Thursday, 10 February 2011

In response to Tobold's: Why there are no morons in World of Warcraft

Tobold has just put up an interesting post, in which he claims that intelligence and WOW ability are not related.

It is one of the few posts of Tobold’s that I strongly disagree with. Not only do I think there is an undeniable correlation between intelligence and playing ability, but I also fail to comprehend how anyone could argue otherwise.

One of his main points was that, with hard work and training, a player of low intelligence could easily improve and become an accomplished raider. And I am not disagreeing for a second. But just because players of low intelligence CAN work hard to become better players, it doesn’t mean that they do. I firmly believe that players of high intelligence can pick up new concepts and skills far quicker than those of low intelligence. This makes learning the game, class, rotation etc far less painful (and less work) than for low intelligence players.

For some, the task ahead seem insurmountable, and so they are satisfied with doing 20% of the DPS that they could do given their gear level. When kicked from groups, this leads to cries of “Elitism” and “No-lifer” because they feel they are being ‘punished’ for not spending enough time on the game. That is not the case. They are being rejected because they are unwilling to put in the required work and effort to become even average. Time spent in game has become a crutch of poor players, when really their issues are far deeper than that. Note that I say ‘work’ and ‘effort’ here because it appears as such to those of lower intelligence, whereas to most of higher intelligence these are just common sense measures that are taken on board and added to the repertoire as a matter of course.

If you were to take the IQs of all players in WOW, I think that you would find, in general, that the better players have higher IQs. I am not saying that players of low intelligence cannot become accomplished raiders. I’m sure we all know some very good players who would perform poorly in any IQ test! However, I think it is far less likely for one of the 2k DPS “lolkids” to turn out to be, in real life, a highly intelligent person.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

4.0.6 patch changes for Death Knight Tanks

I’ve been promising some Death Knight tanking talk since this blog began, and now the wait is over! Today we will cover the changes to DK tanks brought by patch 3.0.6, which has already happened if you are a US reader, and will be happening today in the EU.

The biggest change is to the way our blood shield works. As you all know, when we connect with a Death Strike we create a Blood Shield. The shield lasts 5 seconds, or until enough damage is taken to remove it. Currently, if you hit a Death Strike with a Blood Shield already up, that shield gets replaced with a new one. After the patch, each new death strike will stack with the previous one. For example:

If you have a Blood Shield up with 10k health and 2 seconds left and proc a new 30k Blood Shield, you will now have a 40k death shield with the full 5 seconds duration. You can continue to stack Blood Shields up to a maximum value of 100% of your health. This did not work for a long time on the PTR, but has been confirmed as working correctly.

This is a big change from the way it previously worked. Previously, you needed excellent timing and knowledge of the fight to get the full benefit from Blood Shield. Having this timing is still to your benefit, but now you don’t have to worry about overwriting your previous shield. You should still make sure that you are not overhealing, however, and saving your DS for right after a big hit.

This really comes into it’s own as an offtank. When you are not tanking the boss directly, you can be building up Blood Shields. When you taunt the boss back, you can have a shield that will absorb damage up to 100% of your health. That is an amazing bonus.

Speaking of healing, it does not appear as though the nerf to Death Strike healing has made it to the live patch (at least judging by the official patch notes.) The healing was being dropped to 15% of the damage done by your Death Strike but (hopefully) this has been reverted. The damage boost from Improved Death Strike has been buffed, from 15/30/45% to 30/60/90%. The damage of Heart Strike has also been buffed, up to 175% weapon damage and 15% per disease. The old values were 120% weapon damage and 10% per disease.

Another excellent change is the change to Virulence. 3 points in this previously gave a 9% bonus to spell hit, making it necessary if you wanted to be able to reliably interrupt, as I have been in 10 man raids. Now, this 9% boost is passive to all DKs, meaning that if you’re melee hit capped, you are also spell hit capped for Mind Freeze. There is another small buff to the much maligned Bone Shield, which now has 4 charges rather than 3. Any more reduced damage is fine by me.

