This week's arena

| Monday, September 29, 2008
We ran into a lot of fail. Uncountable fail. Unimaginable fail. In other words, we ran into people who are legitimately in the 1500 bracket rather than point sellers.

We started off in the mid-1400s and went 8-2, finishing at 1577. I figured we should just keep what we had and work up further next week when we have more time.

I learned a few important lessons.
1) Huntards are really easy to kill.
2) Shockadins are fail. They burn their mana like crazy for DPS, leaving them nothing to heal with, so the partner dies and the team has no more damage since OOM shockadins are ever worse damage.
3) Enhancement shamans are bad for healers, but I'm even worse for them.
4) SL/SL warlocks are surprisingly squishy after you kill the minion twice, but they are still stubborn when combined with fear and a healer. Interrupt the fear and the healer heals, interrupt the heal and the warlock fears. More burst damage would have helped, maybe I should try to coordinate better with my partner for things like double wings and DF->holy shock.

We did run into a few tough teams and two of them beat us, but even those weren't total slaughters. They seemed to come down to the luck (or lack thereof) of resists.

Kara with noobs

| Friday, September 26, 2008
Actually it wasn't too bad. The main tank was at the requirements for the early fights, but was definitely a bit of a stress on the healers. But hey, that's how people first did Kara. That's what happens when someone doesn't get run through half the game.

We did wipe on Attumen. I died on Moroes. We wiped on Maiden. We wiped on Nightbane (because the tank was clearly undergeared for that fight). We wiped on Prince, again because of the tank's gear. We took a second shot at it and he used shield wall to get through phase two. The fight was pretty much saved by having tons of DPS. We had decent luck with drops, one bad one, but not at a critical time, so we easily adjusted.

I got the BoL libram from opera, which I will probably never use. I got to run with WF totem. I could tell it made a huge difference, along with the 10% more AP from the shaman. He started out with two daggers, but the end he had Fool's Bane and Decapitator, so I'm glad that the world of warcraft is a slightly better place now. Aside from the libram I got no gear, though I think I picked up a total of 20 badges. I think my repairs were balanced by trash drops, greens, and a few motes and a void crystal. Even if not, I can farm gold much more easily than badges.

Overall it was a good night, but now it's very late, by my standards at least, 3:10.

Oh right, for my first time ever I did not kill myself with seal of blood during Prince. This took three times as DPS to learn. However I did die to a shadow nova in phase three when my bubble was down (due to the infernal placement during an enfeeble) and my healthstone was already gone from the previous nova.

Getting people into the right gear

| Wednesday, September 24, 2008
If a hunter would rather wear leather than mail, something is wrong. That goes doubly so for a warrior or paladin. Fixing itemization would help, but it's clearly not as easy as it seems or it might have happened already. I propose a new method which can be easily applied to all gear (once the basic method is figured out), though it may be tricky to implement the mechanics.

The general concept is to make each level of class benefit less from gear, but then in the reverse order, make the gear stronger. For example, a warrior would get 10% less benefit from gear, but plate would have 10% greater stats. The exact numbers are not the important part and would have to be adjusted to give an exact balance, it this case 10% up and 10% down results in a slight damage loss. These changes would scale downward as well, so hunters and shamans work better with mail than leather, warriors and paladins work better with plate than mail and much better than with leather. For casters, mages, priests, and warlocks would have no changes. Druids would be offset by one tier, shamans by two, and paladins by three.

My first idea was to have more stats on plate and reduced stat benefits, but that would be incredibly complex, both due to changing all gear and adjusting stat benefits.

A later idea was to have a hidden anti-BoK which would affect secondary stats (AP, crit, health...) and then have the reverse on plate. But again this seemed too complex and very hard to implement.

