Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Leveling Dungeons - Rated for your Convenience - Part 1

So Tamarind has started the rather nifty dragon rating system. And thus proven that a rating system can be entertaining, no matter how much people agree or disagree to some points (to point out the comments on cross-dressing Chromie is probably not necessary at this point).

So … I think I’ll blatantly steal his idea and rate levelling instances. Not those Northrend ones – they are done to death by every level 80 in the epic badge farm (“LF2M tank healer badge farm, going UK, UP, AN, OK, VH, TOC pst whisper stats, epic achie.”) The good stuff starts somewhere completely different after all.

Of course, I’ll need a rating system. Something that manages to show my complete contempt for Uldaman bad instances. Something that handles the Stairs well and shows off their glory. Even if you are just levelling an alt decked out in seven heirloom items and twinked beyond belief.

So let’s see. There will be marks for Quests (we are talking about levelling instances, so something with lots of quests for lots of experience is good. Then it also doesn’t matter that your wife’s level 80 dragged you through and you gained only 3 experience per mob kill. Not that I’ve ever done something like that.), Instance Design (because I hate Uldaman some instances and love others), Accessibility and Time Requirements. And probably something else, if I can think of it. No need to really nail things down now – we’ll stay flexible. Oh yes... and I pretend to tank a lot, so we’ll throw in “Important Lessons” for your later raiding career that can be learnt here. Well… as long as your wife’s level 80 is not dragging you through.

Now technically I mostly play Alliance. Well… I only play Alliance since about halfway through Karazhan but that shan’t stop me from talking about the lowest level instance I can remember. Ragefire Chasm! Bane of many a level 80 night elf in search of the elusive Classic Dungeon Master achievement – not so much by virtue of it’s tough bosses, more by the three selling points in real estate.

Located in the middle of Orgrimmar this instance is aimed at roughly level 15 or so. People at level 13 do reasonably well and only recently the Goblin two-manned it at level 18.

There are a rather nice five (or six, if you count the follwup) quests for it. Picking them up can be a bit of a pain (as always with old world content) – one of them starts in Thunder Bluff, one in Undercity, two in Orgrimmar and one of those has an especially annoying series of prerequisites from Thrall. Total reward: 9475 experience (without the use of heirloom items) for quests available at level 9 and rated as level 15 to 16. For comparison: 13.600 experience is required to advance from level 15 to 16. Cunning math places that at almost 70% of a level.

We’ll give it a quest rating of B – mainly because there always needs to be room for improvement and because some of the prequests are a tad on the tedious side.

The instance design was apparently considered so good that it was reused. In particular – the Maw of Neltharion in Dragonblight uses the same layout over large stretches of the area. Some bits are inaccessible, and there was a cave added at the beginning, but otherwise identical. Now … I’m not sure I entirely agree, but it’s not a horrible layout. It is pretty straightforward, but not completely linear. In the room of the first boss there are actually three different paths you could take! Well sure... you can see them all from the beginning, but it does vaguely resemble a big spiderweb with a … hmm… flaming demon of fire in the middle. Maybe I need to find better analogies.

We’ll give it a C for instance design. It’s suitably dark and gloomy, but there are much, much better examples in the bright levelling future.

The accessibility question is a bit of a giveaway thanks to my grand introduction (need to work on that as well, it seems). It’s located in the middle of a capital city. Surrounded by level 75 elite guards. So if you are a low level hordeling on the way to learning how to tank on your shaman (or some such) it has great infrastructure. Zeppelin connections, flightpath, bank, auctionhouse and a spa in the Valley of Wisdom (of course not in Honour, silly). It doesn’t get any better, so here you are... have you first grade A.

That leaves only timeframe and things to be learnt here. There are three bosses, a good sized amount of trash and it’s an instance full of elite mobs. I’d plan on a bit more than an hour if everyone knows vaguely what they are doing. The amount of patrols near the first boss can lead to unfortunate wipes, and the Orgrimmar graveyard used to be a bit too far away.

A generous B for it … just because it’s nothing outstanding, really.

And if you do this properly then you’ll learn at least two interesting things: knockbacks can and will take you over the edge of a fighting area if you’re not careful – and lava really hurts. Especially if there is no way out of it. And you’re trapped. And on fire. And burning!

B, C, A, B … seems to come out a total of B overall. Hmm. That sounds too good really. I think I’d rather complete a few quests outside to level quicker. And linen cloth can be farmed better elsewere. We’ll use the arbitrary mitigation factor and downgrade Ragefire Chasm to a C total. Because we can. Ha!

Now on the other side of the ocean (and the war) there is an entirely different starting instance. Located in the charming foothills of Westfall the fabled Deadmines await intrepid alliance questers and horde twinks.

