Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Race/class options and rolling alts

Tobold ponders what races will be allowed to roll Death Knights. My understanding was that Blizzard was going to let EVERY race have DK's, though they might have changed their minds again in the interim. Regardless, it's the only option that really makes sense.

The holy grail for MMORPG devs is to convince players to voluntarily re-roll. Where everyone else is out of content and crying for more, re-rollers are voluntarily repeating content that already exists, and they're still paying the monthly fee to do so. This is why Blizzard made leveling changes that allow greatly increased progress in the low levels - my Fury Warrior is averaging under 2 hours per level with rested EXP, and I've never actually had a Horde this high before, so I'm sure there's room for improvement on my time. This is also why the new races in TBC were both allowed the maximum six classes each, and why attunements and rep gear have been made substantially more friendly to encourage players not to abandon alts when they ding 70.

Point being, Blizzard wants as many people as possible to try Death Knights, especially since they will probably be the only feature of the expansion available to players who don't have a current level 70 character. Why shoot themselves in the foot by cutting off racial options? Sure, we're going to see a lot of DK's running around in the days after the expansion launches (another plus - those people won't be on their level 70's competing for spawns in Northrend), but I doubt that most people are going to abandon their existing characters. (FFXI has its job system and TR has its cloning system, both of which allow players to start afresh while keeping progress from their mains, but WoW doesn't have such features and thus players are always going to be most invested in one of their characters.) If anything, perhaps the easy availability of DK's will make life easier on healers and tanks, who will be able to get a max level farming alt more quickly.

P.S. Like Tobold, I find the concept of the gnome DK amusing. I even have a name reserved for the purpose. :)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fun Specs

Probably the most frequently asked question on most WoW class forums is what spec is "best". Generally the player asking the question doesn't want the honest answer - namely that they need gear and skill, not merely a cookie cutter talent spec, before they can expect to win at PVP or get accepted to top raiding guilds. That said, they often leave out the most crucial piece of information - what do they want to DO with said spec?

For better or worse, WoW is a game with increasingly many numbers under the hood - even the pure DPS classes can no longer rely on a single spec regardless of what they're actually doing, and this situation is going to get even more pronounced with 10 more talent points and new 41-51 point talents in the coming expansion. Most classes in WoW don't get many new abilities past level 40 (my Fury Warrior projects to get only 5 new abilities the rest of the way to 70 - a 41 point talent and the four new TBC abilities in the 62-70 stretch), so the allocation of those precious talent points is becoming a bigger and bigger portion of a character's power, which means less and less room for experimentation and fun builds. The tyranny of the 21/31/41 point talents doesn't help matters either - the cost of spreading out your talent choices across two (or, Elune forbid, all three) talent trees can be monumental when it means you can't get class defining abilities like the Water Elemental.

That said, both of my level 70's are retired from group content, and that's given me the freedom to mess around with specs that wouldn't fly in a group setting. And that's the unfortunate part: both of these specs are FUN and interesting, and they'd both be laughed off of the class forums. Which is too bad, cause really, fun specs are fun. The offending setups:

Water Elemental/Master of Elements (0/18/43): My mage used to be a relatively cookie cutter 51 point Water Elemental build with 10 Arcane for Clearcasting. Clearcasting is boring. Then, as I was getting done with my PVP gear grind in patch 2.3, I realized that I was sitting on a 27% frostbolt crit rating. That makes full Master of Elements worth an 8% mana refund, arguably worth more than Clearcasting's 10% since clearcasting has a habit of proccing when the mob dies and the next one isn't in sight. Now the question was what a Frost Spec can spend 15 points in Fire on to unlock MoE, and what I'd have to give up to get there. I'm actually very happy with the results. As I discussed last time out, I've long maintained that impact is under-rated, and that was BEFORE it could proc off Molten Armor. I avoided Ignite for crowd control reasons, but with Burning Soul, the 1.5s cast time on Scorch is nigh un-interruptible, for those times when something almost dead is beating on you and you've already used Fire Blast. With gear, I'm still just above the hit cap for level 71 mobs, though I'll concede that elemental precision and frost channeling are the two big things that I just didn't have room for.

