Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ghostcrawler leaves Blizzard!

Yes, I do feel that heading deserves an exclamation mark.

Ghostcrawler is someone I've respected for a long time. As Lead Systems Designer, he was the front-man, so to speak, for all the fantastic gameplay innovations that World of Warcraft introduced over the past few years. Of course, this also made him the target for any complaints that dedicated players had about the state of the game, the common meme being to claim that "Ghostcrawler must play a blank", with blank being whichever class ended up more powerful in the current patch.

The obvious question is of course: did angry fans finally cause this man to give up?

No, I really doubt that. Ghostcrawler's a pro. And he's been doing this for years, so I have to assume he's developed a hell of a thick skin when it comes to ridiculous complaints.

The explanation provided on GC's Facebook announcement was that he has "a great opportunity for something new and exciting". So in other words, the same bullshit reason any well-known executive leaves any big company.

So, speculation time! Now, the explanation which immediately occurs to me is: perhaps Activision Blizzard isn't as awesome a place to work as Blizzard once was. We've all heard stories about how cutthroat the video games industry is and Activision has been an obvious villain for quite some time.

Or, perhaps the WoW development environment has become too iterative. The upcoming expansion doesn't have any new classes to throw a wrench into the balance mix... maybe the core World of Warcraft gameplay is now as close to "complete" as it is possible to get, and there just aren't many systems left to design.

Or maybe he's telling the truth. Maybe Mr Street has found a job which is somehow more exciting than being at the forefront of designing one of the most influential video games in the industry.

We'll all find out soon enough. I have to assume the MMO Champion guy is actively chasing and/or confirming the information as I type this.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Doctor Who trained me for this

Okay. Okay. I totally get it now.

Bear with me. The Dark Portal links the two worlds of Draenor and Azeroth, but because the timestreams of these worlds are completely seperate, the point in time that one arrives in when stepping through the Dark Portal to Outland is and always has been "arbitrary", so to speak.

So what Garrosh actually does is something like recalibrating the Dark Portal so that it points at a different "place" in time on Draenor. The reason it's not technically time travel is because relative time between the two worlds isn't a thing.

Garrosh's new portal leads into Draenor's "past" only in the sense that we consider Outland as the "present", neither is technically relevant outside of the world in question. From our perspective, we're only stepping from one place to another.

I mean I suppose if a person originated in Outland, exited through the old Dark Portal to Azeroth, then took Garrosh's New Dark Portal back to Draenor, then that person would have effectively time traveled to the past... y'know, by way of two interdimensional jumps. One might argue that time travel alone would be less interesting.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Interface ruins my immersion.

Am I supposed to believe that in my fantasy world my hero is constantly followed around by a huge chunk of metal with gryphon bookends, containing what appear to be a collection of icons representing her various spells and abilities. Give me a break.

And for some reason whenever I move into a geographically distinct area floating words appear in the air which name the area that I just entered. You want to talk about immersion-breaking?

A man walked up to me and said "greetings". I was about to reply when a perfectly round white cloud materialised above his head with the words "hey there" mysteriously inscribed there on, while he only mouthed silently and gestured at me. What is this bullshit in my MMO?

What's more, every time I look at an enemy a weird red circle appears magically on the ground around it. I've found I can't even cast a single offensive spell unless my vision is targeted precisely at an enemy so I don't even have any way of getting around or turning off this awful horrible immersion-breaking laser circle.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Last week I finally received a Hearthstone beta invitation. I've been cautiously optimistic about the game since the announcement, maintaining a deliberate aloofness to Blizzard's attempts at building excitement for this game within a demographic that doesn't seem sure whether to care about online TCGs. But I also have a very clear understanding that Blizzard does not make bad games, and also that I'm the kind of person who really enjoys that specific kind of game.

Hearthstone is a clone of Magic The Gathering (or whichever game invented that genre) but with much better rules. While Magic is a really great game, there are just so many counterintuitive or obtuse rules, like responding on other players' turns that, with the benefit of hindsight, Hearthstone has been able to design around.

The behaviourist vibe I get from this game is powerful. Hearthstone's interface and art style feels like every "social" game I've ever played. Opening a booster pack stands out as a very deliberate ritual; you drag the the leather-bound wallet into the centre of your screen, where it explodes into fireworks to reveal five floating face-down cards, which you then need to click one by one to reveal.

They're already accepting real money for these booster packs, with the promise that although all beta cards will be wiped, the value of any money you spend in beta will be refunded as in-game currency when the game is properly released. To me that seems like pretty good value, since you'll get twice as much card-opening (which I now understand is the important part) for your money.

All that said, the game is spectacular. Blizzard has once again proven that you don't need complex rules to create gameplay depth. I feel like I need to dedicate more words to expressing how good it is, but I just don't think superlatives are that useful past the first one. You either have played it, and know exactly what I mean; or you haven't played it, in which case you now have my highest recommendation. is the link to register for beta access.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Player versus player

Dealing with poor teammates in PvP is something I still have trouble with. A few weeks ago I had a particularly nasty experience in a BG that made me reflect on what causes people to act poorly and how to deal with it.

My team had a decent lead in our Eye of the Storm game, and I was holding the flag at Mage Tower waiting for a third node to cap when I was ambushed. I eventually survived the attack but afterwards noticed that in the chat box my teammates were calling me names and accusing me of being afk. Apparently while I was fighting for my life I missed a completely obvious opportunity to cap while my teammates held the centre. And the only conclusion my teammates could think of for why I would do this is that I am a fagot and/or afk.

In fact a short time later I was informed by a debuff that I was in fact AFK and if I did not engage in combat within 60 seconds I would be removed from the battleground. The insults didn't faze me but my team-mates had turned on me, invoking the sacred rite of battleground afk to try and rid themselves of me.

I snapped. I told them that because they reported me afk I needed to get into combat RIGHT NOW to not be removed and ran off with the flag into the nearest battle, which hadn't even resolved before I found myself on a loading screen back to town.

I didn't even know it was possible to directly boot people from random BGs. I felt like the game had lied to me. I thought I was following the extremely stern and specific instructions that the game itself had given me. Get into combat or get out! Not "cap the flag or get out!", not "help your team or get out!", it gave me a specific fucking instruction. GET INTO COMBAT.

Not "convince your team not to boot you because oh didn't we tell you that debuff is just for show and they can still boot you just because they don't like you. And get out!"

Were I thinking logically I would have capped the flag before going into combat, despite it being a dumb move, but I just couldn't capitulate to the people who were actively attacking me with every weapon they had.

