Heroic Realms – A Possible Future?

I’ve written a few posts about warcraft and difficulty, about accessibility and the endless hardcore vs casual debate. The Grumpy Elf wrote a post the other day about how removing the grind was killing the game. I then went on the forum and cast my eye down the most popular topic list. I don’t post on the forum and I can’t read too much as there are a lot of trolls there. However, I do dip in every now and again.

This thread argued that a new realm type should be created. We have pve realms, pvp realms and rp realms. Why don’t we have heroic realms? The original poster had obviously thought about what they were suggesting, as the big argument against such realms is development time. My immediate reaction was to shake my head in disagreement, but then I actually read the post all the way through, and I thought that there were some good points there.

What would the differences be?
As I said the original poster was careful in what they suggested so that it would still be the same game. Therefore the development costs to create the different realm would be minimal. In a way we already have differences between realms as pvp makes everybody flagged all the time, the city guards are different levels etc.

– Removal of LFR/LFG
This is a straight up feature removal. The argument blizz would have is that they are then depriving customers of features that they’ve paid for. However, it would be people’s choice whether to roll or transfer onto a heroic realm. The dungeons would still be accessible you’d just have to make your team yourself and travel there personally. This would hopefully increase the importance of guilds, bring back some community as people would know who was good to group with. The downside would be if you weren’t the most skilled player, however good your attitude and behaviour, then you’d probably get left out a lot. LFR difficulty wouldn’t be accessible at all which would remove an avenue to gear up. While I’d be relieved not having to enter that cesspool, it would mean all the guilds bucking for world first would have to stay on a normal realm, or they’d hinder themselves.

– Removal of gear bought by points
Again this is a straight up removal. However, blizz would have to create gear with it in mind that a section wouldn’t be accessible on heroic realms. They would need to ensure that every slot was covered by a raid drop. I know they are removing the relic/wand slot in Mists, but that slot for example I’ve always had filled bis with a valor item. That’s not so for all classes but it is for some. Also, in order to get the requisite ilevel to get into raids I’d imagine currently you’d need some justice items. That would have to be adjusted. It wouldn’t be a huge issue to do it as it could be the same across all realms, and those on normal realms would then have more drop options. Valor would be for what it was intended, to fill gaps when you’d got unlucky on drops.

– Linear raid progression (no gear resets)
This would cause a big problem with the heroic dungeon model they used in Cata. For example if Cata had had heroic realms then what would happen to the Hour of Twilight dungeons on those realms? The drops from those dungeons were the same ilevel as drops from normal Firelands. There’s three ways they could deal with that I suppose. The first way is to simply turn them off so these heroic realms can’t access them. That creates it’s own problem, when you have a patch like 4.1 where the new content was new heroic dungeons. Another way is to allow access to them but if you’re on a heroic realm they don’t drop any gear. That way you could run them for the achievements and to see the content. The last way would require rather more development time, as you could have them but they’d drop the same level of gear as the original heroics did. This would mean they’d have to code another tier of gear depending on realm type.

– No flat nerfs or optional buffs in raids
As the optional buff model in Dragon Soul can already be turned off, this functionality already exists. The blanket nerfs to T11 and T12 though couldn’t be turned off. I don’t know if blizz using the optional buff model for Dragon Soul, meant that they acknowledged that the sweeping nerf was a mistake. It was a mistake as it took away even the illusion of an option. The poster suggested targeted nerfs could be used instead, different for every boss. Personally I think that that nerf model should be the one they use everywhere, along with the option to turn it off. Sometimes the blanket nerfs can make things harder rather than easier (tentacles on Spine) and aren’t needed on certain bosses at all (ala Morchok). If they changed the nerf/buff model to be targeted then it would require no extra development time for heroic realms. If they didn’t change it then there would be more development time needed.

– Flat increase in world mob damage/health
I don’t think that this would cause too much extra development but then I don’t actually know how the game works. It would make levelling more of a challenge as you wouldn’t kill everything with two hits. You’d also have to be careful not to pull a pack whereas now you can usually take care of whatever you pull. They already alter some mobs damage and health on pvp realms, so the technology is there. As I don’t know how it’s coded it’s hard to say how much extra development time this would take.

– Removal of flying mounts and heirlooms
For the heirlooms that’s just a straight removal of something that’s optional anyway. Flying mounts would be more problematic in Cata zones (and not just in the new 80-85) as they were designed with flying in mind. Some areas are impossible to get to without flying, and they’d need to change were nodes spawn for example. Plus think of all the flying mounts currently in the game, all the flying mounts that have been rare drops from heroic raids. I understand what the poster was getting at here; make the world bigger, bring back the opportunity for world pvp etc. However, I think we’ve gone too far for this to work. It would require a lot of restructuring and I don’t think it’s worth it. In Pandaria you can’t fly until max level, that max level restriction is the only restriction I think you could put in at this point.

– Removal of tabards
The poster didn’t mention this but reputation should be harder to get. I think blizz agrees that it got much to easy in Cata as you can’t use tabards to get rep in Pandaria. A flat decrease in how much rep you get via questing would be good too on heroic realms. This would bring back the grind a little bit and making things like ‘the Insane’ actually mean something again.

