LFR Tool…shrug

The LFR tool has some more details announced, but really its as expected. You’ll be sorted into a 25 man raid team, and given an easier version of the current content. Game By Night posted about it, and asked why it is not creating more of a stir, after all it should affect the entire MMO Community.

I made a comment to him:

“Why aren’t bloggers talking about it?!”
Because I think it will fail, but my blog is almost a Blizzard bashing blog anyway, so I don’t want to be too negative.

We have a raid finder tool already, and nobody uses it. Maybe making this across a series of realm is good, but as I said in my blog – it is almost pointless for current raids, but fantastic for older ones.

An old raid can be stomped by players who have no clue, but current tier content will be difficult regardless. I hate pugs, this will be like pugs on speed, wielding chainsaws.

Yup, Chainsaws. Speed freaks yelling gogogogo, and pointless wipes. I hope I’m wrong as I really need something like this so to support my progression, and I am planning to use it a lot.

To give it any less than an incredible amount of patience and time will be a poor review, and impact poorly for MMOs in the future. Blizzard is trying a new thing here and that should be applauded. Lets raise a glass to 25 man random Raids, and hope that the people joining them are useful, informed, and tolerant.

If they really wanted the feature to be a 100% seller it would be available for old school raids too. That would meet the transmogrification needs too.

Continue reading

Help! I’m frustrated by Mains and Alts

There is some background drama in my guild at the moment, which centers on the topic of rewarding Alts vs Mains in progression raiding: Should there be a penalty for switching mains, what about regular alts, and how do you handle loot in these scenarios?

Without naming folks I’d like to get some feedback from people who read this blog (as you’re clearly an intelligent bunch of high spec people).

I’m pretty open about having a more relaxed attitude toward my personal progress, but I take the policies of the guild very seriously. Heck, I’m the GM I should take it bloody seriously. I think a guild needs guidelines to protect against the people who would abuse the system, and sometimes that causes some angst to the players who would never dream of being selfish.

I said this in 2008: Often the feel of a discussion about progression can hurt feelings, or call out those with strongly held beliefs.

Yep, it sometimes sucks, but its the way of things. We have laws for the same reasons. A guild needs to protect the many, through consistency. I’ve seen more than enough dickheads in guilds in the past, and thankfully they are now all ex-guildies. The set we have now in Insidious are pretty solid people.

What is happening now is that we have a few raiders who wish to switch to different roles or different characters within the raid team. It raises potential drama as until now we’ve never created a policy that stipulated how that occurred or what the affect was.

A player joins a team, and selects a role (meaning a Class and Spec choice) in a team and should stick to it. Sometimes that role might be a Tank, Dps, Healer, whatever. There are also times when the player needs to switch spec for some reason. All good, that is normal. The actual reason for the change is basically irrelevant to me.

This so so that the team can learn to be cohesive, progress well, and be rewarded. Gear and entertainment are essentially why people are Raiding, so the team should do everything to make that happen.

But what happens when a member wishes to switch either character or spec?

I don’t mean for a fight, or even for a single run, I mean what happens when the Druid Tank wishes to become a Death Knight Tank (eg. a change of Character with the same role)? If that is allowed, is that new DK also OK to grab Plate Dps gear before the Warrior Tank? What about all the leather Agi gear, trinkets, and other items that druid has taken which is “lost” to the rest of the team.

Or when a main Dps decides they wish to Heal? What do you do when that really nice Staff drops and two healers both want it – one has been waiting as healer for months, and the other started healing last week.

After many years playing my gut tells me that switching mains causes drama and disruption within the team. The affect might be small, but it is there. It could also be large, messy, dramatic, and a total pain in the arse.

What happens when the player has to play the old-main because the raid can’t fit the new main selection, or they need the old role because now they need to recruit? Do they gear gear as a main or alt?

I believe that there should be a period where the player is de-prioritised for loot. In affect I think that any character that the player brings to the raid should be treated as an Alt for loot distribution while the team adjusts.

This is so:

  • The switch over to a new Main is discouraged. The carrot is the new character or role, the stick is that they have to give something up too.
  • The other raiders are not competing straight away for loot against the new Main.
  • If the player decides they don’t like the new role after all and change again, they have not taken gear away from another player.
  • If the player has to play the old role, they do not take loot which they won’t use in the long term either.
  • other players can know and see directly what is a Main vs an Alt.
  • when the raid leader decides, the interim penalty period is dropped and the person is now a Main.
  • That period might be a day or a year depending on all sorts of things like gear ilevel, participation, attitude, competing roles, flexibility, competency, etc. I suggested the period be flexible so that we have choice.

