Archive for December, 2009

O.o

Posted: 19 December, 2009 in misc

A quick update on the Nibelung staff from ICC, I did a random daily in the Dungeon Finder the other day and got it to proc not once, but twice at the same time.  It seems there’s a 1% chance on dealing damage that a Val’kyr will be summoned, so if you’re doing any kind of AoE the chances are good you’re going to get a proc, and there’s no internal cooldown, as you can see from the pic.

It’s still not as good dps as my current TotGC main hand/offhand combo, but you can’t beat your own Val’kyr bodyguard for coolness factor!

Advertisements

LFG

Posted: 15 December, 2009 in Dungeons
Tags: , ,

So.  The new Dungeon Finder tool.  It’s actually not bad at all, is it?  As a consequence of getting extremely drunk yesterday afternoon (Christmas drinks in the Chief Petty Officers’ Mess) I was in no fit state to raid last night and after a few hours rack time and several gallons of coffee I decided to give the Dungeon Finder another go.

There are actually a couple of instances I’d always wanted to clear on various alts but couldn’t ever get a group interested in doing them, mainly because they were the Oculus.  Both Galadan and Sithica needed the Oculus for the Northrend Dungeonmaster, Dungeon Hero and Champion of the Frozen Wastes achievement/title.  Yes, it was easier to get a raid to kill Malygos than it was to get a group together for a 5 man instance.  Life sucks.  So, bearing in mind the fifteen minute wait it took me to get my 3000 spellpower 900 haste Mage into a group for anything on patch day, I logged onto Sithica the Deathtard and queued myself for Oculus as tank/dps.

Approximately fifteen seconds later, my group is ready to go and I’m tanking.  Okay, this is significantly better than queuing as dps I’ll grant you that, but that’s pretty much always been the case with tanks.  Now I was peripherally aware, in an abstract “heard it on a forum somewhere” kind of way, that the Oculus has been nerfed since I was a fresh level 80 mage.  But I don’t think I was aware of just how serious a beating with the nerfbat it had suffered until I said “I’ll kite Mage-Lord Urom in this direction” and the dps had nuked him down to a wet stain on the deck before he  even had a chance to do his first teleport.  Mage Lord Urom got buttsexed.  Without the benefit of lubricant.  Less than five minutes later Sithica has her spanky new Champion of the Frozen Wastes title and a slightly bewildered feeling that there should have been slightly more of a challenge involved.  Let’s try this new-fangled Dungeon Finder again, this time for a random Northrend Heroic. 

Half a second later I’m being invited to confirm that I’m happy to tank Halls of Lightning.  Half a second!  Twenty minutes later I’m the slightly bewildered owner of another rack of Badges of Triumph and half a bag full of assorted enchanting materials.

Time to step this up a notch.  Let’s see what happens with a healing-capable character.  Step forward Askara, spacegoat shaman extraordinaire.  I’ll just queue myself as dps or healer, but we all know what that means, so I’ll make sure I’m in Tier 9 Resto gear and spec and…  they want me to dps???

Somewhere there are four dps and a tank wondering where all the healers are.  Answer:  In my group!

So this group is led by some Bear tank or other with 45k health unbuffed who proceeds to grab the first trash pack in Halls of Stone, kite them to the second trash pack, kite them to the third trash pack and bounce on the spot spamming Bearwind while we scramble after him and start hitting stuff at random.  I know he had 45k health unbuffed because he didn’t even wait to be buffed.  Maiden of Grief is down in 28 seconds.  The entire instance is cleared in 15 minutes.  “Champion of the Frozen Wastes“, “Winds of the North” and “The Kirin Tor” pop up out of nowhere for Askara, too.

Throughout all of it, it suddenly strikes me what’s wierd about this whole procedure is that from start to finish, no-one has uttered a word in party chat.  It’s actually quite eerie.  Like you’re watching a video of a dungeon speed run with the sound down and off your face on Crack and Wild Turkey.

