Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gotta Keep 'em Separated

I've been reading some blog posts recently about player advancement, 5-man heroics, and progression raiding.

Priest With a Cause: An Annotated History of the Badge System
Blessing of Kings: The Root Problem
Blessing of Kings: Blocked Player Advancement

I've found the discussion interesting, particularly when you combine these articles with numerous PUG stories out there about overgeared toons behaving badly in Heroics.*

Now, I like Rohan's idea of removing Valor Points from the game, but the problem of overgeared toons running Heroics would still exist.  There is no need to run them from a gear standpoint, but that doesn't mean that you can't film an episode of Overgeared Toons Behaving Badly on a regular basis.  I can think of a few reasons why an overgeared toon would want to enter a 5-man Heroic anyway:  guild runs with guildies who aren't raid ready; mat runs farming DC-able gear and Chaos Orbs; and Justice Point farming runs, where a toon is farming JP to purchase heirlooms or convert the JP to Conquest Points (for PvP gear).

If the goal is to discourage badly behaving raiders from running random Heroics, isn't there a more direct method:  expanding the raid lockout to include heroics?  I'm not talking a daily lockout, but a weekly one.  Or better yet, if you enter a Cata raid, the lockout will include 5-man Heroics via the Dungeon Finder.  (Toons could still group up and enter a Heroic the old fashioned way via the meeting stone and instance entrance, however.)

Either suggestion is a very draconian method to keep the overgeared raiders away from the properly geared Heroic runners, but it does force one problem with this entire exercise into the limelight:  issue prioritization.

Which is the greater problem:
  • Keeping bad apples out of 5-man Heroics
  • Reducing wait times in 5-man Heroics
While some of us may see the former as the problem, Blizzard has voted with the latter and instituted the Call to Arms to encourage people (*cough* tanks and healers *cough*) to jump into randoms to alleviate long wait times.  But I'd argue that long wait times would discourage the asshats from queuing for instances in the first place, so why "fix" one problem when it exacerbates another?

Perhaps the solution to keeping the bad apples out is to increase the wait times for a random out of the Dungeon Finder, not reduce them.  If you queue for an instance run via the LFD tool, you have a minimum 30-45 minute wait.  No exceptions.  You end up getting the people who really want to be there, who will want to work out issues and setbacks in an instance run, while discouraging the jerks from entering.  The poorly behaved toons can still join groups, but their best chance of instance running is with a guild/friend group.

But what about the rewards for a guild runs?  Who'd want to have a guild run via the LFD with a wait like that?

Well, why restrict the daily LFD rewards to the LFD tool?  How about allowing a party to reap the same rewards via the traditional route:  entering via the meeting stone and traditional instance location.  Getting to an instance will be much quicker than the wait involved via the LFD tool, but would yield the same amount of rewards.  It also means that people will get out in the world a bit more, rather than loitering around Org or Stormwind.  Finally, it also means that people might just group up within the same server a bit more often, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  (Okay, Rhii might have a different opinion on that, given her disastrous encounter with some puggees from her own server, but those asshats will eventually get their comeuppance.  Karma is a real bitch that way.)

*Of course, there are plenty of toons that behave badly no matter their gear.

EtA:  Yes,  I like The Offspring.  I couldn't justify using "Hit That" or "Pretty Fly" as the title of the post, tho.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Some Friday Humor

I'd always liked the Downfall parodies on YouTube, and was disappointed that they got yanked. Well, it seems that they're back, and better than ever. This particular one hits kind of close to home, since I play several Pallys as well as starting up a Warlock.  Be warned, there's some strong language, but nothing that you haven't heard in the heat of battle before.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It is... A Puzzlement!

Have you ever been in a run where you had to wonder what was going on in everyone else's heads?

I don't mean that in an asinine way, or even in a WTF OMG this-is-so-full-of-fail way, either.  Sometimes I feel like General Taylor in Good Morning Vietnam when he tells the Sergeant-Major that he's out of line:  "You're mean.  And this is just radio."