The biggest “nerf” is to scarlet fever. This is our 10% melee damage debuff which should always be up. Rather than being applied by Blood Boil, it is now tied to Blood Plague. This means that it can only be applied by Plague Strike or Outbreak. This affects diseaseless tanking more heavily than “regular” tanking as the debuff will now get applied in our normal rotation. The biggest hit though is to AOE tanking. A blood boil would previously have spread the 10% debuff to all nearby mobs, whereas now you will need to apply it to one mob and then use pestilence to spread. This uses up an extra GCD and potentially another rune.

While not DK specific, there are also a couple of nice buffs to racial abilities. The Dwarves’ Stoneform has been nicely buffed to provide a 20% damage reduction, rather than armour. This is a very nice change and makes Dwarf the best choice for a tank. Having said that, I don’t think the difference is big enough to consider changing race.

As a Draenei, I am very happy with the buff to the previously useless Gift of the Naruu. Rather than a pitiful scaling value, this will now replenish 20% of my health over 15 seconds. While it isn’t going to dramatically change anything, it is now a cooldown that I will actually use. At my current raid HP, this will give me back around 36k HP, which isn’t insignificant.

Overall, I am very happy with this patch for us DK tanks. The blood shield change is nice, especially in OT situations. We have a nice little buff to threat (which wasn’t really needed, but hey) and a boost to our interrupting reliability. With the racial changes as well, I think that we will come out of this patch better than before.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Is levelling still necessary?

In this ultra-streamlined era of WOW, is the 1-85 levelling grind still necessary for experienced players?
On the surface, this might seem like quite an extreme question, brought on by my well established loathing of questing (and levelling in general). And you may be a little bit right. But I do have a point to make…
I have recently taken the plunge and started a new character. Apart from my old warlock main and my current main DK tank, I have no characters over level 40. I usually get bored long before then. But I needed something to do outside of raids, so away I went.
The speed of levelling these days is insane. With heirloom items and the 10% guild xp bonus, the levels do fly by. As an example, a guildmate levelled a new paladin from 0-60 in under 24 hours and I do not doubt that it has been done far quicker than this. This is without the 300% refer-a-friend bonus out there!
In addition, your brand new character seems massively overpowered right from level 1. Heirloom weapons help with this. Dungeons are a joke. With 5 characters of the correct level, they are a faceroll of the highest order.

In Blackfathom Deeps last night, out tank and healer went afk for 10 minutes. Us three DPS carried on without any problems. I healed the last two bosses, despite not being resto spec, even though I had never tried healing before. The tank didn’t drop below 75% and nor did anyone else. This really was far easier than any Wrath heroic was even at the very end of the expansion. It took maybe 30-40 minutes and I went up by 2 complete levels. I remember it being a challenge first time around.
But my question is this: Given that the levelling process is such a joke, with no challenge, what is the point? Why not allow players to skip to 85?
For new players on their first toon it is obviously an essential experience and you would have to get at least one character to max level . But for existing players, who have already got a few high level characters, what does it achieve? If Blizzard are going to make it this easy, why not go all the way and allow players to skip straight to 85? (For the record, I am delighted that levelling is such a breeze – the quicker I can get to the endgame the better.)
I have always felt that the game does not begin until the level cap – and now that I have experienced the new levelling process, I agree with this even more. There is zero challenge to levelling. Maybe it will toughen up in Outland, but I doubt it. And when the game is this easy, I don’t think that you are truly learning your character at all. I have used maybe 50% of my available abilities because the others just aren’t needed.

What would happen if you could click a button and skip to 85?
There would clearly be impacts on the game. The possibility of even more clueless level 85’s running around and clogging up LFD isn’t appealing, I’ll give you that. But they would get to 85 eventually anyway. And people would still be using the levelling content, as there are people who just love levelling alts, and when they get to 85 they just start again. These people would not use the service.
Financially I think it would benefit Blizzard also. I think there are many players who have tired of their main and quit the game, rather than grind a new character up to 85. (Even though the ‘grind’ is quick now, it is the daunting prospect of it which puts people off as they are perhaps expecting levelling as it was in the old days.) These players may stick around for a few months, or longer, if they got a free 85 character to play. Similarly, it would bring back a lot of players who have already quit for the above reason. It would help alleviate the tank and healer shortage at the level cap, as experience dpsers could just roll up a new tank or healer. Sure, they would have to learn it from scratch, but how much tanking are you actually learning during levelling?
Are there F2P games out there that already offer this as a paid service? I would be surprised if that was not the case. I wouldn’t be surprised if, sometime in the future, it is used as a paid service along the lines of realm transfers. I, for one, would use it occasionally.
What are your thoughts? Would you use this service if it was available, paid or not?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Are there "casual" raiders?

