Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Number of the Beast

Top of the shop ^^ Who needs a Legendary cape?

I don't like meters.

They are a necessary evil, a quick and dirty way to work out just how short you are on killing a particular boss. They often expose potential issues with players who do not grasp the mechanics of a fight. They are LFR's Kangaroo Court, damning evidence of the player not pulling their weight, a way to vote kick into oblivion perceived issues. They are both beautiful and dangerous. Living with them can be problematic, but living without them in this game is becoming impossible, simply because of the amount of effort needed to kill anything with a pulse.

Stat inflation is really beginning to be a pain in the meters.

The Commanders that you are obliged to kill in the Barrens are a good example of how Blizzard is making the game 'scale' to accommodate a variable number of players: I assume that when each player acquires threat on a target, or performs a task that generates threat, the health of that boss increases. It's a pretty simple assumption (please point out if I'm wrong, I'm doing this on zero research) but it does mean that if 20 people all get threat and none of those people are then capable of killing said boss with their combined outputs, you're screwed. Simply increasing the bosses health pool is all well and good, and (presumably) scaling their special attacks in tandem, but if your ongoing force isn't packing the necessary punch to meet that challenge, you're all dead in a pile. You'll need to know what damage you're doing, especially in 5.4, when Flex Raiding means you'll be expected to bring some arbitrary numbers to the table.

More than ever, self-awareness is going to be an issue when playing.

I listen to people perennially use the line in LFR: 'I'm doing my best.' The problem is, what is considered as 'best' in those situations: all epic gear? Everything gemmed and enchanted? Are you reforged to make optimum use of the stats you need? Right now you can walk into raiding with nothing and get carried, which still happens with depressing regularity. Should it really be the job of the rest of the raid to ensure that iLevel means not just sticking a ton of gear that shonks the LFR algorithm in your bags and hoping for the best? I think, with Flex Raiding approaching, this has to be addressed. There will be those who use Flex for their own personal groupings and will police that with their own rules. For anyone going into a Flex PuG (and they will happen because of the better iLevel rewards) it's potentially even more damning a prospect than LFG.

Is it time to resurrect the concept of the overall Gear Score?

How hard would it be to scan a person's gear to make sure that it was gemmed and enchanted? Sure, you could shonk that too, but if you're going to have to spend money on those things one would assume you'd at least try and make an effort to do it right. Would it be fair to prevent anyone with a green item or two from entering the queue, forcing them to gear along a certain path before they can. Even better, would it not be possible to specify specific items as 'raid required' thus forcing people to obtain them before gaining entry? Think of it as subconscious Attunement: you can come into this raid unless you're wearing these items, which will give you the essential things you require to complete the wing/area... but we used to have those. They were called resistance gear ^^ Maybe its time to find a new form of 'resistance', one that means a player has to do a certain number of tasks before he has the minimum required not to screw it up for everyone else.

If you want to go the extra mile, you do, but for everyone else, you can be clear on what is the absolute minimum necessary required for you to defeat the opposition. Maybe Blizzard shouldn't be just monitoring the vote kicks and bad behaviour of players either: maybe your average dps should be recorded on a per-instance/wing basis and if you fail to meet a standard output the next time you try and queue for an LFR, you get the following dialogue pop up on screen:

'Your gear/output is not sufficient to complete this 25 man instance.
Please go and improve your gear in Heroics/Scenarios.'

Yes, I know. That's terribly unfair, and would never happen in a Blizzard game, even though it really should. Meters are no indication of performance, we all know this, except they are, and we all know that too. So does Blizzard, even though they won't ever base anything on one person's output. You are the one who can improve your play, and Blizzard shouldn't have to tell you this.

Except, in the current LFR and gaming environment, perhaps that too needs to change.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Don't Call me Baby

Oooh look, I haven't had a rant on my blog for a while. Let's change that.

We have discussed here the issue of female objectification in game, which is always a bit contentious in certain circles. If you want a fight, that's normally a good one to start with. Once you've done with that then we can move swiftly onto the concept of how people treat people in (and out) of game: you'll be expected to be civil and respectful, but I'm not adverse to the odd attack of colourful language or impassioned point-making if the whole shebang is getting a bit emotional. However, there are lines to be drawn, and boundaries to be set, and if you won't do any of this without the fundamental understanding that everyone has a right to their opinion, it's going to end in tears.

