Friday, February 27, 2009

The PTR is not for fun.

Last night, Blizzard announced that they were going to start letting PTR players hop into Ulduar and try out a few bosses. They announced that Hodir was scheduled for 7pm EST at somewhere around 5pm. So the race was on with little to no warning, and no hope for west coasters with jobs (testing began at 4pm for them) to get on in time.

As promised, I got my character copied over in one of the early waves, and logged in ready to get a group for Hodir and bring you a preview.

The first 5 times I logged in, WoW crashed. Then I managed to stay online in extraordinarily laggy Dalaran (it took 5 mins of standing there for the portal to Org to even appear) long eonugh to get through a portal to Orgrimmar, which solved my crashing problem for a while. I thought I had beaten the rush and secured a spot on the server. I turns out I had only done so narrowly.

As I was negotiating my way into an Ulduar 10 group, my client crashed again. Attempts to log back in were met by 2000+ qeues. About halfway through the qeue, I was disconnected. It turns out they had locked both test servers, either because they were done with testing (it was 9:30ish by now) or they needed to reduce the population.

So dont' get too excited about the test servers. They aren't there for our fun. They aren't there for you to go in and get a free preview of the content. Blizzard doesn't give half the posterior of a rat about how "unfair" it is that you didn't get a chance to go in and check it out. All they care about is getting the right number of hardcore raiders in there and getting their testing data. I'm OK with this.

What I find confusing is that they said they wanted all kinds of players to test the content. But with the tight scheduling and locked servers, only the most motivated and time-unrestrained players can get in to test, and of those only a small percentage are lucky enough to make it through all of the hoops. Looking at trade chat, almost everyone in a raid or looking for a raid had the Twilight Vanquisher achievement, meaning they had completed OS + 3 drakes. That's only a small percentage of the population, folks: that 2-3 guilds on each server that are viewing the PTR as their ticket to server firsts on Live. Is that the only group they want feedback from?

It seems like they'd rather severely limit the number of people able to see the bosses at all. This makes sense from a "make world firsts matter on Live" perspective, not so much from a testing perspective. They will have no clue how the average raider is going to find the fights. They'll only have one point of view.

So anyway, I'm going to keep trying to get you a preview, but I wouldn't hold my breath. The PTR doesn't care how "fair" things are. It is coldly focused on it's purpose, which I suppose in some ways is a virtue.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Moving to Mon/Wed/Fri Schedule

I've decided, after giving it some serious thought, that I will have to cut down on my blogging to concentrate on Real Life. Things are ramping up in my RL job and in my RL social life that require more attention, so something has to give, and this is it.

I'll be moving to a mon/wed/fri schedule rather than an every-weekday. If I'm not staying on a consistent schedule I don't see a point in blogging (because I'm a procrastinator who will only post once a month if I don't set a schedule and push myself to stick with it), so I'll keep that aspect.

Hopefully cutting down will allow me to take advantage of my natural tendency to write pieces that are more article-length than blog post length.

I'm sure I'll break the schedule to do extra posts from time to time when big news or big ideas take over my brain.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Rogue PTR 3.1 Changes: What They Mean

The first batch of patch notes for the 3.1 PTR appeared yesterday. You can see a list of them at mmo-champion, as usual. I'm going to talk about the rogue changes specifically, because that's my "thing".

Let's start with the biggest thing, which wasn't even explicitly outlined in the patch notes: Instant and Wound Poison go from a percentage proc to a proc per minute (PPM) model. Ignore that urge to let your eyes gloss over as soon as I mention a technical term! This is actually really important! I won't bore you with an explanation of the math behind it, but instead explain that this change equalizes the number of poison procs you get no matter how fast your weapon is.

The fallout: fast weapons are no longer flatly dominant for raiders. Webbed Death is no longer the Best Weapon In The Game. The numbers aren't solid yet, but you should end up being able to use a variety of viable dagger speeds for Mutilate, and Combat will solidly want a slow mainhand and won't be punished as harshly for a non-optimal offhand (1.6 speeders won't be as bad as they are now). HAT builds will probably switch to favoring slow mainhands as well.

Don't worry: your poison damage won't go down. Instant and Wound do essentially the same dps on the PTR as they would do on live if you had a Webbed Death. And Wound still procs at about 2.5x the rate of untalented Instant, keeping Wound the choice for Combat builds.

Before I go down the list of patch notes, I want to get my recommendations for preparing for the patch, based on these notes, out of the way nearer the top of the post:

My raiding recommendations:
  1. Don't shard or pass on slower daggers (that are dps or stat upgrades for you) if you want to play Mutilate. Save them in the bank for the patch
  2. If you prefer Combat or are a min/maxer who wants to be prepared to switch if Combat becomes the dominant dps spec: get yourself a pair of matching weapons so you don't have to combo spec. If you are at the top of the game, you either want a Silent Crusader/Hailstorm combo or a Calamity's Grasp/Webbed Death.
  3. Start grabbing the glyphs you expect to need for dual-spec now, before the prices skyrocket around patch day. Keep in mind that new glyphs likely won't be available immediately, as you may have to wait for someone on your server to randomly discover them.


And on to the patch notes. My evaluations are in italics after each note.

  • Hunger For Blood: No longer stacks. Damage bonus changed to 15% for a single application. Requires a bleed effect active on the Rogue’s target. No longer removes bleeds from the Rogue. - Makes the buff less of a headache to reapply if it drops (currently must stack to 3 for full effect on Live). Very nice. The bleed effect caveat is there to limit its use in pvp; it will be no problem to have some type of bleed up at all times in raids. The minor downside is that it will be harder to apply while in stealth, since you'll rely on someone else putting on a bleed, and it will make the ability harder to use on fast trash pulls or during prolonged target switches.

  • Adrenaline Rush cooldown reduced to 3 min. - Awesome buff #1.
  • Killing Spree: Now also increases all damage done by the Rogue while active by 20%. - Awesome buff #2.
  • Savage Combat improved to 2/4% increased damage against poisoned targets. - Awesome buff #3
  • Lightning Reflexes reduced to 3 ranks for 2/4/6% dodge and 4/7/10% melee haste. - As detailed in my previous post, this is an awesome buff with the unfortunate side effect of darn near killing Combat specs that use two different types of weapons. Try to pick up a matching set of weapons before the patch hits. This new talent effectively locks down the tree, since every Combat spec MUST take the exact same 50 points or suffer a dps loss. Hopefully Blizz will respond by making some changes to the tree to free up a few points for interesting choices of utility talents.

  • Shadow Dance now opens a new action bar when used. - Much-needed, and frankly should have been in with the talent originally. Makes Shadow Dance much more appealing, removing one of the main reasons many players avoided it.

Changes found on the 3.1 PTR that were not listed in the patch notes:


  • Envenom now gives an additional 15% chance to apply Deadly Poison and a 75% increased frequency of applying Instant Poison for 1 sec plus an additional 1 sec per combo point. (Previously gave a 15% chance to apply both deadly and instant poison). - Don't get confused: all this does is make the ability do the same thing it always did, only in light of the change of poisons to PPM. This is essentially a non-change.
  • Expose Armor now reduces armor by 20%, lasting longer per combo point. - This brings the ability in line with the new implementation of Sunder Armor, though it doesn't fix the problem that we pay an untenable opportunity cost to put up our debuff while warrior tanks essentially do it by accident. It also amounts to a pvp nerf of the ability, since it is no longer disproportionately (and devastatingly) effective against cloth-wearers (removing a flat value of armor, as the ability used to do, hurts low-armor targets the most).

