Monday, August 31, 2009
It's nice, I guess - if you're an elf.
But I'm not.
I'm a dwarf.
Standing on my favorite rock in the sea south of Dragonblight last night angling for some schmuck's lost limb with my new blinged-out rod was awkward enough, but then some mage had to come along to fish for some other schmuck's arm (what is it with the monsterbellies down here? Or is the problem just that some people insist on using their appendages as bait?) and I just really wanted to catch a turtle right then and there so I could crawl into the thing's shell.
I mean, I'm a dwarf. I should be fishing with sticks of dynamite.
Instead, I'm standing there looking all tough holding a shiny golden elf-tickler.
Or not looking tough at all.
It all leaves me wondering how badly I really need those ten extra points of fishing skill, or if I should go back to my venerable old pole and regain a bit of self-respect.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This was a bit of a miscomm. The idea is that you would be rewarded for trying
to use LFG to form a group. A separate feature of LFG is that we allow players
to identify whether they are comfortable leading the group or not and then we
try to make sure each group has at least one leader. You are probably going to
have a much worse experience joining a pug of 5 players when none of them know
anything about the encounters. I think a lot of drama would result from arguing
over who should be leader if that incurred extra rewards, as well as encouraging
players with no business doing so to lead. Really, the focus should be on the
group. The leader just marks (though everyone could do that too) and describes
Which really doesn't tell us much, but it does, in tone, hint that there isn't a single reward out there to poison the well, and that we won't be looking at the LF4M catastrophe that had been initially seen as a possibility of the sketchy initial information.
So, we now know that if there is a reward, it is probably shared, but is there an actual reward here? Or is all of this just poorly-phrased semantics? It's still entirely possible that the 'reward' being posited is simply the ability to get a group, get a group that includes a leadership component, and subsequently play and hopefully beat the instance - as opposed to the present norm of smaller pools of players, long waits, groups without effective direction, and abandoned, incomplete runs.
There is a nugget of something good swirling here, though, and though details are sketchy, you can see that there might be an effort underway to identify and flag effective leaders for the good of the playerbase as a whole. Self-nominating for a leadership role is all well and good, but the LFG tool containing a means of evaluating your history in that role - through achievements and statistics (visible or otherwise) to rate or validate your history in that role on that dungeon would be a valuable sorting tool, players could see that group A's leader has been flagged as previously successful at leading an LFG PUG though Nexus, but group B's has not, for instance. Demand would ensure that eventually every rookie leader would get a shot, but for most players, especially after a fair bit of time, the wheat would be well-divided from the chafe and a good leadership population could be sorted out.
It is not hypocritical of me to so vociferously decry the use of the "link pl0x" bullying in selection of pug members while seeing merit in identifying merit in leaders. I don't feel that the entire group should be rated, and I don't feel that it is fair to enforce an exclusion policy that makes it difficult for casual or newer players to see the content. Quite to the contrary, advocating the identification of true leaders and advocating a more open door to grouping are entirely complimentary - a good leader is a huge benefit to those less-experienced delvers who benefit so much from having someone in the group who has the patience and presence to explain encounters and offer any and all advice. Rating leaders benefits everyone, excluding those who could and would increase the pool of group members benefits no one.
Truth be told, we still know very little about this new mechanic, and there are still lingering questions and concerns, but I don't expect it to ultimately be terribly flawed - though it inherently will always be burdened with the inherent flaws of the sociopathic fools who will use it most.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
They're not telling us - one wonders if, as much as a year away from the expansion, they even know.
Loremaster in particular is gnawing at my thoughts. The way it is designed, there is no reason it could not exist in the new version - either with a reset completed and target quest count or as a continuation of your current progress - one even expects that they will have some version of it, but I am compelled to begin working on the current version.
The achievement represents a thorough survey of all of the content and lore the original game has to offer - and with all of that content going away, there is a certain allure to taking the weeks needed to roflstomp through all those low-level zones, picking up the quests I never bothered doing, especially since I did so much of my vanilla leveling with brain dead camp grinding. I need to do around a thousand quests to get the classic game's zones on the board. Doing this would give me the steps toward the achievement, but more to the point, it would give me the chance to finally read all those quests that create the sum total of the lore and setting of the game as it currently stands, and provide a better basis of appreciation for the changes.
Sure, the new Azeroth's questing will be better-designed, sure my level 80 hunter will be unchallenged by these tasks, and there is the distinct possibility that I won't even finish the job, but doing as much as I can still means finding and experiencing that much more of the current game while it still exists, because it won't be too long before that opportunity is gone forever. Better to waste a couple of weeks than to regret passing it over to raid for gear drops you'll just vendor in the xpac anyway.
Monday, August 24, 2009
So much is changing, it's almost like they're delivering us an entirely new game. While I will say that my excitement for the expansion is far outstripping my hesitations, and I have almost come around to being really on board with the whole idea of killing off Azeroth as we knew it forever, there are still things that I will miss, things that I hope will be more reasonable when the details finally emerge, and decisions that I hope they fall off of.
First, the best of it - For me, the single most exciting and wonderful thing that this expansion is doing is revitalizing characters under the level cap. The game as it is as I write this has become far too focused on level 80, far too dismissive of the leveling process, and anything before endgame has been actively trivialized. The improvement of gameplay in low-end zones, the introduction of new race/class combos and exciting new races, and the focus that the game is shifting away from the antics of hyper-leveled, overgeared, content-abusing max levels is refreshing.
The new character possibilities are also quite enticing. While so many are kvetching that this or that combo is an anathema to the lore, the truth is that few, if any of the combos being made available either lack precedent or are hard to justify with the very lore they so much want to uphold. Much of the hand-wringing comes from a desire to not see evolution in the story itself, which strikes me as a bit of an odd perspective for people who are essentially obsessing over the game's narrative.
