Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TOR - Looking past the shiny package

Yesterday, like many I suspect, I spent a few hours playing Bioware's new MMO - The Old Republic.  I would be shocked if anyone reading this blog didn't know what I'm talking about, so I'll cut through the nonsense and get right to the heart of it.  I'll do a little compare/contrast to WoW, what I think is done right, what I think needs improving, and where we go from here.

Yeah, I've got a lightsaber

Actually I don't, it's just some stick with a few bands of metal on it.  I'm sure if I did some lore digging (or other searching) I could figure out what this is, but it's obviously some type of Jedi training weapon.  Whatever.  It almost sounds like a lightsaber, and hey - isn't building your own lightsaber supposed to be part of the Jedi training?

Right now I'm starting off with a Jedi Consular, though I'm sure I'll try all the classes at least once.  My plan is to level this Jedi up taking all the "Light" choices, a Sith with the "Dark", and then I'll probably do some combination of Republic/Dark and Empire/Light.  The fact that those choices are even possible seems pretty awesome right now.  We'll have to see how they actually pan out.

The first 3 hours

Once I finally got the game to install (I didn't pre-download), I went through the character creation process.  There was just enough cusomization, and it was pretty standard Bioware fare.  You couldn't customize your outfit, but given the changes to your outfit from gear, I'm not surprised.  Plus if you were able to design your own look, we'd have a thousand bounty hunters running around in Mandalorian battle armor.  I did notice thought that I look suspisoucly like Neo after my first few levels.  Robes, the shades (I went with the blind race, Miraluka), and even the face.  Hmm...

So, character created, I started out learning the ropes.  Really smooth, controls just like WoW (and every other MMO I'm sure), and the tooltips and hints were pretty handy.  It took a few minutes to learn what all the symbols on the minimap were (I was still looking for big ! for quest givers), and I was off and running.  I didn't spend a lot of time with keybinds or anything, I just wanted to get into it.

Voice quests

I really like the interaction with the quest givers, though I'm sure it would get old if you were running the same zone for the 14th time.  I like that there's some interaction between you and the NPC, instead of simply "go here, bring a package to Jim, and kill 15 Flesh Eaters".  While the basics of the quests are still the same (kill 10 rats, FedEx, go find something), they certainly feel different.  I'm chalking a lot of this up to the voice acting though. 


Oh my goodness, the music is fantastic here.  It changes when there's danger or combat, and it's definately "Star Wars" in feel.  I've actually been playing with the game sounds all turned on, and it's really immersive.  Also the sound effects, so stellar.  While the game was obviously developed with Lucas Arts, I do love how authentic it feels.

Of course, there's bad news

First, I'm fairly certain that Barrens chat follwed me, even though I chose to roll on an RP-PVE server.  While some of the chat text was helpful (I left it on for a bit), I was really disappointed to see that there were still Anal jokes, bad manners, etc.  I'm still trying to figure out just what credits are really worth - for example is 5,000 credits for 10 bag slots a lot?  I don't have anything to reference it with.  I mean, how much will a "mount" cost me?  Do they even have personal mounts?  I'm sure there must be, though the taxi system (and 30 min, go wherever you want hearthstone) is really nice. 

The game is also, unashamedly, a WoW clone in pretty much every aspect of gameplay.  I haven't done any grouping yet, and there are definately some features I wish WoW would adopt (area looting, please for the love of all things holy, let me loot ALL the things), but overall it is different enough to be a good game. 

Closing thoughts

I'm not leaving WoW for TOR, and I certainly don't think TOR will be a WoW killer.  Right now I'm enjoying the newness of the game in a way I haven't done in WoW for about 6 years.  There's no pressure to max out and raid, no speeding along, just enjoying the scenery.  I mean hell, I won't roll a new alt in WoW until I have all my heirlooms, and I haven't enjoyed questing for the sake of questing in a long time.  While I'm sure the new car smell will eventually be replaced by sweaty gym bags, I'm enjoying the fresh perspective on a MMO, and enjoying a new game on its merits - not as a replacement for another game.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holy Paladins - we're still not raid healers

First, I'm back from my break for NaNoWriMo.  My novel turned into more of a personal therapy writing session - so it's not going to get posted anywhere public.  I learned a lot writing it though, and I'm certainly going to try my hand at the novel that I'd intended.  With any luck I'll be able to churn it out over the next few months, though I'm not going to put myself under the time constraints of NaNo.

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about Paladin AoE/Raid healing, and why we're still not the best choice for this role.

Holy Radience

In 4.3 Holy Radiance got a drastic change from being a fire and forget AoE heal centered on the caster (with a decent CD), to being a spammable AoE heal.  This is a huge change to our AoE healing arsenal, which up to this point was limited to one AoE every 30 sec, plus Light of Dawn (more on that in a minute).  Unfortunately, it's not all pretty flowers and sparkles in HR land - there's more than one drawback.

First, HR is slow.  It's not debilitatingly slow, but it's the same cast time as our Holy Light and Divine Light.  The only upside there is that it's affected by Infusion of Light as well, so we get that haste buff.  It's also expensive, with the same cast cost as Divine Light. 

Second, the overall healing of HR isn't something to write home about.  Baseline, the spell heals for 2523 - 3205 on the initial cast, and then an additional 493 every second for three seconds.  While we can eek out another tick or so with enough haste, we're still not going to be setting any records here.  My average tick is hitting for just over 3500, however that's averaging out the total heal.  You can reasonably assume that the most you're going to see (per person) out of this heal is about 7k over a 4 second period.  In addition, HR only hits targets that are within 10 yds of your recipient. 

Finally, HR healing does not transfer via Beacon of Light (BOL).  This essentially cuts our healing in half, since every other heal in our arsenal transfers at least 50% of the healing done to our Beacon target. 

***Edit*** I was hoping to get this out earlier, but I missed the change to our 4pc set.  Originally the 20% boost for our 4pc T13 would have made HR very powerful, however this has been reduced to 5% - making it pretty lackluster.

It's not all doom and gloom either though

On the upside, through Tower of Radiance, we are guaranteed to generate a Holy Power every time we cast this spell.  Also, since HR is spammable, we can sprinkle HR throughout the raid, though it's not the most powerful AoE heal in the world.  Because of the cast time though, and the cooldown on Holy Shock, HR lines up neatly with getting a 3HP LoD off every 2 casts of HR.  This can start to become a fairly powerful combo, though it will put some holes in your mana bar.  Depending on how stacked your raid is though, this combination will provide a decent amount of healing in a short period of time.

Light of Dawn

Another change to our AoE healing was the revamp of the Light of Dawn (LoD) glyph.  Previously the glyph would let you add one target to your LoD healing, providing a very solid increase to the BoL target - if you hit all six targets.  This was mostly used in 25m raiding, as getting 6/10 players in your 10m raid to stack up in the right spot was pretty tricky. 

With the change however, 10m (and 5m dungeons) see a pretty significant boost to LoD healing.  Instead of increasing the number of players hit, the number is actually lowered - but the overall healing is increased by 25%.  This allows us to get the same kind of throughput to the BoL target, and actually heal our raid for a little more than before.  This also gives us a 4th major glyph to choose from, and it's actually a pretty solid choice now.

AoE vs Single Target - Communicate

OK, so we've gone over the base numbers for LoD and HR healing, and they don't look too bad.  They aren't stellar, but it's certainly more than we had before.  What we're left with now is deciding what our healing roles are, and where we should be focused in the raid.  A lot of this will come down to your healing team composition, but also what is going on in the raid at any given moment. 

Because HR is not transferred to your BoL target, we have to make a split second decision on what heal to use (finally!).  Here is my mental checklist, that I run through on pretty much every heal.  Fortunately, it doesn't take long, especially once you've practiced it.

  • Is Holy Shock on CD?
  • Is it raid wide damage?
  • How much damage is my BoL target taking?
  • Do I have 3 HP?
  • Where am I in the fight?
Running through this list quickly will let me determine what I need to cast.  This is important especially when we look at the damage our BoL target is taking.  Remember that Holy Light now transfers 100% of the healing done to the BoL target, instead of the 50% that Divine Light, WoG, or HS will transfer.  Because of this, I will almost always cast HL on the target if it is not my BoL target, otherwise they get a different heal.  HL costs (and heals) for about 1/3 of what DL does - but the transfer to your BoL target is what makes the difference.  Also if you're 3/3 in ToR, you're going to get that HP if you use DL instead. 


At the end of all this, Paladins are still the kings of single/dual target healing.  Our AoEs have been buffed to the point where we're no longer a hindrance when it comes to raid healing, however we're certainly not as powerful (or efficient) as any other class when it comes to pure raid/AoE healing. 

Friday, October 28, 2011


I have to admit I'm more than a little intimidated at the prospect of churning out 50,000 words in a month.  I suppose if I could just talk instead of write I'd do it easily, but coming up with a coherent story is going to be a challenge.  Part of the challenge is that my wife has her Masters in some kind of literature, and is a professional writer/editor.  Since the story isn't supposed to be polished I'll probably be ok, but she may start redlining everything.

I'm also taking a little vacation (just a week) in November, hopefully 4.3 will drop "soon". 

All in all I've been really satisfied with the Firelands, and I even got to hop in and heal H-Bael (which was nice).  I was a little undergeared, but hey, that's what makes it exciting.  I'm rapidly approaching the magical mitigation/avoidance cap in my prot set, though my ret gear is in a poor state.  It doesn't help when we have 2 plate main spec DPSers in the raid.  With the changes to the LFR loot system (which I approve of), I may have to do some runs in my off-specs just to help bump up the old iLvl. 

