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Archive for March, 2010

I love heirlooms. They make leveling alts so much more fun, I considered the chest and shoulders mandatory for an alt and a weapon almost mandatory, until we rolled alts over on Argent Dawn to join Single Abstract Noun. Now I know that heirlooms are threatening the game and need nerfing, fast.

Why do I say that? It’s not the XP boost, actually; I miss it dreadfully but I can live with the only-slightly-less breakneck pace of leveling that we have these days. Let me relate a little story first.

Analogue the Druid went into Deadmines with three others from SAN; Reversion the Rogue, and a warlock and druid. The other druid wanted to heal so in the interest of a fast queue, I signed in as a tank. I had never bear tanked before (except dropping into bear to growl quest mobs off other people) but I’m a pretty good tank these days, so I didn’t think it would be too hard.

As expected, we wiped a lot; we were low level for the instance and lost three random dpsers before we finally decided to just to finish 4 man. I kept aggro, mostly, things died, mostly, I stayed alive, mostly. All four of us were on a pretty similar level for gear and power, and we had fun. It ended with most of us dead, Van Cleef dead, and too many respawns to run back for his head, but oh well.

After that I got on Annalogue the Paladin, who like Analogue the Druid was 17, and queued up to tank. The first run was a Ragefire Chasm ten minute affair that left a bad taste in my mouth due to a jerk of a hunter who tried to wipe us twice and then took the tank sword from the boss, so I queued again and got Wailing Caverns and the Twinks of Doom.

A Rogue and a Priest (the healer) both four levels higher than me and wearing at least five heirlooms each (priest had both trinkets, rogue had two daggers). And so began my hour and a half of being useless.

It didn’t help that I don’t know that instance; I had to let the priest take the lead. But even when it came to fights, I could not hold or get aggo. The rogue did – literally – close to three times as much damage as I did. I didn’t have any aoes yet, which was bad enough, but the priest kept running over and aggroing more groups and bringing them to us to kill. And I couldn’t call the pair out over this behavior, because their gear allowed them to act with impunity. The healer stopped to drink twice. We wiped once, when someone else aggroed a group and we got too many sleeps cast on the healer. The rogue ended up doing over 50% of the overall damage. I relegated myself to keeping whatever mobs he wasn’t killing off the healer, occasionally taunting off him just to keep my hand in.

If I didn’t already have a max level paladin it would have been even worse. Those two could probably have two-manned the instance alone, and they knew it, and they let us know they knew it. The rest of us, dressed in quest rewards and random drops, were peons to their royalty.

If we could mail heirlooms across servers, I wouldn’t have had that problem, but what about brand new players, or anyone without a max level character to grind badges on? I don’t even remember what the other two players in that pug were, because they mattered so little. We were frustrated, useless, and bored. It’s not a good thing.

Blizzard needs to reduce the stats on heirlooms a lot. They should be fractionally better than the gear you’d naturally have at that level, not 3 times as good. Doing 10% more damage than anyone else? Fine. Doing triple damage? Not so good.

I will add that the level ranges for those dungeons doesn’t help; I was 17 and one of the other guys there was, I think, 25; hard to keep aggro off him at the best of times. But even so, it was the level 21 rogue in heirlooms that made life impossible for me.

This is not QQ; this is to point out a flaw that will only get worse as the game ages more. If Blizzard has given up on getting real new subscriptions, then it’s fine. Otherwise I think heirlooms may become a serious problem..

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As mentioned previously, Reversion and I have rolled alts on Argent Dawn to be part of Single Abstract Noun, the blogger guild. I started a druid, and he started a gnome rogue, and as we levelled 1-10 in separate zones, we  started having similar complaints.

“Where’s the quests? I’m level 6 and all the mobs are level 8.”

“I know I need to go here next, but there’s no quest telling me that.”

“All the quest stuff is filling up my one bag”

“Wow, you die easy without heirlooms.”

It had been a while since we had levelled without heirlooms, or not together, or not as draeni, and while it was not really difficult, it got us talking. So this morning I rolled a draeni paladin and compared the experiences I had with my night elf druid and my draeni paladin.

Parameters:

Classes I know well

No heirlooms, no help beyond my addons (no quest help beside the built in quest helper)

Same level range

Darnassus versus Azuremyst Isle

Experience:

Both zones start off with a “kill some of these critters” quest. Nice and easy – the critters are right there and Blizzard puts your abilities right on the action bar. After that you get a few more quests. I found the Azuremyst quests very nicely sequence, where I could complete all the quests I could pick up at the same time. On the other hand, the Darnassus quests often had me covering the same ground three or more times.

