Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You Have *Got* to be Kidding Me!

The Cataclysm achievement (soon to be a Feat of Strength) Stood in the Fire has caused the World of the World of Warcraft to sink to an all-time low. I really can't comment at this point, so I'll let everyone speak for themselves. These are all actual quotes from this thread on the official forums. I'm leaving out names, you can go and read them all if you're that interested. They are pulled in chronological order.

So the best bet to getting this would be to just watch the video linked earlier in the thread, try to figure out his path in wetlands, and sit there for hours?

In response to this:

thats what I have been doing for about 4 hours now

These posts appeared on November 25, two days after the patch hit the servers. As the week progressed, so did the madness.

I wasted all of today sitting around wetlands on Malygos and not a sighting

I camped Tanaris on Malorne for over 6 hours and never saw DW =(

9 hours of waiting in the wetlands

And a fun little exchange:

I'm on hour 14...
Shoot me...

when u get to day 4 then call me i'll come shoot u. That's how long it took me.

Allow me to beat the dead horse some more:

Stood in wetlands for about 14 hours yesterday,

Going on 26 hours of camping one spot in the wetlands.

54 hours in the wetlands since the time I missed him by an inch.

i was there for almost 48 hours straight.

Am I the only person in the world who hasn't completely lost his mind?

Moving forward, Blizzard is clearly going to have to be careful with achievements and feats of strength. It's clear to that there's still a large segment of the WoW playberbase that has no self control when it comes to the game. Consider this comment from a player very early in the thread:

Sigh, this achievement is going to be awful. Wish there wasn't an achievement for it.

Folks, just because there's an achievement doesn't mean you have to try to get it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wow for WoW

I have seen the cinematic before, several times.

I watched it when it first came out. And then I watched it several more times with my wife, who was quite taken with it. I didn't go out of my way to watch it over and over again, but when she put it on her computer, I tended to stop what I was doing and take a look.

So I'm quite familiar with it, to say the least.

And yet, when I clicked 'Play' on my launcher and, instead of the normal log-in I got the big blue Blizzard logo, and the cinematic started -- I felt an undeniable thrill, and I watched it again.

I have to hand it to Blizzard, they really know how to do these things right.

I'll also pat myself on the back. Watching guild chat and city chat explode with 'WTF? Where are the portals?' over and over again, I was glad that I had moved to Stormwind three weeks ago.

And speaking of Stormwind, it's beautiful. Except for the charred parts, of course. And maybe I could do without the super-enormous Varian statue in front of the Keep -- that's a bit over the top.

I was delighted to see the boys continuing to fish in the canals, but I am a bit worried. So far I have not seen any signs of Brom and Christoph, and Karlee, Paige and Gil are missing, too. I hope that I've just not run across them yet. The city feels bigger now.

'Bigger' also applies to Tirion Fordring's ego, apparently. I love the guy as much as anyone, and respect the fact that he brought Alliance and Horde together to help defeat Arthas, but come on: Not one but TWO giant-sized Tirion statues? Is that really necessary? One is in Hearthglen, the other by Light's Hope chapel. I stopped by his old house along in Eastern Plaguelands and found it abandoned. After seeing the two statues, I have expected to find it restored, with historic marker signs and volunteers in costumes telling us about the life and times of the World's Greatest (living) Paladin.

Back in Stormwind I noticed there's a monument of sorts behind the Cathedral that bears a striking resemblance to Uther's tomb, but there's no statue. I wonder who that's for. Also a nice monument to Varian's wife.

Anduin got a makeover. I understand three or four years have passed, but it sure looks like more. Anduin must have gone to one of those boarding schools that kids on soap operas go to. They leave as a first grader and come back two years later as a teen. He has a normal voice now, too. Only two days ago he sounded like Charlie Brown.

My wife got roasted alive by Deathwing in Wetlands. She had gone afk to watch some TV. I heard a strange sound behind me followed by the 'Augh!' death sound. When I turned around she was dead and her screen was in flames. No achievement of Feat of Strength for it and, unfortunately, I didn't have the pleasure of seeing the mighty dragon fly by.

