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Role Playing (Games) Games

World of Warcraft - Wrath Of the Lich King Is In Alpha 303

simrook writes to tell us that World of Warcraft's second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, has entered closed alpha testing, as reported by WoWInsider. Wrath of the Lich King, which we've discussed previously, will raise the level cap to 80 and introduce a new class: Death Knights. World of Warcraft remains the most popular MMORPG on the market with over 10 million subscribers. WoWInsider notes, "Various players are being invited to check it out, under a strict NDA."
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World of Warcraft - Wrath Of the Lich King Is In Alpha

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  • Re:No permadeath (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @10:43PM (#23032238) Homepage
    Well, Angband and Nethack and its Rogue-like friends manage pretty well. (Not quite WoW-level, but they don't have quite the same resources behind them.) They have different dynamics, though. The WOW dynamics, indeed, won't work for permadeath.

    When death is a big deal, you take a lot more precautions to avoid death. In rogue-like games, you will typically try to maintain a stockpile of 'escapes' and 'healing', the two primary ways Not To Die in a tight spot. You also pay attention to various sorts of Detection - ways of avoiding tight spots altogether. And, of course, armor and resistances of various sorts. WoW does feature some moderate amounts of healing, but fewer escapes, and much less detection. There is also a disparity with the tactic of simply Running Away. In a game like Angband, the dungeon is infinite, and randomly generated each time, so if there's a room stuffed full of Big Evil Nasties in front of you, well, you just turn around and head another direction; there will surely be treasure later to make up for the loss. Nethack has random-but-finite dungeons, but it's still usually feasible to avoid tough spots until you're better prepared. And in either, there are often a variety of ways around a spot that could avoid that trouble altogether. (WoW, in the meantime, generally litters important areas with baddies, and doesn't provide sneaky back routes.) Here notice another facet of a randomly-generated world: in Angband and Nethack there are very few Important Areas. Most are throwaways.

    I guess that the key thing, though, to avoid repeating Tedium, you simply need to avoid Repetition and Tedium in the beginning altogether, as much as you can. To make a good game, rather than just a decent one that's good and long.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @01:24AM (#23033056)
    My x-wife played Wow over 4,335 HOURS in one year.. Tell me that isn't an addiction.. And it is the primary reason she is the x.. and it ruined our family..

    I agree, my father has been on the wagon for 25 years and I've seen all sorts of addictions destroy people's lives. But seriously, computer game addiction is real and it is as dangerous as any other addiction, just it won't kill you over night (no sleep, bad diet maybe help kill you sooner).
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xouumalperxe ( 815707 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @01:52AM (#23033186)

    What makes Nethack is not the randomly generated maps.

    It's, on one hand, the fact that the whole world is random. Spell scrolls have different names for each spell in every game. Wands look different. Potions are of different colours.

    On the other hand, and more importantly, the game is probably the most convoluted mass of hard-coded behaviour ever. Most items interact with a large portion of all other items in a meaningful manner. In fact, this sort of interaction is key in discovering what items actually do. Want to find out if an item's cursed? drop it on the floor and try to get your dog to voluntarily step on it (it's not cursed if he does). If it's not cursed, feel free to wear it and find out if it does anything unusual. Or zap a wand at the floor to see what it does. If the bugs on the floor stop moving, you're looking at a wand of death -- or perhaps just of sleep. If the bugs go away, it might be teleportation -- or invisibility! You also have to eat, or you'll starve. You'll mostly be eating stuff you kill, but you need to make sure it's both proper food (the gods don't like cannibalism, highly acidic monsters will give you a bad case of heartburn, and tripe rations are really meant for your pet. You might be able to stomach them, but odds are you'll puke, and be even hungrier) and fresh (food decays over time, and one of the first lessons I learnt is that zombies are, by definition, not fresh meat)

  • Re:No permadeath (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @02:27AM (#23033320) Homepage Journal
    It's not the dying.

    It's the lack of consequence.

    In EVE, the mmo I play, taking a ship out is a risk. Take out a cheap ship, and you're likely to get wtfpwned by someone in a better ship. Take out an expensive ship, and lose it, and you may seriously be out an entire month's money making - but what a rush. Not to mention, if you die a bunch, someone else may move in and take your space.

    In WoW, you die. Then nothing happens, you resurrect, and you pay 2 gold to repair your equipment that would be worth 45,000 gold if you could sell it (or more to the point, lost it and had to re-buy it), and then you go about your life.