Still, though, the fact that the original world is truly gone forever will be a tangible, saddening loss. Not only will I miss the familiar surroundings, but I will miss the opportunity to enjoy some parts of the game which I simply have always missed out on. Will there be instances or raids I will never see? Will there be interesting or compelling quests I will never get to run? Will I ever get to grind out a frostsaber mount or defeat the world dragons? My WoW career would not be a failure for the lack of these accomplishments, but I am likely to regret on some level their absence none the less. It can be difficult to stay excited when so much of the game's content has long since grown stale and irrelevant, and a change is needed for the future health and vitality of the game, but in a game with almost infinite possibilities where some things are put off for years, adding such a massive swath of things to the list of things that I simply will never be able to have or do, having paid my subscription faithfully lo these many years to access and support that content is disappointing.
I find the changes to the stat design of gear to be a bit of a farce. Yes, it is true that we have come to a point of near-absurdity with the continued addition of more and more broken-out statistics on gear, but I just can't believe that the effort to simplify the design will be a short-lived, and thus pointless adventure. The added statistics are there to differentiate gear both to encourage it's use by particular classes and specs (and by inference, discourage its use by others), and to allow for a small restriction on item level bloat by allowing the designers to tier gear by improving itemization at the same item level. I expect that the simplification of gearing statistics will place the designers into some very difficult dilemmas for which they will desperately want these now-terminal differentiators available, and it will only be a matter of time before these, or similar additional statistics will re-emerge on gear.
I find the idea of guild leveling to be interesting, and I am thrilled that it is not a fight-affecting mechanic but simply a bundle of perks and quality of life improvements, but I do see this addition as having quite polar outcomes. On the one side, it will definitely bring most guilds closer together and tighten the attachment that people have with the guild that they put the effort into getting up in level. People will be investing much more tangibly into their guild and this will strengthen those bonds greatly. On the other hand, there will be drama abounding. We will see even more ugly defections as guilds who fall behind in the leveling process lose their members to guilds further along with greater prestige. Guild level will become yet another device for elitist bullying. I am lucky enough to be in a guild that I expect will fare reasonably well in the leveling process, but this measure will certainly be another device to separate the game's already overly divided haves and have nots. There will be ugliness, there always is at the places where people and achievables meet.
But all of that aside, the one thing that I find most odious, most threatening, and least exciting about the schedule of changes has to be the leadership rewards included in the new cross-server LFG feature. As if pugging wasn't difficult enough. As if pugging wasn't the doorway to the deepest, darkest hells that dwell inside the putrid, festering minds of the horrible people who populate this game, as if those random, friendless, groupless wretches who already make getting those last few badges you need difficult and unpleasant enough, those same horrible people will now be fighting over who gets to be the leader in order to hoard whatever perk is granted to the alpha in a pug. While I applaud the effort to improve the odds of finding additional interested people quickly, while I am happy to see progress to prevent the additional instances problem, and while I think that it will be neat to have the ability to interact with people from other servers, fear that there is the possibility that if these leader rewards are in any way worthwhile that there could ultimately be fewer opportunities for pugs and fewer chances to pug instances successfully. Should the rewards be tangible and beneficial, everyone will want and demand to be leader. LFG will be LF4M24/7. There will be resentment, there will be arguing, there will be people arguing with the tanks about marking orders, there will be chaos. If the leadership rewards are trivial, are non-impacting, and are not worth waiting for the unambitious to appear and fill out too many different groups, the feature will have value. If the rewards are useful, then the designers are making a tremendous mistake.
So, in the end, and on balance I am very excited about Cataclysm. I look forward to almost everything and even the things that I am not giddy over are either minor or fiddly or simply escalated tension over unknown details. There is so much to this expansion and so much to be excited about, you can't expect that there won't be learning curves, growing pains, or rollbacks. There will be more things to come and there will be things that are promised and never delivered, but the game will be better when it is all said and done, and can we ask for much more than that?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Yes, I know, "Phil sucks at alts" and all that, but I think it might be time. My main is at a point where I just don't have a lot to do that I'm all that interested in unless I can find some friends running a heroic, my gear is pretty much fine, and other than rounding up some old world instances as a tourist before the xpac changes come along, I've been reduced to grinding rep to buy a fishing pole. I could spend every night blithely running around on Barls, but I just have a thirst for something different.
Truth be told, I am beginning to resent not playing a hybrid class. All around me, people are doing more than one thing. I run heroics and the tank in one is the healer in the other and the Shamans, druids, paladins, and the like are all able to do more simply by being more flexible. I'll never abandon my dps-only main, but having a second toon to make up for the versatility that my main lacks on nights when running something is more important than which character gets to run it would be really nice. Just having an option, being able to make the run happen when we can't find a healer, and working on something more useful and tangible than BC mount factions just seems like the right thing to do right now.
So, I looked over the roster of alts I have to call upon and out of my three 60's (druid, rogue, paladin) I chose to take on the druid. The rogue was right out, being just another pure dps class, and between the two hybrids, stealth won the nod.
I love stealth.
I have history with both Paladins and Druids. My first character was a druid and he is still out there somewhere, retired at level 30 on a long-forgotten server. I also played a friend's paladin quite a bit during BC, and found dungeon healing to be a ton of fun, but too attention-demanding for more than occasional commitments. In the end, though, I really envy both classes, but on par, the druid was the one that was just ever so slightly more interesting.
Now, of course, I am left with a huge mess on my hands.
I need to build a UI from scratch, I need to set up action bars (as a RAF pair trailer, the druid lived on follow and only had one bar of bound spells - all she did was buff, cast moonfire, and toss in a regrowth now and then). I need to switch from low-50's caster gear to BC feral gear without overspending on the insanely-overpriced AH greens out there, I need to get some glyphs, find some good macros, pick a hair color/animal form color combination, and of course, learn to play the new class.
I am completely lost when it comes to actually playing this new toon. I didn't have the benefit of leveling up the character and learning and using the abilities as they came into play - I just have all of this stuff thrust on me at level 60 and I have to sort it out from a vague memory of a low-level vanilla toon and some quick advice in guildchat.
