Monday, November 16, 2009

Meme-ing it up as DPS

Joining in on this meme:

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary dps?

[name redacted], Death Knight, Unholy

What is your primary dpsing environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)

10-man raids, focusing on hard-mode progression.

What is your favorite dps spell/ability for your class and why?

Overall, I'd have to say Death Coil. As a melee class, being able to fire off ranged balls of death is quite nice.

Wandering Plague is a close second for the insane numbers it can put up in aoe situations.

What dps spell do you use least for your class and why?

Blood Boil, because I usually need that blood rune for something else, even in aoe situations (ie pest and D&D). It doesn't seem to have a strong niche, although sometimes it is certainly useful.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your dps class and why?

Flexibility. All three dps specs are viable and play differently, bringing different strengths to the table. Often raid spots are decided, especially in 10-mans, by which buffs you bring, and DKs offer the widest variety of them, depending on what you need. They have strong single-target and aoe dps, some ranged attacks, and strong defensive capabilities as well. They require the least babysitting of all the plate dps classes.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your dps class and why?

Diseases. The mechanic is a good idea in general, but sometimes it can definitely be a disadvantage to have to apply your diseases in order to do max dps, especially in short-term burst situations. Diseases also have their strengths, but I'd say that being dependent on them is our biggest weakness as well.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best dps assignment for you?

That's easy: let me focus on the boss while aoe-ing adds that are positioned near him. Being able to hit multiple targets makes my DPS soar, but the disease limitations also require me to have a long-term main target in order to really push my DPS. Clustering adds around a boss I am focusing is the best of both worlds for me.

What dps class do you enjoy dpsing with most and why?

DK. I have the most options, can help keep myself alive, and have the option to tank if my group needs it. DKs also have one of the more "fun" rotations because they use many different abilities. On my rogue, I just spammed Sinister Strike and rotated 3 finishers. My mage fires ABx4 then Mbarr. The interest and interactivity can't compare.

But most importantly, I get to run around in awesome-looking plate gear and hit things really hard with a giant axe!

What class do you enjoy dpsing with least and why?

Of the ones I have tried in a raid, I'd say Mutilate rogue. I hear they've fixed it since I retired my rogue, but babysitting Hunger for Blood while trying to keep up with when to use Envenom back in early Wrath was NOT FUN.

What is your worst habit as a dps?

Popping my cooldowns at the wrong time. Note to self: don't hit dps cooldowns just before a fear/big aoe/burrow phase.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while dpsing?

#1 pet peeve when interacting with people on the internet in general is the abuse of the words "gay" and "fag", and any kind of gay-bashing. I'm straight myself, but equating homosexuality with badness chafes me anyway.

If it has to be an in-game thing, I'd say that in pugs it's people who stand in bad shit, and in guild groups it's people who tune out the fight explanation, then after the wipe say "Oh, so I wasn't supposed to stand in the fire/dps the adds/go afk during phase 2?"

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other dps?

Yes. DKs are in a good place right now. We're on the upper end of the curve when gear and skill are held constant. Arcane Mages are insane right now, and maybe hunters are a little strong. But overall, we can compete with anyone else on the meters, and we bring some of the best utility and survivability to boot.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a dps?

I always have recount open, to make sure I'm performing well and the decisions I make are panning out. Beyond that, I want to know if the boss died without too much trouble and I compare my experiences with those of EJ posters.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your class?

That everyone who plays a DK sucks. Death Knights start at high level and have "cool" and "new" factor going for them. So EVERYONE has an alt DK. Very few people play one as their mains. So what you end up with is an unprecedented number of people playing a class who don't know what they are doing, don't have experience, and are poorly geared. So no wonder people get the impression that DKs are noobs. Everyone plays them, and most of those people play them casually as alts, and play them badly. Another factor is that it takes a certain type of player to excel as a melee dps, but when everyone is leveling a DK, you end up with ranged and healer type players rolling them as well. And they are almost always playing their DK as DPS, which really makes it seem like the devs failed in adding a 4th tanking class.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new dpsers of your class to learn?

Two things are tied:

1) Appropriate gearing: which stats do you want?
2) Appropriate rotation and priority of dps moves.

What dps class do you feel you understand least?

Warlocks. I've never gotten one to max level, and their mechanics seem to change so often now that I can't keep up. Their three trees seem to play so differently from each other that I have a hard time making sense of it all.

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in dps?

I MUST HAVE RUNEWATCH. Otherwise I can't play my DK.

Satrina Buff Frames are also key.

As for macros, you need one that puts your Dancing Rune Weapon behind your target if you are Blood, and if Unholy you need to macro Blood Tap to Bone Shield.

Strength over other stats or balanced stat allocation, and why?

STRENGTH. This shouldn't be a question. If you aren't favoring strength, then you are one of those terrible DKs that should stop giving us a bad reputation. The only exception is Blood stacking armor pen, though arpen has never been conclusively proven to beat strength.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quick Notes on Dragon Age

I'm enjoying Dragon Age: Origins. I'm about 20 hours in, and it's felt like 5. I usually don't go in for the straight-up, Song of Ice and Fire hardcore fantasy stuff (except for Tolkien), but the setting has really hooked me, and the gameplay is the best PRG mix I've seen in a while. There is a TON of dialogue and text, which is usually pretty high quality. If I have one complaint, it's that sometimes I'm stuck in the 10th long dialogue tree in a row and I haven't fought anything for an hour, and my sword arm starts getting real itchy.

