Monday, December 14, 2009

LFG [of jerks], or: Why I Hate the Dungeon Finder Now

Remember how, only a few days ago, I praised the new LFG system in WoW?

I'm here now to tell you that I was a bit premature. All is not sugarplums, roses, and nude models.

The bottom line is something that we all already knew: people are assholes.

The core problem with the dungeon finder is also its core value proposition: it allows you to spend more time in random groups. Not only that, but it cycles you through those groups much more quickly, and pulls those groups from a larger pool of people. Add in the fact that most of those people are from another server and will never see you again, and you have the perfect recipe for a highly concentrated example of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. I'm far from the first person to point out this downside of the system.

Being exposed to more people at a more rapid clip for longer periods of time means 1) you are spending more time with assholes, 2) you are seeing more different kinds of assholes (and remember, each asshole only has to be an asshole once), and 3) you are increasing the number of terrible pug experiences you can have per hour.

After the first day, people started to learn how to game the system and they started to figure out that they could bring their undergeared alts to everything, and other players wouldn't have much choice but to carry them (because of the penalties for leaving and the vote-kick timer, which I'll get into later). So over the past few days, almost every group I join has two people doing 1.5k or less dps (below the tank). Out of the dozens of groups I ran this weekend, only 3 were reasonably pleasant and competent. I had no idea before just how shitty WoW's community actually is. I'm not sure I want to keep playing a game that includes so many people who are just wastes of breath and Fritos.

Why does this food taste like asshole?

My stand-out bad experiences: a hunter joins heroic OK and proceeds to do 600 dps. When asked why, he says that he started the instance with his crossbow skill at 1, and he didn't bring any other weapons. He says he "could care less" about how rude, inconsiderate, and unfair that is to the group.

Or how about this: I join H Occ on my super-geared main. I see 4 people from the same guild on another server are my group, and they have decent gearscores. So I compliment them, saying "it's nice to see a geared group, so many of my groups lately have had sub 1k dps". We go through the run, and get to a part when we are about to land on a floating platform. Everyone gets into landing position, and the mage actually dismounts, so I think it's OK to land. After the mage dismounts, the tank and healer go off alone, still on their drakes, to kill a random drake nearby. The tank gets killed. On an unnecessary drake that hadn't even seen us. At the same time, the mage runs forward and aggros the pack. I assume we are dead, so I run around in circles waiting for the wipe.

After we wipe, the group starts screaming at me about how I should have gone into frost presence and prevented the wipe (without the healer, mind you), and says I'm a terrible player. I tried to defuse the situation and be classy, but they wouldn't have it. They kept flinging insults, even though they had actually just wiped in a 5 man as a group from the same guild, despite their raid gear. They must have been so embarrassed to fail like that in front of me that they had to blame me. It was pathetic. I just let it go, and just kept running the instance, because I didn't really care about what random internet idiot said. But then we kill the 3rd boss and are flying up to engage the last boss, and they vote to kick me out of nowhere so I can't get my frost emblems. Classy.

But that's not even the worst part of the dungeon finder. The worst is the number of people showing up with quest greens or empty gem slots (not even getting into the lack of enchants). Please, please, please have the consideration to at least put a green gem in there before you queue up for a heroic. Remember that your group is made up of other people whose time is valuable, and you do not have a right to waste their time. You are not entitled to be carried, and they are not "bad people" if they don't want to pick up your slack.

THe LFG system is shaping up to be a way to yoke geared, competent players and pressure them to carry crappy, undergeared, inconsiderate players (presumably so that those baddies continue to pay a monthly fee instead of quitting because they can't get a group that will keep them). More on that later, with a great quote from Comrade Ghostcrawler. Sure, no one is "forcing" you, but if your a good player who doesn't use the system, you are screwed out of a ton of frost emblems that the terribads are getting. You are punished for not putting yourself at the mercy of the system. I can't wait until good players don't need frost emblems anymore and the LFG system becomes a cesspit of bads all expecting each other to carry them to phat epix. Mmm, community!

Pictured: good players (left), morons, slackers, and assholes (top center)

The rapid-fire cycling of assholes would, in itself, probably be bearable if it weren't for the ruleset that comes along with the system. I understand why Blizzard used the rules they did, but I think, in light of live-server conditions, they need to be revised.

