Saturday, December 27, 2008


I mentioned yesterday how I thought some of the world event achievements needed to be tweaked to make them somewhat less reliant on blind luck. I was a little annoyed by the situation and decided to do some more poking around. Despite the vast amount of bad information on the official forums, and the vague information released by Blizzard itself it seems that the hats can only be obtained--now--in level appropriate content. They still drop as world loot off various mobs, but I'm not sure about WotLK mobs. At any rate, I failed to a hat off any low level mob, so I think the loot tables were modified so that it also requires level appropriateness to loot.

With a week left in the event I did not want to give up. Especially considering the hat was the only thing left standing between me and my Wintervale world event completion. Turns out you can two-man the boss in Nexus and I was able to get a friend to run me through on two of my toons. Merrymaker title obtained!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Some achievements need tweaking

I've mentioned before that I got turned on to in-game accomplishments with the introduction of the new achievement system. I had a great deal of fun accomplishing achievements on my Shaman, but as time has gone by and I've started investing more time into my other two characters some of the achievements have become harder to get. Particularly some of the holiday achievements like "Tis the Season" which requires you to loot a holiday hat from bosses in various instances. As with the "Sinister Calling" during the Hallows End celebration, I've been very unlucky. I've failed to loot either the Sinister Squashling for two years now, and I've yet to loot a holiday hat on any of my toons either. Which of course means I can't complete either Hallow's End or Wintervale world events, and can't progress toward the "What a long, strange trip it's been" achievement which awards a purple proto-drake mount.

I know Blizzard has answered criticism on this very point during the Hallow's end event, saying they meant the achievement to be harder than others. But as I've already said I failed to loot a Sinister Squashling for two years now. Last year the achievement system wasn't in place so I largely ignored my frustration, but this year there was new incentive to loot the pet. Harder is one thing, but two years without being able to complete that particular achievement crosses over into ridiculousness I think. And now I've seen two world events that I can not complete because of the exact same problem.

One might rightly point out that no one forces us to complete these achievements and that they really don't mean anything anyway. But one could simply answer that this is a game in the first place and doesn't mean anything also. The fact is however, that people want to complete the achievements and while I accept that one should have to work on them, having a complete world event achievement hinge on a drop and winning a roll is probably too far to go.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Raiding update

I last wrote that we had started our formal raiding and had run into some problems. Since then we've changed out a couple people and actually cleared all four wings of Naax. The team is gelling and I think it will not be very much longer before we clear Naax all together. Unfortunately for me, my rolls have not yet improved. So I've yet to see a single T7 piece whereas my wife now sports the only T7 chest piece in the guild to my knowledge. I know eventually I'll get mine, but I hope it won't take me six months to get a single piece like it took my Druid to get his staff in Karazan.

Right now our schedule calls for us to raid Naax two nights a week, and the Obsidian Sanctum on a third night. Sartharion is on farm status, so I think we plan on trying for one add up next week for some extra loot. Should be fun, but I can't wait until we can start doing Sartharion with three adds and start getting the mount.

Death Knight progress part deux

When last I wrote, my Death Knight was only level 74. This last Saturday I finally hit 80 and have come to some firm conclusions about the class in general. I definatly like the Blood tree the best, and like the Unholy tree the least. Well, perhaps that goes a little too far. Instead, let me say that I like the unholy attack rotations the least. There are too many interruptions (white hits) in the rotations because of cooldowns compared to blood rotations. And I generally just do not like that.

For blood I use IT > PS > HS > HS > OB > DC. For Unholy I would either use IT > PS > SS > BS > OB > DC or IT > PS > BS > BS > OB > DC. The IT > SS > BS > OB > DC rotation, however, introduces several second delays in the second rotation. And that equates to lower DPS which I do not like. Perhaps haste is the answer to that question, but I'm not a great fan of haste for Death Knights. I definately see it as a tertiary stat consideration when compared to raw attack power, strength, stamina, and crit.

By comparison you can use the blood rotation (IT > PS > HS > HS > OB > DC) on multi-rotation mobs with no delay. On multi-mob pulls you'd want to add in pestilence to the mix, so IT > PS > Pest > HS > HS > OB > DC.

I've been testing out several builds since the weekend, including various Unholy builds, but hadn't found one that offers what I see as acceptable health regen compared to blood either. Part of that problem, I know, is my low hit rating which I definitely need to raise before getting into anything really serious. I know this because I've been toying around with soloing Onyxia and I can see I miss entirely too many Death Strikes. I actually do much better as blood against her than I do as unholy. And in both cases I fight in frost presence, in tank gear (475 def, so still somewhat shy of the cap).

I've also been PVPing and definitely need to improve my skills before I start venturing into the arena. Part of my problem is I'm a semi-clicker. I use the default UI with some mods. So I'm limited to what I can put on the first bar. I have most of my key skills on the first bar, but some other important skills are on the top left and right bar which I have to click on. I could improve the situation by making some key bindings. And I'll most likely go ahead and do that. But I'm still a "clicker" by nature and move forward with the W key, and steer with my mouse. So any use of key bindings will require me to move my hand from the mouse to keys. With the skills on the first bar I generally use my left hand to click those.

PVP as a Death Knight is not nearly so easy as I would have assumed at first. It's a very busy class, and I find myself constantly looking down at my bars watching cool downs instead of keeping my eye on my opponent. So I'm going to have to look for mods that assist me with tracking cool downs.

In PVE I find that short of a Retribution Paladin, the Death Knight is perhaps the best soloing and farming class out there. I've literally played every class in WoW, with the sole exception of a Priest into end-game, so I have some perspective when comparing one with another. The Death Knight class has zero downtime. Warlock in a drain mode is probably very close, but I never killed things nearly so fast on my Lock as I do on my Death Knight.

Which of course leads directly into the greater conversation regarding how over powered Death Knights are. I still think that Death Knights are no more "over powered" that Retribution Paladins are. And while a very strong class, they definitely have their limitations. Kiting is still a problem, even with Death Grip. Mages are perhaps my biggest problem because Death Grip and root does nothing to them. They simply blink away, root me, then nuke me from afar. As blood you generally only have the AMS, which of course has a hefty cool down. And of course a Death Knight has to do damage to heal. No bubble/heal combo for them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Okay, no patch today

Bad wowinsider, bad!

Patch 3.0.8 today

Surprise! It's patch day! I was caught by surprise when I woke up and tried to log into WoW first thing this morning. The PTR had been up for only a week I think, and they are making a lot of changes in this patch, so I was expecting testing to run a little longer than it did. I think we should all keep our fingers crossed and hope there are no major bugs that slipped through the cracks.

Of the three classes I decided to play into WotLK (Shaman, Death Knight, and Druid), all three are getting updates in this patch. Death Knights definitely receiving the most, with a litany of changes ranging from nerfs to bone shield and ice bound fortitude; to buffs to frost presence and health regen capabilities of the blood tree. And a great deal in between.

Among other things, Druids are seeing yet more changes to key stats related to weapons. Specifically Staves, which have traditionally had "feral attack power" and bonus armor to make up for the DPS gap between feral and rogue. Feral attack power is going the way of the dodo as of this morning, with Feral attack power now being generated directly from the weapons stats instead. Shaman have some interesting changes in store. Since I play an Elemental, I'm of course most interested in those changes. And I'm happy to see that my Lightning bolts are getting some love today. Can't say I'm entirely happy with Blizzard's idea of an AOE attack buff for the class, but I'll withhold judgment until after I've seen it in action first.

Overall there wasn't anything in the patch notes I reviewed last week that alarmed me. Though I admit I'm not playing a Hunter right now. Hunters not only are getting whacked with the nerf stick, but down right beat into a bloody pulp by it. I commiserate with them, but everything else in the patch notes seem to have been genuinely needed in some way or shape.

