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Reader Comments (38)

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 12:04AM (Unverified) said

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@(Unverified)
See, I don't think it does work. WoW stagnated once they started trying to cater to everyone and they have lost a ton of merchandise sales. Now the game itself is in free fall and I don't know if there are enough Warcraft fans out there that would make a WC4 sucessful.

So while there may be a minor uptick in subs, to me it seems it's more damaging long term. Where as if you cater to your core customer, you can ensure long term, sustainable success.
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 3:25PM c0gnit0 said

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@(Unverified) November 23rd, 2004. It is currently February 22, 2012. That's 2,648 days or 87 months or 7 years, and 3 months. Yes I know tomorrow would be another month. Keep that information tucked away somewhere. Look at how mmo's have progressed throughout the ages. I would consider our modern age of mmo's having started in the mid 90's. Meridian 59 in 1996, Ultima Online in 1997, and Nexus: Kingdom of the Winds in South Korea in 1996. Jake Song also went on to develop Lineage in 1998. Jake Song is arguably one of the most influential people in the direction of what mmo's look like nowadays, especially when they're originating from Korea. Each game has a reign of about six years before a "new generation" comes out. Anarchy Online and Dark Age of Camelot released in 2001, and Everquest two years before these. Mark November 23, 2004. World of Warcraft releases and January 22, 2008 marks when WoW announced it's mind-blowing 10 million subscribers landmark. About three years is all it took to accumulate a growing audience up to and including 10 million people. It's been seven years since WoW's release and look at the mmo market. Tt's saturated with crap and with quality. WoW still retains over 10 million subscribers. According to (Unverified) responder #3, they must have catered to its core customers. It has sustained GREAT success as a product in terms of marketing. In terms of player-base saying it sucks and needs to be fixed or that it broke years ago when they did this and that, why are there still over 10 million people playing? That's an awful lot of money coming from people who think that what Blizzard is doing is bad or wrong. Remember, it's been seven years and a new generation of mmo's are releasing and in development. Some are quite successful, many are not. However, remaining successful in an ever growing market that is constantly changing like this one means lasting until it gets outpaced. DAoC was quite successful for such a small company and mmo. Everquest was hugely successful if you ask any old school mmo player. DAoC (while I don't know current numbers, so correct me if I'm wrong) doesn't hold as many subscribers as it used to in it prime, however it is now 10 years old and still developing. Is it unsuccessful? I can confidently say that maybe half of that playerbase has the long term experience with that game required for the title "Elder" (Four years of subscription. At $15 a month, that's $720 for that title. Whether you play or not, that's respectable). That game is successful and continues to be despite having done relatively little towards their core customer (RvR fans) since the last changes to the Frontiers. What requires sustainability of "success" in the long term depends on the fans. If developers create a game that customers love enough, it will last. DAoC is living proof. Everquest is now F2P, but still alive. It's successful. Neither of these Old timers can boast they ever had 10 million players. We can all bicker and argue with what we dislike about a product (and sure, being the Biggest Dog Ever causes more people to turn on you), but the fact of the matter is that it worked and still does work. If it's so flawed, people wouldn't play it. To declare this game is in "free fall" because it's lost a million subscribers over the last two years is just insane and inflammatory. When people dislike things they hop onto a bandwagon of hate and say anything they THINK is right. WoW isn't in free fall and I don't think it will be for quite some time. it may or may not ever be matched again by any mmo in terms of subscribers. Meanwhile, until that mmo does come along, I'm going to continue playing EQ (with its 18 and counting expansions), DAoC, WoW, Guild Wars, Rift, CoH, AoC, and SW:ToR. I have things I dislike about each and every one of them. If I had to pick a favorite, it's DAoC. I love each and every one of them and I continue to give money to the developers because they made a game I enjoy. When I wholeheartedly disapprove of one of the game's direction or actions, I'll stop paying. until then remember this: The consumer is the power behind mmo's. Those people you see running all over the place. The ones you probably forget are even other people, feeling the same or different as you living a life through their character as well. It's a massively, multiplayer, online game. Until it falls into the toilet, it's not in free fall and IS successful. Players get things done if the developers listen. If you have a problem with a game, band with players and let them know in the proper way. If you love a game, ALSO let them know. People have a habit of only complaining, never giving a high five when they love something. Love that new system or dungeon? Say so. Hate that new system or dungeon? Say so and why, offer ideas. Don't just say, "It sucks. Fix it. This is crap and all it's ever going to be is crap." We the gamers have the power in our hands and its up to us to determine whether or not we choose to support developers' ideas of "balance" or not.
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 1:15AM (Unverified) said

