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Raid Difficulty

January 13, 2009

Sunday night, in about three hours, we knocked out Vault-25, OS-25 and two wings of Naxx-25. We were not moving terribly quickly – in fact, at times we were downright crawling along. Nothing major, but just the typical “15 extra people make things harder” problems.

These Heroic Raids are run by our guild, but we only bring about half the group on most nights. Another guild (basically a sister guild, both having apparently been spawned in the same guild-split ) bring several, and we have been mostly filling things out with a few others.

A negative here is that at least 5 people had to sit out of one fight or another because they had gotten themselves locked earlier in the week. As this was a scheduled event, this is crap. We may not need everyone for each zone (heck, we did the Vault with only 19) but it isn’t to much to ask that everyone be able to at least zone in. An appropriate amount of frustration was put forth, and I think all parties understand that going forward the raids are an ‘all or nothing’ event.

So, How are 25’s different?

In Tier 7, there isn’t really any difference in raid difficultly – in fact in a lot of ways the 10-man content is harder due to the increased importance of every single raider.  Loosing one dps in a 10-man hurts more than loosing two or three in a 25.  So the content isn’t harder, why do 25-mans give better loot?

The 25-man Tax.

The leap from Karazhan/ZA to Gruul/Mag/SSC taught me this lesson. Those 10-mans weren’t without drama and hurt feelings, but every 25-man run was a stress inducing slog. Back then content *was* tougher, but the real problem was the people management, the loot, and the coordination. These days, on Heroic Raid night when an officer growls ‘just a sec’ on Vent (accompanied by the background tap-tap-tap-tappity-tap a “/o WTF!”), and I know I that have a moment to stretch, or grab another tasty beverage,  I try to remember to say a prayer of thanks that I’m ‘just a raider’ &  ‘just a tank’.

Perhaps a recent example is in order: We have successfully been using a simple loot system in 10-mans – everyone pass on everything, we’ll /roll (or whatever) and then each person gets their item. Simple enough, but it has always made me nervous. Last night it burnt us. After Sartharion went down a Rogue rolled need on two epics. He wasn’t from our guild, or our sister guild – just a friend of a friend.

He correctly played the “$#!@- oops!” in raid chat.
Our raid leader correctly booted him.
His friend, playing the well known role, testified that “it must have been a mistake.. he didn’t understand the loot rules.. known him for years..”

In the end, he was offline within moments (guilt or embarrassment? Don’t know, don’t care) and within a few more moments we continued on as well. Everyone handled it calmly. No shouting or threats. There will be more loot, lets all get to Naxx. Oh.. and make sure to set Master Looter, right?

Did he intentionally ninja? is he just that stupid? Hard to say, and I’d really put it at even odds either way. I chalk this up to the 25-man tax. You bring 15 more people, the chances of this type of things happening goes way up.

This is the worst we’ve seen, and for that I should be thankful.  Truth is, we have a solid group of people, and more often than not have to force people to take items over objections of “It isn’t a huge upgrade for me.. let someone else take it!”

Starting next week we will be doing two nights of 25’s each reset, which should be plently of time to at least work on everything available.  I am actually looking forward to it, but only partly because “it is a challenge we haven’t conquered”,  and largely because there is better gear.  I do want to see the fights on both modes, but gear aside, I’d rather be farming with just 9 others every week..

A few days a youngish rogue said “Boy, I really miss 40-mans” in guild chat.  The immediate reply was “..then you never organized one!”.

True fact : that reply wasn’t from me, but from one of our current raid leaders

Another true fact : only because I was the slower typist

Weekend Update, WoW style

December 16, 2008

After several weekends with RL obligations, I was able to get some real playtime in the past few days. We knocked out a few more Heroics on Saturday – only Halls of Lightening and Oculus left – and I picked up a few upgrades. The Red Sword of Courage made me especially happy, since I’ve had trouble finding something nice for that slot. Those upgrades are nice since I’ve not had any real luck with gear in raids – though the 22 slot bag is nice.