My final idea is to have an overall damage or healing output reduction as you go up the armor tiers but then each piece of armor of the proper sort gives an increase in damage. For example, a warrior would have 8%x3 base reduction. Putting on all leather would reduce this to 8%x2. All mail would yield 8%x1. Finally all plate would lead to no changes. If you didn't pick up on it, each piece of armor/tier is worth 1%, so a warrior in one mail piece would be down 1% damage, leather is 2%, a leather and a mail is 3%. The result is that downranking armor isn't totally crippling, so dramatic upgrades are still good (I'd hate to excessively penalize people who have awful luck with drops and end up with other armor classes), but min-maxing will be much less likely to put a warrior in leather.

I apologize that I constantly said warrior instead of paladin, but in my experience I've seen a lot more warriors grabbing gear from other classes than paladins, so that's a stronger idea in my mind. I'm looking at you, warriors that took Crown of Destruction and Ghoul Skin Tunic.

Make lower tiers of armor cause reduced damage output in order to discourage the use of lower armor classes.

Oh my god, I'm a noob!

| Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Ever since the collapse of Word of Redemption almost 3/4 of a year ago, I've not seriously tried raiding much. I had a few half-ass guilds (no offense to them, just that I had terrible luck) and then a bad schedule for raiding. The furthest I've ever killed are Hydross, Lurker, Solarian, and T4 content.

Even my gear barely shows this. My ret gear is almost entirely honor, arena, badge, and crafted gear with a couple heroic pieces and a single raid piece: DPS wrists from HKM. Except for Scale of the Sands rep for Hyjal trash, my armory doesn't even reflect kills past HKM. My prot gear shows that I killed the Eagle boss in ZA and TK trash. My holy gear doesn't even get outside of Kara except for an ungemmed, unenchanted shield from Dragonhawk in ZA which I don't use.

I don't consider myself a noob, but looking at my actual gear and experience, what else could be concluded?

In unrelated news, I'm fucking sick of Blizzard putting blue/yellow gems on DPS gear. The yellow I don't mind too much since crit isn't bad, but I'm sick of skipping having to pick between skipping useful socket bonuses and wasting gem value on stam. Even casters don't get so fucked on blue gems; mana/5 and spirit are useful for certain classes and even warlocks at least want stam. I suppose there's no real way to add melee regen since that would probably end up being way better than any other stat since rage and energy are major limiters compared to mana.

Resto druid *ahem* adjustment for arenas

Lifebloom was supposed to get nerfed, but Blizzard didn't want to screw up PvE healing. I hope I have a solution.

Reduce the +healing benefit of instant casts by at least 50%. Make them really weak. To maintain raid healing output, buff heals with a cast time. The combination of these should keep raid healing output and efficiency the same. In PvP it will foce druids to make a harder choice between mobility and efficiency/output. Staying still makes them better at healing, but also vulnerable to interrupts and damage, just like any other healer. Going mobile gives protection, but with lost healing.

When all you have is a hammer...

Dear DPS-specced hybrids,

I respect your damage and your right to spec however you like. You've chosen to be primarily a source of damage and I don't want to take that from you. However damage is a only hammer and as hybrids you're running around with a small toolbox. Rogues only have hammers, though these can also drive screws, badly (CC). Hybrids have the prying tool on back (this heals people), drills (these remove debuffs), and pliers (these hold aggro). Using your full toolset will work better than just swinging the hammer harder.

When a mob gets loose, you could hammer it really hard, or you could try to tank it (switching to bear or throwing on a shield). Or you could help heal the person being attacked. Throw a stun or snare on it so the person can get some range and the tank has time to grab it.

You might have to drop moonkin form or switch out of berseker stance. But would you rather lose five seconds of damage or have a dead healer? Dead healers tend to result in dead everyone (except the paladins who just have to fly back from the inn) and dead you (since you are part of everyone) are bad at DPS.

In other, more condescending terms: fury warriors, enhancement shamans, feral druids, and ret paladins ARE NOT ROGUES. Elemental shamans and moonkin ARE NOT MAGES. You're also not warlocks, so don't get any ideas about striking fear into your enemies.

Welfare epics are work

So-called welfare epics are hardly welfare. They're actually a pretty good imitation of real life work. Let's start with honor gear.

