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  • I want polkadot epics with bold underline italic ALL CAPS

    2011 - 09.29

    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.

    Pluses:

    • 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)

    Minuses:

    • 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 []

    The ‘blame it on a generation’ generation

    2011 - 09.23

    Once upon a time, I kept a personal blog which I wrote sporadically whenever something amused, irritated or offended. It was largely moribund before I started writing here at MB, but given the ranting I’ve posted recently I could probably resurrect it. Just in case I decide to, here’s some more.

    I’ve just about had enough of “generations”. I’ve been reading wowblogs and forums and apparently, the young generation or the twitter generation or the ADD generation or the insert-perjorative-generation are ruining everything. Yoofs. Damn them.

    It’d be more accurate, perhaps, to say that game companies are ruining everything, by designing games which cater to the lazy generation. They’re just in it for the money, chasing the LCD to maximise shareholder return. Capitalists. Damn them.

    …except don’t all of those studies about gamers seem to suggest the “average” gamer is somewhere in the 30s-40s bracket? So surely they should be designing for those people instead? People of middle years with money and lives. Damn them. Er, us. No, them.

    Best not to think about that too carefully, I suspect.

    For those who don’t already know, I live in London. In Catford, home of the “famous” Catford Cat, should any of you feel like dropping by for a chat and a dram.

    Catford cat

    Although it wasn’t extensively covered by the news, Catford had its own small share of “fun” during last month’s UK riots, with a few stores looted and/or damage. Damage was light enough that, during the #riotcleanup twitter phenomenon, the council posted a tweet which effectively said ‘thanks for your support but we’ve got this.’

    Aaaaanyway, the news aftermath was largely what you’d expect, with sensible discussion in some places, liberal handwringing in others, and a goodly dose of old-fashioned string-em-up, hanging’s-too-good-for-’em, bring-back-national-service shoutiness as a constant backbeat. And lots of “generation”s.

    The selfish generation. The Me generation. The feral generation. The yob generation. So many generations.

    My concern: generations don’t spring fully-formed from the mind of Zeus. Each generation is shaped by the generation before it, by parents wanting their children to have the things they didn’t or couldn’t have. By parents seeking to avoid the “mistakes” that *their* parents made. They’re shaped by the society they’re born into (which is shaped by the preceding generations). They’re shaped by the events of the time.

    Did I just take a long time to write “parents are responsible for their children, and should feel so.”? I guess in a roundabout way I did.

    Back to Warcraft. If you’re finding yourself cursing out WoW’s generation Z’ers, it might be worth considering what your contributions to their attitudes and the way they have developed may have been.

    PSA: Zombies

    2011 - 09.20

    I’m interrupting my irregular posting to bring you an important Public Service Announcement.

    If you are one of the many World of Warcraft players who play other games too, you’ve probably noticed the spread of the plague that threatens to engulf us. If WoW is your only game, you may yet be unfamiliar with the dire situation the world faces, so allow me to summarise.

    Zombies. Thousands of ‘em. 

     

     

    I thought perhaps the disease had been stopped, but no. We’re still neck deep in games where, bereft of any ability/desire/willingness to invent new “bad guys” (or even the ability/desire/willingness to choose a different trope), the design meeting must have gone something like

    “Ok Bob, settle down. We’ve some great gameplay elements in the bag already, but we need a story. A structure. A narrative that ties together the encounters you’re designing and the abilities we’re giving the player.”

    <silence>

    “C’mon guys, help me out here. Let’s brainstorm a bit, throw some scenarios out there, some characters we can build on.”

    <silence>

    “Please. Seriously. We *need* this. I’m already responsible for the website, managing our forum community, keeping our social media presence lively and responsive and more. I write the docs. I do the accounts. I even sent for a hygienist to deal with Alex’s… problem. Can’t you guys wake up a bit and help me here? I can’t write a whole new scenario by myself.”

