Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Screenshots and Lyrics

Late to the party - I wish I could say "like always"... but even that presumes a certain style. However, seeing as most about everyone is done with their screenshots by now, so I thought - why not join in.

This one is for Aneas game. She has linked to many, many more.

Never said anything about quiet - but this glorious pickup group did indeed go through the sewer entrance.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Thanks for a difficulty tuned perfectly, Blizzard

So .. after all the success we had yesterday (and a good bit of sleep, and a sandwich and a cup of tea) it's time for a thoughtful post. Which basically means a long one, where you'll be wondering what the hell I was talking about at the end. So there.

I expect we've all seen the occasional "this is too easy" or "this is too hard" posts / [2] chatlines in the past months of playing. There are rebuttals bouncing around blogs, there is shouting and rage and all sorts of amusing things going on.

I think I'll go ahead and just post my own thoughts on the subject, instead of trying to argue around someone elses argument (Note the cunning passive agression in the link right there?)

After killing the Lich King, I feel that the difficulty of WotLK was actually perfect (Note: I'll be talking about raid10 content unless otherwise specified).

It started comparatively easy in Naxxramas - possibly too easy, as no one really goes there any more. At the time, though, it was sometimes rather challenging. We had our share of wipes - not many on each boss, admittedly, but they were there. I seem to remember even giving up on Kel'thuzad once in frustration, because we just could not get him down. Overall, a good instance difficulty to aim for after the leveling rush of the early days.

It was (and still is) my feeling that people forget how to raid - even if they were doing well in TBC raid groups, the working-together and the instinctual-knowledge-of-what-the-tank-is-going-to-do-now was gone.

The fight mechanics, even, were new to many of us (I'm tempted to say all of us in my guild, but I never really asked at the time). Some of them (the tactics, not neccessarily the fights) were rather old-fashioned (Patchwerk) or easy (Maexxna), but there was things we had not done before (Iceblocks to break LoS on Sapphiron? I can't remember a fight like that from before).

Ulduar was exciting when it came out. Hard, for many of us. We still had not gotten used to vehicle fights properly (Eye of Eternity being too short for a full raid night and too hard for a quick "let's do this before we do the real raid" - we only raided one night a week). Flame Leviathan was a new mechanic (I liked it - some people in the raid group didn't - some of them hated it with a passion *waves to Stereotype*).

We had to actually work on the dragon and I remember giving up many weeks on Ignis because he just was too hard. The tankspot tactics at that time (here) were too difficult - and I still think that ... a three spot tanking pattern with no movement of the ranged dps is much easier. We were slowly making progress through the instance - weeks after the top raiding guilds, obviously, but somehow each week a new boss fell.

I seem to remember that around that time the raid-lock extension also came out. It made a hell of a lot of difference to a guild like ours (I mentioned the one raid a week already, didn't I?). Suddenly we could concentrate on doing something new, without having to slog through the same old stuff again.

Historical Interlude:
Do you have any idea what I would have given for that in Mount Hyjal back at 70? We'd use our four hours to learn the first two fights, get to boss number three and then have to give up for lack of time. Next week - same fights, slightly different people, some wiping and the exact same result.

Unfortunately we didn't quite manage to finish Ulduar. The new "One Room Raid" came out - and we had learnt by then that better gear covers for our lack of "perfect gaming skills". I'm not worried about admitting that more healing power, more health and armour and higher damage stats make our raid group able to overcome individual mistakes. Someone trundled into a fire? Happens - but with enough gear we can heal them up and shout at them until they are out of the green and the raid does not collapse at this point.

Onyxia was another one of those - a quick gearup raid with no exceptional difficulty but very good gear. I like how they came in to allow raiders a quick gear-up when they have to fill a hole in a raiding roster now near the end of the expansion. Some people don't play any more, others want breaks, others play alts - if you need a healer quickly there are now options to get them onto a comparable gear level for ICC without too much hassle.