The counterpoint view to this is that people should be able to switch characters and roles as they wish at any time, and they everyone can be trusted. I’ve been told that there is actually no problem here at all. Having a policy is not needed, and that it is insulting to some people within the team as it seems I don’t trust my raiders. Thus this post was born.

And that counterpoint is partially right. I don’t trust that we won’t have drama, and therefore I want a policy. Make it a rule that applies equally, and there can be no favorites.

To me the idea of no rule is just chaos, and serves people who have many alts more than it serves focused players. I think it will lead to wasted loot and drama very quickly.

I see the new Main as being almost the same as a new player joining the team. There is a time where you’re not sure how everything will share out, so having some protection in place for the people who have been consistent is important.

What are your thoughts?

Please post, comment, etc as I’d really like to know if I’m off my rocker on this issue.

New gear, art, strats, and info on Patch 4.3 from MMO Champ

New gear, artwork, strategies and all sorts of lovely information has been data mined by MMO Champion for patch 4.3. There are some nice armor sets for us in Season 11 PvP, although I am reminded of the old Warrior set with the bladed helmet built for head butting Tauren.

dk PvP Season 11 gear set

DK PvP Season 11 gear set

There is also a stack of great new gear. iLevel 378 gear will drop from the 5 man dungeons, and some of it is rather wonderful. Like this Axe for 2H Weapon wielders.

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Whats your Guild style?

A snappy little shared topic was raised by Tzufit in the Bloz Azeroth forums.

Every guild has a certain personality, style, and even traditions all of its own. Do you have certain abilities that you always need to use on a boss kill screenshot? Or perhaps your guild holds an annual holiday party? What special traditions does your guild have?

From my perspective, we have a few consistent jokes:

pvp flag banner

  1. We rant about killing Dragons, often. Rawr!
  2. We always try to blame one of a few players for small mistakes. If you slip and fall from the AH roof, then it’s time to find that scapegoat. Firstly its Ram’s (boomkin/resto Druid) fault, then its Dia or Gen’s fault depending on who you ask, and then if that fails we blame Ram anyway. We used to blame any Shadow Priest, but they’re scarce now. I wonder why?
  3. Most raiders argue about who should get loot instead of them. That is so great.
  4. We help each other. We ask questions, and we go a little extra for each other.
  5. Most of the guild types almost complete sentences, and we have a few folks who are grammar fanatics. I love that, the avoidance of leet-speak makes me happy.

Happy raiding

Compelling talents, real choices, and diversity.

Stubborn at the Dead Good Tanking Guide posted a great response to the request for class feedback. What impressed me the most was the comment:

Compelling talent choices not on offer elsewhere, mobility other melee dream about and unique utility that can change the face of an encounter.

Oh hell, he said it so bloody well.

To me this mean keeping the play styles of the tanks different. Keep each tank type as different and we’ll see choices again. Those choices might might one class better than others for specific encounters, but overall we’ll have an interesting diversity. The same can be applied to Heals and Dps too. Choice empowers and supports class selection, where limiting controls prohibit it.

That does not mean that classes should not have some parity in abilities though. We do not want a scenario where a single Tank class is so much better (unless its the dks -joke!). Each tank class should have principally the same set of core controls, but the implementation of those controls can be different.

Think of it as the difference between a Requirement and and Solution. The Requirement is a statement of need, typically based upon on a set of broad goals. The solution is the specific method whereby that need will be satisfied.

In Stubborn’s example there is a goal to provide competitive dps, a requirement to allow Warriors to move through the battlefield efficiently, and a requirement to maintain the movement style of the Warrior class. The solution is to grant Warriors a set of abilities and talents that have them charge and leap amongst the melee. That is a key part of the feel of the Warrior way. Some other classes also have charge abilities, or leap abilities, but not all by a long way.

Paladins by example seem to call opponents to them. The Avengers Shield, Consecrate, and such play like a more stoic class. They might be “slower”, but that could also be seen as less “jittery” as well. Your mileage will vary.

Bears have a range of abilities that imitate many of the Warrior abilities, although they have a sub-set that is slightly better suited to AoE. Death Knights are again different, and that is excellent. I’d hate to see Warriors get a Death Grip style ability, and likewise it would not make sense.

Now that my third Tank is level 85 I’m seeing enforcement of my previous opinion that each is totally viable and very different. They all have taunts, AoE capacity, facing issues, movement considerations, cooldowns, resource shortages, and special tricks. Each is pretty darn good at a base level, yet diverse.

