5 or 6 people waiting on the bench every night, the course of action would have been obvious. But because raiding is now much more accessible than it was before, mid-level hardcore guilds are bleeding members left and right. So you have a glut of guilds, and a shortage of recruits. Fixing problems becomes extremely difficult when that happens, as you become a victim of the situation.

It’s not Blizzard’s fault, however. The increase in accessibility to raiding is a good thing in the long-term. But it’s created a short-term problem with a glut of guilds and a shortage of hardcore raiders that I don’t think will resolve itself until Cataclysm’s release.

ToGC’s Design Problems

There are several reasons I dislike ToGC:

  • Limited attempts.
  • How the random mechanics of certain fights can affect your attempt count.
  • How the awkward AI on a couple fights can be a frustrating component that results in losing attempts.
  • Warriors in full block gear taking half the damage of a protadin in better overall gear.
  • How rushed it felt, with major changes needed on three of the heroic encounters shortly after the heroic modes opened (Northrend Beasts, Jaraxxus and the Twin Valks).

These issues warrant a much larger entry. A mere list of issues does not accurately summarize my thoughts in detail. For example, I wouldn’t care about RNG-based difficulty if the attempt system didn’t exist. In any case, I much prefer different design concepts, and I’ll express my full thoughts in a post as soon as possible (I want to try to get something out there before next Tuesday, as the PTR has a release candidate version going up).

So Where Do I Go from Here?

Honestly, I’m not sure where I’ll be going from here. There are so many conflicting issues going on, I just don’t know where I’ll be several months from now.

I really want to set up a serious PvP crew on Proudmoore (something that hasn’t been done for a very long time), but I worry about having to turn down people in Lunacy who just wouldn’t make the cut (the types that run off for HK’s instead of being there to assist the flag carrier in WSG).

I want to set up a serious 3v3 team, but I’m not sure my current plans will follow through the way I want them to. And I’m not sure Proudmoore will provide me with the tools to create a team as successful as I’d like, if the current plans don’t work out.

At the same time, I don’t want transfer off, because that would hurt my ability to rebuild the social side of Lunacy.

And then Cataclysm is likely to change the game in extreme ways. So I have no idea what I’ll be doing until I know what Cataclysm is actually going to change and introduce.

What I do know is that I’ll be playing much more casually than I was before.

What’s in Store for the Blog?

Stepping away from raiding means I won’t be writing about how well or poorly a boss is designed if I don’t experience it. But the blog is changing (and has already changed) for reasons more than just me stepping away form raiding.

To be honest, I’ve found it difficult to write about a game in the MMO industry with any sort of enthusiasm. It used to be that I was excited about a lot of things. I was even planning to develop my own web site, the details of which I’m going to keep under wraps, in case I end up going down that road if other life plans don’t work out. But the volatility behind the development of games in the industry has me weary, so I’d rather try other possibilities in my life first and not spend so much of my focus on it.

That said, I still enjoy parts of WoW. And the blog still exists. So I will write about it. But I probably won’t bother addressing topics like how Arthas is an antithetical version of King Arthur. It’s very possible Blizzard could have gone down that road. But then you know some head designer is going to say “No, scrap that! It wouldn’t make for an interesting raid encounter!”

I’m not saying the designer is wrong. You want an interesting encounter for the last boss in an expansion. Entertainment is as important as story. Take PvP, for example. PvP is a source of entertainment. And there needs to be a reason for PvP to exist in the game, even if Garrosh and Varian are extremely superficial characters.

I’ve merely come to the conclusion that various parts of the game won’t ever be exactly the way I want them. No matter how much I advocate the practice, I don’t think story arcs will ever be fully contained within the world of WoW. There will always be something introduced I won’t like. In short, “You can’t please everyone.” This is simply how MMO design and development works. And so I’ve lost some enthusiasm, and I won’t be going out of my way to write about certiain things anymore. You might have noticed I haven’t done that for almost a year, now. But I will probably write more than I have lately, at least.

In any case, I’ll be around.