Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quick Musings

1. I love Crusader Aura! Greatest paladin ability ever! (Heh, I seem to be saying that a lot lately.)

2. I saw a pure white gryphon, and thought it was the epic flying mount. I asked in guild chat, and was informed that the real epic flying mount was brown and had armor. I don't know, seems kind of wasteful. Just putting armor on something does not an epic make. I think that--in general--we associate the starker colors as rarer. A pure white horse is rarer than a piebald. If I recall correctly, Blizzard made the same mistake with night elf cats.

I think it is one of the few mistakes Blizzard makes with art. Almost all the time, they denote power with complexity. Sometimes the opposite is true, and high end armor becomes overly ornate when it should tend to stark and simple.

The other mistake is that high end plate shows far too much skin. Seriously, the sexiest (and all-around best) piece of armour that Blizzard has ever made was Judgement, and it covered everything. Plate is supposed to protect the wearer, and skin-revealing plate armor is just an oxymoron.

Heh, not really sure why it bothers me. It just seems that my character seems less than compentent by choosing armor that doesn't do its basic job, and incompetence is unattractive.


I decided to spec Coriel as Protection/Retribution, to see if Improved Retribution Aura did anything. On my way to Imp Ret Aura, I picked up Vindication. I knew it wouldn't work on raid bosses, but I figured it might be a handy talent for 5-man instance tanking, and that I could always respec at 70.

This was a mistake.

Vindication does not work on raid bosses, 5-man bosses, or random instance trash mobs. Heck, at this point, I'm surprised if it does work on a mob.

Honestly, why even have this talent if it's not going to work on anything? If it's overpowered, scale it down, or remove it and replace it with something useful. Right now it's just a complete waste of talent points.

The worst part is that you can't even guess what Vindication will affect. It seems almost random.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

TBC First Impressions

I haven't really had a great deal of playtime with the Burning Crusade. I've mostly been wandering in the Hellfire Peninsula with my warlock doing the initial quests with a friend.

I've respecced Coriel to Protection. It's a really nice spec, and I've always been a fan of Holy Shield and going sword-and-board. One interesting side-effect is that you can get a great deal of mana regen with the new Reckoning. Fast weapon + Seal of Wisdom + Judgement of Wisdom and wait for Reckoning to proc. So much mana! Reminds me of the good old Seal of Fury days.

The loot in TBC is pretty good. I really like how the first few quests are "replace all your gear" quests, so that everyone gets bumped up to a nice starting level gear-wise. I've even replaced half of Coriel's gear. It's quite amusing to replace epics with greens.

The TBC gear is much better suited for paladins than anything short of Judgement. Point-wise, it's possibly a small downgrade, but the allocation of stats is so much better. Strength, Intellect, Stamina, Spell Damage, and Mana Regen is a glorious combination.

Other than that the expansion looks pretty neat. It's nice to get back into the questing mood. I'm looking forward to trying out one of the new instances sometime.

As well, major props to Blizzard on pretty much a flawless launch. I had zero problems, even though I installed on Tuesday.

On a final note, I feel sorry for all the new human paladin NPCs. They have to wear Redemption, and they just look terrible. Seriously, how can you respect someone wearing Redemption? Meanwhile Arator the Redeemed gets to walk around in Judgement looking awesome.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Casuals vs. Raiders, Part VI

If you take a look back at previous posts, I think one trend you will find is that whenever casuals and raiders clash, I tend to take the side of the casual player. And this might seem a little odd. After all, I am a raider myself. Why then do I side with the casual player?

Firstly, I do so because I like this game, and I have fun, and I would like everyone to have as much fun as I have. I love raiding, and I would love to see more people discover what a thrill killing a raid boss for the first time is.

But secondly, and more importantly, in a lot of ways casuals are more important to this game than raiders are. There is an attitude among many raiders that they are the "chosen of Blizzard." Because they play so much, and have so much invested in this game, they feel that raiders are more deserving of Blizzard's time and attention. Any casually complaints are worthless, "QQ more" as the forum post goes.

I think this attitude is arrogant and completely wrong. The deep truth of WoW is that:

Blizzard makes more money from casuals than raiders.

Casuals outnumber raiders by a significant margin. Yet both a casual player and a raider pay the same amount of money per month. Casuals play far less than raiders, eating up much less processing power and server resources. They file far fewer customer service tickets. And most importantly, they go through content at a far slower rate.

