Yearly Archives: 2013

WOD: Happy with the raid size changes

Now that I’ve gotten rid of the big, black cloud hanging over my head, I can talk about some things I am really looking forward to in WOD. The first of these is the change in raid sizes. It is no secret that I was really unhappy with the initial split of 10 v 25. Like everything in the game, I went through several stages of grief, including: Angry posting and cursing, as well as bargaining and trying to find a compromise, and depression over what I thought was going to signal the loss of 25-mans forever when Blizzard chose to do nothing in MOP, and acceptance of the loss of many 25-man guilds from the World of Warcraft as 10-man guilds largely replaced all but two of the dozens of 25-man guilds we started out with on my server before 10-man progression raiding was implemented.

Through all of the ups and downs, I have remained an active raider in a 25-man raiding guild. I never have done much in the way of 10-man raiding. The 10-man raid size was never my thing. It is with that larger context in mind that I wanted to share my thoughts on the changes for raiding in WOD. While I have great sympathy for 10-mans having to transition to 20-mans, I don’t have a sense of perspective where it would make sense for me to try to represent that population. Instead, I’ll focus on my own transition from 25-man to 20-man raiding.

Here is a brief recap of what raiding in WOD will look like:

  • The current LFR system will stay in place. This will use current LFR loot.
  • The current 10-25 man Flex mode will now be a called Normal-mode and will be flexible in size between 10 and 25. You can choose between LFR loot and and master-looter.
  • The current Normal raiding will now be called Heroic. It will be flexible in size between 10 and 25 raiders, and you can choose between LFR loot and master-looter.
  • The current Heroic raiding will now be called Mythic, and will be limited to 20 people only.
  • The raid sizes other than Mythic will also be cross-realm capable, and it looks like each difficulty is on a different lockout (meaning you could get 4 chances of loot – one off each raid size).

As a 25-man raiding guild, my guild will likely do the following content:

  • Our main raiding size will be the new Heroic flexible size. We will likely run with between 20 and 25 raid members in Heroic.
  • We will kill some Mythic bosses. Whether or not we kill all the mythic bosses in a raid tier will depend on lots of different factors.
  • We will likely have some normal-mode Flexible size runs for our alts during times when we have alts who are raid-ready, and we could potentially start with normal-mode Flexible in the first raid tier while people are still gearing up. We will be unlikely to run LFR as a group, though individual members are welcome to run it on their own.

We will have to make some tough decisions along the way:

With a roster of between 30 and 32 people, we will have to be careful about how we recruit between now and the start of WOD raiding. We will want to start WOD raiding with a roster between 25 and 27 people. This means that most of the time, our Heroic flexible raid will be at (or close to) the maximum 25-person capacity, but that we won’t be sitting a huge number of people on Mythic nights that require no more than 20. We have to shrink our roster a little bit, but since people naturally come and go around the time of expansions, it means we have room to let our roster attrition down to a comfortable place by just halting recruitment at the point where we’re mostly done with SOO raiding.

I am happy with this new system of raiding.

When I knew that “separate but equal” 10 v 25-man raiding wasn’t going to be possible, I wrote multiple posts suggesting we drop down to one 15-man size. This was before Flexible raid sizes were possible. However, with flexible raid sizes, I see how 20 people could be desirable for a max-tier raiding. The most hardcore guilds are still often 25-man guilds. The changes don’t really impact people who would never hit Mythic-level raiding.

While the changes prevent dabbling by guilds into killing 1 or 2 mythic bosses, it clearly shows where the division of difficulty should be divided: The hardest difficulty can be tuned for a single raid size, and mechanics that would fail in 10-mans can be used in 20-mans. It also allows two 10-mans to be combined into a single 20-man, and doesn’t require 25-mans to cut huge chunks of people from their rosters. I basically get what I want: A single raid size at the most hardcore end of raiding. It also still allows people to do 10-man normal-mode raiding if they really want to. Seeing as how only a tiny percentage of the WOW player base will ever raid Mythic difficulty, I believe that even with some short-term growing pains, this new way of raiding is going to feel better for most people in the long-run.

Suggestions for easing the transition.

