Saturday, October 01, 2011

4.3 PTR :: I'm Listening...

As an update, some of you have expressed concerns about how loot rolls will work with regard to class role in the Raid finder.

I wanted to let you know that we're aware of your concerns on that subject, and we're considering some options to address them. It's unclear at this point whether any of those options will make it into patch 4.3 alongside the Raid Finder though, or whether they're even feasible in the short term.

There's a twenty page thread about this subject already and I suspect that it's only going to get longer. If Blizzard are listening and they can find a way to make sure the issue is at least being considered, I reckon that's better than nothing. However, what is clear is that the existing rolling system isn't going to cut it.

After six years, could need/greed be on the way out?

Friday, September 30, 2011

4.3 PTR :: Raid Finder: Just the Facts, Ma'am...

Blizzard have gone public with details on what we're likely to see in the 4.3 Raid Finder, and it's not as dire as many of us thought. Let me summarise the salient points, in no particular order:

  • Blizzard expects someone to queue as a Raid Leader, to mark and use /RW.
  • Automatic rolls and the Need Before Greed loot rules will apply in Raid Finder raids.
  • LFR does not have an instance lock.
  • If you've killed a boss in LFR during the weekly raid resets and you kill it again, you get no loot.
  • The Dragon Soul raid will be split into two 'wings', with four bosses per wing.
  • You earn 250 Valor Points for beating the final boss in each wing of the instance.
  • The LFG Raid drops a 'version' of Tier Gear. There are three versions of T13 available, this will be the weakest of the three.
  • Each Raid Finder raid will include two tanks, six healers, and seventeen damage dealers.
  • If the Raid Finder proves popular, more raid instances may be added to it in the future.
  • Several players will need to agree on kicking a candidate before any vote begins.
  • Successful kick votes will require a significant number of Yes votes to pass.
  • If you leave early, your debuff will only apply to the Raid Finder system.

This answers yesterday's question on how Tier fits into the scheme of things, and why I've seen three recolours of the Hunter gear floating around on MMO: we have T13 Lite. Yes, you too can have the same dire rehash if you're a Hunter great looking Tier gear as your normal raiding friends except they'll all know you're not as leet as them because you got yours in a PuG. Actually, I reckon the T13 Lite could end up with a certain amount of prestige value: yes, you survived enough runs in LFR to actually make up the set. You're more patient than I'll ever be. That should get a special achievement all of it's own.

By far the most significant point here for me in this list is the revelation that you won't get locked to this raid, but if you've been already in that seven day reset period you'll get no loot from bosses you've already killed. This is a stroke of genius, Blizzard. Considering the number of times I've been in a Baradin Hold where someone is saved and we've been unable to ascertain who... I've seen other people suggest a feature where a RL could check whether someone came with an ID. This solves that problem. Adapt this system please and slap it on the BH instance pronto!

I have to say though, the first two points still fill my heart with dread. It is going to take a VERY special kind of person to run a LFR raid, and Need before Greed will not address the MS/OS issue, nor will it allow for fair or sensible loot distribution. People will exploit this, in exactly the same way it happens in Five Mans right now. The vote kick system's dangerously weighted towards larger groups who queue together: having been kicked yesterday from a five man who had three people from the same Guild because I skinned a mob I had loot on that the party leader wanted, I am well aware how precarious you can be in a minority. I think this side of things needs more thought, and if they can fix it for 25's maybe some of that can be retrofitted to the LFG System.

I was wondering whether there'd be any mention of applying this system back to other older raids and although I understand why Blizzard wouldn't do that initially their argument's not exactly compelling:

Many older raids don’t require a full complement of raiders, making the Raid Finder unnecessary.

Would it really have been that hard for you guys to decide how many people you think these older raids need and set the Raid Finder up accordingly? You've told us what roles we need to make 25 man work, after all. With Mogging in many people's minds this would have been a great way to allow more people to pick up the older tiers and to remind people of what they missed out on by not raiding earlier... The option is still open, so if LFR 'proves popular enough' then we could see the older stuff making an appearance. Maybe that should read 'if enough people survive LFR without spontaneously combusting'... That assumes of course you're not already playing with 24 mates every week. For those people, this feature really could be enormously helpful.

