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Archive for April, 2010

Shiny Sparkly RMT

I’ve seen a lot of posts about the Celestial Steed on the blogosphere, from “Oooh shiny” to “Slippery slope” to “Just for morons”, but I haven’t seen any recognition of the fact that with the for-cash pets and now this mount, Blizzard has stealthily set up a way for players to trade their real world money for gold.

(Note, not condoning this in any way) This is how it would work:

Bob, a hardworking Hunter with a good real life job and not a lot of play time, wants gold. Maybe he’s going on a GDKP run, maybe he wants some pieces crafted. Whatever. So he asks around in trade and finds XXArthaaasX, a DK with 40k in the bank and his mom’s credit card paying for his account. XXArthaaasX really wants the shiny pony, or the Lil’KT pet, so they agree that Bob will buy a pony code and trade it to XXArthaasX for, say, 20k gold. They do; neither Bob nor XXArthaaasX tries to cheat the other. Now Bob has gold and XXArthaaasX has a pony.

This is basically the “EVE model” of RMT. In EVE players can trade game-time codes for ISK, the EVE equivalent of gold. It’s built into the game and so there’s no risk to players of losing either their ISK or their code. In WoW, you’d obviously have to trust both members of the transaction to live up to their side of the bargain.

Thing is, I’m not actually sure whether or not this is against Blizzard’s Terms of Use or not. I’m sure we’ll find that out soon enough. Personally I think they ought to support it. Unless XXArthaaasX sells his pony code on ebay for $20, he can’t make actual money from his WoW gold. All he gets is in-game loot. I think that means it stops short of what Blizzard really wants to avoid, a way to trade gold for cash and making WoW a way for people to make money.

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Better than coffee

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Did I get your attention? Well this is not exactly what I used to think of blogging but it is close. Sure I knew there was some good ones out there. Some people wrote guides… but that was not really blogging was it? And some people would do some good (IRL) news or investigative reporting. But a whole bunch of people whose hobby was to post their thoughts on the internet as if someone actually cared? And there were people that made a habit to actually read them? What a waste of time!

On the flip side I was active at posting on various forums…. Heh.

So a few months back my wife suggests a WOW blog. Since I am actually a pretty big egotist I figured it might be fun to grace the masses with my amazing wit and wisdom. Starting the blog and then networking on it completely changed my view on things. Oh, by that point I was more open minded about them anyway. But it was still eye opening. So what did I discover?

Blogs are a slow moving forum inhabited by people that can actually write and think (mostly)

And, depending on how you set up your blog-roll you can tailor your ‘forum’ to be personalized with only posters you think are interesting and have something to contribute. Sweet eh? Of course since you are reading this you already knew that.

So here we are a few months later with lots of content and a couple people that sometimes read things. I am not sure we don’t have too much content… so most people just run more than one blog to break up topics? We have three series and a comic series going… And I am thinking about more. So far there is a series on tanking I am having a lot of fun with. Not going to link it in-line, the links are on the right.–>

I still have several more Tank 101 posts planned and more that probably will spawn.
Analogue also has one on healing and we both have done some for the pairs leveling series (need more in that one).

Since most of our series are guide oriented it seems lame, and pretentious, to spawn them off as their own blog. I would rather just have too many posts here.

So my newest idea is a series on wiping… Er, you know, in instances. I am not sure what I am going to call it yet. “Legends of the Fail” might be a bit much. “Why is my screen all black and white?” is probably too long (yeah I heard that in chat once). “The anatomy of a wipe” could be bad for the google search hits… So I am still not sure what to name it. It will be all about the ways a group dies. There are not as many as you might think.

Meanwhile I resolve to have more personal story posts. I keep finding myself saying to my wife ‘you should blog that’.

This post would be more suited for a bloggerversary but since we don’t have one of those anytime soon I just thought I would post it anyway. Thanks for clicking, we are not going anywhere for a while.

Oh, and the comics will keep coming. They are too much fun to do.