Next group is Culling of Stratholme, same format except this time I’m healing.  A slightly more talkative Paladin tank at least, who wants to know if I consider myself a good healer due to some bad experiences he’d had with other healers that day.  It’s a fair question given my woes healing Halls of Reflection the other day, but I’m glad that someone’s actually broken the silence for once.  I reply by linking him Askara’s I’ve Gone And Made A Mess (10 man) achievement from Deathbringer Saurfang which restored some of my confidence and  satisfied his curiousity and then off we go at the usual breakneck pace. 

So what did I take away from all of this other than enough badges for my Tier 9 offspec chest?  Well what this Dungeon Finder tool has actually done is three things.

1.  People are actually doing “old” instances again.  And by “old” I mean all the regular level 80 instances that aren’t Trial of the Champion.  Blizzard painted themselves into a corner with patch 3.2.  They introduced a 5 man that rendered every other 5 man in the game obsolete.  you either hit 80, got some crafted gear and Argent Crusade rep items together and farmed Toc5 until you had the gear to do Toc5 Heroic, or you hit 80 and got your friends to twink you through Heroic.  What you didn’t do was bother with any other instance unless you were some sort of achievement junkie or, you know, you wanted to play the game.  What they’ve done in 3.3 is actually quite clever from a design standpoint.  The random grouping reward and the Badges of Triumph dropping from 5 man bosses are the single fastest way to gear your character up.  You won’t get boots, weapons, offhands, shields etc from doing old 5 mans (or you will but they’re going to suck in comparison to the rest of your gear) but that’s where the new 5 mans come in.  With level 219 gear dropping in the normal versions and 232 gear dropping in the heroic version, with the incentive to farm them coming from the chance to loot an item that will grant you a level 251 weapon of your choice.

Except, no-one’s seeing the old instances.  Not really.  You can’t see anything that zips by that quickly.  And you get teleported into them from where you queued, so you don’t even know where the old instances are.  This is fine if you’re a junkie like me, gearing up your tenth level 80 after doing it all “properly” the first three times.  New 80s on their first toon aren’t going to know where they are or what they’re doing.  This is a shame, because…  oh hey, look, purple pants!

Where was I?  Oh yes, Point #2.

2.  Dungeon runs are now nothing more than anonymous badge farm sessions.  “But Calli!” you cry, “They always were!”  Not so, gentle reader.  They may have been badge farm sessions in the past, but that’s not all they were.  They were exercises in social interaction too.  In order to get people into your group to farm instances you had to actually talk to them.  Through the wonders of technology you don’t even have to do that anymore.  And what I’m noticing above anything else in these speed runs is that if people don’t have to expend energy on something as unproductive as speaking to each other, they won’t bother.  Chances are, if anyone’s speaking they’re the guy who just dinged 80, don’t have a clue what they’re doing or where they are and want to, you know…  interact.

3.  People are far less forgiving of “noobs” than ever.  Back in my day, when all this were nowt but pixels, well-geared tanks did heroics with 24k health buffed.  No don’t laugh, this is historical fact.  Actually, back in my day tanks did raids with 6k health, but don’t get me started.  Now I have dps characters and healers with that much health and more.  But these “old” dungeons that people are supposed to zoom through at warp factor 9 en route to the next Tier 9 badge upgrade are designed to be moderately challenging to people who tank with 24k health, heal with 1.5k spellpower and push out 2k dps on a good day with a following wind.  You show up for one of these Dungeon Finder runs geared like that and you’re either with friends, you get /votekicked or half the group bails on you.  I’m hearing some absolutely horrific stories about the treatment of noob 80s getting groups via this Tool. 

Of course, there was really nothing else Blizzard could do without inventing a time machine that would allow them to go back and erase Patch 3.2 and the precedent that ToC Heroic set, and to be fair to them, I’m not sure I’d want them to.  I’ve got one stupidly well-geared mage, eight very well geared to reasonably well geared assorted tanks/dps/healers and one noob huntard.  Patch 3.3 is just a loot fest for me.  I’ve got so many epics I have to shard lesser epics just to make space in my bags for the new epics I’m going to shard later.  This patch had ME written all over it.  No more do I have to sit around Dalaran wondering what to do when I’m not raiding.  Go fishing for a bit in Sholozar?  Finish off the Ogri’la reputation grind?  Do some cooking dailies?  Screw that.  Hop into Dungeon Finder and amass more phat lewtz and then do Pit of Saron with my Quel’delar farm group. 

