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Shamus Plays WoW #3: Into the Bandit’s Den

By Shamus
on Sunday Sep 18, 2016
Filed under:


We’re out behind the church. In the graveyard. Norman is looking around like he’s afraid he’s being followed.

So sad that granny has passed on. What should we write on her tombstone? I was thinking her name, followed by 'Beloved Mother'. Either that or just a huge skull. Either one.

So sad that granny has passed on. What should we write on her tombstone? I was thinking her name, followed by 'Beloved Mother'. Either that or just a huge skull. Either one.

I nod, “Nice. I like this. Lotta room for more dead people here, though. What say we fill this place up?”

Norman turns to me. “Look. This is a bit tricky, but warlocks are sort of outlawed a bit.”

“Explain that.”

“Technically it’s more frowned upon than outlawed. But the point is, people might give me a hard time about being a warlock if word gets around.”

“Ah. Gotcha. But wait. How do you explain me? You’ve got a demon by your side. That’s gotta be some kind of giveaway.”

“Everyone sort of thinks I’m a mage. It’s a long story. The point is, if anyone asks I’ll just say you’re an elemental or something.”

“This still doesn’t explain why we’re in the graveyard.”

“That’s the other problem. Drusilla over there is my warlock instructor. She doesn’t know I’m good.”

“Buddy, I’ve seen your magic in action. Nobody is going to think you’re any good.”

“No, I mean they don’t know I serve the Light. They think I’m evil just like them.”

“And they think this because…?”

He sighs and looks over towards his teachers. Then he lowers his voice, “Part of the initiation is you have to do some… stuff. Bad stuff.”

“Such as?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. The point is, these guys think I’m evil and I don’t want to mess that up or they won’t teach me anymore. So I order you not to say anything.”

“You don’t have to be like that. Believe me, the last thing I want is to do something that will make you less powerful.”

I like how it looks like Gobstab is balanced on the end of her staff.

I like how it looks like Gobstab is balanced on the end of her staff.

Norman gets few lessons in sucking 1.3% less, and then we head back out to the front of the church. Back to Marshal McBride and his team of decorative town guards.

These are your class trainers. After leveling up, you have to visit them to obtain your new abilities. I’ve always thought this was kind of awkward. Isn’t the whole point of “leveling up” supposed to represent you becoming more powerful based on your experience? Like, you get better at the piano by practicing the piano. The more practice you do, the better you get. But with this system you can practice for infinity years and you’ll never improve in the slightest. Then you go to a teacher, pay them money, and are then instantly able to do fantastic new things.

Of course, it’s not supposed to make sense. This system just exists as a money sink, and as something to oblige you to visit and explore the towns to find your trainer.

I was never a fan of this kind of system, and I’m glad modern games have moved away from it. In fact, I’m wondering if they still use this system in World of Warcraft. It’s been years since this series was written, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Blizzard had streamlined this away.

I nod towards the deputy, “So we’re back to getting screwed by the these guys? What job will they give us this time? Polish their armor? Fetch them ale? Fight off an invasion while they supervise?”

“Look”, Norman says defensively, “These guys might be a little lazy, but if there was real trouble they would be ready for it.”

“The Kobolds weren’t real trouble?”

“Kobolds are beneath them. But if there was something bad…”

“Like bandits?”

“Yes! Exactly. If bandits came around these guys would be on the job.”

“Wanna bet on it?”

“Bet?”, he says suspiciously.

“Here’s the deal: If these guards have sensible work for us, then I’ll tell you a secret about myself that I’ve never told any mortal before. If they have us do something crazy – like kill bandits – then you gotta tell me what you did to get into the warlock’s union.”

Norman stands up straight, “Mother always says that gambling is wrong.”

“It’s not gambling if you really believe you’re right. Are you saying you think these guys are just as shiftless and corrupt as they seem to be?”

“No! These are good men. Decent men. I’ll take your bet, demon.”

Hello? Anyone home in there?

Hello? Anyone home in there?

I’ve been around for thousands of years, and in all those years I’ve come across three images I will cherish forever:

1) The time the high Priestess of Gool-Udana called forth a dragon to repel this demonic invasion we were doing. She forgot to do the binding spell, so all she had was a pissed-off dragon. It ate her on the spot, and we had to call off the invasion for a couple of centuries until the thing calmed down. The place was ruined anyway by the time we got back, but the burp that guy gave after he ate her was pure comedy gold.

2) The time we swiped the clothing from the Paladins of some world. I forget the name. Anyway, these guys had to come out and fight us naked. All they had were shields and weapons. Their faces were all red and the whole time they kept trying not to look at each other. And they kept apologizing to each other if they bumped. They still kicked our asses, but it was worth it for that battle alone. I hate paladins.

3) Right now, when this guard looked Norman right in the eye and told him to go out to the nearby vineyard and kill 8 bandits.

“Well met!”, the guard says in his helmet-muffled voice, “Recently, a new group of thieves has been hanging around Northshire. They call themselves the Defias Brotherhood.”

“Oh.”, is all Norman can say. He looks down at me in horror. I’m trying to stifle my laughter, but it just makes flame come out my nose.

“I don’t know what they’re up to”, the guard continues.

“Well… you said yourself that they’re thieves. So I would guess they’re up to some sort of thievery.”

“Well whatever it is, I’m sure it’s no good!” The guard seems to be nodding his head but the helmet doesn’t move much. It’s too big for him.

“Yes. Thievery. I’m sure that’s just the sort of thing that you could arrest them for.”

“Bring me eight of the bandannas they wear.”

Norman shuffles away, crushed. He leads us over to the vineyard where the bandits are milling around. I laugh the whole way there.

Fittingly, these lot are standing around like practice dummies.

Fittingly, these lot are standing around like practice dummies.

“You… you knew!”, he says accusingly.

“Of course i knew!”, I say when I’ve caught my breath. “I saw these idiots when we were at the graveyard.”

“That’s rotten.”

“The best part? You knew it was stupid to bet me, and you did it anyway. Now pay up.”

Norman takes a deep breath, “Okay, in order to get into the warlock union you have to… sacrifice a virgin. And then drink her blood. That last step is semi-optional, though.”

You sacrificed a virgin?!?”

“More or less.”

“You can do better than that. Come on. Who’d you kill?”

“That’s all I’m saying for now.”


Defias THUG. I love how judgmental these enemy types are.

Defias THUG. I love how judgmental these enemy types are.

“Pardon me, madam”, Norman says clearing his throat, “But could I get that red bandanna from you?”

The thug ignores him.

“I’ll pay you for it, of course.”, he says hopefully. “How much do you think…?”

She doesn’t even make eye contact. It’s like he’s not even there.

We’re still in the newbie are of the game, where enemies don’t attack first. Which can be a little odd sometimes.

After the Cataclysm expansion, these guys were replaced by “invading” Orcs, but it’s the same deal. They seem to be invading by occupying a dead-end little box canyon and never attacking anyone.

