Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Does WoW Teach?

Priest With A Cause brings up an interesting point about what WoW, or any game teaches you. Combine that with some of the better Oculus criticism we have seen lately and WoW--and most other MMOs--fail to teach 90% of the important stuff to players. And 95%+ of the information to maximize performance isn't available in game--if not more.

Let's look at 2 specifics:Weapon damage and grouping. Weapon damage is 3 numbers, damage range, speed and DPS. Which one of those numbers is the most important? A casual playing friend always equips for the biggest damage range. In fact, with significant exceptions, DPS is the most important number, delay is next and damage range, as far as I know, least. But that doesn't tell you anything about the hidden mechanics. For example, back in the KZ days, I was tanking with the dagger off the Prince.

Why? Because it was a significant upgrade to my then tanking weapon and I had forgotten the completely hidden nerf in dagger mechanics causing them to have a completely different scaling than all other 1h weapons. (I even remember reading the patch notes, after the fact--but ignored them--my low level rogues had the proper mechanics to use daggers, even with the scaling nerf, and my warrior didn't use daggeres...)

Now do a normal mode analysis, if you will, of all of WoW. Normal mode, for all characters is solo DPS. This teaches one set of skills--and as easy as soloing in WoW is, not to a very deep level. The basic test becomes a pass/fail test of can you kill the mob faster than it can kill you. WoW (or any other MMO) gives you no warning that the game changes completely at max level. There is no gentle introduction to group mechanics. Just like Oculus drakes, if you are taking or healing for the first time, there is no "light" version--you are responsible for everyone else in your party using a set of skills that are no where near as developed as your DPS skills. You may be using stances or full talent builds that you haven't looked at before, using skills that you don't normally use, may have spells in bad positions on your hot bar--or not even on the hot bar at all.

WoW Dungeon Finder doesn't really help--you are still completely responsible for the party and, as likely as not, you're going to end up in a group that face rolls through the place--either because your tank overgears the place stupidly, not really stressing you as a healer, or your healer and DPS will work around you as a newbie tank. Or you will just wipe because the DPSers are just used to overgeared tanks and will open up with hard hitting AEs.

The one game that I have seen so far to offer role training (but nothing about proper gear and enhancement selection) is the new skirmish system in Lord of the Rings Online. There too I play a tanker--a guardian. I couldn't have told you where my tanking buttons were or what a competent agro rotation was before the Skirmishes. After two or three skirmishes with a pocket, agro generating, but not going to bitch at me NPC healer, I had a much better sense of how to tank in a group in LOTRO. I quickly fell into the habits of a grouping tank--making sure I had agro on everything, paying attention to ranged mobs, making sure I had an AErs away from the healer.

I am a confident tank--I have tanked since EQ, and I raid tank in WoW, from MC to ICC. Sometimes in progression content, often not. I consider myself a good tank--not great--but good. Just from those couple of skirmishes, protecting my NPC healer, I feel much closer to that level of confidence in LOTRO that I have in WoW. I now know where my agro abilities are, I now know their cool downs and now I have a good idea of their effects. And I am much relieved not to have to do all that learning and confidence building with 4 or more other people waiting for me to make a mistake.

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