The “casual vs hardcore” debate has been raging since life on Azeroth began, and is unlikely
to ever be settled. Recently, however, I have read a number of blog posts and comments
from people claiming to be “casual” WOW players even though they raid a number of times a
week with their guild. I have also heard the term “casual raider” a lot more recently.

How is “casual raider” meant, in this context? Like anything else I the casual/hardcore debate,
it varies, although generally it is shorthand for “I raid a number of times a week with my guild,
but I am still a casual player. Definitely NOT hardcore…”

For some reason, a great many raiders still want to be seen as casual WOW players. I am
unsure why this is – maybe they do not want the social stigma attached to a “WOW addict”
or maybe they are in denial about how invested they are in the game. The only way in which
regular raiders are casual is in comparison to the very top guilds in each realm – but this is
not what most users of “casual raider” are referring to. My opinion on this if you are a raider
in a guild that raids regularly, you are not a casual player. Additionally, I would say that the
term “casual raider” has almost no meaning.

Let me present some (albeit very rough) figures. According to wowprogress, 34,081 guilds
have downed at least one Cataclysm raid boss (Baradin Hold not included). If we assume an
average of 20 raiders per guild (I said they were rough figures) then that would mean 681,620
raiders in Cataclysm. The latest figures from Blizzard say that 4.7m copies of Cataclysm
have been sold so far. That would mean that raiders account for only 14.5% of the Cataclysm

My question is this: If you are in the top 14.5% of players in the world in PvE content, then
can you really be classed as casual at all? Relatively speaking, you are a hardcore player.
Sure, you might only raid 3 nights a week, perhaps for 3 hours at a time. But I bet that a
huge number of WOW subscribers would look at that in disbelief – and that isn’t including
any heroics, farming or crafting. If you PUG a boss fight a week, then I might let you off for
using “casual raider” but at this point in the expansion these players are a tiny minority.

And to me it isn’t just an issue of time. It’s also a mentality towards the game. If you read up
regularly on the accepted best spec/rotation for your class, then in the grand scheme of the
game you are not casual player. If you are online reading and commenting on WOW blogs,
then I certainly would not consider your investment in the game “casual”. I “only” raid for 6
hours a week, but I would in no way consider myself casually invested in WOW. Hence why I
am here now, talking about it.

The term “casual” and “hardcore” must be relative to the population of the game. Just
because you don’t interact with the players who log on for an hour a week to play with their
pets, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And just because you are “casual” compared to the
Ensidia guys, it does not make you “casual” in the bigger picture of WOW players.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Why you shouldn't DE your epic drops

Today's post is in response to a thoughtful post by Viktory over at World of Matticus. Viktory gives a few examples of where BoP drops from bosses have been disenchanted for the maelstrom crystals, despite them being either a slight upgrade or a good offspec piece. There were exceptional circumstances in one case, but we will go into that later.

The argument for DEing is that the crystal can be used for a high level enchant, and this enchant will be of more benefit to the toon than the slight upgrade. On the surface, this seems like decent logic. However, my main issue with this is the price of the crystal on the AH. On most servers, the crystals sit at around 1k. So the choice you have is between a BoP upgrade or 1k.

In Cataclysm, gold in so easy to make that it isn't ever an issue for many players. I find it unlikely that any self-respecting raider is lacking maxed (or near maxed) professions. Most professions can make 1k with little time or effort. If you have the mental capacity to raid, you can make money on the AH.

Even if the epic was a slight upgrade  or an off-spec piece, I feel the drop would benefit the guild far more than a measly 1k. The benefit of the guild is the key issue here - which is worth more to the guild: A slightly improved main spec (or vastly improved offspec) or an easily made 1k? Note that you are not making a direct choice between the gear or the enchant.

