Monday, August 6, 2007

Hanging up the Hammer

Well, class is starting up again for me soon. I've seen people successfully mix WoW, class, and having a normal life. I've seen people be very unsuccessful at the mix as well. I've never wanted to risk it; I've got too many other layers of distraction going on, and I don't want to fritter away my senior year of college alone playing WoW. My account runs out this weekend, and I'm not renewing. I had a lot of fun posting my thoughts here in these few months, and I might even be back during the next break from class. I still follow WoW loosely when I'm not playing, but I doubt I'll have much to say from here on out. Here's hoping good things are in store for all of us, healing, tanking, and whatever they decide ret is supposed to be doing.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Surprised this hasn't been linked all over.

Tons of insights (and humor) from a guy in the MMO industry. Courtesy of SomethingAwful of all places.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bad Items, Worse Items, and the -Right- Way to Farm

Playing through Azeroth again, I've been doing a lot of quests that I didn't do the first time, which means a lot of Kalimdor, which means a lot of Night Elves. I've noticed (though maybe it's just me) that Night Elf quest rewards in Azeroth seem to suck an awful lot. It's like they really like spirit or something.

Speaking of bad items, I'd argue that this little number might be the worst weapon or armor in the game. It's probably substantially worse than wearing nothing. There is other gear that lowers stats in exchange for marginally higher stats, but the exchange rate is apparently pretty bad; the armor only has 3 or 4 more spirit than a same-item-level green 'of the spirit' cloth chest piece.

Finally, there's something I hear a lot about farming that I think should be addressed. Here's something like what I hear a lot:
"I'm think I'm going to get some Bracers of the Green Fortress made. Better start farming Primal Life."

No! Well, maybe, but probably no!

One of the beautiful things about the auction house is that for a small fee, any item can be turned into an equivalent value of almost any other item over time. If you have 1000g worth of Adamantite Ore, you can turn it into around 950g worth of any other item. (Because of AH fees.)

For every character, that character has some fastest way of making -cash-. It might be farming primal fire, it might be farming primal air, it might be mining or herbing or something else, but there's some fastest way they have of making money. Any time they want -anything-, farmable or not, it's better for them to make money in the most efficient way they can, and then to buy what they want off the AH, assuming that their goal is the spend as little time as possible farming. The only exception is if there's only a very slight difference in the farm time of the thing they want and the farm time of the thing they are most able to farm for, because then auction house fees cover the gap. (Not to mention the bother of having to wait for a good time to sell the things they farmed and buy the things they want.)

I'm sure that many people already realize this all, but I thought I'd give a slightly humorous example of contrary thinking:

I was in Badlands doing a quest where you have to kill little or elite dragons to get them to drop a Black Drake's Heart. Both the whelps and the elites have a chance to drop it, so I was sticking to the whelps. I noticed that a level 70 hunter was repeatedly killing the elites and the small ones as well. Figuring that he was farming for Small Flame Sacs, I offered him the few that I had picked up. (I got to skin all his dead dragons, so I was glad to help him out.) He responded that he wasn't farming for Small Flame Sacs, but for Bow of Searing Arrows - an epic world drop!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


In a normal 5-man dungeon run, what's the most important ability for stopping incoming damage? Power Word: Shield? Not even close. Shield Block? Nope. Devotion Aura and Resistance Auras? Nuh-uh. None of those even come close to stopping the incoming damage that Freezing Trap, Polymorph, and Sap do.

I heal. I don't do anything else. I would not feel comfortable tanking even a level 60 instance, and if I tried to DPS I'd probably do less damage than the actual tank. Thus I'm very sensitive to incoming damage (as well as debuffs, which are also prevented by CC), because it's what I'm working to undo. In general, classes that can heal or tank don't have very general CC (druid and priest CC is fine when it works, but in most situations it doesn't.) This means that the three DPS slots are also CC slots. In general theory, you don't want to sacrifice too much DPS for CC because you'll have trouble on bosses, but in WoW you don't have to do that because the best CC classes are the best DPS classes.