Holy Shield/Sanctity Aura (0/33/28): So my Pally's build is a bit more unusual. Real Tankadins don't have room for that many points in Ret, cause they need to stack over 41 points in Prot. Pallies who want to swing a 2-hander usually go full Ret. Thing is, I don't like Ret much. Sure, stuff dies very fast, but in full ret gear you've got no mana pool, no spell damage (which means crappy heals), and not much in the way of defenses or crowd control. I play this build stacked with Spell Damage and Defense gear, a combo you'd never ever see on anything other than a main tank in a raid group. In my normal gear, I'm almost immune to crits by level 71 mobs (I can get up to immunity vs level 72 and 73 mobs relatively easily if I actually want to tank), I have over 33% pure avoidance while swinging a 2-hander, I'm a weapon switch macro away from 600 +healing, and I'm another weapon switch away from being able to cast Holy Shield (around 500 spell damage, which is more than plenty with Sanctity Aura to boost it) if I get a bunch of adds and need more durability - I am my own crowd control. With Sanctified Judgement, I don't find myself drinking every few mobs if I'm judging Vengeance, Righteousness, etc. (Yes, I'm a level 70 Pally and I use a 2-handed weapon with Seal of Righteousness as my primary offense.) It's a big improvement in DPS over the pure tankadin build without giving up much survivability, and I could probably still tank anything up to heroics (if I actually knew how).

Meanwhile, my leveling characters are stuck with boring cookie cutter builds, because they're trying to unlock their key talents first and foremost. I wonder what Blizzard is going to do about Death Knight talents, with DK's starting somewhere below level 70 (but previously stated to be above 55). I can't imagine starting a brand new character and immediately being presented with the choice of how to assign 50+ talent points, but I can't imagine how they'll be able to differentiate the DK's class roles sufficiently without the full 71 talent points. But that is another story.

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Characters: Let Me Show You Them, Part 2 (Greenwiz Pre-TBC)

Previously, I discussed how I wound up with a level 50 Pally a guild that was gearing up towards raiding back in early 2005. I was, however, getting pretty darned bored with the DPS, and it occurred to me one day that it would help my unfortunate Blacksmithing habit a bit if I had a level 35 alt to transmute my very own [Arcanite Bar] supply. As it happened, I had a level 1 gnome mage bank alt, named Greenwiz because all of my alts were named Green-"something" where "something" was somehow descriptive, and I'd enjoyed playing the mage in beta, so I decided to take him out of Ironforge. Greenhammer did eventually hit level 60.... in February of 2008. And they say Pallies level slowly.

The mage died a lot - indeed, even more than mages do today since +spell damage gear wasn't really something that was in the game much in the early days, and you need to do more damage when your life depends on killing foes quick before they squash you. But in other ways, the WoW mage was a lot of fun. I've tried just about every character in the game, and solo play with a mage takes a certain degree of finesse. You don't have a pet, a suit of heavy armor, self-heals, or escape into stealth to save you, just your own abilities to keep your foes from getting to you for long enough to kill them.

I leveled as an Arcane spec (at the time, you needed 18 points in Arcane to get Evocation and to make your Arcane Explosion instant cast, so I figured I might as well keep going to the top). I eventually picked up a Fire sub-spec for Impact and Pyroblast for pulling purposes. Both talents are under-rated by the mage community for solo play to this day - an impact proc means two seconds of uninterrupted casting, and the Pyroblast -> POM Fireball (at the time, Pyroblast had a cooldown) -> Fireball -> Fireblast combo is generally more than enough to snipe down any single non-elite mob, which you'll get done before they even get to you if Impact procs.

Anyways, I eventually made it to level 60, announcing to /guild that I was tired of Blizzard's slow updates and would not be leveling Greenwiz anymore in protest until they got off their tail ends and released the expansion. I had some misgivings about moving into the raid game - partially cause I was no where near ready for it in terms of skill or gear, and partially cause I didn't really want to play on a schedule. None the less, I was in a raiding guild and the level 60 endgame was nothing if not "raid or die", so a-raiding I went.

Phoenix Syndicate was a great guild, and I'm very glad they put up with me. In all honesty, I had no business being in a raiding guild at all, much less one that was attempting top end content. I generally didn't do much in the way of farming consumables. I did make an effort to enchant good quality gear as I got it, cause enchants don't go away every single time you die (if you haven't raided, know that you die a lot), but realistically I was well behind the curve because I had re-rolled and landed in Molten Core nearly directly after leveling since the guild wasn't running many official 5, 10, and 15-man zergs anymore. I dunno if they kept me around because the were too nice to punt me, or if I got some points for showing up for the jobs no one else wanted (somehow, there always seem to be empty slots available on nights that promised lots of painful death and no loot - at least until Naxx came along, even a woefully undergeared and soon to be dead player was still generally better than an empty slot) or what.

