Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nerfed Brewfest '08, now with less fun

Brewfest 2007 literally brought me back to WoW. My old raiding guild fell apart trying to make the transition from 40 man raiding to 10 man raiding (with the understanding that it would need to be back up to 25 for the expansion's second dungeon). LOTRO had just come out, and I spent five months in Middle Earth. When October rolled around, I was sure I would be back in WoW soonish, but I figured I would wait until the forthcoming patch 2.3. What changed my mind was the debut of Brewfest, with an exclusive mount. I resubscribed to WoW in time to snag the Brewfest Ram for my mage. Brewfest was my first experience with daily quests, and there was a poorly worded promise that there would be a Horde mount in '08, so I was definitely looking forward to the return of the Brew.

New and not-so-improved
Unfortunately, the 2008 edition of Brewfest is shaping up to be a real disappointment. Two quests involving drunken antics that were working fine last year somehow got broken and removed from the game. The Dark Iron attacks on the Brew camps, which had to be removed from the game entirely in 2007 after people were able to rack up the full amount of tickets in minutes and others crashed the servers trying, are back but are bugged such that their rewards do not function.

Brewfest's main event, the riding of the racing ram, retains the same irritating bug that it had last year; riding past apple barrels is still a very hit or miss affair that intermittently causes your ram to slow to a painful crawl instead of removing its fatigue debuffs. (I'm guessing that this may be a latency issue - the server trusts your client on where your character is located, so a blip of latency at the wrong fraction of a second might cause the server to never acknowledge that you actually brushed the barrel on your way past.) One slightly positive change is that this non-Daily Quest daily activity is now a once-daily event instead of an invisible 12-hour cooldown, though they haven't upped the number of tokens awarded to compensate for fewer attempts.

But the real disappointment is the big payoff at the end of the line... or the lack thereof.

Cosmetic Rewards Taken from Solo Players to Reward Groups

The image you see to the side is the closest Greenwiz is going to get to having the promised Horde Brewfest mount. Instead of offering the mount for sale to anyone willing to run the races repeatedly over a two week period, the mount is now a rare drop from a seasonal boss that requires you to bring a full level 70 group to BRD (a level 53ish dungeon). At best, you might get a handful of shots a day at this boss, and most likely you will be facing a 5-way roll if the coveted mount does finally drop. As with all random loot, some lucky player may walk off with the top prize of the Fest after a single boss fight while others may hack away at the fight for the duration of the holiday without obtaining their ride. And, of course, if you don't have the time to look for a balanced, competent group to run the boss fight with, you can forget about even trying for that nifty cross-faction ride.

The irony here is that, once upon a time, the devs suggested that raid rewards would be no better than other items in the game, only with cooler appearances (the "flaming sword" quote). This quickly proved completely false (whether intentionally or not on the devs part), as raid drops outpaced everything else in the pre-TBC game. Cosmetic items like mounts, tabards, and pets were one of the few areas in which a solo player might accomplish something relatively unique that a raider might not have. Now, in some ways, the game has come full circle. In theory, a solo player has access to BT quality gear via the heroic badge vendor, provided you're willing to do the same four daily quests every day for a 40% chance at a single badge (out of 100+ required for the best items, see you guys in a year or so when you've replaced the gear you were after with Northrend quest rewards), while most of the best cosmetic rewards seem to drop in group content.

This shift didn't occur solely to screw over the solo player. With item inflation between 5-man and 25-man group content in TBC even greater than the gap between 5-man and 40-man content before the expansion, a substantial portion of the playerbase simply doesn't need anything that the gear-ilvl curve will allow to drop in a 5-man dungeon. The only thing Blizzard CAN offer that will coax bored raiders back into BRD is a cosmetic item. Indeed, having it be a rare, one mount per 5-man group drop ensures that people actually will use the only portion of the new Brewfest content that was actually ready to go when Brewfest happened.

QQ moar noob!
The issue isn't so much that there is a reward for the group content, as that the reward was taken away from the solo content to make the group content more appealing. I would have gladly done the races every day on TWO characters (my mage, to see a gnome on a Kodo, and my warrior, to see a Tauren on anything besides the ubiquitous Kodo/Wolf/Black War Raptor) for the mounts, even though that would have represented nearly all of my daily gaming time. In its place, we have... the brew of the month club. Ah joy, consumable novelty items.

