Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Wherein I answer questions

As seen on Kiss My Alas, I hereby present answers to questions:

1. Raider, farmer, PvPer, or altoholic?
Mostly raider, with a bit of altoholic thrown in when I get the time, which alas is quite rare these days.

2. Favorite raid or dungeon?
For raid, definitely Ulduar. I just love the style, the architecture and the lore. For dungeon it's gotta be Dire Maul, it's beautiful (and ogres are cool). I still want to do a Worldview on Dire Maul

3. Number one choice for a new playable race?
Before the Cataclysm announcement I would have said goblin, but now, umm... ethereals are pretty cool? A vrykul would be quite fun maybe, although they're a little tall.

4. Class you suck at the most?
At the moment, rogue. My first ever character, I levelled him to 55 then abandoned him to make a priest. Then a shaman. Then a DK. I recently went back to the rogue, kitted him out in full heirlooms, and got him to 58 and Hellfire Peninsula. And now he gets killed by hellboars one level higher than him.

5. Original UI or modded UI?
Modded, totally. The default UI is painful to heal with, I feel like I'm blind. For tanking it's not as bad, although all my UI layouts have my character and its target's health bars in the middle just below my character. When they're up in the corner they're too far out of the way, especially on a large-ish (21") widescreen monitor. Plus the default DK rune display is crap - especially when tanking, you need to be looking near the middle of the screen, not at some tiny round icons way off in the corner.

6. Profession you’ve never levelled past 200?
Engineering for one. My level 22 paladin is an engineer but my god it takes so much bag space. Alchemy and blacksmithing are another two, and I think that's it. All the secondary professions I've levelled to max, on various characters.

7. Favourite flying mount?
I'm quite fond of the red drake you can get from the Wyrmrest quartermaster - it's the first epic mount I bought, and I got another one for my DK even though he has the bronze one from Culling of Stratholme. I would quite like an ironbound proto-drake, though I doubt I'm ever likely to get one.

8. Nozdormu — friend or foe, you figure?
He seems like an okay kinda chap.

9. Useless item you have in your bank that you’ll never get rid of?
Got a whole pile of Tier 7 gear in my priest's bank, along with a Super Simian Sphere that dropped in a Naxx25 run ages ago. My DK also has the huge sword that drops off Hakkar in Zul'Gurub. I'm also bad at getting rid of old quest items - my various banks have stuff

10. Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
Epic flying, sadly.

11. Favorite starting area?
Definitely Mulgore, it's lovely and I love the tauren lore. The DK starting zone is alo really well-done, too. I also get a bit nostalgic whenever I find myself in Elwynn Forest as that was my first experience with the game, sneaking about on my rogue being a total noob. I didn't even know what "DPS" meant until I got to level 40 or so.

12. Inane goal you worked hardest to achieve?
Probably The Explorer, just cos Caera The Explorer kinda rolls off the tongue (though she's usually Ambassador Caera these days).

13. Darion Mograine VS Tirion Fordring, gloves off — winner is?
Darion. Tirion hits like a girl.

14. Game music or your own playlist?
I usually have the music off completely, and the ambient sound turned up. Sometimes I'll put the music on if I'm in the right mood, but not very often.

15. Particular option or setting that you always toggle on a new alt/server?
I always have to arrange my UI it's inevitably not set up properly for a new character. Luckily I have a few standard Pitbull profiles I use for most things.

16. Highest amount of levels gained in one play session?
I really couldn't say, though it was possibly my orc warrior in heirloom gear, who I think I got to level 14 in one go.

17. Thing you’d most like to experience or see in-game?
Algalon! I reeeaalllly want the Starcaller title :D

18. Worst PuG moment?
Ohhh where to start. The one that stands out is when I was a relativlely new 80 DK tank, still not completely comfortable in the role despite having levelled in that role/spec. It was in Forge Of Souls and I was being quite cautious, marking targets etc., only to have them mostly ignored by the impatient DPS who kept pressuring me to hurry up, and often pulled "for" me. This is despite me being 2nd on total damage for the instance, and the rogue still wearing heirloom gear. In the end they pissed me off so much with their elitist wanker attitude I pulled the last boss and dropped group, leaving them to it.

