Friday, January 29, 2010

This Job Market is Rough

A bright flash outside of the large wooden house signaled its owner's arrival. Fulguralis threw open the door and walked in, shaking off the remains of some Icecrown snow.  He strutted over to the kitchen table and sat down.  From his pockets, he produced a piece of parchment and an inkwell.  An old quill lay on a nearby counter and, with a spot of magic, it appeared on the table as well.  The lanterns overhead suddenly burst into flame.  Frowning thoughtfully, the Warlock dipped the quill into the ink.

With a nervous glance at the door, Fulguralis began scribbling furiously on the parchment.  Every so often, he would pause for a moment, lifting the quill to his face and losing himself deep in thought.  Minutes passed as writing began to cover parchment.  Finally, the Warlock grinned, holding up the completed document to examine it in the flickering light.

Two flashes in rapid succession leaked around the door frame warning Fulguralis of imminent company.  The Warlock frantically glanced around the room as if searching for a place of concealment, but the door was already opening.  His wife and his sister entered, arms full from their recent shopping trip in Dalaran.  Upon entry, Fuubaar set her bags down, plate gear clanking together inside, and looked over at her husband.

"You look ornery.  What are you doing?" she asked.

"Nothing, honey, just..." he trailed off as he waved the parchment around.

He seemed to think about his action for a moment and then went to slip the document into his robes, but his wife was too fast.  She crossed the room in two steps and snatched the paper out of his hands.  With a triumphant smile in his direction, she held her loot up to the lantern light and began to scan.  Soon enough, the smile drooped into a scowl as a righteous fury appeared to wash over her previously calm features.

"What?  What did he do?" Decedereful prodded.  She could obviously sense that her brother was about to get in trouble.  Fuubaar handed the parchment over without taking her angry eyes off of her husband.

Decedereful began to read aloud, "Education: Warlock Academy, Graduated with High Honors.  Certificate of Heroism: Northrend Dungeons.  Certificate of Exultation: Northrend Factions.  Argent Crusade: Champion of the Alliance. Previous employers:  Tirion Fordring and Associates, 80th season to present;  Veteran of Naxxramas, Ulduar, Obsidian Sactum, Onyxia's Lair, Vault of Archavon, and the Trial of the Crusader  The Dalaran Mage Council, weekly employment upon request, previously full-time from 70th season to 80th.  The Scryers, 60th season to 70th;  Veteran of Karazhan,  Gruul's Lair, Magtheridon's Lair, and Serpentshire Caverns.  Also employed during this time by the Shattered Sun Offensive.  All other previous experience as a freelance adventurer; self-employed."

She continued, "Specialized Experience: many seasons of association with demons, good working knowledge of The Burning Legion, lots of practical experience with Shadow and Corruption, proficient at stealing souls, great at controlling minions."  

Raising one eyebrow, she went back to the top, "Job Objective: To sit on the Frozen Throne and have legions of minions at my command.  Hmm, I didn't know there was an opening yet."

Frowning, the Death Knight turned and fixed her brother with an icy stare.  Fuubaar came over, snatched the paper out of Decedereful's hand, and headed for the trash can that was hidden in the pantry.  As the Paladin rummaged around in the storage closet, the Death Knight continued to stare at her brother with open disapproval.

"Boy," she said, "what were you thinking?"

"Well," Fulguralis stammered, "Jaina said that... when we... you know... someone's going to have to...  I figured... head start..."

"Yes, what exactly were you thinking?" Fuubaar yelled from the pantry, interrupting.  "Did you think I would just let you become the new Lich King?  What about me?  I have news, buddy, there IS NO Lich Queen!  You're not just going to toss me aside!  Sure, sure, Arthas thinks he has it so good with his Frozen Throne and his Legion of the Undead and all that.  What that man needs is a good wife to calm his ass down!  Then maybe we wouldn't have all these wars and kidnappings and such.  Pssch.  Like it's so hard to be the Lich King.  Try birthing a child, Arthas.  Then maybe we'd listen to your pathetic whining!"  The Paladin stopped yelling, but vehement mumbling could still be heard from the direction of the pantry.

Decedereful spoke up, "Trust me, Boy, you want no part of what Mr. Lich Con is selling.  No way.  Not now, not evah."  She rolled her eyes and left the room in a huff.

Fuubaar reappeared from the pantry with a bulging bag of trash in her hand.  She was calm again now as she walked over to her husband and held the bag out to him.  He stood up, a scowl on his face.  His wife narrowed her eyes ever so slightly.  The Warlock took a deep breath and put an obviously false smile on.  He accepted the bag and grudgingly trudged out the front door.

"Thank you, dear!" His wife called after him, her voice dripping with honey.

The reply was a grunt.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Legend of the Pit Pwners

We were but five adventurers. Already, one dungeon had fallen to our onslaught: Gundrak. Of course, that dungeon was approached in a more traditional manner.  You see, sometimes, when things aren't well planned out by the leader (coughmecough), you may find yourself later in a bit of a bind.

We were but five adventurers: One with a Pally and a Priest.  One a Hunter, one a Warlock.  Another Pally.  And me, a Death Knight or Warlock.  Between us, we had but one healing spec.  Gundrak witnessed the Priest, the Pally, two Locks, and a Hunter.  Traditional, like I said, and we rolled the place.  In fact, between the Priest and I, we made it somewhat of a game to see if we "accidentally" pull and get our tank friend to pull off of us before our bubbles ran out.  I'm sure he appreciated it.

We were but five adventurers, all from the same guild.  This is important, because not only are these people I know, but also they're people that know me enough to trust in my judgment.  We weren't randomly throwing things together, these were coordinated attacks.  Or so we thought.  Then, having completed the first random dungeon, desire was expressed for a second run so those of us with two toons could get the daily done on both.  The Priest (Fuu) switched to her Pally, and I my Death Knight. 

We were but five adventurers, four DPS and one tank.  No healers.  No healing off-specs.  No healing gear.  No healing experience (on the toons we'd brought).  We could have asked Fuu to suck it up and heal again.  We could have just dropped one and picked up a friend with a heal spec.  We could have gone about it the traditional way.  But nay, said I.  We can do this.  We don't need no stinking heals!  We were two Paladins, a Death Knight, a Hunter, and a Warlock.

We were but five adventurers who drew Pit of Sauron, randomly.  The second toughest dungeon currently possible.  A wave of fear swept through our able bodies.  Yet, persevere we would, it was decided.  Give in to convention we would not.  We were going to do this sans heals.  This wasn't about foolish pride or a scientific experiment.  This was about the thrill of the challenge.  The Azerothian gods had hurled at us a herculean task, who were we to toss it back, unaccepted?  Unrewarded?  

We were but five adventurers, but we had a plan: everyone take care of themselves.  With one Paladin tanking, the other could help throw an occasional heal to supplement her own healing.  The Warlock could Drain Life.  The Death Knight could Death Strike.  The Hunter could... do whatever it is that Hunters do.  We would survive.  We had all our lives to live, and all our love to give.  We would survive.  Yeah, yeah. 

We were but five adventurers as we made our first pull.  The skeletal monstrosity limped towards us, and with a shower of sparks from metal meeting shield, we were off.  Almost immediately, a patrol ambushed us from behind while another skeletal monstrosity lumbered magically up a cliff to join the fray.  We were swiftly and soundly defeated.  Yet Azeroth is not without its second chances.  We would not be deterred by troubled beginnings.  Many an epic hero hath started out from such humble roots.  "Let's not do that again," decried the Ret Pally upon our collective revival.

We were but five adventurers, tempered by an unfortunate fall.  We pulled again.  This time, success.  We made another pull, and another, and another.  Waves of enemies fell before our blades as sweat began to bead on our brows.  It was not easy, it was not hard.  It was.  We pulled some old tricks out of our dusty spellbooks, Laying Hands on this and Frost Trapping that, and when we looked up, we had reached our first boss.  He was bigger than big, and when engaged him, he smote the party with mighty party-wide damages.  Yet when the dust cleared, he was face down and four of us were alive. 

We were but five adventurers, now saved to this instance.  In much the same manner we defeated the construct with the Gnome on its poisonous shoulders.  Avoiding damage became as important as dealing it, and we excelled at both.  Jaina came down to congratulate us after that second boss fell, and once again four of us stood at the end.  We regrouped and prepared for some of the toughest pulls in the dungeon.  We used Paladin Repentance and Hunter Traps and Death Knight Silences to attack these challenging groups of enemies.  For each pull we made, we lost at least one of our own, but we never were defeated.  The sweat was now running in rivulets down our faces, but our fingers were dry and our mind's eyes sharp.