So here's my support for everyone who's participating in NaNoWriMo, my prayers for an early 4.3 launch, and my double prayers for an early Diablo 3 launch. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A second look at MoP

After taking a few days to really chew over the announced changes to World of Warcraft, and to really think about the annual subscription package, I realized that I'm not quite as upset as I was on Friday.  While I'm still a little miffed about some things, and I'm not going to be holding out any hope that we'll even see a Beta for MoP in the near future, I think that there are definately some good possibilities on the horizon.

Games evolve - it's part of the process

I think the first thing I had to get through my head was that despite the fact that MoP, BC, Wrath, and Cata are all "World of Warcraft" expansions, they are really their own game when you stop and look at them.  While they offer the definite plus of being able to carry your account/characters forward to each expansion, each expansion has offered us something different.  We fall into the trap though of looking back at the original release, and holding each expansion up in comparison.  We get used to a certain style of play, and then every other year or so things get shaken up - and we're back to learning our class again - at least for a couple of hours. 

Of course class changes aren't the only thing that takes place, the game changes in so many other ways - many of which we don't see or even care about.  For example if you don't PvP, you couldn't care less about Arenas - and the same goes for PvPers that don't raid.  We get so wrapped up in these changes though, that we lose sight of the fact that WoW is a game - and a pretty damn big one at that.

Do you really miss Vanilla?

I know I personally make a lot of comments about "back in the day", but I wouldn't trade what we have now for a Vanilla server.  I honestly don't think that raiding was more challenging, just a bigger pain in the ass.  You can argue all you want about the "skill" you needed to be a great healer, knowing when to downrank, when to cycle out for mana, etc. - but I don't think that really added anything beneficial to the game.  Same goes with needing a complex spreadsheet just to figure out if 5 spellpower was better than 2 intellect and 3 spirit. 

Remember Rum Tum Tuber surprise and Whipperoot tubers?  Farming out Goretusk livers just so you could get a pair of stamina buffs for the night?  Resist sets?  How much time did we spend running a level 45 dungeon farming nature resist gear so we could fight HuHu?  And the elixirs/potions required!  I'm going off memory here, but I'm fairly certain any given fight would see me taking no less than 5 elixirs as a tank - same for BC when it first launched.  Elixirs for all your primary stats, plus any that might give you an edge.  You'd take STR for the Block Value and Parry, AGI for the dodge, a flask, Attack Power for threat, STAM because you could stack flasks and elixirs, a food buff, plus anything else you could find that would give you just a fraction of a point somewhere.  I gaurantee I spent more time farming mats and grinding out raiding materials than I spend doing dailies.

None of those things make for 'better' raiders, they just make for raiders with more time.  If you really think the content is dumber now than it was then, I feel you're really mistaken.  For example let's look at Lucifron (first real radi boss in MC) compared to say, Halfus (first boss in Cata).  Lucifron saw you doing some tank swapping, cleansing curses and mind controls, and healing.  Halfus has you dealing with variable abilities based on which adds are available, and oh by the way you aren't afforded the luxury of simply assigning all your mages to be on decurse duty becuase you have 35 other riaders to deal with the different mechanics. 

When you take all the raid changes, added changes to the UI, and then toss on "Old World" flying - you can take your dreams for going back to Vanilla and toss them out the window.  Of course there are those illegal private servers kicking around out there.  You're willing to take your chances with those, after all, you're the one that has to look yourself in the mirror every day.  And hey, there's loads of entertainment to be found in pirated/illegal games - even if they are just a few years old.  Hit me up later and we'll play some M.U.L.E.

Some good, some bad

Like everything that changes, there's always going to be something that you think has changed for the worse.  I'm sure that somewhere there's a whole passel of folks complaining that the assault class in Battlefield 3 is now the class that carries medkits - but damn if the graphics don't just blow BF2 right out of the water.  I get that some cows are considered sacred, and that we should protect them at all costs - but really they're just another source of BBQ (hey Cloudpoofer, let's talk a trade - BBQ for Apple Spice).  Even a mouse will eventually find the cheese you moved, or he'll just eat your shoes.

I'm also aware that not everything that gets announced at Blizzcon makes it to the live servers.  From Dance Dance Revolution to Archeology - the changes might look one way, but be something considerably different by the time the final product comes around.  Anyone remember the original LFG from BC, or the proposed guild paths from Blizzcon 2 years ago? 

I don't know if Pokemon battles will actually go live, or how I'll actually feel about them till I see it in action (makes me REALLY wish I had the original collectors edition for that mini-Diablo) - but just like Arenas, I can choose to not participate in this activity.  Hell, unless they add in gear or something like that, Arena's still at least provide me with something I can use.  So why should I really get overly upset about someone's collectable game?

Panadas are right up there with the Karluk or whatever the walrus people are called.  I thought those guys were really dumb looking, but I'd probably still take one of them over a gnome.  I'm not concerned about them being cross factional, red is still dead - I don't need a shilouette to tell me what I'm going after.  Besides there are so many avatar changing abilities out there now that it's tough to be 100% sure what you're looking at anyway "Is that a cow or a skeleton coming after me?".  I'm sure I'll roll a Panda, and I'm sure I'll roll a monk - just as I'm sure I'll buy the game.  I can't imagine the Pandas being any more silly than gnomes or goblins.  Of course the goblin starting area WAS pretty bad IMO.

A lightbulb just went off

I just realized that my last sentence cemented in that I will definately pick up MoP, and I'm sure I'll enjoy it as a game.  I rolled a Goblin (after letting a few months go by), and I even tried a few Worgen (still never finished the whole starting 20 levels or whatever), and while I hated those experiences, I still like Cata as a whole product.  The Goblin starting zone was an abomination, and I'm actually not a fan of Goblins in general (they are better than Gnomes though), but their existance didn't ruin the game for me.  I think the Worgen "Running Wild" animation is terrible, but that also doesn't end the game for me. 

The things that WoW does right, at least for me, far outweigh the things that are done wrong.  I still find the raids challenging, and apparantly I'm not in the minority here since only a handful of guilds have killed H-Ragnaros compared to normal Ragnaros (especially pre-nerfs to the rest of the heroics). 

A final thought on the Annual pass with free D3

After my initial fears about this possibly resulting in the launch of MoP landing somewhere after next year's Blizzcon (I'm still not convinced that won't happen), I sat down with a calculator and did some quick math.  Based off the 6 month billing cycle, which comes to $12.99/mo - a year of WoW runs me $155.  I'm pretty sure D3 will run me $60, so that cuts my annual WoW bill down to $95.  So even if I want to "quit" WoW, as long as I get 7 months of enjoyable playtime out of it, the whole deal is a wash.  Even with ToR, D3, and SC2:HoTS coming out, I'm pretty sure I'll still get 7 months of enjoyment out of WoW. 


After all is said and done, I'm still enjoying WoW, I'll certainly at least try MoP, and I'm still not convinced that ToR will take me away.  Pandas won't ruin the game, and yes - I'm a fanboi.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Scariest news of the day

So today I wanted to write about how I'm making the move back to Adgamorix - my original angry bald Paladin.  I've been tanking in Firelands, healed it some more, and even have a viable ret build.  Slipping back into the Paladin role has been like putting on an old pair of shoes, fits perfect every time. 

Blizzcon goers taken hostage

Unfortunately, I can't really talk about that today.  As I'm sure you're well aware, Blizzcon started today, and there has been an overwhelming ammount of WoW info coming forth.  As I expected, the next expansion has been announced, and I'm sorry to say that I am underwhelmed to say the least.  If anything, I'm terrified. 

The only thing I can really hope is that everyone at Blizzcon, and watching the stream, is currently sitting there with a gun to their head preventing them from admitting that the news we're getting is really just the world's best April Fools joke.  Please let this be true, otherwise I'll probably be found setting fire to my authenticator if all the announced items actually go live.

Issue number one - it actually is Jack Black

Kung Fu Panda here we come.  Not only are we getting Panderans, but the new class is a freaking Monk.  Panda racial is "Bouncy - take 1/2 damage from falling", and other such nonsense.  The trailer video looked like "Kung Fu Panda" gone crazy. 

Not.  A.  Fan.

Issue number two - talents revamped again!

This one isn't really so much of an issue, as it is something that makes me laugh.  Every expansion, hell every Blizzcon, they talk about wanting to make talents count, and your decisions matter.  They wanted to move away from cookie cutter builds, and focus you more into your particular spec. 

This was a HUGE fail for Cataclysm, since the revamp to 41 points, with 31 minimum in your selected tree made for the greatest cookie cutter builds of all time.  There is little to no variation in your builds, even going from PvE Holy to PvP Holy involves shifting two or three points.  Glyphs are the same thing, there's no variation - your choices are pretty cut and dried for most classes. 

So I'm happy to see the talents changing, but I don't seen them really making any significant impact on the whole system.  I could be wrong of course.  It has happened before.

Issue number three - Pokemon gone wild

I honestly was speechless when I saw this news.  Your pets, our little non-combat pets, will now have stats and be able to battle?  And you can battle "Masters" to get more powerful abilities?  I really have no response for this.  This is so far away from what we have now, much less what Vanilla was, that it's actually difficult for me to comprehend it on any rational level. 

