I want polkadot epics with bold underline italic ALL CAPS

At WoW Insider today there was a post about gear, and whether Blizzard should implement a level above legendary. This sparked a variant of the “lolepix” conversation in the comments, where various people proposed making epics “more like they were in vanilla”, where only the best of the best1 had purple gear. Everyone else was in blues and BY GOD they were grateful for them.

<imagine an embed of the Monty Python “Yorkshiremen” sketch, which acts as a study guide for the preceding paragraph. Right, that’ll do. You’ve all seen it, no need to watch it again>

Given that *every* time I attempt to comment on WoW Insider their comment system has a complete freakout and attempts to persuade me I don’t exist, I thought I’d post this here.

One problem with the oft-proposed “make purples raid-only” is that it would feel odd when you were replacing purples from the first raid of an expansion with blues from the second or third set of heroics 5 mans released in that expansion. I know there’s already some interplay between blues and greens when levelling (e.g. Throne blues being replaced by quest greens from Uldum/Twihigh) so it’s not unheard of. Still, I’m not sure it makes lots of sense to throw away the epic hat you earned in by defeating the first tier-end boss of the expansion in favour of a blue drop from a five-player dungeon in the same expansion that took 28 minutes from pull to valor points.

Aside from that, I don’t get this obsession with tooltip text colour. Gear upgrades are great, but the important questions are “will this let me do more dps/more hps/take less damage?” and “does it look cool?”, not “what colour is the icon border in the character view”. Even iLevel is only important insofar as there are content gates based on it (the various dungeon finder requirements).

We’ve all encountered people playing waaaay less effectively than their gear should allow.

We’ve *also* all encountered players who are comparatively less well-geared but who are making up for it with good play. The difference with this second group is that, unless you habitually inspect every new player you meet at the start of a run, you don’t notice these people. It looks like they’re doing an ok job, not the best, not the worst, so you think nothing more of it, and don’t realise how well they must be playing to do as well as they are with the gear they have. For both of those people, while their gear sets the upper boundary of their performance, it’s the way they play that most determines their effectiveness.

Ironically, if I’ve read correctly, Blizzard are implementing a variation on this in t13, where actual tier set pieces will *only* be available via raid drops. Valor points will allow you to purchase more-or-less equivalent pieces, but presumably without the set bonus attached. Perhaps the tooltip text of t13 setpieces will be ultraviolet…

In other news, it would appear I’m a DPSer again. We’ve acquired another fulltime healer *wave* which has meant that my heal-arious holy-ing (sorry, sorry) hasn’t been required. It’s been interesting.


  • Hitting things is fun. This is very important.
  • My DPS gear is better than my healing gear
  • I won a shiny new axe from Shannox
  • I still might get to ninja healing plate drops anyway :D
  • It’s much more satisfying to charge in and hit stuff at the start of the fight (vs. lurk at the back waiting for incoming damage)
  • There’s lots of running about and a few fun jobs (DPSing Beth upstairs, chasing doggies on Shannox, steering Rhyolith, stupid stupid sons of flame)


  • Healing is also fun
  • The healing view is generally better, provided one remembers to look up from the green boxes.
  • I could try to blame my healing failures on gear or on “not being a mainspec healer”. I’m supposed to know how to DPS *eek*.
  • Welcome back, faceroll jokes. Oh how I’ve missed you. Much like my consecrate button. Clearly I need bigger ears.
  • I’ve lost all my lovely tools. Farewell, aura mastery. Please, please, PLEASE, please can I have speed of light in retspec? PLEASE?
  • HOW much running about? I swear Riplimb was laughing at me. And those stupid whackamole druids on Alysrazor.
  1. of the best of the best of the best, repeating of course []

Nostalgia? Recidivism? You decide.

Sorry, can’t resist this.

It’s officially a year since my first post here on Mysterious Buttons1 so I’m pretending that’s a good excuse for incoherent ramblings.