I aim for a much better introduction this time round, without giving away everything right at the start. There are a total of 5 quests for the Deadmines, available from Stormwind and Westfall. No need to fly all around the world here! The rewards are a respectable, but not impressive, 9750 exp total. As a minimum level of 15 is required and the quests are ranged as 17 to 22, we’ll use the level 21 requirements: 22.400 experience to reach 22. A measly 44%.

This number is off by quite a bit, however, as the most rewarding quest (both in terms of experience and quest reward) has a few precursor steps. Six, really. While you’re there, it makes perfect sense to pick up every other quest in Sentinel Hill, as you will be killing all of Westfall twice. Let me put an exclamation mark after that and try again: You will be killing all of Westfall twice! With a dull spoon if you have to! And to start of the chain that eventually leads into the Deadmines you first get sent to Redridge. Because you have no mount yet and it’s the longest straight distance in World of Warcraft.

So we shall give it a… say… D. It’s incredibly stupid to do all those quests when you could instead be in the Draenei starting area, but they do provide a good bunch of experience.

Next up, the saving grace of the Deadmines. Instance design. Here… have an A, let’s move on.

Not enough explanation you say? Oh well… if I have to. The instance itself is located in a hideout dug under a building in Moonbrook. The caves themselves follow the usually three-dimensional layout using a two-dimensional map – or in other words, they are a nightmare to navigate if you don’t know where you are going. Once inside the instance, it gets a whole lot more linear, though. There usually is only one path, sometimes it forks out for very short distances. This alone should qualify for a bad ranking, however the design is actually made fun. There is a mining tunnel full of ore at the beginning – the extension of the outside area. There are goblin lumberjacks crafting something wooden with a ginormous chopping robot. There is a smeltery with a foreman and fire and patrols and engineering loot. There are mages overseeing a mining operation with explosives deeper inside. And once you grab the gunpowder left lying around carelessly (under heavy guard, in a side tunnel) and blow up the big brass doors you get to the main piece.

Slight spoiler coming up now – just in case you never have seen any posts about the Deadmines, have somehow never managed to go there and don’t want to be told about what’s happening: don’t continue reading. Then again – what are you doing in this post anyway….

An underground harbour. Complete with pirate ship, shipwrights, parrots, more cannons than you could shake a Salt Shaker at and a first mate. There also is a murloc cook and a captain and all sorts – the main loot sorry.. the main event is, of course, Edwin vanCleef. He’s a bit of a mix of revolutionary and union representative – as he would be depicted by the governor of California.

As I said: a straight A.

That leaves accessibility: The westfall flightpoint is a bit of a walk and it’s a total pain for the horde to reach. The entrance is also located inside a town swarming with enemy spellcasters – usually sniping from within doorways. And then buried under a mountain in a maze of epic proportions with twisting corridors – and some of us even manage to get lost in a straight corridor like… say… Archavons.

I can’t help but give it a B, for the pure amusement factor of getting there. Always lovely in a new group – or with people who forgot just how annoying the entrance area actually is.

Time involved: Make no mistake – Deadmines is a long instance if played with a proper group. Discounting all the “LF1M Tank, DM” time I’d guess you’d need about half an hour to reach the instance entrance, another half hour to the smeltery, another hour to the boat and then a stunning hour to clear the whole place and spike the guns and throw their powder into the lake. Three hours? Sounds about right. Give it a B.

D + A + B + B comes out a solid B. Yeah.. why not. Basically you’re in for a better experience if you skip the quests.

And do we learn something in there? Well.. this is the first instance I know where people technically have to learn where to walk (“Left side down the smeltery or you pull the whole room”) and that patrols will be triggered from behind on each and every door you open. Not bad, but nothing life-changing.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Money Making for Fun and (mostly) Profit!

Vanity moment yesterday – I finally bought my Tundra Travellers Mammoth. That’s been on the “To Do” list for a bit, mostly because I want the two vendors and wanted to show off in guild a bit (yes – I’m vain like that).

Picked my moment perfectly, too – my wife was just having a discussion with one of our members on how he could get his hands on more than his current 400 gold. The bantering went back and forth after that for a while with the general consensus being “I am too lazy to make money” and “Making money detracts from my normal play time, so I try to avoid it”.

Both are perfectly valid excuses, I think. I didn’t make any money on the auction house until about a year ago, and I remember distinctly a slight amount of jealousy over seeing people with 10k gold back when I was struggling to buy my very first epic flying mount. On the other hand – I usually sold everything I looted through a sensible channel, had my professions up to date and had enough gathering alts to never really struggle for anything. Gold can be of very little importance even for raiders.

It is, however, a lot quicker to just make money by trading and as such probably worth a few very basic ideas. There are tons of moneymaking blogs about – and if you read those, you’ll probably get better and more specific ideas (or weirder and more confusing tales if you read a lot of Greedy Goblin).