It took me a while to come to terms with what had happened. All I felt afterwards was anger. Twice I wrote a support ticket to complain about the occurrence, cancelling each a short time later. I wanted to blame someone, but frustratingly there was nobody to blame. It was a misunderstanding that turned into an angry mob. People love righteous indignation. My team had turned on me because they didn't question the logic of the first idiot who called out my error as being deliberate and malicious and afk. He misunderstood a situation and acted poorly, then others acted poorly, then I acted poorly. Humans being humans-- in retrospect how could anyone expect anything else.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Blizzard apologist

I noticed I've been doing way more writing than posting, so I might see if I can finish what I can of the random things I've felt compelled to write about and put it in this post.

I also noticed that the last post I (accidentally) made brought my total "Published" posts to 200. Yay. Over four years or so that's about one post per week on average.

The WoW dev team seems increasingly enamoured with the idea of self-directed gameplay recently, with the upcoming patch continuing the trend of the past two patches of offering even more choice and less structure in how players approach the new single-player content. I've been saying for a while now that WoW needs more free-form gameplay and exploration.

Self-direction is the difference between yard work and a yard work simulator. Players of this game and many many others have demonstrated time and again that they are willing to put up with insane amounts of repetition to achieve in-game success, as long as it's something they choose to do, that it's done as an expression of individuality. This is why it matters so much whether an in-game task "feels mandatory"-- it robs the player of the sense of following their individual path, and even a video game becomes work when you have to do it.

I find it slightly unnerving that as ridiculously successful as Blizzard already is as a company, with every release they are getting even better at making games. They so regularly make the stuff they produced last time look like crap that it's easy to forget that that crap was considered one of the greatest things ever made when it first appeared.

In my continued adventures with the titular spec of the current expansion, Kiddow's diligence with daily heroic scenarios has earned her nearly a full set of i516 "Ale-Boiled" random enchant gear, which is looking more and more like a gear plateau point-- Kiddow's overall item level is exactly 516 as I write this.

I've been raiding with a fairly casual guild, which is fun without being too stressful. I walked into that raid on my most recent 90 and was immediately at the head of the healing meters, so at worst I'm a useful contribution to the group-- no chance of feeling like I can't affect the outcome here. On my second week with them, we downed Ji-Kun and managed a couple of attempts on Durumu where it became apparent that I need to review my technique for divining where in the mass of swirling purple the safe spot is.

I'm sorry, I really need to rant about this for a moment.

I know video games are still a new medium compared to things like statues and coliseums, but are we still at this point? For god's sake do we need to make the deadly effect as deliberately hard to see as possible? That's not gameplay, it's a fucking eye test. I can only assume the devs who designed it are the kind of people who take eye tests recreationally and so they thought not being able to see the vitally important thing you need to be able to see was an awesome gameplay challenge.

Okay, QQ over. I'll put some time into learning how to "see" the safe spots in Raid Finder before next week, and hopefully we wont have too much trouble.

Being the min-maxer that I am, I compulsively collect any offspec gear which is available to me (passing to anyone who needs it of course), and having this unspent resource of agility gear on my Monk was weighing on me. I had previously tried the DPS spec, Windwalker, but found that the combined difference in both skill and gear meant that I was actually putting out less damage, while at the same time being acutely squishy because that damage was no longer automatically healing me. So Kiddow now moonlights as a drunken master.

The good news is Brewmaster is a spectacular tanking spec. This class was clearly designed in a post-damage-smoothing world because the extent to which a Brewmaster can mitigate physical damage spikes blows my god damn mind.

Coming from a Warrior, the Stagger mechanic seems like a shield block that you can keep up 100% of the time. It absorbs 45% (plus mastery) of the physical damage you take into a damage-over-time debuff lasting ten seconds, ticking once per second, which you have the option to spend a single Chi to completely remove at any time.

Or the way I think about it: you get to choose whether to take the full hit of damage, after you have taken the hit. I've yet to play this class in a progression setting so I'm not sure if the mechanic is less effective at higher levels of damage intake, but my impression of it so far is that it's ridiculously overpowered.

Elusive Brew is a bit of a wild card... I always thought that having an active ability (or trinket) that only increased the chance of taking less damage was a bit weak-- whenever I had these I would usually just macro them to a similar ability to semi-automate them. After some playing around I eventually decided to macro Elusive Brew to the same button as clearing my Stagger, so it will go up as soon as I feel like I'm taking significant damage. I'm not terribly concerned with wasting stacks because dodge doesn't do much in a low damage phase (when all the hots are overhealing anyway), but in a dangerous phase it's a fine bonus to have, especially considering it has no resource cost.

Monks also have a 100%-uptime, self-focused, instant-cast AoEand no-cooldown, floor-targeted AoE bonus-threat move. As a Warrior tank I find that insulting. It's like baby-mode tanking. Point and shoot.

I've made the comment before that I like Warrior tanking because it feels very active, aggressive, instant feedback, careful eye on rage bar and ready to react to what happens next. The Monk's ability to stack Shuffle feels just a bit too comfortable, too much like resting on your laurels. Not that that's necessarily bad. Being able to focus less on keeping my resource generation stable allows for more headspace to be devoted to fight mechanics. Easier is not necessarily less fun. Not to mention having an easy-to-learn offspec is far from something to complain about.

Several bloggers have been talking about a game which might come out in the next couple of years, Everquest Next, which if I understand correctly is a MMORPG like World of Warcraft. It looks pretty awesome but I'm not sure it will be as good as WoW. Speaking of WoW did you hear it now has over a million subscribers... I guess that's what happens when you have no serious competition.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Revival nerf!

At this stage it looks like Revival will be 30% less ridiculous in patch 5.4. I'm not saying it was poor design to have up to a third of your total healing numbers over an eight minute boss fight to come from three GCDs... but it's probably still worse design than only a quarter of your total healing numbers coming from three GCDs.

Before this week I had only an abstract interest in that conversation about healing cooldowns being too important, but now I fully understand the frustration. Unless you're doing content which is on the high end of your abilities as a player, these tools are superfluous and are used either as cheap ways to boost healing numbers, or to remove the need to heal efficiently.

Maybe I just need to be doing harder content.

I read about the tank Vengeance change-- they are nerfing the raw amount and removing the incentive for tanks to take unnecessary damage to increase their damage output, ie by "standing in the fire". I can understand the overall nerf-- we can't let our precious damage roles feel like they're subpar to tanks in the one area they're supposed to specialise in. The standing in fire thing I can understand too; we don't want to reward people for playing badly. But they have also gone out of their way to "target cap" Vengeance gained tanking large groups of mobs. Honestly, that feels like being punished for doing something awesome, not to mention emergent by definition (if they meant to do it why are they "fixing" it).

