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Friday, May 08, 2009

So much for Children's Week

So, Children's Week came and went, and for the most part I think it went by largely unnoticed. Aside from the first few days where Battlegrounds were overrun with orphans -- a truly disturbing thought if you stop to think about it -- most people pretty much completed the Children's Week meta-Achievement on the first day. In theory, this was one of those holidays that had the potential to screw players over with Daily Chores, which required players to complete a daily quest every day for five consecutive days. That would've meant that anyone unable to log on for 24 hours would have to wait until the next year to complete the Achievement. Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), the Achievement bugged out and players were able to complete it in one day.

Admittedly, as much as I disliked the design principle of the School of Hard Knocks -- I still think it didn't give a good impression of the Battlegrounds to new players -- a lot of people got the Achievement within a day or two. By mid-week, it was back to normal again. Which meant that in my Battlegroup, Horde weren't playing Alterac Valley again. If there was anything good about the School of Hard Knocks, virtually every Battleground started with even numbers every time. Never mind that most of them were recklessly endangering their wards and couldn't care less about winning, but even numbers are always a good start!

Anyway, how did Children's Week go for you guys? Did you get everything you wanted? Pets? Items? Did you complete the Achievement? Was it difficult, easy, or not even worth bothering with? Share your thoughts on what is arguably the most lackluster yearly event yet. I mean, where were the orphans in Northrend? Surely it wouldn't have been too hard to make quests for little Wolvar or maybe Frenzyheart and Oracle children, would it? Maybe next year?

WoW Article: Locke

Do you ever get the feeling that WoW is like some sort of purgatory? That you're trapped in an endless loop of hellish deviations intent on consuming the very soul from which all things good and pure spring forth from? That this game is indeed nothing but the true game which ends all games, and like Sisyphus or John Locke you'll be stuck pushing the boulder up the hill towards a higher level for the rest of your life?

And with, let's throw a little social philosophy in your faces.

Adoisin commented...

"I hate people telling me how to change my spec and how to play. I'm a mage who puts out between 2-3k dps, depending on how bad my lag may be at the time. Sure, I may not have the cookie cutter spec. But it's my game, I am paying for it, and I will play how I want. Want me to change? Fine. Start paying my fee and you can tell me how to play."

That's a very common feeling amongst players. I've heard that often while I was running my raiding guild, especially from new recruits. The best way I can go about explaining to people why we want them to change their spec, and why we are okay with asking is this:

Think of WoW as a social game above all else. Killing monsters, doing DPS, tanking, and healing are all learned behaviors that become easy after repetition, just like anything else in life. Handling boss strategies, leveling characters, and everything else in the game is nothing a well developed AI couldn't do. So what's special about the game? The game is a social game in which the real challenge lies in communicating and cooperating with other people in order to accomplish a common goal. In this regards there is no difference between WoW and any other cooperative team sport, like Baseball or Football (insert obligatory lol @ packers here).

As part of this social game, you sign a social contract with other players when you join up with them in a guild. This social contract is a metaphysical conception that basically says you all agree to play by and act under certain guidelines. For some guilds, those guidelines might mean no swearing in gchat and being really nice to everyone. For other guilds, those guidelines might mean speccing the way your class officer wants, showing up 15 minutes before raids, and farming 300g a day for consumables.

I've ran or been an officer in both types of guilds. Either one, the casual or the hard core guild, is a lot of fun for those members that enjoy the results of the social contract. And if a member doesn't enjoy those results, or thinks the guidelines set out by the social contract are making him have a bad time, then the member is free to leave and find another guild.

What it comes down to, is if you don't like the players or officers telling you to respec, then find another group that doesn't have those rules. It's not your fault that you don't like the guild's rules, and it's not the guild's fault or the fault of the other people that they want to enforce those rules. It's just a different style of socially playing the game.

And with 12 million people playing WoW, there are definitely some that agree with you no matter what you think. Find them and you'll be quite happy!

Seanfury asked...

"Will the Bone Witch's Fate Runes be usable in Icecrown Citadel?"

My guess is yes. They'll probably act just like the old flasks out in Blade's Edge Mountain. Although a disclaimer here is important in that we don't know for sure yet.

Endless asked...

"Did anybody in the EU get the free day they promised us? Looking into that tread, I'm not the only one who expected a free day and got ogre poo instead."

Check your transaction / billing history and see if you were credited a day yet. If you weren't, then Blizzard probably hasn't gotten to your account yet. It would be very bad of Blizzard to forget about giving out a promised free day.

Matthew asked...

"I'm a new level 80 warrior and when I open my character sheet and look at my damage, it's shown as red. All my other stats are green. Any idea what this means, and how I can fix it?"

If you're in defensive stance your damage will be reduced, and that reduction is highlighted in red via the character window. If you change to arms or zerker stance, it'll go back to green. You could also be specd into Titan's Grip.

Two Bosses Enter: Drakos the Interrogator vs. Salramm the Fleshcrafter

Two Bosses Enter ... but only One Boss Leaves, in WoW Insider's series of fantasy death matches. This season's bosses come from the five-man instances of Wrath of the Lich King.

This week's Two Bosses Enter deathmatch definitely's got that boom, boom, pow. Now, we know you're not fond of The Oculus. We do know. Nonetheless, we're asking you to set aside your prejudices and consider this week's explosive contestants on their own merit: Drakos the Interrogator of The Oculus versus Salramm the Fleshcrafter of The Culling of Stratholme.

Let's review the ground rules: Assume that these foes share similar levels, health pools, damage output and are fighting on neutral territory. Don't get caught up in game mechanics and what actual players might do in each encounter. Focus your debate on the three S's -- Style, Story and Scale – and consider the flavor each villain brings to bear. What do you think would happen during this battle? Leave your comment explaining what happens, and cast your vote for who you think blows up who.

Drakos the Interrogator
The prisoners shall not go free. The word of Malygos is law!

Drakos the Interrogator, a Dragonkin, is the first boss met by visitors to The Oculus. He is best known to his enemies for the randomly cruising bombs he summons during battle.

  • Thundering Stomp

  • Magic Pull

  • Summon Bombs Summons several bombs that wander randomly for a few seconds, then explode for Arcane damage.

How will Drakos choose to Stomp, Pull and summon bombs to explode Salramm and his ghouls? Read more about Drakos the Interrogator's combat style and review insights from players who've fought him.

Salramm the Fleshcrafter
You are too late, champion of Lordaeron. The dead shall have their day.

Salramm the Fleshcrafter, the second boss found in The Culling of Stratholme, is a Human Necromancer. He, too, is known for his explosive summons – in this case, ghouls.

How will Salramm's Ghouls fare against Drakos' bombs? Read more about Salramm the Fleshcrafter's battle style, and review insights from players who've fought him.

The smackdown
The usual rules apply: assume that the opponents share similar levels, health pools and damage output. They are fighting in neutral territory. Can you come up with a convincing scenario in the comments that will sway other readers to vote for your victor of choice?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Disappointment with the patch 3.1 game world

The last few days I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out why I'm not particularly enjoying Patch 3.1 when I'm doing something besides raiding Ulduar. I should be enjoying it! When I first checked it out on the PTR, I was extremely excited about it. The Argent Tournament especially. The whole jousting deal, the Arthurian themes, the potential for story progression, the whole thing. It looked great! Unfortunately... I'm finding it pretty boring.

The Argent Tournament feels lifeless. Completely and utterly lifeless. I say it all of the time, but patch 2.4 was my favorite patch of World of Warcraft thus far, no contest. Patch 2.4 brought me more joy than even the Wrath launch. Not only did it have content for absolutely every aspect of the game, but it also actually changed the world. Storylines progressed in an in-your-face way. Sure, patch 3.1 moved the Ulduar and Yogg-Saron story forward, but would you know it if you didn't read fansites or watch the patch 3.1 cinematic? What's different? What indicator is there that something new is happening in the Storm Peaks?

When the Sunwell Plateau war effort began, Shattrath very significantly changed. You arrived in the city and you knew something was going on. There was a crisis, and some of the prime forces of the world (at the time) had to come together to stop it. Sure, patch 2.4 and patch 3.1 came at different points in their respective expansions' development cycles, and that allows patch 2.4 to do more with the world than patch 3.1 would, but that doesn't excuse the lack of life in 3.1 at all.

The Horde and the Alliance have decided against joining the Ulduar war effort in any official capacity, but that certainly doesn't mean that nobody at all knows what's happening in Ulduar. The Kirin Tor is definitely interested in what's happening, yet Dalaran remains stagnant. Jaina Proudmoore has apparently taken a personal interest in the crisis, but you don't see her in Northrend. Once you enter Ulduar it's made very obvious that there are parties that care and they're pooling their resources to pull off the impossible, but there aren't even hints that anything is happening out in the world.