  • Improved Poisons (Tier 4) changed to increases the chance to apply Deadly Poison to your target by 2/4/6/8/10% and the frequency of applying Instant Poison to your target by 10/20/30/40/50%. (Previously increased chance to apply Deadly and Instant poison by 2/4/6/8/10%) - This is exactly the same kind of non-change to adapt to poison being on a PPM now. The effect of the talent remains the same.

And finally, datamined glyphs. Some of them appear to be out-of-date. It is not yet known which of these are simply unused artifacts from previous testing iterations, and which will actually see the light of day on Live servers.

  • Glyph of Sap -- Increases the duration of Sap by 20 sec. (Old: 10 sec.) - Buff to a largely unused glyph. May be nice if CC ever returns to the game, but I still don't see it being good enough to take the spot of the more common glyphs.
  • Glyph of Deadly Throw -- Increases the slowing effect on Deadly Throw by 10%. (Old: Increases the range on Deadly Throw by 5 yards.) - I . . . don't care.
  • Glyph of Adrenaline Rush -- Increases the duration of Adrenaline Rush by 5 sec. (Old: Decreases the cooldown of Adrenaline Rush by 60 sec.) - I guess the new version is more valuable with AR on a much shorter cooldown. I expect it to vie with the new KS glyph for raiders who don't need the SnD glyph.
  • Glyph of Sprint -- Increases the movement speed of your Sprint ability by an additional 30%. (Old: also reduced the duration by 5%) - Nice buff, but I still don't see this taking a major glyph spot, even for PvP. Sprint is just on too long a cooldown and too vulnerable to snares.
  • Glyph of Crippling Poison -- Increases the chance to inflict your target with Crippling Poison by an additional 20%. (Old: 10%). - A buff that may bring this glyph into consideration for some PvPers.
  • Glyph of Pick Lock -- Reduces the cast time of your Pick Lock ability by 100%. (Old: 75) - Dont' know why it didn't start this way. Yay!
  • Glyph of Hunger For Blood *new* -- Increases the bonus damage from Hunger For Blood by 1% per application. - Looks like they are addressing the lack of useful glyphs for Mutilate raiding specs. It's still unclear whether this glyph will even exist though, given that it still refers to the outdated "per application". And if it is real, will it increase HfB by 1% or 3%?
  • Glyph of Killing Spree *new* -- Reduces the cooldown on Killing Spree by 45 sec. - Depending on how good the upgraded KS is, this may be good for raiders. I'll leave that math up to EJ. Either way, this will be a very popular glyph for Combat PvP.
  • Glyph of Shadow Dance *new* -- Increases the duration of Shadow Dance by 4 sec. - Yet another glyph for new Wrath abilities.
  • Glyph of Fan of Knives *new* -- Increases the damage done by Fan of Knives by 20%. - Nice for aoe, but won't be worth a Major Glyph slot unless you have a build specifically for heroics and Naxx trash (which I'm sure some hardcore raiders will).
  • Glyph of Tricks of the Trade *new* -- Your Tricks of the Trade grants an additional 10% bonus damage to your target. - Also not worth a major glyph slot for most people. If TotT is used in a tight rotation by an elite and well-organized raiding guild, this may result in a greater DPS increase for the raid overall than alternative glyphs. But in any other PvE situation it's pretty mediocre. I would say it will be used by arena teams to stack burst buffs on one member, except one of the other patch notes makes TotT mutually exclusive with a number of other
  • Glyph of Mutilate *new* -- Reduces the cost of Mutilate by 5 energy. - Pffft no brainer. This may be one of the keys that helps Mutilate keep up with Combat and other classes in light of the poison PPM changes.
  • Glyph of Cloak of Shadows *new* -- While Cloak of Shadows is active, you take 40% less physical damage. - Seems like an excellent PvP glyph to me.

So it turns out that overall, there's a lot of good stuff in here, and the patch is less of a disappointment than I originally thought. I can't wait to find out what they are planning that didn't make it into this edition of the patch. Hopefully they will succeed in bringing us back in line with other pure dps classes in raids while also restoring us in PvP (rogues dropped to the bottom of the arena barrel after recent nerfs to Mutilate and the prevalence of rogue-countering hunter teams).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is 2-Weapon Spec (Fist/Sword) Dead?

Short answer: Kinda. It depends on itemization.

Combat raiding rogues have long had the option of combining a pair of weapon specialization talents when they couldn't get two viable weapons of the same type. Of these, MH Fist/OH Sword was the most powerful because offhand sword attacks proc mainhand fist swings. The most common spec for this purpose is this, though it was also effective for some to spec this way and change to a 4s/5r cycle that didn't need the extra SnD time (notice the only difference between the specs is one point moved from SnD to Sword Spec).

In 3.1, with the information we currently have, dual weapon specs are at risk. The patch will change Lightning Reflexes to a 3 point talent that grants an additional 10% melee haste. White damage currently makes up about half of my overall damage, making this point for point an extremely powerful talent, granting nearly a 5% damage increase for a mere 3 points (and 6% dodge on top of that). You can't turn it down.

The problem is that the rest of the tree is remaining the same, meaning that tight spec that could afford 4 or 5 points in Swords can now only afford 1 or 2. If there are no further changes, in 90% of cases you will be better off equipping a fist/dagger combo and going 5/5 Close Quarters Combat or getting 2 swords and going 5/5 Sword Spec, leaving you with one floater point for utility. Combo specs are effectively dead.

However, there are cases where the second spec I listed above can be modified to put only 2 points in Sword Spec and come out ahead: if you have Hailstorm but haven't yet gotten, or can't get, a Webbed Death.

According to the pre-3.1 version of Vulajin's spreadsheet, at my current gear level (somewhere between heroic and valorous), a Hailstorm with 2/5 Sword Spec beats all other offhands except Webbed Death. Webbed Death is only about 20 dps ahead (which for me is only abot 1/2 a percent).

Hand of Nerub and Sinister Revenge are too slow to compete (losing both poison and Combat Potency procs), while Murder ranks very close to Hailstorm, a mere 10 dps behind.

However, keep in mind this does not include the 10% haste as a factor, nor any other potential 3.1 changes such as glyphs or poison proc normalization. It remains to be seen how this will shake out, especially with Ulduar's itemization still unknown. But for now, it looks like an offhand sword may still be viable if you happen to have a better sword available than an offhand dagger. At least you aren't stuck waiting to roll against every other rogue for a Webbed Death before you can at least be competitive.

PTR 3.1 Patch Notes About Rogues: First Impressions

Wait...that's it?

[repeat this mantra: thesenotesaren'tcompletethesenotesaren'tcompletethesenotesaren'tcompletethesenot

And while I'm at it, let me get this straight:
The game has been desperate for class and balance changes for months. Everyone has been waiting for dual spec and the new gear switcher pretty much since the game was created, and all of our Quality of Life in-game will skyrocket the second you add it in. And you've got a giant chunk of the playerbase clamoring for a new raid. You need to prove that raiding isn't a complete joke. Arena is such an unbalanced mess that even the most hardcore are just plain quitting. It's been 3 months since you released the xpac and will likely be 2 more before you can get a patch out.

AND YOU'VE BEEN WASTING YOUR TIME ON THIS!?!? Are you Fing kidding me? We can't have all the stuff we are desperately waiting for because you need to fit this in too? Here's a thought: Save. It. For. The. Next. Patch. Preferably one that takes less than 5 months to make.