A post from the end of May 2010 was a slightly cryptic acknowledgement that I’d moved servers, joined a new guild and taken part in my first raid. About a month later I’d been been positively promiscuous in my sampling of different raid dungeons, experienced the “current” content firsthand and *finally* given Marrowgar the beating he so richly deserved. I’d also stolen a spare sword he’d had rattling around in there somewhere2.

It’s pleasing for me, one year on from that first post, to have just taken part in my first raid since the Cataclysm launch and, after a less-than-auspicious start where we were repeatedly flattened by trash, to have to spent the evening with friends, thumping a skull-level boss. It took a handful of goes, and some massaging of the strategy, but by 10.30 the big fiery worm was dead. Huzzah!

A brief Public Service Announcement: when moving between Magmaw and the Omnotron Defense Council, you can run down either side of the staircase from Magmaw’s platform. One side is relatively free of obstructions; the other a little messier.

1. Should you choose to take the “messy” side, be prepared to jump the gap at the right moment.

2. If you fail to jump the gap, try not to laugh hysterically in vent. It lets everyone know you’ve done something stupid.

3. If you fail to jump the gap and end up at the bottom of the fissure, know that there’s an invisible wall that prevents you from jumping over the side into the lava below, for a merciful death and an opportunity to guilt-trip your healing team. Better to discover this now, from me, than in-game having told everyone that you’re stuck and you’re going to kill yourself.

4. If you fail to jump the gap and end up in the fissure, ALSO know that you can, with some manoeuvring, jump out of the fissure at the narrow end to land more-or-less where you were originally intending. It’s best not to have begged a friendly party warlock for a summon at this point “‘cos I’m stuck”, as that really makes you feel silly.

Finally, the Omnotron Defense System. Interesting fight, loads of great-looking visual effects, dorf golems. What’s not to like? We had a couple of end-of-raid prods as a warm-up and will revisit Toxitron and pals again tonight. It did occur to me that the Murloc’s Mom might have some advice for this fight too…

The Murloc's Mom is wise. Heed her words.
The Murloc's Mom is wise. Heed her words.
  1. yes, yes, I know there’s a post dates 21 Feb, but I added that retroactively as a copypasta from the SAN forum, and backdated it as it made sense for an “origins” post to come first []
  2. we discovered later that he had millions of the things — I swear one dropped every week []

For Alas: Why, how and who

It was Alastriona’s birthday blogaversary the other week and in celebration she offered post topics to any who wanted one. As one of her dedicated internet stalkers sidlers, I gleefully requested and received one. Here’s what she said:

Alrighty then. Hearkening back to when I first introduced myself, you hadn’t really raided anything at all. Now you’re a Kingslayer. (And I am jealous, yo) You’ve shared a bit here and there about what the experience of raiding was like, but if you look back over the past several months and really take in the scope of how far you’ve come, how does that make you feel? What were the best parts along the way and which people were the most instrumental in your journey?

“Ohshit.” I thought. “This could be tricky.” Then I had three concurrent project deadlines. *Then* I went for a quick holiday to Venice (because if you’re going to procrastinate, you might as well do it surrounded by art, history and dirt-cheap prosecco). Now it’s time.

Alas first introduced herself here in a comment on a whinging post about my failure to organise any kind of raid with my then-guild. At the time, the closest I’d come to raiding was clearing pre-Marrowgar trash for rep in ICC and being told to “l2p” in a visit to see Sarth for the weekly. I ended the post with the sad realisation that, if I *did* want to raid current content, I’d need to find a new guild.

Amazingly, I received a couple of responses from people in raiding guilds inviting me to come and introduce myself. A message via email was hugely exciting, and described a guild which seemed barely plausible — raiding everything from Naxx to ICC with occasional visits to older content, “no QQ, no loot drama, and lots of joking around”, and a willingness to do a bit of extra explaining to the raid-clueless. And when I looked at the forums … they could write. Beautifully. Sealed the deal, naturally. Of course, these events neatly coincided with a conference I was about to go to, leaving me with pretty much no free time for the next few weeks. I wrote a “OMG this sounds amazing but I can’t do anything for three weeks, please can I come back then?” reply, was reassured, and buggered off to Lisbon for the conference.