  • To Blizzard: The costs of server and faction transfers need to be reduced around the time of the expansion transition to ease the burden on guilds trying to recruit new members. The 10-man teams who have to add 15 more people to their rosters will only survive if the costs of transferring are worth the risks of joining a group that may show instability early in the transition. If two guilds on different servers want to merge, the costs of doing that merger is often prohibitively expensive. So, if a huge factor in the survival of current guilds comes down to the ease of bringing in people from another server, these server transfer costs needs to be something Blizzard considers in the upcoming months leading to the expansion.
  • To guild leadership: Guilds need to be open to their members about what the plans are for how to deal with the transition. Guilds need to plan early, so that the expansion transition doesn’t catch anyone by surprise. Any transition for a new expansion can be difficult. There are always new things (both good and bad) to deal with as the content changes. Guild leadership needs to communicate early and often. If the guild plans to recruit more people, then get all the members involved. If the guilds are going to lose people, then communicate early about how that is going to be handled. Whatever unique problems that the expansion poses for guilds, be clear to your members about how you will handle the transitions.
  • To players at large: Plan in advance for what raiding you really want to do in the next expansion. This transition will be a great time to join new raid groups, help shape the direction of your current raid groups, or help with recruiting new members to your team. If you are returning to the game, the expansion transition will be a great time to find new guilds who have opened their rosters.

In conclusion, I think Blizzard made the right choice in their changing the raid sizes to have one single end-game raid size. Using the flexible technology for every other raid size also allows a lot more flexibility and choice. In the end, the change in raid size is one of the things I am looking forward to the most. I appreciate that Blizzard was able to finally fix the failing 10 v 25-man raid size problem. I look forward to seeing the future of raiding.

Posted in Blizzcon, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

Lords of Draenor: Where are the girls at?

I am a female who plays world of warcraft. There are lots of other females who play world of warcraft. Being a gamer and escaping into fantasy worlds is part of how I try to escape the everyday sexism of the world, or how I otherwise get away from things I can’t control in the real world. This everyday sexism includes the fact that three females had roofies slipped into their drinks at a party they were attending the weekend of Blizzcon. One of them fortunately didn’t drink the shot they were given, and the three were otherwise not harmed because they were able to stay together. However, when I talk about the importance of female representation in WOW, I want this to be something people remember. I didn’t attend Blizzcon this year, but when I went last time, it was obvious that women were the minority – even in the fact that they converted the women’s bathroom in the main panel hall into a men’s bathroom to accomodate the greater number of male gamers – even if that meant I had to leave that hall and go search in other halls for bathrooms.

The nice thing about playing a female character in WOW is that I’m just as strong and powerful as a male character in WOW. I don’t take a strength penalty for playing a female character. If Boys can do it, so can I! Your character’s gender shouldn’t really matter all that much in a world where everyone can be a hero. In World of Warcraft, I almost always felt included in previous expansions. While I faced harassment from other players, especially in Vanilla WOW (including someone who stalked me in-game for a day or two even after I put them on ignore), the game design its self still made me feel included in the storyline’s narrative as a female. In Vanilla, I could still look up to strong female character leads, including Tyrande as a night elf druid (though she has felt a lot more like a secondary character after Malfurion’s return). Other storylines have included female dragon aspects, Jaina chasing the horde out of Dalaran in MOP, Sylvanas as part of the WotLK storyline, and helping Aggra save Thrall in Cataclysm. These strong female leads are characters I look up to and feel that if they can do it, so can I. Strong female lead characters provide support and motivation for female players, and ignoring female-driven storylines in WOW is problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the video game industry at large has a history of excluding women.

In the marketing of WarLORDS of Draenor, I did not feel included.

The introduction to the new expansion presented at Blizzcon and on the related marketing website makes me feel like an outsider who isn’t welcome to pass thru the portal to Draenor because I’m female, regardless of all the history of the last 9 years. While this isn’t necessarily Blizzard’s intent, this is exactly what they are saying when they joke about the Boy’s Club of Draenor not being a big deal. The problem is that if the marketing material excludes a large portion of the player base, and says that females aren’t included in their target audience, it will be hard to make up for those slights later on. Sexist marketing materials prime us to expect to feel excluded, even if the quests end up not directly being exclusionary in the game.

