Tuesday, June 29, 2010

24-hour maintenance

Today is the day I dreaded.  Today is my 24-hour maintenance day, so I won't be able to log into my main characters today at all.  I have other characters on other servers, but they're all relatively low level. 


Do you know how often I find PVP pre-made groups these days?  I tried for weeks to find one and then gave up a couple months back.  I decided just to take my lumps and suffer through the typical PUGs.  But then this weekend happened.  Not only did I find my first pre-made in ages, but it was Warsong Gulch weekend and we stomped face.  I also found a pre-made again last night, so I've been running in full Resto mode all weekend.  Some might ask why I'm all that concerned with pre-mades as there really is no over-arching reason for them at this point.  It's because I'm still working toward my Justicar and Battlemaster achievements (and).  Progress is painfully slow in typical pugs.  But in a pre-made the equation is usually completely different.  In a pre-made you are usually with competent PVP'ers and you usually win most of your matches, so not only do you accrue a lot of honor but in the case of WSG and AB I get a lot of the rep I need.

Which is funny because I was just looking at it last night and I still needed the equivalent of 890 flag caps in WSG to get to exalted with the Silverwing.  I hadn't figured out exactly how many "ticks" I needed in AB, but as I'm only about half way through honored, it probably amounts of a "lot".  Almost undoubtedly I'll still be working toward these achievements when Cataclysm is released, but I'm hoping that pre-mades become much more common with the news of how rated battlegrounds will work.  Running in regular pre-mades will speed up progression toward Justicar and Battlemaster considerably.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's official

I don't know exactly when, but the doldrums have officially started for the year.  I see it daily with many guilds recruiting in trade chat, on the forums, and anywhere else they can find players.  And I see it in my own guild as well where we have attendance problems to the point we're often limited to raiding to just once a week.  Between the doldrums and the group frustration with progression many people have stopped attending on our Thursday and Monday night raids, which lead me to form a 10-man group about five weeks ago.  I figured if I can't actually work through the progression we're should be working through right now I might as well  to go back into Ulduar and work on something I wanted to work on back then but couldn't.  In the last five weeks we've been able to go exactly once and I'm sincerely hoping that pattern changes very soon -- otherwise it's going to be a very long Summer indeed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Legendary items don't suck

I disagree with gray that Legendary items suck.  But I do agree with him to the extent that Blizzard's implementation has something to be desired.  It's certainly not how I would be designing acquisition of these types of weapons.  I like the idea of legendary weapons being the result of truly epic quest chains but I don't like the idea that they are tied solely to raiding, and I definitely don't like the idea that they are so easily outstripped by higher ilevel weapons.  If I had my way in this I'd instead make legendary weapons truly legendary, starting with making them all exceedingly rare.  Quest chains for legendary weapons in my WoW would begin with random drops that start a year long or more chain of events that require some group activity but which mostly would require a lot of solo effort.  And my legendaries would upgrade over time, similar to the heirloom gear now.  Perhaps not automatically but there should be a means to upgrade them for each tier.

As much as I would love Shadowmourne right now on my Paladin (I'll never see it), it saddens me that in just a few months better weapons will be available anyway.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blizzard's RealID and the privacy violation it represents

I don’t normally like to pile on. I’m not one to follow the crowd or entertain fads and so I found myself this week not really wanting to talk about Blizzard’s new RealID system as virtually everyone else was. But in all the articles I’ve read about it this week not one has really said the things I would say. So despite my natural inclination to not pile on, I’m going to do so. In short I am not in favor of RealID and will not be using it in its current form. I can, however, see the attraction for Blizzard as they seek to tap the social networking aspect of the technology as common feature in al their current and upcoming games. The ability to communicate with friends across games and platforms natively is indeed a strong draw, but the current implementation is deeply flawed.

First, Blizzard created the system with absolutely no way to “opt out”. If you do not wish to participate in the RealID system you must “ignore request” from every user who sends you a friend request. You’ll get a popup notification when you receive the friend request, which will reappear every time you log in until you either accept or ignore it. The notification will also periodically reappear while playing. This is the first flaw in the system as I believe there should be a global option to ignore all requests for those of us who do not plan on using it at all. I think it’s obvious that Blizzard made a decision to not add this simple feature so as to add pressure to users to adopt it over time. That’s a strategic decision and one I find to be extremely arrogant.

Secondly the RealID system will identify you by your full name as recorded in the Blizzard billing system. Blizzard includes a warning to players that the system is meant only for real life friends, but they also enable friends of friends to see that information as well. In the end people I may not even know will be able to see my full name and be able to tie that name to my characters in all the games that uses the RealID system. You aren’t afforded an opportunity to use a screen name alias. As one who values personal privacy I don’t feel Blizzard should be “outing” anyone in this manner. My feelings would be somewhat different if there were a means to use a screen name and have a more granular ability to limit just how far my information could be shared. But as it stands now Blizzard’s ham-handed implementation forces you to share your information with who eventually will be virtually everyone, or not use the system at all.

