Saturday, January 09, 2010

And So it Begins...

News from land is suggesting that the Friends and Family Alpha of Cataclysm starts on Tuesday.

It's going to be a cold, dark Winter.

/looks out of Window.

Roll on release date... :D

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Scores on the Doors

Not often do I get a chance to start a post with Larry Grayson: picture from Why is he here? Click here to understand my twisted mind.

There is a good chance you still have no idea what a gear score is. I didn't until a few months ago, but of late it has become something of an obsession on my Server, mostly because it has become a way of judging your character's relative position on the Game Progression Ladder 'o' Doom.

Type 'what is a gear score in wow' into Google and you'll pull up a link to WoWWiki's basic yet functional definition:
Gear score is numerical value based on the statistics of a player's gear. In addition to item level (ilvl), the item's actual statistics or abilities may or may not be included for calculation, as determined by specific formulas or addons.
In it's basic form, it is an incredibly simplistic way to see what a player has done. The higher the score, the more places that person has been. It won't tell you if they ninjaed all the items, it won't account for appauling choices of enchant or gemmage, and it has absolutely NOTHING to do with that person's basic ability, but it's a fair indicator of what they could be capable of. We shouldn't have arbitrary numbers like this in game, of course, as we have been told more times than we care to remember that it's not about the class, the spec or the gear, it's the player that matters... except I think it's a fair bet Blizzard is using a system pretty similar to this to put us all together in groups for the LFG System. Like it or not, the game itself is currently using our gear to judge us.

There are many different scoring systems currently: WoW Heroes uses one, Be Imba another. The Gear Score addon is used by many as it's simple and runs in-game. However, I suspect the LFG System will be looking at an iLevel average (taking all your bits of gear, adding up the iLevels and coming up with a number based across all your slots) After all, Blizzard deliberately added iLevel functionality to the game, so we can now see this if we want via the Interface. They must have done it for a reason...

So, I decided to do a sweep of all my current 80's and do some comparison. I used PuG Checker, which does the maths for me (plus provides a handy list of all the dungeons and instances you've participated in) The results were not a real surprise:
P (Main, ICC Raiding)   Average iLevel = 241.88
M (Shaman, PuG raiding)   Average iLevel = 233.39
W (PuG raiding, WG resident)   Average iLevel = 232.50
M (Druid, ex Main and Ulduar)   Average iLevel = 228.44
G (Demon Miner and Layabout)  Average iLevel = 217.29
K (Dinged 80 moments ago)  Average iLevel = 207.44
The numbers bear out the truth: P is raiding, score is high. M & W have been PuG-ging the occasional 10 man. K gets out maybe once a week, does a couple of randoms, makes cloth, and that's it. In this basic form the scoring does work: most work at the top, and then read down the list, so in that regard the numbers do have merit.

However, I have to wonder whether this is the start of a bigger trend. Some one asked today whether if you change gear you can avoid certain dungeons on and as the answer seems to be no, that adds credence to the idea that the tool is probably using the Armoury as a guide. The only way to find out for certain I suspect would be to log out naked and then attempt to join the queue, but if the tool uses a saved cache of your gear... but I suspect Blizzard have that contingency covered. They are, like it or not, applying decisions based on your character and the information available online, as anyone who demands your gear score for a raid invite. So if you're one of those people who thinks knowing how good your gear is isn't relevant, I'd argue that everyone, including the game's designers, is beginning to think otherwise.

This raises other questions too: the sheer amount of information currently available to Blizzard and already accessible to us via the Achievements and Statistics pages makes me wonder what other algorithms might be possible: checking achievements certainly for PuG Raid runs (though theoretically that's how a lot of people might get the achievements in the first place) With the Gold Tracker I wonder how hard it might be to have a programme that could access accumulated wealth on a character, which could have fraud prevention applications. I suspect the LFG Tool will be the first of many 'helpful' additions to the game using the data Blizzard has access to... I wonder what else they have up their sleeves.

