Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cataclysm Post Mortem 3 Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street

So I've been slow with this post.  while I'm not a massive fan of Ghostcrawler he is a nice guy and seems to try and be honest in talking to the community.  Especially refreshing when we get fluff like the other two Post Mortems.

This is a response to "Cataclysm Post Mortem -- Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street” Mercer" found here.  Greg is the lead system designer, Mr. NutsandBolts for the game.

"Q. What were your main goals going into Cataclysm?

A:" <Snip rambing about Westfall>  We just felt like it was time to give all of those old 1-60 zones some attention again. "

Whats ironic is that many, if not most, players felt some zones needed touch ups.  It was the fact that you charged us for what could of been a little side project and made some zones into stupid parodies of dated TV shows (Like CSI Westfall).  Ill mention again Westfall minus the CSIjoke would be a zone Id repeat, with it no way.

"Beyond that though, we wanted to update the classes at low level as well. The spell flow, by which we mean the level you get certain spells, just hadn’t aged well." <snip spell rambing>

When I tested the beta I reported numerous times about problems with spell flow that went live in Cata.  There remains problems with certain classes dominating aspects of the game at various levels that haven't ever been touched.

So I'd question that it was a goal other than a bullet point on the list way down at the bottom they stuck the new interns on.

"Similarly, we took a look at all of the quest rewards at 1-60 because some specs just didn’t have adequate itemization to support them."

Ah another intern project halfway done but with good ideas left out in the rain.

"A second goal, from the systems design point of view, was to improve the class talent trees. We thought the trees had become bloated with filler instead of legitimately interesting talents."

They had but that could of been fixed without locking us into a set progression through our trees.  It made talent choices after level 10 meaningless.  My comment when they revealed the lockign into one tree limited tree talents was that they shouldn't bother offering us talent choices just give us the effects.  hey like their doing in MoP.  It wasnt an amazingly original idea so Im not sure why they didnt think of it.

"We also embraced the notion of class specialization to a much greater degree, by letting you choose your spec formally at level 10."

*shudder*  Embraced the notion of specialization...even though homogenization has been the rule of thumb for a while now.  Probably not hat he meant but its what jumped to mind when I read this.

"We also knew we needed to provide more content to players focused on maximum level, which meant we couldn’t just re-do 1-60, but we had to provide questing zones, class mechanics, and new PvP and PvE content for players who would be at level 85 too." knew if you added 5 levels as a part of an expansion you had to add 5 levels of content.
Intellectual Cat is confused by Obvious-why do you have to say that?
I have to think that statement comes from them thinking they had to charge us for any update to the game so they HAD to couple the 1-60 upgrade with the 80-85 content expansions.  Like how they refuse to upgrade character models in the game because they cant just spend money on making the game better there has to be a justification.

There is one, its called upkeep of an aging title.  Even Sony understood that.

"Finally, we wanted to deliver all of this content more aggressively. <snip rambling>"

I question that that was a starting goal.  When Cata dropped they were content to plod along like the bloated thing they have become till they realized people were dropping like flies.  The promises of faster additions to the game came then never to be fulfilled.

"Q. What do you think worked best in Cataclysm?"
Oh boy here we go
"A. We’re really happy with the 1-60 revamp. Each zone looks amazing, "

Looks around.  You DO know only a few zones changed at all?  Some were just little things but most were left as is.  That is not a bad thing but the game was not entirely remade.

"we improved their quest flow, and they all have a story that has a (hopefully) meaningful climax, often with a blue item reward. "

We locked you into a linear quest chain through the zone that you couldn't deviate from in the slightest and will go green or even grey by the time you reach the end and get a blue reward you can use for a couple levels about as good as a green you could get if you faced current/harder content. improvement?  really?  The story is kinda cool btu being trapped into doing endless pissant sidequests to follow it is obnoxious.  It ruined whatever feel of story the zone posessed for me to be forced to get 10 wombat butts before I could save the little girl.

"Zones that didn’t have much going on before have an actual plot now, many of which are related to Deathwing’s return. We also did a better job of integrating the dungeons in a zone into the questing experience for that zone, so you feel like you have a good reason to explore them."

Some of the dungeons...well actually no none of them were disconnnected.  But remember - you already had a reason to.  Blackfathom was all about why are the cultists here and gaining archiological relics and Dead Mines was all about Van Clief.  The story was more threadbare but it was there your not really inventing the wheel more like adding a cool hubcap.