Sure must suck to be new to the game, though.

I’d like to dedicate this post to the loving memory of my Power Supply Unit, who sadly passed away two days before Patch 3.3 rolled out, the inconsiderate bastard.  The repair guys say it’s going to be anything up to 28 days before I get my PC back, but thankfully I have a pretty good gaming laptop and managed to get Rash of the Itch King installed in time for some Icecrown Asskicking.

Ugh.
I’m sure there are those amongst you who play WoW on a laptop all the time.  I am not numbered amongst you.  I have a massive beast of a PC with a huge monitor and a nice big clunky G15 keyboard.  When I turn it on, lights flicker all down my street.  WoW may work on a laptop, and to be fair to the laptop it plays WoW very smoothly, but I was in no way, shape or form ready for the experience.  When Illidan told us we were not prepared he meant me personally.

First of all, when you install WoW on a new machine, all those little interface tweaks you messed around with and adjusted over the years?  That’s right, gone.  And I’m not just talking about addon settings, although those are bad enough.  Suddenly my mouse is moving too quickly, my camera keeps adjusting itself at exactly the wrong moment, the laptop keyboard keys are too damn small and not where I expect them to be so I end up zigging when I should have been zagging, anyrhing i tupe in chaT COMes ouyt likew this and I’m getting a bad back from hunching over a 15″ widescreen laptop monitor trying to figure out what’s going on.  And then we come to the addon nightmare.

I didn’t realise I didn’t have Decursive installed until after we pulled Lady Deathwhisper, which is a bad, BAD time to realise, let me assure you.  I’ve become so used to using Decursive I don’t even have Remove Curse on my action bars any more.  So yes, that pull resulted in a wipe.  Luckily I’d installed Clique so could quickly assign Remove Curse and Polymorph to their respective keybinds and decurse/crowd control via my raid frames.  Speaking of raid frames, I use X-Perl, which is great and after several years of tweaking to get it just the way I like it, does everything that I want my raid frames to do and much more besides.  And I have no clue exactly what those settings were, but they definitely weren’t what I was playing with last night.  That Rogue’s frame could have been flashing because he had suddenly developed an acute case of pants-on-head for all I know, but I had no idea what I was supposed to do about it.

Outfitter didn’t know what my Arcane Haste (914 haste, fact fans!), Arcane Crit, Fire Crit or Frostfire AoE gear sets were.  Without Titan Panel I had no idea that my gear was getting worn out until that little paper doll guy with all the yellow and red armour started popping up.  Scorchio and Miks’ Scrolling Battle Text both stubbornly refuse to tell me when Missile Barrage lights up and Scorchio in particular is hiding all its’ alerts under my chat window so I can’t see them anyway.

Woe Is Me
Sticking needles into my eyes would have been more fun than than doing a brand new raid in those circumstances.  It’s fair to say it totally ruined Icecrown for me.  I spent more time fighting my interface than the bosses, which is a shame because the Gunship battle in particular is probably a lot of fun.  Well, it looks like a lot of fun if you’re melee.  As a Mage all I do is toss damage spells at axe throwers and then light up boarding teams with Living Bombs and Flamestrikes.  I may as well not have had a Jetpack on my back for all the difference it made.  Bears with Jetpacks strapped to their asses are one of the funnuier things I’ve seen in WoW lately, though.

So my Icecrown raid experience can generally be categorised as one big massive “meh!” at best, certainly in the 10 man raid we did on Wednesday.  By the time we raided the 25 man version last night I’d sorted out most of my interface woes.  My addons were mostly correctly installed and sort of tweaked adequately to suit my preferences, although Scorchio’s still being a stroppy bitch about Missile Barrage and needs a good slap to let it know who’s boss.  Overall, however, the 25 man raid was a lot more enjoyable, even though my dps still sucked as I struggled to get used to the mouse.  On the bright side I hit Friendly with the Ashen Verdict and got a spanky new ring, the rather fabulous Ashen Band of Destruction.  Lady Deathwhisper also dropped the Shoulders of Mercy Killing which finally pushed me over 3000 spellpower, and the Nibelung staff which no-one else wanted because, to be fair to it, it’s a bit crap.  Less spellpower than my current mainhand/offhand combo, no hit, no crit, no haste.  It’s actually a piece of junk that no caster in their right mind would spend precious dkp on, except for one thing.  On cast there’s a chance you will summon your own fuck-off great big Vrykul bodyguard to kick arse for you.

