Friday, July 25, 2008

Looking Back - Looking Forward

Waaaaay back in Januari I made a little post deliberating how my characters were getting along. Where they were in their WoW carreers and I thought it would be interesting to take another look now that we're 6 months further down the line (can you believe how fast time goes?).

This post might not be interesting for anyone who hasn't been following noobding for a while so to the occasional reader, go read my previous post instead (I fixed all the strange formatting bugs and it's actually readable now :P).

Looking back at how it was 6 months ago my team looked something like this:

Capsize - lvl 65 undead warlock
Capstone - lvl 32 blood elf paladin
Capricious - lvl 24 troll hunter
Capibara - lvl 20 tauren druid
Capone - lvl 10 Orc rogue
Capeesh - lvl 12 Orc warrior
Capacitate - lvl 20 undead priest
Capitulate - lvl 23 Blood elf mage
Capow - lvl 10 Tauren shaman

I was heavily invested in my warlock at the time and quietly hopeful that my paladin would grow up to be a well liked tank. Plans for the other characters were sketchy at best but the thought was I would work towards the holy trinity (1 tank, 1 DPS, 1 healer) and see what to do from there.
The rest of my characters were underappreciated at best but every now and then got the benefit of getting their rested xp burned off and their talents distributed in pretty random places.

Looking at the team now (and I quote this from the top of my head since I don't have WoW access here):

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

Which is about 130 levels in total further than I was 6 months ago. Considering I play a few hours a day most of which I spend standing around and chatting anyway I am quite pleased with this number.

The Paladin has temporary left the path of tanking and is picking up some healing / spell damage gear to do some holy shocking mostly due to the fact that tanking gear is somewhat hard to come by if you don't instance enough. The warlock is for the most part completely unchanged but has significantly better gear happily sitting at +1k spell damage.

The druid will be the final piece for the holy trinity. Currently running as a moonkin with a lot of points now going into restoration to get nature's swiftness. Granted that will make him somewhat of a moonkin healer hybrid but at least he'll still be viable for soloing.

The mage is currently still my least liked character which is strange because I usually have a soft-spot for ranged DPS. I simply can't settle into the rythm needed to play a mage well meaning I'll be forced to crawl him to 40 after which probably some of the more interesting talents will kick in and the power curve will pick up a bit. This is a similar problem I had with my warlock but is more obvious now because the content the mage is going through is no longer new.

The rest of the field is coming along nicely except for my warrior and priest whom I look forward to playing but simply didn't get around to doing so.

Looking forward the question whether or not we should plan for wrath is probably strong in everybody's mind. Assuming however that wrath will hit the shelves around christmas there's plenty of time to decide whether or not there is something worth preparing for.

For the moment my primary concern is with the changes that came with 2.4.3 or rather the ability to mount your character up at level 30. Travel speed is everything WoW and whilst not an immediate concern for my shaman thanks to ghostwolf there's almost nothing more disheartening to me than to switch from my paladin with an epic mount + crusader aura to a character that is forced to walk all over the place.

With the ability to supply all my alts with 16 slot bags, buy up all the bank slots and fill them full of 16 slot bags as well (yay for tailoring) there's really no reason why I shouldn't invest a little in the lower end of my team.

So within the next few months I am hoping to level the field a bit and get all my characters mounted.

For the sake of argument lets say I manage to scrape together another 130 levels by the time wrath hits. Ideally I would strive for my characters all being mounted and at least some parts of the lower field hovering around lvl 55. That way I can easily put a death knight into my rested xp rotation and funnel relevant equipment between my characters. The trick however would be to stay far enough away from 55 (either higher or lower) to prevent from having to share quest mobs with hundreds and hundreds of (probably pink haired gnome) death knights starting out their carreer.

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

As you can see the shaman is receiving a tremendous boost during this period. Primarily due to my current unfolding interest in a elemental / restoration hybrid and the high level of utility a shaman brings. The other noteworthy improvement is the hunter which is mostly related to the fact that I am having such an incredibly easy time levelling my hunter. As a result he will probably come up a little more often when it comes to burning off rested xp.
This will settle the field nicely around lvl 35 with an additional 2 level 50's to keep my shiny new death knight company.
The mage as anticipated will receive the least amount of love until someone manages to inspire me to play my mage (that's right... that was a challenge).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guild concepts - From cookie to cake

I have been toying with the idea of creating my own guild lately. And while this is mostly due to logistical issues (tired of logging in and out all the time to transfer things from A to B) and a significant bankspace issue (I am too stingy to upgrade to primal mooncloth bags) I figured I would at least try to create a novel 'vision' for a guild.

