Archive for the 'world of warcraft' Category

01
Sep
14

What Are You Excited About in Warlords of Draenor?

With the expansion a little over two months away, I’ll admit that I haven’t been caught up in excitement or hype yet.  I’ve played the beta a bit.  Other than some new uses of tech in the game, it still seems like the same WoW to me.  There are no new classes or races or professions to spice things up.  Quests are still quests.  I haven’t tried any group content in the beta.

Not that this is a bad thing – the same old WoW has kept me continuously subscribed for 8+ years.  I have no intention of quitting.

However, the Iron Horde story doesn’t enthrall me.  I am hoping there will be a plot twist along the way.

Garrisons seem fun, but that is solo fun.  The game already has a ton of solo play – too much if you ask me.

What I really want are more compelling small group options, and a reason to play them with a guild group rather than using the LFG tool.  They tried to do this with heroic scenarios in MoP, but that failed.

The updated models are a non-issue to me.  I’m much more interested in gameplay than in graphic detail.  I never really look at my own character’s face.  In fact, I worry that the higher graphics will edge some people out of the game when they cannot afford computer upgrades.

I still intend to play my rogue (one of the few left, it seems) in the expansion, but I may be steered into druid healing by guild needs.

 

I have said in the past that the social network in the game is what keeps me going.  I hope that the new expansion maintains that.

Is there anything in the game that has really captured your attention?

 

29
Nov
13

on Ghostcrawler

The big news lately – Ghostcrawler (Lead Systems Designer Greg Street) is leaving Blizzard.

First thing is – good for him.  Anyone who has the ability and the bravery to move on to something bigger (and hopefully better) has my admiration.

In reading the various forums, I have found quite a bit of venom spewed at Ghostcrawler.  He doesn’t deserve any of this, and the people who use their internet anonymity to spew this crap are, for the most part, vile, small-minded sheep.

Greg Street became the face of Blizzard by making himself accessible, whether by posting in forums or, more recently, through Twitter.  He held conversations with players on their likes and dislikes in the game.  More often, it was the dislikes since the people who like the game rarely take the time to go on Twitter and say so.

Because he made himself so available, he became the symbol that people focused on.  Players who overestimate their intellect would throw their thoughts up on Twitter and expect Greg Street to simply agree with them or bow to their unbreakable logic.  Of course, this rarely happened, which led to great gnashing of teeth as people felt ignored.

Mr. Street was a great asset to Blizzard as he could stay level-headed in the torrent of inanity and vomit spewed at him.  I personally could not bear to read most of the Twitter feed because much of what I read often made me ashamed of the human race (or at least the gaming part of it).  I would not have lasted a week in Mr. Street’s position without going postal.

Those who blame all of the game’s woes on Mr. Street are simply not thinking through the vast complexity of game design.  However, in him they found a scapegoat.  Thus, the herd of internet cattle have banded together to take their final shots at his back as he rides off into the sunset.

Here’s to you, Greg.  Thanks for everything you have done.  The fact that I still play for hours every week and give my $15 a month like clockwork is all the evidence needed to show how the game has succeeded.  The fact that the haters pay their subscription fees too is even greater validation.

11
Mar
13

Trash – thumbs up or thumbs down?

Trash_heapA trend that has been taking over WoW since its creation is optimization and efficiency.  We want to find an optimal talent build, optimized reforging, and optimal gear.  We want to find the most efficient gearing path to get us through our raids as efficiently as possible.  In the early days of WoW, this was an ongoing process.  Now, with online tools, optimizing is just a few clicks away.

How much does the game benefit or suffer from this?

This tendency toward optimization has been adopted throughout WoW by Blizzard.  They call it “quality of life” improvements, and they are changes put in to make the game play more smoothly and with fewer frustrations.  Some are awesome, but others can oversimplify the game and (in the minds of some) de-emphasize things that once made the game fun.

What does this have to do with trash (the title of the post)?