If you didn't know what a Gear Score was when you started reading here it's probably time you went and found out. If you're sensible you won't obsess about it, you'll accept it as another layer to the game and it's foundation on statistics and mathematical calculations. What you should understand however is that unlike the Real World, there's not much subelty when your online persona needs to be judged in purely mathematical terms. I'd suggest you stop worrying, press the LFG button and get better geared.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

You Know What?

Warning: this post contains an opinion concerning Teamwork. Proceed with caution!

Here's a thing:
You shouldn't be getting invited because of your buff today. You should get invited because you're not annoying and because you contribute to progress. 
Ghostcrawler, on the Forums.

I tend to skim read a lot of the Blue stuff, if it's relevant or it's Le Nerf du Jour then I'll stop and take a look. This made me stop in my tracks.

Ghostcrawler is SPOT ON. He's so right in fact I find myself wanting to take this and post it in all the places I know the annoying know-it-alls hang out. I want to find them all, show this to every single person who thinks they have a given right to Raid simply because they have a decent set of gear and a basic understanding of the Bosses and point out that if you don't contribute, you shouldn't be raiding.

The problem comes then with how you define contribution. I'm not talking about Fish Feasts, either, though they are very useful and save money and all. Contribution in my mind is doing the best you can give from the moment you engage the first pack of trash to the time the Mage pops the portal to Dalaran. Contribution is about not expecting to be picked because you signed up first, it's about reading the tactics and being prepared to do as you're told even if that means going against what you did for homework. Contribution is not rolling Need on any item you can use, it's looking at who else is in the Raid and what they need to help everyone move forward. Above all else however, it's understanding how to work as a Team.

This is the one thing I think most people have the biggest trouble grasping. Even the Main Tank, however humungously awesome he or she may be, is useless without 9/24 other people to back them up. However superb your healing team may be, unless the dps do their job and come up with the numbers, it's not going to happen. I'm sorry dps, that means you can't slack. Gone are the days of 40 man raids and 5% of the damage dealers on a free ride. Really, they've gone. If you believe you can mash buttons in any spec and hope with a clear conscience, I refer you to Mr G. Crawler's comments above, and suggest it's time to go level that Night Elf.

'But hang on P... that's not fair! Some people aren't great at raiding! When do they get their chance then?'

It's a horrendous grey area. It includes spouses and partners, it includes that best mate who's really trying but just doesn't get it, the work colleagues who wanna understand what all the fuss is about... and the list goes on. For every person who gets it, there's someone who doesn't. THESE are the people I know GC is talking about, but he's not the Raid Leader that's gotta break that to the hapless. However, the fact he feels the need to say it at all makes me think he'd like more people to stop trying to make do and manage, and more of us to actually go away and do the work.

It is clearly not impossible to improve as an average raider, or I'd be seriously screwed. It requires thought, consideration, research and practical application. It needs you to do something rather special however, which is where the real issue sits I suspect for most. It means you have to commit to playing. It means treating this collection of pixels as something more than simply something you do when you're bored for a couple of hours. It needs you to read websites, it demands that you spend time considering gear options, not simply that you buy something new every time the number of Elbows required is fulfilled. Here I think is the real crux: raiding, however casual you like to think you do it, isn't EVER going to be casual in the execution.

The devs have ways of making it easier: yes, drums are one of them. Nerfing instances is another, but if you've ever gone back and done any instance for the first time at the point where you easily outgear it I can bet if you get the raiding mentality you'll have felt a pang of disappointment that you never saw it when it was truly a challenge. Serpentshrine Cavern was one such instance for me. I never saw after Maggy in TBC at the correct level, and when we went in post Northrend... I found myself wondering just how awesome it would have been to have cleared that place properly as part of a Top Team. Running Karazhan now, which was two night's work back in the day, just seems wrong in Easy Mode. It was hard and fun and exciting to do because of the magnificent people I ran it with. That really was working together.