“Hey genius.”, I say to him, “When the guard asked you for the bandannas, he was asking you to kill these guys.”

“No!”, he says, horrified.

“It’s proof. Like the peltskinner guy earlier.”

Norman looks around the field in dismay, “But… killing? People? Shouldn’t I try to arrest them first? Or something? I don’t know. We haven’t even seen them committing any crimes!”

“So you’re saying the town guards here are corrupt and would ask you to kill these people in cold blood?

“No.”, he says uneasily.

“Then these folks must be guilty of something punishable by death.

All of them?”

“Either that or the guard is sending you to murder people. For no reason.”

What is that creature? It's either the most adorable armadillo or the ugliest bunny.

What is that creature? It's either the most adorable armadillo or the ugliest bunny.

So Norman has a little nervous breakdown, recovers, snivels a little, pouts under a tree, gets angry, throws a fit, calms down, and finally gets his act together. We go out and start killing bandits.

Like all mortals, he gets a little freaked out by the first time he kills someone. But by the eighth one he’s perked back up and is throwing shadow bolts right at their bandanna-wearing faces.

You need eight bandannas, and you have to kill exactly eight mobs to get them.  Enjoy it while it lasts newbie, because that's all going to change real soon.

You need eight bandannas, and you have to kill exactly eight mobs to get them. Enjoy it while it lasts newbie, because that's all going to change real soon.

We return to Deputy Buckethead and Norm turns in his bandannas.

“There,” he says. “Eight of them. You know, there are still a lot of them over there. Just please don’t ask me to do any more messy stuff.”

The guard looks down at a little do-to list he’s written down. Just about everything on it has been checked off. His head nods somewhere inside of his cavernous helmet, “Right. Last job. Garrick Padfoot is a cutthroat who has plagued our farmers and merchants for weeks.”

Norman smiles, “Ah! You want me to use my supernatural powers to locate him so you can bring him to justice! Do you have any clues to get me-“

“Actually, we know right where he is. He’s standing around in the vineyard.”

“You mean.. where I just was a minute ago?”

“That’s the place! Just go over there and bring me his head to collect the bounty.”

Norman goes white. “His… head. Do you mean that figuratively, or are you really suggesting that I-“

The guard gives him a little shove in the direction of the vineyard, “Off you go now. Good luck.”

I gotta say, these are the most chill bandits I've ever seen.

I gotta say, these are the most chill bandits I've ever seen.

“Soooo. Hi there.”, Norman says to Padfoot after we’ve effortlessly strolled by his men and up to his not-very-secret hideout.

“Don’t chat him up.”, I say, “Just set his ass on fire and let’s go get paid.”

“I don’t know. I mean. He’s just standing here.”

“He’ll get moving once he’s on fire.”

Norman sighs. “Fine.”

Remember, we're the good guys!

Remember, we're the good guys!

Once Garrick is face-down Norman turns to me, “Would you mind?”


“Getting the… head.” He sounds like he’s going to throw up.

“Okay I can’t take it anymore.”, I say, “How in the name of Arthas' frozen nipples did you ever manage to get up the nerve to drink the blood of a sacrificed virgin?”

“Well”, he says looking sideways, “I didn't do the messy part myself.”

“Which messy bit? The kidnapping, the killing, or the blood-drinking?”

“I paid someone else to do the actual killing bit for me.”

“So what, you hired someone to kill the virgin? That means you didn’t sacrifice a virgin, you assassinated one.”

“Yes. The butcher. I mean, he kills sheep all the time so it was no big deal for him.”

“Your ‘virgin' was a sheep?”

“I'm pretty sure she was a virgin. Although, the guy I bought her from was really creeped out when I started asking him about the virginity of the sheep. He nearly called the constable on me.”

“But… a SHEEP?”

He shrugs, “The rules never said the virgin had to be human. Everyone hears ‘virgin’ and assumes ‘young, attractive female human’. But lots of other things are virgins too.”

I pause to think about this for a minute. “One thing I don’t get, is why you did all of this in the first place?”

Norman shrugs, “They require it for membership in the Warlock Union.”

“And they really accepted a sheep sacrifice?”

“Not as such, no. They asked if I had sacrificed a virgin, and I said yes.”

“But why bother with the sheep at all? Why not just claim you killed one?”

“You mean lie to them? I could never do that!”, he says incredulously.

I slap a leathery claw over my forehead. “And I suppose rather than drinking the blood the way you're supposed to, you just made sheep into soup and drank that?”, I ask him.

“Heavens no!”

“That's something, at least.”

“I'm a vegetarian.”

Take THAT, guy-who-probably-did-something-to-deserve-this!

Take THAT, guy-who-probably-did-something-to-deserve-this!

There is a long pause. Finally I tell him, “You sir, are a devious cheat.”

“Sorry.”, he shrugs.

“No, no. See, that’s a compliment.”

“It is?”

“Coming from a demon, yeah. We care about getting the job done. The other side cares about how you do stuff. Demons care about results, not rules. You wanted the power that comes with being in the warlock union but you didn’t want to pay the price, so you found a loophole. I can respect that.”

Norman looks down, thoughtful.

“Still”, I tell him, “If you change your mind and want to knock back a cup of virgin blood, the first round’s on me.”

“Uh… thanks. I think.”

“Don’t mention it.”, I say as I rip the guy’s head off. His spine is a toughie. I gotta gnaw it a bit to get the head loose. Once I get the head free I hold it up. “You you wanna carry it, or should I?”

Ugh. Like, two hundred thousand other players already threw up back here.

Ugh. Like, two hundred thousand other players already threw up back here.

“Fine. I’ll carry it. Wuss.”

I do wonder what the deputy plans to do with the head.

I do wonder what the deputy plans to do with the head.

The Deputy accepts the head and checks off the last item on his checklist. “Very good, citizen. You should go see Marshal McBride and see if he has any more work for you.”

Garrick was clearly shown having long hair. Did we cut his hair before or after removing his head?

Garrick was clearly shown having long hair. Did we cut his hair before or after removing his head?

There are a lot of quests like this in the game where you have to acquire some dude’s head. I suppose you could just not turn in these quests and store all your heads in your vault. There have been tens of millions of users over the years. I’ll bet somebody, somewhere did this. I wonder how many they managed to collect?

Norman goes in the church to talk to McBride. When he comes back out he’s looking pale.

“More head-chopping?”, I ask him.

“Worse.”, he says mournfully. “He’s sending us to Goldshire.”

Next Time: Dun dun DUN!

Comments (88)

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    The use of “Norman” as a too-mundane gag name ill-fit to the setting gets a special chuckle from me, because I actually use Norman as a name in plenty of RPG’s. The first I can remember using it for was Dragon Age: Origins, but my fondest was my wasteland doctor character in Fallout: New Vegas. There have been plenty of Normans along my gaming travels.