    Death needs consequence. I do agree with your qualm about not wanting to run 1-20 over again - but that's easily solved. You "save" your game in some magical fashion (i dunno, you talked to the tree faerie, and she knows of your deeds, and if you die, can revive a piece of your soul, with a loss of 10% of the exp you've gained since the last level up - whatever). In EVE, this is settled with cloning, but it could just as easily be called "magic".

    If you want this in a fantasy game, wait for darkfall.

  • Re:No permadeath (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kitsunewarlock ( 971818 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @02:36AM (#23033362) Journal
    I've tried to immerse myself. It ends up pissing me off when I get people saying like "oh, I did that quest. XY and Z happened." Plus the inevitable "LAWL NEWB JUST READ THE QUEST LOG FROM THOTTBOT!" when your in a group and want to skim the quest instead of just finding coordinates for the entity you need to talk with.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SL Baur ( 19540 ) <> on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:10AM (#23033510) Homepage Journal
    Ditto. I tried out two MMOs when I first decided to try it. D&D Storm Reach was the first. In Storm Reach, you are penalized experience on death and after my trial period (and I had gone down to a store to buy a permanent copy to keep playing) I found out my character was permanently dead, well, that was that.

    I then tried out World of Warcraft and I still have a running subscription. Two if you count the one for my wife.

    I love Nethack, I've played it for over 2 decades, but it's a different sort of thing.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @08:14AM (#23034752)
    It is not lack of consequences that binds people to games like World of Warcraft. It is short term entertainment, or shortly, fun.

    I _love_ reality and space sims. This would make EVE Online a ideal match for me, no? But I am very slow to try it, and it is exact of these consequences. Problem is that I don't that much time for games, and even when I do several hours of WoW, my spouse gives me body signs that she would like to get me off that game and computer. And I have lot of other interests too.

    So, it is not that EVE online would be bad and Wow would be perfect - it is all matters of point of view. But WoW is king of online games for just that - you can keep your gaming sessions short, it has huge investments in community stuff, usually friends are those people who introduce new players to the game. Almost 60% of the game is only playable when you are have good communications. It feels like fantasy chat with nice story with rich background (altought it feels sometimes plastered together, I like world design and style).

    Anyway, even saying all this, I still would like to try EVE, but I still have to find someone giving me 10 days trial to check it out.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Turnpike Lad ( 1006707 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @08:47AM (#23034990)
    Permanent death will never work in a static, quest-based MMO like World of Warcraft. But it could definitely work in a game that actually tries to simulate a virtual world. There was a game called Trials of Ascension that I followed for years. The developers lost funding and it was never released, but I think it had an amazingly well-thought-out design. It was a full PvP, skill-based permadeath game. Characters had 100 lives each, but they were planning on adding a single life server as well. The first central idea of the game was that real power must come via real risk. To become a powerful mage, you would have had to discover a unique set of formulae for your character's spells, all the while risking death from backfire from critical failures. The goal was that about one in a hundred players who tried to become real, full-blown sorcerors would actually make it. Those who succeeded would be rewarded with great power. I feel that that power has more _meaning_ than that of a level 70 in WoW who simply had to grind for 40 hours to get there. This significance is impossible without the risk of permadeath. Another main tenet of ToA was that the world would be run by players. Instead of having a central currency, each town would be encouraged to mint their own currency and value it how they like. The lack of an easy way to bring goods from one place to another, and the selective availability of resources, would contribute to a real scarcity-based economy. Almost all items would be player-made, including player-written books, music and pictures. Towns would be built and territory claimed by player organizations. Players would become the leaders of the eleven religions. There were to be no NPC quests and the sole role of NPCs was as guards and hired workers. This meant that a character could make a positive contribution to their organization from the very beginning. Not just as fighters, but as crafters, artisans, builders, farmers. And it would be that participation that would increase your character's abilities, not running a static dungeon. And if your character died, you would have left a tangible mark on the game. Starting over would not be going through the same old content another time, because each character you make would contribute to the community in a different way. In a virtual world, you're playing both your character and your community. Your effort both improves your avatar and enriches the gameworld. When your character dies, your contributions to the community remain. What it comes down to is this: Permanent death can be implemented in modern games, to great utility. But the game must be designed for permadeath from the ground up. Sticking it in WoW will cause a disaster.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anne_Nonymous ( 313852 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @09:28AM (#23035384) Homepage Journal
    On the permadeath server, I'm a Level 1 Couch Potato with a +1 remote of channel changing.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:12AM (#23035902)
    That's why I quit. Unless you can get a group of friends together to do an instance for the first time without looking at Thottbot at all, then it really just boils down to 'travel to position, interact with entity for x seconds, travel to position, interact....'

