Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grandpappy Hammer

Now gather round younglings. You kids today, I see what you write on Mr. Ghostcralwer’s boards. You have no idea how good you have it. Let Ole Grand Pappy Honorshammer spin you tale of yesterday, how things were ‘back in the day.’ Before you kids got your new fangled talents and spells. I’ll tell you how it was, how it really was, when Paladins were walking to school, three miles they walked, in the snow, two feet of snow, uphill, both days.
Now I could go way back in the day, and tell you tales that me Grandpappy told me. Days before even Righteous Fury when Paladins tanked with Seal of Fury and were by all accounts darn good tanks. A time when Blessing of Kings was a 31 point talent… in the Retribution tree… and Consecrate, oh sweet Consecrate, was an 11 point talent…in Holy. A time when blessings lasted all of 5 minutes and you had 40 people to keep a buff up on.
But those were even before my days. So let me tell ya the story I know da best. My story.
When I started tanking, we didn’t even really know if we were supposed to be tanks, at least not raid tanks. A Warrior would see you wearing a Raiding Tank shield in Shattrath (that’s where we hung out before Dalaran) and shake his head and mutter about what a waste of gear it was. We were called the worst spec in the game and a waste of a raid spot. We were, by our very existence, destroying the game.
We didn’t have fancy things like Divine Plea, or mana return from Blessing of Sanctuary. Sure, we had Spiritual Attunement, and Judgement of Wisdom. We had Mana per 5 on our gear and we liked it! Actually, we hated it. We begged the developers, and after months and months, they took it off our Tier 4 gear. And speaking of our Tier, it was always itemized to be worse than Warrior Tier gear. Less hit points, less avoidance. We didn’t have the stamina talents you have today. The Warrior would always have a large hit point pool than you, unless you just flat outgeared him.
We were just so bloody happy we could get actual Tanking Tier gear.
And spell power plate? That wasn’t just the realm of the Holies. Oh no, that spell power was what we needed to make threat. We did back flips when they put a sword with Block Rating AND spell power in the game. Still has that in me bank, I does.
Twas a different tanking world back then. You had to know this thing called Uncrushable. You youngins call it ‘Block Capped’ and don’t care about none too much. But back in MY day, you couldn’t tank much if you weren’t Uncrushable, and you need a Master’s degree in Mathematics (or a well writen addon/macro) to figure out if you were. Them Warriors, they got Uncrushable with the push of a button. Not us Paladins. No sir, we had to gear for it. And you need to act like a rogue spamming your Holy Shield button. Back in MY day, it was 8 second duration and 8 second cooldown. You let that thing fall off and BAM, you are Crushable and the Bosses would turn you into a fine paste of goo.
Course, you could handle spamming your buttons cause there wasn’t much going on in the rotation. This fancy 969 stuff you whipper snappers love so much didn’t exist in my day. We had Consecrate. We had Judgment. We had Holy Shield. And that, my young apprentices, was it.
Didn’t matter none, because we made outstanding threat. Might have even been OP. But staying alive, well that was another matter. These fancy cooldowns you play with like Bubble Wall and Raid Wall? Nope, didn’t have them. Our cooldown was Lay On Hands and in MY day, it had a 60 minute cooldown. It really didn’t help none if you were going to get hit for 120% of your HP. For that you needed Shield Wall or Last Stand.
Oh we had Ardent Defender, but not like what you have. We had no idea if it was working or when it saved your butt, which wasn’t often. If you were hanging out sub 35% on hit points, your healers weren’t doing their job and your death would be close at hand. See for Ardent Defender to work in MY day, you had to ALREADY be under 35% before the hit came. Then she would knock off some damage. It wouldn’t hurt, you’d just be dead.
And kids, we would RUN back after the wipe, a long friggin way sometimes. None of these fancy-smancy teleports you kids can’t live without.
We didn’t have none of this Dual spec business. If you were a tank, by golly, you were a tank from beginning of the instance to the end, unless you ported back to Ironforge and coughed up 50g to change your spec. When you weren’t needed to Tank because the particular boss didn’t need as many tanks as the last one, you whacked the boss like a wet noodle, respeced to Holy and healed, or got replaced, plain and simple.
The encounters were stacked against you, too. There were two encounters that could not be defeated unless your Tank had Spell Reflect in his spell book. One of them, Kael’Thelas, was one of the most important encounters in game at the time, and the other, Reliquary of Souls, was a hurdle you had to pass before the end boss of that Expansion.
There were fights like Hodir where you needed special resist gear. One of them was called Hydross. Getting Uncrushable was dang hard without some specific drops. One of the most important was a Defense trinket that dropped from Hydross himself. So you needed a drop from the Boss that you needed the drop to Tank. It was beautiful.
And there was fight after fight after fight where the strategy was basically have your Warrior Tank pop Shield Wall and Last Stand to survive the Bosses big nuke. Guys like Gruul, and Magtheridon. We had to cheat with things like Nightmare Seeds. Still have some of them in me bank, too.
There was an entire instance where it felt like every other mob had a silence, or a mana burn. You think keeping your mana bar up is tough today? Try it with mobs that mana burn and no divine plea. Replenishment didn’t exist either, well unless you brought a Shadow Priest and had him in your group. Fat chance on that one. In Tempest Keep, your raid was 24 manning much of the time. Speaking of 24 manning, there was one boss that burned your mana, and if you ran out, you BLEW UP. Nothing like risking the raid cause your bar is blue and not red.
And Hammer of Justice didn’t interrupt back in MY day. If something had to interrupted, and there’s always a couple of fights where it does, you better trust your Rogues a whole bunch.
My favorite might have been Fear. A ton of Bosses did it. When they did you turned your back and got Crushed, or the Boss turned and Cleaved or Breathed and wiped out half your raid. Warriors, you know the ones who were supposed to be tanking, they just stance dance and Bezerker rage. We came up with some neat tricks, like Bubble cancel macros. Course that only worked once. The best news was one of the End Bosses of the Expansion, Archimonde, was based on that mechanic. Fun times.
Course, we didn’t let none of it stop us. No siree bob. We fought through it all. We had to work twice as hard to be half as good, and we pushed a few lazy Warriors to the ranks of the DPS. We took the lumps for you to be the tanks you are today. Appreciate your past, and remember where you came from.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Player Housing