Hopefully the servers will not be down as long today as they were last patch, however.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The nerf bat swingeth

To the cries of "to the ground baby" echoing in the forum, Blizzard announced one of the largest nerfs in WoW history yesterday. Against Hunters no less. Which is unfortunate considering the state of the class for the past couple of years. I can definitely sympathize with the class after the debacle that was the Druid nerf between patch 1.8 and release of the Burning Crusade in 2007. After all, Blizzard makes these design choices, putting real teeth into a class that sorely needed it. Then they go through a lengthy alpha (internal only) and beta test. And then make the nerfs after its been released to the public. Its a process that simply makes no sense to me what so ever.

And this statement by Ghostcrawler really forms the crux of my confusion:
Hunters of all specs, and particularly Beastmaster, are doing too much damage in PvE. We tested this a lot internally in beta and knew hunters were high but we hoped other classes would be able to catch up in a way they have as yet been unable to do.
It's not as if players have abilities and knowledge the developers don't have. In fact it's been clearly stated before by Ghostcrawler that they have tools we don't have. He's described a series of spreadsheets and data collection utilities and touched on the process they use to look at the numbers. Given all of that, how could they not know that other classes would not be able to approach Hunters in PVE?

We want to be careful not to hurt hunter dps too much in PvP, so we’re taking most of the damage out of Steady Shot and Volley. Beastmaster hunters are in addition losing some of their pet dps. We still want BMs to have the best pets, but pet dps numbers are a little high at the moment.

Again, this speaks to the issue of number crunching. How on earth could a situation like this evolve without Blizzard discovering it in their pre-beta testing? And in fact in the open beta, as well as their continued testing?

I don't play a Hunter, so I have no direct interest in these changes. But I do care about the process. And it seems less than optimum to me. We've seen this same process over the years, with the previous example of it having been used on the Paladin class just a few weeks ago. Retribution Paladins made it through the entire Beta process with god like abilities, and in fact made it through release of WotLK despite literally thousands of people on the beta boards commenting on the state of the class. And then thousands more in the first couple weeks after patch 3.0.2. Only at that point did Blizzard make some nerfs to the class. And there have been plenty of examples of this same process before. All of which bespeak of "broken".

But it also shows glimpses into the philosophy of the developers. A philosophy which I take issue with. The developers have created an informal dps hierarchy which seems to govern their class decisions. They expect Mages to be top DPS, with Rogues close behind. Then you have a sort of second tier of DPS classes that seemingly is populated by Hunters, Shaman, Warlocks, Paladins, and the rest. Where exactly the various classes fall out in relation to one another is open to debate. The point being is that it seems awkward to limit the potential of a class based on what you want to see in another class. It makes more sense to me to design a class by itself.

Of course then you'd enter into other arguments regarding balance. But what is balance? If I asked 100 people I'd get 100 different answers. Just one of which would include "if X class was best, then everyone would play that class". Exactly the argument that was made about Death Knights. Yet we still have Rogues, Warlocks, Mages, and the rest of the classes still walking about. Clearly people are more discerning in their choices. People chose their class based on what that class can do. Not on what other classes can do. People more interested in PVP tend to play Rogues or Warriors more often than any other class, do they not?

My own point of view is I hate to see nerfs. Especially when they could be prevented in the first place by a better vetting process in the early stages of development.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What kind of player are you?

Are you the kind of player that has only one character in WoW? Or if you have others, are they toons you semi-retired long ago and you only play one toon now? Or are you someone who has several toons and you bounce around on them based on a whim, or plays several toons regularly? In my time playing WoW I have noted that there really are only two types of players. I find myself in the latter, having several toons and playing them regularly, or at the very least concentrating on one but playing the others here and there.

I'm what I like to affectionately call, an alt-a-holic. A couple months ago I had started a new Shaman, and got him leveled to 70 in the weeks prior to release of WotLK. Since then I have concentrated on playing him, for the most part, though I do also play my Death Knight (now level 75) and my Druid (still 70). I have others, but I find I have very little time to play them these days.

I ask these questions because an interesting observation came to mind this morning. Some people are very driven in the sense that they play one and only one character. They work on all the achievements, and probably have a couple hundred Badges of Heroicism right now. On the other hand, I find myself more than willing to run Heroics, or do dailies, or farm here and there but that doesn't hold my attention for long periods. Once I start raiding I find I am less willing to muddle around on my raiding character running content which I get very little out of. I find leveling much mor rewarding. Perhaps its simply I get bored standing around in Shatt or Dalaran looking for groups when I could be out solo-ing on a character I'm leveling up.

Frankly the badge gear right now is not very appealing, so I expect to get most of my gear upgrades through raiding. I'll accumulate my badges as they come, until something truly nice is added to the badge venders. That makes sense in my mind since we have multiple opportunities to obtain T7 armor pieces from different raids. T7 gloves drop in Naax as well as in the Obsidian Sanctum (Sartharion). And I believe off Archevon also. If all else fails you can simply pay the 60 badges for the gloves off the badge vender. The point being, I find myself not feeling much pull to get in several heroic runs each day. I certainly will if the opportunity presents itself though, because grouping and doing things with friends is what I truly like to do.

So over the past couple days I've noticed my attention has been drawn more and more often to my Death Knight. And I actually spent a few hours between yesterday and Sunday leveling him up. And once I get him to a certain point gear progression wise, I'm sure my attention will be drawn back to my Druid, who incidentally I still consider my main.

Do you find your experiences in WoW much the same?

Monday, December 8, 2008

The start of formal guild raiding

My guild now has enough people to put together two 10-man raiding teams, so we had formally started 10-man raiding last night. We had previously downed 10-man Sartharion twice previously, and PUGed a 25-man Archevon raid last week as well. But last night we sent two teams into Naax. I had been in 10-man Naax in a complete PUG last week and cleared the Plague, Spider and up to the Four Horsemen in the Deathknight wing before we broke up for bed. So I was expecting great things from our team last night.

That didn't exactly happen though. Initially we entered Naax and wiped three times on the first set of mobs inside the plague wing. It was a miserable 40 minutes while we figured out that the dungeon was actually set on Heroic! Funny now, but it wasn't so while we were getting our butts kicked. Needless to say the trash mobs went down much easier on non-heroic mode. The first boss (Noth) would have been downed on the first attempt had several people not been locked out because they weren't fully inside the room when the fight initiated. But we did get him down pretty easily on the second attempt. But that sort of set the tone for what came next, which was Heigan the Unclean. And anyone who knows who he is knows about the "dance". 12 attempts on him, and we were not able to get him down any closer than 16%.

Outside about 4-5 of the team, people simply could not stay alive during phase 2 of the fight. Some of whom were even being killed moving from section 1 to section 2. But most were always killed moving from section 4 back to section 3. Which to anyone should tell them they were simply going too far into section 4 to begin with, and weren't reacting fast enough to move back to section 3 once the pulse concluded. They put a marker over my head after the first couple of attempts and I think people were waiting to see me move, which of course introduced at least a second delay for them, and they would get caught by the pulse. It was just an example of a symptom which we've all experienced before in non-hardcore raiding guilds. And that is people being unprepared. There were those last night who hadn't done any research what so ever before walking into the instance. They hadn't bothered to read about the fights, or watch a video.

And I find this very frustrating personally. We should have walked into Naax last night and cleared the Plague wing at a very minimum. Cleared Plague wing and probably the first boss of two in the Spider wing. Instead I walked out after 3 hours with a 40 gold repair bill and serious reservations about many of the people on the team.