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That's certainly one reason why WoW's declined in subs but not the only. And with the murmurs of people wishing for a Warcraft 4, I could definitely see people clamoring for it. I'm assuming you mean the RTS series for which there are fans who love them and not necessarily the MMO as well.

I'll agree that it's damaging in the long-term to have such a shallowly implemented mish mash of content. But you have to consider that Blizzard's design model worked well enough to bolster WoW's subs up to such huge numbers. WoW has always been designed for mass appeal, it's what drew so many people into the MMO world. I don't agree with how far they've taken it over the years, but at least for a while, it was key to raking in the dough. And really, it's one of the many reasons that keep so many glued to the game.

I'm only bringing this up to explain why other companies copy what Blizzard has done and to explain why they're hesitant to break the mold. They're not nonsensical in their business decisions. They see what works and try to do the same, if not changing it up a bit here and there. I haven't seen evidence of any niche MMO gaining the amount of subs these types of MMOs hold. If there ever were I'd be surprised frankly.
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 1:58PM (Unverified) said

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@(Unverified)
Well, I certainly can not speak for anyone else except for myself and my friends and those I have talked to, but I'm not sure we would buy WC4 (and yes, I mean the RTS, I don't think WoW 2 will be out anytime for years if at all. With Titan looming soon, I can see a WC4 long before I could see a WoW 2). And my closest friend used to regularly exchange emails with Metzen about Warcraft lore.

And honestly, I don't think it was designed for mass appeal in vanilla. There was much more of the story then and it was obvious it was geared for the Warcraft fan, BC as well. I think it was pretty clear Blizzard was taken by total surprise how much interest there was in WoW. I think the fact so many Warcraft fans got into the game, then it got so much publicity that non WC fans decided "hey, that's a huge community lets go play that" and it snowballed.

But the way they have treated the actual Warcraft fan has been horrendous, and it comes in a large part from them trying to "balance" a game that was never designed for balance, at least not in a PvP sense, which really seems to be what the balance argument is all about. Remember, they hit 11.5 million subs in BC because of catering to the Warcraft fan base. The only uptake they saw after that was in China after Wrath's release there, and we know now that they hated that expansion, which the Farmville-casuals all think was so great.

I also think one of the reasons GW2 is so looking forward to is because it does break the WoW mold. Now, I haven't played SWTOR, but that's because I'm not into sci-fi games, not because I think it is "bad". But it seems to me that that game, as well as others that try to copy WoW such as Rift, never quite had the success at launch, or in Rift's case a year after launch, they expected. Perhaps that's because they did copy WoW's model so much.

I think if GW2 actually does become a runaway success, and it might, then again, it might not, it may just change the model again.
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 1:07AM (Unverified) said

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There already is balance to stealth in the context of this opinion piece. When you skip past a lot of mobs, you lose out on experience and chances for loot that characters who kill everything get.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 1:58AM FireWraith said

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Balance isn't an illusion, perfect balance is an illusion. But that doesn't mean games shouldn't strive for it. Just because no game will ever be PERFECTLY balanced does not mean games should just stop trying.

The concept of balance is extremely simple: no class should be best at doing too many things. That's it. It doesn't matter if it's dps, healing, tanking, mobility, burst, sustained, scouting, etc. When one class can do a lot of stuff better than other classes, that class is going to be considered "OP".

