Monday, October 13, 2008

The problem with Scenarios...

Courtesy of Syp, it seems that Mark Jacobs is concerned about complaints players are having about scenarios and is asking the community about preferences for a few hypothetical server types. Mark posed the question in the form of a poll on the VN Boards. As of this writing, the results were:
  • 64.2% - No more server types, I like what you have!
  • 24.5% - No scenarios whatsoever
  • 10.4% - Diminishing numbers of scenarios as Tiers increase
  • 0.9% - Scenarios only for Tier 1
35.8% of those polled dissatisfied with Scenarios
I’m a glass half-empty type of guy, so while the far majority of players polled preferred the status quo, a really really large chunk of those polled were upset about scenarios. I personally really enjoy the scenarios as an alternate form of leveling, so I am definitely with the majority.

So why the scenario hate?

At first glance, I would guess this has to do with some similarity to WoW battlegrounds. People sick of grinding battlegrounds don’t want to grind scenarios.

At second glance, I don’t see this as the issue. First of all, there are LOTS of different scenarios. Tier 1 and 2 have three each, Tier 3 has 6. (I’m not in Tier 4, but I assume more). By the time you start to get sick of one, you’ve leveled past it. Second, WAR scenarios offer immediate rewards rather than a long grind that takes 10+ hours to earn a single piece of gear.

No. I think the issue goes a bit deeper than just another WoW versus WAR comparison.

Renown vs. XP Problem
The biggest single issue I am finding with leveling by doing PQs and PVE Quests is that I get zero renown. I’ve done quite a bit of those on my Archmage and his actual Rank is 5 levels higher than his Renown Rank.

You can gain renown at a really nice clip if you do the World RvR objectives, but you don’t gain any XP. So my choices outside a Scenario are to PvE Quest and get XP or do World RvR and get Renown.

HOWEVER-- a scenario will earn you both renown and experience. Therefore leveling within scenarios offers a pretty decided advantage of accomplishing both things at once instead of choosing one or the other by Questing or World RvR.

It’s not hard to imagine that some people who want to Quest/World RvR will feel more compelled to do Scenarios simply because they are more rewarding overall. If I were one of those people, I might start to resent Scenarios as well.

The logical solution would be to make Questing + World RvR the faster alternative despite the fact that you need to do two activities rather than just one.

Mark, in the remote chance you just read that, that doesn’t mean you should nerf XP gain/renown gain in Scenarios. It means that you should INCREASE the XP gain and Renown gain for World RvR and Quests. (Don’t nerf me, please...)

The real population imbalance problem
I wrote last week that part of the problem with scenarios is that they make the population imbalance problem much worse in World RvR. The basic idea is that they take people out of the world population and put it into an instanced population that is balanced.

If you have 80 Order and 100 Destruction and 60 of each side join a Scenario – the world population imbalance changes to 20 Order and 40 Destruction. It remains a 20 person gap, but where Order was previously outnumbered by 20%, they are now outnumbered by a force twice their remaining size. You might be able to overcome a 20% delta, but a 2:1 ratio is severely problematic.

The issue is that players are being pulled into an instanced scenario in equal parts which leaves the remaining population in an even more imbalanced state. There is really no solution to this problem other than not having scenarios at all. (Interestingly, that option came in at 24.5% of the poll).

How many people are seeing the full game?
I mentioned my Archmage is five levels above my Renown Rank. I’ve been to every zone for all the Tiers lower than my level and done some questing in each of them. I’ve completed all quests for at least one of the WAR stories in each tier (T1 – High Elf/Dark Elf, T2 – Dwarf/Greenskin).

On my Bright Wizard, I have leveled almost exclusively by doing Scenarios. I’m almost done with T2 and my Renown Rank is almost the same as my actual level. I have yet to see/complete any of the other T2 content outside of a few quests in Chapter 6.

Technically, my Archmage has “done more” than my Bright Wizard and yet they are fairly close to the same level of progression. The BW has less Tome unlocks, but the importance of the unlocks still remains to be seen. I have done a ton of unlocks on my AM and only have a couple of tome tactics unlocked that are only useful for PvE questing that my BW doesn’t even do.

If I am Mythic, I might be a bit concerned that some players aren’t actually playing my game – just the scenarios.

Trust the polls?
One issue with trusting polls is that they rarely represent a random sample. This is particularly true of internet polls that are pretty easy to game by voting multiple times (clear cookies & revote).

More often, a few interested parties simply go out and tell all his like-minded friends about the poll to go vote. The result is that you get a sample that is heavily populated with parties particularly interested in the topic being polled.

In other words, anyone upset or irritated about scenarios is more likely to vote in a poll about concerning scenarios than someone who is perfectly happy about it. It’s really another form of the squeaky wheel gets the grease attention that is for prevalent on forums (official or unofficial).

Clearly there is an issue, but 35.8% is certainly an exaggeration. How would you fix it?

1 comment:

potshot said...

Probably the best summary of this I've read so far.

Your description of the impact of the scenario population is spot on, but I'd also mention that you probably take a fair number of people in the queue effectively out of the world too since they might just be standing around the warcamp to do the repeatable scenario quest and kill quest turn ins.

I had hoped that gaining rank, renown and influence would be largely "agnostic" meaning that I could just play in whatever style I felt at a particular time (or circumstances permitted) and neither be favored nor penalized.

The most fun I've had was participating in a Tier 2 keep defense. Good renown, lousy XP, no influence but lots of fun.

Couple the open world "disincentive" with the appalling serverwide communications and even if there is open world RvR going on, many players will never hear about it.