Moneymaking idea no. 1: Do quests. Although daily quests are counted into this statistic, the tab on my “main” currently shows around 16.000 gold earned from quests. That’s not bad at all. I always level by questing and found mindless grinds incredibly tedious since the days of Ultima Online finally ended. Quests are more fun and comparatively lucrative, it seems. The main bonus: quest income is fixed. While grinding out two levels on skeletons in the Western Plaguelands might give you that epic drop that finances your flying mount, you just as well might end up with mainly cloth and grey loot.

Moneymaking idea no. 2: Sell grey loot. One of the first steps on any new character of mine is to upgrade bag space. As much as I can afford it. Grey loot does add up to rather surprising amounts rather quickly – especially in Northrend and the Outlands, where a single grey weapon drop can be worth several gold pieces. Not bad for a single bagspace at all. Current tracking: Apparently around 4500 gold made from selling grey stuff.

Moneymaking idea no. 3: Sell non-grey stuff on the auction house – but think about what you sell. This is beginning to require a bit more thought than the other two tips. If you have ever browsed the auction house for a quest item (like Murloc Eyes) before, didn’t you hate having to buy 17 when you only needed 3?
If there is something that is useful for a quest, sell it in quest appropriate amounts. If you don’t have enough to fill the quest (say .. only 2 murloc eyes or only 7 blue pearls), sell them in singles. That way they can be used to fill out uneven amounts.
Any leftover cloth, ore, stone and such should be collected in my opinion. Make some room in your bank and pile them all up until you get a nice 20, then drop them on the Auction House on a weekend. Undercut or fit in the middle – it doesn’t really matter with low amounts.
Be careful with green items – especially the now “outdated” equipment does not always increase in value on disenchanting. This is especially true of weapons. Outlands and “Vanilla” weapons often sell for more to the NPCs than they are worth as essences. In this case it’s worth tracking the value and selling the shiny blue to your local blacksmith sometimes.

Moneymaking idea no. 4: Gathering. Those gathering professions are called money-makers for a reason. Many characters ran with two gathering professions even when the crafting ones had cool BoP items (that would be back in TBC times). This is especially true if you are levelling a new alt. The low level ores/herbs/leathers are surprisingly tedious to farm, as the lack of flying mounts gives higher level characters no significant speed increase. The old lands are also notoriously annoying for finding the nodes you want (Rich Thorium in Winterspring? Yuck!). If you want to actually _use_ your profession for making money consider checking the auction house and farming what sells for most. For miners this is often mithril and thorium over saronite.

Moneymaking idea no. 5: Items that are gained from cooldowns. Those are nice, because even on large populations servers there is a limited supply of those. Items like Titansteel bars, epic gems, spellweave, etc. When you have the ability to make one of those – do it. It’s usually worth buying the raw materials (I have seen a few cases where the cost of raw materials momentarily was higher than the final product). Even if you only make a 50 silver profit this is probably something you should do on all your characters (I’m often too lazy on the titansteel and can’t be bothered flying around on the cloth – I’m working on stamping out the bad habits).

Moneymaking idea no. 6: Actual Crafting. The more steps are required in the manufacturing of an item, the higher (usually) the end gain. This does not necessarily increase your money per hour (as crafting the prerequisites, crafting the main item, enchanting and gemming the item and then posting it on the auction house) can take a surprising amount of time. If, however, you already have the crafting professions, it seems like a waste not to get the last extra 10gold per item. Don’t just sell your transmuted gem – cut it into something even more profitable.
This is the moneymaking that requires the least travel, usually. Buy some unfinished product and refine it. As long as there is a profit left after auction house fees, you will always benefit here. Case in point: Raw Ametrine cut into (whatever) Ametrine usually results in a 20 gold increase in auction house price. Deduct the fees and the occasional deposit (for items that do not sell) and you are looking at a profit of maybe 10 gold per gem. Need more money? Sell more gems!

Note: A wider variety of crafting professions (as gained from having several alts) does _not_ increase your money per hour. It only grants you more options to try for making money. Some professions are better, some are worse – but in the end each profession so far has allowed me to make gold on the auction house.

Tailoring: Bags and Cooldown Cloth (Ebonweave, Spellweave) always sell.
Blacksmithing: Eternal Belt Buckles and Titansteel weapons work.
Engineering: Tinkered Minipets (Yeti, Lifelike Mechanical Toad and Lifelike Squirrel) and the Epic Guns seem to be okay.
Alchemy: Transmutes are the main source of income for me. Flasks and potions might work, if they are not flooded by levelling alchemists at low prices.
Jewelcrafting: Titanium Jewelry sells for newly dinged level 80s. If you are unsure of which gems are a good choice – get the ones you would use on your class first. You know your class and can spot a good gem.