That preface aside, I definitely had some good times during my raiding career. The company was good, which probably played a bit part in it - I haven't had anything like it since, and that may have something to do with why I've been more willing to up and leave games as I run out of stuff to do in them. I arrived late in the progression through MC (the screenshot above, of a Domo attempt, was my very first raid, as the guild was working on Rag - see previous comment about how there was sometimes empty space for the ill-prepared on learning nights), but I got to be there for our entire journey through BWL, and the early portions of AQ40 and Naxx we cleared before the expansion.

Honestly, though, I probably had more fun with the 20-man raids - raids we were technically speaking overgeared for. As a graduate student, I put up with a lot of delayed gratification in real life - projects failing repeatedly for weeks on end before (hopefully) finally coughing up the data I needed. A night or two of learning how to kite Ossirian, I was prepared to deal with, but literally weeks of trying to figure out Anub'Rekhan were more than I had patience for.

At the same time, though our kills of Huhu and Instructor put us at one point as high as 8th on the server guild rankings, I think PS hit the dedication wall. The level of commitment we expected simply wasn't high enough to beat encounters like the Twin Emps, or, really, most anything in Naxx. This wasn't our fault, and the officers did all they could through some trying circumstances (with many of our best jumping ship to faster-moving guilds, further slowing our progress). It's just the direction Blizzard chose to take the raiding game in, away from content anyone could beat by showing up (provided at least the MT and had the requisite resist gear and a good healer or two) and towards content that taxed groups to the limits. Ironically, smaller raids in the expansion would mean that even the entry level content would be harder - with a 10-man group size, Blizzard doesn't have to worry as much about you stacking your raid with 10 tanks, certain Pally incidents notwithstanding.

There were some good times to be had in WoW@60. Getting my epic horse (as a gnome, remember) really felt like an accomplishment in a way that even my epic flyer didn't at 70 due to the comparative ease of getting gold and the number of other things to do while earning gold. AV rolled out with rep rewards that were actually somewhat useful in bridging the gap between crappy leveling items and raids. I eventually powered my way to "Knight" status in the old PVP system, just so I could say I got into the barracks back when this was still moderately exclusive. Still, I think I would have quit well before the expansion if not for the company.

One last war story, of probably my only moment of shining glory. I will always remember the night I got the [Head of Nefarian]. Patch 2.0 had just rolled out, breaking all of the major raiding add-ons a month before the release of an expansion that would render all raid loot obsolete. I had been practicing doing without De-cursive in favor of a click-casting addon for a while, and it wound up paying off. I, in an ice block, was the only player capable of decursing to survive Phase 3 of the Nefarian fight. It had been a long night, the boss had that atrocious 15-minute respawn timer, and it had been announced that we would have to give up if this last attempt failed. As a DPS class, it isn't often that it's so abundantly clear that the whole fight hinges on you. Sure, if the raid wipes at 1% and you weren't near pulling aggro, you could have done more, but that's hindsight. Right then, until the end of that fight, either I was going to keep the main tank decursed or everyone was going to die and the night would end in failure. And this was something I had never done before and wouldn't even have really known how to do if I hadn't been practicing before the patch hit. It was probably the most stress I've ever had in WoW, and I'd never ever want to do it again. But I'm never getting rid of that [Master Dragonslayer's Orb] either.

All that said, I don't think I've ever anticipated any video game, book, movie, or anything the way I anticipated the launch of The Burning Crusade, the expansion that would save me from the day to day life of raiding, or so I believed. But that is another story.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Solo Rewards and the Cherry Picking Problem

While I've been off finishing up my (real life) dissertation, there has been breaking news in the World (of Warcraft). In the latest patch now hitting the test realms, Blizzard has added personal arena rating requirements to both arena and non-arena rewards that did not have rating requirements in previous seasons and has removed one of the five sources for Shattered Sun Supplies, the daily quest reward that has a mere 10% chance to drop a coveted [Badge of Justice]. These two stories tie together in that each relates to the problem of players cherry picking rewards. In each case, the decision makes sense, but in each case it also hits the solo player population harder than Blizzard may be thinking (or caring, as the case may be) about.