On my return, Tremble was born and I had a fun, if rather nerve wracking1 conversation with the GM, the RL and the officer who’d contacted me by email. They seemed to think I would fit… *woohoo* so I said my goodbyes to my old guild and server-transferred my two level 80s to Darkmoon Faire. Four days later on 24 May, I was in the raid team for Ulduar 10. *eek*

Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to make two of our three raid nights pretty much every week (being the *only* mainspec source of replenishment can be handy).

I’ve been designated the sacrificial paladin and sent to facepull angry kitties and creepy spider robots. I’ve been designated the idiot paladin after getting my buttons mixed up and accidentally DIing the tank mid-raid (I was looking for Divine Protection). I’ve had my user interface critiqued based on the SWAAAAD-style whispers I accidentally sent to the GL during a Mimiron encounter (my first appearance in our guild quotes thread *sigh*). I’ve been the guy who somehow manages to unequip his jetpack just before the Gunship encounter starts2. I’ve watched, helpless with laughter, as a tank charged straight off the edge of Kologarn’s platform on the pull. I’ve watched, helpless with laughter, as our curious gnome mage discovered that around the corner there is often an angry mob. I’ve watched, helpless with laughter, as a guildie got his Willy out in the middle of the raid.

When we first killed Putricide it was my first full night of attempts on him. It felt great, but from the screams of joy and relief on vent, it was better for the people who’d spent more than just one night being slimed, oozed and killed. When we first killed Sindy, I’d been there for all of our nights of wiping and frustration. Now I knew, really knew why those screams sounded the way they did. This time I too was making the noises.

Of course it’s not all sunshine and free epics. The availability boss has kicked our collective arses far harder than any dungeon denizen. Lady RNG has withheld her favours from time to time, be they in game (I *still* don’t have the damnable Whispering Fanged Skull) or distressingly and more seriously, out there in the real world3. We’ve had drama, some of it near guildbreaking. Tears have been shed, whisky bottles emptied. Sad goodbyes said. Angry goodbyes said.

Overwhelmingly, though, the experience has been positive. I’ve met, played with and learned from an amazing bunch of people. Hung out in guild chat or voice chat for hours. Gone rafting. Killed internet dragons just for the fun of killing internet dragons with friends (there’s a reason this post is in the “Raiding for fun (profit be damned)” category). Hell, this expansion was called “Wrath of the Lich King” and you see that Lich King? We killed him. Us. We ‘won’ the expansion4.

And I’ve learned, from guildies, from experience, from the fantastic resources written by the WoW-playing community. Improved my play enough to have a raid slot based on more than just replenishment. Learned to heal better than bandage-spec rogues5. Built up enough confidence to take part in pug raids. Figured out how and when to use (some of) those utility abilities that had me so confused — some of those mysterious buttons aren’t so mysterious any more. Ultimately I’ve learned that there’s a million amazing things still to learn and a goodly supply of wonderful people to share them with.

To share, there’s got to be some people around. I’ve been pretty lucky with the people around me, and it feels almost … unfair, or disloyal, to single out individuals and say “these are the most important people”. Do I talk about my cake-obsessed GL and the lengthy conversations we’ve had about music (dark), clothes (black) and 1001 other subjects, 997 of which degenerated into smut-filled guttertalk6? Our expert Prot/Arms warrior, who can switch between indestructible tank and #1 dps7 on a fight-to-fight basis? Our drunken rogue, whose progress from wide-eyed fresh 80 to meter-topping DPS machine was accompanied by constant fun and silliness? Should I pay tribute to our vent-singing, draenei-impersonating, warrior-tanking RL with his incredible knowledge, distinctive catchphrases8 and endless optimism that *this time* we won’t pull all of the trash by Precious and Stinky, despite all evidence to the contrary? To the irrepressible altoholic with an 80 of every class and every profession and a *bouncehug* always ready?

