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Archive for December, 2010

The Second Pair

So, having gotten our druid tank/healer pair to 85 and started the gear up grind, our attention wandered to another pair…. the gnome tank/healer pair. Consistant the warrior and Elucidate the Priest went to Vashj’ir, which we’d bypassed on the druids, then tanks a few runs, went to Uldum and did the Harrison Jones quests, and then off to Twilight Highlands to play with dwarves. We had rested on them most of the way and it seemed a lot easier and faster to level. Also it turns out I like Shadow a heck of a lot more than Balance, and my Disc spec did just fine in instances.

Reversion is going to have a post detailing all the things his warrior can do that his bear can’t. I’m just resentful of two priest things on the way up: the new level 83 and 85 abilities. Inner Will is cool. A nice mana savings + run speed buff, lasting half an hour? Sure, thanks! But Life Grip – ok, Leap of Faith – is so amazingly awesome. We did one run after dinging 85 and did a couple charge + Life Grip combo pulls that seem like they can be amazing once we get better.

I just wish my druid’s new abilities were actually…. something I wanted. Heck I forgot to train Wild Mushroom for literally days. It would have been nice to get something cool. Ah well.

I’m not planning to switch mains – I don’t like Holy and apparently Disc has some throughput issues right now – but I do plan to have the priest geared and able to step in for fights. Reversion may or may not switch to his warrior though; the bear has some serious issues right now that make tanking rather frustrating.

But it’s cool to have a second pair up there. Last expansion these guys were the last ones to max, barely squeeking in under the wire. This time it looks like the old mains might end up being last to 85…. poor Invariant the Mage….

 

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Merry Christmas, Azeroth!

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I’m Not a Lone Hero

So I’ve read some posts, mostly at Righteous Orbs and Pink Pigtail Inn, discussing whether Cataclysm is too linear or not. That’s not really what I want to talk about – well, it is, but I’m going to start by saying yes, the game is currently very linear, you don’t have a lot of real choice, and I can see that replayability may be low. A lot of people are complaining about the cut scenes which frankly I’m loving. I’m not totally sure what’s causing the difference there.

Basically the discussion comes down to, can our games be epic, still feel like you have freedom, and be an MMO all at the same time? Frankly I don’t see how they can, not with current technology.

Take “open” -  the idea that you can go anywhere and do anything. First off that’s a myth. Even the most open game ever invented has to have some rules, or it’s not a game. The question is where the rules come from.  In a computer game, we the players can’t just make up the rules, because most of the rules are hard coded in by the game itself. You can’t climb up walls without special tools, you can’t teleport instantly except under defined circumstances.

The most open MMO I’ve played is EVE Online, a space game where you fly your starship through a huge galaxy of systems. You can mine ore, trade, build things, fight…. there’s a lot of options, and most of the content is therefore player created. But it still has rules. Some of them are built by the game: if you gank someone in high sec space, you’ll get creamed by the guards. Some of them are player enforced: if you’re in low-security space and don’t belong to the group that controls it, you’ll probably get blown up. But the rules still exist.

What does not exist is a story as such. There are stories in Eve, but they are mostly player created: they usually involve someone swindling other people out of in game currency. Or blowing up a battle fleet. You have exactly as much influence on the universe as one person with a little set of space ships should have; not much.

Then we have games where you are the Hero, the Destined One, the Savior. These are usually single-player games. I played Dragon Age recently, which is a great example of a very “open” feel that isn’t, really. Yes, the choices you make matter. No, they do not actually change the outcome of the game. The way to win the game is to defeat the evil. You can’t negotiate a peace treaty, or convince the people to flee somewhere else. The story is planned out just as heavily as WoW’s stories: it just has a few more branches before you get down to the end. It does, however, feel more open.

It can do that because it is a single player game. In WoW, if the events we are witness to are meaningful, they have to happen for everyone. The Battle for the Undercity took place, whether your character was there or not. If you were there, you were part of the force that retook it. Maybe when you did it, it looked like it was just you and a NPC hero or two, but in “reality” there were hundreds and thousands of soldiers and heros taking part.

As you are questing along in Cataclysm, you aren’t actually the sole lone hero convincing the Stonemother to help restore the Pillar of Earth; you are representative of the force that is actually doing the task. Imagine hundreds of you helping the locals out with their problems. Just because you can’t see everyone else doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It’s too bad there isn’t a nice visual way to show this. I think it would help a lot with peoples’ feelings of “no choices”. Because you don’t actually have a choice. You signed up to help save the world and despite what Generic Epic Fantasy Novel says, that usually means you do what your commanding officer says and hope not to win too many medals.