But the real question is, will I get this character solved before I begin to regret missing out on all of that time Barls could have grinding Skyguard rep?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
We even have precedent for this kind of refactoring - Naxxaramas used to be a level-60, tier 3 raid. Now it's tier 7. I hope if they rehab some of the instances they fix the problems with them. I mean, Blackrock Depths and Maraudon in particular spring to mind as dungeons that you could spend a day inside. Yeah, that can be kind of cool, but not in this environment anymore. I absolutely hated Maraudon when I was at-level for it, it just took WAY too long to get through. The Scarlet Monastery, Scholomance, and Stratholme, on the other hand are classics that I'd love to see more of. Ah, the good old days of begging my group to go to the basement and take on Jandice Barov so I could get a whack at my t0 shoulders.
So, it seems like the old-world zones could be rehabbed. They will have to totally re-do all of the zone maps anyway if they're going to follow through on the rumored ability to fly in the old-world. This also goes along with the rumored start of a more active war between the Alliance and Horde - the newly-refurbished zones could include Wintergrasp-like encounter areas. As long as it's like Wintergrasp and not Nagrand, I'll be happy. It all kind of hangs together nicely. And of course, having a new old world to run through might be enough to convince me to roll up a Gnome priest to go with the Warlock, Rogue and Death Knight, especially if Blizzard doesn't bend on paid race change within faction.
I'm excited about all of that. What I'm not excited about is the timing of it. It's too soon to be announcing a new expansion. We're not done with the LK chain. I want the Icecrown Citadel raid against Arthas to be EPIC. I want this to be a Really Big Deal. But I'm afraid that it will be overshadowed by the Cataclysm. I'm afraid that this last content expansion will be more like a bolt-on to the LK progression, something to keep us satisfied until Cataclysm comes out. We all know where it's going, so Arthas becomes more of an afterthought, at least for some of us.
The thing that I (and many others, to be fair) keep saying about all of this cataclysmic remaking of swathes of vanilla WoW is that we will miss the old zones, or that the experience of new players or even old players leveling alts will somehow be compromised by the loss of the original version of the game in those areas through those levels.
But would I really miss it?
The truth is that without refer-a-friend I would still have only one toon over level 30. I certainly wasn't out there experiencing and enjoying that content. The truth is that vanilla content was designed in a tremendously different manner than current content. Vanilla WoW was created either consciously or serendipitously to slow you down. There was a sense in the old world that they didn't want you to get to 60 too fast for fear of losing you. There were hell levels, there were terrible travel quests, poor or intentionally interwoven quests abounded. Burning Crusade was much better designed and contained questing that was compelling and rewarding, but with Liche King WoW has turned a corner in quest design. The chains are interesting and important, they share hubs and minimize pure time sink mechanics, and they are just more fun to do. There just seems to be a better reason to go gather ten bear hangnails for the guy outside the tent than there used to be.
Questing is just more fun now. The game is no longer designed to hold you back as long as possible, but rather to usher you along to max level. The designers and the players are now in agreement that "the game begins at max level" and while the process of getting there still exists, it is no longer prolonged and is much more enjoyable.
Why would I shed a tear for the game that wasn't as much fun? Especially when the potential exists that the process of beginning at first level and moving up could receive quests of the same caliber as those that I have access to at 70?
In my case I am not even doing these quests. I suck at alts and hardly bother to read the quest text in the junior zones anymore anyway. In the case of newcomers, why force them to wade through the awkward and difficult original content when they might be more likely to come to love the game if they could get that first experience in modern, better-crafted material?
I initially thought it was utterly illogical that Blizzard would give up on the old game, that it represented too much time and effort and history, but is this really the case? Would the developer not take the opportunity to present a better, more attractive, more compelling, more fun game to players new and old alike? WoW is a reflection of them, and they as much as anyone else are now aware that the original material pales in comparison to the new. While removing large portions of the old content would mean some work would no longer exist, the replacement would be superior.
Increasingly I am excited by this possibility rather than mortified by it. Some of the negativity of my initial reaction was no doubt fueled by some rumors which have subsequently been countered by other, more credible rumors. An initial speculation, for instance, postulated that the entire 1-60 track would be removed from the game and all characters would start at a higher level. This was an utterly unpleasant concept to me and greatly prejudiced me against the reworking rumors right fro the start. However, details revealed in the more concrete leaks from MMO-Champion include things such as the conversion of Ashzara to a 10-20 zone, reinforcing the fact that the leveling process will not be removed and will probably enjoy further refinements and tuning such as those we have seen recently to make it less punitive and more interesting.
All that remains between genuine excitement for this expansion and unpleasant uncertainty for me now are those unknown unknowns, the unanswered questions which still linger and could be answered and resolved before the weekend is out.
What, for instance, will become of goblin neutrality with their addition to the horde? When the playable goblin rumors first surfaced the community accepted en masse the idea that the playable goblins would be a different cartel or side group and that the goblins we presently all interact with in places like Booty Bay and Ratchet would be unchanged. As the leak text currently stands, this fact is not supported, and in truth, it is largely implied that goblin neutrality will be undone. While the remaking of Azeroth with new neutral locations could stand in the stead of this, what would happen to the goblin outposts and npc's in places like Area 52 and K3? You have to expect that the new cartel approach is the only possibility, but in a world where the unthinkable is now becoming the normal course, who can say?
Another question is how thorough this revision will be, and what will be left in terms of level bands. How many zones will be recreated, surely not all of them? Such a task would be herculean to say the least. Will we be left with a mixture of original content and revamped content, with the accompanying disparity in design philosophy? Will we still have an effective distribution of zones through levels, or will there be level ranges where choices are limited by the need to introduce 80+ material and the sweeping away of some areas altogether?
Will Blizzard relent on their initial refusal to allow race changes inside of one's own faction? While this is a minor issue in the scheme of the expansion, it is still a tremendous inequity given the introduction of both new races and new race/class combos. A character who is willing to faction change, and select any race/class choice, including the very exciting new options is at a huge advantage over players who would wish to play a new combination on his current faction - a horde hunter, for instance, could have a level 80 worgen hunter instantly while an alliance player's only option for getting that same toon would be to start it from scratch. There will surely be such an outcry against this disparity that you have to expect the intra-faction change will be forthcoming.