I’m going to try some different things with the blog as summer wears on. There isn’t a great deal going on in World of Warcraft so I’m going to talk about whatever strikes my fancy.

I have ton of respect for MMO Blogger, Tobold, even if I disagree with him on some occasions. Tobold did a great job explaining some of the problems associated with the often requested feature of Player Housing.

The first problem is that of space. You have to room to put all these houses. Houses in adventuring areas seem out of place. Imagine the Barrens or Desolace filled with houses. It doesn’t feel right. The only way developers seem to make really big worlds is to use algorithms. That results in worlds that are not overly detailed. If the world is too big, players will complain about it taking a long time to get from Point A to Point B, especially in the leveling game.

The second problem is one of persistence. There are typically far more people who call a server home, than the number you see at prime time. Tobold estimates that your average WoW server has about 20,000 players on it. If everyone built a house, and then you had only 3,000 on, even at prime time, it makes your player towns feel deserted. Plus, even all 3,000 aren’t likely to be hanging out in their virtual home. They will be out in Battlegrounds, Raids, or even just doing dailies.

I wonder if the developers thought about the problem of player housing while they were redesigning the world for Cataclysm. This is an often asked for feature in WoW and Cataclysm would seem to be the ideal time to setup the world for housing at some future point.

I’m also intrigued by the announcement that Star Wars : The Old Republic made over E3 regarding Player Housing. They way they plan on addressing it is to give players individual ships. These will be large ships similar to the Ebon Hawk if you played Knights of the Old Republic. This address the problem of space in that you only need docking space for the amount of ships that will be on a world during primetime. Once someone logs off, the game can assume they are back in orbit around whatever planet they are on, eliminating the need to have player housing while the player is offline. I think it’s an intriguing idea and I’m curious to see how well it’s executed.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Solve the Game

I’ve started playing a Facebook game called Backyard Monsters. It’s a fun game. You build a base by harvesting sticks and stones to build buildings, and defenses like turrets and cannons. Then you harvest Goo to make Monsters to attack other peoples bases. If you are successful, you can loot their sticks and stones and goo.
The game has been fun, but recently I’ve discovered that some players have done a little number crunching, calculating Monster Health, Tower Health and Attack Speed and other variables. These guys pounded on their spreadsheets and came up with the ‘ideal’ base design. Now if I had done that, I’d keep the secret to myself and dominate the game. But these guys published their findings on the official forums. Now as I get to a higher and higher level in the game, I see more and more people copying this design. It makes your base nigh impregnable unless your opponent throws wave after wave of monsters at you, depleting his Goo resource in the process.
I think it’s a danger in any strategy game. The game is not so much won, as it is solved. Now the developers are working on ways to break this strategy so that it isn’t ‘the way’ to go.
I see something similar in the development of WoW. The players crunch the numbers and come up with the ‘ideal’ spec, or the ‘ideal’ spell rotation. Then we get what amounts to the solution key in the form of Boss Kill videos via Tankspot and the like.
The Developers try to mix things up and change some of variables each patch, and then change all the variables in an Expansion. WoW adds the added element of execution, but in many ways the game is solved, more than won.
For players, it can become a difficult decision. If you don’t use the ‘ideal’ base layout, you’ll have your resources farmed all day long. If you don’t use the ‘ideal’ talent spec, or spell rotation, or Boss strategy, you’ll get kicked from groups as a ‘noob’. But somehow I think we’ve lost something along the way. Our games our solved now, not won through our own trial and error.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pally Sense Tingling