How about a similar change for healers where healing done by the major cooldowns doesn't count towards healing meters? Are those things not equivalent? It's giving me an incentive to play badly (use CD when it will provide the most healing, instead of to deal with encounter mechanics or stop a death) to increase my healing output.

Have you tried the Mistweaver Monk class yet? The class has a pretty revolutionary healing style for WoW, with all kind of location-specific healing, between statues, Spinning Crane Kick (used similarly to the original incarnation of Holy Radiance), Chi Torpedo, Chi Wave and Healing Spheres-- a floor-targeted smart heal. Spheres are ridiculously strong and not too mana inefficient. I get the feeling that the only reason they have stayed so strong is because few people understand how to use them effectively so it has yet to develop a reputation for being OP. For example, the most efficient way for a Monk to go from zero to tank saving is to drop Spheres on the tank's physical location.

I call it "teabagging".

Friday, August 2, 2013

Monks heal with their feet!

I feel like I've been doing a lot of writing, but not much posting recently.

Kiddow reached 480 item level, which is enough to unlock all the current endgame content, so everything past this point is just doing whatever looks fun. (Oh, but I do still need to level my professions-- I've been atypically lazy about doing it for this character... maybe I'm just over the profession systems.)

I mentioned in an earlier post how smoothly a Mistweaver flows between damage and healing, but it's the multitude of support abilities that Monks have that makes the class. I genuinely feel like a jack of all trades, with a tool to handle every situation. Healing and damage, but also an AoE stun, disarm, snare, taunt (Dampen Harm+Fortifying Brew is win for temporary tanking), and Monks also have what I believe is the best crowd control in the game-- Paralysis is instant, ranged, long duration, fairly short CD, and has not a single restriction on mob-type. I abuse the shit out of that move.

For a long time I had been dreading healing Raid Finder again. I've always preferred small groups and the melee healing that formed my attraction to the class sounded like it wasn't really viable in a 25-person group. The single target healing spells that Monks have look cool but are not incredibly compelling, and I always found Renewing Mist too hard to keep track of to use Uplift efficiently.

What I didn't expect to find was that healing a large raid as Mistweaver is even more fun than a small group.

I understand now why Renewing Mist is so "complicated"-- it's because it forms one of the major points of gameplay for the class. Renewing Mist can be cast every 8 seconds, is applied to 3 players per cast, with the hot expiring after about about 17 seconds. Uplift is a spell that will heal every target with Renewing Mist on them for a flat amount. Thunder Tea is a 45-second CD spell which causes your next Uplift to reset the duration on all of your Renewing Mist hots to full. So using those three spells efficiently allows you to have up to twelve Mists going at once, plus Uplift. You don't need to be a rocket surgeon to realise that is a absolute fuckload of pure throughput. The downside of course being that you need to know ahead of time when you'll need the extra juice because you reach maximum throughput (12 Mists) between 24 and 33 seconds after the first cast in the sequence.

So yeah. Gameplay!

Revival is probably the most mind-blowing spell they gave Mistweavers. An instant cast that heals everybody in the raid for over 100k each, and dispels all magic, poisons and diseases. It's like they took Druid Tranquility, halved the cooldown, made it instant instead of a channel and added a mass dispel. It's ridiculous.

I do need to switch up a few talents. Chi Wave and Xuen are fantastic for small groups, but are relatively weak in larger raids. Chi Burst (unlike Chi Wave) fulfills that all important 25-man quality of having no target limit. In the Xuen tier, Chi Torpedo seems popular with raiders, but I'm very excited for the next patch turning Rushing Jade Wind from a minor AoE CD into simply a buffed version of Spinning Crane Kick-- one of my favourite Mistweaver abilities. I mean, because you're literally healing with your feet.

(Monks also heal with their balls, but that joke is somewhat cruder so I decided to put it in brackets.)

(Seriously, it's a comedy gold mine in groups to keep referring to your Healing Spheres as "my balls.")

Friday, July 26, 2013


[stolen from]

I recall this comic every time I see someone arguing about anything at all. Some people will never question their most basic assumptions about the world, preferring that the burden fall to the facts to comply with this reality.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My first compulsory server merge

The Star Wars MMO decided a while back that its Australian (that's what "Asia-Pacific" means, right?) players are no longer worth specifically catering for, so I've just been informed that should I not elect to utilise my "free" character transfers voluntarily in the next month that all my characters will all be moved anyway (though helpfully this is also free) to a server in another country twelve thousand kilometres away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

I realise that Australian players who care about game latency are probably a bit of a minority among the Star Wars MMO playerbase, so don't feel I have the right to get too upset, but at the same time this decision has significantly soured my feelings for the game, knowing that I'm being given a lesser service now than I was before. Playing MMOs without at least 200ms of latency is a luxury I don't get to experience with many games.

I'm honestly curious to see whether the hypothetical "average player" will notice the change. Whether they will think the game kind of feel slower sometimes, or complain that the buttons take longer to register, or notice lag spikes are happening more often. Probably not, I guess.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mistweaver levelling

What's been interesting to notice is the massive jump in complexity going into Cataclysm dungeons. When these dungeons first appeared I attributed their difficulty mostly to the expansion gear reset, but after spending the last eight months in Mists dungeons, the Cata ones are a very noticeable step up in complexity, not just numbers. It's easy to recognise in hindsight that the amount of work and design ambition that went into these dungeons was well out of proportion to how most players wanted to play them. And I thought that lesson was learned after the Vanilla dungeons...

I bought one of those ridiculous Mists BoE weapons for my Monk, and I think it tripled her output. I've been out-damaging everyone in the levelling dungeons I'm healing, with the exception of the times I run into another player using a Mists BoE. For context, my upgrade was from an i285 polearm to an i425 1H sword, the former having 900 spell power, the latter 3600. Also, I put a Jade Spirit enchant on it. So you understand my use of the term "ridiculous".

I also found an awesome 1H sword transmog, which has swayed me from my previous intention of playing this character as unarmed. With Jade Spirit on it that sword looks amazing.

Kiddow is eighty-four currently and I'm really looking forward to getting her to Pandaria. Not so much because I expect levelling to become more interesting-- there are actually fewer levelling dungeons in the current expansion, it's more the case of the character becoming current in a lot of ways. I can set my hearth in Pandaria, access profession bonuses and cooldowns and start accruing Harmony, farm rare spawns, start on reputation grinds which will be useful at endgame... I've heard you can get world boss loot even if you're not 90 yet, but I've yet to actually confirm this.

