The “Zombie” Portion of the pre-Wrath Event Is Flawed

I’ve been spewing profanities the past couple days. The source of my foul-mouthed escapades: the zombie portion of the pre-Wrath event. Or, rather, the extent to which people can use it to grief players and the lack of safeguards against it.

To give the situation some context, I should explain how the event works:

  1. People become infected with the plague. This is done when a player kills an infected roach, opens some infected crates, or is the subject of infection by either player or NPC zombies.
  2. The infection is applied as a disease. When the disease runs its course, or when a player dies or tries to remove the disease with an immunity effect like divine shield, the player turns into a zombie.
  3. As a zombie, a player retains his or her level and can attack other players of either faction, flagged or not.
  4. NPC’s can be infected and become zombies, as well.
  5. There are “argent healers” that can cleanse people of the infection and attack these zombies. High level players with any sort of disease cleansing capabilities can also remove it, though it has a high resistance rate.
  6. Guards can attack zombies.

This seems an okay situation on the surface. Argent healers were meant to serve as the NPC-driven defense against this menial version of the plague. However, looking deeper into the matter, it is important to note the various conditions that morph the event into one of the most poorly designed experiences WoW has ever offered. These conditions are as follows:

  1. The argent healers are only stationed in major cities at important hubs: banks, auction houses, flight points, and entrances to various areas. They are not stationed in most towns outside of the capital cities.
  2. Guards in most lowbie towns are too low in level to even put a dent in the high level player zombies. At best, they can daze the zombie and prevent them from reaching a lowbie that has managed to mount up and run away.
  3. Lowbie players cannot themselves put a dent in the player zombies that are much higher in level than them, due to the level difference.

Compound these conditions with the risk of putting so much power into the players’ hands and you have an absolutely, positively frustrating experience for many. If not for the fact that I could swap over to my level 70 retadin, turn on sense undead, and completely own the shit out of anyone with poor intentions, I’d be more annoyed than I already am. Especially because I rolled on a PvE server to avoid the type of asshattery I’ve been seeing.

I’ll put this into perspective. The other day I was trying to level up a couple alts in Bloodmyst. This is when two people from my own guild decided to kill me and decimate Blood Watch and all the lowbies there. Having none of it, I lectured them about when to say when, switched to my paladin, owned them, camped them, cleansed them when they tried to continue spreading the plague, and kicked one of them from the guild (who wasn’t a good member of the guild in the first place). As funny as it is to grief people, it takes a ball-less git to repeatedly grief lowbie players of their own faction. And a jerk to do it to people in their own guild, especially when those people are clearly upset or annoyed. Having leveled on a PvP server before, I did what was only natural.

Here’s another interesting case study. Some high level druid decided it’d be funny to grief all the lowbies in Darkshire. I just happened to stop by on my low level alts and notice, so I swapped over to my paladin to take care of the problem. The result is alarming.

y u kill me fagg

Do we really want to give so much power to people like this? Especially on a PvE ruleset? I sure hope not. Notice how he tries to berate me for killing him by justifying that the event is for killing people. “y u kill me fagg” definitely reeks of maturity and social validity. I’m only doing what a lot of people would do on a PvP server when someone griefs and camps lowbies. There are repercussions for being a dick!

But don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having fun with people near the cap, considering they can immediately defend themselves. But thinking about the lowbies who have yet to build up connections on a server, I can’t help but wonder how frustrating this event must be for them. How many of them have quit over this fiasco? I’m willing to bet a rather sizable amount. The fact that safeguards weren’t put in place for low level areas is greatly disappointing.

What’s more, there doesn’t seem to be any purpose to becoming a zombie other than to kill and infect other players and NPC’s. If there was actually a quest to perform as a zombie, and if lowbies could actually defend themselves, I’d be a whole lot more forgiving and inclined to view the event in a positive light. I definitely think it has its place as a fundamental concept. But the specifics are broken.

10/27 Update: It’s Over

For those of you who are unaware, the zombie portion of the event ended at noon today. It was fun and frustrating while it lasted. I’m appreciative that Blizzard is trying to create more dynamic and robust world events that aren’t concentrated in one zone. However, I’m also glad it didn’t last until the launch of Wrath.

10/29 Update: Response to Some Comments

I don’t want to spam people’s feed readers, so I am simply adding this to my entry as an addendum. And since there are 100 comments, a lot of people don’t actually see the points of the event that have merit, so I am adding my general response here.

A lot of people in their comments have made the assumption that I was 100% against the zombie event. This is not the case. Might I highlight an important quote from the entry.