This all came to mind when I was reading some other blog posts about trash mobs in raids.  The posts in question had complained about trash pulls in MoP raids.  That got me reminiscing.  Skipping past raiding in vanilla WoW, which everyone agrees was over-the-top, I used to enjoy trash pulls.  As time has gone one, it seems like a lot of people would prefer to get rid of trash.  That, to me, is just another aspect of the optimization trend.  Trash doesn’t drop epics or get you an achievement, so any time spent on trash is time not spent on progression and therefore it is undesirable.  Blizzard has followed these desires by changing trash in raids over time.

Burning Crusade

Karazhan trash was really fun and challenging.  The way the respawn rate on the ghosts before Attumen pushed you to pull quickly.  The mix of elites and non-elites in the packs of dancers before Moroes.  The ghosts that could almost one-shot a careless tank in the hallways outside Nightbane’s area.  The pairs of trash mobs that were immune to CC and would freeze the tank in the hall before Opera.  Exploding ghosts.  Mana drains.  Sometimes a trash pull took as much strategy as a boss fight.  Those were great.  However, they did take a long time.  You couldn’t just nuke them down the way trash is usually done now.  This was in the tail end of the age when raiding was still though of as something for the elite players, although Karazhan did a lot to overcome that mindset.

Later BC raids had a lot of trash (not counting the shorter Gruul and Magtheridon raids), often very challenging and time consuming.  Upper tier raids like Black Temple, Hyjal Summit, and Sunwell were generally only for dedicated raiders, though, and time-intensive trash was considered just an unpleasant part of the raiding process.

Wrath of the Lich King

The raiding model changed a lot during Wrath of the Lich King.  This is when Blizzard took steps to make raiding accessible to all.

Trash in Naxxramas (v.2, in WotLK) was not terribly challenging, although early in the gearing process it could slow you down.  It wasn’t so hard that it was a roadblock, but it took some time and pulls had to be planned.    There was less of it than in Karazhan, and some of the trash packs had unique abilities (I hated the Dark-Touched Warrior in the construct quarter).  It almost seems like the trash was there in quantity similar to prior raids, but undertuned to make it less of an obstacle.

Ulduar – considered by some to be the best raid Blizzard has ever made – had much smaller amounts of trash.  Most trash pulls between bosses were short (except before Freya).  They introduced unique mechanics like the vehicle combat before Flame Leviathan.  Typically, though, there were only 2-3 trash pulls between each boss encounter.  This is less than Naxxramas had and much less than the BC raids.  Ulduar’s boss fights are memorable, but most of the trash is not.

This push for efficiency came to a head in WotLK’s Trial of the Crusader raid, which was all bosses, no trash.  Not only was this a total departure from previous raid models, it also fit very poorly into the storyline (in the middle of a war with the Lich King’s army, lets have a tournament!).  It was received very poorly overall.  So there is a point where too little trash bothers us.

Icecrown Citadel moved back toward Ulduar’s model – a couple of trash packs between each boss.  One aspect I liked about trash in ICC’s was that it sometimes helped prepare you for the boss’ abilities.  In some cases, the trash mobs before a boss would have abilities that mirrored those the boss would use.  This is the concept that Blizzard seemed to like.

Cataclysm

Bastion of Twilight had some interesting trash.   There were a few pitfalls for the unwary if you took them lightly.  That was fun.  There were some areas where the trash was plentiful – at the start of the raid and before Twilight Council and even before Cho’gall.  Most of it was just AoE nuking, though.  In contrast, Blackwing Descent had almost no trash, but Blizzard pulled it off better than they had in previous raids with little trash.

Firelands followed the Bastion of Twilight model, where there were lots of trash pulls, but they were not terribly difficult.  This frustrated some people.  I remember a lot of complaints about all the trash pulls before you could even engage the first boss of the raid.

Cataclysm eventually introduced the Raid Finder, which (in my opinion) was the death knell for interesting trash.  Since you never know what type of player you’re going to get in the random group, the developers can’t expect a raid to have coordination, concentrated dps, or viable crowd control.  Thus, raid trash is now dull and uninteresting.    [As an aside. the trend away from CC had already happened in 5-mans due to the Dungeon Finder.]