But even above and beyond these unknowns, there is the bigger question of what I would miss from the old game. I really wouldn't miss the material itself, but rather the opportunity to have done it. There is the feeling that I would have missed something, and there is also the regret that there are achievements I will never get. But is a Loremaster title I won't display worth the hassles that an old world in parallel with the new, or a new one not realized to keep the old one around would entail? The better outcome for the game is surely a better world to play in, and one achievement I wouldn't hardly enjoy grinding out is a selfish foolishness. It is much more true to say that I would miss the opportunity to see the old instances I never got to run were any of them to be stripped from the game - but there is ample time to make those sightseeing trips, is there not?
So here I am, increasingly at peace with this change, even relishing it. There are still some unanswered questions that have the potential to be divisive or to poison my feelings on this expansion, but on the whole I am starting to come around to not only seeing the value, even the necessity of these changes, but also feeling excited to have a shiny, new, improved game for myself and for everyone else who plays WoW. Revisiting the old content is a way to keep this game at the top of the MMO hill, to bring in more people, to reignite the fire under old players, and to extend the life of the game so that the time and effort I have already invested is not to come to nothing quite so soon.
Increasingly, this is a good thing.
Now we just have to wait a few hours and see if any of this stuff is true.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
At least there's that part at the end where you jump down the elevator shafts.
Not that I will ever regret having had the chance to run an instance, but when I stay up a hour later than I should because someone asks me if I want to do a 5-man right before I log off for the night it would be nice if the badge count better justified the rough morning ahead of me.
In this heroic dungeon renaissance, badges per hour is the way to go. Other than running the dailies for the extra gold and the triumph badges, going to 5-mans where you can get the most out of your time spent, and get to that fancy swag quicker, should be paramount in picking a destination, second only to lockouts.
A handy helper for this decision is this page from wowwiki which breaks out the average run time, badges, and badges per hour.
The big winner here is Culling of Stratholm. Quick to get to by way of the Dalaran portal and tossing you five badges if you have a group good enough to get the bonus boss and a gaudy average badges per minute of just eight, it's a great farming run for a strong group - but be sure you have a good group, Pugs in that joint can be just miserable.
The Nexus has a good rate of return as well. Another 5-badge run that's still pretty quick. This is the one I seem to be running over and over of late. It's becoming the LK counterpart of Steamvault for me - it just seems like every time I find a dungeoning opportunity, it's that joint.
Old Kingdom supposedly has the same rate of return as Nexus, but that seems off to me. Old Kingdom feels so much longer and the boss fights are simply more annoying. I like Old Kingdom because it is one of the more awe-inspiring locations in the game from a design standpoint, and the bosses, while more annoying are also more interesting than just basic tank and spanks, but I never had the sense that it was as quick as Nexus. Maybe I will be more pumped up about my next run there - as long as I never try to do the joint with three paladins again.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are two kinds of inefficient runs. There are the low badge per minute instances like Drak'Tharon and Hall of Lightning which devour time even though the badge count is not terrible and there are the runs which just don't give much in the way of badges, Azol'Nerub and Utgarde Keep.
Violet Hold in surprisingly inefficient. I've run it many times and always had the sense that it was quick and easy badges, but it never quite sank in that it was only three quick and easy badges - and it is no easier to get to than Culling of Stratholm which is more badges in the same rough amount of time.
All of that said, badges are badges and fun is fun. I'll run whatever my friends are up to without a second thought at the time, I'll save the angst over inefficiency for the bleary-eyed morning after.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
After Lich King came out, I decided to look for more options. In particular, I was unhappy with how DoTimer handled my rune cooldowns on my death knight. Instead of showing the runes cooling down, it tends to show the cooldown on strikes that use that rune, kind of unpredictably. Again, rather than just stare at the lousy rune UI that blizzard provides us with, I chose to get an addon. After previewing many, I came to really appreciate Magic Runes. Again, highly configurable is a plus. In particular I like the candybar timers shown in my screenshot. I find that with those kinds of timers (rather than anything fancy like a counting down digital number or a sweeping pie timer or the cool rune-getting-outlined-in-flames animation that dkiRunes does) I can really anticipate the rune refresh time and stay on top of my game. The fact that it includes disease timers is a huge plus.
Monday, August 17, 2009
So, for those guildmates who've been running more than just Ulduar lately and inviting me along, thanks for that. For the twist of fate that left me with an entire day to just play Warcraft and collect a freakish number of badges, mazel tov, and for me getting over my Vent anxiety and actually getting chatty to the point that I actually feel like a participating, equal member of the group I have cast my lot with, it's about time.
Of course, now I have to figure out how to avoid slipping back into the comically-depressed wallpaper.
There are actually some things about it that both make sense and could be exciting. The addition of more race/class combos will get people back in the lower-level zones and add more variety to the game. I can really only assume that the list is still incomplete simply because in some ways it doesn't quite add up. I see the thinking behind adding another paladin option to horde so that all faction changers don't have to play blood elf and another Shaman option to Alliance so all changers going the other way don't have to be draenei - the many-to-one nature of those situations would have had negative balance outcomes, but only adding another druid option to Horde? Surely there's another Alliance option on the horizon? One assumes it is Worgen then.
Another aspect of the new race/class combos that I find disappointing is their introduction following another stubborn refusal by Blizzard to allow for race changes in your own faction. There will be a lot of people who will be vocally clamouring for this in this proposed xpac - I almost expect the will to break on this one at that point.
All of the leaked lore spoilers are very weird to me. Thrall leaving a psycho like Garrosh in charge? Said psycho killing off Cairne without the Tauren revolting against him? I realize that lore has been both trivial in Blizzard's eyes and subject to frequent non sequitor and retcon since the beginning of this game, but all of this reads as something out of a fanboy's /fiction ham-handed forum troll.
As for the remaking of the old world, this is the part that fills me with the most dread because it is the portion which is most delicate and which could see the game make decisions that could either be completely amazingly cool or utterly and totally horrific.
The idea of revamping the old world, changing some scenery, adding unrealized zones, and letting us fly is very exciting at first blush. Some of the old parts of the game are very old and overplayed - but only for those of us who have been around and played them so many times. I wonder what the impact of such a change on new players will be? Removing questing areas for lowbies in favor of new playgrounds for high-level characters is not a benefit to new players, or even for the masses of players who will be re-rolling to take advantage of the new race/class combos. Losing all those quests and dungeons and items forever is also almost too much to believe or accept.