Survive these two LFR's in a week and you'll earn 500 Valor Points. I wonder, at what point does Blizzard see people being in a position to do this? Are they really going to allow people access to Deathwing immediately? If I were running a 25 Man Hardcore Progression Guild I KNOW what I'd be thinking right now if this were the case: use these raids to ensure everyone knows their mechanics and farm them weekly for the 500 Valor, which can then be used towards further gearing people using the Valor Vendors. Run these as a warmup each week, allow people to 'get their eyes in', and then go hit the more difficult content HARD. Giving everyone a chance at seeing the End Game I reckon will mean that far more people who are already organised in 25's will beat it on the higher levels faster. I suspect it may also encourage those people who can almost get 25 people together to push that bit harder and see if they can make it happen, because that means you're don't have to settle for either T13 Lite or Normal, you could have a good chance of getting to Heroic Modes which is T13 Royale. Let's hope that's without the cheese ^^

When you think about it in those terms, LFR could be the best thing Blizzard's introduced for a very long time.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

4.3 PTR : Someone Do the Maths?

It's ALWAYS the Dps ^^

As reported on WoW Insider this morning, the Heroic Five Man experience will change in 4.3. Running ANY Heroic, regardless of the loot level it drops, will reward you 150 Valor Points up to a maximum of 1000 a week (which is clearly not going to work because even I know that 150 x 7 = 1050, so summat's wrong somewhere) The change now comes with where you are sent, and I think this might indicate there have been some subtle programming changes with the LFG mechanics. The two Troll Heroics are now linked to the base 'set' of L85 Five Mans, and you will be unable to be selected for them unless you're at the correct ilevel. As Mathew McCurley correctly points out, it means the concept of a 'quick' Random will change: I've done ZA in thirty minutes before but as a rule it's longer and far more stressful than say doing a Vortex Pinnacle. However I suspect as people gear using the newer trio of instances going back to these will speed them up considerably. I wonder if this also means that Blizzard might consider removing the Bear from ZA as it will become 'too easy' to obtain?

This also give some pause for thought as we move towards the next Expansion: Heroics are, for just about everyone, the easiest way to gear a toon quickly. If you want to prepare yourself to raid, then you'll use Heroics not simply for the gear they reward but as a way of gathering points for Valor Gear. Except this time around Blizzard have stated that there'll be no Tier Gear available from Valor Points. If you want to look the business unless you're a Hunter coz our Tier SUCKS be in the best items available you have no choice but to head into a Raid. Blizzard have also made it clear that Valor Vendors will be given a wider choice of items this time around to make up for the (potential) lack of item drops. This makes me wonder: what will the majority of current non-Raiders choose to do? Do you forgo Tier entirely and simply max yourself on the Valor gear you can easily access, or do you take the plunge and Raid for the first time?

This is, of course, where the new Looking for Raid interface fits in. It should reward gear above Heroics but below 'proper' 10/25 mans and allow people a chance to experience the content but without the appropriate level of difficulty. This is where I think we now need some information. It's STILL not going to be Tier Gear, there is no access to Rogue Legendaries. If people are that set on these new armour sets and the bonuses they give is there really any point in trying the LFR to start with? Is this simply training wheels for novices? Would it not simply be better to give everyone a 'proper' raid interface and a crack at the actual Dragon Soul Raid and simply do away with the interim step altogether?

The problem comes in two parts, it seems to me. The first issue is linked to the Legendary items that are now so much a part of what happens in End Game. Everyone wants an Orange item, but make them too easy to construct and there's no value to the colour (we know that with Purple gear, after all) so to obtain your Legendary has to be long, complex and inevitably for it to work in a realistic timescale, NEEDS people to sacrifice. Legendaries are what make Guilds selfless, when they pick one person to wield them, when the Guild gets behind that person to help them make the dream a reality. Everyone pitches in, and as is the case with the Staff in the Firelands there is a reward for everyone who does. I'm not talking about the vanity pet either: you helped someone else do something special, and you didn't get that item yourself. Putting that into a Random environment's just asking for trouble because you have no idea how selfish people will be. Actually, I think Blizzard know EXACTLY what would happen, and indeed does right now in all those Guilds who don't do things that way, and that's why at some point the way Legendaries are given will again have to change.

