Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Heroic Scenarios

I get it now. Before I didn't understand what the point of adding Heroic Scenarios was, but it makes perfect sense now.

I thought the lack of a automatic queue was designed to be a barrier to entry, but it's not, it's the whole point of the exercise. They are trying to reintroduce manual grouping to the game as smoothly as possible. Scenarios are the easiest content to find a group for because there is no tank or healer requirement, just grab two other people and you all play what you know.

You can always tell when Blizzard really wants players to do something because they will attach a huge loot reward to it, and ilevel 516 gear is pretty compelling evidence that this is what they want us to do.

What made me smile was seeing the term "LFG" dotted through trade chat for the first time in two expansions.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Long-form meta-gameplay

[I'm re-enabling the capcha for commenting on this blog. I'm willing to accept a certain ratio of noise to signal just to encourage conversation, but the amount of spam comments I've been getting recently has become intolerable.]

Happy Patch Day to all! My guildies are all super jealous of my spiffy new flappyhawk, which is pretty cool since those guildies are some of the best players on the server. I feel like I've already found a reputation in my guild as the hardcore mount collector, which I'm pretty okay with.

Did I mention I changed guilds? I guess giving up an officer position in a fairly large and well-established guild is a pretty significant thing worth mentioning. Long story short: player churn with no active recruiting left us with very few active players. So I joined <Relinquish the Loot>, mainly because I know the guild leader is a nice guy who plays the game seriously without taking the game too seriously. He's also Australian and mains a Protection Warrior like I do. They also have the number one raid on my server, and the possibility of applying is not entirely unattractive. I've found the guild actually has an atmosphere very similar to my old guild, back when we had a competitive progression raid-- Friendly and mature, but not overly chatty most of the time.

But I digress. The Armored Blue Dragonhawk is probably the highest mount prestige* I've achieved so far in the game. The blue dragonhawk awarded for 100 mounts was old hat by the time I got one, and when the green kite was added, 150 mounts was already far too common, not to mention the mount itself was unattractive and unwieldy. Having literally only reached the magic number of 200 a week or two ago, this achievement could not have been timed better for me.

More than anything, I feel like this is the reward that I didn't know I was working towards for the past two years of collecting mounts.

This kind of thing is a perfect example of what makes the MMO genre compelling to me: long-form meta-gameplay; this idea of achieving something epic over a long period of time and many individual play sessions. Mount collecting is about eighty percent meta-game, and I found solving the most efficient way of getting more mounts extremely satisfying, especially as I eventually collected all the low-hanging fruit and found myself in epic quests for the rarer mounts left over. Like "one-hundred-percenting" a single player game, this stuff is there for the people who already did everything else in the game but still want to keep playing.

I'm far from done with mounts. I wasn't done pre-Mists and I'm even further from done now. Now I feel like challenging myself to stay ahead of the game itself-- to have 250 mounts before that achievement is added. I hope it's before the next expansion.

*if you've been following my blog for a while you may recognise my use of the word "prestige" to mean "epeen"

Friday, May 17, 2013


I had a look at the Hex kickstarter yesterday. Hex is "the first ever real MMO/TCG" according to its creators, Cryptozoic Entertainment-- the same people who currently produce the Warcraft TCG.

The basic game rules are a clone of Magic The Gathering, with the major difference being how complex the cards themselves can be. With the limitations of physical cards removed they can make the cards transform, equip gear, have gem sockets, and contain extra rules on a "third" side of the card.

It's one of those concepts that, once you realise its potential, makes you wonder why the hell nobody hasn't done it yet. TCGs have been "pay to win" since their inception, long before video games started pissing off bloggers by doing the same. Transferring this model to a purely digital medium allows the producers complete control over any and all transactions, which translates to more revenue streams, for instance taking a cut from player to player card sales-- think Diablo III auction house.

Hearing about this game gives me an odd sense of inner conflict; I can see how blatantly exploitative it is, but I don't care because it's already found and hit all the right buttons to get me genuinely excited. [The same feeling I often get when I see a trailer for a gothsploitation movie. I am a sucker for those things.]

The other feeling it gave me was "this could so easily be the next League of Legends". LoL was not an original concept, just a quality iteration in a genre of game released right as that genre started to really take off.

World of Warcraft was the same for MMOs; the right game at the right time, perfectly poised to not just ride but reinforce the wave of popularity growth that genre was experiencing. I think it's probably a sore point for Blizzard that they never exploited their perfect position in the MOBA genre several years ago, and the reason they have made such a sudden and unexpected move into online TCGs is to avoid making the same mistake again.