Part of the issue of finding a guild at least for me is that there seem to be only limited flavors available.

1. The Raiding guild
This flavor doesn't suit me simply because I can make myself available maybe two or three times a week for a raid and due to job limitations can simply not guarantee that I will be online when the raid starts. I don't like inconveniencing people so I am simply not 'raid viable'.

2. The PVP guild
The pvp guilds at least on my realm attract a lot of questionable people generally displaying anything from l33t1sm to just plain bad attitude. PVPers are generally so invested in PVP that raiding anything except maybe an alliance town seems beyond their desire. This is compounded by the fact that my current server has very few pvp guilds. This is not to say I am not interested in PVP as a whole but I gain very little satisfaction from arena-ing (even when I win) and full-time BGing.

3. Levelling guilds
Levelling guilds for a lack of a better name are usually small groups of friends that have banded together to happily level themselves to 70 and then generally aspire to either turn to raiding or invest in pvp. These guilds are a solid choice for me until they make it to the point where they either go full raid or full pvp. These guilds are somewhat difficult to identify... they advertise with having a gbank and a tabard but generally don't state their long-term goals. Which means its easy to join a guild only to find out later down the line that they're heading a completely different way.

Of course at this point you're probably looking at me wondering if mr smarty pants has any better ideas. Well I do... or at least I like to think I do.
So here's a rundown of guild 'visions' I've been toying with, some ridiculous at best, others quite interesting. Guild names were picked randomly for illustration purposes.

For Hire
A guild that specialises in renting out players to other guilds for a set fee per hour. Essentially you set up a list of fees for all the instances/group activities in-game multiplied by a certain value depending on what class they want to hire and what gear level is needed. A Sunwell geared healer (if you can manage to recruit one of those) would obviously fetch a higher price than a kara geared DPS.
Payment would be in advance for a set amount of hours and of this payment a certain % of gold would go to the guild (the royal tenth so to speak) and the rest would be for the player that is being 'rented'.
Rented players for all intents and purposes are considered part of the renting guild and should have rights to roll on loot (with negotiable exceptions).

A pvp heavy guild with a focus on world PVP. Members of the guild should have their PVP flag enabled at all times and engage members of the opposite faction no matter the odds. The single minded goal of this guild would be to revive world pvp, organize raids on enemy cities, challenge the opposite faction to do the same and proliverate themselves as an extremely high profile pvp guild. Ideally this kind of guild would lock down enemy towns preventing quest turn-ins and as a result forcing the opposite faction to react. If the guild succeeds in completely locking down an enemy faction town for the duration of, say, a week (or a combined total of hours within that week) then this event should be celebrated and posted all over the place as if it were a raiding guild's first boss kill.
Arena and BG pvp should be considered a training ground only and visited for the purpose of training in groups and gaining the necessary gear. The focus must remain on world pvp at all times.

Free Form
A guild with no set goals or structure. A public site should be erected where members can answer a weekly poll that determines what the guilds goals will be for the coming week(s). The poll should consist of a random raiding target, a random pvp target and a random item target and replaced once the goal is reached.
Goals are picked at random for example by doing a google search on ner'zuhl and finding a relevant instance, pvp goal and item tied to this particular piece of wow lore.
Free form targets can also include doing a full druid 5-man, collecting 15 random pets, gaining revered with sporregar and whatnot. These targets could also be picked from the achievments list to be introduced with WotLK.
This guild should strive to see as much of the game and do as many 'fun to do' things without forcing themselves into an unreasonable raiding schedule.
Achieving a free-form target will award the participants points that should be listed as a ranking on a public site (with no other benefit than seeing your name there).

As the name suggests this guild is all about collecting stuff. Members should be encouraged to research the various wow databases for unique, rare or just plain interesting items. This information should be posted in the forums and much like a freeform guild would do runs should be organized to make sure that everyone has the listed items.
Forums should allow for members to have personalized checklists so they can see what they have already and what would be interesting to get next.
Collectors should spend a significant amount of time at capital city banks to show off all the things other people don't have.
Anything from gear sets, darkmoon cards, vanity pets, unique trinkets and even rare craftables should be considered collectable.
Achievments could be listed on a public site showing off all the goodies players have via the item's icon symbol next to their name.

That's 4 ideas right there... with more in the back of my head that I will avoid mentioning here simply because this post is long enough as it is.

Do you have any guild ideas you would like to add? Or perhaps you like one of the concepts so much you wouldn't mind me going into more detail?

Comment away

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The good, the bad and the ugly

Well my mind is all over the place with all the planning to do for alts, my current 70's and the beta news so I decided to just split this post into 3.

