Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fun per second

Theorycrafting and min-maxing is an important part of the fun of WoW to me. I’ve always been a maths geek [among other flavours of geekdom] and calculating stats and converting them into theoretical DPS and so on is something I enjoy immensely.

But there’s a line you can very easily cross if you're not careful, where you stop seeing it something you’re aiming towards and start seeing the best possible actions as a preset path that must be followed, to the point where you restrict yourself to that path. I don’t understand how anyone can still have fun in this game when the only options they give themselves are “rigid conformity” and “failure to maximise”. You have only to browse past the first post of any EJ thread to see perfect examples of this thinking.

The official forums aren’t much better. The parts that I see pasted on the front page of MMO Champion are more than enough to depress me. We have people who set themselves up to play in the most restrictive way possible, then complain about the lack of choice and variety in the game. People who will exploit every possible advantage their class offers, but complain about the advantages that other classes have. I have to remind myself that these people are outliers and not representative of the player base as a whole [for one thing a lot of them can spell], they're just the ones with the the highest ratio of spare time to relevant opinions.

And then I see Ghostcrawler, whom I have a good deal of respect for as a designer, actually take these complains to heart and respond to them, over and over, seemingly forced to design the game around the people who are trying their hardest not to enjoy it. I have to giggle every time I see him gently reminding people that, while their opinions are perfectly valid and not at all retarded, the game is being designed to allow as many people as possible to enjoy it as much as possible, and concentrating on increasing players’ fun per second is a more important design prerogative than increasing your damage per second.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nostalgia reborn

I’ve been playing the Cata beta for more than four months now and it occurred to me that I haven’t really felt compelled to post anything about it in this blog until now. Not that I haven’t been terribly, terribly impressed with everything I’ve seen so far. It’s that don’t see any point in writing just to report things if I don't have anything unique to say about them, and my most common reaction to new things in the beta of “oh my god holy shit that is so fucking cool” isn’t really that interesting or original.

What I did think was interesting was going into Stonecore on my fresh Druid template and finding I couldn’t hold aggro on anything. That all my best abilities had five hour cooldowns [any tank will tell you six seconds is an eternity when you’re losing mobs left and right] and that -gasp- the only way we were going to progress was to coordinate, CC and focus fire.

It’s a paradigm shift, all right. Suddenly a great crashing wave of nostalgia broke over my shoulders and I was back in The Botanica, looking at each pull and working out what CCs to use and what combination of abilities I would need to use to gain initial aggro on the mobs I needed to tank. Back when holding aggro on multiple mobs [if you weren’t a Paladin] was something you had to work for.

I remember the patch when Roots was made to be usable indoors. I remember thinking how fantastic it was to be a Druid tank, now with two CCs, one of which was going to get me threat on the mob in question. And then I never ever got to use it because any trash pull with more than two mobs devolved into AoE spam.

I predict Cataclysm is going to be a great time to be a tank. Now just make it live already, dammit.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I am feeling a rather shameful amount of joy about the weapon drop I got yesterday.

Last Word

One-Hand Mace

285 - 531 Damage Speed 1.80

(226.7 damage per second)

+104 Stamina

Item Level 264

Equip: Your melee attacks have a chance to grant you Blessing of Light, increasing your strength by 100 and your healing received by up to 300 for 10 sec.

It's not apparent from the tooltip, but there is no hidden CD on that proc. As long as you're hitting something, it never falls off. Nothing makes me feel more epic tank than holding off a wave of mobs while surrounded by a glorious blaze of healing energy.

Shut up, Pally. I'm not talking to you.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Prayer of Mending is a dumb heal.

I’ve been playing my Priest again. I feel silly for not twigging earlier to the fact that she’s another toon I’ve got that loses nothing in progressing now rather than waiting for Cata. So I’ve been getting a feel for the Discipline spec as I level through the dungeon finder, and at the moment enjoying the hell out of it.

Similar to how a warrior tanks, I love the way this very CD-focused spec forces you to actually think about what buttons to press in what situation, rather than just using the same two spells 90% of the time. Though I have to admit, Prayer of Mending is a distinct disappointment after being spoiled by Shaman smart heals.

