Arrg Patch 4.1 reflections

Patch 4.1 granted all sorts of old content to be visited again. We get to once again experience ZA and ZG, extra loot, some portals in Dalaran (once again), no miss chance for taunts, and a raft of class specific changes. This post is a bit of a quick first impression and rant (how unsurprising), so you can cut to the chase if you wish.

TLDR Version: This patch was disappointing. It delivered all that it said it would, but it missed delivering something that will sustain the playerbase until 4.2 is released.

All the micro changes & updates are kind of moot, as I expect tuning to always be occurring. The feature of this patch was the Troll content. The bugbear I have is the patch feels like it under-delivers: old content done badly, a set of bug fixes, and some new loot. Hardly what you would call innovative and interesting; more like maintenance. If you like spending 2-3 hours to do a 5 man run, and wiping on trash then you will be happy with this patch. I’m not happy about it and think it’s getting to the point where we are close to be being taken for a ride by the game’s developers. Opinions and the reasons why after the break.

rise of the zandalari patch 4.1

A quick update – seems that The Instance podcast also have observed players thinking that the 4.1 patch was a little rushed. I’m glad it was not only me (said on the Ep #227, show 26 mins in).

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Remember the Fallen

An odd but very interesting Blog Azeroth - Shared Topic today:

“Your character has been chosen to be published in the revered guest column section of a major publication (Ironforge Times, The Steamwheedle Port Journal, The Orgrimmar Post, etc). Share a clipping of their editorial, guide, meandering nostalgia piece, impassioned call to action, scathing political takedown, or shameless self-advertisement on your blog.”

For this topic I did not choose a regular character I have, but instead took the personality of one of my alts. As a Priest of the light, Yierah is devoted to all ways that the holy can be experienced in the world. The material below would be a short statement of remembrance.

Remember the Fallen by Brother Yierah

As we turn our steel toward the nemesis of Deathwing we must remember the fallen who have been left behind.

Recall the brave army which marched into the Molten Core, eight ranks deep, their bones burnt into dust by that unhallowed fire. What a disgrace of fortune that soon we must again vanquish Ragnaros from our plane.

Do not forget those who fell as we took our first handholds in Outland. Those lost souls reside forever amongst the twisted energy of the nether.

Praise those who fell against the Lich King, and pity those fallen knights who were raised as abominations to serve that cruel oppressor again in unlife. My they all find the peace of the light.

Remember that we will fight for all those heroes who’s glory has been lost. We ensure that the midnight dragon’s reign of fire is quenched once and forever, and the light of dawn returns to our lands.

Peace be to Azeroth.

Happy gaming.

Who Owns a Guild?

A good Blog Azeroth Shared Topic is out at the moment: Who Owns a Guild?

In a straight answer: A guild is owned by the GM, as that person has final control. It’s a hard and solid fact. If you have the GM authority, you have the keys to the guild.

That final authority aside, the guild is really controlled by the regular players and officers. I’d suggest that the most regular players with good temperament should be your officers, as they are should be the guide for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. These players hold the success and failure in their hands, and should be given input into the choices that occur. The players who login each week are the ones who keep the guild alive, and they’re as important as all the structure and other activity.

The power structure of the guild will be different everywhere, but I’d guess that many raiding guilds have a powerbase directly linked to the core raid team. Those raiders help steer the powerbase, and a raiding guild is established to facilitate their enjoyment. You can level in one, but do not expect to be valued highly unless you’re raiding or supporting (in some manner) the raiders.

The ownership issue is more prevalent in the game now due to the achievements & gear which come with guilds, and how much time it takes if you change guilds. It’s a serious thing to change, and a far more serious thing to kick somebody. A kick is now a loss of all that work. If a character is kicked they are really having something powerful taken away, and therefore both the player and the kicker should take it very seriously.

In our guild [Insidious of Nagrand-US] I am the GM. I was given the title as our raid leader and old GM was feeling the pressure of too many concurrent responsibilities, and it was better to spread the load. For many years I’ve been an officer in a few guilds, and was an officer in Insidious before getting the big job.

The officers and I chat often about all sorts of things. In the current players there is around 5-6 players who directly influence most of the important stuff, and around 10-12 that we consider highly when looking at the future. The needs of the rest of the members tend to be covered by that sample, so it simplifies the brain power needed to work with a sample rather than ask everyone. That said – I don’t make a lot of choices or calls without seeking a minimum level of consensus with the other officers, but some choices come down to the agreement of 1-2 people. That is just the way it has to be sometimes.