    It’s poignant, really; I’m so boring that my regular gaming practices are the butt of an obvious joke.

  2. sheer_falacy says:

    Yes, WoW has moved away from the system where you need to visit trainers to learn new abilities and upgrade your old ones – you level up and it’s there. They’ve also moved away from having ranks on abilities at all – they just get stronger as you level, there’s not a separate rank for the skill.

    In the new expansion, Legion, one of your abilities comes from an incredible one of a kind artifact weapon that you go on a quest to find. The awe you feel from looking at it is only slightly diminished by the fact that literally everyone of the same class and spec as you has the exact same weapon.

  3. Hector says:

    There is a long pause. Finally I tell him, “You sir, are a devious cheat.”

    I haven’t enjoyed this series as much the second time, but laughed at this.

    • MrGuy says:

      One of the things I enjoy so much about this series is the way Shamus frames up the notion that “good” and “evil” is a lot more about expedience than outcomes, and points out how absurd it is that doing “the good thing” for a dumb reason isn’t nearly as good as the morality bar thinks it is. It would be so much more interesting if games were able to frame up “morality” this way.

      This also reminds me of the problem of KOTOR that they took a system that was explicitly NOT directly “virtue vs. evil” in the lightside/darkside dichotomy, but then shoehorned it into that in the game. “Murder the bad dude” is very much NOT a “light side” approach, even though the game presents it that way.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        This reminds me of the problem NWN2 had with its morality bar. I decided to play a character who was evil, but smart about it. The sort of person who would sell their own mother, but who wouldn’t kick puppies because there’s no profit in it, and knew better than to be a jerk for no reason.

        So I played through, stole plenty, murdered a few folks, but I also helped folks that would pay me for it, and I always said nice things. At the end of the game, on the game’s Goodness scale from 1-100, my little sociopath scored a 100.

        • stondmaskin says:

          They make this a lot more interesting in the NWN2 expansion, where you can be evil in a lot of ways without being the typical “I will not help you peasant, in fact i will kill you and burn your farm for even asking!” kind of guy.

          The stuff you can do in Mask of the Betrayer when it comes to lying to & manipulating other characters (including party members) was enough to make me fairly uncomfortable, which is I think as good a sign as any that they did a good job on those parts.

        • Taellosse says:

          Well, to be fair, real people that act that way are often seen as good people, and well-liked. Nobody has anything to go on about the minds of others aside from their actions. If a sociopath does a credible job of pretending to be a decent person because they see it as the most expedient method of getting what they want, then that’s all others are going to see – someone that acts like a decent person. It’s a big part of why those sociopaths that also become serial killers (not all people with one of the various forms of personality disorder also develop homicidal tendencies. Not even most of them do) often avoid being detected for so long – they become quite good at “playing the part” of a regular person.

          One might even look at one’s criminal record as the real-world equivalent of a morality bar. It doesn’t actually map especially well to one’s intentions or moral code, but it’s the best proxy we’ve got, really.

          • stondmaskin says:

            Well, agreed, although in the case of NWN2 OC (and many similar games) I feel like there simply aren’t that many options to be the brilliant sociopath. Part of this is probably because so many of these games revolve around saving the world (or at least the general area of the world which you live in) and so it gets a bit weird writing quests that would make sense for a truly evil character to be interested in.

            • Taellosse says:

              Yeah, structured narrative and “choose what kind of character you’ll play” don’t go together very well when the narrative is all written in advance. The best case scenario is you HAPPEN to pick a type of character for whom the writer chose to create a robust set of choices. If you elect to play any sort of character they didn’t plan for, or didn’t spend enough time on, you’re just out of luck.

              It’s part of why, in a way, I actually prefer Bioware’s more recent RPGs to ones like NWN or KotOR – Dragon Age and Mass Effect both make it pretty clear your choices of character are sharply restricted – there’s no pretension of boundless choice in the player character’s personality. And while I might like a more open-ended experience, I realize the practical reality of making video games precludes that. If I want truly free choice, I’ve got to seek my entertainment elsewhere.

              • stondmaskin says:

                Yup, for all the problems I have with Mass Effect and the Paragon/Renegade system, for the most part it still makes a lot more sense for your character storywise than the Good/Evil spectrum in many D&D based games where the writers are hard pressed to come up with good reasons for why your evil blackguard would even care about 90% of the quests in the game.

                For example, Baldur’s Gate works its way around this by making it largely a personal quest, so you can make up your own mind about if your character is doing it out of a sense of justice or vengeance or lust for power or whatever. While in something like Neverwinter Nights (the first one) it makes absolutely no sense for an evil character to even accept the main quest in the first place unless they are purely driven by greed (which, okay, that CAN be a motivation of an evil character but it shouldn’t be the ONLY one).

        • SKD says:

          That is the problem with playing a Lawful Evil or Chaotic Good character. Playing a LE character right can result in a person whose evil can only be known by knowing the intent of the character while a CG character may be perfectly willing to perform heinous acts because they feel that the ends justify the acts.

      • Philadelphus says:

        I just realized that this series reminds me of The Screwtape Letters. Interesting.

        (I’ve read it before on The Escapist, so this isn’t my first time seeing it [though I followed the links from here to find it, I wasn’t around long enough to have seen it go up originally].)

      • Matt Downie says:

        In Star Wars, murder the bad guy is very much the light-side approach. Jedi have access to nonlethal methods (force choke, force suggest, force-pull the weapon out of their hand, force-push their head into the wall, use those stun-blasters that the Stormtroopers use to capture Leia…) But mostly, they just chop people up with light-sabres, or deflect their own lasers back at them.

        • Philadelphus says:

          One of my favorite ways to play KotOR II involves a character dual-wielding light-sabers with maxed-out blaster-bolt reflection and the Force power that gives a further bonus coming out of stealth in the middle of a group of the highest level enemies and me watching them all progressively kill themselves off with reflected blaster bolts while I sit back and do nothing. I know, I’m a terrible person.

        • Well, here’s for once one good thing from SWTOR: from what I played, murder the evil guy doesn’t give light points, taking him prisoner or try to redeem him does. I think there may be a few exceptions as I remember a couple of choices that surprised me giving me the opposite side shift of what I expected.

  4. Joshua says:

    “I was never a fan of this kind of system, and I'm glad modern games have moved away from it. In fact, I'm wondering if they still use this system in World of Warcraft. It's been years since this series was written, and I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard had streamlined this away.”

    They’ve moved away from it in Lord of the Rings Online, sorta. The class trainers still *exist*, and they show you what new skills you *will* be getting, but the skills auto-bestow once you reach the appropriate level.

    They also allow you to respec your class, racial, and virtue traits without a Bard, although the Bards still exist. So, there are a ton of Bards and Class Trainers in civilized areas that almost never get used.

