Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No statue for you!

While half the blogosphere is being puzzled by the workings of a MMORPG economy, something we covered back in januari, and myself having a somewhat uneventful time on my druid in northrend I decided to jot down my thoughts on the whole 'theorycrafting as bible' thought process that seems to be commonplace these days.

Not too long ago I got a tell from someone who vehemently disagreed with my gear/my gems/my enchants and even my spec and we got into a brief discussion about theorycrafting after which I blisfully ended up on his ignore list... (which I suppose is good because I couldn't possibly explain my gem choice atm :))

But since he didn't want to hear the whole story I'll post my thoughts here instead.

Let me start by saying theorycraft is amazing: Within a matter of hours of painstaking research, arduous math, spreadsheet design and the creation of complex graphs and bar-charts you can determine exactly what your spell rotation should be, what you should gear like to optimize any aspect of your game and even allows you to compare yourself to other players trying to follow the same route.

But theorycraft always operates under the assumption that the amount of variables are limited. Theorycrafting doesn't take into account common practical occurances that happen in-game because it would make it impossible to compare a to b.

Theorycraft willfully ignores lucky streaks, ignores (de)buffs and commonplace events like moving out of a fire (or not moving out of a wreath) because they don't 'math' well... (i.e. are gruesomely hard to integrate in any kind of spreadsheet).

However the old wizard school saying applies: 1 in a million chances happen all the time.

So then, does theorycraft tell you how much defense rating you should have? Yes! It can determine to the 5th decimal place exactly how much defense rating you should have and what stats should be used to achieve said rating.

So you go out, dig yourself up some trusty defense rating gear and off you go only to be splattered the next time a silence hits you between your holy shield cycles or you take an untimely stun/fear.

One might say "hey you can't blame theorycraft for that" and you'd probably be right. But then tell me you never got flak for your gear and then tell me that people didn't point out to you that you should be using gear line-up Z to optimize your defense rating because so sayeth the theorycraft.

Theorycraft is a tool that allows you to compare 'stuff' (spell damage, mitigation, gear choices etc.) and with this tool gear lists are built.

But these gear lists don't take into account practical occurances, mentalities and playstyles of the different people. Just because your spec or gear choice proves to be less than optimal when stuffed in a spreadsheet doesn't mean they're not the optimal choice for you.

And this is the point where theorycraft fails in near catastrophic ways... just because the spreadsheet says you must do x for maximum damage doesn't mean you should throw all caution to the wind and spec/gear precisely according to the theorycraft.

If you as a person are not comfortable with a low health pool, have issues with stuns or fears then it is indeed in your best interest to make up for your personal weaknesses by speccing and gearing accordingly.

Theorycrafting can be a good starter, a primer to see what 'would' be optimal if all things were equal. In practice most things are a lot less predictable and you will have to deal with the stray mobs, tanks and healers keeling over and a ton of other events that are simply impossible to put into a spreadsheet. Not to mention simple things like personal preference.

Theorycraft will fail when applied in practice if you don't use a modicum of common sense. People that criticise your gear know nothing about your situation and will never be able to motivate their 'commentary' if you yourself have taken into account theory as well as practice.

Leave the optimal build for the optimal world, in all other cases don't rely on theorycraft alone. The only way to talk about other people's choices is by asking questions... why this piece of gear, why that talent, why this gem... if they have the answers and they make sense, who are you to criticise their choices?

And if you are being criticised for your choices... and you just can't get through to them with proper arguments then rest assured with the thought: No one ever erected a statue in honor of a critic.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Warlocks Represent!

I have a nasty habit of making up lack of skill with reading the appropriate material so I can at least talk like I know about things even though I don't always get to bring actual skill to the table (theory is better than execution so to speak).

I did however read and play enough to be able to predict that warlock population for this pvp season would be as they call it absolutely 'terribad'.

Take a look at this table: here

And note that the once feared all powerful OP warlock is now 'the' most underrepresented class in the entire arena world (not to mention completely not present in any top 100... unless there's a top 100 of suck online somewhere). Sure sure it's only been a few days since the season started and figures will adjust a little as resilience starts scaling, but we all know how PVP works.

The (gear)lead you build in the beginning of the season will be the lead you have for the rest of the WotLK PVP seasons. The fact that there's now around 4% of the total arena population playing a warlock means that warlocks are pretty much doomed when it comes to arena PVP.
Doomed, as in destined to always be one or more gear steps behind the rest.

I am not surprised. After seeing all the massive burst damage that is generated these days and knowing full well that a warlock is still a very much dot-based class I knew things were going south.
Add to this the fact that warlocks will now have approximately the same amount of armor and only moderately more stamina as well as 0 survival tools (no meta jokes) beyond abilities that are taxed with heavy cooldowns means we can literally kiss the warlock goodbye as OP PVP class.

I am not bitter about it, I am doing decently in PVE, but it was obviously coming down the tube and the cries from people over at arena junkies could be heard for miles and miles without being adressed which is what bothers me a little.

You know things are in a sad state when even the most experienced arena players can't think of reasons why they would want to take a lock over 'any' other class to an arena match.

And that's where the problem comes in. Assuming blizzard will eventually deal with the glaringly obvious problems of the warlock the fix will most likely be too late. It takes some arena players as little as a month or two to get a significant lead in gear... even if the warlock gets fixed they will be behind so far that only the most tenacious warlock PVPers will be able to catch up.

To me the problem is easily circumvented by levelling another alt, something I always enjoy doing, but in the end going from a decent PVP class which the warlock was at some point to being a liability for your teammate(s) is going to be a bitter pill to swallow for most warlocks.

Still, there's some hope for warlocks... something like a tenacity buff of some sorts for the fact that you had enough guts to enter the arena as a warlock in the first place...

On the plus side: If you ever make it into deadly gear as a warlock you should be rightfully considered the most 'bad ass' person on your server.

So have hope warlocks... have hope and represent!

Back to alting

With my warlock having dinged 80 the day before yesterday things seem to slowly been returning to 'normal'. I had a chance to look at the next pvp season and had to note that all the interesting gear (i.e. anything that could be considered an upgrade) now requires a 1600+ arena rating which for a scrub like me will prove a challenge in itself (warlock survivability anyone?).

The irony of it all is that I now have to arena to BG (provided I want some pvp gear) which irks me tremendously. To me that says please get yourself beat up by a team that outgears you so significantly and that you will never catch up to before you enter a BG to get some honor points that will mean nothing if you don't have a decent arena rating.

I suppose there's a benefit for PVP oriented people in there somewhere that escapes me (a tiered progression path maybe).

To avoid the frustration I decided to try for an instance group, found one, arrived there only to notice that I fell in with a group of children that would spend half an hour standing in front of the dungeon argueing about what kind of gear they wanted just in case it dropped.

And then they blew off the run because they couldn't find a healer...

I turned to crafting... which lasted all about 10 minutes in which I must've burnt through at least 500 frostweave... ... I'd say it'll be a long long time before any of that gets to a level where it'll afford me with some new gear (no flying carpet for you!).

So with almost no gear progression paths outside of pugging instances ( I really don't feel like bolstering the guild with more people before the new year ) I went back to my old ways.

And so I found myself on my lowbie mage getting a few boosts from our guild's dk (caught out herbing) and did some quests in STV making a good level and a half of progress settling my magus just a few bubbles away from level 44.

All in all I am not sure what to think about level 80... it was a nice trip there and I am somewhat interested in finishing up the quests in the zones I didn't do yet but I have no clarity on what lies beyond that is interesting and worth doing.

I'll tour the instances no doubt, gain some rep through dailies but I have nothing that I can really sink my teeth in. At this point it looks like I am better off levelling some other stuff through outland and use the mats collected to improve various professions...

Maybe... and this is a truly twisted thought, I should spec my druid resto and get into the whole pugging game. I am not entirely sure I could put up with the hassle though, people are critical and unfriendly as is and that's not exactly the best place to introduce someone whose never healed anyone voluntarily except himself.

Still it's probably good to get some of the dust off of my lowbies while I think on this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The cost of professions

My last post sparked a number of interesting responses on how people deal with their resources. Some prefer to sell it all and buy it in when they need it, others stockpile and to others again any kind of inventory management is akin to spending a day in a pug as a healer with a (bad) unholy dk tank and 3 huntards (with pets on autocast growl).

To put things in perspective I decided to take a look at how many materials you can expect to use to get from 375 (the old TBC limit) to 450 for each profession.

These are rough indications based on various guides that can be found on the internet meaning that when all is said and done these figures may be up to 5-10% off the mark depending on what recipes you're using. Still, it's a good base indication and shows what you can start collecting if you are so inclined.


7225 x Frostweave Cloth
780 x Infinite Dust
175 x Eternium Thread (vendor item (cost rep based))


List of Materials
380 x Borean Leather
310 x Heavy Borean Leather
20 x Crystalized Water
5 x Eternal Air or Eternal Water
50 x Eternal Life and 50 x Eternal Water
(or 50 x Eternal Water and 50 x Eternal Air
or 50 x Eternal Fire and 50 x Eternal Shadow)

A potential alternative shopping list looks like this:

280 x Heavy Borean Leather
80 x Crystallized Water
200 x Jormungar Scale
60 x Arctic Fur
400 x Nerubian Chitin
10 x Frozen Orb

20 x Icy Dragonscale
or 20 x Nerubian Chitin


43 x Crystallized Water
10 x Crystallized Earth
8 x Frostweave Cloth
26 x Borean Leather
13 x Eternal Shadow
25 x Skinning Knife
25 x Mining Pick
25 x Blacksmithing Hammer
284 x Cobalt Bar
479 x Saronite Bar

You can probably start at 350 with this since engineering is very much a profession where you make your own components for other items. in this specific case cobalt bolts start at 350... but you'll need them later on so you have to get them no matter what you do.