My job as GM is to make sure that the choices we are making are logical, consistent, and fair. Sometimes the choices are harsh, somewhat rude, or event blunt, but they are done for the betterment of the guild as an entity, not for the opinions of individual members. Its a kind of “needs of the many vs needs of the few” type feel. Thankfully I’ve not had to make any choices which were overly hard, but now and then the intermix of personalities makes keeping an even hand troublesome.

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What is the value of personalisation?

I’ve been thinking about the reasons that mmo can sometimes feel stale. WoW is a game that has been running a very long time, and is probably one of the best examples we have to learn from about player burn out, returning to games, and what makes an experience valuable.

Players seem to leaving at a slow but steady rate, and part of that is probably boredom with the content. Part of it too will be a loss of connection to their playing experience. That makes sense after a few years of playing a game, and it is normal to expect the player base to ebb and flow, especially during summer periods (for those centric to the USA), school holidays, and all sorts of other real life distractions. I think we are also seeing a steady but slightly slower stream of new players joining the game, or trying to get more from the game experience.

For me Warcraft is still very interesting, and the act of playing during the changes in players, content updates (or lack of), and the politics of relationships is as binding an experience as the game content itself. This too will have a shelf life, and will be either refreshed or replaced by something else.

Maybe what the player base needs is an avalanche of options? Give the player choices and watch them craft a personalised experience through the setting.

For example – the choice of hearthstone. There are a few items that emulate the function of the hearthstone (Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz encounter in Karazhan, and the Inkeeper’s Daughter from Archaeology, or the Ethereal Portal from the WoW TCG ), but most players will probably always stick to the default white rock with a blue swirl. That small touch might be something that connects a player to their character. In affect it could be part of the overall appeal which is the stickiness of the game in their mind.

Mounts and pets are another example – those who wish to collect, and to enjoy playing with the in-game pets.

I’d argue that the graphical presentation of a character is very important to players. Maybe not all players, but most have an opinion of what their character looks like. We have options to hide cloaks and helms, we have an in-game gear switcher, and we have a very wide range of “vanity” or non-combat items that tweak the character’s appearance. It has to be a draw card, or a stack of programming time has been wasted (and I doubt it).

Perhaps a small part of the formula for game appeal is this ephemeral like of the appearance and customisation – and therefore the player base should seek to challenge the developers to add more options. This does not need to be top-hats, or new shirts, but could be different ways to achieve the same affects we already have.

How about these as examples:

[Gnomish Ultra-Processor]
Bind on Equip, requires Engineering 500.
Applies a new animation which is a blue swirly beam (like the gas extractor) that “processes” the node, gas, dead creature, or some such. Acts as a skinning knife, miner’s pick, etc; basically an alternative to the utility knife. Same function, just a different appearance in the game world. Created by Engineering.

[Beam-Me-Up Transporter]
Bind on Equip, unique.
Acts as a replacement Hearthstone, for those who wish a more techy method of getting home. Animation could be a very Star Trek inspired affect. Created by Engineering. Usable as per Hearthstone.

[Classically Classy Couture Creator]
Bind on Equip, unique.
The CCCC remembers which items of previous Armor set gear the player has owned, and allows them to select at random (left click), or a specific set (right click) an illusion of that armour set which is displayed in place of the character’s actual gear. Once found a piece of armor is saved into the creator, removing it from the character’s backpack.
This affect is dispelled by combat. Created by Enchanting. Usable once per 4 hours.

[Card: You can’t pick your family – Race (Human, Worgen, etc)]
Bind on Equip, unique, stackable.
This card changes your character’s appearance to that of another race, but retains the appearance of all your current gear and affects. Meaning a T11 Night Elf Hunter could look like a Worgen. Could be made so that some races are crafted more often than others, which adds some randomness that Blizzard loves so much in card items.
Use: Combine all racial cards for your faction to create the Deck.
This affect is dispelled by combat. Created by Inscription. Usable once per 4 hours.

[Deck: You can’t pick your family - Faction]
As per the Card above, but allows selection of a particular race from any in your faction. Might be important to restrict this to the same faction, otherwise the old Orb of Deception price might drop by a huge amount.
This affect is dispelled by combat. Created by Inscription. Usable once per 4 hours.

…and so on.

Will somewhat silly distractions keep a player in the game a week longer, and therefore be worth getting a developer to create the item? I don’t know. I do know that the breadth of the experience is what really appeals in Warcraft and it is something that other MMOs have a hard time competing with. This would further expand the breadth of the choices.