Raiding is going well. This past week we cleared OS-10, Archavon-10, and played in Naxx-10 some. We finished the Arachnid and Plague Quarters, and took out the first two bosses in the Construct Quarter. Grobulus took a bit of learning, and we finished Sunday night working on Gluth – our add management still needs some work there. I also tanked Archavon-25 for a pug, even though I was initially brought simply as a condition for my wife healing for the run.

The guild also talked a lot about our proposed merger. It is odd, in that no one has terribly strong feelings on it – we all have a list of pros and cons, and are capable of going back and forth very easily. For a normally decisive group, this is odd.

As said last week, they are a good group of guys – and our runs have gone very well. The primary thing in the ‘against’ column, is that we’d be giving up ‘our baby’. I eventually asked the question “Are we enjoying the raids with them? Would we be happier on our own? Knowing the type of recruiting we need to do imediately?”

The answer there – across the board – was the raids have been a whole lot of fun, and we don’t want to give those up. Even if it means not doing our own thing for a while.

Sunday afternoon we talked on Vent with their guild leader (and officers) for a while. A first they seem like a totally laid back group – but the reality is that they’ve been raiding for so long, they just seem to know what is important to focus on and what isn’t. Their near term goals sync well with ours.

It helps that the Sunday night run went well. It was a short raid, but we made some progress. We primarially worked on Grobbulus and Gluth. We didn’t get Gluth down – and it was good to see how their group handled a fight where things just weren’t coming easy.

Post-raid, we chatted once more as a group, and we will be moving our Mains over reasonably soon. In the end it comes down to this:

  • If we stay, we give up the raids with them – period. Their sitting guild members to bring us is going to cause drama eventually, and I don’t want to cause that.
  • If we go, we can always come back. Absolute worst case, things go to hell; then we’ll only have lost a bit of time building our guild. Ultimately, it is worth the risk of a bit of time.

Outland Heroic Tour – Completed

November 5, 2008

Tuesday evening, having gotten a late start due to voting (just over an hour in line) and the server not liking the 3.0.3 patch, we set off to finish up the last Heroic 5-man on our Achievement lists – Mana Tombs.

I’ve never tanked – or run at all – Mana Tombs on Heroic. I have a Shadow Resist set to use on the first boss, but with so many other *fun* instances out there, revisiting MT has never been a priority. I logged on knowing that I could twist a few arms and find people to run it, but was hoping we’d somehow manage to quickly find a group & get it done. I wanted to get it done, but I also had the election results in he background – the longer it took, the more attention was going to be diverted.

Visiting the Daily Dungeon Quest givers, I was amazed to see that Mana Tombs was a daily – and not just a daily, the daily heroic! Joy! Minutes later, we two people pulled from the /LFG queue and were off. One of them even had a Key to do the optional boss near the end – I’d totally forgotten that was there, but appreciated the chance for a free badge.

All in all, the run wasn’t bad. I hadn’t been there in ages (and then on regular), and there are an obnoxious number of casters, stuns and off-target charges, but it went well. We had a few deaths, but no wipes, and those were generally DPS opening up before I’d finished LOS’ing a pack, or when I got hit by two stuns in a row at the start of a fight.

With a fully buffed Shadow Resist of nearly 240, the first boss was trivial; simply a matter of not smacking him while his shield was up. The final boss (the Prince) was far less trouble that I remember it having been on regular mode – the dps was able to burn down the adds quickly, and I was able to hold them still while they did so. Without adds running around eating people, the fight is simple.

I do know that the healing was no piece of cake. I heard far more mashing of buttons and muttered cursing than I’m used to on a Heroic run, mainly due to the amount of damage that the enemy casters spread around the group. There is a particularly nasty Fire debuff that was causing healing stress for much of the 2nd half of the run.

Personally, I think that Mana Tombs gets a bad rap. It isn’t half as bad as Crypts, even though the two of them are generally lumped together. The Mana Tombs hate – mine, at least – probably comes not from the instance, but that damned escort at the end. I never did complete that while in the appropriate level range, and I always left that instance somewhat dejected due to it.