In Dragon Soul, the groups before Morchok were just group AoE.  The tentacles before Zon’ozz were easy.  The only trash that carried any kind of unique challenge in DS were the slime packs before Yor’sahj and, for groups with low dps, the dragonlings before Ultraxion.  On top of that, after Ultraxion, there was no trash at all between Ultraxion, Warmaster Blackhorn, Spine, and Madness.

Mists of Pandaria

I’ve only personally done Mogu’shan Vaults and the first boss of Heart of Fear.  MSV trash seems almost like an afterthought.  The AoE trash packs before Stone Guard, the packs of trolls before Gara’jal, then the groups before Spirit Kings are all non-events, there to be nuked down.  Only the last pulls before Elegon have any risk to them.  They seem to be there just because they are expected, not because there is any development behind the trash encounters.

———————————————————————————

My personal opinion is that I liked the trash in Karazhan and in ICC.  The Karazhan trash was interesting and varied.  I’d rather do that than nameless mass AOE trash.  In ICC the trash mobs were not as plentiful but had a definite connection to the boss that followed them.  At times they seemed like part of the story.

What do you like?  The extensive, challenging trash in Karazhan and BC raids?  The plentiful but easy trash in Bastion and Firelands?  The non-existent trash in Trial of the Crusader?

09
Oct
12

Negative Stigma from Playing WoW

There’s some buzz in the gamer community about politics in Maine.  It seems that a Colleen Lachowitz, a Democratic candidate for state office, plays WoW in her free time.  The Republican Party there is using that to portray her in a negative way leading up to the election.

The Maine Republican Party created a web site that details a lot of posts that Ms. Lachowitz has made on some game-related forums.  Some of it is actually relevant to the political discussion.  She makes comments about politicians and political parties, probably feeling that the anonymity of a forum allowed her to state her true feelings without sugar coating them.  To call her out on that is appropriate.  We should all know by now that usernames and other internet handles do not give you carte blanche to say whatever you want.  Your words never go away.

However, if you look at all of the things posted on there, it also highlights her gaming as if it were a negative in its own right.  They highlight her statements like “I went heavier into the assassination tree” and “I did dungeons” and “I spent my day leveling an undead warlock” as if these were somehow inherently bad.

It goes without saying that the authors of this attack are woefully uninformed about a huge part of culture in the world today.  This attack on Ms. Lachowitz is, of course, without merit.

That doesn’t mean that it won’t work.

Does gaming have a negative stigma?  Clearly, it does.

I know a lot of gamers who have two distinct sets of friends.  They have their “gaming friends” with whom they talk about their boss kills, their kill/death ratio, headshots, and late night Mountain-Dew-fueled gaming sessions.  Then they have their “other friends” with whom they would never bring up those topics because its viewed as strange or weird or immature.

Doesn’t this indicate that gaming is still not an acceptable social activity?

I’m a high school teacher, and I make an effort to never discuss gaming with my students.  I don’t want them to know that I play WoW.  Its not that I am embarrassed of my gaming.  I do think that people have a specific stereotype of what a “gamer” is, and I don’t want that label.  I try to be professional in front of my students, and the gamer image does not fit with that persona.  Also, I would rather not have their parents know.  Call me a coward, but its easier to keep it a secret than it is to explain the truth to those who have certain notions about gaming.

There was one time that I did let on to a few students that I played WoW.  Within a few days, someone had tracked down my character on the armory.  Then it was printed and copied and passed around with the label “This is the REAL Mr. [my name]” written across the bottom.  This was distributed among my students.  Clearly the intent was to portray me as something other than who I appear to be at school.  Its not that different than what is happening to Ms. Lachowitz.  The difference is the scope – for me it was only within a few hundred students, while for her it is regional and, to some extent, national.

I know that I am preaching to the choir here.  Those who read this are gamers and will, of course, defend gaming.  Do you feel self-conscious about how the outside world views you?  Do you hide your hobbies from non-gamers?

