Tuesday, July 21, 2015

(Mini-Post) Free Dragon Age: Inquisition Multiplayer

I was coerced by Stubborn of Sheep the Diamond to pick up this game mainly because, well, it's free.  Or rather, the multiplayer is.  If you "buy" the trial version for a whole $0.00 you get 6 hours of the single player campaign (haven't touched it) and infinite hours of the multiplayer.

If you've played ME3 multiplayer then it's similar to that except with a fantasy setting rather than science fiction.  One major improvement, though, is that it's nearly all a forward moving "dungeon crawl" with a final showdown battle in an arena (compared to ME3 where the whole thing is a showdown battle in an arena with waves of enemies).  Also sort of similar to Diablo style games, I suppose, except it's over the shoulder and the camera can be freely rotated (and it's not a whole campaign).

There's some stuff I like about it and some stuff I don't (and perhaps at least part of the latter is simply stuff that's *different* and I'm not used to it yet).   I don't know if it'll be something I play "seriously" or just mess around with Stubborn and other friends, but at a minimum it's a fresh/new experience for a bit.

The catch is that the "free" part of it apparently ends just over seven hours from the time of this post -- deadline listed is noon CST (10 PST) on July 21st.  But all you need to do is register with Origin and "buy" the game...and at that point you could install Origin and download the game at your convenience.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Your Stat Weights Don't Matter

The Grumpy Elf recently made a post called "Don't Judge a Character By Their Item Level."  His general argument is that item level is a terrible way to judge a character's potential performance because things like stat weights and set bonuses can wildly skew results.  An example of this that he mentions is using four 670 tier pieces from BRF for four set over four 695 items.  If I was to form a "thesis" of sorts, this would seem to be it (please note that isn't a single contiguous quote, I cut out some stuff in the middle to focus on the essentials):
I mentioned my 687 item level, which for a raider is pretty poor, but once again that does not mean I would do poorly.  Put me along side someone that just did the T2 grind, upgraded anything they could get, and purchased a few BoEs off the auction house and you will see someone with an item level over 700 but someone that is not even remotely capable of matching my hunters numbers.  Why is that?

Because the stats on gear matters, the bonuses on gear matters, almost just as much as hitting the right keys in the right order.
I'm here to tell you that he's wrong.  Now before you grab your torches and pitchforks, kindly let me explain.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my history, I started playing WoW shortly after Vanilla launch.  It was the first MMO I played and the second game I had played online (the first being Warcraft 3).  I was generally quite the "n00b" at the time about, well, almost everything and I didn't seriously start raiding until Burning Crusade.  Now, of course, I'm the guild/raid leader of what is currently the top two night a week Mythic guild in the US.  There was an incident, however, that still sticks in my mind from those Vanilla days.

My main at the time was a 60 Night Elf rogue who had somewhat recently hit level 60.  I was using a level 52ish blue dagger in my main hand and a level 55 green sword in my off-hand since I hadn't had the chance to do many max level dungeons yet.  A friend on the server said his guild (which was fairly casual and had recently started raiding 20 mans) were short people for Zul'Gurub (a 20 man raid at the time) and asked if I could go.  I said sure.  When I got there I saw that nearly everyone was massively better geared than my poor rogue -- full level 58+ blue gear and a smattering of epics (hell, at that point I had never even gotten an epic on any character).  There was even another rogue with level 60 epic daggers.  To say I was a bit nervous about looking like the worst player in the history of the game would be an understatement.  So what happened?

I *crushed* everyone on the damage meters for the two bosses we did (bat and snake bosses).  Like, top DPS by 20% and the next highest player was my friend on a Fury Warrior.  To say that everyone else was bewildered (especially that other rogue) would be another understatement.  But why was I able to do that?

1, I was playing Combat Daggers (yes, Combat Daggers wanted two daggers, I was using an off-hand sword, I didn't have another dagger handy yet that was reasonable, yes it was terrible) while that other rogue was playing Seal Fate (mostly Assassination spec with some Subtlety talents).  Seal Fate was insane for generating quick combo points and doing massive burst damage in PvP.  It was terrible for sustained boss damage in PvE.

2, I played my spec correctly.  This means I did stuff like actually use my combo points on Slice and Dice (long term attack speed increase) rather than Eviscerate (instant burst of damage -- Rupture wasn't even an option due to only having eight debuff slots on a boss back then).  While that might seem like a "Duh!" thing to you now, it was not common knowledge back then at all. 

3, I maintained high target uptime.  That means I was careful and quick about my movement so that I could be attacking the boss as much as possible despite either myself or the boss needing to reposition at times.  This is sort of similar to the ABC rule (Always Be Casting) of a ranged character if you've never experienced the joy of a melee character.

In short, having the correct spec, playing said spec correctly, and playing my character well resulted in the other rogue switching to Combat Daggers for the very next raid (where I still beat him, but by a much smaller margin).

Playing your character correctly is far, far, far more important than optimizing your gear.

But if that's true, then why do we have so many tools designed to give us stat weights?  Why do we have stat rankings, gear lists, and so on?

Because those tools are meant for Mythic raiders and, to a lesser extent, Heroic raiders.  Mythic raiders, generally speaking, have *already* mostly mastered their characters.  There's always room for improvement, of course, but you run into significant diminishing returns.  Figuring out how to go from 50% to 80% of optimal DPS is fairly easy.  Learning how to go from 80% to 90% of optimal DPS is a harder.  Managing to go from 90% to 95% of optimal DPS is harder still.  And so on.  Then, of course, you need to learn how to optimize for specific fights but that's difficult to practice outside of actually raiding.

At the point where it becomes very difficult to figure out how to squeeze out a few percent more DPS out of your rotation and you're generally comfortable with dealing with raid mechanics, *then* obsessing a bit over optimizing gear starts to make sense.  Spending a few hours figuring out the best gear to grab that gives a 2% DPS boost winds up being a better choice than trying to spending that time learning how to play your character slightly better.

But how many players are at that level?  Only a few percent overall (mostly Mythic raiders and the "upper" Heroic raiders).  Yes, you have the occasional player who's amazing but "retired" and raiding Normals with friends...but that's really a Mythic/Heroic raider in a Normal guild.  So what about Grumpy?  Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that Grumpy knows how to play his class perfectly and instead focus on his raid group -- Grumpy leads a group trying to work on Normals.

What do we know about said raid group?  I'll quote some of the statements he's made in the last few days about it (all are taken from here):
We wiped a few times, all to stupid stuff that is completely avoidable.  I was the middle of the chain, the mage I was attached to came to me, the other person did not.  Even after yelling his name on voice chat to come to me.  Guess who that other person was?  You got it, him.

He dropped doom right on melee 2 times.  He did not run to the person he was chained to three times.  He did not switch off the boss when I said multiple times adds were top priority.  If there was a mechanic in this fight, he was messing it up.  About the only thing good I can say was that at least he was consistent, but when that consistent is consistently bad, that is a problem.
Lets put it this way to show you what some of these people do that I deal with.

When explaining that fight I put a square marker for where to stand when phase 2 comes. Someone screws up and stands in melee and drops doom right on that marker. Phase 2 comes, I say on vent, stand to the left of the marker (because the doom is there of course right. Common sense to any raider that has ever raided if you ask me) but what does half the raid do. They F'N stand on the marker and die in the doom. When I say something on vent after the answers I get. But you told us to stand on blue in phase two. aaaahhhhhhhhhh

Sorry for ranting, and no I am not making that up, it happened, it really happened.
I will not move the marker. I am trying to train these people to be better raiders, doing that teaches them nothing. If they can not adjust on the fly and understand simple theory such as "markers are not absolutes" and be able to adjust they have no reason even stepping into a raid. 