Third, there have already been reports on the forum that various guilds are making RealID mandatory. Obviously this is a user problem and a guild has no right to mandate use of a system such as this. But we all know that peer pressure will often cause people to do things they wouldn’t normally do otherwise and so the pressure to comply with the mandate in order to remain in the guild will be strong to a lot of people in this circumstance. It’s an abuse of the intention of the system and will become an invasion of privacy. Mandates such as these will make playing on unguilded characters impossible to hide and as someone who has many alt, most of which who are unguilded, I can sympathize. Some times you want to play on a character where no one knows you and just play. Some times you don’t want to be bothered by friends or have to deal with guild business. Guilds who will mandate RealID use should be kicked to the curb, but will they be by all those being forced to use it?

As I said, I can see the allure of the system for Blizzard. And I do not begrudge them the opportunity to capitalize but I would like to see several modifications. Foremost is the global setting I mentioned earlier. I’d like to be able to “opt out” and not be bothered with requests at all. I’d also like the ability to set a screen name or Alias and limit the extent to which my information can be shared. As my information is shared with friends of friends I can see that over the course of a year or more my information being shared with many people I don’t know, who would also then know my specific characters in Blizzard’s various games. That sort of information should be limited to specific people I choose to allow it be displayed to, and certainly not hundreds or thousands of people I don’t even know.

Until those sorts of changes are put into place I will no be using RealID.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What is it that disturbs me about SWTOR?

It's been no secret that I've been a bit on the misgiving side regarding SWTOR.  I'm excited by the prospect that a truly great Star Wars franchise is in the offing but have been somewhat tepid regarding the news that has been released about it.  The news that so much instancing would be used in SWTOR threw me off for a bit as what I really have hoped for was a MMORPG that was completely open, featured strong world PVP (though instanced battlegrounds are fine if they are in addition to that as well), strong crafting and gathering, and plenty of PVE content.  We've been getting a clearer picture of the general structure of SWTOR from Bioware over the last several months and I think we finally have a clear enough picture after E3 to understand where they're going with it all.  What we seem to be getting is at least close to what I had hoped, but not as open as I probably had hoped for.  The PVE side of the game will focus on "stories" -- which is to say quest chains and will be heavily instance.

Each player will have an individual class "story" that they will work through and which will be accomplished solo, although companion characters will play various parts in that as well.  As you move through the class "story" you will visit various planets where "planet stories" can also be found.  The planet stories can be mostly solo'd or accomplished in groups if you want to play with others but Bioware has said that you don't absolutely need to group to accomplish most of it.  If you even want to accomplish any of it at all as none of the stories are required.

Aside from the PVE content Bioware has again reassured us that the "open" portion of the game will contain a crafting and gathering system, described as "WoW like" and will also feature PVP.  Thus far we've only heard about PVP taking place in "war zones" however I'm still holding out hope there will be substantial world PVP as well.  How strange would it be to walk by an enemy faction player in a city and not be able to attack them?  I'd be fine with it if there was a way to flag or not flag for PVP as long as there was at least an ability for those of us who wanted to participate in world PVP to actually do so without having to venture into battlegrounds only.

Of course if you read the official forums -- and I highly recommend that if you do, you do so only irregularly -- this all points to the end of the world.  I've been giving a lot of thought myself to how things seem to be shaping up and I'm of the vein that I think things could be fine.  What is being described to us in regard to SWTOR game play is much akin to how I play WoW.  I'm primarily a solo player who values achievements and content so the fact that I'd be soloing content in the form of my class story doesn't bother me.  I already do that now, and in fact I think most WoW players do that when they're leveling a character.  Nearly everyone solo's quests and only groups up with others on particularly hard quests.  In SWTOR we'll have our companion characters who will take the place of others as needed in solo content, and can supplement groups on those group content quests in the planet stories.  And as Bioware has said their will be raiding that certainly fills the end-game content requirement I think most of us hold for the game.

Which just leaves PVP and crafting/gathering.  The PVP question has been partly answered and sounds very much like WoW's Wintergrasp or instanced Battlegrounds.  Or similar to WAR's system, but leaves open completely how "world" PVP will be implement -- if at all.  All in all it sounds remarkably like the general implementation found in WoW if you ignore the fact that the class story at least is played in instances.  I don't feed on the mantra that this game will suck because it sounds like WoW so none of this bothers me what so ever.  In fact after a lot of thought throughout E3 I'm beginning to look more forward to SWTOR than I think I was previously and don't think the use of so much instancing throws me as much as it did.  But the devil is always in the details so I need to see what the plans are for the open portions of the game before I can get a real sense whether this game will be something I try out and shelve or whether this is a game I can spend 5 years or more playing.