The second one is more worrying, and is perfectly demonstrated in this post by the Grumpy Elf. It is entirely possible at this stage of the game, without the upcoming reduction in XP needed from 70-80, to level a toon to 85 from scratch in under a week, WITHOUT heirlooms. That's great if you're doing this as someone who has played before but if you're completely new to Warcraft, without a Guild or indeed a clue as to how the subtleties of the game unfold, how do you cope with any more people in your group than four? As soon as you are capable, Blizzard gives you the option to instance. The best gear is in five mans, not from quests. You are pointed to dungeons and expected to use the LFG to take part, but once you reach 85 there is no way to 'learn' raiding than to hope you can get a PuG. Any sane Raid Leader won't pick the guy who's Achievement list clearly shows him that he's run from 1-85 and not touched the sides, yet this is how an increasing number of people are coming to the game. Having created this monster, needing more people to make it to the end game to keep the subscriber numbers up, Blizzard have to also find a way to teach them how this works. Let's hope that these individuals are actually listening because if this doesn't work...

The LFR interface is already in place on the PTR, we just need some content to stick in it. It shouldn't take a genius to work out that if it is successful it'll become as much a part of the game as the LFG interface is now, and will allow Blizzard to hypothetically recycle ALL the Raid Content it currently owns, giving those who'd like not to use Battleground as a levelling tool an attractive alternative (keep that Classic Raid gear you get while levelling to Mog your 85 gear, get XP at the same time, it's a win/win)  I'd not mind levelling a Toon if I knew I could do Molten Core again at 60: no need to make a lite version Blizz, just use the same instance, make sure we get the same achievements, you can introduce the 'easy' option as we approach 85. When you think about it this way, LFR makes a whole lot of sense.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4.3 PTR :: NOT An Island!

Clearly, this is an Island. Except it's not ^^

I am rather surprised to find the above image is part of the 'Loading Screen' sector on the MMO infodump. This can mean only one thing: Darkmoon Island works like an Instance. This is how Blizzard dealt with the Molten Front, after all: rather than bolting on a bit to the existing Azerothian map they just made it appear 'somewhere else.' Pretend you're on the Plane of Fire guys, this means we don't have to worry about terraforming or anything complicated. This comes as something of a disappointment however, as I'd hoped you'd be able to 'visit' the island when the Faire wasn't active. No sneaking around trying to find discarded tickets in the hope you can get enough together for a prize... talking of which, I wonder if the existing tickets I have in the bank will be worth anything when the new event goes live...?

There are thirteen Achievements currently on the PTR that are Darkmoon-related: the most interesting on first look is Faire Favors, because I suspect it's going to push a fair few people into secondary professions who may not previously have done so. It's also becoming clearer what we'll need to do in order to pick up Darkmoon Artifacts, and as at least three of these are found in Battlegrounds you PvP haters will need to suck it up take a chance that you'll get lucky. What is not yet immediately obvious are the rewards for scooping all this booty, but we can make a fairly decent stab at the Vanity side of things:

These seem like fairly safe bets as ticket rewards and will keep the pet collectors going for quite some time. There's also a Darkmoon Dancing Bear which I have to say looks like it's not completed yet or at best needs some work. What is apparent however is that this isn't going to be a quick finish. With only a seven day window per month to actually visit the Faire I'm betting this grind could make the Molten Front dailies look like a picnic. What we need to verify now is just how all of this is going to work, and it's clear that although the rewards may be covered (betting these will just be recolours of existing skins), the way to get them is still being worked at.

Needless to say, as soon as the Faire appears on the PTR you'll hear about it from here because if there's one thing I'm a sucker for, it's a grind for a cute companion...

4.3 PTR :: In No Particular Order...

There's no copy queue up for PTR Characters in the EU currently so I'm forced to use my pre-Firelands character (renamed Sharrow for the occasion) to have an initial Casual Faff (TM) I do have a version of myself potentially incoming...

The first surprise on logging in was the 2011 Blizzcon Pet in my inbox :D

If you're havering over getting the Blizzcon Virtual Ticket this year I'd suggest this is probably the best reward that's been offered thus far. He looks fabulous close up and is going to be a popular addition to the pet 'family', though I think he needs to clean his teeth a bit more:

He's BEHIND YOU!11!!! *cough*

Anyway, vanity aside of the moment. There are only two questions in Stormwind as I type: where do I find the Mogging Guy/Void Storage Guy and where's the Darkmoon Faire? I'll shuffle over to the Caverns of Time later for a look at the new instances but for now let's address the former of those questions. Let me show you the map:

You Are Here. Remember this, will save a lot of hassle when 4.3 happens.