How awesome is that?

Of course I won’t use it in any raid and I’m not even wasting enchant reagents to put a good enchant on it, but it was going to get disenchanted unless someone took it and you get a fuck-off great big Vrykul bodyguard to kick arse for you!  With no internal cooldown, fact fans.  You can have more than one of the buggers up at once.  This mage does not allow such awesome-but-actually-useless items to be disenchanted without a fight!  So now it’s mine and my Vrykul tag team blitzkreig will be steamrollering daily quests at an instance near you soon.

By contrast to the situational suckyness of the the 10 and 25 man raids, the three new 5 mans are some of the best content I’ve seen in this game, ever.  I ran them in heroic on Calli via the new looking for group tool that everyone thinks is so bloody amazing.  Well “everyone” apparently means “tanks and healers”, because let me assure you that if you’re a dps class, trying to get a group still sucks the salt off the donkeys’ balls.  Eventually I did manage to get a group and zoned into the first instance, and despite a combination of my still struggling with my interface and the tank being a bit of a dick, I actually had a pretty good time.  You know the kind of player who thinks that healers exist to run back after a wipe and rez his lazy arse?  Yeah, that was the tank.  Aluriel, Shinano, Galadan and Askara just love That Guy, because clearly my healers have nothing better to do with their time than corpse run just to be ready for when you get back from making coffee to ensure your instance experience is as seamless as possible.  We live for that.

*cough*

O.o
The new 5 mans are exceptionally well designed, I’m just not sure if the difficulty is tuned correctly on heroic.  Given my interface woes and general addon suckiness it was hard to tell if we were sweating because it was hard or just underperforming because I sucked that night.  But we did sweat, have no doubt of that.  The group were all roughly at my gear level and we wiped twice on Frostmourne.  That’s guys in level 245-258 gear wiping on 5 man dungeon content.

Let’s just examine the group in slightly more detail.  First there was me, a very overgeared Mage who managed to put out an average of 5k dps over the course of the more forgiving 5 man environment despite addon woes.  Then there was a highly competent and well geared Holy Paladin healer.  The adequately competent Warrior Tank/Dick we’ve already covered, the 5k dps Shadow Priest and the 4-5k dps Deathknight.   When we got to Frostmourne, the Shadow Priest had to become a backup healer because the Paladin just couldn’t cope with the incoming damage and the group wiped twice before completing the encounter.  Between myself and the Deathknight we were so overgeared we were still pushing out more than enough dps to compensate for the lack of a third dps between waves, and we still wiped even with two healers.

I realise there could be all sorts of reasons for this.  None of us could be accused of being experts on these fights yet, so we may have been making things harder for the tank and healer(s) than it needed to be.  It might be yet another one of those fights that’s harder for a Paladin to heal than any other healing class.  Maybe a shaman could faceroll all over their Chain Heal button with an afk macro throughout the fight, I don’t know.  Or maybe there’s just an insane amount of incoming damage and the encounter’s going to get nerfed pretty soon.  All I know is that I ran the same instances the following night on my Deathknight with a guild group with less dps but a better tank and a healer who could heal more than two people at once and we still wiped once at the exact same spot.

It was a lot of fun though!  My personal favourites were running the gaunlet through the ice tunnel en route to Tyrannus, clearing bad guys and trying to avoid falling ice blocks, kinda like Hodir on crack; and the reverse gauntlet running away from the Lich King while escaping the Halls of Reflection.  10 out of 10 to the encounter designers who had Sindragosa nuke your support team after defeating Tyrannus, except all the gnome mage npcs who avoided death by popping Ice Block!  100% pure win and covered in awesome sauce.  Yeah, fuck you, Sindragosa, don’t mess with the mages!

