Tuesday, November 15, 2011


So, like many other in the Blogosphere, I've been participating in NaNoWriMo. I've fallen a bit off the pace, floundering at about 17k words, but I'm confident that I can catch up. If any of my readers would like to read an excerpt, or buddy me on the incredibly counter-intuitive NaNoWriMo site, here's the link.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Shared Topic: What Would You Bring Back?

The only constant is change. This week's shared topic at Blog Azeroth has been put forward by Mia, of the Chronicles of Mia. She's wondering what changes have been made to the game that you'd like to see rolled back.

World of Warcraft is a persistant world, it goes through constant changes, abilities are changes, or removed entirely. Bosses are arbitrarily adjusted to be harder or easier. The technology of creating a ring to put keys on is suddenly lost to the world, like very mundane greek fire.

I thought about writing about some of the many changes that Blizzard made that I didn't quite agree with. The overhaul to Prot Pally AoE in Cataclysm, the loss of some great quest lines like the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, or Battle for Undercity, the aforementioned Keychain. There's a lot of things that Blizzard has changed over the years that diminshed the game somewhat in my eyes. It's tough to narrow it down to one thing. So I began to really look at why I played the game.

I raid, almost exclusively these days, but there really isn't enough going on in the raid game these days to keep me interested. I'm really not a fan of where the story's going these days, so that's not what's keepig me around. So it's neither the gameplay, nor the story that has me playing. It's the people. It's my raiders, my guildies, my friends, who keep me anchored to Azeroth.

Just as much as Blizzard's changes to the physical constraints of the game changes Azeroth, so too do the decisions of the player change the social landscape. I once wrote about what I sacrificed to get Legacy from a lousy trade chat guild to one of the best ten man raid teams on the server. If there's one change I could get, it wouldn't be bringing back quests, or Naxx40, or rolling back the Firelands nerfs. I would bring back all my friends who raided for me in the past and for some reason or another, can't do so anymore.

I want my best friend back in Azeroth, I was the best man at his wedding, and we still talk about the game and the guild when we get together. It's not the same without him.

I want the Illinois Trio back, who formed the backbone of both my ranged DPS and my tank healing team for almost the entirety of Wrath, and into T11.

I want Jenny and the Exiles back, who always gave the raid a youthful exuberance and always pulled their weight.

I want my Co-Tank from Wrath back, one of a very small number of tanks whom I trusted to handle the heavy lifting.

I want our slightly crazy feral druid back, he put up great numbers, but apparently can't open a pack of Hot Dogs without ending up in a psyche ward.

I want Heather, my mage, my confidant back.

I want the quiet DK who once topped the meters in naxx after getting hacked; he was nearly completely naked and was wielding a Runeblade of Demonstratable Power from the rep vendor, and he still pulled 3K DPS.

I want my silent canadian priest back, no matter how much I yo-yoed her between holy and shadow, she was always ready, willing, and able.

I want the guild drunk back, regardless of weather he was on his paladin, priest, warrior, or druid, his boistrousness in vent always brightened my day.

I want my original hunter back, who came with me from GDiR, to Mean Machine, to Legacy.

I want my DK Bro back. He reminded me of my college days.

I want them all back. They mean more to me than anything Blizzard could ever do to change this game.

Through My Interface: Day 8

The next topic is Vacation Spots, this is another one of those kind of meta topics where the answer is not from a character's perspective, but the players. To be perfectly honest, it's kinda a placeholder because the next one is the one that really caught my attention. But that one's gonna have to wait for a while.
For me, personally, I'm a tropical person. It's the consequence of my Brazillian heritage. I'm a beast who thrives in the heat and humidity. At times I feel utterly out of place in the constant drizzle here in the Northwest. But at the same time, I'm much more urban than rural. I love being in the city, and all the opportunities it affords. I loved it when I lived in New Orleans, and I prefer to go to Seattle than stay on the Peninsula. So for me, the perfect place to vacation would be the Cape of Stranglethorn Vale. Beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, and a city right nearby. I always preferred Oahu to Maui for that exact reason. Maui might have the best snorkeling and hiking, but you just can't beat going from Waikiki to the heart of Honolulu in 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


WoWScrnShot_110711_214701So, we're five months late on this particular bandwagon, but so what? It's an engaging fight, and it gives a cool title. With 6/7 heroic being a joke, and heroic rag being a monster, we decided to work on the fights in appropriate order of their difficulty. Which meant that we're back in T11 heroics looking for a challenge because the T12 heroics are too easy now. Good work on the tuning there, Blizz.