Dudes_of_Draenor

What do we currently know about the inclusion or exclusion of women in Draenor?

Other bloggers have pointed out that leaving Aggra at home in Azeroth to take care of Thrall’s baby is a mistake: It is a mistake because Thrall’s own mother refused to be left at home. It is also a mistake because Draenor is Aggra’s home planet that she remembers, and a place that we think she would want to return. As Aggra has proven in WOW’s storyline to be more than just a girlfriend/wife/mother, forgetting this and leaving her behind does a huge disservice to the game’s storyline – and only benefits sexist beliefs that women should stay home and be caregivers.

In tweets discussing the Draenei female who works under Valen, I have heard her referred to as the “Joan of Arc”. However, this is not particularly reassuring as what most people remember about Joan of Arc is how she died (and not how she lived), and the fact she was a martyr killed for heresy. This sets Yrel aside and presents the feeling of being a helpless martyr, rather than a strong female lead. Given the fact that she doesn’t appear in the listing of important figures above, I’m more inclined to believe that she’s going to be a secondary character that won’t provide the same type of strong female lead that we found in Aggra or Jaina.  If they did include her in the promotional materials listed on the website, it’s possible I wouldn’t feel the same. However, just passively mentioning her with zero character development presented doesn’t inspire me want to run out and buy the expansion.

There are very few women at all in Blizzard’s marketing materials. Only a couple female characters appear in the whole entire trailer for the expansion, with at least a 10:1 Male:Female ratio even in the supporting characters. There are almost no female characters on the Warlords of Draenor website at all. While subtle sexism always existed, it felt more present and problematic in going back to Draenor, land of the dudes only club, where we’ll spend more time focusing on the Orc storyline that I’m actually already tired of hearing about. The dude’s only club tainted my excitement for the expansion. Blizzard says there will be females in the expansion, but they aren’t in Blizzard’s marketing materials – so, then the disconnect is that their marketing materials failed.

For as much as I am happy about changes being made to the game by the class, UI, and other system-related things, I don’t really have a motivation to care about going back to Draenor because I wasn’t made to feel included. I know this feeling wasn’t intentional on Blizzard’s part. Covert sexism can, however, still hurt just as much as overt sexism. This feeling really needs to change before I have to decide if I want to spend my female money on what Saxsy Mage called “World of Dudecraft”. The cinematic team needs to work harder at getting more female representation in their cinematics, otherwise the girls will go find games that care about women as part of their target audience (if any non-sexist video games even exist in the first place, though I will admit that part of the problem is also the larger cultural context of sexism in which video games are made makes people forget that they should care about how female gamers feel in the first place).

Given the larger cultural problem of sexism in video games, and in American culture more generally, Blizzard should be asking themselves several important questions:

  1. Who is the target audience? Does this include both males and females? (edit: other potential minority groups should also be considered, too).
  2. Does our marketing materials for the game appeal to our whole target audience, or are we excluding some of our target audience? Do we both strong male and strong female characters in our marketing materials? (Edit: Are other minority groups represented?)
  3. Does our game appeal to our whole target audience, or are we excluding some of our target audience? Do we have strong male and strong female characters in our game’s story lines and progression? (Edit: Are other minority groups represented?)

If the answer to question 1 is “both men and women”, I believe that they failed at #2 for Warlords of Draenor. Time will tell if they failed at #3, but given that their marketing at Blizzcon excluded women, they have a lot to make up for missing a large chunk of what I hope they believe is their target audience. While we’ve been reassured by Blizzard that there will be female characters in their Draenor story lines, they missed a huge opportunity at Blizzcon to show that they understand what the demographics of their target audience looks like. We shouldn’t ever leave a Blizzcon event asking ourselves “where are the female characters at?” Once they’ve missed their opportunity with releasing biased marketing materials, they have already lost the chance to connect with the part of their audience that didn’t think the marketing materials appealed to them.

We can’t see the story lines if we are turned off enough to not want to invest money in the company. I make game purchasing decisions based on whether or not I think I am included in the target audience for a game. Other females do this, too, and so by not appealing to half of the world’s population, many gaming companies miss out on our money. I don’t buy a lot of console games because I don’t feel like the target audience for those games. I’d rather not spend the money on something where I’m not included.