I was disappointed to discover that my Keymaster achievement is no more, and a lot of the keys (Scholomance, Stratholme, the Scarlet key) are just plain gone. I don't know if that means there's a new Keymaster achievement lurking out there somewhere or what, but it was rather disappointing. I finished that achievement in Gnomeragon, where I also got my Knuckle Sandwich and Four weapon skills to 400 achievements by punching leper gnomes to death. Maybe they'll bring it back.

Gosh, I sure hope Karlee, Paige and Gil are alright...

Why the hell am I writing like Mike Lupica today?

Happy Thanksgiving!

ADDENDUM: As of this morning I have located the boys still fishing, Christoph and Brom are still sucking down ale at the Pig & Whistle, and Donna has turned the tables on William, wondering if she can throw his Grindgear Gorilla completely across the hole formerly known as 'The Park.' Still no sign of Karlee and Paige Chaddis, and Gil. I was hoping maybe they'd found a nice home back by Stormwind Lake or Olivia's Pond, but I have yet to find them. The search continues....

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

People Watching in Stormwind

I am gifted with foresight. Shortly after 4.0.1 dropped, I read the writing on the wall and reset my hearthstone to Stormwind, where I am a guest at the Gilded Rose Tavern (conveniently located in the heart of the Trade District! Great Rates!). There I could wait for the coming Cataclysm and not get stuck in Dalaran when the portals are replaced with profession trainers. My tabard of the Argent Crusade allows me to teleport quickly to the Tournament grounds in Icecrown so that I can still be the first one to the Citadel summoning stone on raid nights, even though everyone else starts out much closer (grumble).

I admit it, I am a bit smug about it all. When Phase I of the elemental invasion began, there I was, spitting distance from the Earthen Ring questgiver – not that I would spit on him, mind you, but I could if I wanted to. Not that I wanted to.

It’s been a while since I last spent any appreciable time in Stormwind. My largely abandoned (and soon to be deleted to make room for a worgen) bank alt was only online for seconds at a time; in fact, I was on him so infrequently that the Jack O’Lantern head he got last year at Hallows’ End stayed in place for over a month! My Warlock alt has lately been spending more time in Ironforge, which provides slightly more convenient access to Stratholme where he’s been trying to land Baron Rivendare’s goat horse (unsuccessfully, though he did get exalted with the Argent Dawn). Even my Paladin tends to go to Ironforge when the Auction House calls, I’m not quite sure why.

What I had forgotten in my absence is how rich Stormwind; how much stuff is happening in the background. There’s people everywhere and, unlike Ironforge and Darnassus, they’re actually doing things (I confess I haven’t been to Exodar enough to observe the folks there; Exodar gives me a headache, and I get lost every year during Children’s Week). The things that people say and do make it worth your while to watch them and listen – err, read their chat bubbles – to them while you’re going about your business. Instead of sitting on a mammoth in the center of the Trade District while waiting for the next invasion to begin, I suggest you walk around a bit and find them. Here are some of my favorites:

Lisa Pierce, Janey Anship and Suzanne. These ladies are frequently found sitting at the foot of the tower or roaming around between the mage quarter and the Cathredral District. They have a wide-ranging discussion on matters of the arcane which includes a Ghostbusters reference. Apparently they’re attempting to concoct a love potion.

Roman, Brandon and Justin. These kids fish in the canals and have some amusing conversations about monsters, orcs, crocolisks and worm guts.

William and Donna are a little more obnoxious than most. William steals Donna’s dolly and they run all around the city. Energetic little buggers, but a little tiresome.

Aedis Brom and Christoph Faral. You’ve got to love two guys who walk around the city with tankards in hand. These two fast friends and drinking buddies have some hilarious conversations about past military campaigns, war wounds, and the Glustewelt twins. They frequent the trade district before bellying up to the bar in the Pig and Whistle in Old Town. I happened to notice them for the first time shortly after stalking my current personal favorites: Karlee and Paige Chaddis, and Gil.