    *pause*.. “Hey, I thought of something!”

    “Brilliant. Let’s hear it!”

    “If this is officially a project meeting, can I expense my lunch? It’s 12.03.”

    “Fuck you guys. I’m not slaving away if you lazy bastards won’t help. Zombie apocalypse it is. AGAIN. Hell, at least I won’t have to rewrite the box copy.”

     

    There’s only one solution to this plague. And no, it’s not to take off and nuke the site from orbit.

    STOP BUYING THE DAMN THINGS.

    *pant*

     

     

    Fish feasts, word beasts

    2011 - 09.03

    The title rhymes for a reason.

    I was getting bored of buying my own food for raiding ‘n stuff, so decided we needed to get the recipe for the lobster jacuzzi. A fishing competition seemed like the thing… but with a little guild like ours, a “first person to get X number of fish” competition wasn’t going to work. Neither would a “everyone get together on X day and fish”, unless we decided to forgo raiding for an evening to do it (no thanks). So… the fishing and poetry competition was born.

    Entry requirements: 120 fish from pools plus one poem, haiku or limerick. Delivered in about a week or less.

    Results: well, we got the fishing achievement before all of the entries were in. And guildies are now voting on their favourite poems, with the winner taking away a unique guild rank (tbd) and their choice of a pet from the Blizzard pet store OR a bike mount. Whichever one is left will then be awarded to another entrant by that most capricious of judges, Lady RNG.

    To give you an example:

    There once was a man called Ano
    Who thought he could play the piano
    But his thumbs were too big
    On just his first gig
    They compared his recital to guano

    He sat at his desk with a pen
    And thought about hobbies again
    Where is the thrill
    When your hands have no skill?
    And you fail nine efforts in ten

    He decided to put us to shame
    And started a dragony game
    “But which class to be
    With these phalangees
    I’m tired of being to blame”

    So he took up a paladin mace
    And flourished in dungeons with grace
    But his method was flawed
    We thought he tapped the keyboard
    But the whole time he just played with his face

    And no, I didn’t write that. Bastards.

    Also, I’ve been playing too much to write, but I have been reading. This morning, I read this post on wowhead news, linking/quoting from a couple of articles about “why cataclysm is bad” or “why WoW is dying”. There’s very little point in commenting on it there, and not much more point in writing about it here, but what the hell.

    1. “Most people dislike Cataclysm”. Really? I see no hard data on that (feel free to point me at some). I see a lot of forum bandwagon jumping, but that’s normal. I see a bunch of people who don’t like specific things. I’m not sure that adds up to “most people dislike Cataclysm”. Not even slightly. Anecdotal: I’m having a good time. So are the people I’m playing with.

    2. A study quoted in the Gamasutra article surveyed 2865 self-selected WoW players, 72% of whom were from the US, 70% of whom had played for three years or more. And which was published six months before Cataclysm was released. It’s an interesting study on the subject, but as far as I can tell it’s got nothing to do with the article quote from the author, who says “I think people get bored more quickly”. Than what? And, er, ok.

    3. Again from the Gamasutra article, there’s a quote from a staff writer and wow player who says ”There isn’t a lack of content in Cataclysm. The problem is the lack of strong appeal for anyone in particular. The gear doesn’t carry enough psychological weight for the hardcore players, and the raids are too difficult for more casual players, especially relative to the rewards they provide. The last raiding tier was significantly nerfed in 4.2, but its rewards are now behind what casual players can acquire by doing 5-mans, so there’s no incentive to raid older content beyond doing it once or twice just to see the new bosses.”

    The thing is, that’s not really true. You can buy chest, legs, hands, bracers, one ring, one neckpiece and a relic/wand from the VP vendor, all of which are better than gear from tier 11 but it’ll take you several weeks of dungeon running to buy them all. You can buy boots, a trinket, another ring and a cloak from the JP vendor, which are *as* good as, not better than the drops from tier 11 (give or take, depending on your stat priorities), plus you can pick up t11 chest, legs and hands which might be better than raid drops once you have two items (for the set bonus). The rest is raid only, unless you want to spring for BoEs or crafted items.