So, what happens when someone steps over the line?

In Warcraft, toxic behaviour is no longer acceptable, to the point where Blizzard has created an entire algorithm in an attempt to monitor it. However, what happens outside the auspices of the game? If you're not on a Blizzard forum, how is it acceptable to deal with people who decide that they don't like what you are or what you do? There would be many people who would argue that the best method of attack is nothing: after all, this is the Internet. Many people check their brains out on login, and your experience is as varied as the company you keep. This is all well and good, until a point comes where you are in an environment you believe is safe, that you've felt comfortable in, and something happens to upset the balance. If you're like me, you might not even notice what happened until you take a step back.

There is nothing wrong with sensible and adult discussion, if everyone plays by the same rules. This allows you to have discourse with people who you might not normally talk about issues that are sensitive or inflammatory. The emphasis, of course, has to be on those two words: sensible and adult. There also has to be a level of understanding that if people don't like each other to begin with, they can still co-exist and communicate. I've learnt so much from people over the years (many of which I no longer talk to, some I actively avoid) and I've made so many mistakes... I'm not proud of any of them. What I try not to do any more (which I did a lot of in my youth) is deliberately cut people off because I disagree with their position. Every day, as I constantly remind myself, is a school day. You must learn until your last breath.

However, when you belittle people because they hold an opinion that you don't, when you make them look less worthy than you because of something personal that has affected your life, that's a dangerous precedent. Of course, I can think of a number of examples where an individual would be entirely within their rights to do this (and female objectification is a case in point) but to do that simply because they hold a different opinion about an aspect of, of all things, a computer game... that's just petty and pointless. Life is really too short for anyone to hold such preconceptions. People have the right to play their game, the way they want, even if that means in the end they are a negative influence. If that situation ultimately becomes toxic, then it should be the community's job to deal with it. When it's just because they won't toe your particular line or that they want to discuss stuff you don't think is either important or worthy, well... go play somewhere else.

Everyone is entitled to hold and defend/discuss their own opinion. Just because it doesn't match yours doesn't make either wrong or less valid. This bullying (because that is what it is) also fosters an environment where people feel uncomfortable, to the point where many will stop talking altogether, or simply leave because they feel unable to discuss what they want without fear of being attacked for not being part of what seems to be the 'norm'. I've been pushing really hard to try and get more people to blog and discuss their game experiences, and such attitudes will put that cause back, not help it forward. This community should NOT be an environment that discourages debate, quite the opposite. It also shouldn't be a place where attention-seekers can come to assuage their egos. If that's what you want, other internet mediums are available, but don't expect an easy ride anywhere if your idea of tolerance and understanding only extends to people who hold your opinions.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Are You Experienced?

Heavy irony, easy on the reality.

For a long time, in fact since we began this journey with Blizzard, you've never been able to buy your way to favour in game. Everyone is created equal (well, except Monks but they're a law unto themselves) and if you want an advantage, you gotta get in the queue with everyone else. That status quo might be about to change, if a) you believe what Wowhead pulled out of the Datamining for patch 5.4 yesterday and b) it remains in game when the patch finally goes live. For those of you that don't understand the significance of what the above actually means, I'll use WoW Insider's post to explain:

Enduring Elixir of Wisdom is an elixir that increases experience gained from killing monsters and completing quests by 100%. Wow, that's quite the buff, right? But not really stop the presses news? Wait until you hear the rest. It's currently listed as coming from the "5.4 In-Game Store". Yes, that's right, at the moment all signs point to this being purchased via a microtransaction.

It's been a dirty word in Warcraft, but it's commonly used everywhere else in the MMO environment: pay real money, buy yourself a boost. Ironically Blizzard have been pulling in the dollars with pet and mount purchases for moose's years, but this is the first hint that they might finally have bitten the bullet and given people what they want, because I can absolutely guarantee these things will sell. In fact, Blizzard could put grey quality vendor items up for microtransaction and *someone* would purchase them. That's just how stupidly popular this game remains, despite the now legions of Naysayers who will be pouring onto websites and blog posts to decry the End of All Things As We Know Them.