I need to teach these people. I will be raiding with them every week. I can not just always move the marker. That makes for piss poor raiders that do not know how to do anything but follow orders. They do not understand the mechanic on their own, they do not become capable of making snap decisions and they will never learn how to listen to changes on the fly from the raid leader.
I have the permanent rune now, so I do not worry about it and I suggest to all my raiders that they should get it too. It is only 5K and you never need to buy one again. Sell the ones you get and you will make more than the 5K you spent on it back. Casual or not, there is no excuse for not being the best you can.
As for my guild. DPS is never an issue. Mechanics are. It takes them a bit longer than I would like to pick up mechanics than I would like it too. 1% more however is 1% better. The faster the boss goes down the fewer chances their are to mess up mechanics.   
Is this a group that needs to be worrying about perfect stat weights?  No.  Gaining a few percent more HPS/DPS is not going to help them.  Despite what Grumpy said, 1% more is not 1% better -- if you're wiping to Doom Wells/Shared Fate on Gorefiend that early in the fight then 1% more DPS, 5% more DPS, and 20% more DPS all have the same effect: none.

And let's look at another statement in that block of quotes: "Casual or not, there is no excuse for not being the best you can."  Yes, yes there is.  Time is an obvious one -- I'm sure most people remember the horror of MoP dailies and rep gated valor items from multiple factions.  Overload is another one -- pretend you're a newer player trying to get into normal mode and figure this whole raiding this out.  You're given one of two "checklists":

Checklist A

1. Get Augment Runes from the AH for now, work on getting the permanent Augment Rune from Tanaan rep. 
2. Watch boss videos/guides for the first four bosses in HFC.
3. Figure out what your ideal stat priority so you can evaluate which pieces of your current gear are weakest.
4. Buy/craft some 715 items for those weakest slots.
5. Gem/enchant your gear with your best stats.
6. Figure out what your best stat is and get 125 stat food of that type, since feasts aren't optimal.
7. Research your set bonuses so you know which tier pieces you want and whether it's worth using some lower ilvl pieces.
8. Practice your skills in Proving Grounds.
9. Show up to raid and do your best.

Checklist B
1. Watch boss videos/guides for the first four bosses in HFC.
2. Gem/enchant your gear.
3. Practice your skills in Proving Grounds.
4. Show up to raid and do your best

In a perfect world, is someone who does all of Checklist A better off?  Sure.  But ask yourself this: what is the actual *practical* difference between the two in terms of end result?  I'll give you a hint: it's very small and insignificant for the vast, vast majority of Normal raiders.  And Checklist B is a lot more likely to actually get done for said players while Checklist A is likely to overwhelm/discourage them.

Before we conclude, let's take a look at some actual numbers about the difference that ideal vs non-ideal stats makes.  I'm going to look at Shadow Priests for two main reasons:

1. I play a Shadow Priest and have handy lists of gear available with stat weights/values.

2. Auspicious Spirits has some crazy secondary stat weights with Crit being worth more than Intellect and Mastery being less than half the value of Crit.  In other words, it is arguably the spec (or at least one of the top 2-3 specs) where stat weights matter *most.*  90% of specs or whatever are going to see a much *smaller* difference than what we find here.

So what we're going to do is pick out our ideal Mythic items from BRF and then pick out our least ideal items from BRF and see how much the best set possible versus the worst set possible changes our DPS.  They're all 700 ilvl (which is why we're doing BRF) and I'm going to ignore set bonuses for the moment (since in theory people would have four set either way and this way we can skew the results even MORE).  I'm also just truncating (rounding down, basically) the decimals for the sake of time -- also note that since we have sixteen slots that this means the maximum possible impact is a whole 16 int when we're dealing with thousands of int.

Also, I apologize in advance for any initial errors, intentionally trying to find the worst option possible from a particular tier at a certain ilvl is frustrating/annoying.

Best Set
Helm: Tier, 725.
Neck: Flamebender, 357.
Shoulders: Kromog, 547.
Back: Gruul, 359.
Chest: H&F, 718.
Bracers: Thogar, 398.
Hands: Tier, 479.
Belt: Iron Maidens, 509.
Legs: Flamebender, 679.
Boots: Beastlord, 511.
Ring 1: 715 Legendary, 472.
Ring 2: Beastlord, 378.
Trinket 1: Oregorger, 810.
Trinket 2: Blackhand, 736.
Main Hand: Blackhand, 2328.
Off-Hand: N/A

Total: 10,006 intellect (or the equivalence, rather).

Worst Set

Helm: Blackhand, 606.
Neck: Gruul, 335.
Shoulders: H&F, 476.
Back: Kromog, 340.
Chest: Thogar, 641.
Bracers: Blast Furnace, 391.
Hands: Kromog, 421.
Belt: Beastlord, 451.
Legs: Tier, 606.
Boots: Trash drop, 451.
Ring 1: 715 Legendary, 472.
Ring 2: Iron Maidens, 340.
Trinket 1: Blackhand, 736.
Trinket 2: Beastlord, 716.
Main Hand: Flamebender, 1909.
Off-Hand: Thogar, 316.

Total: 9207

Yeah.  So even with intentionally picking a spec with insanely skewed stat weights, intentionally ignoring tier (which is both a normalizing factor between the sets and an overall boost in power to both which decreases the percent difference), and intentionally/deliberately picking the absolute worst and absolute best sets possible to compare...we got less than an 8% difference.

90%+ of specs, even using this deliberately awful comparison, would probably see more like a 4-5% difference worst case.  And a person just randomly picking gear without regards to stats would see more like a 2-3% difference.  Maybe less.

Optimizing gear matters far, far less than most people think.

There is one last thing I want to point out/acknowledge.  A lot of Normal raiders may not be willing to improve -- they simply don't care enough to fix basic "rotation" problems or talent choices.  And for those people perhaps trying to optimize gear is the only way to get *any* improvement of their output, even if it's only 2-3%.  But, of course, Normal raids are not tuned to the point where that 2-3% even matters -- sheer ilvl increase over the course of a tier is going to result in a much larger improvement and the vast, vast majority of wipes are solely going to be due to massive screw-ups of mechanics.

This leads to perhaps a paradoxical conclusion: the people who are capable of realizing how small of a difference gear optimization makes are also the only people for who the gear optimization even matters.

Further reading: Talarian has an excellent post as well on the general topic of ilvl and (Warforged) upgrades as well as a second post particularly concerning sockets on items.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

More Thoughts on Casual Progression in WoD

Someday I'll be better at actually making sure I'm writing stuff on my own blog and not leaving essays on other blogs.  That day is not today.  Well, uh, it sort of is, I guess, but that wasn't the main motivation here.

I've been leaving said essays on two blogs lately:

1, The Grumpy Elf has a post about a player unexpectedly ignoring mechanics in normal raids and the potential decline of raiding skill due to age/time away from WoW/etc.  There's sort of two "conversations" I have going on with Grumpy at the same time in the comments with the first being here and the second being here.

2. Azuriel has a post questioning the amount of content in WoD.  The comment chain I've been involved in starts here and it is quite long.  So long, in fact, that since Azuriel seems to have lost interest in the subject and it's a royal pain to reply that I'm "restarting" the chain here in an effort to bring the vertical scroll down to a more manageable length.  The last several replies have been to a MattH and that's who I am quoting in this post in response.

(Note: the following quote originated from Grumpy's post (which is why I noticed said post), though if you've read some of that already you might guess that I disagreed with that player being a good example of normal being overtuned -- rather, it was a player just completely ignoring mechanics)
MattH wrote...
I can’t think of one pre-Garrosh fight in Flex SoO that relied on one player following mechanics to not wipe the raid. Closest I can think of is Sha. Normal is overtuned. It should be the equivalent of Kharazan late BC if you are looking to have a Friends and Family raid, but that’s been the complaint since day one of WoD raids. Hell, Brackenspore killed so many raids I pugged, either because I had to sacrifice my dps to do the flamethrower or because others couldn’t do them properly. Yeah gear eventually took care of that, but not pug friendly.
 First of all, let's be clear about something -- most people's memories of Flex SoO are from when they overgeared the place and were facerolling it.  That whole year of farming with having an item level significantly above what the raid dropped (plus the direct item level upgrades and legendary cloak).  You also had a lot more mains raiding Normal/Heroic going to Flex or even going on just their alts out of sheer boredom.  Which meant a lot of the later raids in particular significantly outskilled and/or outgeared the content which is NOT happening now in Hellfire Citadel (or earlier in Highmaul/BRF).