As it stands, if you join a group and someone is immediately an asshole, you have two options: 1) continue the run, or 2) leave, incurring a 15-minute wait until you may queue again. You may not vote to kick someone until 15 minutes into the run.

Think about that for a second. If you are a perfectly nice and capable person, you join a run, and someone in that run is immediately an asshole, you are the only one who is punished. You can't kick him, but if you leave, you have to wait 15 minutes before you can even queue again, while the asshole can just let someone else fill your spot. The asshole gets the run he wanted with almost no interruption, but you have to pay 15 minutes of your life (plus queue wait time, if you are a dps) because you weren't willing to let him impose his assholishness on you.

Great thinking, Blizz.

Now let's say the assholishness only emerges later in the run. Now you can vote kick the guy. However, even if you do kick him, he does not incur a deserter debuff. So he can requeue right away and have almost no interruption in his ability to punish others with his presence.


I think Blizzard's current rules could be vastly improved:

1) Allow vote-to-kick from the beginning.

If I join a group, and the first thing out of the rogue's mouth is "lol you fags are gay", I should be able to kick him. I should not have to leave the group and be punished with a 15-minute wait to requeue.

The 15-minute grave period before you can vote-kick is especially onerous to me given Ghostcrawler's rationale for why it is in place (emphasis mine, of course):

"I suspect it's going to take a few tries before we get the vote kick thing feeling right. I hope it's obvious what purpose it serves though. We feared without some kind of grace period that a common behavior would be to automatically kick someone in greens or without certain achievements or perhaps even someone who would roll against you on stuff (in the partial premade situation)."

The reason you can't kick someone immediately is that - dear god, let me clutch my pearls - you might kick someone for being in greens!?!? Screw. You. It is not my obligation to carry slackers, no matter how important it is to you to keep their subscription money coming.

Aside from that outrage, the benefits of being able to immediately kick "Bustanutz" vastly outweigh the risk that we might dare to kick someone who is undergeared for the instance. Get your priorities straight, GC!

2) No deserter debuff if you leave the group in the first 2 minutes.

This way, you aren't stuck with the choice between running the dungeon with assholes or punishing yourself with a 15 minute wait while the assholes get to fill your spot instantly and keep running.

3) Apply a fresh deserter debuff if you are vote-kicked. To prevent griefing, allow a group to only vote-kick one person every 15 minutes.

You should not be able to requeue immediately after being vote-kicked.

4) Do not let a player queue if they have even a single empty gem slot.

The system should give them back an error message explaining why they were not allowed to queue, as well. The system already uses a highly lenient gearscore measurement to prevent someone in full greens from entering your heroic. Simply add this on.

I believe these simple changes will go a long way toward giving the vast majority of us, who are pleasant, competent people, a way to deal with assholes that is more punishing to the assholes than it is to us. They will also greatly encourage good behavior and increase player satisfaction with the LFG experience, while having little to no negative effect.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The return of Games that are Metal

Today marks the return of an early feature of the site that I haven't revisited in a while: Games that are Metal. I was inspired by the following image. For maximum viewing pleasure, please imagine a kick-ass wailing guitar solo in your head while viewing:


Not only does Mega Man have a gun for a hand, but he's using his free hand to hold another gun, and using that other gun to fire blind at an attacking robot while he shoots his gunhand into the air, all while clearly screaming an ultra-high hair metal note. And there is a robot dragon in the background, firing his torso-cannons wildly into the air.

It just doesn't get more metal than that.

Scourge Strike: an Odyssey of Disappointment

From the moment that beta information about DKs started leaking, the Unholy talent tree appealed to me most. I liked how it focused on the disease mechanic more than the other trees, making me feel more like a DK. And why would I care about Blood or Frost when I could control a ghoul, run and ride extra-fast, summon a gargoyle, create a swirling mass of death and destruction around me, and all the while be protected by a shield of bone?

Well, clearly it was far too fun. Unholy Blight's implementation as an aoe aura is gone. No DPS spec can afford to spend points in the utility talents like the increased run and mount speeds. And worst of all, the tree's signature strike, Scourge Strike, has been the only real story of failure for the new class.

