Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New 80 looking for Naxx guild... want to enjoy tier progression...

  • Hero Points -- Low-tier, easier-to-get PVE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, but no cap to how quickly you can earn them. Earned from most dungeons. (most like the current Emblem of Triumph)
  • Valor Points -- High-tier, harder-to-get PvE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, as well as a cap to how many you can earn per week. Earned from Dungeon Finder daily Heroic and from raids. (most like the current Emblem of Frost)
Is this a "welfare" system to allow players who don't raid to get top end gear by grinding the same heroics day after day?  Or is it a system that allows more players to see top tier content without having to slog through the lower tier raids first?  The answer is both.

This system just like the current badge system ends up making top end content more accessible, but unfortunately closes older content.  New guilds won't be formed around running lower tier raids, because players can farm better gear by just grinding heroics. 

The casual player that doesn't want to spend 3 hours in a single raid can still get some top tier gear by playing an hour a day.  This casual player base pays their subscription and deserves access to top end gear.  This is a good system for them.

I think the goal of getting more players into top end content is a good idea.  The idea that some content is exclusive to raiders that are willing to spend 20 hours a week just raiding will lead to less subscriptions, not more.

Blizzard should come up with a system which meets these goals without removing low tier content from progression.  There should be some incentive even now for a new guild to form and start progression at Naxx.  

Currently gear is the only incentive for raiding.  The achievements, titles, and special mounts are a good start.  Those don't provide an incentive for guilds to start progression at a lower tier level.  There either needs to be a completely new incentive or gear has to gated.  

Gating gear leads to exclusiveness and barriers to top end content.  So a new incentive needs to be created.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Goodbye to Johnny Train Set?

Cataclysm Raid Progression changes (source):
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.
I'm not sure if a larger number of drops will be enough incentive to do 25-man raids.   

Dealing with Johnny Train Set for 16 hours a week has never been a fun part of raiding.  It's been more of a necessary evil to fill out the 25-man roster.  In most raids a 25-man team will include Johnnies who are brought along only because raid leaders need to fill out the roster.  A lot of raid leaders would not include these players given a solid replacement.

Not to mention the job required to schedule 25 players and deal with players that don't show up consistently, are tardy, just leave without notice, etc.  I believe a lot of the "no show" problem is directly related to the current pace of raiding.  We all love to play the video games, but when it becomes more like a job then fun,  there's a tendency to blow it off every once in a while.  A new slower progression requiring less hours per week should lower the "burn out" rate of Raider rank.

If the pace is a lot slower, I imagine their will be an explosion of ALT raiding.  

Thursday, April 22, 2010

10 man heroic BQL or why you need to trust your healers...

I am almost sure I've written about this topic before, but it's important enough to write about again.  

Last week my 10-man team lacked Replenishment. On our first heroic BQL attempt my mana got low, even with a mana potion and casting Plea and Trinkets on cool down.  We had three healers, a restoration Druid, a discipline Priest, and Big Healer(me).  Being a Holy Light spammer, I was tossing out big heals on the raid liberally on anyone that didn't have a full health bar.  This attempt failed when a Pact'ed pair didn't close in fast enough. 

Attempt #2.  My plan is to only use Holy Light when another healer has Pact or Swarming and during the Air phase.  I would Aura Mastery Shadow during the first Air phase, pop wings and blow out heals to everyone.   The second Air Phase would get Aura Mastery and Divine Sacrifice and of course Holy Light spam. 

This plan requires that I trust the other healers in my team to be healing too.  On most fights, I don't run out of mana, so I don't really worry about over healing and it all goes to the tank via Beacon anyway.  My Flash of Light heals range from 7k to 10k, which is between 1/4 and 1/3 of a typical raiders health.  I have 2 other healers backing me up so that should be enough.  Of course if anyone looks like they are going down fast, a big heal will be coming.

This plan worked great, the raid stayed up, vampires all hit their marks, and the Queen died just as she was going into the second air phase (maybe Divine Sac during 1st air phase next time).  I was spamming my 1 second Flash like a Hyper healing machine.  My effective heals were lower then on the first attempt but people didn't die and I was never too low on mana to cast a big heal.  Trying to top the meters and playing smart are not the same thing. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Party? What Party? Cataclysm ends wow Parties. Or Divine Sacrifice nerf not in the Spirit

Tranquility will always be raid wide, just because the concept of a "group" within the raid is kind of a strange one. What does that group refer to in the game? It's not distance for example. We'd like to do this with every spell. (Source)

Divine Sacrifice was changed in Patch 3.3 to be "party only" to the dismay of many raids who now had to shuffle paladins around to groups that needed the extra protection.