180 x Cobalt Bar
530 x Saronite Bar
20 x Eternal Water
30 x Titansteel Bar
10 x Frozen Orb


10 x Dark Jade
10 x Eternal Air
10 x Eternal Earth
20 x Eternal Fire
10 x Eternal Water
40 x Goldclover
10 x Huge Citrine
30 x Icethorn
15 x Lichbloom
10 x Pygmy Suckerfish (from fishing)
20 x Tiger Lily
45 x Imbued Vials (vendor item)


1 x Titanium Rod
1060 x Infinite Dust
40 x Lesser Cosmic Essence
15 x Crystallized Water
282 x Greater Cosmic Essence
8 x Dream Shard


75 x Ink of the Sea
75 x Resilient Parchment

not sure on these numbers to be honest


15 x Shadow Crystal
15 x Dark Jade
60 x Eternal Earth

30 x Earthsiege Diamond
30 x Skyflare Diamond

First Aid

I estimate about 250 frostweave for 375-450 but I was not able to find any exact figures laying around.

There we have it. If I look back at the old TBC figures we can definitely see that professions got a whole new tier of 'expensive' strapped to them and it remains to be seen if each profession truly is worth the extreme amount of materials required to get them up.

I hope these numbers help you out in some way shape or form, they were certainly sobering to me the first time I saw them. If anything this is definitely a statement against maintaining the same non-gathering profession on your various characters unless you are indeed rather wealthy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Managing your gold

Gold is a tricky resource and even though some of us have already gone past the point of having pretty much everything they want and gold to spare for completely useless things most of us have to deal with the reality that our gold supply is limited unless we want to spend hours on end grinding, playing the AH or doing dailies.

Rather than telling you how to get more gold I am going to give you a few tips on how to manage your gold better; in fact how to manage all your resources better.

I am not going to lie to you, most of these tips are obvious and pretty much common sense. But I have applied these simple strategies for years now in various games and I have very rarely been spotted grinding/farming resources unless I was being exceptionally greedy. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I have spent no more than 24 hours out of a years worth of playing grinding any kind of resource I needed.

On that note let me add this: Managing your gold and resources is not about getting rich, it's about not getting poor.
There's targets I have that I haven't met, that I could grind and farm for but for which I have decided to just play the game instead knowing that the goal will be met in due time because I know how to control my expenditures.

So off we go into the wondrous world of resource management and a healthy chunk of self-discipline.


I see it happening all the time. People are out levelling their alts or playing their various characters and end up with a whole bunch of stuff that they don't have an immediate use for. So they think, hey I'll just sell this on the AH, make a small profit and then weeks/months later notice that they could've used the resources on an alt or during a crafting project for a random buyer or a guildie and end up paying a significant premium because they need the resources right away.

You can see this the most during holiday seasons. If you need a whole bunch of small eggs during christmas for some eggnog you're invariably going to have to either farm for them or pick them up from the AH for extreme prices.

Now think back how many of those small eggs you found while playing your lowbie alts and how many you simply vendored or sold on the AH for next to nothing.

The cardinal rule here is: If it stacks, don't sell it
Other than inventory management there's no reason to sell stackable items unless they're absolutely useless to everyone. Those resources will come in handy the next time you're grinding up a profession or if nothing else you will be able to sell them at a significant profit if you're willing to


Sell things at the right time. There's always people out there working on their professions or picking up new ones. Your resources are valuable to them because they want them 'now' and not later. If you have resources available then you're always able to make nice deals either with the buyer directly or indirectly when there's a shortage on the AH.

There's no reason to rush-sell anything... provided that you


Inventory management is crucial. Buy all your bank slots on all your toons and equip them with the most affordable but largest bags you can find (netherweave bags in my case). If you don't have any alts yet consider filling up the remaining character slots you have with alts purely for banking purposes.
Give each character a type of resource to deal with. I keep all my tailoring mats on my warlock, all my ores on my paladin, all my herbs and alchemy on my druid, all 'general' stuff on my warrior and so on and so forth.

Stop thinking about inventory management. Make a simple system for yourself and whenever you are in town simply mail whatever you have to the corresponding alts for them to deal with later.

Picking a day to manage your inventory to take care of it all can be very helpful in dealing with large mailbox queues and will cause you to have space to spare. Having space to spare is crucial if you want to be able to just ditch your spare holy set in the bank because you won't need it on the next instance run. If you can't ditch it in the bank real quick then you're just dragging it around with you...

Which brings us to the second part of inventory management:


Yeah, I have a set of gear for this that and the other thing too, I have stacks of buff foods, fishing pole, trinkets, potions and whatnot in my inventory. And by Medivh I will drag them around everywhere!
Say what? Stop that: Take only what is necessary.
Are you really going to need 3 stacks of buff food while you're questing? or that extra set of gear?

Maybe you will, more likely than that you won't and you're wasting dozens of inventory slots on completely useless crud... crud that will force you to a) destroy stuff to pick up new stuff or b) cause you to run to town way more often than you need to.

This is gruesomely inefficient. You're losing money for every gray item you toss overboard and if you have to go to town all the time you're losing questing time by the bucketload. It may not seem that important but if you do a rough calculation on how much gold you are bleeding just by throwing away 'cheap' gray items you'd be surprised at how many gold you throw away a week.

There's a reason I quest a lot with my imp, it's because I can replace my soulshard bag temporarily for another 16+ slot bag leaving me with about 3-4 loose soul shards but 12 more bag slots to fill up before I have to go to town. And I can do this because I usually have an empty bag in my bank waiting to be swapped in for a full one.

In the end: Don't take things with you that you won't need and leave room in your bank for just dumping things off for a while.


Last but not least there's the almighty Auction House. The auction house is the number 1 cause for people being as poor as they are. People buy recipes they'll never use or only use once, buy new gear on the AH that they end up replacing only days after. The AH is as much your friend as it is your enemy.
Scan it daily with tools like auctioneer so you know the average prices of stuff but don't be tempted to buy anything.
Why are you buying it should be the first question in your mind, if you can't come up with anything better than 'I want it' then don't buy it. In fact there's very little reason to buy anything from the AH unless there's no physical way for you to get the item in the first place. Patience is key. You simply have to assume that you will get what you want in good time and as a result you can curb your spending to the absolutely necessary.

The only thing the AH can be used for is to sell high and buy low. To achieve this look specifically at the resource market your stockpiling. If you're stockpiling a lot of ore and there's a shortage sell a few stacks for a decent price bearing in mind that if it's especially valuable stuff you're better off selling it in smaller stacks. Never ever sell all your resources though, since you will need them the second you have none.

Buying low is the other end of the stick and is something you'll be able to do quite easily when there's a lot of people on at one time... i.e. the weekend. Over the weekend you can get tremendous deals on things that you can sell for significantly more during the week.

Keep an eye out on the AH at all times and scoop up deals even if you can't use them yourself.

If it's not a deal, then why are you buying it? No really... why are you?

In the end the above won't make you rich but it'll allow you greater control of what you have... it'll allow you to make the snap decision to power level a profession and already have most of the resources ready, it'll give you greater flexibility and save you gold that you didn't even know you were losing.

When it's all said and done, when the day comes that I am stupendously wealthy the above will keep me stupendously wealthy no matter what I do. All that for the price of a little self-discipline... that's not so bad now is it?

So then, what do you do to keep your resources under control?

Friday, December 12, 2008

patch 3.0.8 goodness

Don't ask what happened to numbers 3.0.4 to 3.0.7... they were eaten by the blizzard monster. Either way 3.0.8 is on the PTR and I decided to take a quick look at the patch notes and there's a few interesting things in there.

I won't bore you with going through the entire list of class changes and similar but there's a few gems in there that you will likely miss if you just skim across right to the changes specific to your class.

I'll go into the 'massive' amount of warlock changes too since after all... I am a warlock.

Generall stuff

* Racial restrictions on mounts have now been lifted. Night elves on mechanostriders? Tauren on raptors? You’re not seeing things.
Complete freedom in riding whichever mount you want should calm down some that always wanted to ride something weird but will probably cause a minor ripple with those that appreciated the racial mounts.

Tapping: All player spells which cause a creature to become aggressive to you will now also immediately cause the creature to be tapped.
Warlocks rejoice, no longer will you have to open with seering pain or wand to tap your kills... now even we can participate in the age old sport of kill stealing.

We have added over 60 new graveyards to Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms.
This one is pretty weird, I know azeroth is dead but come on, don't lay it on too thick. I suppose it'll help once I pick up my lowbies again

The run speed in spirit form has been increased by 50%. Night Elves in Wisp form will now move at 75% speed.
Definitely a change for the better. Corpse runs always take way too much time. Carebears rejoice.

Very interesting changes and from what I can see all for the better.

Now on to some warlocky goodness and honestly I scrolled by the changes quite a few time before finally deciding to search for 'warlock' in the patch notes.

Here's what it came up with:


Drain Mana: Now drains a percentage of maximum mana.
Emberstorm: Now works with Conflagrate.
Ritual of Summoning: Will now create a summoning portal object which can be re-used for multiple summons for 5 minutes.

That's it... 3 changes... only the rogues have less this time around. No increase in pvp viability, no fixes for the glaringly obvious impossible affliction spell rotation. No clean up to make demo a more viable spec beyond levelling... nothing... warlocks are fine and I need to learn to play or wait a few patches more.