So what disturbs me about SWTOR?  Less than what disturbed me about it a week ago.

Friday, June 18, 2010

It took a little work

I was able to shed enough hit to get me back down to the 10% I need for Boomkin, but there is just no way I could shed enough haste to get anywhere near the 400ish recommended.  In fact I recently won Dislodged Foreign Object which puts me at 639 haste.  It gets much worse.  Despite my efforts to shed haste along with hit I'm now over the soft crit cap as well so I have absolutely no where to go with my gear except gain more spell power.  But along with that additional spell power from heroic level gear will also come additional haste and crit meaning I'm on a virtual plateau gear progression wise and have just two pieces of ilevel 277 gear -- one trinket and my boots.

While all that Boomkin goodness sure does produce some spectacular results what I'm really focusing on now is finishing ICC and earning achievements.  It's also situations like these why I wish there was a little more sandbox to WoW.  I need something solid to work toward and there just isn't a lot of that left in WoW right now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Darthhater Interview with Daniel Erickson

One of the best interviews to come out of E3 in regards to SWTOR this year was had by Darthhater.  It's lengthy at 17 mins but well worth the viewing.

SWTOR moral choices

One of the facets of SWTOR that I've been most excited about are the possibilities behind the moral choices system.  From what I've been able to glean the system that is currently planned is relatively benign and really just a superficial representation of what moral choices really are.  In other words they have no greater impact on game play other than the standard reputation impact.  But what if the moral choices system could be much more than that?  What if the moral choices system were given some teeth?  What if it was given real impact and instead deeply affected game play?

The force and it's light-side and dark-side are central themes to SWTOR and I think a players class and faction choices should be central to how you play.  What I envision for a moral choices system would in fact be a true alignment system and would bring a form of role-playing without forcing players to act and speak in the traditional role play sense.  Currently the plan would accrue light side or dark side points to your character depending on story choices your character makes.  The number of points you accrue over time would effect the characters ability to access certain content and would cause specific NPCs to either really like you or really dislike you.  But instead of this system what I'd like to see are those light side and dark side points actually cause you to change factions and thereby class.  At least for the four Jedi classes this type of system would be most in tune with.

To me, it makes little sense to have a light-side aligned Imperial Spy or Bounty Hunter.  If the classes are being tied to specific factions, as they are in SWTOR, then you have to accept that every player that plays those classes have a like-minded philosophy.  So how can you have a Bounty Hunter that actually believes in the good in things?  How can you have a Imperial Spy that doesn't adhere to the teachings of his faction?  And most importantly how can you possibly have a light-sided Sith Warrior that isn't deeply in tune with the dark side?  It's positively ridiculous in my view.  If a player constantly makes choices in game that increase his light-side alignment then he should, over time, become a Jedi because he most certainly is not a Sith.

This type of dynamic brings about a very deep character development aspect and forces the player to make real choices about their character.  In other words, to act in character instead of the more typical devoid manner in which players usually play in MMOs.  Now wouldn't that be something?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Married or fooling around?

Tobold asked this question a few days ago and I had meant to reply but was busy with PVP over the weekend.  First and foremost I'm a player.  Not in the sense of the title to this post, but in the sense of how I interact with MMOs.  I'm not one to "shop around" and play test every game that is released because unlike Tobold I do like to accomplish things.  He doesn't believe you can actually accomplish anything in a game but I disagree.  Accomplishing specific feats in an MMO is the same as completing, or "winning" an RPG or RTS in my view.  

And my Bartle score indicates that.  Incidentally I'm not sure why it indicates I took the quiz on the 15th as I actually took this last Fall.  In any event I'm an A.S.E.K. which means I look goals as my primary form of entertainment and motivation.  I'm systematic whereas someone like Tobold is more of a socializer or explorer.  I find a game I like and I tend to spend all, or the vast majority of my time playing it.  I may try out other games from time to time but unless they offer me something more than the game I'm currently playing I won't stay very long.  Case in point, I love Lord of the Rings and have read not only the Trilogy but also the Silmarillion and other assorted Tolkien related books many times but have never once played LotRO.  I simply wasn't all that attracted to the game description.  Likewise I've read every Conan book ever published and consider myself a tremendous fan of the story yet I've never played AoC.  It's not that I wasn't interested to try it out, but rather that I've simply been too busy playing WoW.

So in the sense that Tobold asks the question, I'm the "married" type.  I find what I like and I stick with it.  I'm the long term, immersive player.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New SWTOR cinematic trailer offers "Hope"

Taking place prior to the "Deceived" trailer, "Hope" is just another fine example of what Bioware can produce to awe us.  This is a stunningly fantastic trailer with glimpses of what I hope are the strengths of the various classes.  The female Jedi (Consular) uses dramatic acrobatic abilities to weave through several Sith Warriors before finally confronting Malgus.  She has fantastic light saber ability but can clearly see she's out-stripped by Malgus when she finally unleashes her best ability -- control of the force.  No mean feats those!  Anyway, enjoy.

