Friday, September 30, 2011

Twisted Sister

The candles cast a warm glow on the greatroom of the manor, illuminating Fulguralis and his minions.  The Warlock taps his foot and looks impatiently at the ceiling.  Sensing his mood, the other creatures in the room fidget.

"Where is she?" Fulguralis asks.

"Maybe they've been sidetracked by loooove," Berry Blue responds.

Nighty's eyes light up.  "Right.  I'm sure she's all... tied up."

The Warlock favors his Succubus with a frown.

"Whatif-whatif-whatif..." Spaz sputters.  They all stare at the imp, bouncing on the sofa and repeating the same words like a broken Gnomish recording.

"Out with it already," Nighty orders, striking him on the head.  Spaz falls to the floor with a thump, rolls over, and runs to the other sofa.

"Ouch-ouch-OUCH," Spaz whines.  "I-was-just-gonna-say-maybe-she's-been-bitten.  Like... CANDY!"  And he's back to jumping.

"Don't be a fool, Shorty," Berry Blue says.  "Ain't everyone like our whip-carryin' friend here.  More likely they stopped for a candlelight dinner and some smooth, soft-"

"Do you suppose he would bite a Succubus?" Nighty purrs.  "Mmmmm.  Furries are fun."

"Shut up, all of you," Fulguralis says.  "That's my sister you're talking about.  Valentis wouldn't bite her... would he?"

"Dude, I'd tap that."  The deep voice carries from the back room.

"Shut up, DeeGee.  Get back in the closet.  I didn't even summon you."

"But it's hot in the closet."

"Which reminds me," Fulguralis strokes his chin, "I need to get back to the Firelands.  You coming, Sparky?"

The Felpup hops up on the table and barks a few times, voicing some cryptic canine opinion that only his master can decipher.

The Warlock rolls his eyes.  "Of course it's going to be hot.  That's why they call it the Firelands."

Sparky's head droops and a whine mewls out.

"Oh, stop being a baby."

"Take me.  I like it hot," Nighty suggests huskily.

Fulguralis rolls his eyes.  "Of course you do.  But you're always spanking yourself and, quite frankly, it's getting real felling annoying."

"It's hot in the closet," Deegee throws in.

Fulguralis points.  "See, there you go.  Sounds like an offer to me."

Night frowns, but heads off to the back room anyway.

"Make sure you use a Shadow Ward," Fulguralis calls after her.

Over her shoulder, the Succubus makes an obscene gesture.

"Fire-fire-FIRE.  Takeme-takeme!"  Spaz is running around the Warlock's ankles.

Fulguralis glances over at his Felhunter.  "See what you're subjecting me to?"

The Felpup chuffs and hops down off the table.  He snaps his jaws at the Imp, sending the little guy off screaming.  With a satisfied look on his face, he takes his place at his master's side.

"All right, summon me!" the Warlock yells up at the ceiling.  "Back to the felling grind," he mutters, then turns to look down and his minion.  "You think we'll get some new gear tonight?"

The Felpup cocks his head.

"No, you're right.  It'll be mail or leather again, no one will be able to use it, and we'll have another shard," Fulguralis complains.  He takes a deep breath, staring up at nothing in particular.  "Gear seems so much harder to come by since the Shattering.  The Mages must be screwing with the market again, holding back the choicest pieces for their precious council.  You know how they are.  Probably got that fabled legendary staff right now, taking turns turning each other into dragons and-"

With a pop, the Warlock disappears.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Coupling Couples

The more I PvP, the more I realize the little things that give you an edge can really matter.  Now, the Devs admit that 2v2 isn't really balanced.  And, while rated BG's are better, you're not usually in an even numbers situation (or at least I'm not).  So, it can be tough to gauge how you do in a "fair" fight.

That is to say, the little things generally get masked by the big things.  Gear, uneven numbers, vast differences in skill or experience... they are the major factors in most matches.  Still, the littler items of strategy, teamwork, and communication are not to be overlooked.  You can overcome a large gear deficit with an effective strategy.  You can win a 2 on 4 with solid teamwork.  Communication can make up for lack of skill or experience.

One of the benefits I've noticed, made plain to me in PvP but also effective in PvE, is how well couples play together.  Well, not even exactly couples.  Just people in the same room.  In our guild, this is generally all the couples, but it doesn't have to be.

I think it's clear why: communication is far easier.  Even when you have vent, the simple necessity of having to key in takes time.  I wonder if running with an open mic would be better or worse.  If you're in the same room, you hear all the blurts and nuances of a person's conversation.  Communication becomes far more effective.  This simple fact, I believe, has contributed to some early success in the 2v2 realm.

It's not a major factor, but I think it's noticeable.  People in the same room simply coordinate better.  Even if most of their communication is yelling or grunting... there's something about co-location that helps.

I've started to bring this idea to raid leading.  Often, when I think about strats, I try to find ways to put the co-located folks together.  Working in pairs seems to pay off.  Have the healer sitting in the same room as the add tank heal that tank.  Have the tank/healer couple go up top.

It can work with DPS too.  I find that when I'm on a task with Fuu, her situational awareness skyrockets.  Some of it is probably me yelling my head off at her to move (which I know she loves), but also I think she feels more comfortable knowing I'm focused on the same task she is.  There's safety in numbers.  She's not so worried that it's all on her shoulders, trusting that her husband has her back.  She plays more confidently, and it shows.