Enchanting, Mining, Herbalism, Skinning: Gathering professions. Sell something gathered. Enchanting usually works well with something cheaply crafted (Low raw material cost crafts).

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I always get asked for my Sartharion 3D achievement!

So after happily prancing along and telling the world (and my seven okay three readers not including myself) how great achievements are: The Downside (with a capital downside!). Pick up things.

It doesn't matter any more if I'm any good at playing my class - I will get asked to prove my knowledge of tactics, positioning, optimal movement patterns, spell rotations, tanking priorities and healing assignments along with a general grasp of equipping and correctly enchanting and gemming my class before I am allowed to join a PUG. The words are usually "LF1M VoA25, tank, pref. warrior or paladin, link achievement and stats" (possibly with a few creative spelling errors).

Not to complain or anything, but those demands are most often made by those who do not, in fact, have the achievement - and by lazy raid leader who do not want to put in the 30 seconds before each fight having to explain what to actually do. Not entirely surprising either - to get into any PUGs themselves, they need the achievement.

Or not.

Originally posted in April there are two script commands that allow the creative player to fake any achievement into a chat link.

/script ChatFrame1:AddMessage(UnitGUID("PLAYER"))

This is the first one and practically a neccessity. It grants the enterprising bank alt the player ID as a chat line. Looks something like this, then:

That last line, written in fine white print on the carpet of the weapontrainers in Stormwind is the unique player-ID of my bank alt. I presume it's serverspecific - after all the same name cannot occur on the same server but quite happily on a number of other servers. Oh look - there are apparently 77 people with my name. And that's only counting those above level 10, it seems. Wheee.

The second script command is the real deal:

ChatFrame1:AddMessage("\124cffffff00\124Hachievement:2054:00000000004488AE:1:4:5:8:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295\124h[The Twilight Zone (25 Player)]\124h\124r")

Now this is a tad more complex. Let me see if I can break it down.

"/script Chatframe1:AddMessage" <-- This tells your script to post a clickable link into your chatframe 1. If you are a lazy person like me, you probably only have chatframe 1. Might want it somewhere else, if you insist.

":AddMessage("\124cffffff00\124H" <-- Weird stuff that I don't understand, but it seems to be required.

"achievement:2054" <-- This is the number of the achievement you want to fake. Straight as taken from WoWhead. Click on the achievement you want, check your webbrowser and take the number from there.

":0000000004488AE" <-- This is the player ID I rambled on about earlier. It seems important to get the number of zeroes right. Or so I am told - never tried entering the wrong one for fear of creating 10.000 gold in my inventory by accident. Hmmmmm. Be right back.



No .. just doesn't work then.

":1:4:5:8:" This is the date the achievement was completed on. Well.. the first 1 means you completed it. The 4 is the day of the month, the 5 is the month and the 8 is the year. So apparently my bank alt became a twilight vanquisher on the 4th of May 2008. Not bad for a level 32.

"4294967295:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295\124h" <-- More stuff I don't understand. I'm sure it means something. Oh yes. Like Fnord.

"[The Twilight Zone (25 Player)]\124h\124r")" <-- The title displayed in your clickable link and more weird stuff. The title has to match the real name of the achievement you are about to fake, or the link will be clickable by you, but not by anyone else you link it to. In my case: the old "Heroic: The Twilight Zone" does no longer work, as the achievement is now called "The Twilight Zone (25 player)".

So there you go. Easy peasy. A little bit of clicking and /macro editing and anyone can be a scarab lord.

/script ChatFrame1:AddMessage("\124cffffff00\124Hachievement:2054:00000000004488AE:1:4:5:8:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295:4294967295\124h[The Twilight Zone (25 Player)]\124h\124r")

Achievement Number from WoWhead

Player ID


Name of the Achievement

And this is so much more precise than just using Underachiever - an addon that does the same thing, but assigns a random date to your achievement. Eep! I might have been on holiday that time!

Edit: Erm. Of course this only links an achievement into chat. It does not actually change your armoury profile. Or even the "Compare Achievement" results when someone is standing next to you. Your new achievement will pop up in all it's glory after you really kill Sartharion 3D. I suppose it would be best to be alive and at the top of the damage meters at that time. Even - or rather especially - when you are a healer!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Them Achievements

Are you a fan of achievements? Hate them with a passion?

Interestingly enough, we have both sides in the guild. The two sides formed shortly after the introduction of achievements – and to be fair, I can understand my opposite number (*waves* Hey Tigs, that’s you!).

The argument for achievements (here, in this context, this is not a summary or somesuch) goes something like this: Some of the achievements show that the player has done something truly outstanding. Better than everyone else on the server (Realmfirsts come to mind, or the Gladiator ones). Some of them show a certain perseverance and dedication to a certain style of play (100.000 Honourable Kills – Say what? I got 1200 or so).