You don't need to be especially good to get honor gear. In fact, you can suck. However excessive fail will lead to slower gains than a better player, especially one working with a group. Think of this as the McDonalds of gear sources. Given enough time even the chumps there can save up for Corvettes.

Badge gear is similar. You do some minimal task and get rewarded, but it takes a while. Think of them as the PvE version of honor.

Arenas are the best simulation. Low points lead to low gains. You have to do your minimum amount of 'work', ten games. Past that you're basically putting in unpaid overtime for a chance to do better and move up. If you're good, you have a higher rating and get 'paid' more.

If WoW was trying to have welfare, it would have been giving me points and honor for the months after I stopped doing PvP. But it doesn't. Do nothing, get nothing. WoW doesn't have welfare.

New arena team: resto shaman and MS warrior

| Monday, September 22, 2008
I'm hoping that this team will work better than ret-holy. If it starts to do well enough, we'll move our paladins over and leech a bit.

Unfortunately we're not doing well. I've identified two major problems.
1) I am completely unused to being a healer, let alone a shaman healer, in PvP. I don't watch my health super-closely and I'm not expecting to be interrupted, since usually people are watching the holy paladin, not me. I'm also just making mistakes like letting myself get too far from cover.

2) My gear is terrible. I'm in the rep PvP gear, unenchanted. By resilience and health are low and my healing is sub-1000. I can be torn apart in seconds.

It's not all doom and gloom though. If I survive an initial burst, I stand a decent chance of survival thanks to earth shield and nature's guardian. I think with some more practice and gear, I'll be able to make something of this team. As for my paladin, we moved up slightly. We had a good run and got to the mid-1500s (up from low 1400s), but then had an awful string of losses. Unfortunately I didn't notice that we were close to dropping under 1500 and wasn't able to play it safe and keep what we had.

I can also see that the expansion will help a ton. Better off-healing and loads of mana will make me a lot more effective over long fights. I can see dozens of times where even slightly higher damage (let alone the huge burst increase we got) would have won the game.


| Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tonight I joined a friend and some of her guildies to AoE Booty Bay. The group was a resto shaman, priest of unknown spec, an affliction warlock, and a mage of unknown spec. And me. I ended up killing so many goblins that I got almost halfway to revered since they'd started way behind me. It was fun times. We learned that when guards spawn from civilian proximity aggro, they do one per person, so going as a group with AoE means you can geta ton of rep really quickly. In some spots we could pull 20+ goblins in less than a minute.

I'm maxed out hated with all goblin factions. But on the plus side, I now have a pirate suit and a cool hat. With a parrot inside. I am a sexy pirate.

WTB Sheep

I wish I could just get some mindless idiots when I try to PUG MC. They'd just go along with what I say, follow me around for attunements and listen when I say to kill spawns. But no, I'm not that lucky. Instead I get thinking morons. They yammer on about everything from loot to attunement. Rather than waiting for me, they try to run attunement themselves and get lost. Instead of flying to Blackrock, they sit in Shattrath, asking for summons.

I suppose that's a nice thing about 5-mans, there's not enough room for morons to achieve critical mass. People do them often enough that I can easily get replacements if I decide to kick the idiots.

Epics, trivialized!

| Friday, September 19, 2008

I did the brewfest boss a few times in BRD. He dropped a 45 stam trinket with a potentially frightening use. Then he dropped a spell damage trinket which is exactly the same as the one that I spent valuable badges to buy. This fills me with... well nothing. Who cares? The last drop was a blocking trinket which I got by default. I liked that, it gave me the trinket that I was too cheap to spend badges on.

So far I've liked Brewfest. The ticket change worries me since the tokens now have a duration. I suppose they're trying to ensure that, moving forward, people are only getting rewarded for that year. Fortunately they were nice enough to not cause major disappointment for people with tickets from last year (I have a bit over 100).

The quests are neat. The Dark Iron attack was silly, especially the way of driving them off. The quest with the robot was funny too. My only complaint is that I think they changed the apple layout, since I can't seem to do my old pattern. I'm not too worried though, there's nothing that I'm going to freak out over. I might get the brew of the month (I have enough currently) and then save up a few more for the goggles. I got the pony keg last year.

