Thursday, January 7, 2010

Occulus and How WoW Can Make Vehicles Fun

World of Warcraft's Occulus is a beautiful instance. It's wide open to the sky, designed in 3 dimensions and otherwise breaks the mold that much of WoW's 5-man instance stable has set. And yet, it's widely considered to be a failure. I recently read one blog post about this that made some excellent points about why it was a failure. I'd like to analyze that a bit deeper and then discuss what I think the future of vehicles could be (yes, I think they have a promising future in 5-man instances and even raids).

Occulus often starts this way: 5 people zone in. 2-4 of them immediately drop group and port out. Why? Because they've done this before and they know that on average, even if they know what to do, they'll probably die at least once trying to finish the final encounter because someone won't. You see, having to get to know new abilities is a pain, but it's a one-time pain. Once you know what to do, you're all set. The problem is that you run a high probability of getting people who don't know what they're doing. They won't be like the warlock who's inexplicably doing half the dps they should be. They'll fail utterly to execute their role because they don't know what it is.

So, how do you fix that? There are three ways:
  1. Vehicles have no abilities and role is easy to understand (e.g. you're in a chopper... drive away from the boss until it fades)
  2. Vehicles have very simple abilities and are used only for a small part of the fight (think DTK final fight, but even slightly simpler and only once per fight).
  3. Vehicles are an optional element of the fight (e.g. one player must get on a giant and use a complicated set of abilities during a boss fight). This is the Wintergrasp model.
Players will appreciate these roles for vehicles because it doesn't violate the value proposition of having learned to play their class. Right now, lots of players are gun-shy of vehicles because of Occulus, but if they continue to be as fun and optional as Wintergrasp or as intermittent as DTK, I think that it will be a fun and enjoyable part of the game.