The most interesting thing on the kickstarter page for me was scrolling down through the support tiers and noticing the way they gradually revealed all the things they intend players to buy. You might see the thousand-dollar support tier that gives you one of every card that will ever be made and think; wow, that's the ultimate... until you look at the next tier, two-and-a-half thousand dollars, which offers four of every card. Of course, you realise, you'll need four of the each of the best cards to be competitive, that is the ultimate. But oh wait, five thousand dollars gets you four of every card, and also includes the equipment for those cards. Of course you need the equipment too what do you think this is?

It suggests to me a perfect microcosm of the way the game intends to hook people into spending more and more money, simply by having so many facets-- not just cards, but upgrades, equipment, gems, champions... and I have to assume you'll need completely separate decks to be competitive in PvE as well as PvP.

I can almost sense a kind of psychopathy to the design concepts; an ignorance of all human emotions except those which can be exploited for profit.

Penny Arcade gets it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Dunning-Kruger effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect is something I think more people need to be aware of. It's the phenomenon that those who are unskilled in a particular field tend to overestimate their ability because they aren't good enough to know what they're getting wrong.

The opposite also occurs, that those who are skilled in a field are overly-conscious of their mistakes and don't realise just how much better they are than the average, so assume that other people should be able do the things that they see as very simple.

We see both sides of this in WoW all the time; that hunter who thinks he's king of the world because he always tops DPS in random groups; the healer who calls people retarded if they don't notice that they're standing in fire; the under-performing social raider who brags about his item level; that douchebag in trade chat who goes on about how easy it is to get to whatever his current arena rating is.

Gevlon is a fantastic example of the latter effect, being well-known for chiding people who don't put his level of thought into the game they play.

Nobody but Blizzard themselves seems to be aware of just how wide the range of skill is for players of this game.

Hm. I was kind of hoping this idea would go somewhere interesting. Oh well, call it a PSA. While I'm at it, don't do drugs.

The End.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Poor again

Because as much gold as I make through auctions, I tend to spend it just as fast. Being short on cash has irritating side-effects, like not being able to afford the "trivial" cost of reputation mounts and having to shuffle gold around just to make the purchase.

Oh, on that topic I suppose it's worth an update on my mount count; 203 as of Sunday [excluding class mounts]. Now let's have 5.3 already so I can get credit for it. Notable additions include Thundering Jade Cloud Serpent, Azure Drake, and Ashes of Al'ar-- that last one being the Black Market purchase which is the cause of my current financial situation.

Azure Drake is another mount that I desired for a long long time and always felt a twinge of jealousy any time I saw another player riding one. I had expected to have to grind this one out for months like most low drop chance mounts, but on a whim I decided to go do Malygos, mainly to make sure I could solo it for future grind planning, and bam there it was. RNG is a funny thing.

I've considered myself to be mostly "on break" from mount collecting up until this point in the expansion, but I'm sure my attention will be drawn back to mounts as I run out of endgame progression and alts to level. I still have three goldsink and six rep grind mounts left to get before I need to start farming rare ones again, so I think once I have those I'll consider the break officially over. I hear Al'akir is soloable now...

I noticed something that made reflect a bit on all the whingeing that happened when the Black Market was first announced. Learning Ashes of Al'ar earned me a Feat of Strength, the description of which reads "Obtain the Ashes of Al'ar from Kael'thas Sunstrider in Tempest Keep." -- which I most certainly didn't do. I know it's only technically incorrect, but it kind of bugs me that I was able to buy credit for something I literally didn't do.

Monday, May 13, 2013


When Ghostcrawler started tweeting I remember remarking how fantastic and efficient that system was over the official forums because of the strict character limit. Players need to get to the point instead of pontificating in page-long paragraphs, and GC just answers questions instead of spending an additional paragraph reassuring the player he's rebuking that they are still a special snowflake and to please keep playing Warcraft.

I've tweeted "at" him a few times since then with questions, and early on he did respond to a couple of them, but since it became known that @Ghostcrawler was the place to make demands of the WoW development team it seems to have exploded a bit, so it's understandable that he can't spend his valuable time responding to everything.

Well, that and he's already spending all his time responding to this guy:
That guy gets a response. Questions about development focus are ignored, but "I LEF WOW BCOS U FUKED IT" is apparently worth the time of one of the most senior WoW developers.

I'm not one of those awesome people who assumes that others want or need to hear every idea that pops into their head; I prefer to spend time and careful consideration coming to a conclusion I can believe in before I feel like I have something worth contributing, and even then I'm hesitant. It's taken this many years of blogging for me to become comfortable expressing myself on my own web page, let alone someone else's. So I find the fact that that guy is awarded a conversation and while I'm being ignored pretty demoralising.

