Archive | September, 2010

2011?

30 Sep

Just got an update from Amazon on the shipping time and arrival date of my Pre-Ordered Cataclysm Collector’s Edition…

“World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Collector’s Edition”
Estimated arrival date: January 12 2011 – January 18 2011

WOW…I hope *that’s* a mistake.

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Revisionist History

29 Sep

The theme for the week, or so it seems, is bashing Wrath of the Lich King.  The tropes are common:

  1. Gear is too easy to get.
  2. Making dungeons too easy to clear.
  3. Making people lazy and entitled.
  4. and entitled and lazy.
  5. Perpetuating the false need for tools like Gear Score.
  6. Creating a new breed of scrub that arranges gear specifically to plump Gear Score.
  7. Trolls breeding at an unbelievable and unsustainable rate.
  8. Did I hear [Thunderfury] ?
  9. Probably not – I couldn’t hear a thing over the sound of the [Ferocious Butt] [Pounding] coming from Trade.
  10. These Mudkipz…I hear (::sound of truck slamming into Windpaw::)

All of these points are well known, tediously documented throughout the WoW blogosphere and each has their own supporters and detractors and various/sundry useful and non-useful data to support each.

Right.

But how much of it is true?

Were Wrath Heroics too easy?  I certainly remember Tribunal of Ages being a nightmare on my prot warrior the first time I tried it.  It’s facerollable now in T9-T10 of course, but then that’s all iLevel 232-251 gear (and 2 years worth of playing experience) being brought to bear on an instance meant for players geared out in a mix of ilevel 187 and 200 blues.

How much of what was hard about Wrath *really* hard – and how much of this is players looking back not at their first 80, but at their 3rd or 4th Alt running through the same content?  How much have we convinced ourselves that content was too easy when in reality it was tuned just fine for gear appropriate players?  What was your first BC heroic like compared to your first Wrath Heroic?

Are there any scars you can show us?

Blame the Casuals

28 Sep

So I was listening to Total Biscuit’s Blue Plz podcast on the way home last night.  In episode 31 he spends a great deal of time verbally disemboweling one of the new Cataclysm Heroics (Vortex Pinnacle) for being “too easy” and “too boring”.  In fact, with paramount anguish he claims that VP is actually easier than Wrath of the Lich King Heroics and wonders how something so monumentally horrible could have happened.

Unlike many in the WoWosphere, the ‘Biscuit seems to really enjoy difficult content.  On his website he has a 40 minute run through of Grim Batol the new level 85 Cataclysm Heroic, where he enthusiastically praises the dungeon for wiping his party repeatedly.  The video shows most of the highlights of the instance (including the corpse runs) and is a condensed version of what was in reality a 90 minute run.

90 minutes.  When was the last time you spent that much time in a Wrath Heroic?

Have you *ever* spent that much time in a Wrath Heroic?

Didn’t think so.

Something that TB really latches onto in his podcast is how the legions of “entitled adult players” have been responsible for Blizzard’s consistent dumbing down of WoW content.  In fact, he expends a great deal of vitriol and directly blames these players who seem to believe that Blizzard owes them an easy walk through of gameplay that requires no effort, causes no wipes and for goodness sakes, never makes any one feel bad about themselves.

About halfway into one of his rants about how these entitled bastions of mediocrity have ruined the game a part of me wanted to get REALLY offended.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe deep down in my creamy filling I’m one of those entitled adult players that wants to enjoy the little bit of time I do have for the game and to not spend it beating my head against the walls of a heroic 5-man.  Or maybe I was offended because I thought Wrath of the Lich King – while not perfect – was indeed the most accessible WoW expansion ever and that the accessibility to raiding and epic level gear better than at any other time in game.

But then I kind of mentally pulled back from all of that.  Was all of that accessibility good?  Were face roll heroics good?  What has the past two years bought us in terms of a viable game and viable gaming community?

Not much I think.

It’s true that Blizzard has made end game much more accessible in Wrath and I think that the reasons behind this decision were generally good. After all – why develop all of that end game content when only a handful of the most elite players on each server are ever even going to see?  From a business standpoint alone, it’s pretty dumb.  Blizzard is a company, Blizzard likes money.  Ergo they are going to want some return on all of that art and development and code that they’ve piled into their end game experience.  They aren’t going to get that return if only 20% of each server’s population are going to be the focus of 80% of the development time.