Well it doesn't say that... but it's in stark contrast with what ghostcrawler has been putting on the forums which is somewhere along the lines of this:

Make sure locks do rogue / hunter / mage level dps at 80.
Make sure locks have enough survivability in PvP (since we nerfed a lot of it).
Fix some of those deep Demo talents that really aren't worth the investment.
Make shards more interesting and less of a hassle.
Get the Voidwalker (and possibly Succubus?) back out.
Look at the dps spells that cost shards.
Try and make more of the dots a consistent length, so that Affliction's rotation doesn't require such a big brain.
Get dots to either scale with crit or just crit.

Which would actually help, yes, yes it would. Either way I am dreading the PVP season. I want some pvp gear because if it still works as it did the time investment is minimal for some decent gear... but I am no fan of being first target and burnt down in the first 15 seconds of a match... or in the time of a stun in case of rogue presence.

Interesting changes overall... euh... the general ones I mean. And if you're still bored you can always read the other post I put up today... it has a similarly incoherent structure.

Just on my server?

Well I had a big long rant prepared about this that and the other thing amongst which having to pay another 1k gold just to be able to fly again and how my future self is a bit of a bastard...
But apparantly over at the pink pigtail inn there seems to be a discussion going on about all the ranting that's gripped the blogosphere lately so I decided to exchange my perfectly well-formatted rant for some random useless observations :P

On that note I really wonder if most of the servers evolve in the same way. I've always been a one server kind of guy when it comes to playing MMORPG's and even when the server I play on is down I rarely feel the urge to create another character elsewhere (I like to keep all my crud in the same box).

so in essence I have a very very limited view on what's going on elsewhere. Sure, the economy is different per server, the population is too... but does this actually mean that other servers are completely different worlds?

Here's a few things I observed on my server of which I wonder if other servers are following similar trends:

There's been a crazy invasion of bear mounts in dalaran lately. 8 out of 10 people are riding that ugly brown bear you can buy for +-700g... every now and then you see a black bear or similar but still... there's a lot of bears.
There's so many bears out there I feel compelled to ask why you would still want to spend 700g on something that literally everyone has.

I haven't seen a shaman in days, weeks even. The last time I saw any trace of a shaman was a seemingly abandoned totem and it literally took me a second or two before I figured out what that strange glowing object was. Where have all the shammies gone? Are they that bad off these days?

Despite dwindling numbers according to wow census and a very questionable pvp survivability warlocks are all over the place. Out of the few group quests in the dragonblight I needed people for there was always an extra warlock in the pug and never the same one. I am still fairly certain that warlocks won't do well the next pvp season but I am kind of pleased that there are still a decent amount of warlocks about.

The warriors I have been talking to that have dk's are often telling me that their warrior feels kind of 'meh' to play after playing a dk for a while. I am wondering how other warriors feel like but there seems to be a fair few people I talk to that now prefer their dk's over their warriors. A trend perhaps?

Mages kick ass these days. I've seen fire mages crit so often in succession that I started to wonder if my damage meter was borked. Unfortunately my own 'never will crit nanaananaaanaaa' shadowbolt tells me that my damage meter is fine. I gather they're patching up arcane too and I've always wanted to try arcane. That almost makes me want to level my mage. Is it just me or is wotlk _the_ expansion for magi?

Shattrath is a ghost town... The few people that are there are rushing to level 68 and leave the place as soon as they can. Azeroth is no better off for that matter. There's still a decent amount of people in places like ogrimmar but beyond that there's maybe one or two players in each zone at most.

People are bored already. I've overheard a couple of conversations now of people that already have bought all their new badge gear, whose rep for most of the new factions is already either at or very close to exalted and whose only remaining goal is to buy a mammoth mount with vendors and buy up all the recipes available in dalaran. Now I am not saying anything about difficulty here but euhm... it's only been a month since wrath release so if you're bored now... things are not looking good for you.

So how's life on your server? Any notable trends?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How much time did you waste?

Every now and then I hand in a quest, look at the rewards and with a certain amount of teeth-gnashing decide to replace my pretty little purple epic with one of the northrend blues or even greens.

Other times I sit on a flight looking at my reputation tab and wonder to myself if it was really worth it grinding tons of rep items just to get to that magical level of reputation that you needed to pick up this item/enchant or whatnot that has now long since been forgotten.

In short, sometimes I wonder if I didn't just plainly waste a glorious amount of time on doing things that are completely meaningless and more importantly simply weren't fun to do.

I started playing around this time last year, I knew wrath was coming and I have always known that any expansion would bring a new level of gear and other features that would completely supplant the ones from the expansion before it.

As a result I always strived to doing things for 'fun' rather than an arbitrary gear upgrade or reputation increase.

I didn't run Kara more than a handful of times, in fact I stopped quite literally the second I didn't think it was fun anymore (conveniently I fell out of grace with my guild at that time). But still, I spent hours if not days in various battlegrounds grinding up the honor and marks to get myself an upgrade.
Time I could've easily spent on well... fun stuff.

So just out of curiosity I started scribbling down a few figures in order to get a rough estimate of how much time I 'wasted' in wow... and by wasted I mean time I spent logged in doing things I didn't enjoy.

Here's what I came up with:

* I enjoyed 90% of all my instance runs.
Mostly due to the fact that I only ran instances for fun, never for loot or for reputation (yes I don't have a lot of major TBC reputations as a result).

*I enjoyed 15% of my reputation/item grinds.
Collecting various signets, armaments, marks, motes and tomes never seemed to fill me with glee, the dailies weren't horrible but could hardly be considered a blistering experience of fun. Most of my reputation/item collections were involuntary and motivated generally by gear upgrades.

* I enjoyed 65% of all BG's I ran.
I ran a lot of AV's mostly because I like the grandness of having 2 large groups of players going head to head. Controversely I quite literally hated all my WSGs that I was purely doing to get the necessary marks for upgrades. The rest was about an even split between absolutely loving it and stonefaced mark grinding.

* I enjoyed 80% of the time spent levelling alts
I like levelling... I am good at it. It gives me that zen feeling of being in utter control and having a complete overview. Levelling from 0-30 is a complete and utter pain in the rear end though and the more you do it the less fun it seems to get (try not to mention the word barrens around me)

* At level 80 for any of my characters I will retain approximately 10% of all the items I collected during the last expansion
The irony of it all is that the only items that will have survived the trip are novel trinkets, things with funny animations and various rewards from ingame festivals and events. None of the gear that contributes to my playstyle looks like it'll survive.

Then I sat around for a while, twirling the paper I had scribbled the numbers on around between my fingers.

So? What does this mean then?

I decided to scribble some more stuff down to make some sense of the figures:

I spent 60% of my time levelling alts, 15% in BGs, another 10% grinding reputation, 5% doing instances and 10% I completely wasted by throwing myself off of various landscaping features under the 'let no soulstone go to waste' policy, I might've chatted a bit too and whatnot.

So out of every 100 hours I played, 60 hours were spent levelling, 15 in bg's, 10 grinding rep/items, 5 in instances and 10 were completely shot to hell doing things to entertain myself.

... enough numbers to do something with... so I concluded the following:

out of every 100 hours I enjoyed ((60/100)*80) + ((15/100)*65) + ((10/100)*15) + ((5/100)*90) + 10 (because I always enjoy time doing completely useless crud) = 73,75 hours or approximately 74%

Other than telling you where I spend most of my time (not in instances obviously) this means I didn't really enjoy 26% of my playtime.

In retrospect I think 26% is a pretty significant chunk of time to not be enjoying yourself in a game you pay good money for to play.
And as it turns out by looking at my obscure scribblings that 26% of time was pretty much the time I invested in trying to get some decent gear upgrades (which are going to be utterly meaningless at lvl 80).

This is a sobering figure no doubt, but it once again reinforces my resolve to avoid things that I don't enjoy like reputation grinds and the unfortunate effort that is 'gear hunting'.
After all, as a solo player I have the unique luxury to ignore the high-end, end-game items that may or may not be needed for end-game raiding. And while it is easy to get swept away by the need/greed for the latest and greatest in gear upgrades sometimes we should stop and ask ourselves: 'When is enough?'

So there we have it... I wasted about 26% of my playtime on things that weren't exactly fun...

And you? how much time did you waste?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

WotLK resistance

Being primarily a solo oriented player I have always strived towards making my characters tough as nails, after all survivability is king in solo play.
Whether this means overloading my warlock with stamina at the expense of some other stats or using engineering for various spell absorption or reflection items I am always looking for the next best thing to make my characters that much tougher.

With the new expansion now quickly approaching its one month anniversary it has become clear that once again all stats are on the increase and it's time to re-evaluate what have been called 'situational stats' in the past.

One such stat is resistance. Pre-WotLK resistances were the unwanted step-children of rare raiding encounters where a decent amount of resistance was required purely to be able to survive long enough to take the boss down.

Resistances beyond that were considered mostly useless outside of certain raiding encounters and a somewhat fluctuating popularity in PVP for shadow resistance gear.

So lets take a look at what has changed for resistances. If you're not yet familiar with the mechanic take a look at the wowwiki here and see if you can get a basic grasp of the concept first.

What it comes down to is that spell resistance is measured both by level difference between you and your victim and an additional check for partial resistance of direct damage spells (fireballs, icebolts, shadowbolts and other bolty things) or in case of binary spells (frost nova or anything else that carries a debuff rather than a damage component) either fully resist the spell... or not.

The magic number for the WotLK era is: 415 vs lvl 83 which puts you at the resist cap of 75% resistance.

I am not going to bore you with a re-hash of the formula's posted on the wiki but here's a little number example to clarify the formula used:

Damage reduction percentage = (effective resistance value / caster level) * 15
Damage reduction percentage = 75%
caster level = 83

75 = (effective resistance value / 83) * 15
75/15 = (effective resistance value / 83)
(75/15) * 83 = Effective resistance value
415 = Effective Resistance Value

Of course if you're more interested in PVP at level 80 resistance options then you simply jot in caster level 80 and get 400 as your magic number vs lvl 80.