We were but five adventurers as we faced the gauntlet.  There was no swift grouping of many mobs in the middle, there was only a slow, steady slogging that led inexorably towards the exit.  Once, upon reaching the middle platform, a quick rez was thrown, but otherwise we were untouchable.  We dodged the falling ice even as we exited the hellacious tunnel, finishing off the last of the rabble before Tyranus belittled our own companions.  By now, the Light of the conclusion of the dungeon had begun to brighten our glistening faces.  The end was near, we need only beware of the Overlord's Mark.

We were but five adventurers, all five alive, when the final boss fell.  The scant reward of emblems and gold did not seem to do justice to the struggle we'd just overcome, yet cheers could be heard over vent.  Our smiles, laughter, and suspended disbelief were their own rewards, and they were plentiful.  We had done what we thought impossible.  Were we the heroes to end all heroes?  No.  But for that one moment, we might as well have been. 

There were not achievements or announcements to mark the occasion.  The gorge did not suddenly close it's gates and Jaina did not give me so much as a kiss.  Fanfare did not herald our arrival back in Dalaran.  In fact, business went on pretty much as usual.  I believe one guildy said "nice".  That was all there was.  We did not get a title or even a usable piece of gear.  Yet, for the five of us, something special happened last night.  We, the Pwners of the Pit, did what was thought "not even remotely imaginable".

The moral of this story is not that we were overgeared, overskilled, or overly lucky.  The lesson is not that healers are unnecessary.  The goal is not to e-peen.  What you should take from this epic tale of five adventurers is that, in this World of Warcraft, the challenges are only what we make of them.  Your most treasured achievements may not result in special points or hard currency.  No, the best times are the times we spend with friends, throwing convention somewhat to the wind, and leveling mountains with our digital prowess.  And isn't that what makes this game of ours truly epic?

As the sun sets on our tale today, I hear a voice cry out from the wilderness: "Screenshot or it didn't happen." 

The Pwners of the Pit

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When Random Says "F U"

I think it's pretty clear at this point in time what NOT to do in 5-man heroics if you don't want to look like an ass. We've seen story after story of failpugs take the interwebs by storm and leave them rocking back and forth in the corner, muttering things like "gearscore" and "aggro drop" and "Halls of Reflection".  We've debated about whether Oculus has one or two c's ad nauseum (which is the magical Latin term for "makes me want to puke").  We've nerfed, buffed, and triumphed.  In short, we get it (for the most part).

You pull it, you tank it.  You pull it, you feign death, everyone else tanks.  (I mean really, aren't we just splitting hunter hairs?)  Thou shalt not expect to ever successfully PuG HoR.  Tanks still have yet to discover that there can be a queue.  To them, it's only something that's a part of BGs.  All of these things and more have become common place in Today's WoW.

But what about those "in-between" moments.  What about those dilemmas that don't really have a rule of thumb to follow?  How do you handle those?  I submit to you, dear readers, examples of real-life situations that have befallen me a few times.  But before I do, let's get the backdrop set.

Show of hands, how many of you feel entitled to a quick and painless heroic instance run?  A few?  Great.  Now look to your left, look to your right.  Two of the people you just looked at define "quick" and "painless" differently from you.  Still, there's got to be some middle ground we can share, right?

I'm going to come out of the shard bag here: I love the LFD tool.  It's everything I wish that I could be.  I could fly higher than an eagle, and it is the wind beneath my wings.   Why so much warlockerly love?  Because 75% of the time, I just want to pop in and kill stuff.  I don't have quests to do (I've never felt the siren's call of Loremaster).  I don't prefer to PvP in WoW.  My professions are where I want them.  In short, before the the LFD tool, if I wasn't raiding, I wasn't on.  There was no calling for me.  I don't have altitis.  I have one main, one alt, and no desire to collect them all.  My pokeball is as full as I want it to be.  (Really, did we ever need more than Pikachu?) 

Let's ask ourselves, where does WoW shine brightest?  Sure it has a lot of really bright spots, but isn't it really the quality of the dungeons that first brought us together?  Questing has always been more of a solo activity in WoW, and PvP tends to make enemies more than friends.  Dungeons are what taught us to work as a team and seek out other players.  If there weren't dungeons, would there even be a WoW?

Say what you want about the current difficulty, the past difficulty, etc... dungeons, whether they be raids or five mans, are really the Succubus's Pajamas.   They're sexy and have the potential to bring a lot of folks together to do the bad thing.  Besides, Blizz has really worked with us, the community, on their dungeon design.  They've tried to make them shorter, more manageable, more accessible.

So is it a bad thing that some of us feel entitled to a quick and painless heroic dungeon run? After all, there are plenty of opportunities that will fit the "quick and painless" bill, by design.  There are only a few that don't.  A lot of the consternation I see seems to stem from differing expectations of these runs.  When the guy who's gearing up, wouldn't mind a challenge, and has set aside an hour or more gets put into a group with the Frost Emblem collector, looking for their 4p10 bonus and having thirty minutes to kill before a raid, friction can happen.  After all, it's likely that both of these people have completely different definitions of what quick and painless will be.  And neither of them is wrong.

Seriously, is it wrong to just want to run an instance in a half hour and then get a bit peeved when it starts pushing the one hour mark?  In vanilla WoW, sure.  But this isn't your Grandpappy's WoW.  This is Wrath, bitches, and half hour instance runs are the reality.  Yes, the disgruntled folks need to work on handling their disgruntling better, but the expectation that led them there isn't necessarily a false one, though I feel some might argue that.  It's just not.  Expecting a quick run in a PuG is the new reality, not the old Emerald Dream.

My point here is that I log on every day, and one of the things I enjoy doing is steamrolling an instance.  My two raiding toons are more than geared for it, and I like tackling random dungeons.  It's fun even if it's not really a challenge, per se.  You sort of make your own challenges by pulling gobs of mobs (with the healer's permission) or seeing just how close you can get to pulling off the undergeared tank (without actually doing it and causing deaths).  It's okay to have fun in a game.  (No way!)  Just don't do it in such a way that it ruins everyone's fun.  It's really not that hard.  At least, 90% of the time it's not that hard.

What about those times when you're faced with a social challenge, though?  There are three particular uncomfortable issues that I've had (usually at the same time, compounding on each other), that I'm not sure how to appropriately deal with.  Let's take a look, shall we?

First up is the you're-crunched-for-time-but-drew-HoR dilemma.  Or the "damnit, I wanted anything but this one" dilemma.  How many times has that happened to you?  You've said to your self, "Self, I'm just going to jump on and run a quick one before I go terrorize the neighborhood kids in my demon form".  I mean we all have responsibilities!  You hit the random button as your bad self, expecting that if you have an average tank and average healer you can easily roll through any heroic in.... wait, not this one.  This one's going to take FOR EVAH!  But you don't have forevah.  You've got 30 minutes, tops.  What do you do?

Should you not have queued up in the first place, even knowing that if you had gotten almost any other instance, you would have been fine, had fun, mission accomplished?  Do you drop group quietly, sending your poor mates back into the dreaded queue with naught a word?  Do you speak up: "Sorry guys, I don't have time for this one," and risk social critique of your time management abilities?  Is there a good way out of this situation?

Or how about this second situation.  Say you're a dual specced DPS/tank, but you normally like to queue as DPS (hence, "Killing 'em Slowly").  You wait patiently for your 15 minutes, then get in a group.  Upon your glorious entrance, Mr. Time Guy (also the tank) from dilemma one drops with naught a word.  At least, I'm hoping he had a good reason for leaving you all in the lurch.  It could be that he just didn't like the instance, and that would be bollocks.  However, as the Right Reverend Miss Medicina pointed out to me in vent: maybe he just knows he can't do it and wants to save y'all the pain (I'm pretty sure she said y'all, with a twang too... "you can take the girl out of the south...").  Or maybe he did just have somewhere he needed to be and recognized the futility of staying.  As much as it sucks, that's not really a bad thing, to save the rest of you certain pain, right?

Well, in any case, you're faced with waiting for another tank, which sometimes is quick but often isn't.  You have a tank spec.  You group is in the queue again, waiting patiently.  Do you step up and offer to tank?  I mean, you've done the instance before, you know you are capable of doing it, but you just didn't feel like it at first.  Do you take one for the team so that you can finally get on with it?  Are you obligated to do this?

Finally, let's say you did go tank.  Then, let's say you start the battle and it becomes apparent, glaringly apparent mind you, that the other folks aren't really ready for this instance.  Perhaps the DPS are all off making a cheese toasty or the healer is dancing with butterflies and fruit smoothies in a corner while listening to Owl City.  Not that they're necessarily purposefully failing, just that they are either not very good, not very geared, not very attentive, or a combination of the above.  I'm not trying to be judgmental here... it just happens.  Sometimes the random thingy puts people in instances that they don't really overgear (which is fine), and maybe they're not ready for that sort of change of focus. (Ya know, from the other other 90% of the time).