The Argent Tournament is a little better, but not much. You get a letter in the mail letting you know the event has started, but there's still very little happening outside of the daily quests. There are no event promoters, no recruiters, nobody really talking about what's going on. When you go to the Tournament, you get a distinct impression that there's some sort of festival going on, some celebration. There are banners and flags and all of the races are flying their colors in elaborate tents. It's exhilarating!

Then your mount touches down on the ground and you slowly realize that there's nothing happening here. There are NPCs on mounts idling by their flags and nothing else is going on. The only notable flavor text in the entire place is a goblin trying to sell you the medieval equivalent of a t-shirt. You can say, "But Alex, the coliseum is still being built!" Yep. You sure can say that. I would tell you that's no excuse for a part of the world being lifeless. Have you ever walked/driven past a construction site before? Unless they've been abandoned, they're absolutely full of activity. This should be much the same.

So this is a whole lot of complaining about brand new content without a lot of constructive suggestions, isn't it. Good news! I have some suggestions, too!

Like I said, the Ulduar war effort would be a pretty big deal, even if the Horde and the Alliance haven't officially thrown their lot in with Dalaran here. At the end of the day, just about every adventurer in Northrend retreats to Dalaran for some rest and would hear about something happening. The Horde and Alliance may not be interested in Ulduar, but the Kirin Tor definitely is. Problem is, Dalaran doesn't display that. You wouldn't know something is going on in Ulduar. So what would I do?

  • The most obvious thing to do is use the Dalaran Magi that act as city guards to fill the role of the Commoners that crop up in capital cities such as Stormwind and Orgrimmar during world events. The Mages must talk about something, they're all standing in pairs! What are they talking about? Did someone's family member go into Ulduar? Are they getting ready to go to Ulduar?

  • When you enter Ulduar itself, you see that they've pulled in a number of mercenary groups to bulk up their forces. Bring some of those mercenaries into Dalaran. Are they working out their contract with Kirin Tor officials? Are they being noisy, disruptive jerks in the various inns and bars?

  • Put more activity directly outside of Ulduar. The righteous (and not so righteous) forces of Azeroth are mobilizing to stop Yogg-Saron. Set up some of the activity going on inside of the raid zone... outside. Battle-Mages rushing about, engineers repairing vehicles. Nothing of supreme importance, but Ulduar should not look pristine when there's a war going on. Anything to indicate that all Hell is about to break loose inside of that building would be good.

  • Put Jaina in the Violet Citadel temporarily with relevant flavor text. Technically she's a part of the Alliance, but when has that stopped Jaina from doing what she thinks is right?

Not all of these things are required, certainly, but some of it would help the feeling of 'nothing is actually happening.' Doing too much of this has another danger, too. If you shift over to the other extreme, it can lead to everything blurring together and being a crowded, spammy mess. Putting mercenary activity in Dalaran would mean needing to lower the number of something else. Load times are bad enough in Dalaran. There's a balance that needs to be found.

Lowering the number of generic Mage NPCs and replacing them with mercenaries waiting to have their contracts finalized would make a fair amount of sense, actually. Those missing Mages are off to war, and those mercs are waiting for Rhonin's pen to hit paper.

Warhammer, at launch, was definitely on the too much freaking dialogue end of the activity spectrum. Let me tell ya, The Inevitable City is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring cities I've ever seen in an MMO, but when a group of NPCs go through their conversation eight times in five minutes, it's too much, too frequently. I got sick of the city pretty quick exclusively because of that. Yeah, you want players to be able to catch that dialogue, but if it happens too often it's just an annoyance. There's a middleground there somewhere, and I think both WoW and WAR are missing it.

The Argent Tournament
Again, as mentioned earlier, the Argent Tournament may not be in full swing yet since the coliseum is still under construction, but that doesn't mean nothing should be happening there. That's just silly. So what would I do?

  • Recruiters! The Argent Crusade wants to bring capable warriors from far and wide to compete at the Tournament and help them against the Scourge. They really oughta send out some feelers. A mass-mailing is such a copout! I'd love to see some Argent Tourney promoters out in the non-Dalaran capital cities. Obviously Dalaran knows it's happening, those guys are already in Northrend. Send a few guys to Stormwind, or Undercity, or Orgrimmar. For extra drama, send some Human Crusaders to Orgrimmar and some Forsaken or Orc Crusaders to Stormwind. Sweet, sweet animosity.

  • This is the quietest construction site I've ever seen. Where are the explosions? The angry foreman? The random stone blocks falling off of scaffolding followed by a comedic 'oops'? So much wasted potential.

  • The event needs star power. Are there any big names planning to take part in the tournament? There's a ton of opportunity here to pit some lore figures up against each other in a friendly (yet competitive) way. Tirion Fordring vs. Darion Mograine on horseback, anyone? Make these star power duels only happen every few hours, and you can even make a big show of it. NPCs would run to watch, and guess what? Players would, too. If this only happens a few times a day, people would go out of their way to watch, and they wouldn't mind their dailies being interrupted for a few minutes for it.

Again, there's a balance to be found between too much going on and not enough going on. If a disruptive thing like two of the current Northrend heroes going head to head happened too frequently, it would become meaningless and honestly rather annoying. If it were truly an event like the Level 70 Elite Tauren Chieftains performing in Shattrath, people would flock together to watch it and cheer on their favorite characters.

Patch 3.1 has lots of cool content, but it is utterly lifeless. In my opinion, Blizzard has set the bar for the story progressing within the game itself so high starting with patch 2.4 and through Wrath of the Lich King's initial release that they can't really afford to slip back into the days where the world was utterly stagnant. The game world needs to continue reflecting current events, and those current events need character. Without character, what is the Argent Tournament? Just another generic quest hub with yet more daily quests. Oh boy.

It's certainly a possibility that Blizzard had these ideas in mind and simply didn't have the time to implement them given the fact that patch 3.1 had already taken so long to produce, but it's still sad to see something with such potential fall so short (in my mind, at least.) I also understand that the teams working on this event were probably the same people working on updating things like Noblegarden, and there's only so much a team can do in a day (or even many days) so there's that to consider. Still, I can't help but feel a little love and care would have made this patch's new content incredibly immersing instead of just ho-hum.

One Boss Leaves: It's Herald Volazj by a landslide

Two Bosses Enter ... but only One Boss Leaves, in WoW Insider's series of fantasy death matches. This season's bosses come from the five-man instances of Wrath of the Lich King.

The results of this week's Two Bosses Enter, One Boss Leaves deathmatch didn't show much insanity – just plenty of old-fashioned whuppin', as Herald Volazj laid the smack down on Novos the Summoner in a reader poll landslide.

Zeplar pled the case for Novos: "Insanity is really not that hard a phase, considering Novos doesn't have a tree healer messing him up. So I'll have to give this to Novos.

"Remember, though, that the really hard part about Volazj (at least before we got all epixed and stuff) was the trash guys just before him. Those things hit hard. To add to that, I think Volazj will win the vote because he's harder for players -- but if we are really considering him being against Novos, you have to remember Novos doesn't have a healer during Insanity."

But skreeran put his finger on why Herald Volazj walked away with this victory. "He won't win because he's harder. He will will because the Great Old Ones are beyond mortal comprehension.

"Phng'lui mwgl'naf Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."

WoW Video:The Avenger trailer

Selserene tipped me off to this really cool little video. This is the Avenger trailer by Dtbn. The full movie is probably going to be released sometime in late summer, and is described by the author as being "action packed."

I love to see action-oriented machinima, and if this trailer is any kind of indication, I think Dtbn will be able to deliver. I think it does a great job of setting up quick pathos for the main character, and then conveys stylized, interesting conflict. The use of bullet-time slow-motion and dynamic framing makes the action compelling and interesting, even if we know most of the character movements are based on in-game emotes.

While it is a trailer, and not all trailers turn into full movies, I hope Dtbn follows through. It looks promising, and I'm excited for it.

Jarod Shadowsong, the biggest hero you've never heard of

Call me a lore noob (and that's fine, Alex will heartily agree with you), but like suspected, I had never before heard of Jarod Shadowsong. We pretty much all know about his sister Maeiv, thanks to her little tirade against Illidan and the big part that played in the last expansion. But Jarod might be Azeroth's biggest unsung hero. And considering that all of the rumors point to the next expansion diving into the Maelstrom and/or the Emerald Dream, not to mention an eventual showdown with Sargeras, he could also play a very important part in Azeroth's future.

