Monday, July 26, 2010

31-Point Talents, Or Why Not Just Spec For Us Blizzard?

One of the things I've always enjoyed in Wow is playing with my talent spec. I really like taking my current spec and playing with it on the Wowhead talent calculator (the best one out there IMHO) to see if I could possibly make it any better. This became slightly less fun after I discovered EJ and theorycrafting and found there was usually only one Best Spec, but I could still have fun with it while I levelled. Every time I levelled a new toon I would play with my spec as I went, every 5 or 10 levels, and make sure I was taking the best talents based on how I was playing. I would also make sure I couldn't be doing anything better in the way I played by checking what my talent points were buffing.

But this is all being taken away by the new 31-point talent trees.

Initially I really liked the idea. After all, there were a lot of boring talents in all three trees that HAD to be specced into (often with 5 points) in order for your spec to be viable. Blizzard promised to remove this, and let us be more flexible with how we wanted to spec. They promised us choice, and that if we wanted the best PVP build or the best PVE build we would be able to take that build and then take some fun talents as well. I was stoked, anticipating hours of fun ahead playing with my talents.

But what Blizzard gave us was Build 12604.

I've already ranted on this over at the brand, sparkly new mage forums at Mana Obscura, in this thread, so I won't repeat myself.

Why don't you just spec for us, Blizzard? If we have to take so many PVP talents when all we want to do is PVE (or vice versa), then why not just give us set bonuses and set talents after we choose either PVP or PVE? Really, even if we want to do both we have to take almost the same talents anyway! So why bother with talent trees at all?

/deep breath.

Okay, end rant. I know this is not the final talent build. And it IS significantly better than the previous one. I will keep my fingers crossed that Blizzard puts a little more work into the next round, though.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

If I Was A GM: Mains Before Alts

One of the touchy subjects when it comes to loot rules is the idea of mains before alts. Most guilds that can field a 25-man raid don't need to worry about it as their raid is usually made up of all mains, but the occasion does come up when you need someone's healer alt, or someone's tank alt, to come in to enable the run to happen. The problem is, how do you adequately compensate the person who is having to bring in a toon that is not their main and thus not have a chance at loot and badges on their main for the week? And also, how do you do this without upsetting the other players who are playing their mains and may not feel that it's fair to lose a piece of loot they've been after for weeks to someone's alt?

I've seen it done in a number of ways, some worked well and some didn't.

Using DKP
Having a DKP loot system in place can help. CAN help. It really depends on how this has been set up. For example, I once had a toon in a guild that allowed DKP to be shared between the same player's toons. Like many guilds, they often had a problem with attendance and having the right classes available, so they had to ask players to switch to their alts and sometimes even pug the last couple of spots. Therefore, they had a rule that dkp would be shared amongst a player's toons, and it could be spent on whatever toon happened to be in the raid.

I found that most of the time this system worked well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the guild wasn't the most progressed on the server, so most loot that dropped wasn't life-changing. So if an alt rolled on some gear and won, using dkp they had fairly earned, there usually wasn't much QQ. Secondly, most people in that guild were fair and unselfish themselves. The players who were asked to bring alts to the raid always rolled carefully, and if an item WAS of the life-changing variety, they simply wouldn't roll on it.

However, inevitably, there was some loot drama. Quite a few people had only their alts in this guild, their mains in more progressed guilds on the server - including myself. These people earned their dkp in the same way and in some cases provided extra experience and advice (rarely in my case! ;) ), but it was well known that they were playing alts. This caused some members of the guild to grumble a bit when this group won loot. The reasoning was that they already had well-geared mains, and now they were getting loot the second time around. I understand where some of the grumblers were coming from, it's a legitimate complaint. If the positions had been reversed I would have been feeling a little iffy about it too.

Using Loot Council
I really don't like loot council. It just has too much potential to cause unwanted drama. Even if the officers who make up the council are beyond reproach and fair to a fault, people are human and make mistakes. And if decisions are not explained, it can lead to a simmering resentment amongst guildies toward the officers.

I think the only plus for loot council is that having a mains before alts rule won't affect it much. It can be stated at the start of the run that so-and-so is bringing in his pally healer alt to help out so he will be up for consideration on all pally healer gear, but the decision still remains with the loot council. Thus there may be less chance for drama between guild members (other than resentment toward the pally) but more chance of drama both amongst and directed at the officers.

Free Rolls
I actually don't mind using free rolling as a loot system. It's not very good for an established guild that regularly clears a substantial amount of content every week, but for a casual guild or a pug raid it's a better idea. The advantage - or disadvantage, depending on your POV - of using this loot system in conjunction with a mains before alts rule is that any QQ will likely be at a guild level, as opposed to directed squarely at the officers.