I think Blizzard did a great job of letting us feel like what we did actually mattered.  Sure it’s a bit confining to have to do every quest in order, but honestly they’ve improved the quests so much I’m not dreading it as I level alts. And heck, if I do, I can just go level a different way. There’s plenty of options out there.

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*****************UPDATE*****************

This no longer works. Bliz removed Starfire Espresso from the achievement.

*****************************************

Step 1: read this post http://fallingleavesandwings.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/the-quick-and-dirty-fish-feast-method/

Step 2: Realize that you bought the Starfire Espresso recipe before Cataclysm was active, planning to skill up a few easy points using vendor mats

Step 3: Realize that your guild is only a quarter of the way to the achievement…. and you could just log on and brew a few…

Step 4: Buy the water and the cocoa beans. Curse whoever set it up to sell the water in 5s and the beans as singles. Empty all your gear out of your bags so you can queue up a thousand at a time. Start brewing. Walk away and do something useful

Step 5: send them all to your bank alt (You’ve got one, right?). Rinse, repeat, get the achievement

Step 6: Sell a few on the Auction House. Realize they actually sold. List a bunch more. Sell ‘em. Realize you’ve already made back your investment, keep listing until they’re gone.

Not to be held liable if they sell for less than material cost on your server. Check before you brew!

It’ll take a while. Takes about 20 seconds per batch, and I doubt you can hold enough mats for more than a thousand at once, so you’ll need to do this a couple times. But hey, it’s nice and easy and if you do it now – while there’s a market for the product – you can get it without it costing you money.

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So, to be perfectly clear: I have not yet attempted heroics. My gear is there but last night we elected to do some normals so we could play with friends who are not yet 85. This may change entirely when I hit heroics, but I suspect the cycle will be the same.

The first  few dungeons on the way up healed like Wrath dungeons, IMO. People took big hits and had to be healed up all the way or the next big hit would kill them. I saw places where they were taking damage that they didn’t need to – spikes, boulders, fireballs, shadow blasts, things that they needed to move out of. And everyone seemed to be working hard to learn what the tells were for those, and not take that damage again. Still, the health wasn’t there.

Around 84 the health pools suddenly got big enough to take a hit or two, but at the same time my mana regen went through the floor. I had thought it was bad before; now, some of my spells were using 5% of my mana, or more. I was ending every fight OOM, begging for another druid’s inervate, using spirit buff food and flask, and desperate to know what was wrong.

We hit 85. I started getting gear and tweaking performance. I’d already trained myself that pre-hotting was bad, that using hots on slightly damaged people was bad, that I needed to use Nourish and Healing Touch more. Now I really worked at it. I learned fights, tried to find time to use Thorns on Reversion, and just didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

Then I read this post. If you’re a resto druid, or run with one, or just want to know how we work, read this. It told me all the things I already knew, but gently, in a well put together way that just got through my thick skull and told me, oh, this is how.

It made all the difference. I switched to using Lifebloom all the time, no matter what. I remapped a few mouse clicks, and the next set of dungeons I ran, I was sitting on a happy mana pool. I made people eat between fights and all was well.

Only now I have a different problem. If I’m not healing all the time – and I’m not – and I’ve learned the triage game, so I don’t need to sit there thinking that much, what am I doing? I am not amused by standing around waiting for someone to take the magical amount of damage that means I’ll actually throw them a heal. Keeping the tank up doesn’t take all my GCDs. If I don’t do anything, I get distracted and then miss my cue when  I do need to heal.

My solution? Put two talent points in that crappy talent that gives you free Wrath, and stand there and cast stupid green balls of minor, tickly annoyance at mobs.

Yeah, so I’ll probably switch back as soon as we run raids, or maybe even heroics, but it is far too annoying for me to be standing around twiddling my thumbs waiting for something to happen.

I really hope that when the difficulty ramps up, it means I have more to do, not less to do it with – but with Blizzard making everything about the mana game, I don’t see that happening. News flash; I think the mana game is boring. There is nothing fun about staring at blue bars as opposed to green ones.

But at least I see why they put that stupid talent in there. Great, Blizzard, you’re making me dps. This is why I rolled a healer, right?

That sounds really negative. I’m having a lot of fun with the new dungeons and I do enjoy learning the new healing model – but I wish there was a middle ground between Wrath and Cataclysm as far as healing goes. Wrath fights got my adrenaline up. These fights …. yeah I’m seeing boss mechanics and I can tell you what bosses look like but I’ve made a terrible realization that I really really like the game of Whack-A-Mole Health Bars.

Ah well. Too early to pass judgment yet! Anyone else have insights or opinions? Anyone else find yourself dpsing to fill the time?