On heroic, it isn’t an issue. There is an extra boss that you can summon if you have managed to stumble across a key, but that was a very simple tank and spank. Plus a badge.

Now, having accidentally collected nearly 100 badges, I need to do one last shopping trip.  Perhaps something for leveling, maybe in a nice shade of DPS…

Still here

October 23, 2008

Between Blizzcon, a post-con vacation, and a trip back ‘home’ for a funeral, I’ve been a bit busy. Too many hours on too many airplanes seems to have caught up with me as well, as I’m suffering through some sort of bug.

A few quiet days at work, and then a restful weekend seems to be in order.

In game, I’ve played around with 3.0 on live, and spent a bit more time in beta. Worked on hitting 490 defense. Worked on hitting 540 defense. Got a guild-job offer. Am working on my own set of guild documents. Am still so far behind on the RSS feeds that the Google Reader will only tell me I have more than 1000 left.

More on all (well, most) of that to come.

Rest first.

Why I love class balance and homogenization; A response

September 18, 2008

This started off as a reply on Dinaer’s blog, but ended up going way too long.  So, we’ll see if I can figure out a trackback.

To start, go read Dinaer’s post on his excellent blog

I’m very much on the other side of this one.

Playing the beta, I’m not seeing homogenization as a problem at all.
First, a history lesson:

  • In my TBC raiding, every hunter in my guild felt pressure to go BM.  The spec simply did the most damage.  SV Hunters in raids?  Hah.  Not fun.
  • Shadow Priests made such a difference in caster DPS in long fights, that casters complained if I didn’t bring a SPriest, or give them one in their group.  Not fun.
  • For Gruul, it was by far easier to go with a Warrior main tank, and a Druid off-tank.  No Feral today?  Sure you can do it, but it is noticeably more difficult.  This lead to bringing people solely because of their spec, not their skill – or worse, asking people to respec.
  • For Karazhan, how much harder is the Opera event without a fear or a fire-spamming caster?  Illhoof without a ‘lock?
  • ZA is built around Druid offtanks, and having a Pally to AOE tank.

In all these fights – and many more (Heroic Shattered Halls, I’m looking at you) you didn’t just need a dps/tank/healer, how successful you were depended on having a specific class and spec.  Sure, you can almost always do the fight other ways, but have you ever not done content because you were missing one specific piece?  Ever left Illhoof hiding back behind his bookshelf?  I know I have.

Have you ever taken a player who is less skilled, or recruited someone who was otherwise borderline, because they fill one of these holes?  I felt a lot of pressure to look the other way on things, simply because “we really need a <fill in the blank>.”

Most of this “homogenization” isn’t taking things away from classes, so much as spreading the awesome buffs around more.  Sure, hunters aren’t unique in the “misdirect” role, warriors don’t stand alone with “last stand”, and shadow priests aren’t the only mana-battery, but this also means that more classes have these cool abilities.

Hunters can now spec SV if they want.  Prot Warriors are actually capable DPS and AOE tanka.  Shadow Priests finally bring something to the many fights that require AOE.  Trying to DPS on a prot warrior in TBC felt lame.  Now, in beta, it is a blast.  Where my SPriest was only a mana battery on packs of trash, my SPriest can rain down the pain.  Far far more fun now.

The Alternative

If you don’t spread abilities around, do you keep designing fights in ways that pressure you to use a certain tank?  Do we get the Deathknight caster-tanking fight, and resign the Pally tank to DPS (or the bench) for that fight?  This simply isn’t fun, and is a major source of stress in setting up 10 and 25 man raids.  Why do anything to make raids harder, before you even get started?

This new method means that bosses can have unique abilites, something more than tank and spank, with the presumption that someone in the raid has an answering abilitity.  Every tanking class can do AOE tanking, and there are far more ’emergency buttons’ than before.  Misdirect has been passed around to rogues.  Mana-batteries galore.  All this means that you can actually build in a need for these abilities – a chance for more people to shine – while not requiring one specific spec/class/race..