In other words, this is not going to be painless and actually has very little chance of succeeding.  Do you drop?  Do you say "sorry guys, not feeling it" or some lame excuse and exit stage right?  Do you pretend your router freaked out while quickly donning your demon suit?  Do you try to work with them on the extremely (and by extremely I mean f-in extremely) off chance that some sort of magic might happen and you live through the first pull.  I mean, we've all been a part of The Miracle group before, when you were totally sure you were going to die repeatedly, only to snatch success from the vicious jowls of defeat at the hands of the Communist Raid Boss.   It happens, but it's not likely, which is why it's so cool when it happens.  What do you do?

So that's the big three I've struggled with.  I think it's not unreasonable to expect a quick and painless run.  I also think anything is worth trying once.  I have a real problem with tanks dropping just 'cuz they didn't like an instance and, "hey, there's no wait for me".   But when does tolerance, understanding, and patience become stupidity, denial, and futility?  When is it "okay" to draw that line, and say "sorry guys, but I'm out"?

And, finally, the most important question: How long does it take them to nab the dude running around in a demon suit for some sort of crime?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"The Paladin probably too good"


Yeah, when I see this coming out of GhostCrawler's crabby mouth, I tuck my tail under and run. Don't look him in the eyes. It shows dominance. If you do this, he will surely bite you back & nerf the living day lights out of you.

Here's the Blues Quote from yesterday:

       "Long term, the paladin manner of generating AE damage and threat is probably too good, given how simple it is."

Well, what do you except? Was consecrate meant to be hard? Do you want me to do the hokey-pokey when it's on the ground? Well, this sentence could be blown WAY out of proportion given the context. The problem actually comes from Warrior tanking and how something needs to be fixed with their single target DPS. Yeah, you heard me... a tank bitching about his DPS.

But Fuu, we were talking about Paladin's "easy as pie" consecrate which is an AoE. How does that have anything to do with Single Target?

Well, my Good readers, Blizzard states that they are actually more concerned about Single target DPS than say AoE.

Quote from the Crab:

       "We're much more concerned about tank single target dps than we are tank AE dps. Especially in Icecrown, there are virtually no fights where the tank's dps contribution on an AE fight is really going to amount to much. You can make an argument that single target dps can be relevant on e.g. Festergut (though again, I still don't think there are that many cases where the difference between success and fail are the tank's dps)."

What a knee slapper! At least what I thought. Yeah, I do laugh when I'm second on the DPS meters when I run heroics on Fuu but who cares. I'm suppose to be doing around 1.8-2.5k DPS in my current gear. I've read that some tanks are even pushing 4-5k DPS on some fights. That to me is a little ridiculous but my 2-2.5k is like a DPS in blues.

The reason I believe that this question was even remotely taken seriously was because Warriors were being replaced by other tanks because they could do more DPS (I've heard rumors). Granted, it's not by much, but adding 800-1,500 more DPS in the mix really could be the key to a Success verse a wipe. I agree that if tanks are being replaced in a raid because of something that's out of their hands, Blizzard is doin' it wrong.

Do we have to bust out the old Projection Slide from the Pre WotLK era? Tanks were NOT created equal during that time. Warrior tanks were the ONLY tanks that were "viable" to do end-game raiding from Vanilla all the way through the end of TBC. Paladin tanks were laughed at. I was mocked for wanting to tank as a Paladin. "Why aren't you Holy?" They ask. "Why don't you DIAF" I say.

Today, Blizzard has done an incredible job of making every tank viable for every fight and can I say that I love it? I think that they are really living up to the "Bring the player not the class" mentality. If I'm the best tank (gear, spec, threat, experience) then I should be the MT not Mister Druid who walks in with crappy gear and has never done it in his life just because he's a Druid. Now, I'm not saying that they are perfect but given that we don't want all four tanking Classes to look, act, work the same, they've done a bang up job.

GhostCrawler goes on to talk about AE and how they really want to steer clear of it when Cataclysm hits. I agree that it's gotten a little out of hand. Run in, (cast AoE spell) wait 3 seconds then move to the next pile. BORING!

Almost every heroic instance has become just that. I would like to see more CC in further content. I think that Icecrown Citadel has put the CC back into ICC ;) Heck, even the 5-man heroics need a little CC now and then. HoR in the first room is a BITCH to tank if you aren't doing it right. We figured out that if you Los (aka hide in the corner like a  pansy) things just come to you and you AoE them down. Again, lame. Paladins get to use their turn Evil spells (which most paladins totally didn't know they had) Priests can Shackle and OMG I know how they love that (aka Jess, "Can I shackle something? Please! OMG SHACKLES!")

Since I appear to be horribly off on a tangent, let me 'splain... let me sum up:

What I perceive from the quotes from GC:

- Single Target DPS is more important to them (aka for all 4 tanks to be similar) out of anything else
- Warriors are probably going to be receiving a few tweaks to bring them inline with other tanking classes in the Single target DPS category
- AoE tanking everything might be the thing of the past when Cataclysm hits

Here's my question(s) for all of out there:
- What do you think about AoE (tanking or DPSing)?
- Do you feel that all tanks are on par with each other in terms of DPS, Tanking capabilities, AoE, survivability, etc.?
- What would you like to see changed in the next expansion if anything at all?

This is actually projected to people who are not Paladin tanks. I'm curious as to what Warriors, DKs, and Druids feel about these things. I would really like for the comments to not just be QQs but if you have a complaint, tell me why and how you want it fixed. If you blog, make a post! I want to hear from you! (link to it in the comments so that I am able to read it)

<3 Fuu

Monday, January 25, 2010

AI: Just Another Tequila Sunrise

So far this year, weekends have been for two things: drinking and playing Aion.  Sure, I've squeezed in my WoW daily heroic, but since all my raiding is done during the week, weekends are catch-up time in the world of Atreia.  Of course, NCSoft is helping their case with yet another double-experience weekend, and hints at more to come. 

All in all, the double experience has been a great idea for a young game.  Say what you want about the game and the company, but I think they've done a helluva job trying to compete in the World of MMOs (In which Blizz is both the Lich King and the Queen of the Dragons).  A lot of folks I know have left Aion for greener pastures, be they console games, single player RPGs, or just general disenchantment with the game type.  Thus, coupled with the excitement going on in WoW at the moment (And Icecrown IS exciting.  So are easy epix, even if you disagree with the design), I've written a lot less on Aion lately. 

I'd like to point out a few things to get us started today.  First, the botter problem has been handled.  The community said "Many Bots, Handle It" and NCSoft wielded a mighty ban-hammer.  It wasn't a perfect approach, it screwed some folks over I've heard, and it hasn't completely removed all bots.  However, I think anyone playing can agree that the atmosphere has gotten 100% better.  You still get the occasional spam and see the private store adds, but there is no longer the deluge when you first log in and I haven't filled up my block list in nigh-on two months now.  I mean, that used to be a weekly occurrence, so you have to give them credit for improvement.  Even WoW still isn't perfect after five years of western market experience, though obviously Blizzard is the old hat when it comes to this stuff, setting the bar quite high.

Speaking of WoW, for those expecting the leveling/gaming experience to be as smooth as WoW... You're right, it's not.  Nor do I expect it to be this year, or maybe even next year.  What I want to see is an effort on the part of the developer at improvement, and NCSoft has done this.  They do a pretty good job of listening and responding to community criticism, even if it's not with the optimal solution.  To be honest, I think they're learning some things.  I mean, I know they've been in the MMO market for a while, but I guess I believe each game is going to develop a pretty unique community with different needs and wants than other games.  What works in WoW may not work in Aion, which in turn may not work in Guild Wars or Star Trek Online.  Different strokes for different folks. 

Which brings me back to the double experience weekends.  What a great move.  I mean, it doesn't fix the bigger issues, but it certainly alleviates them.  NCSoft needs to keep adding quests and keep tweaking the baseline experience level, which they're doing (the experience has been tweaked a few times already).  It's a great "in the mean time" move.  Not only does it help with the leveling, but, in my experience, it has really brought players together.  Everyone and their brother is getting on on the double exp weekends and looking to run stuff.  It's a lot easier to get groups and people are a lot more willing to do anything because, hey, it's all exp.  Double exp.  I think it's really been fun to be a part of.

At the end of the day though, I'm not going to sit here and preach that this game is for everyone.  In fact, if your sole gaming experience is WoW, Aion is probably not for you.  If, like us here at KeS, you enjoyed some time spent in FFXI, then you will probably like Aion.  Those are the only backgrounds I can write about.  The game is more grindy, the art is different, and the game play is familiar yet novel (whatever the heck that means).  It's not for everyone the way WoW is for everyone.  However, it is  for some people, and for those people I feel it does a very good job so far.  If NCSoft keeps working on it like they have been, I'm still excited to be a part of it and spend time in that world.  It's a lot of fun.