To me, if that offspec is used in just one progression raid then the trade-off has been worth it. I would go so far as to say that if a guildmate was choosing between an off-spec piece or a crystal, I would give them 1k and let them keep the drop, as it is better for the guild overall. The fact that some of the maelstrom enchants are only marginally better than the cheaper counterparts make this decision even easier in some cases.

The exception mentioned earlier is if the raider knows they would replace the piece immediately following the raid, for example if they now have enough valor points for the tier piece. In that case it might be fair enough to DE. But even still, if that piece of gear is the difference between killing the next boss or not (unlikely I know, but every little helps!) then that would be worth 1k to me. Another exception would be choosing to save DKP for a later upgrade, as that is a totally different issue.

How many boss kills do you think this slight upgrade (or off-spec) would have to take part in before it is worth the 1k you would otherwise have had?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Raiding (and other play styles)

My post today is once again inspired by one over at Tobold's MMORPG Blog. Tobold's post today begins with a comment he received stating "Lets face it - outside of raiding there is very little to do in WOW that is fun."

Now I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Ever since I got my original character to the level cap, I have never wanted to do the levelling grind again. The name of my blog should give some indication as to how much I detest questing. While I am sure that I will go into this in more detail in future, at a basic level I need some sort of challenge, competition or excitement (some of all three is a bonus!).

Questing provides none of this for me. I love raiding because it does provide all of the things I mentioned above. Guild camaderie is a huge part of this as well. The feeling of banding together with friends to achieve a common goal is what sets raiding (and MMOs) apart from any other type of gaming challenge. For me, as a single player game, WOW is tedious. There are far better single player RPG experiences out there.

I am aware that there are people who will level a character to 85 and then turn around and start again with a new character. I am not exagerrating when I say that I cannot even begin to comprehend this playstyle. What is the goal? What are you trying to achieve? Tobold mentions in his article that his wife has played for 6 years and never set foot in a dungeon, let alone a raid. While these players clearly still derive pleasure and satisfaction from the way they play, it is utterly alien to me.

Some people dismiss raiding, claiming they "don't want another job." For me, it is the other way around. 1-85 is a chore that has to be completed so that I can enjoy what I see as the heart of the game.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Heroic "nerfs"

I did have a different post lined up for today, but came across some interesting comments on today's post over at Tobold's MMORPG Blog. The post itself was regarding the justice points changes coming up in patch 4.0.6, but in the comments the topic of the 4.0.6 heroic "nerfs" came up.

While initially the list of changes may seem like flat nerfs, on closer inspection I do not believe that is the case. While the encounters would be easier, I think that a high number of these changes are designed to make them work as they were initially designed. At the very least, these changes are being made so that when you do fail, it's because you were beaten by the boss mechanics and not some other reason. Making certain bosses bigger so that you can actually see them over the adds is an example of this.

Let's take Stonecore as an example. Each of the bosses will have changes in 4.0.6. The killer special attacks in question will do the same damage, but now should give players a fairer chance of correctly avoiding them. Currently on the Slabhide fight, you must hide behind pillars to avoid his LOS attack. The problem with this is, some of those pillars are inside his hit box. This means that you will get hit even if you appear to be out of the way. I don't believe this was the design intention, and the patch will mean fewer of the pillars dropping. I believe that specifically there will be less dropping directly around him.

Ozruk is another. His Shatter ability has been wiping groups since the start of the expansion, and I struggled initially. If you start to run when you see Shatter being cast, you will most likely die. You need to start to run as you see the previous cast, Paralyse, finishing. This is something that you are expected to know. On top of that, you need to make sure you have an active DoT to stop you being paralysed.

I think that sort of knowledge and execution is far more suited to raids than heroics. From a tanking perspective, that boss is harder than a few of the entry level raid bosses. The cast time has been increased slightly to compensate, which I think is the right move. It will still be an issue, but now you can run when Shatter gets cast, and not paralyse.

True, there are a few nerfs (and a few buffs!) but not the mass dumbing-down of content that some are saying.