There are cons, too.  It can be quite stressful, and you also probably have to hear about how you failed from your significant other.  Yet, I think it pays tangible dividends.  In any case, it's something to consider when breaking down a fight.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just Another Word for Casual

Here's something fun for a Monday. Typhoon Andrew wrote last week about a deeper breakdown of the common "casual" and "hardcore" gamer tags.  It's a nice little article, but I'm particularly a sucker for personality tests.  They speak to the closet psychology nerd in me.  Hence, I have to point you over there.

I, of course, am an AELOHF. 

Amateur, for sure.  Though I wish I got paid for being casual.  I would have to say I'm Experienced now in WoW, though there are plenty of things I don't know... and it's always changing.  My time is extremely Limited.  Fortunately, I have 10-12 other L's in a guild with me, which is the only thing that allows me to raid.  I'm an Optimal player.  Sometimes this annoys the hell out of my guildmates, I know, but I crave optimization in my gameplay.  I tend to get pretty antsy when people are "dicking around" (as I say) or "having fun" (as they say).  Generally, I try to reign myself in (since it's obviously a personal thing) or sit out for "fun runs."

Though I'm a blogger, I would classify myself as Hidden.  This is because I generally don't talk to people when I'm not doing group content.  It sort of goes with that optimization stuff.  If I'm online, I'm usually trying to complete something.  I generally don't get on to shoot the shit.  Still, I could wane Social here because who I'm playing with is extremely important to me.  I try to surround myself with people that I can play well with, and don't PuG a lot.  I recognize that I have pretty specific opinions about my play time, so I try to keep a close group of people that feel mostly the same. 

Finally, I'm Focused.  I have one PvE toon, and one PvP toon.  I would have had them both be the same, but I have an in-your-face mentality with PvP that doesn't translate well to playing as a Warlock.  Also, it does provide a nice change of pace.  Still, after, what, four years of playing, I only have two max level characters, and have really rolled only three others.

Anyway, it was a neat article and had me thinking about my proclivities.  Thus, I thought it was worth sharing.  I'll get back to beating the dead horse of the FL-nerf topic tomorrow, as tonight will be our first chance to experience it.  I expect a one-shot on Rag.  :-D.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Final Shot

Harrison releases his love. His stomach roils as she turns and rejoins Valentis near the plane. Even so, his face remains impassive. He turns to Captain Renault and makes one last threatening gesture with the gun. His friend smiles and spreads his arms even wider. Satisfied, Harrison walks over to join the couple.

"Everything is in order," Valentis says, glancing as his bride-to-be and nodding at the other man before him.

"All except one thing," Harrison answers.  "There's something you should know before you leave."

Valentis holds up a hand.  "Mr. Jones, I don't ask that you explain anything."

Harrison shakes his head.  "I'm going to anyway because it may make a difference to you later on.  You said you knew about Dece and me."


"What you didn't know was that she was at my place last night when you were.   She came there for the papers.  Isn't that true, Dece?"

Decedereful lowers her head.  "Yes."

Harrison continues, "She tried everything to get them and nothing worked.  She did her best to convince me she was still in love with me, but that was over long ago.  For your sake, she pretended it wasn't, and I let her pretend."

Valentis nods solemnly, "I understand."

Harrison produces the papers from inside of his jacket, and hands them both over to the Gilnean.  "Here they are."

Valentis clasps the other man on the shoulder.  "Thanks.  I appreciate it.  Welcome back to the fight.  This time I know our side will win."

Behind them, the Gnomish airplane engines rev up.  Valentis turns to Decedereful.  "Are you ready, Dece?"

The young woman nods.  "Yes, I'm ready.  Good-bye, Harrison.  Light bless you."

Harrison tips his trademark fedora.  "You better hurry.  You'll miss that plane."

He watches wistfully as Valentis helps Decedereful up into the plane.  The engines sputter and the vehicle begins to roll.  The bright stars, the moon, and Captain Renault are the only witnesses as it launches into the calm Ramkahen skies, dark smoke trailing behind it.

Harrison turns back to Renault and walks over.  He helps his friend to his feet.  Behind them, they here the muffled clop of camels hooves.  Harrison moves behind the Captain, gun still in hand.

"Vhat is zhe meaning of zhis?  Vhat vas on zhat plane?"  Major Strasser barks.

Renault points up at the sky.  "Valentis was on that plane."

"Vhy do you stand here?  Vhy did you not stop him?"

"Ask Harrison."

Strasser pulls a device out of his pocket.  It is a communication box, used to contact his Schnottzy allies.  Seeing it, Harrison points his gun at the Goblin.

"Put that down, Strasser."

"I vhould adwise you not to interfere," Strasser says, pressing the buttons on the device anyway.

"I was willing to shoot Captain Renault and I'm willing to shoot you," Harrison warns.

"Hallo?" Strasser says into the device.

"Put that communicator down."

"Get me zhe airstrip."

"Put it down!"

The Goblin draws a gun of his own.  Two shots shatter out across the silent desert, echoing into infinity.  After a moment, Strasser falls to the ground, dead.  Harrison glances over at his friend, and then replaces the gun into his jacket.

They stand in silence for a few moments before several other camels ride up.  Renault's policemen are perched on their backs.  The commotion of the evening has not gone unnoticed.

Renault looks down at the body.  "Major Strasser's been shot."

The Captain looks over at Harrison.  Harrison returns a level stare, revealing nothing.

