Saturday, September 03, 2011

Extending the Repertoire!

More faffing this afternoon, mostly getting the Reading List refined (the beady-eyed will notice the sidebar's got smaller). If my old URL's are any indication a fair few writers have moved on over the Summer to other places.

There are more people that played World of Warcraft, but no longer play World of Warcraft, than the number of people that currently play World of Warcraft. (Tom Chilton and Greg Street) They want to lower the barrier to entry and find some way to bring back players that no longer play. (Source)

You work out how to do that, fellas, and I reckon a LOT of game designers will sit up and take notice.

It also occurs to me as a writer the best way to stimulate myself with new ideas and discussion topics is to read more people writing about the game, so that's what I'll be doing. If you're reading this and think you'd like me to be reading your blog, gimme a shout.

I Am a Tank

All Bow to the Glory that is the Beetle...

After suggesting last week that tanking has had it's day, WoW Insider's Matthew Rossi's decided to look at things from a different angle this morning, one that I find myself with a fair degree of empathy towards. He's suggesting that the problem isn't the people who tank, it's those who can't (and because they're not hybrids don't have the ability to do so even if they wished) On consideration I have to say his suggestions would actually make a lot more sense in the long term, and if I use Hunters as the starting point, I think it would be entirely possible to provide us with the ability to act as tanks. Not us, directly, but our loyal companions.

Is it time to give Hunters a viable Tanking Spec?

Most Hunters worth their salt can tank right now, with the right pet and co-ordination. Many of them do, inadvertently, at lower levels anyway (if they can't find how to turn Growl off and their low level tank is poorly geared) so the principle holds. If we look at the current three trees as they stand it would be logical to make Beast Mastery the branch to hold the relevant talents, but that would mean many BM-ers losing their beloved Spirit Beasts and the dps/healing abilities that they bring... how hard would it be therefore to take the current Tanking Pets and adapt them to work as fully-fledged Hitters? The removal of the advanced control we had with our pet bars would be an issue for starters, but if pets are only assisting a hunter's target, surely it would be possible to give the Hunter additional tools to ensure that control is purely in our hands?

I'd suggest an even more radical change: completely redesign the Survival tree, with all the focus being on augmenting pet abilities and using long ranged traps to help your pet maintain aggro and keep it alive from the back. The Trap Launcher was an utterly inspired way to place damage at the foot of your enemies from a distance, and would be a great way for any Tanking Hunter to add dps to their throughput whilst helping their pet slow, hurt or interrupt their enemies (I've always thought snakes would be better at slowing or interrupting targets than they ever would be for actual damage anyway) This way, your hunter keeps their abilities to bring a high dps spec but could switch specs and act as an effective offtank in 10/25 mans where it was needed.

If this worked, it could (theoretically) be adapted for Warlocks with their Doomguards (as I'm betting that would go down very well with the community: redesign Demonology to allow a modified Succubus or Felpuppy to tank with special abilities, perhaps) and for Mages perhaps a selection of Arcane Anomolies, maybe a Fire or Frost Elemental if you took those specs to redesign. That then leaves the Rogues as the only real pure dps class to address and I find myself thinking that really, if truth be told, giving them a spec where they could tank would be possibly the worst thing you could EVER do because with stealth and blind you'd never want to play (or come up against) any other spec ever again in a Battleground...

Blizzard's shift towards hybridity has been happening for some time, and I am all for people who are prepared to fulfil more than one roll when picking teams for 10 mans with my GM hat on. The DK who can tank and do massive dps, the Priest who will dps if needed, the Paladin who can heal and do dps, all these guys are immensely useful when you have situations where you know you can cut back on tanking or healing to maximise DPS output, because ironically that's what often matters more than anything else right now. It's not just about tanks or heals in 10 man, it's about pulling the immense numbers in the damage column that you need to down bosses, and if all hybrids were like DK's things would be a great deal easier. However, they're not. Class balance will continue to be an issue for some time to come. Right now we NEED pure dps or bosses just won't die.

Druids and Paladins are much maligned as broken in any tree at any one time, but the truth is that they are a model that Blizzard would do well to look to if they wanted to give the 'pure' dps classes an opportunity to expand. I think it would be hard to justify in Lore that any of the classes that don't currently possess a solely healing spec should be given one but to allow tanks to step up from the 'pure' classes makes a lot of logical sense, and I for one would be happy to take my Hunter and learn.