The Good

I now have two characters at 70 and am once again at the liberty to pick a new character class to bring up all the way to 70. With my recent adventures into pally healing / shocking I have a strong hunger for a true spell damage / healer hybrid and the elemental shaman seems to be the way to go. But on the other hand my druid is coming along nicely sitting fully rested at lvl 52. I am also rather enjoying my hunter for the fast-forward levelling it can do and the ability to be a complete huntard and still manage to survive quite easily.
I enjoy alts tremendously. Learning the basics on each class really makes me appreciate the effort blizzard put into giving each class and even each spec a unique feel to it. Not only that but with every character I learn pvp seems to get easier.
So many choices to look forward to.

The Bad

70 Kind of feels like the end of the game. With limited time to play, no guild and the prospect of spending the next 10 years in a bg grinding for gear the appeal of a lvl 70 character is a lot less than that of a new one. There's a lot of things I take my 70 out to do such as soloing instances, exploring the world, picking up recipes and generally fooling around but my characters lack tangible goals.
Gear has never been a priority to me. Sure I'd like to have a set of full merciless or vengeful gear but then again there is no real need for it. I was able to level to 70 in outland greens and adding more gear at this point is only helping to reduce the challenge of the game.
There's still plenty of things to do, but it's down to my own creativity rather than following a beaten path.
At any rate you know you're in trouble when your first 70 is considering a carreer in banking.

The Ugly

This whole beta WotLK thing is getting out of hand. I am fairly sure it was the same before tbc but reading a cross section of various wow forums and blogs it's absolutely mind boggling how many people are screaming bloody murder. The complaints range from their classes becoming obsolete, to other classes being OP, to not being able to start all characters at lvl 55 and can even go as far as outright demanding to not have features in the game such as the achievment system that's apparantly being considered.

Now I don't mind a bit of healthy speculation. I am sure the people over at elitist jerks welcome the chance to sink some math into the topic but why in the blazes would anyone get angry over things that aren't certain yet?

The problem is partially that people put the new beta stuff into context with the current TBC environment. We don't even know what most of the new lvl 70+ mobs in northrend will behave like let alone any of the bosses. What strikes us as OP now might be completely trivial when we're actually standing in northrend.

So I guess we're looking at a troll-paradise for the next 4-7 months or however long it takes for WotLK to release. I am not sure what's worse... inviting a community of trolls to live on your blog because you decided to post some WotLK stuff or people that actually believe what is posted (and there's some strange stuff out there already).

This would be an ideal time for an april 1st kind of post.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Holy Hell in practice

A few posts back I explained the changes I was going to make for my paladin which resulted in the following build

which I dubbed holy hell but is little more than some form of holy/prot hybrid (what's in a name).

Over the weekend I had extensive time to try it all out and see what it does.

With no healing gear on my pally I decided to go the expensive route and pick up a selection of +healing greens with which I was able to boost my +healing to a meager +550 healing (and some 250+ spell damage).
You'd be right if you pointed out the existence of honor based PVP gear, but I am fairly sure I'll be able to upgrade into merciless at a decent rate making the expenditure of time and money to get the full honor PVP set together greater than it's value (my paladin never bothered to instance much).

I also picked up the grid addon to help deal with the large amount of players at various stages of health and ranges. I wasn't able to fully configure grid right off the bat simply because I had no idea what to expect or what would be needed so I ran it with it's default settings.

It is well worth noting at this point that I had no previous experience as a healer so it took me a while to become holier than thou and stand in the back rather than wading into the thick of it right off the bat.

There were 2 basic strategies the build would allow me to follow:
1. Dive into combat sealing like crazy and spot healing myself
2. Stand in the back and heal my little heart out

Diving into combat straight away quickly reminded me about all the defense rating I had sacrificed and the fact that I had practically nil resilience didn't help to alleviate things. Still, this was to be expected and something that will solve itself in time and with gear. The following things were interesting to observe:

1. I am truly dissapointed with redoubt. While the proc rate was lackluster on my protection build it was clearly overshadowed by the heavy use of holy shield. In a build without holy shield you are all of a sudden faced with no block rate to start out with meaning that by the time redoubt actually bothers to proc you're half-dead. On top of that the mitigation is quickly lost because it doesn't take long for you to burn through your block charges.
2. SoR is impressively efficient. Even with my pathetic green +healing mace judging sor and resealing it does a good chunk of damage and benediction seems to help quite a bit in keeping the cost down. The only real problem is the same as I had with my protection build and that is actually keeping in range of your targets and for this I am definitely feeling the loss of pursuit of justice. I would've considered judging crusader if I had been able to stick to my targets more efficiently and maybe a boar speed enchant will help here.
3. I am not feeling Blessing of kings atm. Quite possibly because my stats are too low (greens will do that to you) but a 10% flat increase acros the board is nothing when you're out of mana. I resorted to starting most fights out with kings and then switching to wisdom once my mana hit the halfway mark.
4. Holy shock is evil. Being able to slap someone across the face with a 2k crit is a wonderful thing, add to that a nice SoR judging followed up you're looking at almost 3k damage in less than a second. The only disadvantage is that your target better be dead afterwards because they'll be very, very angry.
5. Self-healing in melee combat isn't a real winner. Even with concentration aura up you simply don't get the space to cast a full blown holy light. The only workaround I've found is to drop an engineering bomb / hammer or justice and use the stun period to heal myself to full health. If you have the space hitting yourself with a rank 1 holy light will give you .5secs off the next holy light which does help a little.

From the healer side of things I was wading into unknown territory. Still with grid in tow I could observe the following:

1. Despite my pathetic +healing I could holy light for 2k with crits going into the 4k HP range. My flash of light was able to pull about 1k hp heals (usually a bit less) which impressed me quite a bit.
2. That 1 point in purifying power really shines. There's plenty of things to cleanse in PVP and a good holy shock crit together with a sor judgement and an exorcism crit can spell doom for many a felhunter (incidentally the most common pet to have on me).
3. Crit clearly is king when it comes to healing. The more crit you have, the more refunds you get through illumination.
4. I am lacking some form of ranged attack and once again I am back to tossing engineering bombs. I am considering a death-ray or a rocket launcher or something along those lines so I can do something to stop those warriors and druids from constantly charging me. I think engineering will have the answer to this problem.

The only real downside I could detect for healing is whenever you heal you are essentially not using those 7 points in ret and another 8 in protection until someone comes and tries to stop you from healing.

On a side note: At this point I wouldn't even dream of tanking anything until I at the very least have 5-6 pieces worth of decent epics so it's hard to evaluate things like improved righteous fury.

Re-evaluating my talent choice: Redoubt in the protection tree is really bothering me at this point. Whilst I love precision and guardians favor I am wondering if it's worth 5 points in redoubt to get these two. Blessing of protection and blessing of freedom are good stuff in pvp but you don't lose the abilities by speccing out of guardians favor you just cut into their cooldown / duration.

Kings isn't going to make a huge difference whilst soloing, you can get it from someone else in PVP which leaves me looking at groups where you usually go with salv, might and wisdom anyway. Perhaps the days of blessing of kings are numbered for me; at least for now.

Finally while improved righteous fury is a must tanking skill I am starting to wonder if I can't do without. Preliminary testing shows that the threat generation of righteous fury with talents is huge, without a lot less. Toss in a few healing crits however (especially holy shock crits seem to do nicely for that) generates quite a bit of threat which might be enough to do some tanking in lower level instances.

So if the build doesn't pick up with gear I am considering taking the 13 points from prot (with the biggest loss being precision) and dropping them into ret and maybe a few points in holy.

The downside of that would be a forced choice between the 41 point holy talent divine illumination and the 21 point skill of sanctity aura. Cheaper mana cost across the board (but on a cooldown) or more damage across the board with the annoyance of more aura switching.

I'll have to hit the books on that one and figure out what's best for me. In the meantime my paladin will join my warlock in a slow honor grind towards the merciless set. At least he came out of the weekend with a nice new pair of shiny vindicator boots.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I had been toying with signing up for blog azeroth which is turning out to be quite the community of wow bloggers.

Thankfull their latest shared topic set me straight and reminded me of the fact that I had better blog about what I feel like rather than dealing with that strange feeling of having to come up with material for a blog post to a topic that I didn't come up with. Or at least feeling like I have to compe up with something...

It's not that I mind borrowing inspiration from other blogs (I have in the past and I will in the future) but how creative can you possibly get with a shared topic called: "Why do I WoW?" Should I actually feel obligated to fill out the shared topic every time someone comes up with a new one? Do other bloggers?

How much fun is it for the reader to see hundreds of blog posts popping up like mushrooms with exactly the same topic? Are we sure people enjoy these shared topics?

It almost feels like Blog azeroth has either run out of creative ideas or they're using the rolodex of standard topics applicable to any MMORPG.

Nothing against blog azeroth of course, the initiative is quite good and it's nice to have new sources of inspiration and I am glad people have a good place to come together to see whose who but I can practically see the next shared topic being: "What is your favorite non-combat pet and why?".