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, I hope you’ve come to understand that I’m not type to post a ‘sky is falling’ kind of post. I’d like to think I’ve taken the good with the bad over the years I’ve played Honorshammer. But even I get uneasy sometimes when I read stuff from Greg Street aka Ghostcrawler, the Lead Developer of World of Warcraft. When this guy talks, people listen.
Recently, the Crab gave an interview to Eurogamer about the upcoming Expansion for World of Warcraft, Cataclysm.
The question and answer that got my Paladin Sense tingling was this one.
Eurogamer: Is there a particular class that you thought needed an overhaul more than the others?
Greg Street: I think the Paladin is one I'd say probably needs some of the most work, it got a lot of work in Lich King but it's still not quite there. Each individual role, the damage, healing and tanking all have problems, in some cases they're over-powered but a little simplistic in other cases, so we definitely want to address that. Without changing - you know, it's a very popular class, I think it's our most popular class at the moment, so we don't want to make it unrecognizable either.
His answer was not Hunters, who are having their entire Resource system overhauled. His answer was not Death Knights who are having all 3 of their trees overhauled to give them one tank, two dps trees. No, his answer was Paladins, who the Developers spent much of Wrath trying to get right.
Remarkably, in the space of three sentences, Ghostcrawler confirms essentially every complaint that’s been leveled at the Paladin class since 3.3 hit.
Paladins are over-powered.
Paladins are too easy to play.
Paladins are the most popular class.
Had those statements come from nearly anyone else, I would have debated them with every fiber of my being. Had they come from anyone else, I wouldn’t have believed them. I can ignore some random poster on the Official Forums. I can ignore Trade Chat guy. I can’t ignore Ghostcrawler. I’ve always maintained that what he said was basically reality. No one else has access to the knowledge and datasets that Ghostcrawler does.
I can try to take some solace in the fact that he didn’t say in which cases Paladins were over-powered. I don’t know if the nerfbat must swing at Prot, Holy or Ret. Because is something is over-powered, it, by definition, needs to be nerfed. I’m fairly sure the overly simplistic part is talking about Ret. It doesn’t take very long playing a Ret Paladin to notice the difference, especially after playing a Fury Warrior. If anyone plays a DPS Death Knight and a Ret Paladin, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the differences in the simplicity of the two classes, because I know less than zero about Death Knights.
But I don’t even think that’s what bothers me most about it. Nerfs and Buffs come and go from Patch to Patch. I’ve never been one to chase the Flavor of the Month. It came to my class, I wasn’t pursuing it or even wanting it. I think what bothers me the most is that the people leveling complaints at the Paladin class were right, and I had it all wrong, likely was blinded by my own bias towards the class.
I am hopeful that Paladins are given a glimpse of their new trees soon since Druids, Priests, Shamans, and Rogues just got to see their Cataclysm trees so we can see just what the vision for the Cataclysm Paladin will be. I’ll reserve my final judgment until that time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

One year anniversary of Unusual Suspects

Finally, a post goes under the "Guild" tag that I'm actually happy to post.

One year ago, our Raid Team broke off from the guild we had been a part of since before Karazhan and formed our own Guild. It was a move that had been a long time in coming.

We decided to do something special for our Guild and Raid Leader to commemorate the anniversary of our guild. So we all pitched in and bought him a Mechno-Hog. We know he could probably easily afford one himself, but he's far too practical and would never buy it. It's been a terrific first year for our Guild.

Boston oversaw our breakup from our former guildmates. Then he slowly and skillfully brought in people who would fit our guild. Next he then oversaw our transfer over to Hordeside. Each step of the way he's guided us and I'm proud to say that we've accomplished every major goal we set as a guild. There's been minimal drama, and our guild has been a great place to call home in game.

Leading a Guild is no easy task, but Boston does a fantastic job. Today, we say thank you to our Guild Leader, and my co-Tank, my wingman, Boston. Here's to another great year.