Why is this important?  Well, your mention of Sha, for example, because I'm not even sure what you're referring to in the fight.  Breaking people out of prisons?  Avoiding getting Pride (because if you got a lot of Pride you could nuke the raid through one of several abilities based on Swelling Pride)?  The tanks taunt swapping to avoid getting Pride (and thus MCed)?  Or are we excluding tanks from these mechanics?

And then we bring in that skill/gear factor I mention above -- I actually remember being able to one-tank Sha of Pride due to having some very geared players (as in a large chunk of the raid being Heroic geared players doing Flex for fun with friends).  How did we deal with the lack of a tank swap?  We pushed him to 30% before the tank hit 100% pride so it then got reset (lusted on pull).  But that was not how Flex originally was in your average Flex group.

The point I'm making is that if you look at some of the following examples and think "Well, it didn't hit THAT hard" then you were doing the content with an overgeared or overskilled group.  Because I saw PUG groups struggle with some of stuff I'm about to mention.

1, Galakras required two people to be able to fire the cannon correctly at the same time and at the right time (didn't want to do it mid add-wave, for example).  Usually when discussing this topic people are referring to randomly targeted mechanics rather than assigned mechanics but you *did* mention Flamethrowers on Brackenspore.  In the final phase you needed to have people bring the fireball through the raid -- and I saw several cases where a person got targeted and got OUT of the raid since that's usually what those mechanics do.  Queue raid wipe.

2, Iron Juggernaut had the tank debuff, of course, and in the second phase a person kiting the laser over the tar while the pulse was going off could wipe the raid.

3, Dark Shamans had several more examples where one bad tank could screw over the raid -- taunt swap, slime placement, Ashan Wall placement, etc.  Individual raid members could run Foul Stream over a large chunk of the raid -- and if people were at lower health due to the Falling Ash landing <25% it could easily kill quite a few people and lead to a wipe.

 4. Nazgrim had another tank swap and if a person or two decided to stand in Aftershocks and DPS the boss during Defensive Stance you could easily get some Ravagers flying...which that person or two would then stand in and you get more Ravagers and oh god the axes.

5. Malkorok had another tank swap and required people to soak the puddles -- in theory anyone can get in any puddle...but in practice everyone can't run across the entire room to get the puddle next to that oblivious mage.  A person or two not soaking the puddles could lead to a wipe.  Then we had the Displaced Energy debuff during Blood Rage -- I don't want to count the times I saw everyone with the debuff stay in the raid and then the raid just exploded.

6. Thok had a tank swap (technically could be solo tanked but made the fight much harder) and, of course, the Fixate in phase 2.  Raise your hand if you saw someone get chased by Thok and they just led him through the entire raid.  Yeah.

7. Paragons had the Kuchongs which people could either stand next to and get Mesmerized into or they could just flat out run into the Kuchongs.  Either way you got the Mature Kuchongs which sucked to deal with and I saw them wipe some groups.  Technically you could often handle them as long as you didn't get more than one or two but...still a major problem.

So yeah.  SoO had a lot of mechanics that relied on individuals following them to not wipe the raid (or at least cause major problems which sometimes resulted in a wipe).

Regarding Brackenspore: I don't know what class you play(ed), but Flamethrowers technically should be a DPS increase if you do them correctly as a ranged DPS, at least.  Might be a DPS loss for melee, don't remember at this point.

This next part is talking about ZA/ZG in Cataclysm -- previously I pointed out that while he said the gear was nowhere close to the raids that had come out, they were only 6 ilvls below the normal raid difficulty at the time the dungeons came out (during Blackwing Descent/Bastion of Twilight/Throne of the Four Winds).
MattH wrote...
Except for the Valor and weapons, they were terrible. Justice got you 346 blues, Valor 359 purples. The only slot you couldn’t fill with Valor gear was the main hand drops in the Zul’s. Terrible as catch-up content, especially considering they were the only weapon drops available outside a raid until patch 4.3 dungeons. Imagine how many people spent a whole year with one weapon.
I don't understand what you expected out of them.  Valor gave gear equal to normal raids (current heroic difficulty) and had a weekly limit -- you could only get one item every week or two.  Did you expect ZA/ZG to also give gear equal to normal raids despite being easier and on a daily lockout?  You might be able to *eventually* fill most slots with Valor but that would take months to do (even one item per week on average would be 14+ weeks for a full Valor set -- that's 3.5 months of capping Valor every week).

Again, normal BD/BoT/TotFW (tier 11 -- which was the *current* content, you had nothing to catch up to at the time) was tuned around 346 blues.  ZA/ZG gave 353 gear.  It was amazing catch up content in that regard -- though whether they were too difficult is another story (meaning ZA/ZG were too difficult for their intended audience -- *I* loved them personally).

Then you mention 4.3 in a manner that makes me think you're trying to talk about ZG/ZA as catch-up content for both tier 11 AND Firelands.  I don't see how that makes any sense given that ZG/ZA were released before Firelands was the current content.

So now if we're talking Firelands catch-up content, when Firelands came out there was a new selection of Valor gear while the old Valor gear became purchasable for Justice.  Meaning you could get ton of 359 items from Justice, some 365 items from the Molten Front, and 378 items from Valor.  Weapon-wise you could get a 365 weapon from Blacksmithing (BoE so could buy it on AH as I recall).  If people spent an entire year with one weapon from ZA/ZG then they weren't raiding (otherwise they'd have a tier 11 or Firelands weapon) and didn't care enough to buy a crafted weapon.

So I'm really not sure what to say here.  Cataclysm/ZA/ZG all certainly had some flaws but what you're talking about doesn't seem to have been a major issue...

Next up we have dungeon (either dropped or "Valor" type rewards) vs LFR gear!  The previous question was "Dragon Soul LFR dropped 384 with tier/trinkets/etc. The dungeons with the same patch dropped 378. Are you claiming that no one was running those 378 dungeons for catch-up/alternate progression?"
MattH wrote...
No, but I do claim people won’t now. If anything it’s the opposite of Cata LFR. LFR gear is obsolete within a few weeks because of the Tanaan gearing. Those people who are looking to get into a normal run would see more upgrades from the outdoor grind than from LFR. It’s almost a direct violation of the RNG-as-content argument that Blizzard trots out constantly. It’s certainly more likely to get you the items you need and not extend out play time for most LFR players. Except maybe hunters looking to transmog that god awful tier set. Sad that the LFR mail set actually looks better.
A major thing you're missing here is the time investment.  The vast majority of people who only run LFR/dungeons are not going to be doing all of the the dailies every single day.  Even if you did do all the dailies every day and earned, say, 6667 crystals per day (I don't know how accurate that number is, I basically just tripled the "main" quest's rewards) it would still take a minimum of 45 days to get *just* the upgrade items themselves (well, technically 42 if you also do the Garrison Campaign for Tanaan since you get a free upgrade item).  Then you also need another 5000 crystals per slot you didn't get a drop/reward of and 10000 for a weapon slot in particular.  This is also assuming a 2H or ranged weapon -- add some more time in if you use two unique weapon slots.

That is a massive amount of time invested right there whereas LFR takes significantly less time relative to the rewards given.  That's the paradigm -- LFR will gear you far more quickly with less effort but the gear is random and a lot of it is worse than the Tanaan Empowered gear.  Then you can fill any slots missing with Empowered gear and/or crafted gear if you want.

Also, LFR is not *supposed* to be extended out.  Blizzard specifically wants people who only do LFR to get through it quickly and then unsubscribe if they so wish, not drag out a gear grind in it.  They said they'd rather have a person generally enjoy their LFR (gearing) experience and be wanting to resubscribe for the next patch rather than have that person miserable and hating LFR and quitting WoW entirely.