But before I wander off into the land of mindless ranting a little heads up that the beta patch info is available for Wrath right here

As usual the friendly reminder to not take anything in there too serious since things have a tendency to change drastically from an initial Beta to the actual go-live.

I am sure there's plenty of speculation going on already all over the WoW community if you're looking to join the bandwagon of commentators but I have a feeling we'll have plenty of time to blog about every aspect of it before wrath hits the shelves.

I for one will delay commenting on any kind of class changes listed in the beta notes until I have the expansion installed on my PC and have to physically deal with the changes.

41/13/7 Holy Hell in concept

Inspired by the lacking damage of my protection paladin, some chats in-game and a few interesting reader comments I have decided to re-evaluate the position of my current protection paladin.

Again, and I can't state this enough, protection is great stuff. Superb tanking ability coupled with an easy time of AoE farming physical mobs makes a protection spec extremely fun to play and suprisingly fast to level (once you have holy shield + reckoning at least).

What it doesn't do is damage. Living off of reactive damage works wonders against brain-dead NPCs (and incidentally against not so clever rogues too) but anyone with the capacity to evaluate an opponent will simply take 2 steps back and ignore you alltogether leaving you with little to do other than /taunt /rude /spit to get them back to hitting your shield.

Since prot is very demanding with talent points without adding damage we are stuck looking at a holy build that makes an attempt at actually doing a little bit of damage consistently and a nice chunk of burst damage to help kill something at low health without tossing all our survivability overboard.

The general idea with this build is to cater to players that don't have infinite playtime and as a result have to be able to do halfway decently in groups, solo as well as PVP without worrying too much about living the life in sunwell or having to respec on a continual basis.

Since there will be 41 points in holy this is essentially a healer build which means your primary role should be healing but you should not have to be afraid to go in swinging with this one.

Conceptually what I have so far is the following:

The talent distribution looks a bit messy so lets see what the corner stones are for damage and survivability starting with damage:

Improved seal of righteousness is where most of our damage will come from. Whacking things with SoR up and judging it regularly will be our default damage output and to bring some utility to this bread and butter attack we take benediction and improved judgement from retribution. This not only lowers the mana cost of our constant judging and re-sealing but also to increase the amount of times we can actually judge SoR on a target. Precision from prot is taken to make sure we actually hit when we swing.

Ideally we'd want sanctity aura from retribution as well picking up crusade on the way but this would take a lot of talent points to achieve and would come at the cost of either some holy power or at the loss of blessing of kings one of the most requested and useful buffs currently available to pallies.

I opted to go with some protection talents instead but heading for sanctity aura + crusade in ret could be an equally interesting approach.

Back on the damage topic we see that the holy tree offers up holy shock (15 sec cooldown) with an interesting combo in divine favor that would make the next holy shock spell crit. Setting those two up in a single macro would allow for an almost guaranteed holy schock crit every 2 minutes.

Cleverly judging your improved SoR right after your holy shock crit combo should help in providing a decent amount of burst damage.

With illumination being a pre-requisite for both divine favor and holy shock and the potential to get some mana back from our costly spells when they crit means that crit becomes a very interesting thing to add to our talents which brings into play 5/5 holy power.

To maximize our damage further we go with holy guidance and pray that we can stack enough int for it to have some decent impact on our damage output which incidentally explains the choice of 5/5 divine intellect over divine strength (which does little to nothing for us).

From the survivability side of things we're highly dependand on being able to keep casting our heals when we're being slapped around bringing us to 5/5 spiritual focus. I would've preferred improved concentration from protection but this would take too many points out of holy draining points from holy guidance a very solid damage talent.
Healing light, light's grace and divine illumination will ensure that our heals hit hard, hit fast enough and are cheap enough to keep us up and running even when under pressure of going OOM or being otherwise attacked.

Blessing of kings is what we're heading for in protection to increase both our damage and survivability. 10% extra in all stats means more stamina to survive with, more int to hurt things with and the rest of the stat increases albeit unnecessary are gravy.

In order to up our survivability a bit more we take guardians favor to increase the rate we can bubble up against physical damage. The extension to blessing of freedom by 4 seconds is highly situational but very practical when it comes to helping out flag-runners in the battlegrounds or to avoid being snared in encounters where this is common.

Redoubt is favored over improved devotion aura. The extra block can be extremely convenient when stuck tanking for a group without a tank and improved devotion aura doesn't add significant amounts of mitigation even when compared to the somewhat lackluster proccing of redoubt.