I ran into this trio quite by accident, noticing first Karlee’s eye-catching red and blue ensemble (Yeah, it sounds a little weird, I know). Paige Chaddis and Gil are rather ordinary children: Paige skips along like the little girl in Grizzly Hills that you have to escort to the Westfall Brigade, and Gil looks like my squire. Or the Prince. Gil is the only one who talks, and when he asked ‘Where we going?’, I found myself wondering right along with him, so I followed them. From Old Town, through the Trade District, a quick swing past the Cathedral district and on into the Mage Quarter. All the while, Gil keeps up a running commentary (‘My feet hurt’, ‘Why do we always go the same way?’, ‘Are we there yet?’). Paige and Karlee are silent. Eventually they arrive at their final destination: Ancient Curios, in the mage district, where Karlee asks for everything on the list, ‘especially the last ingredient.’ Hmmm, the last time I looked, the 'last ingredient' that Charys Yserian, the proprietor of the shop, had was either Corpse Dust or, more ominously, this.

By this time, I was quite curious, and my kids were actually wondering what was going on. I had already noticed something odd: Karlee and Paige are both identified as ‘Chaddis’, as in ‘Karlee Chaddis’ and ‘Paige Chaddis.’ Gil is just…Gil. Was he just some random boy tagging along? An illegitimate son? An orphan of Stormwind? And what is that last ingredient? Interestingly enough, in the shop, Karlee talks to Paige – but not to Gil. When business is finished, they walk out and continue their journey, looping around Stormwind and back to Old Town, while Gil's comments and complaints are ignored.

Very mysterious, all of it, and something I hope to get to the bottom of someday. Following Karlee, Paige and Gil inspired me to follow Aedis and Christoph. I’ve also started peeking in and following other NPC’s around Stormwind, and have to say I feel a bit like a creepy stalker. I’m sure there’s more of them out there that will provide some amusement, that I’ve never noticed before, and I hope to find them.

I do have to say I’m concerned, though. What happens when Deathwing comes along and wrecks half of Stormwind? Will Karlee, Paige and Gil still be able to get to Ancient Curios? Will Janey, Suzanne and Lisa have someplace to discuss love potions? What about Christoph and Aedis? Will they still enjoy drinking, and will they have a new story to add to the repertoire? ‘Deathwing burned me all over my body!’ ‘Hehe, wimp’, perhaps?

It’s been fun watching and listening to these folks, one of the nice touches that Blizzard has put into the game. Time may be running out for some of them, however. Here’s hoping Blizzard finds a way to keep them in the game and entertaining. And maybe throws some more of them into the other cities.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Week of QQ Will Get a Buff

The Paladin tugged off his plate gauntlet, and placed his hand gently on the shoulder of the sobbing priest.

‘There, there,’ he soothed comfortingly. ‘You did great. And besides, we all know that meters don’t matter.’

The priest looked up, tears streaking her face. She sniffed. ‘They – they don’t?’

‘Of course not,’ cooed the Paladin.

The priest bowed her head, drying her eyes on the hem of her cloak, cheered by his words. The Paladin caught the eye of another Holydin standing off to the side. He winked. The other Paladin laid a knowing figure along the side of his nose, nodding.

Of course they matter, said the look they exchanged. We just like to pretend that they don't.

Almost exactly one month ago the first shots of Cataclysm were fired: Patch 4.0.1 went live, and our world was turned upside down. Apparently, nobody’s world was turned upside down as much as Holy Paladins, and the forum threads reflected this. Quite possibly the very first QQ thread of the patch came from Paladin Yoshimoto, who launched a tirade at 12:27 AM on October 13:

I did love my holy pally.(did). After the patch for cata came out and my class was hit by the nuclear bomb of nerf i decided to try it out and i did i used to be good and top charts on healing my tanks. I liked to be the one making the raid possible with my tank healing that had been going on for years and years.

First, I wasn’t aware that raids weren’t possible without Holy Paladins -- how did anyone survive before I came along? But wait! There’s more:

So i went into a raid on my 80 holy pally and guess wat the tanks died. and died. and died. until the grp. well apart saying that they really hit the wrong class the class that made raids possible with large healz that cost a fair amount of mana,

Apparently the spelling errors were the results of typing in an apoplectic rage; later on in the thread he said:

…I'll try my best to keep the raid up, its just the healing meters are depressing me.