    Also, there we go with the whole “casual” bullshit again. What’s a casual player in this context? Someone who doesn’t raid regularly? Someone who only pug-raids? Someone who can only commit 90 minutes to any one gaming session? If you’re that “casual”, you’re hardly likely to be drowning in VP/JP so … eh? That has a bit of a smell of the old “if I raid, I want to be massively, visibly and demonstrably better looking/better geared than you nooby scrubs” thinking, which I tend to dislike. If you’re interested in that sort of boasting, send people links to the RSS feed/screenshot of your battle.net character newsfeed, with the date of your first kill prominently visible1.

    That last point comes back to something that makes me twitch a bit. Are there really so many people who play until they’ve ticked off every item on their “I want this” gear list, and then unsubscribe until the next patch adds in a few new weapons or what have you? The reward mechanism for WoW (group content) is pretty well known, but I always thought it was a combination of things: exploration (new bosses/mechanics), teamplay, social interaction (raidchat/voicecomms), personal performance (execution), group performance, progression (next boss/harder mode/achievements for difficult things), “tangible” rewards (loot). Is the last item >>>> all of the others?

    --
    1. PS: if you do this to me as some sort of boast, it’s possible I will conclude you’re a knob. []

    Productivity

    2011 - 08.05

    There are, of course, more “productive” things I could be doing with my WoW-time.

    • I could be making sure I do my firelands dailies every day.
    • I could be doing those dailies on one of my level 85 alts, preferably one with a useful crafting profession (vs Ano’s leatherworking/skinning combo).
    • I could be making sure I hit the VP cap
    • I could be running heroics/trolltroics: with Tremble to replace his pair of <333 tanking trinkets, with Grammy to replace the various bits of PVP gear she’s still wearing, with Cent to replace her remaining blues
    • I could be attempting to earn cash and stockpile materials for a new weapon, or at least remembering to make use of Grammy’s transmute cooldowns more profitably.

    I really struggle with doing things I “ought” to be doing, unless they’re things I’d do anyway because I like to. I’ve actually VP capped a couple of times already, not because I feel I should do but because I like running dungeons and find bad pugs a) generally rare, and b) easily dealt with or ignored. Anyway, that aside, I’m not really doing any of these things. Instead, I’ve been playing with my baby bear and pugging a few T11 raids.


    Pugging tier 11 

    Blizzard did say that part of the reason for the huge nerfs to T11 was to encourage and enable pug raids, and this seems to have worked. Entertainingly, now pug raiding is common (as it was at the end of Wrath) a familiar annoyance has resurfaced: gearscore. Well, not “gearscore” per se, but looking in trade I see an awful lot of “LFM BoT, must have ilvl 361+, /w spec and chiev” which puts us straight back into “can a bunch of overgeared players please carry me? kthx” territory. I even found myself forced to intervene in one conversation  in trade1, in which a person whose average ilevel was 350 was told that wasn’t enough for t11, and that he should run more trollroics to gear up. *wail*

    I’ve now joined a couple of different PuG T11 runs. Firstly, Centrella the mage was  reunited with an RP guild she accompanied on a few ICC runs towards the end of Wrath. While definitely not cutting-edge raiders even by my standards, they’re a friendly and fun bunch, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Another guildie joined us on her DK and we were able to amble through the first four bosses, in what turned out to be the first visit to Cataclysm raid content for a number of people in the group. Sadly, the run offered fairly conclusive proof that Centrella’s RNG-defying streak of luck is definitely over :’(.