While Priest is as of right now the only class I haven’t healed with at endgame, I’ve never found raid healing to be terribly satisfying to play. When you DPS, you get a visceral image of your character smacking the boss with all his might, and you have that wonderful number at the end to gauge your impact on the fight. Of course a smart raider understands that parts of that damage, for instance damage to adds, is “high priority” damage and will take this into account when judging their own performance.

When you heal, again you get that big number, but unlike DPS, “high priority” healing is not something you can monitor with an add-on, and it can be very hard to understand whether your healing contribution even mattered to the fight. This is especially true of druids, the first healing class I tried. Trees have always rocked the meters, but I am fairly confident to assume that a large proportion of their total healing will inevitably be supplementary -- topping people off who are in no immediate danger of death at the time your healing is done to them. For me at least [this goes back to what I was talking about in my last post], once I lose the sense that I’m actually impacting the outcome, the sense of challenge becomes very hard to maintain, and following that goes the fun.

I’m extremely optimistic, though, about what the healing game is going to look like in Cataclysm. When I was healing Heroics on my druid, not long after hitting 80, I found immense fun in the game of trying to be as mana-efficient as possible, playing to the class’ strengths by anticipating incoming damage with the appropriate HoTs. Of course this was all unnecessary because it soon became apparent that mana-efficiency wasn’t going to be an issue in this expansion. In Cata, they promise, we’ll all be forced to play like this. They’re giving me exactly the game I want to play.

So I’m pondering, assuming I don’t lose interest in my priest before I get her to 80, whether she might be an excellent choice to finally give raid healing a proper try.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I had a go through Operation Gnomeregan last night. A nice little quest line going from Ironforge down through Dun Morogh and ending with the eponymous battle to retake the Gnomish capital, that follows Blizzard’s recent quest design MO of giving the player lots of “cool” things to do, while offering no challenge whatsoever.

This is the perfect example of why I don’t like questing. To have fun in a game I need at the very least to feel as though I'm playing it.

We call this type of content PvE. That little “v” may be lower case, but it’s bloody important. Versus. I am supposed to be playing against the game. If I push the game and the game doesn’t push back -- if there is no danger I will fail, then my decisions and my input don’t matter and it’s not a game anymore, it’s a task. I put in my time [or grind, if you will] in order to receive a reward, whether that reward is gold, XP, gear, a cosmetic frill or even just the next advancement to a storyline.

I don’t know whether many people share this sentiment, but I’m always deeply disappointed when I feel like I am making repeated failures in a game and I still win. I want to be punished for my mistakes. I want to feel the threat of defeat nipping at my heels. I want to earn my ultimate victory. This is what a video game is for me.

I understand this game has a fantastic collection of storylines and lore and characters and a magnificently designed ambience and this is all a fantastic addition to the experience, but the reason I'm here is to play a game. The rest is secondary. There are plenty of much better options for experiencing storylines and characters that don’t require me to sit and click on things to perform repetitive tasks while doing it.

So I’ve invented a new perjorative term for unchallenging gameplay in an MMO. I call it “PeE” -- Player Experiencing Environment. Here’s to hoping Blizzard doesn’t give me too many more chances to use it in the future. =)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Step Into The Arena

I did some PvP the other night for the first time in a while. I've found Resto Shaman to be an extremely fun spec to PvP with. You’ve got the healing of course, but shamans also have some amazing support abilities to keep it fun when you’re not frantically keeping people alive. Priests are my favourite plaything. They have so many yummy buffs to purge.

I tend to stick with EotS and AB, since these are the BGs I have the best understanding of strategy for. I don’t care so much about winning, I’m here for fun, and it’s the matches that are even enough to have a fluid back-and-forth that are the most fun. And the one-sided ones at least tend to be over quickly.