The solo daily quest in question, The Multiphase Survey, in all honesty shouldn't have had even a 10% chance at a badge reward to begin with. The quest consists of flying for 2 minutes, putting on a hat, clicking the hat six times, and flying (or hearthing/teleporting/etc) back, typically without the need to fight anything. If you're an engineer, you even get to cash in on some free motes of air from clouds en route, and cooks have a 25% chance of the daily cooking quest being located right next door, for another easy 10G and some meat.

Nerfing this particular quest reward isn't the issue. The issue is that, if you are a solo player relying solely on daily quests for badges, removing one of the five quests means that the (real world) time you will need to spend per reward is increased by 20%. In practical terms, the time to obtain a 15 badge item goes from 30 days to 37.5, a 20 badge item goes from 40 days to 50, and a 100 badge item (if you were nuts) goes from an already crazy 200 days to a whopping 250. There was no need to nerf the rate of badge gain for solo players. There was, however, arguably a need to nerf the rate of badge gain for players clearing Karazhan for 22 badges per week, and for players clearing the daily 5-man heroic dungeon for 5-6 badges per day. Blizzard did not want to remove the incentive for players who have progressed past the likes of Karazhan and the Daily heroic to do those things, so instead they nerfed the free-standing quest that anyone can do.

Likewise, the Arena reward system has been problematic since its inception. Blizzard rolled out a system where losing 10 matches per week awards points that can be spent on decent quality gear and then were SHOCKED, SHOCKED when players started losing 10 matches per week, quality players started renting out their services to improve the rating of crappy teams so said teams would earn more points, win trading scandals emerged, etc. The new rules won't eliminate all of those abuses, but they will require that players artificially boost their arena rating in addition to artificially acquiring points before they can actually purchase items.

The part of this decision that was extraordinary was the choice to apply personal ratings to the new honor gear. By design, Blizzard has always left a few item slots on the old school honor system, where anyone can queue (AFK or otherwise) and slowly obtain enough points to purchase items without the need for organized arena teams. Requiring an arena rating to unlock a battleground reward item is like requiring a 10 man Karazhan raid to unlock a 5-man heroic dungeon - you need to already be doing a HARDER activity in order to be rewarded for doing an EASIER one.

Now in practical terms, this change won't affect much for this arena season. The existing S2 arena gear will drop down to the honor system, the S4 belt, neck, and trinkets will be available for honor as always, and the only change will be that the S4 boots, ring, and bracers will not be available to players who do not have an arena team. But the real question becomes whether arena ratings will be required for battleground rewards of the future. We probably won't have the answer to this question for a year or more - the expansion should hit before the end of the next arena season, and then there'll be at least one season with level 80 blue items as battleground rewards before we have to start wondering about what happens when arena rewards trickle down to the battleground general public. But, if the S4 ratings requirements are an indication of what Blizzard would LIKE to do in the future, the implication is that battleground PVP will no longer award anywhere near as many rewards as it currently does. Another avenue for a solo player to continue advancing their character at the level cap may be severely hampered.

As I said at the top, these changes aren't actually about whacking solo players. These changes are aimed at keeping much more serious players from gaining rewards too easily. There is actually a solution to this dilemma: lower quality rewards. The Shattered Sun Supply box had to be limited to 5 daily quests and a mere 10% drop rate on badges because those badges are good for ilvl 141 epic rewards. Meanwhile, most solo players who haven't spent time in the battlegrounds entered patch 2.4 wearing ilvl 115 rare rewards AT BEST.

Imagine if, instead of the Badge of Justice, the box had a chance to drop a Shattered Sun Badge good for purchasing ilvl 120 rare items. Say you put the Shattered Supply Box on every single Shattered Sun daily quest (instead of forcing players to do the same 5, soon to be 4, daily quests every single day cause those are the only ones that have badges), and it had a 100% drop rate for the Shattered Sun Badge. Even with those favorable conditions, the time to obtain a single reward that cost 100 badges would be far greater than the time it would take to get the same reward from a 5-man heroic dungeon run, and all the rewards would be safely below the quality of even the lowest end Karazhan raid loot. At the same time, many of the players who PVP now and hate it would have something else to do at endgame, removing much of the need for cheating the PVP system for rewards.

So why doesn't Blizzard implement low end rewards for low end players? Perhaps they're hoping that if they don't give the low end players any alternatives, some of them will move on to higher end content or re-roll instead of quitting. (Hint: I'm currently working on plan B, and it's fair to say that Blizzard needs to have something more compelling than a fourth level 70 character if it expects to keep getting paid after number three is done.) Perhaps they simply don't have the time to design content that won't be done by high end players (even though they do have the time to design content that will ONLY be done by high end players), and screwing over the solo crowd by pricing the rewards at a level that only the high end can afford is just the collateral damage.