Not that I liked Ony and ToC. I just appreciate the forward planning here - and even saying the one room raid was bland (which it was) - the first time round those fights were actually quite fun. Three bosses in a row without breaks? Haven't had that before. Faction Champions? All the whining about pvp notwithstanding, that fight is actually quite interesting. Or at least it was, once I figured out they were normal monsters (and could be taunted, for instance) just with diminished returns on CC. A good bit like the Val'kyr, really. Preparation for the Lich King fight? Maybe. The dark and light twins were a nightmare - until we had grasped the concept of what aura to pick, what orbs to dodge and what to do when they did a special ability. For our group this was a fight that took repeated attempts - but once we mastered it, it was actually consistently repeatable.

And then there is Icecrown Citadel. Of course we were there right at the start. Going into laggy hell from hell in the first week and getting more disconnects than ever. The first fight we actually won - which surprised us all a bit, I think. We struggled on the following ones for a bit (although my wife and I managed to sneak off on christmas holidays and let everyone else work for it) - I distinctly recall wiping on the Gunship battle at least twice. And yet again - those fights worked after a while. The mechanics were predictable and manageable.

We needed gearing up before we killed Festergut. There was a dps race there. We needed practise on ooze kiting - and whenever our favourite bear was not there and we had to replace a tank we struggled.

Through it all, I think each fight made us wipe a few times (some more, some less) before we completed it. That is - from the start of WotLK raiding up to the end. Personally I feel like the difficulty was tuned perfectly. The majority was not too easy, some of the fights were downright hard, but it all got entirely possible over time.

Historical Interlude 2:
Surprisingly this was not the case with TBC. If you didn't have 25 people, some raids were inaccessible. If your 25 people were not all very very good, you didn't see the last instance. Our guild managed 3/4 in Tempert Keep, 2/6 in Serpentshrine Cavern, 2/5 in Mount Hyjal and 5/9 in Black Temple. Some of that is certainly due to the raid lockout mentioned before. Probably not all. Notice that we never even set foot into Sunwell Plateau? Well ... we didn't. Not even just before WotLK came out and talent trees got buffed and it all got easier. It took me until the 1st of May 2010 to actually finish SPLAT.

Now the final steps are still open. The Lich King instance is getting a stacking buff each week. And it's a bloody good thing. Did I mention it took us 93 attempts to kill him? Those random elements can be lethal. We all know the fight by now (practising for more than all kills in Ulduar combined does that - I have 98 total boss kills in Ulduar) but just a little mismanagement can kill the raid. Especially in raid10, where a single missing person usually does doom the raid.

In the coming weeks more people will get up there - raid guilds that are a little slower than us, near the end of the expansion probably even very casual players.

Well played, Blizzard. I, for one, am very grateful I actually got to see it all for once. And for the better players there are the hardmodes. Which are harder. Oh yes they are.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Meet the poison peanut...

We finally did it. More details are available on request, and might lead to lengthy rambling. Especially about minute long introductions to combat, generously labelled "Roleplay" by Deadly Boss Mods. But anyway, let's get the good stuff out of the way first:

Oh yeah. Hail to the king, baby, as Duke would have put it.

So was it any hard at all, I hear you ask? And I can safely say: Yes, it bloody was. Took us 93 attempts from the first to the last (and we're not counting the "oh look, it's 10 minutes past raid end and we killed Sindragosa, let's just have a look" attempt even).

We had a few good ones in between, down to 16%, then 13%... and yet there was the occasional bump in the road as well. The Lady RNG has her eyes on this fight from the moment it gets started.

I had the (dubious) honour of tanking this as the off-tank - and I'm glad to say the fight has gotten a hell of a lot easier with the buff. There is plainly no need to switch the Lich King tank around any more, as a properly geared paladin can just take 50k damage, wobble a bit and then go about business as normal.

One of these days I'll put up a guide on how to efficiently off-tank the Shambling Horrors, I think. But until then - I'll be off to have a glass of sparkly, leaving everyone else with just a two more images.

The glorious team of goodness, and stinky old Tirion (yeah, Mister 'I'll just stand here in this iceblock while you handle all the difficult parts and then pretend I'm a hero near the end' - we are on to you!).

And the screenshot of the actual kill-shot. Which cunningly serves as an overview of my new UI, after some people complained about the looks of my old one. See? Shiny!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Spellpower Deathknight spotted

Do you notice how the expansion is coming to an end? People are signing up for raids less, some stopped playing entirely, some bimble around on new alts every week.

