Mentoring

Mentoring is an idea my MMO friends have tossed around for a while now. It’s not something you see much of in Warcraft, but mentoring junior players could add a level of class depth to the game, especially for those willing to RP the process.

There are plenty of excellent ex-game teachers, and most people are willing to help a newbie if for no other reason than to show their skills, so why not try and build it into the in-game mechanic. Introduce semi-enforced in-game mentoring.

Imagine that when a Hunter reaches level 10, instead of using an NPC they needed to be taught the art of taming their pet by another player. Or in STO, a Jedi Master must initiate young Padawan into the mysterious ways of the force.

The main problem would be finding someone willing to help – but that could be resolved if you also made it a condition of reaching level 20 that you go help a lowbie. Part of advancing your character to the next phase is helping to build the Hunter community by training up junior members. Or embarking on an quest chain, similar to Rhok’delar, where the end goal is to present a lower level player with an epic reward – their first purple.

To make it more than a one off task for the higher level toons, class specific rep or achievement status could be a reward for each time you do it. Eventually you would have Legendary Hunter’s running about who have earned the respect of their class through being recognised as great mentors or trainers.

The same principle could apply to any class of course – Warriors teaching the art of Charge, Druids learning how to be a Cat, Paladins training young disciples how to press “1” before going /afk.

Enforced mentoring wouldn’t work, and the game would need to cater for situations when people can’t or won’t assist, but it would certainly add to the immersion and sense of class community if it was at least an optional way of progressing.

Salty #2

No luck this morning. Obviously my Salty strategy needs work. I’ve got the right rod, hat, and know most of the top spots thanks to El’s. And I make sure that either Chuck, Mr Pinchy’s Magical Crawdad, or my Sewer Rat are by my side whenever I drop a line. These things matter.

And yet clearly it’s not enough.

Of course the rare fish are scared off when they see a great lumbering Tauren kitted out in Crusader’s Square Pauldrons and Tempered Titansteel Treads hovering over their pool.

Scaring the fish away

Time for some more appropriate fashion:

There will be no-one to stop us this time

That should do the trick. They’ll take one look and a Blacktip Shark and 15 Pound Mud Snapper will be mine!

Freedom?

Don’t Fear the Mutant posted a dissection of levelling vs endgame, where he came to a surprising conclusion: max level = freedom.

Surprising because that’s almost the reverse of how I felt on reaching 70 & 80. In fact I was temporarily paralysed: now what?

Whilst reaching max level meant that the on rails levelling was over, and despite a myriad of playing options becoming available, it actually felt like there was suddenly less scope to just play around:

  • Need to grind factions to Exalted;
  • Professions must be maxed;
  • Farm mats for crafted epics;
  • Accumulate badges for welfare epics;
  • Stay current with your gear;
  • etc.

Pike recently expressed a similar sentiment, staying gear capped becomes more restrictive than levelling an alt. There can be great pressure to keep up, which in turn limits your choices of what to do when you’re online. My much beloved ex guild leader used to insist on rep grinds (thank goodness the Hodir enchants are BoA now), min-maxing professions, dailies, the works, before his Guildies could have the freedom to… go fishing. It felt like wagging school to go in search of Old Crafty.

Of course the pressure to get to the level cap can mean just as little freedom. But unless you’re power levelling, you can drift around doing different things, exploring the world, doing instances just for the fun of it.

As Janis Joplin put it, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”, and you really do have nothing to lose when levelling, but there’s a lot to lose once you fall behind the end game.

Corporatespeak

Is it just me, or does Blizzard sound suspiciously like Microsoft in their latest twitter chat? “Trust us, the next release (Win7/Office2010/Cataclysm) will fix everything…”

Mind you, Cataclysm still sounds great – especially Goblins and Archaeology. And here’s hoping the Epic Moose Mount makes it in for the Winter Olympics.

Blackrock Depths

Our guild ran Blackrock Depths last night, the first time for many of us. Wow. They don’t make instances like that any more.

The scale and size of the dungeon is amazing – epic Dwarven architecture, of even greater ambition than Ironforge. You start in rough hewn tunnels before emerging out into majestic amphitheaters, arenas, and lava strewn forgeworks. The Dark Highway in particular is enough to make you stop and take copious screenshots. It feels like a living, breathing, working underground city.

Some of the mechanics are beautiful too – opening a wall cabinet reveals the portrait of a fallen Dwarf Lord, whose obituary message reveals the location to the Shadowforge Key. And there are many moments where you look down on somewhere you’ve been, or somewhere you’re working toward.

It’s also very complicated, and easy to get utterly lost. We did, several times, despite having copious guides, screenshots, maps, handwritten notes, and a old skool veteran in the party. We stumbled into the Grim Guzzler at around midnight, sunk a long cool Thunderbrew, and called it a night.

There are a million bosses, many which you run into before realising, and all of who seem to drop cloth blues, despite this being the only place in Warcraft where you can forge Dark Iron.

BRD is also full of truckloads of mobs, everywhere you turn. We must have killed an entire Dwarvish nation just getting to some of the bosses, so much so that we felt some kind of penance might be due. The sheer numbers are what makes it seem like a real place – spectators cheering the arena, forgesmiths at work, miners, technicians and engineers working on weapons and great siege engines. I can see why Blizzard reduced the trash on modern dungeons, and am glad they did for everyone’s sanity, but less NPC activity does take some of the life out of the newer instances.

It would have been an incredible challenge to play on level back in the day, with 6+ pulls being common. We were all hovering around 55 last night, but despite my Bear tanking being pretty rusty, all the dungeon nerfs & player buffs meant we dominated most everything, even when our healer was annihilated by 800 angry wrench throwers.