"Round up the usual suspects," Renault orders.

The policemen pick up the Major's body and leave.  Renault turns to Harrison, who is smiling now.  The Captain returns the grin.

"Louie," Harrison says, placing an arm on the man's shoulder, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

* * *

Note from the Author - In case you hadn't noticed, the thread over the past few months with these characters has been a parody of the classic movie Casablanca.  I thought it would be fun to write and I love the movie.  Plus, I think there's something hilarious about taking an Indiana Jones parody and parodying Humphrey Bogart with the famous "Here's looking at you, kid" line.  I'm sure I'm the only one.  So, I know it wasn't my usual fare, perhaps a little more serious/dramatic, but it was a lot of fun to write.  I'll go back to the more traditional humorous narrative threads now, if I can find them.  Feel free to offer suggestions, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hump Day Quickie

Today, I'll play the part of an aggregate service. Also, I'll be even lazier and link an aggregate service. Riveting, I know. However, there are two things I wanted to pass along to you, dear readers.

First and foremost, FL got pwned. Seriously. That's a huge... nerf bat. Want to know more, the Melting Pot already has a good collection of nerf posts. The first one in particular lists off what you need to know by boss. Break down and reactions at 11.

Second, K-bear over at Dots and Hots put together a nice little tips and tricks guide for Warlocks in Firelands. Since I've yet to see most of these fights (and suspect I'll be seeing them a bit sooner than previously anticipated), I've perused the article. Good stuff if you like melting faces... casually.

That is all.  Now, back to your regularly scheduled Wednesday, already in progress.

(Apart from the title, I resisted the urge to be dirty...aren't you proud?)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Other News...

We got Shannox down last night, again... finally.  We'd been trying to implement most of the suggestions that you guys gave me last week.  In the end, I think the most helpful was simply to go with a three healer approach.  It made DPS a small bit slower, but not as much as you'd think.  The extra heals gave us some breathing room so we could recover from small fails.  Heck, we almost downed him once when we stepped in five (5) crystal traps (3 healers, a tank, and a DPS... two at the same time finally wiped us).

We came back after the self-trapping wipe, re-focused, and started getting consistently to the last phase.  We made some pretty good transitions - really close to 30% when Riplimb went down - but it still gets a little dicey.  I think we had two <5% wipes before we got him down.  I have no idea how we one-shot him the first time we saw him.  I think we've learned our lessons though and can deal with all the mechanics pretty well.

So, what we have learned so far in Firelands is that Beth'tilac is a definite two-healer fight, and Shannox seems designed for three.  Blizzard has done this to ten mans in the past, and I guess I was hoping the design would change in Cataclysm, what with the focus on separate but equal raiding.

Pre-Cat, you pretty much always had to have the "swing guy" to be successful.  Someone that can go between DPS and Healing prior to the fights to give your raid the flexibility needed to succeed.  Sure, when you get geared, eventually you can cease the swinging, but until then, it's almost a necessity to progress.

Swing-guy is still in effect.  We've shuffled around a lot this expansion, but I think we've got all the roles figured out, swing-guy included.  Our poor RL went from a tank, to a DPS, now to swinger.  He healed in ICC.  Go figure.  It's rough to ask someone to learn two different roles over the course of a fight, but I guess, with the limited numbers in 10's, it's a must. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

QotD: Should Melee Get a Pity Buff?

I'm sure that Blizzard has loads of data to back up this change. I'll bet they have graphs and charts and screenshots and beta tests and all sorts of intelligent thought going into it. I'm sure this change is meant to level an unbalanced playing field.


What is the change? Here's the snippet (from some preliminary information for the next patch):
Melee classes will be getting a buff that is only active in the new raid to help them compete with ranged classes.

From my extremely limited and narrow viewpoint... I call bullshit.

How is being a melee DPS any harder than being ranged?  I've raided as both, though I'll give you the majority of my time is spent on a ranged.  Still, I have some experience as a DK.  Crazy thing... I find it far easier to achieve high numbers on my DK than I do on my Warlock.

Yeah, sure, you have to be in range.  And on some fights this is a problem.  On most fights, it means you park it right near the tank and y'all bitch when you have to move away from something.  Meanwhile, the rest of us folks IN CLOTH are running the hell around avoiding geysers of fire, zones of void, additional monsters, and all sorts of nasty things.  And THEN you whine about having a kiting fight. 

I have news for all the melee folks out there: movement is not an excuse for your poor DPS.  You know why I find it easier on my DK to get numbers?  I DON'T HAVE CAST TIMES.  Yeah, that's right.  Melee are designed with the fact that they're melee in mind.  They get more instant abilities, while those of us in sissy robes in the back are forced to stand still for one, two... oh crap void zone.  One, two.... add in my face.  One, two... OUT OF RANGE ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

You want to talk about something that is UNFAIR?  How about the fact that because Affliction Warlocks were TOO GOOD at multi-managing, we got a nerf to Soul Swap, effectively putting us back in the worthless zone on trash.  I had about four months IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME of not being completely sucky on trash.  Entire forums and guides are written on the ART of juggling DoTs on trash so that you don't appear to suck.  Then on my DK, I apply face to keyboard and easily bypass my own numbers.  If you want to talk about design flaws, how about that?