And I really don't expect that this will be the case. The bulk of speculation on this topic holds that these changes will be instanced - that the cataclysm would be quested through.
This too is compelling, but what worries me is that there is the potential here, assuming that the instancing is one-time, one-way like they currently handle the instanced questlines, to orphan the old world for most players and to additionally cut off people from friends or from aspects of the game they would otherwise wish to still be able to enjoy. If the revised world is instanced and if there is a point when you cannot go back to the original world then you won't be able to go help a friend on a quest, won't be able to get the loremaster achievement, won't be able to go buy ice cream for your orphan in Salt Flats. This is a change to the game I really, really don't want to see.
There are three possibilities here. The first is the aforementioned one, where the new world is instanced and starting toons have access only to the original content until they quest through the changes in later levels and thereafter become locked into the new version, with the two separate and without interplay. The second option is that the old content is completely removed and only the new content is available - with the loss of all of the old material.
The third option, and the one I dare to dream for is that the new content is instanced, but players who have reached it have an option available to journey back to the original. It would be as simple as a gateway in the Caverns of Time where your level 85 toon can walk through and return to vanilla WoW to go help a friend get through a quest chain or just to go reminisce in the old zones. This seems like the sort of thing that would be best for everyone, and not much more effort than any other option - if at all - but it is so desirable and so logical that I just fear it won't happen. In an expansion that, if rumors are true, logic and reason have been tossed to the wolves, why would something that made good sense gain traction.
In the end, and after a weekend of letting the rumors set in what I come away with is the expectation that this will happen, it will not be designed or implemented well, and it will change so much that the game will be left incredibly weak once the initial novelty of the change wears off at a time when there might at long last be a couple of titles coming out that could challenge WoW's dominance in the MMO market. I really want this to be just a bit of fanboy /wish garbage that got out of control, but I really don't expect that to be the case.
It's times like these when you realize just how much this thing that consumed way too much of your time and energy is completely out of your control.
In that respect, WoW is too much like life - I should have stuck with tabletop gaming.
In the end there is still the specter that all of this is just an elaborate ploy by Blizzard to smokescreen their true revelations at Blizzcon this weekend, or the out-of-control hoax of a web prankster, but wishing this to be the case does not make it so any more than those wishing these posted changes into being would do so. We will just have to see what comes of the weekend and either dread or relish the things we have before us in the meantime.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
To be honest, I hadn't really stopped to consider the veracity of this lament. While I was an infamously trap-happy CC monkey back in BC, and took great pride in my good reputation for being quite the hand at endless chain and ever double trapping, often getting into heroic groups and Kara runs just on that prestige, since coming back to the game in the LK era, I've hardly given traps a second look. Indeed, I am now the MM turret hunter I used to ridicule and resist ever becoming.
The problem is that we just don't trap anymore. No one CC's anything anymore. Admittedly I've not run a huge number of heroics, but in all of my trips to dungeons and raids in the current expansion I've not seen a group leader ask for isolation CC of any type - We use frost traps once in a while to slow down adds or to proc Lock n' Load, but freezers are almost to the point where you can drop them from your key bindings in group content.
Toward the end of BC I started to have a love/hate relationship with Paladin tanks. There came a point where a skilled and geared paladin could AoE tank all of those mobs that I used to have to trap and I was suddenly just along for dps. At the time I thought it was fun to watch, but an unfortunate development which I hoped wouldn't translate to the next expansion.
No such luck. Instead, the game has essentially become all about AoE threat and tanking a room full of trash is just how you do things instead of a way to show off how butch you are in your T5.
This was done on purpose. Not every DPS class could CC and even the ones that could had such varied mechanics. When Blizzard decided to homogenize classes and roles and make sure that we would "bring the player not the class" CC had to go, and with it went my identity as a raider.
When I hit 80, I didn't think for a moment about speccing for the kind of role I had held and enjoyed before. I went right for the exact role I enjoyed the least in the game and haven't really given it a second thought because I have no choice in the matter. Speccing for traps would be a colossal waste of time, at least with the portions of the game I am active in.
So I didn't. And I don't think about traps. So I didn't really think about the armed duration change and when people whined that this had "killed chain trapping once and for all" I instinctively knew this wasn't entirely true, but didn't really think about it much. It just didn't matter. Blizzard had killed trapping long before 3.2 came out after all.
But still, it nagged at me. Deep down inside trapping is still a part of my makeup and I ultimately had to run the numbers for myself.
And I just don't see what those huntards are talking about.
The change they made was to reduce the duration of an armed trap from 1 minute to 30 seconds.
This really is not a big deal, not for chain trapping anyway.
Not that anyone traps anymore anyway.
Untalented, the duration of a trap's effect is 20 seconds and the cooldown is 30 seconds. Yes, it is no longer possible to place the trap then stall the pull so that you have a fully-returned cooldown ready to go, but even double-trapping this didn't matter all that much, you didn't want the two mobs getting trapped closer than 12-15 seconds apart. As long as you stall the tank long enough to type the word "pull" you can be ready for a second trap if the first misses. Yeah, the 1-minute cooldown made the pull timing less fiddly on the tank and was a nice way to be ready for a resist, I suppose, but it really has no impact on second and subsequent cooldown sequences.
This change has a slight impact on the timing of your first trap, but it has no impact on subsequent traps at all, and the timing, cooldowns, durations, and techniques for both talented and untalented hunters on the second and subsequent traps (which is what constitutes a chain trap, mind you) is just not changed. Even untalented hunters have time to get down two traps just like before, but after those two, they're just as screwed as they ever were and either have to kite or pass off the mob, just like before, since untalented hunters were always limited to just two traps anyway, and the tank would have to pick up the mob unless the hunter could hop up and kite the thing for twelve seconds, and this is the same today as it was prior to 3.2..
Nothing's really changed.
Not that we trap anymore.