I think the GC twitter experiment hasn't quite met its aim. The beginning of the end was when Mr Crawler started using multiple tweets for a single paragraph. That's not what Twitter is-- keeping it short is the whole point. He's let himself go, giving in to his inclination to explain things in a way that dumb people can't take the wrong way, and I think that's a huge shame.

Friday, May 3, 2013

In which Coreus goes into far too much detail about things nobody cares to read about

I was running a random 5-man dungeon [I now refuse to use the word "Heroic" for these] on my Warlock last night for the bonus reputation, and it occurred to me how ridiculously overgeared we are for these now.

I think most DPS players will be familiar with the situation where the damage is flying around so fast that mobs feel like they're dying before you can get a cast off. And then afterwards you check the meter to see that actually you were 70% of that damage. It's a bittersweet feeling.

Coreus isn't even in real raid gear [though he has a few pieces of 522 from Valor and crafting]. My mind breaks trying to imagine what the next raiding tier is going to do to 5-man content.

I want to talk a bit about what I love about the recently-redesigned Warlock class.

Let's start with Destruction because it's the simplest. The resource mechanic is Burning Embers, which are generated by your fire spells and spent on Chaos Bolt [massive nuke], Shadowburn [massive-er instant execute-range nuke], and Fire and Brimstone-- a new spell which turns your fire spells [and curses] into AoE volleys.

Your primary fire spells are Immolate [a DoT], Conflagrate [instant, two charges, ten second recharge time], and Incinerate [filler nuke]. Rain of Fire is an instant-cast AoE spell which covers an area of the ground for six seconds. Using this spell rotationally as a second DoT is a minor DPS gain even on a single target, and obviously only gets better as it hits more two or more targets. Embers are generated when any of these spells crit [I'm simplifying that point for brevity].

Casting Conflagrate gives you three stacks of a buff called Backdraft, which can stack up to six and decreases the cast time of your nukes by 30%. Incinerate consumes a single stack and Chaos Bolt consumes three. Because it's a lot more efficient to use these on Incinerate it's important to manage your Backdraft stacks against both your Embers and your Conflagrate charges to avoid a situation where either caps and you're forced to waste Backdraft stacks un-capping it.

Dark Soul is your primary CD; twenty seconds of 30% additional crit chance every two minutes. Obviously a major focus of your rotation will be to try to max out your Embers and Conflagrate charges just as Dark Soul comes off CD so that you can get as many of your hard-hitting spells as possible out during this window.

Havok is a very cool spell unique to Destruction. On a 25 second CD, you cast it on a mob and the next three spells [or single Chaos Bolt, a la Backdraft] that you cast on a different mob will also be cast on the Havoked mob. The absolute best way to use Havok is to cast it on the mob with the highest health while one or more other mobs are in execute range -- Shadowburn only consumes a single charge, despite doing more damage than Chaos Bolt. Duplicating three Shadowburns is a ridiculous amount of burst regardless of the situation-- over two million damage in three globals under ideal conditions.

Fire and Brimstone is probably my favourite AoE mechanic ever, and again is unique to Destruction. It transforms your fire spells [and curses] into Ember-costing AoE versions that deal 60% [percentage increased by Mastery] of their normal damage. So Immolate will dot everything, and as long as you keep that and Rain of Fire up you will be overflowing with Embers and can typically Fire and Brimstone the whole of your normal single target rotation [sans Chaos Bolt].

FaB Conflagrate is probably the most satisfying spell in the game to cast, lighting up an area instantly with brilliant green death. And we haven't even gotten to our filler nuke Incinerate-- shooting a volley of snaking fire that spreads out to hit everything in the room looks amazing every time.

The way the different resources interact is a big part of the magic of this spec. Managing Backdraft stacks adds a higher skill cap, but it's not going to kill your damage if you ignore the mechanic completely. Ditto for using Rain of Fire on a single target-- it's a great option for those who don't mind managing another DoT but wont kill your DPS if you skip it. The faster and more RNG Ember generation from using Rain also means that you need to be more conscious of that resource because a string of crits can easily cap you before you're ready, and having fewer spare GCDs for Incinerate means also means fewer opportunities to consume Backdraft stacks efficiently.

Hm. It didn't really occur to me until I wrote it down how much there actually is to Destruction. It all feels very cohesive and easy to understand when you're playing it. A triumph of simple mechanics with significant depth to them.

I might leave Demonology for another time, because it's actually a bit more complicated.