Just don't let the Rogues tank. PLEASE DON'T.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Coming Around Again

The Shaman hit 85 last night, and thanks to some judicious fernangling has an iLevel of 351, which goes to prove the point that gearing is always easier once you've skipped the first patch or so ^^ Whether she is capable of healing Heroics... well, time will tell. Watch this Space. Whilst you're doing that...

I now have six alts at 85 (Hunter, Warlock, Rogue, Mage, Druid and Shaman) of whom only P has completed all the quests in Cataclysm. Those at max level reward not simply a decent wodge of cash per handin but gear 'upgrades' which now also become additional income via vendoring. I can make back the money I spent on gearing my Shaman at least twice over by this method and this will not include anything 'useful' I pick up in the process, so I think it's time to start questing again. Add to that both the Shammy and the Boomkin have yet to open up the Molten Front Dailies and I doubt I'm going to be stuck for anything to do as 4.3 rumbles towards us.

If I do find myself at a loose end I can send the Rogue off to TB to do some mining or the Boomy to herb. Remind me to share with you my List Of Profession 'Things' To Do over the weekend... ^^

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Faire Speculation?

Boss, da zeppelin! Da Zeppelin!

With 4.2.wotsit now live, it's inevitable that people are going to start looking to 4.3 (especially as Ghostcrawler's beginning to make posts about upcoming class changes) and so I find myself imagining how laggy and crowded brilliant Darkmoon Island's going to be monthly once it's implemented. The whole Island thing's pretty much a stroke of genius when you think about it, considering the number of people who will ask in trade 'where's the Faire this month?' without looking on their Calenders, and considering the current appetite for the Decks (bets on there being a whole new slew of trinkets in the works?) it's going to be the place to be seen while it's active.

Quite apart from the promise of Heirloom purchases, fez-wearing monkeys (fezez are cool, you know) and many other bountiful new rewards via the wonders of Darkmoon Faire Tickets (I did that grind back in 1.6, I'll have you know) we are promised 'replicas of long-lost suits of armor that we’re offering for your Transmogrification needs.' I find myself wondering exactly WHAT items are being resurrected from the great beyond (keeps fingers crossed for Tier 0.5) but I am more interested still by the news that the Faire will become a fully-fledged Seasonal Event with the introduction (I am assuming) of a mechanic I remember famously breaking servers when they first tried it:

We call ‘em Darkmoon Artifacts, and there’s all different kinds to be found all over Azeroth. The Darkmoon Field Guide helps you discover artifacts while you’re explorin’ dungeons, slayin’ monsters, and fightin’ in Battlegrounds. Without a guide, you’d never notice ‘em, and it’ll help keep you focused on the stuff we want. Whether you just reached level 10, or you’ve crushed the biggest baddies in the land, we need somethin’ from nearly everybody. You won’t have to go too far out of your way to get ‘em and each month you’ll get a new opportunity to seek out an Artifact for us. What do you get out of the deal? Don’t you worry, you’ll get your cut. When you bring a Darkmoon Artifact back to us, you’ll get valuable experience (it builds character, you know!), earn a better reputation, and possibly earn precious Darkmoon Faire Prize Tickets too!

Oh, did I mention that you can use the Field Guide to get to Darkmoon Island whenever the Darkmoon Faire’s monthly extravaganza is up and running?
This Darkmoon Field Guide sounds suspiciously like the Lovely Charm Collector's Kit I remember taking to the trash before Boss One in Ulduar (which was promptly hotfixed ^^) which has been subsequently been refined and introduced into several Seasonal events. One assumes the main difference will be your Guide won't vanish after you buy it but will only operate for the duration of the Faire's activity. I find it hard to believe that they'd allow us to collect stuff outside that window or else levelling to Exalted would be a largely academic exercise (unless of course you are Insane and already completed this) I am pleased to see that the Faire isn't going to discriminate on level, which should make this place an utter lagfest on busy servers the place to go for everyone.