What would happen with PVP?
The changes outlined above are to the pve aspect of the game. If these heroic realms didn’t allow LFR/LFG then what should happen to battlegrounds and arenas. I suppose the easy answer is that they don’t work cross realm. There would still be a queue function but due to the much smaller population of players, groups would still be advised. That answers half of the issue, the other half is pvp realms. People argue that pvp realms are harder as you can be attacked anywhere, at anytime, and by players which are harder to kill than mobs as they’re intelligent. From what little I’ve heard of pvp realms I think it mostly consists of ganking where high level players gang up on lower level players. That’s beside the point but there would still be a split between people who wanted heroic realms, but want pvp and pve beyond that. So therefore these heroic realms would have to be split themselves into pve and pvp.

My big concern with all this potential splitting, that heroic realms would cause, is the confusion to new players. How they’d lay it out in the options menu for choosing your server would have to be overhauled. Would they ask do you want normal or heroic first? Would they ask if you want pvp or pve or rp first? Should there be a heroic rp realm? Creating another type of realm, a heroic realm, makes it different but what about the differences that already exist?

How would it work?
Well if blizz decided tomorrow that they wanted to institute these heroic realms a couple of things would have to happen. There would be no point in creating whole new realms when there are so many hugely underpopulated realms as it is. Therefore the realms with the lowest population would be redesignated as heroic. The people on those realms would be offered free transfers to medium sized pve, pvp and rp servers. It doesn’t want the realm is currently designated as let the people choose what kind of server they want to switch too. Anyone who remains on the server with an active account, after a period of time say 30 days, it would be assumed that they wish to stay there. Those who have inactive accounts would be bulk transferred to one of the realms they would have had the option to free transfer too. Should the account reactivate then they would have an option, for 30 days after resubbing, to transfer to one of the other realms that was an option, or back to their original one. Therefore friends could stay together and blizz wouldn’t have been said to have lost anybody anything.

That would take care of the realms current population. Then blizz would open up free transfers to these new heroic realms from every other realm. They shouldn’t do it all at once rather do a block of realms at a time. They could then look at what realms were getting highly populated, what the faction balance was etc. and modify what transfers they offer based on that. These free transfers would be available for perhaps two weeks per realm block. Everyone would have the opportunity to transfer at this point, if they choose not to then they’d later have to pay to do it. One of the restrictions mentioned was no transfers from regular realms to heroic, which means no levelling with ease off realm and transferring on at level cap. Personally I think if someone wants the harder experience then they aren’t likely to do that. If they do then the only person they’re hurting is themselves, plus they’re having to pay for the privilege, so it would be their choice.

Any new players, after this was all set up, would have the option to roll on a heroic realm like you can on pve, pvp etc. The box that explains the difference should be a bit more obvious, and it should explain everything that would be different on that realm. The player should have to click to say that they understand before they can create their character. This way they can’t later claim that they didn’t know what they were getting into or giving up.

Who would do it?
The people chasing world firsts definitely wouldn’t. Being on a server like this with no LFR, no points gear, harder reputation grind. The increase in gear would be an advantage and they aren’t going to refuse that. The people that hearken back to the glory days of TBC would have to go for this or shut up. I admit I’d be tempted myself as potentially I think the playerbase on such a realm might be a little more mature. However, at the end of the day I like playing with my friends (who span a couple of servers) more than I’d want the changes outlined here. LFR is a cesspool but LFG isn’t that bad and when you want an upgrade, and nobody is online, then you can play on your schedule. That more than anything would stop me from going to a heroic server. Grouping with people you know will always be better, but the ability to run at times when they aren’t around is useful.

A middle ground
I do think that they’ve made some things too instant, too easy, and that they should reverse that a little. Reputations in Pandaria will be more than just slapping on a tabard which is a needed reversal. There’s also no flying until max level which is something else that I think will help. Cata is the only expansion where you could fly from the start, even in Wrath you had to wait till level 77 the first time. That was a mistake which they’re rectifying. I hope that they’ll look at the way they nerf (or ‘buff’) and alter it slightly, not holding out that much hope for that. However, they’re putting in feats of strength for beating content when it’s at it’s hardest.

I can see why a heroic realm is an attractive proposition. There are a number of potential issues but I think it could be managed without too much development time. I’ve said a number of times that the playerbase is very diverse and perhaps they need to allow that diversification a little more. Instant and easy isn’t a good thing. It’s convenient and human natures likes convenience but we don’t always like what’s best for us.

They need to put back in a little of the grind, perhaps in optional ways. The title ‘the insane’ used to be an insane thing to get, it took a very long time and a lot of effort. It still takes a fair bit of effort but nothing compared to what it once was. I feel robbed of the chance to get it legitimately. That grind is a feat of strength that players can do because they want to, it’s not an integral part of the game, and it should never have been nerfed. Now they can’t retroactively make ‘the insane’ insane again. However, what they can do is add something like what it used to be, add several things like this, give people something to work on. Players can ignore this if they want, but players that want to dig deeper would have something.

Warcraft is already a good game, otherwise 9 million people wouldn’t still be playing it. Strike a middle ground, do the impossible and keep most people happy at once. This game could be great, even greater than it already is.