Look. I'm keeping in mind that this is "free" content (though the argument could be made that the expectation of patches is part of the business agreement Blizzard makes with us when we purchase the boxes and pay our monthly fee, but I digress). I get that patching is complicated and you want to get as much out at once as possible. I'm just asking you to prioritize. Do some triage. Even if it's a bit more expensive, or you have to hire an extra guy (I've got one to recommend to you, btw), or whatever, do 2 smaller patches instead of one bigger patch. Get out the really high priority stuff, like class changes and the first actual new raid dungeon you've had to design since Sunwell, in there first. Then worry about filling in some new non-raid content, especially when almost no one has managed to finish all the single-player questing content you already have in the game. The xpac came with enough daily quests to last us a few more months, trust me. While waiting for you to iron out the bugs in things no-one has been clamoring for, like mounted combat ("still in development", btw!), I could already be free of endless naxx reruns and having to reglyph and rearrange my action bars every time I pay for a respec (like every other day for my Death Knight), or having to respec every time I feel like doing a BG. And that's not even getting into the class balance problems.

If you want to keep Wrath's momentum, you need to think "Triage! Plug the leaking holes in the ship's hull!" not "wouldn't this little pet feature of mine be neat? Let's hold up development so we can cram it in!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

No blog post today

I have a RL job, and I care more about it than I care about you. Today I have to concentrate on that, so no content for you.

Expect a flood of fun this week though, as the PTR goes up and we find out exactly what 3.1 is going to look like. I got into the front of the character copy qeue, so if all goes well I'll be giving you a front-road seat for all the action on the PTR.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Laziness: Battlestar Galactica Spoiler Alert

SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing in this post all of the episodes of BSG that have been released so far (up to last Friday's "No Exit"). If you have not watched the show, or are not caught up, stop reading now. I will NOT be discussing any spoilers of unaired episodes, as I actually don't know any.

Battlestar is now in it's final 4 episodes. The most epic and dramatic journey ever on television (YEAH I SAID IT) is coming to an end. I want to make my predictions publicly now, so I can gloat/hang my head in shame accordingly.

Here's what I think are the foregone conclusions. I'm 99% confident of these:

  1. At the end many of the characters will still be alive. The show will NOT end with everyone dead.
  2. In some manner, both humans and Cylons will continue to exist. One will not succeed in wiping out the other.
  3. There will be a final confrontation between John Cavil's "evil" Cylon fleet and the Colonial/rebel Cylon fleet.
Here are things I think are true, but I'm not too confident on:
  1. As the entire internet thinks: Daniel is Starbuck's father.
  2. As the entire internet thinks: The Colony is not a planet, but the sub-luminal ship the FF used to get from Earth to the colonies.
  1. Daniel is still alive on The Colony
  2. Someone we still don't know about has been orchestrating some events, such as activating the FF and the "angels"/"head chip people"

  1. Starbuck, Baltar, Lee, and the Agathon family (Helo, Sharon, and Hera) are still alive when the series ends.
  2. Pregnant Six and her baby die before the finale.
  3. Adama, Tory, Tyrol, and Cavill die in the finale (though it is possible at that point Tory and Tyrol will have access to ressurrection)
  4. Notice I didn't say whether Rosslyn would be alive or dead when the show ends.
  5. What I really want to see is Tory and Tyrol get their memories restored. Tory's memories revive her love for Tyrol, and she confesses to killing Cally, which causes a great deal of internal conflict for Tyrol, who now again feels his love for Tory. /headspin

And my overarching theory:

Daniel Prime is alive on The Colony (which the Final Five fitted with a jump drive while developing the 8 skinjobs). He has been following the fleet the entire time (most likely via some ability to track Starbuck) and orchestrating events where he could to stymie his brother, with the goal of ultimately driving events to cause John Cavil's destruction/failure and carry out his mother's dream of "breaking the cycle" of human/cylon violence. He intends to break the cycle by replacing both races with a human/cylon hybrid race that follows the One True God.

Daniel on The Colony is responsible for the "head chip people" (the "head Six" that constantly haunts Baltar, etc.)* and a number of other unexplained events that guided/saved the Fleet. He "activated" the FF with All Along the Watchtower, and he is fully responsible for what's going on with Starbuck and her Viper. He's been sort of a benevolent secret presence the entire time, just has Cavil has secretly been a malevolent presence behind the scenes.

Finale plot prediction:

My original thought was that the show would end with The Colony leading everyone (our Fleet and Cavil's) to a new inhabitable planet, and then everyone who survived the confrontation would crashland or otherwise become stranded on this planet together. Then the show leaves our characters stranded on the planet to forge a new human/cylon hybrid society together. The Galactica is destroyed during this battle and Admiral Adama goes down with it. He has no place in a peaceful society, and he really has checked-out on the possibilities of his own happiness or the value of his own life. Right now he is living only to make sure everyone else is taken care of. Once that burden is gone, he would collapse anyway.

But recent developments, particularly the restructuring of the Quorum to be ship-based and the integration of Cylon living metal into the frame of the Galactica makes me think that the writers are planning more long-term. Instead of finding a new home planet, the Human/Rebel Cylon fleet will destroy the "evil" Cylons in a final battle, then be left to wander the universe for the indefinite future in their now-immortal fleet (thanks to the living ship materials), building the hybrid race and society for presumably thousands of years into the future until they find a new planet.

*The "angels" that appeared to the FF back on Earth to warn them of the apocalypse were either unrelated or were generated by The Colony (I'm assuming The Colony was the original ship that brought the 13th Tribe from Kobol to Earth, not some construct of the FF).

We have now established that I am a giant geek. Carry on.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ulduar Item Level

I recently stumbled upon this thread from a few days ago about the ilevel of gear from Ulduar. In summary:

Naxx10 < Naxx 25 = Uld 10 < Uld 25

I have no problem with the first and last parts of the equation (well, OK, I do). It's the middle that gets my goat.

My first reaction was shock. What are they thinking? Why would anyone run uld10 more than once (except maybe for the new tier8 models) when they could just pug 15 more people and get equivalent gear from naxx25 much more easily (and likely already have)? I had thought that Blizzard was serious about making 10-man raiding a legitimate alternative path, but instead they appear to consider it an afterthought or a ghetto for "casual losers" or something. It doesn't seem right that no matter how good you are at 10-man raiding, your gear will never surpass that of the most addled, leeching scrub to ever get carried by a cruddy 25-man guild.

I'm not at all saying that uld10 should give rewards as good as uld25. I'm also not saying that uld10 should drop gear a full tier higher than what drops in naxx25. What I'm suggesting is that uld10 be at least a minor upgrade over naxx25, and the gear gap between the tiers be reduced. At naxx level, the gear gap is nonsensical considering the ease of naxx25. At the ulduar level and beyond, a full tier gear gap only acts as a barrier to entry for new raiders and leaves no incentive for 25-man guilds to do 10-man runs on the side.

What I'm asking for is, instead of this:

Naxx10: ilevel 200
Naxx25: ilevel 213
Uld10: ilevel 213
Uld25: ilevel 226

Do this:

Naxx10: ilevel 200
Naxx25: ilevel 213
Uld10: ilevel 219
Uld25: ilevel 226

Bam. Suddenly, you've given an incentive for 25-man guilds to run Uld 10 on the side for minor upgrades to help them do Uld25 without requiring it by making the Uld10 gear a tier higher. Yes, the best-geared 25 man guilds will STOMP uld10 for upgrades. So what? They are minor upgrades for only certain slots, and they can only do it once a week anyway (and all the better if "hard modes" are based more on skill than gear). 25-man guilds could just as easily ignore Uld10, instead spending every raid night working toward much better best-in-slot and prestige items from Uld25. Meanwhile, raiders focused on 10-mans would still find minor upgrades over their easily-pugged Naxx25 pieces.

And while you're at it, tune the instance to be extremely challenging to a group in full Naxx10 gear, so those of us with some Naxx25 don't just blow through it.