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This weekend it was time for some BC dungeon pugs with my disc priest and Reversion’s warrior. Thursday afternoon I had run around and gotten us attuned for Old Hillsbrad so we tried queuing specifically for that and got a party right away, to our pleasant surprise.  There was a paladin, a hunter, and a shadow priest. Reversion and I hopped on the dragon, the shadow priest right behind us, and took off. As we start in on the first guards at the gate the hunter says “We can’t make the dragon work”. So we tell them to get a new pack of bombs first and they make their way to us. I glance at the paladin and hunter – same server, different guilds, but I was betting they were friends or relatives in RL. Sometimes you can get that vibe.

We start clearing stuff, I ask the shadow priest for some tips on a face-melt rotation (thanks! It worked, I killed quest mobs most painfully) and then I notice something odd. When we’re fighting, Reversion is the only one in melee. The hunter and priest are staying back, as they should, but so is the paladin. And he’s… casting… Exorcism?

Yes, we had just encountered the melee hunter’s opposite number; the ranged Ret pally.

I let it slide. He’d occasionally run in and consecrate, and he seemed a bit awkward at the game. When we made it to the keep to get Thrall, he could not find the basement and the hunter reminded us that he wasn’t there yet before starting the escort phase; I was more convinced than ever that they were a dad and kid, or something similar. The paladin said nothing the whole run. His exorcisms hit pretty hard, actually, and things died well. So it didn’t matter.

Next there was an Auchenai Crypts run, not notable except that we got three hunters as our dps. It’s bad enough trying to convince one hunter that his pet is growling; trying to track down and identify which two out of three are doing it, especially when two are white corehounds, is just not fun.

That was Friday; Saturday morning we queued up and got Steam Vaults. I was thrilled; I’ve been in there perhaps twice before. It’s great fun running instances you don’t really know. We got a mage, a DK, and a hunter. We fought our way to the gnome mekgineer boss – then were stumped. Where was the other boss we had to kill? We backtracked and started clearing. Suddenly the mage said “I was right we just need a key” and takes off for the other side of the instance where the locked door is that the final boss is waiting behind. We ignore him since Reversion has already said he’s pretty sure we need to kill the boss over up the ramp from where we are.

“Guys I gtg” the DK says suddenly, and leaves. The mage follows suit without a word, and we queue for dps. We finish clearing trash and we’re still waiting, having found the naga lady boss and her elemental pets.

After six or so minutes in the queue we agree we have nothing to lose by trying, so we start in three man and wipe. No problem; I identify two things I did wrong, we note boss mechanics and discuss strategy as we run back. Reversion is explaining to the hunter how he wants to have the hunter use Distracting Shot and freeze trap one of the adds on one side of the room. As we’re plotting strategy we get just a tiny bit too close to the boss – oops. The hunter goes down fast, Reversion and I try until I get silenced, and we wipe again.

Back again, and we’re ready to try. Reversion charges in. The hunter pulls out an add, but it resists the trap. Reversion taunts it back, and then the hunter pulls it out again. They ping pong it for a few rounds as they’re dpsing down the other add. For an ad-hoc strategy it works great. They kill the first add then focus on the second one. I’m healing away – she keeps silencing me so I have to play catch up rather than dps – and then suddenly I notice my combat text: “Berrysnatcher has died”.

Berrysnatcher? Is that the hunter’s pet? Nope! In the middle of the fight we’d received our two new dps friends, a rogue and a shaman, who commendably had run straight into the fight and gotten creamed. Vuhdo, like most raid frame addons, can’t update during combat and I had not even noticed the two new guys were here before they died.

We took the boss down, I rezzed and apologized to the new folks, and we ran to the end boss and killed him down fast. It was great fun – I love strategizing kills rather than just brute forcing them.

And then after lunch and some baby play time (Nomster dinged one yesterday and I guess she’s not really a baby any more!) we queue again and get Sethikk Halls. Ah, yes…

So we get a hunter, a mage, and a dk. The mage is very “go-go-go” but I’m having mana problems so Reversion takes things at my speed. The hunter has to be told twice to take his pet off growl. He’s not very good and he keeps a constant stream of banter going that tells us he’s probably about 12. In fact, after some particularly inane comments, I ask him if he’s twelve and he eventually after some “lol” and “guess”  says he’s 11. Well, we’re warned.