But what is clear is that, in a game that markets itself heavily towards the solo crowd, Blizzard needs to have some better tricks up its sleeve for its next expansion or their subscription numbers are going to suffer. But that is another story.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mo' Money, Less Timesink?

Last week, Relmstein postulated that Blizzard might be using gold rewards from in-game daily quests as a kind of a Federal Reserve rate for World of Warcraft. That post was what finally pushed me over the edge to realizing that I should really have my own blog if I'm going to post paragraphs of commentary on issues like these. So I suppose it's only appropriate that I devote some time to talking about it here now as the topic continues to attract coverage and blogspace.

There is no question that World of Warcraft's patch 2.4 introduces more gold into the game economy - players can do more daily quests that before, and receive cash rewards for doing things they would probably have been doing anyway in the process. This is precisely what I mean when I talk about the Player versus Developer (PVD) game - the developers made a decision to increase the rate at which player activity results in gold. Relmstein posits that this action may have been to make money easier to obtain legitimately, and thus deter the gold selling industry. I doubt that this was the only reason for the changes, but I'm sure that Blizzard won't be shedding any tears if their changes hurt the market for gold sellers, given recent discussion of what fighting the sellers costs them.

Tobold entered the fray to examine whether in game inflation should hurt gold farmers. He points out that fixed cost activities, such as the purchase of epic flying mounts, become more accessible to players, while costs of items set by the player economy (including consumables, gear, etc) can be expected to rise as inflation happens. I think he's right about patch 2.4 being a big old bundle of bribes to try and keep players interested until the expansion comes out. By adding more money with which to purchase things, and making some things that previously could not be purchased saleable (for example, [Primal Nether]), the developers have created more for people to do.

That said, this PVD approach is not entirely without drawbacks. On my Paladin, I am making a point of doing the four (soon to be five) daily quests that can award a [Badge of Justice] every single day, in the hopes of amassing the 15 required for the [Libram of Repentence]. I'm not doing those quests at all on my Mage, and find my nominal main 10K rep behind my alt as a result. The number of badges it would take me to obtain any item that would be an upgrade for my mage, multiplied by the half a badge per day one can expect from doing five dailies with a 10% chance of dropping a badge, represents far more effort than I'm willing to put in for the magnitude of the upgrades involved - running all the quests on both characters every day would literally occupy all the time I have in which to play the game (actually, more than I have at the moment). Tobold appears to agree - he's actually SELLING precious badges, because he feels that the cash is more valuable to his alts than the incremental upgrades are to his main.

What I'm getting at is that there comes a point at which the time/benefit analysis becomes prohibitive, and players give up instead of spending more time. This doesn't merely affect endgame gear grinds either. Tobold observed that players are not farming primals anymore because the income they can earn from selling the primals is less than the income they can earn in the same time doing dailies. This too is a PVD decision. The developers create content, and the players decide whether to use it. I'm actually doing fewer daily quests now than I was before the patch of inflationary doom, because I'm out of things I'm willing to spend money on.

This is fine. I have a Horde alt I'm slowly leveling, and now I have a blog of my very own, where I can spend time writing about the game instead of playing the game. But is this what the developers had in mind? Probably not. I suspect that some of the structural flaws in the 2.4 additions exist because the developers felt the alternative would do too much to undermine the low-end raid game, but that is another story.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My Characters: Let Me Show You Them, Part 1 (Greenhammer pre-TBC)

I suppose it's only fair that, as a gaming blogger, I say a bit about my characters so you'll know where I'm coming from. This may take a while.

I wasn't in the closed beta for WoW, but during the various open stress tests and open beta I was able to level every class in the game to about level 10-12 or so. My favorite at the end of that time was the Paladin. At such low levels, anyone who can equip a 2-handed weapon can look forward to decent amounts of damage, and Pallies have arguably the most survivability of ANY class, especially in that level range. And so, Greenhammer, human Pally of Hyjal server won the footrace to become my first main.

