Monday, March 29, 2010

On Expansions

I just read a post by Tobold (yes, I realize I'm behind the times,) about the difficulty of balancing Cataclysm. His central argument it that, in order to "future-proof" the level 81-85 zones, they need to be tuned so that someone who just turned level 80 a year from now, someone in greens and blues with little raiding experience, can handle the world and normal-mode 5man mobs. Trouble is, most of the players right now are in at least 4 piece t9, and have appreciably more skill than a fresh 80, even if I think that amount of skill is a pittance. So we have the challenge of trying to set Cata up to be enjoyed immediately by a group ranging from fresh 80s to 11k-DPS beasts, and later to still be enjoyable by mostly fresh 80s, or even fresh 78s if Cata is to follow the tradition.

So what do we do? Here's my take on some of the options.


Option 1: ...and I jizz in my pants.

Cataclysm follows ICC in difficulty and progression; world level 81 mobs have ~60k HP and deal about 2.5k DPS on cloth.

The reason for even considering this option is because it appeals to me personally. With my about 5k DPS when alone against a low-HP mob, fights would run about 12 seconds per mob, as they do now for a fresh 80 against level 80 world mobs. At 2.5k DPS for 12 seconds, I'd be taking a net 750 DPS (after self-healing, armor and other survival-oriented class abilities) from the first mob, and about 1750 for each thereafter, putting me at risk of dying to a two-mob pull, in need of CC for a three-mob pull, and funtionally dead as soon as the fourth aggros. Add in minor mob gimmicks/avoidable attacks, and the world mobs become a solo raid. For players not at the top-end of current content, 2-3man grouping would render such fights doable to the current average player, and a common 5man team of fresh and unskilled 80s could handle these as well. Personally, this option has my seal of approval; It would be like I just ate a grape.

However, this would make the 78-85 range all but impossible for a truly casual player. Even a good casual would only be doing ~2k DPS when they arrived at level 80, and forced grouping, either in the form of raiding to get up to speed, or grouping in order to finish "solo" quests, would mean progression and remaining casual are mutually exclusive. R.I.P. Option 1.

Option 2: WoW, so easy a retard can do it.

Business as usual, tuned for bad fresh 80s. World mobs have ~14k HP and deal maybe 400 DPS on cloth. No gimmicks, mobs all virtually reskinned clones of eachother (like in WotLK.)
This option is fairly likely; Blizzard's current policy seems to be "Hardmode raids are for the hardcore, Raids are for almost everyone, and world mobs should be soloable three-at-a-time by a retard." If we take a bad fresh 80, we'd find ~600 DPS, possibly lower armor types than normal, and no item enhancements. At this rate, fights last 23 seconds per mob, and the mobs deal about 170 DPS for the first mob, and 320 for each beyond the first. At this rate, this bad fresh 80 can take two at a time from full health, and might even manage three or four if they use crowd-control, heals or kiting.

If this sounds rediculously easy to you... well, I point you to current level 80 world mobs. They have 12800 HP and deal ~250 DPS on cloth; they're even easier. I accidentally oneshotted one of them when I went to go check that data. On my crappy Mage alt. So clearly it's neither too easy for Blizzard nor too easy for the 'tards. But I suppose that's OK; everyone says the game starts at level cap anyway. It could, however, be better than this.

Option 3: Operation Vanilla WoW

Tune for the average player now (t9, 20k HP, 3k DPS,) nerf it later. Mobs would have about 25k HP and deal 900 DPS on cloth.

This was how the old world was handled. Once upon a time you'd have elites wandering around outside every instance, sometimes before you even got to the meeting stone. Places like Moonbrook had mages with a gigantic aggro radius that could pyroblast you for half your health from accross the subzone. Then they buffed players. Then they buffed them again. Then they nerfed the old-world mobs. Then they buffed players again. Then they nerfed the mobs again. And here we stand, with an old world that's so easy a retard could do it.

I actually don't prefer this option to option 2; it's still no challenge to me, and people will whine when they go to nerf it later. In the mean time, some bad casuals may quit because they can't handle it, reducing the amount of money spend on improving the endgame for the rest of us.

Option 4: The only serious one.
Tune the world mobs for the bads, tune the "group" quests for the good casuals, tune the 5mans for the ICC raiders, nerf 5mans later.
This is the "something for everyone" approach, and the approach which has made WoW the massive success that it is. Up until now, they've done it as "world mobs for morons, group quests for morons with friends, 5mans for three morons a tank and a healer, and raids for everyone else," and that's how I expect them to handle Cata. If, however, we can get some of the levelling game tuned for the high-end players, then the game needn't "begin at level cap" and we might go back to enjoying levelling, rather than trying to get it done as fast as possible.