Yeah, that's right.   It's entirely possible your class could have a - Light Forbid - weakness.  For Hunters, it's needing to be up close.  For Warlocks, it's anything that dies faster than 10 seconds (which is like everything these days, and even boss fights are being designed around this shitty principle... like sustained DPS is too much to ask).  For Mages, it's crying whenever milk is spilled.  For melee, it's what?  Having to be in melee range?  I'm sorry, but that's WORKING AS INTENDED.

I saw this over at Spinksville, and while I love Spinks, I completely reject the statement:
I read this as an acknowledgement of what most players recognise, which is that melee are hampered with respect to ranged as dps (esp in raids). This is largely because of the Cataclysm implementation of ‘bring the class not the player’ which reduced or removed most of the issues with ranged dps while not touching the melee classes requirement to always be in range.
I do not recognize that.  I also disagree with the notion that "most of the issues with ranged dps" have been removed.  See above whining about trash as an Affliction Warlock.

Now, this is a rant (on an upcoming patch note, no less).  I'm completely whining here (it may turn out to be completely mild and functionally sound).  Sometimes you just need to let it out.  I admit to being completely biased and perhaps I'm just not among the "most players" that Spinks is talking about.  So that's what I want to know.  Am I the only one that doesn't think melee have it hard?  Am I the only one who thinks there are simply different challenges involved, and that's okay?  Am I the only one who has felt absurdly OP on my DK after working my butt off on my 'lock?

I guess I just hold my melee to a higher standard, and have the fortune of playing with some solid players.  They don't seem to have any problems battling me for that top DPS slot in raids.  Especially on fights which slant in their favor (whenever you need to kill adds).

At the end of the day, I think Spinks naming this the "Pity Buff" is right on.  Really melee?  Are you going to let them throw you a pity party?  As a Warlock, I would be ashamed. 

As Blizz I would be ashamed.  It's a lazy solution to lazy design.  If all the fights really do gimp melee... why the hell are we designing them that way?  This whole thing strikes me as a bit stupid.

Let me be clear: I do not think having a "weakness" in your class is a bad thing.  It encourages folks to get creative, to exercise their class.  Blanket buffs/nerfs encourage laziness... and in general, I guess I'm against them.

I'm sure there are great counter arguments.  I'm not really trying to do the topic justice, just rant a bit.  Sound off about my stupidity in comments :-).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Harrison Bogart

The night is clear and the moon shines bright down on the sparkling Ramkahen sands.  Harrison Jones strides swiftly across the flats.  A Gnomish plane stands ready on the far end of a makeshift launching strip, engines puttering softly.  In front of the plane, kissed by silver light, stands Decedereful, radiant even in a long, concealing jacket.  At her side stands Valentis.

Harrison pulls down on his brown fedora, tilting it into the gentle wind.  A few palm fronds stir in a clump to his right, and behind him the city lay sleeping.  His thoughts are fixed on his beloved, though, and the escape that the plane behind her signifies.

As he steps up to the couple, the wind gusts a little harder.  It pulls the flaps of Decedereful's jacket away from her body.  Harrison recalls the seductive dress she had on the night before, but she wears it no longer.  Simple, boring clothes lie underneath.  He looks at Valentis, and the man shifts uncomfortably.

"You have the papers?" the Gilnean asks.

Harrison nods and pats his pocket.  "All that remains is for you to get on that plane."

Valentis blinks, and opens his mouth.

"Unfortunately, it appears that will not be happening."  The voice that interrupts them comes from the cluster of palms.  Out of the shadows steps Captain Renault.

"Louie," Harrison says, turning.  "Why are you here?"

"I'm afraid Major Strasser has learned of this little launch."  Renault spreads his arms.  "It seems that I am compelled to do my job for once."

Harrison frowns and looks around.  "I do not see the Schnottzy."

"Rest assured he is on his way," Renault says with a sigh.  "Now, hand me the papers, Harrison, and we will simply say you were aiding the investigation."

"I'm afraid that isn't going to happen, Louie," Harrison replies.  From the folds of his jacket, he pulls out a gun.  Decedereful gasps behind him.  There is grim determination on Harrison's face as he points the weapon at his friend.

Renault slowly and calmly holds his hands out to both sides.  "Have you lost your mind?"

"I have," Harrison replies.  "Sit down."

"Put that gun down!" Renault steps toward him.

"I don't want to shoot you, but I will if you take one more step!"

They stare at each other for a moment.  The policeman on one side, the nightclub owner on the other.  Sands brush by their feet, paying heed to neither.

Renault flashes a wry smile.  "Under the circumstances, I will sit down."  He folds himself to the ground.

Harrison steps closer, gun steady.  "And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart."

Renault chuckles.  "That is my least vulnerable spot."

A gentle hand on his arm pulls Harrison's attention away from the Captain.  Decedereful stands at his side.  She opens her mouth to talk, but Harrison holds up a hand, stopping her.

Taking a deep breath, he begins.  "Last night we said a great many things.  You said I was to do the thinking for both of us.  Well, I've done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing: you're getting on that plane with Valentis where you belong."

"But, Harrison, no, I... I..." Decedereful stammers.

Harrison takes her hand in his.  "Now, you've got to listen to me!  You have any idea of what you'd have to look forward to if you stayed here?  Nine chances out of ten, we'd both end up in one of Schnottz's camps.  Isn't that true, Louie?"

Renault nods.  "I'm afraid Major Strasser would insist."

"You're saying this only to make me go," Decedereful accuses.