  5. Fizban says:

    But with this system you can practice for infinity years and you'll never improve in the slightest. Then you go to a teacher, pay them money, and are then instantly able to do fantastic new things.
    You know where else this ridiculous system is? Dungeons and Dragons. It’s an optional rule in the 3.x books (it’s not a “variant” but it does say outright they’re not part of the standard rules, if you actually read the description) and I don’t know how forced it was in older editions (apparently you’d throw keggers for xp?), but some DMs actually force you to spend loot on leveling up. Best part is that the self-training option still costs the same amount because reasons. Unless the best part is that using the specific training, spells take 1 day per spell, but skills and feats take a full week per skill rank or feat: a Rogue will spend twice as much time training as a Wizard, for two months or more, and the Wizard only takes that month or so because they also have skills.

    Or there’s the more general version that lumps all class features together, and charges thousands of gp, far more than the sum of the previous versions would ever hit.

    And of course DMs that don’t understand how the WBL (wealth by level) system is supposed to work will be charging those non-standard training costs out of your normal treasure, so have fun being ridiculously under-geared. A 6th level character has to pay 3,000gp to actually get 6th level. Their intended WBL is only 13,000gp, and if they’ve been playing since 1st they’ll have already paid 3,000 on the way here, putting them at 7,000gp, barely more than half what they should have. Who even wrote this?

    • eaglewingz says:


      AD&D had the training costs and time outlay baked right into the basic rules. You were supposed to account for months of game time for training.


      No one I know ever enforced that. Or the “You literally have to return to your Wizard’s Tower to re-read your magic tome every time you need to renew your one Magic Missile spell” rule.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      Parts of it could probably be justified, or at least lampshaded, within the setting but I imagine the main reason was to give GMs more tools to control character development. Like many other mechanically heavy tactical RPGs D&D often created a kind of arms race between the two sides of the table.

    • djw says:

      In a long campaign it is reasonable to assume that the time between game sessions is measured in weeks or possibly months. The training time is supposed to happen during these intermissions.

      • Matt Downie says:

        That limits the types of campaign you can run. A campaign might be “help the caravan cross the dangerous wasteland” or “chase the cultists who are about to destroy the world” or “find the legendary magic item and use it to save the besieged city before they starve to death”. Time pressure is an important component of D&D games, given that “spells per day” is the main resource you’re managing.

  6. MrGuy says:

    Of course, it's not supposed to make sense. This system just exists as a money sink, and as something to oblige you to visit and explore the towns to find your trainer.

    Don’t underestimate the “money sink” motivation as a good reason to have something in place. Or, more correctly, there need to be money sinks of some sort, and removing one without replacing it is dangerous. Video game economies are really hard to control, and most game designers aren’t economists, which can lead to some weird and problematic results.

    The main problem is that videogame economies are inherently inflationary. Players do quests. They don’t pay anything directly to do the quests. The quests yield items and gold, which means money is pouring into the economy. i.e. the game is effectively creating new wealth all the time. There needs to be some way for players to lose wealth, or the monetary system will effectively collapse. i.e. the value of gold will be effectively worthless if everyone has millions kicking around. Peer-to-peer transfers like the auction house effectively set a “market value” for items, but they don’t remove gold from the game. Unchecked, everything will cost more and more, as the playerbase accumulates more and more gold with which to purchase things, bringing the auction house prices way out of line with in-game merchant prices.

    Balancing this stuff is really, really hard. It’s easy to create a world where low-level players spend all their time scrounging for pennies and high-level players can buy half the auction house at a whim. Which takes a lot of fun out of the game for low-level players (I can’t just do quests because I don’t have the money to get appropriate gear and training), and for high-level players (the rewards I get from quests are essentially meaningless).

    • Which is part of the problem with Bethesda games; there’s rarely a good gold sink within the game that you’d actually use. The implants in New Vegas are about the best, mostly because those eat a LOT of caps for a decent reward that otherwise would require using one of the 25 perk gains, excluding the regen implant because it’s terrible.

      Fallout 4’s Shipments are an example of a terrible one, because spending 3K caps on 25 Adhesive is moronic when you can spend maybe 100 caps getting the crops together to start mass-producing Veggie Starch, 5 of which gets you the same amount of adhesive with much less cost.

      • Hector says:

        I never quite understood why people were running out of adhesive in F4. There’s Duct Tape everywhere in the world. Unless your’re constantly swapping mods for some reason, you should never run out.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Well, if I want to upgrade a full set of Combat Armor to Deep-Pocketed Polymer, that’ll take 59 units of adhesive, which is a lot of toolboxes. And I probably won’t want to wait until I’m able to craft Polymer, but will instead be wastefully upgrading as I go, as well as making better armor for companions, modding weapons, and so on. It all mounts up.

          That said, late in the game (i.e. after building a vegetable starch farm…) I found I did indeed have enough adhesive most of the time, and that it’d be aluminium and even sometimes gears and screws that I’d occasionally run out of.

    • Moridin says:

      This is(well, was when I played, but I doubt it has changed) a big problem with DDO. It actually has fairly low caps on money(compared to how fast you accumulate it at higher levels, at least) both on how much you can have at once in your inventory, and how much you can auction stuff for. And besides the auction house, there just aren’t too many things you can spend large sums of money on, so the prices are so inflated that top-tier equipment almost never ends up in the auction house because on open market it’s worth more than the paltry 2 million gold pieces that’s the most you can get out of a single auction. Turbine’s solution to this was to introduce a currency that can only be purchased with real money and create a separate auction house for that.

  7. Somniorum says:

    I kind of feel sorry for the class trainers. All those old class trainers are still standing around, but now they’re totally useless – some early quests even still direct you to them, and occasionally one will say something like “I think I’ll be seeing a lot of you” and it’s like, hahaha, no, no you won’t.

    “What is this creature? It’s either the most adorable armadillo or the ugliest bunny.”

    They actually changed this! The new expansion, for some reason, they did a huge graphical overhaul to… bunnies. Seriously – take a look!

    Legion Bunnies!

    “There are a lot of quests like this in the game where you have to acquire some dude's head. I suppose you could just not turn in these quests and store all your heads in your vault.”

    That is an interesting thought – back in the day, I think I kept a head or two in the bank or my bags for quests I hadn’t completed. BUT, today, no, this is impossible today. The only quest items that go into your bag today are things that are *specifically* interactable – like, say, if you’re given a wand for a quest to turn someone into a pig or something. Random crap, like bandannas, ears, heads or whatever that you collect just get tallied, you see a little icon go into your bag, but then it disappears into the nether and doesn’t actually show up in your bag – thusly not taking up any bag space, thankfully.

