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Warcraft diary
Bar Harbor
A week or so ago, I finished up the Tyrion Fordring quest thread, which had a lot of nifty, non-standard moments in it. Overall, it was a fun experience, but marred by a piece of Bad Game Design at the very end.

The final stage of the quest involved an escort mission. Escort missions are generally among the hardest things in WoW. They are like having a low-level idiot in your party who does nothing but attract aggro. Usually one cannot successfully complete them without a sizable party. I had one other person with me...

But this escort-ee was unusual. He was a level 63 Elite. That means that he's considerably tougher than even the toughest player. In some sense, he was escorting *us* -- as long as we held back and didn't draw aggro, he would kill everything himself. We learned that lesson after the first time we died :)

As usual, at the very end of the escort was the biggest ambush yet, another 63 Elite, plus about a half dozen 60 Elite helpers. My death number 2 occurred here, though my partner lived and completed the quest. Thankfully, he agreed to stick around and help me on attempt number 3. This was vital, because he had important information I lacked, having seen others do this quest before.

When the Big Ambush happens, your escort-ee says, in effect, "I'll take the big guy, you take the 60s." Following his instructions will almost guarantee player death. Not only are the odds overwhelming, but the escort-ee is *scripted to die*. I researched the quest on Thottbot after completing it, and one large party of extremely well-equipped players managed to kill all the ambushers -- and the escort-ee just keeled over dead a few seconds later, anyways!

A minute or so after the escort-ee dies, an NPC relative of his (also a 63 Elite, but one who hits even harder) shows up, kills any remaining ambushers, and delivers a moving eulogy for the fallen. After which, you can talk to him and receive your reward for "succeeding" at this quest. Looking at Thottbot, there were two recommended strategies for dealing with the final ambush. 1. Stand on a nearby hill out of aggro radius and watch the show. 2. Fight, die, run back with your ghost -- and watch the show, not resurrecting until the fight is over. There was only a single mention of a party tough enough to fight successfully, and that didn't change the outcome at all.

This is a cardinal example of Bad Game Design. The designer clearly cares far more about the dramatic arc of the NPCs than about the gameplay experience of the player. The only way to get the full dramatic effect of this scene is to do almost the exact *opposite* of what is both instructed and intuitive. A player doing the "sensible" thing could easily miss the drama, fail to complete the quest, or both. The "Forced Failure" is now a highly deprecated element of game design, and should be avoided in its own right. But to *combine* that with giving the player false, probably-fatal instructions -- I'm amazed that this one got past their lead designers and QA. -50 DKP!

Last Teusday was The Big Patch, in anticipation of the forthcoming expansion. Lots of cool new stuff is in it, but also a whole lot of breakage, unsurprisingly for such a large patch. Some of the good news is that logging in has speeded up by about 50%. The matching bad news is that you notice that a lot due to the frequency of random disconnects. I played for about half an hour, then gave it up as a bad job until they get things a bit more stable...


More stable, but still with Issues. Flying from Southshore to Aerie Peak, I got booted straight to my desktop. Repeatedly. Some error about a corrupt file. I got past the corrupted area by logging in briefly at work. There may be a reinstall in my future :( In the short term, however, I'm just going to avoid the northern regions of Azeroth...


Tune in later for a big discussion of the new PvP system, still being written...

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How often does WoW do updates/patches? SL is engaged in rapid new versions last week and next week, with assorted unfound bugs, etc. At least the new computer has made running around much easier!

About every 2 months for the major content patches. If extremely urgent issues are discovered, they issue smaller, more specific patches for these, but those aren't on any particular schedule. I've been through one period where a major (and apparently insufficiently tested) patch was followed with ~4 minor patches in the next two weeks, but that was the most extreme case.

I have had zero stability problems since the patch. Of course, I need to get updated addons, and am running an alpha version of auctioneer right now. My biggest problem (processor speed) doesn't seem to have gotten any worse.

Of course after writing this, I went off with Kobi and we got seriously server hung. Strangely, I couldn't see his character, but I could fight the bear, but couldn't loot the bear. If I had been solo, I would have just assumed a glitch in the looting.

Would having the 63 tell you to hang back have fixed the problem, or is the scripted failure bad of itself. I think it is appropriate to have some things fail, but I understand it is tough in a world where 'do overs' are inifinite. This is in keeping with my make it more real philosophy.

Some time back, I was with a party that got into a similar sort of state. As far as we could see, one of our party members just stopped moving and stayed in one place. He actually *was* following us and fighting and all, but we didn't see him doing so.

Would having the 63 tell you to hang back have fixed the problem

It certanly would have gone a long way towards it. After the game has spent hundreds of hours training you that questgivers generally give the correct advice, having such blatantly fatal advice from one seemed unfair -- and worse, un-fun.

I think it is appropriate to have some things fail, ... This is in keeping with my make it more real philosophy.

Having the possibility of failure is one thing. But a scripted failure is no more 'real' than a scripted success. *Less* real, if the party actually killed all the ambushers.

This is a cardinal example of Bad Game Design.

Yeah, ick. It's the kind of mistake I expect from a novice LARP GM, not from experienced designers...

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