Saturday, January 08, 2011

Getting the Hump!

As should be obvious to those who have noticed a change to my background wallpaper for the Blog, I am a great fan of Uldum. I just finished the quests there this week and frankly it could not be any more awesome if it tried. I'm aware that the zone has a fair number of haters (queue to the left, please) but really, what's not to like about sand and ancient relics? I'm giving serious consideration to moving there once I have the Iron Chef achievement completed on P.

Last night, after a very satisfying Shadowfang Keep Heroic run (note achievement) I finally dinged exalted with Ramkahen. There was nothing left to do but head South and buy myself a new mount.

To hell with Dragons, this is officially my Favourite Mount EVAH. Expect to see me sitting outside the Bank in the Dwarven District on this baby for a long time to come...

Friday, January 07, 2011

[Suggested] Cataclysm Hotfixes January 7th

In the first of an occasional series, the Dwarven Overseers at ALT: ernative Towers suggest some things Blizzard might want to fix when they get five minutes. WARNING: Today's Hotfixes may be overly specific to a) Hunters and b) Skinners.

  • Mobs that are skinnable inside instances are also skinnable outside instances, especially in the 1-60 levelling curve.

There is a great deal of inconsistency across mobs, generally speaking. Certain 'families' that you can skin inside instances (am looking at you spiders) aren't skinnable outside, and vice versa. If you're going to grant crabs with summat useful to peel off in Cataclysm, roll that out across all the skins please from L1. My point, simply put, is that there's a load of mobs that people could be easily exploiting clearing up that aren't tagged correctly. Sort it out!

Oh, and don't get me started on Tol Barad. I know, I know, I can pull in 25 Heavy Savage Leather a session when we have the zone from the Crocodiles. I don't want you to think I'm being ungrateful, but if I'm going to grind for the Baradin Fox Kit you could at least make so I can clean the foxes up afterwards. Oh yeah, and the spiders. And the crabs. ^^

  • The Reputation Pane has been amended to list Cataclysm reputations first as the most current.

Really, having to scroll down through all those completely irrelevant Wrath reputations at the top... the Rep pane needs a poke. Putting Alliance at the top for starters would be a good move. Before you say I can minimise them but that's not the point. It's that inconsistency thing again! Make some kind of logical sense with this!

  • Mounting a camel for the Ptah event in the Halls of Origination no longer means you are unable to use your pet.

As an aside, I'd love to be able to do this normally. Firing a gun on a camel = win. No pet = FAIL.

Apropos of nothing: Catform druid on a Camel = comedy gold.


I am now well overdue for a roundup post, especially as I've been able to max a couple of professions this week. Expect an info-dump over the weekend.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

While it Lasts.

It is fair to say, in my limited experience as a Survival Hunter, that I'm doing a healthy amount of damage in Heroics. This is of course a Good Thing [TM] but it makes me nervous. Why, I hear you cry? Surely you should be revelling in the fact you're doing a good job? Ah, but the thing is you see, as soon as I start topping damage meters I KNOW that something's wrong. Traditionally, over the last five years or so, me being top dps means one of two things: either the other guys really didn't turn up and make an effort or I'm shortly about to be nerfed. To the ground, baby. In this case, it's looking pretty much like the latter is true. Getting a namecheck in a Mr G. Crawler Blue post = Nerfbat of DOOM.

Last night I did a 10 Man Tol Barad with a selection of what I consider to be some of the best dps-ers in the Guild pre-Cataclysm. When the Pit Lord finally toppled, I couldn't help but steal a glance at the meters.

14528 dps? Okay, so it's a largely static fight but still... where's the damage coming from? The biggest single component is from Explosive Shot being fired as a priority as soon as it comes off both it's and the GCD. Spamming one shot is not how Blizzard likes us to play the game, and although there are other components to the 'rotation' I now use it has to be said the ES (plus one Serpent Sting and Cobra Shot to renew focus) is pretty much is where it's at. As a result, I'd expect to see a reduction in it's total damage of about 10% when we're finally concussed with the nerfbat patched sometime next month.

Until then, I intend to fully enjoy my brief period of Total Superiority over all who oppose me, and I promise I won't let all this great power go to my head, honest guv. Things have vastly improved in the world of Class Balance over the years, and I think anyone who automatically expects Blizzard to leave one class noticeably ahead in damage while everyone else struggles to keep up is on a hiding to nothing. It's never been about who's the best in this game, it's us working AS A TEAM that makes it all work so well.

I will be enjoying the moment while it lasts however. Ho yus.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Doff My Cap?

(If you don't know, look here)

Last night I reached 1000 Valor Points. Never was a four figure sum so well earned, let me tell you. Blood, sweat and tears have gone into that grand's worth of heroic effort. I'm also sailing dangerously close to the JP cap (Wonder Pally's already surpassed it) and this has set me thinking: should Blizzard raise the cap on first tier points?