I definitely think [the zombie event] has its place as a fundamental concept. But the specifics are broken.

As a positive point, the event tied very well into the lore. It gave our characters and the factions ample reason and motivation to retaliate against Arthas directly. It proved to be “disruptive” to daily life, just as the first undead plague was. And it turned us against each other. That was probably Arthas’ intention. Or was it Putress’ intention? Who knows. In either case, I understand what the event was supposed to do. That’s exactly the “fundamental concept” I’m talking about.

World occurrences like the zombie event do have their place in WoW and should be done again. However, I still think it had its flaws, and these issues can be fixed without deadening the event’s intentions to the point where its purposes are rendered ineffectual.

Just because the event did its job doesn’t make it perfect. Just because some people enjoyed it, doesn’t make it perfect. Just because these two facts exist, doesn’t mean I should not address any issues I might have had with the event, in hopes of improving similar events for the future.

There is no doubt this event had great potential that it met to some degree. But it’s one thing to be disruptive, and another to completely obliterate people’s abilities to perform certain tasks for hours upon hours upon hours. It is, in my opinion, disruptive and engrossing enough that people can attack others while performing the tasks they deem “routine.” You can make various NPC’s immune, without obliterating the event’s intentions. That’s exactly why Blizzard made the flight master in Shatt immune. And it’s still disruptive and engrossing for lowbies that they can merely be attacked, even if they have the ability to defend themselves.

There is no reason events like these can’t happen in the future. There is no reason such dynamic occurrences can’t happen. For all its specific flaws, the fundamental concepts were sound. Blizzard just needs to take a little more care in designing events like this in the future. That’s all.

No QQ about it.

Post-3.0.2 Analysis

This past week was rather interesting, to say the least. Last Tuesday, 3.0.2 was introduced. It is the precursor patch to Wrath that introduces most of the expansion’s talents and mechanics in preparation for its release.

My guild and I spent Tuesday downloading the patch and fixing our mods. We also endured lag, server crashes and restarts.

On Wednesday, a small group of us cleared Karazhan before our Sunwell raid. It took us a total of 50 minutes.

  • Attumen seemed like a trash mob.
  • Moroes died before his first vanish.
  • Maiden died before her first repentance.
  • Our tank was the target of little red riding hood and just tanked Big Bad Wolf through it.
  • Curator died well before his first evocate.
  • Illhoof died during the first weakness.
  • Aran lasted something like a minute.
  • Netherspite died during the first beam phase.
  • Prince died so fast he didn’t even enfeeble the raid once.

Out of all the encounters in Karazhan, chess took the longest. Following this, we had our typical Wednesday Sunwell. Well, typical in that we usually start it on Wednesday. Not so typical in that we cleared it in three hours total.

  • We defeated Kalecgos during the first portal rotation.
  • Brutallus died in less than three minutes.
  • Felmyst died right after her first flight phase.
  • We wiped to the Twins twice. Once because someone fell off the balcony, and once because a hunter botched the MD because they weren’t used to having a shorter range. Then we aced it.
  • I think we had two waves of humanoids on M’uru. The tanks were never in danger of dying during phase one. And we killed Entropius before heroism dropped.
  • We also one-shot Kil’jaeden with ease, though we almost botched it when our melee brought Kil’jaeden down close to the next phase before the warlock adds from the 85% phase were dead.

We followed our Sunwell clear with the first three bosses of Black Temple. We then called the raid an hour early, so people could get an early night.

On Thursday, we finished up Black Temple. We also killed Al’ar, Kael’thas and Vashj and again called it an early night. Some interesting notes:

  • We killed Shahraz without shadow resistance.
  • Illidan never once reached his demon phase. We brought him down to 30% with five seconds to go on the first timer. This reset the timer, and we brought him down to zero before the second.

In any case, we cleared all of Sunwell, Black Temple, the two most difficult T5 bosses, and Al’ar in a total of about seven hours. We could have done it faster if we hadn’t approached the raids in a relaxed manner.

Were the Nerfs Too Much?

I’m not going to view 3.0.2 in a negative light. At some point, guilds stuck indefinitely on content need the be thrown bones shaped like dead bosses and epics. And to have micromanaged the changes on each encounter of TBC would have taken too many resources away from development of upcoming content.

I am quite positive there are guilds disappointed about how easy M’uru or Kil’jaeden are now post-patch. Especially if they were close to killing either of them pre-nerf. On my own server, Risen was in line to become the third guild to defeat Kil’jaeden. Parn, Risen’s leader, posted this in the progression thread after this post-nerf kill:

Risen downs Kil’jaeden.