Equipment: in the first five levels, my draeni quests gave me a four slot bag and a fishing pole. I know they’ve increased the drop rate on small bags, and in fact both my alts have full sets of 6 slot bags, but awarding one as a quest reward is a nice touch, and the fishing pole was awesome.

Where to go next:  Azuremyst led me by the hand. Darnassus took figuring out.

Mobs: All critters in the 1-5 area are now yellow.  The first red mob for my draeni was at the fishing quest when a murloc popped out! I could see a complete newbiew being very surprised by this. Darnassus has several spots where the mob respawn rate seemed bugged and I was hard pressed to get out.

The Cave: All the 1-10 zones seem to have one or two cave complexes where you’ll go in, kill a named guy,  and come out. In Darnassus you have a cave full of demons where you kill a guy who turns into a cat, and a barrow where you wander around for eight years looking for four relics. In Azuremyst you have  a  cave full of nagas where you kill the boss, and a cave full of furbolgs where you kill the named boss, 9 others, and the Kraken hound. The Azuremyst versions were considerably easier and less frustrating. I never did finish the Darnassus version.

Quest rewards: About the same, slightly better (and better named!) gear in Azuremyst

Professions: Most professions could be learned at Azure Watch. About the same for the Darnassus hub, There’s no ore in Darnassus of course, while you can learn anything at Azure Watch.

Summing up:  a brand new player is going to have a much easier time in the draeni area compared to old world zones. I had some guild members talk about Azuremyst being “hand holding” or “spoonfeeding” and they’re right, but I think Blizzard has realized just how many players come to the game with NO previous MMO experience, heck, often no game experience at all. Before WoW, my major game experience was in Civ II. Not hardly the same. I’d have had a much easier time if the draeni area had been there.

In fact I think they need to make the first ten levels even more user friendly. If you’re still getting used to cameras, looting, and using your abilities, there are a number of things that can be annoying. Even experienced players can miss things when they roll a new class. For instance, we ran with a player last night who didn’t have her paladin res; there’s a quest you have to do at 12 to get it, and if you don’t know that, it’s easy to miss the quest.

After I get to 20 on both alts, I’m going to come back and finish comparing the two sequences. I don’t think it’s as drastic but I do have some really nasty things to say about Loch Modan, designers, and getting eaten by many many mobs at once.

(My two alts are Analogue the druid, and Annalogue the paladin, both on Argent Dawn-US)

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Need More Alts!

Or something. Like my last brief post, Rev and I rolled on Argent Dawn (US) to join Single Abstract Noun and after some pondering, I rolled a druid. I’ve levelled enough classes since my druid that it’s really interesting to be a lowbie druid again. I’m managing some stuff I could never have done the first time because I know what my abilities do, cold.

Rev and I did our first ten levels separate; he rolled a gnome rogue and I was in night elf land, and we both discovered that those zones have some really bad cases where you just aren’t sure where to be questing next; you’re level 7 and all the quest mobs are level 10 and want to eat your brain. And then you randomly wander across some dude on the mountain with a quest to kill a yeti in a cave. Our recent alts have either been run as pairs, where you don’t notice that it’s sort of hard to level a new character when the mobs are three levels higher than you and you only have two abilities, or we were in the draeni zone which is far better organized and laid out. Hopefully Blizz will clean up the early leveling experience even more in Cataclysm, because I can see why some people give up after five levels.

We’ve grabbed gather professions and I have a goal of getting all riding skills on time and being able to buy dual spec at the point where I can actually use it, without having to spend hardly any time grinding.  I’m personally convinced that buying gold is stupid and absolutely unnecessary and I want to demonstrate it yet again. We have no high level alts on this server. I have already accepted one “help” though; the guild’s bank vault had a number of 6 and 8 slot bags there for new members to take. Since they don’t soulbind, you can put them back as soon as you’ve got better ones, and I’ve already picked up one random pouch to add back, but it makes carrying stacks of herbs and fur much easier.

Haven’t seen any RP yet but I have been told to avoid Goldshire in the evenings…

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SAN!

Went and rolled alts on Argent Dawn and joined Single Abstract Noun, the blogger guild. Decided to make Analogue v 2 a druid like her namesake, it’s been a while since I had a druid lowbie. Reversion has a warlock named Reversion. The guild is a ton of fun!

