Sunday, February 15, 2009

Let's Talk Attunements

The A Word. Attunements. Some people love them, others hate them. The ones who love them are generally those that have done them, and the ones who hate them are those that haven't (yet), or can't (ever). I have no problem with attunements, but there need to be a few guidelines in place to make the best of them. They can actually be a huge 'plot point' in the game that would otherwise be ignored, as long as the point is building plot... and not just making someone jump through 12 hoops.

WoW has had a pretty colorful lot of attunements, and some ranged from 'totally feasible' to 'facepalm frustrating'. Memorable moments include trying to attune for Onyxia, and having PUGs roll need on the one or two drops of blood from Drakkisath. This was back when loot dropped and everyone actually discussed what to do next, mind you, but frustrating nonetheless. Of course, back then, UBRS was what you ran if you weren't in MC, but yeah. I digress. Let's take a step back and really think about this for a second.

An attunement is a cock block, for lack of a better term. You can't even zone in to Dungeon 54g without being attuned first. Some come in the form of a Key, and only require one party member to be attuned. Others require the whole raid (or party) to have completed some quest chain before they can zone in. Places like Karazhan used to be the latter, but now have switched to the former. Now someone needs the key to Kara, but anyone with the key can be the designated 'door bitch', standing outside and letting everyone in. That in and of itself is a huge failing of the system (as if anyone runs Kara anymore, lol?). Even moreso, anyone wishing to try and solo Karazhan without the key can just die on the front doorstep (by slooowly having the ghosts there beat on their naked body), and then rez inside-the-gate-but-not-inside-the-portal. So... suicide defeats Kara's attunement altogether.

I'm seeing conflicting design principles at work, here.

More recently, though, attunements have been dropped from the game altogether. I'm not going to turn this into a Casual vs Hardcore thing; to me it's more of a Timesink vs Having Fun thing in the end. No one wants to be forced to run 20 dungeons in order to run dungeon number 21. Especially not when you just joined a guild, they're inviting you to dungeon 21, and you have to decline and try and PUG numbers 1 - 20 alone. That sucks. I can totally understand where the players and Blizzard are coming from on this front.

BUT!

Making attunements obsolete is silly. You can still have them, just make them fun or interesting unto themselves, and the problem solves itself. Yes, you may have to decline the raid invite right now, but this time tomorrow you'll be able to accept, and not because you found 87 PUGs for:

(for Karazhan):

  • Shadow Labs (350 lockpicking on Slab's Door, or a Key from Sethykk Hall's last boss)
  • Arcatraz (again, 350 LP or the 2 part Arcatraz key, which I've NEVER gotten on any of my zillion toons because everyone hated Botanica, not to mention that Arc required a flying mount as well to even get to, so +5000g)
  • Steamvault
  • Durnholde, which requires a silly 'follow me around the CoT and listen to me speak very slowly before you can zone in, while the rest of your PUG waits', and which you need to run once to unlock...
  • Black Morass
  • plus the various quests themselves, which are mostly soloable
...and all of this is for the 10 man entry level raid in Burning Crusade. To even set foot inside! That this system was axed makes perfect sense to me.

Serpentshrine Cavern required a heroic Slave Pens run, then the killing of Gruul and Nightbane (which required attunement for Kara, but you weren't going to SSC with Kara gear anyway, so yeah).

Tempest Keep required a (decently lengthed) quest chain in SMV, and then three heroic runs (Shattered Halls, Slab, Arc), all which had their OWN attunements to even get keyed for the regular versions of, plus rep grinds required to enter them on heroic mode.

After getting in both of those, you would kill their end bosses (no easy feat), and were granted access into Hyjal.

Black Temple had you killing the first boss in Hyjal, as well as a bunch of huge separate questlines.

So yeah. That was BC. In Vanilla WoW, we had Onyxia's attunement, MC, BWL, and getting a key made for UBRS (which to this day I've never done), among others. There's been this overarching theme to WoW that in order to get to the good part, you needed to do a bunch of crap first.

Fast forward to now, where a lot of this has been dropped. It began at the end of BC, when they realized the same thing was happening to a huge chunk of their content that happened to Naxxolicious in Vanilla WoW. They slaved over hot mouse pointers all this time to create elite high end content for the raiders to enjoy, but not every person could be fucked to complete 25787 quests in order to zone in and try fighting the bosses. The content was being wasted.