And so we come to the crux of the problem. We can tell everyone that meters don’t matter. We take the high horse and say it all the time, and bash raid leaders when they toss someone for not ‘doing better on the meters’. But when push comes to shove, and the world (of logs) is turned upside down, the truth comes out.

This theme was repeated over and over again in the week following Patch 4.0.1. For any post that thoughtfully examined the state of the Paladin (or, shockingly, praised the changes), there were 2, 3 or 4 posts that went along the following lines:

I've topped meters on pretty much every fight pre-4.0.1 and now I'm at the bottom doing 3k HPS , straining my brain and my fingers, I'm pretty much full 277…The 'mastery' is completely bugged because the absorb isnt getting registered by my meters…while the rest of the healing team are doing 7-8k hps im sitting down with my 3k HPS feeling like im not even contributing to the raid.

Just did a voa 25 with my holy pally, there was another holy pally in there. Both of us were bottom of the heal chart as well as top of the over healing chart.

We have gone from being top healers to bottom healers in one fell swoop.

Have to spam FoL outside of the HS rotation in order to pull half decent HpS.

We may of deserved a little nerf, but we got pushed to the bottom of the healing charts. I use to be able to do 30k crits. Now my highest is 24k if I am lucky.

These are all comments pulled from the Official Healer forum in the week following the launch of 4.0.1. The forums ran deep in Paladin tears, and the Paladin Class forum was even worse, given that it was filled by three specs of Paladins, all crying rivers at the patch and what it wrought. Paladins were ruined. We were the worst of the worst. There were lots of locked threads, and no doubt Ghostcrawler wielded the banhammer quite a bit in that time period.

Well, Blizzard was apparently paying some attention, and some of the signal must have cut through the noise, because after one week, intelligent observers noticed a change, and Ghostcrawler confirmed: Holy Paladins got a buff. The effect was immediate.

In-game, I noticed right away that my heals were hitting harder. My Holy Lights were landing for about 2200 per heal more than patch day, a substantial increase. That type of change went across the board, and with it, I saw my own place on the meters rise. Now, I will say that I believe Paladins did indeed need a buff. The simple truth is, healing just didn’t feel right, and it wasn’t simply a matter of getting used to some new spells, working with an incomplete UI, or dealing with tanks who suddenly seemed to be taking more damage. In truth, I’m OK with the notion that people will have to exist at less than full health, that I won’t be able to carpet bomb the raid with my biggest, most expensive heal, that Beacon is no longer an ability that I can lean on like Tiny Tim and his crutch. But in fact it felt like a struggle at times to even keep people at half health. We’re in farm content, killing bosses that we outgear by a large margin. We shouldn’t be struggling with it, especially when the raid is blowing these things to absolute smithereens (we killed some bosses last night in about half the time it took to kill them on 10/14). But we were struggling, and Blizzard listened.

I also noticed a change in the forums following the 10/18 patch. Suddenly, Paladin QQ was now largely coming from priests, including this particular favorite (that I believe drew a ban from the mighty crabman):

Proposed new Paladin ability:
Whining Wave = The collective force of the Paladin community's complaining smashes into your enemy knocking him back 60 yards and forcing him to throw buffs at you in a vain attempt to make it stop. Player force emotes /beg and screams, "Torment me no more!"

The good news about this change is that now the intelligent Paladin posters, the ones that can analyze what we need and talk about it rationally, now have the ability to do so, without being drowned out by posters like Snakux. We can focus now on how we’re going to fit into Catacontent when it comes out, and discuss whether or not you should reforge your crit into mastery or haste. As Kurn put it in her blog
it allows me to worry less about whether or not I CAN keep a target up, which lets me acclimate to the new ways of keeping my target up.
And that’s a Good Thing.

