Archive for December, 2010

Normal Service Has Now Been Resumed

Posted: 21 December, 2010 in Cataclysm

So, Cataclysm.  It’s been emotional.  It’s also been a lot of fun, and deeply scary in places.  Blizzard have been at this for six years now, and they’re getting really, really good at it.  Of course it was absolute chaos on the first few days after launch.  Pretty much exactly like the rampant dickhead-fest that followed the launch of Burning Crusade and Rash of the Itch King, but dickheads are going to be dickheads, that’s not Blizzards’ fault, and they’ve taken steps to mitigate the consequences of all the asshattery.  Once again, mobs that are likely to have queues of people lining up to kill them tend to drop quest objects that anyone can click on.  This sort of thing is good to see.  I also noticed that people seemed to be a lot more willing to throw out group invitations than normal, rather than simply spam aoe over respawning quest mobs in a contest to see who’s the biggest wankstain.  This is probably just my server, and not at all related to the fact that the single biggest bunch of epeen-waving egomaniacs on our server went Horde and took all their apologist, fawning fanboy cockmonkeys with them.

*cough*

Random fact of the day!  Here’s how you spot a patronising drooling moron in the trade channel: They start their sentences with “lol”.  Take note and remember, fact fans!

Heck, I’m coming over all bitter and twisted about something.  It’s not like that at all.  Cataclysm has been a ton of fun.  There have been drawbacks of course, but nothing to do with the excellent feast of funnery Blizzard have served up for us.  You’ve probably noticed two things about hitting level 85, or one thing if you play a tank.  First, getting a group for a dungeon is hard work if you’re dps.  Actually, that’s not strictly true.  Getting a group for a dungeon can take longer than is comfortable, but it’s not hard.  Getting a group that can breathe and think at the same time and doesn’t wipe and quit on the first trash pack…  THAT’S hard work.  Which brings us onto the second thing you all probably noticed.  Cataclysm dungeons are tough, heroics moreso.  Not Burning Crusade levels of brutality, but they’re not the snooze-a-thons that we sleepwalked through in Rash of the Itch King.  Some of them are pretty brutal, Ozruk in Heroic Stonecore leaps to mind.  Absolutely no margin for error there, you either get it exactly right or you die.  Most of the heroics, however, are not too hard but you have to pay attention and know what to do.  This is a breath of fresh air in a group that pays attention and knows what to do.  When was the last time anyone can remember being challenged and having to think in a 5 man?  No, the Icecrown Citadel 5 mans don’t count, they didn’t challenge anyone, they just traumatised them.  Thowing massive amounts of largely unavoidable aoe or swarms of elites at a group isn’t challenging, it’s bullying, and once you outgear it it’s  trivial again.  Challenging is when you get unusual mechanics that you need to stay awake for, and I’m very happy to see lots of this is the new dungeons.  But when you don’t have a group that pay attention and know what to do it’s a nightmare of epic proportions.  Oh, hi PuG tank!  Yes I see you there, you the Fury Warrior with appalling tank gear who simply queued as a tank to get a faster dungeon queue.  You know who you are.

The new Vault of Archavon-style raid in Tol Barad?  The boss in there is pretty simple.  He’s mostly just Brutallus from Sunwell, with one added ability.  The tactics are simple.  Split the raid into two groups, one on each side, both with a tank.  One tank pulls and once that tanks’ group has had a dose of Meteor Slash, the other tank taunts.  Tank Two and his group take a dose of Meteor Slash and the first tank taunts back. Eventually the boss will start channelling a rain of Hellfire, move away when this happens and be back at the tank spots ready to repeat when it ends.  Repeat these steps until he dies, collect your Tier 11.  We were eight of ten guild members with two PuG tanks.  As a tank, all you have to do is stand there and take a beating, and taunt off when the other tank takes a Meteor Slash.  Could it be any easier?

It Needs To Be Easier
Well it does for some people apparently.  The paladin tank was fine, the warrior must have been a dog in a previous life who’d spent too much time chasing parked cars.  We got the boss down on the fifth attempt because Mister Warrior liked to taunt before and during but almost never after a Meteor Slash.
Leader: “Okay, let’s try again, remember, let the other tank get Meteor Slash, then taunt.  Got it?”
Dickhead of the Week: “Got it.”
Leader: “Okay, pull!”
Meteor Slash incoming
Dickhead of the Week: “Taunting!”
Everyone else: “NOOOOOOOOO!!”
Leader: “Okay, one more time….”