It really depends on how well the loot rules have been defined at the start of the run. If they've been discussed in depth and set out in stone before the first mob is pulled, this system has a better chance of succeeding. But if not, it really relies on the players in question being fair and unselfish. It relies on those playing alts thinking before each roll - has someone in the run been trying to get this item for ages? Have I got this item on my main recently? Are there a lot of people that need this item? I've been in some great runs where this system was used, way back in ZA. We were all friends and all took the time to look at each other's gear before rolling on loot to make sure it wasn't a bigger upgrade for someone else. It can be very rewarding passing on an item that is a small upgrade to you but a huge upgrade for your friend, especially if they've brought their healer along just to enable your run to go ahead.

In My Guild
If I was a GM, the choice I would make would depend on what kind of guild I had. While the guild was still building, and if we were needing to pug a lot, I would use free roll and allow alts to have the same rolling rights as mains. Then when we became more established, I would use a DKP system of some kind. If we regularly needed to have people switch to their alts to allow our run to go ahead, I would let dkp be shared amongst all the player's toons. But if not, and someone requested to bring their alt along, it would be a strict mains before alts policy, or perhaps an alt's roll for their main spec would equal a main's roll for their off spec.

So I have the first set of rules sorted for my future guild. Well, a tiny, tiny subset. But you have to start somewhere!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

If I Was A Guild Master

I like politics IRL. I was stoked to hear Australia got our first female PM a couple of weeks ago, but a little dubious about how she got there. It looked like a nice little coup to be honest but of course Australia doesn't have those... I listened to every word of poor K-Rudd's goodbye speech and I've been glued to SBS News (the legitimate news channel, for non-Aussies) every night now an election has been called. According to polls Julia is the preferred PM by far (largely because no woman in her right mind would vote for the other guy... *shudder* sleazy much) but the two main parties are neck and neck. It's like a battle between the good guys and the bad guys, except the good guys aren't quite so good all the time and the bad guys aren't quite so bad - and that sentence could apply in so many different ways to different people. It's all so interesting!

I also really like Wow politics, particularly guild politics. There's a huge amount of politics and drama in Wow, and I love reading about it and commenting on it. There's behind the scenes Blizzard politics (hello, Real ID) and in-game drama over raid spots and loot. And there's bigger drama, like what to do if your guild is collapsing? Who is going to leave and who is going to stay? Who are the people putting the effort into rebuilding and who is being carried? Who should be booted? And so on.

That's what gave me the idea to start a sort of mini-series within my blog, based on what I would do if I was a guild master and I was the one dealing with these situations in order to keep my guild running smoothly.

If you read my first post you would know it's one of my ambitions to some day have my own guild. At the moment there are circumstances preventing me from doing this, both in-game and real-life, most notably the fact that we're in the middle of the pre-expansion blues. If I was to start a guild right now, chances are it would collapse in the guild-hopping flurry we'll get once Cata hits. So in the mean time, I'm going to put some of my ideas to paper (or to the computer screen, as it may be).

Disclaimer: This series is not going to take the form of an advice column. I've never lead a guild before; in fact, I've never lead anything beyond a 25 Naxx before. So rather than me giving advice, I'm going to just think out loud and rant and just generally shout my opinions to the world. I'm a blogger, it's what we do. ;) And I'll hope that among the (two, maybe three) people who read this blog there is an experienced GM or two who could give me some much needed guidance.

I'm not going to post my first entry in this little series now, but I have a couple up my sleeve that just need a little more thinking and research and they will be out shortly. :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Healing Arrogance

Enough about RealID. I want to talk about the game again. :)

So I've been levelling up (another) priest lately, and having a lot of fun with the simplicity of the levelling process. You find a !, go kill the stuff it wants you to, then go back and find the ?. And when you get bored of quests, you queue for LFD. As soon as I hit 40 I bought myself a dual spec, so I always queue as dps and heals, but I usually get in as heals. So I've been healing my way through about 75% of the levelling process, really, and along the way I've noticed a few things and developed a few habits.

I didn't really think they were bad habits until my bf happened to mention offhand that I was a bit of an arrogant healer. I disagreed with him at the time, and even after thinking about it I still do. Let me list some of them, and I'd love to hear other people's opinions, especially healers.

Before I begin, let me clarify something. Those of you who have recently levelled up a priest would know that until you hit around level 45 (maybe a few levels prior) you have drastic mana issues while healing. If the tank takes one or two pulls at a time, you'll be fine, but today's tanks tend to think they can take on everything in sight at once. Whenever my tanks did this, I found myself needing to drink after each pull. Perhaps this is my own bad gear choices but whatever the cause, the situation I was in was one of extreme mana-rationing.

