Monday, January 25, 2010

Blizzard's New MMO and the FPS rumour

I've heard a large amount of rumors concerning Blizzard's new MMO over the last couple years and very few facts. What little information we do have is based on vague developer interviews and logical assumptions. It's frustrating not to have any details, but I can understand why Blizzard is holding onto secrecy for as long as it can. The premature advertising blitz of several recent games has been blamed for creating an environment of hyperbole which raises player expectations too high. These games tend to have an impressive amount of initial box sales, but disappointing subscription numbers. Another reason Blizzard might be keeping quiet is that there are a large number of World of Warcraft clones in existence. You could be pretty sure that Blizzard's new MMO will have a similar wave of poorly implemented imitators.

Not that World of Warcraft started off as a unique snowflake of a game. In fact the only new thing that Blizzard brought to the MMO marked with World of Warcraft was a sense of polish. However, it was such a difference from the poorly implemented and buggy competition that World of Warcraft turned into the monster we have now. With Blizzard's new MMO we can probably expect the same trick just with a different "type" of MMO. That's why reports that Blizzard's new MMO will be a hybrid first person shooter sound credulous to me. There's been three or four games that tried mixing elements of FPS games with the persistency of a MMO. None have experienced anything resembling success though and there seems to be a problem getting the right mix of features from each genre. It would take a company like Blizzard with a mantra of "as long as it takes" to pull it off I think.

Also the rumour of a FPS MMO does seem to match what little information we have on Blizzard's next game.

1) It has a more sci-fi then fantasy setting
2) It's not based on an existing Blizzard license
3) It will be a very different game from World of Warcraft

Then again there are probably a dozen other rumors that also fit the sparse "facts" we have. There's a high chance that NoFrag simply chose a rumour at random and ran a news snippet claiming an inside source had confirmed it for them. I'm sure they got a nice boost in traffic from the story. I expect we might find out the truth at this year's Blizzcon and other bloggers have the same thought on the matter. One thing that I haven't seen pointed out though is that the expanded leaderboard and matchmaking functionality of the new .BattleNet would integrate well with a FPS MMO. Just an observation though.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Abusing the LFG Tool

I love the new LFG tool in World of Warcraft. It's been a godsend and helped erased the memory of Blizzard's past failures to make grouping easier. The reworking of the daily dungeon quests plays a big role in it's popularity, but I like to think it adds a lot of functionality to the game besides just being an emblem farming tool. I'm sure we'll see the majority of players make use of it when leveling up new worgen/goblin characters in the next expansion. The only problem I have with the LFG tool is that the unbalanced queue times for DPS classes are causing some issues. I understand that Healing and Tanking are the less popular roles in the MMO trinity and I don't really have a problem with them finding groups faster.

The problem is that I'm starting to see a trend of Healers and Tanks treating pick up groups as disposable commodities. The instant queue times seem to encourage some players to automatically drop group at the first sign that the heroic won't be complete in 20 minutes. Usually, everyone in a random pick up group has a high enough gear score that a normal heroic is joke. However, every now and then you get someone new to their class and they might slow things down a few minutes. I was running Azjol-Nerub and a hunter's pet accidently pulled Hadronox before the giant spider could web the entrances. No biggie, easy dungeon and it was the first problem in the run. However, the healer chose to berate the hunter for being an idiot and then left after the hunter claimed it was just an accident. Damn back to another 15 minute queue.

It's even worse when you get one of the newer dungeons since players can still be farming a specific item off the first or second boss. It no longer surprises me when the tank or healer sudden abandons group in the middle of the Pit of Saron or the Halls of Reflection. It only happens about 10% of time but, it's one of the most annoying things in the game. Also most players don't know you get put in the top of the queue when finding a replacement. Thus most of the DPS will leave right away after someone drops from the group. I once had a friend tanking in Halls of Reflection and he accidentally disconnected after the first boss. Everone abandoned ship so fast I didn't even have time to type in "he just DC, will brb". Players are just starting to grow use to this behavior.

I'm not that worried about this trend right now when most people are overly geared for heroics. However, it might start becoming a major issue in the expansion when player's can't just breeze through dungeons. I play a paladin and a shaman which thankfully means I have access to instant queue times. However, warlocks, rogues, mages, and hunters can only DPS and are really hurt by a dungeon group being broken up early. I'm not sure what Blizzard can do to fix the issue, but it's becoming obvious that these classes will gear up at a much slower rate. The only real way to avoid the problem is to queue up for dungeons with a friend who plays a tank or healer.