I could see how some could not like this idea, and I'm open to the fact that it's a matter of opinion. For me, the idea that some terribad scrub who got carried through 25s would have gear that is statistically equivalent to the Ulduar 10 gear that I'm anticipating will be a whole lot harder to obtain . . . it's hard to accept. I'm never going to join a 25-man guild again, because they all inevitably lead to drama, loot whoring, power mongering, and recruitment of leeching idiots or drama queens just to fill spots. My small 10-man guild is a tight-knit group of friends with the same basic attitudes, and we make the most elite group of raiding mercenaries I've ever seen outside of a hardcore 25-man guild like Ensidia. Who else do you know that successfully earned an Amani War Bear without ever setting foot in a tier 6 instance? We're on the brink of Sarth 3D 10 man even though we have little 25-man loot. Sure we aren't as devoted or experienced as the people who cleared that stuff a few weeks after the xpac launched. They deserve some props for their accomplishment. But I think we deserve at least some reward for being a small group of excellent raiders. We should not be merely equally geared to people who either don't give a crap about raiding or aren't capable of learning and just get carried through the easiest raids ever put into the game.

Anyway, I can see that making each 10-man tier of the same ilevel as the previous tier of 25 man content will start to make more sense down the road. It's just wonky right now because naxx 25 is so ridonkulously easy. I'm going to feel less insulted when my Icecrown10 gear (or whatever tier 9 is) matches the other guys' Uld25 gear, because hopefully clearing Uld25 will actually mean something, instead of being the trivial cluster&%$* of naxx25.

And since uld25 is tuned for naxx25 gear and uld10 is tuned for naxx10, at least uld25 will actually be harder than uld10, unlike how it's the other way around for most of naxx. If the difficulty is actually harder, then it makes sense for better gear to drop. Just having to corral 15 more people for naxx is an added hassle, but it's not enough to justify an entire tier of gear. Sorry.

As I've said in the past, my favorite solution is to mix the tiers a bit more. I previously proposed that the first 2 bosses in each wing of naxx keep dropping gear of the current ilevel, but the end bosses of each wing drop gear from a tier higher (like KT does). That reduces the gap between the tiers while still giving the 25ers the best-in-slot gear and the prestige. But it equalizes things more because if you are able to beat the tougher bosses in 10, at least you can keep up with those scrubs who can only farm the easy bosses in 25. Meanwhile, non-fail 25 man groups have an exclusive tier to themselves, but only as a reward for actual success at harder content.

Happily, I anticipate that Blizzard will be using a similar concept, only instead of dividing the gear by boss, they'll instead be rolling the better gear into the "hard-mode" concept. Most of the bosses in Uld have variable levels of difficulty. It looks like we'll end up seeing exactly what I was asking for: the weaker 10-man players (unable to do hard modes) at the bottom, with good 10-man players stepping up (by clearing 10-man hard modes) to be evenly geared with weak 25-man raiders (who can't do the hard modes) and the then the best 25-man raid guilds getting the prestige items for 25-man hard modes.

Sounds great to me. So, I'll wait for more specific information before I have a tantrum and threaten to boycott Ulduar. But please, please Blizzard, don't blow this by giving skilled Uld10 raiders gear that's merely equal to what illiterate comatose amputee chimps can faceroll for in naxx 25.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How to Play Rogue PvP: Mutilate/Prep Beginners Guide

/begin guide

Select clothie. Cheap Shot, Mutilate, Eviscerate. Move on to next clothie.

/end guide

Just Kidding! You might sometimes use Kidney Shot too!

Today I'll focus on Battlegrounds with a Mutilate/Prep spec, since it's what I've been doing lately. This is a guide for relative beginners, so don't think you're smart if you say in the comments "lol u didnt no abut [obscure advanced move x]! nubcake!"


First, I recommend speccing 41/5/25. It's aimed at pumping each Mutilate's damage as high as I can get it, and gaining energy to put out Mutilates faster, particularly in tandem with openers and finishers. Mutilate's damage was nerfed a bit in a recent patch, so other specs are starting to come into favor, such as Combat-based specs or Hemo Shadowstep specs, but I still found Mut/Prep to be very effective in BGs.

Most of the points here I'd consider non-negotiable. Yes, you want Two-Handed Weapon Specialization (Since Mutilate hits with both hands, this talent also increases the damage of your main attack). In the Subtlety tree, you can mix-and-match a bit with Elusiveness and Serrated Blades. In the Assassination tree, I put my optional points in Vile Poisons, Improved Kidney Shot, and Focused Attacks. You could just as easily prefer Ruthlessness, Blood Spatter, Quick Recovery (definitely take this over Imp. KS if you will be grouped with a healer!), or Deadened Nerves.

Glyph for Eviscerate, Vigor, and Prep (allowing for chain Dismantles).

The best thing about this spec is that it focuses all of your talent points into a small number of abilities that you will use in almost every fight, and doesn't waste much on peripheral moves. Not only do you spend a lot of points on buffing Mutilate and energy regen for more Mutilates, but you also stack bonuses that reduce the cost of the opening Cheap Shot (Overkill and Dirty Deeds) and buff your primary finishers (Eviscerate and Kidney Shot).

Also, don't skimp on the points in Master of Deception, Camoflauge, or Heightened Senses in the Subtlety tree. I know they don't seem glamorous, but being able to spot and outmaneuver other stealthers before they see you has untold value in PvP. Without these talents, prepare to be opened on by other rogues and druids ALL THE TIME. It won't be fun. You might also consider enchants or items that buff your stealth (not at the cost of too much damage, mind you) or the engineering goggles, which give you an edge in detection.


Two slow daggers are probably best for big Mutilates, but you can have a faster offhand without much loss due to the increased poison procs. Go for a 1.8 or 1.7 speed mainhand and a 1.8-1.5 speed offhand. The badge dagger works for offhand, and you can search daggers on wowhead to see where you can best pick up a mainhand. Since slow daggers are terrible for Mutilate raiding, it should be easy to pick up a nice slow dagger from raids.

Enchants are up to you (but you want an enchant). +50 AP is a strong option that is extremely cheap. If you want to splurge, Berserking and Mongoose are also strong, and +26 agility is another contender. As long as you have at least 5% +hit from gear, don't bother with Accuracy. I'm sorry to say I have no clue if Icebreaker is any good, I never risked the cash to try it.

Generally, put Wound Poison on both hands. Unless you spec deep into Improved Poisons, it averages out to more damage than Instant Poison (due to having a higher chance to apply) and includes the supremely useful healing reduction debuff. Unlike Instant, it also applies a poison debuff to the target that buffs your Mutilate damage. There's no need to use Crippling, as you have a talent, Deadly Brew, that causes Wound and Mind-Numbing poisons to also apply Crippling. If you expect to fight a lot of casters, you can go with Mind-Numbing on one weapon, but I generally don't bother in Battlegrounds. Casters are usually your easiest kills anyway, and Wound procs off your Mutilates will up your burst damage considerably.


First, stay stealthed whenever you don't need to be mounted. Get a lay of the land and choose your targets carefully: your stealth is your main defense! If you get caught out in the open, you are an easy HK, especially if your cooldowns are down. Remember that in the current environment, everyone, including you, dies in just a few seconds.

Your bread-and-butter opener is going to be Cheap Shot followed by Mutilate. This will give you 5 combo points. At this point, you have two options. If their health is low, you can Eviscerate (hit Cold Blood first for extra laughs! Generally, save Cold Blood for 5-point Eviscerates rather than Mutilates). If you need to keep them under control, use Kidney Shot just before Cheap Shot wears off. You want to have as much energy as possible saved up before you use the KS, because afterwards you have 6 seconds to unleash on your opponent before they wake up very, very cranky. Mutilate, Mutilate, Evis. If they aren't dead yet, you should probably worry.