Personal space ships and instanced PVP for SWTOR

E3 has started and new information about some of our most anticipated games is starting to trickle out.  I was eagerly awaiting new information about SWTOR and we've gotten two bits of information.  The first that there will be "player housing" in SWTOR in the form of a personal space ship.  But for me more importantly I was eagerly awaiting information about PVP.  Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed as I got to 1:20 in the video and heard that battles occur in warzones.  Which most likely means no, or extremely limited open world PVP.

I hate to use SWG as an example of anything but my fondest memories of that game are always about the PVP that was had in it.  Even with the debilitating lag that large battles caused the mid to small scale was fantastic.  Even the large scale battles were great in the sense of what you eventually could accomplish.  Being able to "claim" territory by placing and defending bases was a central focus of the warfare and I had hoped something similar would be brought to SWTOR.  If nothing else being able to change alignment of towns and quest hubs that would in turn offer bonuses and additional content to the controlling side.  While we have very scant information to go from the specific words of "In the Old Republic players battle it out in war zones" does not evoke the sense with me Bioware must have hoped it would.  I'm still waiting to hear how this game is an MMO and the announcement of instanced PVP certainly doesn't tell me that.

Bioware later clarified the situation through additional interviews to say that the warzones are "zones" but that decisions about how players will access them hasn't yet been made.  Specifics about what is actually meant by zone wasn't given so it's not known whether they are "zones" like the WoW battlegrounds which are instanced, or more akin to Wintergrasp.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blizzard's press event

Saturday was a busy day as far as Blizzard is concerned.  They treated the "press" to an event and leaked some tid bits of new information -- not all of which were good news.  In fact most of the news was related to what they were trimming from Cataclysm rather than what they were adding.  Path of the Titans is being removed and consequently Archeology is being gutted and being turned into a cosmetic secondary profession that deals with the game's lore.  Also the guild talent and guild currency system that was announced at last years Blizzcon are gone as well.  But the biggest news as far as I was concerned is that they were redesigning Inscription and Glyphs.  I'd said last year it needed to be redesigned and I'm happy to see Blizzard acknowledges that, but how they're going about it boggles my mind.  There's practically no after-market for glyphs now, so I fail to see how making glyphs a one-shot learn will make that better.

Blizzard is wont to do what Blizzard is wont to do, but I'm really kind of sad to hear about the early demise of the Path of the Titans.  Although we didn't get a great amount of detail about the system it was beginning to sound like it would have been a very nice addition to the game.  Ah well, such things will happen when a game is in beta.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Things got better

I have no idea what was up with Friday but things got markedly better for me PVP wise since then.  While I still lose my fair share of matches it hasn't been quite so lopsided as it was that day.  In fact I think I've actually won more than I've lost between yesterday and today which is a good thing because I was going out of my mind on Friday.  You can usually tell right off whether it's going to be a good match or not.  If you see groups run to DR and MT that's a good thing.  But if you see a group run to mid instead of pushing on toward either BE or FRR that's a bad thing because mathematically towers are more valuable than flags are.  In fact you never need the flag unless you can only take and hold two towers.

I've tried for weeks over a period of several months to find myself a pre-made group and in all that time I've found exactly one team that runs on either Saturday or Sunday starting at 5pm EST until about 7pm EST which is my dinner and family time.  So I struggle along in the BG PUG group system and take my wins and losses as they come.  But new news on Saturday about the upcoming Cataclysm rated battleground system makes me think pre-mades will be a lot easier to come by in the months to come.

Some additional info thanks to World of Raids:
  • 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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Very hard to fathom

Anyone reading my blog for a period of time will know that I love to PVP.  I PVP daily and on most weekends I spend hours doing it.  So perhaps you can understand the frustration with how often I lose random battlegrounds.  Some people might say that Horde winning most battlegrounds is a myth, but it's easy to prove one way or the other.  Simply open your achievement tracker, then click on the statistics tab, then select the Player vs Player category.  You can further filter the results by also selecting the battlegrounds category.  Doing all that you can see precisely how many battlegrounds you've won and lost.  Overall I've won slightly more thab 50% of my overall battlegrounds -- 50.3% to be exact, but that is only because I've won an abnormally high number of Alterac Valley matches.

I've won 62.3% of my AV matches, 41.9% of my AB matches, 48.4% of my EoTS matches, 46.6% of my SoTA matches, 38.3% of my WSG matches, 55% of my IoC matches.  If I were to remove the AV matches as an outlier I'd be experiencing a 47.9% winning percentage and that because I've won 55% of my Isle of Conquest matches.