Jarod led the charge in the War of the Ancients, a huge battle thousands of years ago in Azeroth's past that culminated in Jarod's taking full command of the Kaldorei Resistance, a one-on-one battle with Archimonde (players have faced him, too), and eventually the collapse of the Well of Eternity. An event that led directly to, you guessed it, the creation of the Maelstrom. See how it's all coming together?

Loregy has more speculation: just like during Jarod's time, the Horde and Alliance are growing apart, and if Sargeras decides to bite back after what happened in the Burning Crusade, we'll need a leader to combine the troops. Thrall and Wrynn are each powerful leaders in their own right, but Jarod is the big daddy of generals. And if big trouble goes down in the next expansion, he could be the key to saving the world again. And the guy doesn't even have a picture on WoWWiki!

WoW Article: Defining "PuGgable"

Alan over on WoW LJ has a great question: just what is PuGgable? Lots of people are talking about Naxx and Vault of Archavon and Obsidian Sanctum as PuGable, or able to be taken down by a pickup group, but just where does the line get drawn? Is 25-man Naxx able to be killed by a PuG? Sarth with three drakes? Ulduar?

Most of the 10-man instances are generally easy enough to be dropped by a pickup group, in my experience, though probably not for the achievements. A well-geared PuG can roll right through Naxx or VoA without any problems at all. But when you start getting into the achievements (Sarth with drakes) or the higher content (Eye of Eternity is tough unless everyone in there is experienced), then things get a little shady. Which is why lots of PuG leaders will be checking gear and achievements -- they'd rather take along someone who's already done the content than worry about pulling newbies through. Services and reputations can help that a little bit too -- a good friends list can come in very handy for PuGging even hard content.

And I'd say Ulduar is not PuGgable, yet, for a number of reasons. First of all, it's brand new, which means that most pickup folks won't know the fights, and that leads to wipes and only about one or two bosses down. Plus, since it is so new, every raid reset counts, and guilds don't want their raiders using up their resets when there's a guild run later in the week (of course that's not an issue for Naxx, which most guilds have on farm anyway). Though as more people gear up and more guilds make progress in Ulduar, you have to think there'll be PuGs in there as well

Acronymification, FWIW

The last few editions of The Queue had a lot about tanking, and deciding which Heroic is the best Heroic to tank your first time around. Adam said Utgarde Pinnacle was a good training ground, and his opinion was thoroughly stomped upon for being wrong. I have to say, though... Utgarde Pinnacle was my first Wrath heroic as a tank and it worked pretty well. I did a lot of tanking in The Burning Crusade so maybe I'm a little different since I already knew what I was doing, but it wasn't nearly as bad as it's made out to be. Mobs in Utgarde Pinnacle hit really hard, and it taught me to get back into the habit of using my cooldowns properly and not relying completely on my healer to keep me standing.

I won't say Adam was right, but I also won't say he was wrong. Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle and Heroic CoT: Stratholme are the two dungeons that taught me the most about tanking. Teaching myself to remember to use my own cooldowns and mitigation abilities, learning how to pace a group and keep them moving, relearning how to handle different types of mobs. They were a challenge, oh yes, but that's why I learned so much from them. Easier heroics like Violet Hold didn't teach me to do much because you basically nap through the thing. Then again, I am sort of a 'trial by fire' kind of guy. I need to die a few times to figure out whether I'm capable of something or not.

CallMeIrd asked..

"Are they going to change or remove the School of Hard Knocks achievements? It's pretty much impossible for a lot of players to achieve."

I seriously doubt it. Why do I doubt it? Because it's not impossible at all. It's marginally more difficult than the other Children's Week achievements and it's pretty poorly designed, but impossible? Never. That's like saying Hail To The King is impossible. It isn't. Why would it be?

My big pet peeve about School of Hard Knocks is knowing that the achievement (besides Alterac Valley) is easiest to get if you simply play the Battlegrounds as intended. Let them run their course, and you'll probably get a flag cap (or whatever you need) before the match is over. Just go with the flow of battle, be a quick clicker, and you've got it. When everyone is obsessing over the flags, the battleground goes sour and nobody gets their achievement. Don't obsess over the achievement objectives. Play the battlegrounds right. Alterac Valley is the only exception, because holy crap that one was poorly thought out.

This thing usually takes no more than 3-4 hours for most people. That definitely does not strike me as worthy of being removed from a meta.

Quickshiv asked...

"If you see a player with a horrible spec (at level 80) what should you do? I don't mean in raid or even group just running around some times I will inspect someone to see what gear they have if I don't recognize it. If their spec is very bad should I comment in a nice way or just let them go on about their business."

If they're just someone I spotted in the auction house or out in the world at random? Someone I've never grouped with, and don't need to group with? I don't say anything. I don't know them, and they don't know me. I can be as polite as possible and there's a pretty good chance they'll be offended, because I'm basically that stranger that walked up to them on the street to tell them their shirt is ugly. The best you're going to get is a sarcastic, 'Thanks.' The worst you're going to get is a punch in the face.

Sure, once in a blue moon you'll find someone that's appreciative, but I like to avoid alienating dozens of people in between those rare few.

Now, if you feel absolutely compelled to discuss it with someone, what I would probably do is ask if they have any experience with X build, or if they've tried it. By opening a conversation with "X and Y talents are bad" you're going to piss someone off. If you ask someone if they've tried Z talent yet, there's a good chance they'll be less irritated at the unsolicited conversation. They'll say yes or no, and you can strike up discussion from there.

Merlista asked...

"How do you politely bow-out of a group request while not implying the door is closed for later? Its rare I can guarantee uninterrupted time of 3 minutes or more but when I can I really enjoy grouping. Of course I don't join unless I'm virtually guaranteed uninterrupted time. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Its an annoying mouthful "Sorry, can't guarantee my time right now, look me up later?"...Perhaps there's an acronym I haven't learned yet. Thanks!"

I usually just say something like: Appreciate the invite, but I have some stuff going on RL and am going AFK a lot. If you're still around later though, I'd be happy to help!


WoW Guide: Potion tips for the uninitiated

Tanking Tips has a good (you guessed it) tip for potting up before a raid. They say that you can't use two potions in combat -- or can you? Any potion that relies on a proc to get used up (like an Indestructible Potion) can be downed early, then let the two minute cooldown on potions pass, and then you can drink another potion during the fight. Good deal.

You could say that only the highest level raiders are going to be that worried about making sure that they have every single buff they can have, but even as a casual raider, I've found a lot of use in buffing as many ways as possible. Unlike the really epic guys (who use food, potions, and elixirs to beef up their already awesome gear), I tend to use potions and food to cover my weaknesses. For instance, I don't have as much +hit on my gear as I should have, so I specifically carry around hit food at all times, and I can see the results in my DPS. Even if you don't have the best gear, using the right potions and food buffs at the right times can help you drop bosses and win fights you normally wouldn't.

Of course, that seems obvious to min-maxers, but many raiders with less experience don't realize how much of a difference the right pots and food can make on the raiding game. Lots of these buffs are cheap to buy (and even cheaper to farm if you've got the professions), so if you're raiding with regularity, definitely take a look at your stats and see if you can't throw a few temp buffs in the mix.

Mountain Dew Game Fuel website revealed, counting down

We announced Mountain Dew Game Fuel quite awhile ago now, but it wasn't until recently that we've seen the official Game Fuel website. As you can see in the picture above, when you visit the site you're greeted with a countdown. The countdown says you can 'start earning tokens' when the countdown hits 0, which I assume means we'll be able to get our grubby nerd hands on the soda itself in just under 9 days. Unless they have some odd, magical way of gaining tokens beyond buying and drinking Game Fuel.

Players with any interest in PC gaming or WoW swag at all will be pretty impressed with who they have on board for the prizes they'll supposedly be giving away every 15 minutes. J!NX handles most of the official WoW clothing, and Alienware... well, I've never actually used an Alienware product, but at least their stuff looks cool. That's a good thing, right?

So far there's no evidence of those battle bots we saw being attached to the Game Fuel at all on that website, but there's that whole convoluted saying that's become so cliche over the years. The absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. We don't see it yet, but we may yet see it.

BlizzCon ticket FAQ

For those of you worried about the return of Failoc, or just interested in how the BlizzCon ticket process is going to work this time around, Blizzard has posted a FAQ on buying tickets on their BlizzCon site.

Interesting information includes:

  • You should make a account ahead of time, and make sure the payment information on it is up-to-date.

  • If there are enough people on the site trying to buy tickets (and trust me, there will be), there will be a queue to join.

  • Once in the queue, you'll get an ETA for how long until you can get your tickets. Do not close or refresh the window. If tickets sell out before you get to the front of the line, they'll let you know.

  • When you get to the front of the queue, you have 15 minutes to buy your tickets before you get booted and have to join the queue again.

  • You don't need to give attendee information until after finishing the ticket purchase.