I've had some good results with Ambushes on clothies, but in most situations the stun is more valuable, especially since our Ambush isn't fully talented.

Once you are out in the open or your stuns wear off, you have a number of tools at your disposal to stay alive. Keep your Vanish, Blind, Dismantle, Evasion, and Cloak of Shadows in mind at all times, and through practice learn when to use them. Blind is great to get someone off you while you finish off their friend. Evasion and dismantle are your main defenses against other melee. Vanish is your escape button. Try to learn how to use it pre-emptively, when you are about to be attacked. If you wait to long, you're probably going to get stunned and/or killed before you get another chance to hit the button. Cloak of Shadows probably has the most diverse uses. Get used to popping it just before a Vanish to clear off DoTs that might break you back out of stealth. Learn the right moment to hit it just before a Mage unloads fiery pain on your ass, but save it against warlocks until after they've applies their dots. It can also give you the edge in a head-to-head battle against a DK by removing his diseases. A more advanced move is to use it when first engaging a paladin, because it makes you immune to their stun, but you have to be able to predict ahead of time when they will use it (luckily, most use it at the beginning of the fight if it's off cooldown).

After your opener, you have a two options: fight of flight. You can either continue working on your current target and/or moving on to a nearby target without restealthing, or find a way to restealth. Keep in mind you are likely going to need to use some cooldowns to survive more than a few seconds out in the open against any opponent whom you do not have currently stunned. Most classes have the burst damage and defenses needed take you out before you can finish them if the stun wears off. Alternatively, you can run away from someone you've just killed and wait for yourself to drop out of combat so you can restealth without using Vanish, but this method is risky. Still, I tend to use it a lot. Interestingly, in a 1v1 situation you can drop combat and restealth while your opponent is Blinded, which is a very strong way to bandage yourself and restealth for another Cheap Shot or Ambush (provided the opponent doesn't trinket out of it). If you've just finished an opponent (or barely scratched them during the stunlock) and need to run away before they or their friends can retaliate, just pop Vanish and reset the situation so you can pick a better target or move on to a less dangerous location.

Also, get a 2-minute PvP trinket. You'll need it for 3 things: Fear, Stuns, and Blind. It will literally save your life against warlocks if you can break their fear and respond with a Cloak/Vanish/CS or Blind to get back in melee range. You give yourself a fighting chance against Paladins if you can trinket their stun FAST. Against a fellow rogue, save your trinket for the Kidney Shot (rather than the shorter Cheap Shot) and immediately Vanish/CS if you can. Against other rogues, the fight is all about who is most effective with their stuns, and Vanish/CS is key in this matchup. Against rogues I know to be skilled, I'll often open with CS/Rupture to prevent them from Vanishing and turning the fight around on me.

And thus ends my beginners guide to rogue PvP. Now get out there and kill people so bad they start threads on the general forums calling for rogues to be nerfed!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't Qeue For Battlegrounds Unless You Are A Rogue, Paladin, Or Death Knight. Also, Paladins Are Brokenly Overpowered.

This weekend I had recoverd from my physical illness, but in its place I found I had, out of nowhere, caught the PvP bug. Usually, I'm content to just raid, run dungeons, or grind levels/professions/rep. But every once in a while, I just want to crit a clothie in the spine. I specced the cookie-cutter Mutilate/Prep build and hopped into BG after BG in my raid gear.

By now, I've heard months of complaints throughout this internet, about how burst damage is king in WoW PvP. I'm here to tell you: everyting you heard is absolutely true.

Now I want to give this next point space, because it's important, and I really, really mean it:

Don't enter a Battleground unless you are a rogue, paladin, or death knight.

Without resilience, fights uniformly last a matter of seconds. Unless you are in good plate, I will kill you during my stunlock. If you survive, it's entirely possible you will kill me in 2 globals if you can just get out of melee range for a second. Yesterday, I popped out of stealth and killed a priest, mage, and druid before any of the three of them could react to me being there. I've been killed by hunters in 3 shots from range before my computer even had time to render them at that range. It's a frakking circus out there (sorry, BSG marathon yesterday).

But it's not a sign of massive game imbalances for which we should personally burn Ghostcrawler in effigy or whatever. It's simply an unintended, but unavoidable, result of the game's reliance on every-improving gear. You don't need resilience to level, so most people start up their pvp experience with little to no resilience. The people who spent all their badges on blue pvp gear probably don't exist, and most others aren't willing to trade in their naxx epics for blue crafted pvp gear, especially when naxx 25 epics are (ludicrously) easier to get than a pile of badges or the mats for the crafted sets.

And this isn't some dev error: it's innate to the game's design that you can't start everyone out in high-resilience gear, or else they will have nothing to shoot for. So every new expansion cycle will begin, as TBC did, with Burst City followed by OMG I'm CCed and Soon I'm Dead leading to a finale of Wow This Arena Match Is Lasting A Long Time And That Druid Keeps Humping That Pillar. Mark my words. Which classes are on top this time will follow almost the same arc they did in TBC, because it's innate to how the class design interacts with resilience. It's only slightly different this time because DKs are new and Ret paladins are stronger than they were.

The only reason Warriors aren't dominating like they did in S1 of TBC is because the rogue version of MS (Wound Poison) has been changed to be much more competitive with the ol' MS debuff. This is also the only time in arenas except for that brief spell of AR/Prep where rogues could combine burst damage and the surivability of Prep in one spec. Since warriors were just brought for the MS debuff before, and now rogues are much more appealing, warriors have fallen out of favor. Wait a few months and I bet Intercept, Hamstring, and plate will start to seem a lot more appealling than a guy in leather who runs out of cooldowns after 30 seconds.

So anyway, everyone is running around in BGs in either quested greens/blues or raid epics, which means 99% percent of the people you run into are going to go squish if you look at them funny, especially if you're the one, like me, running around in raid epics.

It's obvious which classes will thrive in this environment: the 3 classes that combine instant attacks (lol @ cast-times), foolproof defenses, and burst damage.

Many classes have instant attacks and burst damage, but none have the level of self-defense possessed by rogues, paladins and death knights.

Paladins are flat-out criminal in one-on-one pvp. (The devs consider themselves immune to criticism on this because they only design around group pvp, which is a bit of a cop-out considering how much everyone loves 1v1 duels and how much people invest in their characters as their own personal avatars, but that's getting a bit off-topic. People want to play that way, whether you balance it or not.) Sure, they can be kited, despite their ability to dispel and flat-out ignore snares - that is, if you survive through their ranged, instant stun or their FULL IMMUNITY BUBBLE, which you won't, because they have the most on-demand burst in the game: just hit 3-4 buttons in a row, each for a big chunk of direct damage, some of which cuts through armor. No setups from stealth. No combo points. No need to generate rage. No need to wait for DoT tickes or cast times. No need to waste two globals stacking diseases. Just walk up and BAM BAM BAM. They may have been nerfed, but they are broken. Without even getting into the fact that they wear plate and have instant self-heals.

Rogues have a wide array of excellent defensive cooldowns and tend to spec for Preparation for PvP, which doubles their ability to use them. Combine this with the fact that they have the ability to become invisible and untargetable and you have quite a recipe for survivability. They can also kill you during a stunlock, though this takes a lot more setup than a paladin stun. It requires melee range, an opener from stealth, and has the opportunity cost of preventing you from using Ambush, then requires 5 combo points for the Kidney Shot, along with energy that keeps you from using other moves. Paladins can just stun you at will, with zero prep. Doesn't seem right when rogues are supposed to be built around stuns, while the stun seems more like an afterthought on the paladin, who's built around bubbles and heals that the rogue doesn't have. And their stuns may use mana, but unless the paladin is running on empty, that won't prevent him from immediately unleashing any other chain of attacks of his choosing.