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Blessed are the altaholics, for they shall receive heirlooms

Lissana over at Restokin had a long blog post today about Specialists vs Generalists as a play style. Pretty obvious this blog falls more on the generalist side of the equation! Reversion and I have three level 80s each and three other characters that we are actively leveling (each). We both have healers, tanks, and dps classes and play any of those roles pretty well. We’ve got most professions covered between us (don’t have a max level blacksmith and the leatherworking char is only at about 430 skill).

On the other hand, if you ask us who our mains are there’s no question. Reversion and Analogue, the druids, see the most content, have the best gear, and are definitely our most played. They weren’t our original mains by a long stretch but during the course of WotLK we began to realize how much more content we could see with a dedicated tank/healer pair than with a couple random ranged dps. I think our experiments with other classes have made our mains better. Analogue has become a better healer as I’ve gotten better with tanking on Divergent.

As Lissanna mentions,  one reason for alts is to see content you didn’t see before, particularly opposite-faction content. We’re trying that now with our low-level Horde alts. It’s fun, and I’m running a few other experiments at the same time (like whether we can run these guys up and afford epic flying without needing cash from our mains, thanks to gather professions)

She’s right that WotLK has been paradise for generalists, and her conclusion

However, I’ve come to accept that being a generalist is a viable play-style in WoW as of WotLK being released, even for end-game purposes. I appreciate handing out new gear and heirlooms and all the fun toys that generalists get to play with.

I agree with. In fact, I think that Blizzard has actively been pushing the generalist playstyle for the same reason they’ve made raids so much more accessible this expansion. They want to maintain their subscription numbers so the game can continue. In Vanilla WoW, hardcore raiders had a reason to play every day for many hours, but that never represented more than a tiny fraction of the population. In WotLK, anyone who devotes  a few hours a week can eventually see most if not all of the endgame content, and that makes Blizzard happy because players who feel like they are progressing continue to subscribe.

But, the player who really likes questing and leveling and running low level dungeons is just as good a source of cash as the end-game raider. In fact,  from Blizzard’s point of view he’s a better cash source because it takes few developer-resources to keep him happy.  I suspect most players fall somewhere in between those two extremes. My personal experiences make me believe that most end game raiders have some alts that they like playing with, and a lot of less-raid-oriented players still join pugs or weekly raid quest groups. I think that’s probably Blizzard’s intent.

Blizzard must like alts, because they’ve given us 10 slots per server and 50 total slots to play with. A lot of other games? Not so much. EVE Online lets you have 3 (I think) but because of the training system you really only play one character per account. Star Trek Online released with only 2 character slots as the default (you can buy more). On the other hand, Lord of the Rings Online supports the generalist playstyle and from what I’ve heard, that’s part of why people go back and play around in that game. It’s a lot harder to get totally bored of a game when you can just log in to a different experience every night of the week.

The day when you could claim that the specialist was the true WoW elite is passed. Nowadays, it’s the tank who can’t say “oh yeah I hate healing this goup on my shaman” or the dps who doesn’t mention “I know what a pain that pat is to LOS when I’m tanking” who is the noob. Anyone can be pretty good at one class, especially with the epics falling like cherry blossoms, but it takes skill to be uber at everything.

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The Addons We Need

(Warning: Written while sitting on the couch in extreme pain from throwing out my back. May not be very happy friendly lets-play-nice-children-esque)

GearScorePlus – when you mouse over a character you get a tooltip that shows how many incorrect gemming and enchanting choices they’ve made.  Will auto-initiate a kick vote for any DK with a spellpower enhancement. An extension, GearBusted, will warn me when a dpser zones into a dungeon with armor that’s below 50% repaired. I hate when the hunter dies (from pulling aggro) and then says “lol sword broke need to rep”.

OmenEnhanced: Puts up notices every time a player who is not the tank uses a taunt or threat-generating move (Ret pally using Hand of Reckoning because “it does damage”, hunter pet on growl even though “I already shut it off jerk”).

RecountTheFailRotation: Heck, I don’t know what abilities ought to make up a DK’s dps rundown, but my theory is that “Death and Decay (50%), Melee (45%) Heart Strike (4%)” isn’t right. How about a damage meter that shows me what they should have been doing?

DeadlyBossEasilyPredictedDamage: For healers only, mark the players who are about to be standing in the easily dodged fire/spikes/whatever so I can pre HOT/shield/whatever them.