Starting around the end of The Burning Crusade, Blizzard decided to begin nerfing the difficulty level of their raid content over time.  The theory was that if things suddenly got easier,  even pugs and casuals would be able to whine and bitch their way through until the end boss.

Whether this was a good idea or not really has to do with where you stand in game world.  Pugs and Casuals thought it was great – they could – for the first time – kill Illidan or the Lich King.  Elites – were of a different opinion.  After all, in today’s world of achievements and such, there is very little difference between a guild or a player that knocked the LK down before the Icecrown Zone Buff and those that bashed their head into a brick wall right up until the buff went to 30%.

From a fairness point of view, this doesn’t seem to wash for me.

Let’s be clear here too.  I consider myself a casual.  I have a fixed number of hours that I can play the game any given day and that time can be sorely compromised by the joys of life as a responsible, working adult.  Yet despite the rather pejorative connotations of the term “casual” I enjoy a challenge, I do raid, I do arena and I make a concerted effort to be better at the game.

Because I do these things, I have enjoyed much more of the game than the average “casual”.  It also allows me at least a glimpse of how the true raiding and pvp elite see the game and how, in their opinion, it’s starting to kind of suck.

And simply put, I don’t think we’re doing ourselves any favors by dumbing the content down.  Or by making it so accessible that we virtually remove the distinctions between the hardcore and the casual raider.

Do I think “true” casuals have a right to complain that they need more to do in a game that has historically been focused on team based raid play?  Absolutely.  But the answer to that is not (I think) that we need to make everything so utterly accessible and faceroll easy.

But that’s exactly what Blizzard did in WotLK.  In fact, they’ve wrapped the whole game around ensuring that more and more people have the ability to join the dungeon finder and to run anonymous pugs with others in order to face roll easy content and collect badges for tier level epic gear.

We have, for two years, trained a completely new player base on this kind of thinking and this kind of game play.  How are they going to react to a much harsher world in Cataclysm I wonder?

And will it really be harder?  Everything I’ve read on the official forums, on blogs, and heard in podcasts is that the new heroics are wrecking people.  Trash pulls are HARD again and you have to learn the mechanics for boss fights and be on your toes from the moment you pull to the moment the boss drops.  People are going to DIE.  People are going to get frustrated and they’re going to get mad at each other and a lot of them are going to wrap up their six-sided loot dice and QUIT.

And then what happens?  Blizzard seems to be trying to unmake the monster it has been building and feeding over the past couple of years, but when the bottom line drives business, you simply can’t afford to alienate millions of players can you?

But while you might not be able to fit that monster back in the box it came in, you might be able to teach it some new tricks.  In Cataclysm, group dynamics and group play are going to be important again.  These are things that the dungeon finder doesn’t really teach well.  But good guilds and thoughtful players are going to probably step away from LFD and start doing things together again.

Which is also good.

What way forward would you choose?  Was Wrath your first WoW experience?  How would you view a “harder” game?

For those of  you that have been around a while – what do you think?  Are you ready to have to really learn content again?  Are  you ready to find yourself wiping on trash?  Are you ready to spend hours trying to clear a 5-man instance and get nowhere?

I am.

** Author’s note: Something I want to add here as I think it’s pertinent to the topic – and I’ve received a couple of e-mails about in regards to this post:  The Lich King fight is a grind.  It’s hard.  I’ve seen good players stymied by it for longer than any of them expected to be.  But it can be beat.  I think it’s important to not downplay the effort that others have put forth to close the door on WotLK content.  That said, not everyone in this game is created equal.  Some are simply “better at the game”.  As players we should be able to celebrate those that took Arthas down without the buff while also honoring those that needed the full 30%.  Making everyone a generic “Kingslayer” wasn’t the way to do that in my opinion.

An Embarrassment of Treasures

27 Sep

I’ve often wondered if the characters we create in WoW are brought into their digital world with some having a little more luck than others.  Think about the people you know in real life.  Isn’t there always one of them that just seems to be touched by the Lady when it comes to random acts of luck?  Always healthy, always stumbling into great paying jobs or free concert tickets or any of a number of enviable and unexpected little flashes of fortune.