Looking at talented numbers, chain trapping really isn't much different than it used to be either. With both available trap talents (resourcefulness and trap mastery) you wind up with freezers that last 26 seconds and have a 24-second cooldown. With these numbers you still even have buffer for the 2-second arming of the trap. A talented hunter, should he ever actually get to trap anything (which he won't) can still trap away to his heart's content. Heck, with the Glyph of Freezing Trap's effect making the need to quickly fire off a concussive shot when trying to space your traps a bit more chain trapping is actually easier in LK than it used to be.Don't even make me point out that some of us still have a couple of pieces of Beastlord armor in our banks for the day we get to trap again.
Not that we'll ever get to trap again.There's really not much to see here.
And no one traps anymore anyway.
It's not even true to say that this change has killed double trapping once and for all, though timing the first two traps is now quite titchy (and all the A0E threat makes peeling out the second mob a royal pain to boot), but the developers have always had a poor opinion of this practice, even making it mechanically impossible for much of BC (for a time, only one "popped" trap could exist per hunter, though this rule was eventually lifted, and despite so few hunters actually being able to do it and the thing being so damn hard and rarely useful that no one really did it anyway).
The change that actually bugs me the most is the removal, near as I can tell, of any talent that reduces the resist chance of traps. While resists were rare but wipe-prompting events for untalented hunters, trappers could almost entirely remove them with talents. With that effect gone missing, I'm not sure I would want to be the CC monkey anymore. It's a lot more dangerous job than it ever was. I'll have to dig around and see if I've overlooked this effect. If this is really gone, then this is what killed chain trapping, this and not the armed duration are what make me question whether I'd want to take the job now. The other thing is nothing to me, this might just be everything.
Good thing I'll never have to trap again.No, it's more just that hunters overreact to any nerf, even inconsequential ones. I just am not seeing any substance to the claim that this change has any impact on chain trapping at all, which it really doesn't, or at least wouldn't if we bothered to trap, which we don't, so I ask myself why bother writing on the topic at length anyway?
We don't actually trap anymore.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I say it all the time, it's a mantra, a way of life, a convenient excuse, a clear failure to appreciate reality.
The sentiment is based on my longstanding inability to stick to an alt. On the surface, such a pattern would in fact imply that there is something in fact wrong with my ability to play alts. I've never stuck to an alt because invariably after a bit of time the novelty will wear off and I will become overwhelmed by two facts - 1) There's a lot of work to do here, and 2) I still have so much work to do on my main.
Inevitably it is always the latter concern that I use as my main excuse when abandoning some unfortunate alt to indefinite inactivity. I state over and over that all of the time I had spent on the other character, and that I would have to spend on the other character was time stolen from my main, and that my main needs so much attention in order to accomplish a variety of goals.
But is that true?
Last week I tossed away my accumulated heroism badges and half of my champion's seals on stuff for barley that he probably won't use (the Argent tabbard) or that he didn't really need in the first place (a badge belt). When I bought the stuff I did it as an act of anti-alt defiance. I had been sitting on those tokens precisely because I had told myself that spending them on something as temporary as normal gear was wasteful - that gear could be replaced on any raid and would definitely be replaced in the next expansion afterall. I had even blogged to the effect.
But over the last few days the urge to do something else in the game has been creeping up and my alts are beginning to look more and more enticing. Torn between giving in to that siren and picking up the massively useful heirloom chest and shoulders combo or recognizing my shortcomings for a change and the inevitability of regretting time spent on alts drove me to wipe away the possibility so that I would be left with only working on my main as an efficient option.
There is a flaw in this logic, though.
The flaw is that I don't do anything on my main.
Oh, I do stuff, but nothing particularly good. I do a handful of dailies, I do a quest or two, maybe work on some BC mount faction, and inevitably wind up just mining in Sholazar a lot.
I don't raid, I'm afraid of pugging, I don't roleplay anymore, I hardly even talk to anyone. I'm not really doing much. I spend three or four hours just puttering about. Occasionally I am accumulating progress on tangible goals or building toward some achievement or another, but all too often I am just inefficiently farming trivial amounts of gold.
So, my reason to not level other characters is that I would take time away from farming trivial amounts of gold?
The mistake I have made is confusing the things that I think I am going to be doing (or wish that I was doing) for what I am actually doing. I think the weight I am putting on the main's side of the scales includes all the raiding, dungeons, and glittering prizes which I would love to be getting, but am not, and will not. If I weighed the true content of my time, and the true benefit it gives me by any measure I might not be so opposed to wasting all of that time on another toon - since I would rightly recognize that I am wasting that time on the first toon.
Or, more likely, I would just recognize the time is wasted and go do something other than play Warcraft.
Which is probably why I don't think about these things correctly, and why I suck at alts.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
While the makes no sense at all argument was on firm footing with respects to new races, some people in the community (links withheld to avoid border wars) seem to have gone overboard with their own prophesies of expansions looming and are taking the idea of things that make no sense whatsoever a bit too far.
Case in point, the notion, shared by several, that the eponymous Cataclysm will be a world-altering event which will sweep away vanilla WoW and leave us with nothing but three expansions worth of new and recently remade (and soggy) zones to work with and no more level 1 toons.
Yes, Blizzard has made massive changes to the leveling experience which make much of the original content unseen by most new players as they race to the current patch faster than we ever did - but the obvious takeaway here is that they still want people to do and see these levels, even if they only get to taste them, else they would have just made a level 70 toon a perk of buying the expansion ages ago.
The only question you should ask yourself before you postulate such a wild theory is how Blizzard as a business and WoW as a game would benefit from such a change. They invested an unimaginable number of man-hours in the initial creation of and continued maintenance of these zones. Many players still enjoy, or at least begrudgingly agree to go back and explore, quest, and gather in these areas. The foundations of the game's lore are locked away in quest text in the old zones. The entire process of learning to play your class and learning to operate in a group is built into the process of moving from level 1 up through these areas.
I expect there will be a time in the near future when people who have completed the level grind at least once will be able to purchase a level 55 or 65 or 155 character for some not-unreasonable fee. I even expect that as the level cap plods forward blizzard will make the process of getting to relevant content for both veteran and virgin characters even easier - micropayment purchased experience point-boosting gear in addition to in-game-earned versions or a similar scheme, but you will always have the level grind out there as an option or a necessity, and it will be in the vanilla zones we all know and love.