They also note that this queue system will remain in place for future Blizzard items "whenever a certain number of people are making purchases simultaneously," so get used to it - you'll almost certainly be seeing it when StarCraft II and Diablo III come out.

WoWMatrix responds to Curse and WoW Interface

I thought the whole Curse and WoW Interface vs WoWMatrix scuffle was over, but the people at WoWMatrix have just fired back an "FAQ" giving their side of the story. I put FAQ in quotes because I'm not sure these are frequently asked questions so much as questions Matrix frequently wants to answer, but that's OK. I like the format.

Here is the situation as they put it: The Matrix people are respecting Curse/WI's demands that they quit using Curse/WI bandwidth, so as of now you can only get addons through WM that are hosted on the WM servers. They are hosting addons on their servers that the authors asked to be hosted there, or that are distributed under a free license (such as the GPL) that allows such re-hosting.

And now it starts to get contentious. Curse and WoW Interface claimed that WM was almost completely unresponsive to any kind of communication they tried to make, which is what forced them to take the drastic measures they took. WM, on the other hand, claim that Curse refused to negotiate and instead just tried to buy Matrix outright, whereas WM was trying to compensate for bandwidth, figure out how to use less bandwidth, and show Curse ads.

Basically, WM's side of the story is that they tried everything they could to work with WoW Interface and Curse in order to provide a single solution that was best for the user community - to quote them directly, "both Curse and WoWInterface are more concerned about their own profits than working with us to help better serve the gaming community."

This is, again, directly contradictory to what the Curse/WoWI release said, which is that Matrix showed very little interest in working with them, making only a token lowball offer to compensate for bandwidth, and just wanted to go on leeching, basically. Obviously at least one side is misrepresenting facts, although it's impossible to say which one.

On a final note, if you want to help the WoWMatrix folks, they encourage you to submit any addons that you want added that are under a free license, so that's one thing you can do to build their database.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

WoW Video: Inventing Swear Words 5

Inventing Swear Words has been one of my favorite Oxhorn machinima series. Its lighthearted, playful nature won me over early, and the unmistakable pokes at WoW culture frequently made me laugh. It's been a year since the release of Inventing Swear Words 4, when Mortuus and Lacy got married.

In this final chapter, the team has an epic plan to finally force their new swear words on the entire World of Warcraft. It's got all of the cameos you'd want out of the final chapter of a saga, a great resolution, and the same fun music you'd expect from Oxhorn. Mr. Horn does assure us the characters will be back in other works, which makes me happy. I love those guys.

Tips for Rogues in 2v2

An old friend approached me last week with the prospect of playing some 2v2 arena with his mage, who had recently hit level 80. Luckily his rolls are amazingly gifted, and he already had a pretty nice set of gear to play with. I equipped my Sinister Revenge and switched one of my dual specs to Mutilate, and that night we entered the arena to play as one of my favorite comps (behind Rogue+Rogue of course!).

Because of my high ratings in Season 5, we were instantly matched against 2000+ players in our very first games. While 2000 isn't quite 'Gladiator' status yet, we were definitely playing teams with some experience under their belts. I had a great time playing, as it was my first set of arena games since the end of Season 5. Mage & Rogue is a comp with some very potent synergy, and a fast-paced playstyle that brings out the best in our class.

When I first started Season 5, I was playing with a Holy Paladin partner. Our goal was to run the opposing team out of mana while using our defensive cooldowns to prolong a match. What a switch when playing Mage & Rogue! Most of our fights are over in 60 seconds or less, unless something has gone terribly wrong. This bursty style of play seems to favor quick damage over all else, but in reality it's not about the damage.

Crowd Control:
Rogues in 2v2 are defined completely by their ability to effectively crowd control one target for long periods of time. Between Sap, Gouge, Kidney Shot, and Blind, our CC capabilities are the best amongst any of the classes. The key to playing any successful Rogue combo is to coordinate CC with your partner, and to execute on those CC opportunities.

Against a traditional DPS and healer combo, there are two approaches to CC. One method is to CC the DPS class, which will allow you easy access to the healer without being "peeled" by the DPS. The alternative is to CC the healer, which gives you the ability to kill the DPS class before they are able to be healed. Which you choose to use depends greatly on the partner you are playing with, along with the enemy composition.

Trying to CC a Death Knight's healer and kill the DK is a mistake in most cases, as the DK will be able to use defensive cooldowns to survive your enslaught. However, if you are able to crowd control a Rogue's healer, they are typically able to be killed in just a few seconds of focus fire. Similarly, it may not be the best approach to try CC'ing a Druid if you have a Mage partner, as the Druid is immune to most of the Mage's CC and will be able to easily trinket out of your Blind (as they are also immune to our Sap in tree form). Knowing who is vulnerable to which of your CCs is a key ingredient in using your cooldowns wisely.

Tunnel Vision:
One symptom of a novice Rogue in the arena is the tendency to "tunnel vision" a particular target. This refers to the idea of focusing solely on the target you're DPS'ing, while ignoring your partner as well as your opponent's partner. This will cause you to lose opportunities to CC the enemy or assist your partner, as well as possibly forgetting to watch your own health meter. I suggest playing a few skirmish games for fun, and practicing simply watching the health, mana, and cast bars of both teams. Don't worry too much about your particular target, simply do your best to "watch the field" and see how you do.

Focus Macros:
A great way to get away from the idea of tunnel vision is to start making use of a few Focus macros. These take advantage of a new "target frame" of sorts. Basically, you choose your Focus target by selecting any NPC/player and typing /focus. This will bring up a new unit frame window for that NPC, which is similar to your target window. You can then write macros that will automatically cast spells on your Focus target, without ever needing to switch from your current target. Here's a sample formula:

/cast [target=focus] Blind

This will automatically Blind whoever is in your Focus target window. I find that Focusing the healer/caster of any given team is the most efficient, as they are typically the class you will find yourself Blinding or Kicking or anything else you choose to bind to a macro. By using these macros, you'll get yourself used to watching two targets at once, and observing the situation with a bird's eye view.

Clutch Plays:
The defining trait of any great Rogue is the ability to make a quick call and a great move with miraculous reaction times. Seeing a healer casting a spell, knowing that the healer's PvP trinket is on cooldown, and knowing that your partner is in a position to assist with a kill of the DPS, and using your Focus macro to Blind the target mid-cast: key plays like these are what set us apart. In order to truly excel in the arena, quick reaction times to CC and interrupt your opponents are vital. There was a time where the mark of Rogue excellence was "kicking a Fel Dom", which was simply a spell with a 0.5s cast time.

Watching your own abilities and actions are not enough in a PvP environment. If you're spending time looking for a button to click (which you shouldn't be) or worrying about which of your abilities are on cooldown, you're wasting time that could be used to monitor your opponents actions. This sort of "full court" observation is the most crucial skill to develop and exploit. Playing a lot of skirmishes and simply observing is a great way to learn these talents.

Wintergrasp lag a big issue after patch 3.1

Zarhym has got some answers to the widespread problem of lag in Wintergrasp after patch 3.1 the other week. He says Blizzard figures the problem is simply population based -- there are many more people playing in the battleground than there were before the patch. For that reason, they're having trouble coming up with good solutions: the battleground is designed to be non-instanced, and that's why a lot of people like it, so putting a limit on the amount of people in there is not the way to go. Hardware isn't a solution either -- Blizzard's hardware is already top-of-the-line, and not only would upgrading it take a while anyway, but my guess is that most of the lag issues come not from Blizzard's side, but from the connections between players and them, which they may not have any control over anyway.

So yes, we're more or less out of luck -- as long as Wintergrasp is extremely popular (and even Zarhym remembers the naysayers before the release with a smirk), there will always be a certain amount of lag in there. There are a few good suggestions floating around the comments thread -- one is that Wintergrasp should always be conquerable, which seems like it would keep down on the flood of people, though of course there'd be other issues if that were implemented.

At this point, Wintergrasp lag may just be something we have to live with. Eventually, you have to think the population will drop back down, and then those of us still in there will enjoy lag-free battles again. But Blizzard has taken on quite a goal trying to do non-instanced PvP full of vehicles and towers without any lag at all.

WoW Addon: SmartBuff

Buff smart: use SmartBuff. This addon is pretty comprehensive and crazy configurable, and is designed to facilitate and partially automate the buffing process. Here's how it works:

  • Check off which buffs you want to keep up, on what classes, main hand/off hand (if applicable), and when you want it to remind you (in combat, out of combat, 10 seconds remaining, etc).

  • Under the specified conditions, SmartBuff will put a reminder up on your screen (also configurable, of course) telling you who needs what buffs.