Yeah, have fun in your pugs.

Speaking of the difficulty in getting a tank for an instance, there’s also that uncomfortable social dynamic that happens early on in every new expansion.  When you have one or two tanks in your guild who make it to the new level cap early on along with a few lucky dps and a healer or two, and they naturally start doing instances together to gear up.  By the time we mere mortals catch up, they’re the only tanks in town and that can lead to all sorts of unspoken (and sometimes spoken) difficutly.  From my own experience, I was unable to take any leave for Cataclysm, so it took me roughly five days from launch to hit the cap.  There were people in the guild who did it in two or three days, and a couple of them were tanks.  Naturally, they start doing instances together.  Then the rest of us hit the level cap and start looking for tanks to do instances with too, except there aren’t any.  Just these two guys who are now doing Heroics with the same old faces they’ve been running with since they hit 85.  We can’t get into a group for love nor money and our PuG experiences are generally horrific, meanwhile these guys are popping up in guildchat with achievement notifications all day long.  You start to feel…  excluded.

We Guarantee Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Tank for a Dungeon Group
There’s no conspiracy here, no great plan to keep the masses down and enable a ruling elite to get all the loot and instance groups, it’s just a natural social dynamic.  Cataclysm Heroics are hard.  If you have a good stable group of healers and dpsers with the gear to match and proven experience in getting stuff done in tough dungeons, you naturally prefer to run with that group, especially if the people in that group are folks you’ve raided with for years and can trust to not stand in the fire.  That’s simply the way people are.  That doesn’t change the fact that the folks who can’t get into a dungeon are going to start feeling like they’re being excluded.  That’s just the way people are, too.  And soon enough, despite being sick to the back teeth of the same instances over and over again, these tanks are going to feel the pressure from the constant “Any tank free for a heroic?” in guildchat to offer their services, and they’re going to feel like they’re offering a charity service when they’d far rather be levelling their own dps alt, or maxing their trade skills, or working on archaeology, or whatever.  That leads to resentment of the people constantly asking for a tank, because they know they’re the only tanks in town.

I’m not offering a solution here, just making an observation.  I don’t see any easy solution other than for more people to roll tanks.  Just bear in mind that for every bit of resentment you may be feeling towards “those guys” who are getting to do the dungeons because they hit level 85 first, they’re feeling just as resentful at your constant demands for a dungeon group.  Just…  I don’t know, consider how the shoe would feel on the other foot when you’re getting frustrated at your inability to get anything done, or at the constant demands for your tanking services.

That’s Some Scary Shit
We had another half dozen dungeon tanks filter through after a day or two, so our guild avoided any explicit expression of the frustration I know people were feeling.  Which brings me onto the other thing I wanted to talk about.  Tanking in Cataclysm scares the bejesus out of me.  Not that I’ve actually done any yet, too scared.  I just see that tanks’ health bar hovering at 20-35% for the duration of any fight while the dps are flipping all over the place and I don’t even know where the next heal is coming from.  As a Wrath tank, Gorn’s health bar was in one of two position – full or dead.  There was no middle ground.  Fact of life these days is that a tank can have no clue how full that green bar’s going to be from one moment to the next, and that’s going to be very hard for me to adjust to.  But if there’s one thing that scares me even more than the idea of being a tank, it’s being a healer in Cataclysm.  I can void my bladder from full to bone dry in half a second flat at the idea of healing through Ozruk in Heroic Stonecore.  That’s some seriously scary shit right there.  I look at the tank’s health at 20%, see the healer crap their pants and unload their biggest Hail Mary heal, see that tanks’ health bar climb to 35% and then back down to 20% again immediately after and I could find Jesus right there and then.

And that’s another thing, I’m feeling a lot less powerful than I was five levels ago.  Since we’re on the subject of healing, let’s use a healing example.  I was asked to bring a healer to Stonecore normal mode last week.  The group were all level 83ish, but the problem was that all of my healers were still level 80.  Stonecore’s more or less a level 83 instance.  I was expecting it to be brutal.  I was fully expecting to be an abject failure, but I loaded up Askara and went along anyway.  The funny thing is, it was actually pretty easy, despite my technically being woefully undergeared for it.

