Fun Verbs First, Problems Second

Blizzard has been revealing newly-revised classes recently. The Priest has a new power that sounds pretty fun:

Leap of Faith (level 85): Pull a party or raid member to your location. Leap of Faith (or “Life Grip”) is intended to give priests a tool to help rescue fellow players who have pulled aggro, are being focused on in PvP, or just can’t seem to get out of the fire in time. Instant. 30-yard range. 45-second cooldown.

But some priests hate it:

The main problem with Leap of Faith is that the raid member who can’t learn to get out of the fire in time now is able to point the finger at the healer and shout “I died because you didn’t pull me out of the fire”. /facepalm.

And on and on; this is horrible because players will hate it, why didn’t Blizzard think about whether players will hate it? How stupid are they? Think for a minute, damn! What players mean is, “My initial impression is one of fear, and I am afraid of this (and most) change,” and they should be ignored.

Now, I don’t mean they should keep getting ignored forever… they just need to be ignored until they have in-game time with the actual changes. If you’ve come up with a potentially very fun new game verb, you should try it out and let players use it for a while. If there are social problems with it, you can usually fix them, and if you can’t, you can always remove the power.

Why bother? Well, think about what your goal is here. If you’re even considering adding new game verbs to a live, launched game — in an old class to boot — it’s because you’ve decided that the gameplay of said class needs to be “more fun”. Assuming number-tweaks are not adequate for the task, you need new verbs — new fun things for players to do.

And there are no interesting game verbs that do not cause alarmed panic among some part of your audience. Most of the time, it turns out the verbs work fine after minor tweaks. Not always, but usually. It’s definitely the way to bet.¬†Fun verbs that work in your engine are precious and should never be thrown away unless their problems are absolutely insurmountable.

Of course, fine-tuning this during beta-testing would be sane… which looks like what Blizzard is going to do, anyway.

[I am having a hard time finishing any of the vast, overly long articles I wanted to post next, so I figured I'd just do some really short blog posts for a few weeks. And even this post is based on weeks-old news. Blogging is hard! I blame all the really good games out these days. And sun spots.]

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7 Responses to Fun Verbs First, Problems Second

  1. Jason says:

    As a gamer and MMO Designer I find myself on both sides of the fence here. But my main question is, why does Blizzard (and most MMOs for that matter) feel that classes continue to need to be changed? Fixing bugs I can understand, but WoW has been out since 2004 so what prompted this change other than making the change for change-sake?

    I’m trying to understand the reasoning behind the change or any change of this type in MMOs across the industry. Was there a perceived deficiency in Priest that brought this about?

    Yes, you are right that players resist change. They grow accustomed to their playstyle, they know what buttons to mash when, they know what to expect. By changing things their comfort zone is shattered and that is never fun. Most will adapt and keep playing. A few might leave. A few more might join.

    But, ultimately, I question the motives behind the change. Why is the big question for me.

  2. ATraveller says:

    As a former priest in WoW, I’d have to say that I agree with the sceptics here. When you are a healer, people expect you to be omniscient. Their deaths are your business, and the more you can do to prevent it, the more they’ll rely on you to save the day. Make the wrong choice, and most players will let you know just how you screwed up – loudly, and the less they have played healers the more insistent they tend to be that you could have foreseen their deaths somehow. This spell will give them a whole new dimension to complain over – firstly, if they actually die from standing in some shit, it was obviously your fault (They move? Never, they were busy DPS’ing!), and secondly, God help you if you pull a melee DPS away from their chosen spot without reason – they’ll have to spend precious milliseconds running back and you will be the direct cause of them loosing their nr. 1 spot on the meters …

    Now, I’m all for new spells – I loved choosing between the bubble, renew, good old mana-saving heal, etc., and I hated spamming FH like there was no tomorrow (and nothing called a finite mana pool), but this one is just too powerful. It’s a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card for the other raid members, and they’d be stupid not to utilize it to the fullest. Why interrupt your DPS to move when the priest can do it for you, and most likely will? Put any kind of CD on it, and it will be useless – leave it without one, and every death from an area effect ever after will be the priests fault.

    I just don’t see how you can win this one, sorry.

  3. Garumoo says:

    This sounds to me like an interesting mechanic … but I suggest it would have been even more interesting if they gave it to a non-healer class. It would need to be renamed appropriately of course (eg. for hunters it might be “Lasso of Jerkasshattery”).

    Why give it to a DPS class though? To give them more utility than simply outputting massive DPS, which means new choices open up and maybe mitigate the mind-numbing min/maxing purely for DPS. Blizzard has done something similar with some other new spells (mages get some kind of ice/frost/fog wall, someone else gets to drop a cloud of range obscurement).

    [thinking on the meta level here, of course]

  4. Joshua Hertz says:

    I’m going to agree that new Verbs aren’t a bad thing. Good DPS players that die when they get aggro accept that a healers priority is the tank, and they wouldn’t get healed. It’s their fault for pulling aggro. DPS that complain that they got themselves gibbed don’t belong in a good raid.
    It definitely seems like this is a more PVP oriented spell than anything. I can’t think of any fights where this would be necessary. I could see it being used to grief people though. You pop levitate and run off a cliff and force someone to “Leap of Faith” off it. Make someone take a leap of faith away from a mining or herb node. You have to be grouped with them, so I’m not sure who’d want to grief their own party/raid members.

    Personally, as a healer class, I see myself as an enabler. I enable my group/raid to succeed. The more tools I have to counter stupidity the better.

  5. Eric says:

    It’s a fair argument that maybe healers don’t NEED new verbs to be fun. I’ve previously argued that Ghostcrawler often seems to be off on his own little holy war of trying to make the game mechanics “perfect”, players be damned… and maybe that’s what happening here.

    Certainly if we were talking about any OTHER game, a lot more players would be up in arms about his doing yet another complete rewrite of most class trees… I never really understood why Blizzard gets such a free ride when it comes to this.

  6. Dunwich says:

    Come on… you dont get it… you dont use it to pull someone out of the fire…

    the real deal is that you jump in the f*cking fire… cast Guardian Spirit on yourself… and pull that morron into the fire and /dance!!

    …and dont forget to laugh realy loud on vent!!

    what could be more fun?!

  7. Vatec says:

    *shrug*

    Once a change is “in-game” it’s a lot harder to get rid of it. For that matter, once a change has made it to the Test Server, it’s probably impossible to get rid of it: devs have already spent valuable time implementing, by GOD they’re going to make it work!

    I’ve played Asheron’s Call, Dark Age of Camp-a-lot, Everquest II, (M)Age of Conan, and Lord of the Rings Online (The Exciting Game of Inventory Management!(TM)). And every dev team I’ve seen behaves the same way: once they’ve invested time into something, it takes a miracle to get them to scrap. In fact, as much as players still whine about SOE because of the NGE, the EQ2 dev team is the =only= one I’ve ever seen scrap an idea (or significantly revise it) due to player objections; and they’ve done it more than once (changed the way cosmetic clothing system worked based on 70-page thread on forums, scrapped the aggro-management changes they were working on due to player feedback on Test Server, most recently made “mounts disappearing in combat” changes optional rather than mandatory).

    No other dev team have I witnessed do this.

    So when players complain about changes the devs say they’re planning on making, it’s not always knee-jerk rejection of change: sometimes (often?) it’s a rational response to the known fact that, once changes have been made, they will not be reversed … ever….