However, I can’t help but wonder about the Paladin community, and healers in general. Are we getting so competitive that we’ll be happy with anything, so long as it puts as at the top of the charts? What are we healing for? And if meters truly don’t matter, why do so many people get so upset when they find themselves at the bottom? Gutbukit, a level 1 warrior, may have had the most insightful post in Yoshimoto’s thread:

Holy paladins are fine, nothing wrong with them other than being dead last on healing meters.

In the end, all that matters is that we have fun and down content. The meters don't matter. Or is that just what we tell people so they'll feel better?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wrath of the Lich King: Hits and Misses

I'm always thrilled when I see a new post from Rohan. Blessing of Kings was the first WoW blog I ever read, back when I was looking for some good Holy Paladin information. Today, Rohan asked ‘How was your Wrath?’ I was going to answer her over there, but it would take up too much space. And I was due for another post, anyway, so here we go, with my own personal Hits and Misses.

Hit: The Scourge Invasion

Much as we started playing Cataclysm about three weeks ago, Wrath began around October 15, 2008 with patch 3.0.2. New talents, revamped specs, achievements – and major nerfs to BC content. The first patch effectively killed my interest in raiding; content that was still challenging for us as a guild became trivial after the patch. And so I began exploring, and playing with my new abilities.

The real start to Wrath began with a bang with the arrival of mysterious crates that touched off the highly-controversial Scourge invasion. The ensuing ghoul-fest was the highlight of the pre-Wrath period for me: Cleansing infected souls (at first by request only. Later I cleansed anyone whether they asked for it or not), killing those that transformed, and attempting to eat others when I found myself zombified. After a few days I decided to do my best to stay ‘clean’ and did not deliberately try to transform. All this while running the Hallows’ End quests.

Miss: The End of the Scourge Invasion

The simple truth was, as much as I loved the event, a lot more people hated it even more, and were very vocal about it. Blizzard has said they didn’t end the event early, but it sure felt that way to me. Once the cure for the plague was found, the remainder of the pre-expansion period was anti-climatic. I did globetrot in pursuit of Scourge necropoleis, or ziggurats, or whatever they were, but that scene was far less fun to me than the chaos of the ghoul invasion.

Hit: Leveling

As much as I enjoyed Wrath leveling and how it was done, it really wasn’t until I recently started pursuing (albeit halfheartedly) Loremaster that I truly appreciated how greatly Blizzard improved things for Wrath. Quest hubs are better designed – I think the pinnacle may be Zul’Drak in terms of hub design. And the stories – on the whole it was wonderfully done. I’m not a role player or a so-called lore nerd, but story is important to me. I read quest text, I watch cut scenes, I like to know what’s going on and why I’m doing it. There was a feeling of urgency about much of the questing, especially early on, and I felt like I was part of something bigger.

Drop rates for quest items improved (for an understanding of how truly bad old drop rates could be, go quest in the Blasted Lands before it changes), the Lich King was everywhere, and there were some epic questlines involving the major players in the game: Tirion, Bolvar, Thrall, Saurfang. Yes, there were some sidetracking (*cough*Nesingwary*cough*), but as a whole there was a tight theme running throughout.

Hit: Vehicle quests/combat

Ride an elephant and trample the bad guys! Drive a siege engine around Wintergarde Keep! Fire Chain guns to let the good guys get away! Wrath gave us vehicles up the wazoo, and it mostly worked. Some were a little clumsy to work, others nice and easy. By and large vehicles were fun, a nice diversion to smashing with maces and firing spells. But…

Miss: Eye of Eternity

In my view EoE misfired because of the design that had you fighting as yourself for the first six or seven minutes before mounting up and fighting as a dragon. With a completely different set of abilities. In an environment that was hard to ‘see’ in (I’ll note that I have some issues with depth perception in-game. Vile Spirits on LK are tough for me, too). I actually love phase 2 of that fight, where you’re frantically running around trying to stay in anti-magic bubbles while trying to knock floating blood elves out of the air. I don’t mind vehicle fights in general, and Blizz got it right for Ulduar and Oculus, where you can get used to your vehicles before fighting the boss. It was not well-executed for Malygos. Little wonder that we pretty much stopped going after we killed him for the first time.