    WoW has actually changed pretty hugely over the years – I know it might be a little like saying to an alcoholic “ah, one more drink for old time’s sake!” and all : P (not that I’m suggesting you were addicted to the game, I have no idea) BUT, you might be interested in hopping back into World of Warcraft in Legion, to see some of the newer content. Solo questing, in particular, has been getting steadily better with each expansion – Cataclysm making the biggest immediate leap (which I didn’t like at first but eventually warmed up to), and each expansion after refined things. Even if some of the time you’re still doing typical “collect ten bandanna” quests, they’re able to frame things rather more interestingly than they used to (and lots of quests aren’t so obsessed with the whole “collect/kill x things” – for instance, one questline had me go to a new land, use an object which showed me recordings of the recent past in areas until I found the person who made the recordings. Then we ran down a path as we were attacked by mobs of near-mindless creatures as she warded them off with a big energy-dome-shield. Quests aren’t *always* like this, but you see rather less of the typical old thing these days).

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Did WoW ever fix its problem that questing at level 50 is exactly the same as questing at level 20, only you’re casting Shadow Bolt Rank 5 for 20% of an average L50 healthbar instead of casting Shadow Bolt Rank 2 for 20% of an average L20 healthbar?

      That was the problem I had with it in Vanilla. The combat wasn’t bad precisely, but it was a bit shallow, I’d had my fill of it by level 20, and I could see 40 more levels of the exact same combat stretching out ahead of me.

      • Rax says:

        It’s pretty much still the same, although compared to 10 years ago the “skill rotations” you use have gotten a lot more complex and interesting. So you’re not just casting Shadowbolts, you’re often times juggling multiple buffs on yourself, debuffs on your enemies, one or two types of resources AND casting Shadowbolts inbetween.

        • Humanoid says:

          Indeed in the ten years, they’ve had time to progressively increase, then progressively decrease rotational complexity. I didn’t play it, but supposedly the peak was with the Pandas expansion circa 2012.

          Actually even back in vanilla and into the first expansion there were classes that had some complexity to them, but the thing was that there was massive variance between classes, and indeed subclasses. And here’s the thing: it was essentially a fluke. It’s not that each didn’t have a range of a half-dozen to a dozen abilities, it’s just that the dev team didn’t really concern themselves with ability balancing back then and gave no thought at all about how each ability interacted with the others, resulting in many being made effectively redundant.

          As a consequence, while some players needed to use a range of different abilities, others found that the most effective use of their arsenal was to spam one skill to the exclusion of all else. I don’t think this was an intentional design at all, but rather a case of player-led discovery, where a subset of mathematically inclined players were able to determine the most effective rotation for each subclass.

          These days, ability interaction is the starting point of each subclass design. The designers essentially come up with 4-6 different ‘spells’, one or two resources, and ensure you have to use all of them to optimise your output.

      • Xeorm says:

        Kind of? The big change they did in Cata was to increase the health of mobs enough that you could do a reasonable number of skills before the mob would actually die, and they mostly kept this up as they went along. So once you hit Cata levels (~83 or so) the mob health felt drastically higher and you would change things up from earlier. And of course you gained a few skills in the whole line that would change up what you casted.

        But mostly, do same thing to each mob, with most of the variances being in figuring out how to most-efficiently kill everything you need to. Things get much more fun when the mobs start hurting back in Legion areas, such that pulling everything and using AOE skills is no longer the best choice.

      • EmmEnnEff says:

        It’s much worse (in terms of homogenization) then Vanilla, actually. In Vanilla, different quests had different enemies – which had vastly different behaviors.

        1. Some enemies ran away when low on health.
        2. Some enemies were stealthed.
        3. Some enemies were in large groups.
        4. Some enemies were elite, which required either grouping up, or being a certain class to solo.
        5. Some enemies had very strong ranged attacks, some were very strong in melee, some were very strong against some classes, but weaker against others.
        6. Because of quest scarcity, you’d often end up fighting enemies that outleveled you, until you went to another zone. You’d go from missing 20% of your attacks to missing 5% of your attacks, and from taking ~20% extra damage to taking 0% extra damage.

        This, for better or for worse, created a bit of a roller-coaster of difficulty. Yes, what your character was doing was very similar from level 30 to 60, but the particular annoyances of the enemies you were fighting were fairly memorable. I still remember the Defias in Westfall, or the ocean murlocs in Darkshore, or trying to do quests in that stupid orc cave in Redridge.

        On the other hand, post-Cataclysm leveling content is entirely homogenized. Pretty much every enemy has the same damage output. Enemies no longer flee. Enemies are no longer stealthed. Some enemies cast unique abilities, but every single class has very similar tools for dealing with them. Every character can kill a group of 3-5 enemies without any trouble. Leveling a mage feels almost exactly like leveling a balance druid, which feels almost exactly like leveling a rogue – the interesting differences only start to shine in end-game content.

        When there are no hills, and troughs of difficulty, and when there is almost no chance of death, it makes the combat aspect of leveling up *entirely* forgettable.

        Mind you, I understand why this had to happen – nobody can be assed to go through 5 expansions-worth of abandoned content at the same pace as Vanilla Warcraft.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Huh, I only played to 20, and this was my experience:

          1. Some enemies stand still and use ranged attacks
          2. Some enemies run up to you and use melee attacks
          3. Exactly one enemy for one quest is elite
          4. Exactly one type of enemy in one area has a relevant ability (They refuse to aggro onto my pet, always go after me)

          All but two fights were described simply by “Is it ranged or melee?” Enemy distribution was always light enough that I could reliably single-pull, and if DPS was correlated with anything other than raw level, the correlation was weak enough that I never noticed. I had to deliberately aggro three or four enemies in order to feel threatened.

          Did all the complexity you’re describing only kick in at later levels?

          • EmmEnnEff says:

            Your experience would have vastly varied, depending on your class, and your zone.

            Were you playing a hunter? They were able to ignore most mechanics, by virtue of being ranged, frost trap, and having a very strong pet to tank for them. In that situation, the rollercoaster of difficulty was mostly troughs and flatlands. (Which is the current state of the game.) Non-hunters, and especially characters had to be far more mindful of what they were dealing with.

            Even the sub-20 zones had all of that variety – the elite island in Silverpine, and ogre mound in Loch Modan, the murloc camps… Everywhere. The defias pillagers in Westfall, which would fireball you for ~35% of your health (But could be killed without taking any damage, by abusing line-of-sight). The healer enemies, that would, in one cast, bring their allies up from ~10% health, to 80% health. If you were a warrior, or a mage, you would have a very different experience with all of them. For most characters, all of those enemies presented very different challenges.

            On the other hand, if you played an Orc hunter through Durotar, and the Barrens, you would have ended up fighting lone, non-social enemies, with your pet doing most of the work.

    • Humanoid says:

      Yeah, I have Onyxia’s head in my bank. Then the plot resurrected her and I killed her again, once more banking her head. So I have two heads from the same dragon side by side, one being a level 60 head and the other being level 80.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus, the Skill Trainer exists in many MMOs, including in games where it costs no money to use. In WoW, at least in vanilla WoW, I recall the trainer costing mere pocket change to use.