It's perfectly understandable that in random BG's you're going to have less coordination than you would in pre-mades, and that you are likely to have a wide swath of experience and inexperienced players.  It isn't this that constantly frustrates me but rather the unwillingness of most players to listen to clear instruction and understand the strategies involved which each of the battlegrounds.  EotS for instance.  As it's the weekend for EotS I'd like to be in there right now accomplishing achievements and earning honor but I've lost every single EotS match I've participated in today for no other reason than most of the players have no idea what they are doing, or what they should be doing.  Despite clearly telling everyone repeatedly that towers are vastly more important than capturing the flag you see about half the raid always heading immediately for the flag spawn and fighting in the middle.  I won't even speak about those who tend to love fighting on the roads.

EoTS is very easy to understand.  You want to grab at least three towers and hold those.  You earn more points per tick with three towers than the opponent does with one tower and constantly capping the flag.  If you can only take and hold two towers then you also want to grab the flag.  Opinions vary on what to do with it under those circumstances -- you can either repeatedly cap the flag if you hold the middle or you can hold the flag defensively at one of your towers so the opponent doesn't get it and keep pressure on one of their towers.  If you can't hold middle I personally think it's obvious that you'd not want to cap the flag and would want to defend it at one of your towers.

Inexperience is fine.  Not being able to use deductive reasoning and observation over time in order to learn from mistakes is not.

Treeform is getting the heaveho, so why not Moonkin too?

So asks Happytreez.  I agree with the logic as the difference between Moonkin form and Tree form is nill.  Treeform provids buffs to healing that could easily be imparted without a form at all.  And the current plan for Cataclysm is to do just that by removing permanent Tree form and instead turn it into a short term buff that has a cool down.

Tree of Life is changing from a passive talent to a cooldown-based talent, similar to Metamorphosis. Mechanically, it feels unfair for a druid to have to give up so much offense and utility in order to be just as good at healing as the other classes who are not asked to make that trade. We are exploring the exact benefit the druid gets from Tree of Life. It could strictly be better healing, or it could be that each heal behaves slightly different. You also will not be able to be banished in Tree of Life form (this will probably be true of Metamorphosis as well). Additionally, we would like to update the Tree of Life model so that it feels more exciting when you do decide to go into that form. Our feeling is that druids rarely actually get to show off their armor, so it would be nice to have at least one spec that looked like a night elf or tauren (and soon troll or worgen) for most of the time. 
Moonkin form also imparts buffs that could easily be imparted in caster form.  And like Tree form, Moonkin form has certain limitations placed on it in regard to what spells can be used while in the form.  I'd like to see Moonkin given the Tree of Life treatment and turned into a short term buff with a cool down and let us run around in caster form.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cataclysm - when is it coming and what will you be playing when it does?

It’s that time of the year when people are beginning to seriously ponder when Cataclysm will be released. I’ve actually seen people argue that it’ll be released prior to Thanksgiving, which I feel might be stretching it a little. Blizzcon isn’t until October 23-24 and Cataclysm would have to be virtually completed by then in order to be released in November. Remember, while patches can still be developed the physical media has to go gold and they have to have the required time to burn enough to fill all the orders. I think it’s a safer bet to assume Cataclysm will be released near Christmas or in January. Since we all have absolutely no real information to go on there are other questions one can focus on right now. Like what your character plans for the next expansion might be. That’s a question I’ve been giving much thought to lately.

The characters I’m playing now are not the characters I started off playing when WotLK released. But they are the characters I enjoy the most and so I’m virtually certain they will be the two characters I continue to play on into Cataclysm. My Druid was my main in Vanilla and BC though I’ve been playing him as an alt during the past year and didn’t play him much at all prior to that back to the end of BC. But more and more lately I’ve been pondering whether I should play him as my main again. I enjoy playing Balance and Resto immensely and as a hybrid class I regularly respec into either Feral bear or Feral cat to complete content or change up my play style for a bit. I have the same ability to do that with my Paladin as well but PVP is a big deal with me and I generally like to PVP On my Druid more. I actually spend more time on my Druid – much more – than I do on my “main”. The fact that my Paladin is my “main” is really because I progression raid on him instead of my Druid whom I only pug with. The more I think about the situation the more inclined I am to play my Druid again as my true main and play my Paladin as my alt.

The allure of the Worgen class isn’t that high for me. I may race change at some point, but I won’t roll a new character just to play a Worgen.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Following up on the Balance and Elemental comparison

Following up on Monday’s post regarding Elemental versus Balance inequities lets look at just one common example that I see regularly involving a Rogue. On my Druid in Balance PVP with 1000 Resil I’ll ride up in a group to the lumber mill and hang back a bit so I’m not immediately focused. I’ll drop into cat form near the top of the road up so I can track humanoids and see how many Horde are coming, but more importantly to see if any disappear which would indicate either a Rogue or a Druid. Some times I see dots disappear but other times I don’t. If I do I’m careful to stick close to the largest group otherwise I give myself a little more latitude. I’ll choose a target – normally a caster or healer – and open up with IS and MF and begin casting Wrath. But many times a Rogue is there and I just didn’t see him and as I’m often the focus target for stealthers it usually doesn’t take very long before I find myself in trouble.

