Sunday, March 7, 2021

Miscellaneous Musings on a Quiet, Sunny Sunday Morning

I knew this day would come.

Last night I received my usual invite to Blackwing Lair, helped summon people by being a clicker, made and distributed food and water, and organized the Mage Int buffs.*

Then I turned my attention to the reserve listing, and discovered there was nothing Cardwyn needed. Sure, there were a couple of T2 pieces I'd like to get to finish out the set, but as far as gear I could use right now? Not a thing.

One of the pug Mages last night even whispered me, asking what I'd reserved, and I told him that I was good. "I got the Claw last week, and that was the last piece I needed," I replied.

"Oh cool, congrats."

"Thanks. But yeah, I'm just here to help out."

I still could use enchanting recipes out of Molten Core and AQ20, and there's always the need for idols in Zul'Gurub, but Blackwing Lair is the first raid that Card has semi-officially "outgrown". And when I started progression raiding and my gear needs were so great, this moment seemed so far off that I felt Card was never going to get enough DKP to finally finish the task. But in a weird quirk, the opening of Naxxramas helped me out because the official Friday night BWL raid shut down in favor of an extra day of Naxx raiding. Its replacement, the Saturday night BWL run, used a soft reserve system, which meant I could pick and choose the specific pieces of gear to roll on based on who wanted what. And after the people ahead of me in the progression raid finally got the Tear of Neltharion they'd been waiting over half a year for, my turn came with nobody else to roll against. By then, I'd accumulated the other popular BWL Mage pieces, so all I had left were the Tear and the Claw of Chromaggus. And, in two successive weeks, I got both pieces without any other competition in the reserves.**

So here I was, after six months of running BWL, and I finally "finished" it on Card.

It felt... weird, but also freeing. I grew to enjoy running BWL, the goblin packs notwithstanding. There's an ebb and flow to the raid that is comforting in the same way that a well geared MC run simply works. You can make small talk, laugh, joke, make quips about the various methods of dying to goblin packs (my favorite: blinking away from one bomb right into another), and in general just relax. When you have as many regulars as we have, you know the raid is going to be okay. It's only in the details where we have a few anxious moments, like getting a bear tank for said goblin packs, but we somehow manage to work things out.***

And I'm not planning on giving up my spot in BWL for quite a while. I love it too much.


In case you haven't noticed, the MMO blogosphere has simply exploded with talk about Valheim, the latest hotness game. Which, I might add, is still in Early Access on Steam.

Yes, a game from a small publisher --that isn't finished-- is getting a ton of exposure in a way that I haven't seen since, oh, No Man's Sky.

The major difference between Valheim and No Man's Sky is that Valheim is complete enough for people to play via Early Access, so you'll know pretty quickly if it's a dud or not.

And by all accounts, Valheim is good enough, and far enough in development, that there's plenty of blog posts discussing it in such a way that the major AAA publishers wished people would talk about their upcoming releases.

That's nice and all, but PC is one place you're not going to see any Valheim posts for quite a while.

The reason? It's in Early Access.

I haven't bought a game in Early Access, and I'm not planning on starting now. I waited until My Time at Portia was officially released before purchasing it. Same with Pathfinder: Kingmaker, and in that case I waited until the final release was on stable ground before purchasing the game. Since that's my policy, I'm going to do the same with Valheim. That's for one really really good reason: I've got a ton of games already purchased that I can play without needing one that isn't finished. And really, I think it more likely that I'll get a PC of my own before I get a chance to play Valheim.

So I salute all of those who took the plunge and are enjoying the game, but I've been George R.R. Martin-ed enough times for me to not jump in.****


As long as I live, I will never understand how multiple meters can come up with such disparate results. 

I'm not often one to toot my own horn, but on last Friday's Naxx run I got top DPS. 

Now, to be fair, the top Mage on the raid team lost her buffs on the first pull when an abomination got loose and wandered into the main raid, killing about 8 of the ranged DPS. And if you've ever played a Fire Mage, just whose name ends up on an ignite is a pretty random thing, so the fact that Card showed up there was just luck.

But hey, I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. Especially when I had TinyThreat on the threat meters and wasn't paying attention to the DPS meters until I started getting congrats from the other Mages. When I saw the results, however, I felt that I'd finally gotten something right in the Naxx raid. Until I looked at the Warcraft logs.

When I pulled them up, it claimed that while I was the top Mage, I was more back into the middle of the pack. 

Which got me to thinking just how is it possible for the two to be so far off.

The only thing I could figure is that I was out of range for some of the DPS, but that didn't make sense since I didn't really have to move to get into position to cast (Patch came to us instead of the other way around). Now it is possible that the melee DPS started earlier than the ranged, but not that much earlier to make that much of a difference in the TinyThreat DPS meters. For a fight as long as Patchwerk's is, we'd have had to have held off for 20 seconds or more to make that much of an impact. 

So all I can do is shake my head, shrug, and do my best.


With all the talk about BC, I thought about revisiting my past and reviving a toon long since retired:

Time to pay the bar tab and get moving.