Still with me? good good, I'll dispense with the math now. What is important to understand is that resistance will always work against direct damage spells. So even if you only have 50% spell resistance you can still resist a significant amount of spell damage (an about 50% chance to resist half the damage and approximately a 20% chance to resist 75% damage) which means that while you'd ideally want to be at the resistance cap you can fudge the figures a little in favor of other stats (we still need to do some damage or have some armor mitigation etc. after all).

In favor of keeping this blog post somewhat legible I will save the research of what gear is out there for another post but here's a quick display of a notable (plate) resistance set that's available for crafting:

Icebane Treads - 86 frost resistance
Icebane Girdle - 86 frost resistance
Icebane Chestguard - 115 frost resistance

If the Icebane set is any indication then you can, with just 3 pieces of gear get 287 points of pure frost resistance which means that you're a mere 113 points away from being capped against a level 80 player.

If you're a paladin running a frost resistance aura you get an additional 130 points at level 80 putting you well over the needed resistance cap for an investment of only 3 items.

Granted the items lack other important stats but make up for this with a few sockets that allow for some customization options.

Still, even without the convenience of a paladin aura you're looking at +- 54% spell resistance for those 3 items alone which gives you an above average chance to munch 50% of incoming (frost) spell damage or outright resist 50% of all frost nova's cast against you.

During one of the next blog posts here on noobding I'll delve into the topic some more and see if we can figure out an approximate maximum of resistance per magic school that we can achieve by looking at potential gear, enchantments, gems and whatnot.

The ultimate goal is to see if resistances can now be considered a significant option for increasing your survivability in solo play and potential other situations.

I'll leave the conclusions up to you; Ultimately it is your choice whether you want to put the time and effort into building a resistance set and whether it is worth it for your particular playstyle or not.

All in all it seems that the resistance caps are now easier to hit than ever with the gear available in WotLK.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bigger numbers, bigger problems

Everything gets bigger.

This is an axiom that has held true for most games in the game industry but especially MMORPGs. Patches and expansions are rolled out in order to give the player more to do and to keep the money rolling in for those that design/create the game.

Everything getting bigger has held true even in the days of the old dungeon and dragons. I remember the days where we would flail around in small groups, slaying the occasional orc or desperately running away from the dragon's cave. I remember those days where level 15 was the ultimate goal and represented a significant portion of power for anyone involved in AD&D.

But it got bigger. In the form of extra rulebooks and other expansions and in the end the old power cap of level 15 was extended for everyone.

And with this growth of the power cap things became skewed. Combat tables and rulesets that were initially designed for level 15 and under simply didn't work anymore for players that literally outgrew the content and were well on their way to level 30.
The world initially designed for a modest power cap of level 15 was only able to cope with these new godlike players by throwing new godlike challenges in their face via supplemental rulebooks and yet more expansions.

How do you provide content for godlike players?
How do you provide content for those that have accumulated wealth far beyond what the game was initially designed for?

This is a conundrum that MMORPG designers have been fighting with for ages and thusfar the only answer they could come up with are simple reactive measures to structural problems of the game design.

If people are super rich... then we make stuff super expensive (remember the cost of black dye tubs in ultima online? or say... a wow mammoth mount)
If people are super proficient... then we raise the difficulty of their proficiencies (say hello to another tier of crafting, fishing, cooking etc.)
If people are super powerful... then we simply add creatures that are more powerful than them (I heard the lich king has between 2 and 3 million hit points, assuming we get to fight him)
If people have super gear... then we add gear that is more super (ok fine... better... ).

And once again things get bigger.

Both the designer and the player find themselves stuck in a cycle. The designer raises the power cap and this immediately raises the bar for the player who will always strive to get more wealth, more power and as a result will go out and slay the more powerful creatures that have just been added to the game via the patch.

That illidan chap? He's a pushover now... curator, prince, magtherion you name them... mere jokes that have been relegated to the realm of those that like to solo dungeons with the new gear that has been added in the latest patch.

And as things get bigger, bigger numbers start to cause significant problems. A game that was initially balanced for 60 levels will find it more and more difficult to cope with 10,20,30,40 additional levels and more stats to go along with it. A 10% bonus to stamina may have been insignificant at level 30 but is a huge boost at level 100 where the stats are much greater and percentile scaling goes through the roof.
The problem becomes exponential even with a linear increase in stats across the board and designers/developers will have to jump through flaming hoops to retain even the smallest sliver of balance.

What it comes down to is this: No game system can adequately handle players that are too far outside of it's initial design.

And that's not so far fetched... look at real life. If you apply yourself, work hard or just have natural talent that you can cultivate you may become an Einstein, a Sun tzu, a vincent van gogh but your potential is capped. You will never be a god (i.e. all-powerful) whereas most game systems will lead you from the ordinary to the heroic to true godhood in the end.

If you allow people to grow beyond the hard cap of the initial design you effectively turn a player into an unknown variable. You have no control over this player other than to satisfy his/her need for 'more' and the only way to keep the player happy at that point is to add new, more powerful, bosses and give the player the equivalent of a nuclear bomb to fight them with.

Without a hard cap on player potential you invalidate your carefully crafted gaming environment. People will stumble over themselves trying to get to the end-game ignoring whatever was between just to get to those new, hastily thrown together, bosses and instances that carry the most powerful equipment and yield the highest level of rewards.

As things get bigger, your game system starts to show cracks, glitches and weird effects like sudden problems with burst damage, 100% critical hit chances, massive resistance issues and problems that previously never seemed to be an issue.

Your players are leaving the ruleset, the boundaries of initial design... they have become too powerful, the numbers too large to control. I've seen it happen a dozen times ... games that ended up so skewed that players could do so much damage that an attack was either fully resisted and no damage taken whatsoever or the player was instantly pulverized when hit.
Now that's Epic...

I am watching the numbers increase and I can see the potential problems.

I'll give you one of many examples. Try not to nitpick it too much, it's an example after all: Resistances. With the new wotlk gear its easy for a paladin with a frost resistances aura and about 3-4 pieces of gear to become fully capped in frost resistance. With a little bit of creative gearing and some aura switching the same paladin can probably achieve full frost and full fire resistance at the same time.
Once you reach this point you'll probably have a lot of unhappy mages walking the world (I for one never heard a mage curse more than when most of their spells get resisted).

Certainly this comes at the cost of other stats, but it illustrates that bigger numbers will invariably lead to bigger problems.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The spreadsheet behaviour

Every now and again I tend to go off into a little game design tangent. This is partially related to the fact that I have been playing games since the advent of pong (wait, scratch that... it makes me look old... pacman... no... tank wars... no ah to hell with it... I'm old). The rest is occupational hazard (software development) and a inexplicable fascination with game theory.

So today we're going to go off in one of my tangents together and take a look at how the evolution of games in general led to what I like to call spreadsheet behaviour.

Looking back over the decades of games we can fairly clearly see that most games are little more than a simulation that is heavily reliant upon numbers / math. Not surprising of course considering the involvement of computers but we can also note a significant trend towards 'showing the numbers'. This means that in most modern MMORPGs you can clearly see how many hit points you have, how much mana/energy/rage, how much strength, int, stamina etc. etc. and you can literally compile a large spreadsheet of data about your character.

This more often than not leads to so called min-maxing, numbercrunching and theorycrafting where all of a sudden the power of your character isn't determined by using terrain effectively or knowing when to strike and when not to but increasingly becomes a game of allocating stats / talents in the correct way.

Sun tzu's art of war is conveniently discarded in favor of putting the right stats in the right place and the whole process of watching the numbers increase evolves into somewhat of an obsession for players.

This obsession results in a number of unwanted behaviours. Why do people steal kills? Why do people use 3rd party tools to gain advantages? Why do people exploit bugs? Sure, there are those that enjoy making other people's lives miserable but in general this behaviour is motivated by the spreadsheet and for the spreadsheet.

It is no longer the world or the lore that dictates the progression of characters but more and more it becomes a matter of watching the right numbers increase on your spreadsheet.

Unfortunately most game designers tend to play into this behaviour. Games quickly evolve in giving players more numbers and more things to 'spreadsheet' in order to keep the game interesting longer. Expansions are brought in in order to provide more ladders for players to climb, to provide more and better equipment forcing people to re-evaluate their current spreadsheet in favor of a new one.

And this is very much understandable from a game design perspective considering the alternative.

After all, what would happen if the numbers were not visible? What would the result be if repeatedly killing the same mob(s) [grinding] didn't give you any visual representation of improvement and you simply wouldn't know if the grind was doing you any good or not past the 10th orc you just whacked?

It would take away most of the spread-sheet behaviour but in return would put much greater demands on game designers that all of a sudden have to find ways to keep their world interesting without giving tangible feedback like: you've gained 1200xp

The question begs to be asked however: Is the game designer shooting himself in the foot with this spreadsheet orientation? If the only thing that matters in a game is getting the numbers right then what happens to that content that doesn't give the right numbers?

Are game designers trading the dream of an immersive world for more ladders and more spreadsheet math because they're too lazy to build actually engaging content?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Evil mage

I don't know if gnomes are infectious and the last game of gnome gripping got to me but I was out for the count for at least 4 days... completely bedridden without even the slightest chance of picking up wow. So when I finally do manage to log in yesterday for an hour's worth of play I decided to just take it easy and take my level 42 mage out for a spin.

I decided on a little test run of my slow-fall glyph in order to get used to using the spell more regularly than my usual stack of feathers would allow me. So I hopped on over to freewind post and started jumping off of the various peaks in the area climbing back up where the grimtotem usually hang out when I all of a sudden find myself being followed up the path to the grimtotems by a lvl 46 human (didn't note the class but looked like a rogue to me).