19. Best dungeon/raid moment?
Either finally getting Sindragosa down, or likewise Putricide. I think the Putricide victory felt better partly because for the last 20 seconds of the Sindy fight I was stuck inside an ice tomb and couldn't see what was going on - all I could see was her health bar gradually approaching 0 and everyone on Vent getting excited :D

20. Worst quest ever that you totally hate doing?
There's a quest in Tanaris that has you collecting Roc feathers or something. You only need 3 but they have such a low drop rate, and there aren't that many Rocs around.

21. First thing you do when you hit 80?
Visit the class trainer, then buy some gear if I have enough emblems.

22. Character (of yours) you would RP as if you had to?
Possibly my orc warrior, or maybe my priest. My priest is burdened with an idiotic voice :(

23. Keyboard, mouse, or both for using abilities?
Keyboard for anything important, mouse for stuff like drinking Noggenfoggers.

24. Thottbot or WoWhead?
Whichever comes up first on Google.

25. Acronym you’ve seen in chat but don’t understand?
I kept forgetting what "idd" meant for a long time. It's finally stuck now, indeed.

26. Plot point you’d like to see resolved someday?
Pass. I'm not familiar enough with the lore to be able to answer this.

27. Biggest thing you’re looking forward to in Cataclysm?
The world events leading up to it, hunters not using mana any more (and having infinite ammo), elemental shamans getting a proper AoE, the new zones, new instances being a challenge rather than an AoE grindfest… loads of stuff. Also really looking forward to 10- and 25-player raids dropping the same loot.

28. Guild event you’d like to see?
Full and regular 25-man raids.

29. Level range you hate being in?
Most likely 10-20, because you don't get the quick levelling as in 1-10, and you have to run further afield on foot more, and, at least as a priest, you're woefully underpowered. As a hunter it's not so bad. The Outlands level range wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the overwhelming number of bad DKs you have to group with in randoms.

30. Favorite map to quest in?
Possibly Feralas, because it's so pretty, likewise for Grizzly Hills. I also like Searing Gorge for some reason - I think it's because it's quite atmospheric, and not too large.

Friday, 25 June 2010

There he goes again

Yes I changed it again. Although the pretty mountain scene one was nice, it was a bit... heavy. I don't like web pages to be heavy. This design is much more lightweight (and kinder to slower computers like the one I have to use at work).

Monday, 21 June 2010

Heroic Difficulty

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when heroics were actually hard. I'm not talking so much about how they got nerfed for speed reasons (gogogogo no time to sit around waiting for Ionar to disperse three times, we get the idea, once is enough), but rather about a time when did them in mostly blue gear (kinda like how Gevlon and co raid ICC now), when the ilevel 200 epic at the end was a highly priced bit of loot. One of our tanks ran Utgarde Pinnacle twenty-six times before the Red Sword of Courage finally dropped for him, and this was long before LFD meant tanks could get a group at the drop of a hat. Back then, that sword was the best pre-raid tanking sword in the game, and even the ones from Naxxramas weren't a huge improvement, at least in 10-player.

I sometimes read about how the design of the Northrend instances is conducive to them becoming an AoE grindfest, and to be honest I'm not really convinced. The harder heroics were not like that in the beginning; tanks simply could not survive the constant high level of damage from a pack of mobs while they were all burned down at once - they had to be taken out one by one in order to reduce the incoming damage to a manageable level, much like in Halls Of Reflection now. People might even have used crowd control(!) to help out. Imagine that!

No, the problem I think is gear level inflation. When the highest level of gear was 213, all was fine, and nobody really over-geared heroics unless they were part of a 25man raiding guild that had Naxx on farm. Then came Ulduar, where 10 reasonably motivated people could get together and kill bosses and get 219 level stuff, or even 226/232 if they fancied a real challenge. Then came Trial of The Crusader, upping the gear level to 232 for 10man (245 for 10man heroic), along with the 5-man Trial of The Champion instance which dropped 219 gear on heroic mode. Aaaand again when Icecrown Citadel was opened: higher item level (251/264) and new 5-man instances dropping loot of the same level as that of the previous raid tier. Add to that the availability of a full Tier 9 Set of 232 armour just from the emblems that drop from the bosses designed for 200 blues, and you can see where the problem is.

