Death Penalties

This is part of a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.  Check the thread out to see posts from other great blog authors!

There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes. Fortunately there isn’t a monthly gold fee to pay to Stormwind or Orgrimmar to pay for the services you get there – that’s why you have to pay for repairs and the auction house fees. However, death is rampant in WoW. There are very few people who can say that they haven’t died at all while leveling, and if doing dungeons or raids is your thing it’s a given fact that you will die at some point.

One big question stands out: how does a game deal with a character death? This question has been mulled over, thought about, and discussed a great many times as everyone has a different approach to it. I’ve played a few games which have all had different ideas about it, which I will explain and then give my own thoughts.

The first MMORPG I played was one called Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds. Penalties for death included losing half the experience you had (over level 99), as it was used as a currency to purchase better health, mana, and stats. Also there was a “death pile”, which consisted of various items that the character was carrying, and certain items broke upon death. Prior to level 99, the character would lose a portion of their current experience.

After Nexus, I played Final Fantasy XI. Their death system worked similarly, with the exception of the items being dropped in favour of a more steep experience penalty. When a character dies there is a large experience penalty, and the chance that the character can actually level down. I had experienced that many times, when I was in a group killing stuff and recently leveled and then we all died… and I was suddenly the level I was previously.

Full disclosure: I haven’t played either game in a very long time, so their death systems may be different now. What I explained is how they worked when I played them.

As many people know, in World of Warcraft the penalty for death is fairly low. In essence, the taxes that I mentioned in the first paragraph are the penalty for dying in WoW. Equipped items are charged 10% durability loss with every death, in which the repair bills add up quickly after a night of learning a new raid boss.

If it’s decided to use a Spirit Healer, then an additional durability loss is charged to ALL items that are carried – whether they’re equipped or in the inventory. A character who has multiple sets of gear will go through great lengths to avoid using a Spirit Healer. On top of that a debuff called Resurrection Sickness is applied to the character for a period of time, which reduces health, mana, damage, and healing done. Basically, if you don’t go to recover your corpse you can’t do anything but travel for a while.

The death penalty is charged to discourage people from not caring about dying. Blizzard wants us to care about our characters, and try to keep them alive. At the same time, the penalty isn’t so steep that if a death happens we aren’t so discouraged that we throw our computers out the window.

In comparison to the other games, I believe that the penalty is exactly where it should be. It’s not so huge that we are mad beyond all reason, and not so small that we don’t care about dying at all. I can attest to the fact that after a night of learning a new encounter in a dungeon or raid, seeing my repair bill sure makes me want to have less wipes the next time I go.

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What is “Premium”?

This post is part of a Shared Topic on Blog Azeroth. Be sure to check out posts from other great blog authors!

After my last post was linked on WoW Insider, I saw a couple of comments on the page that made me think.  Firstly, I realized I didn’t do that great of a job explaining my position on the Premium Dungeon Finder. Secondly, I realized that there’s a lot more to this “premium” thing that should be discussed. Through the ensuing blog posts as well as Twitter conversations, I thought I’d expand my thoughts.

To begin with, it was a new and controversial move when MMOs first started charging a monthly subscription for games. Up until then, you paid your money for the game, and played as much as you want for the initial cost. Games that had vast multiplayer services like other Blizzard games (Warcraft III, StarCraft) or first-person shooter games (Counter-strike, Quake) operated on the one-time payment and provided the rest free of charge. I don’t know the economics behind this all, but I’m pretty sure that these games would have to sell a lot to be able to provide free multiplayer services.

Even to register a domain name for a website, there’s a fee. Heck, in many major cities in Canada and the US, it’s hard to find free parking at times. Behind everything, there is some sort of cost – whether it’s seen or not is the big thing.

Warcraft II: BNE & Warcraft III, Diablo and Diablo II, StarCraft and StarCraft II all offer free multiplayer through Blizzard’s Battle.net service. At any given time there are millions of people playing games on their servers, using the bandwidth they have to pay for, and ultimately costing the company. Someone has to maintain the servers to make sure they are at peak performance. Someone has to administer the people working on said servers, and the data centres that house them. Even though people playing those games only pay up front, there are real costs that Blizzard has to deal with on an ongoing basis.

Thus we have the reasoning for a monthly subscription fee for MMOs, as they are a whole new ball of wax. Rather than being separate instances of a game, they are a persistent world that also has instances within them. They must allow thousands of people to log on to a server and play the game as the company has designed and have fun doing it. If the servers crash repeatedly, nobody is having fun. The monthly fee goes to offset the likely astronomical costs of being able to maintain the server networks.

We already pay a monthly fee, why do we need to pay more for extra services?

I forget who exactly, but someone on Twitter gave this example: “I already pay for my cable, why should I pay more for the HD package?”  Similarly, it’s the same as going to a Starbucks and asking for a coffee with an extra shot of espresso but not wanting to be charged for it.  Both examples are extra services or products that are offered, but not essential.

