Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Guild Leader's Journey In World of WarCraft

Samantha: Livejournal's being a bitch, so I decided I'm gonna post here instead. Not LJ's fault, they're under a DDoS attack from Russia.

Begin Report

I was invited to try out the new free World of WarCraft game, and recently I wanted to give WoW a fair shake for comparison to Guild Wars. The trial version of WoW allows you to go up to level 20, and while you can't trade with anyone, you do get to look at a number of different aspects of WoW, and the trial lets you get a feel for the game. So, where to start?

In Guild Wars, my preferred class is Necromancer, because I like dropping afflictions and curses on my enemies, weakening them so that my team mates / heroes / minions can finish them off. I made a blood elf (blood elves are cool), and decided to go with warlock. The warlock seems to have a few damage over time effects, and a lovely life-draining spell which recovers your health as you keep pressuring your opponent. It gets a summoned minion (an extra warm body is always good), and I wanted to eventually get the succubus (because I'm a pervert). ;> Unfortunately, the succubus doesn't show until level 20, so I got it at 'end game', and haven't had a chance to use it yet.

My tactics while playing consisted of using a DoT burn spell, which had a bit of a casting build-up (2 seconds), followed by two quick DoTs, followed by the life drain spell. As soon as my fire spell hit, my minion would run towards the enemy (who was in the process of charging me), and would body block, turning the creature's aggression against it, while I continued to lay down the other curses, then start life draining. This tactic turned out to work pretty well, I didn't bother with any other combat spells during play. I think this was a carry over from GW - I picked out my three or four spells that suited what I wanted to do, made an optomised 4-5 skill build, and went with it. If I'd found anything else which intrigued me, I'd pull out some skills to replace, rather than expand my skill bar further. There were some utility skills which came up, I put those in a second bar and ignored them except when out-of-combat (recover mana by sacrificing health being the big one). I did the majority of the game solo, dying four times in the process, until I hit level 20 (today).

So, here's what I've seen..

Character Customization
GW: Hair style (8+ picks), Hair colour (8+ picks), facial build (12+ picks), skin tone (12 picks), height, beginning colour for clothing.
WoW: Hair style (8 picks?), Hair colour (8+ picks?), facial build (6+ picks?), skin tone (4-5 picks?), jewellery (ear-rings for the blood elf).
I noticed that 'ethnic' is a racial trait, rather than anything else. The colour selections are limited, and there's just some that aren't allowed at al (want to make an ethnic human, you'll most likely be disappointed). I'm still wondering if I should be offended somewhat at the stereotypes in some cases, I'm not certain. I think a recent look at a D&D module made me sensitive to this. I'd sat down with Cat and talked about some of this not too long ago, and we discussed whether or not the humans should have been 'primitive', and allowed some other race to be in a more dominant position, or whether or not there should be different ethnicities of each of the races, perhaps. Kit mentioned that WoW was started as a sort of 'generic fantasy' way back with the WarCraft game, and that this set the bar to follow, so there was no point in changing the setting.

Clothing is a lot more limited in WoW than GW. In GW, armour value is not connected to armour look, just class. Each of the campaigns allows you a method to get the best armour in the game fairly quickly (In Prophesies, you can get someone to short-cut you about 1/3rd of the way in, in Factions, you get it about 1/3rd of the way in, and in Nightfall you can get it almost out of the gate with some help). Because of how Guild Wars plays, this isn't a game breaker, and after a certain point you are picking your armour for look, rather than function. Some people even make different suits for different builds (an advanced style of game play I don't actually do myself, since I tend to like very specific builds, and play with them for months on end or more). Dyes play a big part in Guild Wars, allowing you to blend up to four colours at once for each of the five clothing slots (face, chest, waist/legs, legs/feet, arms), and you can mix-and-match armour types for the kind of look you want.

In WoW, there's no dying, and clothing is mostly a case of 'this is better than what I had before, I'll wear it to save my bacon'. As you play, your clothing evolves, and people can more or less tell where you are in the game by what you're wearing (or how lucky you were with some drops). Basically, everyone of the same profession is going to be wearing the same stuff at approximately the same point in time, and there's sort of an itch to 'get to the top', working your way through the different outfits until you get to the top of your profession. There's really no customizing here. Guild Wars wins here.