"I"m saying it because it's true," Harrison clarifies.  "Inside of us, we both know you belong with Valentis.  You're part of his work, the thing that keeps him going.  If that plane leaves the ground and you're not with him, you'll regret it.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."

"But what about us?"

"We'll always have the Lost City.  We didn't have.  We... we lost it until you came to Ramkahen.  We got it back last night."

"When I said I couldn't leave you."

"And you never will.  But I've got a job to do, too.  Where I'm going, you can't follow.  What I've got to do, you can't be a part of.  Dece, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.  Someday, you'll understand that."

Decedereful lowers her head, sadness hanging heavy on her features.

"Now, now..." Harrison mutters.  He cups her chin in one hand and raises it so their eyes meet.  "Here's looking at you, kid."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More On The Nerf

I hate to beat a dead horse... wait. No, I don't. I'm a Warlock. It is perfectly in-character to beat a dead horse. And then ride it around a bit.  So let's talk some more about this whole Nerf thing.

My initial reaction was: Wow, this seems fast.

There is validity to that.  The progression of patches in this expansion has been faster than anything we've ever seen from Blizzard.  That is intentional.  I daresay they want it to "seem fast."  The question here is if faster means more fun.  We were adding any fun before by drawing it out?  By farming and grinding? 

There are groups that will drive straight through the content.  They won't have to farm a lot until they hit the more difficult heroic versions of the raid instances.  They are the top raiding guilds, and they down the normal modes in like a week or something obscene.  They have skill.

Then there are the groups that want to be on the edge, but may lack some of the skill.  They farm gear to make up for.  Make no mistake, gear is simply a supplement to skill.  If you have epic amounts of skill, you don't need epic amounts of gear.  Otherwise, if you're human like the rest of us, you need gear to make up for your own suckiness. 

There's also the whole experience angle, or learning, but I won't really get into that right now.  Suffice it to say, to some extent, everyone needs to learn, and people learn at different speeds.  This is yet another variable that is probably least accounted for, and I'm not going to do it justice here.

The point here it seems like Blizz might be taking aim at farming a bit.   While the rest of us morons and slackers are trying to collect all the shinies to make up for our moronic slacking, they're swinging the nerf bat and making it rain patches.  All of a sudden, we don't need the shinies anymore.  They've just cut out some of the farming.  Makes sense when you consider how much we complained about running Zx over and over and over.

Which led to my second, subsequent rationalization: Perhaps this isn't so bad.

I think it's a lot easier for me to find the silver lining here than some other folks.  Mostly, this hinges on how much personal/group pride you take from clearing bosses within a certain time frame.  I think there are a lot of folk out there that try really hard to stay ahead of the patches and nerfs, that want to down bosses at the same difficulty as the top guilds.  And the window is shrinking on them.  It is harder to do, and it's taking away some of their cake.  This is completely valid as well.  It's just not where I'm coming from.

We've always been on the tail end, holding on by the skin on our teeth.  It's never been an issue of doing it before the nerfs, but doing it before the next expansion.  You could say we rely on the nerfs, because we don't spend nearly enough time farming to make up for our lack of learning and skill.  In this regard, it is guilds like us that are getting a kick through the content.  Hence, it's easier to see some benefit in it.  We're going to get to our end goal (seeing the content) sooner, and we don't have to jump through as many hoops.  Also, there's no pride here other than in doing it.  The pride for us is being able to reconcile ten busy schedules and pull off a raid per week in the game we all love.  It's intrinsic to our group.  We could never really survive an e-peen battle because we're just not that cool.  We're okay with that.

My final opinion has rested firmly in the realm of: But what about...

In admitting the validity of the issues others take with this nerf, yet not necessarily sharing the fears, it puts me in a solid position to conjecture how this could be done better.  I've seen a lot of valid arguments out there, but, in my opinion, they could be all alleviated by one, simple change.  Make the nerf optional.

Over the years we've proven as a playerbase time and time again that the most abhorrent idea to us, collectively, is the notion that we have no say.  In the end, we just want to be heard.  We want to be given choices.  We want to have it our way.

That can't always happen, but when it can, we expect it to.  If we are guilty of a sense of entitlement, then it is the entitlement of choice.  We crave the freedom to choose.

And why can't they do that here.  The one lesson that Blizz seems to be conveniently forgetting from Wrath is the one the buff in ICC taught.  Sure, they can remember about AoE tanking, and crazy-quick heroics, and welfare epics... why not the hugely successful buff?  You know, the one that allowed you the choice of clicking it on or off.

Is it really that hard to program?  We're not talking about fixing mechanics here, that's not what Blizz says they're doing.  What's the difference between lowering the health pool of all the bosses by a flat percent, and raising DPS by a flat percent with a buff?  Or between lowering the damage of attacks, or raising players' resistance?  If anything, the latter choices mean you still have to, you know, actually play.  Is that such a bad thing?  Play the same, but be more effective.  Get a little leeway for your mistakes.

I just don't why we're throwing the lesson out the window here.  I thought the buff was awesome in ICC.  We were able to do early, farm bosses (the first wing) without the buff to challenge ourselves sometimes.  The later bosses we never really got to without the buff, but we downed them with it, thus seeing the content.  It afforded us the flexibility to tailor the raid experience to our unique group.  And it seemed so simple.

Why are we not doing this?