Anyways, it took us about a dozen pulls to get Heroic Nefarian down. The majority of them were wipes in phase two to various stuff. The first one was finding out that the cast time for blast nova is a lot quicker on heroic. We had one where someone only jumped nine yards out with explosive cinders. We had one where two DPS got behind on their prototype so when the first one died, they couldn't kill theirs before Nefarian killed them. We had four wipes where the melee DPS on a pillar got targeted with explosive cinders twice in a row, and we didn't have backup interrupters to deal with that because of our raid comp. While dealing with all those issues, we got into phase three a few times. The first time we got into phase three, two healers got MCed, and thought it would be a good idea to wait out the crackle because the raid was topped off. We lost the Nefarian tank to a crackle, melee, breath combo before the healers could catch back up. We had another wipe where the Nefarian tank didn't turn Nefarian at the right time, and my healer got breathed on.

Which brings us to the kill. As some of you may notice, there's some amazing parallels between the circumstances of this kill, and our first normal Nefarian kill. Unlike that fight, where the requirements of the fight simply taxed us to the limit, I have to take full responsibility for the near wipe here. In phase three, the bulk of the responsibility is on the off tank, if you kite correctly, then phase three is infinitely sustainable, but an offtank who fails at the kite will wipe the raid. The pattern of shadowblaze sparks hasn't been nerfed, like it was in normal so, so it very quickly devolves into a 5 second per spark frenzy of near constant movement and CD rotations. If you move too early, you'll use too much terrain in the kite and you'll run out of room before the old fire despawns. If you move to late you'll let the adds refill their energy and make life hell for your healer. This is something that I'm very good at. There's lots of little tricks to doing this well, not the least of which is learning how to leverage the Holy Wrath stun to give your healer some breathing room without leaving the adds in a position where they can be hit by fire. This was were I screwed up.

With Nefarian at about 14% health, we had things going swimmingly. I had reset the adds at every possible opportunity, and with them at 10 energy, I was perfectly positioned to do it again. The healers constantly chatter about weather or not they need to shift responsibilities, and our Holy Paladin asked the Shaman healing me if he needed to push over. The Shaman replied that everything was going fine and the adds were going to reset. I was pretty proud of myself because the shaman healing me was operating with his off spec, so if I was making it easy for him, than I was doing a great job. Then it happened. I accidently hit Holy Wrath instead of judgement. One misclick in an otherwise superb attempt. As soon as I hit it, I knew I had just screwed the raid. The adds were stunned just long enough for the shadowflame spark to land on them right before they would have reset. Their energy refilled, and they came right after me. I immediately called out in vent for additional healing as the last crackle went out. I survived the crackle, but the holy paladin had to prioritize the nefarian tank at that point, and as the stacks on the constructs mounted, the damage because unhealable for my shaman. I died with Nefarian at about 6% health, and things played out much as they did with our normal kill. Frost Rings and Earth Elementals held the adds at bay while the DPS finished the boss off, to my profound relief.

It really illustrates how much pressure is put on certain players within the raid on encounters. One misclick killed me, and damn near killed the raid. If I had pressed it 2 seconds earlier or later, pretty much one GCD, I would have been fine. This is something that's been around for a while. Magtheridon Cube clickers, Vashj Core chuckers, Kael'thas shield tanks, dispellers on Mu'ru, it's part of life as a raider, even on the somewhat less than bleeding edge.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stat Inflation: The Consequences of the "Squish" and How to Avoid It

Ghostcrawler just released another blog post. This time it was concerned with stat inflation on gear. The stats on gear have been growing exponentially, players are now doing 15X the DPS they were doing at the end of BC. Item levels have virtually exploded, and Ghostcrawler was kind enough to provide us with a graph displaying the problem.

Ghostcrawler has proposed two solutions to this problem. The first would be pretty much hacking a couple zeros off everything. I'll call this the "Metric Solution", instead of 20,000 DPS, you're doing 20 kilodeeps. This is pretty much already being done by players, hell, we make it even shorter, it's just 20k DPS in the vernacular of the player.