    I think you’re wrongly assuming the trainer’s purpose. I’ve always assumed skill trainers exist to solve an interface problem: because it’s an MMO that can’t pause, the designer is pushed away from automatically popping up a level-up window with new skill descriptions (even with a sanity check of “Don’t pop up until after combat” it could cause all sorts of annoyances). So instead, they make it a window the player has to open, and they choose an NPC rather than “Press Q to open skill window” because nearly every button on the keyboard is already bound to something and they don’t want to further complicate things.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Belatedly, I remembered that WoW in particular has some weird design decisions where the player might want to not level up ASAP as well. Upgrading from Shadow Bolt Rank 1 to Rank 2 makes it do more damage, but it also costs proportionally more mana, I could see players being either confused or annoyed that their mana costs had gone up.

      • Rodyle says:

        Back in the days you always had the option to cast spells of a lower rank though. It was actually required for healers to have several ranks of their heals on the bar, since the top-ranked heal would overheal for a huge lot, generating huge threat and wasting large amounts of mana.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Huh. Chalk it up to a failure of the Vanilla interface that I thought skills existed only at their maximum unlocked rank.

          • Humanoid says:

            These days, all damage classes are explicitly designed around infinite mana, except for one mage subclass. Indeed for many spellcasters, the mana bar in the UI is nothing but a vestigial organ, damage classes are designed so that you go full ham, full time.

            One major change is that you are restricted to drinking one potion per fight. Potions are expensive, so back in vanilla and BC, if you wanted to go full ham, you’d effectively be draining your wallet to do that extra damage.

            However, berserk timers – basically a time limit for defeating a boss – didn’t really exist back then, so you could get away without the extra expenditure. It didn’t matter if a fight went on longer than it needed to, as long as the healers had enough mana potions. Any decently-run guild would pay for those potions of course, and it was common practice to mail any mana potions you found to your healer buddies.

            P.S. On the downranking spells thing, I believe it was only really done by healers outside of a few specific circumstances. For example I believe the druid’s Healing Touch spell had 13 ranks. I’d estimate casting rank 4 maybe 80% of the time.

          • Rodyle says:

            But your spell book showed each rank of each spell back in those days, IIRC.

  9. KingJosh says:

    “I’ll take your bet, demon!”

    Five words that no one, in all of history, has regretted.

  10. Steve C says:

    I was never a fan of this kind of system, and I'm glad modern games have moved away from it. In fact, I'm wondering if they still use this system in World of Warcraft. It's been years since this series was written, and I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard had streamlined this away.

    Yes WoW did streamline. And they wrecked the game in doing so.

    Last week you talked about layered systems that don’t work together. You’ve also talked about that sort of thing before in games. In the case of WoW and running back to your class trainer, it is the opposite. WoW kept taking away the ‘busywork’ of playing the game until they gutted out the depth. This is what caused me to unsubscribe. Basically Blizzard forgot that WoW was busywork.

    WoW got rid of the all the little bits of the game that didn’t add much. Trainers, armor repair, quests in the middle of nowhere, quest reward choice, boring talent choices etc. All that was streamlined away particularly in Cataclysm. In doing so there was just less in the game to think about and do. I’m going to focus on Talents as they can be explained in a picture. Talents used to look like this. Then after streamlining Talents looked like this.

    In the old system every level felt like something. You looked at what you couldn’t access and anticipated. You finally dinged a new level and effectively had a new quest to go back to your trainer to gain the full benefits of that level. It was a production and felt like an accomplishment. Blizzard decided that too many of the talents and spells were boring and/or mandatory (+2% to dmg etc). So they decided (and explicitly explained this to the players,) “Why have them at all?” Look at the talent trees again. Originally every level you got something and it felt like something. Under the Mists talent tree you go 15 levels without receiving any talents. (This is a good article that goes into depth about the loss of complexity and it’s negative impact.)

    But it is slightly worse than that. Your stats are pro-rated against your level. 100 spell power is substantially more powerful at level 20 than it is at level 40. So what would happen is that you would level up and immediately get less powerful. Your equipment’s stats did not change in that level up. But the coefficients on your abilities and spells just did. At low levels some of your spells could change quite profoundly like double the casting time. At high levels, enemies that were easy could take longer to kill and suddenly went from easy to hard because you leveled up. (Simple illustration: [100/20]=5. vs [100/21]=4.76. You are now 5% less powerful. Congrats on the level!)

    With the streamlining, players don’t have to pick when to gain the benefits of leveling- that’s picked for them. Players don’t have to pick which of 3 quest rewards is the best for them- that’s picked for them. Players don’t have to pick when they repair and when to save their time and gold- that’s unnecessary. Players don’t have to manage ammo vs loot- that’s unnecessary. Players don’t have to pick which talents they want- really there’s only one choice when comes every 15 levels. (That ‘choice’ is also easily changed so hardly a choice.) Players don’t have to pick which quests to do and which not to bother with. Instead of 50 in a region, there’s now just 2 that chain 25 times. (Good luck playing that druid that never takes a quest to kill beasts.)

    Basically everything the player had to think about was gutted. Thinking about how to play the game was part of the game. Each element wasn’t particularly difficult or engaging on its own. Cumulatively it made for an entire experience that was engaging. Now it’s just the “World of Hotbars & Equipment” game.

    BTW it was the moment before WoW started to streamline and remove systems within the game that subscription numbers peaked. WoW has been shedding subscribers ever since streamlining has been a thing.

    • avenger337 says:

      “BTW it was the moment before WoW started to streamline and remove systems within the game that subscription numbers peaked. WoW has been shedding subscribers ever since streamlining has been a thing.”

      Don’t play WoW, never have, never will, but I did have to point out that correlation does not imply causation here.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Well, strictly Steve C hasn’t claimed that there is a causal link. (‘BTW’ even possibly suggests care was taken to avoid doing so, although that’s admittedly just my interpretation.)

        • Steve C says:

          That was my intention.

          But the more I think about it (due to avenger337 and your replies) the more I’m willing to straight up say it was a cause. There is a laundry list of causes of why subscriptions tanked. The streamlining and dumbing down is high on that list of causes.

          WoW– the most successful MMO— killed the golden goose of their original content in order to copy all the ‘streamlining’ that other unsuccessful MMOs had implemented. And WoW became less popular after it.

          What did have a high upswing in popularity was pirate vanilla servers that did not have Cataclysm content or mechanics. You get a server of 800,000 pirate subscribers (1 per 10 of all players!) because they think the current version of WoW is crap and prefer the old mechanics.

          • Kylroy says:

            I think the price tag of “free” may have had something to do with their popularity as well.

            • Steve C says:

              Though I’m sure that there is true, it is only true for a insignificant portion of players. Warcraft subscriptions can be paid for with in game gold. Official WoW subscriptions are effectively free given how easy it is to make gold. It would just be those who are willing to spend the extra time to deal with all the hassles of a pirate server, but are unwilling to spend that time in an official game to make gold. That’s a tiny sliver of overlap in that venn diagram.

