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Posts Tagged ‘endgame’

Twenty Thumpin

A little while back, I figured the new sub-level 20 “free” World of Warcraft to be a way to get a taste of the vaunted “endgame” of an MMO, since a level-capped free trial character is effectively progress-locked on the ol’ leveling treadmill.  Their only progress comes from gear hunting, reputation grinds, PvP honor grinding, collecting, achievements and other assorted busywork.  Since then, I’ve been playing intermittently with my new Dwarven Paladin, Thumpin.

Home is where the hearth is

Perhaps ironically, Thumpin’s best weapons have only rarely been maces.  He has gotten the most use out of axes, and indeed, his present weapon of choice is an axe; either the Cold Iron Pick or the Razor’s Edge.  It’s been fun having a Dwarf whose apparent “best in slot” two handed weapon is a mining pick.  It just feels so right.

Fish outta water

At any rate, perhaps half the time I’ve been playing this character has been when he’s at level 20.  I’ve been chasing incremental upgrades to his gear, some from quests, some from world drops, some from dungeons.  It’s been an interesting scavenger hunt, driven by the Wowhead database, inspired by Psynister’s “Trial Account Twinking” commentary.  It’s been interesting… but ultimately kinda, well… dumb.  I could never persist in the real“endgame” raiding scene.

PvP not so much, either

It’s all about the ends; finding the stuff that make my numbers go up.  I’m just not all that motivated or entertained by that quest (though I’ll readily concede that it’s a perfectly valid way to play, it just doesn’t do much for me).  The actual gameplay hasn’t been anything inherently different from just playing the game (including occasional dungeoneering as I usually do), except that it’s a bit more targeted now instead of just playing as the flow takes me.

Onna boat

One notable exception has been hunting for the “best in slot” Foreman’s Leggings.  It’s been pretty mindless, as they drop from one baddie hiding in an armpit of the pre-dungeon Deadmines.  That’s where I got the Cold Iron Pick (and a Petrified Shinbone and the Skeletal Gauntlets, several copies each, actually, as well as a fair dose of ore that the ghouls drop… a potentially viable alternative to mining, actually), but since the ‘Leggings only drop from one unique, semi-rare foe, it starts to feel like a quarter of Thumpin’s life has been in that little pocket of the world.  I gave it a good shot, I really did, but I can only do that for so long.

Freedom!

So, I’ve gone back to my world-traveling ways.  I’m making the rounds in Darnassus and Darkshore, then I’ll go to the Exodar and the neighboring islands.  I kinda want to get a Night Elf kitty to ride (hence the Darnassus tabard for reputation grinding in dungeons), as I love absurd mount/character mismatches.  I feel like I’m adventuring again, going where the action takes me, rather than hunting for numbers.  Of course, I’d rather be flying, but hey, free players can’t have it all, or so they say.

Not the same

I also almost wish I’d done this on a Role Playing realm, so I could really play the “one-eyed miner Dwarf” schtick to the hilt.  Then again, I have a lot of other games I’d rather play, so I’m really going to just leave Thumpin in limbo and imagine that he’s off, having grand adventures, making his way through the world with his pick in hand, belting out a hearty drinking song as he crushes skulls and collects ore.  What more does a Dwarf need?

Bring it.

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Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is a great little game.  Disgaea DS has also been a blast.  I’ve clocked 45 or so hours in the former, and 200 or so in the latter.  The “main story” of the former took about 30 hours to go through (chasing all side quests), and the “main story” of the latter took about 20 hours (doing some side dungeoneering).  I find I keep playing both well past the story’s end, albeit for different reasons.

The core gameplay of KH:358/2 is all about missions.  These are bite-sized chunks of the standard KH gameplay, an action-platformer-RPG… thing.  Missions range from recon to target hunting to simple baddie smashing (complete with small baddies, medium-sized baddies and Big Bad Boss baddies).  None of it is too taxing, but several missions require good timing, quick reflexes and/or knowledge of the terrain.

The core gameplay of Disgaea DS is all about tactical turn-based combat in closed square-grid arenas.  Players build up a cast of characters and field combat teams to take down a range of weird enemies.  Cutscenes tell a story between fights.  The ability to revisit missions and an optional Item World dungeon system provides combat on demand to earn more experience, money and items.  None of the tactics are all that demanding, but there are several that provide a more puzzle-like experience, rather than a simple tactical brawl.