Yes, Neve will ride again in BC Classic!

*I'm the only Mage designated "Raid Regular" who attends all of the pug raids put on by Valhalla, so I've simply absorbed the job of organizing which Mage buffs which group. (If a guild member attends, I defer to them, but most of the time they're simply happy to let someone else handle this gig.) Once in a while I'm the sole Mage in a raid, such as Zul'Gurub, and when that happens I like to have fun with my posts in raid chat. Such as the time I posted "Mage Int buffs: Cardwyn Group 1, Jaina Group 2, Khadgar Group 3, Rhonin Group 4."

**A soft reserve system means that you can reserve an item (or two, depending on implementation), but other people can reserve that item too. So, if that item drops, the only people who can roll for that item are those who reserved it. Instead of 20+ people rolling, there are far fewer people to roll against, increasing your odds of winning. But for a new L60, a soft reserve system is a godsend: if you DON'T reserve anything, all the gear that drops that doesn't have a reserve on it means that you have first dibs on that gear. There's also no limit on the number of non-reserved items you can win. We've seen in ZG and BWL runs people who are fresh L60s make out like a bandit and take home 6-7 pieces of gear in one setting. And one more thing of beauty about the system is that even reserved people do have a shot at non-reserved gear: all it takes is the non-reserved people to not roll on that first, non-reserved roll, and then a second open roll takes place where anybody who could use the item is invited to roll. It may sound complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it the soft reserve system is fantastic for people needing to gear up. We've accumulated a LOT of regulars to our soft reserve raids because they work so well, even among the most highly rated guilds on the server. I'm also pretty sure that the progression raid as well as Valhalla as a guild has gained people due to Jes' handling of the soft reserve raids. 

***Or rather Jes does. She's a natural leader, and yet she works hard to pull off a smooth raid. She's also pretty well known around the server as one of the go-to people for enchants, so that helps with name recognition, even when she's on one of her alts.

****Can you believe that Patrick Rothfuss' Wise Man's Fear was published 10 years ago? I didn't even realize that until a month ago.


  1. That's interesting, I'd heard about soft-res systems when I was playing Vanilla, but I didn't realize that people who didn't reserve anything got first crack at anything not reserved.

    That's an interesting wrinkle.

    1. Oh yes, it's a great thing to bypass the "one piece of loot" issue most raid runs have if you do regular MS/OS dice rolls, and if the raid is run well (and Jes' raids are) it becomes not only a great way to gear up fresh L60 toons but a good way to advertise for the guild putting it on. I know of at least a handful of people who attended these raids and eventually moved into either joining Valhalla, joining the progression raid team, or both. And we have enough regulars that show up, week in and week out, that simply enjoy raiding with us. And really, you can't ask for more than that.

  2. I think the situation with Valheim is precisely the reverse of what you're imagining. It's not that it's okay in Early Access but it'll be better when it's finished; it's more that it's exactly what it needs to be. I am absolutely certain that it will become less interesting and less absorbing the more it develops. By the time it's deemed to be a full, feature-complete launched game it will be so manicured and managed it will be just like every other professional product out there.

    It's like music. How many bands release their best albums mid-way into their career? How many retrospectives of decades-long careers end up ranking the first two or three albums as the peak of a band's entire recording history? There are exceptions but it's a safe bet that the early stuff is going to be most people's best work and that's by and large true for online games as well.

    It's possible Valheim could be the exception but even if it is, it's never going to have the strnaglehold on the zeitgeist it has now. Coming in a year or two down the line is going to be like watching archive footage. At it's best it'll just be another good video game by then. Is that enough?

    1. I don't think Valheim would attract the interest it has now if it weren't as good as it is right now. Unlike a lot of Early Access games, from what I've read it seems to be much more polished and bug free at this particular moment in its lifespan. (Funcom could learn a few things from the Valheim dev team, to say nothing of Bethesda and the major players.)

      Comparing it to music is an apt one, but for a different reason than you might think. I've always had a theory that the reason why so many bands' best work is in the first album is because those bands have had years of polishing and honing the songs that comprise their first album, whereas after that first album is in the can they have to then start writing new songs for release in a much shorter timespan. The built in songwriting advantage that first album had is now gone, and now they have to write quickly to fill subsequent albums. Some songwriters can put out good songs quickly (Lennon-McCartney and John Fogerty, as two examples) but for the most part people aren't up to that task. So quality declines, unless a bad is able to figure themselves out before their contract runs out.

      With Valheim, the dev team has been working hard to get that first release just right. The people on the raid team can't seem to stop talking about how polished it is, and if it's this good now imagine what it will be once it is officially out the door.

      Either way, I'm not a big fan of Early Access games, so I'll wait for an actual release before I'll pull the trigger.