Monday, July 8, 2013

More microtransactions?

I would probably pay real money for a double XP potion, but I'm also one of the players least in need of one-- the Monk is likely to hit 90 in the next week, and that once again will leave Rogue as the only class I've yet to get to max level.

As an aside, if anyone who reads this blog "gets" what makes a Rogue fun to play, feel free to point me in the right direction... to me it seems like a class built around a mechanic that just isn't that relevant to PvE group content. "You can gank people" isn't a big selling point for me.

But anyway, I wanted to talk about microtransactions.

Basically, I don't care about microtransactions. If I feel like a virtual item/currency is worth the money I'll usually buy it, if I don't then the point is moot. I used to say that this kind of thing would create a biased development schedule, where it's more "important" to create small new things to sell in the store than actual game content, but I don't think that's true unless the developer is really sleazy to begin with. Blizzard is still for the most part a developer I trust, if only because they are clearly so obsessed with their corporate image that they will let their fans keep them in line. Group mentality has its downsides, but following a crowd is a great way to avoid being marginalised.

Blizzard currently has eight million reasons not to make their game suddenly free, but I have to assume they are investigating any possible future revenue streams. I'm sure they're also looking very, very closely at all the other MMOS which managed to increase revenues by making the game free to play (or "Free2Play" as dumb people call it for some reason). For Blizzard, figuring out whether this might actually be true of their eight-million-subscriber MMO as well is a question worth literally billions of dollars.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Like everyone else, I rolled [hah, pun] a Monk last year, and have been leveling him on and off since then. I tried each of the specs early on, eventually finding the healing spec, Mistweaver, was the most interesting by far, and I have had an absolute blast leveling through Dungeon Finder [since healers are usually the bottleneck in leveling dungeons].

Mistweaver Monk is the best implementation of melee healing I've ever played, with an amazing variety of abilities that create room for several completely viable playstyles. The option to swing your focus from pure healing to damage/healing makes you a much more useful party member by only healing as much as is needed and putting the rest of your resources into damage, and the transition between these two focuses is very, very smooth. The player is also given some great tools to maximise resource use between healing and damage, and what that all translates into is a very high skill-cap.

The class feels very active, in the same way I've said before that the Warrior tank class feels very active compared to the other tanks. My best guess for where this feeling comes from is that most of the time you will quickly notice two or maybe three ways to deal with a given situation, and actively choose the most effective, or perhaps the most fun. :)

Having a channel lead into an instant cast spell is the most awesome and innovative implementation of a "fast expensive heal" I've seen in the game so far. For all other healing classes it's a 1.5-second cast heal, which is usually not significantly faster than the next-fastest heal, but can't really be shortened or it would introduce a severe haste DR.

I've yet to really figure out how to use Healing Sphere. I think for a WoW spell it's a pretty radical design-- you toggle the spell on [like Keg Toss], and place Healing Spheres with the mouse on a 0.5-second global CD, which deal a not-insignificant amount of healing and will hit the people who need it.

At this point it's still really hard to tell what this stuff is going to look like at endgame. The dungeons I'm healing all seem very trivial, and when my weakest channel heal can tick for as much as half of a tank's health, I get the feeling I might be overgeared for the content.

I've also noticed that moving into Wrath content, DPS seems more and more to be holding their own against me, usually beating my damage on boss fights. Even though I am doing two jobs at once, seeing myself at the bottom of the damage meter is still just a little bit demoralising.

Since I wrote the bulk of the above, I've actually race changed my Monk to a female human, named Kiddow. I got tired of the panda very quickly, and while brainstorming, the idea of an homage to [ripoff of] Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill was one I found extremely resonant. So I'm playing her as a late-30s, hardened warrior, who has aged somewhat, but so far lost very little of her agility. She's extremely disciplined and patient thanks to years of intense training to master the forces of nature.

Okay give me a break I'm still a newbie at this.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Rain of Fire nerf :(

I'm honestly sad that Rain of Fire won't be a DPS gain on single targets. I thought the design was excellent.

Placing a ground effect every 8 seconds or so felt odd at first, but after a while it just felt like a natural part of my rotation, another DoT to maintain, a marginal performance gain from a more complex rotation. In the world of the hardcore they describe that as having a higher "skill-cap." Blizzard would probably describe it as "easy to learn, hard to master."

It also wasn't a spell that you could just cast without thinking-- because the gain is so marginal it's not worth casting if there is a chance the boss wont be in the area of effect for the entire duration. The marginal gain also means that, if things start getting hectic and I need to regain some headspace to deal with fight mechanics, it's an easy decision to just drop it from my rotation for a short time.

But even more than mechanics, it is a signature Destruction Warlock ability-- it plays into the fantasy perfectly. It looks cool, it feels cool. You are raining fucking hellfire, from the fucking sky. There is no such thing as a poor excuse to do that.

But I get that abilities that provide "free" AoE damage are unbalanced, [*cough*FrostDK*cough*]  especially in cleave situations, of which there are many in the current tier. So I can begrudgingly accept that it's fair enough that it got nerfed. And I guess we have to assume that the fact that they "fixed" it means that the whole situation was an oversight. Balance tweaks do regularly introduce one or two unintended situations like that.

But I keep thinking about how intelligently it adds to the class mechanics and the class fantasy... I have to wonder if it wasn't the work of some brilliant designer, quietly implementing an increase to the skill-cap on Destruction Warlocks, that also caused them to look cool as shit while doing so.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Unannounced Blizzard MMO delayed, still not really announced.

Titan has been delayed to "make some large design and technology changes to the game", and most of the team currently working on the game will be reassigned to other projects.

I think this must be a response to a few things which have changed since Titan has been in development:
- The subscription payment model fell out of favour with just about everybody as the online games market reached a saturation point. Publishers discovered that charging players for a game often doesn't make quite as much money as giving the game away for free and charging players for silly hats instead.
- Blizzard is rushing an online TCG to market to hopefully gain some headway over the other major entries into this growing genre.
- Every MMO which was thought to have a chance to replicate WoW’s success failed to do so and World of Warcraft has continued to be mind-blowingly profitable despite an extremely competitive market.

First of all, Titan must have at least some kind of framework of core gameplay mechanics in place, mainly because I've heard whispers from people who got to play it internally that what exists of the game is really really good. I think "large design and technology changes" is probably about updating the overall frame of the game to work with whatever business model they have now decided to pursue. Let's just hope that whatever it is, it's still viable in 2016.

