Yes, I know, “I thought you were done?” Yes, i don’t play. But I still read a few of the blogs because THEY are fun – they write well, they are thought provoking, things like that.
BBB had a post today about his guild doing an Onyxia run – well, actually, finishing the attunement and then doing Ony. And it got me to thinking about the problems with Blizzard’s expansions. Actually, the problems with several games’ expansions. Warning, longwinded ramble ahead. (Like that’s a surprise.)
Currently, all the expansions tend to be vertical. It’s somewhat necessary given the way the whole thing progresses – your reward for experience is more power, not more skill. (I think I’ll chase that digression in a different post.) The problem existed even in the original though it was ignored – a level 60 rarely bothered to do Mor’Ladim series (to name but one). The consequence is that these great stories – and they are great, and required extraordinary effort and cooperation and time both to design and to accomplish – are completely ignored. I saw – still see – much bemoaning of this. And I’ve been wondering what could be done to “fix” this particular problem. I’d like to propose, just for a bit of thought, some options. Not so I can play, but so later designers of other games might consider alternatives when stuck in a vertical integration system.
The first option that comes to mind is integration. Let’s run a simple example. Let’s assume, just for a moment, that there’s a quest or such involving the blue dragons, and part of what they need is something that drops in Onyxia’s lair. If your group is attuned, this is a 15-20 minute battle for 15 level 70s, so I’d guess about the same for a ten-man raid of level 75 or so – and if you’re pushing level 80, it’s probably going to be a 5-man exercise. If you’re not attuned, it’s back to BRD and (U/L)BRS. We can do the same thing with a LOT of the old Epic Runs and Instances and Stories – a handful of Lava Cores from Molten Core, bear a Master Dragonslayer’s Orb/Medallion/Ring (Head of Nefarian), perhaps have to have won the Battle of Darrowshire, … For what it’s worth, this is the easiest solution. It forces the players back through one of the old series, but doesn’t particularly change anything.
Another route is scaling. This is trickier. On the other hand, it’s in line with changes already announced for WotLK. Basically, instead of a +number or +range, you get a +percent (+/- a bit) of the appropriate base skill for certain rewards. Let’s take for example Anathema/Benediction – the priest’s ‘Proof of Skill’. Let’s modify it so that instead of Benediction increasing Int by 31 and Spi by 12, it increased them by a percentage. Two sub-avenues here: either a rate that would apply to the base stat such that level 60 would (recognizing racial variances) give I+31/Sp+12; or a lower percentage using nominally expected gearing which would do the same after other + flat number gear. As a balance, the toughness of various opponents would shift with percentage as well, based (if part of a group) on the highest level participating. There are two difficulties here, of course. The lesser is that difficulty of opposition is somewhat synergistic, and making them hit harder isn’t the only factor. The greater is that if most gear were adjusted to reflect percentages, it’d encourage a lot more retention of lower level gear. (+1 spi at level 10 is HOW MUCH at level 70? My ballpark says +5.) In the long run, this would be better. Its difficulty, however, means the integration method is more likely.
Now in the long run, I think a game that thinks and so expands horizontally is more likely to have endurance – provided it can cross the necessary beginning threshhold of fun and engagement. It requires so significantly different a mindset than what you’d find in WoW, however, that it won’t be found in this game. It’s… ok, for the old-time game players, it’s Traveller vs D&D (first or second ed, both games.) Your core numbers never increase, you just increase skill/profession levels – which have diminishing returns, themselves. Of course, horizontal expansions tend to increase story instead of epeen. Early D&D was, well, like WoW. At a certain point you could just walk into low-level mobs naked and leave without a scratch – not much in the way of reward, either, but if you’re helping a buddy get ready for the tough times what matter is that? Yeah. In balance there are major problems with horizontal as well – I’ve got some ideas and if I were a programmer I’d try to write them as a game, but… shrug.
I have noticed, reading a bunch of WoW-blogs, that many longer-term players are running into many of the blahs that caused me to leave. I think WotLK will fix some of those, but only for a little while. And in the process it’ll make the death of the old story more obvious. New content won’t be as extensive as the old content, but nobody does the old because it’s Level 30 clearing a kobold cave – er, I mean Level 70 visiting the other faction’s starting area. (hmmm, that might have some fun opportunities.)