RangeAlert: let me know when anyone is so far away from the fight that they’ll be aggroing the pat behind us while the rest of us are fighting (hunter and mages only)

AutoIgnoreIdiots: auto-add people to my ignore list before I get grouped with them. This includes any dps who is going to fuss about how they don’t want to be bothered going after extra bosses and anyone who has ever dinged 80, queued for H COS, and, while contributing less than 800 dps, asked more than once if we were going to make it in time for the drake. Or any dk who has thrown Army of the Dead on the Saurfang fight. (bad memories)

DontCursive: Clearly mark when people in your party have diseases, curses, poisons, or magic effects that you can remove. This is so you know to whine at the priest who is not removing curses, the druid who is not curing diseases, etc.

Any other suggestions?

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Trust

Sometimes it’s easy to forget you’re playing with other people in WoW. Other times the game forces you to acknowledge that for some challenges, you have to be part of a group that’s bigger than just the players involved.

This week the weekly raid quest on our server was Lord Marrowgar. I don’t know about your server but on ours that means the chance of getting a good ICC run actually goes down. The guild runs multiple 10-man-alt runs and there are still folks left out.  Trade is full of angst and vitriol.  Our raid had all the makings of fail; instead we ended up with moments of sheer epic…

After the two scheduled guild alt groups filled up there were enough guildies left over that we started a scrub/alt/pug raid. We needed to fill three slots; two melee dps and a tank healer. The melee dps were easy to pull out of trade, got a paladin and a rogue to help balance out roles. The healer was tougher and after ten minutes I was willing to take the holy priest. It wasn’t til we got to ICC that I started worrying. The off tank, a guildie, was somewhat undergeared, and so was the tank healer. Both of them had slots that still didn’t have Triumph badge gear level items.  Still, we decided we’d start and see how things went.

Trash pulls went smoothly, no wipes. Got to Marrowgar, ran down the strategy, and we started. The off-tank went down. I b-rezzed him. Then he went down again. Bonestorm started, and Reversion popped out of bear to b-rez the OT and help heal the raid (he always throws rejuvs around during bonestorm, just because he can). Start back again – and the OT goes down for the third time. We’re out of druids, Marrowgar is at 50% – but everyone else is still up and taking very little damage, so I start fully healing Reversion. Every now and then I have to throw out rejuvs and wild growth for the raid, but we’re mostly stacked under Marrowgar so we don’t take a lot of fire damage, the dps are being great about taking down the spikes – and we’re doing it. Reversion blew every cooldown, potion, trinket he had, and Marrowgar went down. Nothing like having a tank with 48k health to eat those big hits.

I made sure to compliment all the dps-ers for their attentiveness. If they had taken damage, I would not have been able to help out with tank healing, and we would have wiped. Instead we one-shotted him. (I also will add, the pugged paladin judged Light consistently and it healed the raid up a good little bit, actually accounting for 10% of total healing during our whole run according to Recount; that was a nice buffer)

We went on to Deathwhisper. I dropped to the first set of adds; Reversion got me back up and although I was hurting for mana, I got back into the groove. We ended that fight with four of us alive; the priest went down thirty seconds before the end of the fight, the OT had died minutes before, but I saw the 4% health on Deathwhisper and threw everything I could to keep Reversion and the last dps alive long enough to take her down.

The pug broke up on Saurfang because people had to get off, but it was great.

So, after that long discussion, why the title of my post? Why ‘Trust’?

Because I didn’t, and wasn’t. I did not trust my healing partner and it hurt us. Some of the dps deaths to trash and to Deathwhisper were because I was dropping Nourish on the tanks and ignoring my own responsibilities. Usually in 10 mans I heal with a guildie, someone who I think is probably a better healer than me.  Our pugged healer was great, but I saw her gear and achievements and doubted. I couldn’t help it; I’m the sort who worries a lot over things I can’t control. I do that in real life too, but it’s not as obvious.  I don’t have fun with my mage any more in WoW for the same reason, because I see health bars and start wanting to fix them. My pally tank keeps trying to save the day in 5mans with Lay on Hands or Hand of Sacrifice on the healer.

It makes me a more conscientious healer most of the time, when I can force myself to let the other healer do her job and just do mine, but on raids like this last one, it can wipe us.  And I don’t know how to stop worrying about their jobs. It’s not easy for me.

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