Adding these items as craftables by professions also adds flavour into the professions themselves which hits two player drivers: the completionist aspect of getting every pattern, and the breadth of application a profession could have.

Happy gaming.

Better gear rewards from runs and raids

a lot of gears

Not that type of gear! Damn it.

Another enhancement (adding to a post about Need vs Greed by class & role) which would not hurt the Warcraft game at all would be to constrain the types of drops to at least the classes present in the run/raid. This an old idea, but a feature which seems blindingly obvious as a value add to players. It is the kind of assumption that a new player has, which is adjusted when the gear drop discussion happens.

Would you rather play for a slim chance of reward to your team, or a consistent reward to the team? Is there a significant disadvantage to adding this?

The suggestions is to mod the loot system mechanics so that:

  • Don’t drop gear for a class that is not present. Especially the class tokens, or class specific gear.
  • Don’t drop the same item, unless there is more than one of the class.

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A strategy for leveling the Archaeology profession

Here are a few quick thoughts for leveling the Archaeology profession.

  1. Get all the flight paths which have been added in Cata. Many old characters will not have the new flight points, so check your map for flight points you have missed. There is a correlation between the new flight points and the archy nodes.
  2. Grind any and all nodes, trying to stay with a narrow range of racial types, and trying to stay localised to the nodes which are close. I do them in batches of north and south, and use my teleports to switch between north and south as infrequently as possible.
  3. Stay on one continent for each grind session, or even for all the leveling you do.
  4. Remember to use your hearthstones, class teleports, etc (moonglade & ebonhold), so that you port quickly up and down the continent. There are also teleport capes from Guild vendors.
  5. As you can only have a max of 200 fragments for each type, don’t bother to stockpile them past around 150, but as you approach skill 450 you should start stockpiling the fragments you want the rewards from so you hit skill 450 with around 200 fragments.
  6. Get a good podcast or some great music to pass the time. I use the gryphons as much as possible so I can do other things like house chores and read while traveling.
  7. Learn which dig sites are smaller, and do them as a priority. The smaller sites are faster to resolve, so you’re on you way faster. I sometimes skip the large ones, as that makes for the most efficient fragments per minute.
the survey tool for archaeology

Get used to seeing this little tool, and never trust how far it tells you. It lies.

These have been garnered through rolling into the Internet and through my own frustration in the archy grind.

Also the best advice I could give is to grab a mod to assist. The Archy mod allows you to filter the sites by their racial source, making it far easier to target your fragments. This is a must if you’re trying to farm for a specific drop – like the beautiful two handed sword from the trolls. More on that later.

Happy digging people, may all your fragments arrive in batches of 100.

Moar Upgrades Booyaa

OK, I might be becoming a greedy little loot monger. Last night I finally achieved Exalted status with the Wildhammer Clan in Twilight Highlands, and purchased the tanking boots. So damn excited to be getting rid of old ilevel 333 boots in place of a nice set of 359’s which have gob-tonnes of Parry and Mastery.

It’s like the guy who designed these not only played a Death Knight tank, but also has a girlfriend and a mistress who tank as well. Like a good set of Doc Martens, these puppies are solid.

Gryphon Rider’s Boots, come get some.

When I have some downtime next, I’ll be crushing my enemies beneath these cold plate boots.

The only slight downfall in my cunning plan (ahem) is that I totally suck at understanding the priority system for Death Knight tank rotation. Keeping that bloodshield up is something that I know is meant to be done, but I find crazy hard at the moment. Could be I’m too quick to burn a blood rune on a strike where it should be used on a cool-down, and perhaps that means I’m getting the shield smashed through too quickly. Either that or I’m supposed to burn the runs in a different order that what I’m using. The target dummies and I have a date in the near future, just a pity that they don’t hit back. I’ve read the theory, but I need more practice.

Also managed to get to Journeyman in Archaeology. Grindy-mc-grind-grind with a side serve of ….. dunno …. grind.

In case the title of the post does not give it away, I’m excited about the game at the moment.

Happy grinding.

algorithm for need vs greed rolls by role

I’ve bashed the LFD Call to Arms as not going far enough, and not being an effective solution; and as a blogger with no leverage or responsibility in the game that is easy to do. So instead of a blog post which grumbles, here is a blog post with a suggestion.

Item stat based rules for Need vs Greed, for group roles.

The random dungeon finder tool now filters on armour type, but no further. I’m proposing that there is an algorithm which can filter the Need vs Greed option even further, so that gear is far less likely to be awarded to the wrong role. Using this the players would be getting gear with a far higher (but not imperfect) degree of focus on the role they joined to execute.