Powerlevelling something was my first thought... when he all of a sudden flagged and started doing the chicken dance right on top of me...

No biggy... I tossed myself down the nearest cliff again and slowfalled quietly away.

Turns out the bugger was a little more persistant than that and soon rode up to me again only to dismount and start doing that stupid chicken dance again.

I wasn't about to let him bother me so I went back up the cliff... slowfalled back down and rinse and repeated that for a while until I was kind of slowfalled out all the while the human following me wherever I went, dancing, /rude /spit etc..

It must've been 10 minutes of this but he was starting to put a real damper on the fun I was having floating around all over the place and I started to wonder if I could take him on as he was only about 4 levels higher than me.

That's when it hit me...

I sported up the mountain again just like I had done many times before with the annoying human in tow and set myself up really close to the edge as if I were picking a direction to slowfall in.

As usual the human decided to park his rear end right on top of me again and display his prowess with chicken dancing.

Then I took two steps back, shot a quick prayer to the to-hit gods, flagged and hit blastwave...

and the to-hit gods were good to me indeed... the human went flying over the edge of the bluff and for a second it seemed like he was flaying his arms wildly while he was plummeting to his death.

I didn't stick around much longer after but it was that very moment that I fell head over heels in love with the spiffy new knockback mechanic and decided right there and then that mages weren't so bad after all (that's a lot coming from a warlock you know).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gnome Gripping - A DK mini-game


The death knights were changing... being released from the powers of the lich king and returning to their previous ancestral homes the death knights re-discovered emotions and desires that had been long-since supressed by the powers of the Lich King...

They redisconvered traditions long forgotten, their desire to entertain and to be entertained... in short they rediscovered their desire to play.

And so came to be the game known as Gnome gripping (or gnome grabbing). The exact origins of the game are unknown but quiet rumors have it that the game was invented by an orcish deathknight sometime during the great exodus to Northrend.

A few records remain from this troubled time detailing the general rules of the game and today we will take a look at these most hallowed of documents.

Gnome Gripping

1. Game Objectives

The objective of the game is to achieve the highest score in a 5 minute timespan or to have the highest score at the time of the 'death' of the last ball.

2. The players

This game is designed for 2 or (preferably) more Death Knight players. Ideally 4+ death Knights should be involved. Non-death knights are not permitted to play however may serve as arbiters or scorekeepers. Death knights participating in the game should be about the same level.

3. The Game Board

Any generally open mob-free areas can be used. The various arena's scattered around the world are ideally suited for a game of gnome grabbing but outdoor pvp areas are ideally suited to introduce balls into the game. Borders should be defined of what is inside the game-board and what is not.

4. Scoring

A death Knight can score 1 point by succesfully 'deathgripping' the ball and 2 points for killing the ball.

5. The Ball

Due to their aerodynamic properties gnomes are ideally suited as balls. In absentia of a gnome dwarves may be used. There are recorded instances of gnome Death Knights rebelling against this vile sport and using Tauren's as the official ball thus introducing the less popular variant to gnome grabbing called 'burger fling'. The ball should be of equal or higher level than the lowest level death knight in the game.

6. The rules of engagement

The death knights should position themselves spread out over the playing field. At no time may a death knight approach another Death Knight's melee range. Death Knights are otherwise free to roam the playing field.
Ranged abilities may be used to attempt to acquire the ball but if the ball dies to this ranged ability only the DK in melee range of the ball is awarded points.
Each death Knight may use death grip whenever they choose and may use all their abilities provided the ball is within melee range. Each succesful deathgrip awards the Death Knight a single point. Destroying the ball yields 2 points.

Points should be individually tallied by an independant scorekeeper (note that warlocks should not be appointed scorekeepers due to their tendency to lie... a lot). Within a small game score can be kept by the individual death knights.

Any and all abilities including non-dk abilities such as engineering trinkets or tailoring nets may be used in the game.

7. Obtaining a ball

Obtaining a ball can be a challenge in itself. Any method may be used to lure an unsuspecting ball to the game however the records show that a few pre-defined tactics seem to have a high level success.

a) Stand in front of Ironforge and yell: 'lone flagged death knight thinks all of y'all suck, come get me'. (Method may result in an overabundance of 'balls' being introduced to the game. Note that screaming 'bur' may be just as effective as solid translations to common are not available.

b) send a low level character to 'bait' a ball

c) ambush a ball in it's travels and begin the game at the ball's location.

8. interference

Due to the immense popularity of the game interference may come from many sources. In case of interference by additional 'balls' the balls are automatically considered part of the game and can be used to accumulate additional points. Mobs of any sorts are not considered balls and do not yield points but are considered in-game obstacles to be killed or not killed as desired.

9. Death

The game does not end with death. However no points can be accumulated outside of the designated playing area. Players are encouraged to return to the designated playing area as soon as possible to resume the game. The game continues as long as there is a living death knight on the playing field (living in the broadest sense of the word).

10. The game ends

The game automatically ends after 5 minutes (anything longer would be considered grieving) or with the death of the last ball in-game. Each ball must be given the opportunity to escape after this 5 minute timespan. New balls may be used to extend the game beyond the 5 minute limit (see ball-boy variant rule). The game also ends if the ball manages to get away (i.e. cannot be recovered by any means) or if all death knights have died / left the playing field. There must be 1 player (not the scorekeeper) alive on the playing field at all times in order for the game to continue.

After the game it is traditional to /salute your oponents and say 'GGGG' which loosely translates into: 'that was one good game of gnome gripping'.


The records show a few specific variants but due to the nature of the game the amount of modifications possible seems endless.

1. Team Ball

Death Knights split into equally sized teams. Team members accumulate points for their respective teams. An independant (non-warlock) scorekeeper is recommended.

2. Mob-ball

During time of ball scarcity a mob of equal or higher level may be used. The mob should be 'elite' to prevent untimely death of the mob. Other mobs are still not considered worth points.

3. Vicious ball

This optional rule states that in case of the death knight dying he/she loses 1 point. In case of the ball killing the death knight the DK loses 2 points.

4. Ball boy

A death Knight is automatically awarded a point for introducing a new ball. This point is awarded even if there is already one or more balls in the game.

5. Tactical ball

Death Grip and killing the ball now yields an equal amount of points (1).

6. Egg-ball

The game is played as normal but the ball may not be killed. Killing the ball costs the DK 2 points.

Side notes: The mob ball games work because of aggro mechanics because it is actually possible to generate enough threat to have the mob return to you even after another dk deathgrips the mob. It however comes highly recommended to use a proper gnome ball since they have a mind of their own and can often call in additional balls thus extending the game (or not depending on how many extra balls come in).
Trust me when I say this works a hell of a lot better with more DK's due to the fairly long cooldown on death grip.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kill stealing - a simple solution

After a brief levelling run with a guildie on my hunter yesterday I decided to pick up a stray quest I had forgotten on my lock in Nagrand.

Unfortunately, as always with warlocks, I was completely out of soulshards and had to farm a chunk of them.

So I go find myself a nice densely populated area and start the usual rotation of dotting up targets waiting for them to get to low enough health so that my drain soul spell has a decent chance at returning a soul.

I usually don't pay too much attention to this proces. After 70 odd levels of dotting, drain tanking and de-souling it becomes somewhat of a second nature and the odds of dying because of carelessness quickly approach 0 when the mobs are about 5 levels below yours.

But after a while I started noticing a suspicious trend. My soul drain didn't return shards... in fact most of my kills weren't 'my' kills as they didn't even give xp.

So I take a look around... and there he sat... a miserable bastard of a low level rogue waiting for me to dot up my target and in the 2-3 or so seconds it takes for the dot to do damage he tagged the mob only to have the mob aggro me the second my dots did any damage.

The little bastard was more than happy to follow me around snagging kill after kill.

I finally had to resort to opening with 'searing pain' with a 1.5sec cast time to get my tags in before the rogue after which he merrily sent me a /rude and rode off into the sunset (just picture nagrand with a sunset then).

It's times like these I wish I were on a PVP server.

And after I had calmed down a little tossing overboard the idea of following him around and returning the favor on my hunter I wonder how this particular problem could be solved.

Ideally one would have an instant cast spell with a significant range that does very little damage (preferably even no damage) but tags the mob for you so you can apply dots without having to worry about someone snagging your kill before your first dot-tick.

Of course this would be bloody unfair if you only gave it to warlocks (we'd be running around stealing your kills... well some of us would at any rate.) ... so instead I propose a simple baseline 'spell' for all classes that allows for the user to:

Tag a mob (either by doing 1 damage or in some other way) at a pre defined range (say 40 yards)

That way melee and ranged classes are on equal footing when it comes to tagging mobs and the one that actually pushes the button first wins the mob rather than the one that doesn't have any dots or isn't otherwise instant cast / range impaired.

Especially in heavily crowded areas like the current Northrend 'starter' areas or the DK starter area this could level the playing field for everyone without putting specific classes at a disadvantage (I am thinking warlocks, priests and possibly rogues / paladins are currently suffering the most from the lack of a good 'tagger').

Of course each class has the potential to tag a mob with something, if nothing else with a wand, but the playing field is simply unevenly distributed with some people having instant cast abilities with no travel time and others do not.

Assuming we can't teach people just to group up for named mobs, queue or show a little common sense and respect a mob tagging spell would be a decent solution to rampant killstealing in crowded areas.

Now all I need is a name... hmmmmm
'Poke' Instant cast 40 yard range. This spell does no damage but allows the user to 'tag' a mob.

okok so I didn't come up with a decent name. 'Bitch slap' was floating around in my mind though so I say be happy with 'poke'.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

WotLK cleared - Did the game get 'too' easy?

