The Watcher

Thinking more about how people could learn the game without YouTube or Tankspot, it seems that an Observer mode would be an excellent addition. Some mechanism which allowed you to join a fight in progress as a watcher only, hovering above god-style, kind of like you can hover around when dead and see what’s going on.

I’d love to be able to follow a Warrior tank who was running my chosen bête noire, to learn how they handle the adds and time their cooldowns. Or to hover over a new wing of Naxx once our guild ventures in for the second time.

This would allow you to watch and learn fights that are new, or that you’re struggling with. It removes the element of surprise when encountering a new instance or boss, but then very few approach a new fight without first watching a strategy video or reading a debrief. In fact Observer mode would be much more involving than those kind of meta approaches.

You’d probably need some kind of way to allow or disallow observers, so as not to be encumbered with additional stresses or having strangers judge your skills. But given people Livestream their attempts already, I’m sure it would be a pretty popular feature.

eSports depend on the ability for an audience to join a game as observers and hence participate in the event like they were at a real sports game. The venerable Quake engine allowed god mode overview for tournament play, Starcraft II will feature some kind of observer mode, as well as replays, so why not offer it in WoW too?

QQataclysm

The Interwebs are bathed in the fiery afterglow of the Cataclysm class changes, with the main response being: “NIMBY“.

It’s a little disconcerting reading bloggers whose opinions are usually well thought out and rational going a little crazy in response. I guess most active bloggers are pretty serious players, so any changes tend to be leaped upon with vigour, and horror if there’s even the slightest hint of dramatic change.

  • Responding to the new Priest ability Leap of Faith, the normally very sane Tobold offers his services to Blizzard as a Chief Social Engineer because “I really don’t understand why nobody at Blizzard considered the consequences”. Really Tobold? No-one at Blizzard has considered the consequences?? Please.
  • Similarly the always angry Rilgon gets even angrier after reading the Hunter preview: “Focus: F*ck it. This sh*t is f*cking worthless”. And that’s mild compared to his twitter stream. Overreaction, much? All this without having even tried it, or giving Blizz any credit for perhaps being able to make it work. It works for Rogues, why can’t it work for Hunters?
  • The Escape Hatch disses the Warrior: “Based on this preview, I will be shocked if there is not a mass exodus from the warrior class come Cataclysm”. Why? Because there aren’t enough “cool” changes. Are people really going to abandon a class they love because Heroic Leap isn’t exciting enough?
  • Even Tamarind goes nuts: “Is this April Fools Day leftovers? It’s now not enough that I’m expected to heal the moronface standing in fire I’m expected to yank him out of as well?!!”. At least Tam has the good grace to realise it’s all a bit ott: “I’m sure, in practice, it’ll all be fine and I’ll be a Stupidity Grip convert, eating my words and looking small and silly”.

From all the class announcements, about the only change that I can see would cause real angst is the change to Druid Tree form. This one is a fundamental change to how you enjoy a class, not to a background mechanic. Hunters will still be able to shoot and have pets despite the change from Mana to Focus. A Tree Druid who’s not a Tree? That’s more problematic – support Tree Bark Jacket’s campaign!

For the rest, surely we can have just a smidgen of faith that Blizzard, um, know a little bit about what they are doing?  That they aren’t trying to break their game and drive everyone away to SW:ToR. That we’re grown up enough to adapt to the New Thing and enjoy it just as much as the Old.

Garwulf, in a thankfully balanced review of the Hunter changes, summed it up best for me: “FFS, quit yer bitchin’!”

Boss Fight Pause

Wednesday night saw our group play Pathfinder with table-top miniatures for the first time. It was awesome. We didn’t have anything like the crazy 3D extravaganzas Penny-Arcade create,  just a flat sheet of grid paper, white board markers, and figurines. Despite the simple setup, it was still awesome. There’s nothing like seeing the battlefield laid out to bring an event to life, and demonstrate the consequences of things like line of sight and proximity.

My cleric couldn’t bring any healing to the party (despite two members desperately needing some hit point love) because we started the fight spreadeagled all over the playing field. So I had to resort to bringing the big hammer down, which is more my style anyway 🙂

Our Sorcerer’s pseudo-dragon, who flew high above, could give him strategic advice, and his positioning on the steps meant he could better see where our enemies were coming from, but none of that could be conveyed to the rest of us due to the tyranny of distance.

Despite all these nub mistakes we got through it – helped by a friendly GM, some lucky dice rolls, and the fact that it wasn’t real time. That’s the difference between pen & paper and an MMO: we would have definitely wiped HoR style on the second wave of ravenous goblins, but the turn based nature of the fighting meant there was time to pause and consider our approach. We could focus fire, move closer together so I could heal the group, and generally adapt our strategy.

Which begs the question, could something similar be implemented in an MMO? Could you have a turn based mechanic in an MMO? What if you could pause a boss fight to discuss tactical approaches to the next phase, or to dissect what just happened? That would alleviate some of the need to research every fight before attempting it, and open up all sorts of learning opportunities. A learner mode.

It would also break the ‘flow’ of a fight, but it could be an optional feature that you flip on and off depending on whether you are on your first attempt or a veteran. Start new boss attempts by pausing and working out what is going on, then once you’ve got the fight down pat, start running it through end to end. During the pause attempts, no loot would drop to stop farming.

Could this work? Would it mean not having to Wowhead the fight before you begin? Be nice if it did. If nothing else it might allow the tanks and melee DPS to see the boss mechanics, rather than the boss nether-regions 😎

April WoW Fools

Best April Fools post? El’s Cataclysm Aquarium! Please please please make it so, Blizzard!

Storing dead fish in bags or bank vaults is smelly. And nobody can see your rarest catches**. Fish tanks allow anglers to keep their rarest catches alive – and gain rewards from doing so. They also let other people see precisely what rare fish you have caught!

The aquarium finally brings the best of “social fish-gaming” to Azeroth.

**If you fish, you must watch this video! He’s caught everything.

Blizzard also pulled a nice swift one in the Armory – a ninja-looting Level 80 Tuskarr Warrior? They must have known Bane was a fishercow 🙂

The Greatest Fisherpeople in Warcraft