Some of them send people to actually have a look at old content that was quite nice: Outland Raider, Old World Raider. Those are the ones that actually keep the old content alive. Be fair – how many groups have you seen forming for Blackwing Lair before the introduction of the achievement system (Yes, I know, one every two weeks. Shush! We’re ignoring those for the sake of the argument)? That’s right! A big fat zero! (I said ignore, now shush!) And how many have formed since? That’s right, several every weekend – and it’s not completely unheard of to have a Thursday night “Black Temple” party going on either.

I’m all for something that grants me a short-to-mid-term goal and keeps me interested in the game. There isn’t even a large amount of reward required – of course there is the occasional tabard or drake, but that’s not why we follow them.

The opposite view is quite simple to grasp as well. Suddenly you have hundreds of guildmembers leaping off cliffs like lemmings aiming for an achievement. The achievement spam in the first weeks was truly horrendous. When the 25-man groups get another Realm First! the spam is everywhere. No content whatsoever was added (that is a blatant lie as well, as there was other content in the same patch, like this trifling Wrath of the Lich King thing, but it’s true – the achievements don’t specifically do anything).

The guild armoury page reflects the different views as well. A select few players have not logged in since the patch (should I name it? I think it was 3.0, but might be wrong there) – they manage to hang on to an achievement point rating of 0. That’ll obviously change as soon as they log in with the points for every 10 levels and the quests completed and such. A very very large majority has achievement points somewhere in the “few-thousands” range. It can’t be helped, once you are level 80, to get some of those. Especially because some of the achievements are handed out for basically “not doing it right” (tm).

Example needed? A Void Dance and Snakes! The first one assumes your party has not grasped the concept of the debuff and managed to change target, the second does pretty much the same, except there is no debuff. Sure … more and more people get those achievements now that they overgear heroic instances – but if you got one of those in the early days, you were doing the fight wrong.

A minority of players have gone past the 5000 achievement points mark. I’m there at the moment (with a comfortable lead, I might add) and working on breaking the 7k next. And I seriously enjoy the whole thing. Some even come with shiny titles!

But why the whole work? Well … the post of my wife made me remember why, basically. It’s all about the rare glorious moments when a goal is reached. Of course some goals are shared by a large majority of the guild – reach level 80, raid successfully and kill the end boss of an instance, buy a flying mount. However, even though those are indeed rewarded by an achievement, those goals are not something I value very highly. There are other achievements. Those that provided a challenge for the participants (in whatever way) that result in the cheering and real sense of accomplishment that is completely different.

Examples of good achievements? Glory of the Hero for one. People who complain about the game being too easy really need to try that one. There are a few in there that are actually rather on the hardish side – especially those where no amount of gear will make the game easy.

I wanted to post examples here. In fact, I had written several paragraphs about the fights that I remembered for being especially impressive and memorable and great and inspiring. I took it all out. I’m quite sure that I will post some of them at another time because they were actually quite great on their own – but it didn’t feel right in lumping them all together. And the one my girl wrote about was much better on its own anyway.

*reads back*

Euhh… Didn’t manage to say anything again, did I?

Ah well… that’s another achievement then.

[Mad Rambler] Has done x posts in a blog without talking about achievement content.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Why picking a radio station reminds me of how I play my MMORPGs

Seriously. I got in the car today, started on the moderately long and not actually all too tedious drive to work and - of course – as soon as I got in the car my favourite rock radio station came on. Good music, too. I was pleasantly surprised (and it shows that I was a tiny a bit late, as I usually end up with the traffic news – less amusing but potentially more valuable).

So idling along slowly (yeah right – late, remember?) over the first bridge we (that is not the royal we, that’s me and my car) got to the end of the song. And the adverts started (there is another hint just how late we were… usually they manage three songs after the traffic news before they start to annoy me inform me about valuable customer opportunities). Now this is early morning and before the first cup of office coffee, so I am calm and relaxed (and too tired to properly care), so adverts can be ignored.

Shield Block, Demoralizing Groan and onwards towards the traffic lights with all the elderly shoppers no distractions at all and listen with half an ear to the weird bloke telling me about buying a BMW. Yeah right – like I choose my cars based on radio adverts. I mean… I pick by fuel economy, storage capacity, child seat fixture availability, ease of cleaning and not by some fancy silliness like power and speed and fun and … I definitely need my morning coffee.
And then it appears. The advert about broken car windows that I hate enough to momentarily pull me out of my trance. The voice of the actor is incredibly annoying, the “story” is so utterly stupid – it’s enough to actually change the channel right there and then.

My lovely and highly modern car stereo has – after all – the capability to store six! (6!) radio stations. At once! So I get to flip through numbers 2 to 4, finding more adverts, whiny sing-song music, horrible new-fangled stuff, traffic news for a different city and finally something moderately melodic.