Originally, it ignored armor, doing shadow damage instead. This was cool, but it turned out it hit too hard in PvP, and not hard enough in raids (where the target's armor was heavily debuffed, reducing the value of ignoring armor). Trying to correct this problem has led to a series of changes to the strike in almost every patch, none of those changes actually solving the problem.

The absolute low point was when, for an entire patch, Unholy DKs no longer even spent the talent point in Scourge Strike, finding it more effective DPS to contort their spec into the frost tree to focus on Obliterate as their FU* strike instead (*in this case, FU refers to the strike's cost of one frost and one unholy rune, not the developers' attitude towards unholy DKs). The devs were pretty much OK with this, and Ghostcrawler recently admitted that they only revisited SS because of player complaints. I specced out of Unholy and went for blood when this change occurred, especially in light of just how much armor penetration (useless to unholy, key for blood) was going to be on the raid gear going forward. I missed my favored spec and my trusty ghoul Beetlegobbler, but I persevered.

After that, a patch made SS marginally useful again, but not useful enough to bother with talents and glyphs that propped it up, such as Reaping and Epidemic. Hearing that Unholy was key for Anub'arak hard mode (which turned out to be true), I tried Unholy again. The disease-a-palooza was fun, but SS was still not doing too well, and armor pen still wasn't useful enough for the spec, considering how unavoidably prevalent it is on gear now. It seemed kind of sad that Unholy's viability outside of aoe situations was entirely predicated on abusing a badly-designed Glyph of Icy Touch for bonus RP to do more Death Coils, to the point that another Icy Touch was more valuable to your DPS than another Scourge Strike.

But when 3.3 hit the PTRs, a ray of hope shone on the beleaguered strike. The changes seemed genius: they fixed everything wrong with the strike while keeping its flavor. The attack would do physical damage, making armor pen attractive, but then also do a fraction of that damage on top as shadow damage. That shadow damage would be affected by talents and be able to crit independently, making many talents in Unholy attractive again. Along with the change to Glyph of Icy Touch, this brought the spec back to where I felt it was originally intended to be, and where it had been back when I fell for it: using Reaping to get more Scourge Strikes.

This change went through months of favorable testing on the PTR, without much change to it at all. Then it hits the live servers for less than two days, and already a nerf was hotfixed in.

Let's put aside the fact that other, more overpowered mechanics have been left in for months at a time.

Apparently, Unholy was doing too much damage now. I didn't really notice during our raid, given how I wasn't really paying attention to the meters with everything else going on. My first thought was that it was fine. If the dps was too high, OK, let's nerf it. They just removed the ability for the shadow portion to crit independently, I thought, how bad could that be?

Turns out: pretty fucking bad.

According to the DK math gurus over at Elitist Jerks, the change was enough that the Unholy rotation and talent spec revert to what they were before the change. The playstyle is back to being less fun and flavorful. In the end, all they have accomplished with this change is making armor penetration marginally more attractive.


Can you just get it right, guys? This is so disappointing. Once we are done with Anub Hard, I'm respeccing back to blood to get off this roller-coaster of suck.

The worst part? Ghostcrawler's post today explaining the change. Please note before reading this statement that they nerfed the ability in less than 48 hours.

"Will it stay this way for long? It's too early to tell. This implementation has a chance of working out, but we also want to see the Icecrown hard modes start up as well as the new Arena season kick in."

You read it right. They are going to leave it as-is (which is to say, broken) until they get some data from Icecrown hard modes and the new arena season (I refuse to capitalize arena, the game's greatest mistake, GC).

Those are months away.


To be clear, I'm not asking for SS or unholy, or anything about DKs, to be overpowered. I just think it's clear that Blizzard's intent is that players use SS and Reaping, but no matter how many changes they make, they just can't seem to make that appealing without breaking the game. I don't enjoy the playstyle of Unholy without those, so I'm one of the people who would like SS to be viable without being broken. And I'm quite disappointed with how badly they've done so far, and with how quick they are to break the spec while being so slow to fix it.

Quote of the Day

Unofficially filling in for Syp while he deals with finals. :)

From the comments thread from a post at Spinksville about how bear druids wear their rocket packs in an . . . interesting way during the ICC gunship encounter:

"Maybe they can combine it with the Mohawk mechanic to create a Set Someone’s Ass on Fire Grenade."