    I also joined two guildies to form an all-Enthusiast healing team for a group with Atramades and Nefarian left to kill. It was interesting to note the people who hadn’t really processed the nerfs to T11 content, with a vocal segment (including the raid lead) insisting that if we didn’t get Nef down to 65% or less during the pillar phase, it would be a wipe. That might have been the case before 4.2, but most certainly isn’t now. In any case, after a couple of false starts we got it together. Still no bloody loot, though :(.


    Angry baby bear

    The other thing I’ve been doing is chainrunning low-level instances on my little druid, who’s journeyed from ~30 to ~50 exclusively via dungeons and dungeon quests. It’s been a mixed bag.

    The good: I just like being a bear. It’s nice that my in-game avatar is hairier than me and has a fatter arse, for example. Also, the snarling sounds are great, as are the angry ghost bear effects for some of the abilities. It’s pretty simple to play (at this level) so I should, in theory, be able to concentrate on awareness/positioning rather than mastering ability usage. Being able to switch to kittyform and sprint is handy for all sorts of out-of-combat things. The cat dance is great, the bear dance is awesome. Bears have the most brilliant “sit”.

    The not-so-good: Bears (and presumably warriors) with no rage are sad, pitiful creatures. It seems that, in the lower-level dungeons, this is a common occurrence with trigger happy or just plain asshole DPS present. Heirlooms and enchants notwithstanding, there’s only so much a bear can do if someone else pulls at the wrong time. The most extreme case I’ve encountered so far was a run with three hunters, two of whom would open with multishot on every pull, and took the appearance of a skull over the head of a target as their personal green light. Cue desperate taunting and praying for rage, and a decent amount of cursing on the human side of the screen. After 5 minutes of this, I said in chat “Just so you know, if you open every pull with multishot when I’m not yet in melee range, I’m not going to bother chasing them down.” The current “easy” state of low-level dungeons relative to your typical lowbie dungeoneer (often an alt fully loaded with heirlooms) meant this didn’t have quite the “behave or you’ll die” severity I might like, but they did ease back a little so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

    Also, I’m sure there’s more to play with later, but right now I have what feels like an odd mix of abilities. I’ve got loads of charges, stuns, debuffs and taunts, but only three abilities that do damage. It seems rather odd — for pretty much every low-level bossfight, once the pull is underway and I’ve applied my debuffs, I can just drum the 1, 2 & 3 keys like I’m tapping my fingers on the table until the boss falls over or I do. I have no survival cooldowns yet (potions are all I’ve got) and from the bosses I remember, there’s only been the occasional knockback to interrupt me, easily dealt with by feral charge or skull bash.

    Perhaps this is because I’m supposed to learning the mechanics of the pull rather than the mechanics of a rotation/priority system, and I understand that Blizzard have said that they want tanks to have less-complex threat rotations to allow more time/focus for the other parts of their job, but right now it’s a bit… plain.


    Productivity

    Actually, since this was first drafted, I have done one “productive” thing. Last night we ventured into the Firelands2. After a couple of calibration attempts, where I got the measure of the Shannox tank’s incoming damage, we killed him. On the fourth pull. This slightly confounded all of us, as we’d made no real plans for the evening beyond “try to kill Shannox”, expecting that we’d kill him in a ok-last-pull-of-the-night-guys-concentrate moment. When he was dead shortly after 9pm with another 90 minutes remaining before end-of-raid, we were completely flummoxed.

    Sensible folks that we are, we elected to do some exploring before heading to Baradin Hold, and found an interesting miniboss (whose name I don’t remember) who pelted us with fireballs and meeeleons of little adds on the way up to him, to the delight of our warrior tank whose name was glued to the top of the recount list.  We also had an amusing death: while considering a proposal put forth by a guildie that we should be pulling and interrupting some little fellas who were channelling a spell  at a nearby portal, a *giant* flame elemental appeared and smooshed us all.

    “Perhaps so,” we concluded. Fun times.

    --
    1. which is much like discussing politics or religion in the pub: never a good idea []
    2. my first trip with the guild as I missed last week’s unsuccessful attempts []