And where does all of this take us – and what on earth is the relation to WoW?

Well… I figured (still before coffee, mind you) that this is how I pick my MMORPGs as well. I stick with the default, the one that comes on in the mornings every day. At the moment that is World of Warcraft, but I’m a COF* already and the default used to be Ultima Online and Dark Ages of Camelot and Star Wars Galaxies before.

When the program gets bad enough – and only then – do I start looking for something else.
Hasn’t happened lately, to be fair. I’m still quite happy with the things to do, even though ToC and Onyxia are getting a bit boring and the hard modes are a bit too hard for us. It happened before, though – the total and utter lack of quests in the original Ultima Online eventually made me look at other games. I could only tame dragons and decorate houses for so long, it seems. The new combat system in Star Wars Galaxies made me run away screaming. Gone was the fine system they had in place, revamped with icons so washed out that I could not tell them apart any more – gone the happy ripping and shredding of innocent carnivores on distant planets. Same with my World of Warcraft break after I first reached 60. Raids (were there two? I seem to recall there was only Molten Core, really) were out of my reach, and the 5-mans (that were 10 manned) were getting tedious and boring after a while.

Much like the default rock station, the games come back, though. After flipping through a few of them, I tend to end up back where something is good enough – or at least “usually” good enough. New content helps, obviously – anything to catch my attention (so basically: If I am tuning in to your MMORPG, please don’t subject me to whiny sing-song music). If it holds me there depends on the rest of the content, but the first few seconds are really quite crucial. Which is worth a new series of posts about starter areas (maybe sometime) – but which more importantly makes me wonder: Do I really only change games when the old one becomes to crap to bear? When was the last time I checked out something exciting and new? Does that happen to anyone else?

* Crusty old fart

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tanking Survey - now that's more like it!

In a response to Miss Medicinas healing survey, Koriel over at Whatisboom transformed the whole thing into a tanking questionaire. That's a lot more like me, to be honest. So here ... the whole thing from a proper front-line point of view:

What is the name, class, and spec of your primary tank?
Koch, Warrior
Kochi, Druid
Annae, Paladin
An, Death Knight

What is your primary tanking environment? (i.e. raids, pvp, 5 mans)
Koch: Primarily 10 mans in a pretty static guild raidgroup. I know my partners-in.crime. 5 mans pop up occasionally and I actively try to avoid 25 man content.
Kochi: Currently 5 mans in guild and PUG groups and the occasional low tier 10 man. The gear does not permit more yet.
Annae: 5 man only so far and due to paladin being my least favourite tank not all that many at all.
An: 10 man raids on demand and the occasional 5 man to get the gear up to useful amounts.

What is your favourite tanking spell for your class and why?
Koch: Even though shockwave is getting very close due to the lovely AoE tanking so prevalent nowadays, I’ll still go with an old time classic: Shield Slam. Nothing more satisfying that trying to smash your opponents teeth in with a fridge door (and it is both high threat and high damage)
Kochi: Battle Res. I know it’s not technically a tanking spell, but this is what makes the druid class so incredibly useful. As a tank a swift stun (if possible), barkskin, battleres and switch back to bear can make a hell of a difference. Even better when you have a second tank to taunt off you, I suppose, but then I’d hope for a tree to do it for me.
Annae: Consecration. Unlike the deathknights weird AoE this one is always there when you need it. When one runs out, another one is ready. Catching things running towards healers? Consecrate. Making sure everything still hates you even though you get stunned occasionally? Consecrate. Need to arrange a wedding? Consecrate!
An: I’ll go with something entirely different here: Runes. All other tanking classes rely on taking damage to build suitable threat. No damage, no rage for druid and warrior, no damage, no heals, no mana for the paladin. As a deathknight we can put out decent threat even without getting beaten up, making the deathknight possibly an even better offtank than the druid. Just not as versatile.