Of course, there are still the usual things to do. Play a little raid, do a little dance, sing a little .. err yes.

So I have found a little side project as well. Something that happened quite by accident. Let me start at the beginning, though. Meet Deathnugget:

Deathnugget is a shiny new Deathknight on the server of Alonsus. When I transferred Snack (formerly Koch) there, I had forgot to entirely empty my bags, and had still quite a few heirlooms on me. Technically that is an advantage - after all, my usual support structure of crafters is gone and I will need to fill up a few empty spots (or actually buy stuff by asking in trade. Yikes! There are strange people in there).

And then the Lich King spoke to me. Oh yes. A special quest, just for me.

And let's just pretend that this looked a bit more official, shall we? From a distance, and with red glasses this might almost look like a quest. And I don't seem to be the only one - rumor has it, there are more of them around. Deathknights who roll on spellpower. This is the real explanation, obviously.
My secret project then: I'll go and level a deathknight. To 65 is the first goal, possibly move onwards, depending on how much fun I have. I'll obviously behave and not roll on spellpower plate if we have a paladin healer, but any other time - it must be mine! Let's see if I can still do decent damage - and if anyone can think of a suitable dps spec with 71 points in one skill tree - let me know. The current plan is to go with blood, because there is nothing you can do wrong in there, really.

I'm afraid he might be right. Time to find out how bad people really will treat me for choosing the caster trinket twice along with the rather stylish robes.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Twilight Hammer really is in for it now...

This post is a response to The Eleventh Hour challenge/fun. I'll try and ramble about the past, present and future of Darkwhisper gorge. Considering my normal posting style is not exactly known for it's roleplaying aspects - consider this a first. Let's see what cometh of it, shall we?

Alright. So you are here to learn, aren't you? Sit down then and shut up. An old friend of mine has told me you had some trouble with the demonic presence here in Desolace? Ran into a fistful of Burning Blade supporters as well, I take it, and now morale is low, the booze is out and it all looks like a damned dustbowl of an area?

See the bright side: Arist'ta thought it would be a good idea to send an old dwarf down here to show you what it's all about. Means at least one thing. I brought enough Shimer Stout to cheer you lads up a little.

There is a downside as well, of course. This is Desolace. It is a damn dustbowl. But if you manage to listen up for a while you'll be heading off to the next front in a few weeks time. You'll be ready to enter the first stronghold of the Scarlet Crusade or start working on the Gorishi infestation down in the south.

Now about those cultists...

You've all been fighting all your life. You know what to do, you know how to react. You possibly even remember to keep your healers alive - although they do look a bit sissy in their silly robes. So what could an old dwarf like me possibly tell you about?

Well... I can tell you about history. Ancient history, really. See, back when I was a wee little lad with hardly any armour to my name and still lusting for gold and a stout dwarven girl to take home I was worried about everything as well. I was afraid of places, got scared by dinosaurs chewing on my friends and terrified by an ancient female iron golem in some caves under the Badlands.

Of course, back then I was willing to travel to the ends of the world as well, at the whims of just about anyone. Take this little goblin in Ungoro, for instance. He sent me off to bring news about a prime bath location to an aquaintance of his in Winterspring. The other end of the world really. But for a bag of silver and a pat on the back ...

Anyway, I digress. I made my way there, met a lovely dwarven girl as well. A lass called Donova Snowden. She was apparently investigating the special powers of the local hot springs - and who am I to refuse a lady, especially when she thoroughly wants to investigate steaming hot water? Still got an old faded picture of her right here, look.

She sent me off to do some exploration for her as well - mentioned something about having to recover the right attire for her investigation of the hot springs, and would I mind checking out a place called Darkwhisper Gorge in the south.

Darkwhisper Gorge, eh?

You would not believe how much I was waggling my eyebrows whenever she mentioned that name. Sounded very promising.

Didn't turn out to be quite that exciting when I got there... or rather... a completely different kind of exciting.