Well, my WoW characters have always seemed to inherit “my” kind of luck.  Which is to say the good kind.  By good – I mean “important.”  My loved ones are healthy, I have work when many don’t, I dodge bullets well and to date, no coke machines have fallen on me.  But random luck?  Lottery tickets or slot machines or the Real Life RNG?

Hah.

It just doesn’t happen for me.

Well – I’ve noticed something rather odd.  My paladin – once dwarven, now a blood elf, seems to have been touched by Fortuna after his faction change rebirth.  While I’ve noticed he’s had rather better loot luck than most of my characters, I never paid it much attention. After all, gear comes and gear goes.  But as Brewfest has progressed, my Pally quite specifically seems to have stumbled into a fresh batch of good luck when it comes to Direbrew drops.

Three days ago my lucky Pally found a Swift Brewfest Ram in his loot keg.  I was of course thrilled – and confused – as this marked the second Ram I’d won since Brewfest kicked off – (Rainchaser nabbed the other.)  On Sunday, I jumped into the queue for Direbrew again before heading out to buy groceries.  The fight was typical (fast) and I didn’t bother to check my little loot keg until later in the evening.

When I finally remembered it, imagine my surprise when sitting inside were two Frost Badges and a Great Brewfest Kodo.

For the moment, Kel’ my paladin is simply enjoying his unexpected windfalls.  But the pessimist in me just has to wonder….

Is this some kind of developer pre-apology to Paladins for the nerfing they’re gonna get in Cataclysm?

Have I just used up all of my RNG luck for the year with these Brewfest mounts?

Are Blood Elves just luckier?

The mind boggles….

The Brewfest Diet and Orgrimmar

23 Sep

If there is one holiday that I feel is almost wholly and truly belonging to the Alliance, it is Brewfest.  While I do not begrudge my Horde brethren their annual worship at the altar of hops and barley, I do question where they hold the celebration itself.  Though Orgimmar is a mighty city and one near and dear to my heart, it is not I think, a place where one can enjoy fine ale the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

Blogosphere: But Uncle Windpaw – how is it supposed to be enjoyed?

Ehrengar – Fine Dwarf and Purveyor of Good Brew: Why sitting around a table inside a warm and cozy inn with the snow and the ice and the bite of winter outside of course!  Beer tastes best with a bit of cold as spice!

Growl – Night Elf Druid – Rarely drinks more than a light Hefeweisen: If that’s true – why all the sausages?

Ehrengar: Because sausage and beer and fine soft pretzels all covered in good brown mustard with some melted cheese on the side are the food the titans set forth at the first table for the dwarf lords and their kin!

Growl: I didn’t know that.  Fascinating.  But…there are like ten different kinds of sausage here.

Ehrengar: Aye lad, the table they set forth for the dwarf lords is so storied that deep in guts of the dwarves is a fire to recreate it in its original glory!  So every Brewfest, our finest cooks and most famous brewers sweat blood in order to honor the first feast!

Growl: Speaking of fire in the guts – watch out for the little red ones – it’s like eating tiny, greasy pyroblasts.

Ehrengar: Hah!  Those are Herrick Stonardsson’s Stranglethorn Ogre Toes!  Best with something light and fruity and more than a few bubbles.  Much like that woman’s beer you’re drinking now!

:: An iron shod guantlet streaks across the intervening space and hits Ehrengar square in his great red nose ::

Ehrengar: Curses woman!  You’ve gone and dumped me tankard!

Angharrad – Dwarfen Lady-Paladin of Note and drinker of Ironman Crawley’s Black Brew of Uldum: It’s no loss then as you’re drinking ale as brown as mud and not black as night and thick as axle grease as you should…::sniffs:: woman’s brew indeed.

Anyway – you can see where I’m going.  Nothing in my experience says beer and sausage like the Brewfest Tents in Dun Morogh.  And while I know the Orcs have a fine brewing tradition themselves, the brutally hot weather and dust of the high desert around Orgrimmar just doesn’t lend itself to feasting and celebration the way the mountain and snow clad dwarfen lands do.  As hot as Org’ is it would be tough to enjoy anything heavier than a light pilsner spiked with lemonade.  And the ram racing?  The poor things keep keeling over from heat exhaustion.  D.H.E.T.A. has heard about this and they will act.  It’s just a matter of time.