Don't make it harder on yourself, Blizz.  You could save a lot of backlash, potentially retaining and pleasing more customers, if you only gave us the choice.  Gamers like choices.  Especially simple ones: Do I want the nerf... or not?  Why force it down our throats? 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

QotD: Nerfage, Too Soon?

Well, we're still struggling on Shannox.  Two weeks in a row.  After a one-shot.  I hate it when that happens.  Also, I hate hunters.

I think we're having several problems.  Solving any one of them would probably mean success.  We were very close last night several times.

As a DPS, I know we're taking too much damage.  There's just a lot going on and we're not staying out of the bad likely as well as we should.  We've tried to keep Riplimb closer to the raid with the intent of utilizing the crystal traps to help clear debuffs.  We had been doing the ranged thing before, but we would either trigger the distance enrage or not get far enough to drop the stacks.  It strained the healers and relied on us getting slows down, which, in turn, made DPS slower.  Thus, we decided to simply have the tank make use of the traps.  The downside here is that the stupid spear throw tends to cause us more damage.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't here it seems.

Our healers are struggling, this I know, for the health plates tell me so.

Try and get that of out of your head.  Seriously.  In any case, we either run into dead people or mana issues.  The same things that bug our DPS wreak havoc on our poor healers.  We may try some different strategies, but one of the things that had worked well for us is to call out a "Mana Regen" phase right before Rageface goes down.  It helped to coordinate several cooldowns where the healers may be busy regaining mana and a couple of our off-healers can be aware if we get in a bind.

By the end of the night we were consistently getting to the very last phase.  The problem seemed to be that we just couldn't outlast the damage.  We'd lose a tank and then, swiftly, the raid.  And this was with our healers spamming (but usually out of mana).

The easy solution is simply to gear up.  However, all of this may be moot anyway.  Blizz has announced we're going to see a blanket nerf next week.  It seems quick again, but apparently we aren't the only ones who have stalled a bit.  It makes me wonder if they don't have some sort of measurement system that tracks progress and, when a certain percentage of stalling is hit... out come the nerf bats!

A good nerfing is as effective as getting more gear any day.  Easier too.  I have mixed feelings about the speed, but I guess I'll take it.  I suppose it's better to err on the side of "too fast" than "too slow."  What do you think?  Are you ready for a nerf?

Friday, September 9, 2011

RL IC Friday

I'm not feeling the fiction today, sorry. Sometimes the battery needs recharged. And, also, this sort of thing is happening at work today...

Cast of Characters
M - A Young, Friendly, Competent Engineer (aka Grunt)
A - Senior Engineer with several Master's Degrees (aka Oldtimer)

Act I, Scene I
(The curtain rises on a stereotypical office workspace.  Cubicles abound.  The lighting is dingy and utilitarian.  A dashing young man sits before an open laptop computer, typing methodically.)

(The phone on the desk rings, and our young hero picks it up.  As the connection is made, a light blooms onstage to the right, revealing a middle-aged woman on the other end.)

M - Hello?
A - Hello, M.  Care if I call you?
M (fidgets) - I guess not.
A - Great.  I need you to do things and stuff.
M - What sorts of things do you need me to do?
A - And stuff.  Things as well.
M - Right, that's not very specific.
A (blank stare) - ...
M (guessing) - Do you need me to do x and y?
A - Yes, I would like you to do 6 and 7.
M - You mean x and y?
A - That's what I said.
M (shrugs) - I'll have it done within the hour.
A - And 7, too.
M - I'm not supposed to do numbers.  Only letters.  You're supposed to cover the numbers.
A - Z then, but without the bottom thingy.
M - That's still a 7.
A - Okay, glad we're agreed.  Start in ten minutes when I have to go to this important meeting.
M - All right, um, will do.
(M and A both hang up the phones)

Act I, Scene II
(It is ten minutes later.  Same scenery, both areas lit.)

(A types something into a computer, and a window pops up on M's screen.  In order to provide narration for us, they both read their respective conversational input to the instant messaging system aloud.  Also, because I just realized that IM'ing wouldn't work on stage very well.)

A - Start in ten minutes when I have to go to this important meeting.
M - It has already been ten minutes... I've already started.
A (stares blankly) - ...
M - You still want me to do x and y, right?
A - And 5.
M - What?
A - 7
M - What about 5?
A - 5 and Z.
M - But about numbers...  the process sa-
A - I'm sorry, a less curvy S and Z without the bottom thingy.  Add a curly backward E while you're at it.  Maybe a B with a humped back.  And O, definitely O.  It is both a number and a letter.  I've already done X and Y, and boy were those a stretch.  You're lucky you have me.
(M slams his head into his desk)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My New Hawtness: 2v2 Arenas

It took me, what, three years? Four? How long have I been playing this game anyway?  Somewhere between those two I think.  I was a TBC kid.  In all that time, I'd never given arenas a try.  Not even once.  Neither had Fuu.

A week ago, that all changed.  We both got our "step into the arena" achievements... and then promptly became addicted.  Our team, named simply Hodor, hovers around .500.  We've not played two dozen matches yet, but are closing fast.  We've capped out our conquest points in two days each week.

We'd been doing BG's a whole lot, and our guild is forming up a rated team.  Thus, we wanted to work on our gear.  Honor is all well and good, but conquest is where it's at, and normal BG's really aren't a good source of CP.

Arenas, however.  Holy fel.  I feel like it's stealing getting that CP.  It falls like a deluge of Mage tears.  It's awesome.