Currently you can buy nothing from a vendor with JP's that's not BoP. I completely understand this, it makes sound sense to ensure it's only you gearing and not people profiteering (or indeed gearing alts without knowing how to play them ^^). However, back in Wrath, the first level of purchasable bracers were BoE, and this gave people a great way of using spare badges. Of course, there was no cap on earnings back then either, and that gave Blizzard an issue when it came to converting currency.  The fact remains however, if you're running daily Heroics as a way of obtaining Valor, you will at some point not need to purchase any more items with JP's, because you'll either a) own them all or b) have received better heroic item drops. So what happens when you hit the cap? Should all those extra points be wasted?

There's also another very good reason why there's a 4k cap in place: once the next mini-content patch launches (whenever that may be) all the items that are currently purchasable with VP's will move down to being the JP items, and a new set of stuff will take it's place as the must have epic stuffs. For that reason alone it makes sense not to allow people to stockpile a huge amount of points, especially as this would allow easier access to tier gear. Don't get us started on the Welfare Epic argument, that's not what we're here for. We are considering what the regular Heroic goer's options are once they hit the 4k JP cap. Currently there is no way to reduce it in a way that could benefit you as you begin your grind to preparations for 10 mans/raiding apart from the gear option.

One way, of course, would be to make Chaos Orbs purchasable. It doesn't take a genius to work out why this didn't happen from the word go, mostly tied to the fact that Epic gear needs to feel Epic again and having these items 'easily' purchasable this early on would quickly devalue that. They need to be a drop. As their intrinsic value falls over time as gear becomes outdated it's less of an issue, and we move down the same path as the Frozen Orb. I'd also bet that we'll see Epic quality gems available to buy for JP's at some point in the future, but that won't alleviate the issue of hitting the cap as quickly as many of us are. What could be a better alternative is to give a JP value to certain recipes for crafters to allow them an alternative to using farmed mats (am thinking the Epic quality crafts as a starting point) and ease the strain on what is an extremely labour intensive process. Yes, I KNOW you have to work for stuff these day, I'm just offering this as a good way to allow those who don't need the 346 gear a way of not wasting all those points.

Of course this then favours those with a Profession, which would be bad. What other alternatives are there? Well, for those with alts you can go spend your points on Heirlooms: perhaps Blizzard could give us some love with vanity items for JP's? Perhaps we could get some fun Heirlooms for alts like those we are currently digging up in Archaeology, make them BoA and offer those for points, that way the market's not affected by people buying stuff to immediately shove on the AH) or possibly even some BoP pets. Blizzard could resurrect the Riding Tiger and Raptor from ZG and sell them for 4k JP's each, I'm betting they'd be a total bestseller, or maybe even a variant on the wonderful ZA Bear. With a quick recolour and a couple of new doodads we'd have a load of great new mounts to squander stuff on totally unaware of the fact we were being taken to the cleaners... they key here is choice.

Whatever happens, as time goes on more and more people will be hitting the 4k ceiling with nothing to buy. Let's hope when we do get alternatives they're worth the wait...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Oh, and P.S.:

Please draw your own conclusions. Thank you!

Everybody Wipes.

Do you remember the days of running Heroics before Cataclysm? Of course you do! They were halcyon, full of easy Justice Points and minimal wait time in the LFG queue. Oh, how things have changed. I've not even looked at a Random since the Expansion hit, I'm too nervous. I know how bad things were BEFORE:  no-one waiting for anyone else, drinking a luxury few were afforded. The horror stories I'm hearing from fellow 85's make me think I made the right choice in not bothering, but this misses a fairly key point. What if the LFG tool is your ONLY way of experiencing five man Heroic content? It must be true for some people.

For all of us, regardless of why we do it, Heroic Content is no longer faceroll. [*]

I see a lot of people trying to apportion blame for this change at the feet of their fellow players. It's the Tank's fault for not waiting for the healer. It's the Healer's fault for not being good enough. If DPS can't a) bring the big numbers or b) play their class, how on Earth are the Healer and Tank supposed to manage? I could write a thesis currently on the Blame Culture at work as a result of this, but the fact remains that you can't blame anyone except yourself in these situations. As the old adage goes, it takes five to make a Heroic. Everyone has to work together. If you don't, it's just not going to happen, regardless of whether you spun the Wheel of Random or if you came to the instance with four of your trusted Guildies. The key here, it seems to me, is what happens after you've wiped. Everybody wipes, even Paragon. You're not special. It's expensive and it's frustrating but it should be teaching you as much as completing the instance without a repair bill to speak of.