Look at this chart, this is how you actually got attuned for BT:

(click for full sized ridiculousness)

Anyone in their right mind that looks at that just rolls their eyes and laughs (or cries?). The fact that the little circles don't even show the required quests needed to move from circle one to two makes it even worse. Those that actually DID this did not support the game. They played it, yes, but when people talk about WoW, and throw the 11 million number around, they aren't referring to those people. It was such a tiny fraction of the playerbase that it didn't matter.

All I'm trying to get it here is that I get it. And if you honestly don't, then you aren't playing a game when you log in to WoW. You're trying to kill yourself with WoW. Death by stomach ulcer. That's you. You are not the target demographic. Again, for simplicities sake I'm not going to go into the QQing over this. I fully understand why they did this. If you don't (or more likely, are trying to argue why what they did was wrong), then me explaining piecharts isn't going to sway you.

And yet! I still stand by the fact that attunements as a design tool are a huge *idea* that shouldn't be ignored. You can explore the lore of the area, and hint at something as yet unseen, but require diligent effort on the raid's behalf to unlock it. I think things like the attunement for Nightbane is just about perfect. You're already in Kara, and you finally kill the last boss. Malchezzar grans you entry to that raid's bonus boss. In my previously mentioned Black Dragonflight encounter, or my still unpublished Green one, I feel like those are the best ways to go about that. Either by having the last boss grant access, or (even better) by having a random drop that you collect 100 of and forge a key from. I particularly like the latter, but there's a few problems with it. One being that it requires farming of the instance, but in a raid environment, that's what people do. We don't need to pretend they don't... that's a pretty core gameplay mechanic. The repeated beating of the same content is something that just happens in MMOs. By having the item (when it drops) lootable by everyone in the raid (and the item being soulbound), you build up an individual attunement for your character. It appeases the crowd that thinks you shouldn't be able to just join a PUG and kill Nightbane your first time in Kara, and it allows people to progress each time they zone in to an instance.

What are a few other ideas we could do with this? Make it so instead of being granted "the Nightbane key", you earn one "Dungeon Z Bonus Key", and have the dungeon contain three Bonus Boss Doors. You can choose which boss to unlock for that raid ID, and next week you could unlock something else instead. As you farmed the instance, you would earn enough for two bonus keys, until eventually you could clear the entire place when you had enough to open all three doors in one reset (which would unlock a final one!). This isn't so much attunement as just gating access to various encounters, and spacing it out. Nihilum doesn't zone in and kill your expansion in 27 minutes, because they need to pace themselves, same as everyone else. There's always more encounters to be squeezed out of the same dungeon. Say you hate Karazhan, though, and have moved on to Boopy Joopy Castle. That's cool, grats. You don't need Tier 4 anymore, but there were people that only raided Kara the entire BC era, because they could only scrounge ten people up, or it was a good difficulty for them. Or they just farmed badges. Give them a reason to keep going back, or at least something new once in a while when they do.

Things like the opening of Sunwell gates used this mechanic to sread content out over a longer period of time. That or the opening of the AQ gates... server wide events that had everyone pitching in to "attune the server". That's a cool idea, but I never really took part in these events, because it all felt so abstract. While I'm sure there were hardcore raiders standing around making runecloth bandages all day to contribute to the war effort (for AQ), I would just check on the webpage from time to time and see how far along we were.

One thing I'd love to see would be guildwide attunements. Give people a reason to contribute to the guild itself, and a reason to stick around after it's done. You could have items that would bind to the guildbank once placed inside, and once enough were in the gbank, the GM could right click it to form a key. Officers would take a one use copy of this key with them to unlock a dungeon for that weeks ID, and only people with your guild tag could zone in to that ID. I dunno, this is just random brainstorming at this point.