Well, ok, Scholomance I'll give you.  Its story was roughly 'ooh creepy castle where ghosts want you to kill people go do it'.

Why was Deathwing used when you had the emerald Nightmare?  You could of added so much more variety.  I suppose Ill never know.

"We really like how having players choose a spec at level 10 worked out. I’d say nearly every single design decision we make ends up being at least somewhat controversial in that some players agree with them and some players disagree with them -- that’s just the reality of having such a large and diverse player base. But choosing a spec at level 10 was as close to universally acclaimed by players as anything we’ve ever done. It just works. You get a meaningful choice early on, and powerful, useful, and fun abilities to go along with it. It leads to each spec having a stronger sense of identity, even at higher level."

I find this interesting because he is justifying heavily his position its good based on the fact the player base already playing the game thought it was great.  I'm not so sure it is.

Now 10 comes very fast to a character.  You've done a few quests, have a few greens, and moved on to your second quest hub but the game has done NOTHING to explain what the heck these things are.  That's added complexity.  That leads to players who are new picking one, wanting the other, getting upset trying to find how to change it and then needing to cough up money for the trainer to respec.  Thats an aspect that isnt great for new people.  Of course players who already know how to use Avengers Shield will thing its awesome a level 10 prot paladin gets it.  The question is if the new player will 'get' the whole idea and I think in almost every way that fails.  Not entirely but it overreached.

Under the nerd rage ball
"We’re pretty happy with the level 80-85 content that we offered. The zones looked great and the stories were good.  We offered several new dungeons, raids, and Battlegrounds."

Almost everything.  What about Fail Barad?  That stands up as the shinning problem.  Blizard said it was wonderful and defended it till it finally just stopped talking about it never admitting that zone didnt work.  Harrison Jones (Who should die in a fire)made half of Uldum a joke.  But he isnt saying that their totally happy so .. ok.

"Late in the cycle of Cataclysm, we introduced Raid Finder, which provided a new type of content to players who historically weren’t raiders. We’re at the part of the lifespan of the game where some original features no longer have the cachet they used to -- you can only roll up so many alts, and by this point you might very well be done with achievements or convinced yourself that that type of gameplay isn’t for you. When we can offer a whole new way to play the game -- in this case provide raids to non-raiders -- it’s a big win."

Cynwise, a really cool blogger
Its a win but it was slapped in with little testing except by those inclined to exploit it.  This leads to continual problems, drama, and could of been avoided by spending more time..heck a day...sitting down and thinking about whats going to happen.  Having it tested by real testers.  Listening to and acting on the complaints of the game players.

Remember the question was what worked best and with the bans, drama, and ulcers people get over being forced to grind this content I dunno if I'd say it was a great success.

"Transmogrification is another one of those features -- it opened up an entirely new avenue of gameplay. One of the great things it’s done, aside from giving players more tools to personalize their characters of course, is make a lot of old content relevant again. Now players are doing old raids and dungeons looking for Transmogrification pieces, and that’s really cool."

Ironic that he would be so gun ho for what at Blizcon Blizzard called 'playing dressup' and 'playing world of dollcraft' mocking the person asking about it and demanding someone give them a new question.  Yes I'm still bitter about the fact they did that and the fact my post asking for an apology got deleted from the official forums.  Also that he didnt mention that for years the community have been talking abut this only to be shot down by the same Blizzard that now acts like it was their idea.

"Q. What didn’t work out as planned?

Everything else! Seriously though, we tend to be our own harshest critics, so it’s actually easy for us to point out things that didn’t work out as expected."

I wish, Ireally do, that they would let us know more about how they are their own critics. Because it seems that Blizzard are just behind rabid fanboys in defending everything they do with fluff and nonsense.

"While zones like Uldum and Deepholm look fantastic, they didn’t fit together as well as we’d have liked. In the planning phases, we didn’t think that having scattered end game zones would be a big deal. It turned out to feel a lot weirder than expected. Players ended up teleporting to nearly every destination, and it gave Cataclysm a disjointed feeling, detracting from that feeling of exploration and discovery. We learned that giving players a land to explore, a sense of place, is valuable. Ultimately, the scattered zones and the portals both served to kind of shrink the world, when we want to make the world a place you want to go out and be in. We’re definitely looking forward to getting back to a continent in Mists. We underestimated how important that was."