My only hope

Much like the announced changes to guilds, the Archeology system, and many other sweeping changes announced at Blizzcons of yesteryear, I can only hope that many of these changes go the way of the Dance Studio and dissapear into the Twisting Nether.  Maybe I'm totally wrong and they will be the greatest changes ever, but I kind of doubt it.  To be perfectly honest, if I hadn't seen the new Heart of the Swarm trailer, I probably would have already written the whole convention off.

The other truly scary thing I see (for WoW) is that if you commit to a one year subscription, you will automatically get a Beta invite to MoP (right now I need a mop for my vomit), a mount that looks like the Sparkle Pony and the Winged Gaurdian had a baby, and....Diablo III for free.

That's right.  Spend up to $180 (it's less if you pay for it all up front obviously) and get a copy of D3 (which will be what, $60?), a BoA mount (typically $25) and a full year of WoW.  Plus the Beta invite, if that's worth anything.  This to me says volumes about the state of the game.  HoTS and D3 will do well, no matter what WoW does, so you know that 2012 is going to be a banner year for Activision/Blizzard earnings.  Maybe they need the extra cash infusion at the end of 2011 to push over some bonus numbers - who the hell knows.

What I do know is that if I had to commit right this minute to playing MoP, I'd probably pass.  While I haven't actually seen the footage from Blizzcon, I'm just feeling pretty sour about the whole mess.

My biggest fear of all

Right now I'm truly afraid that we are looking at another year of Cataclysm.  While I can't put my finger on exactly when ICC launched vs Cataclysm, I know it was a long damn time.  Twice now they've hit us with "shit, we need more content" patches, and both the Sunwell and Ruby Sanctum felt like failures (though for different reasons).  I'm afraid 4.3 won't launch until Thanksgiving, and I truly hope and pray they aren't waiting for Christmas to directly compete with TOR.  I don't think I can handle eight more weeks of Firelands.  I am not a groundhog you know.

My parting gift

I won't show the MoP trailer here, but I will at least show the truly awesome trailer for HoTS.  I cannot wait for this to launch.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This just in - a new rant about Void Storage pricing

AMFG are you kidding me?  100g to unlock, 25g to deposit, and withdraws are FREE?!?!  Now every nub on the server who can't farm up a few thousand gold will have the same void storage privileges I do. This is an insult, and a slap in the face to every Gbolinesque person out there - or hell, anyone who can run a few quests/dailys and get some gold.  I swear, if they don't up the price back up to somewhere in the 10k range PER DEPOSIT, you might as well call it Hello Warcraft Kitty Rift Island TOR Adventure.

What a load of shit.

/end sarcasm
/end rant

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Things to do before 4.3

With 4.3 on the horizon, it's now time to take stock of what I need to do before it hits.  This is something I do before every patch, though it's something I'm generally bad at sticking to.  After all, what's the point of making a list if I can't deviate from it later?

Step One

Do nothing.  I'm serious here.  I've taken this stance since TOC was released, and it hasn't failed me yet.  As much as I read up on class notes and such, I'm the last guy who knows where anything is come patch day.  It's my 5 minutes of finding something new - back up off me.  I still look back with fondness at the utter chaos at trying to find our way back to the ICC 5 mans when they first came out.  Wait, you fly up where?

Step Two

I'll probably spend some time thinking about PvP, and if I'm really on the ball I'll stock up on 4k/4k Honor and JP so I can buy the previous season's PvP gear.  I know I won't PvP that much, but it'll save me some hassle for those few weeks when I think it's something I want to do.  Every season I think about doing 2v2 and 3v3, and then I remember the day I left my shadow in Nagrand after getting hit by a pair of trinket-POM-Pyro mages in Season 2 (or was it 3?).

This really is a good step to take though, since I'll be able to kit out quickly.  Alternatively I'll be trying to decide which alt I think I want to PvP with (right now it's a hunter or a Disc Priest) and I'll try to power-level them up and max out their honor/JP.

Step Three

At some point when reading the patch notes I'll pick up on things like "Chaos orbs will no longer be soulbound" and other such goodies.  At this point I'll make a plan to /need on as many as I can before 4.3, so I can sell them all off.  At least now you have to have the profession to get them in 5 mans.  It seems like after the patch everyone will be able to roll on them again, and you know everyone will be /needing on them to either sell, or hand off to their one crafting toon.  Whatever, that's what the need button is for, right?  Let's not get into the whole debate that my need for gold is less than your need for anything else.  Or my need to cause misery to others.  After all, I play a Warlock and a Paladin - between sucking souls and being self-righteous, I can make anyone's day worse.

Oh, and I sing to Voss.  He loves it, he just can't admit it in front of the others.

Step Four

Play a few more alts, and enjoy how easy it is to level up now.  I really can't wait for the nerf to the required XP for 71-80 - but it's still stupidly easy to level.  Stuipdly easy I say.  Oh, and hunters are idiotically OP in lower brackets of PvP - you know, just in case you've been avoiding that.  I might also play with twinking out a toon, but that motivation usually lasts about 24 hours of real time.

Step Five

Forget everything above, and do nothing but play Starcraft II (I'm so bad at ladder, I'm in the plastic spoon/rounded scissors league) and Space Marine, while waiting on BC3.

Editor's Note - that's me

Thanks to Sin for pointing out that I've been calling the "Dragon Soul" patch the "Demon Soul" patch.  Whoops.

A second look at the nerfs

So the nerfs have been out for about two weeks now, and BT has rocketed from 2/7H to 6/7H in that time.  Of course, there are still some issues with the fights, most notably Beth.  It's kind of aggravating that one hunter can cover all the little spiderlings, but that it takes all of our other ranged DPS to do the same thing.  That's just a small issue though, and one that we've been able to work through without too much hassle.

Alt time shenanigans

So Sunday night, we rounded up a handful of alts, and rolled into Firelands to see what we could do.  I was personally sure we would go 7/7, but I really should have taken bets.  I know quite a few of the raid team weren't expecting the nerfs to be as big as they were.  I'm sure it helped that our MT was an alt of our regular MT (just a DK instead of a War), our heavy hitting mage was on his PvP mage (so Alysrazor flying was covered), and one of our main healers was on a druid healing alt.  We only had one "new" player to Firelands, but he was a pretty solid raider in T11, so it wasn't a big hump for him to get over.

Our average equipped iLvl was around 358, easily obtainable through Zulroics and capping out your VP.  Toss in a few nerfed T11 raids, and you're right there.  I think out MT was wearing a 319 helm, and Direbrew trinkets - with a smattering of other random drops thrown in.  I'm fairly certain my Paladin was the highest geared, and that's just because I had my heroic T11 gear.

Now while we did 1 shot every boss except Shannox (killed the wrong dog first - oops), I can certainly see where another group would have trouble with the mechanics.  I'm still not sure how healing on Baelroc is supposed to work, I just built up 11tybillion stacks on our Spriest, and then healed the tanks.  Rhy was driven by someone who'd never done it before, but we never were in trouble.  Overall it was easy, but I think a good part of that is due to our experience with the encounters.  I'm pretty sure that a group who was stepping into it for the first time would at least find it challenging.

Added benefit to the nerfs

I'm sticking with my hope that Demon Soul will drop in October after Blizzcon.  Now we haven't seen any bosses show up on the PTR yet (***Edit - looks like the PvP boss is up for testing***), but it's still a possibility.  I really can't see them dragging this out until TOR launches in December.  So what does this mean for us?  If you have an inkling that you're going to be losing members hard and fast on Dec 20th, now is the time to get them into the easier content for gear.  Alts can get geared up very quickly in this environment as well.

The other thing that this nerf buys us is that most valuable commodity - time.  If you're a guild that is wholly uninterested in doing heroic content, you should be able to finish out Firelands without too much difficulty before Demon Soul - and can focus on other aspects of the game.  From taking some time off, to gearing an alt or maxing your honor/JP - you should now have a little more time on your hands.  For us it means two days a week working on H-Rag, for you it might mean something else.

I still support the nerfs

Even with the complete faceroll we performed on Firelands this week, I still support the nerfs to the zone.  I will concede that it would have been nice to include a "no thanks, I want the pain" option for those that didn't want the nerf - but when I'm doing an alt run, the last thing I want is to spend two hours beating on Rhy's legs.  I do alt runs for laughs - and the enjoyment of hanging out with my fellow guildies.  I don't do them because I want the massive challenge.

So however you're handling the nerfs, I think we can rest assured that the Demon Soul is just around the corner, and that means exciting times ahead.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Raid Finder details released - double raiding remix?

Blizzard released some of the initial details about the upcoming Looking For Raid (LFR) tool, which is scheduled to launch with 4.3.  While I was hoping that a different raid would be designed for the LFR, a scaled down version of the Demon Soul raid will be the only available option at the start.  In a way, this makes a lot of sense, especially when you take the recent Firelands nerfs into account.  There will also be reduced pressure on learning a new raid that isn't available in a normal environment.

Tell me about what matters - the loot!

Right now in Firelands we're getting 378, 384, 391 and 397 gear, with the standard 13 iLvls between normal and heroic, and 6 iLvls for Rag.   Much like the 1/2 step we saw between regular heroics and Zulroics, I can certainly see the LFR handing out 397 gear - just like Sinestra's loot was around the same iLvl as starting Firelands.  I full expect to see 397 from LFR, and then 404 and 417 (with possible 1/2 steps from Deathwing) from normal and heroic DS.  All sounds fine, yes?