As I'm not on my current version of the hunter there's no Mogging gear to try out, but the interface is pretty. What I'm more concerned about is the Void Storage, which is remarkably simple to fathom, just expensive to operate:

Opening the storage costs 1000g. This appears to be a standard amount regardless of what level you are currently, my just-created L1 test character needs 1000g to access it too. I think we may have found Blizzard's latest gold sink. A pair of soulbound boots I had in my bag cost 100g to deposit, and 100g an item appears to be the standard rate thus far (it has been stated that this may change before release) I found a number of restrictions to what you could store:

  • Stackable items are not storable
  • Only soulbound items are storable (so you'll have to equip them)
  • Unique items cannot be stored :( This means my Eye of Haramad isn't going in, or my Tol Barad Searchlight if I get bored with it. Unique-equipped items can be though.
  • Items must be repaired before being placed into storage. Hope you can afford that!

There's also been a sensibly-timed update to the  Reforging interface which is now far less cluttered and easier to understand:

There are no more drop down menus, red is used to show what stat has been reduced and green that a stat has been added. When you reforge, the process is similarly colour coded:

Although the old reforger still exists in Stormwind he's not going to be there for very much longer. I hope the Etherials gave him a decent severance package. Bet he's off to that pleasure resort in Ferelas for a long holiday...

Where he won't be going just yet is Darkmoon Island.

Now I'm not a programmer but I reckon [BROKEN UNTIL MAP/CHUNKS EXISTS] is telling us that the new zone isn't in game right now. I'm betting it will either a) appear majestically from the Mists of Time when the Faire is scheduled to appear or b) it's coming up on the next PTR push. Interestingly there are no Darkmoon Faire's currently listed on the ingame PTR calender.

Needless to say, there's still plenty to look at and faff with despite the fact I'm a tier behind. Let's hope I can get a character copied over because there is at least the beginnings of a Looking for Raid interface to try ... ^^

There WILL be rewards, we're just not saying what they'll be...

4.3 PTR :: Here We Go!

Time for breakfast while I wait for the download. MMO has the first datamined passes for your perusal while that happens...

A quick reminder, there's going to be PTR stuff posted here if I find it interesting, if you're not a spoiler person it may be time to look away for a while.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You Do Exist, Right?

Some days, I do wonder... ^^

Today I began the first of two writing courses. One will count towards a degree, the other I'm doing 'just for fun' and as a way to prove I can do more than simply string some random sentences together. During the first break this morning our eldest member of the group, on hearing that I play a game on a computer with a bunch of disparate individuals spread across Europe, looked at me and shook his head. 'You've made them up,' he pronounced. 'They're not real, they're just inside your machine.' Although I'm reasonably sure he was being ironic, the statement made me think. How hard would it be to explain to a total stranger what it is I do as a hobby? Could I make them believe my world was 'real' and not simply a figment of my deranged imagination?

I reckon I could break it down into bite sized chunks: perhaps I could start with a personal history, how I've played games since the 1980's and that, after my daughter was born, I bought Warcraft as a way of getting through long nights of breast feeding and enforced sleep deprivation. I'd then possibly admit that period when I got 'a bit obsessed' with the game (or not maybe because then I'd be drifting into a stereotype that I do my very best to avoid wherever possible) but that would depend on the level of honesty I'd want from my finished piece. What I'd want to emphasise however is how very human the virtual experience is, despite the 'images' you see playing which are anything but. After all, all life is in Azeroth: young, old, good and bad and most points in-between. In fact, what makes the game so utterly compelling on most days is the fact that the people bring something special to the table: look closely and so much is revealed about how people react with other people and to circumstances. It's no wonder psychologists and sociologists take such an interest in online worlds: so much more can be seen if you know where to look.

However the point I think I'd want to emphasise most would be the way that virtual people surprise you. Individuals who, in some cases you have never meet and might never get the chance to, are prepared to do wonderful things in the name of helping others 'win' this particular game. Winning of course isn't like scoring a goal or crossing a line, it's a long process of learning, co-operating and beating an increasing complex set of computer-generated foes. It's obtaining that 100th Mount. It's completing that quest chain for a reward although only briefly relevant is always hard fought for and gratefully received. It's allowing the person behind the keyboard a chance to do something that makes them feel like they are involved in a worthwhile pursuit, that makes them feel that the people they choose to be with are part of a family. At it's worst an MMORPG can be a living nightmare, but at it's best, where I am most days with my virtual family, it is a joy to participate in.