Now we have a discussion of catching up in WoD and I pointed out that "If your goal is to raid, then in 6.0 and 6.1 catching up was never easier in the history of WoW. However, it did require doing LFR and normal and/or heroic of older raids (in addition to other things like crafting, apexis gear, and so on). And since HM/BRF was the current tier, there wasn’t really anything to catch-up TO if you weren’t raiding." 
MattH wrote...
Not a huge fan of raiding the same raid to raid. Raids should be what you strive for, not what you do to do more of what you’ve done, grinding LFR, to grind Normal, to grind Heroic. This expansion and Cataclysm are the two that essentially ask you to do that since Blizzard established catch-up mechanisms. Before that you had faction grinds and dungeons, content outside of the raids themselves.
Where did I ever say "grind LFR to grind Normal to grind Heroic?"  We were discussing someone trying to catch up as quickly as possible here to Normal/Heroic raiding.  Between 630 dungeon blues, 640 Challenge Mode epics, up to three 670 crafted items, various 655+ BoEs, 640 LFR Highmaul items, and potentially even some Apexis gear you could *easily* be ready for Normal, hell, even Heroic Highmaul within a week of hitting 100.  I trust you're not saying that potentially doing Highmaul LFR one time for an item or three due to being behind the curve is a grind?  That's not even getting into the Conquest items either which were 660 I believe.
MattH wrote...
Look, all I want is gear progression that lets me test myself, that I can do with 4 friends, without having to find 5-25 more, that is new content, not rehashed, warmed over, tired material. Now all I have is the hope that I don’t get into a group of mouthbreathers in a normal raid after spending an hour in Group Finder asking every open group if they need a dps, and no other content short of that.
I’m not trying to convince you that you aren’t having fun, that you aren’t enjoying yourself, all I am trying to get across is that this expac feels skimpy if you aren’t either a raider, or don’t care about social play outside of RP. I’d probably be fine with “Mythic” dungeons had I not exhausted my tolerance of them long ago, simply because they were the only thing to do.

I would think that you’d like to see me and others like me happy, so that we keep subbed and you keep getting the content you like. We don’t know below what threshold they won’t be able to pay the people who make your favored content, even though FFXIV can do it with less than 4 million subs, so you probably aren’t close, but I hope you never stop raiding, because there’s nothing else right now.
Have you considered using a site like OpenRaid rather than the Group Finder?  You're a lot more likely to find quality groups there that lack the "mouthbreathers" you mention.  I know you said you don't have a set schedule, but you don't have to go to the same run every week or something.

And I'm not sure why you're trying to get that across to me -- I've said multiple times through the comments I left that I agreed that if you tried to play WoD at max level "solo" and didn't want to do anything besides daily quests, normal/heroic dungeons, and LFR that there was very little to do.

Things like...

"If your goal is to do solo content, some five man normal/heroic dungeons, and then an occasional LFR…then yeah, WoD would suck for you. Very little max level solo content (mostly a weekly quest chain that took probably less than an hour per week), quickly obsoleted normal/heroic dungeons, and LFR intentionally watered down to pure tourist mode.

On the flip side, if you’re interested in Normal/Heroic/Mythic raiding then raiding has literally never been better or easier to get into, for example."

"Someone who mainly does dungeons/max level solo content would have loathed WoD (and for good reason from their perspective)."

"The problem was that if you take all of them together you wind up gutting the game for people who don’t want to engage in organized group content at ANY level of difficulty (PvP OR PvE) and their experience sucks. They basically just took away stuff from the “solo” player and added it to other sections of the game (raids are better than ever for many reasons) but didn’t replace the stuff for “solo” players with anything those players wanted."

"Where did I disagree? Pretty sure I’ve said multiple times that WoD massively lacked stuff the “solo” players were used to."


That said, what *would* make you happy?  Azuriel said he'd be happy with 2-3 new (harder) dungeons per raid with better rewards and all dungeons giving Valor -- basically the ICC patch but every patch.  But presumably mostly doing the same dungeons over and over again (with a few new ones added into the pool each raid tier) for a renewing Valor gear grind would fall into the category of "rehashed, warmed over, tired" stuff for you (I personally can't imagine doing an entire expansion of that, for the record).

So his solution wouldn't satisfy you -- what do you think is a reasonable solution?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Been Rather Busy, But a Cross-Post...

I apologize for the vast delay on...well, anything happening here.  RL has been busy, WoW has been busy, other games have kept me busy.  A few things of note:

1, my guild got 13/13H week one of Hellfire Citadel on two nights a week which was technically US 30th (despite killing Archimonde on Monday night at about 11 PM CST).  Very happy about that.  We prepared a lot (no PTR testing, didn't work for our schedule -- Sun/Mon is fun) and it paid off.

2, I was interviewed on the Twisted Nether blogcast.  So if you want to hear me ramble on for two hours feel free to check it out.

3, I'm still running weekly Openraid runs, switched to normal Hellfire Citadel with the release of 6.2.  May possibly switch to heroic a few months down the line, but we stick with normal until we're full clearing it consistently and people don't need much gear from it.  If you're new there's no guarantee you'll have a spot (some weeks we have like 20ish, some weeks we're at the max of 30) but if you're interested then feel free to sign up.  The run is meant for anyone -- have a mix of casual members in guild, alts in guild, bored mains in guild, and friends both on and off server.  That said, like the description says, it IS normal and thus you need to be willing to, well, actually try.  We don't expect perfection or even anything remotely close to it but if you show up completely unenchanted with empty sockets and try to AFK fights, well...

I'm working on another post at the moment but I got distracted by what wound up being a very a long comment on another blog so I decided to post said comment here as well.  In general, I've been enjoying WoD and particularly the raids.  I hardly think the expansion is perfect (both the garrison and shipyard have many issues, for example) but I admit it annoys me when I see people try to pick on WoD unjustifiably (stick to the justifiable stuff, please).

So I saw this post and left the following comment...


I don't think this is exactly fair:

"WoD will clearly be marked as the expansion with the least amount of content since launch.  2.5 raid tiers, 8 dungeons, no races, no classes, Garrisons, which killed cities, Ashran which put the final nail in open world PvP, a near-complete destruction of crafting.  But we got selfies."

1, WoD launched with Shadowmoon Valley/Frostfire Ridge (I'll combine them as they're mostly faction specific even though they each took an entire's zone of work), Gorgrond, Talador, Spires of Arak, and Nagrand.  So that's five "main" zones for leveling and I'd also point out that many of those are larger than past leveling zones.

BC launched with seven, best case -- Hellfire, Zangarmarsh, Terokkar, Nagrand, Blade's Edge, Netherstorm, Shadowmoon.  Terokkar/Blade's Edge were both smaller zones and Netherstorm/Shadowmoon were mostly intended for max level (while in WoD specific segments of those five zones were set aside for max level to continue previous storylines).  So even if you argue that BC had more in that regard, it's not substantially more.

In theory, WotLK had eight...except two are basically mutually exclusive (similar to Shadowmoon/Frostfire in that regard), Grizzly/Zul'drak were smaller, and Icecrown/Storm Peaks had mostly max level content.

Cataclysm hit us with Vashj'ir/Hyjal (same mutually exclusive thing), Deepholm, Uldum, and Twilight Highlands.  So that's five absolute best case, more like four if we compare to WoD (though, in all fairness, they did need to revamp all the earlier leveling zones in Azeroth).

MoP had six best case with Valley/Krasarang really "one" zone rolled into two names, size/story wise.

Put that all together and WoD equaled or exceeded MoP for sure, definitely exceeded Cataclysm (though leveling revamp), was about equal (maybe slightly smaller) than WotLK, and about the same as BC.

2, the raid tiers have 30 bosses between them (also note that Blizzard has explicitly said they want to get closer to a year between expansions, which means you can only realistically HAVE two raid tiers if they have like 12+ bosses per tier (about six months for each) so expecting more than that means you also have to take issue with Blizzard's expansion goal) -- and we'll lay aside quality for the moment (since it take massively more amounts of work to not only design modern bosses compared to something like BC but also to balance them for multiple difficulties -- LFR doesn't take careful tuning but Normal/Heroic do and Mythic is very tight tuning).