In unrelated news, I was excited to hear that pets and mounts will no longer take up bag space, since for my paladin those add up to 18 slots, though admittedly most of the mounts could be destroyed and repurchased if I really needed the space.

Fill the gaps

Bear with me for a moment while I try to explain what the gaps are.
Here's how I classify the major roles in the game, most of them are dichotomies: magical/physical, melee/range, healing/damage, tanking, buffing/debuffing.
For example, hunters are ranged, physical, damage. They also have ranged and melee physical debuffs.
Priests are ranged, magical, damage and healing.

Now where are the gaps? There are combinations which currently do not exist in-game. There is no melee magical damage and no melee magical healing (though there is physical: bandages). Ranged tanking is sometimes filled by specialized cases of kiting or mage-tanks on HKM.

Holy can help with these gaps. Buffing its damage and adding significant healing components to damage would push it into melee and create a melee magical damage and a melee magical healing spec.

PvE to PvP

| Sunday, September 14, 2008
Choices are good. Personally I'm semi-interested in taking advantage of this new ability. I'd like to try out a PvP server again, but I'm sick of releveling.

Still, it's true that it's harder to level on a PvP server than PvE. I've done both several times and I have little doubt of this. This is a bit unfair to those who leveled on PvP, dealing with the harder leveling for the benefit of open PvP at 70.

How about a compromise? Only allow PvE->PvP if the player has at least one max-level character on a PvP realm.

Arenas and Nerdrage

| Saturday, September 13, 2008
I decided to take a crack at arenas again, after several months of none and barely even any BGs. We did a 3v3 with a rogue, ret paladin (me), and prot paladin pretending to be holy. It seems to be a pretty awful setup. It's pissing me off and the worst part is that it's pretty much my fault. I just grabbed whoever would join for the 3v3 (the prot paladin) and I'm not exactly amazing at PvP.

So far the method that works best is for me to go beat up the squishiest DPS while the rogue goes after the healer and keeps it locked out. Sometimes I'll shift over to help drop the healer. Unfortunately we seem to either end up with a DPS loose on our healer or a DPS screwing up the rogue's stunlock. Priests aren't too bad, druids we can kill with difficulty, shamans are tough. Paladins are actually the worst since we're melee heavy (plate ftl) and can't do anything about DS or their seemingly unlimited mana.

If we could get a resto shaman for our healer I think that would work well. Bloodlust and WF totem would help our damage a lot. Purge would help with druids. Maybe if our healer was holy it would go better, which I'm hopeful about since that's the prot paladin's main spec.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that I might be the weakest link. No interrupt, CC, healing debuffs, or purge mean that I end up doing a lot of swinging madly and hoping I hurt someone enough. I'd try my shaman except that his gear is painfully bad and I'm honestly afraid to try PvP on him again.

Well, at least I had fun in AB before we started arenas. I feel a lot more powerful in them. I also like the second chances, how dying isn't the end of the game. You just res and go back, so it's the overall strategy that matters more. Maybe people have worse gear or skill, but I just generally feel like I can take on any class except maybe a resto druid.

Stop gemming and enchanting gear before selling

| Thursday, September 11, 2008
It's a waste.

Oh sure, on the slight coincidence that you gemmed/enchanted exactly how I want, then it isn't wasted. But how likely is that?

Consider the opposite case, you don't get it all right. I'm not going to pay extra for the enchant that I don't want. I'll just buy the one with a smarter seller. If I do buy from you it will be because you are the one that ate the cost of the enchant. Either way, someone loses.

I can't quit

| Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I'd lose my forum access. Then I'd have to find a whole new forum to yell at idiots. Or if that fails, I'd have to go out on the street and yell at people. That might not go well.

[edit] I logged on, looked around, switched characters a couple times, and then logged off. Nothing seemed to have the right combination of interesting and people in LFG. I'll try tomorrow since it's a bit late tonight. I think I just want WotLK with all the new content. Sure 3.0 is looking like it will be great, but fixing classes doesn't make the actual game more fun.