Most significant of all we have the opportunity to use the Faire to advance our professions skills:

If you’re willing help keep the show going and put your skills to work, you’ll not only impress us, but you can get experience, Darkmoon Prize Tickets, and even polish up your skills — up to five skill points per profession, per Faire week, if you’re good at what you do!
I'm really hoping that Archaeology is included in the list, and if it is that should mean all of the Secondary proffs will benefit a bit of grinding. One can only hope. Let's hope it's not long before the PTR is up, as the Faire is scheduled to roll into Shatt next week...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Had a Plan...

...for a post today, but ended up being distracted by two 10 man 1-shots and a whole wodge of progression, which has resulted in the Guild being 3/7 in Firelands. As a result I will be off for a lie down now!

Go Guild!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Admin Gubbins Redux

I've got some plans to update site content in the next few weeks that will include the following:

  • New Family Portraits for the sidebar
  • New Family Details pages for all my currently active alts
  • A background picture of Ironforge I'm happy with

I also intend to tie this blog in with the Creative Writing courses I'll be taking starting at the end of September, so you will (hopefully) see an increase in quality and content as a result. Have already started the overhaul with the addition of W's Achievements on the sidebar. More stuff may appear or dissapear over the next few days.

The Management thanks you for your understanding while we undertake these changes!

While It Lasts

Three, is the magic nuuuuuuuuumber....!

I find myself in a unique position this morning, after a couple of days which have seen an absolute heap of old content completed (Lich King 10 Man Heroic and Champion of the Frozen Wastes included) I am rated #1 for Achievements in my Guild. The margins between the top three Cheevo Hoes [*] however is close enough for me to know these days in the sun are likely to be short lived. It's made me consider the significance Achievements have now gained in game (quite apart from being the de facto passport to acceptance in PuG Groups) and the passion that subsequently accompanies them. I am, as a result, not entirely comfortable with the top spot.

I get that competition is healthy, and I don't think that is my issue (though I do get twitchy when I think people perceive me being so, because I'm never deliberately trying to be) and I also get that for an increasing number of people their Achievement status is nearly as important as what they are wearing. If this weren't the case there wouldn't have been five of us defending Wintergrasp last night, for instance (I've seen nearly ten people doing the zone at weekends, I assume they're not there for the honor or rewards ^^) My increasing issue is the time sink that Achievements become, especially those that are tied to Dailies. Yes, I'm looking at the Molten Front while I type this, with six achievements I've yet to do that require me to either kill spawns or get lucky with spawns in an increasingly small window of questing opportunity.

I think my achievement discomfort began somewhere in the middle of Frostbitten, when it occurred to me that my entire game time was being worked around gaining points, when it should really be the other way around. Since then (and with the limited time I've had over the School Holidays) I feel I've become far too focussed with something that really is a bonus, and not something I should be forcing myself to do. Last night made me stop and think again, and consider that by far the best way to handle achievements is retrospectively and (preferably) with a bunch of friends. If I get the points, so be it, but if I don't I shouldn't be constantly looking at others and feeling the need to keep up. This should be enjoyable, and I think for me this part of the game has now degenerated into a chore. The straw that has broken the camel's back, if I am honest, is Blade's Edge Bomberman which, however hard I try, I am completely unable to do in the time period allowed. Ludicrous Speed in Hyjal is another one that has reduced me to despair: I know what I have to do, I've read guides and I've tried but I just can't do it. I think I'm probably trying too hard as a result and if I didn't know already, it's time to walk away.

I will enjoy my brief time in the sun, but I think it's probably time to stop worrying about the things I can't do and instead focus on my positives instead. After all, with 4.3 on the horizon there's gonna be a ton of new stuff that will need doing... ^^

[*] Blame Trade for that phrase. It's oddly accurate mind...

Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Not Them, It's YOU.

Holidays are almost done for the kids, and my husband's Gnome OP Machine Mage hit 80 at the weekend so I dusted down my Shaman Healer and snagged a levelling Guild Prot Warrior to go and grind some Random Normals. In the total carnage that followed it occurred to me that those who think the lack of tanks in the Queuing System is an issue are wrong. Those who also think it's time to Change Tanking are also reacting to the wrong issue. For six years the problem has NEVER been with the people who choose to stand up front and get hit, or the principle behind the tanking mechanic. It's the people who don't that's the real issue.

75% of those who DPS are rubbish.