Plus, that pigs-swill the Ogre’s keep pushing on every one each year?  Have you ever smelled that stuff in 100 degree heat?  It’s like they’ve distilled the essence of sweaty arse, mixed it with room temperature pond water and sealed it up tight in kegs to fulminate for a while.  Tapping one of those things in desert heat is like tapping into a pathway to the realm of ultimate suffering.

So join with me friends.  Join with me and sign this petition to have the Horde’s Brewfest tents moved somewhere more suitable for the enjoyment of fine brew and the foods that garnish it best.  The high desert is fine and will make a warrior strong and hale – but it’s too hot and too blessed dirty for the ale!

** and thanks to my guildies for starring rather unexpectedly in this post! – best read with touch of the of County Mayo lilt

The Tyranny of Being Wrong

22 Sep

Ghostcrawler popped up with a really significant series of responses to boss scaling, hit as a stat and managing talent builds that are absolutely excellent reads.  If you haven’t seen them let me point you to the full thread in case you have a lot of time to kill before lunch.

Teh Thread – Hit as a Stat and Scaling

Teh Thread – Free Talent Points

While all of the discussion is certainly worth reading, perhaps the most telling thing I read was were Ghostcrawler laments the following:

My personal philosophy, as I have expressed before, is that the community tends to be over-obsessed with cookie cutter builds. It’s somewhat understandable because the WoW community has evolved in a direction where being badly informed is worse than being a bad player. We’re all very quick to judge each other based on litmus tests, such as gear scores, achievements, or proper talent builds, that likely don’t measure performance half as well as we want them to.

Emphasis is mine.

This rocked me back in my seat a little at first as the sheer truth of the statement washed over me.  How many times have you seen a player getting picked apart for not min-maxing his talent spec?  How many people have been refused raid spots because they chose to talent a point for utility or PvP instead of taking the generally accepted “right” talent?  Raid Leaders looking for obvious signs of “bad players” almost immediately look to gear and talent specs sending potentially successful raid members to the bench because they refuse to fall in line and spec “right”.  Because I’m used to working within the strict confines of team based sports / games / stuff – I never questioned the need to accept cookie cutter builds.  It was just something you did in order to provide the maximum potential to the raid.  While I missed the utility of my more PvP oriented specs, the reality of raiding in WoW is that you conform to the accepted raid “standards” – regardless of whether they provide any measurable value.

According to Ghostcrawler, this min-maxing (while sometimes entertaining) can be counter productive.

If it’s a talent that provides a 10% dps increase or offers an ability you’ll use constantly, fine. It’s hard to argue that won’t benefit most players. But when I see players obsess over talents that provide a theoretical 1% dps increase that is vastly overshadowed by the noise of their own performance, I shake my head a bit. Want to see what I mean? Compare a parse of yours on the same boss from week to week. You’ll probably see a dps variance of 5-10% or more. That’s the role of your skill, latency, bad luck, lacking the perfect raid comp or whatever else. Worrying about that 1% dps talent was a rounding error. Let’s not forget that what may be 1% on one boss probably is not on another.

More truth – what is that 1% getting you in the grand scale of things?  According to top tier DPS players like Kripparian, spec is important and gear is important, but much less so than player performance.  He’s well known for taking under geared hunters into raids and destroying other players packing identical talent builds and vastly superior gear.  In essence he’s a walking / talking example of how player skill can eclipse gear and talent builds.  Ghostcrawler goes on to confirm this:

How many attempts can you name in your lifetime as a WoW player where your doing 1% more dps would have made the difference between success and failure? And how many of those attempts could you have gotten 10% more dps if you had just totally nailed your rotations etc. on those fights instead of worrying about a theoretical 1% dps gain from a different talent?  Every bit helps, totally. I’m not saying throw a dart board at talent trees and expect to be competitive. But at times it’s a bit like stooping down to pick up pennies in the gutter because you’re about to plunk down six figures on a house.

I think more than anything though, it’s what the Grand Crusader Crab had to say about the evolution of the WoW community as a whole and the development teams culpability in that process:

You’re portraying yourself to be at the mercy of uninformed yet tyrannical raid leaders who are quick to judge your performance based on perceived “tells.” I know you need some basis to evaluate potential recruits or even pug members. But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency — this terror of being WRONG — that we have managed to instill in our player base. I honestly think it’s one of the greatest challenges facing the game.

The emphasis is one again, mine.