              • Humanoid says:

                Supposedly the fountain of free gold has now run dry and it’s substantially harder now in Legion to make money enough to fund the monthly token cost. Of course, those who made hay during the peak of WoD are probably set for life, but the economy now is probably in such a state that those who missed out will have to go somewhat out of their way to be self-sustaining.

                • Kylroy says:

                  Also, this assumes that the target audience for this nostalgia server includes large numbers of people who will pay cash for in-game gold; every piece of game time paid for with in-game gold is the result of some other player ponying up cash. Few gold buyers means very expensive game time.

          • MrG says:

            I could argue the causation goes the other way.

            WoW was a success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and a virtual money-printing factory. But it’s longevity was also its achilles heel. People played it, maxed out a character, maxed out some alts, and then, well, some stuck around for the social aspect. Others felt like “I’ve played this” and left. Sure, the expansion packs kept bringing in new content, which was good enough to keep some players interested.

            But eventually, everyone in the core market for WoW either was already playing it, or had already played it. We’re talking YEARS into the game at this point.

            So, what do you do if you think you’ve tapped out your natural market? You go after a large market. And I firmly believe that’s what all the streamlining was. They were trying to make the game more attractive to people who weren’t big RPG players. Who didn’t want to fuss over carefully growing a core list of skills that corresponded with how they wanted to play a character. They did this because people who wanted those features were already either current players or ex-players.

            Basically, they saw the writing on the wall, and made some serious changes to try and grow the playerbase. They undoubtedly lost (and were willing to lose) some current players, but they hoped to make it up in new players. Because they had to do something.

            It’s hard to know if this was successful or not. This was where the game was declining, but I suspect it had already started declining, and the changes were a response to that decline. Maybe they slowed the impending decline significantly by reaching out to new players. Or maybe they hastened it by turning off current players. It’s hard to know where their subscriber base WOULD have been if they hadn’t made changes.

            However, if you extrapolate from non-MMO’s, it’s quite possibly a good business decision. For example, Mass Effect took out most of the amazing worldbuilding that made it unique and replaced it with samey shooter mechanics, and the franchise went nowhere but up. Were longtime fans pissed off? Sure, but widening the appeal “worked” from a bottom line perspective.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              I agree that that’s what Blizzard was trying to do, and we can’t gauge its success without the ability to observe alternate dimensions, but I’m about to argue against the move anyway.

              Until Minecraft came along, World of Warcraft was the best-selling PC game of all time. Measured by net profit, it was the most successful game ever by a huge margin. I have to question the wisdom of looking at the most broadly appealing, most successful game ever made and saying “I bet we can make this broader.” There must be some limit to how broad a game’s appeal can be, and it seems reasonable to suggest that in a highly competitive field, the person in first place is probably close to the limit.

              And a correction: The series has not gone “nowhere but up”. Not counting the relatively small sales of the “all three games” package, ME1 sold 3 million on 360 and 1 million on PC (no PS3 release). ME2 sold 3 million on 360, 1.5 million on PS3, and 0.7 million on PC. ME3 sold 3 million on 360, 1.5 million on PS3, 0.4 million on PC, and 0.3 million on Wii U. Looking at the data for individual platforms, we can see that Mass Effect’s sales numbers were basically stable, and 2 only grew the market because it came to a console that the series wasn’t on before. The dip in PC players from 1-2 is likely due to players migrating to PS3.

      • Kylroy says:

        Cataclysm was also when Blizz made a significant increase to the difficulty to the game, after their most popular expansion to date had made it easier than ever. I personally suspect the inability to complete content with the same people that had cleared it in Wrath of the Lich King had more to do with declining subscription numbers than going from a 71 point talent tree to a 41 point talent tree.

        • Steve C says:

          Cataclysm “difficult”? You have popped my Jeweler’s Ruby Monocle off with that comment. Cataclysm was ridiculously easy. That fact can be measured and proven independent of opinion by raid clear times.

          Note that I did not say it could be boiled down to a reduction of talent trees. I used that an example because the reduction in complexity is illustrated by only a screenshot. Please don’t miss the forest for the trees in what I said. I’m saying that there were many things to think about and consider while playing. Then there were significantly less of everything that engaged your mind. The game suffered from it.

          It’s like playing a Sim City game where you don’t need to make decisions. Making decisions (even if they are obvious) is a way a game engages with you and you engage with the game.

          • Kylroy says:

            If your measure for an expansion’s difficulty is how quickly top level guilds cleared the raids, you made the same mistake Blizzard did in gauging how difficult the game is. I saw lots of guilds that had Icecrown Citadel on farm go absolutely nowhere in Cata raiding and dissolve – it’s not a coincidence that Blizzard scrambled to create LFR in response to the reception of Cataclysm.

            The difference between WoW and Sim City is that WoW has a whole other *game* in it, where you cooperate with players and fight monsters – all of the planning and bookkeeping just made you better (or worse) at that game. Blizzard decided that the actual execution of your character’s rotation and reaction to fight mechanics was the meat of the game, and decided to streamline everything else – mostly by removing the choices that were universally suboptimal. I am wholly unpersuaded that providing a player with 1,000 choices, 990 of which are wrong, is engaging gameplay.

            • Steve C says:

              I was in a top raiding guild at the end of WotLK and throughout Cataclysm. I am well versed in what was going on at that time at raiding levels as well as at lower more casual levels. And I’m measuring difficulty on much more than just that.

              And yes you are correct that guilds that had Icecrown Citadel on farm go absolutely nowhere in Cata raiding and dissolve. Well not quite ‘nowhere’. They cleared Cataclysm raids incredibly quickly. They completed the content and quit because it was super easy. Because they had no more content to pit themselves against.

              My guild cleared Deathwing (final raid of Cataclysm) in 4 hours. That should have taken us 4 months. We were disappointed, salty and angry by that win. The people who become top end raiders are not the type of people who quit because something is too hard. That difficulty is what attracts them in the first place. BTW the LFR system was not due to the reception of Cata. The first LFR raid was that Deathwing raid- the final one of the expansion.

              I quit WoW when I saw that Mists was not going to correct the missteps of Cataclysm. Instead it was doubling down on all the mistakes that Cataclysm made. I loved WoW and was willing to give Blizzard a chance to realize their mistakes and fix things before that point. When I saw no change in design philosophy, that was it for me.

              • Humanoid says:

                Might see something different at normal level where the bulk of the players are though, suspect the first tier of Cataclysm raiding was substantially harder than ICC normal.

                Have to admit I don’t have a good picture myself because I came into Cataclysm late and did 10s raiding instead of 25s.

                • Steve C says:

                  Cataclysm really wasn’t harder. That is something that can be objectively said and backed up by statistics and data. Difficulty data is % of players who see X content.