What tanking spell do you use least for your class and why?
Koch: Shieldwall, hands down. I’m still clinging to the old ways of the 30 minute wall, which required you to be absolutely sure that nothing worse would happen in the next 30 minutes. I’m getting better, but I still use it too little.
Kochi: Faerie Fire. Again – I’m getting better. I used to view it mainly as a debuff (and a pretty bad one at that) until I realized the massive amounts of threat built into it. It’s now become part of my priority list, but I probably still use it too little and not informed enough.
Annae: Appropriate seals. I tend to stick to the same thing and not manage my seals enough. Some fights might be vastly easier with a different seal up. My excuse for the day? Solar flares! … I don’t get away with that, do I?
An: Empower Rune Weapon. Somehow a cooldown that would allow me to use my defensive cooldowns when I need them is great – but I don’t use it enough. Might have to move it to a bit more convenient spot on the keyboard.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your tanking class and why?
Koch: Spell interrupts and lockdowns – hands down. With the two interrupts of heroic throw and shield bash (both talented to be silences as well), the stuns of shockwave, concussion blow and sometimes revenge, the stuns from charge and intercept with a net gain of rage for intervening away and then charging back in are amazing. The mobility of warbringer is also something none of the other classes can match.
Kochi: Being a fully grown healer (well... with mana for three heals) and a decent dps class all rolled into one. A druid can really spot fill any role during the course of a fight. Their abilities seem to be perfect for filling the classical 10-man off-tank role. Some fights require only one tank? Switch to cat (and change some gear). One of your healers died? Pop a resurrection in mid-battle. Crazed mage running out of mana? Innervate and watch him do preventive damage reduction by superior firepower!
Annae: I’d at the moment say easy AoE threat. This is probably still true, however due to the gear differences my other tanks actually outperform me there quite easily. Of course being practically immortal due to self-heals is another lovely bonus. It’s always the paladins that bring out the first videos of “how to solo ….”, with druids only on a second place.
An: As mentioned above: The runic system. No damage required to be an efficient tank makes us better than any of the others when not getting directly beat up. The buffs to other group members can be nifty, so is the rather decent damage output compared to other tank classes especially in the early stages of tanking.

What do you feel is the biggest weakness of your tanking class and why?
Koch: As a gut feeling it’s currently survivability. It might be the druids I play with are just generally better, better geared or more lucky (all of which I would be envious of), but it feels like we get punched in the face a lot harder than others.
Kochi: Interrupts. I know my health is supposedly higher than the other tanks, but compared to the warrior my one interrupt once per minute is just totally bah. This becomes especially annoying during heroic fights without another reliable interrupt (say… ToC heroic with the healing shaman).
Annae: Threat generation. I am aware that this is a gear issue first and foremost – and I can do something about the spec to make it all better as well, but I feel that the other classes have an easier time holding bosses than me.
An: Currently it feels like survivability is an issue again. After a long time ultra-high for deathknights, nerfs have brought it down to a very very low. The 3.2.2 patch seems to have boosted our survivability again by a tiny bit.

In a 25 man raiding environment, what do you feel, in general, is the best tanking assignment for you?

All: Unlike the healers, I think this question is not easily answered for a 25-man raid. My limited experience in that field seems to indicate it depends more on the specific fight, rather than the group size. Add tanking on a warrior is ideal on fights like Sartharion 3D due to mobility, whereas I’d rather have a warrior on bosses that need interrupting (like Jaraxxus in ToC).

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with most and why?
Koch: I think I most prefer a druid to partner with. This is due to long and successful relations with them, but I think the versatility is amazing.
Kochi: And same as above, I’d probably prefer a warrior. The spell interrupts balance out the greatest weakness of the druids and ensure the team works together very well.
Annae: I don’t have a strong preference and might actually say druid for the lowly reason of “they won’t steal my plate gear”.
An: I’d go with druid as well. Which just goes to show – I don’t tank as much with different people as I would like to.

What tanking class do you enjoy tanking with least and why?
All: I’m not a big fan of combining two of the same for the same task. There usually is some synergy (no matter how little) from bringing different classes to the task.

What is your worst habit as a tank?
All: Taunting too much, using “on-next-swing” abilities too little. The first has annoying implications with enemies getting taunt immune when you least need them to be and disturbs relations with the other tanks – of course they usually also need to be beat up to generate threat. The second is something fixable by better keyboard binds and a work in progress. I’m getting quite good on the druid and warrior, not so great with rune strike on the deathknight.

What is your biggest pet peeve in a group environment while tanking?
Koch: People pulling groups apart. Both thunderclap and shockwave have a rather annoyingly small area of effect if you want to use them effectively. This means I usually need to gather groups up before I can get a decent lead on AoE threat. A single misdirected target or early pull messes up the whole fine symmetry.
Kochi: Only one taunt. All other classes have more than one (well.. warriors technically only get one, but they have vigilance and thus have no excuse whatsoever for not always being able to perform). We’re not counting oh-shit-AoE-taunt buttons either. One taunt. It stinketh. And that means the pet peeve is obviously anyone pulling aggro off me.
Annae: The lack of appreciation of mana-breaks now and then. To frontload threat like a champion (of the light, no less!) I need to start with a full mana bar. People used to warriors sometimes don’t seem to grasp that concept.
An: Deathknights. No really. Deathknights who don’t know that Deathgrip is a real taunt, that it takes time to use a proper three global cooldowns to establish group aggro on groups less than four and ... and… Ah… Deathknights!