The List

  • I refuse to heal hunter's pets unless they are doing something useful, AND the hunter is also healing it. A good hunter will not allow her pet to pull agro unless it is absolutely necessary (ie something is eating the healer), therefore the pet should not need to be healed unless there is some kind of aoe damage.
  • I refuse to heal a tapping warlock unless they are out of mana mid-fight. And further to this - if said warlock refuses to drink between pulls and taps instead, expecting to be healed, then enters the fight on 30% health and pulls agro, I WILL let them die. To me, that is arrogance and stupidity on the part of the warlock, not me.
  • At this level tanks usually don't bother to check the healer's mana before pulling. I understand this, so when I need to drink I say so in party chat. If a tank goes off and pulls after I've said I need to drink, I don't mind letting him die.

To my mind, all of these things - checking the healer's mana, healing your own pet, and not tapping to 30% right before a pull - are common courtesy and common sense. Therefore it's not being arrogant to put the tank or other party members first. But I will be interested to hear other opinions, even if you agree with my bf on this one.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blizzard "Backs Down"

To a chorus of largely positive responses, Blizzard has "backed down" from its plans to make posting with your real name mandatory on its new forums. Without a doubt, this is good news. I won't go into why it was a terrible idea, because I've already done that.

What I do want to talk about, however, is that I'm not 100% sure this whole thing was genuine. I did mention in passing in my previous post on the subject that I was a little suspicious over Blizzard's intentions, and the timing on their backdown has only increased those suspicions. For three days they allowed the forums to go wild with the player backlash, then just as the story began to spread to the wider world, they put a lid on it.

Now, I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist and I normally laugh at the theories some people come up with. But this time the theory makes too much sense. There are two huge advantages Blizzard gains over this whole mess.

Firstly, this story has generated enough publicity and spread to enough newspapers and online news services in the world that it has no doubt managed to put Wow back on the minds of people who have let their subscriptions lapse during the pre-expansion blues. As happens with every expansion, people get bored after finishing all the content and turn to other games to tide them over. This story would no doubt serve as a reminder that Wow is still around and still relevant, and possibly give some people a nudge to renew their subscriptions.

Secondly, it is a widely accepted PR tactic to generate (read: fake) bad publicity about your client in order to bring him/her/it into the media's eye. We see it every day with celebrities (Brangelina have been about to break up for the past three years), new movies (surely every set in Hollywood can't be overrun with feuding costars), new TV shows, new products, and so on. What it does is make the client seem relevant again. Also, on occasion, it can mask a slightly less controversial change that the client actually does want to make.

And this is what makes me think. If Blizzard wants to, they can now announce that in the new forums everyone will need to post on and be known by just one alias. Prior to the big controversy, there would have been many complaints about this, I'm sure. Some people just like to complain. But now there will be much wider acceptance in the Wow community, plus Blizzard got some great publicity out of it.

The proof will be in the pudding, as my grandma says. I think this was a carefully thought-out, cleverly executed, publicity stunt. I'll be interested to see how things pan out in the days to come.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The RealID Controversy

I wasn't going to weigh in on this topic because it's everywhere now, but I do feel strongly about it. Basically, Blizzard is going to be implementing new forums for Wow that will launch with Cataclysm, which will display your real first and last name on every post.

I've read a few blue posts and I'm quite shocked that Blizzard hasn't taken a huge back step after the overwhelmingly negative response (see threads here and here for a taste) they've received. It seems to me that they have a great and flowery vision of the future and are doggedly trying to make it happen, despite what the actual merits of the idea may be.

Let's look at some of the pros and cons then.

1. There will be less trolling. Fewer pointless posts and less nastiness are always good things.
2. There will be less posting overall. Many people will not want to assign their real name to their posts and thus will not post. This means the forums will be smaller and much easier to maintain. Which leads me to my next pro...
3. The forums will be much easier to police.
4. The tone of the forums will likely change to be more civil and polite.

1. There will be less trolling. Some trolls (admittedly few) are actually pretty funny, and can be quite insightful.
2. There will be less posting overall. The forums will be smaller and less interesting, therefore becoming less reliable for information and/or entertainment. People will go elsewhere and look for other communities.
3. Less ad revenue for Blizzard when people go elsewhere. The only reason I care about this is because I happen to quite like Wow and want the company that runs it to stay afloat.
4. I don't care what someone's real name is. I quote, "anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID -- that is, their real-life first and last name -- with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it." I don't care what John Smith has to say about mage spell rotations but I do care what Merlin the mage from the top guild on Blackrock server says. This idea is not precisely a con, but just made little sense to me. When you post, you MUST display your real first and last name but it's only optional to display your character name? Of course anyone posting about mage tactics will add their mage toon's name to their post, but I would have thought that, especially if Blizzard wants to encourage accountability, they would also make the display of a toon's name compulsory. After all, in game, I don't know who John Smith is but I might know who Merlin is.