The point of all this is that I think soloable quest chains relating to the dungeon's lore are not a horrible thing, though. If you aren't attuned, you still can't accept the invite I mentioned oh so long ago. But if you start now, and go do the chain, you can be ready for the next invite. I think that's an important motivator go get people out and playing the game. If it's a common chain, more people are pitching in and making groups to knock that chain out even faster, but grouping shouldn't be a strict requirement... no running dungeon 3, 4, and 5 to enter 6. That just feels like you're being herded thru the velvet ropes at the bank. A simple quest or chain shows that you want to be granted access, and are willing to take the time to do it, and allows you to shed light on important characters you'll meet inside the dungeon.

I'm running out of time this morning, and need to prep for a class in a few minutes, but I'm going to try and brainstorm up a few ideas for my own dungeon, and how I can handle an attunement for certain parts of it, if not the whole thing.

More later...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

first

John said...

I really like the "Bonus Boss Keys" idea.

Klepsacovic said...

In slight defense of the BT attunement process: I did a big piece of that without realizing it, as part of my normal play (I like quests and instances). If someone is daunted by the attunement diagram, I'd say, pardon my cliched words: "you're doing it wrong." I don't believe in aiming at the highest raid possible and ceasing to care about anything that doesn't lead to that one point, so I'd naturally do the attunements and whatnot along the way, and as a result, never get frustrated with them. That said, BT attunement was still ridiculous.

In defense of attunements as a general concept, I think they're a great way to 'force' some lore onto players. Without attunements we as players are very likely to wander into a raid with no clue of why we are going. Why did we kill Gruul? Well sure he's mean, but why him and not one of the other mean guys wandering around Outland? I loved the Onyxia attunement (minus the excessive running around and he stupid limited blood from Drakkisath). It gave a lot of lore, telling us about the Black Dragonflight, the Dark Horde, the danger of the Dark Iron Dwarves, and ultimately told us why we should care about this dragon who by appearance alone appears to just be sleeping harmlessly in a cave.

Ixobelle said...

one of the more frustrating parts of the BT attunement was trying to figure out where you were in it...

like you said, I did a bunch without realizing it had to do with BT at all (and to be honest, not every step is "to get to BT", such as getting the slab key, just to run slab). but having done one quest from one chain, and two in another, there needs to be a quest tracking system (that isn't a 3rd party addon) built into the game.

Larísa said...

@Klepsacovic: sadly enough (and I'm speaking from my own experience and attitude) I don't think attunement chains necessarily make you more involved into the lore. It's just obstacles, things you have to do in order to get to "the real stuff" and you kill the monsters without putting any deeper meaning into it. It isn't like you have to read all the quest texts... Getting involved into lore requires some interest and above all that you don't feel like you're always in a hurry, trying to be at the same level as the people you play with.

I wish I put more time into lore than I do. Perhaps reading a few novels can help up a bit.

Tragedyx said...

I had every attunement in game done when attunements were actually there. It's a lengthy process, but if you want to experience end game, you shouldn't be a casual. Casuals should experience entry level content, heroics, 5 mans, whatever, NOT END GAME. End game should be for end-game raiding guilds and people dedicated to committing the 47500 previous hours to quests and attunements. Consumables are even obsolete now. Goddamn I miss Vanilla / pre-nerf BC.

Such is life. Maybe their next MMO will have "Casual - Gamer - Hardcore" variety of servers, to incorporate content and gear scaling appropriately.

I hate nothing more than raiding 40 hours a week, only to see the guy who logs on 1/10th of that time in the same damn gear as myself. Where is the sense of accomplishment when you're no better than anyone else, yet you've put forth so much more effort?

Anonymous said...

"I hate nothing more than raiding 40 hours a week, only to see the guy who logs on 1/10th of that time in the same damn gear as myself. Where is the sense of accomplishment when you're no better than anyone else, yet you've put forth so much more effort?"

I cannot sympathize with this.... Go get 2200 in arena and prove you aren't a bad to get "UBER gear". The content in WoW now is a joke - casual here - 2 nights a week and we clear all content. Will probably goto 3 with Uludar. Currently working on 3 drakes... Sorry it takes you 40 hrs a week to do that. :(

Dink said...

The reason for attunements is to slow progression for hardcore raiders. I think they will always be there. A patch will come out six months later to let the casuals in.

Wasn't there talk of an attunement scroll so if your raiding guild killed the last boss, they looted a scroll and gave it to a non ttuned to get them in?