BC had three bosses in t4, 10 bosses in t5, and 14 bosses in t6.  That gives us 27 total (not counting Sunwell since that was planned for WotLK and only introduced to avoid too long of a wait -- hence something like that could technically happen for WoD still).  That doesn't include the 13 bosses in Karazhan (if we count every Opera boss individually) or 6 in Zul'Aman but the raids were also designed for only one size (and difficulty, but we said we'd leave difficulties/tuning/quality out of it for now).  Overall, though, absolute best case we have 52 bosses for 22 months of BC (counting Sunwell) compared to (theoretically) 30 bosses for maybe 13-14 months (hopefully) of WoD.  Ratio of 2.36 for BC and 2.14-2.31 for WoD which isn't far off.

WotLK technically had 15 bosses in Naxx (though given that they literally just adjusted some numbers and the tuning was laughable I'm not sure how much that counts), 1 in Malygos, 14 in Ulduar, 5 in Trial of the Crusader, and 12 in Icecrown Citadel (ignoring Ruby Sanctum since it was added as filler and literally was only 1 boss anyway, wouldn't even make a significant difference).  So best case (even WITH Ruby Sanctum) we're looking at 48 bosses for 25 months which is a ratio of 1.92...which is worse than both BC and WoD, especially given the lack of effort needed for Naxx.

Cataclysm had 28 bosses TOTAL counting Sinestra.  That's just flat out less than WoD.

Mists of Pandaria had 42 bosses for 25 months, or 1.68 ratio...not exactly a "good" ratio there compared WoD.

The funny thing is that people didn't complain about the lack of overall raid content in WotLK/Cata/MoP despite the fact the ratio was "lower" than BC -- they really only complained about super long final patches.  And that "ratio" can't even afford to get too high -- guilds can only go through raid bosses so fast.  Even if Blizzard could drop a 10 boss raid zone on us every month it wouldn't make any sense to do so, we can't consume the content at that pace.

So really, the only reason you could complain about the "lack" of raid content in WoD is if you want the time between expansions to be longer than Blizzard's stated goal...which I guess you'd do because you're concerned about the one-time expansion purchase fee or something?

3, no races/classes.  This is completely a matter of personal taste -- I don't *want* new classes and I don't care about new races either.  Remember that a new race also means every piece of gear needs to work for that new race too and a new class can cause major issues (balancing 11 classes is already a major problem -- and I don't mean Blizzard is incompetent, I mean that it's really hard to do).  I admit it kind of feels like the people usually wanting new races/classes are the people NOT doing high end PvE/PvP.  I'm not saying you're "inferior" or something if you don't engage in either of those, just keep in mind that our perspectives are vastly different about some things.

4, Garrisons.  I honestly don't know what "killed cities" means in this context.  I didn't pay attention to other players in cities before and I can still meet people in many locations (including garrisons AND cities) if I want.  The only times I really recall cities "mattering" are...

Vanilla: people tried to show off gear on Ironforge bridge and people spammed trade for groups.

BC: people spammed trade for groups.

WotLK: people spammed trade for groups.

Beyond that?...  I mean, I guess people sometimes people spammed trade for actual trade...but that still happens today too.

I interact with people in guild chat, group finder (as in pre-made raid group tool), OpenRaid, and blogs mainly.  Cities never really played a role.

5, Ashran.  I'll admit I don't really follow/participate in PvP much these days so I'll just skip this point.  Maybe you're right, we can try to discuss it if you want, but I'm not sure it's really important in the grand scheme of things (aka, even if you're 100% right on that I don't think it would matter if you weren't right on everything else).

6, Crafting.  I honestly don't know what you want.  Vanilla/BC crafting was terrible -- complete RNG for rare open world drops for the most part, some raid drops I think?  I got a rare tailoring belt pattern in BC and had a monopoly on it for a while since only I could provide the primals.  Made me a lot of money but I don't think it was a good system.  Saying that everyone can slowly work towards items with daily cooldowns seems to generally have been the best system yet.  Yes, it does mean that there was little people could do outside of the daily cooldowns.  I'm not saying it's perfect, but what crafting system in WoW was better?  Remember, you said it was a "near-complete destruction of crafting" :P

7, selfies.  I'm pretty sure a Blue posted that the vast majority of the "feature" was done by one employee over a weekend or three.  If I'm wrong I will gladly retract this statement but I seem to recall that.  And as a programmer myself I can assure you that adding the "selfie" feature would not have been a major ordeal.  We didn't lose a raid tier because of selfies.  The music jukebox honestly probably took more work but you don't see people complaining about that.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Liebster Thing

I was "tagged" for this evil chain letter by the horrid Talarian at Gamer By Design.  I've actually been stewing over some stuff for the past few weeks and trying to figure out what I wanted to write (and what I'd be better off not writing).  So let's break the slump with this, shall we?

Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of this principle called "keeping it brief" or something like that.  So strap yourselves in!

1. What is your favourite game mechanic?

I think I'd have to say "persistent area modifiers."

By this I mean combat where the environment or things in the environment play a large role, whether it's due to the shape/features of the area or things that happen during combat.  In a lot of games, the combat "arena" for a boss fight might as well be infinitely large because ultimately it hardly matters where you are in it.  Every spot is basically the same as any other, except for the relative position of you and the enemies.  And this isn't referring to generic "cover" in a shooter (unless there's something like the boss/enemies destroying the cover so you have to plan out good paths to utilize as much of it as possible).  Talking about cases where the initial environment matters a lot or the boss fight winds up shaping it which is what I'm referring to.

Some examples?

Ganondorf from Ocarina of Time.  He destroys sections of the platform you're fighting on which can lead to making it harder to get to him and needing to remember where is safe to run.

Gyorg from Majora's Mask.  You're relatively safe on the platform (land), but he's in the water (his element).  You ultimately do need to enter the water to damage him (though you can stun him from land to help) but there's a dichotomy there that's interesting.

To mention (quite a few) WoW examples...

Darkmaster Gandling in Scholomance, where you get teleported to different rooms, have to fight your way out, and then get back to the boss.

Big Bad Wolf.  Getting chased by a boss is one thing.  Getting chased by a boss in very close quarters is another (a larger room would mean you could just flat out run away easily versus having to go in circles with speed boosts).

Prince Malchezaar.  Infernals block off sections of the battlefield.  Oh, and you still need to run away from the boss when Enfeebled.  Better be paying attention to where the current Infernals are or you'll run into one at 1 HP!

Lady Vashj.  Need to get the tainted cores that spawn to the generators...by tossing them because you can't move while holding one, plus the sporebats filling up the room with poison at the end.

Illidan.  Have to keep the Flames within their tether (while dealing with flames they leave behind) while the tanks and raid need to avoid the fire lines from Illidan himself.

Nefarian: skeletons (and people) need to stay outside of the Shadowflame and their positioning in phase 1 is extremely important to start phase 3 properly.  Oh, and Nefarian is still tail whipping and breathing while that's going on which denies even more room.

Ragnaros: people need to avoid the Living Meteors in limited space and handle those properly with the Breath of Frost combined with the Dreadflame filling up the room at end.

Elegon: need to disable the six conduits at the proper times, in vs out nature of the center energy field.

Lei Shen: need to handle the various quadrant abilities, split for intermission phases, figure out what abilities to have active at the end and thus what space can be used, etc.

Siegecrafter: obviously the conveyer belts which then determine what happens on the main platform, positioning of fire/sawblades, dealing with those and the magnet.

Hans and Frans: moving correctly for smart stampers, avoiding the fire sheets/stampers during those phases.

Blackhand: hiding behind debris piles, going up onto the balcony, slag bombs/smash craters in final phase.

Obviously skipping a lot (including basically all of Vanilla and WotLK as I wasn't really raiding in Vanilla and wasn't playing during WotLK), just naming a few.

One example in my projects, such as Siege of the Heavens, would be the Vrock lord who you need to have charge into a pillar or wall, which means not only positioning him in the right direction but also close enough to an obstacle to collide with it.

In general, they often provoke a sense of impending doom ("Whew, we managed to live...but we're running out of space here!") or a feeling of cleverness ("Ha! Used that boss's stuff against him!").

Runner up would probably be mechanics that instantly kill you if you mess up.

2. Is there a character did you think would be cool when announced or first encountered, but in practice turned out terrible? Who? Why? 

I don't think so?