A Rogue will always open with Cheap Shot, with it’s automatic stun. My first reaction is to pop Barkskin for the 12 seconds of damage reduction and then wait for the kidney punch. When I see kidney punch I’ll use my trinket and start running, hitting Nature's Grasp and then dropping into travel form to give me some distance. If I’m facing a not so well geared Rogue, or for whatever reason didn’t take all that much damage in the opening I have the option to drop into bear form and use bash before switching to travel form and getting some distance. If I’m lucky and the Rogue didn’t have Cloak of Shadows, Sprint or their trinket on cooldown I can usually get enough distance so I can pop out and throw on some heals and then root and hit him with IS/MF or dropping back into travel form and putting more distance between us if I feel its necessary. If he’s stealthed again I won’t stand still long enough to find out if he’s still gunning for me (of course he is), instead I’ll be running until I’m out of combat and then stealthing myself. On the occasions when he apparently doesn’t have any cool downs available and is still rooted I can usually nuke him easily enough but how often does that happen? Not all that often.

My issue is that a lot of the time I never survive long enough to get away. My 12 seconds of Barkskin is often not long enough to get me through the encounter, and it’s irrelevant if my trinket is on cooldown. I have no innate damage reduction whereas an Elemental Shaman can easily get 30% damage reduction from talents that applies passively whenever stunned, feared, or silenced. That’s pretty powerful considering a Balance Druid has to pop Barkskin and then hope he doesn’t need it again before the cooldown is up and Elemental shaman have the same mechanism to root a player and then also use travel form to get distance.

Using the same example, with my much undergeared Shaman, once I see kidney punch I’ll trinket out then immediately hit Thunderstorm and drop my earth bind totem. Thunderstorm knocks back further than Typhoon does but doesn’t daze so the Rogue will be back on me in little time. Except I’ve already started running and cleansing before dropping into Ghost wolf form for more distance, and the Rogue has to run around or through my earth bind. If he doesn’t have cloak of shadows or sprint available I’m gone and can turn around to flame shock then hit him with lava burst and drop my elemental for additional damage if necessary.

If you look at this dispassionately I think the Elemental Shaman has the slight advantage for escapability under these circumstances. Especially in that the earth bind totem is a powerful ranged root that even if it doesn’t root someone still can act as an obstacle that has to be avoided or destroyed. But I think the Druid has the decided advantage from range. I don’t think Druids have quite the burst DPS as an Elemental Shaman but they have ranged, spammable roots and have a pretty nice burst AOE spell in the form of Starfall that can be used while on the move and can heal and remove debuffs with travel form. It’s darn nigh impossible to stop a Druid – you either kill him or he gets away generally.

This to me is definitely the way to look at things. Standing back and comparing two not entirely similar classes isn’t easy. But when you look at things situationally they become much clearer and put things in proper context. For me the ultimate consideration in any battle ground is being able to pick and choose my fights. As a Druid I can stealth. I can ambush or flee entirely hidden from view but I can’t as a Shaman. As a Shaman I’m at all times viewable while at the same time not being able to see those who aren’t. A lot of time I don’t have the option to decide whether I want to engage or not as I can only escape once in combat through my ghost wolf form and can be ridden down. I never have the option to run away and vanish. Even with the perceived disadvantages I still prefer my Druid over the Shaman.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Let the guild poaching begin

I've got a friend that used to raid with us and was actually really good.  When we transitioned from Ulduar to TOC he left the guild and joined another guild and ended up becoming the raid leader.  They're not the top progression raid guild on the server but they're very respectable and are well into heroics at this point.  In fact that 10-man heroic I ran last week was his group and I ended up running the weekly with him and a couple 5-mans on my Druid and afterward I got the "you should leave xxx guild and come raid with us".  I laughed, but not because I thought it was funny.  I laughed because I've thought about joining them many, many times over the last few months.  I stayed in my current guild because of the core.  I like the guild leader and the officers a great deal and they've always been strait by me and I like that feeling of not just being a body.  I might have to accept that I will probably never get to do everything I want to do but some times you have to give up something to get other things you want more.

Now this isn't what I'd really consider being guild poaching, but it's a good enough example to speak about something that has been going on for as long as there have been MMOs and if anything, intensifies during the summer doldrums.  Guild poaching is the act of actively recruiting another guilds members, and usually the better geared or better playing members.  To make matters worse, it's usually done by top progression guilds who treat the smaller or less progressed guilds as a minor league whom they can farm talent from at will.  Most of the time these guilds are trying to replace retiring players, but just occasionally the tactic is used offensively to halt or stymie progress in competing guilds.

