Saturday, February 13, 2010

Better Late Than Never


That's Outland finally finished, then. I suspect it's going to take as long to polish off Northrend... :D

I totally enjoyed Sunwell. I can see how it garnered it's reputation, how Guilds who completed it at the relevant level should be congratulated, because many of the encounters were genuinely fiendish, the Twins especially. I would not have relished completing it at the correct level. It had the same feel about it as SSC, you needed to be really on your game to complete it. Fact remains, it's the past, and so much has changed. Part of me knows full well why they changed this dungeon style. Still not sure they did the right thing in doing so.


It's going to be an Old Skool Weekend too.

In my pursuit of finding different ways to make money I've been skinning a lot of late. Thanks to the ICC recipes the cost of Heavy Borean Leather's gone through the ceiling, so when I'm not picking it up in instances I've been sneaking over to the Netherwing Mines and making some extra cash on Knothide and Heavy Knothide (which is never on sale on the AH and which always sells as a result) The added benefits of doing this run are twofold: green Outland weapons and armour drops, the DE results of which are also a good seller, plus the fact I can still make a bit of cash on the side from the Dailies. Best of all it's just me there 99% of the time, unlike Northrend which is pretty busy at the moment, especially as Schools are on half term holiday.

If you want to know where I'll be this weekend, I'll be pretending to be an Orc with no legs. For some reason the transformation doesn't work on my current trousers...

Friday, February 12, 2010


'Some highly populated realms, as well as some realms in highly populated Battlegroups, are currently experiencing performance issues during peak playing hours, which, depending on the realm, can occur both inside and outside instances. This is caused primarily by high concurrent Icecrown Citadel activity, the start of Arena Season 8, the release of the new Vault of Archavon boss encounter and the “Love is in the Air” seasonal event.

To help address some of these issues, we’ve applied a hotfix to optimise certain database requests during the weekly maintenance, in addition to a variety of other related adjustments. We will continue to monitor the affected realms and will be making further adjustments to continually improve performance where possible. We know the performance issues have been a frustrating inconvenience for the players on these realms -- we very much appreciate your patience while we implement additional short- and long-term solutions.'
You know, if I were Blizzard, I'd have put the Seasonal Event last, not first. It's been renamend on my server 'Lag is in the Air'. IT MIGHT have something to do with all these other issues yes, but the simple fact remains that whenever I kill a mob and the server conjures me a Lovely Charm, it's a 5-20 second wait for my PC to respond, depending on time of day and location.

I look forward to see if this database optimisation actually works.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Respect to the Hat

'Stand back luv, I'm in charge...'

Wearing The Hat, at least of late, is not commanding the same deal of respect as it once did.

That little crown next to your portrait, it used to mean you were the Raid or Party Leader. It meant you were looked at as the person to take the helm and steer your fellow adventurers to a successful instance experience. You were the one they would expect to know what to do, and if things went wrong you would be looked on to arbitrate and take the tough calls. Since Blizzard renamed the five man crown wearer as the 'Dungeon Guide' however, things seem to have gone a bit Pete Tong.
It's becoming very hard to work out who's really in charge. There are some who would argue that this is a good thing, giving anyone the ability to kick people if they go AFK for long periods of time or if they are Generally Stupid. Knowing the Instances backwards also helps, as let's face it we could all do most of the five mans in our sleep. The problem begins to manifest iteself as this attitude filters through to the 10 and 25 man PuGs for the instances with the Lewts that Start Fights. I'm hearing stories from Guildies of groups which seem, at least some of the time, to be propelled by mob rule. It started me thinking, what makes a decent Group to begin with? Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that you have five well geared people who know how to play and can bring the right qualities to an Instance. What is the dividing line between Suck and Win?

I feel, when all is said and done, it comes down to Respecting the Hat.

You can factor in communication, teamplay, moments of brilliance, selflessness... all those qualities come into play, especially as you move up to the bigger numbers of people. However, if the person leading you can't be fair, if they won't enforce the loot rules you all know exist (or in the case of PuG's ignore rolls and give the loot to your mates, or even yourself) it's just not going to happen. Having the Hat is serious business. I don't think enough people who begin raids consider this, especially in the PuG battlefield.

