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.