Taking people off the project is just a matter of opportunity cost, and I'm sure that the chance to reallocate resources was a major reason for the shift. Hearthstone is a game for which getting to market in time might be the difference between moderate success and LoL-sized success. It's also entirely possible that the next WoW expansion is behind schedule, and you know they want to keep the eight million players of that game happy. We've heard the Blues talk on numerous occasions about how they can't hire new people fast enough...

But mainly, I think this new MMO was intended to pick up the slack as WoW started to lose market share, and when this didn't happen as quickly as expected, suddenly it didn't seem prudent to have so many resources dedicated to a product which may well cannibalise an existing success.

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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Blizzcon tickets

I know this thought comes from the way I've trained myself to think about the WoW auction house, but if you have a commodity for which your entire stock sells in seconds, clearly you are underpricing the item by a degree of magnitude. To not take monetary advantage of demand that ridiculous, in itself seems ridiculous to me.

I understand that the purpose of this convention is to build goodwill among the fans and I've heard anecdotally that the convention was never designed to make money, and I did notice that the price of entry has increased by $25 for each of the past two conventions, I assume in response to this massive demand.

The only conclusion I can come to is that they fear a backlash from fans if the price was to dramatically rise [because we are all familiar with how rational Blizzard fans can be], which would be contrary to the purpose of the convention.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Used games

To start, I'd like to establish a few concepts which it is not my intention to dispute.

Intellectual property is good. I consider it obvious that many intangible things are extremely valuable to our society and it's important that the act of their creation is proportionally valuable.
False advertising is bad. If a media company misrepresents what they are selling, this is a clear breach of ethics and should not be tolerated.
Fair use is good. A group of friends or family should be allowed to share media without penalty.

Where I draw the line on "fair use" is when that media is sold for profit by someone who does not own the IP contained on it.

The concept of IP exists because without it you can't own data-- you can't own words or sounds or pictures or programming code, because they are not physical things. You can own an optical disc, but any argument for "ownership" of the data on that disc relies on the concept of intellectual property, which dictates that the creator owns it and has the sole right to allow people to use it.

In the case of game software, what buying that disc gives you is use of the game data, which your hardware turns into a fun experience for you. Not ownership, use. The data on that disc does not and never did belong to you, and paying for access doesn't give you the right to on-sell that access, because it's not yours to sell.

Thinking in terms of "use" rather than ownership makes it easier to understand that buying a game or a movie or a book is and always has been a service-- the service of the creator having created that IP.

We humans like to own things, and when it comes to IP, the media companies are all too willing to market the illusion of ownership. "Own it now on Blu-ray" is a tag line I pass every day in the window of the rapidly shrinking Blockbuster Video store near my workplace. So to be honest I don't have a lot of sympathy for the companies who are surprised when consumers reject business models which restrict our access to something they have spent so many years training us to think we "own".

Friday, April 5, 2013


Coreus is still progressing. Current item level 472, with plenty of T14 raid finder bosses left to kill this week. I'm wondering if 480 may actually be feasible within this lockout, so I can get into the T15 raid finders. I've got a date with Kanrethad as soon as I'm satisfied that I can't improve my gear any more this week.

I've decided to go for Klaxxi rep as well. On reflection, it's a pretty obvious choice:
- several cheap VP items and a free ring at exalted
- no Golden Lotus gating bullshit
- I've still got loads of yellow quests left in the zone
- a human, in a guild, with double rep unlocked gets 110% x 110% x 200% = 242% rep gain

I realised that the massive amount of dailies that Coreus is doing to grind rep is capping his VP really early in the week, so I have no reason to run 5-man dungeons or scenarios any more [except for, ironically, the bonus rep]. This saddens me greatly because this kind of small-group content is my favourite part of the game. Really, I'm pretty disappointed in Blizzard for this. I feel pretty marginalised by the current endgame design-- like the devs don't believe that there are any skilled players who don't raid.

Sometimes I get the impression they made Challenge dungeons just as a shortcut to stop people complaining about how trivial the "Heroic" 5-man dungeons are. "If it's too easy, go do the challenge mode!" the CMs cry with glee. Because obviously it's my own fault that I'm not actively meeting other skilled players in the game to run with, and why should they go out of their way to help people who refuse to help themselves. -coughraidfindercough-

I've also realised that in Mists of Pandaria, "Heroic" and "Rare" [as in rare spawn] have joined "Epic" as words which the WoW developers seem determined to rob of all meaning.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Blacksmiths gained six new craftable i502 weapons, which each cost a total of 30 Lightning Steel, 18 Harmony, and 12-18 Living Steel to craft. Fantastic. Love it. Where is the fucking caster sword? Or dagger? A staff I admit wouldn't make a lot of sense for a Blacksmith to make...

Coreus is the one toon I desperately want a decent weapon for, but he can't use a single one of the new patterns. There is a 2H strength sword and a 2H strength axe [completely redundant if you ask me] but the only caster weapon is a fucking mace. Sigh.

I've been pondering these new weapons all afternoon... Lightning Steel is BoP and has a daily CD to produce, so one of these weapons will take literally a month's worth of materials to create. But the item level is only 502, which to me places them squarely in the realm of alt-fodder-- shortcuts to power and item level which are not necessary for any toon who has been at endgame for any significant time. But at the same time, every blacksmith in the game will now be creating this material every day whether they need it or not in order to proc new discoveries, and once created, since the material can't be traded and can only be used for the above weapons, every blacksmith will end up creating these weapons.

I hate BoP crafting materials, I really do. You "buy" them with time instead of gold, which makes them infinitely more "expensive" to acquire as an AH mogul than the average player, because our value ratio of time to gold is so much higher. Yes, I get that that's the whole point, and that this is probably viewed as a noble goal by the developers, so I'm not going to waste too much time complaining, but as an AH player their existence has shut me out of mass producing items which would otherwise be great moneymakers, like epic leg armour, engineering mounts, and every single blacksmithing epic.

My only hope is that there will eventually be enough lazy or dumb people with stockpiles of Lightning Steel and Harmony who are willing to craft weapons for someone who provides the Living Steel and some arbitrary fee. This was extremely profitable [though obviously time intensive] back in Cata while Chaos Orbs were still BoP, because these guys have no concept of opportunity cost ["I got them for free!"] and as I mentioned, usually place a much higher value on gold than I do.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


It must be that point in the cycle -- right now I'm enjoying the fuck out of WoW again. I haven't done any progression raiding in over a month, but the funny thing about WoW is you don't have to look very far to find new goals to pursue.