Raiders devour content, and content creation is expensive. The extremely large casual population of WoW ensures that Blizzard has the resources to satisfy the hunger of raiders. Leaving aside all other considerations of fairness and decency, it is in the raider's best interest to keep casuals in the game because casuals subsidize raid content.

Of course, given the above, the obvious question is why should Blizzard cater to the raiders at all? If all the money comes from the casuals, why not let the raiders go and just reap the profit?

I think this option is just as misguided as the other side. Raiders, although they are fewer in number, also have their uses. They serve as aspirational models, something that lower level players can strive towards. If you've ever seen what General chat is like when someone walks by with a Legendary weapon, you understand the effect it has.

As well, raiders are sort of like very unpredictable NPCs. They do the crazy stuff, like training dragons to Orgrimmar, organizing epic 40 paladin vs 40 shaman battles, and other similar silliness. They also tend to be the most enthusiastic about the game, answering questions on the forums and making websites, blogs, and videos about the game. They create buzz and word-of-mouth to get new people interested. They're the ones constantly running the dungeons and forming groups which casuals can join.

In a lot of ways, raiders and the hardcore tend to be at the center of the web of relationships that bind an MMO together. I think without raiders, WoW would feel a lot more empty, and a lot more like a single player game than an MMO. And without that feel to it, I think that the game would soon wither as the casuals drop away.

Without casuals, Blizzard makes a lot less money, and the game will begin to suffer from lack of content. Casuals in many ways also provide the "audience" for the raiders, just as raiders provide the spectacle for the casuals. Raiders and the hardcore provide the enthusiasm and bind the players together. Both are necessary for a truely successful game.

However, in the WoW 1.0 endgame, Blizzard catered too much toward the raiders. In particular, casuals found their progression blocked by the introduction of 40-man dungeons, and that caused a lot of animosity. The truth is that if you are in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, you don't care if Blizzard makes Naxxramas. You are on the path to Naxx, and eventually you will get there. On the other hand, if--like the majority of the WoW population--you can't even get into Molten Core, seeing Blizzard spend enormous amounts of time and money on a raid dungeon like Naxxramas is a slap in the face.

Hopefully, the Burning Crusade will rebalance things a little better and both casuals and raiders can enjoy the endgame.


s4dfish and Wiffle both tagged me with the "Five Things You Don't Know About Me" meme that has been wandering the blogs.

It occurs to me that most of you don't really know anything about me. Do you know my name? Gender? Race? Occupation? Where I live? Democrat or Republican? Liberal or Conservative? Labour or Tory?

I'm sure that most of you can make guesses for most of these, and some of those guesses might be close (heh, given my views on loot distribution, it's pretty unlikely I'm a hardcore communist). But realistically, all you should know for sure is that I play a paladin in World of Warcraft. And to a large extent, this is deliberate.

When I started this blog, I decided to make it as focused as I could. Concentrating solely on WoW, and not discussing anything else in the world. As well, this is the Internet, and--as legions of forum posts about men playing women playing elves will attest to--identity is a very complex topic.

Does knowing more about me change the meaning of what I write? Does realizing that I'm a time traveller from the future working on restoring Canterbury Cathedral change anything? (If it does, I'm probably in a world of trouble.) Or is identity an essential piece of context necessary for truely understanding my position?

I'm not really sure what the answer is either, and in some ways this blog is an experiment in many things, one of which is writing semi-anonymously.

I guess this is just a long way of saying that I will not be participating in this particular meme. However, many thanks to those who tagged me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Server Splits vs Freezing Character Creation

One item of controversy recently is the news that Blizzard is testing server splits to reduce the number of people on several of the more popular servers. After seeing queues of 400+ people on Skywall last week--and knowing that other servers have even worse queues--I think it's a good idea.

If voluntary free transfers didn't solve the problem, it's clear that Blizzard needs to take more drastic steps. As well, Blizzard's proposed implementation seems pretty decent to me. They seem to be trying to keep guilds together as best they can, and having guild members default to the guild leader's new server is a very good idea.

However, there are a lot of other people who don't like this idea, who think that splitting servers would destroy a server's unique culture. And this may well happen. But the other solution most often proposed, freezing the creation of new characters, is worse than server splits.

To see what I mean, consider how you chose your first realm. I rolled on Burning Blade because a real life friend had rolled there. And I suspect that most people had similar reasons. They chose their first server in order to play with friends or family.

Freezing character creation on specific realms directly prevents new people from playing with their friends. That stops them from playing the game before they even start. New people are the lifeblood of this game, and Blizzard has to make sure their experience is as pleasant as possible.