Oh, sorry, did I start talking about how broken paladins are again? Oops.

As for Death Knights, their stun is more limited (it's on the ghoul, and not all specs even have it on-demand), but they make up for it with excellent survivability: about 3 mini-bubbles (with a full selection of CC immunities built-in) with almost no opportunity cost (a warrior would give his left axe for just one of these), plate, and instant self-healing rivaled only by paladins and shaman. Though they actually require set-up time to put up diseases (and pay a high opportunity cost for their snare) DKs match paladins in burst damage potential because they can cut their global cooldown from 1.5 to 1 second, getting off more strikes in less time, with some of the damage cutting through armor. They can also use hax to remove HoTs.

Warriors have instant attacks and burst damage, but have zero defenses aside from a weak self-heal. The most skilled will whip out their shield in the right circumstances, but there goes the burst damage. Paladins give up little for their survivability and in return have far and away the best, while rogues give up nearly nothing (slowed run speed) and death knights sacrifice nothing for their surivability.

The other classes are just too vulnerable. With the amount of burst damage available to every single class, you can't afford to be out in the open alone without an immunity bubble or the full array of the DK cooldowns and self-heals.

Going into a BG if you aren't one of these 3 classes is just begging for frustration and misery as you die while stunned over and over or see your health cut in half before you even realize you've been Death Gripped. I would say don't bother, except I really need you clothies to keep qeueing up so I have some easy targets to get giant Mutilate crits on. So on second thought, only qeue up if you are NOT a rogue, paladin, or DK. Thanks!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unintended Consequences

I've been in bed rather than at the keyboard this week. Still not 100% better (and have a lot of RL catching-up to concentrate on), but noticed 2 things while catching up on the week's news that caught my eye. Warning, theorycraft incoming.

1. Death Knight strikes do a percent of weapon damage along with a flat bit of extra damage per disease on the target. Some wiseguys on EJ figured out that with good gear, you can actually gain dps by not using diseases. Just spec 51/0/20 Blood and spam Obliterate x2, Heart Strike x2 over and over. The scaling weapon damage on the extra Oblit per cycle outweighs the disease damage. Obviously, this isn't intended, as Ghostcrawler admits. It seems obvious that making the disease bonus scale by a percentage is a good solution, but they started out that way in beta and were changed because it made them too strong. I can't recall, but maybe it was just that the percentages were too high or something. If scaling the bonus isn't the answer, then I guess upping disease damage is?

2. Rogues got a sudden and unexpected nerf/buff in a mini-patch this week. The ability Mutilate had it's damage reduced by a few percentage points (reducing the poison bonus from 50% to 30% looks misleadingly big, but it's actually a much smaller percentage of Mut's overall damage). In return, Hunger for Blood and Slice n Dice got buffed, resulting in an overally damage buff to all raid specs, but a nerf to pvp burst. The interesting part to me is that Combat got a flat 10% haste buff with Slice n Dice (yay!), but the increased attack speed is having some unintended consequences. It's furthering the gap between fast and slow weapons. Now, the 1.4 speed Webbed Death has pulled into Best In Slot for both hands for Mutilate builds (Sinister Revenge, which is a tier higher in dps, used to be competitive for one of the slots, but isn't any longer), creating what I would consider a gearing crisis for Assassination builds that needs to be addressed in 3.1, either by normalizing poison damage to weapon speed or by making more daggers fast.

Even more hilarious, just this one tiny change of adding 10% to SnD upped the damage contribution of poisons so much that even Combat, which has traditionally favored the slowest mainhand possible, is looking to dual-wield fast weapons (one of them, of course, being Webbed Death). Theorycrafting is finding that the max achievable dps is to eschew the formerly Best In Slot 171 dps Calamity's Grasp and replace it with a 156 dps (a tier lower!) Webbed Death and keep Hailstorm in the offhand. Then respec to 18/51/2 to buff Instant Poison, put IP on the offhand (Wound Poison on the mainhand), and spam Shiv for combo points instead of Sinister Strike. That's why you want a sword in the offhand rather than a dagger: because swords have better AP scaling with Shiv. The extra poison damage from the faster weapons and the Shiv applying Instant Poison would actually outweigh the missing Sinister Strike damage!



Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Laziness: more 3.1 class changes, I'm sick

Your getting junk from me today because my sinuses feel like someone stuck hot pokers in them and my throat is filled with styrafoam peanuts. If posting is a little light for a few days next week, now you know why.

  • 3.1 on EU PTRs! No one has gotten on them yet, but prepare for a massive influx of new infoz this weekend.
  • Ammo is basically gone. Seriously. I thought this was fake until I read the blue post. Now you just buy one magic bullet/arrow and you are set until you find another, better bullet/arrow.
  • Replenishment: a few days ago, I posted a suggestion that mages and warlocks should get replenishment on one of their specs. Yesterday, it was announced that mages and warlocks get replenishment. Coincidence?
I'm being kicked out of work by my boss because he's afraid I'll spread the plague to him, so I'll see y'all next week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

3.1 Class Change Preview Explodes My Brain

Excerpt from the Book of Uldalamadingdong, Chapter 4, Verses 1 and 2:
"And lo, in the 5th day of the 2nd month of the year aught-nine, there came a great voice from the heavens, and that voice said: 'Thou art blessed in mine eyes, and I shalt bestow upon thee yon list of awesome buffs that shalt rocketh your face. BEHOLD!'

And the faces of the players were verily rocked, and the players looked upon the list of buffs, and yea, most saw that it was good, and there was much rejoicing, except for some trolls under a bridge somewhere who still found something to whine about on the General Forums because they were abused as children."
So it was written, and so it has come to pass. Amen.

Patch 3.1 Class Changes preview has been posted (as linked above: part 1 and part 2). So far changes for Rogues, Warriors, Druids, Warlocks, Priests, and Shaman(s?) have been announced. Keep in mind that these are not the only changes in store for those classes, or for the game in general. They are just a sampling of what the devs are working on, and could change/disappear at any time. So I'm not celebrating these as buffs just yet, and I'm certainly not going to assume they suck because my pet change was left out or they could be further improved upon. Let's wait and see. What I am celebrating is that major buffs and fixes to broken mechanics are on the minds of the devs, and are one major step closer to seeing the light of day! Hallelujah!

I'm not going to list all of the changes, just some of my opinions/reactions. First, non-rogues.