Thursday, December 10, 2009

3.3 Early Impressions, and the LFG tool

As much as I anticipated this patch, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with just how good it has been so far. There were some bad server problems on patch day (I can't believe Blizz didn't anticipate how many people would want to do this new stuff...), and I was all ready to rage about them. But then last night things were fine, so I guess either they splurged on some more servers or the number of people trying to do exactly the same thing simultaneously plummeted.

From the patch notes, I expected to be excited about the lore-rich 5-mans, the raid instance, and a few other tweaks. But I never expected that after only two days, the real stand-out part of this patch - and the part that will change the face of the game forever (and for the better!) - wasn't any of that.

The new LFG tool
If you had told me a week ago how good this thing was, I wouldn't have believed you. In fact, lots of people tried to tell me how good it was, and I was incredulous as a Ret Paladin finding his PvP target still alive after the HoJ stun wore off. I wasn't having none of that.

For five years now, everything Blizzard has tried to do to help people find groups has been sub-par. They've tried to make improvements, but the new additions always showed a lack of forethought and indicated that the developers were at least somewhat out of touch with how players actually find groups. It destroyed my faith that Blizzard couldn't even make a LFG interface that competed with City of Heroes, which is an older game.

But they've more than made up for it now. I'm blown away.

This thing slices, it dices, and it will actually find you a tank in under a minute. It makes instancing and assembling a group a breeze, and it means that when I'm playing, I can spend my time actually playing, rather than spamming Trade channel for a tank or healer.

[unrelated note: people who complain about LFG messages in Trade channel need to shut up. I've accidentally joined many a great group pre-3.3 when I didn't happen to be in the LFG chat channel or system but saw an ad in trade chat. It's not like you were really using Trade for much of anything anyway.]

So far, I've run about 7 heroics using the system, and not had a bad egg in any of them. Once we got a severely undergeared rogue, but he played just fine. If anything, I wish that I could keep in contact with some of the good players I've met from other servers and manually invite them to future pugs.

Sure, maybe it won't be as good once 3.3 fever winds down and the LFG qeue isn't as crowded as it is right now. But nevertheless, I think it's a great system. I'm especially interested to see how this effects what role players choose to play. Tobold thinks it will increase the number of tanks and healers, and I'm inclined to agree.

The main downside is that I will no longer be able to get such a good laugh when I see a group of 3 plate DPS "LFM tank and healz pst"

Icecrown Raid
Awwwwwww, shit. That's the stuff. Mmmmmm. Oh, yes, don't sto-what? You're kidding, right? I have to wait 28 days for the next hit?


So far, the ICC raid has lived up to my high expectations for it. My guild was the first to complete it on our server (we finished the 10-man only 20 minutes before the top guild finished it on 25-man), so I've seen the whole thing, and it's reasonably challenging, but not very hard. I'd put most of the bosses roughly on par with Northrend Beasts 10 hard-mode. Given the easier ways to get gear now, I anticipate that most groups will be able to at least make some progress in the place. Without getting too spoiler-y:

The opening trash is a bit brutal and a bit long. I think it's intended to dissuade really casual groups from trying to farm the first boss. Hint: don't charge into the first room and start AoEing. Unlike with the rest of Wrath content, that strategy will feed you your own intestines. Also, watch out for gigantic skeletons and their saber lash.

The first boss looks supremely epic. And really, how can you go wrong with a guy who periodically shouts "BONE STORM!!!"? It's a relatively simple fight, borrowing mechanics from BT and Shattered Halls. He was easy to beat with our 232-geared mains, but was a lot harder to bring down with our lesser-geared alt group - not because of the mechanics, but just because of the raw damage numbers the boss was putting out, especially on the tanks.

The trash for the second boss will evoke Shadow Labs for many of you, and you'll have to actually drag the CC spells back onto your action bars. If you can even remember which spells they are. The boss herself is little more than a skeleton (she must be friends with Kate Moss, whose motto is: "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels") protected by a mana shield. The fight is quite novel, because it has you dealing with a variety of adds in exciting and constantly-changing ways. It's like a more fun and interesting take on Gothik.