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Loving the expansion. The dungeons are hard. Nicely hard. So far the only person I have heard saying how easy they were is a cocksure tank whose boast were not quite loud enough to drowned out the whimpering that was his healer, over in the corner, rocking back and forth moaning ‘oom… oom’.

FYI to all tanks, if you think you are doing great but your healer is a nervous wreck then you are not as good a tank as you think you are.

But this one is not about tanks… or rather it is not ONLY about tanks.  I just read another blog that had a nice description of some of the trials of these new runs. It mentioned that they wiped a lot due to OOM but that she thought they had actually covered for some lesser experienced players. No offense to the other blogger but those statements are a contradiction.

The healer’s mana is everyone responsibility

There is a lot of damage in these runs. LOTS of it… however, a huge proportion of it is avoidable. It is up to every single person in the run to do their part in avoiding it. Anything less and you get OOM heals and a graveyard run. These new runs will require everyone to learn all the little tricks of their class that they never had to learn before. Everyone should recite this mantra, ‘there is ALWAYS something more that I PERSONALLY can do to make the run better’.

Breaking the habit

I have now done every run on non-heroic and many of them several times. I have done all my runs with good players. They were mostly long time players with alts and varied experience. But even running with high class players I STILL see things they are not doing or not doing well enough. For example there are lots of things mobs do to us that are interruptible casts but very few people are interrupting them. The attitude of ‘just DPS as hard as you can’ is very very hard to shake. I know we did not really need CC in the last expansion, but it is much more than that. We needed almost none of the extra tricks DPSers could do and hence no one remembers they have them.

Learning the true meaning of Christmas helping the party

I always found discussions ironic and funny about ‘tanks versus dps’ or when people were whining about DPS not getting respect. I lost count of how many times some mage would say something like, ‘I do more than just dps, when at add comes after the healer I frost nova it and blink away.’ I just wanted to pound my head on the table and shout ‘That is not helping!’ I didn’t usually because it took too long to explain the reasons why that was a bad idea.

There are things DPS can do to help. Lots of things. Very few dps seem to know what they are or when to use them or how. This is not surprising. We have not really needed those tricks. How many druids here know where your hibernate button is and that it works on dragonkin? Just yesterday a VERY solid kingslayer boomkin had to go find it in her spell book because she had never used it. How many hunters here know that distracting shot is a ‘forced attack’ and works VERY well with frost trap to CC stuff by pulling it out of the melee? A couple runs back I taught that trick to an outstanding hunter that had played one since vanilla beta. This is not to toot my horn. I only know a few tricks, mostly from classes I have played a lot. There are lots out there.

I find myself in runs where over half the classes have spell interrupts or silences but I seem to be the only one using them. I probably missed seeing some of them, but that is not my point. My point is that even very good players need to be racking their brains and burning up the internet for more tricks and tips on what THEY can do to make the fights better. Learn more CC tricks. Dig through your spellbooks for long forgotten abilities and see what they can do. And…

DON’T STAND IN THE FIRE!

As I said above most of the damage is avoidable. Some of it is only BARELY avoidable so you have to move fast. We need to hit ourselves in the head every time we find ourselves doing our rotation while standing in the bad.

Speak up

I have said in the past that more people need to be willing to point out the mistakes of others. I really believe that you don’t learn to play better until something pushes you or someone gives you a tip. I have learned plenty that way and I like to think I have offered a lot of helpful advice that way. And now is truly the time for it. There are so very many things in these instances that need to be pointed out to people. If you see someone doing something wrong please tell them. It is not being a jerk, it is being helpful (if you say it nicely). If someone can’t handle being told not to stand in that stuff then you should not be running with them anyway. And don’t assume because someone is a good player that they don’t have room for improvement.

Listen

This goes for all of us. There are always more tricks to learn and more skills to get. There are always new ways to use the skills we already have. If you think you can do more, ask. If someone makes a suggestion, listen.

Earn it

Some DPS whine that tanks and heals don’t give them enough respect… Time to go earn it. I don’t care what your meter looks like. If you are standing in the flaming whirlwind while not using your interrupts, mitigation moves, stuns, et cetera then trust me, it is not the healer’s fault she has no mana.

Do you die a lot? Maybe swap in a tanking trinket for a mitigation cooldown. Or grind some first aid. If the healer is leaving your health low he might have decided you are too expensive and expendable to heal up. So pop a bandage and a potion and help him out. Above all you should be focusing on getting your skill at avoiding damage up. In fact you should be focusing on that concept more than you focus on getting better gear.

Now tanks and dps say it with me all together, “The healer’s mana is my responsibility.” Put it on a post-it note and stick it to your screen. Tattoo it on the back of your mouse hand. Learn it, know it, love it.