If you need help to do content, you have a number of choices. Most of them will inevitably involve hard work, dedication and spending time in-game. If that's not something you are prepared to do as a raider, then I have to say I don't think you should be raiding at all. If you think I'm being elitist and exclusive, you couldn't be further from the truth. If you understand WHY I get so annoyed at people who think they deserve to raid, then you're getting the point.

You know what? It's not just about you, there's no I in TEAM. Yes I know it's a cliche, but so's expecting someone else to do all the work on your behalf. If you want to get better, there are many, many options. It's up to you.

Forward Planning

So much to do, so little time...

Now I know this column has my undivided attention for the coming year, it seems appropriate to spill the beans on some of my plans for the next twelve months in Azeroth.

The main one, I will be honest, is to spend less time ingame.

Now that both kids are into a routine at School, I think it's high time I tried to get some of my life back. If there is one thing I can say about the game with a measure of confidence, it's that it has the ability to be all-consuming. This will be my fourty-fourth year on the Planet, and it occurs to me that I should be doing more to expand my horizons and less time levelling my 25th alt :p One of the things I want to keep working on however is my writing, which is never going to improve at all if I don't keep doing it, so the Blog will remain as Warcraft is a subject about which a) I am passionate and b) I enjoy writing. I suppose that transforms playing into something of an exercise in Time Management for the next few months, especially as there is only limited amounts of new content to digest.

I fully intend to go through with one of the ideas I suggested in my job application, which is to level a Worgen Hunter to 85, fully heirloomed. It's been a fair while since I did the process from scratch, and with the changes Cataclysm will bring I suspect it may be a great way to re-discover Azeroth all over again. As I see there's finally a date for the new PvP Season I know I'll also be spending some time upgrading P's PvP gears and doing more BG gubbins, as that's a quick way to play that doesn't involve hours online. However, if I'm honest, with the new LFG queuing system it's not that hard to upgrade an item in a couple of hours. Throw in some ICC 5 mans for weapon chances and I don't really need to go look at the inside of a 10 man with anyone else other than my main ever again. 2010 will, I think, end up being known as the Year of the Casual.

I have one more project that I've been thinking about, and once I have some more thoughts on paper I'll let you know where we are. If it works, it could be Made of Win. We will see.

That's Me, That Is...

 Yes, I'm a Sad Panda. Hugs are gratefully recieved. From

I applied for this job, you know. No, I didn't get it, but that's not why I'm sad. I'm sad because I learnt that I hadn't got the job by reading that article. No acknowledgement e-mail that my application had even been seen, let alone a 'sorry, you didn't make it' one. I'd expected more professionalism, to be honest.

Ho hum.

I notice that they're looking for a Druid, Pally, UI and Lore columnist as well. I don't feel nearly as confident about writing for any of those areas as I would with the Hunter Hat on, and if there is one thing I have learned over the years it's not to lie about your enthusiasm or understanding of a subject, because you will ALWAYS be caught out.

So, you're stuck with me. I hope that doesn't make you a Sad Panda too.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

They're GIVING It Away!

Via, news emerges that running Oculus suddenly became a lot more attractive.

The fact that Blizzard has felt fit to sweeten this instance even more after nerfing the Kahunas off of it when Icecrown launched is rather interesting. Clearly no-one likes it, this much remains apparent even post-nerf. Sticking stuff at the end boss may not be enough of an incentive, let's be honest, because you still have to ride the bloody dragons and use their abilities, and as is apparent to anyone who's PuG-ged Malygos for the Daily Raid achievement, some people just DON'T GET IT. It's not that they don't want to, they just CAN'T.

Next time I'd make the mechanics easier to grasp. The Gunship Battle for instance in ICC, there's a good use of a gimmick. The Dragons... FAIL.

Talking of which, Deathbringer Saufang to 8% at enrage last night. He is SO dead tomorrow. SO DEAD!

PS: ICC Bosses, please stop dropping plate. KKThxbaibai.

Monday, January 04, 2010

We Are Family, Shaman Edition

Looking whistful in Dalaran, as per usual...

To continue the series, it's time to introduce yet another of the family of alts. This time around, say hello rapidly-levelled and highly entertaining-to-play Space Goat.