Again, it has to be said, until people are tired of hearing it, this is the PTR. Look what happened when Tri-Specs appeared in a datamining incident and how far that got in the general scheme of things. However, even if this doesn't make the light of day, the potential consequences of Blizzard EVEN CONSIDERING THIS are really rather interesting. Could this mean that the game might eventually dispense with a monthly sub altogether and go Free to Play? How many potential people could it entice if that happened and if it did how juicy would the carrot of 100% XP become? What other items could (theoretically) become offers in a 5.4 'Online Store'? Just how much could Blizzard get away with sticking into a microtransaction 'model'? Could we yet see L90 premade characters ready to buy? Needless to say, there are more questions than answers at this point and nothing will officially be clarified (I suspect) for some time, if I know Blizzard they way I think I do.

It's either that or tomorrow they'll announce it in a blaze of glory. Don't get your hopes up.

What this does mean however is, like it or not, one of the basic tenets of the game has been fundamentally challenged. Even if this never comes to pass (and I have to say, I reckon this one has stronger legs than Tri-Spec for so many reasons) the fact it was considered and made it out to the Public Domain is very significant indeed. The game has been losing subs consistently for the last year. If, as we have discussed at length, Blizzard are trying to keep interest alive until the Warcraft Movie debuts in the game's 10th year, this might be one of a raft of measures to (potentially) keep interest from flagging. If it is, then 100% XP should probably be the least of most people's concerned.

The next could of weeks are now set to be very interesting: and there we were thinking there'd be no news until 5.4 dropped...

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Big Area

Redesigned Arena System

  • Players no longer need to create or join an Arena team to compete.
  • Similar to the Rated Battleground system, players in a party of the appropriate size (cross-realm groups are supported) may queue for an Arena bracket of the same size (2v2, 3v3, or 5v5).
  • Each player will have a personal rating that increase or decrease based on victories and defeats against other rated opponents. Opponents will be selected based on the average Match Making Rating of the party.
  • Conquest cap, requirements on gear and enchantments will be based on the player's personal rating.
  • The Arena ladder will no longer be sorted according to Battlegroup. Just like Rated Battlegrounds and normal Battlegrounds, all Arenas will now be region-wide!
  • At the end of an Arena season, the top players in a region will still earn titles and mounts. 

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but once upon a time I was in a 3 v 3 team.

I began my life on a PvP Server, and in Vanilla that meant the eponymous Southshore to Tarren Mill drag. Arriving as a L31 surrounded by L60's is still an image that refuses to leave my mind when I think of World Battles. We've discussed here the joy that were 6 hour AV's as a Hunter with Serpent Sting hiding behind a tree. My Arena career came when I was safely established in PvE Land and was in the company of a totally lovely husband and wife duo from Poland: he was a priest, she was a mage, and I was the girl at the back. Needless to say, I wasn't under any illusions. They were by far the better players, but this didn't matter, because in time they began to teach me how to be better too and, because I'm not stupid, I learnt stuff.

Eventually we would win more battles than we lost.

My love affair with PvP comes and goes, it must be said, and a lot of this is to do not simply with the time I have available, but the way PvP has changed over the years, which it undoubtedly has. Not unlike designing web pages, there are those of who learnt the old ways and them young upstarts the new generation of players, who I know aren't simply faster than me but are ultimately better at running away whilst simultaneously beating the stuffing out of any opponent. Gear has become a thing, as have OP Hunters. So it makes perfect sense on the eve of that class being nerfed to the ground (baby!) because of PvP that I should start considering a resurrection of my Arena career. Most of it is on the back of the 5.4 changes above.

The irony of this change is not lost on me: matchmaking has been the bane of my existence in LFR since it was introduced, but is absolutely perfect for PvP situations. There's no illusions in an Arena: people really are just there to kill you. In that regard it doesn't matter who you are, just as long as you don't try and cheat. I will be interested to see how that side of things works out, but more importantly it should allow me access to Conquest Point rewards, which considering my totally woeful luck with certain drops by normal means might be a blessing. I've already had some success in conning other people finding like-minded souls to assist me in my plans. This means I will be adding 'update PvP gear' to the big list of stuff to do before 5.4 hits.

I realise I miss the challenge of Arena not so I can beat people and press their faces into the dirt, or swan around with a rating that screams 'look at me, I'm really good at PvP' I'm not even here for a title or a mount, despite the fact that Knight is the title I still wear to this day (earned back in AV all those years ago.) I want to be a better player, and to do that I have to learn how to do things on the move, in high pressure situations and as quickly as possible. That means playing everywhere, including against people who are going to make me look like a total idiot. Eventually, if I do it for long enough, I hope to get good enough to not be an utter embarrassment.