Last I checked, WoW was a game.  Sure, it can suck up a lot of your time, but no more than if you're a sports fanatic.  (Or a crafting fiend.)  But the thing is, in the end it's just a game.  It's supposed to be fun, and if you start acting out for no real reason, maybe it's time for you to take a bit of a break.

For example, I took my lowbie Warlock out for a spin yesterday and queued up for a random instance.  Out popped the new Shadowfang Keep.  SFK isn't the kindest place for casters due to line of sight issues, but I've done it before on Neve, so I figured this wasn't anything I couldn't handle.  To be honest, I needed the experience running through the renovated keep at-level before I get sucked into it in the Heroic queues, and I really needed to hammer out a rotation anyway.*

I was the only caster in a party which included a Pally tank and a Priest healer, with a Hunter and Warrior rounding out the DPS.  The instance began in typical fashion, with everyone exchanging greetings and buffing up.  After the first couple of trash pulls, however, one of the DPS asked if someone had a recount meter running.  While the healer posted the numbers, I mentioned that the DPS stats weren't going to mean much.  "They'll be all over the place," I said.

"Oh, I just want to see if my numbers are any better."

Okay, that's nice and all, but the surest way to improve your numbers if you're L19 is to get to L20.  I can understand the desire to maximize your rotation --hell, I was planning on tinkering with my rotation myself-- but asking for Recount numbers like that is a sneaky way of showing off your e-peen.

We kept winding our way through the keep, and I was bound and determined not to be a spell sink on the healer and kept my use of Life Tap to a minimum.  I'd run out of mana, and Life Tap just enough to get going again.  After several sessions of rinse-and-repeat, we downed one of the Bosses so I took a short break to drink my way up to full.  "Hang on a sec, mana," I said, noting that the healer sat down to drink too.

Did that stop the Draenei Pally?  Nope.  He kept right on going, as did the other two DPS.

The Warrior and Hunter overtook the Pally and took turns pulling instead.  I was starting to wonder when everything was going to hit the wall, but we reached the antechamber before what used to be Arugal's old hideout, and I realized the instance was at an end.

Then I got the pop-up saying that there was a vote to kick the Draenei Pally.  The reason?  "He does nothing."

I am not making that up.

Yes, because a Pally running full tilt through the instance wasn't fast enough for at least one person, there was a vote kick entered instead.

I voted no, and the measure failed.

What surprised me was that nobody complained about either the Pally's or the other DPS' behavior.  Typically, any of this would have set off at least something from someone, but people were tightlipped throughout the run.  Well, the only complaint anyone had at all was when my Warlock bit it at the end.  I was perched way up high atop the stairs, getting a great view for my DoTs and AoEs, when I got laid low by one of the last pistol barrages.**  "Stay behind him when he unleashes those," one of the other DPS snipped at me.


For some hours after my run through that instance, I still puzzled over it.  That wasn't a bad run, or a fail run, or even a nerd rage run, but what I couldn't really fathom were the motivating factors behind my puggees' behavior.

Nobody was from the same server, let alone the same guild, so that wasn't it.  The Draenei Pally was already tanking at breakneck speed before he got abruptly replaced by the other two DPS, and the Pally didn't say a word.  He was doing second most damage, so it's not like he was failing badly in that arena, either.***

I just wish I knew what the hell their motivation was.

*Yes, I'd read several of the guides online, but I believe that it's important to work some things out yourself.  Besides, I'd specced as Affliction, which isn't the best PvE spec out there.  For BGs, on the other hand...

**This is akin to the last boss in Vortex Pinnacle's instance-wide attack; even though I wasn't what would be considered the field of fire in any regular environment, Godfrey's attack apparently extends all the way to the roof.

***If anything, I was the one limping along with substandard DPS in my quest Whites and Greens.  But I also had the lowest level of the bunch. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Friendship in the Age of the MMO

"We're a guild formed from RL friends..."

"We used to play with RL friends, but decided to strike out on our own..."

"If we join, we have some RL friends who might like to join too..."