I imagine in the new party-less world of Cataclysm, we could get something, like 
  • 30% of all damage taken by the 5 lowest health raid members within 30 yards is redirected to the Paladin...
which could fit well into the new Healing Hands model of paladins radiating heals and protection to players around them.  

If the goal is to make Holy Paladins be better raid healers, then I think it makes sense for them to more like Discipline Priests then Holy Priests.  A Holy Paladin should be a damage shielder, redirecting damage from the raid into some mechanic that sheds the damage.  Currently the mechanic is Divine Sanctuary, but The Bubble is too powerful to be on a lower cool down.  Some sort of Divine Aegis that absorbs redirected damage but has to be managed carefully by the paladin.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two Blessing is One too many? -- or "one dude would prefer the opposite"?

The Cataclysm preview provides details on a new buffing system for paladins.  At first glance, it looks great, based on the current complex coordination required.  There still a problem with the new system, more on that after a summary of the new system.  Directly from the preview:
    Blessing of Might will provide the benefit of Wisdom as well. If you have two paladins in your group, one will do Kings on everyone and the other will do Might on everyone. There should be much less need, and ideally no need, to provide specific buffs to specific classes.
    Kings and Might can just be raid wide. There should be no need to target individuals. We're trying to make sure there isn't a circumstance where one dude would prefer the opposite buff to everyone else.
The need to coordinate with add-ons such as Pally Power is no longer required.  

The problem with this new system is when you have only a single Paladin and raiders who want different buffs.  This can easily happen in 5 and 10 man groups.

FeralPause whispers, "can I get a 10 minute might instead of kings, please..."

So now I need to remember to rebuff FeralPause with might every 10 minutes?  That does not sound fun.  I will probably still want a version of Pally Power just to manage who does and doesn't want to the global buff.

How are the developers going to avoid the "one dude would prefer" circumstance while providing two different Paladin buffs?  

I can think of two different solutions.
  1. Combine Kings / Might / Wisdom into a single blessing called "Kings"
  2. Allow more then one blessing from a paladin, so they can do both Kings and Wisdom.  Like a Priest that does both Fortitude and Spirit...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Selling mounts is nothing new... or get your underoos unbunched.

The spectral tiger mount isn't very common, but it can be purchased with real money.   A friend of mine ordered several boxes of the WOW Trading Card Game in order to get this mount.  The only difference is that Blizzard didn't get his money directly, but they definitely got paid.

The upcoming Starcraft II collectors edition will have a Warcraft non-combat pet included.

Pets and Mounts have been provide as part of the Blizzcon ticket price.

If anything it's more honest when blizzard provides access to these "paid" vanity items directly instead of through some sort of marketing gimmick.

Blizzard Store has a good day...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cataclysm Paladin Preview or stuff to activate on every COOL DOWN!

(Apparently clarifications have been posted already, will get to those after the raid!)

The early class previews are almost always wrong, in the sense that what actually gets into the expansion resembles it only slightly.  The early class previews for Wrath had us thinking casters would be constantly worrying about mana.  So, that said, here's my take on the Cataclysm Paladin Preview. 