You even have to consider the first impressions of a new-to-the-game player in a game where the original content is destroyed and all characters start at an advanced level - nothing would say "sorry, you're too late to really enjoy this product fully and we clearly aren't thinking about anyone but our existing customer base anymore" quite like such a scenario - which also points to a major flaw in this logic, being that anything that jeopardizes or marginalizes the ability to bring in new people to the game essentially begins the death cycle of the game itself. I doubt they are ready to pull the plug and let this thing breath its final breaths just yet.
Have you even considered how much work it would be to redo the map? Yes, you could just wipe out any zone you classed as lowland and only remake the remaining few, but Blizzard has already indicated that just redesigning the map for flight is too large of an undertaking given the sheer size of the two original continents to realistically contemplate. The expansion continents have been a quarter of the size of the vanilla map. Accepting that they would have to reduce the total size of the in-game real estate to make this realistic the logistical challenges would pile up. With the existing classic zones some percentage of the players in-game at any time are distributed thinly through these larger areas. The smaller you make the game world, the more players you have in fewer acres of virtual space the more you have to deal with lag and capacity. People grinding Timbermaw faction or doing Dire Maul for the achievement are people not stressing Dalaran. There is method to the madness of vanilla-content achievements.
In the end, the logical flaw here is simply a case of wishful thinking or an example of the moralistic fallacy at work - the would-be prophet views this as an exciting possibility or believes that this is what ought to be the the direction for the game and postulates that it is or will be. However, the problem is that this ought is very personal and very narrow and very much not in line with the realities of the world outside of their account. Just because a blogger already has a fistful of 80s and no desire to run through original content again - and would like the game to not even offer the option anymore - doesn't mean that it is reasonable or likely that there would ever be a point where new players or even those who simply enjoy the game would not have the option of experiencing that part of the game, and indeed, to not only throw away years, if not decades of man-hours of design is so thoroughly irrational that I find it slightly baffling that anyone would expect this to happen with any level of intellectual honesty.
But then, who knows, if people never did the most unlikely, irrational, ridiculous things life just wouldn't be as interesting, would it?
Maybe they will.
Bring your water-wings.
Monday, August 10, 2009
The numbers really don't ever look good. I tried tossing out the outliers at the top of the chart, as cats and wolves are so overrepresented, but this still left the cunning category at about a third of the ferocity group - a vast improvement over the 7x beating with the top two types included, but still weak.
What's worse is that when you take ravagers out of the cunning mix they fall precipitously. I would love to see some level-based breakdown of these population numbers to get a sense of where the pets used in this data fall in level bands, because I can't help but wonder how many of the pets holding the cunning group up even this high are long-forgotten stabled ravagers - who, though all the rage and quite effective back in BC have had their use fullness and popularity severely altered by the misfortune of finding themselves in the cunning group in the LK era.
I don't even see this as a simple pvp/pve split either. While you might be able to postulate that the numbers here are more a reflection of the general population of pvp players vs. non-pvpers, I doubt the split is actually that disparate, and I also don't think that the numbers for this breakdown are found at the tree-type level, but rather at the family trait level - one of the truths of pets as a whole is that pvp-centric abilities are found in all three trees, and when all pets whose family ability has an effect which is arguably more useful in pvp than in pve are added together, they represent about 25% of the sample size, and this does not even include the large number of pvp participants who simply choose to stick with raw damage dealing pets like the ever-popular cats for this part of the game.
Clearly, cunning pets have failed. But why?
I've had a bit of time to think about this of late while auditioning pets, and what eventually drove me away from the cunning pets is probably the same shortcoming that pushes the majority of hunters away from them - they have a really poor talent tree in comparison to the other two choices.
Where does the cunning tree fall short?
I think there is one major flaw in the tenacity tree. At the end of the day it wasn't the fact that cunning pets have no aggro booster to help them as tanks, or that the core of their damage boosts (cornered, feeding frenzy) are situational, or even that their major stamina and AP buff (wild hunt) is only fully accessible to BM hunters. It's not even that they simply aren't well designed to be useful as tanks or damage dealers, no, at the end of the day the single largest contributing factor to my dislike of cunning pets is that I had to keep track of their happiness.
How quickly we forget.
After years of tossing meat to my pets as a matter of course, of checking that little happiness icon before every fight and refilling my food slots every trip to town I have come to view even the trivial task of clicking carrion feeder on while looting a kill to be a bridge too far. The automatic happiness-generating abilities offered by the ferocity and tenacity trees, wherein I simply go about the business of huntering and the critters stay happy and feeding is a thing of the past have me so thoroughly spoiled that any level of pet happiness management is now sufficient to cause me to overlook a third of available pets.
All right, that is a tad severe, but in truth, feeding is a real strike against the category, and when added together, the fact that ferocity offers pets with pvp-centric abilities, damage boosts which are not as situational (even if they are a bit into the BM range), the ability to auto-rez themselves, and the simple fact that you don't need to feed them make it fairly easy to pick something else.
And, as we continue to choose something else we continue to fail to learn how to use cunning pets. Their tree actually contains quite a few strong abilities for hunters willing to make the effort to use them well and effectively, but few hunters seem to want to take the time to learn how to make the most of these pets - if indeed there is any advantage to be gained even in using them to the best of their abilities. And I find that highly doubtful.
Hunters are a ladder-obsessed class. We always know who has the most dps, and how to get there. This is the class that mastered the use of macros for cooldown shot threading, the class that goes through the hassle of trap dancing, the class that creates atrociously complicated spreadsheets to track every single possible point of dps. If there was even a slight advantage to be had from choosing a spider over a wasp it would be both widely-disseminated and used as a device for bullying and lording over any hunter who did not comply with that norm - but I don't see it. There isn't a pvp pet you have to choose. There isn't anyone telling you that cunning pets are the only choice for pvp, n00b. There are a lot of uncriticised people pvping with cats.
Hunters are a numbers-obsessed community and numbers don't lie. Only 9% of hunter pets are cunning. There is not a compelling mathematical argument for selecting them in any role.
The cunning group has failed.
I still say it's because you have to feed them.