So while I am running around outland with my warlock trying to round up some loremaster things I run into this:

WotlK cleared

Well not physically in-game of course but I have a tendency to read some random things while making use of the various flightmasters.

Be that as it may it looks like it took the combined and obviously quite rushed forces of nihilum and SK gaming less than 3 days to wrap up whatever is available of Northrend before the 3.1 content patch.

I'd applaud their effort were it not for the fact that they literally ran out of content and get to sit around and wait / level up alts / QQ before new content comes out... which they will undoubtedly be able to deal with even quicker. So in reality this seems little more than a company sponsored outting to wrap up what little there is to see in WotLK instances before anyone else.

It's amazing what people will do for money isn't it? (make no mistake, those guys are getting paid for this)

Still, all this leads to the question if things all of a sudden didn't get a little too easy. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to be making fast progress and being able to blast through instances without too much hassle.

But content needs to be proportionate to time invested. If people consume a game's content too quickly they will become bored and leave for other games, as a result it's in blizzard's best interest to scale difficulty according to when their content patches are released.

Of course you can't calculate in a bunch of 'hired goons' completing your content in less than 3 days but looking at the average player you need to at least be able to provide them with enough challenge/content to bridge the gap between now and the next expansion/ content patch.

If I really wanted to see it all and have it all 'NOW' I would download a wow emulator and have it all when I want it... but we all know that having everything in a game only leads to boredome and not to some glorified legendary position amongst our peers.

So despite the positive 'casual' atmosphere of the expansion the question begs to be asked if things didn't get a little 'too' easy.

Linklove and loremaster randomness

So it looks like Big Bear Butt linked to one of my posts. I doubt it will result in more visitors since linklove doesn't usually come with an increase of blogpost quality but hey, it's nice to be noticed *waves at all the people that strayed away from BBB temporarily*

It's nice to get some linklove as a low-profile blogger, I think I might just return the favor once I remember how the module works I added for my blogroll (I am terrible with updating stuff).

In other news I have been more or less feverishly working on the loremaster achievements for outland. Not so much because I am aching to be a loremaster but more based on the fact that the Northrend starting areas are completely swamped with people.
And I don't really enjoy the various forms of killstealing and grieving that go rampant when you confine a whole bunch of people in a small space....
(I only like prison 'movies', actually being confined in one is not my thing for some reason).

Primarily though I had a bit of greed set in. I figure that at level 80 I'd at some point be interested in completing the loremaster achievements on one of my characters. But at level 80 the outland zones won't give me any xp so I might as well do the achievements now while they still do.

Turns out that this idea was better in theory than in practice since northrend quests give almost double the xp than outland ones.
Still, sticking around in outland has elevated me to something more than just an ordinary warlock... all of a sudden people appreciate my help... they ask for it... nay they beg for it.... so I've been peddling my services as a warlock tank, because apparantly the 2.5 billion death knights in hellfire don't spec frost (or can't tank [probably both]).

And yes, warlocks can tank lower level instances just fine... (no really, stop laughing) in fact hellfire ramps in normal mode is so easy there's not much I couldn't solo except maybe that boss that summons those nasty mana draining felpuppies.

I figure if I stick to outland for as long as it doesn't annoy me I'll end up somewhere on the way to level 72 and it'll result in having a few more quests at 80 that I can turn to gold.

Yeah, greedy... I know I know... but I am still haplessly without an epic flyer and from the looks of outland I'll be needing at least one of those if I want to keep up with mining/herbing competition in Northrend.

Incidentally I decided to pop over to azeroth to put a level or two on a lowbie (yes, I still play my lowbies, feel the love my little ones) and I can definitely confirm that Azeroth is dead... if you think azeroth was dead before I dare you to log into a low level character now... you haven't seen dead until you've seen azeroth.
Someone even stole barrens chat... I am sure it found a new home in northrend... wonder if it's called tundra chat now. Either way it means that the barrens is actually a halfway decent zone to travel in now, never thought I'd see the day.

So while the old world is taking a turn for the strangely deserted how are you liking northrend?

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to get to Dalaran (no quests)

I've been spending my time musing about Northrend when it occured to me that I had no idea how to get to Dalaran. Since I am not high level enough for any kind of questing in Northrend this is somewhat theoretical but should still work just fine:

1. Get to level 71
2. Group up with someone that already is in Dalaran
3. Have that someone queue the group up for a Battleground
4. /afk out of the battleground or run out.

The level 71 will ensure you end up in the right queue, the fact that your buddy in dalaran queued the group means that is now the default location for people to pop out when they're done with the bg.

I couldn't come up with anything simpler than that other than paying a mage or figuring out what the actual questline is to get to dalaran. Assuming that the quest doesn't come any sooner than lvl 71 anyway...

Just a thought but maybe worth the post depending on how far you are at in Northrend.


So there we have it.
Even I didn't resist the temptation of rolling up my Death Knight and so one fine cold and rainy evening Capsickle was born. I don't really have to tell you much about the deathknight. Chances are you have one and chances are he's further along than mine but from what I see he has all the feel of a melee warlock so I am sure he'll strike a note with me and will be worth levelling.

I resigned to rolling him up mostly to reserve the name (it wasn't likely to be taken but you never know), getting him out of the starter zone and parking him in Hellfire in an inn where he will rest for a week before I take another look at him.

In the meantime I picked up my warlock, sent him on a brief trip through northrend to take a look at the new art before heading back to the netherstorm and nagrand to finish up some quests I had left there.

All the while the DK's were trickling in and the world's first 80's were announced.

I am happy with the new and improved quieter outland. The DK's will surely pass and I really look forward to soloing some instances when I have some wrath gear.

In the meantime my thoughts turn away from the rampaging masses, Northrend is but a tiny blip on the radar of things I want to do... of things I aspire.

The stage is set, with the resources and the levelling potential from Northrend outland will be mine for the taking. I will as always be on the path of levelling all my characters to 80 but I have resolved myself to focus some more on solo-ing instances or dragging along a guildy every now and then.

And with that resolve comes the unwavering promise to note all my solo runs down in this here blog, screenshots and all.

And with unwavering promises in the year 2008 we have to add the following disclaimer: OP might be full of shit, deliverables will not have set deadlines or have specified content /structure and will be delivered under the logistical term 'soon' with the definition as trademarked by Blizzard (meaning: when it's done).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Quo Vadis

And they're off! Thousands of Deathknights swirling around the DK starting areas, thousands more players of different types rampaging across the shores of northrend...

And when the dust settles there will be few left behind.

Few... including myself.

I don't have my copy of wrath yet ... not because I failed to pick it up this morning or because I didn't skip out of work early to get a hold of it but simply because I don't understand the rush.

Where is everybody running to and more importantly why?

Why rush to the nearest fabled end-game scenario only to end up doing all the raid content within a few short months... and then what? Back to complaints about boredome?

I can't think of any good reason beyond some potential realm-first kills, and even those will become quickly forgotten.

So what does that leave?

It leaves Greed... the universal motivator of the MMORPG community... we're not looking for fun, we're not looking for challenges. Those are the excuses we wield to cover our innate desire to be covered in the latest and greatest epics, titles and whatnot.

The mentality of 'what's in it for me?' reigns supreme; where world events such as a zombie invasion or the latest invasion of the capitol cities either go completely unnoticed (in case of the latter) or are considered worth whining about because they affect people's game for a brief period of time / don't yield substantial rewards.

'What's in it for me' has abandoned the old world and relegated it to the domain of the sporadic gold farmer. The land is barren, devoid of anything 'worthy' in the eyes of the hungering, end-game loving masses.

There's no epics worth having, no goals worth pursueing that contribute to the misconception of what is 'cool' or 'ueber'.

The exodus into the new world leaves nothing behind, nothing except the people that are either too new to enjoy the Wrath content or simply would like to enjoy the game on their own merit.

What will you do at 80 when you have consumed all the new content? What will you do when you are all epiced out? Why are you intent on getting there at such great speeds?

But then, why ask questions when the old world now is mine for the taking.

Enjoy the expansion, as will I when I get there in due time. The lich king's wrath will find you, not in the form of a challenge, not in the form of more content but in the form of boredome. And his wrath will be a terrible one for those who adhere to the maxim of 'what's in it for me'.

There is nothing in it for you that you did not put into it yourself... if you abandon the concept of fun for that of greed you will find nothing whilst your will to play will slowly bleed away.

Quo vadis stranger? Why are you in such a hurry?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Whatever happened to those goals?

So with wrath only a day away from release and everyone sitting in the starting blocks to dive into levelling something or the other I am sharply reminded of a post I made back in July.

I had goals back then... goals of things to do before wrath. Nothing glorious like seeing all the bosses or getting specific factions to exalted but straight forward levelling goals based on an assumed release date of december.

Well... wrath is here... or at least as good as and so I am left wondering whatever happened to those goals I set myself back then.

Back in July the team looked like this:

Capsize - lvl 70 undead warlock
Capstone - lvl 70 blood elf paladin
Capricious - lvl 41 troll hunter
Capibara - lvl 54 tauren druid
Capone - lvl 30 Orc rogue
Capeesh - lvl 17 Orc warrior
Capacitate - lvl 21 undead priest
Capitulate - lvl 26 Blood elf mage
Capow - lvl 20 Tauren shaman

And I was hoping I would end up with something along the lines of this for wrath:

Capsize - lvl 70 undead warlock
Capstone - lvl 70 blood elf paladin
Capricious - lvl 64 troll hunter +23
Capibara - lvl 70 tauren druid +16
Capone - lvl 50 Orc rogue +20
Capeesh - lvl 35 Orc warrior +18
Capacitate - lvl 35 undead priest +14
Capitulate - lvl 35 Blood elf mage +9
Capow - lvl 50 Tauren shaman +30
Cap???? - lvl 55 ???? Death Knight +0

I figured wrath would release in december so I should be short 20-30 levels to the goals above... of course with rampant altitis, interesting events and a whole bunch of things to do things never really turn out how they're supposed to...