  • First and foremost: WARLOCKS GET REPLENISHMENT! You can see me ask for this a few days ago here. This definitely indicates that they are planning to spread replenishment out a big more. Even better, 4 classes haven't even had their changes announced, including mages and hunters, so it's possible we'll see this "mandatory" buff a lot more often in smaller groups and raids.
  • Warriors get partly fixed by having their stance-changing penalties reduced, and perhaps the drawbacks of some stances removed. This is big, whether or not it goes beyond simply saving rage. Warrior stances desperately needed an overhaul, especially in comparison to DK presences.
  • Sunder Armor is no longer as game-breaking. The armor debuff blew all other melee buffs out of the water, and now it's been nerfed in effectiveness while enemy armor has been reduced to compensate. Very nice for raids that don't have warriors. The rogue counterpart, Expose Armor, requires way too much sacrifice to use; hopefully this will be changed now as well.
  • Great fixes to Shaman talents that didn't make sense formerly. Enhancers get threat reduction on their spells now (which are most of their damage nowadays) and Unleashed Rage costs 2 talent points instead of 5. Now it's more on par with the DK version.
  • For a long time, Bear Druids have been complaining about how few stats they care about compared to other tanks (since they don't need defense, and parry and shield stats are useless to them). Blizz did exactly what I was hoping they would (in fact, I wish I had posted my idea so I could say I called it!): they made the stats already on their gear desirable for mitigation. Wrath has no tanking leather, so bear druids were basically using rogue gear gemmed for stamina. That gear is loaded with things like agility, AP, and crit rating. I was hoping the devs would somehow make these stats useful for bears. They took it one step further. They basically used those stats to give bears a shield so they function more like warriors and paladins than before. On ability crits, bears get a one-shot damage shield that is based on their attack power. Perfect.
  • Priests: the spirit buff is now a baseline ability, and Discipline gets an aoe shield in it's place! Zounds!
And now for Rogues:
  • Hunger for Blood made less punishing to use. It's not yet clear exactly how this change works, but my interpretation is that they buffed the damage and stopped it from stacking (so if it falls off, you only have to reapply 1 buff instead of 3 stacks of it), and in exchange forced you to open with garrote and use rupture regularly (or raid with a fury warrior or feral druid or anything that does a lot of bleeds) to keep the buff up. Seems like a nice improvement to me, I know I hated playing Mutilate because of how much mental space it took to keep HfB up, making it a lot harder to raid-lead. Seems like a flat-out buff to raiding with the drawback only there to keep it from becoming a PvP burst talent.
  • Killing Spree or as EJ calls it, "NinjaStorm", does 20% more damage. Adrenaline Rush and Savage Combat also buffed to help bring the combat tree into parity with other DPSers. Great little changes all around here
  • Mace Spec has haste added, presumably to make it finally competitive with the other specs. There's rumors of more haste and arPen changes coming down the pike, so this may be even better than it looks.
And the Big One: Lightning Reflexes reduced to 3 points for the same effect, and adds 10% melee haste at 3 points. The fallout for this one is quite complicated. Before, most Combat builds had 4 loose "filler" points available to put into non-dps talents. For those builds, this is currently a flat-out buff to dps at the expense of utility. However, fist/sword builds used those 4 points in Sword Specialization. Now, 3 of those points must go into LR, making the fist/sword combo no longer viable for 99% of rogues (there is a rare border case where it works).

This is a bad idea. The far-and-away best mainhands for Combat rogues are fists: Calamity's Grasp and Kel'Thuzad's Reach. Right now, the strongest Combat offhand is Hailstorm with a Fist/Sword spec, followed closely by a Webbed Death without the points in swords. The problem here is that Webbed Death is also the best weapon for Mutilate rogues, and in some cases they actually need two of them. So basically the easiest boss in Naxx 25 drops the best-in-slot weapon for all types of rogues, and now Mut rogues have to compete with Combat rogues for the one good dagger while offhand swords get sharded. Not a good idea.

A few easy fixes:
  • Remove the Improved Sinister Strike talent and fold it into the move itself, making its base cost 40.
  • Reduce the cost of Aggression to 3 points for the same effect
  • Add a competitive mainhand sword or offhand 1.5 speed dagger to the game, perhaps as an Emblem of Valor item or to replace the pointless slow dagger in the Naxx 25 loot table
  • If you really don't want us combining two weapon specs, modify Mutilate so they don't care about weapons speed and actually want those slow daggers again.

We'll see what other changes make it into the patch, but so far they are moving in the right direction. /cheer

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wait . . . What? WoW is Illegal in Australia?

So WoWInsider today pointed me to this Massively article revealing that every copy of WoW so far sold Down Under was actually illegal. Apparently, game ratings in Australia are not voluntary like they are here in the US. Since WoW (and most other MMOs) never applied for nor received ratings from the Aussie government, they are not supposed to be legally sold there.

I'm very interesed in the chain of events here. Apparently, no one in Australia had noticed this was a problem for all these years that WoW has been on the shelves selling like gangbusters. Then, Massively's Tateru Nino somehow catches on to this and starts working on an expose [sorry, can't figure out how to make an e with an accent mark]. Nino contacts the Australian government, effectively alerting them to the fact that WoW can't be legally sold. It appears that as a direct result of Nito's article, the internet at large and the Australian mainstream news picked up on the story.

So basically, WoW sales were chugging along peacefully, with no accusations of criminality, until Nito's "investigative journalism" got everyone in trouble. I wonder if Nito was also the kid who reminded the teacher just before the bell that she had forgotten to give homework.

The punishment for selling a single copy of an unrated computer game is AU$27,220.80. There have been a lot of copies of WoW sold in Australia. I seriously doubt the government is just going to let that kind of revenue go, especially in our current financial climate. Don't expect some sort of safe harbor period for MMOs to submit applications to be rated before anyone gets fined. The only question in my mind is: precisely who will be fined? Blizzard, gaming stores, or store employees? Tateru's article explores this question, but doesn't answer it.

Hope things get worked out for you soon, Australians!

UPDATE: Tateru Nino follows up on Massively: no action has been taken against sellers of these games, and there are no signs that there will be. This is great news, and I'm very happy to be wrong! I'm very cynical about politicians. :)

It sounds like the fallout has been pretty limited, and the games are still on shelves. And it sounds like Nino's main intent was to expose the flaws in the ratings system and its oversight, which, as the article suggests, will hopefully lead to these "unrated" games being integrated legally into the system or see the system overhauled. There are also apparently a number of single-player games with rating labels that were, in fact, never reviewed by the ratings board at all!

In response to the more thorough explanation in this new Massively post, I'd like to apologize for my snide remarks to Nino.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ghostcrawler, Replenishment Should NOT Be Mandatory

Sorry Ghostcrawler, but this is bull.

That links to a post where the developer flat-out announces that the buff "replenishment" (which gives bonus mana regen to a portion of the raid) is required for raiding. So after all that talk of "bring the player not the class", it comes down to this. It's obviously wildly hypocritical, but they don't want to bother to fix it.

Why is it hypocritical? Because replenishment is only available from a tiny subset of a small group of classes. There are 30 talent trees in the game. Only 3 of them offer replenishment. 2 of those are rare-in-raids dps specs of classes that can also heal and/or tank (preist and paladin). Shadow priests are known to be weak right now, and I can't remember the last time I saw one. Ret Paladins are PvP monsters, but you don't see them as much in raids because they are too busy killing people during a stunlock (something that isn't possible for most rogues, a class built around stuns who also don't have plate or an invincibility shield, but I digress) in arenas and BGs. Until the most recent patch, Survival hunters were also rare because Beast Mastery was universally acknowledged to be the dominant spec. Recently, Survival was buffed to come out ahead, which helps a bit.

In fact, my guild was without replenishment until that patch got our hunter to respec from BM. Right now, we are small, focused 10-man raiding guild. We have no paladin, one hunter, and one priest (who is one of our 2 most depended-upon healers, loves healing, and hates shadow). If not for the buff to Survival, we would have been put in a lose/lose situation. We don't want to recruit someone we don't like (in fact, we have no desire to recruit a stranger into our close group of friends at all!), but we also don't want to be gimped on every raid encounter because the devs had to make replenishment so rare.

But basically, GC just said "Sorry, 10 man raids, but you have to bring at least one of these to your raid. What if you have no hunters and are relying on your palading to tank and preist to heal? Well tough luck, you're screwed, and frankly we don't care. In fact, we intend for you to be screwed. Remember that whole thing we said about bringing players and not classes? Well we didn't really mean it. Now get to work recruiting a terrible, annoying player who happens to be a Ret paladin, and stop whining to me on these forums about how this is hypocritical."


Sure, there are many other buffs limited to a small subset of specs. But hey, guess what? None of those are required!