If healing was the same in Cataclysm as is in Wrath then it would get boring.  The expansion would just be a bunch of new content which will play exactly like the content in Wrath.  A new expansion should change up our play style, force us to learn new ways to be excellent players. 
  • Crusader Strike will be a core ability for all paladins, gained at level 1.
  • Holy Shock will be a core healing spell available to all paladins
Holy Paladins can Crusader Strike and Retribution Paladins can Holy Shock.  The world has truly been turned upside down. 
  • Healing Hands (level 83): Healing Hands is a new healing spell. The paladin radiates heals from him or herself, almost like a Healing Stream Totem. It has a short range, but a long enough duration that the paladin can cast other heals while Healing Hands remains active. 15-second cooldown. 6-second duration.
This sounds a lot like the description of Beacon when it was first "previewed."  Proposed macro text, "Come close Brothers, so I can touch you with my Healing Hands!"  Seriously, based on the lack of any more information then raids will no longer be constantly topped off, ACTIVATE ON EVERY COOL DOWN.  I expect this to be a lot different once they actually start to implement and test it.
  • Guardian of Ancient Kings (level 85): Summons a temporary guardian that looks like a winged creature of light armed with a sword. ... For Holy paladins, the guardian heals the most wounded ally in the area. ... 3-minute cooldown. 30-second duration (this might vary depending on which guardian appears).
It's a smart bomb HOT.  Does it only heal one target, or does it constantly switch to whichever target is the lowest?  Too many questions to have any opinion on how this works, so I say, ACTIVATE ON EVERY COOL DOWN.  
  • We want to increase the duration of Sacred Shield to 30 minutes and keep the limit to one target. The intention is that the paladin can use it on their main healing target.  That said, we would like to improve the Holy paladin toolbox and niche so that they don’t feel quite like the obvious choice for tank healing while perceived as a weak group healer. 
The intention is for healers to be making smart decisions instead of just making sure they get something off every GCD.  It makes sense to remove the need to refresh the SS every couple of minutes since that is a pretty mindless behavior.  

Making SS last 30 minutes on a tank is reinforcing the tank healing niche.  They want to improve the toolbox, but not really saying how that will happen.
  • We want to add to the Holy tree a nice big heal to correspond with Greater Heal. Flash of Light remains the expensive, fast heal and Holy Light is the go-to heal that has average efficiency and throughput. 
Surprise! Just like all the healer previews (except Druids) the three heal model has been presented.  A fast expensive heal, an efficient heal, and a slow big heal.   I have to admit that I rarely concern myself with overlapping other healers while healing the raid.  The idea that target selection and heal selection will be more critical is going to be a challenge.
  • Beacon of Light will be changed to work with Flash of Light. We like the ability, but want paladins to use it intelligently and not be constantly healing for twice as much.
The Beacon is what enabled raid healing in the first place.  This seems to reinforce the tank healer niche which they are trying to fix.  The question will be, does the tank need a big heal, if not then Flash the raid, if so heal the tank.  That puts them squarely in the Tank Healer raid spot.
  • Critical Healing Effect: When the paladin gets a crit on a heal, it will heal for more.
Critical heals will heal for more.  So it's basically a critical heal bonus talent.  Sounds pretty underwhelming to me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I am spending less time playing wow and I blame the Dungeon Finder

Do you remember those days when you logged in and did your 25 dailies while keeping your eyes open for a group of friends that might want to do the daily heroic?  I have a route through Icecrown where I completed all my dailies in one to two hours.  Once I found a group for a heroic, we had to get to the dungeon, wait for everyone to show up, and wait for people to go deal with noisy kids and dogs.  Just assembling and arriving at the dungeon could take 30 minutes easy.   Do you remember those days?

Now I log in, pop into the Dungeon Finder queue, a couple of minutes later I'm rushing through an instance with 5 strangers.  Usually done in about 30 minutes.  I feel no urge to do my Icecrown dailies anymore.  I have realized that a lot of the time I spent online was "busy work" I did while waiting for an opportunity to run an instance.  There is no need to do this busy work anymore.  So, I'm not online as much.

This is great for the casual player that only wants to play a few hours a week.  I confess that besides my main Big Healer, I have two other max level healers, a Druid and a Priest.  I don't play them often, but once or twice a week, I'll log one of them in and run a heroic.  Although geared well enough for heroics (a mix of heroic, crafted, and badge gear), their gear is usually on the low level of the groups I get, but I still manage to get the job done.  It's fun, challenging and only takes 2 or 3 hours a week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

7 minutes!

After downing our first heroic mode 25-man kills (Marrowgar and Gunship), 5 of us assembled to get the heroic daily out of the way.  Paladin Tank, Paladin Healer (me), Fury Warrior, Destro Warlock, and Enhancement Shaman.

Queue up and get Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle. We skip the first two bosses, finish the entire instance in a little less then 7 minutes.

Just counting in my head, that's about 25 pulls (including 2 bosses).

Reminded me of those videos of Paladins pulling the entire Scarlet Monastery in one pull.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I am not a game designer... but I know where some live.