If you've been around WoW long enough, you've seen entries like that describing guilds and players alike.  This isn't unique to WoW, of course; my experience with the Internet dates back to the 80's, and people would differentiate between real life (RL) friends and online/virtual friends as a matter of course.  Online friends were the equivalent of an electronic pen pal, only with a bit more instant gratification.  While nice, they were considered secondary to the people you met face-to-face. 

The convention has continued to this day, but I wonder if by now the convention has it wrong.

How often do you get online to play WoW?  Text/Tweet people?  Visit chatrooms/webcams?  Update Facebook?  And then, the obvious question:  how often do you spend time talking/hanging out with your RL friends?

You may not have all the visual cues that you get from a true face-to-face conversation, but for a lot of people their online friends are the real life friends.  The transient nature of a lot of jobs --especially in IT-- means that your coworkers may be in the cubicle next to you, or half a world away.  If you can work on a team with someone overseas, why is it so unusual to have a raiding buddy a continent away as a friend?

It isn't unusual at all.  Not anymore.

The world has shrunk, and tech --MMOs included-- has changed the dynamics of friendship.  As a shared activity, an MMO such as WoW fosters friendships where the common denominator is the game itself.

Of course, most in-game interactions are of the "polite stranger" or "general acquaintance" variety,* but it doesn't have to be.  Perhaps you hang with your guildies due to a shared goal, but after raiding with people three nights a week for months on end, are you so sure you've remained merely acquaintances?

I know people in my neighborhood who would think I was a special type of crazy for suggesting that online friendships should be given equal footing with RL ones.  "What sort of crackpot are you, anyway?" they'd ask, then go back to sitting in their garage, drinking their beer and discussing high school sports.**  But replace the garage with a computer, and sports with Tol Barad, and what do you have?

It's important to have perspective in all of this, but the one thing that I've been struck by time and again is that WoW friendships shouldn't take a back seat to anyone.***  Don't try to put the WoW friends into a little compartment and pretend that they're inferior to your "real" friends, because they aren't.

*Or the nerd rager type.  Or the OMG FAIL! type.  But I digress.

**Yes, that sort of thing really does happen in my neighborhood.  All the time.

***Well, except for your family.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Coming to Terms With My Outer Darkness

As has been well documented, I play several Paladins.  You know, the Goody Two Shoes of the WoW world.*  While the other ostensibly "good" class that draws power from Holy Light --the Priest-- has a Shadow Spec, the Paladin is free of any direct taint of Darkness.  They are the rigidly Lawful Good characters who embody what Roland, Saladin, and Perceval strove for.**  Not only pure of heart and mind, but able to kick some serious ass.

And they're also cloying.  The constant preaching of the Argent Crusade and from those who hang out in the Cathedral of Light can be grating on people.  Paladins have a reputation of being the sort of person that would stand side-by-side with you in a fight, but are too self-righteous to go hang with you at the World's End Tavern afterward.

So naturally it follows that I've started a Warlock toon.

If you thought that Paladins were on the uber-good end of the class listing, Warlocks have to be on the opposite end of the spectrum.  Whereas the Death Knight's intro story pretty much sets up their redemption at the Battle of Light's Hope Chapel, there isn't anything so warm and fuzzy about a class that revels in wielding "true power" and "secret knowledge".

The entire concept of the Warlock as a playable class kind of flies in the face of the current World of Warcraft setting.  With Guldan and the Shadow Council no longer in charge of the Horde, Warlocks would be persona-non-grata in official Horde circles.  Yes, there is still an undercurrent of approval and "those were the good old days" in the Horde, but all that time spent fighting against the Burning Legion in Outland would have driven that sentiment deeper underground.  The only official place --Cataclysm Era-- where the philosophy of "I don't care where it came from but I'm going to throw it all against you" would find a home is in Sylvanas' camp.

As for the Alliance, there's even less of a reason why a Warlock is a playable class.  The Alliance fought not only the Burning Legion but the old Horde, and if there's any class that the Alliance would despise more than the Warlock, I'm not sure what it would be.  Yes, I know that there are always people who are tempted by power, but when WoW tries to set your toon up as a hero, a Warlock is typically not what the general populace has in mind.