Patch came 1 week too early. Sorry about the cheapened victory, guys. But we would have gotten him regardless.

Thanks everyone for every effort they have made.

My own guild had the same thing happen to us with Gruul. We had him down to 5% pre-nerf and we were certain of his death the very next week. This would have made us the only guild on our server to kill him legitimately pre-nerf (Ruined killed a bugged version). But then they nerfed him and we came back and one-shot him during what was supposed to be our warm-up attempt. It was an anti-climactic end to the hard work, consumables and gold we had thrown at the encounter.

However, for all the disappointment, it would not have been worth it to micromanage the changes to raiding. With only a month left in TBC’s lifecycle, it would have been a mistake to push 3.0.2 back a couple weeks for the sake of making the encounters easier, but still challenging. Especially considering those encounters will become obsolete at Wrath‘s release.

It’s Too Difficult to Predict What’s to Come Using 3.0.2

I originally stated that I thought Blizzard would do well to prolong the introduction of 3.0 for the sake of benchmarking class performance in raids and PvP. However, I ended up changing my mind just before Blizzcon for these reasons:

  1. Encounter difficulty was going to change with new concepts and mechanics in place.
  2. The encounters weren’t designed with the new talents in mind.
  3. We are missing ten talent points and new abilities that we will have at level 80.

Tack on the additional nerfs to raiding that Blizzard introduced, and there’s very little point in using 3.0.2 as an environment in which to test a class’s viability. And the same could be said for arena. Without an official ladder going on, a lot of people are using this opportunity to simply test new abilities and specs. But optimal team composition and specs for level 80 will not become evident until Wrath‘s first season.

I Hope 3.0.2 is Not a Precursor to 25-Man Raid Difficulty in Wrath

One of my colleagues, Matticus, had this to say about the current ease of 25-man raiding on live:

Don’t assume that things will be this easy at level 80, because it’s not going to be. You get yourselves new bosses, new mechanics, and new challenges to toy with.

To some degree, he is correct. Malygos is not nearly as easy as raiding in 3.0.2 is currently. However, conventional wisdom and statements made by the developers leave me to disagree on a level more subtle. Afterall, the developers did say they thought Sunwell was too hard during Blizzcon’s raids and dungeons panel. So I’m not about to assume that the 25-man version of Icecrown Citadel will be as difficult as the Sunwell.

Having worked my way through Sunwell well before 3.0.2, and killing M’uru before his first nerf, I have a keen understanding of just how difficult raiding can be. And while, yes, slogging through that content was at times frustrating, I am retrospectively appreciative of just how difficult both M’uru and Kil’jaeden were to defeat. As I said some time ago, downing them provided two of the most satisfying gaming experiences I’ve ever had since picking up an Atari controller when I was three.

So I personally worry I will never have that experience again in WoW. In fact, I would be upset if the 25-man version of Icecrown only stood at the difficulty level of Black Temple. Afterall, one of the very reasons I thought 10-man versions of every raid dungeon were being introduced was to provide an alternative, more accessible form of the content people might find too difficult in a 25-man setting. Getting stuck at the 25-man level will result in a lower impact on morale when people can simply form up a solid 10-man raid and experience that same content in an easier and more accessible environment.

My Advice for Guilds Clearing or Deep into Sunwell Pre-3.0.2: Tighten Your Recruitment Standards

If you were clearing Sunwell level pre-3.0.2, I would say you shouldn’t use the time to recruit new people unless they come from an extremely solid and verifiable raid background.

As it stands, it is currently too difficult to trial someone in the difficult aspects of raiding you will see re-introduced come Wrath.

  • For Sunwell-clearing guilds, Felmyst won’t last more than one ground phase on a perfect attempt, meaning you will have limited opportunities to use the encapsulate as a situational awareness check.
  • Sacrolash dies so quickly, there will be a low chance for your new DPS recruits to be the target of conflag on the Eredar Twins.
  • Since bosses have had their melee damage reduced so dramatically, you won’t have ample opportunities to challenge your healer recruits.
  • Furthermore, because bosses hit so weakly, you can’t challenge your tanks to accurately time their cooldowns to mitigate awkward damage bursts.
  • Also, for tanks, positioning plays less of an important role when you don’t have to worry too much about avoiding gravity balls on M’uru, or creating an optimal pattern of flame patches on phase two of Illidan.

That said, if people coming from top guilds are applying and their skill level is already verifiable, it might be worth it to take a chance on them now. However, if this is not the case, I would advise taking a pass on them until you can incorporate them into level 80 raiding.