Yes, it's a deliberately provocative statement and it's based on the fact that yesterday in every Random we ran we'd lose three dps per run (sometimes it was more, if truth be told) As a three man Guild group we did our very best to be both patient and understanding, I know we weren't randomly kicking people for no good reason. The two people we did kick were systematically abusive (and were both hunters sadly) but the rest either left randomly (Dinner time GTG is the worst excuse ever, next time be honest and tell your mum what you're doing ^^) or decided they didn't like the fact that we asked people to let our tank get aggro and if he didn't have a chance to do his job then he'd not save them, or I chose not to heal them because they decided they were tanking. I think myself and our Worgen Warrior got called Emo at least once each and there was one point where a hunter got so annoyed we weren't prepared to run as fast as he wanted that we ended up with a Mexican Standoff which resulted in us all taking a 30 minute Deserter Debuff.

This is the point where the sager of you will stand and say 'if you're getting upset about a game it's probably time to go and do something else' and although this is a good point that gets made perhaps a little too often in Trade of late (as if this will solve everything) it demonstrates that the attitude people come with to Warcraft is having an increasingly significant bearing on how the game itself develops. There has long been a belief by the veteran player base that the game has been progressively 'dumbed-down' in an attempt to keep people interested and this is borne out by a post I saw last week on MMO:

New players are still having trouble with the first 30 minutes and five levels of the game, more hand holding is coming for very basic concepts like moving, questing, fighting, and looting.

I am frankly staggered by this, and I think this shows the very real problem the game has in thinking it has to make everything utterly accessible without people actually having to either think too much or use their own initiative to learn. The net is jam packed with guides of every possible type for those who want to pick up the basics but instead the game is being treated more and more like a console game you need to learn in a day so you can finish it in a week and do summat else. I think, if Blizzard were to learn anything from the current state of the game it would be to stop making things simpler and make them deliberately require MORE thought and effort. Those of us who have had to relearn our classes every time we've had them altered in an Expansion are still here, in an increasing number of cases because of the community that's stuck with their friends over time. We remain here because of bonds we have, and those bonds yesterday were what kept us going through the constant stream of those who are playing this game as a console title. I'd say it's a decent bet that a fair proportion of the duff dps we endured over the weekend is playing without a significant emotional investment, and if that is one of the main reasons players in our guild took time to learn the game to start with, it's no wonder the console player is unable to mesh with those who want to do things in a more measured or correct manner.

Our 75% are an arrogant bunch. They believe in too many cases that doing excessive dps will answer any criticism of their play style or actual ability, and although in most cases this would be sufficient justification in an 85 heroic it won't work in a normal. Ironically yesterday my Husband was consistently top dps, a fact that did not sit well with at least one PuGee, and proof if it were needed that Blizzard needs to nerf heirloom dps research and good gear choices brings it's own reward. They are often totally self-absorbed and in too many cases seem unable to equate time with effort. Learning encounters at the normal level is pretty much vital in surviving them when you hit Heroics yet far too many people think that's someone else's problem: I've met those guys when they hit the 85 queues and frankly dying repeatedly so you can learn how to do it isn't much fun. That's why Blizzard gave you a Dungeon Guide. I see NO-ONE use it in randoms. Blizzard, you should have made some new armour skins for people to farm, it would have been a better use of your time.

However, the 25% of decent dps make the task of levelling via dungeons worthwhile. They know what to do, how to do it (I assume mostly because they're levelling an alt) and most importantly the gear they need to do it in, and although these guys may not be pulling the best dps ever in many cases (heirloom purchases aside) they'll apologise if they make a mistake, or they'll ask if they don't know what to do. Most importantly of all they understand WHY there's a tank and a healer in a group and that there is a certain amount of respect due to both classes because they choose to do things that make the five man work, if done correctly. Our group went on as long as it did for one reason, because we knew eventually the LFG would give us decent support, but we would have to wait for it. In the Game of The RNG, it's not just the decent loot that has a percentage chance of dropping...

If I've offended you with this post, it might be time to stop and think for a moment. Maybe it's not the other people who are bad dps and who are making you fail in PuG's. Perhaps it's not the tank or healer's fault. It could be YOU. Are you really making any real effort to understand the game you're playing, or do you think as it's just a game that's not the point? Perhaps it's time to consider that as the World's Biggest MMO, Warcraft might force you to change your gameplay style. What's the worst that could happen if you try?