My one big complaint however is the disparity in appearance between males and females. Male orcs are huge stocky brutes. Female orcs look actually pretty sexy. Male humans are large and muscled, while females are more slender. Male trolls are big and ugly, female trolls are tall and slim. Basically, the females of any given race are designed to be 'attractive', while the males are generally designed to be 'powerful'. This sucks.

GW: When in town, you can pick from your allotment of skills, and select which eight you want to use. Some of these have synergy with each other, and you have two professions to choose from when it comes to skills. Any skill you want is probably available, either from buying from a vendor, or from stealing it from a boss of the proper profession. If you shelled out the $8-$12 for an unlock pack, a whole bunch of skills are available at the proper vendor, and you can just shell out the in-game coin to get what you want. The cost of skills slowly increases, but caps out at 1000 gold (1 platinum). By the time you're in mid-game, you should have all the skills you want on your build, except for perhaps a rare skill (which you can unlock), or an elite skill (which you have to hunt for). Specific builds can be saved, for quick access, and you can tailor your attribute points at the same time, allowing you to optomise your build for where you're going.

WoW: Anywhere you are, you can customise your build. Throw some skills in, pull some out, and arrainge them as you wish. Some skills have synergy with each other, but you've only the one profession to choose from. You need to reach a certain level to get the skills you want, which you buy from a trainer. The skills improve gradually (no attribute points, like in GW). Getting the build you want takes time and effort, basically, you need to get to the proper level to get the skill you want. Costs for skills increase over time, and I've yet to see a ceiling on these - but them I was still in the 'early' game. There's no attribute points, but there are traits, which are available at level 10 and up, which are used to design a build - allowing you to focus on a specific aspect of your profession. This is similar to selecting the skill build in GW (you want to be a minion master? Choose minion skills. Want to be tank? Choose tank skills.) Your role here is a blend of the traits you picked, and the skills you're using the most.

In my case, I chose demonology, which augments my minion. My minion heals from the damage I inflict on monsters, I got a special bonus minion (who was pretty kick ass), and eventually my mana cost and summoning time for calling minions decreased. The thing is, you get one trait point every odd level, and you get to buy your bonus skills every even level (with one notable skip at level 16, I think). Traits are locked in, unless you go to a trainer to 're-spec', and some traits are locked until you've alloted a certain number of trait points at lower level. This is different than GW, where you get attribute points every level, and can re-spec any time you're in town. There's nothing 'locked', attribute-point wise, and the more you put into one attribute, the stronger your skills for that attribute become.

I don't know how I feel about this. On one hand, I like Guild Wars for getting me all the skills up front, so I can make the character I want to play. I like that nothing's really 'locked' - if you have access to the skill, you have it at level 1. In fact, any skill unlocked by one character on your account unlocks for all your characters. On the other hand, I like traits. I don't like that they're restricted by level (even if you have spare trait points, some are just off limits until you've pumped so many in). If all traits were unlocked, and you just assigned based on the build you wanted, that would be much superior. Basically, for me it would be optimum if you got access to all skills at the beginning, letting you make the build you want, while you got so many trait points (one every other level is fine), which you can assign to any trait you wish. This would allow for more flexible build making. I'd also make it so traits don't need to be unlocked by a teacher - if you're in a 'rest' place (some buildings count as rest zones), your traits free up and you can assign as you wish.

GW: Auto-facing is the bomb. You select your opponent, and your character will immediately close to combat distance (which depends on weapon range), and begin attacking. If your opponent moves or circles, you'll turn to face them, making sure they're always in your field of fire. A few spells have 'out of range', but most will attempt to get you to close the gap. You can select an opponent and choose not to close, waiting for them to come into range before you attack - and that's handy too. The thing that's bad though is that if a monster runs away, you'll chase after it - sometimes this is good, but it can suck for ranged characters who get dragged into range of other opponents. Basically the system here has its good points and bad points.