Am I likely to still play Warlords of Draenor? Yes, but now I’ll be hunting for female characters in the beta instead of enjoying the questing storyline. Breaking the immersion effect by making people feel excluded can have really long-term negative consequences in the player base. By largely downplaying this point in their post-Blizzcon posting about the lack of female characters at Blizzcon not being a big deal, it doesn’t allow that wound to heal. Given that sexism in video games comes up time and time again, it is unacceptable to forget that women want to feel included in the game’s promotional materials, and from this point on, some people are going to count the number of males and females in any Blizzard trailer they release, instead of actually enjoying the trailer – and if they don’t find the gender balance to be acceptable, they may just not bother buying the game. Others may not be quite as forgiving as me, though it is unlikely that I’ll ever forget.

Other posts to read related to sexism in Blizzard’s Blizzcon announcements:

Twitter Update:

Yesterday, we heard from several people from Blizzard about this topic, and out of fairness, I’m going to copy some of what they wrote here:

Helen Cheng:

“Don’t worry, there will be cool characters, both male and female, in Warlords.”

Netharea had a series of related tweets, and while I can’t post the whole discussion, the highlights are roughly:

But I hear Garona will be showing too….  And a Draenei paladin named Yrel that I can’t wait to meet… Just to keep perspective, there are a lot of characters that will be in play both male and female. The story will be there either way…

In addition, Zarhym agreed to pass along the comments made by the community about this topic.

However, the knowledge that there will be women in Draenor (which we always basically knew because it’s a giant planet) does nothing to change the fact that Blizzcon and the website clearly marketed the next expansion as “men doing manly things”, and displayed a lack of sensitivity to acknowledging that I want more than just “men doing manly things” to be important enough to discuss at Blizzcon and on the related marketing website. Some people think my complaints are about the story. However, I can’t comment on the complete story of WOD because we haven’t seen the whole story, and so I don’t know what part of the story would need to change anyway. My complaints are really about how the game was marketed to us through Blizzcon and the related website release – which I have presented tangible examples of places where their marketing didn’t get me excited about the game, but instead had the complete opposite effect. In particular, stringing up 10 dudes next to each other on the website with no mention of females being important to the story anywhere on the website is something problematic to me, that makes the website distracting more than helpful to their marketing campaign. A website, however, can be fixed without changing the story, by making sure that marketing materials give enough references to things other than “men doing manly things” that are likely already present in the game. Future marketing materials, cinematics, and Blizzcon presentations can be designed to feel more inclusive of their whole audience.

Edit: Also relevant, linked by @miamat : Social Justice League “how to be a fan of problematic things“.

Posted in Blizzcon, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

Warcraft Whats Next Panel Recap (spoilers!)

The Warlords of Draenor website has three new character model previews: Gnome, Dwarf, & Orc.

Wowhead has talent calculators up with the level 100 talents for all classes!

The What’s Next Panel Recap:

  • Garrosh is put on trial. He escapes before the verdict. He has a new friend with a “unique ability to bend time”
  • Garrosh goes back. He hates the Horde now, and hates the alliance, too. He goes back to “a place and time when the world makes sense to him”
  • Wants to take the horde back to a more ideal time. He wants to stop the one moment that defined the history of azeroth: He wants to stop the moment when the orcs drink the blood. Wants to build an “iron horde” with all the chieftains of old, with some of the present technology. Wants to build a different, but uncorrupted, horde. Wants to lead the iron horde thru the dark portal to “align” it to our time.
  • Most of the expansion takes place in Old Draenor. Feels like outland, but is a contiguous continent.
  • Garrosh facilitates the storytelling, but is NOT the Big Bad Boss.
  • Grommash unites the orc clans.

7 new zones in Draenor:

Draenor

  • Map has reminiscent aspects of Outlands (similar scale).
  • This will still feel completely different – rebuilt from scratch.

BYk-GezCYAATptM.jpg large

New character model update:

  • Want the same feel as the old character models, but higher visual fidelity. Better facial detail – The faces will smile and emote. Updated animations with the visual model changes.
  • Art panel will show more detail on the race updates.