The second solution proposed is a "squish" of item levels. Essentially readjusting every item in the game to work within a truncated scale, and adjusting every mob in the game based on the now reduced power of the player. The crab even blessed us with a graph showing how that ideal might look.

Personally, I find the fact that on the squish scale Sunwell items would be worse than Naxx40 gear, to be a hilarious example of why the proposed squish is a bad idea.

A lot of people blame the advent of Hard Modes in Wrath to be a major cause of the inflation. But that's not true. The problem has been a design flaw that's been Incorporated into the game since at least the leveling of Wrath. This is not a problem created by the Raiders, it is a problem created by the levelers. Progress between tiers in an expansion has been pretty even. That's not to say that it's been perfect, it could be tuned slightly better, but the overwhelming problem is in the jumps across the leveling between expansions. Molten Core T1 was ilevel 66, BWL T2 was 76, Naxx40 T3 was 92. That's an average of 13 ilevels between upgrades, and 26 ilevels across 3 tiers. T4 was ilevel 120, T5 was 133, T6 was 146 with some Sunwell peices reaching 154. Once again, 13 ilevels between upgrades with an 8 ilevel jump to Sunwell, which could be argued acted as a precursor to the idea of Hard Modes. This amounted to a 34 ilevel jump. Enter Wrath, and 25 man T7 was 213, T8 was 226, T9 25 normal was 245, T10 normal was 264. The gap between the first two tiers was again the standard 13 ilevels, the last two tiers took 19 point jumps, which was a tier and a half, and that could be attributed by the advent of hard modes proper. Going to the max of 284 for HLK25 gear, and 25 man raiders were looking at a gear span of 71 ilevels across 4 tiers. Come Cataclysm, the entry level raids were dropping 359 gear, and Deathwing Heroic looks to be dropping 404 gear, a 45 ilevel span across three tiers.

Combining the ilevel spans hit at the endgame, and you get 176 ilevels dedicated to the endgame which is the overwhelming majority of the time spent in the game. Less than half of the item levels in the game are dedicated to the content that players spend close to 90% of their game time playing.

The flaws in this line of thinking becomes apparent when you look at the ilevel distribution in Cataclysm gear. Players wearing HICC gear went from ilevel 277 in ICC to ilevel 359 in Normal T11. That's a 82 ilevel jump. That's a bigger jump than a player going from Naxx 10 to ICC 25H. Here's the rub though, people spent the better part of two years going from T7 to T10. They spent the better part of 3 days going from ICC 25H to T11 normals. Think about that for a moment. Blizzard took the statistical equivalent of the ENTIRE WRATH RAIDING PROGRESSION into the cataclysm leveling content. This creates several problems, not the least of which is stat inflation. Another design flaw apparent in the first graph is the launch point of Cataclysm. It picks up right where ICC heroic raiding left off. This creates several problems. People get upset about "Green becoming the new Purple", which has been a complaint since the inception of BC. Stat inflation becomes much more pronounced. The third is that the quality of the leveling experience for players who weren't raiding heavily at the end of the expansion drops off because they face a massive gulf in between the gear they were able to attain while leveling in the previous expansion, and the gear that the new expansion presumes you have. A friend of mine actually wrote a fairly prescient article for WoW insider detailing his struggles to level his rogue into Cataclysm content due to it not having the high levels of gear that his shaman main had.

This is what Blizzard needs to do to address the problem. They need to accept that high end raid gear will last until the level cap of the next expansion. The player who possesses 277 gear going into Cataclysm didn't care what kind of clown suit the designers had thrown together for levelers. They wanted to get into raiding, and quickly. Raiders took their T3 into Kara, they took their T6 into Naxx, but their T10 didn't make it out of Deepholme. I don't know what possessed the devs to break with the tried and true formula, but, like many things in Cataclysm, they took a gamble and they lost. What they need to do is to focus on keeping future expansions clean. Level 90 heroics shouldn't offer anything more than 6 ilevels higher than Heroic Deathwing gear, and T14 normals shouldn't be more than 20 ilevels higher. MoP quest rewards should begin in the vicinity of 333, and push up to the high 390s. That way players who are leveling characters clean through will find an undiminished leveling experience going from one expansion to the other, and Raiders find an undiminished experience going from one raid teir to the next. By following a strict formula for ilevel expansion across tiers and across expansions, they prevent the issues that have arisen from letting things get away from them. What Blizzard really needs, more than anything else, is self restraint.