But I digress, and I think that's a hint that I'm done with my pros and cons list.

Overall, I think this is a very poorly thought-out, slapped-together idea. Blizz has their hearts in the right place, but just haven't thought this through.

Perhaps this is an indication that Blizz no longer want to have to maintain huge fan forums? Perhaps this is an invitation for someone else to start an unofficial forum hub? Depending on how you think about it, that could either be very short-sighted or a very smart, future-oriented business decision. After all, Wow can't last forever and this would free up Blizzard staff to work on other projects.

I guess we'll wait and see. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who Gets Focus Magic?

The age-old question. It's been bugging me for a while, ever since an ex-guildy mentioned that it was no longer best to swap FM with your fellow mages. I didn't believe him at first (mostly because I had just met him and didn't trust him to give me advice yet) but because I would probably make my brain explode if I tried to do the calculations myself I went and researched the idea, just in case. And it turns out he was right.

I went to the usual sites., Wowwiki (which was surprisingly a step up from useless as it hasn't been updated for about a year), the official Wow forums, and I even waded through Elitistjerks. God I hate that site. It's so hard to find anything useful. And yet I love it at the same time because you can almost always trust the information you find there. I struck gold at MMO-Champion. Before you read that, understand that it REALLY gets into the nitty gritty of things. Most mages could happily go about their way completely ignoring it. In fact, it really only applies when you're looking at high-end ICC 25 raiding, when everyone is in full iLevel 264 gear or higher.

Another link I found to back that one up (constructed differently but with mostly the same priority list) was on the official forums, here.

So after my research I've come up with a checklist for FM targetting that I'm going to follow from now on.

1. What is the target's usual DPS output? If this information is not available, what is the target's gear score?

A higher gearscore means a higher spell damage value, which means if they do crit, it will be for a bigger number. It also means in some class' case that they have a 2- or 4-set Tier 10 bonus, and without delving into each specific class' specific bonuses, this usually increases haste, crit or spell damage, all of which are good for my purposes.

2. Which class has a higher crit chance?

This means I will crit more. If I'm pulling decent DPS and gain a good benefit from more crit chance then this is of benefit to the raid.

3. Which class will gain more benefit from having a higher crit rating?

This means that when they crit, they'll crit for more, which will benefit the raid.

I would almost add that if I'm specced fire at the time, I would put my own increased crit chance before others. Whereas if I was specced arcane, I would try and aim to benefit others more than myself because arcane just doesn't get as much return from crit.

I'm curious to know what other mages think. Do you also run through a checklist? Or do you just put your FM on the nearest other mage?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Back to Oldschool Healing

As well as my numerous 80 mages I have an 80 holy/disc priest. I've had this priest since the first days of BC and I healed my way through SSC, TK and Hyjal with her. I'm an old school healer, in the sense that I perform best when I'm standing still, looking after one target (maybe two). I like to carefully manage my mana, knowing that every heal I spare the nub dps who just pulled is one less heal for the tank. I like to know the fight well enough that I can time my Greater Heals to land exactly when they are needed, and thus be as efficient as possible.

Nowadays, however, I'm really not a very good healer. Healing just isn't like what it used to be. Even if you know the fight like the back of your hand there still won't be time for you to heal a tank with nothing but Greater Heals - in fact, you'll be lucky to be able to use Greater Heal at all. Instead you'll be spamming Flash Heal and Prayer of Mending, or shielding like mad if you're Disc. That's if you're even given the tank healer job - most of the time you'll be raid healing, even if you're disc. So you'll be spam-flashing or spam-healing the whole raid. Which, I have to say, is really no fun.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see this on Scroll down to the heading "Shifting to triage-style healing". It seems Blizzard has decided to shift away from the spam model and back to the triage/mana management model that made me love healing so much when I first started playing a healer.

I'm not sure if this is their intention behind the changes listed in that article, but it's certainly a step in that direction. I wonder if this represents Blizzard taking a good hard look at what made the game great back when it first started? In a previous post I spoke about epics being made epic again, and to me this change seems like it could have a similar effect, ie realigning the game back to its roots. What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall at a Blizzard strategy meeting.