Boss fights are pretty straightforward. Bosses are a bit stronger, a bit faster, and usually have access to an elite skill. They're usually flanked by 3-4 normal minions, but overall it isn't too bad. If you're smart, you can take down a boss solo, and if you've got the right build it might not even be hard. Bosses are considered part of the environment for the most part, very few are special, and may represent tribal chiefs or exemplars of a specific race. There's a few who are out there for a special purpose, like one undead dragon I've seen, but those ones are rare, and often have a plethora of minions on top of their own presence. There's a few regions which require special preparation to go into, and are considered rather difficult. All in all, however, any specific creature can be taken down in a 1-on-1 if you're savvy, have the right build, and know what you're doing.

WoW: No auto-facing. That pisses me off. There's also no 'close the distance' automatic technique either. If you select your opponent and they're not in range, you have to run over to them and try again. If they change out of your facing, you're going to need to turn to face them to continue. Most opponents are one-on-one, it was rare for me to run into a group of 2-3 or more at a time (though sometimes one would wander in while I was occupied, and at worse two would show up). In general, I prefer Guild Wars over WoW here. I'd like auto-facing, and auto-close, but I don't want to automatically chase after someone who runs away. Running away in WoW is not an option. I've tried to run a few times, and it has resulted in death. Your enemies are just as fast, if not a little faster, and there's no escape once you've committed as far as I can see.

Boss fights. I've had a few. There's some sort of mid-bosses which I've encountered and taken down (and I got the quest to take one down after I killed him, which just annoyed me to no end), and then there's the proper 'boss fight', which kicked my ass when I tried it. The boss in question was huge, and I got him down to half-health before he killed me. These bosses are intended for group play, meaning you need a team to take them down. That annoys me, since I like the idea of being able to play a game solo if I so desire. I've heard this can get much worse in later areas, and that's a proper turn-off for me.

GW: In Guild Wars, when you die you wind up at the closest shrine you've visited. You wake up there, with a death penalty - a % penalty to your Energy and Health. As you kill things, this penalty gets whittled away down to nothing. Multiple deaths result in a larger penalty, up to a maximum of 60%. There's various items and consumables which can get rid of this, allowing you to mitigate the penalty a lot quicker. Low level DP isn't too bad, but high level DP can be crippling - you're fighting opponents at less than half your capability, and have to be careful. Honestly? I hate DP. (GW2 is going to be much better, having removed DP entirely).

WoW: In WoW, when you die, you wake up in a graveyard. You can talk to an angelic figure there, who will rez you immediately, at the cost of your gear being somewhat damaged. Or, instead, you can run back to your body, which prevents your gear from being screwed over. The landscape looks pretty cool actually, all misty white and pale, and there's no monsters in the dead world. When you get to your body, you can pop into the world once more, and are allowed some leeway - you don't have to be right on top of your corpse, you can be a bit away from the fight you were in (thus preventing annoying aggro). The downside comes from how far you may have to run. When I died the first time it was a bit of a hike to get to my corpse, and when I died again, I said 'fuck it'.

In some ways, I prefer WoW here. The choice of either going to your corpse or having it brought to you is nice. The trip to your body (or where you were if you bring your body to you) is annoying. I think having 'rez shrines' is good in GW, you're usually not too far from where you dropped, meaning less of a journey to get back into the action. In group play, you don't go to the rez shrine until everyone's died in Guild Wars, which can be a pain if the last player's finished off the mob, but doesn't have any method of resurrection (though if you zone, everyone comes back to life).

GW: Guild Wars is divided into zones. Each zone is a unique instance, and you have a 'reset' between zones (resurrecting dead people, and turning off all skills). When you get to a town or location, it becomes part of your map, allowing you to teleport to it at any time from any other location. So, you run through two or three instances, get to a town, and if you need to hit an instance, you can teleport to the closest town to do so. This makes travel quick and easy for the most part, and cuts down on a lot of 'getting around' when you know where you want to go. While you're in an instance, anything you kill stays dead, and you can even be rewarded for killing everything in an instance (in hard mode - this is called vanquishing).