The loot gods were laughing their asses off all night, of course.  In my guild run we had a Warrior tank with such good gear he didn’t need anything that even dreamed of dropping in any 5  man dungeon.  A Priest healer with 25 man Coliseum gear who might need some drops for dps, a Rogue who did over 5k dps unbuffed in his sleep and then my nabby Deathknight and another guildie’s noob Fury Warrior alt and everything that dropped all night was either mail or had spellpower all over it.

But I digress.  Nice work to Blizzard for three new instances with new encounter mechanics, cool loot, amazing architecture and hard boss fights.  They’re going to get nerfed I promise you, but in the meantime there are three heroic dungeons you can’t faceroll your way through with superior gear, and I’ve not seen that since Magisters’ Terrace.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the All-Star Summoned Vrykul Tag Team Blitzkrieg has some pressing business in Northrend…

Retrospective

Posted: 3 December, 2009 in misc
Tags: ,

So, 5 years of World of Warcraft.  My, how time flies.  I can’t actually remember when I started playing, I know it wasn’t exactly at the game launch in Europe, I was playing Star Wars Galaxies back then and not interested in any game that didn’t have Imperial Stormtroopers.  I remember that I quit Star Wars when Sony broke the game and started again from the ground up with the Combat “Upgrade” and that’s when I first dabbled with World of Warcraft.  All I know is that I bought the first available “second wave” of boxed copies of the game after the first load had sold out in the UK and I started playing on Hellscream EU the day the server was activated.

My first character was Henriksen, my trusty Dwarven Hunter, and he was also the first I levelled to 60 (and the last I got to 80!).  Things were very different back then in vanilla WoW.  There were no arenas, no battlegrounds, no world pvp objectives.  What we did have, however, was Southshore and Tarren Mill.  Nestled in the Hillsbrad foothills, these two towns, one Horde one Alliance, both with Flightmasters, both within easy flying range of Ironforge and Undercity, both with conveniently-placed graveyards and both within 200 yards of each other were the scene of countless clashes between Horde and Alliance players.  I don’t know if Southshore and Tarren MIll were deliberately set up this way to provoke the slaughter that ensued, but if it was an accident of game design it was a good one.  Right from the off, even before anyone on Hellscream had hit level 60, there was carnage at Tarren Mill.  Since hardly anyone was over level 50 back then, the fights tended to follow a repetitive pattern.  30-40 players of both factions would fight on the field between the two towns until one side would get pushed back, the losing side would fall back to the safety of their town, and then someone on the opposite side would get close enough to provoke the level 50 town guards (but to me they were just skull-level boss mobs!) who would rush out and promptly slaughter everyone.  The defenders would suddenly become the attackers and chase the retreating enemy to the borders of their town, at which point their own town guards would come out and turn the tables yet again.

Hi. I'm Deathguard Humbert and I'm going to kill you and eat your face.

It never got old, and no attempt to impose any kind of plan on proceedings ever came to anything (so it was a lot like Alterac Valley).  I cannot remember ever arriving at Southshore in the early days without there being some kind of battle going on, it was like a 24 hour bar brawl.  People would get tired of it and leave, but there was always someone who’d just logged on and wanted some Southshore action to replace them.  It was fantastic, emergent gameplay at its best.  And then Warsong Gulch came along and the Tarren Mill/Southshore battles died literally overnight.  And that was kinda sad.