If we're talking about movie/TV characters, I don't really form opinions of characters ahead of time, I'm pretty much just evaluating whether the movie/show looks interesting enough to watch.  No real expectations in terms of characters.

If we mean story/personality wise for video game characters...see above.

If we mean mechanically speaking for video games...I'm still not sure?  Part of the problem is I rarely pay attention to "Coming up!" stuff.  The only game in recent memory where I had any kind of expectations built up prior to it being released might be Overwatch when I saw it at Blizzcon, I suppose.  And when I tried Widowmaker out I recall being disappointed that her "assault rifle mode" was so weak.  But she's also meant to generally be a sniper or use things like her mines/vision so I didn't think she was suddenly terrible, just far weaker at closer quarters than it "appeared" she would be.  The trailer technically only has her "sniping" at the very start of the battle for a few seconds, during most of it she seems be holding her own in pitched combat.

3. If your entire life turned out to be a simulation or part of a video game, would it change your outlook on life? How?

Absolutely.  I mean, for starters, the whole idea of "Leaving the world a better place" or "Helping raise the next generation" or anything similar becomes completely meaningless.  Either there is no next generation or anything you might do can/will be overwritten if the player/designer feels like it.  Even the past is irrelevant since there's no way for you to know that actually happened.  Could easily have happened in a different manner (but that was then changed by the player/designer) or not happened at all (and you were just data to make you think it did).  That doesn't mean morality is suddenly meaningless, as presumably each AI in the video game/simulation is a rational actor, but it does mean that a lot of long term stuff is meaningless.

I suppose "how" it would change my outlook on life is that I'd start spending my time seeing if I can "escape" the simulation while still trying to avoid "dying" in the simulation.  Can I get my personality/memories/etc uploaded to the "real" world?  Can others?  Is there any more information we can learn about the simulation/game and how long it will run?  Etc.

Saying such a thing would open up a can of worms would be an incredible understatement and this post is already long enough overall, so I'll stop there for now.

4. What is your favourite colour?

I'm always torn between red and blue.  Blue being calm, control, and beautiful snowy landscapes while red is power, pride, and perfect summer days.  Ice is cool, Fire is cool (sort of), Water is bleh.

5. If you were an astronaut and going to space for 6 months, what personal item would you bring with you?

I'm assuming I can bring stuff like pictures of family in a wallet or digitally on a phone/computer, so probably my saxophone?  Can picture looking down at Earth and playing some tunes (I'm assuming any added moisture to the air would either be insignificant and/or easily dealt with by the equipment).

It's only a minor hobby, I'm certainly not amazing, and I admit I'm having trouble coming up with other stuff that I'd actually want to bring to space.

6. Which of the Seven Deadly Sins is your favourite?

Pride.  To quote the bible...

"Pride. It is the most insidious of sha. It is good until it is bad. And then it is more dangerous than all the others combined."

Er...that should be "sins," not "sha."  Must have been a typo.

7. Is there a moment in your life where you felt you were finally "in the future"? What precipitated it?

I switched from a cell phone that flipped open and had an extendable antenna to a Blackberry.

Another moment would be switching from the Blackberry to an Android.  At this point the idea of NOT being able to access the internet and look stuff up on a phone seems weird.

8. Cliffhangers, good technique, or annoying technique? Why?

I think they're fine as long as I'm thinking "Yeah, that seems to be a logical point to take a break in the story" -- meaning that trying to resolve the revelation/disaster would take too much time in the current work.

That said, I think the "The hero is hanging onto the edge of the cliff, will he survive?  Find out next time!" stuff is nonsense.

9. Has there been a game mechanic that enraged you or felt supremely unfair? What was it and why?

Damage type resistances/immunity.

Now,  don't get me wrong.  I loved playing Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow and Silver/Gold/Crystal.  Y'know, back when we had 150 (and then 250) Pokemon and not 750 or whatever the count is up to now.  And our Pokemon fought one-on-one, not this "team battle" nonsense.  And we threw rocks at kids to get them off our durn lawns.  And...what was I saying again?

The whole premise of Pokemon, though, was that you needed to build a balanced team that could take on all comers and each member of the team was usually suited to countering specific enemy types.  For example, my Typhlosion (a pure Fire type Pokemon) counted Grass/Bug/Steel/Ice with Flamethrower.  He also countered Water/Flying with Thunderpunch.  He also countered Fire/Electric/Poison/Rock with Earthquake.  He still did full damage with a very, very strong Flamethrower to Normal/Fighting/Psychic/Ghost/Dark.  Only thing he was very weak against was Dragon.

Maybe that wasn't the best example...

The point, though, is that you collected a team of six different Pokemon that covered all your bases (like Fire/Water/Electric/Flying/Psychic/Dark) and specific Pokemon would take out specific threats (Fire takes out Grass/Bug/Steel, Water takes out Fire/Ground/Rock, etc).  But your Pyschic Pokemon didn't care if he wound up being useless for a section of the game that featured Dark Pokemon.  And since you were only fighting one on one at a time, it's not like your Pyschic Pokemon was involved in any of those fights, period, the game wasn't balanced around it.

But if you look at many RPGs, you often see problems.

First, you get situations often doesn't even give you the tools you need.  For example, in Dragon Age, the spell Inferno is a massive Fire AoE that does 10 damage + 10% of your spellpower every second.  Or...you have the spell Tempest which is a massive Electrical AoE that does 5 damage + 5% of your spellpower every second.  Or...you have the spell Blizzard which does 5 + 5% of your spellpower every second.


Similar thing with the cone attacks.  While sometimes you have things like Cold spells slowing/freezing enemies, they're less vulnerable to this stuff on higher difficulties and it's the tougher enemies which are usually the problem anyway.  Which means Fire spells are basically just better in nearly every situation.

Anyone want to take a guess what element the most (and usually toughest) enemies are immune to?  Yeah, it's Fire.  This would be like Pokemon making Flamethrower do 120 damage while Thunderbolt and Ice Beam did 60 damage or something (both Thunderbolt and Ice Beam have a chance to Paralyze and Freeze their targets respectively, but it's generally irrelevant).

Second, you can often wind up in situations where one or more party members are completely (or effectively) useless.  In Dragon Age 2, a lot of enemies are immune to one or more damage types on the hardest difficulty.  For example, near the start of the game one quest involves fighting some thugs.  They are completely immune to Fire damage for some reason.  If you're playing a warrior or rogue, then your sister (a mage) is with you.  She has a staff that deals elemental damage (and so far you've had zero chance to get a different staff).  Would ANYONE like to guess what elemental damage her staff does?

Yeah, you guessed it, it does Fire damage.  Which those thugs are immune to.  Just...wow.
Despite that, this usually isn't the end of the world in single player stuff -- but it really sucks in multiplayer.  People don't like feeling like they might as well AFK for a part of the game because they can't contribute.  Vast difference between some people getting some time to shine or a moment of glory and having a chunk of the group feel like saying "Well, I'm going to go read a book, let me know once I can actually start contributing again."

And some of you might be thinking "Well, then those people should have been more well rounded!"  See first point.  Often the game doesn't give you the options to do that (either because it doesn't have the tools necessary or because you haven't reached the point in the game where you can have all those options).

Third...it just doesn't provide meaningful gameplay.  I mean, I can understand the appeal of the following: "Hero, the dragon will scorch you alive without protection!  You must gather these mystical reagents so we can craft you an amulet that will help protect you from his fiery breath!"  It gives you a sense that the dragon is a badass and you need to prepare in order to fight it.

But then what happens in the future (assume you've managed to acquire another amulet that protects you from electrical damage)?

"Hero, the fiery demon threatens our village!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from fire damage!"

"Hero, the storm giant threatens our castle!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from electric damage!"

"Hero, the pyromancer wants to burn this forest down!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from fire damage!"

"Hero, the blue dragon captured the princess!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from electric damage!"

"Hero, a fire elemental is loose in the wizard's tower!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from fire damage!"

"Hero, that cleric of the Thunder God wants to sacrifice those captives!  Good thing you can wear that amulet to protect you from electric damage!"

I mean, we're just switching back and forth between two damn amulets here.  Our gameplay is exactly the same.