Blizzard have got themselves into a bit of a bind here, with their desire to make the latest tier of raiding accessible to everyone. That's all very well, a noble goal, but the side effect has been to make the previous tiers more or less obsolete. The only reason people raid Ulduar, Naxx or Obsidian Sanctum these days is for the achievements, and their associated titles and mounts (or, rarely, just because it's fun, but let's not get into such esoteric concepts here).

So, what's an MMO maker to do? Well, one solution would be to reduce the disparity between the first tier of raid gear and the projected last tier. It really shouldn't be possible in 4th tier gear to output over eight times the DPS you can in first tier. I think the merging of 10- and 25-man loot tables in Cataclysm will go some way towards this, as there no longer needs to be the leapfrog where 10-man gear needs to be better than the prievious tier's 25-man stuff. Reducing loot inflation may also mean fewer loot whores, who only raid for teh shinies. If the next tier's gear isn't vastly better than the current stuff, there'll be less incentive to raid just for loot's sake. Instead, people might raid for (shock horror) the fun and challenge of facing new content. Furthermore, there'll be less of a reason for Blizzard to introduce "wellfare gear" available from emblems: since the differences in gear level won't be so important, it won't be so necessary to have the latest and greatest just to stand a chance in the new raid (although as Gevlon's proved already, that isn't even the case now).

I have no experience with the transition between two expansions, so I'm unsure what to expect when Cataclysm hits.I remain hopeful, however, as despite the problems WoW has now, it's still a damn good fun game and if Blizzard can make it better, I'll be there, trying to bring Deathwing down with 9 or 24 other folks.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Uphill Both Ways, In The Snow

A couple of recent posts (well, one is a link from a recent post), by Larísa and Klepsacovic, reminded me of a couple of times I've had similar experiences of having to fight carefully through an instance and actually use quite a bit of teamwork and communication in order to proceed. They've also got me thinking about another thing but I'll get to that later.

In both of their posts, Larísa and Klepsacovic talk about how they've suddenly been left in the middle of a low level instance missing one or two players, and how they carried on regardless, and most importantly, enjoyed it.

I Like It Hard

I arrived at Klep's lowbie instance post via another of his where he advocates reducing the number of people in a regular dungeon to four. It's an interesting idea, especially since in my experiences levelling my hunter, warrior and rogue the low level instances have mostly been facerolls assuming everyone in the party is at least somewhat competent. Throw in heirlooms and you end up with almost comically overpowered characters.

Take, for example, one of my own sub-five experiences. I'm levelling an orc prot warrior, and a short while back, level 28 or so, I put myself in the queue for a random instance and we get Razorfen Kraul. Almost immediately one of the DPS, a hunter, appears to disconnect. The healer, a shaman, seems to be a bit slow on the uptake too, so I pull a bit more carefully. After a while I notice he's not actually healing at all, because he's also disconnected. That leaves a rogue, a (presumably frost spec) mage, and me. Not sure about the rogue but I am almost fully heirloomed (missing the bow to go in my ranged slot).

We to see how far we can get until they come back, except five minutes later neither have returned. We then votekick them both and wait for replacements, and in the meantime continue further, because hey, it's actually not going so badly. And so we continue, for about half an hour, managing to kill (I think) two more bosses, with none of us dying. Sure, I had to stop quite a lot to bandage and eat, but with my heirloom gear and their DPS things were dying too fast to do any life-threatening damage. The rogue was sapping, the mage was sheeping, increasing the odds in our favour whenever possible. It was, as Klep and Larísa discovered, a lot of fun. For me, it's how five-man instances should be played: crowd control, careful pulls, and actually having to worry about wiping. It's fun, in my opinion, whereas the speed-pull AoE-everything method in today's five-mans (the ICC ones excluded) is really quite boring for most of the party (it's still an interesting challenge when I'm tanking).