We're doing a 2v2 (of course).  DK (me) with a Healy Priest (Fuu).  I have no idea if the combination is any good.  In the 2's bracket, I understand it's a whole lot of "rock, paper, scissors" going on.  Some rocks fare better than others.

We've fared pretty well so far, going on some streaks both ways.  We win as much as we lose.  Also, we're not usually getting blown out.  They're close, hard fought matches, so the match-making process appears sound, at least in our limited sampling.

And have I mentioned the CP?  After running simply normal BGs forever, it seems to drop super fast.  We'll definitely be in good shape for tonight's guild debut into rated BGs.

The upside of 2v2 for us is that we're in the same room.  Communication is easy.  Scheduling is easy.  You can hop in, spend an hour, and be nearly capped even if you simply split your matches.

The downside is that the rating doesn't work toward the gear upgrades.  2v2 is sort of the "unsupported" slice of arenas.  Also, there's a certain amount of, ahem, marital stress you may have to be willing to endure.  Having raided together forever, it's really not different, but say the wrong thing at the wrong time and you may be sleeping on the couch.  Consider yourself fairly warned.

On the other side, I think teamwork is a great skill to build for couples.  Too often that benefit of gaming together is overlooked.  The couple that plays together, stays together, says I.

Even if you're not a PvP maven, consider the 2v2 bracket.  We did some dabbling in 3v3... a lot more brutal.  A lot more losing.  2v2 seems to be more forgiving.  It's a great place to whet your appetite and get a bit of CP.  If you go into it expecting to lose as much as you win... it's a great time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Salty Raid Tears

Azeroth hath no fury like a raid repeatedly wiped. Especially wiped by a boss you've previously downed to the tune of, oh say, a one shot the week before.  Really, is there anything more frustrating in the raiding world than to struggle all night on a boss you've previously walked all over like a dirty doormat?  It's enough to make even the most casual of raiders throw mice and punch keyboards.

Last night was such a case for us.  On Shannox, whom we'd one-shot the week before, we struggled all damn night.  It was a terrible, awful, no-good, horrible time.  At least in my opinion.

Wiping isn't always bad, in and of itself. Sometimes, you go into a night expecting to learn and wipe, and you have fun doing it.  Often, it's about the people then.  But even the best people can turn into felling demons by that-which-shall-not-be-named (shhh - the 1% wipe - shhh).  Throw a couple of those in a row, and all of a sudden... this shit is srs bzns.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but man was I frustrated last night.  I can handle learning, but this was single point failing over and over again.  Not learning, but one brain fart after another.  We've all experienced those nights.  There were 10 of us, and out of maybe 30 attempts or whatever, I doubt any of us had more than 3 muck ups.  It was a revolving carousel of fail.  We'd solve one issue... only to have the tank step in a trap.   Solve that... the OT would pull Riplimb just barely out of range and enrage kill us.  Solve that... whoops, shammy ran into the turtles we didn't clear.  Who ordered turtles?  Someone ordered turtles?

It's stuff that isn't usually a problem for us.  We're much better than that, but last night we were battling ourselves as much as the boss.  I suppose such a thing can be understood on a holiday weekend.  People aren't in their normal schedules.  Some of us have just partaken in profuse celebratory drinking the night before.  It happens.  I'm sure we'll waltz in next week and one-shot him again. 

That being said, there was a whole bunch of rage-face going on last night, and it wasn't just the dog.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Forbidden Fruit

A soft click brings Harrison back to the situation at hand. He turns to find Decedereful eying him curiously from across the room. She turns and shuts the office door behind her.

"What did he want?" she asks innocently.  She apparently could not hear from her hiding place.

For a moment, Harrison is not sure how to answer.  He has not yet decided how he will handle the situation.  The simple solution is to run away with his love.  As he looks at her, standing there in his club, radiant in her uncertainty, his heart aches.  It is enticing, he admits.

"To leave.  Just like you said," he responds.

"Did he mention anything about me?"

Harrison's tongue seems swollen.  He stares back blankly, not sure how much he wants to reveal.

She shakes her head, saving him of the response.  "No.  It doesn't matter anyway.  My place is here, with you."

She crosses the room in a flash, stopping just short of Harrison and looking up.  He drinks her in.  The curve of her lips, the smooth skin of her shoulders, the scent of her perfume.

Decedereful chuckles.  "With the whole world crumbling, we pick this time to fall in love."

Harrison nods.  "Yeah, it's pretty bad timing.  Where were you, say, ten years ago?"

She flashes him a warm smile.  "Ten years ago?  Well, let's see..."  She steps in even closer.  "Oh, yes, I was learning how to sew in Stratholme.  Where were you?"

"Looking for a job."

She presses against Harrison now, and he can feel her coolness like a fresh breeze on a hot summer day.  He slides a hand around the small of her back, feeling the curve of her spine, and marvels how she fits against him.  He feels the longing he'd been denying for so long drain of out of him as he gazes down on her perfect features.

"Kiss me," she says.  "Kiss me as if it were the last time."

And for a moment, the world shrinks to two lovers.  Outside, the sands stop their swirling and the stars stop turning.  The world is not shattering.  It is love that holds it all together, and love that will see them through.  Though Azeroth may be filled with stories of woe and suffering, there is also love.  Harrison had forgotten that for a time.

"I can't fight it anymore," Decedereful breathes.  "I ran away from you once.  I can't do it again."  She lays her head against his shoulder.  "Oh, I don't know what's right any longer.  You have to think for both of us.  For all of us."