This last statement is one that gives me some hope.  Everything I’ve read about Cataclysm’s development is that the dev and design teams seem to be working hard to put choice and utility back into the game.  Yet I have to temper my enthusiasm somewhat as I know theory crafters are already hard at work dissecting talent trees and abilities in order to come up with the most efficient and powerful combinations for game play.  I know that the treatises they write and the blogs they publish will be read and re-read by leveling players looking to maximize their game.  Their words will become canon to be spouted by elitists and wanna-bes alike.  While Cataclysm might be changing the game up enough that we have to relearn our place in it, the human need to conquer that change is still alive and well.  As is the equally human need to belittle others in order to elevate themselves.

I’d like to see the dev team take swing at that.

Camo Nerfed

21 Sep

Raise your hand if you’re surprised…

Yeah – me either.  Hunters logging onto the beta realm were met warmly by the nerf bat as of the latest patch.  Beastmaster hunters wept openly at the ravaging of Kill Command’s damage coefficients and all hunters who had Camouflage filled dreams of being the next Predator have been left with a  hollow shell of a talent that seems to look neat, but has had all of the badassery ripped out its neck and replaced with something vile.

Get to the Choppah….

While the nerf to camo alone isn’t going to make us an unviable LOL-Class, hunters, particularly pvp hunters are justifiably annoyed.   Where Camouflage gave us some protection while we slunk about in our sunlight on rippling water coat of awesome, things have changed.  Now we can be flushed from our pseudo stealth via AoE and Melee.  This is particularly brutal since unlike rogues and feral druids who are truly hidden via stealth, a hunter under the effects of Camouflage are visible if perhaps obscured somewhat.  To counter a predator wanna-be hunter now simply requires a /lol and a bit of casual AoE.   So we’re left with what?  A cool visual effect?  Best I can tell that’s it.  For PvP players that were cheering perhaps one of the most useful tools to be gifted to the hunter class in some time, the ability has for all intents and purposes been reduced to the sad excuse for a level 85 talent that our PvE brethren originally believed it to be.

If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It…

Hunters of course will bleed.  As our burgeoning awesomeness continues to be pummeled, it becomes easier to understand why some of our other talents are shaping up the way they currently are.  With Aspect of the Fox (which I figure is the one aspect I’ll live in while PvPing) my focus regens when people are hitting me and I can shoot steady shot and cobra shot while running away.  The key strategy I foresee for PvP hunters consists of much running away in fact.   Which is fine.  After all when you hear the word “kite” you almost always think of hunters.  Yet  after all of this time PvPing in WotLK and having to work so hard to keep away from the melee classes in order to stay alive, things don’t feel as balanced as I’d like.  At first I chalked this up to me just not being the best at PvP huntery.  Which is subjective of course.  To some – I’m damn good.  To others – I’m meat.  But after spending the past month or so PvPing with a melee class again I can say this.  Hunters are the one class that I have no fear of whatsoever.  On my protection warrior or prot-ret paladin I simply soak the damage and destroy the hunter.  Even on that Prot-Ret Pally which has all of one useful stun and one ranged slow (both on long cooldowns) – I have zero problems closing gaps on the average hunters I meet in battlegrounds.  Once I’ve got them close I can usually kill them before they remember to deterrence or laugh as they disengage up a hill and go pretty much nowhere.  Sure – maybe I’m killing substandard hunters or maybe I just know the class well enough that I know instinctively how to counter their tricks.

(editor) Or maybe you’re playing a face-roll counter class you no-skill keymasher!

Maybe.  Regardless, hunter pvp has never felt as satisfying as melee pvp and to me, there’s something wrong with that.

Still, running about smashing other hunters can be useful.  Time spent in the iron shod boots of the enemy is a great way to learn how to fight them.  But to my thinking – and perhaps to my temperament – as a hunter, it irks me to continuously have to run away just to be viable.  Not just strike and fade and strike and fade, which is how a smart hunter should fight, but the ragged, desperate scrabble away from melee classes, barely daring to stop and plink at them out of fear that a death grip or an absurdly ranged stun brings you back  in range of their greedy blades.

I’m watching the situation and have hope that Cataclysm hunters are going to come back with a RAWR and own some face.  But we’ll see.  We’ll see.  Until then my huntery brethren – remember Rule #2 of Hunter PvP:

CARDIO…