It gets even worse when you have to get an entire set of equipment to protect against a specific damage type.  Again, you're just switching back and forth between items that don't actually affect your gameplay at all.  In some cases getting the sets initially and figuring that might be interesting...but switching back and forth 50 times is just...boring and dull.

The same goes for DEALING damage to enemies.  If you have spells that are the same thing except with different damage types then it's literally just the difference between hitting buttons one and two instead of buttons three and four.  They can't interact meaningfully because you have so many buttons for all the damage types already -- simply too many buttons to deal with effectively.

And then consider the reverse.  Say the buttons do interact meaningfully and the damage types have different playstyles.  For example, a mage in WoW with the specs of Arcane (limited movement and mana management), Fire (lots of crits and fiery DoT effects!), and Frost (water elemental pet and freeze/chill spell interaction).  You think "Wow, I really like the theme of Fire's playstyle" and then you run into Ragnaros (huge fire elemental for anyone not aware).  Well, tough luck for you, better go learn how to play another spec that you don't enjoy as much.

Now, you could even make an argument along the lines of "It's good to force spec switching like that so that players are forced to experience the different playstyles and get variety."  But I've *never* heard anyone make that argument.  Rather, they claim something along the lines of "Duh, the giant fire elemental being fought in the Molten Core of the world by mages, paladins, and warlocks HAS to be immune to fire or it just doesn't make any sense!"

Yeah.  There's a reason WoW moved away from this stuff.

The funny thing is that it actually works well on a managing level -- stuff like this makes complete sense in games likes Lords of Magic, HoMM3, Starcraft/Warcraft series (where you have different units with different attack and armor types), etc.  Army composition and bringing the appropriate units to counter the enemy is one of the major parts of the game (sound similar to Pokemon?).  But *being* one of those units that might be completely useless at times...that's the part that sucks.

Sitting stuff out because you can't contribute while others do all the work is simply not fun in a video game.  And the main goal is most of these games is to have fun.

10. Tortoise, or the Hare?

Tortoise.  For anything truly difficult, patience, planning, and learning is superior to gusto, arrogance, and initial ability.  And on a personal level I've been burned too many times in the past by unduly relying on my own ability and improvisation to get me through things.


At this point I think I'm supposed to "tag" more people and have 10 questions of my own.  And I'd love to, but the law has been laid down upon me:

So I guess I gotta do two.  With tagging and a set of questions in the second one.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Screw Those Mythic Raiders!

Highly amused by something I read (note: the following post far exceeds the healthy daily dose of snark -- you have been warned).

The Grumpy is upset that people don't have a strong incentive to repeatedly run dungeons once they start raiding or doing LFR:
So it got me to thinking about what would make dungeon more relevant for a longer period of time.


My idea would be this.  Dungeon gear that drops will be 630 basic and as you kill raid bosses it can go up.  Not like missions to the "next" level but to that level.  Like lets say you killed 15 highmaul bosses in LFR, when you do dungeons the gear that drops will be 645.  If you kill 15 highmaul bosses on normal it would drop 655, heroic, 670, and so on.


The other problem might be that people would, or could, gear up too quickly that way.  Once you down 15 bosses at a specific raid level just spam dungeons until you have all gear of that level.  I can see that point and I believe I have a solution for that as well.  Instead of the gear they "drop" being equal to your current raid level, have a bag at the end of the run for everyone, a bag they can only get once per day and that bag would contain 1 piece of gear, guaranteed, for your current raiding level.  So the dungeon would still drop 630 gear otherwise, but once a day you have a chance to get something that very possibly could be an upgrade.

I know I would still do it that way.
I left a comment responding to that last line in particular:
Yeah, everyone would. In fact, every raider would kill 15 bosses on heroic the first day or two of content and then do a heroic dungeon every day.

Why do you think forcing Mythic/Heroic raiders to do a heroic dungeon every day is a good thing? They're already likely spending 8+ hours a week working through the raid zone. You think that'll make them happier or be constructive for the game somehow?
His response?

I don't think it matters what they think, it is not for them, it is for the other 99% of the player base. You can't design the game around the few. So do I think mythic raiders would be happy about it? Don't know, don't care.

They would be no more "forced" to do it as a mythic raider as I am forced to change servers if I want to raid mythic.

I choose not to, they can choose not to. Choice, it is a wonderful thing. Something blizzard does not have right now. This would offer it.

Bottom line is blizzard can do something to make dungeons more relevant past the first week of the expansion and this is the only idea I can personally think of that could breathe life into it.

If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them. But reward needs to matter and once raids come out I can't see any other reward they could offer.
So let's break this down.

First, his original idea: can you imagine killing 15 bosses in Heroic Highmaul and then having every single heroic dungeon boss dropping 670 gear?  Thankfully, Grumpy managed to realize this *might* be a tad problematic and thus came up with a major improvement to his suggestion -- now you can "only" get one guaranteed 670 piece per day from a random dungeon.

Let's do some math...you basically get 0.2 items per boss you kill, on average, in the best case scenario.  So during Highmaul, that means you should expect to pick up 1.4 items per week from clearing it on heroic.  On *top* of that, you should also get seven additional guaranteed items from running a heroic dungeon!  Let's see...that's a 500% increase in gearing rate by doing heroic dungeons.  Or, in other words, 83% of your gear would come from heroic dungeons.

Now, to be fair, that's not counting the 3 coins per week (another 0.6 items) or the possibly of killing a mythic boss or two...let's say 2 mythic bosses for 0.4 items for 2.4 items per week counting 7/7H, 2/7M, and three coins spent.  That's still a 291% increase in gearing rate from Grumpy's idea.  Or 74% of your gear coming from heroic dungeons.

Yeah.  That's probably not a good idea.  Not even remotely.  Facerolling dungeons tuned for 610 ilvl with an ilvl of 650-660 to get nearly 75% of your gear?  Just...no.  I hope I don't have to explain why that's such a bad idea (and that's not even getting into the issue of how you could stop even doing heroic raids and still get 7 heroic raid drops per week).

To put things in perspective, the garrison mission gives one raid drop every 14 days (and yes, it's technically a tier higher (unless you're a mythic raider already)).

Second, screw those mythic raiders.  Or, quite frankly, any heroic or mythic raider (I guarantee you 90%+ of heroic raiders would be doing that daily heroic for a guaranteed 670 item).  We can't design parts of the game around them.  Along those lines, let's also change the following:

  • No more weekly raid lockouts.  99% (note: heroic and mythic raiders make up more like 10% of the playerbase but we'll go with his number) of players won't run raids like crazy anyway.
  • No more limited stacking of consumables.  99% of players won't bother having 20 potions and elixirs active.
  • No more being limited to three seals per week.  99% of players won't bother getting more than three or so anyway because it keeps getting more expensive per seal.
  • No more "belated" LFR release.  99% of players won't feel compelled to run it to maximize their gear.
  • No more removing default tier and trinkets from LFR.  99% of players won't care about trying to snag those.
That's just off the top of my head -- I'm sure you can think of more examples of things we can change once we stop caring about that 1%.

Finally, the mythic raiders have a choice and wouldn't be forced to do it, eh?  You might say it was completely optional?  Or maybe, just maybe, that's not actually true.

But hey, Grumpy wants dungeons to be relevant and the only way he sees this as being possible is for them to drop raid gear.  Pets?  Nope, doesn't care.  Mounts?  Nope, doesn't care.  Gold?  Nope, doesn't care.  Transmog?  Nope, doesn't care.  Rep?  Nope, doesn't care.  Crafting materials/bonuses?  Nope, doesn't care.  Achievements?  Nope, doesn't care.  Garrison bonuses?  Nope, doesn't care.

Gotta get more epicz.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Being Permanently Banned For 143 Minutes

At 4:28 PM on Sunday, January 25th I received this email:

And no, it wasn't a fake email that was actually done superbly well or something:

The good news is that 65 minutes after being able to initially contact Blizzard about the situation I was able to get the ban reversed.  That may be a world record.

The bad news is that this ban should never have happened at all and the "compensation" for Blizzard's mistake was absolutely pitiful.