WoW: Instance? What the hell is an instance? The map is one huge sprawl, divided into regions in name only. This means you know where you are, but you move seamlessly from one location to the next. All instances are shared, so you'll eventually see one or more people wandering around. Monsters respawn, meaning if you've killed a bunch of things, passing through later you might have to fight them again - which can be annoying. A few times I've gone, "hey, I cleared this area!" as a mob descended on me, and I've even had monsters respawn adjacent to me, triggering an impromptu battle when I wanted to rest. Towns and such are part of the setting, and aren't instanced, and there's no map travel. To get to some locations requires paying for transport (which, admittedly, is kind of fun), or using a mount for faster overland travel (which I didn't get until level 20, so I've not tried this out). In some cases I've had to run across the map for 10 to 15 minutes to get to some remote quest which was near a town I knew - because I had no means of getting transport to anyplace near the location. Basically, you'll be doing a lot of running around and a lot of fighting weenie monsters on the way. Time consuming.

Basically, my preference is in the middle ground. I like the huge, sprawling instances. It makes things flow nicer. I like that towns are part of this as well. These are all good things. I do not like respawning mobs, however. I also don't like having a lack of map-travel. The thing is, this is a case of either-or, you can't have it both ways. Either locations are instanced, allowing mobs to 'reset' when you've left one instance for another, or you have to have respawns. Still, WoW would be better served for map travel - you've been to town X? You can get there instantly. The overland flight things can be reserved for going from 'big town' to 'little town', allowing for a more refined approach. Teleport to key location X, and then fly to sub-location Y. There is a hearth stone, which allows you to teleport to a resting place you've designated, but you can only mark one place, and it has a 30 minute recharge.

GW: You bring the materials to a crafter, the crafter gives you what he makes. You can either buy the materials, or salvage them from goods. Some elite items require a very, very rare salvage. Some items are expensive, requiring tens of thousands of gold to make, plus a bunch of very rare items you have to buy or hunt for. The cost can hit well over one million gold. The thing is, all these expensive things? Vanity items. No actual impact on the game, just makes you look cool. The exception are consumables, there's a few specific, useful ones for PvE, which require some semi-rare materials.

WoW: I took herbalism / alchemy. I'm still absolutely lost on this and what I can do with it. The process, so far, has been frustrating. No detailed information for you here.

GW: Quests are usually straightforward. Go here, talk to this person. Get quest. Go to location and beat up monsters, come back and talk to person. Or, deliver item X to person Y in yonder town. Usually it is 'go from A to B'. These are split up by missions, which are story-related and move the plot forward. In a number of cases, when you do a mission, it wraps up with you in the next outpost, allowing you to skip a lot of overland travel. Quests give XP, and missions give a lot of XP, and a chance to capture elite skills from bosses. In some cases, the bosses give an elite drop - a green item which has "perfect" traits. (maximum damage, and any sub-properties are maximum too). Of course, you can usually build items with perfect traits by salvaging the traits from one item to put into another, so this is mostly just a short-cut, or gives you a nice skin for your weapon. Very few quests in GW involve 'go kill X number of things'.

WoW: Son of a Bitch! Most of the quests in WoW are 'go kill X number of these items, and collect Y number of these objects from their corpses'. These quests are scattered all across the globe, making you have to hike to get things done. In addition, the number of quests you'll gather all at once can be staggering - I had about 20 all lined up at one point, with more and more becoming available. I had to go deliberately clean out my quest cache and get the rewards before dropping in another 3-4. The 'kill 10 rats' sort of quests got annoying, since you'd clear an area, and then wait for the respawn to do it all again. The fetching items was annoying because you weren't always given that the monster you killed would hand it over. I also had mixed feelings about the story progression quests. These quests basically sent you out to explore a region, usually to meet someone. You'd meet the person, get your reward, and then they'd send you out a bit further. As you go through these, you wind up farther and farther from 'home', exploring out as you begin ranging far and wide. Of course, if you've got unfinished business back home, you have to run your ass back and forth between these locations, not knowing when you'll be finished any particular zone. There's little way to know if you're doing a basic 'local' quest or if you're expanding out towards a new region.

Generally, I prefer GW's way of doing this. Because of Instances, you'll know if you're heading out far and wide, and with mapping you can get around pretty quick. Missions further the plot, so you don't need to do those until you're ready for the next zone. Do all the local quests, get your XPs and gold, and when nothing new's available, take the mission and head off to the next zone.

GW: Everything's designed to be fairly 'realistic' in look. In general, people look fairly realistic, clothing design is also done with an eye towards realism, and monsters usually look realistic as well. The game is more cinematic in approach. Rendering isn't always optimal - you'll see a 'flat' look to some textures here and there, and there's the rare graphical glitch if you look at something from the wrong angle, but it isn't too bad actually.