GC, if you and your development team are really serious about allowing replenishment to be "mandatory", you have to extend it to a wider variety of specs. You don't have to give it to an entire class, and you don't have to give every spec of the current classes the buff if you don't want to. You just need to make it so the buff isn't languishing on 2 obscure dps variants of healing/tanking classes and in one tree of three for hunters. Having just 3 our of 30 specs provide the buff is too punishing to ten-man groups. There is absolutely no reason not to either add the buff to other classes in one tree each, or to give the ability to more trees within the current classes that have it. Make them deep, expensive talents if you want.

If you don't want to spread them out to much, here's what I'd suggest as a compromise, in 3 simultaneous steps:

1) Give replenishment to all hunter specs. Make it a deep tree talent in all of them.
2) Leave replenishment on Shadow priests and Ret paladins
3) Give replenishment to some more widely-used dps specs: warlocks (either Affliction or Demonology) and mages (Arcane)

Suddenly, instead of 3 our of 30 specs, you've got a much more palatable 7 of 30. And you'll notice I went out of my way to make them "make sense" (warlocks sucking mana, arcane mages giving out mana, all the classes I suggested use mana themselves).

Update: WoWInsider agrees. In fact, a randomly-selected 10-man raid currently has a full 40% chance of not having a single replenisher.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dale the Game Mechanic

Dale is a goblin mechanic who works in his inventions in his own gigantic garage. The garage has very high ceilings (easier to test explosives!). It is rectangular, with the garage doors on either short end, and the long walls lined with a variety of engines, each with giant exhaust pipes sticking into the room.

Listen, it doesn't have to make sense. Just roll with it.

Equidistant from the doors and each other are two large square metal plates on the floor. These plates are actually the tops of big hydraulic lifts (like what your mechanic uses to lift your car in the air so he can work under it more easily). The one closer to your entrance starts level with the ground, and contains a few gun turrets in various states of repair. The other one is a few feet off the ground, and holds a tank. The kind with armor and treads and cannons. Under that platform is Dale, working away on the tank. Since he's working on it, one of the treads has been removed and the tank will remain stuck on the lift for the entirety of the fight.

When Dale sees your raid enter, he puts on a gas mask and mounts two fans on his shoulders. He pulls out a remote control and hits a button, starting all of the engines along the walls. This fight has a built-in soft timer. There is no ventilation in the garage, so as the engines spit exhaust, the room slowly fills with exhaust. The exhaust puts a stacking debuff on everyone in the room, reducing max hp by 5% percent per stack and damage dealt by 20% (always 20% no matter how many stacks). A stack is added every 30 seconds. Eventually, your healers won't be able to keep the main tank or raid alive, but a better-geared or more-skilled raid will survive this longer (kind of like Gruul's growths). The stacking debuff also does a small amount of damage per stack. This ticks every 8 seconds (meaning you can fully bandage in between ticks, which is important).

Starting the engines begins phase 1.

Phase 1: On the ground.

Dale's fans blow the exhaust away from him, shielding him from the debuff. The fans are not strong enough to blow a player away. So the main tank and the melee get close to the boss. This puts a second debuff on them that negates the damage and the dps reduction from the exhaust (not the HP reduction) while they are in range of the boss. So there is an advantage to being in melee range of the boss.

However, the boss keeps laying down time bombs, forcing the tank to move him. Thus, it's not a good idea to keep your ranged dps or healers in melee range of the boss, since the constant movement will make them ineffective. Instead, they can stand still at range and eat the dot tick. At the same time, however, they'll have to deal with the engine exhaust pipes themselves.

These bombs also create their own smoke, which stacks with the exhaust. Every bomb that explodes unimpeded will add another stack to the exhaust! This could get out of control very quickly, which is why your offtank will have to throw himself on top of every bomb! Take one for the team! The bomb itself will be a large, flashing object. Mousing over it will give you the interaction "gear" symbol. Just right click it to throw your body over it and protect the group! A tank will be able to weather the bomb damage with heals. It's like tanking adds!

Every 20 seconds, a third of the pipes (selected randomly each time) will let out small streams of pre-exhaust, and the corresponding engine will expand visibly. A few seconds later, a jet of black smoke will blast out from these pipes. Unless you are in Dale's melee "fan bubble" of protection, being in the smoke jet will reduce your chance to hit and effectiveness of your heals by 75% and cause a few ticks of noticeable, but not necessarily deadly, damage. Thus the best strategy for the ranged and healers will be to move out of the way of these pipes when they are about to blow, to avoid the smoke. However, making a mistake and getting stuck in the smoke doesn't kill you, it just reduces your effectiveness and basically takes you out of the fight for a moment. It leaves plenty of opportunity to practice and learn during the fight, rather than dying early on and never learning how to do it (coughThaddiuscough).

This makes it the melee "burn phase", since the dps of the ranged is hampered.

And that's the first phase. Tank keeps moving the boss, melee chases him, and ranged/healers avoid smoke blasts from the engines.

Phase 2: The lifts

Every minute and 30 seconds, Dale will super-power his fans, blowing the melee out of range. He'll run to his tank and activate the hydraulic lifts. Your raid has a limited amount of time to get on the other lift (the one with the gun turrets). Both lifts will extend high into the air, leaving anyone who doesn't make it to the lift out of the fight for about a minute. They will be out of healer range, and have to rely on their own class abilities, potions, and bandages to stay alive. So a mistake here doesn't kill you, but it does reduce your ability to contribute to the group.

Oh, and by the way, don't fall off the lift. That will probably kill you.

When the lifts hit the top, Dale will emote that he is activating his Invincible Death Machine. A visible electric forcefield will appear around his tank, and he will begin firing upon your group as well as dropping bombs down onto the ground below (if you miss the lift, you can avoid these if you are paying attention). He'll basically be lobbing aoe missiles that nail one person hard at random, but do an aoe that hits everyone on the platform for minor damage. This will be a phase where aoe healing shines, while phase 1 is more focused on traditional tank healing with minor raid healing. He will be close enough for ranged dps to attack him. Also, the exhaust doesn't reach this high, so the debuff isn't a factor for this phase.

Your tank and any other melee climb into the turrets. They act as vehicles and regenerate their max 100 energy at a rate of 10 energy per second. Each has 3 abilities:

1) EMP grenade. 30 sec. cooldown. Costs 60 energy.
2) Anti-missile flares. 20 sec. cooldown. Costs 40 energy.
3) Machine-gun with no cooldown. Costs 20 energy

The EMP can deactivate his shield for 20 seconds, allowing the ranged dps to unload on him (this is their "burn phase"). The flares can decrease incoming damage to the raid to give the healers a break (stronger groups can forego these for greater turret machine gun dps). Since the EMP only works for 20 seconds but has a 30 second cooldown, the players on the turrets will have to trade off EMPs to keep the shield down. You can't just rely on one player on one turret to take care of it.

After a minute of this, the platforms retract to the ground, the turrets deactivate (and kick players off them), and phase 1 resumes as normal for 1:30. Rinse/repeat.

Variable rewards for variable difficulty:

Dale's tool chest contains the loot, but can only be opened once he's dead. However, the exhaust progressively damages the loot. The longer the fight takes, the fewer the number of usable items in his chest. Complete the fight in under 3 minutes in ten man (hard mode), and you get the normal 2 ilevel 200 items, 2 ilevel 213 items the usual 1 token of heroism, plus a bonus heroism token and a bonus valor token. Complete it in under 5 minutes to get a bonus heroism token and a bonus ilevel 213 item beyond the usual. Take over 5 minutes, and you only get the usual 2 ilevel 200 items and a heroism token.


So, what do you think?