  • Now simply click the SmartBuff button, or scroll your scroll wheel (if you have that option set), and the necessary buffs will magically be applied for you!

It doesn't get much easier than that. SB also supports setting up profiles, for PvP vs. raids vs. parties, for instance.

I do have a few minor gripes about SmartBuff. It would be nice if it could recognize when I was on a vehicle, and stop bugging me for buffs under those conditions. Sure, "/sb toggle" isn't hard (turns the mod off/on), but then I have to remember to toggle it back on, and remembering to buff is the reason I have SB in the first place. It doesn't do a very good job of recognizing when you've manually re-applied a buff, as I often do with Inner Fire when I have a spare moment. It also used to frequently double-buff for buffs that just recently went raid-wide (like Prayer of Shadow Protection), though that seems to be fixed in the latest version.

That's another good thing about SB: It's under constant development. The author is very responsive to bugs and feature requests, and I've never seen big issues stay around for long. New revisions are usually made pretty quickly in response to patches changing things.

There's more to the mod than I've talked about here, but basically: if you want it to be easier for you to buff, or if you're always forgetting buffs, give SmartBuff a spin. I think you'll like it.

Download Smartbuff at WoWInterface

A million Chinese gold farmers

A new report on MMO gold farming claims that there are about 400,000 working in China on gold farming and trading, and that there could be as many as 500,000 to even a full million. Of course there's no way to tell exactly how many people are employed in the business (and the number almost certainly doesn't stay constant for long), but according to interviews and surveys done of business there, that's the number they've come up with. They also claim a $10 billion a year turnover, however, and that number seems way high, though remember that they're talking about all MMOs, not just World of Warcraft. The report has some other interesting information about how China does gold farming: there are a number of brokerages staffed by English speakers in the larger cities that handle the actual transaction, and then the farms themselves are usually outside the cities, where cheaper labor is available. Typical pay in the farms is about $140 a month plus food and board, working in about ten hour shifts, while pay is higher in the city-based brokerages. Most employees are younger guys, who play while drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, and lots of their ingame tasks are automated with custom-made and adapted software.

Very intriguing. News of the report actually came from Kevin Werbach, who, as we've reported, is not only a WoW player but acted as the FCC's transition co-chair for the Obama administration. He's doing research for a talk he's giving soon in Philadelphia called "All I really need to know I learned in World of Warcraft." And we also hear he's set to be on an upcoming episode of How I WoW, so stay tuned for that.

As for Chinese wow gold farmers, no matter what the numbers actually are, it's clearly a huge industry, and one that is almost invisible even in the modern global economy. It's hard to believe that they really are going through $10 billion a year, but there's no question, from what we've seen of the farms and brokerages that have been studied, that there are huge numbers of people supporting the flow of virtual gold.

The Daily Quest: Of Titans and Moonkin

  • Lorecrafted asks an important question: What came first, the Titans or the egg? Wait, I meant Old Gods. Titans or Old Gods.

  • World of Matticus's Sydera takes a close look at healing through Freya in Ulduar. As always, a great resource for healers of all flavors.

  • Sacred Duty is making the most out of Mining in Icecrown, and they're willing to show you how, too!

  • The Druid Team goes where many have hoped someone would've gone before: Balance Druid spell rotations.

Give Bloodlust to Rogues

The idea behind "Bring the player, not the class" is that raid stacking shouldn't be as big of a deal as it was during, oh, say, Sunwell. For each buff and debuff, we have a few different classes that can provide it, so raid leaders don't have to go too far out of their way to get good coverage.

However, what single buff was the biggest factor causing guilds to stack a particular class in Sunwell? Ten points if you said "Bloodlust/Heroism." And that is, irritatingly enough, one of the few remaining buffs that no other class has; if you want Bloodlust, you need a shaman, period.

They have toned down its stackability - at the moment, one shaman is sufficient to provide Bloodlust to the entire raid whenever possible, and adding more shamans doesn't help you get more Bloodlusty. However, why is this still a shaman-only property? Bloodlust is arguably the most significant buff in the game when you're up against an enrage timer. Why require shamans, and only shamans, in that situation?

My proposal is to give Bloodlust to Rogues as well. Although Tricks of the Trade has helped, Rogues are still pretty low on the spectrum of raid utility. They're also one of the least played classes right now, according to both my personal experience and the Warcraft Realms census, which has Rogue as the single least-played class at 80. Let's give raid leaders a reason to bring our stabby friends, while cutting down on the "no shaman? we're screwed" factor. Who's with me?

Boubouille proves an MMO Champion

What does it take to bring WoW fanatics the freshest World of Warcraft news on the planet? Imagine, if you will, a guy who sleeps literally no more than three or four hours at a stretch so he won't miss any World of Warcraft news. Imagine a guy who spends hour upon hour digging through game database files searching for anything that appears remotely different. Imagine a guy who no longer raids because he's so weary from 10-hour stretches on the PTR (public test realm).

Meet Boubouille, the force behind MMO-Champion. The hard-working Boubouille is also one of the friendliest, most genuine voices in the WoWosphere. Ever notice how often WoW Insider links developments, new items and spells and breaking news back to MMO-Champion? While Boubouille's first on the money, he's also quick on the tips and first to share a really interesting scoop – that's just the way he rolls. We poked our heads into his insane, non-stop schedule to find out what keeps him ticking along and where MMO-Champion is headed as WoW evolves over time.

Main character Boubouille, level 79 Hunter -- no kidding; also, a level 80 DK that I don't really play
Server Elune-EU

15 Minutes of Fame: How did you get started at MMO-Champion, Boubouille? What gave you the idea to create such a massive project, and what was your original goal?
Boubouille: The site launched in March 2007. I started writing guides for World of Warcraft a few months earlier and tried to sell them a few times but didn't really like the idea of making people pay just for some game info. After a few weeks, I decided to send my guides to a magazine, and they asked if I would be interested in writing for them. I declined because the project was way too big and I didn't have enough time to do it at that time. I decided to start a small guide/news site instead to see how it goes.

The original goal was to build some experience and eventually find a job in the gaming industry. I even applied as a game master for Blizzard, before launching the site.

How many visitors does MMO-Champion get today in a typical month?
I can't really give you exact numbers. Let's just say that we're talking about millions.

Do you have any assistants or staff?
There are about 15 moderators on the forums who try to keep things nice and clean there. I'll probably recruit a lot more very soon. I have a few developers who occasionally work for me for secondary features like the blue post tracker, and there are also two developers working on game file parsing to help with the patch datamining. I'm the only full-time employee of the site, and I'm the only one posting and updating news on front page. (This might change in the near future, as well. )

How have things evolved over time?
MMO-Champion hasn't changed that much. I'd say that the biggest change is the amount of information I post every time a new patch is released and how I get it. Data mining isn't as automated as most people would think, but it's really much faster and reliable than it was a year ago.

In the end, I'd say that the most important evolution is from Blizzard's community managers and developers, who communicate a lot more on upcoming changes and internal testing.

We know you live in France. Are you French yourself? How old are you? Is MMO-Champion your primary occupation?
Yup, 100% French. I'm 21, and MMO-Champion became my primary occupation a few months after its creation. I'm now a full-time employee for Major League Gaming (the company that now owns MMO-Champion).

Describe a typical workday at MMO-Champion.
Hmm ... I don't think I can explain that without looking crazy. When a patch is on test realms, there are a few things I have to keep in mind. Patches can be released as early as 6:00 p.m. (CET) and as late as 7:00 a.m. The European CMs can post patch note update between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and people can first-kill bosses or discover very important stuff in all time zones.

I never sleep for more than three or four hours in a row -- it's not that bad when you're used to it -- and just try to be here when something happens. But it's not always that bad. When nothing important happens, I can just sleep for 10 hours, wake up, spend an hour or two checking the blue posts and writing a news, post it, and do whatever I want for the rest of the day. But that didn't happen a lot in 2008 or 2009, and I usually use this free time to work on new features for the site.

So you work seven days a week?
Yes, especially now that Blizzard posters are also active during the weekend. First kills can happen seven days a week. Even on Sunday, I still have to work on news for the day after. It usually takes slightly more time than during the week, because it's harder to fill a home page when there isn't any official post to report.

You work hard to be first with breaking news. How do you do it?
Lack of sleep, caffeine and I sleep next to my laptop. There are a few tricks to be first on news posts, but in the end it's all about luck. Having a huge site also helps with that, because people will sometimes mail me or PM me on the forums if they spot something important.

Being first doesn't really matter, anyway. Most of the news sites post the important announcements within the same hour now.

You're well know for digging through game files and databases to learn about new items and information. How does that work?
It depends on what you want to discover. Spells, reagents and achievement changes are discovered by parsing the files included with the patch. That doesn't take more than an hour or two once you're used to it.