Last night I watched Hat Respect work in both 10 and 25 man situations, in both Guild and via a PuG. The VoA PuG worked as well as it did I think because the Hat Wearer was sensible enough to recruit his tanks and healers well before he began inviting the DPS. The Loot Rules were broadcast at the start, and the one person who didn't like them left before we'd engaged trash. He seeded the raid with no more than two of each class (or in the case of the druids and pallies of each spec). It began life as clearly an effort to be fair to as many people as possible. The DPS was stellar (as a happy bonus) with the top 10 (myself included \o/) not dipping below 6.5k. So really, it was never going to be a bad experience... but how was that achieved? Simple, the Guy with the Hat made sensible decisions and he was clear of his intentions from the outset. He set the rules. As a result, I find myself with a great deal of respect for him and the way he made it happen.

In our ICC10 last night we were given the task of dispatching the Rotten Frost Giant for the optional Weekly Quest. Boy, is he an annoying pain in the behind. However he was no match for the Guild's collective thinking and clever use of instance furniture. Last night made me feel proud to be GM, and to wear the Hat, as I watched 10 people work out the problem of dealing with his multiple (very annoying) abilities. For the record we split into groups of three leaving a single tank to biff the boss. When one person in the three was infected by the Deadly Mutation, someone else (not a healer if we had one in the group) would run out of the infection range and wait for the defubb to clear. That way we could make sure we could infect each other and never have an issue with the immunity timer. I made a conscious effort to pick a team that I knew would work well together, and to make sure as many people as possible who'd not had an ICC run lately got a chance at some Frosties. I think if you wear the hat you need to consider a lot of things to make sure the Instance works for as many people as possible. In the end last night I think we managed only a handful of DE's. People were happily passing loot to each other, there was never an atmosphere, even when we were struggling. It was possibly one of the best raids I've been a part of for some time.

There is another side to Wearing the Hat, especially in the Guild situation. Last night someone objected to not being picked, and to the choice of people I decided to take as a result. There have been an increasing number of incidents like this in the last few weeks, and it pains me greatly. We don't have enough people for 25 man ICC, so this means, at some point, some people will be disappointed. Some think the answer to this is to make a fuss, or even that if they come up with a clever enough theory they can argue themselves back into the running. I am grateful for those people who understand that if we ran the same 10 people though the instance every week we wouldn't have the Guild we currently reside in, but still people won't Respect the Hat. I've been called some pretty nasty things in the many years I've done the job of picking raids. People have tried to bribe me, they've threatened me... all because of a bunch of pixels. Such is the pull of this game.

When it comes down to it, someone has to make the call. It helps as a result if the person wearing the Hat when they do so is treated properly, that people understand that if you decide to take the job you should really be afforded some genuine gravitas for doing so. Blizzard's choice to remame the Leader as a Dungeon Guide in 5 man could be the start of a slippery slope, you know. We NEED Respect to the Hat, whatever size of party, because if if begins to wane it's going to send a signal to the PuGgers that you don't need to be nice to win, you just need to shout the loudest. Raid Leaders and GM's, you know what you need to do. Keep the Sanctity of Leadershop intact! Earn your places, and remember that with The Small Pointy Crown comes great responsibility. Save your power trips for your first person shooters.

Everyone should give Respect to the Hat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Negative Health Situation

Listed below are recent fixes we have applied to the game. Keep in mind that some of these changes may not be active until after the realm has been restarted.

To review previous in-game fixes, please visit:


  • In the Toravon encounter, the effect of the Whiteout debuff has been reduced. Additionally, the damage done by Frozen Orbs has been reduced. 

Last night, we did Toravon in 10 man, just. I say that because the Whiteout was able, at around about 20%, to completely wipeout both of the Priests I was healing with (thanks to the stacking frost damage). At full health. I know this because I was making sure everyone was at 100%. Pop Heroism as soon as the Whiteout before hit, CH like crazy, and hope.

It wasn't happening.

A DS/DS from our Pally Tank might have helped, but in fairness he had his work cut out tanking the boss. We played around with buffs (Sanctuary and then LolKings from drums) but it still wasn't enough. Simple fact remains, both Priests could only bring 20k health unbuffed, and that meant that the last Whiteout was a one shot.

It's one of those issues you only think would apply to Tanks: make sure you have sufficient health to survive at least one hit of an aoe. Mage Tanks used to stack stamina gear back in the day, but now it's fair to say that most cloth healers would be more concerned with spell power and mana regen than worrying that they will have enough physical health to survive an encounter. My Shaman has 21.5k health unbuffed which meant I was left with at least something of a buffer, but on at least one of those tries we managed to get another Whiteout due to deaths and diminished dps, and I was toast.