It is often the way that if you do not understand something that you trivialise it or make it the subject of humour or abuse. I'm used to that happening, as it has for many years with certain groups of people. For a long time I thought it was probably a good idea to pretend this side of my life didn't exist, but age has made me understand that the only way to truly grasp what you are is to embrace all your interests and not to pretend you're something you're not. I know what I am. Embracing my Inner Gamer is just the same as acknowledging my desire to have a Proper Voice. It's all part of the process and justifying that wouldn't be half as hard as maybe I first thought. Perhaps I should give it a try.

*clears throat*

I'm happy to exist in this virtual world, and I'm not afraid to admit it.


... Brewfest Tokens are now dropping from the Coren Direbrew Daily Reward Bag Doobreys. I won't have a chance to check this until this afternoon (I have a college course starting today) but if this is true, it's a step in the right direction.

'There is no loot' goes against most of what Blizzard gives in game. Even if there's *something* it's better than nothing.

[EDIT: Picture confirmation!

This is not a prize ^^

Let us hope this is the start of a trend... :D]

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Week, I will be Mostly...

I remember when you actually got loot from Brewfest Keg Bags...

  • Continuing to run Coren Direbrew because, at some point, I will get something other than the 'There is No Loot' dialogue. Even a duplicate mount would be a bonus.

  • Doing Argent Tournament Dailies as they are more interesting than the Firelands will ever be, still reward cash and reputation without me having to hand in marks, and earn me cash via Tournament pets. That's three wins in one bullet point, folks. VALUE!

  • Farming in one hour bursts with The Potion of Win.

  • Hoping for a drama-free and progression-rich week in Firelands Lite.

  • Quite possibly running some Randoms to gear up the lower division alts. After all, once 4.3 appears they'll be a whole new level of gear to pointlessly aspire to ^^

  • Waiting for 4.3 to appear on the PTR. 24 hours and counting... (crosses fingers)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's In the Bag(s)!

Happiness is a Bag full of Chests... :D

I am constantly on the lookout for new money-making opportunities. At weekends especially grinding ANYTHING can be a bit of a mug's game, because if you're farming it's pretty much guaranteed there's gonna be more than one other player with the same idea. This is why I spend a bit of time in Old Skool instances: resets at your convenience, no competition for mobs... it makes far more sense.

That is until Blizzard introduced the Potion of Treasure Finding.

The mats, for any alchemist worth their salt and with either a gathering secondary profession or a family of alts, are less prohibitive than they have ever been. The effects give you sixty minutes of access to one of the most useful items that currently drops in game, the Tiny Treasure Chest. Of the TWENTY-SEVEN items that Wowhead say that drop from the chests absolutely none of them are useless: there's also a decent chance of green items to boot. Each chest drops a nominal amount of gold, but it will be the other treasures that will have you using this potion on a regular basis. The majority of people I know who use this will apply one for their daily Randoms or when they are doing Dailies (as these potions work on the Molten Front) However this weekend I've taken P and used these for a concerted far of sub-85 mobs around the Cataclysm zones.

There are many areas across the entire 80-85 grind where you will encounter lootable mobs being 'tanked' by NPC's. Whether it's the starting Elementals in Hyjal, Troggs in Depholm or Naga in Vashj'ir and the Twilight Highlands there are large groups which will not initially aggro when you attack them. This of course is the key, giving you a chance to tag as many as possible before killing them at your leisure. The more you can dispatch at a sitting of course the more likely you are to get a chest and the more money you can potentially earn as a result. As a tailor, picking humanoid mobs also has the advantage of extra cloth drops, the benefits of which cannot be overstated (especially if you still need to max your profession skill) The big earners in my chests are inevitably Volatile Water and Air, the cloth itself and any greens I can DE for mats that are subsequently resold. These can also be sent to W and M to contribute to Trugold transmutes or used to make PvP gears on any of the crafters (which seems to be selling very well right now) What you do with your chests is of course entirely up to you.

If you're levelling an alt to 85 this weekend and you're in any of the zones where these chests have a chance to drop, I'd urge you to seek out an Alchemist and get a stack of these potions to help you on your way. their significance cannot be understated, and the rewards from them are well worth the effort in creating them.