We have four roles and a range of special cases for gear within the class combinations created by those roles (Range DPS, Melee DPS, Tank, and Heal). It’s a bad thing to see a Need roll on an item which will never be used, such as a Death Knight rolling need on a Plate item which has Int on it, or a Hunter rolling on a staff with Spirit.

Here is a suggested solution to improve the algorithm which filters Need vs Greed selection:

Use role based filters for all Need role which restrict based upon:

  • Apply a primary stat filter, where the item must have that stat present.
  • Apply a secondary stat filter, where any one of the listed stats must be present.
  • Apply a secondary stat filter, where if any of the listed stats are present then the character is excluded from the Need roll.

This allows for the armor type restriction to hold as currently implemented, and the armor type restriction would still act as a restriction. It allows trinkets, rings, necks and other non-armor type items to be classified using the stats assigned to the item. This mean that it is not an arbitrary assignment of priority, but one based on the stats which the item has and how they are valued as recognised by item weightings.

The rules allow for an item within a armour type that a role might current role on to be corrected, like Int plate vs Dodge plate, or a trinket with only one stat, and allows for ignoring the Stamina values on gear. While this might disadvantage Tanks slightly, I am not sure of many items which would otherwise be selectable which would not also be valid choices for DPS characters – so the degree of impact is less.

All that we need to do is decide on the primary stat for each class & role combination, set a valid list of secondary stats, and also set some stats to exclude. It is worth noting that the inclusion of a stat in the included or excluded list is not mean to dictate a priority amongst them, it just means that this is a potentially valid stat for the class-role.

For example: It would be a shame for a range Tank to miss a role for an upgrade with Dodge on it just because a DPS in the same group rolls need.

The syntax is = Class Role: Prime-Stat / Stats Included / Stats Excluded

DK mdps: str / mast, crit, hit, expertise, haste / !int, !spirit, !dodge, !parry, !block
Pally mdps: as above
War mdps: as above

Druid mdps: agi / mast, crit, hit, expertise, haste /  !int, !spirit, !dodge, !parry, !block
Rogue mdps: as above
Shaman mdps: as above

DK tank: str / dod, parr, mast, exp, hit / !block, !int, !spirit
Druid tank: agi / dod, mast, exp, hit / !block, !parry, !int, !spirit
Pally tank: str / dod, parr, block, mast, exp, hit / !int, !spirit
War tank: as above

Druid rdps: int / spell power, hit, crit, haste, mastery /
Hunter rdps: agi / hit, crit, haste, mastery / !int, !spi
Mage rdps: as per Druid
Priest rdps: int / spell power, hit, crit, haste, mastery, spirit /
Shaman rdps: as per Druid
Warlock rdps: as per Druid

Druid heal: spi/ int, mastery, crit, hate, spellpower / !hit
Pally heal: as above
Priest heal: as above
Shaman heal: as above

As a basic this does it. It could be expanded to understand the ratio of Spirit to Int in comparison of caster items, where one is valued to dps higher than healers.

It could be expanded to ignore the rules if the person who could roll Need already has an item in that location which exceeds the item weight by ~20%. Meaning a player could not roll Need on a ilevel: 333 item if they already have a ilevel 356 in that location. For them it becomes a forced Greed.  That might mean that another player is the only one who can greed, or that nobody can roll need. You could also open the rolling so that if nobody is normally allowed to roll Need due to this rule, then the system lets them role Need if it is in their armour type. This way a offset item goes to somebody who might actually use it, not to disenchant or vendor.

And I’m sure there is a huge range of exceptions that might apply for funny items. No way in hell I was going to try and parse all of the WoWHead data to validate this.

On plan I think this is a solid idea. What do you think?

Happy Gearing

Is the Fossilized Hatchling actually rare?

fossilized hatchling pic

This fella will go so well with my undead flying chicken mount

Quick brag – got the cute Archy pet: Fossilized Hatchling, and at approx 170s in the Archeology skill which seems early in the grind to see a rare item. Not that I’m complaining (for a change).

Welcome to my very small stable of pets, don’t sit too close to lil’rag; he’s a rude one.

I’m not game to estimate the amount of work needed to get a hold of one of the purple items, and my goal for the entire grind is the silly over-super-uber-rare Two Handed Sword as a BoA.

Nobody I know is actually holding their breath, but hey – guys got to have dreams. Happy killing, especially if you are a Death Knight.