Preventing people from rolling characters to play with their friends is one of the surest ways to turn people off this game, which is why Blizzard will chose to go with server splits instead.

Of course server splits have the potential to prevent you from playing with some of your friends. But you can still play with the majority of them. As well, having a little more experience with the game means that we can adapt to the situation better.

A game without new players dies eventually. Word of mouth is still the best way to get new people into the game. But for word of mouth to work, new people need to be able to play with their friends, to roll characters on even the most crowded servers. (After all, if the servers are crowded, that's a lot of people who could be introducing new people to WoW.) And this is more important than the need for the elites of the game to maintain their server culture.

Of the three choices--500+ queues, server splits, or frozen account creation--I believe that server splits offer the best trade-off, and is the least damaging to the long term health of the game.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Is Loot Changing Me?

Loot corrupts. Epic loot corrupts to an epic degree.

My guild held an "open" Molten Core run last week. You could bring your alts and your friends to the run, and all loot would be randomly rolled on. You could win one item from any of the first nine bosses, and one item from Ragnaros. I brought Coriel, because I don't have any alts anywhere near that level.

One of the non-guild friends who came on this run was a paladin. This paladin, who I will call JC (not his real name), had *really* bad gear. He was wearing a [Triune Necklace] from Scarlet Monastery, and the rest of his gear was a mixture of 40-50s blues and greens.

I think you see where this story is going.

We get to Golemagg, and [Azuresong Mageblade] drops. JC wins the roll, and gets his shiny sword.

Then we get to Ragnaros. [Judgement Legplates], the single item in Molten Core that I want, drops. I roll, and Lady Chance laughs at me. JC wins the roll and gets his Tier 2 leggings.

My reaction to this surprised me. I was actually physically upset that I had lost out on the T2 legs, and worse, someone who I thought did not deserve it had won it. And this kind of shocked me. After all, I say I raid for raidings sake, and not for loot. I am an Explorer, not an Achiever, and I am happy with that. Or so I thought.

And further more, it's just pixels on a screen, data in a server, ephemeral and transistory. I know all this, and still I felt upset.

Finally, JC was actually a decent paladin. He judged, healed and cleansed, and generally did a good job, considering his gear level. He did his best, and played by the rules. Maybe allowing the second roll on Ragnaros loot was a bad idea, but that was our call. If Lady Chance smiled on JC that day, I really can't hold it against him.

I've thought about it a lot since then, and I've resolved to try and be less concerned with loot. Somewhere on Skywall, there is a paladin running around with a [Triune Necklace], [Azuresong Mageblade], and [Judgement Legplates]. It's actually kind of funny, and I can kind of laugh about it now.

Still, this episode has perfectly illustrated to me why rolling on scarce loot is a bad idea, and why God created DKP.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Looking For Group System

I've been playing a couple of alts over the holidays. One is a 38 Priest on Skywall, and the other is a 36 Druid on Bronzebeard. Both are Alliance, and are specced for healing. But they've had a vastly different experience when using the new LFG system.

Since both characters are roughly the same level, faction, and role, it's interesting that there is such a disparity. I tend to be looking for Scarlet Monastery runs.

On Skywall, I flag myself as looking for SM - Library, and I get a full group within a minute or so. Though none of my groups have had the "optimum" make-up[1], they all function pretty well, and we clear the instance. My priest has an [Illusionary Rod] and a [Whitemane's Chapeau] (even though I can't wear the hat yet).

On Bronzebeard, I flag myself as looking for SM - Library, and I can't get a group at all. Maybe after 15 minutes, another person will join the party, but I have yet to actually get a run going. And this is for Scarlet Monastery, which is one of the most popular instances!

So for some reason, the LFG system is doing fine on Skywall, but has failed to achieve the critical mass needed on Bronzebeard.

To be honest, I've never really had the terrible experiences with pick-up groups that so many other people seem to have had. I really like this new system, as it saves me time and effort. However, it needs more people to use it.

If this tool had been in the game from the very beginning, I think it would have been a resounding success. But now, a lot of people are nervous about changing their habits. Perhaps with the introduction of the Burning Crusade, a lot more people will start using the tool, and it will be effective for everyone.

Heh, maybe Blizzard should give a small bonus in gold or xp if you are in a group formed by the tool. A Pick-Up Group bonus, if you will.

[1]Yay for druid and paladin tanking. Of course, it's helped by the fact that I'm playing a primary healer, which converts almost any group into a reasonable one. :)