No one can make anyone leave a guild and join another, but if the price is right they usually will given the chance.  And personally I'm not in favor of that sort of thing.  I have no beef with someone leaving a guild of their own accord, but I do with another guild actively recruiting players out of someone else's raid.

24-hour extended maintenance for many today

Today is not just any maintenance Tuesday. Today is the mega-maintenance day in which Blizzard will be performing maintenance on select realms for at least 24-hours. While they don’t tell us these things, one can only assume they’re performing hardward replacement and network upgrades, along with the normal maintenance that happens on Tuesday. Blizzard performed similar maintenance prior to Burning Crusade and as far as we know haven’t significantly upgraded the servers since. I’m simultaneously happy my realm isn’t on the current list to be upgraded today, and dreading the fact that that day is coming in the future because 24-hours is a very long down time and Tuesday is a prime raiding night for us.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Elemental vs Balance inequities

I really enjoyed my day of Elemental Shaman PVP yesterday and it’s made me all the more interested in gearing up with better gear. And if anything it’s also given me insight into the class inequities between the Balance Druid and the Elemental Shaman. I say inequities specifically because now that I’ve taken my head out of the sand and started PVPing as Elemental I can already see several instances where Blizzard hasn’t balanced out these two hybrid classes well enough. I survived several fights yesterday as Elemental I know I would have died in as Balance and I’m wearing Hateful/Naax-10 gear on my Shaman and wearing Wrathful/Relentless and a couple pieces of Furious on my Druid’s Balance suit. Being able to drop a rooting earth bind totem, drop a trailing Grounding totem to suck up any spell if necessary, and insta-ghost wolf is pure win. Tremor totem is just the icing on the cake because I can’t even begin to tell you how annoying having a Lock or Priest come in and fear me about until I’m dead. Obviously I can’t avoid all of that but having Tremor totem available in addition to my trinket helps out tremendously.

Druids are more mobile, and travel form break all roots with the exception of two whereas Ghost wolf doesn’t. But Elemental Shaman lose no offensive capabilities when having to heal whereas the Balance Druid does. A Balance Druid has to drop out of Moonkin form in order to heal, losing 5% crit, additional spell power conversion, and armor. Elemental Shaman have much higher burst DPS as well with the synergy between Flameshock and Lavaburst. Balance Druids have to front load their DPS with IS and MF before beginning casts of Wrath hoping for an early Lunar Eclipse. My problem has always been that I don’t normally ever stand around in one place long enough to use Lunar Eclipse. I rarely use Starfire unless I’m in a big group. When I’m on my own or in a small group I’m casting Wrath and moving as much as possible. And all that movement severely restricts access to my Eclipse effects. As no other class’s DPS is boosted to the extent Eclipse does for Balance Druids that requirement for movement impacts them much more than it does Elemental Shaman. Elemental Shaman need only stop, cast Flame Shock then follow up with a Lavaburst before moving on. Casting Lightning bolt or Chain Lightning are incidental really.

There are so many additional factors I could talk about and maybe I’ll do that in a series of posts rather than make this one too long. But I did want to mention just one final factor in this post regarding the differences between Thunderstorm and Typhoon. I’m going to have to check the tooltips, but my observations are that the knockback from Typhoon are more limited than those I see from Thunderstorm. I have absolutely no trouble blowing people off the cliff at the AB lumber mill with Thunderstorm but I do with Typhoon. One of my favorite tactics yesterday was to run with the crowd to the lumber mill and hang back just a little so I can come in behind the scrum around the flag and use Thunderstorm to clear the area. It’s very funny to watch bodies flying through the air off the cliff. Thunderstorm is uni-directional while Typhoon is mono-directional so the least Blizzard could do is fix Typhoon so that it works at least as good as Thunderstorm does.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's time for a new project

I like achievements but some times I get a little burned out pursuing them.  That isn't to say that I won't continue to peck away at various achievements on my Paladin and my Druid but during those times I'm just not feeling it I need something else to do.  Normally I PVP but I've got a a near full Wrathful/Relentless on my Ret Paladin and have a full Wrathful/Relentless Resto suit, a partial Wrathful/Relentless Balance suit, and a partial Wrathful/Relents Feral suit on my Druid.  All the upgrades I need on either character will only come with arena points now, and as I'm already doing the daily pvp match most of my honor just goes to buying gems.  And frankly I don't need any more gold.  What I need is another character to play with.

I have my 80 Rogue but I just never really did get into him.  He's fun to play around on every once in a while but if I'm going to take on a project I want it to be thoroughly enjoyable.  Not just fun every once in a while.  I also have a 77 Warlock that I could never get into, my 80 DK, and my 80 Shaman.  The lock falls into the same category as my Rogue and quite frankly I'm over my DK.  I still like the class but I grew tired of the constant major changes every patch.  It's why I switched mains to my Paladin in the first place last Summer.  So I find myself playing on my Shaman who I haven't played on since the beginning on WotLK.  He was the character I was playing at the start of WotLK and who I had to bench to play my DK when the raid needed additional melee.  I intend to gear him out first as Elemental, then dual-spec him and get him geared for either Enhancement which I haven't played since BC.