The way to the third "boss" is when things start to get really epic, with horde and alliance battling for control of this upper balcony outside of the citadel, all the while fending off the scourge. You'll head to your faction's airship, at which point you get to play with rocket packs! This fight is epic, fun and frenetic, and exactly the type of thing that I was asking for when I designed The Awesoming raid encounter way back in the early days of this blog (in fact, the entire instance so far invokes that to some degree; there are tons of lore and storyline events going on throughout the epic set pieces). It wasn't hard to take out the enemy ship, the only challenge was not letting our offtank get owned by Bronzebeard.

Your ship will drop you off right in front of the final, lore-rich boss of this wing. The fight was straightforward to figure out, but very much a challenge of execution, as each mistake you make heals the boss more and more until the extra damage to you and healing to him becomes insurmountable. But once our tanks got a taunt rotation perfected and the ranged dps worked the kinks out of the kiting, we were able kill this boss so well that we even got an extra acheivement!

Overall, the same flare for both aesthetic and fight design that went into Ulduar is on full display again here, only knocked up a notch and soaked in a thick gravy of delicious lore. Every single battle of this wing trumps everything else in the game in some way, whether it be the emotional storyline resonance of Deathbringer, the epicness of the gunship battle, the horrible beauty of a giant skeletal construct, or the new and interesting fight mechanics of Lady Deathwhisper. Having major warcraft characters directly involved and performing a variety of scripted events throughout the dungeon cements the entire thing together into something greater than its parts. They've turned the raid into a fully fleshed-out piece of entertainment. This is the apex, as it should be.

I don't have time to talk about the 5-mans right now, but suffice it to say I'm impressed with them as well. So far, this is shaping up to be the best patch they've ever done. Bravo, Blizzard!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is it Christmas, or just Patch Day?

Cold weather? Check.

I'm about to get a lot of really awesome presents? Check.

Sparkly ornaments everywhere (in this case, they are all purple for some reason)? Check.

A large man sneaking about in the night? Check.

Me having insomnia from anticipation? Check.

Hordes of slathering undead? Che-hey waitaminute!


It's not Christmas! It's Patch Day!

But this, my friends, is no ordinary patch. No, this is the end-all be-all of World of Warcraft patches. This is the patch I've been waiting for since I first met Arthas back in July 2002.

For approaching a decade, I've wanted this guy's head on a platter. And now, I finally get to go after him.

I had played a great deal of Warcraft 2 multiplayer, but never really got into the campaign. Beyond reading wowwiki, I'm not familiar with the old stories of villains like Deathwing or the old Horde (Gul'dan, etc.). Sure, Deathwing may be bigger and bad-assier than Arthas, but there is really no way for a warcraft villain to top the Lich King for me. Not after the adoration I had (and still have) for the storytelling, gameplay, and art in the Warcraft 3 campaign. Not after how long I've been waiting for this.

And by all indications, Blizzard is pulling out all of the stops. The last patch was a one-room stalling device assembled, as far as I can tell, by a single unpaid intern. All so they could keep us sated while they worked on this patch.

I give Blizzard a lot of crap. And I don't take any of that back. But as far as I can tell, this patch is one of those times they've come through for the playerbase. Despite being understaffed and still making plenty of decisions I actively disagree with (many of them in this patch), the bottom line is that, with this patch, they are earning their gold-plated yachts.

I am unabashedly fanboi excited about this patch. I'm more excited than a teenage boy in a porn theater packed to capacity with naked nymphomaniac cheerleaders.

OK, well, it's not possible to be more excited than that. But you get what I mean.

See you in Icecrown!

unintentional anatomy

Dear Blizzard Artists,

Why does Icecrown Citadel have a vagina?

Best Regards,


Friday, December 4, 2009

Back to the Land of the Living - Sort Of

Geez! Over 52,000 words. I'm quite proud of this mangled little First Draft That Could.

Unfortunately, it's not back to normal life for me just yet. My promotion at work means that I'll have a lot less time to game and blog - but perversely, a lot more money to buy games with. As they say, youth is wasted on the young . . .

In my mad sprint for the finish, I fell behind at work, so I'll be spending the next week or two catching back up. Posting will be slow for the rest of the month, but I'm looking forward to a fresh start in the New Year.

Special thanks to Syp over at Bio Break for bringing this program to my attention. It ended up meaning a lot to me.

PS: Ixo, I'll get on Wave [OF THE FUTURE!] this weekend.