For better or for worse, this has made me somewhat cynical about 'off-spec' dps - cats, moonkin, DPS warriors, elemental/enhancement shamans, and retadins. Even if they're keeping up on DPS, even if they're not pulling aggro, there's something that doesn't show up on any chart, which is all the damage and havoc that the mob that's frozen or sheeped or sapped -didn't- cause because it was crowd controlled. Aside from the fact that the mob wasn't hurling debuffs and doing damage at the time that healing was most intense - the early middle of a fight, when all of the free mobs are alive and kicking - it was another target that the tank didn't have to try to build up aggro against, allowing him or her to focus more on the primary kill, which allows the DPS classes to responsibly do more DPS. Crowd Control is such an absurd boon to the party, and I really don't think it gets the love it deserves.

That said, I've had plenty of good experiences with cat druids and enhancement shamans. (Ret pallies and DPS warriors are usually edged out of parties I'm in by the fact that me and (often) the tank would be competing for plate drops, I've never grouped with a PvE elemental shaman (are you guys out there?), and all my experiences with moonkin have been mediocre at best.)

What good kitties and enhancement shamans (who I really wish there was a shorter name for) lose by not having CC they make up by being arguably -better- on many bosses (ones that don't require CC, which is most) because they can off-heal, and I am excited when they do. (I also appreciate having a DI target.) As long as there's -some- CC, in most places there doesn't need to be three people that can do it well. (Which is good, because otherwise Warlocks - who I love - would be left out in the lurch in any instance that doesn't have lots of elementals, though I have grouped with one warlock who was very, very good with seduce, which I now consider to be a heavily underutilized ability.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Warsong Gulch Prisoners

Suppose that you play alliance in the Rampage battlegroup. Suppose that you want to try out some WSG. What you'd quickly find is that in the higher level brackets, alliance pickup groups are uniformly flattened in WSG. 0-3 almost every match. Now, suppose that all fun is equal, but you would like to maximize your gain of tokens and honor.

You basically have two options, assuming that you're willing to devote your attention to the game rather than AFKing. You can help your team win, which consists of defending the base and running the flag or being part of the flag-running crew, or you can kill horde at random. (Or stand near horde getting killed at random and healing your guys so that they actually down the horde, earning honor.)

The first option is more or less what you're 'supposed' to do, but it's essentially worse in every way. If the flag does make it back to your base, you wind up with a time-wasting turtle, and guarding your flag only delays the inevitable. Furthermore, if you're not where the action is because you're guarding the flag, you're not getting any honor. On the other hand, killing horde at random is a bad WSG winning strategy, but you get more honor and you get your token faster because you lose faster. The 'selfish' option, kill horde at random, is better in every way.

I think that a lot of the population has consciously or unconsciously picked up on this, and gravitates towards the selfish strategy enough that the few trying to 'do it right' can't compensate nearly enough. If we view 'help win/kill at random' as a binary decision, then by switching from 'kill at random' to 'help win', a player only hurts himself, since he earns less honor and delays his token. The only way he gets more out of trying to help the team win is if his switch is the one that pushes it over the edge, and actually allows the alliance to win. Since being a 'helper' hurts you if not enough people are doing it, someone who is one of an insufficient number of 'helpers' only benefits by becoming a 'killer at random'. (On the flip side, a 'killer at random' on a team that always wins might benefit by becoming a 'helper' if the loss of honor he gets by killing as many targets as possible is offset by the fact that by helping his team win faster he gets his three tokens and bonus honor more quickly.)

Half-baked, or could this idea explain why in the battlegrounds one side is always extremely heavily favored?

Monday, July 16, 2007

How much difference should a spec make?

Like everything I write, this veers way off in a different direction halfway through. I start to talk about ret.

In Diablo II, your spec was your character. Each playable class had three trees to choose from, and all of your skills and passives were in those trees. If you were a necromancer and didn't put any points in the curses tree, you had no curses. (Though to be fair, Diablo II had a different attitude; every class was a pure DPS class, and all three trees for every class were DPS trees. There was one healing skill in the game, I think, and it sucked.) Other games have no talent trees at all; at best you can customize your guy a little with gear. WoW is kind of middle-of-the-road.

Some of it is class ignorance, but there are some classes where it's not obvious to me what the spec of a player is. No matter what, a rogue is behind the bad guys stabbing them. (If he's in the front, he's probably a combat rogue, but a really bad one.) On the other hand, a druid's spec is easy to see (although if they're in your party, you know what they are by the role they asked to play.)