I could go on and on. I could give you anecdotes for every active member of the guild, happy memories, silly stories. I could do the same for the people who have left the guild since I joined — no matter the circumstances of their leaving, every one features in formative events and learning experiences. Above all, I’ve learned that it’s the sharing that makes the game. Pretty obvious I suppose, but it’s taken me an amazingly long time to truly realise it.

So, Cataclysm. It’s the end of the world as we know it. I’m looking forward to sharing what comes next.

  1. I was really keen by this point []
  2. stupid equipment manager: why would I bother excluding the shirt slot?? []
  3. where some bosses are distinctly overtuned and all healing classes have been nerfed []
  4. Yes I know there are hard modes and we ain’t done ‘em. Don’t mess with my flow, yo. []
  5. probably []
  6. the other ones were probably cut off by DCs but almost certainly would have gone the same way []
  7. And they say Arms was the weak spec in Wrath. Pfft. Not from what I’ve seen from a strict-10 perspective. And if he *could* have done better as fury, I’m bloody glad he prefers arms. It would have been dispiriting, I think []
  8. “Let’s have fun and poke stuff”, or variations thereupon which have become our lucky charm, and the oft-repeated “Gormok the Impaler … impales” []

New old encounters

Lich King 22%. Five raiders and friends leave. Don’t want to write about that :(

I’ve never done a complete run of Naxxramas. By the time I was levelled and had joined a raiding guild, some people were already complaining there wasn’t anything to do in ICC. Excepting the odd weekly quest to kill Patchwerk or Noth, I’ve not seen the sights.

With further work on Mr. Arthas suspended for a bit, I got home late-ish last night to find that, after doing the weekly (Patchwerk), a few folks were carrying on with Naxx, taking a guildie who hadn’t raided before on an exploratory mission. I joined in.

It’s a funny place, Naxxramas. Visually, it really shows its age, particularly when you look at the special effects in Icecrown, or the lushness of Ulduar. It’s also seems to be rather oddly sized – some rooms feel wildly oversized with 10 people (well, 8 or 9 actually) and others feel like they’d be cramped with 25. Perhaps that’s a result of it being ported from vanilla WoW, I’m not sure. It’s odd though — I don’t remember Molten Core feeling oddly sized when I ran through it a few months back, and my recollection is that it was a bit more grand. Perhaps I’m just remembering the corehound room and the big guy at the end, and forgetting everything else.

Not too long ago, in a casual conversation in Vent, the notion of running 25man Naxx with 12-15 people came up as something to do, perhaps on our next “progression break” or fun night. I almost wish I’d waited to do just that – even though last night was fun, and new content for two of us, and even dropped some pieces of useful loot for some fairly fresh alts in the group (including Loatheb’s Shadow, a trinket more-or-less identical to the Mirror of Truth that I’m *still* using in partnership with the HWT, thanks to the capricious ways of the ladies Deathwhisper and RNG). Unfortunately, having a few current-tier raid-geared folks in the group bypasses so many mechanics.

Take Noth, for example. Poor old Noth. As he shows up as a weekly raid quest boss, I’ve now killed him 3 times. Apparently he has a curse which was bad news (can’t say I’ve noticed), and a whole second phase. I’ve never seen the second phase. He’s died well inside the 110 second timer. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good zerging. In fact, I’d like to *do* a good zerging, and get the Sarth 3d achievement I still don’t have. But still. You have to feel for these poor old bosses, once so powerful.

Oh well. I’m not about to run raid content pantsless just to put a (temporary) smile on the face of a fallen mage – that sounds like the sort of thing an uncouth warrior might do. Those guided by the light should be able to see well enough to find their trousers in the morning.