Considering all that, I felt distinctly uncomfortable when Genn Greymane and Co. would call my new toon an 'old friend' and a 'hero' during the Gilneas starting zone.  "Hello?  Can't you see the Imp following along behind me?  Doesn't that make you just a WEE bit uneasy, Your Majesty?"

Dominating members of the Burning Legion like a Warlock does is splitting hairs.  Really.  You can't look at the Warcraft universe and say "well, they may be demons, but they're on our side."  To paraphrase Azrael from the movie Dogma, "But they're f@$#-ing demons!"  Warlocks are playing with the worst kind of fire, WoW-verse speaking, and I am surprised that Blizz doesn't tweak things a bit so that they are more obviously shunned a bit more.***

In spite of all that, Warlocks are a bit refreshing.  Most people --virtual or real-- tend to hide their dark secrets.  Locks put their own Darkness right out on display.  Hell, they'd probably charge admission if they thought they could get away with it, in their own Ray Bradbury-esque dark circus.

So playing a Warlock --especially in an RP environment-- is all about power and domination.


Of course, that's not the reason why everybody plays a Lock.  Some of us are in it for the DoTs.

If you've ever been in a BG, you know what it's like to have someone out of melee range dump several DoTs on you, then sit back and laugh --or maybe cast a Fear-- while you bleed to death.  If you're lucky and you're playing a class that can dispel those DoTs, you'll end up wasting time dispelling them while there's a Warrior or Kitty Druid beating on you.  Having been on the receiving end of that tactic enough times, I finally decided that I'd had enough and I want some of that too.  After all, how hard could it be?


If you come from a melee or Hunter/Mage background, harder than you think.

The hardest thing I had to deal with during the Worgen intro zone was the waiting.  Your direct attacks aren't that powerful, so you have to wait for the accumulation of those DoTs to have the desired impact.  I suppose I could run around, kiting the enemy, but that could be disastrous if I ran in the wrong direction.  So there you are, clad in cloth armor, watching some enemy wail on you.  It's only when you finally get a Voidwalker minion that you have a viable mini-tank to take the pressure off.

But that leads into the second hardest thing as a Lock, and that's the accumulation of threat from all those DoTs.  Threat spikes have always been the bane of DPS, but you can mitigate some of the danger of threat spikes by slowing down your rotation.  With DoTs, however, you don't have any sort of control once you cast your spell; your only option is to determine whether or not to cast that DoT in the first place.  Finding a way to control threat in this back handed manner is probably where a lot of Locks fall down in instances.

So, what's up for the little furball of Evil now?

I'm going to keep him questing through Darkshore, and now that he's high enough level to queue for Ragefire Chasm, I'm going to find out how Warlock dynamics work in an instance setting.

Oh, and of course I'll queue up for Warsong Gulch.  I can't resist giving the old DoT/Fear trick a whirl!

*Blood Knights notwithstanding.  And Lady Liadrin, the Blood Knight Matriarch, has since corrected things during her audience with A'dal in Shattrath City.

**Yes, I know that Roland is the chief paladin of Charlemagne's court, that Perceval was a literary construct, and Saladin was more complex than his Medieval admirers believed.  Give a guy a break, will ya?

***Even though it's not in the WoW-verse, there ought to be a chance, however small, that the demon would break free from your control and turn on you.  I'd tweak it such that the likelihood of a demon breaking free from your control goes up when you get into a fight; after all, your toon is under increased pressure, so naturally something bound against its will would try to break free when you're distracted.

EtA:  Warlocks are a class, not race.   That'll teach me to not write and edit early in the morning.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Go go go!

My guild and I have made some pretty steady progress recently on the raiding front, and we're close to getting 11/12.

I have enjoyed the raiding content so far in the game, but we're really feeling the pressure to down all of the current content before it gets nerfed to oblivion in patch 4.2.

We're pretty casual - only raiding 6 hours over two days each week.  Only raiding so little time each week usually leaves us limited time to get attempts in on final bosses, but it all works out.

Wish us luck as we push to get everything down!