Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Content, Not New Content

So, full disclosure, I never raided until patch 2.4, late into TBC's lifespan. Hell, I didn't even get to 60 in vanilla before quitting. Mainly I quit because I saw how horrific the raiding cabals were: 40mans were such a chore to organize, guilds set their raid times and let their members work around them, because it is literally impossible to pick 40-odd random people and get the same gaps in their schedules. Can't raid on Mondays or Wednesday? Find a different guild. That, coupled with a deeply inferior questing experience, lead me to quit WoW for years.

Now, I started TBC to play lowbie dungeons with my closest of bros. It was hard going with only 4 of us, but between trade chat goofballs and manly gumption we got to 70 (with me lagging behind, because more than two hours of questing made my brain turn to goo). Getting to the party so late, I only ever did Kara, ZA, a single Mag, a single SSC, and half of TK. I liked the 10mans a lot more; they had a much stronger feeling of camaraderie and we developed an eccentric (read: mind-blowingly crass) rapport that I never got in the professional business-time 25 mans. That might have been my guild, but whatever. Anywho, because the 25s were bustling with already geared elite soldiers, there was no way for me to rise to the top ranks of Tier 6, so at the bottom I stayed.

Across Wrath, I rejoiced; not only was the leveling experience aided by superior Northrend quests and later the dungeon finder, but all the raids fit in my beloved 10 man format. There would be no glass ceiling for Zarat, only the ground floor (which is where he got on) and the sky (being the approximate location of The Limit). And while I got to experience the full of the raiding content, from being the only DPS consistently unmolested by Heigan's Dance to playing Santa with the Frozen Throne, I saw a problem in the youth. The youth are the traditional place to see problems in, but even still, they were entitled, uncultured, and lazy. They had not endured the hardships of waiting five minutes to fight KT. They had not learned the terror of Yogg-Saron's mind link, nor of the not-it game for frost orb duty on Anub'Arak. They lived in a world where you finish heroics and go right to ICC, the pinnacle of progression. The imputence!

But consider the world of the young (sometimes called noobs). The problem is, to a new 80, there are only heroics and ICC. The old raids give such inferior rewards, there's no reason to visit them; best to bang our heads against the only raid of any worth. I remember, when Blizzard made Wrath, they cited a major problem of TBC as not enough new players seeing the later raids because it was too hard to gear up. But now there is the opposite problem: no one who levels up now sees any earlier raid content! Wrath solved nothing here, it just flipped the problem around. Cataclysm needs to reverse this design to an extent, or all Blizzard will be really doing in content patches is replacing the old tier, rather than adding a new one.

For once I am somewhat at a loss for a perfect solution. Obviously it was too hard to get into top tier raids late in TBC, but going straight from heroics to ICC doesn't work either. The goal is to enforce a progression like this: dungeons -> h. dungeons -> Tier 11 -> Tier 12 -> Tier 13. And it must be enforced across the expansion. This is also necessary for creating a proper difficulty curve; each tier should be harder than the last, so those of us who played from the beginning get a good progression of challenge to go with our loot. It is the WORST for everyone if the Wrath philosophy of jumping new 80s right into top tier content is continued, because it creates a poor diff. curve, and from that, a sub-par experience. Take ICC: there are so many brick-wall jumps in difficulty it's hard to count.

I might have a solution in mind, but it's too formative to really commit to it right now (step one would be returning multi-tier tokens). What's really noteworthy is that Blizzard seems perfectly able to see their failings in other areas (poor quest design, gathering professions suck, etc) and they take action to correct them. They have said nothing negative about this major failing of game design (indeed, they sometimes reference it as a success), and that worries me. Sadly, I won't even get to see if any of this is true until 4.1. At least dungeons will be hard again, maybe that will instill some proper attitude in those youngsters.

EDIT: happy birthday to On Cooldown. Here's to another eleven months before graduate school hopefully devours all my life and sanity.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

World of Modcraft

I've long been a vocal supporter of add-ons to improve one's performance and enjoyment in WoW. Some misguided purists believe this dilutes the experience, but on the contrary, it adds a whole new dimension to customizing and personalizing WoW. Think of add-ons as Bind on Account glyphs, and you get slots in proportion to your CPU cycles. Not using add-ons, especially in raids or rated PVP is like an Olympian refusing to use the super-high-tech aerodynamic polymer discus because the Greeks used one made of stone. So let's dig in with reckless abandon and make our screens look absurd. And as a disclaimer, I am biased towards lower-resource add-ons, 'cause my box is shit.

ESSENTIAL MODS - Get them, whoever you are.
1. Quartz: makes cast bars cleaner, bigger, and more informative. Includes lag as part of the bar, as well as lumping batch crafting into a single bar (handy when you're smelting 1000 saronite bars say). It's so goddamned delicious.

2. Deadly Boss Mods: timers for every boss ability, handy anouncements of events during the fight, and friendly beeps when an especially dangerous debuff or ground effect is thrown out. This is worth it JUST for adding an audio queue for standing in stuff; the more ways to realize you need to move, the better.

3. Recount: useful for more than checking out who has the biggest e-peen at the DPS urinal, it offers helpful breakdowns of rotations and is indispensable in increasing performance and analyzing wipes.

4. Auctioneer: it's a huge fat hog of a beast, but nothing else works as well as it. Keeping track of market trends and informing you of when X item is below it's normal value ON YOUR SERVER is without peer. And for lowbies, nothing makes easy gold like looking for items listed below vendor price.

POWERFUL MODS - Essential for some, depending on role.
1. Gatherer: keeps track of all nodes, and highly customizable. It can even record a route through a zone to later follow with a special HUD. Must have for anyone with a gathering profession, or who thinks they might roll one ever.

2. Need To Know: this would have once been essential, but with the integrated aura warnings, a lot of the critical buffs are tracked in-game now. It's still an excellent dot timer, as well as useful for tracking short-duration buffs and a few things the built-in system ignores (clearcasting, for instance).

3. Postal: I used MailGet in Wrath, but since it's been slow on the update, grab Postal. The only thing that's really powerful here is the button to take every item in your mailbox at once. Absolutely necessary for AH captains of industry, a helpful convenience otherwise.

4. DKi Runes: default rune UI is ass, DKi runes is far more visible, customizable, and nice to look at. It comes with a DK disease timer too, if you don't like N2K.

5. Clique: If you're a healer, you NEED clique. It literally will double your reaction speed by halving the number of clicks required to cast a heal. Less clicks=better UI. Also get a unit-frame add-on of some kind to preview healing done (Grid is the classic, I prefer SUF. )

There are a bunch of other mods that will serve various levels of practicality. Some (Dominos, Shadowed Unit Frames) will make your screen more minimalist, informative, and easier to understand. Others (OPie, ThreatPlates, OmniCC) will serve small, but helpful roles and are mostly a quality-of-life thing. And still more (DamnAchievements, SexyMap) are purely cosmetic options to pimp my WoW. So get off your ass, get on curse or wowace, and get to downloading; few things are as fun as personalizing a game you love to play.