I understand the desire to know what changes will be coming in future patches and expansions of WoW.  I read the blue posts, the PR releases, convention coverage, and the info from data mining.  I read the blogs of people who suggest changes to blizzard.  I've even made my own suggestions on fine tuning my own class.  I've spent a short amount of time on the Public Test Realms to see upcoming features.

I am not a game designer.  This job requires experience and skills which are not gained from simply playing a game.  It's not that players, especially those who spend a lot of time dissecting the game, wouldn't be good designers, but the skill to play and understand the mechanics is different then those of the game developers.  If you are going to make a suggestion to the Blizzard designers then make it a simple and focused suggestion.

Create a simple description of your idea.  If this takes more then a sentence or two, then it's probably needs to broken down into multiple smaller suggestions.
  • Add a new Guild Bank tab option that works like a guild member only Auction House.
Identify any impact on existing game features.
  • Guild Bank access for the tab:  Withdraw only = buyer only, Deposit only = seller only, Full Access = buyer and seller. 
  • Limit the number of listing and purchases per member.
  • UI interface changes???? I'm not qualified to suggest or understand the implications... Ugh.
Identify any problems which the suggestion would need to consider.
  • Tab is just used as a very large regular tab by listing items with very small buy out prices.
Identify possible solutions to the problems.
  • Limit the number of listings.  
  • Charge a minimum fee for each listing regardless of buyout price.  Minimum or percentage which ever is higher.
Identify edge and test cases:
  • Standard AH test cases (I'm sure blizzard testers have a test plan for this already)
  • The guild master disbands the guild.
  • A lister leaves the guild.
  • So many test cases and I'm not being paid to think them all up!
This is a simple example and I don't even feel like it's complete.  I am sure there are more problems which could be identified.  I am sure there are more test cases which should be considered.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Judging light and parse envy...

The Story
Recently another Holy Paladin joined the ranks of my regular 25 man raid team. We have a good team of healers. The parses show load is balanced with everyone doing basically the same effective healing. There's only so much effective healing and if everyone is doing their job a natural balance will occur.

Looking at some parses of  failed  Blood Queen attempts (missed bites!) and the new Big Healer was doing a good 2K more HPS on each attempt. A little analysis shows the difference was Judgement of Light. He managed to keep his Judgement active.

The Mana
Every time Judgement of Light is cast with the Seal of Wisdom active you gain mana. As long as no one needs a heal, then Judgement should be used when it's on CD.

Again, Judgement should be cast when it's on CD when no one needs a heal.

The Timing
A 10 second cool down (not improved) allows 6 judgments a minute.  If you are the only Paladin casting Judgement of Light, it will take 4 casts per minute to maintain the debuff.  The talent Judgement of the Pure provides a 15% haste bonus and requires the Big Healer to judge at least once a minute.

The Wisdom or Life Decision
The Judgement of Light provides health to the Raid, the Judgement of Wisdom provides mana.  Providing more mana to the raid increases the raid's DPS.

The Who
Relatively recent changes to the way the Judgment debuffs work means it doesn't matter which spec of Paladin is doing the Judging.  The Retribution paladin should be Judging as part of their DPS rotation and will have no problem maintaining the debuff.  Assign them the wisdom debuff and the mana deeps will be happy.

The Conclusion
This Big Healer has started to be more aggressive on Judgments and as a result the balance has been restored to the parses.   

Friday, April 2, 2010

/leave 2 or why I don't need to hear your opinions, ever!

The Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) has always been bad on WOW's city connected trade chat channel.  A perfect trade chat channel would only have posts concerning WTS, WTB, LFG, LFW and Guild Advertisements.  Everything else is noise. During the slow time of the day on a server as few as three ignores can significantly increase the SNR on this channel.  Many more ignores are required once the server gets busy. There will always be noise on this channel as long as players are allowed to post free text.

A solution is for blizzard programmers to create an interface for the channel, Trade Finder!  The interface allows the person to select the buy or sell they want to advertise and then it posts to the channel.  The interface would allow a sort of real time auctioning, where players can place bids on sell items or offer a sale price to buyers.  The Looking for Work advertisers could be provided a long distance trade interface with the ability to craft items with materials provided but not traded.   Guild advertisers would simple have their guild info be available to anyone interested automatically.  A little work could make the Trade Finder as awesome as the Dungeon Finder.