You see, Darkwhisper Gorge is infested by demons. Lots of demons. They are crawling all over the place. You think Mannoroc Coven is bad? Childsplay, really. But the nice dame asked for an exploration, so explore I did. Probably cost me 20 years of my life and I'm sure a few hairs on my beard turned white.

When you first get there it just appears a little strange. Snow suddenly ends and it's looking warm and sooty and smells of ash and brimstone. Bit like the entrance to good ol' Ironforge, I suppose.

Of course, it's not quite the same. Turns out the area is filled to the brim with precious metals. Hmm... now that still does sound like Ironforge...

As much thorium mines as a dwarf could wish for. However, the area is not empty. Now just like they taught you in basic training, it's always a good idea to make sure you can live through a fight - or at least make sure someone gets away to bring the information home, while you stand there and make sure they are not harmed. How's a lone dwarf going to do that?




Well do what any other proper army does and go and get reinforcements, obviously. So I went home and came back, with my partners and a sissy robewearer and one of those night-elf fellows with a bow and some pointy sticks.

Our plan was to get to the story behind Darkwhisper. To make sure we explored each and every corner and fished up any information we could find.

And just where did you get that picture from?

Alright. We even went fishing. There is a rather large pool down there. And it is infested by demon fish! Demon fish I tell you. Although in fairness, they probably just look like any other fish by the light of day, but in the perpetual gloom down there? With ash raining down on you? Looks a hell'a'lot like demon fish.

Now that is more like it. A cave entrance, you see? Illuminated by pale blue torches, burning bright enough to shimmer through the sooty atmosphere. I can tell you now - we never dared enter that cave. Turned right back, there and then.

Those demons I told you about? They hounded us all the way back to the entrance of Darkwhisper Gorge. Stopped cold as soon as we ran out in the snow. Ha! Noticed that? I sometimes wonder if that's the only reason Ironforge has no demons around.

Any of you from Teldrassil? Well as far as I remember, there are Satyr running wild just outside the gates of Darnassus. Stormwind? Warlocks with the fiendish minions all over the place.

But Ironforge, Dun Morough and Loch Modan are as clean and clear as can be. No demons around our towns! And as I said.. I sometimes wonder if that's not just because of all the snow. Seems to keep demons at bay.

Now, I was trying to teach you something though, wasn't I?

Well then... the important lesson is that it doesn't matter how often you get maimed by demons in your life. With each time you'll just come back wiser, stronger and more prepared. As long as your spirit is strong and you're willing to give it another go, you'll just be able to come back.

And as you get stronger, you also have more success with the ladies *winks*. See, I went back to Darkwhisper Gorge this week. Mainly to drop of a bag of gold for some ransom. But that's another story. Met up with Donova again, and let me tell you - she looks just as good as she did way back then. See?

Now the demons in there aren't even that much of a threat any more. If anything they seem a bit unorganized. Hardly worth the trouble, unless, of course, they have to stand right next to a valuable mining location.

This one girl, she seemed to be the head demon in there. Head demoness? Demon-queen? Doesn't matter, really. Never even offered me a pact, she did. I felt way put off. 'S not the weirdest thing I found in there, though. Someone seems to actually live in there. Someone friendly. Good chap, who shown an honest interest in Mining.

But seriously, the worry and despair are gone. That area is something I don't fear any more. And you'll surely feel the same, soon. Don't give up with those Cultists in Mannoroc. You'll overcome them and ... well ... kick some demon butt.

You know, thinking about Darkwhisper made me realize... I've never gone back to that Cave. The one with the blue fires? I still wonder what it leads to. Might have to go there one of these days again, when I get another day off.


Just because I'm older than you doesn't mean I get to sit at a fire with an ale all day long. There are still things need to be killed and sissy priests need protecting. Nothing changes, in the long run.

But you know, once this business in Northrend is all covered and once that other King is done playing war, maybe I'll get a few days. Pick up a few brave souls and walk back to Darkwhisper. Try and find out of there really is a path to the World Tree from the scorched Caves of Winterspring.

With a bit of luck, it'll all just lead through the mountains, over a pile of gold and straight to a pleasant nightelf meadow. Something like this, really.

Yeah flowers. I wouldn't mind a bed of flowers once in a while. Might even get to bring Donova there.