To finish up our tanking capacity we drop 2 points in improved righteous fury. The damage reduction is convenient but primarily the skill allows you to succesfully tank / off-tank lower level instances whilst preventing DPS from taking aggro from you all the time. The usage of righteous fury is obviously to the discretion of the user and it should probably be turned off when you're just healing.

As you may have noticed by now there's two points in the Holy tree that are just kind of floating around with no specific purpose. I arbitrarily put one point in Sanctified light. The extra crit you'd get would be significantly more interesting if it applied to all holy spells or at the very least both Holy light and flash of light rather than just holy light. It does make you a better healer so you could argue to have both loose points in holy in there.

Instead I opted for the curious choice of purifying power. Cleansing and constant consecration costs quite a bit of mana. In groups where a lot of cleansing is needed cleansing alone can put you on the unhappy side of the mana bar.
The truth behind purifying power however is that it provides an amazing 10% extra crit chance for exorcism and holy wrath which is huge for a single point.
This gives you a significant edge when fighting of the undead and demons and moreover makes for an excellent tool to put a warlock pet out of it's misery.

So there we have it. A build that has all the key traits of a healer build making it a very suitable main/off healer but also grabs enough from protection and retribution to provide a modicum of tanking ability as well as helping out with the damage generation.

Healing stats are obviously favored but a healthy dose of resilience and stamina will help compensate for the underdeveloped tanking abilities. Conveniently all of these stats are easily obtained through battle ground gear.

Not as much of a hybrid build as I had expected to end up with (very much a holy build in fact) but in my opinion still a good attempt to bring back the mental image of a paladin that a lot of people had when they started playing wow:

Charge in, hammer in hand, shield in front and put the fear of holy hell into the hearts of the enemy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Does blizzard have stat-itis?

As a software developer there is one maxim that is adhered to by pretty much every software developer I have ever met: KISS - Keep it simple stupid

I am sure this term is well known for other fields of expertise but it most certainly holds true for any kind of software design. If your graphical user interface (GUI) isn't simple enough people won't use it even if it is the best program ever written.

If a user can't understand the application you wrote you might as well write it off.

I try to keep things simple when it comes to software and as a result it comes to me as a bit of surprise that there are so many stats in WoW that seem redundant or at the very least duplicate for melee vs caster.

Here's a few examples of what I mean:

Spell Hit and Melee Hit (or just hit of you prefer it)
Spell damage and attack power (not a 1 on 1 comparison)
Spell Crit and Melee crit
defense rating and defense

and pretty much every other stat that is split up into a 'rating' and a 'value' such as defense rating and just defense.

Not only are there a significant amount of stats the implementation seems to vary as well.

Taking a look at block rating and block value you'd think the relation would be similar to defense rating and defense but block rating in fact has nothing to do with block value.

But what is the point of having so many different stats? Does it add flexibility in terms of assigning item budget to items perhaps. It might aid designers in designing specific items for specific classes... but it also adds a high level of complexity to anyone picking up the game.

Why is there a split between a rating and a value? If x defense rating makes for y defense then what does defense add that isn't already added via defense rating? In fact any place where defense is used you could substitute defense rating quite easily.

By collapsing the rating and the actual value into a single stat (defense rating) you toss out a completely redundant stat without losing anything other than maybe a few smaller numbers on your character sheet.

This holds true for defense rating, but also for parry rating, resilience rating and all the other stats that have this ackward split between rating and non-rating.

The same seems to apply to crit and hit values. What is the difference between spell hit and melee hit? Well one is for melee and the other is for casters. But what difference would it make if you collapsed these stats into each other as well and just call it to-hit.

For spell casters it would still be spell-hit, for melee it would be melee hit but you no longer have 2 stats essentially doing the same job. The only real risk is that the to-hit for some classes would now apply to both spells and melee attacks but this is more of a balancing issue rather than a technical limitation.

By collapsing all these caster vs melee stats and getting rid of the somewhat strange split between rating and actual value you can compress stats. The result would be potentially easier item design. It is then up to the player to decide how to use this new itemization. If the warrior wants to don a cloth belt because it has a nice amount of crit on it then he can do so. This essentially means that all classes in the game will get a broader choice of items they can equip and the true limitation will be the type of armor you can actually wear.

Where are the technical and functional advantages to having all these extra stats? Am I missing a significant portion of information that seems to make these stats necessary or does blizzard have a bad case of stat-itis?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not a spec?

I've been doing a lot of reading on the damage potential of a paladin holy build as of late. I love protection to pieces but all the protection talents, the stacking of defense rating and all that goodness leaves me well armored but completely unable to do any damage.