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We’d just hit 84 and were off in Uldum, helping Harrison Jones, when suddenly, the world went red.

What’s going on?

 

Wait… what’s that heading for us in cloud and shadow and flame? That’s the biggest dragon I’ve ever seen and he’s heading right at me!

 

Your World Will End in Flames.

 

And, of course, in an achievement. Sweet! Even dinging 85 wasn’t as much a rush as seeing that giant dragon of doom coming toward us. How are we going to kill this guy? I can’t even imagine..

 

And a bonus screenshot of the best thing since RocketBare:

 

CamelBare!

 

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So let me set the stage… A few days before that Cataclysm dropped I got my warrior to level 80 (yaah). So I queued for a few runs because I was bored. Most of them were normal mode. Here I am, fresh dinged 80 with no gear to speak up and I got in a couple runs with raiders that were helping an alt get a trinket. One of those runs was a normal PoS run and I think all the DPS were averaging over 5k dps. It was some of the hardest tanking I have done. Why? Because I challenged myself to hold all the agro. Sure those guys could take the hits. I probably could have gone AFK. But nah, I like a challenge. So I tanked it. And while I did not so much ‘hold’ agro, I did juggle it so that most of the critters hit me most of the time. Really I pulled out all the stops, hammered keys, bounced around like crazy, and in the end really impressed myself with what I was able to keep up with.

There is a point to this, and it is not to brag. Right after that I got in a Heroic PoS and, despite again really pulling out all the stops and stretching that little gnome warrior, I just could not get Tyrannous down. At some point you hit a wall of ‘gear’ where the tank can’t take the hits and the healer (who was good but also under geared badly) can’t heal them.

So that is the stage going into Cata. We started leveling our main druid pair first and it went well. I knew bear swipe had been nerfed 20% according to the patch notes. I also knew I was losing my 20% swipe 10 set bonus. Also I knew that healing was nerfed and everything was going to be hard again. All that means I expected it to be somewhat challenging in places, and in places it was.

And then we ran instances. Yep, challenging, very challenge. I marked stuff, our very good DPS friends (like RepGrind) CCed stuff. We usually had good DPS levels. Almost 100% of our runs were with guildies. And it was hard but it went ok. Love the new instances, love the new mechanics, but this post is not really about that. I ran a few runs with another tank in the guild and we did less CC on those. I also ran with one of the other raid leaders and he commented how the other runs he was on they CCed less and stuff. Honestly it really pissed me off. How dare anyone think these Cata runs were easy, they were HARD.

Finally I noticed something…. Some adds were quite simply ignoring my aoe threat. They would run right through it when no one else should have had much threat on them. Hmm.. strange. Maybe I need to get Thrash fired off more often. Maybe move a few abilities around. So I went looking for some macros and stuff. Had to Google around to see how they changed the syntax on a swipe macro…

Then, just as I was almost done tuning my macro I ran into a link to this on wow-head’s swipe entry:
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/1127127739

[Analogue edit: this thread is an even more detailed "whodunit" sorta rundown for number muncher types: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/1118442888]

I checked the numbers they posted against what my meters were saying and it is pretty much right. Bear swipe got somewhere around a 75 to 80 percent nerf.

80% reduction? To swipe? EIGHTY PERCENT??!?!!!

Holy freaking crud no wonder those runs were so dang hard. I have NO AOE threat. How did we even get through those? Why did it take me that long to notice?

Well that last question I could figure out. I had just been on that warrior, for the last few runs before cata. Really compared to those runs it was almost easier. It took me getting my bear to 85 before it really sank in that the runs had been nearly has hard as having the whole party with vastly better gear. I had literally run every other instance in the expansion and was starting the last one (Grim Batol) when I figured this out.

Bears are broken. I hate to say it be they are. Bliz needs to fix this bug ASAP.

Interestingly I had noticed that my ‘how to work your bear in 4.0.1-4.0.3’ post from the other week had been getting a lot of google hits. Now I know why.

For those not yet leveling in Cata who hope Thrash will fix it for you, it will not. It does similar damage levels as swipe, and only adds a tiny little bleed effect. For those of you that are not 85 and were hoping max level would fix the issues for you, it will not.

But hang in there. It IS possible to tank everything here as a bear, you just might need a tiny bit more gear than your pally friends (may they and their three target taunts and their ranged multi target silences and their non-nerfed aoe dps all die horribly in a fire). But you CAN do it. Some of the fights are going to be so hard as to challenge you. Remember to use tab and spread around some other threat besides Swipe. And mark targets for your DPS. If you don’t at least give them a skull to shoot at you will have much much more trouble.

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