The dark, gritty, realistic nature of the world is what really hooks me. I shy away from swords and sorcery in general because I expect it to be trite, stereotypical, and unoriginal Mary Sue fantasies for insecure boys (sorry, fantasy fans!). But the story, setting, and characters in Dragon Age are complex and live in shades of grey, rather than black and white (making the players title of "Grey Warden" especially fitting). Unlike, say AoC, where "mature" means "boobies and blood", Dragon Age is the most actually mature game I've ever played. You will make hard fucking choices in this game. Almost every quest leaves you to decide who lives or dies - with no obvious, easy answer. There are overarching villains and heroes, but you'll find that though the individual story areas almost always have apparent "good guys" and "bad guys", neither of them are quite what they seem. It will always turn out that the good guy did something horrible, and the bad guy is actually just misunderstood, or something like that. The game is all about choices, and almost none of those choices will be easy.

Not that there isn't plenty of blood. Comically so if you leave "persistent blood spatter" on in the options menu, which causes the blood shed during a battle to remain on character models during the following scene. It's hard not to laugh as the characters carry on a normal conversation, apparently unbothered by the spatters of blood ALL OVER THEM. I had to turn the option off to take the game seriously when, after the first battle in the game (which, in a nice piece of self-awareness, actually has you kill exactly ten rats) all of the characters were literally soaked from head to toe in rat blood and I couldn't suppress my giggles as they continued normally as though they, you know, weren't soaked in blood.

And the game is mature in so many ways, but it still just can't hide the fact that it was made by a bunch of young men for an intended audience of young men. It's just as obsessed with boobies as AoC. Demons are, of course, always depicted as naked women, and the worst of it is that one of the main storyline characters wears a "top" that's really just a loose scarf draped over her nipples. I have never seen so much side-boob in a game in my life. Don't get me wrong, I love to look at boobies. But it really takes me out of the setting when a guy runs into battle fully clothed alongside women with nothing but tassled pasties over their nipples and vajayjay. Boobies are the greatest destroyer of suspension of disbelief known to man, and in an immersive game like this, going so overboard with the adolescent, immature sexual imagery is a major misstep. Thanks, BioWare. Real "mature".

As an aside: I normally love Final Fantasy games, but I hated the most recent installment. The combat system and economy just felt so grindy and boring that I gave up halfway through. Though the tactics system in that game seemed like a great idea in a series where most fights consisted of you tapping through the "normal attack" option as quickly as you could. You set up a series of if>then statements for each party member that lets you automate them in combat.

Dragon Age copies that system almost wholesale, but for some reason I actually like it here. Maybe it's because I'm playing on a PC and I expect a deeper RPG experience here while I expect Final Fantasy to be a superficial game tacked on to an incredibly high-production-value story. Maybe it has something to do with being able to zoom out to tactical overhead view, or maybe it's because the abilities you character have are more interesting and varied. I really can't put my finger on it for sure yet.

The only other nitpick I have with the game is actually part of its greatest strength. The Dragon Age developers did an incredible job of creating the illusion, especially through dialogue, that every single response you make in a dialogue tree matters, and you actions can lead to different outcomes. And to a large extent, this was true. But there were a few fights where I died and had to reload, forcing me to rerun the same pre-fight dialogue tree again. And the illusion shattered as I tried different options and found that, though they slightly modified a line or two of the NPC's response dialogue, in the end I was being siphoned inexorably down one or two possible paths for the conversation. It shattered the illusion.

But that's like condemning the developers for not being able to perform a miracle. In the end, I'm loving the game, and expect that once my Human Noble Berserker runs through the game as a neutral pragmatist, I'm going to enjoy re-running the game as my Dwarven Peasant Rogue with a Heart of Gold and my Totally Cold-Hearted Bitch Elven Mage. Dragon Age is a triumph because choices matter enough that changing the way you act can breath new excitement into the game, and it's married to an RPG system interesting enough that I want to try all 3 classes.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Blogging will be a little sparse this month, since I am participating in National Novel Writing Month throughout November. The goal is to complete a work of fiction totalling at least 50,000 words, which means about 1,700 a day (if you don't skip any days). It's a daunting task, and I embark on it with a mixture of excitement and EXTREME FEAR. But so far it's going OK. I'm finally fleshing out an idea I've had knocking around in my head for about two years, but never took the time to get started. I don't really have high expectations for my work, but hopefully it won't suck too royally. I'm hoping this will be a transformative trial for me, kind of like what I hear training for a marathon is like, or what the last few weeks leading up to my black belt test was like, or what finishing my master's thesis under a tight deadline was like. I'm psyched.

Thanks to Syp over at Bio Break for bringing this event to my attention!

You can follow my progress here, if you are so inclined. Right now, I'm ahead of the basic wordcount requirement, but I seriously doubt I'll be able to keep a lead.