Currently, the WoW remote package is the only Premium offering that is available.  This gives people the ability to do things outside of the game which can enhance their WoW experience, namely being able to use the Auction Houses and chat with guild members who are in-game.  Both of these services require an extra charge, likely because a lot of work went into them, and I know for a fact that it wasn’t free to create. Blizzard employees put their time and effort into these things that are not even required – not even remotely! (Yes, the pun was intended)

The Premium Dungeon Finder is something that will require Blizzard to change their network infrastructure. The servers right now are physically located at various points around the world in clusters. The Battlegroups are set up as such, and the people who group together in the Random Dungeon Finder (LFD) or battlegrounds are pulled from these server groups. Blizzard is working on making it so eventually it will be region-wide, with no extra cost for the player. By changing the LFD system to be able to pull people from your Real ID friends list specifically from servers around the region, it is a major change that was likely not planned for when things were first set up.

Finally, even though the game has been out for six and a half years, the subscription rates have not changed once. Inflation has brought many prices higher across many different industries, but we pay the exact same to log on to WoW as we did when the game first started. I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of money lost by keeping these rates the same.

In the end, I highly doubt that Blizzard will introduce something that is so game changing that it is a requirement to pay for it. If they did, they would most definitely lose a lot of subscribers, and likely myself included. I believe in getting a fair deal, and I think Blizzard has given us a good one so far.

If you want these extra features, you can pay for them. They are not necessary, but they’re helpful and useful. I personally will not be getting the WoW remote subscription or the Premium Dungeon Finder when it comes out, as both of them are not worth it for me. Everyone can choose for themselves to see if they think it’s worth the extra money for the services received.

Guilds and Responsibilities

For a great many people, a guild can be a very (if not the most) important part of their gameplay. What good is a MMORPG if you don’t have people to play with? Yes, there are features that help with this like the random dungeon finder, trade chat, official forums, and so on – but there is nothing like a close-knit group of people who spend most of their gaming time together.

A guild should do a number of things for the player, both in-game and out. Even though the reason that it exists in the first place is to facilitate gaming activities, many stories are out there that show how a well-managed guild can be support people in their real life world. Think of it like a workplace: if you’re going to spend a great deal of time with a group of people, getting along with them can be an important step.

Like a workplace, people don’t always get along. The kindest person might rub someone the wrong way unintentionally, and conflict is born. Depending on how this conflict might be handled could make or break a guild’s leadership. Reacting either too soft or heavy could make an officer or guild master lose any sort of respect that they might have.

This is why I personally enjoy a medium-sized guild. At the most through my WoW career, the guild has had a maximum of around 30-50 active members at any point in time. On an average night, there could be anywhere between 10-30 people online, but I knew each one of them. I’ve never been in a larger guild, so I don’t have the experience when it comes to large-scale management.

The guild master and officers should be respected members of the group, and able to handle the responsibility of leadership. Like anyone who is looked upon for guidance and direction, they must have thick skin and be able to be accountable. Someone in power who thinks they are above the law is a bad idea.

Members also have their own responsibilities. Most guilds have their rules and regulations posted in plain sight, so when someone joins a guild they agree to abide by those rules – there’s no pleading ignorance if something happens that goes against them. Members must respect the leadership of the guild, and follow the established protocol for conflict resolution, as I mentioned earlier. If there’s a raid signup, if someone signs up, they had better be there for that raid. Planning raid composition and people who may have to sit out is a tough job, and then if someone is a no-show you have people who miss out for no reason.

A guild is made up of every single member working together. People should have respect for one another, working with the established code of conduct, and being responsible for their position within that guild.

For a great many people, a guild can be a very important (if not the most important) part of their gameplay. What good is a MMORPG if you don’t have people to play with? Yes, there are features that help with this like the random dungeon finder, trade chat, official forums, and so on – but there is nothing like a close-knit group of people who spend most of their gaming time together. 

A guild should do a number of things for the player, but in-game and out. Even though the reason that it exists in the first place is to facilitate gaming activities, many stories are out there that show how a well-managed guild can be support people in their real life world. Think of it like a workplace: if you’re going to spend a great deal of time with a group of people, getting along with them can be an important step.

Like a workplace, people don’t always get along. The kindest person might rub someone the wrong way unintentionally, and conflict is born. Depending on how this conflict might be handled could make or break a guild’s leadership. Reacting either too soft or heavy could make an officer or guild master lose any sort of respect that they might have.

This is why I personally enjoy a medium sized guild. At the most through my WoW career, the guild has had a maximum of around 30-50 active members at any point in time. On an average night, there could be anywhere between 10-30 people online, but I knew each one of them. I’ve never been in a larger guild, so I don’t have the experience when it comes to large scale management.

The guild master and officers should be respected members of the group, and able to handle the responsibility of leadership. Like anyone who is looked upon for guidance and direction, they must have thick skin and be able to be accountable. Someone in power who thinks they are above the law is a bad idea.

Members also have their own responsibilities. Most guilds have their rules and regulations posted in plain sight, so when someone joins a guild they agree to abide by those rules – there’s no pleading ignorance if something happens that goes against them. Members must respect the leadership of the guild, and follow the established protocol for conflict resolution, as I mentioned earlier. If there’s a raid signup, if someone signs up, they had better be there for that raid. Planning raid composition and people who may have to sit out is a tough job, and then if someone is a no-show you have people who miss out for no reason.

A guild is made up of every single member working together. People should have respect for one another, working with the established code of conduct, and being responsible for their position within that guild.