WoW: The graphics here usually go for the more 'cartoony' look, with traits exaggerated and with the buildings and such much simpler in appearance. This works for the feel they're going for, though I find I don't like it that much myself. I've seen a lot less graphical errors here though, which is to WoW's credit, but overall, I prefer a more realistic look to things.

GW: Movement is limited in GW. You can't climb over fences or any structures, and in some cases things like sharp cliffs and hills are used to bar your path. Water beyond a certain depth is impossible to cross, even if it's just a shallow lake or river. Honestly, you're not going anywhere the game doesn't want you to go, and some things like fences and such are just a nuisance.

WoW: Jumping is allowed, letting you hop over barriers or even perch on them. When you hit water, you swim after a certain depth. Some hills and cliff sides bar movement, but if you're on higher ground you can slide / drop down, accepting some or no damage to shortcut to lower ground. I prefer WoW's movement overall.

Both games have their selling points. Overall, I still prefer Guild Wars for game play, but there are a lot of elements in WoW I enjoyed. I saw where the tipping point was however, between 'I'm willing to play this' and 'I am willing to pay to play this', and the 20 level cap was a good stopping point. I'm willing to run around with my blood elf in the regions I've already been in, just to explore and do my thing, but I don't see myself going much further, and I'm not willing to drop cash down to go past my current limits. WoW was fun, but it was nearing where I'd have less fun, and it would seem more like work. Now, to be fair, Guild Wars is not a game I'd play if it had a monthly fee. The initial up-front cost was fine, and having it free beyond that is a big selling point for me. There are frustrating sections in the game, and if I had to pay a monthly cost on top of that to play the game, I'd give it a miss. The fact that it is free does a lot to make the game more fun.

Would I play WoW if it was entirely free to play? Probably not. There's enough elements involved in higher-level play that I would not tolerate it, even if it were free. I like being able to solo play (shown by my playing 99% of the trial version all by myself). I don't mind having other people in my group, but I don't like the idea of it being required for any part of the game at all. You can play through Guild Wars solo - with NPC / Hero henchmen if you wish, but even that isn't mandatory. I've seen people take down the end boss of Factions in under a minute solo - the 'blink and you miss it' sort of thing, and I find this to be a good thing. You can't do this with WoW, and that's unfortunate.

But to each their own. I wanted to give WoW a fair go, and I think I did. I can see why people enjoy it, and hey, I enjoyed it (or I'd not have sat down for 2-3 hour stretches to play it). But I can see where my needs and expectations don't line up, and I know these would get worse over time. It's not a bad game, it just isn't my game.

And to the person who gave me this opportunity? Thank you. Let's hook up on WoW and GW and hang out from time to time. ;>


  1. I have this to say about your quests. You only experienced the Blood elf starter zone (to my knowledge) and the blood elves and draenei were instilled into the game at the first expansion. I feel the design team was still sort of stretching their legs and getting a feel for how they wanted the game to go (WoW was only about three years old if that) The revamped starter areas since the Cataclysm have DRASTICALLY changed how the flow of quests chain together, the neat in-game stuff you experience (including voiced cinematics) and make a better story to follow.
    Thank you for taking the time to try it out, and I'd love to see you settle down and play a few more races and starting areas to see what they offer. Maybe even run a dungeon or two ;)
    As for the alchemy/herbalism thing, we apparently need to talk about this. o.o;

  2. That's a fair point. I suggested a worgen, but alas they're not available on the trial accounts. Still, any non-Burning Crusade race should start in a redesigned zone. May be more interesting - though I haven't run much in the way of new characters myself to know.

    A dungeon would be interesting to see. There's at least one in that level range, isn't there? Kyn, do you have contacts enough there to pull together a group?

  3. Once you hit level 15 the dungeon finder allows you into Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines. 18 allows for Shadowfang Keep and Blackfathom Deeps. 20 I think can even do Gnomeregan. Not sure. I do have friends there (Kystrian, Katwells, Velnor, Elphinstone, Caliel and Karendos all have characters on the Cenarion Circle server and could potentially be asked to roll up something)