After we gave Boston his surprise, we formed up and went on a 6/12 Heroic run of ICC.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Main Event

This is simply a blog post to get down on paper my thoughts on what I’m going to make my main in Cataclysm. I’ve been playing all 4 of my 80s extensively, and while I realize that they will play differently in Cataclysm, I haven’t seen anything that radically changes the play style of any of them yet.
I think if I had a mage, he’d be a very strong candidate for my new main. They look to have gotten a great update with Cataclysm. You get full pure DPS with Bloodlust. On top of that you get Portals, Tables and Invisibility. The only downside is ridiculously long LFD queues as DPS. I’d also have to wear cloth and be squishy. I’m not sure I’d like being squishy.
The biggest drawback to the Mage is that I’d have to level him up from Level 1. Now I want to level a new toon from scratch in Cataclysm. I’ll either level a Mage or a Shaman, Goblin, natch! I’ve heard Shaman are insanely fun after level 40, but I’ve always abandoned the class somewhere in the 30s because it hasn’t really grabbed me. The Shaman is also a healer which works against him. Is it fair to level a Shaman with no intention of going Resto on him? But healers can get groups pretty quick in LFD.
The other major concern I have about the Mage and Shaman is they are both Mana based. The Developers have elucidated their vision to make mana a bigger concern for healers in Cataclysm. I wonder how they will do that, yet not have mana based DPS struggling for mana as well. This could be part of why Hunters are going to Focus in the Expansion.
My plan right now is to rush one of my 80s up to Level 85, and then work on my new lowbie Mage/Shaman on off nights or nights where I have to sit out because we have too many people on. I realize that as a DPS, I’ll be asked to sit more than I would as a Tank. That’s just reality.
I have 4 candidates: Druid, Hunter, Paladin, Warrior. Each of them has been the leader in the clubhouse for my new main at one point or another over the last couple of months. But I came to the realization last night, that one of these guys has been voted off the island. I knew I’d have to start whittling my choices eventually but I wouldn’t have called that this guy would have been the first to go.
Tivonicus, the Druid, please bring your torch.
Tiv was a strange toon. I never got into the Boomkin rotation. I hated waiting for Eclipse procs. If the Boomkin rotation was bad, the Kitty rotation was worse. It about made my head explode. Bears are tanks and well I’m not really looking to have a Tank as my main. Which leaves Resto. The crazy thing about this, I really liked Resto as long as I was in a 5 man. In a 10 man, I didn’t like it nearly as much. People always died when I healed. While I understand that it isn’t always the healers fault (fire is bad m’kay?), I felt like a failure every time someone in the raid died. I see them dead and think that I should have prevented that. That’s not something I want to do as a Main.
In addition to not really finding a shape for my druid that fit me, early indications are we will have at least two main spec Druids in Cataclysm. One will be a Bear taking over my old Tanking spot, and the other is our Boomkin extraordinaire.
So that leaves the Hunter, the Warrior, and the Paladin. I really like all 3 toons. I happen to believe that Death Knights are going to amazing tanks in Cataclysm. Blood self healing is going to be a major strength if the Developers hit their vision. When mana is the constraint, a tank that gives you mana free heals is a boon. Giving Death Knights Blood self heal with talents like Will of the Necropolis and Boneshield is going to make for very, very strong tanks.
The Hunter and the Warrior are not tied to Mana which I really like. It’s basically pretty easy at this point. I need to decide if I want to be melee or Ranged DPS. If it’s ranged, I’ve got the Hunter. If I go melee, its a decision between Rage and Mana. Both Honors and my Warrior give the group the option of a backup Tank if one of our Main Tanks can’t make it, which is a nice added benefit. They also can use the near instant Queues that Tanks see.
Traditionally, Ranged DPS has had the advantage over melee. Bosses would typically punish melee DPS more than Ranged. But that has started to change in ICC and several fights in there are more melee friendly than ranged.  It will also be interesting to see how many Hunters, Warriors, and Paladins we wind up with in our core group as that will have some influence on me as well. From what I understand right now, we are more range heavy than Melee, and we have at least two other people considering a Hunter, but no one considering a Warrior. And yes, in case you are wondering, the irony of the situation if I pick the Warrior is not lost on me me.
The Paladin is like an old girlfriend. We’ve got history together. He’s got the most achievements, gear, and non combat pets of any of my toons. I’ve actually taken to wearing Hand of A’dal in heroics as if to say ‘Old School Paladin’ here.  In my bank, I still have full or partial suits of Freethinkers (Zul’Gurub Set), Soulforge (Tier 0.5), Righteous (Dungeon Set III), Justicar (Tier 4), Crystalforge (Tier 5), Lightbringer (Tier 6), Redemption (Tier 7), Aegis (Tier 8), Liadrin’s (Tier 9) and Lightsworn (Tier 10). Is that history simply going to trump everything else, or do I want a fresh start in Cataclysm?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Five by Five

Sunday nights a couple of guys in our guild who enjoy PVP as well as PVE get together and form up teams to farm points from the 5v5 Arena bracket. Being the helpful sort that I am, I usually offer myself as a warm body should they need people to make the team go. I do most of my PVP on my Hunter so that is the toon I take.