New Feature Updates!

  • You get to build your own base on Draenor. “This is the world of warcraft version of housing”.
  • Collect followers. You get offline progression by sending your followers off do do things.
  • You can customize and make decisions about: what zone you put your base in, what buildings you want in what spots.
  • Limited access to professions you don’t have. “You can build a mine in your base. Extra mining nodes… Send NPC with mining skill to do your dirty work for you”
  • Each of the buildings will offer different bonuses. You can choose what is important to you. Three tiers of progression in building your garrison.
  • You can move the garrison to a new place.
  • Monuments & trophies – tied to things like achievements or kills. Mount trophies in your town hall in your garrison!!!
  • Specializations for your buildings feel like having a talent tree – bonuses will vary.

Other game systems updates:

  • “Just play for us for the next 4 or 5 weeks and then you can play with us” – Greg
  • The boost to level 90 is because “WOW is better with friends”. You can boost one of your characters to level 90. This can include brand-new characters. Cleans up your bags, quest log, and action bar. Doesn’t take anything away, but want to make the experience “seamless”.
  • Inventory Updates: Collections. Account-wide. Adding Heirlooms, Toys, & possibly tabards. These will be cross-realm,
  • Quest items no longer stored in bags.
  • Craft directly from banks. Larger stacks for crafting items.
  • Adventure guide gives you “at a glance information to progress from your character”. Path to gear upgrades customized for your character individually (can tell if you play a lot of PVP, PVE, what professions you have). Tells you what raid content you are ready for.
  • Level 100 talents. Going to split talent tooltips by spec.

Dungeons & Raids:

  • 7 new dungeons, including revamped heroic UBRS.
  • Normal, heroic, & challenge dungeons – even normal of the max level dungeons.
  • Start with 2 new raids (highmaul & blackrock foundry) with 16 bosses.
  • Raid Philosophy: “Flex is awesome”!
  • Normal-mode raids will have flexible 10 to 25 size
  • Heroic raid flexible 10 to 25 size
  • Mythic (new difficulty) as a fixed size 20-man raid.

Pvp updates:

  • I missed this section, due to freaking out over the raiding changes. Sorry!

Interview updates:

  • They are still planning to do the stat squish.
  • Other changes to stats coming, like removing hit/expertise, and adding movement speed and cleave as stats on gear.
  • They haven’t started working on moonkin model updates, but it’s “on the list”.

Stat squish example from @djtyrant

Statsquish

I will be on an airplane during tomorrow’s Blizzcon day, so I won’t be able to post immediate recaps of panels tomorrow.

Druid level 100 talents from @HamletEJ:

Druid_talent1Druid_talent_2Druid_Talent3

Posted in Blizzcon

Warcraft Opening Ceremonies Recap (spoilers)!

More info available on Blizzard’s Website.

Blizzcon 2013 Opening Ceremony Announcement Recap

  • New World of Warcraft expansion is the Warlords of Draenor.
  • “when you think about all that history, all that context, a really interesting question comes to mind… What if those dark days could come again? What if a pantheon of the most viscious villans of Warcraft could threaten our homes, our ways of life again?”
  • “The conflict to come will be the alliance’s finest hour”
  • Horde “A chance to redefine yourselves in this brave new world”
  • “There will be much heroism for all”

Expansion cinematic reveal:

  • Past and the present collide
  • “A rising tide of blood and iron that will wash over this world”
  • New world: Draenor
  • Build and upgrade your garrison
  • level cap raised to 100
  • Upgraded new character models
  • New dungeons, raids, world PVP zone. New items and rewards.
  • Hundreds of new quests
  • Level boost to 90 to get you started: “Boost to 90 and play immediately”. “Come play with your friends right away.” You can boost any one character to level 90 (either a brand new character OR your existing character you haven’t played in a while).
  • No new races or classes announced in the cinematic that we could see. More announcements to come in the next panel.

bconOpening51

Additional updates: Garrosh will escape before he can get punished. He travels back in time to Draenor to try and prevent the horde from drinking the demon blood and becoming corrupted.

Posted in Blizzcon

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