Apparently "tri-spec" is still a thing people are asking for. To me it always seemed like they were asking for the wrong thing.

These days we can already change any and all of our talents and glyphs within two of our three specs [four for druids] at any time. With the exception of druids, having access to a third spec would just let us change anything at any time. I don't mean that that's a bad thing, I just mean that at that point having a "number" of specs becomes a bit irrelevant. Except for druids.

What would be a much better idea is to just open it all up [so druids would be happy too], but most importantly allow us to "save" spec configurations -- including talents, glyphs and most importantly action bars -- in a similar way that we can currently save gear sets in the built-in gear manager.

I don't think it's going to happen, in either permutation. I think we have already have eroded enough of what makes an individual character unique without throwing a switch that makes a character's spec practically irrelevant too.

I also don't think there is very much need for it. There were some very compelling reasons for adding secondary specs to the game in the first place:

- allow tanks and especially healers to have a damage spec to make soloing easier and more enjoyable [yes I realise there are exceptions]
- encourage those players who wouldn't otherwise play a non-damage role to do so, by making it as easy as possible
- allow your raid's extra tanks to not feel totally useless on single tank fights

In essence it was to ease what was a pretty big deal early in the game; the huge difference between how you would spec for soloing and how you would spec for grouping. Pre-wrath this was even the case for pure DPS classes because survivability while soloing was still relevant.

What are the reasons for needing even more spec options?

- allow monks, druids and paladins instant access to what would be, by definition, their least-used role
- allow a proportionally tiny number of players to mix-max in a more comprehensive way

Not quite as compelling, if you ask me.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A bit of a rant

I was pondering the unfortunate state of 5-man dungeons in Mists and it struck me. 5-man raids! I mean now that everyone in the game raids that's all Blizzard seems to care about putting development time into, so why not take this idea to its logical extreme? Single tank, single healer raids. Obviously the gear would be the same level as the 10- and 25-man versions, with fewer [or perhaps zero] "Thunderforged" items so that 10-man raids don't feel like they're putting in all that extra co-ordination work for no gain. That's how it works, right?

Meanwhile, Heroic-Challenge-Epic-mode scenarios! Because the most trivial content in the game is what the really skilled players want to run. Just whatever you do don't let them auto-queue for it or everyone will quit WoW because they died once.

They really need to make some kind of "expert mode" toggle that players can activate to circumvent all the systems that treat the player like a retarded child. Well, it would work until all the online advice told all players to just enable this mode because it's "better". Maybe they could add some kind of gating challenge to unlock it. Because everybody loves gating. You know what? If anything the game just needs more gating. It's definitely my favourite part of the game. Why has Blizzard been so stingy with it since 5.1?

I can deal with the game being designed for a mass audience. They'll make more money which they can use to make the game better. What I can't deal with is the duplicity. The developers pretending that decisions they make aren't coming from an overwhelming paranoia that most players are too stupid to enjoy the game without being told precisely how to do so.

One of the pet peeves of the forum blues is players "lawyering" them because they disagree with something. I agree that it's dumb, but I don't think these people do it because they think the development shouldn't be allowed to change direction or that the people working on the game aren't allowed to change their minds about things. It's that the devs are always often reluctant to give us a fucking straight answer to begin with.

People resort to these methods just to try and figure out what the design intent is, because the reasoning they give us is often transparently, insultingly false. We know they know, and they know we know, but all we can do is dance around each others bullshit until everybody loses.

Okay I think I'm done ranting. Deep breaths...

Now let's all go enjoy the game again. :) If you haven't played a Warlock since 5.0 go try it, they are spectacular. Also the Fel Imp sounds like Invader Zim!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

PvP scaling

PvP is being shaken up again in order to keep the gear from scaling too rapidly. Resilience will be gone completely from gear in 5.3, and PvP Power is being nerfed as well.

These days PvP has a flat "you do less damage to players" contrivance, as well as a flat "you do less healing to players if they have recently taken damage from a player" contrivance, which really makes me wonder why the fuck they abandoned the idea of just increasing health pools like at the beginning of Cataclysm. Doing less damage and healing to all players is effectively the same as just having more health.

I have to assume that these bending-over-backwards balance mechanics are only in place because PvE damage scaling relative to health pools was designed at a certain ratio, and PvP scaling has now been found to work much better at another. It's just a really inelegant design in my opinion.

It's not the developer's fault though. This game was designed a decade ago and has a lot of out-dated design elements [like for instance all those pure DPS classes] and you can tell what they really want to do in a lot of these cases is scrap the design completely and rebuild from the ground up, but you can only get away with so much of this before you end up taking away things that people enjoy.