So let's see where I am today (difference to goals indicated in brackets):

Capsize - lvl 70 undead warlock
Capstone - lvl 70 blood elf paladin
Capricious - lvl 64 troll hunter
Capibara - lvl 68 tauren druid (-2)
Capone - lvl 43 Orc rogue (-7)
Capeesh - lvl 31 Orc warrior (-4)
Capacitate - lvl 35 undead priest
Capitulate - lvl 40 Blood elf mage (+5)
Capow - lvl 35 Tauren shaman (-15)
Cap???? - lvl 55 ???? Death Knight

Most of my characters are pretty close when it comes to meeting the goals and it looks like I am 23 levels off of what I targeted which means that my predictions were amazingly accurate (yes, self-flattery is important too).

The druid didn't hit 70 after all since I got so distracted by flightform at 68 and I never managed to produce anything but perfect loopings on him afterwards (in fact I didn't use a flightpath on my druid for days because of it).
The rogue didn't quite get there in favor of the mage whom I am finally enjoying after months of corpse running and moping around in the barrens (turns out setting stuff on fire is more my speed... go figure).

The big loser is the shaman whom I was really interested in for a while. It turned out that the mana problems at the time for elemental and my desinterest in putting up with another melee character next to my warrior and rogue resulted in the shaman being shelved only coming out to play to train inscription in the last days before wrath.

I'd make some new goals but 10 x lvl 80 seems a bit obvious here so we'll wait and see what wrath has to offer before setting up some new and hopefully slightly more creative goals.

All in all I am very much on target which really steals away whatever little excitement this post could've possibly had for anyone but myself (if you're still reading then I certainly admire your persistance).

Good job you boring bastard *pats himself on the shoulder*

So what about your goals? Whatever happened to those? Did you meet them all or are you hoping that the goals you had can be swept under the carpet like some arbitrary new years resolution (and yes you better delete the corresponding blog-post for I will find it)?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"going down" smoothly

I am not much of an achievement monger... there's a few I'd like to complete that involve interesting titles or a decent mount but on the other hand I am in no rush to complete them or do research into how to complete them.

In fact usually I discover an achievement purely by accidentally fullfilling the requirements.

The same thing counts for the achievement 'going down' which I now finished on all my characters after accidentally discovering it on my hunter.

For mages and paladins there's of course the age old method of hand of protection or ice block which works 100% of the time but for the other classes things looked a little more difficult.

Turns out... not so difficult after all:

What you want to do is get a port to Shattrath and go up the elevator on the scryers tier (not aldor's tier... it's too high).
Once you're up there look down from the right side of the elevator platform (the platform not the elevator itself) and you will see a bunch of archery targets (3 or 4 if I remember correctly).
Simply mount up at this point and run towards the archery targets below... you will drop down scryers tier and if you land close to the archery targets it'll eat up about 95% of your HP but it'll also complete your 'going down' achievement.

So really there's not much more to it than to drop off scryers tier on the right hand side towards the archery targets (don't jump or you'll go splat). Note that I've only tried it mounted so I could cover the distance to the archery targets but I would assume it'd work without mount too.

Maybe this is already a well-known fact but since I accidentally found out and some paladins are still selling (yes, selling, sad isn't it?) hands of protection on my server for the achievement I figured it'd be worth the post.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What if a HoT were a DoT?

I spread the love around a little over my characters trying to get the last few of them to 35 before Wrath hits. With only 3 days to go this seems a very manageable goal which only my warrior most likely will fail at.

As a result I was spending a little bit of time on my priest (now lvl 35): spent a dazzling hour as shadow priest before throwing the spec out of the window in sheer disgust. I don't know what they did to shadow... but it doesn't quite feel right.

So instead I swapped my mindflay spam for smite spam by digging into the holy tree for all those lovely smite improvers.

This by no means helped the monotony of things but gave me time to think about this that or the other thing. Apart from the fact that lesser heal for some strange reason seems to be hideously expensive there seems to be very little in terms of options for a holy / disc build to do damage (I know lesser heal has nothing to do with damage but I just had to point out how bloody expensive it is).

We have the classic dots from the shadow side that we'll stick on but beyond that at around level 35 I am looking at smite and holy fire carrying most of the damage where holy fire is on a pretty long cooldown preventing it from being used all the time.

So for lack of anything other to press my rotation consisted of shield->smite->smite->smite->smite which as you can imagine is hardly a blisteringly exciting experience.

This leaves holy as well as discipline severely lacking in terms of being able to do damage (and all resto builds too for that matter). A complaint that's by no means new amongst people that have tried and are trying to level as any kind of healer.

Blizzard has often tried to address these issues but found themselves causing balancing issues for non-holy trees by adjusting the damage output for holy/resto classes.

The reason for this is simply that holy/resto builds rely on the same damage concepts as other trees in order to be viable in combat. Take a look at a holy paladin for example and you will see that next to holy shock the holy paladin is reliant on seals to do damage. If we then buff the damage of these seals (seal of the righteous comes to mind) we improve the situation for holy but we also skew the results for the ret and protection tree who can also benefit from this extra damage.

This often causes a back and forth between nerfs and buffs where blizzard is desperately trying to maintain balance between two or three completely different trees.

But this shows a whole different problem than what blizzard is working on. Blizzard is attempting to intrinsically balance 3 trees that are heavily tied together by their abilities.
The problem that is showing however is one of not being able to individually balance a tree without affecting other trees... Which results in balancing acts on 1 tree directly affecting performance of other trees.

What I propose is drastically different but by no means new in terms of the gaming industry. Holy and restoration builds have a certain amount of spells and abilities that they are using already which are independant from other trees. Their healing spells. And even though non-resto/non-holy builds will regularly use these spells too they suffer from the fact that they don't have enough supporting attributes to really push up the power of these spells.
Holy/Resto on the other hand is purely investing in these spells since a healer should reasonably be expected to put effort into healing (yes even in a pre-wrath post 3.0.2 world).

So what if we now add a damage component to a healing spell? What if we could cast our greater heals, our flashes of light, our renews and various other hots, instants and heals on an enemy instead of an ally and have them do a (spell coefficient based) percent of their healing power as damage on the target?

The damage coefficients that could be attached to healing spells can be individually scaled from other damage abilities that other trees rely on. Keeping the coefficient low enough means that no self-respecting non-holy/non-resto spec would even consider using them as damage spells. However the fact that these healing spells now can cause damage means they're infinitely more useful for holy/resto builds.

Just imagine 50% (an arbitrary value of course, may as well be 75% or 32% depending on effect) of your normal HoT ticks healing power converted to damage if you cast them on an enemy...

All of a sudden you're not looking at your healing spells from a pure group perspective anymore but you can actually consider rotating in HoTs and other heal spells into your damage rotation allowing you to really focus on your healing spells/abilities.

The fun part of this is that unless you really go overboard with your damage coefficient of your heals you can individually balance holy/resto seperate from other trees. All of a sudden you're not looking at how balancing seal of the righteous is affecting holy anymore because seal of the righteous no longer has to be a primary damage component.

So what if a HoT were also a DoT? What if your heals can inflict pain and suffering (damage) on a non-friendly target. Is it really so far fetched to assume a mighty healer can also cause a mighty amount of damage with his/her heals?

Sure sure you'd be looking at a whole new concept with all the balancing issues thereof... but achieving a split between healer and non-healer trees would make balancing significantly easier, could improve the situation of solo levelling healers tremendously and would even make healers viable as off-DPS... something I rarely hear about unless you're talking about a tank swinging a two hander.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My first gold-seller!

It happened! It finally happened! One of my posts finally got hit by some gold-seller powerlevelling spam that I thought due to my low-profile I would never get.

It's weird that this absolute insult of a post, this aberration of advertising on someone else's website would actually put a smile on my face... no... not a smile... a big ear-to-ear grin.

It means that after a year of innane ramblings about wow I finally passed some invisible treshhold that elevates me from a 'merely informative' status to 'worthy of advertising on'.

Seriously though I have no idea who reads this blog. I get a few comments here and there (thanks for those) when I hit a topic that's close to someone's heart but beyond that I never bothered to look at or indeed install some form of visitor counter.

I am touched... I'd almost sign up for blog azeroth and do some shared topics he he.

I think by now we all know the vagaries of gold-selling. It is against the TOS and mass-bans over it are not uncommon so my advise is simply to keep away from the everpresent temptation even if it is now evidently posted on my blog.

I will take steps to curb their appetite if they get out of hand and if they push too hard I'll happily give some tips and tricks to make your own gold and see how they like that.

In the meantime I'll sit here and pretend that my blog is well-read.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On reagent removal or the absence thereof

I was flaying around in sunken temple for a bit trying out a new destruction build on my warlock to see how backdraft would work together with soulfire and despite fairly good results in terms of damage I hit the wall fairly quick.

I hit the wall... not because my casting rotation was wrong, not because I had issues keeping monsters from closing in and beating on me, not even because my pet scaling bites and I have to recast the damn thing every 5 minutes... I hit the wall because I ran out of souls.

I had gone into the instance having spent a good 15-30 minutes farming shards in nagrand beforehand so I knew I had at least 40 of the little buggars wasting space in my inventory.