    That, and how Blizzard started testing new encounters in beta. I loved Dire Maul when it was release because very few people had any clue what was going to be in there. Flash forward to Outlands where spoilers abound before it was even released.

  • Re:No permadeath (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:18AM (#23035962)

    A very smart system would respond to player action -- a heavily hero-populated land would attract more and stronger villians, who spawn minion-quests and whatnot. You could even have stateful shared quests, where a quest remains active until completed by any character, which then triggers a different quest.

    Very good suggestions. In fact, Blizzard has been doing this. With WoW.

    The most recent update added new content, the Isle of Quel'thalas ("Sunwell Isle"). The ability to do certain tasks depend on everyone on the server doing other tasks. As people fight to drive out the forces of "evil" from parts of the island, it allows "resistance fighters" to reclaim those areas. New missions become available, new rewards become available, and the story progresses.

    Other times that WoW has done this include the opening of new areas. The opening of Ahn'Qiraj was a one-time quest event that preceeded the opening of the new (at the time, way before my time) instanced dungeon. Then it was no longer available. It's not likely that Blizzard will suddenly abandon this method of introducing content.

    It sounds like Blizzard is meeting your expectations.

    The real problem with MMOs like WoW is that the meat of the game isn't all that fun. Some, like City of Heroes, try and avoid it by purposefully making low-level re-play the focus of the game. Others, like Eve Online, say to heck with PvE and focus on the PvP side.

    Just to address Eve up front, I almost subscribed. But in the end of the trial, I realized that "the grind" was replaced with "training over time". The length of your subcription directly corresponded to your character skill improvement, regardless of how much (or how little) effort you put into the game. To me, that's worse than the traditional method of "the grind". I couldn't notice that I was "close" and put in that extra 30 minutes of effort it would take to push myself over the next hump; it would happen when it happens, whether I was awake or asleep. And if I was asleep when my training finished, I would lose any time not spent training. I also didn't see a whole lot of variety, though I was restricted (due to my noobness) to lower-level content.

    In WoW, while I'll admit that grinding alt characters to high levels can be tedious at times, you can at least start in a different lower-level area and explore a new story. It would be nice if Blizzard found a way to help ease the grind for alt characters without spoiling the storyline opportunities for brand new characters.

    One thing Blizzard -is- doing is adding "hero classes" that start from some high level (I've heard level 60). Wrath will include a Death Knight class that you can unlock with your other high-level character(s). You start the levelling process at that high level, not at 1.

    For those interested in PvP only, Blizzard is also running PvP Arena Tournament servers. For $20, you can create characters on these special servers that are automatically level 70, have access to any gear you could want, all enchants, enhancements, etc. And you can battle it out in 2v2, 3v3, or 5v5 competitions. The 3v3 competition is ranked and is offering $200,000 in total prize money to the top teams (thus the reason for the registration fee).

    One would hope that if Blizzard sees that this is popular, then they (like Guild Wars) will offer this as an option, perhaps on special Arena Servers. Then it will just be Arena matches, no grinding, no levelling, no questing, no registration fees, etc. Perhaps they might also experiment with pairings larger than 5v5. Oh, and you can make up to 9 characters on a particular server, and more characters on another server, and another server, etc. So if you want a break from Arena matching and want to quest or whatever, create a character on another server.

    World of Warcraft is "warcrack" by design. They could make it fun and interesting and genuinely massive, b

  • Re:No permadeath (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thefreeaccount ( 1271398 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:03AM (#23036604)
    >In EVE, the mmo I play, taking a ship out is a risk.

    The problem is that increasing the death penalty doesn't necessarily make a game more exciting. Since no one wants to loose months of effort, players simply compensate for the increased penalty by becomming much more risk-adverse. In a games like guild wars and WOW, most combat revolves around fair matches between relatively equal opponents. You might loose, but it's no big deal - you can just queue up for another match.