WoW Insider notes that you can do some advance legwork on not-yet-implemented Brewfest achievements, but, again, one of the achievements requires that you kill the boss (and another requires that you obtain a mount, so I hope you had one from last year or happy farming). Realistically, I'm going to do the races for another 2-3 days until I get into the brew club, and then I suppose I'll go back to Warhammer. That's a far cry from last year's account reactivation worthy event, to say nothing of the Midsummer Fire Festival.


Pidge said...

Guess I can see where you're coming from, but I have a slightly different take.

Personally I love the various holiday mini-boss fights. On my server they always drive a huge flurry of pick-up group activity in a game that has pretty much turned PUG into a dirty word.

The encounters tend to be easy enough that just about any five 70s can complete them in a few minutes and provide decent upgrades for players who aren't hardcore raiders. And each boss drops some unique "flavor" loot -- Direbrew drops the barmaid trinkets, a BRD teleporter and the mounts.

Since the event is trigered by a daily quest, a typical group can have at least five shots at the mount a day (and a really committed player could keep jumping into other groups all day long as long as someone else can summon).

Yeah, I agree it would have been even better if they'd also left the option of buying the mount with tickets. Then players could make their own choice on how to join the fun.

Still, an event that encourages grouping, that's easy enough that not everyone has to be in Tier 6 or have just the right spec, that super fast (teleport right to boss, no trash mobs to clear), and gives you repeated shots at some worthwhile loot isn't so bad. It's still no Warhammer Public Quest, but it's a step in a more casual-friendly direction.

Green Armadillo said...

My complaint isn't that they added a fun group event to the holiday; those are good for all the reasons you mentioned. The difference between, say, the Lord Ahune fight or the Headless Horseman fight and the new Direbrew thing is that those battles were ADDITIONS to the core mechanics of their respective holidays (Bonfires and trick or treating for costumes and candies).

The new Brewfest represents addition by subtraction; Blizzard couldn't come up with anything more interesting than the mounts and so they took the mounts away from the soloable content to make the group content more appealing. (In fact, they opted to do so sometime after the PTR's ended, perhaps because they realized that an increasing portion of the playerbase doesn't need the trinkets.) Instead of the same holiday for solo players and a better one for group players, we have a much better one for group players and a much worse one for solo players.

It's especially frustrating because cosmetic rewards are the one area where Blizzard can really afford to offer neat rewards to solo players without upsetting the time investment curve.

Joggoms said...

Interesting take on that. I missed Brewfest completely last year because I was on a WoW break. I absolutely would have come back and played then if I had known the mounts would be different this year.

I think the best solution would have been the random mounts dropping as they do now (but they could have been more 'epic' looking) and making some mounts available through the regular daily questing routes.

I don't know why Blizz feels cosmetic items should be so hard to get. I guess they prefer everyone to look the same...

Cynra said...

I'm a bit disappointed with Brewfest, with some of the reasons that you mentioned. The two removed quests were probably the most popular that I can think of and the vast majority of people on my server are asking where they are because they enjoyed those quests. Also, I sadly lost my connection with the Internet last year during the penultimate day of Brewfest, thereby denying me the chance to acquire my ticket-purchased mount. While I was glad to turn in my almost four hundred tickets for this year's tokens, I was saddened that they couldn't be used to buy a mount.

And, finally, I'm just sad that the fight with Coren is so ridiculously easy. While I'm certain that the vast majority of players are enjoying their shiny new epics, none of the loot was usable on any of my characters other than for fun factor; I'm basically running for the mount and to help others who also want the mount. Having a more difficult boss -- or even the option to fight a non-heroic and heroic version, as shown in the Midsummer Fire Festival -- would alleviate the fact that I feel this to be more a grind than actual fun.

This way, both ends of the spectrum could benefit, though it does little to alleviate your concern for the solo player.

Captain The First said...

The sad part with the current mechanic is that it attracts scammers galore. People will invite you to their group to go down the boss, make you blow your quest and then drop you from the group reducing your already negligable chance to get a mount to 0.

I for one would've happily spent the entire brewfest racing to scrape the tokens together for a mount for at least 1 or two of them.

As it stands I'll settle for a pony keg and the club membership and go back to grinding levels on an alt, it's not like I am out of things to do after all.

Instead of tying me down for the full duration of the event like they did for the midsummer festival (now that one was great fun) blizzard instead sets my target at approximately 300 tokens, 175 of which I already have.

I am quietly hopeful hallow's end will be more interesting, in the meantime I'll just go to the real oktoberfest rather than the poorly implemented wow one.