So, I wanted to see the new dungeon over the weekend. Since my schedule and interests don't sych well with my guild I couldn't go with guildmates so I had to do the unthinkable, actually try to pug it.
Ugh, I hate pugging.
Anyway, so here I am standing around the Tournie grounds and general chat is full of people trying to pull together groups. There's one guy (and just one guy) looking for a dps so I whisper him to the effect of "Hi, I'd be happy to dps for your group." And after a moment I receive the reply "Link achievement."
Of course I got that reply.
This, of course, is a pet peeve of mine.
I can't link the dungeon achievement, since I've never been - like countless others. I can't link the Epic achievement because I don't have it. I could link Heroic: Naxxramas (I guess it's 25-man Naxxramas now) which is harder than some 5-man, but that's not what he was looking for and there was no way I was going to get into this group at this point anyway, so I just liked him Catch 1000 Fish and logged off.
It's clear that Liche King has now hit the same wall that drove me out of the game in the death throws of TBC. Because I don't have the good fortune of having in-game friends who share my interests and availability, because I'm in a guild that has better things to do than anything I am interested in or available for - or just doesn't care to do those things with me, and because my gear is good but not great I am essentially done with the game. I am stuck, I am finished, I cannot do anything from now until the next expansion except grind reps and gold and there are now another gaggle of instances I won't ever see the inside of.
At least when vanilla hit the wall there was so little to do in the game that roleplaying enjoyed its golden age. In TBC there were casual-friendly, utterly pointless rep grinds for gear that wasn't good enough to get past a "link pl0x" and no one roleplayed anymore. LK is even more of the same - I can do cooking dailies for fifteen bucks a month.
Oh boy am I excited about the Icecrown Citadel patch.
I hate this game.
Curse you addictive personality!
Friday, August 7, 2009
Once was a time that I would show up to raids with vendor arrows because these buggeres were just irrationally expensive to make and use for a true casual player. The original materials requirement of fifteen saronite bars to create 2k of the things was an investment of either 60 gold or about half an hour of farming Sholazar. While neither of these were exactly punitive, it was still just enough that I was willing to sacrifice the improved performance in my infrequent raids in order to keep those few hours or few coins for my own preferred pursuits.
However, in a dramatic turnaround, the powers that be have adjusted the recipe a bit. Instead of 15 bars for 2k arrows, you now need to only cough up 2 bars for 1k arrows - and to make things better, you don't have to mess with the box of charges mechanic, the craft now goes straight to arrows and in a tidy full stack. Because an anvil is not required, you can even carry around a stack of raw bars as a sort of quiver/spacesaver. While losing the box mechanic may annoy some non-engineer hunters, it's a thin argument in the era of quiverless 1k stacked ammo.
I can afford two bars. I can even afford six bars, which is how many I used last night to set myself up with some fancy new ammo - which I'll gladly toss at both raid content and random critters I encounter on long walks in the woods.
I do appreciate that thus far, Wrath has kept engineering ammo on top of the heap. During Burning Crusade crafted ammo was slightly better than conventional vendor offerings, and could be a low-yield income source for us, but our bullets and arrows were surpassed by the Karazhan and Hyjall raid reputation ammo, and almost everyone could at least use the Violet Eye variety - even myself - and once the ammo vendors were added to Shattrath, there was no compelling reason not to, they weren't even all that terribly expensive.
Now, if potions of relentless assault would start dropping from trees I might even be able to pose as a prepared raider.
So, has Blizzard finally passed summary judgement on my skills, or did they give out more free respecs than the patch notes initially suggested? I poked around the armory a bit more and it looks like most of the hunters in my guild are in a similar state, but just the hunters. Oddly, I thought it was the DKs who were getting the free respecs, but my forgotten hero class alt is still showing up as 56/5/0. It doesn't even make a lot of sense to give hunters a talent mulligan, there weren't that many changes to the class. Probably a mistake.
But hey, at least I can clean up my BM spec a little for free now.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Last night was all about finishing things I couldn't do on patch night. I showed my orphan around Northrend, finished up my Crusader title (achievement spam warning - I got 5 of them when I finished the Stormwind valiant turnin), and then went over to the library to pry the blueprints for Jeeves out of some chicken jockey or another.
You know how annoying it is when people tell you about how they got some rare drop on their third or fourth mob? Thankfully, this is not one of those stories, so you don't have to hate me (any more than you already do), but there was some jerk gloating about getting his schematic on his fifth kill in general chat (why am I still on that channel again?).
My tale does have a happy ending, though, as I did eventually pick up the plans for myself after about an hour of low-key thumping. All-in-all I can't complain. I got what I wanted, it didn't take any longer than my usual mining excursions to Sholazar, and I piled up a bunch of experience on the bug I'm training up. For once, I guess I win.
I was fortunate to have almost all of the materials ready to go in the bank, except the King's Amber gems. I was faced with a decision on how to acquire these. The options were three - buy them in the Auction House for about 300 gold a piece, get them from the badge vendor for 20 heroism badges, or get them from the battleground vendor for 20k honor each. Of those options, really the only ones I could do right away were the first and second choices - I think I have all of one thousand honor and no desire to farm more. Choosing between the two remaining possibilities was also very easy, just buy them. The 619 gold I paid for the gems is far more easily replaced for me than badges - perhaps those with the good fortune to do heroics and raids every day, like many of my guildies, for whom badges flow like water disagreed at the time, but for me, the replacement timetable for the competing resources could only point toward the one option.
I am pleased to report that the engineering auctioneer in Dalaran is highly effective at his job, by the way.
Once built, my Jeeves was ready for the ultimate test - summoning him with baited breath there was one question that needed to be answered - would he stand still, or would he run around like an idiot and piss me off?
Thankfully, Jeeves is, as hoped, a statue, but a statue with rocket boots! The combination of fixed location and extra height should make him a lot easier to use in raids than the older repair bots, who were both short and mobile.
It would be nice if Jeeves had mail functionality as well, like the argent squire, but it's not like I don't have Moll-e in my bag already.
All told, a good night of patch exploration. Tonight I head off to Sholazar basin to mine up materials for the Wormhole Generator so I can run off to Sholazar easier in the future.