"All right, I will."  Harrison pulls his head back and cups her chin.  "Here's looking at you, kid."

Decedereful smiles sadly.  "I wish I didn't love you so much."

Harrison kisses her again.  More fervently this time.  The only war is between their lips, a battle won with tongues. 

When eventually they pull apart, Harrison realizes that a good span of time has passed.  Though he wishes to continue, his concern for her wins out.  For tonight, at least.

"You should go," he says.  "Valentis will be worried." 

Decedereful reluctantly gathers her jacket.

"There is a plane that leaves tomorrow," Harrison explains.  "Meet me there.  Valentis knows the way.  We will see him off."

Decedereful nods, and then makes for the door.  On the threshold, she turns back.

"I love you so much," she says before leaving.  "I hate war so much."

Harrison is left alone.  With a racing heart, and an overflowing head.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Problem With Tanking

The hot topic out there continues to be tanking design. It is obviously high on Blizz's to-do list, and it's been getting a lot of air time and little tweaks.  Most recently, Ghostcrawler discussed some of the finer points on the Dev Watercooler blog.  There have been some responses, but in particular I'm fond of Ratshag's article.  Not only does it pretty much represent the single longest buggerthumpin' article we've seen from the loquacious orc, but I feel it also makes some darned good points.

The overarching message of the article is that Ghostcrawler seems to be missing the point a bit.  He seems to be discussing button presses and abilities, when perhaps he should be focused more on what tanks believe to be the essence of tanking.  Namely, things like positioning, control, and situational awareness.  Or, as Ratshag puts it: Tanks don't want to be Mages.  (To which I might reply: who does?)

In any case, I agree wholeheartedly with my green-skinned fellow blogger.  Furthermore, I think a lot of the loudest complaints right now are from people that just shouldn't be tanks.  They don't really want to do what tanking requires, but are looking for some way enjoy a role that, quite simply, they don't want.  They would be happier as a DPS, and just don't want to admit it.  Call it tank denial.  And should we ruin a role to accommodate this?

I would say that most tanks, true tanks, were relieved at the threat change.  Maybe it does trivialize button pressing to some extent, but only in the area of throughput.  Now tanks can focus on the more important aspects of tanking without worrying about losing things so much.

In my musings about this topic, I've tried to go back and figure out how we got here.  What was the history that has led us to this point.  It seemed pretty clear, actually.  In Wrath, there was too much dependence on AoE that led to a trivialization of encounters.  Blizz wanted to make things harder, so the answer was to "make AoE harder."  However, instead of relying on innovative mechanics to do this, we got a higher mana cost for AoE spells, and AoE threat nerfs.  They controlled it by punishing us for using AoE, and, at first, it worked.  But there are always consequences.  In this case, tanks became too focused on threat throughput, and lost a bit of the soul of tanking.  It made the role less fun.

Maybe we should step back, though.  Maybe to truly solve this problem we need to stop trying to put duct tape on a band-aid and actually deal with the wound.  Maybe we should ask "Why do we AoE?"

In that, the response is quite simple.  We AoE because it is faster.  Easier.  But what if it wasn't?  Right now, it's still easier, once you get geared enough, to simply group everything up and burn it down.  The answer shouldn't be to punish players by nerfing abilities to keep them playing "slower."  Why not innovate, and deal with the core issue.

For example, if we're talking trash mobs, make sure you have a healing mob with every pull.  A simple design philosophy.  And make that healer badass.  Make him able to nullify incoming damage unless he is CC'ed.  Shift the CC decision from one of limiting incoming damage, to one of actually controlling the mobs.  Currently, we CC because we'll die if we don't.  Why not make it a choice not of death, but of timeMake it longer and harder to AoE.  Then, I would bet good money, people eventually wouldn't do it as much.

In fact, we might see some awesome consequences like people looking for the healer.  As it stands now, I hardly pay attention to the role of mobs.  If CC were an answer for easier and faster instead of easier but slower, it might be significantly more attractive.

We've proven, over the years, that we, as players, are going to find the quickest, easiest route.  We want to maximize our rewards for the time spent (for the most part).  Then design around that.  Make that the core philosophy and embrace it.  Reward the proper usage of ability with faster completions.  Punish it by making it take longer.  CC doesn't do that now.  The punishment is supposed to be death and corpse runs (time), but that's becoming more and more trivial.  Make it actually rewarding to plan your pulls.

Getting back to tank design, if follow this design path, it seems to me that we can get away from threat throughput based designs, and focus more on the essence of tanking.  Tanks can look less at threat meters, and focus more on positioning and location.  To me, that is the kind of solution that would make tanking more fun and rewarding, not any amount of clever button pressing.  Like Ratshag, I believe the Devs seem to be missing the point a bit.  Maybe they're listening to all those tanks that are secretly Mages.  And we all know what happens when you listen to Mages...

The bottom line: the game should be about more than button pressing.  If tanks are standing around, contemplating Magery, then they should be doing it wrong, and the game design should teach them that.

I have faith that the Devs are smart guys, and I'm sure Ghostcrawler was simply relating one, small, poorly communicated sub-conversation of the greater tanking discussion.  I would shudder if that was the only avenue they're pursuing.  Still, it's up to us, the customers, to use our voices to make sure they don't corrupt the true soul of tanking... which may sound odd coming from a Warlock, but there it is.