Don’t let me break your raid

First up: go read this post about the recruit-a-friend system by Alas if you haven’t already. In it, she argues that the triple experience bonus you get when playing with your RAFbuddy is a bit too much, and contributes to the number of people bimbling around at level 80 in search of a clue (any clue) by rocketing people to 80 before they’ve had a chance to learn how to play their class and their role in groups.

I can’t comment on her site at the moment for some reason (fesking javascript errors) but in response to one question, “how are recruited friends supposed to learn”, I think the answer is “we teach them”. Excuse me while I imagine Blizzard’s thinking…

“We want more people to play the game, because that earns us more money and we can buy more ponies yachts. People bringing their friends in is a good way of doing that. Problem is, a) experienced players might not feel like leveling yet another alt, and b) their friends might get a bit frustrated if the sales line is from their friend is “epic 25man battles with elder gods” but they then have to spend the next 8 weeks hunting for boar sphincters. So: we give them triple experience when they play together. The new player levels up really quickly. The recruiter can powerlevel another alt if they want, and they can explain how things work to their friend. More champagne, Jeeves.”

There is, however, only so much you can do. You can’t be there, wiping your RAFriend’s nose and shoving them out of the fire *all* the time. From their point of view, “not like that, like *this*” would probably get a bit tiresome after a while – part of the reason we play games is to discover things for ourselves, after all. So what to do?

A training raid
Consider the idea of a designated “learning” raid, which all people who wanted to raid would have to complete. This would be a relatively short encounter which featured a couple of core mechanics from raiding instances – a few trash pulls, some basic crowd control and a boss or two with relatively simple, common mechanics: “don’t stand here, don’t do <egg> while <bacon>, make sure you <currant> when the <bun> is <toasted>”. The key feature, however, would be gear normalization. No matter what gear you’re wearing (provided you meet a minimum standard), you gear is adjusted so that all raiders have roughly equivalent gear. Whether via a simple “Soldiers! Quickly now: we must remain undetected. Put on these guards’ uniforms!” mechanic where all members of a class/spec are temporarily forced into identical gear, or just by scaling stat values back to consistent levels, this would hopefully prevent people brute forcing their way through by massively overgearing the encounter. Perhaps players would be forced to learn to *play* instead?

New players could find themselves with no-one to group with (in the same way that it’s near-impossible to complete some of the Icecrown quest chains now because of the phasing). This could be alleviated by making this a selectable option for the “raid finder” interface: as a new raider, it’s your only option until you’ve completed it. Once you’ve completed it, it’s a tickbox – “include <learning raid> in your random selection?”. Rewards could also be experience dependent – one set of rewards (perhaps just a “raider” tabard) for people completing it for the first time, other rewards (gear? Badges/points/whatever they’ve renamed them?) for those choosing to help out new players. Vanity trinket for running the training dungeon 100 times once you’re qualified?  [The Blackboard Eraser] On use: causes a cloud of chalk dust to appear around target. Target appears in school uniform and emotes with “child” voice for 30s. Appends “, sir!” or “, miss!” to all text chat.

It might be seen as similar to the old attunement mechanics (which don’t seem to be missed by many). I wasn’t playing when these were in place so my understanding is fuzzy (and potentially wrong), but hopefully a single “attunement” for *all* raiding wouldn’t be so terribly onerous.

Tuning the difficulty level would also be very tricky – this might be the major sticking point. It would be very easy to design the encounter to be ez-mode. It would be just as easy to make it so hard that new raiders would be completely discouraged. Possibly the new tutorial system could help out here: for those without the “Take the training wheels off my raid” achievement, it would pop up various helpful prompts.

All of these things will never “fix” the players who just don’t want to learn — but there’s no way to do that. It might be really useful for people who are inexperienced (*cough*) and keen to learn (*cough cough*), and would help us them feel more confident if they had an official “You are now raid ready” badge (*splutter*).