If you'd like to join me, you know where I am.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

First Steps

Starting Again. Again ^^

As I promised last week, I'm going to try and get myself a little better organised in-game. To that end, I have a list, of sorts, comprising the stuff I'd like to try and at least make an effort towards in the weeks leading up to 5.4. This is of course, only the tip of the Mother of All Icebergs, and it makes me realise just how much there is to do that I *could* be doing in-game at any one point with multiple characters, not just the one. As has been the case on numerous occasions, the trick must be not to try and do too much at one, to organise myself in a sensible and rational fashion, and to transpose as much of what I need to do into a visual format to help me prompt myself when I am online. As a result the above list is only of limited usefulness. What it does make clear however is that 5.4 is going to split into two distinct prongs of attack: keeping P at optimal usefulness, whilst at the same time maximising Professions so I'm not spending money I don't need to at a Virtual AH where prices (I suspect) will become a lot more expensive than they have been for some time.

Because I have no idea how volatile the AH market will be, I feel I need to stockpile. Looking at Trade in game last night, I am clearly not alone in this regard: I counted several people pushing for CoD raw material sales. I'll be wanting a lot of cloth, leather and ore, plus herbs, so I'm going to stop selling whatever I farm until 5.4 drops and bankalts will become storage mules. Money therefore can come from levelling the Lock, Mage and Monk and I'll not bother equipping anyone else until the changes to Valor and Justice vendors are live. From yesterday's patch notes, those changes are quite significant:

  • Epic quality (purple) Valor items sold by the Shado-Pan Assault now have their reputation requirements reduced to Friendly or below, and have their Valor Point cost reduced by 34%.

  • Epic quality (purple) Valor items sold by all other Mists of Pandaria faction quartermasters no longer have reputation requirements, and will now cost Justice Points instead of Valor.

  • Rare quality (blue) items have their Justice Point cost reduced by 75%.

  • No changes for items that require an Exalted reputation.

This will be a massive boost for recently-dinged 90's so the temptation is to simply drag people there and leave them to take advantage of the changes when 5.4 goes live.

Then there are the 37 Battle Pets not yet mine including the Beasts of Fable rewards. This will require some levelling of the weaker families in my stable and (I suspect) some specific pets boosted to 25 to help complete that. Ideally I'd like to try and do this before 5.4, but the biggest single logistic to this is time. I'm also aware that at least one pet that drop from mobs in the Throne happens in Durumu's wing, so it will be time to suck in the gut tomorrow and do that as early as possible. As there's also a chance to pick up a bow from Gok Wan Iron Qon I should probably focus on those three wings of ToT, and then use the Barrens weekly to sweep up the extra VP (and the massive amount of cloth and leather that drop there) Ironically this is the bit of my plan I am lest looking forward to. Farming and faffing is always a joy, so maybe if I get the horrible LFR out of the way early things will improve as the week goes on. I can but hope.

There is also other useful gubbins like the Daily Pet Trainers quest (stones, bandages), fishing in the Vale (before the water vanishes altogether) and the Daily Transmute circuit, but for that I will need some raw materials. Therefore, this week I will be mostly gathering until my eyes bleed. So, if you will excuse me...

Monday, July 01, 2013

Blinded By The Light

He's looking at me funny ^^

For the second time this Expansion, I have been floored by tactics.

It began with Attenuation on Vizier Zor'lok. I 'got' the sonic rings, I just couldn't get my brain to grasp the right way to run. It became embarrassing after a while, that I'd always end up the one face down on the floor watching everyone else do it seemingly without a problem. Finally, blissfully, I could almost feel the tumblers in my brain click into place and I now understand exactly what to do and how to move. Two patches on, I have a new name for my pain, and it is Durumu. The problem this time is that I'm not in a  position to learn this with nine other people who are going to accommodate my failings and not yell obscenities in caps at me.

I've found something else that LFR fails at.