Miss: The Argent Tournament and ToC

I’ll admit that I ground my way up to exalted with the five families of the Alliance and earned my Argent Crusader title, tabard and mounted squire. I’ll admit that I made a lot of gold doing so, and that the heroic ToC 5 man was a challenge on release. I’ll admit that I liked fighting Jaraxxus, the Twins, and Anub’arak. I can admit these things.

On the whole the Argent Tournament was a miss. The raid itself, while providing some challenge, was dull and lifeless. I like trash, I like movement in my raids, I like feeling like I’m going somewhere. On top of that, the whole tournament felt like a terrible diversion. Shouldn’t we have had this tournament before embarking to Northrend? The whole expansion has been about fighting Arthas, hurry, hurry, hurry. Now we’re taking a break for the Olympics? Sorry, didn’t work for me.

Hit: Ulduar, OS, Naxx

Some say Naxx was too easy. It sure kicked our butt initially. I found the size of both Ulduar and Naxx to be appropriately epic. As someone who had only been in Naxx once (and that was the night before 3.0 dropped) the fights were fresh for me. And I love fighting undead.

Ulduar just felt epic all the way. It looked great, there was lots to do, and a lot of interesting fights. I think Blizzard scored big-time on this one.

Hit: Icecrown Citadel

I think Blizzard really hit the mark well here. The instance is big, with plenty of trash (although you get to fight three bosses – LDW, Gunship, and Saurfang – with only three trashpacks in between) and some really interesting and entertaining fights. The encounters really showcase a breadth of skills that required good teamwork and communication from the raid. You might be able to crank out the dps and healing required to down Festergut, and then find yourself utterly unable to master dodging slime spray on Rotface. Extremely well done on Blizzard’s part.

Hit: The Strength of Wrynn/Song of Hellscream

I’ve covered this one before. I think this was a very elegant way for Blizzard to allow guilds like mine to progress without straight-up nerfing. Yes, while increasing damage output equates to a nerf of the boss’s health, it’s not the same as increasing the cooldown on Defile, for example. There is a bit of a miss in here, though; as the buff increased, it did encourage sloppy play. At lower buff levels you still had to get out of Death and Decay. At 30%? Not so much.

Hit: Gunship

As much as this was decried as ‘Lootship’ right from the get-go, I found this one to be amazingly taxing on my supposedly limitless mana pool. This fight was so different from the others, and a lot of fun. And now I can’t listen to Muradin without thinking of this gem of a video:

Miss: Gear inflation

Simply put, I feel that our gear escalated far too fast. At the risk of trotting out this old BC argument again, it felt like BC heroics remained a challenge far longer than Wrath heroics. It could be that I never geared up far enough in BC (attaining T4/5/BoJ levels) to trivialize the heroics, but even the ‘easy’ BC heroics like Ramparts and Slave Pens could put a big hurt on you if you weren’t careful. By the time we had cleared Naxxramas for the first time pretty much all the on-release heroics were easy.

Hit and Miss: Achievements

Yes, there’s something fun about falling off a zeppelin, surviving, and seeing an ‘achievement’ pop up. Or riding around the world and trying to get into the enemy’s capital city for a world explorer title. Yet achievements have a downside. First it was ‘LFM link achievement’. While I understand group leaders want to be successful, this sort of thinking led to the exclusion of capable players from groups. Next, I think that Achievements encourage a more selfish playstyle, which is not something you want in a group game. Fun overall, but sometimes annoying.

Miss: Emblem of What?

Back in Burning Crusade, we had Badges of Justice. In Wrath we’ve had Emblems of Valor, Heroism, Triumph, Conquest and Frost. I think Blizzard maybe even confused themselves with this one. Instead of having different badges for each level of gear, I think it would have been better to stick with one type of badge, have less gear available for those badges, and simply make higher-level gear more expensive.

Hit: The Lich King

What a great fight. And what a feeling to beat him. I hope the Deathwing fight is as good.

On the whole, Wrath was a big hit for me. I loved it on the overall. I had a blast. I know I’m missing some things from this list, but it’s already too long and I’ve taken too much time to write this. What about you? What are your hits and misses from Wrath?