Not necessarily.

The first alarm bell that starts ringing in my mind is that the LFR will also drop tier tokens, even if they are slightly lower iLvl.  So now you have a potential situation lining up where raiders can be expected to not only raid the standard Demon Soul, but also use the LFR to pick up slightly lower gear.  While this may not be as big an issue for your top tier guilds that already have full Fireland heroic gear, I'm betting that there are still some slots folks would like to upgrade.  So here we have a similar situation to ICC/ToC 10/25, where you had to run both raids every week, just to make sure you were getting as much loot into your raid group as possible.

This isn't a real issue for a 25m guild, where you can control (to some extent) how the loot is handled in the LFR - but this becomes a bigger issues for 10m guilds that are trying to get a few extra drops for the week.

Need before Greed shenanigans

So now my question is, how will the loot be handled in Tank/Healer/DPS situations?  Based on what I'm reading right now, it looks like it will perform just like the LFD.  If you can use it, you can roll Need on it.  So there will be ample opportunity for some shenanigans to take place - especially since you can queue in a large group.  As it stands now, you can roll into the raid with anything from a single player to a full 25m raid group. As long as loot is still tradeable between raid members, I can certainly see an entire group rolling Need on an item to increase their chances of getting it to the person they want to have it.

While this type of thing can occur anywhere, I think the anonymity of the LFR will take the asshattery of LFD to a whole new level.

So will I use it?

I really don't know.  I imagine I will give it a go with the guild as much as I can, and I'll probably throw my Paladin into the mix just to see how it plays out.  I have to hope that enough checks and balances will be placed in the system to make it at least semi-decent.  It certainly won't hurt to get some extra practice on bosses, and a lot will depend on how nerfed the encounters are.  I really hope that they don't turn the LFR Deathwing into a nerfed Shannox on the first day.

Tier set bonuses - still a work in progress

If you know me well at all, you know I feed on the tears of those that nerd rage about things that I consider to be inconsequential, or at the very least - not worth raging about.  Near the top of this list are rants about changes on the PTR, especially in the early days of the PTR.  

All Paladin healing has been reduced by 25%, and mages will now spontaneously combust and take 3456 damage per second of being within 100yds of a Warlock - friendly or hostile.
Now if that was a real patch note, what do you think the odds of it actually going live are?  You can bet money though that a handful of folks would read that and set the proverbial forums on fire.

Love those people.

Legitimate theory-crafting

Now it's certainly permissible, and encouraged even, to put forth some solid theory-crafting and speculation towards anything you happen to see - that's the beauty of having a public space to talk.  Having said that, let's look at the two set bonuses that I really care about.

First, the Paladin.  The new 2pc bonus is similar to all the other healers - 25% reduction in mana costs to all healing spells cast for the next 15 seconds.  This is really sweet for us, because it's triggered off of Divine Favor, which increases our haste and crit - so when we really need to pump out the heals, they're cheaper.  This is a lot nicer than the Druid or Shaman bonus - they have their cost reduction tied to their mana return talent.

The 4pc bonus is a little iffy, though it will depend a lot on how the proposed changes to Holy Radiance pan out.  Right now I generally cast this on CD anyway, so 20% more healing isn't something I'll say no to.  With the new changes making this a concious choice to switch into an AoE healing mode, I think this will be even better (especially with BoL transfers and Mastery hits).

And the Warlock.  When I first looked at the Warlock bonuses, I had a small fit.  First even though the Doomgaurd is pretty powerful, it's still a 6 minute CD with the bonus.  Now if the fights are long enough that you can get two full uses out of him, well then that makes this a pretty amazing CD.  If not, it's pretty lackluster.  Sure the demon does some great DPS, and it's nice that it's a fire and forget type buff (cast the demon and keep doing your thing) - I just think it's kind of unimaginative.

The 4pc bonus is a nice DPS boost every 45 seconds, and the recent change certainly makes it better.  Soulburn an instant Soulfire, and you get a shard back with the 4pc set.  Affliction locks may want to still use Seed of Corruption if they have the talent, since this will reapply Corruption when it detonates, and gives you some AoE damage as well.  It's not an instant cast though, so casting a fire spell may actually be a DPS increase - that's something we'll have to sim out later.

In the end

I expect to see a few more changes to the set bonuses between now and when the patch goes live.  As much as I would have liked to see the patch go live without a PTR, this is one of the big reasons why they exist.  A lot of little tweaks and changes will take place between now and the go live date, though I do hope they don't draw this out too long.

If I was a betting man I'd count on at least one more round of changes to the tier bonuses, and 2 or 3 balance changes to the notes already posted.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why I don't PTR/Beta

Betas, PTRs and Demos oh my!  Space Marine, Battlefield 3, SW:TOR, Diablo 3, WoW 4.3 PTR - you've got your pick (yes, I know Space Marine is live - and it's AWESOME) of games to select from.  I'm sure there's a bunch of others available as well, these are just the ones that have caught my attention.

Now, there are certainly differences between a demo, beta, and PTR - but they're all basically designed to do one thing.  Whet your appetite for the real deal.  Some do it by giving you a (hopefully) polished taste, and others do it by letting you help to test out the upcoming content.  Either way, it's a great way to get a feel for the new stuff by playing before the full package is released.

Too much too soon

One of my biggest issues with these is that you start burning through the actual content early.  One of the biggest complaints I hear about games is that you run out of the "new" too soon.  Well by participating in the free play, you're just burning through it that much faster.  You also spend your time playing in an environment that may be less than stable.  While instability isn't limited to non-live environments, it's certainly more prone to bugs and issues.

Now if you're actually interested in testing software and actively reporting bugs, then by all means please continue.  I appreciate your efforts to make my experience better.  Personally though, I do enough testing and trials at work, and I'm compensated quite well for it.  I don't feel that getting access to content early is enough to justify the work that I would want to put into being a proper tester.  There's also something that is kind of disappointing when you know that everything you just did, you'll have to do again when the game goes live.  I get enough of that just leveling alts in WoW, thank you very much.

Demos save you money?

I know some people play demos to help make a decision about the games they want to buy.  While I can appreciate this, I'm generally either sold on a game long before it's released, or I show up to the party 6 months late.  I was mentally commited to buying every game that I have on my list (BF3, TOR, D3, SC2 Swarm) long before a beta was even announced.  I love Star Wars, Space Marines, and the previous Diablo and Starcraft games.  Until a company lands a giant turd on my desk, I'll usually stick to a few specific producers.  Of course I didn't really like ME2 or DA, but who knows - I'm really hoping that Bioware delivers with TOR.

In the end

At the end of the day, these just aren't for me.  While I'm not severely limited in the playtime that I have, I'd much prefer to actually progress my character than spend time in an environment that will soon reset, and I'll have to start again.  I have no illusions about ever being a Masters SC2 player, getting a world first WoW kill, or topping the kill charts in BF:BC2 - I'm just looking for a few hours of entertainment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Warlock 4.3 Patch Notes

Shadowbolt has a new spell effect.

Well, color me excited!  This is almost as huge as Felfire being green.  HUGE.

Honestly I'm sure there's more coming, once part 2 of the balance changes is released.  There appear to be several interesting changes to the Paladin healing mechanic, including changing the need to judge from 8 seconds to 30 seconds.  It looks like overall there are going to be some decent changes, which are usually met with mixed feelings.  Everyone loves to be buffed, hates being nerfed (scissors are fine, nerf paper), and learning new mechanics (or how to incorporate the changes) is always interesting.

I'm looking forward to seeing 4.3 come out, though I hope we're not looking at 8 weeks of PTR.  With SW:TOR announcing the 20th as their launch date, it would be pretty poor to have 4.3 wait that long.  I don't care about it interfering with TOR (I'll be picking that up regardless), it's just that another 3 months of Firelands instantly sucks at my soul - especially given the recent nerfs.  Going from 2/7 to 5/7 in one week is awesome, and I love killing new bosses.  Farming the same 7/7 (or 6/7 with H-Rag work) for 12 weeks is not something I'm looking forward to.

Here's to a new spell effect for Shadow Bolt.


Friday, September 23, 2011

What if there was no PTR?

So last night, after the nerfs had been live for about 2 days, we got our 2nd kill on Alysrazor which really put a shine on the nerfs.  First kill last week ended with our mage ice-blocking at about 3kHP while DoTs finished her off.  This week - we finished her off with 2 healers dead.

So the nerfs helped, and I think this is definately pointing to new content coming out "soon".  We're 4 weeks away from Blizzcon, where we're going to be dazzled with Diablo 3, SC II Swarm, and the latest patch stuff.  Now, this is kind of a mixed bag, because there's two giant WoW announcements that have to happen at the same time.

First, there's the Demon Soul patch.  The culmination of the Cataclysm encounters, we've already been shown  some information on the Deathwing encounter.  Now while there's nothing saying that they couldn't cut the raid until after 4.3 has been out a while, the odds are good that we'll see it launch on time.  So, Blizzcon will probably be used to preview this raid pretty heavily.

Second, Blizzard is probably going to give us a good view of the next expansion.  I can't imagine that they'd wait until spring/summer of 2012 to announce the new xpac, and waiting until Blizzcon 2012 would mean close to a year (or more) of 4.3x being live.  That's way too long, and would result in some kind of SWP or worse Ruby Sanctum type filler raid.