I guess I just wanted to say all of this because I see a lot of polarized opinions out there.  People either love it, or hate it.  It's hard to be in between.  Yet, I think that's where the healthy viewpoint is: in the middle.  It's good to keep an open mind and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  It's also good to respect other folks opinions and realize that different gamers prize different game qualities differently.  Wow, that's a lot of "differences".  Yet, isn't that what makes the gaming community great?  We have so many varied tastes and viewpoints, yet we can come together and converse in a common arena.  There are very few other hobbies that can claim so many people from so many different walks of life.

Take this weekend for instance.  We've made a friend who lives in Finland.  For whatever reason, she tends to be online at the same times we do (time changes be damned).  She's a blast to play with, has great English for a non-native, and is a stellar player.  What other hobby can I claim to have spent some time with a Finnish woman (In actual Finland) over the weekend?  To me, that's one of the coolest parts of this whole MMO thing.  It's like seeing the world without the cost and hassle of, you know, seeing it.  Not to take anything away from tourism, because I'd love to see a lot more of the world when I get time and money, but learning about different cultures is at least half the fun and it's something you can do adequately over vent.  It's not ideal, but it's better than never getting out of your own backyard.  Gaming, more than many other hobbies I can name, is probably doing more to bring folks together than we realize.  Maybe Blizzard and other developers should be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize.  I mean, it's been giving for some things that have made me scratch my head a lot harder, that's for sure.

While we're on the larger MMO topic, I wanted to like a good article by Spinks about Dealing with Unfairness in Games.  There are a lot of good points there and it's deeper topics like this that really can give us insight into how different people from different walks of life perceive things like "fairness".  To me, fairness only goes so far as the developers see it.  In other words, fairness is by design.  If the developers think it's fair to make my DK do as much DPS as my Warlock with half the gear, then apparently on some level it's fair.  I'm sure the design is analyzed to be fair, it just often doesn't work out that way under real conditions, and isn't that like life?  We'd like life to be fair, but when it comes to real conditions, sometimes it just isn't.  Are all men really created equal?  I think I could easily write whole articles supporting both a "yes" and "no" answer. 

The surface issue of rezzing in games that Spinks brings up is a good one as well, and something that I love about Aion: everyone has a battle-rez.  Basically, you just have to purchase the reagent that lets you do it, but then anyone can sneak a rez in.  In the framework of Aion, it works.  I'm not sure if such an approach would work in WoW though.  Still, it's nice to be able, as a DPS, to CC a rogue mob, rez the healer/tank, and avert a wipe on your own.   In WoW, I'm often helpless in the same situations.  Both game designs exemplify different standards of "fairness by design".  Where in WoW, it might be considered "unfair" if everyone was suddenly given a battle-rez (perhaps for good reason), in Aion it's the norm.

So where to end this sober rambling?  Ah yes, drinking and gaming, two excellent conduits for deep thinking and cross-cultural discussions.  Bartender, another round!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sob Beger and the Bilver Sullet Band, Ladies and Gents

Applause drifts out of the Slaughtered Lamb as Fulguralis walks by, catching his attention.  He had just ported to Stormwind for a quick stop at the Auction House.  Any good warlock knows to keep himself well stocked with Flasks of the Frost Wyrm.  A catchy rock beat follows quickly on the heels of the applause, causing Fulguralis to raise his eyebrows in surprise.  The warlock hangout was not known for having live entertainment.  Perhaps a band from the Undercity, the Warlock muses.

It had been a long couple days, so Fulguralis decides he can spare some time for a mug of ale and a seat at the bar.  Music will be a welcome bonus.  He wanders in to find only a handful of grizzly patrons seated sporadically throughout.  It's a heavier crowd than normal, but hardly standing room only.  As is common in the Slaughtered Lamb, minions wander hither and fro, bringing their masters mugs filled to the brim.  Bar maids are unnecessary, yet a few wander around the room, chatting with customers and yelping every time one gets grabby.

"Dwarven Stout," Fulguralis says to the barkeep.  He eyes the band as the lights dim and a lone, mellow sound comes out of a strange horn in the hands of one of the musicians...

In a large and lonesome Citadel
Northwest of Dalaran
You can listen to the Lich King
Fixin' to kill you 'crossed the land
You think about the woman
Or the girl you knew in Sratholme.

But your spells will soon be wandering
The way they always do
When you're raidin' sixteen hours
And there's no time out for booze
And you don't feel much like raidin',
You just wish this Lich was through

Here I am
Atop the charts again
There I am
Better build up that rage
Here I go
Playin' 'lock again
There I go
Burn the mage

Well you zone into a battleground,
Decked out in your raid gear
And you feel the aggro on you
As you're takin' off your tier
You pretend it doesn't bother you
But you just want to Howl with Fear

Most times you can't see 'em cloaked,
Other times you know
All the same old cliches,
"Is that a druid or a rogue?"
And you always seem outnumbered,
You don't dare defend alone

Here I am
Atop the charts again
There I am
Better not dump that rage
Here I go
Playin' 'lock again
There I go
Burn the mage

Out there in the old world
You're a million miles away
Every quest in Kalimdor
You try to find a way
As the shadow pours out your body
Like the Soul that you Drain

Later in the evening
As you stand against the wall
With the echoes of Lord Bolivar
Ringin' through the hall
You burn your three minute cooldown,
Causin' your aggro to fall

Here I am
Atop the charts again
There I am
Better build up that rage
Here I go
Playin' 'lock again
There I go
Burn the mage
Oh, Here I am
On your Omen again
There I am
Please drop Consecrate
Here I go
Playin' 'lock again
There I go
Burn that mage

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Random Pictures that Amuse Me

Hey gang!

If you're like me, you Screen Shot anything that you feel is beautiful, Important, or just plain funny. I've accrued quite a few since I switched computers and I figured you might find them at least remotely interesting.

The Staring Contest!
The Gnome didn't feel that it was fair that I tower over her so I decided to stoop to her level. Stupid Gnome tricked me! See that little version of herself? During the second hour of our contest, it ran up & kicked me in the shins. Never Trust a Gnome in a Santa Suit! Especially one who has a Clone!

Buy Mah Fruit or the Humon Getz it!
Apparently Applebough has been getting a little testy with me as of late. You see, I normally just sell my junk that I get from Ice Crown when I return and really haven't looked at his wares since Naxx. I think he's finally had it and grew into a Oak Tree! Last I saw of him, he stomped on a Hunter's Spirit Beast out of rage and the Dalaran mages ported him out. I wonder where they sent him...

The No Pants Dance!
So many people were talking about having mana issues and Paladin tanks doing Crazy things in order to keep from going OOM. I took it upon myself to try out a little Experiment if you will. I've heard Rumors RUMORS I SAY! That if you take off your pants, helm, or other pieces of gear and are still over 535 Defense for Heroics, you shouldn't have many problems regarding mana since you are now taking more damage. Needless to Say, I still had to be careful about mana but my Husband had a nice view while I was tanking ;)

Wonder what Priests do when they aren't healing?
I bring you Exibit A Ladies & Gentlemen.

So there you have it! A small taste of what I see on a regular basis in good ol' Azeroth. I hope these don't disrupt your sleeping patterns.

<3 Fuu

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paradigm Shifts

What would you like to see in the next-gen MMO? What problems do you perceive in your current gaming diet that you think could be improved on? I think those are two common questions that most gamers ask themselves on a daily basis. We're always looking forward to the next Big Thing, or trying to come up with ways that it could be "just a little bit better". That, or we're unleashing torrents of QQ. It depends on your preferred method of feedback, I suppose.

Every once in a while, we have some good ideas. Other times, we have ideas that we think are good, but turn out to be pie-in-the-sky dreams. Then there are the ideas that are just bad. We'll have those too. Regardless of which category the ideas are falling under, I think there is one thing we can agree on, and that's that the next big MMO should do some things fundamentally differently than what's already out there. It shouldn't just be a copy with a few tweaks, though those type of games can still be fun. No, to truly be able to call itself the next-generation of MMOs, it needs to be something special. Something novel. Something that engages our imaginations.

Thankfully, it is not my job to come up with the next-gen MMO. From what I know of gamers and gamer culture, I can guess it'll take a truly Herculean effort and some really imaginative ideas. After all, what we have available to us now is pretty darn good. Still, I can't help but have my own ideas from time to time, and I submit one such idea today for your collective consideration.