Here’s the thing.  Yes, Askara may have been a level 80 healer in a level 83 instance, but the weird thing is, that’s actually an advantage.  Let me break it down for you.  As a level 80 Restoration Shaman in roughly Icecrown 25 gear, she has around 3.6k spellpower, 40% crit and about 25% haste.  Now every time you gain a level but don’t gain any gear, wipe 5% off those stats except for the spellpower.  A level 83 shaman in levelling gear would be looking at probably 4k spellpower but would have 25% crit and around 10% haste.  They’d also have a lot more mastery, but that’s not the issue.  The point is that while Askara’s heals were smaller, pound for pound she was faster and much more efficient.  All of those crit heals that in Wrath would have been overheal were just topping off health bars in a level 83 instance.  And her heals were landing on target much faster due to all her haste not having to pay the levelling tax.

So where does that leave us at level 85?  In gear with a metric ass-tonne of spellpower and about 10% haste and 20% (if we’re lucky) crit.  The problem is that health pools have inflated drastically too, so all that spellpower just gets swallowed up in the green bar, takes an age to cast and hardly ever crits when you could really use it.  Couple that with the deeply scary sight of health bars taking regular plunges and your heals not having the instant “back to full” punch you’ve been conditioned to expect in Wrath, and you’ve got healers feeling very powerless and insecure.  I know I will be.

And yet, Tam summed it up best for me.  It doesn’t actually matter.  This is the new healing paradigm now, get used to it amigos.  Yes, your heals are hardly making dent in peoples’ health bars, but a dps on 30% health probably isn’t going to actually die even if they take another hit before you can switch from the tank at 30% health.  Calli on 30% health at level 85 is actually Calli on 100% health at level 80.  She’ll live, concentrate on the tank.

It still scares the living shit out of me, though.

You Just Want The World On A Stick
It wouldn’t be one of my posts without a good old rant, though, would it?  No, what preceded wasn’t a rant, dear reader.  That was just a frank exchange of views.  Here’s the rant.  I was hoping, at long last, that Cataclysm had finally seen an end to the kind of loot-whoring asshattery that has pervaded World of Warcraft until now.  I’m not talking about PuG tanks outrolling dps for dps gear, that sort of shit is what you deserve if you find yourself in a PuG these days.  I mean the idiot mages who roll on cloth with spirit on it, or the fuckwit holy priests who roll on the +hit spellpower dagger “because it has more spellpower than what I’m using”, and I mean in guild groups, where people should damn well know better.  What Cataclysm has underlined, and I’d hoped once and for all, was that gear with any kind of spirit on it is for healers.  Because spirit is 100% useless to anyone else.  Naturally, you’d expect the reverse to be true.  Yeah, I wish.

Last night we’re in Blackwing Descent, and it actually went pretty well.  We got the Omnitron Defence System and Magmaw down before calling it a night.  Pretty good for our first 25 man Cataclysm raid in my opinion.  The one fly in the ointment was the potential loot drama that could have ensued when Magmaw was looted.  Incineratus dropped.  And healers rolled on it.

“Big deal” you’re all saying.  Well actually it is a big deal.  It’s a rather fucking massive deal now that you happen to mention it.  That dagger is listed as Spell DPS on MMO Champion for a very good reason, and that reason is because it has no spirit on it.  There are items that do actually have spirit on it, that no dps caster would even consider rolling on, because if they did, small children would point at them and laugh in the streets as they went by, saying “Look, there’s the tard who rolled against healers for spirit gear!  What an incredible twat!”  Yet not one person so much as flutters an eyelash at a healer who rolls on gear with no spirit on it. What the fuck is going on here?

“Oh for Gods’ sake!” I hear you cry, “There’s not a single stat on that dagger that isn’t useful to a healer.”  Well yes, that’s true.  But I ask you this.  Is it fair that healers only have to compete against other healers for spirit gear, but it’s all hands in for spellpower gear that doesn’t have spirit on it?  No it fucking isn’t.  And that’s because the gear is there for them to roll on that does have spirit on it.  I have no problem with healers rolling on dps gear that no dps caster needs, but let’s be absolutely clear, it’s dps gear. Because if you can’t rein in your greed, we’ll see who starts crying when I start rolling on spirit gear and reforging it for +hit.  Except of course, I wouldn’t do that.  Because I’m not a drooling retard.

A dps caster won the roll by the way.  But there will be tears before bedtime before this situation is resolved, and since no-one appears to give a good shit about healers rolling on whatever they like, they’ll probably be mine.  I’m actually feeling nostalgic for the days when gear had either damage OR healing on it.  Bring those days back and then we’ll see who’s laughing.