Items are a bigger problem, because they aren't activated on servers until someone actually drops them. You have to scan for countless hours to try to see if something new has appeared since the last time you checked.

Parsing the patch files doesn't require any tool, just a little knowledge of how the game works and a few coding skills. Checking for new items is just done by querying item IDs and checking if the items are active or not. A lot of public addons can do that, and you don't really need any private tool.

What are your favorite WoW web sites?
WoW Insider, of course! ^^ Actually, I like how you guys manage to post tons of articles each day. As a non-English native, I'm always impressed by people who can write big walls of text about pretty much everything, because that's definitely something I can't do.

I also read Elitist Jerks and a few other sites occasionally -- but to be honest, I don't really check other web sites very often. It doesn't mean I don't keep an eye on competition or that I pretend that they don't exist. My job isn't that hard to do when you get everything figured out, and anyone can kick my ass at any moment. But don't worry: I have a good relationship with most of the news sites managers.

What about Boubouille as a WoW player?
I leveled a Warrior during the U.S. open beta and started playing on live servers in February 2005, when the game was released in Europe. I was very pessimistic about the game before playing it, but it didn't take long to realize that it was much better than all the other MMO games available at the moment.

Do you play anything besides World of Warcraft?
I think I started playing online with Action Quake 2 and jumped from FPS to FPS for a few years (early beta versions of Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, Quake 3 Fortress, etc.) I started playing MMORPGs with The 4th Coming and moved to Dark Age of Camelot and EVE Online for a few years.

(Right now, I'm playing) Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, Unreal Tournament 3, and I wish I had the time to try more MMO games. Oh, and just like everyone on Earth, I bought a Wii and Guitar Hero 3 but stopped playing it after a few hours when I realized how much I sucked at it.

So when do you still have time to play?
I don't really play WoW anymore. Every time I tried to play again, I ended up slacking on web site updates because I was spending way too much time in game. I used to raid five hours a day before TBC, but it's definitely not something I can do anymore.

I'm pretty sure I would end up going crazy if I spent most of my free time playing WoW. When you have spent the last 10 hours working on test realms, running clients on multiple computers, and going through the same changes again and again, you really need to do something else if you don't want to get bored with your job after a few weeks.

So yeah, basically, the guy behind one of the biggest WoW news sites doesn't play the game anymore. I know that a lot of people working on gaming sites are in the same situation but don't really want to talk about it, because they're scared of losing their credibility. I don't think it's really important, as long you don't say anything stupid. I actually linked my Armory profile a few times on the front page.

Spoilers are also a problem, I think. When a new patch or dungeon is released, I usually spend hundreds of hours going through the zones, boss spells, boss models, new items, etc. ... I'm not really excited about it anymore when it hits the live servers. I didn't even level my Hunter to level 80 on the live servers, because I had already seen everything I wanted to see on beta servers. (To give you a rough idea, my screenshot folder for the Patch 3.1 PTRs has 3,344 screenshots, and the directory I use to archive all the images I post on the site has 2,310 files.)

We heard you sold MMO-Champion. Is that true? If so, how did that change the site and/or what you do?
100% true. That was almost two years ago now. MMO-Champion's popularity was unexpected, and the site reached a point where I couldn't manage it anymore. It was my first site, and I didn't have the knowledge or the financial resources to support such a big project. That's why I decided to sell.

I sold to Major League Gaming, and I'm now working for them as the manager of the web site. I'm very happy with this decision, because it made my life considerably easier. Nothing really changed on the site. Every now and then, you will see me going crazy about a MLG tournament or something like that, but basically, I'm free to do whatever I want on the site as long as it's not totally stupid.

Where is MMO-Champion headed today? Will the site remain focused on World of Warcraft, or will it grow to include other MMOs?
The original plan was to include other MMOs, but I didn't expect the WoW part of the site to be so popular. It takes all my time now, and I don't think you will see any other MMO covered on MMO-Champion.

I really want to talk about a few other games like EVE Online or Diablo 3 -- but it won't be on MMO-Champion, and I won't do it until I have the time to do something nice with each site. I don't really want to use MMO-Champion's popularity to launch tons of new sites and just report official posts for every MMOs out there without any further research.

There are still a lot of things I want to do with MMO-Champ. You might see some of them in the next few weeks or months, but I can't really give any details on that yet. Let's just say that I'm definitely not done with WoW for the moment.

There are also a few things on the work at Major League Gaming. We launched a new Ventrilo hosting service called MLGVoice, and the WoW tournaments of the PC Circuit 2009 will start in June.

And what about you? Are you working day by day on MMO-Champion, or are you looking forward to new projects and plans?
The site totally killed my social life over the last two years. Most of the people I know tell me to "get a real job," because video games and internet are definitely not serious businesses. I live during the night most of the year, and I still love this job. ^^

I will probably try to change a few things and start recruiting people to let me do a few things I can't do right now, like attending major events and spending more time creating other projects. I don't think WoW will die anytime soon -- and hopefully I'll be here for a very long time, too.

World of Warcraft: 3.1.2 patch and Ulduar experience

The upcoming 3.1.2 patch is introducing some minor modifications to some of our Priestly spells. I'd have to say that it's an overall net nerf to Discipline. But in all honesty, I did feel we were slightly overpowered. Yes I'd say some of these were designed to address PvP concerns. Now I don't PvP competitively but when Priest/Rogue or Priest/Anything starts to have mass appeal, I pay a bit more attention and I ask questions to the players that do arena often. It's not that I don't like to arena or hit the battlegrounds. It's always been a time factor for me (due to raiding, writing and school). PvP simply gets the short end of the stick and ends up being something I can't get involved with.


  • Soul Warding now reduces the mana cost of your Power Word: Shield by 15%. (Down from 30%)

My first inclination when reading anything that says "reduces the mana cost of X by Y" leads me to believe it is a buff. After re-reading it once or twice, I realized it's a nerf. Our shields are going to cost slightly more. When finishing off some of the bosses from Ulduar, I noticed I had plenty left in the mana tank. But recently, it felt like I was getting lower and lower on the mana. With the amount of shields I throw up, that is probably why.


  • Divine Hymn now heals for 3024 to 3342 every 2 sec. (Down from 4320 to 4774)

The original variant of Divine Hymn had the healing at around ~4500. The cooldown was something like 6 minutes. The current iteration's been slightly nerfed (and sports a 10 minute cooldown that was introduced just before 3.1). Divine Hymm is truly one of those raid saving type spells that can buy your healers a few precious seconds to help stabilize the health of everyone.


  • Glyph of Mass Dispel now reduces the mana cost of Mass Dispel by 35%. (Down from 50%)

  • Glyph of Penance - Increases the critical strike chance of Penance by 5%. (Old - Reduces the cooldown of Penance by 2 sec)

Mass Dispel's been nerfed mana wise. That's a PvP nerf, if anything. Not a lot of raiding Priests would stick in a Mass Dispel glyph.

They were originally going to nerf Glyph of Penance. That one would've hurt the most. I would've been okay with the other Priest changes but I felt that the Glyph of Penance nerf might've gone too far. I'm glad to see that the powers that be have decided to change their minds on this issue and leave this glyph alone (and I know I'm not the only one). A cooldown reduction of 2 seconds or a 5% increase in critical strike chance? I prefer the 2 second cooldown myself. The less I can depend on an RNG like critical strike, the better.

How's Ulduar?

It's been a big time team effort from what I've seen so far.

Perhaps the most noticeable change in terms of individual playing is that I'm starting to become much more liberal with my cooldowns than I used to. Pain Suppression is being cast frequently on tanks throughout Ulduar. It's more due to panic then anything else. There's little coordination involved when I use it. Sometimes I'll panic and toss it up during trash pulls (especially on certain over pulls).

The entire zone has been refreshing for my Priest. The post 3.1 Divine Hymn has found its uses here. Yes the base mode of Ulduar has been slightly nerfed. But I daresay it still presents a challenge for the majority of guilds out there. Not only that, but have you noticed the amount of raid healing required on many of the encounters?

Mana is another thing entirely. Even with a flask and a food buff while chugging potions, I'm still feeling the mana crunch. It's not uncommon for me to finish fights with 10% mana remaining after hitting every cooldown in the book. I'm told I'm still doing too much as a Priest. My personal belief? I'm using just the right amount of mana. A problem that I've noticed with newer Priests in pickup raids or otherwise is that they seem to be in full mana conservation mode. They appear to be more reluctant casting spells or waiting until the last possible second. Why? Because they're afraid of running out of mana. I don't like that. I would rather err on the side of casting too many heals than casting too few.