I'd dismissed this boss as easier than his fire predecessor when I'd first encountered him. I'd like to retract that and say I think this guy is rather a fiendish opponent. He is very much a gear check (health of healers notwithstanding) You need to kill him fast, because if you do then the aoe won't have a chance to finish you off, simple as that. The problem comes with the Frozen Orbs: because of the target switch AND the fact if you stand still you're likely to take massive damage, they're a serious crimp on the Nuke Fast And Hope tactic. (I spent two hours wiping on this boss at the weekend on my Lock. From a dps perspective, the orb to boss to orb transition was hard going.) So it's not just about having decent dps, your healers need to be strong and fast, and the tanking debuff is, I can tell you from the healing chair, an UTTER pig to contend with. If I'm honest this boss actually embodies all the issues that PuG's struggle with, all in one delightful package.

Of course, there is the argument that if the Priests had equipped some Frost Resist gear, the problem would have simply gone away. Lets face it however, who carries resistance gear around anymore?

They would of course if resistance gear offered help plus decent stats. It doesn't. In a world where we need to be doing insane numbers to even kill mobs, resistance gear has failed to keep up. As a result, people don't bother. Stick on Frost Resistance aura or drop a totem, that's the way you provide some inate protection. Back in the day of course it was different, and I remember running Maraudon for a couple of weeks to pull out Nature resist gears to do AQ. Blizzard deliberately changed the game to ensure that we didn't have to rely too heavily on any kind of resistance, as a result in Wrath there is only Frost Resist gear as an option to craft.

I will spend some time in the next couple of weeks chasing around with my newly-levelled Druid Alchemist to find the Resistance Potion recipes that are drops in Icecrown. This would at least provide a crutch for the Guild Priest (or indeed any Guildie) at the 20k health mark in this fight, if they can time the drinking of the Frost Resist potion at the right time. Maybe because it reminds me of the hours of grinding I did for Nature Resist mats back in the day, so that we could cover an entire 20 man raid and make progress. Helping people along is not such a bad idea if it then encourages them to prepare themselves more fully, and following last night I know both priests will be looking to improve their gear.

If deaths like this make people think, in the end that can only be a good thing.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Third Time's a Charm

Back from my weekend away to find that Love is in the Air is in full swing.

Overall I find myself really liking the time and effort that has gone into making this Festival a change from the last one, and the obvious improvements that have been made in response to criticism last year. No longer are we at the mercy of the random number generator, now it's just about making Lucky Charms (which despite what I have read to the contrary can be conjured inside instances, but more on that shortly) and handing in bracelets for cards, or simply completing 4 dailies a day for the same end. It makes a great deal more sense, and standardising the Festival to include the By Now Obligatory Holiday Boss With Mount gives everyone the chance at summat rather special.


I found myself wondering why I could buy both AP boosting perfume and cologne at the vendors. As the screenies above show, if you're wearing cologne and someone is wearing perfume, you not only have a romantic moment if within 30 yards of each other, you also increase your spell crit chance and general crit chance by 3%, so it's probably a good idea to scoop a stack of both and make the most of the next couple of weeks. We breezed past Saurfang last night, who is Officially Fixed, and I hope come reset we can make it a five or even a six boss night.

There is a problem however, and it is a fairly serious one. The Charm Creation Kits are causing lag. It's not the Kits themselves but the server-side creation of the Lovely Charms. Because I live on a high-population server (and I suspect a lot of people may be using That Ulduar Trick to farm large numbers of Charms, but that's by the by) the amount of processing required to handle the reation at peak times of enormous numbers of them... last night I ground to an almost complete halt. Each time I created a charm in ICC I'd experience 10 seconds of crippling lag. So, before we got to Precious and Stinky I asked everyone else in the raid to destroy their creation kits, and the problem just dissapeared. Needless to say this wouldn't be apparent on a low-population server, but last night as I logged there was a message concerning disconnects and latency on the Login Screen. I hope Blizzard realise that this is a problem at their end and not anything to do with us, especially as I would predict for the next fortnight that most major cities will be off-limits for me during peak hours.

More news on this as it lags into view... :p