*Note: My rant just got a good slapping by Malificient in the comments to this post, but I’m leaving it up so you can have a good laugh at my expense.*

Moving On Swiftly
Time for fun, as Blackheart the Inciter would say.  There’s a new Ring of Blood style quest in Twilight Highlands, it’s called the Crucible of Carnage.  Naturally, the abbreviation is Coc.  Naturally, a lot of people are in Twilight Highlands spamming trade trying to get a group for it.  Naturally, I’m going to exploit the linguistic confusion that ensues…

 

Looking for More Coc. Fnarr!

Coolest mount in the game. Fact.

Except maybe for this one.

The greatest dwarf in the history of anything. Ever. Click to see why.

I haf a new hat! Tell me you like mah hat!

Nice beard. The grooms' isn't bad either.

 

And finally…

 

Merry Christmas, folks! And death to mages!

Welcome to the World of Warcaft: Cataclysm loading and login screen.  All our servers are busy right now, please stay on the login screen entering your details around fifty or sixty times while we attempt to connect you.

Hello there, friends and neighbours.  I’d like to take the time to introduce you to the best non-player character in the game.  No, not Lafoo, not anymore at least.  That adorable Oracle doofus has had his day in the sun and there’s a new Sherriff in town.  Ladies and gentlefolk, allow me to introduce you to Lunk.

You can find Lunk at Thorium Advance in Searing Gorge.  It’s the first place you come across as you enter the zone from The Badlands.  Lunk is an ogre, but he’s an ogre with a difference.  You see, Lunk is a pacifist and he gets quite upset at you as you run around doing what questing players have done since time immemorial – slaughtering everything in sight and looting the twitching corpses.

Er... you got a better idea?

It turns out that Lunk does in fact have a better idea.  No need to kill those nasty glassweb spiders for the venom you need, just keep them busy and Lunk will get the venom for you.  How?  You’re going to be sorry you asked…

lol wut?

Spider tummy time!

Is there any way I can possibly un-see this?

Well of course, obvious, really.

This quest had me quite literally crying with laughter, and it’s not even remotely unusual of the new levelling quest content.  Earlier on in The Badlands I was sucker-punching Billy Goats off mountain tops for a living.  Even earlier in Redridge Mountains I was reliving every Rambo movie ever made.  Lunks’ questline in particular, however, had me wondering just how big a bong was being passed round the quest design teams’ office when they dreamed this one up?

Dev1:  So we need a starting quest in Searing Gorge to set the tone for the zone.  Any ideas?
Dev 2:  <takes a massive hit from the bong> Dude…  how about a big friendly ogre who rides spiders on his belly?
Dev 1:  Are you high?
Dev 2: As a kite.  Take a hit of this.
Dev 1: <Takes a massive hit from the bong> *cough*  Whoah, you’re right, that’s the best quest idea ever.  Spider tummy time!  Suddenly it all makes perfect sense.
Dev 2:  Gotta trust the weed, man!

Speaking of the Redridge Mountains, those of us of a certain age will get a real kick out of the John J. Rambo….   er, I mean Keeshan quests.  An absolutely huge questline that leaves no 80′s action movie cliché untouched, and ends in a hilarious tribute to Stallone’s latest Rambo movie that…  well a picture is worth a thousand words…

 

And then there’s Fiona’s quests in Eastern Plaguelands, the new Defias Brotherhood questline in Westfall, the by now infamous The Day Deathwing Came quests in Badlands…  I mean who doesn’t want to punch Deathwing right inna face, pick him up and throw him all the way to Kalimdor and then pick up a hot chick in your flying Chopper and beat Deathwing in a knife fight?

I’m giving serious consideration to rolling a lowbie horde just to see what I might have missed in Durotar or Silverpine Forest.  The sheer amount of polish, detail and downright joy that’s gone into the levelling experience from 1 to 60 has left me in awe of what Blizzard can do when they set their minds to it.  I mean, we all know they’re good, but this has just flipped a two-fingered salute (or one-fingered if you’re American, whatever) at every other MMO in the market.  Blizzard are basically saying “Bring it, bitches.”  And I can’t wait to see what levels 80 to 85 are going to be like.  Well, obviously I can wait and I’m going to have to wait but… well you know what I mean, stop being picky!

And yet, even though we now live in an age where every Hillsbrad farmer has a brain you can loot and every Bear you kill does indeed have a lootable ass, they still manage to inflict great steaming turds like the Big Gulp fishing daily on us.

/facepalm