Thursday, August 12, 2010

New site address

I'm in the process of moving the blog to it's new home at  The content that is here currently will remain here, although It will be mirrored at the new site as well.  But all new posts will only be made at the new address.  Please update your bookmarks and thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Momma told me there'd be days like this

I knew this was going to happen when CCP announced their in-game changes to PLEXes.  I don't mind a good old sandbox any more than the next man, but when it actually starts costing me real money in real life like that, well that's a whole different story.  Stay tuned for more wacky hijinks and the inevitability of this all crossing over into the real world.

Shadow Priest gets better around high 20's

In between all my PVP and achievement chasing I'm finding some time here and there to level my baby toons.  Yesterday I spent some time on my Priest who finally hit level 31.  I commented before how dreadful priests were at the early levels and that was by no means a joke.  Not only are priests pre-level 20 dreadfully boring but they are also dreadfully mana inefficient.  I've played every single other class before and I've never experienced the boredom this class affords anywhere else.  Early on your only offensive means are Mindblast, Shadow Word: Pain, your wand, and Smite if you actually decide to use that.  You'll usually open up with Mindblast, then Shadow Word: Pain but you'll be bubbling and wanding from there.  I found Smite to be of little use and actually do more damage with my wand, plus my wand doesn't cost me mana like Smite would.

As you get higher in level you get a few more toys to play with like Devouring Plague and Mind Flay but if you think you're going to Shadow Word: Pain, Devouring Plague, Mind Blast and Mind Flay mobs while questing then be prepared to sit and drink after probably every fight because the dots eat mana like candy and you still have to add in the mana cost of your bubble.  Eventually you learn to save your dots for bosses in instances or elite mobs that might last 10+ seconds and just Mind Blast and Mind Flay, or Mind Blast, Holy Fire, and Mind Flay.  Even that requires you to either sit and drink after every couple of fights or if you've outfitted yourself with some heirloom gear that's extended somewhat.

I'm wearing the Devout Aurastone Hammer with +20 spirit, Tattered Dreadmist Robe and Shoulders, and two Discerning Eye of the Beast trinkets so I'm probably a little better off than someone who is just fresh to the game and is playing a priest.  I made the mistake of not putting two points into improved spirit-tap initially and I'd recommend you not follow me down that road.  With it being tied to crits and me not having a whole lot of that I thought it would be virtually useless.  Point in fact it doesn't proc as often as I would like because of my low crit rate but it's also the only bit of additional in-combat mana regen I have until l can start putting points into Focused Mind.  My advice to all new Shadow Priests is to put your first five points into Spirt Tap and Improved Spirit Tap.  But you won't get Spirit Tap procs unless you get the killing blow.  Makes instance runs a real pain, especially pre-level 20 when you'll be spending twice as much time wanding as you will be casting anything.  By level 30 it's much better as you'll Mind Blast, Holy Fire, and Mind Flay and will get a good share of killing blows.  Improved Spirit Tap comes in very handy as even with 6% crit I see it go off regularly enough in fights for it to matter.

I'm starting to enjoy the class more now that I have some additional tools and I'm starting to get into the talents that increase my offensive abilities as well as decrease their cost.  If I had a way to skip over the 40's and 50's and go strait to Outland I would because I know from level 60 is really where this class begins to shine.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Raiding content in WotLK does not represent a failure

Tobold recently posted an interesting response to a question posed to him regarding how to begin raiding.  While I agree with him in that the current implementation of raiding seems somewhat wasteful toward resources as raid instances only receive heavy use while they are the current tier of content in WotLK and then virtually no use after that point, I disagree with his assessment this is a failure on Blizzards part.  Today there are actually many people playing that never raided Naaxramus when it was the current tier of content released in its current form less than two years ago at the launch of WotLK in November 2008.  But they don't need to now and that is testament to the fact that Blizzard acted on the criticisms it received by many regarding the high cost in terms of time and effort to break into raiding, as well as progression and accessibility issues  through the end of BC.