The class talents were completely different to what we see today, too.  Paladin blessings used to last 5 minutes.  There were no Greater Blessings.  Arcane Explosion wasn’t instant cast unless you spent FIVE talent points in the Arcane tree.  Evocation was an Arcane talent and had a 10 minute cooldown, Ice Block was a Frost talent.  Imagine not having Ice Block or Evocation, or instant-cast Arcane Explosions?  Mana gems disappeared when you logged out.  They didn’t come in stacks of three, you got one and that was it, and they shared a cooldown with Warlock healthstones.  There was no Ice Lance, no Frostfire bolt.  No Arcane Barrage.  No Arcane Blast!  Mage Armour didn’t exist until patch 1.3.  Hurricane was a 40-point Balance Druid talent and had a cooldown. Swiftmend didn’t exist and only Restoration druids had access to Innervate.  There was no Tree of Life form.  There were no key rings, all your keys had to be left in your bags and the only 18 slot bag in the game was a drop from a 40 man raid boss.  There used to be a talent that increased your Wand damage by 25% if you were dumb enough to spend 5 talent points in it.  Holy Fire used to have a 5 second cast time.  Items that granted bonuses to healing didn’t give bonuses to spell damage, a level 60 priest in full tier 2 raid armour and weapons did as much damage with their holy spells as someone who just dinged 60 in greens and quest rewards.  Hunter pets often couldn’t keep up with their master and would lag so far behind that they’d despawn. Mages used to have a Detect Magic spell, unless this was cast, you couldn’t see what buffs a boss had.  You know, useful stuff like enrage, frenzy, bloodthirst etc.  Stuff your tanks might like to know about and have removed. Priests had different racial spells available to them that weren’t available to priests of any other race.  Only Dwarven Priests had Fear Ward.  There was no Need or Greed loot rolling, you either rolled on the loot or you didn’t.  There was only one Auction House in Ironforge and one in Ogrimmar.   If you were in Eastern Plaguelands and needed to get to Booty Bay in Stranglethorn Vale, you had to take a flight from each connecting flightmaster all the way down.  You couldn’t just select Booty Bay as your destination from Light’s Hope Chapel flightmaster.  You had to speak to each flightmaster at each stop every step of the way. There were no relics, totems or idols; druids, paladins and shamans had nothing to equip in the ranged weapon slot.  There were no mage refreshment tables and the highest rank conjured water spell (which you could only get from a quest in Dire Maul) only produced a stack of 4 water.  Raids had 40 people.  4 water per cast.  Do the maths.

Instance Bosses used to despawn if you didn’t defeat them within a certain time after starting the fight.  People who think the one hour per week time limit imposed on defeating Algalon the Observer in Ulduar is harsh, something like that used to be standard practice!  Just as one example, if you didn’t defeat Vaelastrasz the Corrupt within an hour of pulling him, it was bye bye for 12 hours while you waited for him to respawn so you could try again.  There’s a reason why Vael broke so many raiding guilds.

Zul’gurub was the first raid that wasn’t for 40 players, although you could “raid” some of the 5 player instances.  You could take 10 players into Scholomance and Stratholme and take 15 players into Blackrock Spire.  Believe it or not, people would still wipe.  Someone at Blizzard must have had a good laugh on the day they decided where to place Zul’gurub, the first 20 player raid instance.  Imagine you’re on a pvp server.  Stranglethorn Vale, already known as Ganklethorn Vale (and for good reason), teeming with level 30+ players of both factions, all ganking the crap out of each other while struggling to complete their quests, level up and get the heck out of this hellhole, now hadanything up to a hundred or so bored, epic-covered level 60s of both factions waiting for Zul’gurub raids to start.  The carnage reached epic proportions.

Another “undocumented feature” of Zul’gurub was the infamous corrupted blood plague that spread from there to… well… everywhere.  The last boss, the Blood God Hakkar, cast an effect on the raid called Corrupted Blood that was basically an annoying Damage over time effect that spread from player to player if you didn’t spread out.  Annoying that is, if you’re level 60.  Completely lethal if you’re level 20, standing in the Ironforge Auction House next to an infected mage who just teleported out of the instance.  It spread like wildfire and Blizzard were completely unable to do anything about it, being forced to hotfix the debuff and reset all their instance servers to remove the plague.  Experience gained here came in useful for their undead invasion event before the Wrath of the Lich King launch, however.

I guess the point here is that the game is constantly changing, and it’s this constant change that keeps it fresh.  I miss the old battles at Tarren Mill/Southshore, but the reason people stopped doing them and are never going to do them again is because it’s more convenient to visit a Battlemaster or just join from your pvp menu than it is to travel to the Hillsbrad Foothills and hope someone from the opposing faction is looking for a fight.  The game has moved on, it’s more streamlined and user-friendly than it used to be and this is a good thing.  We miss stuff not because it was good, but because there was nothing better to do.  The Hillsbrad battles are pretty much exactly what goes on in the Field of Strife of Alterac Valley anyway, except you’re guaranteed to find a fight there, not always the case in Hillsbrad.

Will the game still be around in another 5 years?  I imagine it will, but it won’t be much like the game we’re playing today.  Personally, I can’t wait.