Well Ive already said how silly I think it is to say moving from one zone to another is disjointed when you set out to make the zones separated and break any quests using multiple zones.

Its certainly easier to make it feel more involved and connected with a single continent experience so I'm sure that's what their shooting for.

"In addition, while we liked that each zone has a story, questing ended up being too linear. It didn’t feel like you could fly into a zone, find some quest givers, and explore. Instead, you kind of had to start at the beginning and follow all the quests to the end, and if you didn’t like a quest, well, you had to stick with it to get to the next one. We want zones to have an identity, flavor and a story, but we don’t want to railroad players through a zone either."

This really amazes me that he actually really sounds like he understands whats wrong with unskippable grindy quests.  Sadly though he doesn't seem to realize not every quest had a thing to do with the story some were just fill.

The difficulty at which we pegged our heroic dungeons and raids was controversial." <Snip repeat of fluff from Dungeon Post Mortem>
"The problem was that we had this whole group of players who felt like they couldn’t make any progress on their characters. Even if they wanted to end up raiding with their friends, they couldn’t earn the gear they needed to get into those raids (especially in the absence of Raid Finder). "

Ok so raids are hard and you need to learn to play your class to raid but people aren't willing to learn to play their class to run dungeons to raid id that your problem?  You wanna play your class with the best you got to learn to do so.  A part fo that is running dungeons and learning.  If they wont learn they wont raid.  Except Raidfinder where the difficulty is set below the Dragon Soul 5 man dungeons so its ROFLloot drama racism whinning.

"I don’t believe that the instances were too hard; it’s obvious there are players who enjoy that content. I believe the problem was that there were no alternatives." <snip MoP stuff>

Get better at your class, roll an alt, get better at your class, collect pets, get better at your class, play the auction house, get better at your class.  See lots of things to do.  but when you make leveling so fast and easy you never have to learn to get better at your class do you?

"While choosing a spec at level 10 felt great, we weren’t very happy with the rest of the talent tree overhaul. We definitely pruned some dead wood from the trees and got rid of some talents that weren’t a lot of fun, but players felt like they weren’t getting anything out of the bargain. Having simpler trees is a good goal, but it would have felt better if players felt like they got something cool in return for losing some boring fluff. Unfortunately, as is the case with many compromises, this one didn’t fully solve the original problems it was intended to solve, while it created new ones."
So you gave people super cool over powered awesome abilities and took the ones they didnt use and folded it into the class or just ditched them as deadwood and that..wasnt enough for some people?  How?  Why?

"Fundamentally, taking into account what we’ve learned about talent trees over the years, we’ve come to the conclusion that the talent tree model where you pick up tiny performance increases here and there (and where there’s, mathematically, nearly always a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer) is not a great model. The Mists talent design is a major revamp that should fix this problem once and for all. Talents should be meaningful game-changers. At absolute worst a given talent may be the right one only situationally, and at best, players will have a lot more customization to make their play-style stand out. Furthermore, the fact that you’ll have more flexibility to change your talents should help keep gameplay fresh, even with that character that you play most often."

Removing the talent system and replacing it with a perk system is a much better design I'd have to agree.  In fact I was rooting for the talent system being pulled with what you wanted to do with it when Cata launched.

"I feel like I should mention Abyssal Maw again. As with many cancelled features, it somehow took on a life of its own in the minds of players."

Its a raid zone that wrapped up THE story of the entire zone it was in.  The 5 man just made the story more tense.  So, hell yea!  You made sure it was something we wanted!  Dont act all confused about it now.  Heck it was one of the first raid names you gave us!

"Believe me, though -- you just don’t cancel things that you think are going to be awesome."

.... good video game developers do it all the time.  That statement is a disservice to the hardworking producers that have to decide what gets cut that you just love but you dont have time for and what you can fit in.
Random Sillyness
"It was three bosses inside Nespirah, with no unique art. The reason it was originally appealing to us was because we had so many Vashj’ir assets that we could use."


"But by the time it was time to do the work, we felt like we (and many players) had Vashj’ir fatigue."

<.<  What?  Some people didnt like the swimming but make an excuse for people to walk and who would of cared.  You certainly didnt care wabout it when you made DRAGONSOUL used all Wrath assets.  Well ok 90%.

"Now don’t get me wrong -- I loved Vashj’ir. I was an oceanographer, remember? Vashj’ir delivered on the promise of an underwater zone, but we feel like most players were ready to be done with it by the time they had quested through that. (Individuals will feel differently -- it’s that diverse player base thing again.)"