I feel like I've turned into a major altaholic recently. I had a really good play with my Death Knight as Unholy spec [got to exalted with Cloud Serpent for those jeweled panther designs, but still missing two very stubborn meta-gem cuts], but when I saw a cheap Sealed Tome on the AH I forgot all about him and started banging my head against the Kanrethad solo encounter with Coreus' puny item level and a Demonology spec which appears to be really sub-optimal for that fight.

So I picked up Destruction as a secondary spec and have been using that for dailies and junk to make sure I know how to use it, and realised that I had forgotten how much fucking fun Destruction is. It's got all the burst I crave, especially while soloing when you can spam the crap out of Shadowburn to generate embers, and with only one dot and no demon contributing to damage, the spec is balanced completely around nukes which can hit for hundreds of thousands of damage.

So I've got the spec, now I just need the gear. With the weekly raid reset happening overnight, my plan is to somehow gain another item level tonight to reach 470 with hopefully enough time left to complete Heart of Fear and Terrace afterwards. I have 1500 or so VPs, but with no reputations unlocked the only thing I can spend it on is the i522 Neck, which is not ideal-- the discounted 5.0 rep items would be much more significant upgrades for the points, but I am not fucking doing Golden fucking Lotus on yet another fucking toon. I only recently finally stopped hating those dailies, I'm not about to burn myself out on them again.

Coreus also needs another 4 Lesser Charms before the reset to get Mogu runes for the week. He's nowhere close to entering the raid which uses them, but they will definitely be extremely useful in the future. Pet battles FTW!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I did the math

...and I've spent close to two million gold on mounts over the past year and a half.

I feel less shame about being an AH player who has never reached goldcap now. I am a mount collector.

I still don't have either of the Spectral Tigers though.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


A 200 mounts achievement has been added to the 5.3 PTR. I take this as a clear signal to start working on mounts again. As of this writing I'm at 180 or so, so it shouldn't be too much of a stretch if I put some effort in.

Up to this point in the expansion I've been mostly ignoring the goldsink mounts, such as the Jeweled Panthers, engineering rockets, that 120k reforging mount, etc, because there was never any point in buying them now; I could just as easily buy/craft them later on, and in all likelihood for cheaper. But now we have a handy deadline. I'll start setting gold aside, and as long as nothing extraordinary appears on the Black Market before then [like Invincible or Mimiron's Head] I'll make the purchases after the patch drops.

For now though, there are I estimate around three thousand welfare mounts that I've yet to bother to grind from the Pandaria factions. Not to mention all the pre-Mists mount grinds that I abandoned when the expansion came out. Maybe I wont end up having to spend anything.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Actually playing

My death knight, Geldt, reached level ninety, and I'm not really sure what to do with him now. I'm still missing a few meta gem cuts so I'll probably at least run a few Heroics until I can pick them up.

What has surprised me is that I'm enjoying Unholy spec more than tanking as Blood spec-- surprising because I normally love tanking. I find Blood has a steep learning curve and a radically different playstyle to the Warrior which I am way too familiar with. Death Knight is almost like a backwards Warrior-- instead of charging to enemies you grip or silence them so they come to you. I feel like learning to tank at an acceptable level would require me to un-learn a good deal of my Warrior technique. It also occurred to me how superfluous having a second level ninety tank is, considering I much prefer playing the Warrior.

Unholy on the other hand is a blast. I've said it before, but the disease-spreading mechanic is great fun, and I love classes that feel like they're using many different damage sources. I actually think I prefer this class to Enhancement Shaman, mainly because the AoE is easier to manage.

So this has been a nice diversion from... not playing the game, I guess. Now I'm eyeing my level eighty-five hunter and remembering all the times I had previously returned to that class to realise that I had forgotten how much fun it was.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Still "playing"

The AH is more than half my game currently. I buy using the mobile app while I'm at work and run TSM on a second account at home.

As far as actually playing the game is concerned, since 5.2 I've done a bit of Thunder Isle, a bit of Archaeology, some odd jobs around my farm, but I still feel a pretty powerful ennui about endgame. I think I need to raid again. I suddenly realised that there isn't anything compelling me to complete new solo content on my "main" toon Syrannia. I could be going in there with my warlock Coreus or another class which is more interesting to solo with than Arms warrior. Not that I dislike Arms specifically-- I just prefer ranged classes when not tanking.

I decided to start levelling my Death Knight, Geldt, from eighty-five to ninety, so I picked up Jewelcrafting on him to finally get those meta gem schematics which only drop from Pandaria mobs. I had to dump Mining to do it [Alchemy stays-- you can never have too many alchemists] so I levelled mining again on my Paladin, dropping Jewelcrafting to do so [again for him, Alchemy stays].

It's a bit of an odd thought, but what I always find disappointing about relearning professions is when you finally hit 600 skill and no achievement pops up because you already got the "two maxed professions" one from before.

So my professions as they stand are:
Syrannia [90 warrior] -- Blacksmith, Goblin Engineer
Coreus [90 warlock] -- Enchanter, Tailor
Tashraal [90 shaman] -- Scribe, Gnomish Engineer
Geldt [86+ death knight] -- Jewelcrafter, Transmute Alchemist
Ghamor [85 hunter] -- Leatherworker, Transmute Alchemist
Judicas [85 paladin] -- Smelter, Transmute Alchemist
Arldern [85 druid] -- Herbalist, Elixir Alchemist

I'm pretty happy with that. Herbalism is the weakest link, as only a gathering profession, but I have from time to time found the need to go out hunting for specific herbs that are not available on the AH, and farming herbs in druid flight form is still the best way.

The only profession I don't have effectively maxed out is Skinning, which is fine with me because it's by far the most useless profession. I think I've given Skinning to every new toon I've rolled in the past two years, but it's been that long since I actually levelled anything. I'm sure I'll get there with my Monk eventually.

So I guess this is the game for me these days. I spend more time organising my shit, "preparing" to play the game, than actually playing it. I spend hours tweaking my sell prices and buy alerts, I min-max my professions, and I love to buy levelling BoEs pre-emptively if I think there is any chance I'll find it useful. I've been buying a bunch of Mists BoEs for my L85 Hunter, for that point in the future when I finally get around to playing him again, realising the whole time that if anything it will actually make the game more boring to play due to overgearing.

But yeah, I reckon I'm set up pretty well now, for when I do end up playing the game.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Words that annoy me

I made a list of words which MMO bloggers use that make me feel dumber just for reading them. I will assign them "dumbpoints" which is a word I made up to express how much dumber I think a person is for using these words in a serious context, along with a short definition of what they really mean.