We get all the way to the end and on the final boss wipe; I got polymorphed and couldn’t get around the pillar in time to avoid the arcane explosion. The mage says something rude and drops group; the rest of us run back and a nice shaman joins us halfway through. “Oh, that boss,” she says when we explain what happened. “Ugh. But why drop now?” Exactly my thought. I share the instance quests with her even though she can’t complete them since we’ve killed a boss she needs, but now she’s got them, and she thanks me. We drop the boss. The hunter dies; I don’t think he understands the need to hide behind the pillars even though we told him so. Reversion’s been whispering with the shaman, who wants to know if we’ll re-queue with her once the others drop. We agree and wait. The dk drops – and the hunter starts popping up the “requeue” screen. We decline and decline and decline. “Come on pick a role” he says. “You’re not very good at taking hints are you?” I ask. Finally, since we’re not getting rid of him, we take the queue.

Of course the last slot is a dk. He sets out immediately proving that he is less mature than the hunter; death gripping mobs to himself, being a jerk in chat, and finally bragging “Wow! I’m getting 1k death strikes!” which makes us all notice that his damage is, in fact, abyssmal. We point this out – he’s doing 125 dps. The idiot hunter is managing close to 500 – and he gets abusive, so we kick him.

His replacement is a paladin. A paladin who apparently thinks he is the tank. “Go go go” he says. I explain again that Reversion is catering to my mana. He doesn’t think much of this. He keeps over-pulling, grabbing other groups – and finally he runs into a room, aggros everything, I am sitting and drinking and we just decide to let him die. We end up wiping since he pulled three groups and didn’t kill anything before he died and on the way back from the graveyard he starts giving me crap about “you need to say something if you’re afk”.

I explain that I was not afk, I just wasn’t putting up  with that sort of behavior, and he tries to vote kick me. Reversion laughs at him and says “good luck with that, since I’m married to her, no way”. Apparently he tried again several times and then he tried to kick Reversion, with the same luck.

Unfortunately since we kicked the dk, we cannot kick this idiot, so I tell the shaman not to heal when he does his nonsense. Sure enough when we get back he tries it again. We ignore him, Reversion tanks the mobs he was planning to pull, I heal people who aren’t the paladin, the paladin dies, we clean up, and we leave him lying dead on the floor and head in to kill the boss.

The guy didn’t bother releasing. Why do that when you can pile invective on peoples’ heads? I guess low level instances are srs bznz and that my job as the healer is to heal people regardless of whether they are doing their job or trying to get me killed. Also I guess things like “doing what the tank says” or “paying attention to healer mana” are overrated.

Anyway, great weekend. I learned a valuable lesson about the difference between jerkwad behavior and “I’m 11″ behavior. I’ll put up with 11 year olds but people who are just annoying and mean get to suffer.

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Someone page him

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Wow Developers’ Twitter Chat, 4/16, about druids:

Restoration druids are actually getting a fair bit. For one, Tree of Life is getting a whole new model (think Ancients of War) and will also “morph” some of your spells to do crazy things while in the form, such as cause Regrowth to be instant, or Lifebloom to apply two applications at once. Tranquility will be raid-wide. We’re also touching nearly every Restoration druid spell to make sure each has a niche and feels good. In general, playing a Restoration druid should feel a lot different (better!) in Cataclysm than it does today.
(copied from here)

If the original class preview had said this, I bet there would have been a lot less QQ about tree form. This is telling me that even if we don’t look like trees most of the time, the essence of our tree-ness will still be important to resto druids. Don’t get me wrong I still want ToL a a permanent thing but this could actually be a cool cooldown. I was afraid of a healing boost or haste boost, but this is an actual mechanic change. Very eager to see it in action.

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Hitting the wall

Hitting the wall is when you run into something that you just can’t get past. It can be suddenly and in your face or it can be a dawning realization. With all the demands of tanking it might hit you several different ways. The cause of it be different. Heck you might never hit one. With the arrival of ICC the gear levels are so high any new tank between now and Cata might not even hit one. Or they might hit one while leveling.

Let me tell you about my wall. I started tanking somewhere during the leveling of my first druid (Reversion).

Actually that is not true, I tanked as a warrior a couple years ago.