15
Jun
12

Thoughts on the trinity of roles

After six years of playing mostly dps, in this expansion I’ve done some fair amount of raid tanking (paladin) and raid healing (priest and druid).  I’ve watched as Blizzard has tried time after time (unsuccessfully) to balance the number of tanks and healers with the number of dps.  Its really made me think about those roles and how they play.  To me, playing a tank vs a healer vs a dps are like playing three completely different games.  There is very little in common.  Thus, its not surprising when people who play only dps aren’t considerate of their tanks or healers, healers don’t heal the way tanks and dps want, and tanks don’t always maneuver the way that dps likes.

Here are the three different games that are being played:

As a Tank: You vs the Game Designers

There was once a time when tanks had to be proficient at generating threat and holding aggro, or quickly picking up multiple mobs.  In today’s climate of infinite threat and AoE tanking abilities, those skills are gone.  Instead, tanks have to learn to dance and taunt-swap.  I consider this, “playing against the game designers”.  A tank has to go through a prescribed set of maneuvers and movements as set forth by the designers to accomplish the task.  The tank can largely ignore what other players are doing, except in fights with adds who have to be taunted off of the healers.

As a DPS: You vs Yourself

DPS has the reputation of being the easiest role.  That’s because very few fights have strict damage output requirements.  Most of them can be completed if you are down a dps, or if one is underperforming.  I’ve done 99% of my raiding as dps.  When a dps plays, he can mostly ignore what the tanks are doing and completely ignore what the healers are doing.  While there are some dance moves to learn, the majority of a dps’ job is to use his abilities in a way as to maximize output.  I call this, “playing against yourself” because you know you’ve done well if your output is greater than the last time you did the fight.  You’re always competing against your own past performance.  In most cases, other than some buffs/debuffs, the other players have very little to do with your performance.  Its not a “team” role.

As a Healer: You vs the Other Players

Healing is completely unique.  Not only do you have to do the dances that the designers have put in, but you also have to do it while watching what everyone else is doing.  Healing is the only role that can be made significantly harder based on the actions of the rest of the raid (you could argue that tanking has some of that as well, but not to the extent that healing does).  If players stand in bad stuff, if they fail to use survival cooldowns, if they ignore important mechanics – all of that puts the onus on the healer to “fix it”.  I refer to healing as “you vs the other players” because they can make your job easier or harder by their actions.

Its no wonder that the number of people who play tanks and healers is so low.  DPS is almost a solo game, and puts the least responsibility on the player.  Healing is the one most impacted by “bad” players.

How can this be fixed?  Other than wholesale changes to the game, I don’t think it can.  If healers had a passive healing model – like the more damage they dealt the more healing they did (much like Atonement), then that might be a progressive change to break out of the current roles.  Or if more classes could take a beating, even for a short time (like Rogue evasion) then tanking might not be so stressful.  Other games have tried, but I haven’t heard anyone raving about how a game has truly broken out of the trinity of roles.

So as we move forward into MoP, we’ll have more of the same.  I do think that every DPS should try leveling a healer and a tank, for a better perspective on those roles.

22
Dec
11

Is the LFR expected or optional?

I was reading and posting in an online forum on a WoW-related topic.  In the discussion, someone spilled the beans about the ending of the Dragon Soul raid and storyline.  Another person said, “Dude, put SPOILER ALERT on that so we know not to read it if we haven’t done it yet.”

At this point, the person who had asked for the spolier alert was raked over the coals in the way that WoW trolls really know how.  They accused him of being a failure at the game because, at this point, only a total loser has not cleared the Dragon Soul in the LFR.

I stepped in to disagree, saying that I preferred to raid with my guild and so I, also, have not done the LFR raids yet.

Then the tide of opinion turned against me, saying that I should be running LFR to get gear to help with normal mode raiding.  The fact that it is super-easy was the main argument for its necessity.