One of the staples of pretty much any MMO on the market today is the concept of leveling and what that means for a character. Traditionally speaking, leveling is the process by which a character progresses in the MMO arena, becoming more powerful along the way in order to face more epic challenges. There can be caps to the level number, but even then most of the focus is on how to make your character more powerful. That's the key, right? We all want to be the hero. We all want to have the one ring to rule them all, or at least enough purple gear that we can compete at the highest level of content we desire.

It's not that everyone is an elitist, or even a min/maxer.  It's that the game is designed around the fact that everyone wants to get stronger as they play. A game in which you would be doing the same amount of damage months or even years after you started would seem kind of pointless. Or would it? The paradigm in operation here is that character progression almost always equals bigger numbers. Whether it be DPS, threat, damage absorbed, or healing output, we grow our characters to be able to do more. To put up the bigger numbers.

But there are several problems with this approach. First among them: a significant level gap prevents group play. In a game genre that is supposed to revolve around the mentality of group play, this is a major issue. No matter what game you're talking about, a level one usually has trouble keeping up with a level twenty. So much trouble that it is often unreasonable to expect those two people to be able to play together. Several games that I know of have tried to remedy this with things like bonus experience for a friend to quickly decrease the game or some sort of "sidekick" option whereby the higher level character is modified to be equivalent to a lower level in power (or visa versa).

A second major problem is that this requires a high amount of tuning on the end of the developers. Stats have to scale. Health has to scale. Boss and dungeon difficulty all have to scale, and as we've seen in WoW, sometimes when you get to those higher levels, things don't scale as anticipated, creating tuning on top of tuning. I've actually always wondered just how much time and effort goes into understanding and tweaking the math in a game. I mean, as players we do enough of that ourselves, but I have to believe the developers exponentialize our efforts. (Yes, I just made that word up.)  

In any case, these problems all stem from the same thing: In MMOs, the current design for progression is to increase in power over time.  My suggestion is that we change that.  What if, instead of power, we just got faster at our skills?  Let's say you're a caster.  When you start this theoretical game, you have a bunch of skills, but they all have cast times.  Maybe you have a few basic instant cast spells, but all of the cool stuff takes you time to cast.  From a story standpoint, this is understandable since as an early student of something, it would take you longer to make sure you got the incantations, or hand gestures, or whatever right.  Let's say you're a melee class.  Perhaps then you would swing your weapon a lot slower, and also take more time to execute your special combos.  Once again, this makes sense as maybe you don't have the strength or familiarity with the weapon yet to be efficient.

Then, as you progress, instead of increasing the damage, you increase your speed.  Things that used to take three seconds to cast, now take only two.  Combos are preformed more fluidly, back to back.  Maybe you can start chaining things together better, where before it was longer between spells or moves.  You would do more damage because you are faster, not because you have bigger numbers. 

This would allow for a whole different type of tuning and a different type of grouping.  Instead of a low level being utterly worthless in a group to a high level, they might actually be able to do some damage.  Sure they'd be slower, but the abilities they could use would still hit for full power.  Maybe they could just be on CC or some other sort of utility, while the higher level takes the brunt of the damage responsibilities.  In my eyes, it opens up all kinds of new design options.  How would you handle gear?  How would you handle new abilities that could be learned, or end game design?

I would imagine that by the time you're a "master", or at the end game, that you would still feel pretty powerful because you'd have all these spells that you could work together, chain together quickly, and feel like a badass.   After all, in fictional stories, isn't that how wizards and battlemasters progress?  Their sword doesn't suddenly strike for more damage (though they may have gotten physically stronger, and maybe that could be taken into account).  A fireball is a fireball.  It's going to burn the target either way.  What happens is they usually get better at what they're doing, so that it takes less effort.  They're quicker, they're better at combining their abilities to succeed, and yes, they learn more powerful spells.  You could still integrate the more powerful aspect, but it wouldn't have to be the main driving force.

Any good WoW caster can tell you: haste is addicting in the game.  It's something we love to get, even when it's not necessarily the best stat.  Why?  Because there's just something fun about being able to do our usual spells faster.  It's the same reasons some of the most exciting cinematic fight scenes are when the hero slices through a whole host of enemies in an eye blink.  It's action.

Maybe the idea is bad, or pie-in-the-sky, but maybe it's good too.  The point here is that for any next-gen MMO to feel novel, we're going to have to see some sort of paradigm shift.  The developers of this theoretical game are going to have to take an old, accepted mechanic and turn it on it's head.  But when they do, oh boy does it open a world of opportunities.  Sometimes I get excited and impatient just thinking about it, and apparently I'm not alone.  I mean, just listen to the QQ :-). 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Bloggers

Funny story, so S&S double-dinged on the 18th right?  Well, I beat them by one day and dinged on the 17th.  How 'bout them apples.  I think I may have known that her birthday was so close to mine, somewhere way in the back of my mind, but there's always that one second of "ZOMG, you're b-day is right before mine!", especially when you just read about it. 

So anyways, from one birthday boy to another birthday couple: Woot for almost always having a long weekend near our b-days :-).

(Yes, I used to always tell people who forgot about MLK day that we got the day off because I was born.  "Check your calendar.  Monday. Off.  Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.")

I'm apparently in the middle of a bracket too.  Can I still turn exp off?  I don't see any advantage to letting it continue to run...

AI: Spiritmastering at 35

Aion had been taking a back seat, writing wise, since WoW introduced the last major patch. Game-time wise wasn't much different, but I was logging some good weekend hours to take advantage of the double exp offered. That promotion is over now, but I still am spending a lot of time in Atreia on the weekends.  Having hit 35 now, it seemed like a good time to update my Spiritmaster guide.  As usual, I start with a copy/paste and add or rewrite from there.  So here we go.

At 35, you will have 3 stigma slots open. Here's what I'm currently using:
  • Ignite Aether I - Extremely useful, instant cast removal of three buffs.  Great for PvE (i.e. mobs that do the temporary stone skin thingy) and PvP (who isn't buffed out in the Abyss?)
  • Absorb Vitality III - Hits for a good amount plus returns you health.  A great spell to have.
  • Sigil of Silence I - This is great for finishing off both monsters and other players.  Being able to silence spellcasting for a bit is a great utility to have on top of removing buffs. 
Spell Usage
When attacking a PvE mob, I lead off by sending in my pet with an abilities or two (more on pets later). Then I put my dots up. From there, I move to nuking or utility spells. Your dots are Erosion and Chain of Earth. The nuke spells are Flame Bolt and Ice Chain.  Since Ice Chain and Chain of Earth share a cooldown,  you usually have to choose between the two.  Normally I lead off with Chain of Earth and then would utilize Ice Chain later in my rotation. 

The utility spells consist mainly of your stigmas, as listed above. You have acquire the ability to heal your pet, and summoned servants.  I like throw a pet heal if the pet needs it and immediately follow it with an Absorb Vitality, healing me for what I threw at the pet. This seems to work pretty well. Also, I like to use the combination of Summoning Alacrity (a skill you gain that makes summons instant cast) and summon one of my servants (depends on pet choice).  I tend to get a servant set up before I move to nuking.  Finally, applying things like Stone Skin or having the pet Re-taunt the mob if I'm using it as a tank also fall under the utility banner.

So for a PvE mob, my thinking goes basically like this:
  1. Send in my pet.
  2. Dots! And a Servant if Alacrity is up.
  3. Check if any of my utility is needed.
  4. Deal Damage with nukes and pet abilities.
During my damage dealing, I'll always keep an eye on what's going on to be ready if my utility is needed (i.e. dispelling that annoying stone skin buff on mobs).  I usually only use a servant if alacrity is up, and generally don't refresh it because it seems like stuff dies to quickly for two rounds to fully complete. 

It seems that Spiritmasters can really eat through the mana, so I try to be conservative when running instances and such.  The addition of Spirit Absorption to our ability pool really helps with this though, and if you use that, then a pet heal, then absorb vitality... it's almost like free mana.  Almost.

For Crowd Control abilities, it's important to note that we have both Root and Fear.  Root is great in PvE as long as the mob isn't ranged.  We're not the CC masters that Sorcerers are, but a well placed root can help things out quite a bit.  Fear is okay in a PvE when you have tons of room (where things won't aggro), but it's great in a PvP situation since it allows you to go to town on an otherwise controlled individual.