I’d like to see an expansion in the diversity, so that the choice of what to do and play remains (or returns to) a valid and powerful choice.

Happy gaming.

More creative and consistent names

Aside

Update: As this was published I noticed that the patch 4.3 name rules have changed too:

North American realms (excluding Brazilian, Latin American, and Oceanic realms) no longer permit letters with accents in character or guild names. Existing character and guild names with special characters will be unaffected by this change.

How many times have you seen these type of names?

Ãrthás, Ægigbird, ìcemage, lololas, undeaddeath, or ikillsunow. Iamatank (who is dps), pvpggodd, or any darn name which uses a keyboard crushing special character. It is a short step to bigtool7 as a character name, and most of the examples above are from actual toons.

Moons ago I wrote a small blogpost about naming a Death Knight, as at the time the Wrath expansion was announced but not released, and players were creating and reserving names left and right. It was done as a PSA type post so that (I hoped) the wow population would have less silly and unpronounceable names.

How’d that go? I saw no direct affect; but then didn’t really expect to see a major shift. I was more just standing on my soapbox yelling at the world (now we have twitter for that, and bloggers have multiple avenues to shout about the things that frustrate them)…and shitty names still frustrate me.

The characters like “Bloodelfdk” are still happily jumping around in WoW, and it seems that players are keen to use every special keyboard character they can when re-using names. I guess that won’t change much either.

It would be interesting to see an MMO which prohibited these type of names more, and if that rule had a significant affect on the player base. Would a restriction such as that hinder the growth of the game?

Take the SW-ToR game coming in December – can I create a character called DarthVedar? Hanssolo? Chewiebacka? Aaanakin?

These names are just as silly as Arthaaas and all the rest based on the Warcraft lore, and as ToR is based on story arcs and events, it seems something they might wish to consider – especially if the NPCs will be using the character names in some way:

Npc: The elderly noble rises from his ornate throne and says “We hail PrincisLayher, you efforts to force back the Imperial troops were a boon to my people. What would you ask of me as reward?”

Player: “dude epix, lol”

Npc: …{shakes head}

It breaks the story, and makes me a little sick just thinking of it.

OK what to do:

  1. Valid Random Names – The random name generator in the character creation screen should not show you names that are in use. It frustrates me that a name is shown, might actually be useful, but is not available. As an armchair programmer this does not seem to be a huge issue, the list could be updated on batch, and then re-checked every day to ensure the error rate would be low.
  2. Prohibit special characters – I know this affects some legit European names, but then you’re not playing yourself in Second Life, you’re playing Warcraft. Names like Redhand are far more lore worthy than Phîlll. And yup, it would wreck a huge amount of current character names, but hey – I hate those names so on this point I’m going to be inconsiderate of those players.

Initial 4.3 patch notes for Death Knights

The first set of patch notes for 4.3 have been released, and there are some interesting things for Death Knights (source, mmo). A lot of things will likely change between now and the release.

Noteworthy is:

  1. Healing from Death Strike is automatic, and the damage is subject to a successful hit.
  2. Abom’s Might has the melee attack power increased, all other affects are the same.
  3. Blade Barrier is a base % damage soak reduction, which is a change away from being dependent on rune usage.
  4. Howling Blast’s base damage has increased, while the scaling from attack power has been slight reduced.
  5. Veteran of the Third War now also reduces the cooldown on Outbreak by 30 seconds.

For DK Tanks this is a change toward a more consistent inbound damage, a reduction on replacing our diseases. The change in Abom’s might will be reflected elsewhere in identical buffs, so that melee dps is bumped. I am not sure if the HB change will increase or decrease the damage. Overall its good, I feel that we’ll be less spikey.

In other news:

  1. A few enchants for Tanks are slightly increased, not overly huge change, but welcome.
  2. You’ll be able to dethrone an inactive GM, so play nice.
  3. GC has posted a summary and some background thoughts on the patch changes.
  4. And yes, the artwork for the Priest and Hunter gear has been released. The Priest helm looks incredible. Where are the Death Knight models?
  5. Archaeology areas of interest will now show on the mini-map, in addition to the World Map.

Happy killing, Typhoonandrew.

Warcraft’s Dungeon Difficulty

I’ve been trying to write a post about the difficulty of heroic 5 mans for a very long time, but kept deleting them as they ended up being too much of a rant (even for my standards – sheesh).