Each new expansion of WoW has brought further openness and greater access to game content for players.  Today we have a game that makes it vastly easier to begin raiding and access end-game content than at any other point in the games history and in fact I think we're at a point where we've drifted too far in that regard.  It takes virtually no effort on a players part to begin raiding which only serves to engender a mentality of instant gratification. What we see in WotLK today was a result of criticism Blizzard received from players in Vanilla and BC where raiding end-game content was by no means easy to break into and did require considerable time and effort to advance.  In BC you absolutely had to raid Karazhan to obtain gear before you could go onto raiding Gruul's and be viable.  But you could only reliably raid Karazhan after weeks or even months of funning heroic dungeons trying to assemble your "dungeon set".  You then had to continue raiding Karazhan and obtain gear off the final bosses as well as gear from Gruul's Lair before you could reliably raid Magtheridon's Lair and you needed gear from Gruul's Lair and Magtheridon's Lair before you could reliably raid in Serpent Shrine and Tempest Keep.  And you had to obtain gear from Serpent Shrine and Tempest Keep before you could reliably raid Black Temple.  And finally you needed Black Temple gear before you could reliably raid in Sunwell.  Ignoring the key and attunement requirements that were also involved in all this, and that were removed from raiding mid-way through BC, the requirement to raid previous tiers of instances before moving on to the next tier had been a hallmark of end-game since the inception of WoW.

The problem with that then, and remains a problem today is that people who raided the content when it was the current tier of content have little, if any, incentive for going back and raiding previous tiers again after they've moved on.  New players found it just as difficult in BC to break into raiding after a certain point as they did in Vanilla.  That isn't nearly as much of a problem now as it was in BC as there is an alternate means of gearing up to the current tier of content that largely solves this problem.  If this alternate system wasn't in place a players only means of obtaining gear would be through the tiers of raiding content and would require finding groups to raid with who were at the same point in progression.  Obviously that was the problem in Vanilla as it was in BC and would continue to be a problem in WotLK as well were things not how they are.

If you were to hit level 80 today and wanted to begin raiding there are a number of ways in which you can quickly get geared to the point where you'd be a viable raid member.  But before beginning to raid you have to understand that WoW is a social game and raiding is a team activity.  like any group activity such as this you're going to have to accept that your other team mates have expectations of you and of everyone else in the group.  Even if you think you are ready to start raiding you might not be accepted into every group based on entirely subjective judgments about your class, spec, and gear.  However that being said, getting geared up to the current level of content doesn't take very long at all.  Your first option is to obtain craftable pieces (bracers and boots) and purchase BOE pieces like belts and chest pieces off the auction house.  Because of the expense this may or may not be a viable option for many.  Luckily there are other options for obtaining gear.  Any new character should run VOA religiously every week as there is an opportunity to get T10 set pieces like gloves, pants and helm.  That alone is worth it's weight in gold as any piece you get there can potentially save you three weeks of running the daily heroic, weekly, and VOA to get your first piece of T10.

Beside earning two Frost Badges from the daily heroic run, and the five you can earn from the weekly there are four heroic dungeons (Trial of the Champion, Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, and Halls of Reflection) that drop ilevel 232 gear which is plenty good enough to get you into some TOCs if not an ICC-10 where you might be lucky enough to pick up some much needed loot.  Even if you didn't earn any loot from a random run the badges would be reward enough because with those come your other T10 tier or off-set pieces.  In short raiding progression is currently designed the way it is in WotLK for specific reasons and it will take some level of effort on your part to get ready for raiding.  But adequate means are there for you do that if you apply yourself.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Warsong Gulch weekend should occur every weekend

Two weeks ago I needed 853 WSG flag caps to get to exalted with the Silverwing Sentinels for my Justicar achievement.  As of this morning I need 700 and I thank Warsong Gulch weekend for a good chunk of that.  With the renewed vigor with which I'm going after Justicar I set a goal of getting 50 WSG flag caps each week last weekend, which I'd gotten this week by Friday.  But between Friday afternoon and this morning I got an additional 50 flag caps as WSG matches were queuing in less than a minute.  If Warsong Gulch weekend were every weekend I'd be able to finish off the rep grind for the Silverwing in seven weeks or less, instead of three months.  Of course I could probably do it faster if I did nothing else but ran WSG matches but I find that if I get that single-minded about something it can lead to heavy burn-out long before I achieve a long term goal such as this.