Content -- 2 dumbpoints. The cutscenes that you need to watch before you're allowed to complain that you're bored with an MMO.

Casuals -- 4 dumbpoints. Term which can be adapted to refer to any group of players of an MMO who are not currently in a world first raid.

Dancing -- 8 dumbpoints. Term describing what players do in any action video game ever made, but hate doing in MMOs.

Themepark -- 10 dumbpoints. Term used to indicate that an MMO is designed for kids who need to be told what to do and are entertained only by Content [see above].

Sandbox -- 6 dumbpoints. Term used to indicate that a game is a proper MMO for intelligent adults.

Free2play -- 14 dumbpoints. Everyone seems to use this nonsense term these days. Is it a trademark or something? Why do people think it's a word? It's three words, with spaces in between, and none of them are numbers!

LFR -- 0 dumbpoints. I need to accept that everyone in WoW uses the wrong names for everything. There is no feature in World of Warcraft called "Looking For Raid", it's called Raid Finder. But everyone calls it LFR for no reason.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


It occurs to me that I haven't been blogging much recently. I don't even mean posting... usually I end up with at least one or two drafts per week: ideas that I don't end up having the time and/or impetus to explore properly. I guess I've been busy.

My raid group has folded. It's been a long time coming-- I know I've felt it since early Dragon Soul. Too many of our regulars left, and recruitment just wasn't happening. Feathermoon Alliance seems to have very few skilled players these days [though ironically Horde seems to be doing well]. Plus I think recruitment is something that really needs to be done proactively, not just once our progression starts faltering due to not having enough people to field a consistent roster. It doesn't matter how good your people are, having poor progression will scare away anyone good enough to improve it.

So this is kind of the end of an era for me. I've been raiding with Drunken Badgers since Ulduar. I'm not really sure what to do now. Our raid was actually pretty unique; few competitive progression groups raid only once per week.

Maybe it's time to try a new server. Or even faction... I've always liked the Horde races better anyway. Feathermoon is just not the place it was when I joined the server back in early Wrath. But with seven Level 85+ characters on Feathermoon Alliance it would be a pretty big tradeoff to lose all that... infrastructure. [Or a hefty price tag to bring it with me.] But I recognise that it's only because I feel like I've spent so much time building it up that I don't want to "lose" it. The raiding game is deliberately designed so that people with a lot of in-game resources don't have an unfair advantage-- these days the only way to get an advantage in raiding is to spend three hours every day grinding daily quests.

I got my auction mule account back up and running again, so that's been churning away again. I don't feel like I'm totally poor any more! I'm currently stocking up on base materials in anticipation of the upcoming raid patch and the massive sales spike that that always brings.

Right now, the auction house is the most compelling part of the game for me. I've got fingers in more than a few pies these days, and managing it all can be a pretty involved process. I have multiple google docs full of notes, lists of materials and optimal crafting procedures. It actually works out to be a really well-structured timesink, I can spend a small amount of time and just do the optimal stuff [relisting items, craft something I'm obviously low on] with diminishing returns on any longer amount of time I want to put in.

I think I should raid again. Not just for the enjoyment of the activity itself, but the way it makes the rest of the game more meaningful by having that social group at the core.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

World of Warcraft

Ennui. I has it.

I keep thinking that I should go buy a fricking Fight Club [I forget what it's called] invitation because everything I've heard points to that content being something I would really enjoy. But because the tickets all sell during peak server time-- well before I get home from work. So to get one I'd have to put in a super early bid, so I'd have to work out what amount they are actually selling for so I could bid around that amount, and by that point in my line of thinking I find I just don't care that much. I want to want to put that much effort into the game again, but it's just not happening.

I reached the Valor Cap last week. I mean the total Valor cap, 3000. I would love to buy a Stamina trinket, but I'm only allowed to buy that if I complete a couple of weeks of mind-meltingly boring daily quests, so I bought 4 ilevels instead. I think I liked the game better before they "encouraged" [forced] players to complete "a variety of content" [daily quests].

I've not touched the AH in nearly a month, which since I haven't really adjusted my spending to compensate, means I've nearly run out of gold. The AH has always been a big part of my enjoyment in WoW, but unfortunately I'm locked out of my auction mule account.

Basically the situation is that I'm between Internet providers at the moment so my only way of playing has been through a wireless dongle, and Blizzard has helpfully recognised my logging in from a different IP address each time as "suspicious activity" and forced me to perform a password reset using their online form. Which is fair enough, but their online form does not fucking work.

I fill out the form, I enter my secret question, it sends me a confirmation link in an email, but when I click the confirmation link, the website tells me that An error has occurred, with no further explanation other than a helpful second line reiterating that An error has occurred. In case I was unconvinced by the first line alone, or the fact that I was still unable to access my fucking account.

I tried submitting a ticket [on my main account since you need to be able to log in to submit one] but the GM practically yelled at me that due to security reasons they were unable to help unless I called them. And it turns out their phone hours are between 2am and 3pm [adjusted for my local timezone]. So I guess I'll give them another call Saturday morning and hopefully I wont be so fed up with the process by the end that I just give up and play Star Wars instead. That game doesn't ban people for no reason, right?

Meanwhile I still log on to my main characters and just... don't know what to do any more. Tanking 5-man dungeons is still fun I guess. Healing raid finder is interesting enough. I got my Warlock to 90 a few weeks ago and basically haven't touched him since because I don't care enough to wait around for 20 minutes in a queue before I get to play.

As an aside, you know what I wish they would offer as a reward for tanking 5-man dungeons? The ability to skip the queue on a damage role. I mean the Call to Arms bonus could be a token attached to your account which would allow you to jump to the front of the queue for a future random dungeon-- in other words a reward relatively proportional to the contribution you are making to the system by accepting the unpopular role. [I say relatively because if it were truly proportional you would get four tokens, one for each of the four people whose queue time you assisted.] The satchel just doesn't cut it since experienced players, ie the ones who actually play tanks, have little need for the pittance of gold/items that the satchel offers.

I virtually always tank or heal in a group setting-- the only time I don't is when the class I'm playing physically can't do either. So when I am "stuck" on a pure damage class, sitting in that queue, all I can think of is the amount of time I've spent contributing, taking on the unpopular roles for other players, and that now that the shoe is on the other foot none of it counts for anything.