So what to do?

I would really like to see 4.3 launch without a full PTR for it.  While this has the potential to present us with some buggy encounters in the raid, it's not unprecedented for Blizzard to release gated/winged content, giving them more time to finish the polish on the Deathwing encounter.  Since the raid is only 7 or so bosses though, this seems like it would be some really small gates.

Blizzard was also recently hiring game testers for in house testing, which may indicate that they are at least doing more internal testing.  We know that fights are released broken even after weeks of PTR testing, so I wouldn't be 100% opposed to no PTR.  It would help keep down a ton of spoilers and would bring back some of that feeling we had in MC where there were no real strategies or videos to watch at the beginning.

My bet

I'm pretty sure that we're going to see 4.3 launch extremely close to Blizzcon, like the Tuesday immediately following.  With D3 and the SC2 expansion coming out later this year/early 2012, it would be a good time to announce the next expansion as well.

Here's hoping for no PTR, and Demon Soul going live in just 4 weeks.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Initial thoughts on LFR

The first thing I did when reading about the new LFR tool that would work like LFD, but on a 25 man scale is punch myself right in the throat, with a quick knock to the nuts.  Why you ask?  So I would be adequately prepared for the pain that this feature will be bringing to WoW.  I think a car battery hooked to my tongue would also help.

In theory

When you first look at what the LFR is intended to do, it seems like a really good idea.  Decent ilvl gear, supplemental tier gear, and the opportunity to raid in an environment that is tuned easier than the existing raids.  I support all of these ambitions, and think that ad-hoc raids are an amazing idea.  Imagine, being able to learn how raiding works, without being in a guild that raids!  Just like the LFD, this tool will give players who want to raid - but can't for whatever reason - the opportunity to do so.

Providing they can survive the asshattery.

I mean, let's be honest.  While the LFD is a huge improvement over the 2AM "LF Tank for Daily Heroic" search, you can't do a Google search using the word "fail" without getting 15k hits on LFD nonsense.  I am a huge, HUGE, fan of the LFD, though I have to make sure my sanity meter is set to 11 before I start a run of them - especially at the heroic level.  My god, can you imagine the epeen crowing that will be taking place here?

What I hope it has

First, I pray that there's an efficient way of getting rid of LolArthasDK tank who is in 333 blues and doesn't know the difference between Death Grip and Death Coil.  DPS that can't move from the fire, because that's what healers are for.  Etc, etc.

I hope that there are 'teaching' mechanics there, and that it's not just a super nerfed version of some content.

I hope there are rainbows.

Holding out hope

I'm going to hope that Blizzard does this project fairly well, because it does have the potential to be an amazing feature in the game.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

T12 Nefs - bring em on and quit your crying

As I'm sure you're well aware by this point, Blizzard has announced that starting next week (well, the week of the 19th) all the T12 content (supposedly H and Reg) will be nerfed.  The expectation is that this nerf will be in the neighborhood of 20 to 30 percent, both to the boss's health pools, and the amount of damage that they'll do. 

Unprecedented?  Hardly.

In ICC they rolled out a progressive 30% buff to player HP and DPS/HPS.  While this buff would enable you to possible progress past a boss that you previously had been unable to defeat, it didn't make the content LOLSTOMP.  As Kurn pointed out in her blog, you could still wipe your raid with a badly placed plague or unchained magic explosion.  Of course you could tell Hellscream to go climb a tree and turn the buff off, but the buff was still there.

It seems like this isn't going to be an optional nerf to Firelands, and personally, I'm glad.  IMO giving the ability to turn a buff on/off just leads to a whole other level of drama and bullshit in your guild.  What gets me is some of the overwhelmingly violent objections to this nerf.

Well here's my excessive support

First, let's establish one standard/fact/baseline.  Either normal raids are the standard, and heroics are "something extra for the hardcore", or heroics are the standard and normal modes are something you have to progress past to get to the real content.  Doesn't matter which one you decide you're for, because Blizzard has already stated what it is that they want.

Normal raids are the content, heroic modes are the extra content for those that want to work at it.

Not everyone is supposed to clear heroic content (supposedly) and I guarantee you that this nerf won't suddenly boost a guild from 1/7 to 7/7.  No a chance in hell.  If you can't move out of Rag's hammer now, you're going to still die to it at 20% less damage in the future.  Even if this nerf is a straight flat 20% reduction to ALL damage done in the encounter, you're still going to have to learn the mechanics.

Tied in with this though is the boost to guilds who run sub-optimal raids.  I'm talking about guilds that don't stack to get every buff, don't swap out main-spec DPS for that 3rd healer and instead have them going OS DPS - or still three heal.  Guilds that still have members who need the boost of extra healing, because they bring members who can't figure out how to do the Alysrazor tornado dance.

This is not Vanilla

I tell a lot of stories about "back in the day", but you know what?  That's what they are.  Stories.  Like my dad telling a story about getting beat in school for using profanity.  For better or worse, schools don't work that way any more.  The same thing with WoW.  This is not the WoW of yesteryear.  I spent many, many, painful nights trying to force my way through BWL and AQ40.  In BC I moved from guild to guild trying to find one that met my timezones and was actually progressing - imagine if we'd had these nerfs back then!

In Wrath, when the group that finally formed joined up, it was with the goal to a) never miss content again and b) strive for server firsts.  We did that through Ulduar, ToC, and ICC (I'm still pissed Tirion is on my statue).  By the time Cata came out, our lives and goals had changed.  By the release of T12, we'd pretty much moved on to other guilds and games.  In fact my deepest regret in the disbanding of TI was that Monger and I didn't get to finish out T12 just 2 healing everything.  

What I'm trying to say here, is that the average raider isn't interested in wiping 400 times to get a boss kill.  If we're honest with ourselves, the majority of the player base probably wasn't interested in that back in Vanilla either.  If they were, we'd have seen a lot more guilds getting into Naxx, instead of the 2 or 3 per server that we really had.  Instead we saw guilds breaking at the entrance to BWL, never mind the Twin Emps.  We went from being able to let a full 1/3 of the raid sleep through MC, to needing everyone to pay attention in the start of BWL, and AQ40 jumped the difficulty right through the roof.  

Where the wheels came off

By accident or design, Blizzard has designed a game of instant gratification, and they are now forced to keep up that premise.  There are any number of places to point at and say "This here, this is what killed it", there's no single point of failure here.  Heroics dungeons in Wrath were easy at the start (with very few exceptions like Loken), and by the time Ulduar was out they were pretty laughable.  By the end of the content they were horrifically easy - a 180 degree shift from heroics in BC.  

Achievements were introduced to give you that feeling of "I did it", when really all you did was hit level 10.  Whoop dee fucking doo.  Hey you bought a mount at level 20!  Here's an achievement to let the world know you managed to mount a pony and ride it around the yard without falling off.  You bought bank tabs - YAY!  With this type of instant atta-boys being tossed out, is it any wonder that content is being nerfed early?  

As much as I love the LFD tool, this was another change that helped push us to this point.  Now I absolutely LOVE the LFD.  For all the mouth breathing, drool sucking, keyboard turning, foul mouthed racist asshats that we get to deal with - we get the occasional great run.  More importantly, I don't have to sit in Dalaran/Shatt/Org/where-the-fuck-ever spamming "LF x for ABC run - PST".  Now I can keep farming, let the LFD pick me a group, and be whisked away to my run.  Hell, I don't even have to know where the damn dungeon is.  In, out, and on my way.  

At the start of Cataclysm Blizzard tried to bring things back to the BC days.  Dungeons were difficult, heroics were absolutely brutal, and the cry for nerfs was heard round the world faster than you could say "Told you so".  In my experience the average player can't be bothered to wipe once or twice, much less take 18 seconds to either admit they have no clue what the fight is about, or to explain it without calling them a useless fucktard.  Oh noes, the tank doesn't have the fight memorized and isn't in gear 2 tiers above the current content, and the DPS is doing 9k DPS - GTFO and L2P NOOB.

And that ladies and gentlemen, has led us to where we are today.

The idea that we should have it all

Somewhere along the lines, it was decided that everyone should be able to access all the content in the game with a moderate amount of effort.  Designing spectacular raids that 1% of the player base will see just doesn't make financial sense, so we got the heroic version of raids.  Heroics were supposed to be the pinnacle of the end game.  Yeah, you can beat Arthas, but can you beat him on super+ hard mode with x% more badstuff?  This was genius in theory, because it let all the "I'm just interested in seeing the content" players actually "see the content, and it gives the Paragons and Stars of the world something to race for in world firsts.  

Now what happened though is that the average raider got it in their crazy mind that heroic content should be for everyone.  You might link this issue to gear, or prestige, or epeen - but either way, it happened.  I personally think this is crap, because the average player isn't willing to do what it takes to actually accomplish the heroic content.  They want the kill, but they don't want to have to force Jimmy the Bad, or the Horrible Wife to sit out.  They don't want to be forced to grind VP on multiple toons, carry the "perfect' professions, or grind out Archaeology until their eyes bleed because the BiS trinket or weapon comes from that instead of raiding.  

Making sacrifices and hard calls

While that style of play isn't wrong, it's wrong to think that they should have access to all the heroic content.  I wanted to kill Sinestra in T11, but I wasn't willing to do what it took to get there.  I didn't want to play in a guild with more than 10 people - so we had to run with the players we had.  We didn't want to raid more than  six or maybe eight hours a week - so we did what we could as we could.  We didn't want to extend lockouts,  farm guild levels, or any of the other things that we might have done to get us to 13/13.  Instead we hit 5/13, said that's enough, and took some time off till T12.  