I am not asking for 1k weapon hits, I am not even asking for any kind of sustained DPS but I would at least like to be able to finish off someone when they're at 1% health without being 100% dependant on engineering bombs to do damage.

I went through multiple stacks of bombs in AV the other day and whilst this isn't the worst tactic for a protection paladin it certainly isn't cheap either if you're using decent quality explosives (for as far as that applies to goblin bombs).

This leaves me a bit stranded. I want the survivability a paladin has to offer and this is exactly what I'd lose by speccing deep into retribution for damage talents. I am not saying Retribution paladins are 'soft' targets but tossing your shield aside in favor of a 2 hander will most certainly impact your survivability.

Protection on the other hand is a very demanding talent tree. The really useful skills like holy shield are in the latter part of the tree meaning if you spec into prot it is likely to eat most of your talent points just to be effective. With no damage enhancing talents (well almost none) prot is simply not able to do any damage worth noting.

Which leaves me looking at the holy tree. Due to the heavy investment in healing the holy tree has survival capacity simply through the ability of being able to heal oneself. But the holy tree has something that protection doesn't have... Holy Shock.

A very mana intensive ability on a 15 second cooldown that next to providing some healing can also output at least a halfway decent amount of damage.

Granted, the damage output is somewhat limited. But since it is in fact holy damage it will at the very least not be resisted. Meaning that any effective increase through talenting or +spell damage or even an increase in crit means a flat increase in damage from holy shock.

Grabbing all the useful stuff from either protection or retribution in addition to holy shock leaves me looking at either a 40/0/21 or a 41/20/0 build or something similar which seems to put me squarely in the hybrid build category.

Good survivability, Good to very good healing and capacity to at least do some burst damage every 15seconds or so.

And this is where the researchable material stops and you're on your own to figure it all out and do the math. Information becomes limited... and why? Because 40/0/21 or 41/20/0 is not a spec... at least not to the min-maxing population of WoW.

The general consensus over at elitistjerks is that a shockadin as it is called is a sub-par healer, not able to tank and not able to DPS to the same potential as a full holy, full protection or full retribution build.

It is also the consensus that because this particular hybrid doesn't excel in any one thing but is decent at multiple things it is not 'raid viable'.

Never mind the fact that you can hold your own in Battlegrounds with it, do your dailies with it or the fact that with decent gear you can heal, dps and do some mild off-tanking in 5-mans.

No matter how good a spec may be for certain circumstances it seems that hybrid's often get labeled as sub-par and shoved aside as unimportant whilst in fact they are generally more appreciated by the people that play them then any typical cookie-cutter build.

This is by no means an attempt to put down the quality work done over at elitistjerks... but the information found there is for min-maxers and for people who are heading to SWP, something someone with 2 hours a day of playtime will never be able to do.

If you need to min-max all your abilities to be 'raid viable' or even be considered worthy of logging in (according to the general populace) then why give people the option of picking talents?
Let them pick from pre-designed cookie cutter builds every time they respec...

Until then and as far as I am concerned every specialization no matter how inanely crazy or inefficient is still a specialization and deserves to be regarded for what it is.

If you can call soul siphon and soul link the fabled warlock SL/SL spec (which is little more than hybrid forced on warlocks just to stay alive in PVP) then how is the shockadin not a spec?

Theorycraft is a dangerous tool. A tool that will tell you that in theory spec X is best for maximizing your healing/tanking/dps capability but also a tool that doesn't take into account that there is a huge gap between what is possible in theory and what is possible in practice.

The question should not be what is the best way to maximize healing/tanking/dps capability but what is the best way to improve your game. Theorycraft can be a guide but not a leader. In the end the decision to spec a certain way, pick certain echants and gems should be a reflection of how you play the game and not how the game plays you.

Are we too quick to judge? Afters years of WoW have we become too jaded to see the potential of hybrids? Are restokins, SL/SL warlocks, shockadins, elemental magi the result of bad talent design or merely a reflection of the fact that there is more under the sun than the black temple and sunwell.

Do you have a 'not a spec' spec?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Aggressive expansionism

I was playing a multiplayer real time strategy game not too long ago (starcraft if you must know) and followed my usual strategy of aggressive expansion. The general idea is to capture significant resources or resource potential early on in the game resulting in a better 'cash flow' and quicker unit output.

In other words by following an aggressive expansion tactic I gain ground 'quicker' than the average player which throughout the game means that I have more resources available and can act accordingly.

Aggressive expansionism isn't new. I've been following similar strategies in many other games such as civilization, dune, master of orion and whatnot but while I was playing I started to wonder to what extend this standard RTS strategy can be applied to WoW.