In many ways, life was good. WoW was new and I was experiencing it for the first time. I became a blacksmith/miner, perhaps not fully appreciating the cost/benefit of that decision. Like most fledgling Alliance Pallies in those early days, I took the appearance of a giant hammer - a quest reward called Verigan's Fist, as a sign that I should work with two handed weapons as a retribution spec (with 10 points in Holy for the nigh uninterruptible heals). Problem is, I found it boring. Back in those early days, Retribution DPS consisted of pushing three buttons, waiting 30 seconds for your seal to run out, and repeating (unless you needed to stop and heal). At level 40, fresh off my free mount (100 G was a really large barrier in those early days, it's funny that now it's less than an hour's income at 70, and as a result a new character can easily obtain the needed cash by selling stuff people want for their alts, but back then that free mount was a HUGE deal), I respecced Holy to become a Shockadin.

Holy spec was definitely more interactive than Ret felt, but right around that level range the amount of HP mobs has rises significantly, and the Pally's already low DPS doesn't quite keep pace. Moreover, there was almost no spell damage gear in the game at the time, so the base damage of Seal of Righteousness what what you got. I lasted about 10 levels. I hit level 50 in March of 2005, bored out of my mind. At this point, I realized that I was going to need Arcanite Transmutes to continue leveling blacksmithing (which I still had not recognized as folly). This prompted a fateful decision.

As an aside, I met up with some folks on the forums at World of War . Net and we formed a guild called the "Part Time Addicts" when the game launched. The guildmaster played a Shaman, but his wife played a Pally. The Guild Master quickly developed the impression that Pallies were overpowered because - from watching his wife play - they were so hard to kill. I'm guessing he either didn't notice or didn't care that they took so long to kill stuff that it was quicker to play another class that died occasionally; perhaps the regular combat was too boring to watch someone else do it. Well, this guy was nothing if not opinionated, and unfortunately we had another Paladin in the guild who was ALSO opinionated. The two fought over whether Paladins were too powerful, somehow the guildmaster's wife got mentioned (/facepalm), and somehow my very first online gaming guild ever literally broke up over a "nerf Pallies" argument.

The folks who were left debated reforming the guild (dubbed the "Hylanders", after the Hyjal server), but ultimately decided to join a guild called Typhon's Eye. I wasn't sure about this - TE was large and seemed to be planning to go on to endgame group content that didn't interest me. But I didn't have anywhere else to be, so I followed them. Well, a week later, TE merged with another, similar sized guild called Phoenix Syndicate for the purpose of getting large enough to raid. Though I'm not sure if I ever officially passed whatever membership requirements TE would otherwise have put me through, this merger effectively grandfathered me into what became the largest raiding guild on our server.

But that is another story.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

First Post!

Welcome to Player Versus Developer!

I've got a somewhat neglected blog of my own, but I didn't really want to clutter it with constant MMORPG chatter that maybe 5 people reading it actually care about. Then I realized that I write several paragraphs a day in comments on OTHER peoples' blogs and news sites that, in all likelihood, no one reads anyway. If I'm going to take the time to write stuff no one reads, it might as well be for my very own site, where at least I can find it again. :)

So why is my blog called Player Versus Developer? In online role playing games, people generally talk about one of two types of game play. One is Player Versus Environment (PVE). PVE gameplay is, at its heart, a puzzle game - you have a character with X abilities, which you apply to beat a scripted challenge. The challenge typically doesn't change much from attempt to attempt, so it's a question of trying until you get it right. The other type of gameplay is Player Versus Player (PVP). In PVP, you've got the same character and the same ability set, but now the goal is to beat another player. One of you is going to win, one of you is going to lose, and then you (hopefully) play again.

Regardless of which type of gameplay you prefer, MMORPG's revolve around converting time spent playing into a reward. That reward might be leveling up, it might be advancing crafting skills, it might be earning purely cosmetic titles and rewards, it might even be throwing an in-game tea party for your in-game friends. But if players are doing it, there's probably a reason why, and these reasons are typically influenced by a third group... the game's developers.

Player Versus Developer (PVD) is my term for the incentive structures behind online games. Participating in a raid is a PVE activity, joining a battleground is a PVP activity, and, well, spending time on blogs and websites figuring out how to get the most in-game rewards out of the least in-game time is a PVD activity. Unlike PVP, where the two sides are essentially playing the same game, the two sides of PVD do very different things. Players generally want to get the most rewards for the least time because, well, more is more than less. Developers generally want to design content that players will enjoy, but they also want that content to LAST since their paychecks are being determined (indirectly I would presume) by how many players stick around. Updating the game with patches and expansions is the developer's side of PVD - determining whether and how to use it is the players'.

And how all this applies to day to day life in MMORPG's? That's what this blog is going to be about. Welcome!