Myself and the raid leader had hopes of clearing Naax on a weekly basis, as well as 10-man Sartharion and probably Archevon as well. Now I think we'll be lucky to clear the first wing in Naax within the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Death Knight progress

Since my Shaman has been 80 for a couple weeks now and has made sufficient progress I've had more time to devote to leveling my Death Knight. He hit level 74 last night and just starting the Dragon Blight. Which is to say that is wonderful. I'm thrilled that the dual starter zones allow someone to run through both and make terrific progress before ever really getting anywhere in Northrend. 74 already and at the very beginning of the third zone, so I would expect to at least be nearly level 76 by the time I complete it. And that is if I do not run any instances with him before then.

He also hit 450 herbalism last night, so my impression that there were simply less herbs to go around than mines was mistaken. I think that must have been a by-product of the number of players herbing in the zones earlier and my Gatherer not working properly. I've since updated Gatherer and reimported the data pack, but it's still not showing the nodes I myself haven't collected. Together they must have given me a false impression. I know it's rough, but I would really recommend that players continue to herb in the outlands until you at least get to 425-430. Since no one is herbing in Netherstorm or Shadowmoon Valley any longer, its nothing short of easy to do now. Plus you can fly while doing it. Once you hit that 425-430 level you can move into Northrend and should have no issues picking any herbs you come across in the starter zones.

Meanwhile I've been farming away on my Shaman and at last accumulated all the mats I needed for a Titansteel Destroyer for my Death Knight. He can't of course use it yet, but I have it now and leveling away like mad so that he soon can.

I still haven't witnessed any appreciable changes in how I have to deal with mobs from the earlier levels. Mobs generally die within the first rotation (IT > PS > HS > HS > DC/DC) and I largely ignore the issue with runic power dump. If I pull multiple mobs or if I'm fighting an elite I'll pop DRW and DnD, but otherwise I don't even monitor my runic power level. Its simply not needed. Which of course is to say that even with mostly green quest items now the class is still fairly powerful. It wasn't just the outstanding blue starter gear.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

End-games are important

Tobold has an interesting post on his blog this morning, that made me recall some principles I learned from Star Wars Galaxies (SWG) back in 2005 and was at least in part responsible for me switching to WoW. Although not exactly the same, SWG is much like WAR in that the games end-game is player created and largely revolves around mass PVP. Unlike with WAR, SWG had absolutely nothing else to do at end-game, outside of a wonderful crafting system which I still look at as the pinnacle of crafting systems I've yet observed in the online games I've played.

I recall toward the end of my SWG playing days in Dec 2004-Mar 2005 that I would troll around the Bria server for hours looking for PVP. I would run the towns on the various planets looking for Rebels to snipe (I was an Imperial Master Rifleman/Doctor), but unfortunately there often times were very few to be found. As the weeks passed by I grew more despondent of the situation and utter boredom quickly set in. I did have a second account which was a Master Droidsmith and I spent more and more time attending to my Droid business and collecting materials I needed. I enjoyed my Droid business, but that isn't what the game was meant to be in its entirety. You simply needed something more to do.

Of course there were city and base raids in the evenings, and while great fun could be had, was also an illustration of a problem area for games centered on player created content--Lag. On Bria in 2003 through my leaving in March 2005, the Imperial faction was dominant. And we prided ourselves on our organization and impregnable fortresses. The main Imperial guilds created a council and coordinated our joint effort in fighting the Rebels. In this way the placement of Imperial bases was also controlled, making defense easier. We didn't have bases strewn about willy-nilly through Bria. Instead we'd have perhaps 2-3 main base complexes on a couple planets, and perhaps an odd base on others. We'd form defense units on the vulnerable evenings and guard these, with the remainder of the Imperial guilds being on call to come to the aid of any base or complex that was attacked. Bases and complexes were not attacked during every vulnerability period however, so those evenings were often times passed in conversation on teamspeak or ventrillo.

There would be periods of time where the Rebels would attack regularly--sometimes more than once in an evening at a given complex, or at multiple complexes. But there were also periods where there would be no activity at all. We of course would also attack rebel bases when we weren't forced to guard ours but there were long stretches where rebels guilds refused to place bases leaving us nothing to do most nights. It was a serious source of friction between the Imperial council and the various rebel guilds and caused much drama on the official SWG Bria forum.

I did play WAR for a brief period after it was released. I played many hours during the first week, though that lessened during the second week and didn't play at all after that. I quickly saw what I had come to hate about SWG. And that was that if you weren't leveling you were completely out in the cold if there weren't enough people to conduct scenarios as they are called in WAR. From reading various blogs I saw that that became more of a problem as time passed.

Tobold relates the end-game in WAR as being problematic because of LAG. Its the same LAG I experienced in SWG, and its something that is completely outside of your control. Because both games rely on player created content you have no idea how many are going to show up for raids. We'd often see 40 or more attackers at our complexes, and we'd of course have a similar number of defenders. And there were many nights where there were even greater numbers involved. Even with somewhere around 80 people in a given zone horrible lag was experienced by all. We'd all be frustrated by it and would joke on Vent that we were living the "power-point", meaning you would see a screen update every now and again and that was about it. And that was if we didn't crash the server to begin with.

As people started to leave SWGs in the run up to the first Combat Upgrade in March 2005 PVP came to a near stop anyway, but on those occasions where we were able to get something going it was beyond frustrating to have it ruined by this phenomenon.

WoW on the other hand has a completely different end-game. It's provided in the form of dungeons. While there is also a PVP centric end-game, it is also largely controlled via the use of instanced battle-grounds. Lag is controlled by controlling the amount of participants. And by focusing on developer content instead of player created content there is almost always something to do.

I didn't continue playing WAR because I didn't want to relive the experiences I had with SWG. While lag is still something to be contended with it is nothing like I remember in SWG. All I can say to the WAR brethren out there is have fun while you can.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I loath Tuesdays

Oh yes I absolutely loath it! But today especially so. I wake up early to get in an hour or so of farming before heading off to work to see messages in chat that the server was shutting down in 8 minutes. So they decided to start today's maintenance early, but then I come home to find the servers are still offline. Not only that but extended until at least 4pm EST. My wife gets home at 5 with dinner coming shortly thereafter so its basically a completely lost day of the week for me. And its been much like this the past few weeks. Adding insult to injury we're still experiencing those big lag spikes when the servers are up, though no where near as bad as the two weeks immediately after introduction of patch 3.0.2.

I miss those heady days of yesteryear when Blizzard announced they'd be performing regular maintenance only once every 3 weeks. One week there would be no maintenance at all, then the next rolling restarts, and finally the third week normal maintenance. Blizzard, what ever happened to that?

Monday, December 1, 2008

What to do at level 80? Part 2

Another fun aspect of end game is the farming. You might have done it during the grind from 70 to 80, but its at 80 when you will really have time to get some good quality farming in. I have two characters in Northrend--one a miner and one an herbalist. And from my limited perspective I think mining is way easier or more plentiful than herbalism is. Am I imaging things that there are more mines than herbs up here?

For mining, you might notice that Sholizar Basin is by far the best mining spot. And now everyone else in the world knows it. Thieves are thick as flies these days, and will try to rip you blind either when you are finishing off a mob that attacked you, or strait up while you're mining. I had a horde DK try to leech a Titanium mine the other day and finally got rid of him by not auto-looting and just leaving my guy there with the loot window up. I chatted away in guild chat for a while, then alt-tabbed out to read some news. After about 10 minutes he finally flew off but there were two others hovering on mounts directly over me when I finally finished mining the node. The second best mining zone that I can see is actually Wintergrasp of all places. I have no earthly idea what Blizzard was thinking about by putting mines in that zone, let alone making it the second best zone in Northrend. Do they not remember the problem they had in AV when people would come in and just fish for Salmon? They removed the fish.

Other than the plentiful amount of mines in Wintergrasp there are also tons of elementals. Of each type which also makes it the best zone for farming them as well. In between Wintergrasp matches you can find any number of people riding around farming. But you can also find that during matches which is my point. In a PVP setting I would rather people focus on PVP. Blizzard created a system with a berth of rewards for controlling that zone, so why temp people from the goal of capturing or defending the keep?

So herbalism. All I want to know is where are all the herbs? My herbalist is only level 73 so I admittedly haven't see all there is to see on him yet. But just from the first 3 zones it certainly seems to be about half as much as mining nodes. Am I wrong?

Yes, farming is alive and well at 80 thank you. And some of the rewards you get for farming are well worth the effort. Can't wait to get the final few bars of Titansteel for my Death Knights Titansteel Destroyer! 4 more bars to go!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What to do at level 80?

I hit 80 on my Shaman the 26TH and have had opportunity to run a few heroics and about three quarters of 10-man Naax (awesome BTW!). Naturally at end-game one would be running as many heroics daily as possible in order to eventually get some nice badge gear. And raiding if you can as well. My Naax run was a PUG and my guild isn't up to running any raids yet with only about 14 or 15 of us being 80 as of yet. So what does one do with all the time in between heroics and the odd PUG raid? Dailies of course! Well, dailies and farming. And in my case leveling two additional characters with important trade skills!

In the Outlands the dailies were very defined, and there wasn't a great deal of travel involved to get between any of them. But that isn't necessarily the case in Northrend. It can literally take more than five minutes to travel from Dalaran to the Ebon Blade quest hub out of Icecrown, which is one of the three major daily quest hubs. The other two are the Kalu'ak, out of three neutral villages along the coast of southern Northrend, and the Oracles out of Storm Peaks.

I've had opportunity to do the three Kalu'ak dailies and the six Ebon Blade dailies but haven't done any questing what so ever in Stormpeaks as of yet. The Kalu'ak dailies are a little on the novel side. One requires you to gather some fish with a neat and then use the fish to lure a bull sea lion to a waiting female sea lion in the name of getting them acquainted. Kind of cute. Another requires you to drop into a series of small villages and kidnap some kids. literally. And the third requires you to run around a war zone and pick up a few supply crates. All in all they collectively should take you no more than about 15 minutes, but that might differ if others are doing them at the same time. The Ebon Blade quests aren't as bad but the dailies I've witnessed to date are tied to small areas which causes problems when even a few people are doing them simultaneously. That just wasn't the case in BC dailies where very few of them caused problems if say 5-6 people were doing them at any one time. Which is unfortunate considering how much time Blizzard had to truly plan all this out.

I can only assume that Blizzard will be unveiling new dailies in the coming weeks and months because the three main hubs in game now won't last people very long. I earn 1500 rep a day from Kulu'ak and already find myself about 6k into revered. And with Championing, Ebon Blade could take very little time at all to level to exalted. If I were to guess, I'd say we could expect more dailies centered around Ulduur, which is to be patched into WotLK in patch 3.1. Let us just hope that those, if indeed that is their intention, are more akin to the Shattered Sun Offensive than what we've seen thus far.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Depends on the definition of overpowered

Tobold posted an interesting question yesterday regarding whether Death Knights were overpowered. Since I've been playing my Death Knight recently and had conducted considerable research on the class prior to its release nearly two weeks ago I think I have some solid impressions on the matter.

First and foremost what is overpowered? I've heard many definitions of what it might be, but doesn't it really come down to a particular point of view? At our core I think most of us are partisans, each looking out for the well being of our favorite class above all others. Which of course is only human nature. My favorite class in WoW is the Druid, which I happen to not be playing at the moment. For some, their favorite class might be the Paladin, or the Warrior or Rogue. The point being, that out impressions of other classes are made through the eyes of our chosen class.

So just what is overpowered? Is it defined by the amount of negative posts on the official WoW forum? How many people post or even read that forum? I think we can all agree that whatever the number is, it is a small fraction of the total playing WoW today. We already know anecdotally that on maintenance day (today for instance) and on days where the servers are experiencing problems many more people than normal flock to the boards and they screech to a halt. So we know from that that some small number actually peruses the boards on a normal basis. I call those who flock t the board to complain a tempest in a teacup. So from my point of view forum posts can not define what overpowered is or isn't.

I do not think I can define overpowered, but I think I can recognize it when I see it, to coin an old adage. Take for example the Retribution Paladin. Just a few short weeks ago--in the first two weeks immediately after patch 3.0.2, the Retribution Paladin was as seemingly close to god mode in WoW as you can get. Especially in PVP where it wasn't all that unusual to see one charge into a small group of players defending a tower or flag, or even just standing around and not only kill them all, but walk away nearly unscathed. There were all sorts of denials by Paladin players, or rationalizations, but in the end a truth was known. There wasn't another single class in the game that could replicate with any sort of regularity what was being seen on a daily basis on the battlefields. That, to me, is the definition of overpowered.

The question now is do Death Knights stack up to that? I'm not entirely sold on that idea, but I can say that they are clearly very powerful. They're akin to the Retribution Paladin, which one small difference. They heal through the act of doing damage. One spec (Blood) more so than the other two however. Paladins have to stop DPSing to heal, which to some in this argument might make a difference and to others doesn't. However, it's that healing ability that I think makes most of the difference. Each of the three specs is roughly equal, but I think Blood has an advantage. There literally is no downtime between fights and I went 8 strait hours leveling from 65 to 68 without stopping to rest or eat even once. Admittedly that was with the fantastic starter gear, but even in Northrend I can duplicate that feat. But here's the rub, I can do the same thing with my Shaman too. As could others I know. So is that truly a sign of being overpowered? I'm not convinced.

Ultimately how Death Knights perform in the battlegrounds and the Arena will rear its ugly head. And as we've witnessed in the past, Blizzard will wield the nerf bat based on the loudest whining on the forums. Arguments of significance on either side not withstanding.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Leveling and immersion

A second weekend since the launch of WotLK has come and gone, and my Shaman is now level 78 and my Death Knight is still level 72. I had decided last week to focus solely on my Shaman so I can complete his level to 80 and start getting him somewhat geared for Naaxramus, which I hope we will begin raiding sometime mid-December. While I've logged many hours over the past 10 days, I have to say that most of the quests have been pretty easy. And the quests are plentiful in all zones, so you can probably level from 70 to 80 without ever stepping inside an instance though I'm not sure you would want to do that. I got one upgrade my first instance run, and have slowly been replacing items from instance runs, or from the odd quest regard ever since. And I finally replaced my ugly ZA head and shoulders last night from the Stone Halls. Gear certainly makes that leveling experience easier, but it isn't the mob difficulty that is the issue for many right now. Familiarity is the issue.

In BC there were actually a fairly small number of quest hubs in each zone. But that isn't the case in WotLK. There are several quest hubs in each zone, and because the zones are all larger than the zones in BC you can easily miss hubs as you travel around. One thing I would have liked to see is a more linear progression from one hub to another inside a zone. Or at the very least something a little more concrete that enables players to locate these quest hubs.

While I might have a small complaint in that regard, I have nothing but praise to heap on Blizzard for the level of immersion they created in WotLK. Particularly in the Dragon Blight. Not only do you get the absolutely fantastic quest chain that leads up to the titanic fight between the Alliance and Horde at the gates to Icecrown (Wrathgate), but it then leads you through another chain that sees King Wyrnn invading Undercity. Absolutely stunning! You can not help but feel the very nature of the Scourge invasion, and feel like you are part of something very much larger as you attempt to stem the tide of the undead.

I think I've probably leveled a little faster than the average person, and I should hit 80 within the next 2-3 days. But I feel fairly confident when I say the average person should be able to level to 80 within 3 weeks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

WotLK one week old today

Happy anniversary WotLK! Yes, WotLK is one week old today and things are finally beginning to ease up in the starter zones. I've been leveling two characters simultaneously, so I'm probably leveling somewhat slower than most people. And consequently my Shaman is only level 4 and still in the beginning stages of the DragonBlight. And my Death Knight is level 72 and has finished the Borean Tundra and about half of the Howling Fjord. There are visibly less people in the both starter zones, so questing there is now much easier. Which is great because those zones weren't designed for 10k+ characters running around in them anyway. Its also becoming a little harder to get groups for the starter instances (Utgard Keep and the Nexus). I sat in the LFG for most of the afternoon on my level 70/71 Dk yesterday afternoon and never did get into a group. I would say the majority of players are now in the 73-75 zones and running the next level of instances.

And incidentally, now that I've had the chance to run both Borean Tundra and the Howling Fjord twice I would say I prefer the Borean Tundra. The quests seem easier generally, and give better upgrades sooner, that the Howling Fjord does.

Also, one week in and we are also finally seeing some of the prices for ore and herbs coming down. Cobalt ore was selling for 12+ gold per ore in the first day or two after release. And it's now down to about 4-6 gold per ore as of last night. Given a couple more weeks I would expect to see Cobalt ore selling for about what we used to pay for Adamantite ore toward the end of BC.

Isn't it interesting how things tend to proceed along a path of equilibrium?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WotLK expansion is finally upon us

It's been five days since the expansion went live, and by now I think we've all had a chance to form some opinions about the expansion. First and foremost in my mind is how virbrant and beautiful the artwork is. Blizzard has surpassed everything they've done previous to this and I applaud them for it. I love the varied environments in the different zones, and the immersive feel of it all. Blizzard continued their previous policy of providing ample quests to level everyone from 70 to 80, seemingly without ever stepping into an instance. Though I do not suggest that. The rewards available in the early instances are very nice and should be upgrades for everyone except the best geared. My shaman is geared in a few Kara epics, but the majority are badge or ZA gear and I was able to replace the gloves I was wearing from early Kara in Utgard Keep. I was even able to put a +28 spell power enchant on them immediatly because the required materials are much cheaper and easier to obtain that the +20 spell power enchant from the Outlands.

All that being said, it's been somewhat frustrating in that even with two starter zones it has been at times very difficult to complete quests with all the players roaming around. I had intended to get in early and blow through the first several quest hubs in hope of staying ahead of most of the player base. That didn't happen and I was left struggling through the first quest hub along with what seemed like the rest of the server. And that problem compounded itself over the next couple of days. I applaud Blizzard for seeking to break up the players into two starter zones, but at least in the Fjord, the inital quest are is too small to support any more than a moderate amount of people at one time. I'm running a second character through the Borean Tundra right now and those quests seem simpler to complete, even with the same amount of people there for some reason.

Of course the problem will moderate once the majority of people spread out, but I was thinking in the future Blizzard might consider the use of their new "phasing" technology for the immediate quest hubs like they did with the Death Knight quest chain. That could prove to be a boon that enables players to quest unmolested and allow a natural spreading of players.

I started a Death Knight immediatly Wednesday night at midnight and found very quickly that the class is everything I had hoped and expected it to be. And as of last night I entered the Borean Tundra with him, having taken a rather leisurly pace through the Outlands. I had started as Unholy with remaining points in Blood, but yesterday switched to Blood with a few points in Unholy and some in Frost. I really have to say that Blood specced Death Knights are as close to god mode in WoW as you can get (along with Ret Paladin). I absolutely love the staying power of that spec and don't plan on switching again any time soon. I literally quested and grinded for 8 hours yesterday, going from 65 to 68 and never had to stop or eat or heal once. You can walk around with literal impunity, and can take on elites of same level or higher without having to worry whether you will survive. It's just not a concern.

Obviously I will record more of my thoughts on things as I get further into WotLK with both of my characters. But my inital thoughts are that Blizzard created a masterpiece, and I think them for it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Weekly maintenance gone wrong (Update)

The servers did eventually come back up around 1am EST this morning, but there was still missing in-game mail and there were many other problems with PVP gear venders that apparently necessitated another round of maintenance this morning. The servers went back down for an advertised 3 hour maintenance at 7am EST and are still down. While I understand sometimes things happen, they seem to be happening with some regularity lately. And that isn't making me very happy. I've been trying to complete my Netherwing grind before the expansion hits and I lost an entire day of rep yesterday. I was working on it again this morning when I got up only to find out the servers were going down again. I'm not entirely certain this bodes well for tonight's expansion launch.

10:35 Update - the servers are still offline. Blizzard posted a new note indicating they ran into unspecified "database issues" and no new ETR.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Weekly maintenance gone wrong

So much for coming home from work today to play a little WoW. The servers began to come up after a normal round of maintenance today, but very quickly went back down because of a reported in-game mail problem. Blizzard is reporting that the problem is going to take several hours to fix and will update us again around 5pm EST. At this rate I'll be lucky if they come back up before dinner.

Achievements part duex

When last I mentioned it I Had completed my Diplomat achievement and had started my Kureni rep grind in pursuit of the 50 mount (Albino Drake reward) achievement. I found the Kureni rep grind surprisingly easy, which made me wonder why I never did it on any of my other toons. I went from Honored (half way through) to Exalted in 24 hours. And that was basically grinding an hour here and there in between doing other things. Happily I now sit at 41 mounts and I'm within 3-4 days of completing the grind to Exalted with the Netherwing. Sadly I'm probably another 12 days out from the Skyguard, which I expect to give me the last couple mounts I'll need to get my Drake.

Beside that I've also been pursuing pets, of which I have about 36 as of this morning. For some reason I really want that skunk! And I've been spending time fishing the pools in Skettis looking for Mr. Pinchy, though he hasn't shown me a lot of love as of yet. Next to the magical crawdad, the pet I most wanted was the sinister squashling, which of course I never won in the 2-3 times it dropped for me during the Halloween world event, and which I never "looted" while trick-or-treating. Though I did get it on an alt!

All this new found desire to do things in game is a huge bonanza. I've found it great fun, and I know that many others are likewise. Really can't credit Blizzard enough for bringing this in!

How could you not have enjoyed BC?

I meant to respond to Tobold's post from yesterday regarding his continuing negativity on the Burning Crusade, but got wrapped up playing WoW instead. So today I wanted to comment on his post, which I feel is off base and out of touch. On the 3rd I had chance to comment on his attitude towards BC, but wanted to take this opportunity to go much further in my responses. While Tobold might not have been excited about BC, I think the numbers of players speak for themselves. Not only did WoW crest at BCs launch, but its player base has increased to over 11 million as of last month, and I would fully expect that to grow further once WotLK is launched later in the week. 11 million players is completely unheard of in the MMORPG market. And the significance of that number simply can't be ignored.

Take for instance another large company's offering -- WAR. EA/Mythic (not exactly tiny companies) designed and marketed WAR to be the WoW killer and yet the had to accept in very short order the reality of the situation they found themselves in. EA/Mythic has recently stated they have 800,000 players; a number that will undeniably decline with the launch of WotLK, if it hasn't already. It may increase again in the coming months, but the point is that not even the mammoth EA can unseat Blizzard from it's perch in the market. And that is saying quite a bit. I take issue with Tobold because many of his postings, while based on his own personal opinions, at times almost indicate he speaks for the wider population. If he did I think we would not have seen the growth of WoW that we've been treated to over the last 18 months.

Tobold goes on to say that WotLK is "too late". I'm not sure I understand what that means really. BC took two years to come to market, while WotLK took 19 months. If he is basing his opinion on the lateness of an expansion on the fact that power raiding guilds blew through content in months then again I think he is somewhat out of touch. Most guilds never stepped foot in Mout Hyjal or Black Temple before the recent 30% nerfs implemented with patch 3.0.2. It was only those nerfs that enabled a greater proportion of raiding guilds to complete Mount Hyjal and Black Temple. Something I think they very much appreciated. And if you look at WoWJutsu you will see that a very small proportion of raiding guilds are now in the Sunwell. I would argue that 18 months is a very good period of time between expansions--especially if you are an alt-a-holic as I am.

In WotLK I will be playing two characters initially--my Elemental Shaman and my Death Knight. And I will probably go back and pick up playing my first true love in WoW (my Druid) in a few months after I've gotten some progression on the Shaman and Death Knight. 18 months is enough time, I believe, to do pretty much everything you could want to do with two or even three characters. But even if you only had one, there still is a tremendous amount of things you could do in that time, and perhaps not even complete them all.

While Tobold might not have been excited by BC, I think the numbers indicate that most people were. I absolutely loved it. BC addressed many of the core issues that people had issue with in vanilla WoW. BC opened up raiding to a much greater proportion of the player base, and also increased accessibility to PVP by creating multiple paths to PVP gear. And in many cases PVP gear was useful in raiding as well.

BC also addressed another issue that people had great problems with in vanilla WoW--gold. In vanilla WoW many people had a very hard time making gold. Some people didn't, but it was a complaint heard often enough on the forums that I think it would be hard to deny. BC changed that. Gold flowed like honey in the Outlands, and if you weren't able to make a few thousand gold leveling from 60-70 then you were doing something dreadfully wrong. Then Blizzard went further and brought about daily quests. I'm still convinced the main reason for doing so was to combat gold selling and buying, and I'm fine with that. The gold selling and buying market was thriving pre-BC, and even in early BC when people wanted to buy epic flying mounts. But we've all seen a drop off in gold buying since the inception of dailies. And we can take the increased "marketing" of gold sellers through spam in the major cities as anecdotal evidence of how much harder it's become for them. I also do not see bots with great regularity any more; something I am keenly thankful for.

Yes, I greatly enjoyed BC, and I will miss it. Yet I am looking forward to WotLK and I'm sure mourn its passing in another 18 months as well. That feeling alone tells me that Blizzard hit the proverbial nail right on the head. And I'm very happy to express that while others express their disappointment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death Knights

With only a little more than 2 days remaining before the expansion goes live, many peoples thoughts will rightfully be turning to what they'll be doing in the fabled land of Northrend. And of course, much of that thought might center around Death Knights. I, myself plan on leveling a Death Knight starting Thursday. And if you have been paying any attention to the beta, then you've probably formulated an opinion or two on the class. I like what I see. Death Knight, while perhaps the most complicated of classes to play, seemingly will be a blast.

Yet I think Blizzard made a couple mistakes with the class. A few weeks ago Blizzard rolled out patch 3.0.2, which introduced new spells and new talent trees to the game and also introduced the new Inscription profession. Yet they left introduction of the Death Kinight class out of it. I argued that Blizzard should have included Death Knight in the patch because as of Thursday when level 70 toons will be shooting up to Northrend on their venture to level 80, everyone else playing a Death Knight will instead be far behind either in Winterspring, Eastern Plaguelands, Silithis, or just entered Hellfire Peninsula. Death Knights start at level 55, and will just hit level 58 upon completion of their solo introductory quest chains. That means it will probably take anywhere from 1-3 weeks for those players to level from 58-70 depending on how much they play. And of course that means those players will also be ignoring leveling of any other level 70 character they might also be raiding with. I have a level 70 Shaman and my Death Knight to level, and I really need to level both to 80 before Christmas. Not just level to 80 by that time frame, but also have somewhat geared so that we can start entering Naax for our 10-man raiding. If you work or have other commitments that will not be so easy. Though if you live in your mothers basement and have no life then it might not be. I think it would have been much better served for Blizzard to have released Death Knights weeks ago and given that time to players to level from 58-70 so that they could then enter the expansion along with friends.

Another mistake I think Blizzard has made with the class is professions. When you create the Death Knight the only skill you find yourself with is first aid, which is appropriately leveled for level 55. From that point on you will need to level first aid up to 375. However, if you wish to attain a trade or gathering skill, you will have to start from 0. Which of course means traveling back to the starter zones if you want to level herbology, or gathering enough ore to power level mining from 1-250 through smelting. Mining just requires you put enough effort in ahead of time to collect the raw ore for your Death Knight. Herbology is an entirely different picture however. There simply is no way around the requirement for your Death Knight to have to spend days or more tramping around the old zones to gather herbs. I think Blizzard should have instead given Death Knights two "freebies", other than first aid, allowing the Death Knight to choose two skills of any kind one time and starting them off appropriately leveled for level 55. Having not done that means anyone planning on playing a Death Knight will necessarily have to add additional time to leveling those skills to the overall leveling process.

While I am anxiously awaiting the expansion, I am not anxiously awaiting have to spend precious time running around old zones leveling gathering skills. Overall I really like what I see in the class, but I am absolutely certain there will be nerfs aplenty in the coming weeks as people who were not part of the beta are introduced to the class. Death Knight will be come the new Paladin, and we all know how that's going to work out.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

WotLK will only sell 5 million copies?

Gamasutra/WoWinsider seems to think so. Personally I think that is levels of magnitude too low with over 11 million people currently playing WoW. 5 million copies is less than half of those playing, and there is simply no way less than half are going to want to play WotLK. Not only do I see the vast majority of players sticking around and loading up the expanions, but I also see thousands of new players coming into WoW with its introduction. And when I say the vast majority, I'm saying I believe something on the order of 80-90% of all currently players right now.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What will the next expansion look like?

Tobold had a tongue in cheek column regarding his prediction for the next expansion today. And while I don't doubt that he is 100% correct, it got me thinking what I would like to see. Tobold is apparently disappointed in what is likely to be seen in the next expansion, I guess because of his own personal point of view in that he wants to see new and exciting concepts that push the genre into unknown territory. My own point of view is not to break something that works just fine. Blizzard runs the proverbial 800lb gorilla on the block, and they have a responsibility to ensure its continued success. The model they have developed over the past four years has served them and us quite well, so why change it? People are very happy with the game in general. They like the raiding end-game, as well as the pvp end-game. So again, why would Blizzard change that model?

Burning Crusade went live in February 2007 and Wrath of the Lich King is going live on November 13th 2008. That's a little less than two years, which I feel is a pretty good span of time in between expansions. Though I think I would actually like to see the level cap raised to 100 next expansion, vice only 90. If it takes them two years, instead of one and a half to do that, so be it. I would also like Blizzard to revisit the concept of a hero class. I was fairly disappointed in their decision to create a separate, distinct stand along class as their first hero class instead of allowing out existing characters to "unlock" hero abilities. They probably ruled out my vision of hero classes because of the nightmare it would be to balance that, but they haven't actually had a much easier time balancing Death Knights either, now have they?

To me, a "hero class" is an existing character that opens themselves up to additional abilities and talent trees after a lengthy epic quest chain. And when I say epic quest chain, I mean one that would take months to complete and would require content inside raids to be completed as well as individual quest that require thinking. Imaging that! Thinking! And when I say new abilities and talent trees, I don't mean a simple handful of new talents and abilities. I mean entire new talent trees and spells which would make that character a devastatingly powerful being on the face of Azeroth. Hence my desire for the next expansion to be level 100 because heros could only start their quest chain at level 100.

It would, in my view, be time to revisit older content in the next expansion. Time for the Maelstrom, the Dream, as well as the Titans! Time to tie some plot threads together. There's an old god still roaming around somewhere, and he's corrupting the dream. Or is it an old god? perhaps it's actually Sargeras? And hence the need for the Titans to revisit a planet they haven't seen in eons. Obviously when one speaks of the Titans you know the Aspects would be involved as well, and that means Deathwing as well. Metsen, if you are reading this, dew eeet!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Achievements bring a missing aspect to WoW

I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I really like the new achievement system introduced into WoW with patch 3.0.2. I've never been one to care much for titles or non-useful items gained by world events or the like. Yet I have found myself actively working toward achievements these past few weeks. Lately I've spend an inordinate time leveling up all the old faction reps, and ended up having to spend about 1k gold on runecloth yesterday to finish off Gnomeregon rep. But I finally got my Diplomat title, and I've now purchased all the non-epic and epic land mounts for the old factions (minus Gnomeregon since Dranaei can't ride chickens!!) and purchased all the non-epic and epic flying mounts. So I wake up this morning with 33 mounts in total (also have the AV Battle Ram) and have started my Kureni grind. Luckily that one doesn't take too much time, and I've also recently started my Nethwerwing and Skyguard rep grinds. With some luck, I should have my new Albino Drake flying mount in the next couple weeks.

If I could add just one thing to the achievement system though, I'd really like to see some additional rewards for various achievements added in. As well as other rewards that can be purchased with achievement points.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ret Paladins "nerfed to the ground"

A slight play on words by Ghost Crawler of Blizzard CM fame. Paladins will be enduring a second round of nerfs after the previous round didn't exactly calm the near universal outrage against the class in PVP. And as one can imagine Paladin partisans, including those on WoWInsider are outraged.

I love the comment by Zach Yonson at WoWInsider, which is a complete distortion. And erroneous in its supposition.

This is an extremely disappointing course of action in comparison to the complete absence of nerfs to Druids despite their utter dominance of the Arena format for three seasons (reducing Cyclone's range wasn't quite the solution, was it?). Paladin representation in Arenas went on sharp decline through all four seasons -- and this includes the Holy spec.
I replied and was replied to by even more nonsensical postings by others which I won't bother chronicling here. Zach's belief that Druids dominate the Arenas flies in the face of reality. While Druids do in fact do quite well in the 2v2 bracket, they are about equal with Priests in 3v3, and are behind everyone in 5v5. Evidence of this is easy to find at SK Gaming and Arena Junkies. And why is this? In 2v2 you have the least CC of any of the brackets available. Yet Druids have two CC abilities, and used to also have a short stun move (Feral Charge), which is no longer in reach after patch 3.0.2. And Druids are extremely mobile and their heals are mostly HOTs. So doesn't it make sense that they would dominate the smallest bracket? That mobility is put more to the test in the larger brackets because there are more people involved in a fight, and greater pressure can be put on a Druid. They spend more time fleeing and less time healing in most cases. And when more people can focus on the druid healer, their lack of means to deal with it come into force. Priests and Paladins do the best in the larger brackets because they can withstand that greater pressure.

In any event Zach complains that nothing has been done to change this fact (what, the fact that Druids are hurting in 5v5 and are only middle of the pack in 3v3?), yet he doesn't offer any examples of what he would like to do to "nerf" that dominance. The problem that he, and Blizzard runs up against is that you can't really change what people like Zach dislikes about Druids (and he's really speaking about Resto only, while has nothing to say about how utterly un-viable Feral is in Arenas of all brackets and how Balance is only slightly better) without utterly changing the class from the bottom up. You'd have to redesign the class, which simply isn't going to happen. You can see how Blizzard has made attempts to counteract some of the abilities that made Resto Druids so good in smaller brackets by how they moved key abilities around in the talent trees, yet I'm not sure the changes are going to have as great an effect in 2v2 as people would like to see.

What people like Zach are refusing to acknowledge is that we're not talking about a healer who is mobile and can operate with impunity in a 2v2 bracket. We're talking about a DPS telent tree that enables that class to dominate PVP any where that character is at the moment. We've been seeing Ret Paladins run into small groups of people and just decimate them. Being able to take on 2-5 other characters, kill them all, and walk away still alive is not balanced. Not even close. Yet we were seeing it in every battleground, every day here in WoW. Their arguments to maintain their level of capabilities are completely without merit and make no sense.

I screamed bloody murder over the nerfs that the Druid class endured between patch 1.8 and BC. Its still the single largest nerf to any class since the inception of the game. So while no one really likes nerfs to their chosen class, I can sympathize with Paladins. But it still doesn't meet the level of nerf that was doled out to Druids. And we can all see it is necessary. Ferals could not even hope to waltz into a group of people in a BG post patch 1.8 and kill everyone with little effort. Not even close.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will Blizzard repeat mistakes from Burning Crusade?

That is a very good question. And I would like to answer that question from what I've observed thus far in the Beta. As with Relmstein, I think this is a question many of us have been wondering. In some cases we can see that Blizzard made design decisions ostensibly to correct some of the mistakes they previously made. So in large part, I think Blizzard won't make all the same mistakes. But in others I think they really have little choice because they have no impact on how people play in general.

Dynamic spawn system problems - I like the fact that Horde and Alliance factions have different starting zones this time around. And I can only hope that it does indeed help with the spawn issues Relmstein refers to. There just wasn't anything fun about running through parts of Hellfire Peninsula and having things spawn crazily around you. In fact it became downright tedious as you attempted to move into, then out of areas multiple times. My guess is that simply because there will be less people in a concentrated area this will be less of an issue, but time will tell.

Outdoor PVP objectives - I do not share the same opinion regarding how popular Halaa and the Bone Wastes were. Certainly at the beginning of the BC they were fairly popular, and then again attained more popularity when the daily BG quests were introduced. But I don't think they were anywhere near as popular as Blizzard had hoped they'd be. On my server I almost never see a battle over Halaa, and fighting over the spirit towers in the bone waste are always relatively small fights because frankly there just isn't anything worthwhile to buy with spirit shards. I am however, a little more excited to hear about the new outdoor PVP zone in WotLK because the benefit for winning is much larger scale and more robust. That essentially were the big problems with Halaa in Nagrand, and the Bone Waste in Terrokar. The benefits to winning were so small that even if you had interest at some point, it quickly waned. It looks like Blizzard answered this in large part.

Missing the leveling truce - I honestly don't think there is anything that Blizzard can do about this. They split the starter zones, so some of it will be cleared up. Yet without keeping the two factions completely separated you are still going to get to a point where you will enter "ganksville". And people who enter that zone at a point after most others have already finished leveling are going to continue experiencing the full brunt of it. And of course this point only has merit on PVP servers. If you don't want to be ganked, then play on a PVE server.

Raid blockage at Karazan - I remember this quite well, because it was a huge problem for guilds--including my own. Several arguments ensued initially because the core clique in my guild formed a team and everyone else was largely left out. We eventually were able to form a second 10-man raid team, yet there was a fairly large disparity between the quality of members which created even more arguments as team A went much further, much quicker than team B. Eventually the teams were broken up and members were allocated between the two teams again to make them a little more even at which point most of the problems were resolved. Yet even more problems crept up as we then attempted to transition to 25-man content in the very next dungeon. The transition from 10-man raiding to 25-man raiding is actually fairly difficult from the perspective of manning. The numbers of raid slots, and sub slots that you would typically have for a 10-man team are quite a bit different than one would have for 25-man raiding. Then factor in the larger problem in BC raiding that many of the fights in raids called for specific classes--who then were not needed (or even desired) in follow on fights. Take Gruuls for example. You would have 4-5 tanks for the High King, then only need 2 for Gruul himself. Raids would often bring 5 tanks to High King, then replace 3 with DPS for Gruul. Grumbling and problems galore.

My sense is that Blizzard has addressed this issue in part with their new raid philosophy. There will be 10 and 25 man versions of every raid so a 10-man team can continue raiding from beginning to end without ever having to change. Transitioning from 10 to 25-man raiding will of course require some modification, yet Blizzard has also dramatically changed mechanics in such a way so that specific classes are no longer required giving raid leaders greater latitude when forming their teams. Tanks in particular do much better damage now, so even if the number of tanks fluctuates between fights, you probably won't have to sub tanks in and out on fights. That alone should make people much happier.

Rewards for heroic dungeons - I think Blizzard failed miserably when they created the loot tables for heroics. There simply was little to no reason to even run a heroic, except for the badges. All the bosses, save the final boss, dropped the same loot as they did on regular. Yet the fights were much more challenging. Blizzard added in epic gems (not really all that better than the rare gems we were already using) after BC started but that didn't really change the central question of reward for risk. In WotLK there are different loot tables for Heroic dungeons, so this question I think is largely answered.

All in all I think Blizzard paid a great deal of attention to the problems they encountered--and created--in BC. And I think they fixed the vast majority of them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two weeks from today

Well, two weeks from today and some hours anyway, the WotLK expansion will go live. I'm looking forward to it, though I think my desire is somewhat shy of what I felt looking forward to the Burning Crusade. Honestly I think some of that is related to questionable decisions and design philosophies Blizzard has taken recently. But I'm sure I'll get over most of those before too long as I decide to "just move on".

So my Shaman has been level 70 now for a couple weeks and he's finally starting to get some nice gear, although still T4 level stuff. I finally hit 900 spell damage last night unbuffed, and over 1k spell damage with my totem of wrath out. I don't expect to get much better before the expansion hits, so he is essentially what I'll walk into WotLK with on the 13th. And I'm fine with that. I made the decision to continue leveling my Shaman first, along with my wife who is also playing an Elemental Shaman. I'll eventually go back and level my Druid from 63 and start my Death Knight, but for now I think I need to concentrate on one character. If for nothing more than to build my monetary situation back up to where it needs to be. Being an alt-a-holic is a serious drain on one's assets!

The Zombie infestation has ended

On the very heels of my post on Monday, the controversial Zombie infestation has ended in WoW. In fact it ended Monday--according to Blizz "exactly as planned". Sure it did. In any regard I'm absolutely certain the GMs are happier than can be after what had to have been a mountain of in-game tickets related to the griefing, and everything else surrounding this world event. I did eventually get a response to my tickets sometime Monday night (well after the event was already over), so take all that into account when you look at Blizzards comments.

For my part, I hope whomever was responsible for this world event is never tapped to design anything ever again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

WoW Zombie Invasion

Anyone who has been playing WoW for the past several days has noticed a zombie or two running around the neighborhood. And when I say a zombie or two, I mean hundreds and thousands. And each one of them was retching up zombie goo on every battle master, NPC quest giver, flight point master, and auction house npc in every city of the game this weekend. And at the tail end of monumental problems associated with the patch 3.0.2 rollout just two weeks ago no less. Yes folks, Blizzard ate a big heaping bowl of dumb ass on this one. Have you ever heard the expression that one awe shit wipes out all the atta-boys you've accumulated? Well not only did Blizzard lose all their atta-boys this weekend, but they now have about 5 million "awe-shits" staring at them in the form of tickets in-game complaining about all the crap that went on all weekend long. I put two of them in myself on Sunday morning and would you know it as of this morning my tickets we still waiting to be answered.

I haven't been so upset about something Blizzard has done since the largest nerfing in the history of WoW (Druid nerf just prior to the Burning Crusade expansion). And that is saying quite a lot! Blizzard initiated a world event that not only enabled asshats and griefers to run amok on everyone else in the game, but actually condoned it. It was nauseating to see so many people revelling in the discomfort they were causing everyone else in the game. But those individuals can't help themselves--after all, they're just being themselves. Blizzard, on the other hand, should have bloody known better.

Frankly I still so angry about this past weekend that I don't even want to say any more on the subject.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

WoW Patch 3.0.2

It's been a long and shall we say, interesting couple of weeks since I last posted here on the blog. I've been busy with school work, work, and of course continued leveling of my two alts. One of which--my Shaman--hit 70 about 10 days ago, and my other--my Druid--still languishes at 63. I finally got to the point where it was taking more and ever more time to level each, and had to devote more time to the character I was leveling with my wife. So it definitely isn't disinterest that prevented me from blogging, but rather that I have been spending every available free moment in game, or in my school work.

So, it's been a week and a half since Patch 3.0.2 was released. General thoughts are that the patch was a success from a design stand point, but not so much in its delivery. The live servers have been plagued with instabilities with horrible lag spikes and instances that crash almost nightly. And not for short periods either, but for prolonged periods during prime-time play time. There have been entire evenings ruined, where not a single instance run could be carried off because of it. Still, things are beginning to look a little better. Most of the lagginess seems to have been cleared up over the past couple days at least. And I'm sure Blizzard will clear the rest of the problems up in the short term. Just in time for the expansion, set to be released on November 13th!

The Patch - so what do I like about "the patch"? At first I didn't really give much thought to the new achievements. But strangely over the past 2-3 days I've found myself warming up to it. I've found myself actually pursuing various achievements, and I'm generally someone who has never paid much attention at all in the nearly four years I've been playing, to the intangible "rewards" one earns for doing world events, or what have you. Including titles. I could have really cared less about titles. That is, up until now. I spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon running around Azeroth finishing up the Trick or Treat achievement for the Eastern Kingdom, and unlocking areas in zones I had never visited. I have a great deal more of that to come before I finish. In the end, I think I'm enjoying the achievement system more than almost any other new patch related item.

I can see in PVP just how the new skills and talents have worked out. Ret Paladins are now incredibly powerful. Very few others--and I do mean VERY FEW others can actually defeat a ret pally 1-v-1. In fact Ret Paladins are now known to roll into small groups and wipe them out. Its amazing to watch, until you realize you're one of the poor slobs receiving the wiping. Paladins of course, received a small nerf last week (within days of the patch going live), but it hasn't done much to tone down the huge burst damage potential these walking gods have in PVP yet. For my part, I'm absolutely loving my Shaman. In all actually this is my second Shaman. My first is Enhancement--was and always will be, and I leveled this one as Enhancement up to level 65 when I respecced him to Elemental. And I love it! I am amazed at it's mana efficiency. I've played a Mage and Warlock to end-game also, and neither of them is anywhere near as mana efficient as my Elemental Shaman is. Of course I'm comparing pre-patch Mage and Warlock to post-patch Elemental Shaman, but even then I watch Mages and Warlocks in the groups I run in (raiding and instancing) and while I see them have to drink fairly regularly I can go through entire instances without having to drink more than once or twice, if even at all. My spell rotation has much more to do with my mana efficiency than anything else. I can crank up the chain-lightning to lightning bolt percentage to maximize DPS on groups of mobs, and scale that down when I need to regen a little more mana. If I simply spam LB for single target DPS I never have to drink at all. I find myself anxiously awaiting the dual-spec system to be put in place so I can run as Elemental/Restoration.

Rouges and Warriors also got huge boosts. If you thought Warriors tore up the battlefields before the patch, then you need to observe them now. What can you say about Rogues other than they have increased DPS? All of it means that survivability of the classes on the receiving end of their attacks has become an even greater issue that it was before. Thus far, while I find I love my Elemental Shaman, I haven't found myself with a great deal of survivability in BGs. Thunderstorm is a pretty neat talent, doesn't offer any real degree of survivability. It knocks back everyone immediately around me about 15 yards, but doesn't impart a snare of any kind. So anyone knocked back is immediately back on you. Even if you do get off a frost shock. Alternatively, you can drop a totem and run, hoping to gain enough distance to safely heal. But I haven't found that to be a terribly effective tactic yet.

My opinion on the new inscription system is still up in the air. I've only seen a handful of glyphs that I thought were of much use, but I'm hoping that might change over time as I see more. And of course the huge nerf to raid bosses--their health and the damage they do--just makes whatever you happen to be doing now raid-wise that much easier. I personally think that's beneficial to allow more people to see more end-game content prior to its virtual retirement next month.