Now I am not talking multi boxing (playing multiple accounts at the same time) but the nature of wow is that of a game dominated by expansions. Expansions are designed to stay one step ahead of the crowd by providing more powerful, more significant rewards than previous expansions.

Aggressive expansionism would dictate that you should strive to be the first in the ball-game whenever a new expansion hits. Start as high as possible and let your consequent wealth turn the rest of the content into a triviality.

One could argue that this doesn't apply to wow simply because to raid the current high-end instances of sunwell you'll need a team of 25 players that have experienced previous content enough to at least have a certain level of gear.

But aggressive expansionism has nothing to do with the concept of victory. It's about securing obtainable resources that may or may not lead to victory. A standard Kara geared team couldn't possibly finish sunwell but there's no reason that kara team couldn't make repeated runs on the standard 'trash' mobs available in the most high level instances.

Which means that the standard trash-mobs at least up to a potentially unbeatable boss for a 10 man team are in fact obtainable resources and once secured can yield significant reward.

So this means quite simply, if you can get rewards from 'trash mobs' in the highest level instances that are of equal or higher value than the current bosses you are 'farming' (Karazhan in this case) then you could aggressively expand into sunwell, repeatedly run the trash and use the gotten gains to significantly decrease the level of difficulty on content below the trash you're farming.

Very few guilds actually incorporate this as a base strategy. Some will farm sunwell trash next to their regular runs but only a very insignificant portal seem to be aggressive about it.

On that note I also have seen very few people aggressively marketing on the AH. It is very much possible to corner a market segment with enough resources and then dictate the prices of that market segment... material for another post I'd say.

Still, it somewhat surprises me. If you're in a Kara guild and already have the 10 people, then why not go to sunwell and reap the rewards of significant trash mob drops?

State of affairs

I am back from my unanounced vacation. Unannounced because I have a tendency to take an impromptu vacation when I feel like I need to unwind for a while and I am 'blessed' with a decent enough job where skipping out for a few weeks is accepted (albeit not always appreciated).

And since I have been playing WoW even through my vacation (maybe moreso than usual) it's hard to see what is different now than in comparison to two weeks ago.

The fire festival has ended, much to the dismay of all my character who were neatly stacked near the festival bonfire for the daily juggling quests (10% of a level each day).

Despite WotLK looming in the distance people are still farming badges like there is no expansion (or tomorrow for that matter).

More and more people are prancing around in merciless gladiators and vengeful gear and you can actually see a few duelists, challengers and whatnot now that Season 3 has ended.

For some strange reason, at least on my server, guilds seem to be popping out of the ground like mushrooms. The format is sickeningly generic as either a 'raiding' guild or a pvp guild with the arbitrary usage of hardcore or casual thrown in. Still not a real guild to be found anywhere (I'll get into what I consider real some other time, or did I already? ... hmmm... curse you faulty memory)

I myself have been spreading my attentions around a little to all my characters fighting the good fight against rested xp. All this in a bid to get most of them up to 30 before 2.4.3 hits so that they can all mount up and put the days of crawling through the landscape to an end.

The protection paladin is still heavily invested in pvp and has been acting as a rear-guard against various stealthers in AV. Which earned him a bit of appreciation from people that still believe in defense and a lot of AFK reports from people that don't.
Still, my main hand fish has seen a lot of action but not enough action for me to be able to upgrade to the more desireable gladiator's gavel. Even with that I still seem to be unable to kill an AFK player unless I whip out a big two hander and have at it.
Maybe I should weapon-switch more... maybe I should trade a few points from prot to ret... maybe maybe... I like prot so much because I am virtually unkillable by rogues or warriors. I don't mind being deep-fried by mages or warlocks but there has to be something I can use to start doing a little damage against single targets...

Wonder if I can get a rogue to poison my fish... ... wonder if I can enchant my fish... can you enchant a fish?

The warlock is comfortably parked in the AH and is now somewhat semi-officially a bank toon only getting out of town when something needs to be hurt badly (which is a very comfortable fall-back from the 'can't hurt anything paladin').

In a bid to clean up my bank-space I decided to auction off some garbage and start collecting cards. Clearly that strategy was faulty since I now have 35+ slots taken up by cards and only 1 full deck to show for it (elementals). Still, the cards seem a good way to increase value per slot. The only alternative would be to upgrade all my bag slots to primal mooncloth ones but I am not sickeningly rich yet.

Beyond that lots of levelling and lots of exploring that netted me a neat engineering plan for a deepdive helmet I forgot about (very very very useful).