  3. Hi Red;

    A two post to read Monday morning, thank you very much! I especially appreciate your discussions about raiding. I'm able to live vicariously through your posts, enjoying the stories and personal perspectives without raiding myself.
    Recently, playing through Shadowlands, I've been fortunate enough to play with 2 people that I know in real life. 15 years of WoW, and it's a very rare experience for me. Both of these friends were shocked at how little endgame I've experienced, as 99% of my time in wow is spent in solo activity. Funny enough, both asked the same question: How can I not participate in raids and instances, it's an MMO?
    Gave me something to think about, and basically it's that there's enough in WoW to keep me interested and occupied happily, without having to commit to a raid schedule, or even going through the anonymous 'rush to the end of the instance' mentality that I've hated since Wrath.
    I enjoy raiding, but the commitment to a schedule I really don't enjoy. Yes, it's a part of raiding, and the need to spend time on raid mats, again boxing your time into something not in your control. After many years of doing just that, the freedom I'm enjoying has been well worth the trade.
    The lack of gear hasn't dampened my feelings of progression, not at all. I've spent lots of time levelling alts, running them through the 50-60 and moving on to the next. Each WoW session feels like I've made headway, and there's lots more to go.
    I hit LFR with one of my friends the other day, and died on one of the boss fights. It was about 20 seconds before the boss went down, so I didn't release, thinking a rez would come. Nope, so I released, and tried to find my way back to the group. A couple minutes of frustration till my friend realized that I wasn't caught up yet, and the last boss had been pulled. He ran back to guide me, and by the time we got to the boss it was falling over dead. It was a reminder that WoW, with its anonymity, is pretty much a solo game unless you commit to others.
    All that said, the solo game is VERY enjoyable. I'm having a blast, and look forward to each login.
    So, I come here, and there's Redbeard's raiding to read about. Yep, a well-rounded WoW experience for me.
    Thanks Red!


    1. You're welcome!

      Oh, it's quite easy to not experience raiding in WoW, since I did it myself for 5 years in Retail and 8 months of Classic. (plus all those years spent in other MMOs, such as LOTRO, SWTOR, Elder Scrolls Online, GW2, etc.) And I was pretty much expecting my raiding experience to remain little/none throughout Classic, but events conspired against me there.

      And going from one raid night per week to 2 days of progression raiding + 4 days of basically "helping out" raids is kind of nuts. At least I'm at the point where in the non-progression raids I hardly use potions to buff up, because I'd like to have some time to myself.

      But yeah, a constant raid schedule can be an issue, especially if your own schedule doesn't always mesh. That was actually my biggest concern when I started raiding, and I have the two built in advantages in that a) Valhalla raids late at night in Eastern Time, and b) I'm a night owl. That way, I don't have issues with my wife and I trying to use the PC at the same time, and I can spend some time with her before she goes to bed and I start raiding.

      As for that LFR group, that just pisses me off. Basic courtesy is a) checking to see if everybody is ready, and b) checking to make sure people know the basic mechanics before pull. Of course, this being LFR, it's kind of the worst scenario for raiding in that the most egregious offenses from LFG are applied to a raid that the hardcore raiders look at as a "kiddie raid". LFR can still be good, but that effing sucks that the raid left you behind and didn't give a crap about it. I've been in groups like that back when I played Retail, and I loathed them.

      That doesn't mean that pug raids assembled the old fashioned way are any better, because we do run into the asshats from time to time. And there was a recent purge of some asshats from one of the top guilds on Myzrael-US because they sniped the dragon buff and then proceeded to start griefing the Horde resetter who explicitly came in to perform a head reset. The guild booted them for that behavior and posted their names in Discord, and as soon as I saw the list I went "Oh, that one was an asshat in ZG, so was that one, and that one too!"

      About the only advantage you get in the old fashioned raid assembling over LFR is that you get to know (and shun) the jerks. With LFR's range (still across several servers, I presume?) you may never see a particular asshat again so they can continue their asshattery without anyone standing up to them on their server.

      And yeah, I still love the solo game. And there's plenty of times when I just want to relax and not think or socialize --long days at work, for example-- and I just rig myself for silent running and just go out and do things on my own.

  4. Interesting that you don't have any limits on non-soft-reserved items. On my server the "two item limit" still commonly applies regardless of soft reserves, and you can only get more if the piece was going to get sharded otherwise, so it's rare for one person to get lots of pieces in a single run.

    About the log thing, I've heard someone say that Warcraftlogs splits the ignite damage evenly among all the fire mages, so that would explain why you were lower on the meters there if your normal dps meter just attributed it all to you.

    1. The implementation we use is the unlimited number of non-soft reserves, with the stipulation that its an item you can actually use. I know I've been asked in raid whether an item is really an upgrade for a Mage who bid on an item, but in general its pretty obvious when someone is bidding to shard an item.

      On principle that I've seen used as justification is that we'd rather see gear being used than just disenchanted, and I can't argue with that assertion. To me, a good ZG or AQ20 run is one where I don't have to disenchant any gear because it all went to a good home.

      As for the Warcraft log thing, that's kind of concerning. Not because I wouldn't mind sharing an ignite, but because you definitely don't share the threat in a boss fight. I just pulled aggro on 4 Horsemen (Zellik) last night because ignite kept my threat going higher even after I stopped attacking and ran back to the "safe" area in the middle of the room.