And this is what it boils down to.  I think it's awesome that my current guild is 1/7-HM, is really close on a few others, and all while keeping a good roster of players that rotates.  We dont' stack buffs effectively, we don't sub out or swap players, and we rotate everyone throughout the week.  I love it, and I respect that the leadership has stuck to their guns on these topics.  We're either going to get it our way, or we're not.  

I approve, and I respect it.  I also have to say that expecting to be able to go 7/7-HM while doing that may be a little much.  

What I'd rather see

Personally I'd rather see Heroics left alone, and nerfs to the regular mode.  I'm OK with the possibility that I may never see Ragnaros walk outside of a YouTube video.  I'd love to do it, I'd love to see us pull it off without any nerfs even.  I'm also secure enough in my epeen that I'll still take a nerfed kill.  Hell, I'd still do Sinestra if I get the chance.  

I don't want to see an option to leave the buff on or off, and I do agree that increasing player DPS and HPS/Stam is very different than just nerfing the HP and DPS of a boss.  At the end though, it's still a nerf.  I don't think this is going to "kill WoW", and I don't think this is a last ditch effort of anything.  What I do think is that we're about six weeks away from Blizzcon, where we should be seeing announcements for the next expansion.  I'd like to think they're just playing 4.3 close to the vest, but that's probably not the case either.  We'll probably start seeing some raid information trickling out soon, especially since we're getting Tier previews now.  


In the end, this isn't Vanilla, this isn't BC, hell it ain't even Wrath.  It's year seven (eight?) of a MMOs life, and things are bound to change.  You can't walk uphill both ways to school, with no shoes, in the winter, and without a coat even forever you know.  Eventually you're going to get some shoes, maybe a bike, and hell - maybe move to someplace warm.  They're nerfs, they're here, and I don't think it's a bad thing.  

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On substitutions - and Healers getting the shaft?

One of the tough things about having a blog that your guild mates know about is that it can be tough to have two separate opinions on a subject.  Today's topic was inspired by some discussions going on in our guild right now, and I'll say up front that while I may not agree with the decisions that may come out of the discussions, they aren't discussions that need my input.  I'm not a healer here, so any talk about healing strategies doesn't really concern me.  When it comes to decisions about running a raid, once again - if my input is asked for I'll give it - but at the end of the day I'm just a raider, not an officer or the Raid Leader.

Damn, this could be a post on it's own.  Short version here is, while I may not agree with all the decisions, I support them and respect that they've been made.  Having said that, I'll get on to my real points today.

Raid Substitutions

Back in the day, and more so in BC, raid substitutions had to occur pretty regularly in some guilds.  In Vanilla you might have been happy just to have 40 members for a raid (or 20 for the ZG/AQ).  Unless you were a big guild (or farm night for us), you didn't have more than that showing up anyway.  When raids dropped to 25m in BC, you started seeing more players being subbed in for specific fights.  More/less AoE, different tank types, etc.  While a lot of it depended on how progressed your guild was (chasing server firsts vs server 81sts), a lot was based on what someone read was the right way to do a fight.

There's another type of substitution that occurs as well, and that's based on loot drops.  Some bosses are notoriously stingy with certain drops, and depending on your roster rotation and the fickle nature of loot - you might never see that upgrade you're looking for (shields, weapons, and trinkets are notoriously bad).  I'm sure we all have at least one tale involving a missed raid, and a specific piece of gear dropping, and never being seen again.  Except when someone opened the trade window and taunted you with it.

Unfortunately, these types of substitutions are a pain in the ass to deal with.  Depending on your guild culture, your RL probably spends a fair bit of time every week dealing with scheduling issues already.  Between making sure that all your players have an opportunity to see/kill all the bosses, meeting day off needs, and dealing with last minute misses - the RL has a lot on their plate.  Adding in the additional stress of making sure that Bob gets in for a specific kill is pretty much just asking for them to eat the muzzle of a gun.

In addition to the bother of having to keep track of who needs to swap when, changing out players can be a big hit to momentum.  This isn't as big of an issue in a 25m if you're just swapping out a single player, but in a 10m it can be a big hit (especially if it's a tank or healer swapping out).

Now I will state that there is an exception to my general dislike of substitutions, and that is when the players take the responsibility of subbing out themselves.  This includes everything from making sure you coordinate the swap appropriately (right bosses, etc), to being right outside for the swap.  You also have to make sure that you're willing to swap out for the other guy, and even be willing to give up your regular night if necessary. Of course all of this has to be run by your RL before you try and pull it off.

I'll type that again for the reading impaired.


I really can't stress that enough.  If the RL says no subs, that's the end of the conversation.  Period.  Will it suck if a drop gets wasted?  Sure.  But this is one of those situations where you have the option to either just roll with it, or vote with your feet.  Don't get sour about life if the decision doesn't go your way - just soldier on.

Healers get the shaft - again (still?), or working as intended?

More and more I believe that Blizzard really hit the nail on the head with 10m raiding.  Most of the 10m Firelands (Baelroc is the only one I'd wonder about) can be two healed right out of the gate.  I've talked before about the differences between two and three healing content, and I'll stick by the notion that it's certainly up to your specific group.  There are some distinct benefits to both types of play, and it really doesn't matter which one you do.  Most bosses are perfectly fine with the 2 tank, 2 heal model - which works well since that's what you need for two 5 man groups.

Where things take a twist though is with heroic mode bosses.  I firmly believe that not everyone is meant to go 7/7 heroic in this tier (or 13/13 in the previous one).  Heroic mode fights however are completely different.  You cannot simply adjust your DPS order or tank rotation and call it good.  DPS requirements are generally sky high, and the encounters are fairly tight for all parties.  Healing has to be spot on and higher, tanks have to be right on the mark with CDs, and the DPS needs to just pour it on.

More importantly though, the DPS has to avoid every scrap of incoming damage possible.  You cannot stand in a blaze, miss an interrupt, or let your head slip up your ass for a second.  If you have a personal CD, you have to use it.  Self heal?  Better cast it.  Losing some DPS for a few seconds to either avoid damage or heal yourself back up is completely worth it.

Now, what this will eventually lead to is most groups being forced into a two heal model to meet the DPS requirements.  Either that, or you're going to spend a lot of time getting your DPS geared up to the point that they can cover that sixth DPS.

This does a number on guilds that run a three heal model for two reasons.  First, the odds are pretty good that their healers don't have a DPS spec/gear/experience to do competitive DPS.  What this means is that the odds are good that one of your healers, someone who's put in the same amount of time getting you to this point, is now sitting out for another DPSer.  This can put a lot of stress on those healers, because they're basically being punished for playing the class you needed.  Guilds have broken up over smaller issues than this.

Now this discussion is currently happening for us, because we're running into some issues with heroic progression.  Is it a healing issue?  A DPS issue?  Who knows.  What I do know is that knee jerk reactions to change the makeup of your raid is a dangerous thing.  Personally, I think that if you're not hitting an enrage timer, you don't change anything.  Now if you don't have the DPS to kill mandatory adds or the boss, it's a different story.  Then you have to make a swap.  Again though, if you do this your DPS loses any cushion that they might have had for mistakes.


Can't stress it enough.  If your guild switches form a 3 heal to a 2 heal fight, you cannot stand in the giant big for one second without using your own heals/CDs to get through it.

Remember - it's not your call

Finally, remember that if you're not the RL, or maybe an officer in on the discussion, once the decision has been made, that's it.  Let it go, and don't keep pushing an issue.  The officers and RL have enough on their plate already, they don't need you taking an issue beyond a discussion and into the petulant child realm.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ask Mr. Robot - What are you doing?

I love Ask Mr. Robot.  I really do.  It doesn’t matter that I’ve spent thousands in reforgeing my gear, or that I’ve swapped out gems/chants just to please that little optimize button.  No, where I scratch my head is how the stat weights actually are computed.  Now normally I have one simple rule for doing my reforge.  Hit to 17% > Haste > Mastery > Crit.  That’s it.  It’s really similar to my standard Paladin reforging.  Haste > Mastery > Crit.  Sure, I’ve played with heavy Mastery builds, or looked at high crit builds, but once I find something that works, I usually stick with it.

Mr. Robot throws that right into the frigging blender.

Now I will admit that it’s a bit more of a challenge with a DPS than the Pally.  Keeping that 17% hit mark is a fine dancing game, and I’ve probably reforged my Darkmoon card two dozen times since starting in Firelands.  It’s just so much mastery that can be swapped out, it’s a big bump.  With the Pally it’s generally look at a piece of gear.  If Haste = 0, reforge something to haste, otherwise, leave it alone. 

Here’s where I run into the /headbang moments with my lock. 

See, I regularly raid with two specs, Demo and Affliction.  Personally I like the feel of Affliction better, but some fights (H-Rhy and Rag right now) require that I be Demo for one reason or another.  For Rhy it’s the awesome AoE, and for Rag it’s the fact that without being Demo, I have exactly zero stuns for the sons.  OK, so that’s fine, but where Mr. Robot throws me a wrench is that even though both builds value Haste > Mastery > Crit (according to Mr. Robot), they value them at different rates.  So in one build I might be told to reforge 3 pieces, then I’ll log out as Demo and be told that 9 pieces need to be swapped.  I “KNOW” that the plus/minus is minimal at best between the two, but I often forget that I’m logged out as Demo instead of Aff.  It’s just mind boggling that there is such a difference, when ranking wise the stats are the same – they just have different values.