Pet Choice
By the time you hit 35, you should definitely have each pet (hopefully higher ranks too). A couple of the pets are drop dependant, but if you haven't gotten the drop for at least rank one of each pet, you should probably pick it up at the auction house. This will give you four spirits:
  1. Fire Spirit - After getting rank 3 of this guy, I've been using him as my main tanking mob when duo'ing with Fuu, my assassin counterpart. He has a strong taunt and pretty decent survivability. At this point, he's probably out 80% of the time.  Until I get other rank 3's, he'll be my go-to spirit.
  2. Wind Spirit - After getting rank 2 of this pet, he's was main consideration for straight DPS. His survivability and taunt are weak, so don't use him as a tank. He can put out some good damage though, so in a group environment where I'm with a tank and a healer, I'll use this guy if I don't feel like going Fire with the higher rank. I probably pull this guy out 15% of the time, leaving the other 5% split between my last two pets.
  3. Earth Spirit - This spirit is stuck at rank 2 and for a while he was my main tanking consideration. His shield ability is pretty handy, giving him above average survivability, however his taunt isn't as strong as the Fire Spirit's. Thus, the only reason I might use him right now is in a group that lacks adequate CC. He might be able to output decent DPS while allowing a temporary tanking of a renegade mob. I haven't really had reason to use him yet. Once I get rank three, I may pull him out to tank a bit just for kicks.
  4. Water Spirit - I've still haven't gotten rank 2 of this spirit yet, and it's too expensive for me to justify right now. He happens to be our lone ranged pet and is drop dependent. I tended to use this guy in large scale PvP encounters, but haven't really been in one for a while now. It's nice to have him sit back and pop damage on melee classes, goading them into getting close enough for a Templar to yank or for someone to root. Also, the ranged nature can keep him off of a player's radar longer than a pet that's gnawing on said player's leg. Plus, in PvP, taunting doesn't matter, so the weak taunt doesn't matter, though he is a bit of a glass cannon if he gets focused on.
That's all the pets I've picked up at this point in time. Higher ranked pets are looming on my horizon, but I'll probably still pull the spirits out in the same situations. The percentage of usage probably reflects my percentage of type of gameplay more than anything, but it should give you a small idea of how often I'm using certain pets. It was great when they made our spirits able to fly too, and spirit speed is definitely a consideration when trolling the abyss.  I don't want to have to re-summon all the time, so I usually run with the wind spirit since he can keep up the best.

The pet abilities I mentioned using above vary based on the pet you're using. Basically though, I try to use the Thunderclaw as a "pet attack" in my rotation above. The set up abilities include the two that are on longer cooldowns (one's a buff and the other is a debuff) and the taunt. I obviously only use the taunt when I'm using my pet to tank, and in that case it's often what I lead off with. Then, I'll only reapply when I see the mob running at me, leading to a little bit of a ping-pong effect. The other abilities I just try use when they are off cooldown, being sure to save the increased drop-rate ability for boss fights when applicable.

A small side note: I choose which servant to use based on which pet I used. Most of your pets weaken your target to a specific school of magic that is aligned them. Thus, my theory is that it helps to use the same servant, since you'll get more bang for your buck. It's hard to really test any of these theories since I don't have a damage meter like I do in WoW, but it seems to make sense from reading the tool tips.

PvP Encounters
For small scale encounters, Dots are my best friend. I try to Chain of Earth anything right away and then hopefully get a stun out of the chain. If that happens, I might throw in a nuke, depending on the situation. If not, Erosion is quick on the heals of CoE. At this point, I usually check to see how much my initial salvo hurt them for. By that, I can usually judge how much of a chance I have. At this crucial point, it's fight or flight. Either way I probably have to keep the player away from me, but if I'm doing zippo damage, I'll probably just run for it, saving my root spell for if they catch up to me.

If I'm hitting them for a good chunk, I might try to get some distance and pull out one of my servants to bother the player. Other than that, it's time for fancy evasion and keeping those dots refreshed. If I get enough space, I'll try to throw in a fire chain. This strategy has served me well, keeping me alive most of the time, if not always victorious.

For a large scale encounter, the difference is that you're going to have to really pay attention to your range. The LAST thing you want to do is get yanked into the fray by some over-eager Templar. Thus, I usually hang back, looking for the opportunity to slap a dot on someone. Most players seem to dance back and forth, so I find it advantageous to focus on one person and nail them every time they get too close, leading off with my CoE to slow them. Sometimes, this delays enough that our Templar will yank them and then they're in bad shape.

A final tactic I mentioned a bit earlier is to send you pet in to annoy a player. For melee, it's particularly effective if you use your water spirit. Some players see a spirit and run out to kill it, forgetting that they've just brought themselves within range of our Templar. It's annoying as a melee to have to sit there and let someone's puny water spirit take pot shots at you. Also, just the general harassment effect of it gives me pleasure, even if it doesn't really kill anyone. Getting in their heads can sometimes goad a player into making a tactical error.

To be honest though, I'm still learning a lot about this part of the game. I've been involved in a lot of PvE, a moderate amount of small scale PvP, and just a handful of large scale PvP encounters. I really enjoy the large scale stuff, but it just doesn't always happen and even then frame rates can be iffy (and I'm on a good machine!).  I'm not sure what happened, because the frame rates I get in large scale stuff tends to vary with each patch.  Previous patches I'd been easily able to join in huge battles and not have massive lag, but right now I can't without getting abysmal (ha, pun) frame rates.  I'm hoping they continue to work with the game engine to find a solid solution, but, for right now, there are plenty of other things to do.

Wrap Up
So here's hoping that some of this experience finds other Spiritmasters out there and is of use. If you're a spiritmaster, please leave me your thoughts. Have you found some of these tactics useful? Do you know of ones I didn't mention. With such a young game, class specific help seems hard to find, but I'd like to at least relate what I've learned through experience and research here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

19 Elemental Shaman Twink: Update

Hey Gang!

I wanted to give you an update on my level 19 Elemental Shaman Twink. Once I hit level 19 I road the boat to Stormwind and found the creepy rogue in the corner and payed my 10g dues and shut off my precious XP gains. Now the fun begins.

I warn you, this is quite long and informational. If you aren't really in to Twinks or shaman, I suggest you just click read on your feed reader and look for another days post :P

This is the gear I'm currently wearing:

Flying Tiger Goggles- I dropped leatherworking and picked up Engineering for the ability to wear the Goggles. Other than these, the only other viable helm available to anyone at this lvl would be the Fishing Hat from the Stranglethorn Fishing Tournament. It is extremely hard to win especially on a pvp server. A lvl 19 in stranglethorn is like bait if you don't have bodyguards to protect you from certain death.This is a wussy way out if you ask me :)

Thick Bronze Necklace- Since I have a Jewelcrafter, I made myself the +3 Stam necklace. I've looked at other twinks and this is pretty much the norm. I'll poke around and see if any of the instances offer anything better for me in terms of drops.

Aged Pauldrons of the Five Thunders- I ended up buying the pvp BoA pieces that are made for Shaman. Some people say that you are not a true twink if you have BoA gear. They are probably correct in that there is most-likely something better out there but I doubt that they have +Resilience on anything that is level 19 or lower.

Mystical Vest of the Elements- I used some of Fuu's endless supply of Triumph Emblems and downgraded them to Heroism for the PvE chest. This is a pretty decent Piece of gear for this level. I've been really trying to only gear with Leather for the +armor on them verse a Cloth piece but the major problem is you will mainly find +Int, +Spirit, +SP, on Cloth while you find +Str, +Agility, on Leather pieces. My previous chest was actually a really decent green that I found on the AH but it was cloth. Once I purchased the BoA, it was leather but if I remember correctly, I actually lost some stats. Over all though, I'm happy that I bought it.

Inscribed Leather Bracers- I dug up a decent green from the AH. I'm a total Auction House Bargain shopper! Every day that I log in, I'll do a quick sweep of all leather & cloth pieces for level 10-19. If I find a piece that is an upgrade in any way and is at a reasonable price (less than 10g) I'll usually buy it. Though you have to be careful if you are looking for the "BEST" piece gold can buy because someone else knows that it's good for a twink and will jack up the price considerably  ranging from 100-300g. Now, I'm not saying that these pieces are not really good pieces but in all seriousness, I'll be doing a lot of homework on if it is the BiS for an elemental shaman at 19. If it is, and I plan to stay in this bracket for a while, I might invest in them or if they are crafted items, have someone make them for me.

Spidersilk Drape- This was my actual big ticket item. I dropped a whole 50g on the Silken Drap (I'll have to look this up when I get home for actual name & spelling) This is one of the best caster cloaks for this level. A good quality cloak is hard to find and when you do, you need to grab it up like it's going out of style. It is a tailored piece but the mats are retardedly hard to farm and 50g was definatly worth it. I think they normally sell for around 100-150g so 50g was a bargain.

Feral Gloves of the Eagle- I've actually been trying to replace these when I run instances. I've seen a few upgrades drop both Cloth & leather that were complete upgrades but I've lost the roll on all of them. I've also been trying to decide with ones I wanted to go with. There is a wide variety of gloves out there for Elemental shaman. Anywhere from +int & +stam (which I'm actually sporting now) to +SP. There are blues that drop in Wailing Caverns that have +int, +Stam, & +spirit cloth and those are my goal as of right now. I believe that the stats outway the +armor that I would get from a leather piece.