Developers would be able to balance classes a lot better if they made a list of traits that are important in a class (mobility, CC, escape-ability, burst, etc) and then rank the classes based on how good they are at that thing. When classes seem obviously overpowered to players (like Bright Wizards were at the beginning of WAR) it's because they're scores on those scales are simply too high.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 2:16AM (Unverified) said

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@FireWraith
True, but when does it stop? Do you sacrifice content to keep trying to achieving balance? And what about the players who think they are part of an underpowered class and start "demanding balance"?
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 3:39PM c0gnit0 said

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@FireWraith The problem with "balance" isn't always what designers to do the game, but what players demand from a game. If a game is saying from the getgo of development what they're about and CLEARLY define what each class will do and do well, they will make the game like that. When that same game gets a huge following and masses (small, vocal masses) cry about something, they inevitably change that something. Why? They don't want to lose subscribers because they view success as more numbers, not whether or not their game works well for the people they originally designed it for. Balance is defined by the designer. If a company says "this class is the jack of all trades, and master of them all too at the same time," other classes need to deal with that. If nothing changes, quit playing. The idea of an mmo is that you're paying for OTHER people's creative ideas and work, not your own. Mmo's change that up slightly by having to continually pay for what comes out. If the designers decide the customers are right, they will change the balance but if they decide class is the best class because it takes 500 hours of grinding to unlock, then damnit is going to be the best class. The problem with "balance" is that every other person thinks they know what it is or that they aren't a part of it. In WoW, I remember when they changed paladins to a point where if you were in the way of one, you died without lots of skills or good teammates. The way to balance out that OP pile of scrap metal swinging a mallet in pvp is to work around its weaknesses. Get a team, stun it, kill its face with all the malice and hatred within your body and soul. I promise it will die! However, when designers say from development, "This game is about PvE," then the game should not be balanced around PvP 1v1 or 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, 5v5...Get over yourself, its the designers' product to change, not yours. The problem WoW had was they decided subscribers were more important than their artistic integrity as game designers and therefore they balance around PvP (I will say they have balanced around some PvE as of late). It comes down to whether or not you want to wait in line to be OP with your one spec ability that instakills or whether you want to follow a game that you enjoy AND that the designers stick to as an original concept and develop further. There's a REASON PvP in WoW is loved and hated. Mostly hated because of balance issues. Should you balance based on arenas though, you will find that larger settings will prove to upset your "balance". Players hold the key the balance, just lack the will and motivation to do anything about it most of the time (aside from griping in a forum somewhere hoping the minority gets heard and altered accordingly).
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 2:45AM jimr9999us said

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Balance=I win more than I lose.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 3:24AM Jorev said

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Balance is a matter of perception so some will always be unhappy.
Unbalance does need to be part of an MMO to offer variety.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 6:38AM (Unverified) said

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DaoC is still my favorite PvP game, even though it was definitely NOT balanced in any way. And I played a Thane, perhaps the weakest of all classes if you go by simple numbers (the love/hate for Thanes is well documented and spawned countless memes like "LOL AOE HAMMARZ").

They weren't damage dealers, they weren't support, they couldn't really tank or heal. They had self-buffs, which would be very powerful, but DaoC allowed for easy dual-clienting and therefore "buff bots" allowed potentially every character to walk around with way more buffs.

But they were still fun to play. They didn't really have a defining weakness or strength, and that was actually a strength! If a group tried to kill a Thane first, they were idiots, because CC classes, DPS, and healers would have a field day with them. But if you saved the Thane for last, he could at least get a shield slam off and keep some casters interrupted.

Playing a Thane gave me perspective that no game can truly be balanced, and I have a much tougher skin when it comes to playing a supposedly "weak" class.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 10:52AM Edgecase said

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You are exactly right that player ability packages (classes) don't need to be balanced in a vacuum. But the context of the encounters are a tool, not an obstacle. In any crafted environment (e.g. boss encounter), designers need to use elements of the environment to interact with character mechanics to create balance.