Turns out that between casting the occasional healthstone / soulstone, re-summoning pets and heavy use of soulfire and shadowburn I literally ran out of souls in about double the time it took to farm them.

Now petless and with no capability of re-summoning the damn thing I had to roundtrip back to outland and start farming all over again... farming time which of course resulted in half the instance trash mobs respawning.
Trash mobs that don't give me shards because they're grey to me (apparantly low level creatures don't have useable souls).


This wasn't the first time either... I usually have to take along about 60 soulshards into a larger raid instance to make sure I don't run out. If there's a lot of re-summoning of people going on I am most definitely going to run out.
In arena's the situation is worse. With no trash mobs around and only a tiny chance of getting a soulshard from a player I reguarly run out of shards if I don't spend a solid 30 minutes farming before arena sessions.

The problem has become so bad that I completely threw overboard the idea of regularly re-summoning pets or heavily using abilities with soulshard cost during arena. All that just so I could make it through 10 matches without having to run off and find me some hapless creatures to de-soul. Which is also one of the reasons I usually run around as deep affliction (imp = free, affliction spells don't have extra cost).

The worst thing about all this is the inventory management aspect. It takes a full bag slot to carry around about 40 souls and another bag slot to carry around any additionally required soulshards with 0 added benefit other than having a soul shard ready when you need one (or more commonly when someone else needs one).

Taking a look around at other classes we see that most classes got their reagent cost for various spells removed based on the fact that blizzard thought they were taking up too much inventory space and/or required farming of 'older' content. For those spells where the reagent cost wasn't removed glyphs were added to remove the reagent requirement (at least for the most part).
The warlock receives no such thing and at best can hope for a double return on soulshards via a minor glyph.

If I then compare this to my hunter who arguably is the only other class that is 'forced' to waste a bag-slot on ammunition then I see that the hunter comes out on top here as well. Arrows/bullets can be bought at minimal cost, don't require a time investment to farm and on top of that the quiver bag-slot also improves firing speed.

So while other classes get to save 1-5 bag slots on various reagents now the warlock after a solid 3(?) years of complaining still has to put up with half of his inventory consisting of shards?

I am not opposed to the mechanic of collecting souls to fuel my spells... I think it's rather novel and adds some nice 'evil' aspect to the warlock.
But there are numerous ways now how the shard problem could be addressed without removing or even changing the mechanic of collecting souls significantly:

1. Remove soul cost for damage abilities. This would allow us to actually consider using shadow burn and soulfire without having to think about our 'fuel efficiency' all the time.
2. Allow souls to be redeemed from low levem mobs which in turn would make low-level instance runs a lot less tedious.
3. Allow soul shards to stack. Stacks of 5 would be plenty, hell I'd even settle for stacks of 2 which would stretch my shard carrying capacity and reduce inventory waste.
4. Give us an ability that takes the souls from nearby bodies. So if you're standing in an instance and there's trash mob corpses all over you hit your new 'redeem' ability and all the corpses turn into nice little soulshards (if you have looting rights).
5. Add soulshards to the currency tab removing the need to inventory manage the darned things.
6. Make bags automatically replenish shards as you kill or over time (a free shard every 15 minutes would be a godsent in itself).

There's a lot of simple things that could be implemented to alleviate the warlock's infinite problems with soulshards and there's really no reason why collecting soulshards should be so much of a chore.

If it takes you 30 minutes to farm the required shards before you can play your warlock it simply means that you just wasted 30 minutes of your playtime on something that gives you nothing other than the ability to cast spells.

Would you play a frost-mage if you had to go out and collect non-stacking snowballs to cast blizzard? Would you use pyroblast if you had to collect individual bits of magma to cast it? How would you feel about your protection paladin if you had to have a spare shield in your inventory for every time you 'threw' your avenger's shield? How much would you enjoy your hunter if you couldn't buy bullets/arrows from a vendor but had to manually craft them each and every day?

These are all very off-the-wall examples... but a warlock without soulshards cannot function at it's optimum and having a limit to how many shards you carry means that there's literally an 'invisible' cap on how long a warlock can last in any situation.

Finally lets look at this from a cost perspective:
If it takes you 30 minutes to collect about 50 shards (that's pretty good in itself) and it takes you about an hour to farm 100g (not unrealistic for me) that means that every soulshard is worth about 1g.
That adds up quickly in a normal day's worth of play... it adds up even quicker in a raid... and it's just plain ridiculous when you start using your shards to taxi people all over the place.

Let's be honest... I really don't mind spending a shard on summoning a demon, it make sense that they would need a soul to consume since they're demons after all. But soulfire and shadowburn? Those spells have been normalized ages ago. The damage is far from spectacular and doesn't warrant the soulshard requirement.

Do we even remember what the soulfire animation looks like? I rediscovered the spell with the new backdraft haste procs but now I am going to have to bench it again simply because I don't want to drag 70 shards around just so I can cast some hasted soulfires...

Something needs to be done... and that something doesn't look that difficult... so the question begs to be asked: Why is nothing done about the soulshard situation?

Monday, November 3, 2008

No such thing as balance?

After trying for a full weekend to score a kill on a shadow of doom, failing miserably and wasting 80+ shards on the whole thing because some asshat always tags my kills before I can I decided to curse the whole thing to hell and start reading some random bloggage...

and I don't think I ever saw the words 'nerf' and 'balance' used to such an extreme extend as in the last period (ok so I wasn't here when TBC was introduced).

So let's talk a bit about this thing we refer to as 'balance'. By definition balance indicates that the sum-total of all the variables on side A needs to be equal to the sum-total of all variables on side B. Simple enough...

So if Player A is capable of killing player B in 10 seconds flat then player B should equally be able to kill player A in 10 seconds flat. Of course in games the function becomes more complicated by introducing more variables such as hitpoints, healing abilities and extra damage ability.

This doesn't necessarily change things... player A should still be able to kill player B in 10 seconds flat and vice versa. But it does get more complicated when player B has half the health pool, double the damage but can also toss in a heal for half his health over 5 seconds.

Balance is when the net result is 0, when two classes that are 'perfectly' played in the end either never manage to kill each other or kill each other simultaneously.

You can see how things get complicated really quick when you add in things like global cooldowns, internal cooldowns, cast times and various talents that affect both survivability as well as offensive power over different classes that have different playstyles. The thing becomes even more complicated as attribute values climb to higher numbers when all of a sudden 5% of something can be a significant amount more than it was an expansion ago.

Spreadsheet math can be applied to as many variables as you like and as a result it's very simple to say that if both class A and B can output x amount of damage / healer over a set period time they are indeed intrinsically balanced.

And this is the point where theory and practice shake hands and say goodbye to each other.
If player A has to click a button 7 times in 10 seconds to do the same damage as player B who happens to have a spell that simply takes 10 seconds to cast but does all the damage he needs this is still technically considered balanced.

After all player A can still kill player B in 10 seconds flat and vice versa. The math says things are balanced but the players say they are not.

In fact both players will say that they are at a disadvantage. Player A is complaining that he has to push buttons 7 times where player B only has to push one once and player B will say that he needs to stand around for 10 seconds to fire off his spell whereas player A can skip and dance around.

Again, the theory clearly states that this is 'balanced' in terms of DPS but what this balancing methodology doesn't take into account is a) enviromental factors such as standing in a large AoE that would probably grill you if you didn't move out of it and b) player skill and perception in which the balancing theory has to assume that both player A and player B are completely perfect people that couldn't push the wrong button if they tried and know each other to the tee.

You can't take things like that into account in theory because it complicates your math or invalidates the result (or makes it otherwise inapplicable: This spec is ideally suited for players of the ages 10-16 with an extensive background in quake arena and a preference for rocket launchers).

Add to this a thing called player perception which is significantly biased towards their own class and you get community feedback that simply doesn't accurately represent the truth.

If I as a warlock see a retribution paladin bubble up removing all my dots and then come in and kill me because he's immune to all my counters then I as a warlock could consider this OP. On the other hand if I as a pally have my bubble on cooldown and are slowed by a curse of exhaustion while the dots are eating all my HP without me being able to close in to the warlock then I'd cry 'nerf warlock'.

This scenario has nothing to do with 'balance' and everything to do with perception.
If you as a player have an innate affinity with casting a lot of instant cast spells while staying on the move you will do great with class A and not so well with class B. This does not mean that class A is better than class B it merely means that in your perception class A is better.

It is these perceptions that determine the posts on the forums and it is exactly here where developers who are more interested in the 'technical balance' don't see eye to eye with people who have practical experience but base their opinions around percieved balances.

The irony here is that neither side is wrong. If your warlock DPS is in line with all the other DPS classes then the developers will happily say it's balanced but the players who actually have to maintain an idiotic 7 button rotation to get to that DPS will call you a damned fool for thinking it is 'balanced'.

So with this in mind can we assume that there is no such thing as balance? That individual perception will always dictate the current balance and that blizzard will always be nerfing and buffing around a 'percieved' median?

And beyond that: do we really want balance? What would wow be if it were more like chess? Where everyone has the exact same options and resources available... would it be a better game?

I am inclined to think that Blizzard should focus on the playability side of things and make sure that each class has a set of unique abilities and is inherently fun to play and plays as advertised.

If nothing else a balancing act should never be a knee-jerk reaction. Are we really sure the new ret paladins were overpowered? Or was it simply the new flavor of the month that resulted in a huge increase of paladins everywhere and an unfamiliarity on how to deal with this new 'threat'? Did the Flavor of the month players move on after a month? We'll never know now... Ret is going up, down, up and down again every couple of days and the truth is probably somewhere in the middle or is it?.

Giving a change time to settle in is always a good idea. If you don't then you're really just addressing the concerns of those who cry the loudest and that my friend is no way to balance anything.