If you're clever, it should be the most significant part of any trip anywhere.

Back in the glory days of 40 Man Raiding, it took a long time to wipe. In some cases it could take minutes to do so. Wiping was a way to see who was a) afk making a sandwich and b) who actually knew what to do in a fight. The good players were nearly always the ones last standing, the ones who knew how to survive regardless of everyone else, and these people could often even save themselves from dying. If one person survives, does it count as a wipe anyway? However, without a large majority of people surviving, progress is impossible. As raid sizes have shrunk, the margin of Sandwich AFK-ing has dramatically reduced. More and more responsibility is placed on the people who remain. It becomes necessary to occasionally remove all non-essential melee from your raid to beat a boss, and I shudder to think how many wipes that will have taken to grasp. Needless to say the lesson learnt there is a significant one: sometimes, however hard you try, your encounter is going to screw you, unless you can start thinking outside your acceptable comfort zone.

I've learnt all three of my available specs over the last 18 months. I used to be a committed Marks Hunter, at the expense of anything else, but I don't have the luxury any more. As a DPS I need to be bringing more to the table than simply an ability to do 10k + damage. I need to be able to interrupt, to effectively kite, to crowd control and to do it all without moaning that I shouldn't have to or expecting people to accommodate my failings. Of course it's different for everyone, but the basic fact remains that if things go wrong, the way to fix them is not to assume it's everyone else's fault. You need to look to yourself for answers first and foremost, and only if you're confident enough that you're doing EVERYTHING YOU CAN to make sure what you need to do is done can you start looking to others for answers. This means a foodbuff at minimum, a flask if you can (you think Paragon learn content with Wrath food, nope so go update your consumables) and an attitude that isn't primed to start pointing fingers at everyone else when it all blows up in your face.

I've also realised over the last few weeks I have a lot to improve, not simply in my gameplay. I need to rethink the way I look at other people, and that first step starts at my own doorstep. Everybody wipes, after all. The clever people make it part of the experience and don't consider it a failing. Repair bills are part of the process. As I've said before, you'll look back in a year and miss how hard this all was, when there's no new content to run and these are the only way of getting Justice Points. Stop waiting for the instances to be nerfed, accept they're a pain in the ass and get in there anyway with new ideas. Mix it up, throw your old rotations out of the window and try something new if you think it's not working. Use the Internet as much as you can: knowledge is power. Most importantly of all however, don't walk away thinking it's too hard, because it's not. It's just different, and that's a good thing.

Enjoy the challenge while you can.

[*] There's a phrase I never thought I'd write.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The View From Over Here.

As seems to have been traditional over previous Christmas breaks, I've not been well :( The flu/cold I had which stretched across the entire Holiday period appears to be receding, but the feeling I've had niggling in the back of my head the entire time remains, and refuses to leave.

Playing this game well suddenly became a lot harder than I remember.

The only levelling anyone other than P has done thus far has come via daily quests or gathering. Nobody else has been looked at in any detail, I've spent my entire time getting P to a level where a) I can actually do a rotation without looking stupid and b) I'm geared to a level which I consider acceptable as a basis for 10 man raiding. On any given day over the last two weeks only one of these two conditions was ever met.

Yesterday I replaced my last item of pre-Heroic gear (which handily co-incided with me obtaining the Cataclysm Dungeon Hero) and I find myself thinking that actually my paper doll's looking okay. Not great, you understand, but if I'm going to inspire people as GM in a couple of weeks to go and do 10 mans I can hardly be faffing about with sub-standard items and a sloppy rotation. As I took the plunge and specced Survival I've been top of DPS meters on many occasions. I KNOW this means I'll be nerfbatted very soon as well. T'was ever thus.

As is traditional at this point it's a moment to look forward, to decide where I'll be going this year with the game. However at this point I'm really not certain where I'll be going, or what the next twelve months will bring because I'm still not sure what Cataclysm means for me and the family. Even the Professions have been streamlined to fit in with my needs in preparing P: two Alchemists are now almost at max because the Druid has the Flask specialisation and frankly if I'm making them with the mats needed I'll be demanding proccs. Dealing with one character is about as much as I can comfortably cope with for now. There's too many other things still in flux to work on everyone else properly.

Part of me's not sure I want to either. That's probably the biggest change of all, mostly because I've realised just how much work is involved to pull everyone to a level I'd be happy with. The perfectionist in me is struggling with one right now. How the Hell am I supposed to cope with ten?

What is clear however is that if you want to succeed in Heroics you'd better bloody well come prepared, be ready to work hard and not expect ANYONE to carry you, because if you do you'll be on a hiding to nothing. I expect nothing less from 10 Man either, and it's still going to take a lot of work to get me prepared.