Yes, my Priest is loosing Star Shards.  I love Star Shards, so it hurts a bit, *but* look at the new options as a Priest.  I can AOE.  I can tank heal.  I can group heal.  I can do great reactive heals.  I can rock preventive heals.   I choose the role I want, and there is a spec for it.  The variety is amazing.

For my warrior, this ‘class balance’ means that I can DPS as Prot spec.  I can go enjoy PVP as Prot, a laughable idea now.  The spec that I need for filling ‘my raid nitch’ is no longer is a chain around my neck the rest of the week.

This ‘class balance and homogenization’ vastly improves my play experience, and is one of the main things I’m looking forward to in WotLK.

Moose Mousse

July 18, 2008

A major side-effect of taking a break from Warcraft is that I have far more time available.  Clearly ‘Raid nights’ took up several nights a week, but the time spent setting up raid groups, preparing strategies, or even the quick “20-minute auction house scan” – all really adds up quick.

Tuesday we can home from work and painted a room, and then went out furniture shopping for a few hours. After ordering a new couch, we headed out to Mimi’s for a late dinner, before heading home for the evening.

This room has set empty – excepting a rug on the floor – and bare walled for about two years. With a coat of Moose Mousse paint up on the wall it already feels more like a living space.

The couch is a reasonably contemporary piece. Armless, clean lined, and with the “Celery” fabric I’m very excited about how it will work in the room. It won’t be delivered for 4 to 6 weeks, but we’ve already got an idea for several other pieces to help the room feel a little more complete. We have several other still unpainted and empty rooms and have lived for 2 years with the barest few window coverings decency allows, so there is still a lot more work to do around the house – but starting to make a dent in the list feels really good.

Pulling into the garage Tuesday evening, it was only a bit after 9:00, and I realized that we had done more in one evening (painting, shopping, eating out) than we typically have done over an entire weekend – or even most weeks.

All this following a Monday evening in which we played a par-3 golf course, worked out at a driving range, bought paint and supplies at Lowes, and took care of the week’s grocery shopping.

While I’m somewhat missing WoW, I am very much enjoying all the “extra” time I have. Simply not having a raid at 7:00 – requiring me to be online by 6:15 at the latest – frees up several nights each week.   I’m also realizing now how often we stayed at home the entire evening and poked around in game, even if nothing was scheduled and we didn’t end up actually doing anything..

I’m certainly don’t regret the time spent playing WoW (well, not all of it) – but I’m hoping that I can remember *this* feeling, once I finally do start playing again. I’ve not been so good and finding balance, and while my wife has been very patient with (and probably shared more than a bit of) my OCD, this is something I”m going to need to be cognizant of once I do start playing again.

Isle of Quel’Danas: Blacksmith Open

April 15, 2008

I’m just returned from a week off the grid, and it seems I missed much of Phase 3 on my server.

The evening I returned the anvil quests had been completed, and the blacksmith had been open for business for a good 24 hours. Worked out pretty well, as I was able to go spend my 235 badges on upgrades. Ouch.

The next evening I grouped up with the guild leader, and he showed me the new quests while we caught up some on the previous week. The new quests do help to fill out a pretty simple quest path across the island. By not doing much more than hitting the 3 required nodes for the “Ley Lines” quest, I can pretty much knock out all of the non-flying quests.

The biggest problem I’ve noticed with the new quests is the competition over kills. For most all of the other quests (BE cube gathering quest aside), sure there are lots of folks fighting over mobs – but I never felt like just sitting and camping a respawn was the best way to go. I spent my time over with the murloc slaves by moving between two ~45 second respawns – not too bad, a bit annoying.

The other issue is that these quests now do just feel a lot more like regular dailies. There is the gold, and the SSO rep, but the urgency of unlocking new content seems to have died down. We are close to unlocking Phase 4, and yes, that will open up a new vendor, but I’m just not super excited about it. The dailies are my way of getting SSO rep, when I can’t or won’t pull together a HMrT run – and not much more.

In other news, we had a good weekend raid, and a bit of Monday night drama – but those posts will be coming soon enough.