(In)fidelity

Syp’s /played list is constantly surprising. How can one player switch between so many MMOs? There can only be one answer: there’s more than one of him!

More likely he’s just really good at playing mmo’s the way you’re meant to – that is, making in game friends quickly, finding a guild, jumping into pugs, etc. Not relying heavily on playing with people you already know. And certainly not playing just to compete for end game status, which pretty much requires commitment to a single game.

I can only keep up with my WoW guild because they are (mostly) as casual as me. So there’s no progression raiding (other than Blackrock Depths this week!), and hence no pressure.

Even so I can’t imagine dropping WoW for a month or two to try Fallen Earth, then hopping over for some quick STO, back to WoW, then a taste of SW:TOR. Even finding the time for single player games is challenging when you’re hooked into the MMO feed.

Penny-Arcade nailed it, as they often do.

I WoW mostly with people I know IRL, which makes MMO fidelity more compelling. If I wanted to make and play with virtual friends, I guess hopping around would be easier.

I did play Warhammer for about 30 minutes, and dipped into LotRO too, for 90. On both occasions I was pretty quickly overwhelmed with the task of re-establishing ties to friends in game. Or should I say, selling them on the idea of moving to something new, and retiring or abandoning a game we had all invested a lot of time in – and still enjoyed.

It seemed that it was either/or in terms of other MMOs. Either play LotRO, or play WoW, but not both.

Having said that…TOR is going to require some careful consideration. A sci-fi setting is less appealing than high fantasy (despite my reading preference being totally the other way around – other than A Song of Ice & Fire, great Fantasy fiction is pretty rare), but the Bioware polish and depth of Star Wars lore could – should – be a killer combo.

Wowkindy

A while back, before quitting for good, BRK started a great series of “Video Hunter Guides”. You can still download them from his old site, or view it on the (frustrating) Project Lore site.

They are great because they start from the assumption that you know nothing about being a Hunter. Nowt. Zip. He introduces each skill or talent that you get, explains what it does, and shows you how to use it. Even skills you don’t actually ‘get’ – like kiting, jump shooting, etc. There’s a video every two levels or so, each one adding a little more to The Knowledge.

It’s great content, and it’s surprising that there’s so little of it about. There’s plenty of “how to nail boss x” strategy videos, and places like Tankspot are invaluable sources of end game strategies. But there’s very little in the way of video guides to starting out, class basics, and how-tos.

One reason is videos are painful to produce, take hours longer than you expect, and (at least here in 64k-if-you’re-lucky upload country) days to upload to YouTube etc. Another is you have to really know your stuff to make it worthwhile, and be a good teacher at the same time.

But there’s 8 quintillion WoW players out there, there’s people doing incredible machinima, and there’s plenty of great teachers.

Imagine a site with video guides for each class, taking it slowly and teaching people how to play by showing rather than telling. Introducing each skill, demonstrating it, building up to rotations, glyphs, talent builds, the works. It would be an invaluable resource, a Wowhead/Wowwiki for how to play from the ground up. A WoW Kindergarten. Wowkindy.

Make it so!

Gotta catch them all

A while back, Pike had a nice thoughtful post up about encountering genuinely new players when you’re busy on an alt (or a main visiting the old world areas during things like Hallow’s End). Unless they’re obviously sporting Heirlooms or twink gear, I tend to treat everyone as if they are a Stranger in a Strange Land, helping out and assuming they know as much as I did when starting out (i.e. nothing – being absorbed in Civ4 at the time, I spent 5 minutes trying to make my very first Dwarf Hunter move forward by right clicking where I wanted him to go. WASD didn’t even enter my head until my friend /whispered me to ask why I was still standing on the spawn spot).

Even if they don’t have the gear it’s easy to get fooled – I was tooling around Mulgore in my Heirloom Shoulders and someone asked where I got them, how you get them, etc. I was dutifully explaining that when you get to 80 you can earn tokens, which you can use to buy Heirlooms, etc. He then challenged me to a duel, at the same time as insta-swapping into his full Heirloom/Twink gear set…ouch.

It is nice when you do encounter someone who really is new to the game, and you can help out in some way. I still remember the total awe I felt when first approaching Bloodhoof village, seeing a high level toon offering free bags to the first 5 people to visit him in the Inn. Or encountering a level 70 running wild in Gol’Bolar Quarry in Dun Morogh on that same 2nd level Dwarf Hunter. I asked him why he was doing it, and he said he just wanted to come back to where it all started end exact some revenge on those tricky early mobs.

The other question Pike asks in her article is whether Blizzard have effectively closed off older end-game content (e.g. Naxx) by making the rewards from newer areas (e.g. ToC) so much better.

I think there’s some truth in that – but only for those where Progression/Gear is the goal. If you’re playing to have the best gear, and see the latest content, then sure, you will bypass Ulduar by simply buying Tier 9 epics so you can dominate Icecrown.

But if you’re playing to enjoy the content, to “see it all”, to experience the thrill of downing your first Ulduar boss, these days there’s not much stopping you. With the new LFD system, you should at least be able to easily see every five man, and if you can find a Guild that isn’t in it for the Progression, and you should be fine with the 10’s too. With the massive success of 3.3 LFD, it can’t be long before Blizzard extends that to 10 man raids too.

My old guild didn’t reach Kara until just before WotLK was released, but that didn’t stop us having a ball in there, spending hours slowly working through the bosses and honing our tactics. Maiden stalled us for weeks, but the hoots when we beat her, and the way each week we got better until she was just traffic, was brilliant.