Friday, January 25, 2013


Patch 5.2 - 10 and 25 Player Raid Loot Changes -- MMO Champion

Brilliant. Fucking brilliant. I still grin like an idiot every time those Blizzard designers pull something like this out.

TL;DR version: normal and Heroic mode raids will occasionally drop a ssssuper epeen six ilevels higher version of any normal loot drop, and that these upgrades will "proc" slightly more often in 25-man raids.

I just... I don't even know where to begin. I've yet to read any other blogs since hearing about this change, so I'll just assume as usual they're all screaming about how this is the worst change to WoW since they nerfed Hogger, but I think it's awesome.

First of all, it's a decent "soft" reward for 25-man raiders. [Or, y'know, a slap in the face if you're not.]

It means that nobody will ever, ever, ever be able to complete their best in slot gear set within a raid tier. You would never be totally "done" even with farm bosses in terms of loot upgrades unless you already got extremely lucky.

I can't recall any situation in WoW which squeezed so much epeen out of so few ilevels. The 4.1 Troll 5-mans back in Cataclysm came close with their Epic quality loot having only 7 ilevels over the terrible, terrible Rare quality gear from the previous 5-mans. As with that example, the six ilevels are almost beside the point; it's the big sparkly "Thunderforged" text at the top that lets everyone know how awesome you are as a player, and the security of knowing that it's the best gear ever ever by a small margin.

It definitely adds excitement to the loot dropping process. Instead of "we killed a farm boss and he dropped an item nobody could use and another item everyone already has", you'll occasionally have "we killed a farm boss and HOLY SHIT HE DROPPED A THUNDERFORGED ITEM that nobody could use" and the raid bonds over a mutual bitching that their luck is terrible and the Thunderforged items they need never drop.

I wonder how much this will devalue non-Thunderforged drops in players' minds...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to enjoy Raid Finder

So we all know that Raid Finder is designed for the lowest common denominator and success is guaranteed no matter what you do, but it can be enjoyable if you approach it with the right attitude.

Some things you may enjoy:

- Healing meter competition. The best way to Raid Finder in my opinion, because the players typically take enough avoidable damage that you'll have plenty of raid heals to snipe. Fast, competitive fun. Many normal mode skills still apply: you still want to learn the damage flow of the fight to use CDs effectively and heal proactively, and mana management still applies as you'll easily waste a ton on overheals. Hard mode: actually tell the other healers you want a meter competition.

- Damage meter competition. Same again but no need to pay attention to the fight. Plant your feet, tunnel your vision, AoE indiscriminately and ignore any mechanics that wont instakill you. That's what healers are for.

- Tanking ALL THE THINGS for Vengeance epeen. Take as much damage as possible to deal as much damage as possible. Wind Lord Mel'jarak is especially great for this-- if you pull all the Menders and let their damage and attack speed buff stack you can get yourself a few hundred thousand AP and really show all those DPS losers how irrelevant they are.

- Actively griefing the raid. I would never do that. Only a huge jerk would do that.

Just be careful; tools like Leap of Faith, Hand of Protection, Void Shift and Demonic Gateway which are meant to be used strategically could be used to manipulate raid members into situations which they may not be able to recover from. Mind that brief window in Spirit Kings that lets other raid members hit you with damaging abilities; this window can also be used to apply stuns, debuffs or crowd-controls. Watch out for people using knockback or taunts on mobs which need to be positioned correctly to avoid cleave/breath damage hitting the raid. And as for the rage potential of an poorly-timed Heroism or equivalent... well... just kill yourself and you'll be good to go for the next one.

Friday, January 4, 2013

WoW's real money transactions

Spending extra money on Star Wars has made me rethink my stance a bit on whether WoW "should" allow real money transactions [RMTs] for players to buy bonuses in the game. Then I realised they already did, and I already had.

WoW has always shied away from offering any "direct" character bonuses for real money. But you only have to look as far as server transfers and faction changes -- convenience RMTs. They save you the time of levelling and progressing a new character in order to play with people on a different server or faction.

I hesitate to actually total how many of these transactions I've used over the six-plus years I've been playing WoW, but for an example my very first WoW toon Coreus has in that time been realm transferred seven times and faction changed four times; playing at various times on Tanaris, Aman'thul, Feathermoon, Barthilas and Nagrand realms, and varying between Human, Forsaken and Goblin. [His Goblin name was Rixwhimps, which I was a bit sad to leg go of at the time. Goblin names are such fun.] Each of these transfers was used to play with people I otherwise would have needed to make other sacrifices; ie time, choice of playstyle; to play with.

Race changes and character customisation are ostensibly cosmetic RMTs, until you consider the massive number of hardcore players who race change just to get whatever 1% racial bonus is most competitive this tier/season.

Recruit-a friend is a big one, giving players who are willing and able to multibox [and pay for the extra accounts] triple experience. I used this to level my Warrior in late Wrath, which soon after became my favourite class in the game, and has been my main toon for over three years now.

Scroll of Resurrection is the other big RMT when used to create a level 80 character at the cost of one-month's subscription [and usually an account transfer]. I took advantage of this myself last year to create a level 80 Death Knight, at the time one of only two classes I didn't have the patience to level [Rogue was the other]. Death Knight is still my second-favourite tanking class, and would probably never have known that if I hadn't been able to "buy" one.

Pets have never been compelling purchases to me, but now that they BATTLE I can see them being a lot more attractive in that you're actually purchasing a new gameplay style-- most of the purchased pets have unique movesets.

When the Sparkle Pony was on special for $10 I bought it because it was account-wide [before this was true of all mounts] and I had several alts who only had the default mount and it would be a nice visual upgrade for then. These days, account-wide mounts [especially for someone who spent a year or two collecting rare ones] removes a major reason to purchase one for real money.

I think the more rational people start spending money in RMT games, on things which are actually worth paying for, the more developers will start creating things that are worth paying for, and we might eventually get to what I see as the holy grail of "free" games; a game which allows people to pay what the game is worth to them, and feel like they are getting good value for their money whatever the actual amount is.

If we let the whales* dictate what is worth developing then we're only going to see more and more useless crap sold for ridiculous amounts. That shit needs to stop.

It occurs to me that most of my views on RMTs and "Free to play" games, as well as my generally optimistic view of them was actually mostly gleaned from this blog post that Raph Koster posted about a year ago [I had to google it]. It's a fantastic post and well worth reading, if you're interested.

*whales is the term used for the really big spenders in RMT games; the ones that often just buy everything.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Picture related

The way I think of it is; if I care enough about a game that I'm willing to spend more money on relatively minor bonuses than I did on the game itself, they've earned it.