———————————————————————————–

I feel like I’m part of a dying breed in WoW.  The main joy of raiding for me is playing with my long-time gaming friends.  There is no thrill in loot.  Loot lost its appeal to me back in BC when epic purple gear became more common than rare blue-level gear.  My joy comes from the shared experience of overcoming the obstacle that the devs have set before us.  For that reason, I’d much rather run the raid in normal mode, using gear I got in normal mode Firelands and by running heroics.

Basically, I see the LFR as a nice alternate path for those who want/need it.  I don’t see it as a necessary part of the gearing-up process.

Am I the minority here?

21
Dec
11

Add-On dependence

Since I’ve had trouble with Curse Client this week, its made me realize what a large number of add-ons I use.

This is not intentional.  Its just “add-on creep” – meaning that over my 6+ years of playing I have gradually added more add-ons while not removing many.

Here’s what I use right now:

  • Dominos for my bars
  • X-Perl for unit frames
  • SexyMap to move and configure my minimap
  • Elkano Buff Bars for my buffs/debuffs
  • ChocolateBar (replacing FuBar) for my indicators across the top of the screen, including
    • Fubar2Broker to make my FuBar add-ons functional
    • MoneyFu to track my income
    • PerformanceFu to monitor my game performance
    • ReputationFu to track my faction reputations
    • GarbageFu to automatically get rid of crap that I loot
    • DurabilityFu to automate my gear repairs
  • OmniCC to put a timer on my cooldowns
  • Outfitter to manage my gear sets
  • Arkinventory to organize my bags
  • GoGoMount to use a different mount each time I mount up
  • Archy for my occasional dabbles in archaeology
  • FishingBuddy and FishermansFriend to make my time fishing go smoothly
  • IronChef to help my cooking go faster
  • SleekFreeBagSlots to show my free space on the toons that don’t use Arkinventory
  • StealYourCarbon to simplify restocking of basic reagents
  • SpamMeNot to block annoying goldsellers

Then there are the add-ons I use to raid.

  • PowerAuras to tell me about important procs
  • SmartBuff to remind me to rebuff or repoison
  • Deadly Boss Mods for raid encounters
  • Omen Threat Meter
  • Nug Combo Bar to show my combo points in my field of view
  • Event Horizon as a timer for my abilities
  • Recount with several plug-ins for damage/healing tracking
  • EnsidiaFails to see who messed up after a wipe
  • BigBrother to make sure that everyone has food/flasks
  • Clique and Grid on my healer characters
  • Decursive on any characters than can decurse or dispel
  • Tauntmaster on my tank toon
  • KAHolyPower for my paladin

Then there are my auction/gold-making add-ons

  • TradeSkillMaster for sheer awesomeness
  • Enchantrix to automate prospecting/milling/disenchanting
  • Postal to quickly send/receive my hundred of mails from the auction house.
  • MillHelp to see what my herbs will mill into

Plus many of these add ons use libraries which also need to be updated.

Very few of my add-ons actually have a direct impact on my game play.  On my rogue, its basically NugComboBar and Event Horizon.  On my priest and druid healers its Grid, Clique, and Decursive.  For my paladin its KAHolyPower, TauntMaster, and EventHorizon.  And DBM, of course, on any characters in a raid.  Other than those, the vast majority of the add-ons are for convenience and to automate everyday tasks or to reorganize my UI.

To keep this up to date manually would be a huge chore.  Now that Curse is uninstalled, I have to decide what to do.  How many of these can/should I remove?  How much frustration will I feel when I have to remember to do things that used to be automated (like rebuff or repair or empty my bags of grey items)?  How annoyed will I be when I start getting goldselling spam or forget to restock my poisons?  How long would it take me to get used to a simpler, more vanilla UI?  I’m so used to these things as part of my game experience.

 




Armory

Dinaer - 90 Assassination Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Derence - 90 Prot/Ret Paladin (US - Sen'Jin)
Metius - 90 Shadow Priest (US - Sen'Jin)
Liebnitz - 90 Arcane Mage (US - Sen'Jin)
Fastad - 90 Subtlety Rogue (US - Sen'Jin)
Darishin - 90 Resto/Balance Druid (US - Sen'Jin)
October 2014
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