Bright Belt- AH buy. This also seems to drop from a heap of lower instances as well if you want to save some gold.

Bandit Pants of the Eagle- AH buy

Walking Boots- AH buy. I think these are from a Rare Spawn

Rings- One of these babies is from my Jewelcrafter Simple Pearl Ring and the other is with my Honor Points/ Badges from Warsong Gulch Lorekeeper's Ring. I was actually pretty disappointed with what can buy at this level with the millions of HP and Warsong Gulch marks. 1 Ring, 1 Staff, (look up what alliance can buy). Only the ring had potential in all of this. Pretty sad stuff if you ask me. I think blizzard really needs to go back & fluff this stuff up. Especially if you have twinks who have been doing this for so long that their Honor Points are maxed with nothing to spend them on.

Trinket- I bought the Swift Hand of Justice haste trinket. My other slot is currently empty awaiting for the pvp movement trinket. I may buy with Stone Keeper Shards (250) Inherited Insignia of the Alliance  BoA as well.

Sergeant's Warhammer of Healing- I found a nice +SP mace, I think from the AH. Again, good caster weapons are hard to find that aren't staves.

Forest Buckler- I found an awesome Shield for a whole whooping 75 silver on the AH. It's a little squatty thing but it's perfect for my shammy. Gives me more survivability than a Staff.


Helm- None
Shoulder- None
Back - Funny story about this. When I found the awesomely delectable cloak, it was also enchanted for me with +50 Armor. This was truly the best thing ever!
Chest- +100 health
Bracer - +7 Intellect
Gloves- +10 Haste Not really sure what else would be better for me but hey, cast your crap faster can't be a bad thing.
Belt- None
Legs- +16 Armor from the leatherworking Patches
Feet- +5 Stamina
Main Hand- Need to enchant. Just need to find something that's reasonable for a 1 hand caster.
Off-Hand- +HP5 & +MP5

Stats: (as of 01-18-2010)


Health: 891
Mana: 1,161
Spell Power: 37
Crit: 7.04%
Haste: 9.83%
Armor: (without my totems) 995
Resilliance: 5

Totally twinked out individuals normally run around 1,600-2000 health which is something that I'm going to aim for if I stay in this bracket. I've found this it's actually funny to run lower level instances with non-twinks because their health is so low. Sad really. I never top Damage charts though because most of the time, I'm ending up healing or things die too fast that it's just too much mana to lay down my searing totem than to just melee things to death.


Engineering- For the helm mainly and the bombs that you can make that are quite fun and useful.
Herbalism- Lifebloom, Lifebloom, Lifebloom. This is like an insta HoT that could save your life. Now, I was stupid and forgot to check to see if this worked a long with Gift of the Naru before I dropped my 150 lvl skinning for this. So, if you are a Draeni, skip this one and pick up something else.
Skinning- +Crit which is nice to have for any class at this level because there are few pieces that actually have crit on them.
Mining- +Stamina is the bonus that you receive for this. This is something that's Viable for all twinks if you ask me! edit: for some unknown reason I thought this was +strength. Thank you for pointing this out to me :D
Leatherworking- This was my initial Profession that I chose because I thought I could make some decent blue gear for my shaman. I dug around and really found that, no, this was not the case. I dropped this and picked up Engineering instead.
Inscription- There really isn't much you can do with this profession other than maybe save yourself some precious silver if you want to buy glyphs. I suggest just buying them off the AH or have a friend make them for you.
Blacksmithing- I'll actually have to see if there is any viably stuff that you can craft for an elemental shaman such as Maces or Shields. From what I've seen, no.
Alchemy- This would be a good pair if you choose to have herbalism as your second profession. you can make your own health & mana potions along with some +intellect elixirs if you so choose to have that extra boost. Since Fuubaar is my alchemist, I didn't really feel it necessary to have another.

My suggestion is for an Elemental Shaman would definitely be Engineering for the helm and bombs, and herbalism if you are not a draeni. If you are a draeni, then it's a toss up for skinning, Alchemy, or Mining. It all depends on you and your circumstances.

My spec looks a little unorthodox. This little project was to create an elemental Shaman but the more I keep reading, it's not the "BEST" spec at this level. Actually, if I wasn't so gung ho about being elemental, I would probably go Enhancement. This is why:

Dump my first 5 points into +intellect to reach the second level in the enhancement tree to got to the Ghost Wolf form that makes it instant cast. This, by far, is so OP. The only other class that has a travel form is the druid. Shaman and Druids make some of the best Flag carriers in Warsong Gulch mainly for this reason alone. Speed! get your ass into the other sides Flag room and get the hell outta there asap! The last points are normally spent on lowering the cast time on our only healing spell in the Resto tree.

So, since I am not going this route I wanted to stay in the Elemental Tree and beef spells up that way. I make good use out of my Gift of the Naru as my mobile heal and if I get the chance to duck behind a corner, I can cast my OMG slow heal. It's pretty powerful though if you can get it off. It will pretty much heal you to full if you have caster gear on. Since I usually dont have the luxuray of time, I bandage or if I have a real emergency, I'll pop a health pot so that I can get the hell outta there.

This is what I came up with for an Elemental Shaman Spec.

As you can see, I spread my points out on the top row. I feel that Elemental Shaman are horrible mana suckers. We run oom any chance we get. Running OOM during a BG spells certain death for caster. So I spent them in reducing the costs of my totems and improving my damage done by those spells. I figure if I can burst the player down faster, I'm using less mana the more powerful the spell is. This got me to the second tier so I invested 3/3 in  6% damage reduction. Who doesn't want that in a BG? Yummy stuff let me tell you. That's how I spent my 9 talent points.

Again, I could have spent them differently if I wanted to spec in the best way possible as an Shaman at level 19 but I want to be an Elemental Damn it! Here is my wowhead link if you would like to see it for yourself.

Anyways, this is getting ridiculously too long, even for my own taste. Let me know if you have any questions, suggestions, ZOMG L2PvP, you know the drill. Thanks :)

<3 Fuu

Friday, January 15, 2010

When Worlds Collide

Thick, black smoke roiled beside the airship, tracing a path off into the distance where the Horde ship had fled. Fulguralis landed roughly back on the wooden deck and took a mental inventory.  The Dwarf Priest stood over near one of the massive cannons, casually dusting the soot off her robes.  His Paladin wife landed nearby with a fiery flourish and tucked her shield around her back before fetching a small beverage container that had been concealed somewhere inside of her armor.  Taking a quick swig, she glanced around guiltily.

The rest of the group gathered raucously around the Druid of the group, chanting loudly for him to change into a bear.  Fulguralis rolled his eyes.  He had heard rumor about the lack of jetpack design consideration for the bulk of a bear.  It was childish, but all the same the Warlock watched intently from a distance.  The druid held his hands out to silence the group, reaching out to accept a pack from one of the engineers on-board.

A puff of white smoke obscured him for a moment.  When it cleared, a snarling bear stood where the Druid had just been.  Sure enough, the straps of the jetpack, having been designed for bipedal adventurers, did not fit quite properly.  In fact, the pack situated naturally in such a way that the business end of the device was on the butt of the bear.  The group looked on expectantly as the snarling bear turned this way and that, demonstrating the situation of the device.  With a bearish grin, he activated the device.

Fire spewed forth as if originating from within the bowls of the bear.  Literally.  To Fulguralis, it looked like explosive flatulence.  The group roared with laughter and even the Warlock had to snicker.  It didn't get much better that fart jokes after successfully thwarting the plans of the Horde.  Comically, the massive bear zipped around the airship while the group pointed and laughed.  Several of the alliance officers ducked as they nearly got clawed by the buzzing beast.

Eventually, though, the airship found a place to dock on the side of the Citadel and slowed to a stop.  A tortured scream reminded the group that, while fun could be found in adventure, this was ultimately a very serious search and rescue mission.  The smiles drained from the faces of the group, and a look of hard resolve replaced mirth.  It was time to get back to business.

As one, the group left the relative safety of the airship and stepped onto the Citadel platform.  Steel rasped loudly as weapons were unsheathed in unison.  Warily, the adventurers spread out, anxious to get on with the next challenge to bar their path.  Fulguralis hung to the back and side of the group as he watched his wife stalk forward with a stout, Dwarven Warrior at her side.  Small particles of shadow seemed to swirl around the Warlock's hands as he prepared to launch an attack on anything that moved.

"Pssst!" The tap on his shoulder made him jump.

