Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Bounty of Thanks

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and so too goes Pilgrim's Bounty. Firstly, the cooking stuff was awesome. Just straight awesome; I got Taraz (my DK) from zero cooking to 352 in about an hour and a half. Sweet Jesus yes; I want it to stay all year round. That more than anything made the 5-year anniversary special for me.

When I go to the Alliance cities as Horde, I feel a great sense of awe and wonder I don't get in my own cities, except maybe a small tinge at Silvermoon, quickly squashed by the knowledge that inside untold carnal acts are constantly taking place between deviant Tauren sexchiefs and their wispy Elven consorts. Where was I? Oh yes, awe. Viewing Ironforge from the outside, a mighty city-fortress jutting out of the cold rock and snow evokes strong themes, themes of Dwarven resilience and pride. Then I run in just long enough to put my dirty troll feet over everything and I'm out.

Long story short, I love achievements where I go to alliance cities for harassment, because the long motorcycle cross country tour serves as a buildup to amazing architecture and rare sights of (shock!) well designed cities, Darnassus aside. The rest of the year, I slum around in that pile of twigs and poo called Org. I was glad to see one more of these roadtrips, even if the guards' aggro made hopping in chairs frustrating at times.

Onto the bad now; oh god Turkinator. When will Blizzard learn to stop adding achievements that are easy in proportion to how god awful late you are willing to stay up? I actually had some fun with this one, but that's because I can afford to stay up til 3 or 4 the night before Thanksgiving to get it done. To the rest of sane, working people playing wow it's kinda a dickslap.

Finding the 8 rogues is irritating as hell, because /who won't find anyone of the opposite faction. Camping Dalaran for hours looking for a Dwarf rogue, just to give up and cajole someone into making a quick alt and driving 30 minutes to high-five them and hearth is not time well-spent, and really burns my taint. These achievements are clunky and inherently flawed, to a degree. As an added serving of suck, if you miss even once with the Turkey Gun, perhaps accidentally hitting an already-turkey'd rogue, it increases the number of dailies needed for the holiday from 10 to 11, adding an extra day onto things. Harsh.

Overall, I'm happy to see a new holiday without any heavy grinding or camping (Noble's Garden) or heart-rending RNG aspects (Love is in the Air). It can be completed in 2 days, which is appropriate given that many people's Thursdays, and possibly Wednesdays and Fridays are lost to celebration, at least in the States. And while there was no LOL TANKARD epics, a 2-hour cooking raiser is welfare enough for even the neediest noob. What I really want to know is what the hell are the Pilgrims in WoW lore; what's the tie-in? The closest thing are the Orcs, who sailed to a new world to escape persecution, but then what the hell is the Alliance celebrating? I don't think they quite thought that angle out. But who cares? 1- 350 Cooking, and that's all you need to know!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quick Thoughts

Arg, so your girlfriend being bed-ridden for weeks because of a broken leg isn't great for post numbers. I can't think well right now, so here's some quick stuff

So Blizz recently said the 10/25 reward disparities were a result of fine-tuning and learning in Wrath. I quote, "Most of our lessons learned are in the realm of what differences there should be between 10- and 25-player itemization...". Oh Blizzard, how expert you are at dashing my hopes and dreams of a world without this tomfoolery.
Heroic Violet Hold is horrible for pugs; I tanked it today on my DK alt and wiped twice, on the 16th and 17th portal. Solution: instead of running the WHOLE DUNGEON again, you should just pick up from the last boss you did, do the 5 trash pulls, then the new boss. You get a whole lot less AIDS if you get a bad pug group. I hope they don't repeat this style of dungeon for Cataclysm (unlikely).
WoW is a weird game, because it's essentially three games in one: there's the game where you level, the end-game PVE game and the end-game PVP game. Which is all well and good, except the first game is boring and repetitive and LOOOOONG and a requirement to "unlock" the other two. One might say that the length is so people are comfortable with their classes abilities once they're into the end-game stuff, and that's true to an extent, but takes anywhere from 7-10 days of playtime to level your first character to 80; that's over 200 hours. That is a problem.
I recently got my DK to 80, and got 2 Tankards O' Terror for DPS. Those things are murderous mugs; no other BoE comes close and it's so awesome to pull 3k two days after my last ding. Something similar should be offered for other specs, methinks; getting a good weapon is so critical, it isn't something that should be left to the vagaries of H-ToC.
Why can a warrior only be reckless every 3 minutes? And how come hitting a guy makes you angry, but hitting him heroically makes you less angry? Warriors are so strange.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Impeccable class balance

I was going to write a post about how I hate Arthas as a character so goddamned much and how Blizzard has subverted all the excitement I once had regarding killing the Lich King. Which is still the case, but I realized I've never said anything nice about WoW; a game I ostensibly like given how much I play and talk about it. So let's take a hate-break and talk about something really great about WoW: near-perfect PVEclass balance.