I won't know how demanding a fight's going to be on my mana pool until I exhaust every last possible drop after cooldowns and consumables. Only then can I adjust accordingly and scale my spell usage down some.

It seems like this is it for Priests in the current Wrath game. Any other changes in the future will be minor or tweaks. I'm not sure if we're going to see any more large scale talent refund-type changes. I'd like to see Power Word: Barrier sometime in this expansion but I'm losing hope.

By the way, check out Eliah's post about Val'Anyr. It's delicious for any healer! In order to activate the blessing, remember to have the Power Word: Shield glyph handy as it it does restore a bit of health and allows a chance for the blessing to trigger. The unglyphed shield by itself will not activate it since it's not actually healing anything.

Priest blogs to follow

Ran into some new blogs recently. I figured I'd share the wealth. Check them out!

Having fun with the Patron/Matron titles

There's some fun to be had out there with everyone's new Patron and Matron titles. And by fun I clearly mean instituting a level of confusion and raised eyebrows that only a transformative romp through the wilds of Storms Peaks can give you.

First, you want to get your title from Children's Week. And with the exception of School of Hard Knocks the title shouldn't be hard to get.

Secondly, display the title and fly out to Brunnhildar Village. You want to head towards the area where you change forms into a Hyldnir Frost Vrykul. You know, the big blue women.

As you form goes "poof," so will your title. If you were a man and are now a woman, you gain the Matron title. Don't you feel special now? Of course as soon as you fly out from the area and shapeshift automagically back to your original form, your title will change back as well.

There are reports in which people have experienced similar behavior being sheeped in PvP. Apparently all sheep are male? Who knows...

Have fun with this, but not too much fun.

Special I.W.I.N. edition

In reading the commentary on the site concerning the brouhaha surrounding Martin Fury and The Marvel Family's steamrolling of raid content, there were a lot of assertions made that left an impression on me, but the overwhelming feeling I had coming away from it was the players were treating it as a TOS issue when ultimately it's not. For obvious reasons, Blizzard doesn't spend a lot of time creating specific rules for what happens when players get ahold of items that are not officially supposed to exist. I do, however, believe it to be a moral issue.

Was Karatechop wrong to use the shirt, or just wrong past a certain point?

Someone made of stricter stuff than myself would probably say that it was wrong to use the shirt at all, but I have to admit -- I don't have it in me to condemn Karatechop's initial impulse to try it out. GM items don't officially exist for players; we know about them only because they've been data-mined, and you'd have to be a fairly frequent habitué of Warcraft fan sites to have any inkling that they're in the game at all. If I'd been in Karatechop's position, like many players I would've believed that Martin Fury was a joke when I first saw it. Who honestly expects to run across an item like that, let alone one that was mailed to a guildie's level 13 Warlock? I don't believe Karatechop was wrong to try the shirt when he had no reason to believe it was anything other than a joke or some bizarre glitch.

However, from an ethical perspective, things get a lot murkier once you enter the territory in which:

A). You know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the item is real and works as described, and (here's the ethically relevant bit):

B). You derive significant and repeated personal benefit from using it.

Karatechop had to have known that A was true the instant after he one-shot Ignis (which was, I believe, the first in a series of both 10-man and 25-man raid boss kills that began on April 20th and ended April 25th). It was incontrovertible proof that Martin Fury was the real deal.

And B became true as of the moment that he and his guildies started getting multiple hard-mode achievements that they could not otherwise have done without the effort and time expended by other guilds worldwide to get the same result.

A + B = a big mess

There is a moral issue, albeit a somewhat less serious one, with having one-shot that first Ignis-10 fight. Would it have been better for them to try it outside of a raid? Yes, but from what Karatechop's said of the incident, it hadn't been tried at all prior to the guild's Ulduar-10 run on April 20th, and they didn't know whether it worked at all. As they quickly found out, it does, and people who were present for the "kill" thought it was extremely funny.

Did they benefit from the Ignis-10 insta-kill? Certainly -- they got the realm-first Ignis-10 Stokin' the Furnace from it -- but absent having tried the item, they had no reason to believe it was genuine. If they'd realized exactly what they had on their hands at that point, finished laughing about it, and then agreed that it was wrong for them to keep Martin Fury (much less use it) and submitted a GM ticket, I don't think anyone would have been banned or even received a suspension. GM's would've faced the nuisance of having to roll back the achievement and kill, but the raid would have satisfied its curiosity as to the intent and function of Martin Fury and demonstrated a commendable level of honesty in not wishing to "cheat" on further content with its use. From a moral perspective, I think The Marvel Family gets a pass on Ignis-10.

However, they don't have a reasonable excuse for continuing to use the item, and there's a much more uncomfortable moral issue with the fact that they proceeded to one-shot 13 additional raid bosses. I believe the nature of the content they chose to one-shot also puts to rest any argument over whether there was an incentive in continuing to use the item besides mere curiosity.

It's particularly disconcerting that they -- and by "they," I mean not only Karatechop, but the guildies who were aware of the item's existence and tacitly approved of its presence in the raid -- chose to use it on what had remained progression content in Tier 7 for them. GuildOx lists their first Malygos kill, plus A Poke in the Eye and You Don't Have An Eternity, as occurring April 21st. The guild also went on to get their guild-first Sarth-25 3D and Sarth-10 3D that same night, which rewarded them with two new titles and two mounts. They then proceeded to 8 server-first hard-mode achievements in Ulduar-25 (among them at least apparent one world-first on If Looks Could Kill).

I'm sympathetic to Karatechop's insistence that nothing apart from pure fun was intended by their intentional trivialization of raid content -- it must have been funny as hell -- but that sympathy starts to look more and more ill-placed once you add up the achievements, titles, loot, and mounts they amassed. They got more than fun out of this, and this became progressively more true with each raid boss.

Does Karatechop's intent matter here?

Yes and no. Karatechop's innocent intent concerning Martin Fury can be accepted at face value re: Ignis-10, but it becomes much harder to accept at face value with each subsequent boss kill, to the point where the guild's intent effectively became irrelevant. The guild knew that use of the shirt would continue to result in one-shots. Thus, the argument that no harm was meant or accomplished by The Marvel Family's actions starts to ring a bit hollow once you consider the extent to which they repeatedly profited from Martin Fury within a very short span of time. If their intent was only to have fun using the item on the game's most advanced content, why choose to use it on fights that were no longer cutting edge (Malygos/Sarth 3D) but were still considered "progression" content for the guild itself?

Why do previous content (Sarth-10/25 3D) that rewarded mounts and titles?

Why go to the trouble of doing both versions of the Sarth fight but ignore Malygos-10 and both forms of Naxx?

And -- most interestingly -- why haul the shirt out for 25-man content in Ulduar only after the guild wiped several times on the Flame Leviathan encounter?

I believe Karatechop when he says that the guild had a lot of fun doing this -- it would be almost impossible not to have fun one-shotting the most dangerous content in the game -- but having fun isn't incompatible with having profited from the item to a morally questionable degree. Nor is it incompatible with having screwed everyone else on Veknilash out of a shot at legitimate server-firsts, and had the capacity to screw the rest of the world out of firsts as well. The shirt enabled them to do things that world-first competitive raiding guilds can't presently do, and it's entirely possible that The Marvel Family could even have achieved a world-first Algalon kill if they'd kept going and had the sense not to advertise what they were doing in trade chat. The limiting factor was solely that the guild got caught before raiding beyond Auriaya, not that they coudn't do it.

Tank talk

There was a good, and amazingly civil, discussion yesterday in the comments to the Queue about which instance a tank should head to first. Most of the debate came about via my suggestion that Utgarde Pinnacle was a good candidate for a tank's first heroic. The nice thing about this game is that there is no right or wrong answer (most of the time).

However one of the only truths about the game is that you can get better at it by discussing it and debating the aspects of it with other people. So I do humbly recommend that no matter what question you ask, you always look for more than one answer and compile all the answers into one that fits you best. And with that said, ask your questions about the game in the comments and we'll see if we can't help you on this path of enlightenment. /zen

Otharello mentioned...

"I'm pretty sure that suggesting Utgarde Pinnacle for a new tank is the height of sadism."

In my opinion, not really. Utgarde Pinnacle has in it a few key aspects that all tanks should have quickly picked up. One is separating out mobs that need to die first and quickly. This is a skill that's learned early on: "kill the caster first!" is a common mantra. While there are some packs in Utgarde Pinnacle that might require someone with crowd control abilities, even those aren't too bad if the DPS focus fires down one caster after the other.

The only other thing about the trash is to pull the packs back to areas you've already cleared – which is a skill that should have been picked up in the regular 80 instances like Halls of Stone / Lightening.

The boss fights are all easy when the healer knows what he's doing. There are some positioning "gimmicks", like all grouping up for the final boss that are somewhat tank related, but it's nothing that is beyond any other heroic.