Having really focusing trees is kind of cool because it allows for greater character customization, but it's also limiting for hybrids. (If you -really- need to be heavy feral to tank, it's like you're not really a hybrid at all.)

I would be in favor of making the trees for the DPS classes more focusing; because they can't really change their role by changing their spec or gear, increased character customization through trees is probably a benefit.

For my money, the best designed trees in the game belong to the druid. The druid trees are -heavily- specializing, but each contains some interesting tools that give the druid abilities in other roles. For example, a balance druid can never heal as well as a resto druid, but they -do- have Dreamstate, which is helpful for healing and inaccessible to a heavy resto druid. Unfortunately, this kind of cross-tree pollination tends to lead to talents that just get ignored, like Nurturing Instinct, and talents that are considered essential for a different spec, like Naturalist.

This is -maybe- what the ret tree could use; a few skills that are deep enough that they'd be mostly inaccessible to the other two trees but which would give ret a little special edge as an off-healer or off-tank. Of course, as Nurturing Instinct is mostly ignored, it'd have to be something that didn't clash with how Ret Paladins want to play. (I think they want to DPS and support by DPSing, not grudgingly stop to heal a lot. Others just want to do a heck-ton of damage, but the former idea is more interesting.)

To get by on 'support' as your class ability, you need to provide an absolute ton of support. Consider that on most 4-pulls, a mage can easily prevent 1/4 of the potential incoming damage and debuffs while making the tank's threat-holding job much easier just by sheeping one of the mobs. How much 'support' do you have to provide to match that? A hell of a lot, especially if you're at vulnerable melee range and it's generally acknowledged that you're not going to do Mage DPS.

If a ret pally wants to max his DPS, he has to judge Crusader, and by judging Crusader he's not judging Light or Wisdom. (This is mostly a 5-man concern, and possibly a 10-man concern.) I've never been in a situation where a ret pally asked to join our group (ex-roommate's a warrior, so we tend to start our own groups), and if one did we probably wouldn't take him unless he out-geared the instance for loot reasons. (There's not -too- much gear for ret pallies that either I or the warrior don't want.) I don't even know what Ret is even for. I mean, it's for DPS, but I don't know why I would bring it over any other DPS class, and on Alleria-US freelance DPS is everywhere. I want ret to be cool, and I don't buy into the DPSer's "Pallies can heal and more-or-less tank, so they shouldn't be able to DPS" (since we can't really do all at once). Some class has to be the worst at DPS, and right now it's us. But Ret, which supposedly justifies itself with support, doesn't.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Druid PvP

I'm really enjoying WSG PvP with my druid. It was hard to make the jump to 40, because now I can't really PvP without being totally ineffective.

Despite the fact that I've been playing for a long time, my paladin has never had an epic. The pally epic mount is a spell, not an epic item, and I've never had any other epic item, not even a Nexus Cyrstal or a Hammer of Expertise. My druid is no longer in the same boat, as I cashed in some of my honor and tokens for some Forest Stalker's Bracers, an amazing item for level 40. (The bracers give me 1.69% dodge on their own, plus a lot of other great ups.)

In contrast, when I tried out level 7o WSG with my paladin, it was no fun at all. When I wasn't bubbled I was either feared or dead almost all of the time, and despite the gear-matching system my modestly geared paladin (up-to-Blades's-Edge quest rewards and the fruits of a few instance runs) was surrounded by players in partial arena gear or tier sets. I didn't feel like I was contributing anything, and our poor sentinel defender squad was crushed 0-3 in under ten minutes. (I'm not sure of the exact timing, but I was only able to bubble twice during the duration.) I can't imagine enduring WSG enough times to get the tokens to get any gear, although if we always lose so incredibly quickly, it may actually be faster than getting tokens with the level 39 druid; in the 30-39 bracket games take between 30 minutes to an hour, whether we win or lose (we probably won between a third of the time and half of the time.)

I've been invited to maybe do 3v3 with a warrior guildmate in similar quality gear to my own and a Kara-geared rogue ex-guildmate (people who want to raid are welcome to leave our little guild of real-life friends, and we've graduated a few, though all of them are friends of other friends in the guild; none are guys I know in real life.) Maybe I'll enjoy arena? (Although a lot of what I liked about WSG is that you get the teamwork fun of running an instance with very little pressure or role restriction, something that might be less true in arena.)