It is undoubtedly useful, when entering any new instance for the first time, to have a basic grasp of the tactics. I knew I'd fail at the eyebeam, but I still went into the Instance with what I *thought* was an understanding of what else went on: the problem then comes with how particular people will 'do' any particular boss in either a 25 or 10 man setting, or what boss 'strat' video they've watched to complete it. Last night, for instance, people were yelled at one moment for running around with the blue beam and actively encouraged to do it the next: maintaining a level of consistency in a fight is kind of important. However, being shouted at at whilst face down does very little to either inspire confidence or encourage people to get up and try again. No, it shouldn't matter that its some random person I'll probably never meet again, but the point remains that some people just think that anonymous equals you can say what you like without reproach.

Well, I'm sorry, random people who yelled at me, I'm not some nameless nob-end. I'll admit however you do have a point and I'm failing on this boss, but as I don't belong to a a raid group running current content in which to learn these tactics, I'm really sorry, but I am doing my best. I suspect these facts are of absolutely no relevance whatsoever to you, but they matter to me. As I have no other means of completing this content (and perhaps you are lucky enough to be able to) it might actually be an idea to cut people like me the occasional break, especially when I'm topping your meters. Yes, last night, I was consistently in the top three for damage even on the tries when I died at 40-30%. This should prove the point, if it were needed, that it isn't about damage in fights, it is more a case of understanding HOW that damage can be best done to begin with. Tactics really do matter , and I'm betting the bosses in 5.4 will be absolutely no different.

The more significant point to all of this however is that Durumu is one of the bosses who has a chance of dropping a weapon upgrade. Since I've run LFR, NOT ONE SINGLE UPGRADE HAS DROPPED EVER. The only two times I've seen a bow is via 10 mans. That's a pretty damning statistic, Mr RNG Boss. Of course, I could avoid this wing altogether, which at this point actually seems quite an attractive proposition. Fact remains, I've not even collected my 20 tablets to be able to proceed to the next stage where I part with a ton of Trillium and then go BACK into LFR for more gubbins. You know, they really shouldn't have called it Legendary, that's an insult to the weapons that actually meant something back in the day. This is a Persistence-Quality item, or Boundless Patience-Quality. Making it Orange, at least for someone who's been here as long as I have, seems now like a bit of an insult.

Anyway, I have a bit of a downer on raid content this week. I suggest you give me a wide berth, I'll get over it soon enough...

Sunday, June 30, 2013


The Frozen North. Cold.

Back to Warcraft stuff tomorrow: for today, I just want to spend a few minutes thanking someone.

As you guys know, I'm doing some fiction amongst the blog posts. What I've found is that this process is actually making me a better writer all-round, not simply when it comes to spinning an entertaining yarn. All in all, anything that keeps me working on the words ends up as a good thing, but there are a lot more issues when you're telling stories: tenses, context, exposition... lots of this isn't significant if you're writing non-fiction. Fiction however is a particular beast, and I knew that if I was going to start doing this properly I would need some help with the technical, because it's probably my weakest area.

So, I asked someone for help.

As I mentioned at the end of last week it is something I find hard to do, especially when it comes to things that are personal to me. Imagine my amazement when the person I approached not only accepted my request, but came back to me with feedback which is probably some of the best and most detailed I've ever had on anything I've written. I found myself utterly amazed, and genuinely staggered at not simply their enthusiasm but their sympathy with my subject matter. I still can't quite believe how lucky I've been.

I wanted to say a particular public thank you to my new friend, and I also wanted to take a moment to urge anyone who's ever sat and thought 'now should I put myself on the line and reach out to someone I don't really know' to have the courage of their convictions to follow through and make that first move. The problem with the Internet, of course, is that you don't really know who anyone really is (and films like Catfish only serve to make people more nervous about what might really go on behind the screen) and leaps of faith can ultimately be a recipe for disaster. However, I find myself thinking that sometimes, you really don't have anything to lose, that everyone else is probably as scared as you are, and in the end magical things can still happen with complete strangers.

Needless to say, without any of you guys I'd not have a place to speak in, a place to rant about the game, people to play it with or indeed a group of people that make the entire experience as fantastic as it still remains. Sometimes, taking a step in the dark brings brilliant results. I feel I've learnt a great deal about myself in the last few weeks and I hope I can continue to learn and meet new people who help me expand my horizons and make me a better writer than I am now. Let me say again that every piece of feedback is read and digested, all discussions are gratefully received, and that without you lot I'd be less of a person than I am now, and for that I will never be able to thank anyone enough.

To my new 'editor' I nod, smile and warn them that there's 5000+ words of new fiction on the way next week. I hope they realise what they've let themselves in for... :D