Is this withdrawal?

| Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I stopped playing about two weeks ago, give or take a few days. At first I noticed almost nothing. I didn't care one way or another about WoW. I didn't want to play, but it's not as if I thought I didn't want to play, it just never entered my mind.

Now it's different. I sort of want to play, but that's not my issue. I'm restless, feeling like I should be doing something. This isn't entirely negative. It's making me go out and do homework when I normally wouldn't. This isn't as great as it sounds since at the last minute I have nothing to do when normally I'd be doing homework.

So here's what I can't figure out: am I restless because of WoW, directly? In other words, is this a symptom of withdrawal? Or am I restless because now I have a lot more time and no standard filler activity? Or was I restless before and that's what made me quit?

Since I quit I've actually logged in twice. Once was to clean up my mailboxes. The other time was because a friend was wondering about my character to compare someone in his guild. He wanted me to tank for his guild on Sunday, but then I forgot. I suppose I didn't care enough.

How do you create endless content?

| Monday, September 8, 2008
WoW is clearly intended to last forever, or at least the game equivalent of more years than can be counted before getting distracted by shiny objects. To do this it needs endless content, something either new or forever (or close enough) repeatable in order to keep people paying.

Obviously content must be created at least as fast as it is consumed. This gives two strategies: create content faster and/or slow the speed of consumption. The former is expensive or may result in a lot of crap. The latter is cost-effective, but can also result in crap.

What's the crap that is risked? Grinds. Make everything take a long time, lots of play time, and you can create many playable hours for comparatively small investment of time. Want to buy more time? Take the current rewards, bump the stats up 5%, and add another level to the grind: more gold, reputation, tokens, whatever. Grinds are efficient: easy to make but taking as much time as the developers want. They're perfect except for being absolutely no fun.

What's the alternative? PvP. Give teenagers fake guns and they will shoot each other all day for years, even without new maps or guns. Look at Halo. PvP can last almost forever since it brings a few tools and then lets natural competitive drives do the rest. The biggest risk is that something better will come along. Of course this example isn't perfect since Halo doesn't have a monthly fee. Still, it shows the possibility of endlessness.

Unfortunately RPGs and PvP don't get along well. RPGs like gear. They like people getting stronger and stronger as time goes on. PvP doesn't like it so much. It works better when new people have a similar footing to those who have been around for a while (excluding personal skill of course). Gear imbalances keep out new people and eventually time will take away the old players, leaving no one at all. But PvP which ignored gear would, well it would do exactly what I said, it would ignore gear. What's the point of gear if not to better crush foes? It could be hard to sell the idea that you only get to be a total badass in the NPC world, but you're as puny as anyone else when you attack another player. It doesn't even make much sense from a RP perspective.

WoW seems to have tried to work around this a bit with arenas and BGs which slowly, but steadily reward losers. This way even a person at the bottom can work up to the top; given enough time they can get the gear they need. But isn't getting slaughtered over and over just a grind, except with other players instead of NPCs? Grinds aren't fun, especially when they involve repeated punches to the ego.

I've not been able to figure out how WAR is tackling this issue. I've had trouble getting interested enough in it. The trailers haven't seemed all that exciting, almost like a bad kung fu flick where it's obvious that no one is actually hitting anyone and you can see the guy jump back into a wall after a light kick. Gameplay didn't seem to catch me either. The graphics were pretty, but somehow the animations seemed lacking. They didn't seem better or worse than WoW, which is exactly the problem, I'd expect more from a game which is much newer and clearly is going for a higher visual standard, at least as far as stress on a graphics is a good measure.

New Raids, Old raids

I decided to pull some of the tangent out of my previous post. It might not make sense with it missing, if it even would have with it still in.