To look at major WoW forums (mmo-champ, wow official forums, etc) you'd suspect every single class was terrible at everything it does, except for DKs who are broken monsters. And that was, while hyperbole, reflective more or less of the early wrath days, when DK tanks were just better flat out than other tanks, their DPS soared like the mighty eagle (or briefly, like the feral druid). Even then, other classes weren't BAD, just overshadowed, but that's close enough to bad to be interchangeable when talking about balance and composition. But how are things these days?

In PVE, it's amazingly good. In ye olde days of WoW, if you rolled the wrong class, then you ran a serious risk of not getting to see content, regardless of skill. More than that, if you wanted to fill a specific role, your class options were severely restricted (ret DPS? shammy heals? NO). Nowadays, no matter what class you rolled, you can get a raid slot. What's more, you can fill any role your class can do on any encounter without having the raid suffer. What's even MORE, even the pure DPS classes have at least 2 spec each that are viable, providing a wider class appeal and a more diverse play environment.

The really great thing here is Blizzard's somewhat newfound commitment to making every class and spec fit well into PVE. While this dream might never be fully attained (Subtlety, looking at you), the simple fact that they're trying constantly to keep every class distinct while balanced, and what's more, succeeding at it, is enough to put WoW heads and tails over any other MMO on the market. There are no bad choices to make when rolling a class; that is what I mean by perfect class balance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

10-man Shanty Town

10-man raiding is being ghettofied more and more, and it's causing problems for both raiders and Blizzard. Let's break it down.

Firstly, Icewell Radiance was created because of an excessive growth of gear: they had to make 4 levels of gear per-tier: 10, 25, heroic 10, and heroic 25. That's 16 levels of gear all together. Meaning, there was a gross inflation of stats as WotLK went on, and so at the end, Blizz had few options. Either A: every ICC boss hits like two trucks tapped together with liquid hate, B: lower avoidance in ICC, or C: ICC bosses aren't threatening to tanks. I can see why they picked B at this stage in the game, and there's no lost love over THAT, but they painted themselves into this corner.

Now, look at 10-man raiding. When the new 10/25 system was announced, I thought the gear to be found in each would be equivalent, if not identical, and thus the choice came down to preference (or do both for 2x loot drops). Now it's clear Blizz is worried people will stop 25 man raiding if that was the case, so they shower the big kid raid format with a thousand perks, including tokens to get gear only available to 10-man groups if they do hard modes. Let there be no doubt, 10-hard is MUCH harder than 25-normal, and yet the rewards are the same? No wonder so many serious players opt for 25-man guilds.

It didn't need to be this way: allow me to illustrate the raiding utopia WotLK could have been. Firstly, all bosses in normal modes, whether 10 or 25, should have the SAME loot tables. Secondly, 10-hard bosses should have better items than the normals, and 25-hard should have better items than the 10-hard. Reason being, hard modes, at least the cutting edge ones, require almost the whole raid to be golden-club inner-circle quality, and it's definitely harder to get 25 bad dudes than 10.

Instead of the 10/25 dichotomy in progression, there would be a normal/hard dichotomy. Hard-mode guilds fight harder dungeons for greater rewards than their normal counterparts, who still have the thrill of new loot and content be accessible. There might be a drop in the number of 25-man guilds, but that's not a failure; that would be a triumph of the 10/25 system! 25 man guilds would still be the standard for the xhardcorex crowd because of the extra rewarding hard modes and 2x chances at loot every week, and the rest of us would have more latitude in our preferred raiding format.

Bottom line, Blizzard is rewarding 25 guilds more for clearing equally challenging (perhaps less challenging) content, and that is hurting everyone. Hopefully in Cataclysm the clouds will part, the sun will shine down, and gear will be given in accordance with true raid tier difficulty.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Black Box

A black box is any thing that is defined solely by its input/output relations. Input A go in, Output 1 come out. The processes involved might be unknown, unknowable, or just irrelevant. In WoW, players are black boxes.

I know some people who run with no macros or add-ons at all; this strikes me as utter crazy talk, but they consider that playing without them is a more challenging or pure experience. That may be me putting words in mouths, but whatever it is, they find something noble in not using any of these things. They intentionally make the game more difficult, thinking perhaps that they are better players than the cheap players that use these aids.

Let me be clear: you are not a better player simply because you don't use any add-ons or macros. Players are black boxes; we are defined by what outputs we give for given inputs. Inputs being what we see, and outputs being what our characters do. If macros improve performance, you are a WORSE player for choosing to lower your performance. I was a worse DPS before Quartz let me account for lag. There was nothing noble or good about guessing when to cast the next spell. The same goes for macros; if DKs benefit from Rune Strike macros, I say do it! Don't hesitate to improve your output, because that alone is what makes you a better player.

Never be afraid to use all the tools at your disposal to be the best that you can be. These things are in the game for a reason: if Blizz didn't want macros to be part of WoW, they wouldn't be there. Same for add-ons, so go script up a /castsequence macro, load up Clique and DBM, and never look back. We're all better for it.