So if you dot agree with me your one of 'those other people'.  Way to try and neuter any disagreement.

"Firelands received a lot of new art, from bosses to environments, and we just didn’t feel like Abyssal Maw was going to compete. Who knows, though! We haven’t totally given up on the idea of cool underwater experiences, so maybe there’s potential we’d visit it again someday. (For my money, the zone I am personally saddest about cancelling is not Abyssal Maw; it was the Azjol-Nerub quest zone in Wrath of the Lich King.)"

It didnt need to rock the world for graphics it needed cool mechanics, a good story and to wrap up the story thread you left dangling.  In fact it would of made a good raid to do so we were stuck with just Deathwing.

The statement about Azjol-Nerub frustrates me because they can have you revisit zones at higher levels for higher level quests.  Vanilla Warcraft had several quests that worked that way and it made the world feel alive.

"Speaking of raids, we also weren’t particularly happy with how accessible legendary items became in Cataclysm." <Snip legendary rambling>

I agree with Lore that Legendaries are done.  But if you make something able to be obtained dont be happy that people get it.  Seriously.

"I have mixed feelings about Archaeology. I feel like it’s a good addition to professions and offers more, and more varied, gameplay than our existing professions."

Boring grinding is different but isn't a GOOD addition to the gameplay.  Fishing is better.  And I hate fishing.

"Still, it’s clear that some players wanted more. " <snip rambling>

Yes we wanted the Path of the Titans tied into Archi.  We didn't want what we got.  It was a horrid failure, more so than Inscription.

"Q. What lessons have you learned and what are some of your top goals for Mists of Pandaria?

There are four big goals for Mists:

1. Get players out into the world. We don’t want to totally eliminate convenience, so it’s fine to queue for some features from capital cities, but we also want players to see other players out in the world, questing, trying world bosses, engaging in PvP, and just travelling from place to place"

*rubs temples*  Its easy put quests and things out where you need to travel to do them.  Taking a couple of minutes to go to a quest site is not some horrible burden.  Ignore the people who say it is.

2. Give players plenty to do. It’s a sad feeling, and a real failure on our part, whenever someone says “I want to play WoW this evening, but I just don’t have anything to do.”

Games are finite, you can only put so much into them.  They do end really.

"Like I said above, achievements and alts were great in their time, and we’ll continue to support them, but we understand the need for new ways to play as well. The new expansion will have entirely new systems, like scenarios and challenge modes. "

Thats cool and all.  Just dont make them 'wow they should of put more work int it' like Cataclysm.

"We are designing the initial zones to have features similar to the Molten Front daily area, so you don’t feel like questing is something you finish at level 90 (and so you don’t feel like daily quests are synonymous with ‘boring’ or ‘grind’). " <snip additional idea rambling>

Oooh...oh no....did you honestly think that having a few new graphics made the Molten Front any less of a horrid grindfest that was as fun as a job?  I hope not.  Because it was and if thats what I experience coming into MoP Ill be pissed.

"Appeal to a broad audience.  I’m always surprised by the number of players who want the game to be easier and the equal number who want the game to be harder (and can’t understand why anyone would disagree with them!) We approach the issue in a different way -- we think that what all of those players are really saying is that they want content for them. Message received."

This is a bad, bad, idea.  You end up pleasing no one if you try to please everyone with everything......its not quite what he is saying but I feel the need to point it out.  Theyhave audiences that enjoy different things.

"We’ll be offering Raid Finder versions of all of our raids going forward. We’ll be offering brutally difficult challenge modes of dungeons for players who thought the Cataclysm heroics were too easy. We’re experimenting with some tricky boss encounters for players who loved the hard-mode Ulduar achievements. We want to provide more cross-over between PvE and PvP, for those who are interested, so that it doesn’t feel like you have to play two different games to progress your character. We want to continually add new Battlegrounds, so those players have fresh experiences to look forward to. We’ll provide players with ways to upgrade their gear incrementally, while reserving tier sets for actual boss kills."

Anyone remember this man?
Peter Molyneux was once the golden man of gaming but he kept making false promises.  Things that were technically possible but end up not being able to get done.  Id be happier with less pie in the sky optimism and more realistic sticking to the release.

1 comment:

  1. If your going to leave a comment, make it a smart one not just pointless PuG style whining. Also don't do anonymously or I'll just delete it.