To use the damage type resistances example, you should never have an encounter filled with only smash-resistant/psi-vulnerable NPC enemies. Intersperse them throughout the encounter, and the strengths and weaknesses of each toolkit will come into play. In a grouping scenario, complementary player classes form an interaction of mechanics that can solve this problem (I hit the guys I do the most damage, and you do the same).

Similarly, the ranged vs. melee issue is not irreconcilable. The geometry of the situation itself is an important tool. Characters close to a target have only a limited space to move, but can rotate quickly around the target. Characters far away have more room to move, but have to move a lot farther to get around a target. Linking damage output to mobility during a fight allows designers to "balance" the encounter in ways thematically appropriate to both archetypes.

While the process of crafting ability-environment interactions to achieve equivalent performance outcomes for all inputs is combinatorically complex and difficult, that does not make it illusory.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 11:09AM hovercray said

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I enjoyed this article, it was short, to the point, and sane.

Essentially, if I may be allowed to precis- yes, balance is impossible, but we should strive for it anyway. That's almost inspiring :)

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 12:46PM MetaReal said

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"no massive gaps in gearing"

The huge vertical stats separation at end game between the same two classes/build can definitely be avoided. It's called fair-play. In real life doping is considered not ethical, in MMO it is considered normal, even better it is glorified. Heroes there take pleasure at beating an other player with half his HP and DPS.

That why I'm going to GW2 for my PvP in few months.You'll aslo have some surprises when MMOFPS will enter the market. Enjoy for now.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 12:50PM hereafter said

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In addition, there's the inevitable differences in skill and equipment that crop up. Even a theoretically perfectly balanced 1v1 fight won't always have a 50% win rate, simply because some players are just better. Therefore, If it's ever a trade-off between balance and fun/flavor, they're better of erring on the side of the latter. It's important to mitigate glance issues, but equally as important to avoid homogenizing classes in terms of feel or playstyle.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 12:50PM hereafter said

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@hereafter
*balance
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Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 1:41PM kahnbloodbane said

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balance is absolutely an illusion. it's just the "wish" of the loser. the best games have no balance and I'm not speaking of the crappy scissor-stone-paper game of eve I'm speaking of the real stuff like the pre-CU swg.. it had absolutely no balance. I could be a master theraskasi-master doctor in full composite armor suit with buffs that took me to 4k hp vit and mind and instantly heal myself for that 4k hp even once per second.
result?... you bothersome jedi don't come in my hospital at bestine to kill my poor imperial patients. or you die.

buffs totally made the game umablanced and what happened?.. people scramed? people quit the game?. no people lined up orderly paying 15k each set of buff that lasted 3 hours.. to then go lay waste on the countryside monsters doing quests uberly.

I didn't see many people ragequitting (except pehaps the occasional rebel who thought to be invincible..). people ADAPTS! finds new balance themselves and eventually the world will rebalance itself, favoring someone inevitably.

they just should give more options.. more ways to become uber powerful... before the "buffs" there was the bounty hunters "eyeshot" who wiped everyone, then came high heat resistance composite armor helms.. and they quit to be the kings of the hill.. I bet many remembers the good times and the bad times.. that's how history is made, even in games.

Posted: Feb 22nd 2012 3:03PM Daeths said

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The problem is that the rock paper scissors method is horrid. I dont want to play a game where im certain to beat one or two classes almost every time, win half the time against half of the remaining classes and always lose to the rest. Its just plain not fun.

And stealth is a much bigger issue than just for the reasons you listed. In pvp stealth is extremely hard to balance because its used to weight every fight in favor of the user because they can then pick what fights they want. See some one weaker than you? Assassinate them. Need to hold a point? Ambush any would be cappers. Even if you dont use it to pick out fights it gives an advantage since you always get first strike and often second and third as the defender is unaware and take some time to react. Furthering the issue is that in class based systems the stealth class is also usually the stun class and has great spike damage abilities.

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