After more than one trip to the loan sharks to pay for my reforge, I pay a bit closer attention to how I’m logged out before getting the Robot’s opinion.  Personally I find the tool to be invaluable for getting me as close to the hit cap without going over – and completely irritating when I’m not paying 100% attention.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A band of fire

Rag, is a fiery being
And he casts, a fiery ring
Voss, with his tanking ire
He stepped into the band of fire

Voss stepped in to a burning band of fire
The tank went down, and the sons went wild
The raid burned, burned, burned, in a band of fire
A band of fire

Voss stepped in to a burning band of fire
The tank went down, and the sons went wild
The raid burned, burned, burned, in a band of fire
A band of fire

The traps, they burn your feet
Your heals, they must be leet
Smash, lands on your head
Move, or you’ll be dead

Voss stepped in to a burning band of fire
The tank went down, and the sons went wild
The raid burned burned burned, in a band of fire
A band of fire

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Raiding UI

This isn't the post I was planning, but it's what I've got available today.  This is a fairly basic UI layout I think, and it does have some double information, specifically ICE HUD and the standard portrait info.  I use ForteXorcist for multi-mob DOT tracking, and Power Auras to track DOTs on my current target.  I added scrolling damage text so I could get an idea of how hard I'm hitting, but I'm pretty sure that's going to be coming off soon - it's just too confusing.

There's really no need as far as I can tell to keep scrolling damage on my screen.  Maybe if it was BWL and I needed to see if a mob was resistant/immune to a certain type of damage, but that's not the case with anything really.  Plus, I think I'd figure it out after a few seconds.  IceHUD is probably going to be following it pretty quickly as well, though I have gotten pretty used to having that up there.  I think if I add an aura for < 35% mana, boss < 25% HP, and no Soul Link - I can completely remove that.

I'd also like to get rid of Recount, or just set it to only show after combat - it's just one more thing taking up space, and it's not like I'm going to change my rotation mid through the fight.  Omen is already disabled, thanks to the change in tank threat.  Since I open CoE>BoD>Corr - it takes a few seconds before I'm even dealing damage - more than enough time for the tank to secure agro. 

So there you go - my delicious, overcrowded, needs some work UI.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Transmorgify opinion I haven't seen yet

Note - this isn't how I feel, but the post/opinion I'm just waiting to see.

OMG BLIZZARD, this is such a huge slap in the face to well, pretty much everyone.  New players who have never gotten this gear will have to go try and get terrible groups full of ninjas to try and have a shot at filling out their sets.  Players who have been here (like me, since Alpha you know) have had to discard entire sets of gear that I would LOVE to have, just becuase there wasn't enough bank space.  Now I have to try that all over agian, and compete on a /roll with some new player who picked up the game in 4.2! WTF.  I DEMAND YOU FIX THIS.

Warlock - What I like, don't like, and don't understand

I think I talked about my frustration (and yet, approval) of the fact that each spec available to the Warlock is both different, and requires different emphasis on secondary stats.  Affliction loves haste, Demo wants mastery, and Destro favors crit.  Even without helping to finance the reforger's vacation home in the Isles, you can still be fairly competitive with any setup as long as you're hit capped.

Which spec do I prefer, and why?

Right now I've been playing a lot of Affliction, both in PvP and PvE.  I really like Demo, but I don't like that either a) I'm completely missing something, b) I have to be in melee range to get the full benefit of my Metamorph, or c) that the tanks keep dragging my target out of the Hand of Gul'dan.  Seriously, that is a shadow patch you CAN stand in - though I do admire your survival instincts.  Destro really feels complicated and clunky.  So much of your DPS depends on keeping up a buff that 'should' be proccing from your demon, but I've found I have to hard-cast more often than not.  I'm actually pretty sure that my obsession with getting my three hasted casts off is what's killing my DPS as Destro, but who konws.

For whatever reason though, Affliction just feels more like a Warlock spec than the other two.  In all honesty though they are so very similar that it's kind of funny.  You have three DoTs you want to keep up at all times (Corruption, your Bane, and either Unstable Affliction or Immolate), a Curse (usually Elements), one or two spells with CDs, and a filler.  In this regard, I'd rate the specs (in terms of difficulty) as Demo>Aff>Destro - but that's just me.

I am glad though that they aren't just different versions of each other, and that there are slightly different aspects to each spec.  I guess the one thing I don't understand though, is why does Haunt refresh Corruption instead of UA?  Goes back to that slightly different feel again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A new home, a new role, and a missed guild first

Over the last three weeks I've made some indication that I was currently trialing with another guild as a Warlock - pretty much a 180 degree shift from healing on a Paladin.  I went from being at the top of the game to being just another guy fighting for a raid spot and guild invite.  It's been a pretty crazy three weeks, especially when you consider that I started as a fresh 85 wearing greens and am now rocking 4 or 5 pieces of BiS Firelands gear.  I'm sure that at the very least this is a reflection on how the game has changed over the last seven years, and I will still say that it's for the best.

I'm still settling into my new home though, and there's that growing period where you're learning the new jokes, and the other members are trying to figure out why you keep offering them watercolors.  I even did a complete quote segment from Bull Durham, and the only person who got it was Ed.  /sadface

Learning the Warlock has been crazy fun, though I will say that if there's one thing that really irritates me it's that each spec focuses on a different secondary stat.  WTF is that about?  Now to be fair, I'd probably be bitching the other way if every Warlock spec was the same except for the spells you cast (though they aren't far off now).    No, it's just the fact that Affliction needs haste to the point where I'm trying to find a Meth dealer in the dwarven district (I miss the Belves and their crazy drugs).  Demo abuses mastery to no end, and Destro wants crit like the fire mages they are.  While your basic gear is enough to get you through most spec changes, a reforge is really in order to eek out those last few points.

Of course I've put that reforger guy's kids though braces, perp school, college, and even set up a substantial dowry for them at this point.  Of course Night Elves don't reproduce that often, but have you seen their teeth?  Good lord, no wonder he's so happy to see me every other day.  Now I really wish I had that old screenshot of Psycho's teeth - enough to make a baby cry.  Seriously.  Worst.  Teeth.  Ever.  Even worse than Jaws in Moonraker (no Mr. Bond, I expect you to die [yeah, I know that wasn't Jaws] ), Psycho's teeth were terrible.

Of course, I don't NEED to reforge every fifteen seconds, but damn if it doesn't hurt when I don't have enough crit as Destro.  Hard casting Soulfire sucks.

Missing a guild first

Since I started raiding in Vanilla, I've missed only one guild first kill - and that was the original Ragnaros in Molten Core.  Every other guild first, when I've been a "raider" in a guild, I was there for.  My pedigree is long and distinguished (just like Iceman's johnson), and while my guild first kills were rarely server firsts (and never, ever world firsts, they were still GUILD firsts.

Monday was the first time that I'd missed a guild first kill, and ironically enough, it was Ragnaros again.  What a bastard.  Monday night happened to be my night on standby, and the guild got an awesome kill after an especially heartbreaking .4% wipe.  Those are the worst.  I think it's especially bad on a fight like this where you know you only have to hit 10% (like the Lich King fight).  Obviously the fight is tuned to the point that the 10% mark is really where it needs to end, but it's still a ball breaker.

The good thing is that I know I'll get in on the next kill, it's not like he's going anywhere.  And I'm sure I'll be in on a guild first heroic kill that someone else has to miss.  It's just the nature of the game and the guild.  I certainly don't regret that I have one night off every week, and that I have the flexibility to miss a night if needed.

Where I landed

So if you're looking for me, you can still catch me from time to time on Pistonhondo, and I'll still be putting in my 2 cents on the state of the Healadin (Holy Radience is fine - seriously - we do NOT want a channeled heal), as well as my thoughts on being a Warlock.  You can find Apokalyptiko hanging out on Moonrunner with Vidalya of Manalicious.  And seriously, she hates the onion jokes.  They're old.  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thoughts for Rookies

I've never tried to make it a secret that in my opinion, WoW Insider, while a decent read, is pretty much useless for anyone playing beyond the base 85.  This isn't a knock against the writers or the site itself, there are just better sites for getting the nitty gritty info that you might need for raiding or serious theory-crafting.  I will admit that I've picked up a few tidbits for UI tweaking and the like, and for news they're pretty good - but I've also come to the following realization.

I am not their target audience.

Now, where WoW Insider does do a great job is with their WoW Rookie series.  Sure, it's tough to get everything you need in a couple of blog posts, but they try to give you at least a sample of what to expect and where to go for more.  After all, you shouldn't get the entire game spoon fed to you.  Believe it or not though, there are actually new players picking up the game.  While it's easy to dismiss the 45th hunter wearing spirit cloth off as a complete noobcake, it's very possible that they simply don't know any better.  Like I mentioned before, I currently have a guildmate that didn't know what a TABARD was for - how can I expect him to grasp the intricacies involving haste and mastery?  Should I REALLY be surprised when he's wearing Spirit cloth as a non-Spirit user?