Do you feel that your class/spec is well balanced with other tanks?
I think all classes play alright at the moment. I personally like the warrior best, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

What tools do you use to evaluate your own performance as a tank?
One tool I tend to use is player feedback. “Has Koch gone mad?” probably meant I did something unorthodox (*cough* and killed four people). Everything else is hard to quantify, except for spotting specific mistakes. All white swings instead of heroic strikes on patchwork again? Spam buttons better and with less fail.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about your class?
Koch: People still occasionally think that warriors are by default the best boss-tanks. Not true in my experience.
Kochi: I occasionally get asked to do a battleres while being beaten up by three or four enemies. I know the cast time is short and I have a decent dodge score even in caster shape, but you seriously expect me to cast a spell, wearing kinky leather dresses while getting whipped? I can think of more fun in that situation.
Annae: I’ll withhold my opinion on the fact that I have not played with enough different players to get misconceptions stuffed in my face.
An: Deathknights can’t tank. They are clearly an overpowered DPS class only. They can squash bosses blindfolded while solving differential geometry questions and bouncing a rubber ball off the keyboard.

What do you feel is the most difficult thing for new tanks of your class to learn?
All: Situational awareness. I think this can be learnt, and all tanks need to develop a good grasp of it or end up pulling badly. It’s not as prevalent any more to have patrols meander through a whole room and corridor assembly – but it still helps massively not to block line of sight to your healers on the pull.

Effective Health or Avoidance and why?
I like both. Avoidance did shoot up to enormous amounts in Wrath of the LK anyway – for all classes. Effective health is something I actively gear for, but of course that again depends on the fight. I’d rather have my brewmaiden than a parry trinket out on a magic heavy fight. Apparently the current avoidance levels cause balance issues, however, so it seems to be almost required to get a LOT more health before Icecrown.

What tanking class do you feel you understand least?
Paladins, since I play them too little. I would throw in hunters, since I’ve seen one of my guildies do amazing things with a turtle (no, not that. Get your mind out of the gutter), but they don’t _really_ count, now do they?

What add-ons or macros do you use, if any, to aid you in tanking?
Still running xperl as unit frames addon. It keeps track of my focus target, target, raid debuffs etc. for me. I like tellmewhen – it reminds me of forgetting to put shouts up, about weapon procs or a greatness proc on the deathknight. I am a big fan of running tankwarnings because apparently healers like it when they know they can take care of everyone else for a bit.

Do you strive primarily for balance between your tanking stats, or do you stack some much higher than others, and why?
Balance seems to be the way to go. Diminished returns vaguely recommend using all avoidance stats there are. Health is always a great fallback for lack of luck and of course the threat stats have to be present.

And because I think this is entirely legal, I tag Chastity (Iustitia now?) from Righteous Orbs and Ciderhelm from Tankspot - because there's nothing wrong with shooting high *nodnod*, and he has the bestestest voice.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Changes to your Character for the good of the "Lore"

So do game background enforced changes to characters bother you? I have decided I don’t really know. First I saw that was in TBC when (night?)elves were not allowed to be elves in the caverns of time, durnholde specifically. Everyone was made to look like a human, with a strong jaw and the fine hulking figure that first turned me away from playing a paladin.

Of course… back then I was a dwarf, and dwarves are easy to overlook until they bite your ankle, so I got away without an enforced cosmetic change (err… Illusion). Now that the mechanics are in, apparently the use of “Illusions” became more widespread. Culling of Stratholme? Same again: *Poof* no more elfies.
Of course there is a “fake history” reason for all this: elves weren’t known to man back then and certainly would not have been present – although how this could not be covered up with a dark hood or wearing your underwear over your pants and removing the glasses is beyond me. Come on … most level 74 armour looks like that anyway.

There is another example as well. One that has me carefully balanced on the edge between amusement and being disturbed. The lengthy questline in Stormpeaks that leads to the amazing Sons of Hodir faction (grind). Pretty soon into the quest (Starting with “They’ve got our men” in K3 – Stormpeaks) the player will work for the Brunhildar clan. Amazon women, fierce in battle with flowing red blue manes and of a size that makes anything but a kodo or proto-drake look completely ridiculous. They can chain me up in a cage all day long, seeing as there are no mens-folk around.

What I meant to say: to gain their trust and work for them, the player will be disguised as one of the mighty warrior maidens. Gaining trust is done by the usual – beating them up in a fair duel, again and again and again. Oh yes… and stealing some of their dragons back and freeing more girls. That sort of thing.
Once enough trust is gained and the evil witch disposed of, the player leaves the area to pursue some new friends even bigger – you know, Titanic Watchers, Giants, that sort of thing. And every time the player flies over the village inhabited by the fierce warrior women (in blue, with chains, *glassy eyed stare*) the illusion is turned back on.

Or so I thought.

Until an innocent little title change caught my eye:

And now I wonder … is it really just an illusion, or is there a short snip and a lengthy scream whenever a male character flies over Brunhildar village.

At least in the caverns of time players can always pretend they just wanted a strong jaw and a fine hulking figure.