Finally, the only real challenge to the tank comes in the gauntlet. That's pretty easy compared to a speed run through CoT:Strat, which you'll notice I recommended a new tank start working on right away (albeit starting slowly). All a tank has to do is run down the gauntlet half way, stop, collect the mobs. After those are finished off, he runs down the rest of the way and does the same thing. The boss at the end of the gauntlet is tank and spank, sans moving away from him when he does his whirlwind of death.

And one last thing to note – I didn't say that a new tank should be brought to Heroic: UP. I said a tank that's followed the progression I outlined should be brought to Heroic: UP.

Michelle asked...

"Do companion pets significantly lag other players out while raiding?"

They can, depending on the person's computer. Additionally they can get in the way with click-targeting, which is something many successful DPSers do. And note that click-targeting means clicking the mob to target your DPS to instead of tab targeting to it. This allows the left hand to continue with DPS rotations via the keyboard and the right hand to control the target of the DPS via the mouse. It is quite a bit different from clicking DPS abilities.

Alanid asked...

"Also, is Patch 3.2 the definitive point for the next stage of the argent tournament? And if so could the new 5-man perhaps be inside the tournament?"

Patch 3.2 will definitely be progressing the argent tournament. We have no idea where the new 5-man instance will be.

Aldrir asked...

"Sure running non-heroic dungeons is a good tip but really, who runs the normal level 80 dungeons?"

People who don't want to look or act like fools in heroic dungeons.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

New in-game battle bots connected to Mountain Dew?

Yesterday MMO-Champion posted a few new finds in the patch files. Namely a series of "Battle-bots" which act as a mini-pet. There's not many details as to what exactly they are or what they do, but it does look like there are several abilities we'll be able to control.

Here's where it gets interesting. One bot state is blue, and one bot state is red. These blue and red colors match up pretty darn close to the Mountain Dew product that's on the horizon. Take a look after the break for side-by-side comparisons.

But wait, there's more.

The bots have some known commands already: "Blue Battle Fuel" will "Fill up your Battle-Bot with blue fuel." And "Red Battle Fuel" will "Fill up your Battle-Bot with red fuel." This is interesting phrasing given the Mountain Dew is called "Game Fuel."

Fuel up your body while fueling up your Battle-Bot? The advertising pretty much writes itself.

Now it's entirely possible I'm feeding into some devilish marketing ploy by PepsiCo. If I am, shame on them for marketing something I'm mildly interested in. If not, Pepsi owes myself and Trasken (who tipped us off about this little coincidence) a life time's supply of the stuff.

Thanks Trasken!

WoW Video: The Scytheguard Recruitment Video

It's been a little while since we've had a guild recruitment video on Moviewatch, so I was pretty happy to get a note from Horror. He told us about the Scytheguard Recruitment Video, which he'd built for his Forsaken-only roleplay guild on Sentinels.

The video's got a few good ideas behind it, and has a few things that could be improved. First, I liked Horror's idea for a voice-over. Since his guild is exclusively for the undead, starting off with that nightmarish "you can't breathe anymore" idea is a great start to roleplay. That being said, I think the opening went a little longer than needed. Anyone checking out a trailer needs fast-paced action, or they'll wander off.

I think showing snippets of Northrend is also a good idea. There's enough random footage of gameplay out there that you want your prospective recruit to know you're progressing, and enjoying current content. Otherwise, they may assume your guild's just a few friends who threw a Fraps up on YouTube. (And while there's nothing wrong with that, it might get in the way of recruitment.)

Now, this was Horror's first and only video so far, so I can see why he's using an unregistered Fraps. But if he does more videos, he should go ahead and grab the registered version, and get the watermark off the top of his video. The video looks neat, but the watermark's a little distracting.

Your cheating armory will tell on you edition

The biggest news was the epic tale of Karatechop. From Armory sleuthing, we discovered that he'd been one-shotting Ulduar thanks to a GM Item. Blizzard shut down his account and the accounts of most of his guild, and he talked to us about it. The debate on what he should have done rages on. Of course, if you've had your fill of Martin Fury, we have more for you to browse:
Hot News and Features

  • Oh yeah, that whole Children's Week thing is going on, too. You'll want this guide to the achievements. And since School of Hard Knocks is sort of annoying to everyone involved, you'll probably want this seperate guide to that achievement.

  • Lowered Expectations has a pretty insightful interview with Ghostcrawler.

  • Blizzard's once again given us a slight peek behind the theorycrafting curtain, this time with an explanation of Val'anyr's proc.

  • As we mentioned, Patch 3.1.2 is on the PTR, and there are premades. There's also new Argent mounts and the Equipment Manager.

Class News and Guides

  • Encrypted Text studies the logic and accuracy of Rogue Idioms.

  • Rossi discusses drop luck for Warriors.

  • Mages gets some welcome news for 3.1.2 as Mirror Images get smarter.

  • Innervate got a little bit of a nerf.

Professions, Items, Instances, and More

  • The Ulduar nerfs are rolling in, and will continue to roll in. In fact, you should expect another round soon.

  • If you think Algalon is shiny, wait til you see some of his loot.

  • Blizzard continues to tweak their raid instance notification system to prevent you from being saved to an instance when you don't want to be.

  • WoW Rookie discusses doing business in the Trade channel.

  • Time is Money discusses farming Sholozar Basin.

Odds and Ends:

  • This is picture proof: Goth Gnome Girls rock.

  • Curse's add-on client now has a premium paid edition.

  • It looks like Blizzard is starting to shut down independent WoW iPhone apps. Could this mean they want in the app business, or do they just want to protect their IP?

  • It seems to us that Activision-Blizzard stock is looking like a good buy these days, but don't take our word for it. No, seriously, don't. We're not the Motley Fool here, people.

  • With the right addon, you can twitter from Warcraft without alt-tabbing. You lazy bum.

News: In-game fixes for Monday May 4th

There's an additional list of in-game fixes released tonight by Bornakk. The fixes have been coming less and less over the past week, and that's reflected in the fact the game's stability has vastly improved since patch 3.1 dropped (at least for most).

We covered some of the Ulduar changes, which were announced separately this evening. Apparently Blizzard felt them important enough to mix them in with these other changes as well.

Chief amongst the changes is that the Tier 8 4 piece set bonus for Druids now works. I don't honestly know anyone that has ran into this yet, but I'm sure there's a few folks out there with four pieces of Tier 8 already.

The entire list of changes after the break.

  • The NPCs just inside the front entrance of Ulduar (like a repair ogre) should no longer despawn.

  • The Druid Tier 8 Nightsong Battlegear 4 piece bonus should now properly extend the length of Savage Roar.

  • The Auriaya encounter has received the following changes: The range of Savage Pounce has been slightly reduced, the impact and periodic damage has been reduced in Heroic difficulty, the Guardian Swarm ability now summons 10 Swarming Guardians instead of 25 but their individual damage has been increased.

  • The reflected damage done by Elder Stonebark with his Petrified Bark ability has been significantly reduced.

  • In the Hodir encounter, the time to complete the hard mode has been increased to 3 minutes. (This will be applied during maintenance beginning with North America on Tuesday May 5.)

  • The health of the Heart of the Deconstructor in the XT-002 Deconstructor encounter has been reduced.

  • In the Thorim encounter, the Iron Ring Guard's Whirling Trip ability will now only hit the tank.

  • In the Assembly of Iron encounter, the duration of Overwhelming Power has been increased to 30 seconds in heroic mode and the amount of healing that Steelbreaker receives from Electrical Charge has been reduced to 20% of his max health.

  • The first pack of trash mobs in the Conservatory of Life has been removed, one of the trash packs in the General Vezax room has been removed, all of the humanoids in General Vezax's room are no longer immune to stuns, the Faceless Horrors will only go immune and summon Void Beasts once instead of 3 times, and the damage done when a Clockwork Sapper explodes has been significantly reduced.

Ulduar "tuning tweaks"

Ulduar nerfs continue, tonight being called "tuning tweaks" - but nerfs they are, at least the vast majority of them. Several hard modes have been made easier (XT-002, Assembly of Iron, and Hodir). I'm told that the change to Hodir-hard is particularly significant - the timer on the hard mode was increased from 2 minutes to 3 minutes, which means this encounter might actually be possible on 25-man now. The Hodir change will not go live until maintenance.

There were also normal-mode tweaks to Auriya, Thorim, and Freya, and some of the trash (Conservatory, Vezax, Sappers) was beat up a little bit. The Ulduar nerf parade may have slowed down over the weekend, but it's back in force for Monday. I'm starting to feel a little sorry for all the bosses, seeing their power slowly drained away.