Actually that is not true either. I started tanking with my pet starting at level 10 on my first hunter not long after WOW’s launch. A hunter pet is not a real tank of course but you get a lot of the ideas from it. You have abilities as a hunter+pet to generate threat, dump threat, and move threat around. You get many of the concepts of tanking as you play one. Having leveled several alts a little, and two a lot, I found my first warrior tank both familiar and eye opening. There were many things different about being a main party tank instead of just the pet tank controller for a leveling pair or trio. I mentally apologized to every tank I had ever had prior to that point for all the sins I had committed against them.

But that is another story. The point is that the concept of tanking was familiar to me and I picked it up fairly fast. I did a few dozen levels of tanking on my warrior. Then the warrior spent time in storage and eventually I leveled a bear tank. Going from warrior to bear was very intuitive and I was soon feeling very comfortable with the role of tank. I did my homework and got the talents and gear I needed. I was doing pretty good as a max level heroic tank. Then TOC came out. Remember back when most pug players only were wearing 200 purples? Times were very different. I was pulling around 860 dps as a bear tank which I thought (at the time) was not bad. Most dps were only doing 1200-2k back then and for most fights it got the job done.

On one Friday night I ran a TOC heroic pug and was completely unable to keep aggro on the three heroes fight. I am pretty sure it was the hunter mage and druid but I am not 100% sure. After a few wipes the group lost a few and then some Uldar geared tank came and finished the run. I was annoyed but did not think too much of it. I probably blamed the DPS for not following kill order. Anyway, the next morning I got up and while Analogue and the baby were sleeping in I tried another run of it. BAM! I was at the wall. The same thing happened again and I realized suddenly that this WAS a wall.

I knew at that moment that my gear, spec, rotation and skills just simply were not up to generating the threat I needed. It was a WOW epiphany I will never forget. What made it so critical was how I dealt with it. I went out and read stuff. And then read more stuff and then studied some more. From all these I made three very small, very subtle and extremely critical changes.

1: Maul. I had been using Maul. I used it a fair bit…. But I did NOT use it on EVERY melee swing. You see Maul is one of those things you trigger and then it goes off on the next regularly scheduled melee swing (like Heroic Strike). It does not blow the global cooldown. So unless you are hurting for rage you should be using it on EVERY swing. So the subtle change I did here was to move it from the 7 or 9 button (I forget which) on my hot bar and put it on 4. What this did was to put it right under my usual hand position and with my other spam able buttons.

2: I discovered the ‘glyph of maul’ that had somehow previously escaped my notice. This maul made my maul hit two targets instead of one!

Now these two changes ALONE boosted my DPS by around 50% and those I was putting out much more threat. What is more I was spreading that threat around better. My biggest damage dealing attack was hitting two. This meant that in a fight at least two of the enemies were glued to me pretty solidly.

3: The third change I made was even more subtle. I read some more about what ‘growl’ did. I had read the tip text before so I KNEW that it did nothing to targets that were already attacking you. I knew it, I mean it is right there in the tip so how could I miss it? But somehow it did not really sink in deep. You see, the hunter pet ability ‘growl’ does not work that way. It is something that just applies a set amount of threat to the target. So it makes sense for the pet to keep spamming growl on whatever it is fighting. What I read after I hit the wall was the math behind druid growl. The math is this. Whatever target is at the top of the threat list, you get that much aggro +1. For some reason reading the actual numbers like that had far more impact on me. The tool tip more or less says the same thing but not as clearly.

So what did this realization do? Not much. I was already using growl properly to taunt things back when someone else pulled them off. What I was not doing was saving growl for ONLY that. After I read that I made extra certain to never use growl except when it was actually needed. Well, really I do bump it a lot… and sometimes I fire it off before I get the right target selected. But basically I save it for what it is really meant for, for those times when someone pulls off you. What this meant for me was that the cooldown on growl was almost always ready when I needed it. It was a very subtle change to how I used it. And I had already been using it mostly right. But that extra assurance of having growl every time I needed it was huge!

So that was it; one hard and solid wall that I hit head on and three fairly small and subtle tweaks. The result was that I obliterated TOC the next time I ran it. That wall was totally blown away.

My conclusion is this: there are a lot of things to do with tanking. Doing any of them weakly might someday run you hard against a wall you just can’t beat. The trick is to recognize it for what it is and go seek out the information you need to overcome it.

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