I have to say I'm having a bit of fun doing this.  Didn't have much experience in PVP on my Shaman, but I can remember when I played him at the beginning on WotLK how frustrating it was to play him in any BG.  I was always so easily killed and I felt very tied to a point on the ground where I dropped my totems.  This time around I was determined to figure out what I was doing wrong because I see Elemental Shaman in BGs all over the place.  And I see them rockin the world.  Right off the bat I can see I should treat Storm, Earth and Fire and Improved Ghost Wolf talents as essential.  Dropping an Earthbind totem that can root and instant cast Ghostwolf form are keys to mobility.  And mobility is the key to survival as Elemental on the battlefield.

Now all I have to do is get some better PVP gear.  Right now I'm wearing a mix of hateful and Naax-10 gear.  I don't currently strike much fear in any BG but given a week or two I'll be changing that.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

LOTRO going F2P

Apparently business has been good enough for Turbine's DDO in the past seven months for them to also make the jump for LOTRO as well.  You just know many other developers are watching this closely.  I'd still like to see the financials for DDO, but Turbine wouldn't be making the change unless it made true business sense at this point.  I never played LOTRO and never played DDO, but once it goes F2P I just might try out LOTRO.  I've always been a tremendous Tolkien fan but was never entranced enough about LOTRO to pay a monthly subscription.  Now that that impediment is being removed I just might give it a look, though I do still have misgivings about the F2P model.  You will always be second guessing the developers why specific development decisions are being made, and why game play is exactly as it is.  Are game decisions being made to force you into paying for items from the cash shop (of course they are) or not?  You can play the game free, but is it unnecessarily grindy because they want you spending money in the cash shop?  I tend to not like that very much.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Haste, oh how I hate thee

delving back into progression raiding on my Druid again brings up some very painful choices for me.  Previously I only ran a weekend ICC-25 and we generally killed the same bosses every week, so the only upgrade I really expected or desired was the token off Saurfang.  Having three Sanctified pieces now, I actually had very little that I was looking for outside of the badges themselves.  But the 10-man progression raiding I've gotten back into changes that a bit.  Seeing new bosses and doing heroic content means I now have access to new gear and can improve.  The problem is if I stick with my T10 pieces, all the off-tier pieces have hit, crit, or haste on them.  And I'm already over budget on hit and haste.  additional haste is bad.  Horribly bad for me as my current raw haste (424) and my talents combine to make a problem casting Wrath when Heroism is used.  My Wrath casys are .7 or .8 seconds under Heroism and depending on lag can cause me to actually miss casts as I have to contend with GCD.  Starfire is another matter as Heroism drops my cast time from 2 seconds to 1.6 seconds, but whether I'm under Lunar Eclipse or not is completely at the mercy of RNG.

So, needless to say I can afford little additional haste, and I generally won't even consider pieces with haste on it.  The problem is that as 3 of my 5 tier pieces have haste on them and the other two have hit.  Unless I want to replace my tier pieces, losing the set bonuses, I have an extremely small number of off pieces I can choose from.  Cataclysm is reportedly going to fix the situation yet that's months away.  What's a poor Moonkin to do before then?  Not a whole lot, it appears.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

10-man ICC progression

Ahh, the feeling of progression! I had gone through a bit of a rut the past several weeks where I essentially stopped caring about raiding and about progression. I’d grudgingly accepted that I’d seen about as much of the end-game as I was going to see and that was that. However, the past two weeks I’ve begun aggressively seeking out additional raiding opportunities on both of my main characters and it’s paid off quite well so far with my Druid. I hadn’t been running 10-man’s for quite some time but last week I started looking for solid, static, 10-man teams I could join. I was able to join a group over the weekend on my Druid that was trying to finish up. All that was left was Sindragosa and the Lich King. We killed Sindragosa and got a few attempts in on the Lich King as well. Then a friend came through with a raid invite last night and I finally got into some heroic content. We cleared the first wing by one-shotting the first three bosses then killing Saurfang on the third attempt. We also one-shotted Festergut and Rotface before I finally had to leave. There was a lot of talk about people wanting to stabilize the group as there had apparently been quite a few people switched in an out, kill Arthas on normal mode as only one person in the group had actually done that, and get back into heroic mode on those farm-status bosses for the better loot. Hopefully I’ll be part of that as I was number one on the over-all DPS and always placed highly on the individual boss kills. Not to mention I bring the combat rez. I’m scheduled to join a 10-man group on my Paladin starting Friday night as well, so it looks like I will be seeing some much desired progression on them both in the coming weeks.