With the initial release of Cataclysm expansion, then the exposure to Heroic modes the dungeons felt fairly tough, and at the many in the community saw this as good and a return to the difficulty of The Burning Crusade. Then the Trolls were released and they made the other dungeons seem friendly. There was a slow softening of the mechanics in the old dungeons too.

As its still on my mind this post has two parts; the first was my initial impressions when the cataclysm dungeons were released, and the second is where my head is now that we’re about to get the last 3 dungeons for this expansion. Continue reading

Raiding is a Party not a Sport

Maintaining the weekly raid roster is a bloody hard thing to do; just ask any recruitment or guild officer. With the holidays, life, and general grumpiness of raiders these days, there is little to do except be constantly supporting the ego and feelings of the current team, and potentially recruiting for replacements at the same time. WoW Insider has a post up that talks about the concept of rebuilding years, akin to a sports team that has an off year while they train up younger players.

The sports team analogy does not mix with WoW though, due to the expectation and flexibility that raiders have vs the sports teams. In fact I think the sports team example actually makes it worse for the players who are left behind because it might make them think the social mechanics are different to what they really are. Why?

  • Raiders are not in financial contracts, and nobody is being paid.
  • Raiders cannot be forced to login.
  • An off-season for a raid team is enough for many to leave, or slow further.
  • There is no glamor or praise for the bench & support roles.

So cut it with the sports analogies. Also the job/work comparisons are moot too for exactly the same reasons. You think I go to work for fun every day? I can see that the amateur sports team comparison as closer to the raiding structure, but it still misses the range of social & community aspects that MMOs teams often have.

Ok then, what would be a good comparison? Dinner parties.

  • You probably want to attend because its meant to be fun. The invite list is finite, but sometimes a bit of stretch can be accommodated.
  • If you’re invited regularly it means you’re probably in a core group of some sort who often catch-up.
  • You’d like to believe that the people are friends, or at least will be civil to each other. You also might not like your old friends new partner, but hey – its their mistake.
  • Real life or other events will get in the way and make you late or not attend. The importance of the person in your life will probably dictate if you go. If the devotion is akin to family you’ll probably go regardless and apologise, and might even ring ahead.
  • You’re meant to bring something to the party as a gift, but its ok if you don’t. The gifts are just like Pots, Food, and Flasks. Some people never bring anything, and everyone knows who they are, but its unlikely they’ll be abused for it.
  • Sometimes you’re a ring in that hardly knows anyone, and that is a double edged sword. You might end up standing in the corner (or dead on the floor) half the night.
  • God help you if its a date too – as you’ll be scrutinised the entire night by strangers.
  • Some parties suck and are a total waste of time. Other parties are good even if you don’t do a lot, as you just hang out with your friends.
  • There is a chance of meeting some new people, or knowing them better.
  • And if you’re desperate for people to attend the party you can just invite almost anyone and see what type of person you get. Generally that does not work very well though.

So what does that mean for raid composition? Well that is where you need to remember that just like the birthday party the participants are looking to have their expectations met, and the people running the party have a huge amount of work to do while its going on. They carry the balance of all these aspects with them.

They stress about it all through the process, and they plan all that they can before hand. Sometimes all the plans go to hell 5 minutes before the party should start, other times the party goes badly mid way through (anyone got a bad uncle or mom who drops in?). During the party they are the hosts who try to keep everything flowing. And afterward they are the idiots who have to clean up, and deal with any issues.

What can you do as a good Dinner Party attendee / Raider?

  • Don’t be an ass if you don’t get an invite. Sometimes there is just not room.
  • Bring a positive attitude, and bring a gift or two.
  • Respect everyone, and know when to keep your mouth shut.
  • Don’t expect that you can just turn up with two extras, even if they’re hot.
  • If you really miss out, get off your ass and organise your own party. Do that for 5 weeks and then talk to the normal leads – your attitude might have changed a bit.

As an aside, these comparisons come to mind too while I wrote this, and while they’re a tad odd they are still very demonstrative:

  • When the Fury Warrior throws up in the garden and needs to sit quietly inside for 5 minutes, its the raid leaders who arrange that break.
  • When the Princess can’t be happy until everything is just her way, everyone groans quietly but keeps on anyway.
  • When that loud annoying nerd won’t shut the hell up about Dr Who, its the team leads who must assign somebody to “handle” him.

In closing – respect the raid leaders and organisers, and try to have fun. They have far more to stress about that just one person. I hope all your parties are fun and you get a heap of gifts.