While I was standing around in Stormwind afterwards, still wearing my PvP gear, a Rogue whispered me asking if I’d like to do some arenas for points. I told him I’m not very good, which is true. I’m a long way off understanding the tactical dance that is arena PvP. But he invited me to his arena team -- named “Rogue ‘n healer” which made me smirk [I feel compelled to create a “Resto Shaman ‘n dps” team as a subtle form of protest] and queued us up for a total of seven matches, which I guessed he would since he already had three recorded for that week, dropping group without a word the moment the seventh ended. Always slightly disappointing when people live down to your low expectations.

In the end I received no in-game reward from this experience, but what I gained was a reminder that arenas are god damn fun. I always enjoyed this aspect of the game, what little I did of it, and especially considering how poor I always was at it. And though my Rogue friend and I only won one of those seven matches, I felt by the end that I was starting to catch on; that I was learning how to watch what my two opponents were doing and how to counter it, what abilities and techniques to use to disable one while keeping pressure on the other.

The only thing currently preventing me from creating a team of my own is a reluctance to foist my noob arse onto someone more experienced and have them lose patiently with me while I learn how things work. Or I suppose the alternative is to find the first trade chat idiot who will accept an unconditional invite.

Oh, and I lied when I said I didn’t get anything out of this. That one match we won nabbed this Glorious Icecrown Raider his Step Into The Arena achievement. Told you I was inexperienced. =P

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Worth fighting

Some bloggers have been irritating me recently.

It’s the arguing. I don’t see the point. Expressing your opinion is great. Put your points out there and see if anyone else judges them valuable enough to consider. But why do we need attack each other? I know, I know, it’s a human thing. Life is an incredibly complicated place and we find it so much easier to think of things in a dualistic way; either you’re with me or your against me.

There is a point in every conflict when benefit in continuing it will be outweighed by the effort expended in doing so. People very often lose sight of this. The world is never going to be perfect place, and I think a lot of people have trouble deciding what battles are worth fighting.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I am not a doodoo-head!

So many contemporary proverbs come to mind when I think about Internet arguments. My personal favourite is the “Special Olympics” simile. The trick is to realise that you’re competing against retards.

I’ve been casually following this big controversy over at the Noisy Rogue blog. Apparently he made some kind of sexist/misogynistic comment on his blog, and this caused some people to become terribly offended. You know, the kind of people that are offended by the idea that there exist people who disagree with their own world view. People who will necessarily feel compelled to reinforce their opinion by shouting it as loudly as possible and attacking their newly discovered enemy with any weapon they can devise. Which is their right as morons on the Internet, I suppose.

It starts to get sad when the poor guy actually responds to these retarded attacks. You can’t really blame him. It’s an evolved response; If someone attacks you, you defend yourself.

Retarded arguments speak for themselves. If a child calls you a doodoo-head, you probably don’t need put together a concise argument detailing specific instances wherein you have specifically avoided cranial contact with feces. Similarly, you’re only wasting your own time making a reasonable counter-argument to someone who has already demonstrated their own ignorance of reason.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jaded rambling

I’ve been bored with WoW. I log in, I build my little robots, list them on the AH, and then realise that there is very little that I can do now to advance my toons.

My guild 25-man ended a couple of months ago, and while the officers and a few core raiders still have a 10-man going, I can’t find a lot of motivation to try and attend. I was sent an in-game mail asking if I was interested... or rather, if my Shaman was interested. Actually, my Shaman is not interested in re-running content from which he can gain no new gear and is a step backwards in terms of progression. As much fun as wiping on Sindy achievement-mode over and over so that one more person in the raid can finish their meta sounds. Would you like to come to my Deadmines run? L40+ only pls!

I’m probably being oversensitive, but I find it slightly insulting that my invitation would be implied to only extend as far as my best-geared toon. I’ve offered to tank for them on my aptly-geared Warrior, but they seem to already have a surplus of either officer alt tanks or druids who have been geared up by our now-defunct 25-man raid, neither of which is something I can compete with.

So I pug. It’s RNG at its finest. You really never know what you’re going to get. Inevitably I have fun, I get one or two minor upgrades. Then one person leaves and the raid is over because you’ll never find a replacement willing to join an Icecrown pug that is past the first few bosses.