                  Part of the change in design philosophy at Blizzard was, “Why design content if nobody is going to see it?” Blizzard didn’t want to put so many real world resources into stuff that only a fraction of players were going to see. (One of their mistakes. Unplayed content in any game has value. A separate long rant.)

                  A consequence of that change in philosophy was to make content easier to complete and easier to access (similar but different). Content access and content completion rates, was always trackable by Blizzard. With the Armory and online tools it was possible for anyone to track various achievements. A far greater % of players both accessed and completed endgame content of all types in Cataclysm compared to before. This was not by accident, but by design.

                  Though really it was the Colosseum in WotLK that was the break point rather than ICC. It was also the first raid with 2 separate difficulty settings. This is where the design philosophy was first implemented in whole. It’s also when WoW peaked.

                  • Humanoid says:

                    I don’t fundamentally disagree, my personal results were pretty much the same through both expansions. That said, design intent was that the 10s raids were meant to be easier than 25s in Lich King, whereas they were intended to be roughly equivalent in Cataclysm. Therefore logically one of these statements must be true:

                    – The full-size raids are comparable in difficulty, therefore the Lich King 10s are one step of difficulty below; or
                    – The small-scale raids are comparable in difficulty therefore Lich King 25s were one step of difficulty above.

                    Based on what you’re saying, maybe the second case is what panned out. My own observation of beating all but the last boss in each of heroic ICC, FL and DS sort of backs that up I guess, it’s a consistent pattern.

                    All that said, I wouldn’t put the fundamental difference between the expansions to mechanics, more that past the first tier of Cataclysm raiding, effort in producing content clearly went down. Firelands was half a tier, with the other half being cancelled, then the crappy cut-and-paste minimum-effort job that was Dragon Soul came along. I ended up quitting WoW for 2.5 years literally the day after beating heroic Spine of Deathwing, a posterchild for bad design.

                    TL;DR: Bad content, not bad mechanics.

              • Kylroy says:

                I assure you, there really were guilds that bombed in Cata raiding and dissolved. I completely accept that there were also guilds that breezed straight through the raid content and quit because they ran out of challenges. To gauge which was the bigger issue for the game, I’d look to see what the company did in response.

    • Kylroy says:

      “Basically everything the player had to think about was gutted. Thinking about how to play the game was part of the game. Each element wasn't particularly difficult or engaging on its own. Cumulatively it made for an entire experience that was engaging. Now it's just the “World of Hotbars & Equipment” game.”

      Here’s the thing – after the game had been out for several years, all of that thinking had already been done, documented, and disseminated on the Internet. Your options were to either read up and maximize your character’s power, or try and reinvent the wheel and end with a character who was weaker for every bit you got wrong. I do not lament that Blizzard changed the game so that guide-reading was no longer central to determining your character’s power.

      • Steve C says:

        Even before content was released, all of that thinking had already been done, documented, and disseminated on the Internet. Hours on the PTR rather than years.

        I disagree with your core point though. It wasn’t required and I know a lot of people who felt the same way. I also know a lot of people who min-maxed and researched everything too. There was room for both. In Burning Crusade I played objectively weaker hybrid builds because I had more fun doing so. And I knew exactly what I was giving up to do so. I also remember leveling through vanilla where I didn’t research everything because I wanted to experiment and do my own thing. It’s not like it really mattered to anyone but me. And later I was a world ranked raider. I’ve done the full gambit and there WAS room for everyone. Not any longer.

        • Humanoid says:

          BC was really the last expansion in which you could take your time, what with the lack of berserk timers, the ability to chain-chug potions and no dual-spec. Which was kind of necessary what with certain specs having half the damage potential of others, something considered acceptable back then but unthinkable today. I’d argue therefore that the BC to LK transition was the most impactful in terms of how the game is played.

          I played a hybrid too for what it’s worth, with about a 50/50 split in role over the course of the expansion.

          • Steve C says:

            I'd argue therefore that the BC to LK transition was the most impactful in terms of how the game is played.

            I absolutely agree. In terms of game mechanic changes yes that was big. A drastic change isn’t the same as a bad change or an unpopular one.

            The streamlining stuff was all very minor stuff but a very big category. It wasn’t even unpopular! All of it was stuff players were asking for. It created other problems. The cumulative effect was a death of a thousand cuts. I could go into every one, but I would end up in a Shamus sized Mass Effect rant. At one point ~3 yrs ago I was many pages into writing that rant but I never finished.

      • Humanoid says:

        Yeah I’m not seeing it. Even as someone who did most of their WoWing in its formative years, I’m happy to say the current design feels a fair bit better than what it was in almost every respect. That said, I’m not sure guide-reading is substantially different in importance nowadays.

        At any rate, that I’m playing much less than I used to isn’t anything to do with game mechanics, just the natural progression of time – what once was a team of enthusiastic early-twentysomethings with few responsibilities and plenty of spare time is now a group of mid-thirties adults with careers, families, etc.

        • Kylroy says:

          Mostly, it’s that the difference in effectiveness between a dedicated min-maxer and a personal experimenter is much, much smaller than it used to be.

        • Kylroy says:


          “At any rate, that I'm playing much less than I used to isn't anything to do with game mechanics, just the natural progression of time ““ what once was a team of enthusiastic early-twentysomethings with few responsibilities and plenty of spare time is now a group of mid-thirties adults with careers, families, etc.”

          This, to me, is the root of WoW’s subscription decline. I don’t think that the game would be doing better if it was asking those thirtysomethings to raid four nights a week in order to make progress.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            Right, speculating on “why WoW isn’t the most popular game online, forever” just fails when you realize nothing is the most popular __ FOREVER. People value novelty as well. And it’s not even necessarily that those people went to another MMO they may have just quit the genre altogether. Or started a career or family that took the time they used to spend on the game (even if they used to balance the two things).

          • Steve C says:

            That is the common perception. It’s not true though.

            Demographic numbers at WoW’s peak already showed that most players were in their 30’s. It’s like videogame demographics in general. People assume that the mean, median and mode players are all younger than what the real numbers are.

            The most telling thing is the large number of players on vanilla pirate servers. And the timing when those servers get surges of new players. Official WoW gets an update and the static pirate servers expand. It says that players disagree with official WoW but are not done with playing WoW yet.

            The standard “product life cycle” is another common cause. That has more merit. WoW had more in common with hobby business cycles than a single product life cycle though. And again, pirate server growth should not be a thing under those explanation models.

  11. Toby the Intrepid says:

    I guess I’m the only one who thinks the trainers are actually a fairly realistic idea. Pretend you are a car mechanic or something. Just because you practise exchanging the oil for a while, that doesn’t mean that you automatically know how to weld the gas tank. You need someone to instruct you how to do that, lest you blow the whole thing up. Either you work for someone who instructs you (i.e. work for it) or you go to a school and learn it (i.e. you (or the government) pay for it).
    I didn’t like it much when LOTRO changed the system so that you just acquired new skills because you practised the old skills a while.

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