Fulguralis spun swiftly to find himself face to face with a rather odd pair of Gnomes.  "I almost killed you, right there, you have no idea!" he whispered threateningly.  One Gnome stood a step or two in front of the other, and the looked an unlikely pair.  The one in front had a long, white mustache, curled on both ends, and green eyes glinted with mischief.  The second Gnome was staring intently at his own feet, his clean shaven face laden with thick, round spectacles.  "Who the fel are you?" Fulguralis asked.

"Why sir, we are but two simple travelers, sent to aid you on your journey," Mustache said with a dramatic gesture of grandiosity.

Fulguralis eyed the Gnome back suspiciously, "Who sent you?"

The Gnome looked puzzled for a moment before answering, "I know not, my Liege.  My colleague here," he gestured towards Glasses, "is a studied disciple of the Light.  We go where he is called."

"I think he's had a bit too much Light," Fulguralis said, observing the absurdly thick lenses.  "Are you his keeper?"

"You could say that," Mustache replied.  "I prefer to think of myself as an Adviser.  I've studied long and hard in the King's library and traveled abroad gaining the knowledge and wisdom of the Ages."  Fulguralis stared blankly at the Gnome, still not understanding.  Why here?  Why now?  Seeing this, the Gnome continued hastily, "I am The Mouth, and he is The Hand."

"Mouth and hand of what, exactly?" Fulguralis asked.

"Why the Twisted Nether, of course," Mustache answered.

"I want nothing to do with the Nether," Fulguralis declared, turning his back on the travelers.

"That would be most unwise, good sir," Mustache explained, spreading his arms.  "Not all of the Nether is tainted by evil.  We come to offer guidance."

"I don't need guidance," the Warlock replied, keeping his back turned.

"Look, if you want to defeat the Deathbringer that will, in a few scant moments, make an appearance upon that raised dais, you might pay heed to the advice that the Wisdom of the Ages has to offer," Mustache said with a trace of annoyance in his voice for the first time.

"How do you know what will come through that door?" Fulguralis asked over his shoulder, one eye on the strange pair.

"It is of no consequence.  The Circumference of Time stretches beyond this place, driven by a force that is not of this world.  Even if I could explain, the words would fall upon deaf ears.  My mission here is simple: you must take this, and make use of it as the Mighty Blue Creator wills."  Mustache gestured to Glasses, who produced a rumpled sheet of parchment from a concealed pocket.  Gigantic, magnified eyes focused on the Warlock, and hesitant feet brought the paper within Fulguralis's reach.  He snatched the gift from a trembling hand and looked at it skeptically.

"What is this?" Fulguralis asked.  He got down on one knee in order to view the document and so that Mustache could peer over his shoulder.

"Why, it is a strategy!  Tailored for your group!"

Fulguralis saw a rough sketch of the room they now stood in.  On the dais, several pictures were drawn, symbols that obviously represented a few members of their group.   The placing of his wife and her Warrior counterpart were rather obvious.  There was an archer for the Hunter and a Totem for the Shaman.  For the Warlock and Mage, however, the pictures looked the same.  Then there were two symbols that seemed to represent the healers, though one seemed as if it were a mistake.

"Okay, I understand most of the symbols here, but why are there two Warlocks.  We have only one in our group, me."

"Ah, the other is the mage," the Gnome said a bit bashfully.  "You know, Warlock, Mage.  What's the difference really?"  A small geyser of fire erupted under the Gnome, sending him jumping into the air.  "I'm sorry, sir!  Really!  There is much difference!  I misspoke!"

"Hmmph," Fulguralis grunted and the geyser went away.  "I see a red cross, which I take to be one of our healing members, but what is this last thing?"  Fulguralis pointed at the other red symbol.

The Gnome frowned, "Why the Priest, of course."  He then squinted over the shoulder of the warlock as if noticing something for the first time.  Turning to Glasses, he abruptly smacked the timid Gnome upside the head.  "You dolt!  I told you to draw something Priestly, not something Panty.  Oh dear!  My apologies good Warlock.  I swear the strategy is valid, despite my colleague's poor hearing."

Surprise washed over the Mustache's face as Fulguralis doubled over, shaking with laughter.  "Thanks you two... Ha!  Panty!  You may... go now!"  The Warlock could hardly talk between bouts of laughter.  "We will... take this... under adv... isement.  Priestly Panties!  Ha!"

Mustache looked at Glasses, who merely shrugged and walked back towards the airship.

"Hey!  Jessabelle!" Fulguralis shouted with mock innocence.  "I have a present here for you!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Castsequence Random

I was going to post something really ranty and negative about the whole Elephant of DPS is easy.  After I'd written it though, I decided it was not worthy of posting.  Believe it or not, that doesn't often happen for me.  When blogging, I'm pretty much a stream-of-consciousness writer.  A lot of times I'll do research and grab links and what not, but for the most part, what you get is me sitting down for a half hour and pounding something out that's on my mind.  I also write fiction on the side, and that process is totally different.  I'd like all the extra time and thought makes my "serious" fiction better than my IC Friday posts, but there are definitely times when I feel like all the time spent editing is a waste, because just writing roughly isn't always a bad thing.

Writer's Corner aside, I didn't want to completely scrap all of what I'd done, plus I have a few other random thoughts bumping around that aren't really worthy of a full post of their own... so today is going to be a bit random.  So, in the form of a list, here are my random thoughts.  Make of them what you will.
  • We took a group into Nexus last night.  We ran with four DPS and a tank.  No healer, No problems.  Healing must be easy mode (/sarcasm).
  • The most important part of any group in any game is what we, as players, make of it.
  • In the world of MMOs, diversity is King.  Sure you can do stuff with all one type of player/class, but the games are designed with teamwork in mind.  Good teamwork will always make things easier.  That, and uber gear.
  • Couldn't the reason there are more DPS than tanks simply be because that is how the game is designed?  Let's look at it this way: pretend each class has three spec trees and each spec tree represents one role.  (In other words, ignore any "extra" specs, no matter how viable to cap each class at three possible spec roles).  In that case there would be four tanking trees, five healing trees, and twenty-one DPS trees.  That means there is slightly more than a 4:1 ratio of types of DPS compared to types of tanking/healing.  Groups are traditionally 3 DPS, 1 Tank, 1 Healer.  Thus, at best, a 3:1 ratio.  Is it really any wonder we have extra DPS and not tanks and healers?  Couldn't the reason for the perceived shortage of those roles be simply "working as intended"?
  • Sort of in support of the above, in Aion it can be tough to find any specific role at various times.  It's as common to see LF tank as LF DPS as LF healer.  The ratio is a bit better, plus the groups are made of 6 people there, which greatly improves the ratio as well.  Maybe it's all just simple math and game design.  Maybe the simple solution isn't to create incentives or change mechanics, but to just add an extra slot in groups.  That would probably require a lot of instance tuning though, or maybe just a huge health buff for baddies across the board?
  • I think feelings of stress and responsibility completely depend upon the mechanics of the fight itself.
  • If you choose a role, realizing the belief is that it will be more stressful, you shouldn't be rewarded for making a free-will decision.  Also, perception isn't always reality.  Rewarding for reality is one thing, rewarding for perception is quite another.
  • As much as I dislike Hunters, a good trapper is still a gem to have in a group.  Similar with a mage who knows wtf they're doing.  Warlocks don't get cool slowing abilities.  Everything's immune to fear.  WTB warlock AoE slow.
  • I have respect for good players, not particular roles.  I dislike a bad tank as much as a bad healer as much as a bad DPS.  When I find a good player, I enjoy playing with them, no matter what toon they're on.  Some players may be good only in one role, and that's fine, but the point is that they're a good player at something, the role doesn't really matter.  After all, practice enough at anything and you can eventually become an expert in it.  It's called the 10-year rule of expertise.
Okay, all the above is well and good and contains the basic points I wanted to get across, but the next part is really the part that is going to make this worthy of posting.  Or something like that.   I finally got my first Emblem of Frost upgrade on my warlock: the T10 pants.  I had been rocking the T7.5 pants, and while the hit is totally a waste for me, the remaining stats are worth it on the T10 piece.  Since I'd been anticipating replacing this piece, I hadn't gotten epic gems for it yet.  Now, I'm all epic gemmed out.  What I wanted to share today as a good reference for Affliction Warlocks is how simple your gem choices are.  So this is the useful part of the post.  (I can't like to WoWhead from work, so I'll go back and add that later tonight).

Affliction Warlock Gem Choices
That's it.  It's that simple.  Also, this is assuming you are OCD like me and desire to match the colors for the stat bonus.  To be fair, you'd really have to calculate the DPS gain of the stat bonus against the DPS gain of using the correct gem to make the best decision.  I prefer to follow the color pattern though as variety is the spice of life.  If you don't care about colors, go with the +23 Spellpower for everything.