Name: M

Class and Spec:
Resto Shammy. We also have an Elemental Off-spec, but to be fair that's only producing loldps with the hit gear I've managed to pick up from instancing. I LOVE playing a Resto Shaman. It's a completely different form of healing from anything I've done before (priest and druid healing are also available, after all) and it suits my style of play far better. I will happily admit to being a Chain Heal spammer, but I'm slowly grasping the subelties of using Riptide and the Healing Waves. I wanted to level a Shaman for a couple of reasons: it gave me a chance to finally experience the Exodar starting zone, and it gave me a chance to play a class I'd always been fascinated with but had never fully explored (in shock news, my second ever character created was a Tauren Shaman, now long gone) I played all three specs before 80, but Healing remains my favourite.

Blacksmithing/Mining.One word: YUCK. Where are the healing maces or daggers, Blizzard? Where is the mail that existed for some specs of Shaman but now has dissapeared completely? Oh yeah, the Leatherworkers make it ^^ Oh, and don't get me started about Shields. I gave M Blacksmithing mostly from the completism angle, because I wanted a group of alts who could do everything. In terms of utility, I'd say it's keys to open lockboxes, the Titansteel CD that's it really. Note to Blizz: BS needs a look at please, especially (as with LW) the three pronged specialisation is now a bit of a joke. Am wondering if I need as many miners as I possess at the moment, there may be a spec swap if boredom hits.

Achievement Points: 2925

Last Achievement was 10 Exalted Reputations, mostly by luck than judgement. That was also the case for Doesn't Go to 11 (which I'm certainly not going to be getting in a PuG anytime soon) I've been picking up the Glory of the Raider ones in dribs and drabs, but it's going to need a great many very boring days for me to start concentrating on achieving for this one.


See above :P


M has always been about having a healer I felt comfortable with. I have been trying over the Xmas Holiday to get a random daily in a day with my Husband's Pally, and that's worked pretty well so far. However I'm going to be honest and admit that I need to be in the mood to heal and it's not something I jump to of a morning to do. As a result M does have fairly long periods of inactivity. I'd like to hope that this year those periods will become fewer, but that's all going to depend on the time I get to play, I suspect.

I'd also like a pony and a new set of trinkets :D

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Be Safe!

The best 7 euros you will ever spend.

Last night I noticed someone in the Guild had been hacked.

We keep fairly tight controls on our Guild Bank, and have since they were introduced. Only nominated mains are allowed access, and that is restricted to a certain number of items per day. I picked up that one main had taken ther full allocation of items at 4.20am the previous morning and alarm bells started to ring, especially as their mining alt was online at the time in the Storm Peaks and refusing to answer whispers. A swift check of the Armoury revealed both main and alts stripped of all sellable items. So, at 1.30 am last night I was writing an e-mail to the guy concerned, plus getting several people to raise tickets to get the GM's started on the process of tracking the hacker down.

This will be the second person I know in game who has been hacked in the last seven days.

If you buy gold in game, then someone is hacked. Gone are the days of farmers making it for themselves 24/7, most gold comes from stealing other people's accounts and stripping them. Mining is one of the few ways for hackers to make a quick buck, coupled with a hack that allows you to teleport directly to nodes and mine them instantly. I know that still goes on all over my server. I report it whenever I find myself a victim.

If you want to prevent being hacked, BUY AN AUTHENTICATOR. Even with anti-virus software, you are vulnerable. I know this because one of my closest ingame friends was hacked and she was the model of care and attention. She NEVER did anything other than play and visit the odd WoW-related website, and it was from one of those so-called safe sites she caught a keylogger and was stripped. This was before the days of the Authenticator, and she was one of the first people to have one when Blizzard rolled them out. It is, like it or not, the ONLY way to ensure your account stays totally safe. Without one, however careful you are, being hacked is always a real possibility. Yes, it can happen to you. Two people in a week. These guys have to make money somehow...

Be safe. Be sensible. Do it NOW.