The “post-game” is fairly different between the two.

In KH, I’m replaying missions to explore early missions with new abilities, chase tokens and treasures, or even play with alternate characters.  (Some are fantastic, some are awful.)  The core gameplay really doesn’t change much in the endgame, though, and the missions are exactly the same, only your approach changes.  The ends are the same, in other words, but the means change (fairly minimally).  I’m still chasing achievements and better loot, not new ways of playing the game.  (OK, OK, I can still unlock Sora as a playable character, but that’s not much, since he will play much like Roxas anyway.)

In Disgaea, I’m playing through the storyline again (yay for “New Game +” mechanics!) to see a different ending, but I spend most of my time in the Item World.  Item World levels are procedurally generated, and often a great playground for the geopanel system.  Every level I go to in the Item World is different.  The team I have is pretty static by now, but the stage that I’m playing on changes constantly.  I’m constantly tinkering with new content thanks to the procedural floor generator.  Sure, the ultimate end goal is always the same (defeat all foes or sneak to the exit), but the path through each level is different.  The ends are still the same, then, but the means change considerably more than they do in KH.

This is the difference between 200 and 45 hours logged.  I’ll play each more, I’m sure, but in the end, I spend a lot more time playing through the procedural content in Disgaea DS than I do playing through static content in KH.  To be fair, procedural content only works in certain formats.  The lovingly crafted beautiful 3D worlds in KH don’t lend themselves well to procedural content generation.  The procedural content in Disgaea DS is tile-based, with some larger multitile structures, but certainly nothing as carefully presented as KH worlds.

So, if there is a balance between pretty graphics and playability via content generation, I find that I fall squarely in the camp of gameplay.  I’m more interested in means than ends, at least when I’m playing games.

It’s not too surprising that I feel much the same way about MMOs.  To be sure, the content generation there will naturally be more in line with the KH model, being in 3D and requiring more assets.  I’m still most interested in varied, dynamic, interesting gameplay, rather than chasing loot through the same dungeons.  Raiders have told me that the dynamics of a group can provide some of that, so I can see myself dungeoneering a little while learning a dungeon, but once it’s on farm status, just going through the motions for better loot or arbitrary Achievements does nothing for me.

No, I want a living, dynamic world that I can influence and mold.  I want to color outside the lines, ignoring the ends.  I’d be content tinkering with the means, because once I get to the end, that’s all that you have to keep me in your game.

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Faction Raids

Just a quick set of questions that I’ve somehow never thought of before now:

If factions (specifically Horde and Alliance) are so important in WoW, why are raids not faction specific?

Why can anyone at the endgame go to any raid?

Do Alliance raiding parties and Horde raiding parties really stand in line outside a dragon’s door, waiting patiently at a shot at the Big Bad, while their sworn enemies are within spitting distance?

Why doesn’t Blizzard use faction specific raids to pad out the playtime even more than they already use alts?

What exactly would be the benefit if faction-specific raids were installed?  (Or even race-specific or mini-faction-specific, say an Argent Crusade Onyxia raid vs. a Dragonflight Onyxia.)

I’m not talking here about midgame instances, I’m talking specifically about a set of unique remixed raids at the “endgame” to extend content use even more.  They may simply be riffs on each other, like Onyxia hanging out in the Sunwell or something like that, giving the opportunity to create new tactics to adapt to new circumstances.  Sort of a “Caverns of Time in a Blender” approach.

Thoughts on a stressful Friday, brought to you by sleep deprivation and inquisitive minds.

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In another entry that is probably largely redundant, I just wanted to take a quick look at the role that a customizable skill-based character mechanic might have in breaking the stagnant Tank/Healer/Damage Dealer triangle in most modern MMO combat.

Firstly, I see the mechanics of healing, protection/mitigation and damage dealing as being key functions of combat.  I don’t dispute that.  You need a way to kill the enemy, not be killed in return, and heal up when things go sour.  Throughout “real world” history, that has meant a weapon, armor, and some sort of medical support.  Notably, the real world doesn’t really have “instant heals” or even “heals over time” that function over the span of a few seconds, but we do get to make concessions to make the game fun.  So, ignoring that healing was something usually done after combat was over, and often over the span of days if not longer, we’re back to kill/defend/heal.

Question #1:  Why do those functions need to be filled by different people? (more…)

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