It might sound like a bit of a stretch to achieve 50 flag caps week after week, yet it's really not a daunting prospect.  Three winning matches a day after I get home from work and before my wife gets home and maybe the off flag cap if I still need it.  And whatever I feel like doing on off-raid nights is all it takes.  I'd easily attained the 50 I needed for this week by Friday which still gives me plenty of time on the weekends to do dailies and continue work toward Loremaster. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wishing for additional spec slots

I was talking to a friend yesterday about the horrible predicament I'm in.  I have a real desire to start testing kitty DPS again but because of my play style and the limitations of the current talent spec system I'm severely limited in my ability to do that.  Unless of course I want to pay 400-500 gold per week for respeccing costs or limit my other game activities so I didn't have to respec as often.  I raid four days a week as Balance -- 3 days a week in 25-man and 1 day a week in a 10-man group now, so I have to maintain my main spec as balance leaving me with my off-spec slot to accommodate all my other activities, including PVP, running old content for rep and gold, and raiding with an off-spec talent build.  Consequently my second spec is usually whatever I need it to be for periods of time.  For a long time my default off-spec was Resto but I would respec to Feral Bear on the weekends to solo BC content for my rep grinds.  Recently though my default has been Feral Bear and I've stayed in that and haven't respecced out to something else because of the continuing costs to do that.

For pure DPS classes this probably isn't much of an issue, and probably not even for those hybrid class players who don't play in more than one tree, or even if they do play in two trees, don't pvp.  For those that are outside of that mold the current dual-spec talent system is severely limiting and has the end effect of constraining ones game play instead of encouraging the player to tap the full potential of their class.  I raid heavily, solo heavily  and PVP heavily and I don't do all of that in a single talent spec because as we all know, not every talent spec is competitive or viable for every activity.  Running around in Feral Bear spec makes a lot of  of my PVP achievement work easier but it doesn't do much for my team that might not have a single healer.  Up until a couple weeks ago I would most likely be healing but I haven't healed a single match, a single raid, or a single dungeon since switching my off-spec to what it is now.  Cost is the single reason for that.  As Bear I can run my dungeons and raids and do my rep grinds and I can PVP but I can't solo content as Resto and can't solo raid content as Balance.  I could get a group or another person to help, but as we all know you could sit around in Dalaran for hours or days trying to find someone and never do.  So for me, the limitation on two talent specs means I either spend a considerable amount of gold or not access the content at all.

Why the limitation at all, doesn't Blizzard want people to access all the content in WoW?  Actually Blizzard has answered this question before.  Blizzard has said they want to encourage group participation but still enable players to experience different aspects of their class.  They also didn't want to make re-speccing trivial.  But they never defined what trivial meant to them, and encouraging group participation is a very nebulous goal.  How do you define that exactly?  Particularly in a game that not only encourages solo play, but is all but based on it.

I would love Blizzard to revise the current dual-spec talent system to enable us to purchase additional talent slots.  Although I've never seen anything from Blizzard that specifically indicates this, the fact that the second talent slot is a 1000 gold indicates it's a gold sink.  Removing gold from the economy is a vital aspect of the game so I was thinking yesterday, wouldn't it be wonderful if I could purchase a third slot for say 5000 gold, and a fourth for say 10000 gold?  Wouldn't allowing the purchase of additional talent spec slots perform the function of additional gold sinks, and also encourage players to access more content?  Looking at my statistics I've respecced a total of 61 times which has cost me a grand total of 2661 gold.  5000 gold for a third slot is very nearly double that amount but it would be hard for me to imagine a great many in the WoW community who wouldn't take advantage of it.  I know I'd even purchase the fourth slot without even blinking an eye.  Having a third spec right now would enable me to keep Balance PVE as my primary spec, keep Feral Bear as my secondary spec, and to use my third spec for whatever I felt like it needed to be at the time -- in this case, Feral Cat.  If I were to have a fourth spec I'd certainly make that a PVP Resto spec.

In as much as I would love to play around with Kitty right now, I guess I'm just not going to be doing it.  I do too much PVP and Feral Cat is in no way viable there.  I do PVP as Balance in my PVE spec quite a bit, but you can imagine how often I run into trouble doing that.  It's fun but some times it just gets old being pasted all over the battlefield.  I also do too much older content and raids to stick with Feral Cat.  And I'm not going to spend the 400-500 gold each week to play how I really want to play.  In the end I'll deal with the limitations and wish Blizzard would come to their senses.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Remembering SWG

It's not often that I read very complimentary posts about Star Wars Galaxies, but when I do it brings back several positive memories.  I did very much enjoy SWG before the Combat Upgrade In March 2005 was foisted on us.  Even toward the end when the population had dropped to the point where it was hard to find any fun.  And to this day SWG has the best crafting system of any MMO I've yet experienced.  Don't get me wrong, I still think SWG had several severe problems that were mostly the fault of the SOE development staff but the game still had a fun factor that in some ways I still miss today.  Back in February I took a look at SWG and while I can see the underpinnings are mostly still there from my day, sadly it's a game who's glory days are long past.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

SOE and their EQ2 F2P con

Just when I was thinking that perhaps I should give SOE the benefit of the doubt.  It's been five years, right?  They had to have learned their lesson about shoddy administration, business decisions and poor customer service, I was thinking.  Boy was I wrong.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Yes please hack me

You know what they say about a fool and their money.  Or in this case, their gold and gear.  Sad to think people actually fall for this, isn't it?