That said, the tone of this post is going to be significantly more positive than it was originally going to be.  You see, I GM a Mythic guild that is currently working on Mythic Imperator Mar'gok.  We only raid two nights a week.  Those two nights are Sunday and Monday.  So you might see how being banned on Sunday night for potentially a few days while it got sorted out *might* have been a minor problem for my entire guild.

Thankfully (and unfortunately mostly through persistence on my part) that situation did not come to pass.  I was unbanned 40 minutes before our raid time started.  Woo hoo.  Yay.  Or something.  It has resulted in this, though:

If you can't tell, that's my guildmates writing "Free Balk 2015" with Savage Feasts in Mythic Imperator's room (the magic sparks in the bottom left are him floating in mid-air just off camera).  And now I'm the butt of many jokes such as that slogan being repeated a lot, comments about how people aren't sure they want to risk their Steam account (or insert other game service) by playing with me (since apparently I'm a priority target to ban), and how they're uncomfortable with having an identified exploiter as their GM, etc.

So how did this happen, anyway?

Well, as soon as I saw the email I had a strong suspicion of what triggered it.  You see, I have a guildmate (who also happens to be an officer in my guild and a friend -- though you can't ever tell him I said that last part) who had both Horde and Alliance characters on Illidan and wanted to transfer gold across factions.  The catch is that you can't mail gold cross-faction and you can't buy AH items any character on your account listed.

So Bury (that's his BTag) asked me to help him out and I agreed.  I made a level 1 Orc Warrior named Smashbury (incredibly clever, right?), he met up with me, flew me to Orgrimmar, gave me 30k gold, and I used the 30k gold to buy 3 Copper Bars his Alliance character had put up on the AH.  Which meant that his Alliance character then got 28.5k in the mail from the auction (5% AH cut).  All perfectly legal under WoW's Terms of Service, no in-game items/currency being exchanged for out-of-game currency.

Apparently the fact that a level 1 spent 30k to buy an AH item triggered some kind of flag and I was banned less than a day later.  This was confirmed to me by Blizzard representatives.  I am severely hoping it was an automated ban because the situation involved the following:

1. The gold being transferred wound up back on the same account.  From Bury's account to my account to his account in 5-10 minutes.

2. The person I was transferring the gold to had been on my BTag's friends list for probably at least a year.

3. Even ignoring the friends list, his characters are an officer rank in the guild that I GM -- so chances are we probably know each other.

4. The character doing the transfer was a Warrior named Smashbury and the account getting transferred to was named Bury.  I'll admit I have no idea how gold buying or other exploitative services work but I am *guessing* that they don't involve silly jokes like that.  The spammers you see in trade are all random letters thrown together.

On the flip side, the fact that I might have had my account *permanently* banned by an automated system (not a temporary lockdown for investigation or some kind of warning for a first offense) is also a disturbing idea.

But what did I have to do to resolve this, you ask?

Well, first of all, I messed up.

I went to the support center to submit a ticket and selected "Account Management Issue" (other options being "10-Year Physical Gift," "Account Hacked," "Purchase or payment," "Can't log in," "Technical, Computer, Connection," "In-game issue," TCG Loot Card Issue," and "Recruit a Friend issue") and then proceeded to "Other Account Management Issue" (other options being "Started Edition upgrade issue," "Error when entering game key," "Remove SMS Protect," "Parental Controls," and "Change account information").  This allowed me to submit a "Phone Callback" request/ticket which said I would be contacted by a Blizzard representative in 5-10 minutes.  I submitted this ticket at 5:46 PM.

I did in fact get a call in that time-frame, the agent confirmed my suspicion that my level 1 Orc Warrior caused this ban, and I explained the situation.  He said that he unfortunately was not in a position to make a decision or change anything and that I would need to submit a ticket to some kind of Appeal Review.  Apparently I was supposed to select "Can't log in" initially which would lead to "Banned, suspended, appeal request" as an option.

I mentioned that I was the GM of a Mythic guild progressing on Mythic Imperator and that we raided in less than two hours, so getting this resolved quickly was kind of a high priority.  I then asked what the length of the appeal process was when using the ticket.  The agent said he couldn't really say.  I asked (pretty much word for word): "Are we talking an hour?  A day?  A week?"  The agent said he still couldn't say.

So I asked if he had a superior I could speak to -- he said yes but that the superior couldn't do anything either.  I said I understood and that I wanted to speak to his superior anyway.  He left to go talk to his superior while I waited.

A few minutes later the agent got back to the phone and said his superior would look the case over and get back to me within an hour.  He mentioned something about checking the IPs as part of it (which also disturbs me -- the automated system didn't bother to check the IP when it banned me?  It thought someone was logging onto my account from China or something to exploit the economy but didn't even check the IP at the time?  Really?) and I thanked him for his time.

Sure enough, at 6:51 PM I received a notification saying my ban had been lifted (keep in mind that was still under an hour from the point the superior got involved) which you saw at the top of this post.  I even had a free game day of time thrown in for the inconvenience!

But..let's talk about that last part.

Worst case a WoW subscription is $15 a month which is basically $0.50 a day.  Which means Blizzard considers unjustly *permanently* banning me, freaking me out (both about the ban and the situation my guild would be in), and having me waste an hour of my time to get it reversed to be worth...about $0.50.

That's rather insulting, actually.  I mean, seriously, just keep your "free day."  I'd rather have nothing under the circumstances, $0.50 is in no way some kind of reasonable compensation for unjustly *permanently* banning someone.

Unless Blizzard thinks that's really no big deal, of course, but that's disturbing in its own right.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Too Soon, Blackhand, Too Soon!

We found out a few days ago that Blackrock Foundry will open on February 3rd.  This has me extremely frustrated for several reasons.

1, we only had eight weeks from Mythic unlocking in Highmaul to Blackrock Foundry opening (and we'll need to clear Heroic Blackrock Foundry the week it opens so that week is shot).  Not only does that mean we had to basically average a boss per week, we had to do so with finals for students, work schedule changes due to the holidays, and family events/trips that go along with the end of the year.  Realistically we only had about six weeks to clear Mythic Highmaul.

2, Blizzard indicated they wanted to do this differently than how they handled Mogu'shan Vaults and Heart of Fear/Terrace of Endless Spring.  They said they didn't like how MSV wasn't out for nearly long enough.  Well, guess what?  They're doing it again.  MSV was out for a month with six bosses, HM will be out for a month and a half with seven bosses.  Not exactly much difference there.

3, based on the last two expansions (Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria), I feel like my guild has had a stable pattern: we clear the hardest difficulty with a month or two left in a typical raid tier while only raiding two nights a week. Our general ranking in the US/world has stayed roughly the same, so that's another metric to go by -- not like we're suddenly doing much worse or much better relatively speaking.  Yet we're only 5/7M at the moment with six more raid days to go.  Which means we'll hope to kill Ko'ragh this week (haven't even pulled him yet) and then extend our Mythic lockout for the next two weeks to try to get Imperator.  Hopefully we'll manage to get 7/7M but it's going to be close regardless.  This is also reminding me of the launch of Throne of Thunder (that Blizzard also said was much too soon) where we killed Heroic Sha of Fear the night before ToT hit.  In this case I understood that it was a mini-tier and that we wouldn't be farming for a month or two before BRF hit, but I expected us to be able to clear 7/7M without extending at a minimum.

4, speaking of extending, Blizzard is on the record saying they don't want people to be extending!  They want people to get some more gear each week to help make the bosses easier and did not like how people felt compelled to extend to try to finish in time before the next tier (believe this was in tier 14, aka MSV/HoF/ToES).  But guess what?  Extension time!

5, between the extension and lack of farm time, we're also going to be behind on gear.  The typical pattern is the guilds raiding more per week race ahead and finish faster, then we eventually catch up in progress and then have time to at least mostly catch up in gear before the next tier hits.  But we're going to be severely behind in gear for BRF this time around.  So we're at a further disadvantage than usual.

I am definitely not happy with the situation.  Even another week or two would make a huge difference -- when they said BRF was coming out in February I didn't imagine it would be the very first week!  Not after what they said about wanting to avoid repeating the mistake of MSV.

Yet here we are.