From what I've heard, new servers have their gates open automatically. This suggests that Blizzard intends to make it easier to get into the old raids. They are making them more accessible, since let's be honest, can anyone imagine the supplies being gathered now? It took a long time even back when people were motivated and the proper level. But what was the point? Blizzard should have recognized by now that people will go through horrible grinds for the slightest upgrade. Easy or hard, tedious or convenient, it doesn't matter much as long as the end reward is good. What is there for AQ? No upgrades, with the exception of one extremely rare shadow damage enchant of which Blizzard did not make a TBC version. Still, some people do go into AQ, I've gone myself, even got some funny-looking gear, so perhaps the automatic gates weren't wasted.

MC wasn't for noobs while Kara is. Sure, MC was easier and you could drag 20 noobs through, perhaps even more if they just went AFK and caused no trouble. But MC was the raid. Kara was never the raid. It was always the introduction. In terms of player's attitudes, MC was put on a pedestal labeled: Badass, while Kara was on a little platform that said: for ages 7 and under. How did that happen? It's about how the raids were given out. MC was alone and the top for it's time. Then BWL, then AQ40, then Naxx. Each had its time to be badass and so they could get and keep those labels.

TBC raids came out almost all at once. With the exception of BT, they were all there at release (I really hope I'm not forgetting something, I hate being wrong, especially when it's written down). Any badassness was only a temporary label due to the highest guilds being there at the time, quickly thrown away a couple weeks later when they were cleared and farmed.

It's stupid to have set out the raids that way, clearly showing them to be nothing more than stepping stones to the next level, insignificant except as a source of gear, and even then only leading to another source of gear, never anything impressive. They weren't even fully debugged. I wonder how much better raiding would have turned out if there had been gaps between raids. Not a year or so like vanilla, but a month or two, time to build anticipation, make current raids seem more impressive, and give a chance for more guilds to get to the top.

Certaintity into Doubt

When I quit, I was certain that I would return for WotLK. Now I have my doubts. I think ignorance may be removing my belief that WotLK will fix anything. It's hard to get excited about a game that I'm not playing, so I've not been following the development of WoW, current or beta, as closely as I used to. Because of this it's nearly impossible to see any improvements, since I see almost nothing at all. Will WotLK fix the reasons that I quit?

I doubt it. I don't see the gear dependence going away, or lessening since I don't know that I'd want a gearless game. Crafting is still based on identical plans. Customization seems to mean nothing more than new hairstyles.

I hold out hope for better story-telling.

But back to gear, it's not new to TBC. I've played for about three years and for all of that time the game was gear-based. What made me care enough to quit now? I suppose early on I just didn't notice. I leveled slowly and was a genuine noob for many months. I made alts. Gear never became a major thing. It's also worth considering that back then there was no Naxx and even BWL was fairly new. AQ wasn't out for months after I started playing and I mostly saw it as a chance to make some gold from all the lowbie crap that I gathered. It also had an element of anticipation and really seemed amazing seeing such a massive effort, even cross-faction.

Back to the matter at hand: I didn't mind being a noob back then. Now I'd hate to be stuck in Kara and occasionally wiping in ZA. Back then I spent months in MC and died a few times in BWL. What's different?

MC wasn't for noobs while Kara is. Sure, MC was easier, but it was The Raid. Kara was never the raid, justthe introduction. In terms of player's attitudes, MC was put on a pedestal labeled: Badass, while Kara was on a little platform that said: for ages 7 and under. How did that happen? Vanilla raids came out one at a time, giving all of them a chance to become "serious business," with the exception of AQ20 since it was very clearly set up as an easier, smaller counterpart to AQ40. Even ZG had its challenges and time in the sun. TBC did not give that time.

I wonder if Blizzard will do that again. I get the feeling they will. They want to make the expansion feel like it has more to it than just a couple new instances and a raid or two. Vanilla came out with only a single raid and it worked. Why did TBC need five all at once with another coming down the pipeline in only a few months? They should have spaced them out more. Instead they shoved a bunch of content at raiders, then made them wait what seems like almost a year for the next big raid. I didn't forget about ZA. And a single instance. They didn't even add a new Dire Maul, a set of cool instances, just one. And a single new arena.
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