Clearly there can be more than one

I can sympathize with posts like this one over at Big Bear Butt as I'm a super alt-a-holilc as well.  I used to be much worse than I am right now but going into WotLK I made a decision to play no more than two characters.  I benched my Druid that had been my main since Vanilla and decided to play my Shaman and my new DK.  The group I was running with at the time needed ranged more than melee so I ended up playing my Shaman as my main initially but switched to my DK when the group composition changed and I played him up until TOC when I switched to my Paladin.  It was at this point that I made my Druid my main alt again and as I've recounted here on a few occasions I switched back to my Druid recently making my Paladin my main alt.  I intend to go into Cataclysm with my Druid as my main and my Paladin as my main alt, but like Big Bear Butt I have a slew of other alts that I play from time to time and even have a few I've created recently to play around with as projects.  The character cap has really crimped my style so I've had to delete a couple that I knew I wouldn't be playing again any time soon, but as things go, you never know, I might have wanted to pick back up at some point.

If you were to look at my character selection right now you'd see:

80 Druid
80 Paladin
80 Rogue
80 Death Knight
34 Hunter
24 Priest
22 Mage
10 Warrior
2 bank toons (one Alliance and one Horde)

I can empathize with Big Bear Butt when I sometimes play some of my alts and have to recall how to play them, but particularly my Rogue who I really only Battlegrounds with.  Even worse is trying to remember button placement as I find myself having to look at my keys quite often when I start playing an alt again after an extended break.  But as bad as it seems to be now playing alts, imagine what it was like back in Vanilla and to a lesser extent, in Burning Crusade when I would change characters for long periods of time.

Five years ago in Vanilla I started off playing WoW as a Warlock, but ditched and deleted him at level 24 or 25 when I decided I didn't like it.  I rolled a Paladin that similarly I only played until about level 25 before deciding I didn't like it and then rolled a Hunter who I actually played for quite a while.  While I leveled him up to 60 I also created a Warrior that I would eventually start raiding with.  My Hunter was my first level 60 but I never raided on him which is odd, I know.  Back in those days, even after several months playing WoW I still hadn't come to grips with the specific focus of the classes I was playing and never got to the deep understanding that each class really requires to be competitively played.  I was a noob and played like one doing absolutely silly things with my Hunter like equipping weapons that in very little way buffed my abilities. 

I really liked my Warrior but back in Vanilla if you were a Warrior you were expected to tank, but I hated Prot.  It was a pivotal period for me as I would eventually get tired of the constant back and forth with the guild and their expectation that I tank instances and raids and retired my Warrior.  It was at this point in the months leading up to Burning Crusade that I created my Druid who hit level 60 before Burning Crusade.  It's also what caused my wife and I to server transfer the month before Burning Crusade to the server I still play on today.  In Burning Crusade I played my Druid as my main throughout the expansion however I had a slew of alts that I played, including my new Shaman, another Warlock, Mage, Rogue, Hunter, a Priest which I ended up deleted and a few others.  I even played my Warrior until the mid 60's before he too finally got deleted.  Unlike in Vanilla though most of my alts did get leveled to 70 and I did raid on most of them.  But throughout it all I always considered myself a Druid player.  It might have taken me a little while to finally create one in Vanilla but once I did I've always felt different about my Druid than about all my other characters.

And I think that speaks to the heart of what Big Bear Butt was talking about.  It's the identification to the class and the character that drives that insightful and in-depth knowledge.  It's made me delve deeper into the class than I have with any other, not because I feel I need to know more than anyone else (I don't) but because I simply care more about this specific character than I do my others.  The first year of WotLK I didn't play my Druid at all but when I finally did dust him off it was like riding a bike.  I hadn't forgotten how to play him, though obviously there were some considerable changes from BC to WotLK.  Cataclysm will be the same way, yet I know I'll chug along leveling from 80 to 85 without batting and eye.