The fun didn't last forever, or even until the end of the instance, for we did eventually get a replacement healer and DPS, and from there on things went downhill. The new DPS was a rogue, and since he was similarly heirloom'd up, apparently decided he was capable of tanking stuff, and rather than let me pull, did so "for" me. I considered asking him to maybe let the tank do the pulling, and thought about asking the healer to maybe not heal him, but in the end I decided to go with the flow and just pull quicker, not giving the rogue a chance to get aggro. This is not easy as a rage-starved level 28 prot warrior, incidentally. Luckily we were near the end so the gogogogo didn't last too long.

Back In My Day

I really don't want to come across here as a nostalgic know-it-all pining for the golden days of vanilla WoW and how it was all so much better back then. Hell, I only started playing a week before Lich King came out, so I don't even know what it was like back in the day. I have, however, experienced challenging five-man content: when Naxx and OS were the only level 80, places like Old Kingdown or Utgarde Pinnacle were a real challenge. Patchwerk was a tough boss, reqiuring a level of DPS that now seems like a joke (you needed six damage folks each doing a massive 1,500 DPS to beat his enrage timer). These days you can almost treat Naxx like a very big five-man, certain bosses notwithstanding (Four Horsemen, for instance, or Razuvious).

What can Blizzard do to avoid people facerolling level 85 content? They've already said they don't like the current round-em-up-and-AoE mentality, and plan to introduce more crowd control in Cataclysm. I really really hope this comes true. As Reversion said:

It might be a nightmare at first. Forcing people to use CC (as they have said will happen more) means fights are going to be harder and more complicated. Tanks will have to do more than just AOE spam. Also healers are going to have to get better at triage instead of just ‘topping people off’. All this means instances runs may well be a rude awakening for many. Personally I am hoping for it. I am hoping it will blow away the current level of stagnation in randoms and get people think more and do more. I only hope that overgeared morons will not be able to steamroll their way to 85. I want to see them slam hard into the wall and learn to play again.
The other problem I see is the degree of gear inflation present in Wrath Of The Lich King. As I said above, Patchwerk was considered a serious DPS check in the early days of the expansion, and yet you now have classes capable of almost ten times that level of damage output. Tanks in the Naxx days would be lucky to reach 30k health with raid buffs, yet now they prance around with 55k unbuffed. Moreover, avoidance has become so high that Blizzard had to reduce dodge by 20% across the board in Icecrown Citadel or face some serious balancing issues with boss damage.

So is the solution simply harder instances and smaller increments between gear/raid tiers? I doubt it's that simple, but I for one would like to see such things. I would like challenging content that isn't only based around raids (or PvP but that's a whole other ballgame). Perhaps too with the proposed changes to the emblem system, people won't just run heroic instances for the Cata equivalent of frost emblems, but instead do them because they're a fun challenge.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Yeh so the green design was kinda dull, and Blogger seduced me with its fancy new template designer, and I saw the "picture window" design with the rain and thought "that kinda looks like Storm Peaks, vaguely".


No indeed, for I along with fellow guildie Scootz have been experimenting with video, ostensibly for the recording of boss kills. Here is an example:

You may notice a distinct lack of sound in this video. I did upload it with Dry Kill Logic's Rot in the background, and had it timed wonderfully so that the song ends (suddenly, as it does) just as the boss dies. Alas, Warner Music Group being the bunch of 19th century copyright holdout fails they are, have decided that OMG THIEF YOU MUST PAY FOR USING OUR MUSIC FROM NINE YEARS AGO IN YOUR MINOR VIDEO THAT PROBABLY ONLY FIFTY PEOPLE WILL WATCH. Bet you that's what their automatic ban-machine was thinking. Maybe I should turn it black-and-white and add a jaunty piano soundtrack to go with the speeded-up visuals.

Also note that it's in glorious high definition. Well, sort of. I recorded it with WeGame, and WeGame's definition of HD is "640 pixels high", as opposed to the usual "720 pixels high". Still, it's better than 320 pixels high which just reduces on-screen text to meaningless dots.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

This amused me

I added a widget to my blog. It's under the heading This amused me, and is a small box of links to things that amused me when I saw them in Google Reader. Usually the links come from the various I Can Has Cheezburger-related sites.