Helping someone in the LFD

I'm fairly certain that the LFD has passed the random BG in terms of being a complete cesspool of humanity.  At least in a RBG you can get away with turning off BGchat and you'll still do fairly well if you keep your eyes open.  While I'm not advocating the Lone Ranger type play, it's easier to pull off than in a LFD group.   Of course given the average communication in a random is maybe a "hey" or "go faster", it's not surprising when the first real sentence to escape someone's mouth is nothing more than a string of profanity and insults.

I'm getting off track though, which just goes to show you the power of the LFD idiots.  What I wanted to talk about today was how taking five minutes might actually help someone enjoy their game, instead of logging off in a fit of frustration, or tears.  While I know it's tough to imagine, all of us were new to WoW at one point - even the elite players in Paragon and Stars.  While past experiences might give you an edge, everyone has a first time, and that first time will set the stage for future play.

The hunter in Spirit gear

We've all seen at least one, admit it.  While catching one at 85 in a heroic is grand cause for a /facepalm, what about one at level 20?  While I've recently been spending all my time grinding Ramkahen rep with my Lock (yes - I still need rep, and the boots are better till I get a pattern or Shannox coughs some up), every once in a while I need to do something different, so I work on my baby Druid.  Now the LFD is a pretty quick way to level to 60, even if I am queueing as DPS, and it saves me the stress of having to heal the retarded tank of the day.

Back to the hunter.

So this morning I get in a group with a nasty mouthed tank, a healing priest, warrior, and this hunter.  I'm the only one rocking full BoAs, and we all know that it's really easy to just decimate an instance when you're geared that way.  So I'm watching the group while learning how Eclipse works, and I see this hunter - in cloth - keeps pulling mobs.  Now, he's not pulling and then FDing on the group, he's either a bot or just used to being able to kill non-elite trash.  Immediately calls of Huntard, "Stop pulling noob", and much worse go out.  I felt bad for the guy, so I took a minute to actually talk to him.

It turned out that this WAS their first toon (or they were just acting), and they simply didn't know what they were about.  They were wearing a dress because it was enchanted, and they had no idea why they should be looking for any kind of special gear.  Instead of belittling them, I pointed out a few quick tips, directed them to WoW Rookie (sending someone like that to EJ is just cruel), and the rest of the run went smoothly.  Well, as smoothly as that type of run can go.

Even Ed has feelings

While I do have some difficulty  beliving this statement, it's true.  Behind the keyboard (usually) is another person, and that person probably has feelings that they'd like to keep intact.  Even that hunter doing 4k in your 85 heroic might not just be a turd, but someone who has never had anything explained to them.  As easy as WoW has become over the years, there's still nothing in game that tells you "Get some AGI and skip the INT gear hunter boy".  Despite the new information about available talents, stat bars, and ease of leveling - it's tough to really max out your characters without going for external information.

So instead of opening up with hostility, maybe take a moment to try and help someone on the other end.  While I don't advocate holding their hands all the way through, at the very least you can point them to a good resource, or offer a nugget or two of information.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Analyzing a death/wipe - and recovering from a bad night

So I was going to write a post for an actual WoW rookie that is in my guild.  I'm constantly surprised by the questions he asks, and they aren't just /facepalm questions either, but questions like "What are tabards?" and a complete lack of understanding as to what a raid is.  I mean, how do you respond when someone sees a 10 Tabards achievement pop up, and they don't know what a tabard is?  Or how to check ranks in a guild?  But this post is not for him, it is instead for me - and everyone who's ever had a night of raiding that didn't turn out like you'd planned.

Analyzing a death

Now part of this carries over from my time as a raid leader/MT/healer, but this is what I do.  When I start tanking floor I immediately pull up Recount to see my death log.  I want to know why I died, and if I could have prevented it.  This goes double right now, because I'm still a trial raider, and I hate dying to environmental that I can avoid.  Plus I know my DPS still isn't as high as it should be, so I'm really critical of my own play.

Now wipes happen, and bad raid nights happen.  We used to be pretty cyclical in TI, in that one week we'd go 12/12 in 18 minutes, and the next week we'd struggle to get 3/12 (ok, not that extreme, but you get the point).  This is compounded when you're rotating raiders, and having tanks/healers fill the different roles.  While that's good (in that you're not dependant on that one tank who always goes up on Beth), it can also lead to extra wipes because they're doing something different.

Of course since I'm not healing at the moment, and I'm not raid leading, my primary focus is me.  Tank fell over and went boom?  I look at what I was doing, and if that in any way impacted the death.  If the answer is no, I go back to analyzing what I was doing right (and wrong) up to that point.  Now if I'm the first one to hit the deck, it's another story - and then it's really time to pour over those logs.

Looking at my deaths

So last night I think I had two (maybe 3?) deaths where I was the first to hit the deck.  One, on Alysrazor (I'm sorry Kurn - she's forever Alice-razor in my mind), I died on our first pull.  First transition to P2, and poof - dead warlock.  Looking at the logs, I died to Searing Winds - in the exact mirror position of where I normally am (I usually get assigned to the right side, not the left).  The only thing I could see is that my skeleton was actually off the ground by about 10' - so I have to think that the game assumed I was up in the air, even though I only had one feather (as a note, I don't normally get one - maybe this was it?).  So I chalk that death up to something I can't control.  I wasn't too close to the middle, I wasn't high up on the side - I just died.

WoW - 1, Apok - 0

Now my next death was on Rhy.  I died to Volcano Eruptions - something I can't control.  Even looking at the WoL, while I took some stomp damage (that's on me), I was also getting smacked by some adds (DPSing too early).  Because the death was due to high volcano stacks though, I'm chalking this up to something outside my control.

WoW - 2, Apok - 0

Now this death was embarrasing.  I had my camera slaved over to the side, becuase I KNEW a lava line was coming.  While looking for it though, Rhy crossed over me, and the lava was under his foot.  I died, but what I should have done was move.  This was my fault, as I should have been moving when I saw him coming to block my vision.  I was so focused on killing the adds though, I didn't move, trusting that I'd see it when it spawned.

WoW - 2, Apok - 1

Looking deeper

Over the course of a night, that's not too bad (other deaths were just wipes - this is only deaths where I died first).  It wasn't flawless play, but it wasn't bad.  The problem is, our entire raid was having the same kind of night.  When that happens, it's a long freaking night.  I fully expect that tonight we'll knock things over and get time on Rag, but it's still frustrating.

At the end of a night, look at the death log in WoW to see what happened.  Check and see if players are using self CDs, Healthstones, pots, etc - anything to delay their deaths.  It's also a good way to see if someone stood in the giant big, or if they died to some other mechanic.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll have something for our WoW rookie.  I feel kind of bad for him - I know it's got to be confusing to watch gchat and not know what's going on.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

To host ads or not

First - I will say that I will not be putting ads up on my blog.  I'll cover my reasons behind this in depth, but the long and the short of it is that I think in 99.9% of the cases, they're just dumb.  Obviously, I don't have any math to back up this revolutionary thought, but I'll give a go at why they make no sense.

I don't visit your site in the first place

I do the vast majority of my blog reading though a feeder.  The only time I visit a site directly is when I feel the need to comment on a particular topic, and that's not too often.  Usually by the time I get to a site my comment has been voiced 85 other times, and it just gets lost in the noise.  Unless I feel like I'm actively discussing something, I don't comment.  I accept that this is how I work, and so while I love comments, I don't freak out when I don't get any.  A comment of "totally agree" just doesn't do much.  A comment that continues discussion is pretty nice.

More to the point though, is that I don't even know what my site looks like half the time.  I do a lot of my posts via email, and I kind of forgot that my site was even as dark as it was.  I actually get surprised by the design of some sites, just because hey - I've read their posts for years, and never visited the site once.

What really detracts from a site though is ads.  They're in your face, flashing, trying to seduce you into clicking on them.  Does anyone still click on these?  I can't remember the last time I saw an add on a website and thought "oh man, that is EXACTLY what I've been looking for".  I don't even click an ad to get to Amazon.  If I want to find a site I'll either Google it myself, or put in the URL I know.

How much money are you really making?

Unless you're getting thousands of hits a day, and by thousands I mean 10s or 100s of thousands, your annual revenue from click through ads is going to be somewhere around $4 a month - maybe enough to get yourself a double-double and a doughnut at Timmy's.  Most of us probably lose more than that in our couch cushions - I know my wife pulls more than that in change out of my backpack every week.

So again, unless you're racking in the hits, your odds of making any kind of cash through something like Adsense are really, really, low.  Plus, unless you're negotiating for your own ads with companies you support, I don't think there is really any control over what ads show up.

Is it worth the cost?

In the end you have to ask if the revenue you're generating from random ads is worth the cost to your soul.  If you can slap on an Engin banner and get free hosting - maybe that's worth it.  Right now though, my blogspot account is free, my Vent/Mumble server costs something like 3 bucks a month, and I think the guildlaunch no ads site is what - $10 a year?  I'll throw that money out of my own pocket to know that I don't have junk on my site that I don't want.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crazy mouse/camera problem

I have an issue going on right now that I'm hoping can be solved pretty easily.  Every once in a while, usually I think when I'm transitioning targets or moving my mouse around pretty crazy, my camera shoots straight up - so I'm looking at the sky.


Fortunately it hasn't happened while I"m trying to dodge a wrench or something, but it is disorienting and confusing as hell.  It's easy enough to recover from, just - makes me curse a bit.

If anyone knows a camera setting I can make in the interface to prevent this, that'd be great.