I chose the Hunter because he was the easiest to gear and spec for PVP. My other Level 80s are all Hybrids and generally have PVE/PVE specs. My Paladin and my Warrior are Tank/DPS. My Druid is Heal/DPS. My Hunter is PVE Survival, PVP Marksman. I also ran out of stuff to buy with his Triumphs faster because I only had one set of gear to buy, so I could afford to purchase PVP Furious Gear.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed the team we were able to put together was really strong. Most of the time we'd be lucky to win 2 or 3 games on Sunday night. That night, we won 7! We decided to try the same team two weeks in a row. Something strange happened that second week. We started winning more and more. Suddenly, we went from just doing whatever we felt like to calling targets, and assigning tasks. My contribution to the team was to put up the Mortal Strike debuff on our kill target. That meant I needed to be on the right target, and stay alive. Jag, who was a very experienced PVP Hunter helped me adjust my spec and I got some proper gems and enchants on my PVP gear.

Our team is Marksman Hunter, Destruction Warlock, Elemental Shaman, Moonkin Druid, and Holy Paladin. I'm having an absolute blast playing with these guys. They are tremendous PVPers, and I'm learning more each week. Last week we crested 1500. We're not sure how high this team can go, but we are all excited to find out.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ruby Disappointment

I keep waiting for the Ruby Sanctum loot table to be released in full for 10 man Raiders. The problem is, I think it has. 11 items from one boss seems like a pretty large loot table to me. What I find odd is that out of that list there is exactly 1 items for Tanks. Tanks generally account for about 20% of your 10 man Raid, yet there is one and only one item in the loot table for them. That would be Scion's Treads. These aren’t a bad pair of Tanking boots. They are item level 258 and have 1779 Armor, +114 Strength, +158 Stamina, Blue Socket, Red Socket, Socket Bonus: +9 Stamina, increases defense rating by 44, increases your dodge rating by 60, and increases your parry rating by 52. But I find it very strange that the designers would choose the Boot slot for a new item for Tanks in Ruby Sanctum.
By now most 10 man tanks will have spent either the gold or badges for the Boots of Kingly Upheaval. These are item level 264 and have 1815 Armor (+36 armor), +92 Strength (-22 Strength), +157 Stamina (-1 Stamina), Yellow Socket, Blue Socket, Socket Bonus: +9 Stamina, increases your dodge rating by 72 (+12), increases your parry rating by 72 (+20), and improves hit rating by 53 (+53).
The stats in parentheses are how the BoKU compare to the Scion’s Treads. They are virtually identical. You basically trade one threat stat for another, and pick up some additional avoidance which is probably eaten up by diminishing returns and Ruby Sanctum’s version of Chill of the Throne.
I’d say I’m a tad disappointed, and I’m green with envy looking at the 25 man loot table. There are still a pair of tanking boots, but 25 man raiders get a trinket for every role. There is a Healer Trinket, a Tanking Trinket, a Melee/Hunter DPS trinket and a Spell DPS Trinket. Trinkets are especially difficult slots to fill because you have so much competition for them. 10 man Tanks have solid trinket options, owing largely to the Emblem bought Corroded Skeleton Key to pair with the Unidentifiable Organ.  DPS are still farming 25 man ToC and ICC for trinkets like Death’s Choice and Deathbringer’s Will. For strict 10 man raiders, they are going to 5 man dungeons. Some specs, like our Moonkin, are using Healer trinkets as their best options. I tend to think everyone would have been better served by having the Trinkets in the 10 man loot table.
I also think that our boys at Blizzard missed an opportunity here to sort of test drive the new loot system for Cataclysm. With Ruby Sanctum, they could have made the choice to have the 10 and 25 drop the same loot, only with stats varied to the appropriate item level. So the 25 would drop an item level 271 item, and the 10 man would drop the item level 258 version of that item with reduced stats. It may have given them some insights on how the loot system would work in Cataclysm.
Instead of going out with a bang like the Devs did in Burning Crusade with Sunwell, Wrath looks like it will go out with a whimper with the offering of Ruby Sanctum.