    In Eve, fair combat is almost unheard-of - very few players are willing to risk losses when the odds are only 50/50. Aside from a few wow-esque exceptions (gangs of so-called nano-ships that move so quickly, they can easily escape when the tide of battle turns against them), combat in Eve revolves around two main mechanisms:
    1) Gangs of PvP-fitted ships hunting down PvE-fitted ships, which have little chance of fighting back
    2) Massive 'blobs' of dozens or even hundreds of ships whose overwhelming numbers reduce the likelihood of combat losses.

    When you're sitting on a stargate with 50 friends, waiting to gank the unsuspecting player who jumps through, the penalty for failure is just as high as ever, but the risk of failure is quite low - so low, in fact, that it could be argued this form of combat is actually LESS exciting. Most of the fun comes from your ability to inflict serious losses on your target - wiping out weeks, months, or in the case of exhorbiant 'faction' ships, even years' worth of his playtime.

    This is why, in general, low-penalty games tend to attract competition-oriented players who enjoy the process of competition itself, while high-penalty games attract grief-oriented players who enjoy the process of inflicting loss on other players. It should be no surprise that the largest alliance in Eve - Goonswarm - is an alliance of somethingawful members - the same 'goons' infamous for their large-scale griefing campaigns in Second Life and other games.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cornflake917 ( 515940 ) * on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:31AM (#23036956) Homepage

    CCP figured it out.
    Bullshit. The fact that Eve isn't sharded doesn't magically it make a fun and interesting game. I played it for 5 months, and I tried really hard to have fun with it, but it still is by far the most boring MMO I've ever played. The only thing that could have been fun in the game was the large scale battles, but those usually ended up being lag fests. Karma be damned, you Eve fanboys make me sick.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:3, Interesting)

    by QuantumPion ( 805098 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @12:40PM (#23037796)
    I think this pretty accurately describes Ultima Online (in its early days). There was no permadeath, but dying meant losing a significant amount of skill points, as well as all of your armor and possessions on your character. There were no character classes, and "leveling up" a new character only took a couple days. Becoming a powerful mage was more difficult, and risky, beacuse the reagents required for casting spells were expensive and had to be carried on you. The questing in UO was as you described -- there were no NPC quests, just dungeons to explore and such. Also, the economy was 98% player based, with player crafted goods, player-run vendors, and even entire new player-made towns. While WoW is pretty fun as far as raiding and boss encounters are concerned, UO (in its early days) was really the pinnacle of MMORPG's.
  • Re:No permadeath (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @01:15PM (#23038186) Homepage Journal

    The thing is - it's the rush I'm after. All this stuff about pirates and camping stargates and whatnot is all true - for low security space. It makes people risk adverse - don't go there unless you have to; use scouts; use less traveled routes; don't go to Rancer, etc.

    But the thing that gets me going in eve isn't low sec or piracy. It's 0.0 security, lawless space. You can't *be* risk adverse and live in 0.0 (and I have, almost consistently, for two years now). Yes, it is sometimes blob or be blobbed, but really, you have to fight to hold space, and you will take losses. In part, it's a war of attrition every day - make other people so "risk adverse" that they don't want to come bother you in your space. But, really for me, what gets my blood hot is going out in roaming gangs - and the further you get away from your space, the further you get behind enemy lines, the better.

    In situations like that, when you're taking a 10 man gang out, and your fleet commander jumps everyone into a 20 man gate camp - that's a fucking rush. Yeah, you might lose your ship, and in fact some of you probably will. But if you're better skilled, better geared, and most importantly, have a better fleet commander, how fucking epic would it be to jump into 20 people with only 10 ships, and completely own them.

    Yeah, it doesn't happen that often. But, let me tell you - when it does, it's like heroin. Once it's happened once, you spend the entire game trying to recapture that feeling. Sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes it's a bit boring, but... when you hit it again... what an adrenaline rush.

    That's what I play for. I don't do non-consensual combat unless I am forced to, and only then as a military objective (securing a transportation route for POS fuel being the most common one). By going into 0.0 space, you are consenting to combat.

    Live on the edge, man.

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:14PM (#23039768) Homepage Journal
    I for one am wondering about the downstream materials requirements for the runecrafter class and all the new upper level addons for Death Knights, and how that will distort the WoW economy even more.

    On the other hand, so long as it uses copper ore in vast quantities, my low level n00bs will be raking in the Gold ...

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle