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.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Kitty DPS

My foray into Feral PVP these past two weeks has me thinking I might be ready to add some Feral Cat play to my raids and heroic runs.  I did level from 1 to 70, and 70 to 80 as feral but haven't played cat since last Fall.  I had a lot of trouble adjusting to the cat play style as I had been a main tank up to SSC/TK in BC before respeccing to Resto and Balance to finish out my raiding until WotLK.  And in WotLK I've only raided as Balance or Resto.  Typical cat play style while questing is vastly different from that used while raiding and so I had a lot to learn yet I've long thought about giving it a go.  I'd very much like to be able to switch between ranged and melee specs for certain fights and since my Balance and Resto sets are full T10 I've been able to pick up 4 pieces of Feral T10 recently.  I still need to upgrade some of the 226/232 off-set pieces but I've got a good enough start to put in some practice soon.

Up until recently (and yes this is the thread I was referring to in my UI post) I had been using the default UI, and although I use several mods I've generally steered clear of using any mods that placed elements in my field of view.  My biggest problem was being able to keep all my dots up and maintain enough energy for combo point generation and savage roar but regardless of how much I seemed to try I would let things fall off and suffer the DPS Loss because of it.  I read a lot about it at the time and the consensus seemed to be to use those mods that did in fact put elements in your field of view.  But as my UI was fairly crowded already I didn't want to go down that road and eventually went back to my more familiar ways of Balance and Resto.  I'd decided I didn't want to tank in WotLK but I'm rethinking that at the moment as well.

So now that I've taken the leap and set off down the custom UI path things are a lot cleaner and I have vastly more screen real estate to work with and the elements in my field of view are't so much of a problem they once might have been.  I still need a little help with cat abilities however and there are a couple ways I think I could address this, as I believe the issue was more about not having learned the specific timing involved in ability use.  I could use Power Auras, which I've started using recently for Moonkin and which does add some elements in my field of view.  I've always had trouble seeing when my Eclipses occur when I was in amongst the crowd, and even more so when there was another Moonkin in the group with me.  When you have two Moonkins standing near one another in a scrum it's difficult to see right away whether an Eclipse was mine or his.  I've begun using Power Auras to give me a better visual.  I can use it for tracking my dots and to let me know when specific abilities are require or available but I don't believe, in this case, Power Auras would be the best solution.

A second solution would be to use one of the "move suggesting" mods that are available.  I've looked at Feral by Night before but never really like it, and it hadn't been updated in some time.  Faceroller: Feral is another of the mods I've looked into recently that looks very promising.  Feral by Night was recently updated though so I'll probably end up trying both and seeing which one works best for me.  Either mod would be a crutch but they should help me figure out my timing issues and I'd expect that after a while I'd be able to continue on without them.

I've been doing a lot of re-reading Cat threads on the official forum and over at Elitist Jerks and I decided to take the advice of those more knowledgeable and go with the pure DPS cookie cutter build instead of picking up some of the utility talents I probably would have gone with otherwise.  I re-spec often enough as it is and don't normally run around with a PVP and PVE spec for each tree.  So normally I run around with my PVE Balance spec that I raid and PVP with, and either my PVE Resto spec (raid and PVP with) or the past couple weeks Feral Bear for PVP.  Thus my normal inclination would be to include as many utility talents as I can to help with PVP as well as with raiding.  In this case I think I'm going to need as much help as possible though so I decided to just go with the power.

Gear wise I do need a little help, but I've got a good start I think.  Tosks DPS Gear spreadsheet and RAWR are very good utilities to help with that.  While Tosks is very similar to the MAXDPS site I'd recommended some time ago, it's tuned to Feral cat only.  RAWR is the better tool, in my opinion, if you want to try out multiple pieces for each slot as unlike Tosks or MAXDPS, the stats are updated in RAWR on the fly.  Two of my pieces for my cat set are 226 with all the rest being 232, 245, or 251/264 although one of my trinkets is ilevel 200.  Starting Wednesday night I'll be running in a regular 10-man ICC hard mode group so I don't think it'll take me too long to get everything upgraded.  Then the fun will begin.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What will SWTOR's end-game be like?

That is the $64,000 question over the past several days after last week's San Diego Comic-Con when James Ohlen responded to an insightful question:
Q: If a player completes their class story, do you think it's likely that they'll restart as another character to experience another story, or focus on end game content?

A: We really hope that players will go play other classes because otherwise that would be a waste of resources
It's been no secret that many people have been very worried about the prospects of this game being closer to that of an RPG than an MMORPG and answers like this do nothing but feed into that fear.  It touched off numerous lengthy threads on the SWTOR forum and to which Bioware never replied to any of them.  By some accounts we're less than a year away from release -- the release of Deceived was delayed until Mar 2010, according to the author, to coincide with the release of the game -- and there is still a majority of the game we've heard virtually nothing about, let alone gotten to the specifics of.  End-game is one of those topics.  Other than a generic statement by Bioware that "there will be an end-game" we know absolutely nothing concrete.  During the San Diego Comic-Con we heard that some of the flash-points may be an hour to two hours long, which may in fact be the first examples of the end-game content we can expect.

If Bioware's developmental plans for end-game include starting new characters whenever you complete a class story, I think that idea will simply lend meat to the fears.  And I think it would be a terrible mistake.  Bioware has touted many times that all the content they've written for SWTOR thus far amount to more than 10 times the amount of content that was found in KOTOR, as if that were to stand as an example of why no one will ever get bored.  They didn't actually say that in so many words, but that's the impression I've gotten over the months when I read those answers.  If Bioware thinks that 300 or 400 hours of content is going to be enough to keep people satisfied, they are woefully mistaken and naive.  That's probably two to three months of play time for most players, although it would probably be several additional months of play time for the most casual of players.  So what do they expect those not so casual players to do in the intervening period before Bioware adds more content?  I can't tell you that, other than I guess create new characters, but I can  tell you what those players will do.  They'll get on the forums and bitch up a storm, and will bitch up a storm on their blogs, and anywhere else available to them.

The moral to this story is that Bioware really needs to understand the expectation of their potential customers.  They'll be varied, but that will include a vibrant PVP aspect that compliments and coincides with the PVE aspects; a strong crafting and gathering element, and most importantly, a design that doesn't force them to essentially start over when they reach the level cap.  Ten Ton Hammmer has a few interesting comments on the matter as well.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Where to indeed?

It is an interesting question, is it not?  It's one that I've thought of in the past and numerous others have commented on the official forum on several occasions. Blizzard's reply is that a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required. They acknowledge the dis-jointed nature of the story from beginning to end, but that it was a simple reality of an evolving story. Where Larisa is focusing on the dis-jointedness of the story and the fact that we really are looking at WoW 2.0 at this point, I tend to focus my own criticisms at more specific aspects of their game design.  I've mentioned before how unsettling I find these complete game mechanic overhauls every 24 months.  While I can't dispute that some of that has actually been good for the game, taken on the whole I think it's actually not helped a great deal.  Blizzard has not shown that they have a long-term vision for WoW and as a consequence the entire player experience has changed dramatically with every expansion.  And here comes Cataclysm with it's dramatic changes, and combat and talent trees that are reminiscent of Vanilla WoW. 

So, yes I ask myself where we go from here many times.  As far as story goes I can think of many avenues down which WoW could head that would keep up occupied for years to come.  Where the development strategy can go from here is an entirely different question.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm not playing Star Craft 2 today

I may be one of the few who isn't, but I made a decision not to buy Star Craft 2 even though I had been looking forward to it.  I even got a beta invite that I never used, much to the chagrin of a friend who wanted me to give it to him.  I really did like the original and I'm sure I would enjoy the sequal equally as much, but in the end I don't really want to pay $59.99 for a hobbled game.  And by hobbled I mean a game that doesn't offer out of the box LAN support, and which doesn't feature campaign modes for all three races.  You can't even play it without logging into Battle.Net, which means no stand-alone laptop play or playing directly connected to my son over our home network.  "Conicidentally" it also means I wouldn't be able to sell the game after I've played it as it will be tied to my Battle.Net account.  In order to sell it to someone I'd have to give them my Battle.Net username and password.  I'm sure Blizzard didn't mean to do that as the law allows me to sell my software and Blizzard wouldn't do anything to infringe on my rights, now would they?  Forcing me to tether to Battle.Net is only about being able to communicate with my friends wherever they are in Blizzard's gaming network, right? 

Sorry, but playing WoW I know how often Battle.Net has issues, and didn't another company find out these sorts of plans have issues recently (more)?  Of course a lot of players had issue with the scheme before the game was released too.  Did Ubisoft listen?  Neither did Blizzard.  Blizzard used to be a model company, but in the past year they have started to through around their weight and are now in that transformative period where they are no longer an "us" and are becoming a "them".

SC2 ships with only a single campaign mode -- Terran -- though Blizzard has said they would add campaigns for the Proteoss and Zerg at a later date.  Of course that's lead to much speculation about how they'd do that exactly with most people making the assumption that Blizzard will be charging for those updates.  Bobby Kotick has made it clear he's going to wring every penny out of the market, which is understandable from a business standpoint, but from a consumer standpoint is something alltogether different.  I decided to vote with my pocketbook and not purchase now.  I'll wait for the price to drop to $20 in the future and decide then if I'll buy it or not.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

DC Universe Online

You'd probably not know this from my posts here over the past two and a half years but I'm a huge geek.  I grew up in the 70's and 80's playing Dungeons and Dragons and I started collecting comic books in 1979.  By the time I graduated High School I had about 20,000 comics in my collection but stopped collecting for about 10 years shortly after.  I started collecting comic books again in 2001 and stopped again in 2003 or 2004 because by that time they had just grown so expensive and I had philosophical differences with the literary devices creative teams were using more and more often.  The dreaded story-arc!  A story-arc is usually six issues long and features five issues of dramatic lead-up to the final issue in the arc.  The main plot usually climaxes in a finale in just a few pages, which in my mind is a tremendous let down.  There's also the issue that creative teams move around entirely too much these days.  In the "old days" creative teams would spend years on a title developing the characters and multiple plot lines, but it's not unusual now to see creative teams on one title for as little as four to six months and rarely on the same title for more than a year.  It leads to disjointed title and character development as every new team that comes in seeks to put their own spin on things.  I really detest it.  And I detest even more the cheapness which both Marvel and DC use "death" now.  Characters die and the emotion wrapped up in that event is completely lost because we all know they'll be back in short order.

I still consider myself to be a tremendous comic fan, holding Thor, Batman, Daredevil, Iron-man, the X-men (Nightcrawler, Wolverine and Cyclops were always my favorites), and Superman as my favorites but certainly not the only heroes I loved to follow.  Suffice to say I'm a huge fan of the genre yet that hasn't exactly carried over into my gaming.  I've generally steered clear of super-hero based MMOs and games, having never played City of Heroes/Villains or Champions online (though I did play Champions with paper and pencil back in the day).  I have been following, somewhat, the DC Universe MMO and Marvel's deal announced last year but DC Universe Online is only one of the two that is close to release and unfortunately it's been developed by SOE.  I've vowed never again play an SOE developed game so despite the awesomeness that is the latest game trailer I'm going to have to put a lot of thought into whether I want to go back on that vow or now before I try DCUO.

So what about the other two best known Hero-based MMOs?  Why haven't I ever played those?  Hero based MMOs don't follow the typical model found in most Fantasy based  MMOs these days.  Hero based MMOs feature plenty of PVE but are shy of content that makes the PVP aspects meaningful.  Perhaps I'm mistaken but my impression is that PVP in the hero-based MMOs are mindless and really serve no purpose, which I think is a travesty.   In any event that's the prime concern I have with DCUO as well.  Questing is fine but at the end of the day I get most of my enjoyment from going head to head with others, and I don't really want that to be meaningless.  It'll be interesting to see how things unfold as DCUO gets closer to release in November.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bioware's Comic-Con reveal

Bioware has been teasing for the past several days that there would be a "big reveal" at the San Diego Comic-Con this weekend, and during their panel yesterday there was.  Darth Hater provided a concise roundup so it didn't take us long to learn yesterday that the big reveal was the fact that we'll be able to customize and participate in combat with our ships.  Of course there are no details yet about how ship combat will work but it should bring an interesting facet to the game.  Other interesting tidbits revealed were that we'll be able to customize our companions with gear and I imagine skills as well.  Mythic did the same thing in Star Trek Online so I have some experience with this already and think it's a terrific idea.  But the fact that we'll never be able to faction change I think is a mistake.  I think limiting choices in that manner only lessons character development and cheapens the entire moral decisions system so I'm hoping the decision to limit faction changes will get changed at some point in the future.  In any event the panel seems to have served its purpose well and kept the discussion about SWTOR lively for another week.

Blizzcon 2010 DirectTV stream tickets on sale now

I figured after the positive feedback from the streaming last year Blizzard would do it again and as luck would have it, Blizzard opened up ticket sales this morning for the Blizzcon streaming.  Same price as last year, but this year they're improving the product by enabling us to watch all of the events.  I'm still not all that excited to be seeing Jay Mohr again but I'm appreciative that I'll actually be able to see more of the event this time.  No word yet on the in-game pet.

Friday, July 23, 2010

We interrupt our normally scheduled content

I'd been writing a lengthy and detailed post that I was going to post today but quite a bit of it dealt with my UI, it's crowded nature and some mods.  Actually the fact that my UI is/was crowded wasn't the main point and only came up indirectly in my writing because what I was writing about sort of forced the confession out of me.  So earlier today I decided to tackle the root of the problem and build my very own custom UI.  It's actually a pretty big step for me as I've been using the default UI since I started playing WoW 5 years ago.  Outside of a few mods that gave me additional information everything on my screen was stock.  Which means I've been using the default buttons (four on bottom and two on the right side) too.  It really left me very little room on my screen to play with.

I knew generally what I wanted to do in a new UI and I've spent the better part of the afternoon putting it together.  It's minimal and I'll most likely tinker with it some more over the course of the next several days or so but I think I'm off to a good start.

The biggest issue was figuring out Bartender4.  I've got the top bar set to change with my form, but I do need to figure out why I lose my pre-set key-binds on the bar in cat form while stealthed.  Not an emergency but an annoyance and something I definately need to figure out before going too much further.  I also still need to set up profiles for my various specs and I'm not quite sure how to do that yet so it looks like I'll be playing Balance only for a bit.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Master of Warsong Gulch complete

I did make some additional progress this week toward Justicar and Battlemaster so I think my plan to put the normal things I'd do during the weekdays off until the weekends will work out for me over the long term.  Most of the achievements I have left for Battlemaster aren't that difficult, but are time sinks.  And of course the remaining rep I need for Justicar is all about time but I can deal with that.  It's all about setting intermediate goals for the Battlemaster achievements and earning the rep for Justicar in blocks.  Of course a fair bit of luck is involved with some of the individual battleground achievements though, not to mention the fact that some of them are just downright impossible in the "wrong spec".  Up until this past weekend I had been doing everything as either Resto or Balance, but it's hard to return flags in WSG as either of those.  Switching to Feral for BGs made a lot of this easier but you still end up having to be in the right place at the right time and hope that no one else is gunning for the same achievements.

Take for instance the Frenzied Defender achievement in WSG.  I just had that and Persistent Defender left for Master of Warsong Gulch as of this morning.  While I might have eventually earned Persistent Defender as Resto or Balance, I was never going to get Frenzied Defender in either of those specs.  Since the weekend I've been able to return the 12 additional flags for Persistent Defender, including the 5 I needed for Frenzied Defender today finally finished Master of Warsong Gulch achievement.  I was seriously wondering if I'd ever be able to get Frenzied Defender however as the enemy flag carrier is usually swarmed with mad clicking skillz going on.  I'd get 2 or 3 returns in a match and the match would end.  When I hit 4 in an match earlier I was starting to get a little edgy and was like a fiend on the flag carrier.  When his health would drop to 5% or so I'd start clicking like mad on the screen and voila.

I'm all for making achievements challenging but they do tend to limit ones choices and I have a hard time seeing how certain classes and specs would be able to do these outside of a pre-made group.  Which is perhaps the answer but if anyone is having better luck at finding regular pre-made groups these days you need to tell me your secret.  Incidentally, 853 more flag caps required for rep.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Change 2 to Eclipse

Last Friday Blizzard held another dev chat on Twitter and one of the questions answered was regarding the current beta implementation of Eclipse.  I blogged earlier in the month what I still saw as the short falls about the current implementation but Lissana and Graylo went further and spoke a little more eloquently than I on the matter.  Luckily for us Blizzard seems amiable to making changes reflected at the criticisms lobbed at Eclipse.  The next iteration of Eclipse will see a 45-second effect window that certainly answers the movement problem but I don't know enough yet about the linear casting problem yet.  I'm still hoping for a random "charges" system that keeps some of the randomness of our casting routine now.  I can live with a linear casting system like we had in BC but if at all possible I'd like to keep more of what we have now than what we had in BC.
Q: Moonkin: What are your plans for Eclipse, and why does it infect so many of our talents? What are your plans to make Moonkin fun?
A. The model we are trying now lets Solar and Lunar Eclipse procs last for about 45 seconds, and each spell of the appropriate type that you cast moves the bar back closer to the middle again. The buff is canceled by reaching the middle. This should let Moonkin "hold" the buff for short periods of time when they need to move or get out of the fire.
Lissana has a lengthy post on the announced changes, which my question about the randomness is based on.  When she talks about 10 or 5 casts she's surmising but that's the point.  We haven't seen any information (yet) that Blizzard intends to introduce a random element to how much power each cast might use so I'm left to believe we'll have a strict linear system.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

38 Studios project mercury coming to fruition

I read about this in USA Today earlier this morning, so I was looking for a little more information.  Leave it to Gamasutra to deliver.  Curt Schilling made quite a stir when he let it be known a couple years ago that he was an avid WoW fan, and that he had founded a company and would be publishing games of his own.  Glad to see his hard work is finally coming to fruition and looking forward to learning more about this first game.

Rated battlegrounds should create a more beneficial PVP setting

I’ve been working on my Justicar and Battlemaster achievements for quite a while now, so when we have a weekend like this weekend, where the battleground is Arathi Basin, I spend most of the weekend PVPing. I do the same thing when it’s Warsong Gulch weekend as well, but otherwise I’ll get a number of random battlegrounds in before moving on toward working on Loremaster or putting some time in on an alt. On the positive side of things I made great progress this weekend on the rep I need for AB but find myself still shy of Revered. To be honest I haven’t been focusing as much as I should, outside of the AB weekends toward gaining the rep so I’m significantly behind where I should be right now. Same with WSG rep. The negative side of things is that I played in more battlegrounds this weekend than I have in a while and having to deal with the magnitude of AFK’ing and bad play really irritated me as the weekend wore on. Several of the battlegrounds I ended up losing were a result of being undermanned because of AFK’ers and because people were being silly – not defending after a cap, fighting on roads and away from flags that were easily ninja’d, and by people participating in PVE gear. These are the weekends I would particularly like to participate in pre-mades but since the two I was able to find a couple weeks back I haven’t been able to find any since.

The AFK’ing and bad play is driving my desire for Rated battlegrounds, which Blizzard has announced for Cataclysm. Arenas will become just one avenue for obtaining arena points – called Conquest points in Cataclysm, and pre-mades will become as big a part (bigger) of PVP play as it was in the Burning Crusade days. Eventually regular PVP’ers will find regular groups to participate with and those teams will eventually graduate to the top of the rankings. I haven't arena played because to me those are just structured duels and aren’t true PVP. Well, okay, it is player-vs-player, but in my mind PVP is defined as “warfare” and not as dueling. In my mind Battlegrounds and open world fighting are the only true form of PVP. There might be some level of structure in battlegrounds, but a fight can break out anywhere and at any time in them and fights will almost never be fair. It’s the need to adjust to the constantly changing nature of the fighting and the circumstances at hand that make battlegrounds so fun to me and why I spend so many hours every week doing it. It’s the competitiveness without the stark limitations of the arena system. Through the rating structure each of the teams will be pitted against other teams in the same bracket which will also mean, over time, the intensity of the battles will grow as well. Also, I won’t continue to be penalized from obtaining the best PVP gear for not participating in arena play. I’ll be able to access the full gambit of PVP gear in Cataclysm by doing nothing more than what I love to do right now. Win – win in my opinion. Most importantly, I’m hoping that de-emphasizing arena play will also alleviate the constant class changes and tweaks to suit arena play that impact my PVE play. That’s a particular irritant of mine and another reason why I’ve refused to play in arenas thus far.

  • Players will participate in rated battlegrounds by forming their raid group prior to joining the queue.
  • You will only face off against other rated groups.
  • Each week the format for rated battlegrounds will be different. It will rotate between 10, 15 and 25-player battlegrounds.
  • Rating loss will not exist until after a certain threshold.
  • Conquest points will be rewarded for winning rated battlegrounds.
  • There will be a limitation on the number of Conquest points you can earn each week to prevent feeling like you must participate in both arenas and rated battlegrounds.
  • There will be end-of-season rewards for rated BG teams similar to arenas:
    • The classic Honor titles will be coming back and rewarded to the top teams each season.
    • The "Gladiator" equivalent teams will also receive epic ground mounts. Ground mounts because they want to reward something you can ride in the battleground and be proud of / show off.

There is one aspect to rated battlegrounds that I don’t think is well understood by many people yet. Similar to the current system of personal and team arena ratings, players will have a personal and team rating in rated battlegrounds as well. As we have not yet seen how this is to be exactly implemented, as anyone can form ad hoc teams on the fly how will “team” ratings be generated, tracked, and controlled? But more importantly how will one’s personal rating fit into the mix? If your personal rating is as important to you in rated battlegrounds as it is in arena play, then will it also mean you will be more careful with your choices on which teams you play? In other words, will it mean your choices will be limited to only those players with similar personal ratings? If that’s the case it would tend to severely restrict when and how you’ll be able to participate in rated battlegrounds. It probably won’t matter if you find a static team to participate on, but if you are someone who just wants to jump onto any team that is forming whenever you feel like PVPing if could. It’ll be interesting to see how those details are worked out.

In the mean time I’m going to continue working toward Justicar and Battlemaster. I usually have between one and two hours after getting home from work and dinner during which I run my daily heroic and do my dailies. I’m thinking my time might be better spent if I just run my daily heroic and save the dailies and work toward Loremaster for the weekends. I don’t really need the gold but I do really need the rep and the battleground achievements. For WSG I’m still somewhere north of 850 flag caps worth of rep, 12 total flag returns, and the 5 flag returns in one battle shy to meet all my Justicar and Battlemaster requirements. And for AB I’m still at least 220 AB matches of rep, and a handful of AB achievements, including winning 1600 – 0, shy of all my Justicar and Battlemaster requirements. If I focus my weekly PVP attentions toward WSG and AB I should be able to finish Justicar and hopefully Battlemaster by the end of the year. Cataclysm will bring its own slew of battleground related achievements and I’d like to be able to focus on those when the time comes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Feral PVP

I don't normally PVP as feral, or at least haven't done it in quite a while.  Most of my PVP is on my Druid and most of that is either in Resto or Balance spec.  But every once in a while I like to really shake things up and this weekend I decided to go back to my Feral roots and PVP as Feral.  I've done it in Cat spec in the past, which I wouldn't really recommend but PVPing in Bear spec is great fun.  You might not have the total burst DPS as the few Cat talents assist with but you are infinitely more survivable.  Especially from Rogues who always seem to be my nemesis where ever I go.  Even in a mostly Furious set with Relentless off-pieces I can survive a fearful beating and still dish out a fairly significant amount of punishment myself.    I've seen other Ferals in BGs from time to time but most Druids I see are like me, either Resto or Balance.  Most of those Ferals I have seen have absolutely torn people up (including me).  Looking at their gear they're typically fairly well off gear wise which has me looking forward to some upgrades.

I already started replacing my Relentless off pieces with Wrathful last night but I still have several to go, and then I have to worry about starting to replace the Furious main set pieces with Relentless.  I still have one Furious piece to replace with Relentless on my Resto set but I might just forgo that at this point and concentrate on my Feral PVP set instead.  I already do very well PVP healing as my set is the one Furious piece and all the remainder are Relentless/Wrathful at this point.  Since I don't Arena play that suit is good enough, especially as I'm actually very mana efficient.  Either way at 25 arena points a day I have a good while before I need to commit as I currently have only 280 arena points.

So, a few observations about Feral PVP.  First, choose your battles wisely and Pounce is your friend.  Second insta-Cyclone's are the bomb, and third I LOL a little when a Rogue vanishes on me after a CoS and I Demoralizing Roar him.  Hello little Rogue.  Warlocks are a hoot as well, after they figure out they can't fear chain me.  Open up with Pounce, Mangle and Tiger's Fury before unloading under Berserk.  I haven't seen a Lock yet today who has been able to teleport away in time.  It is super annoying however to have every DK in the Battlegroup that feels the necessity of standing 20 yards away from fights and using Deathgrip to pull an enemy to them when they can clearly see it's already being fought by others where it was.  Deathgrip a fleeing enemy back to you, yes.  Deathgrip an enemy out of the middle of others fighting him, no.  Thus concludes today's lesson in DK etiquette 101.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mimiron 1 - Me 0

Ever had one of those nights of raiding where you feel like you either ran strait into a brick wall, or got hit by a big truck and not quite sure which it was?  That's how I feel last night after 11 rounds with Mimiron and Firefighter.  Last night was our nightly foray into Ulduar and while I knew Firefighters wasn't exactly easy I had no idea it would be the giant obstacle it appears to be right now.  After the first several attempts we hadn't even made it into phase 2 and figured out we wouldn't be able to two heal the encounter as the occasional tick of fire and the dot from the napalm was a great deal to heal on top of keeping the tank up.  We had several people die from the Napalm alone while the rest of the raid was being healed.  Which means we hadn't quite gotten the swing of exactly how much we needed to spread out.  We also were having trouble with the fire filling up too much of the room because people were spreading out too much and not keeping the fire controlled in parts of the room.  We ended up needing a third healer and once we got her to switch to her healing spec we had enough healing and eventually started getting into phase 2 with very little trouble at all.

But phase 2 continued to be a big problem for the remainder of the evening.  We did get into phase 3 a few times but too many were dead because our inability to control the fire well enough presented too many problems to keep everyone healed.  At one point I had no choice but to cross through a couple lines of fire because the tank and several others were actually out of healing range, and it was a problem we didn't correct for the rest of the evening.

I was greatly surprised by just how difficult Firefighter still was.  It clearly wasn't a DPS issue as we did eventually establish we could burn through phase 1 very quickly.  The health of the stages isn't the issue so it boils down to the human performance issues.  It's the mechanics of the fight that continue to make Firefighter extremely difficult -- even in 251/264 gear.  I don't mind a challenge; in fact I like challenges very much so I'm looking forward to the next go around with Mimiron.  Obviously we'll need to discuss the fight and make sure everyone is crystal clear how they need to react to and control the fires.  Because once we do that I think we'll get past this fight and be able to move on to the General.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ruby Sanctum - accomplished

Unlike last week where we had a bit of guild drama and a late start, we were firing on all cylinders last night.  This time through we knew exactly where to stand and how the tank would need to adjust during phase 2, so we promptly came, saw, and conquered.  One-shotting Halion felt pretty good to be honest, even if I did lose my bracers to another Druid.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So unenthused by the new Balance tree

Blizzard's released the new 31-point talent trees they've been commenting on the past couple weeks.  I'm so very un-enthused by the balance tree.  I know these will probably change at least a few more times (I hope!), but you can see where they're thoughts are regarding Balance.  They've said as much but it's something all together different to actually see it.  We're going to be Moonfire spamming while moving.

I seriously hope Blizzard throws away everything they're thinking currently and goes back to the chalk board.  They need to rethink the whole package at this point.

Elite versus casual explained in real terms

I felt really bad for some of my friends in my old guild last night. In my old guild we’d never extended our raid lock out up to the point I joined my new guild but they’ve now started doing that as of last night in an effort to get to the Lich King. My old guild starts their raids at 7:30 and my new guild starts at 8:30 so I was chatting at a few of them while they were raiding and I was standing around in Dalaran. They were working on Dreamwalker, which we had only downed twice before and ended up spending the entire evening on her, and never did finish the fight. The Blood Queen, Sindragosa, and the Lich King are also still standing, none of which have ever been killed. The frustration was very evident in the whispers I was getting and I felt more than a little guilty for jumping ship. Then we started our raid at 8:30 and had cleared up to Putricide in a little more than an hour and ended up clearing up to Sindragosa by the end of the night, having one-shot every boss. Point of fact I do still have characters in my old guild so it’s not a situation where I’ve abandoned them entirely, but I can’t help but feel that way at times like last night. I doubt my presence would have changed matters for them which is why I ultimately made the decision to switch back to my Druid as my main now instead of in Cataclysm and to join him to another raiding guild. In the end I made a conscious decision that I wanted to experience the end-game content I was unlikely to experience in my old guild.

It occurred to me last night that this situation accurately exposes the differences between what I like to think of as elite players and casual players. In my mind the difference between elite and casual is not entirely about the number of hours one plays. I don’t consider myself elite at all but I play WoW 4-5 hours every day during the week and all day Saturday and Sunday unless I have chores or other things to attend to. In my mind the difference between casual and elite is more accurately tied to motivation. Casuals are more social in nature and form attachments (AKA loyalties) whereas elites are tied more to personal benefit and advancement. You can have motivated and competitive casual players, but you can’t have an elite player who isn’t motivated and competitive. Many casual players will forego goals for the group but an elite will almost always place themselves first and foremost. To them the ends justify the means, whereas with the casual player that almost always isn’t the case. Casuals might leave guilds and join new guilds, like I did, but not for the same reason as an elite player would. For an elite player the guild is simply a means to the end they seek – progression. Whereas I’ve declined raid guild invites from two of the top raid guilds on our server because while I’m interested in progression it isn’t the totality of the experience I’m seeking. For me, and for casuals in general, the other factors of the guild are as important as progression. It’s why I feel guilty for leaving my other friends in my old guild to join a friend in my new guild.

It just so happens that we lost six players on Sunday because they wanted to work on Heroic ICC but because of the normal attendance issues that all guilds undergo during the Summer, the raid leader is having to recruit new players and gear them up. Instead he’s emphasizing integration of the new players (myself included) into the raid and ascertaining the raids performance issues before moving into the harder content. Of course there is the issue that we have yet to kill Lich King on 25-man either. So those players left in a huff, putting their individual desires well ahead of the raids, even though they’ve all killed Lich King on 10-man and have been working through the 10-man heroic achievements. In my mind I say good riddance even though they were all very capable players. Their capabilities simply aren’t enough to overcome the drama they introduce into the guild. Instead of sticking it out and continuing to work on Lich King phase 3 with the rest of us they chose to strike off on their own and in setting up their own guild will have to contend with others of their like that will probably abandon them for greener pastures at the earliest opportunity. I’m so glad that has never, and will never, be me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ruby Sanctum

Believe it or not last night was my first foray into the Ruby Sanctum. I haven’t done the 10-man version so I jumped right into the fun in 25-man. We had a fair bit of guild drama late yesterday afternoon so we got started late and didn’t down Halion, but I was thoroughly entertained. Blizzard created a challenging instance and the Halion fight itself was very nicely done. At this stage of raiding in WotLK everyone is used to over-powering trash but it’s highly unlikely that most, if any, raids will be doing that much here. The initial trash packs on either side of the portal are AOE trash but the other trash packs that wander around require CC and focus targeting. That was a welcome change from the typical raid experience.

The Halion fight was great fun and really not all that difficult to follow. Despite that we had several wipes that occurred mostly from mistakes with the beam in phase 2. Once we got specifics figured out about where to best stand and how the tank will maneuver Halion during phase 2 we got into phase 3 and our last attempt got Halion down to less than 1 million health. My biggest challenge was being able to stand still long enough during phase 2 at the dragon’s back left leg while the tank maneuver Halion so that I could take advantage of my Eclipses and not get singed by the beam. I had one death from a shadow void being dropped under me and then immediately getting tail slapped and stunned to death. It happened rather quickly so I didn’t feel much – that was until my body materialized back in the material world and I got tea-bagged by the main tank.

I can imagine after a couple weeks we’ll have everything down pat and will be clearing the place in an hour or so every week. It’s hard to think that the learning cycle we’re going through now was where we were at on Obsidian Sanctum in the early days of WotLK too. Will RS be as easy as OS is now in a few months?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ulduar group

When I started the Ulduar-10 hard mode group I was expecting that we'd be done in a couple weeks.  Three at the most, but the attendance problems have resulted in us being able to go three times in about six weeks and I've had to replace several people from the original roster.  I've also had to switch specs myself so I'm healing instead of DPSing.  Still, it's been entertaining and fun.  When we have gone we've only been able to raid about two and a half hours a night so we were finally able to clear up to Freya last night with everything up to her having been pretty easy, except for Steelbreaker.  Initially we didn't have anyone that could dispell Fusion Punch so you can imagine how fun that fight was at the time.  One good Pally tank later and we voila.  We did actually also have some difficulty with Freya however as we had only two healers and just couldn't keep the Tanks and the entire raid up.  We ended up having the Elemental Shaman switch to her healing off-spec after several attempts with two healers, and that ended up being just enough to down Freya. 

If we can get our night in next Saturday we'll start off with Mimiron and Firefighter.  I know the last three achievements are the hardest but I can't help but look forward to the challenge.  If nothing else we'll certainly see who is up to the challenge and who isn't.  Since we'll out-DPS the fight it'll boil down to those personal performance issues of good flame management as well as avoiding the other insta-gib mechanics.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

That project is proving to be a bit harder than I had thought

I got bored with my Shaman again. In fact it was the third strike with him so I took the extreme measure by deleting him entirely yesterday along with my Warlock who I was absolutely certain I would never be playing again.  This go around with the Shaman was much like the previous lengths of play and boiled down to the fact I just was not at all enamored with Elemental.  It's fun for a bit but it's just not all that interesting.  Although I do like Enhancement.  Enhancement is what I played until the end of BC but I didn't keep up with all the changes to the tree and the playstyle in WotLK and at the end of the day I simply didn't want to put in the work to go back and totally re-gear him.  Much the same with my Warlock.  I was never very enamored of the Warlock to begin with but at the time I started it I wanted to try another pet class that didn't require me to pay to DPS.  Read that to mean I was replacing my hunter, yet I always disliked the Affliction tree and never quite got the hang of Destruction either.  I liked the Demonology tree but not enough to ever play the Warlock longer than a few days.

Since I had a full slate of characters on the server already deleting those two opened up two valuable slots for me.  I made a baby Mage and Hunter to fill them.  Those were on top of the Priest I made a week ago and have now leveled to 22.  Of all the classes Priest is the only class I'd never leveled before so I was excited to try it out, but my lord is it boring.  Dot and mind-flay, or dot and wand to death depending on mana issues.  Mana isn't really a problem while questing but it sure is in instances where I rarely get a Sprit Tap proc.  I'll end up leveling all three and see which one I ultimately want to play.  Knowing me I'll probably play all three.

I haven't played a Mage since the Karazan days in BC.  I remember leveling my original Mage and really hating the mana inefficiency that forced me to sit and drink after every couple fights.  Those days are largely in the past though, but some of that is probably attributable to the fact he's fully decked out in heirloom gear.  I'll level as Ice as figure out what I want to do when I grow up when I get there.

It's also been about three years since I played a Hunter. My Hunter was actually my first level 60 but a lot has changed since then. I haven't paid all that much attention to Hunters generally and haven't paid any attention to what's in store for the class in Cataclysm but I do know that the resource mechanic is changing to "focus" from "mana" and I'm kind of anxious to do some research to see what the current and future lay of the land is and will be.

I'd forgotten just how easy it was to level a hunter, even without the pet which I don't have yet. I'm only level 9 at the moment but doing quests is like walking through the park and it'll only get easier once I have my pet. The Mage is only slightly more difficult in that I do actually have to sit and drink every few fights, depending on whether I stick with Frostbolts of not. If I start popping off with Arcane Bolts I use more mana and end up having to drink a bit. My Priest is the least fun to me but it's getting a bit better once I figured out I can be a little more offensive with my mana usage if I picked up two of the spell power heirloom trinkets. I don't have to wand so much as my I get mana back from those after every kill and my Spirit Tap always procs. The down side is that on dungeon runs it doesn't and I still have to wand a lot on those. If I can wait it out and get through the lower levels I know things improve markedly. Looks like my Summer will be extremely busy between chasing achievements on my Druid, and leveling these three new characters.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Yes, they heard you

Mike Morhaime stopped by the official forums to beat a retreat from their announcement Tuesday regarding using RealID on the WoW forums.  Instead of real names we'll instead continue posting with your character name, but also with a unique "character code".  Meaning of course, that people will still be able to link "trolls" to "mains" unless you don't post on your main in the first place.

While I'm happy Blizzard saw the error of their ways I'm not sure Blizzard will ever regain the level of trust they had with me up to this point.  I've never previously felt that Blizzard was "committing evil" but now that I thoughts have drifted to that extreme I'm not sure they could ever drift back where they were.  And I doubt I'm the only one left feeling this way either and that bespeaks darker days ahead for a company that heretofore has had a storied history.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

RealID - Do you hear them now Blizzard?

Now isn't this interesting?  Of course the blogger is correct, as all he did was use Google, Facebook, and used (it appears) a few publicly available internet databases.  That he searched for information on people who's names we already know is irrelevant to his point that others will do exactly what he did for the people in game they've had issue with at some point.  If you think this doesn't happen then you need to climb back in that hole you've been living in for the past decade.  I have a Facebook page but I have the privacy policies set tightly so that my information is only shared with a small number of friends.  But you know, that was my choice.  And choice is what Blizzard seems to not be getting here.

Except they do get it.  They've said as much.

We have been planning this change for a very long time. During this time, we have thought ahead about the scope and impact of this change and predicted that many people would no longer wish to post in the forums after this change goes live. We are fine with that, because we want to change these forums dramatically in a positive and more constructive direction.

It’s been very obvious over the last few years that the forums are an exceptionally valuable source of information both for players and for us to gather feedback. There are many threads on this forum now, and over the last few years, that people have been constructively discussing many aspects of the game. They’ve received new wisdom and have then been able to go back to the game and enjoy it further with the new knowledge acquired through the forums.
These threads, however, can often be lost amongst a great deal of other threads that are basically filled with trolling, name calling, flaming, off-topic conversations and that’s just a small amount of some of the content that has been found in these forums over the years. We don’t want that anymore, and we believe the Real ID change will bring about a lot of the improvement that we are hoping for.
There’s a lot of scare-mongering going on about the change, but there seems a need to make something very clear. The forums have always been an optional extra — something you can choose to participate in if you wish to. With our Real ID changes for the forums, this is still the case. The only difference will be, if you do choose to participate in the forums, then you will do so by using your real name. But only after you’ve been warned and accepted this in advance.


A lot of legitimate and understandable concerns are being raised. It would be hard for myself or any caring individual to not empathise with the fears and concerns people have. But amidst these concerns there is also a bit of something going on that I can’t easily describe with other words, but I’ll try.

Posting on the forums with your real name will be optional — yes, in the sense that the options are simply post and show your real name, or do not post and you keep it confidential. If people are happy to post and do not feel intimidated by this, then great — hopefully they will also post constructively (though it’s fair to say, this isn’t a given). It might be scary to consider posting with your real name, in which case it might be advisable simply not to post in these forums. There’s a whole load of other forums across the internet where you’ll be able to post in a more anonymous way, and maybe you will make a useful and constructive contribution there instead.

If you really do read all posts in this thread and others, like we are doing, then you will see some examples of what I was meaning by “scare-mongering”. There are posts from some people who are either confused by the changes or generally uncertain, and they are getting understandably scared and then posting in a way that scares other people in the process. With such a change as we have outlined, it is completely understandable that people can and do feel this way. Describing the process of scaring others and raising the level of general fear as “scare-mongering” does not in any way diminish people’s validity in doing so, nor does it dismiss the usefulness of anyone expressing themselves in any way, including in a way I might describe as “scare-mongering”; the term simply describes it for what it appears to be.

You see? Anyone with trepidation or outrage over this upcoming policy change is simply fear mongering. While many are indeed completely naive about the information available about them, they are protected by obscurity. In the IT field that's called security by obscurity, which of course is no real security at all. But it works in that no one know to look for you specifically. Run your mouth on the forum, or piss someone off in game -- hey that bastard keeps undercutting my auctions (just go read Gevlon's blog for the hate mail he gets regularly) -- and you might just find out how far some people are willing to take things. They only have your name right? Ever hear of social engineering? Look it up some time. Google is as much your friend as it will be for that special someone looking for you too.

Using social engineering skills to locate you physically is the extreme (I hope). But don't think for a moment that it's the only possible action that can transpire out of all of this. Imagine all of those embarrassing bits of information out there that you'd rather keep separate from your gaming persona. Instead they'll be be posted and brought to the attention of those folks you raid with three times a week. And don't think that THE GUILDS won't be using Google as a further tool to see if you are GUILD material. Hey, the sky's the limits baby.

For a major company Blizzard and Activision sure seems to have completely missed the boat on this one.  And on the heels of very public melt-downs by Facebook over nearly the same issues.  When Blizzard would have desired the coverage about RealID to be positive it's instead virtually unanimously negative.  That sort of thing goes viral very quickly and will only leave a lasting, nasty, black-eye on a company that here-to-fore had a very good reputation.  Of course we know what and who is driving this (cough Bobby Kotick) but it's Blizzard that's going to pay the price.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blizzard eats even more of that bowl

Could this possibly be correct?  I can't vouch for this obviously, but if true shows exactly what many people have said would be happening.  Blizzard apparently recognizes that their employees lives would or could be subjected to harassment but it's also apparently fine to allow that for the gamers who lavish the company with billions of dollars each year.

Irony, it seems, is not without a sense of humor.  BTW, Scott Jennings had even more to say.

Possibly the dumbest thing I've ever seen Blizzard do

No, I do not like the current implementation of RealID.  But instead of taking those privacy concerns I and many others have stated repeatedly, they decided to eat a heaping bowl-full of dumbass.  Coming to the WoW forums near you -- Posting that identifies you by name only!

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature - , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID -- that is, their real-life first and last name -- with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. Certain classic forums, including the classic forums, will remain unchanged.

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players -- however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

We also plan to add a number of other features designed to make reading the forums more enjoyable and to empower players with tools to improve the quality of forum discussions. Players will have the ability to rate up or rate down posts so that great topics and replies stand out from the not-so-great; low-rated posts will appear dimmer to show that the community feels that they don’t contribute effectively to the conversation, and Blizzard’s community team will be able to quickly and easily locate highly rated posts to participate in or to highlight discussions that players find worthwhile.

In addition, individual topics will be threaded by context, meaning replies to specific posts will be grouped together, making it easier for players to keep track of multiple conversations within a thread. We’re also adding a way for Blizzard posters to “broadcast” important messages forums-wide , to help communicate breaking news to the community in a clear and timely fashion. Beyond that, we’re improving our forum search function to make locating interesting topics easier and help lower the number of redundant threads, and we have more planned as well.

With the launch of the new, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment -- one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID -- including these forum changes -- have been made with this goal in mind.

We’ve given a great deal of consideration to the design of Real ID as a company, as gamers, and as enthusiastic users of the various online-gaming, communication, and social-networking services that have become available in recent years. As these services have become more and more popular, gamers have become part of an increasingly connected and intimate global community – friendships are much more easily forged across long distances, and at conventions like PAX or our own BlizzCon, we’ve seen first-hand how gamers who may have never actually met in person have formed meaningful real-life relationships across borders and oceans. As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come.

For more info on Real ID, check out our Real ID page and FAQ located at . We look forward to answering your questions about these upcoming forum changes in the thread below. 
One important point which I don't believe has been relayed yet is that the switch to showing RealID on the forums will only happen with the new forum systems we're launching for StarCraft II shortly before its release, and a new forum system for World of Warcraft launching shortly before the release of Cataclysm.

All posts here on the current World of Warcraft forums, or any of our classic forums, will remain as-is. They won't (and can't) automatically switch to showing a real first and last name.

All posts in the future on the new forum systems will be an opt-in choice and ample warning will be given that you're posting with your real first and last name.  
I absolutely will not use RealID as it is currently instantiated.  So I guess that now means I also will not longer be able to post in the WoW forum once that goes live.  Scott Jennings pulls few punches about it himself.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I have a feeling I'm not much longer for healing

I've made various comments in-game in the past that I was anxious about the changes to healing and mana regeneration.  Continued comments like this do not make me any easier.  Healers already have a difficult position and don't even get to participate in the same raid as everyone else.  For a healer their raid is is always the raid frame they are assiduously glued to, while everyone else is staring at the content and the creatures running around through it.  It was the same in Vanilla and BC too, except in Vanilla and to a lesser extent, in BC as well they also had to worry about mana and would often go OOM.  Blizzard wants to bring those days back apparently.
Prior to LK, healers could run out of mana, and for the most part it worked. They didn't just use their efficient heals, because sometimes their group would die if they did. They didn't just use their big heals though, because they'd run out of mana (and then the group would die).

I think of healing like a cross-continental road race. If you go too slow, you'll lose the race, but if you just floor it the whole itme, you'll run out of fuel a lot and waste time stopping to fill it up again. There is a happy medium somewhere in between. However the encounter specifics push you out of that medium, sometimes asking you to choose big numbers over efficiency and sometimes vice-versa.

I know it sounds like we are picking on healers all the time, but once you can run out of mana again, I think everything will just feel better, your choices about what spell to cast next become more compelling, and the healing game overall will be more engaging. 
 When I healed in BC I hated the fact that my HOTs were so underutilized, as they were often quickly over-written by faster direct heals.  I wasted my mana but then the Priests who were busy COH healing would always ask (demand) my Innervate on top of it all.  The situation was only fixed when I would be asked to tank heal where I'd keep HOTs ticking on the tank but would be using Healing Touch most of the time.  In WotLK the situation was much relieved.  While my HOTs are still often over-written the "wasted" mana is much less of a concern to me as I have sufficient mana regen to ignore the situation.  Regardless I still do considerable healing because I can keep Rejuv and Wildgrowth flowing throughout the raid.  In Cataclysm it doesn't sound like I'm going to be able to do that.

I can certainly understand the underlying rationale for wanting to change the dynamic, however I think Blizzard has some gaps to bridge in their rationale and our experience.  First, how does any of this change the current healing dynamic where I see virtually nothing but raid frames?  I'm able to survive because of raid warnings that tell me to get out of goo and my eyes are constantly moving but that is not much fun at all.  I'm not watching the encounter, I'm watching my feet and my raid frames.  And it's very much more stressful than either a DPS or Tanking role -- I've done all three.

If there is going to be ample time in combat for these types of decisions to be made, then would this not also necessarily mean that fights are going to be much longer and become more tedious?  Doesn't sound much fun to me either.  Ask yourself the same questions about PVP and the question just becomes more murky.

All of my questions harken back to what I've said about Blizzard in the past -- that I'm not greatly heartened by the decision making process I've seen Blizzard use over the years.  They've implemented too many things to change them too much later on.  They've introduced, pulled back, reintroduced and made everyone's head spin in the process.  As it is we are to expect almost completely changed game play every 18-24 months and changes that also make such vital roles as healing much more difficult are not welcome in my opinion.