Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fall of Theremore: the tipping point Blizzard DIDN'T intend

I'm not being melodramatic when I say this may be the tipping point for me not pick up MoP and possibly quitting altogether. I have played continuously since I first started in early BC, and have never gotten the burnout that most players do, I've always found something in the game to interest me and occupy my time. I love the game, the setting, the lore, and my characters.

Many people have now experienced the theramore "event" and the outcry is both terrible and deserved. How blizzard can put this piece of  crap out the door as-is is completely beyond my comprehension. It's terrible. It's worse than terrible, it's a slap in the face. A giant "F-U, go buy our book"  from blizzard. And it's either a sign that they just don't understand how to tell a good story anymore, or they just don't care. Or both. There's no context, no preamble, no setup, no resolution. It's like reading chapter 13 of a 25 chapter book without even a summary page, you'd have to go online and read the sparknotes to make heads or tales of it. And it wouldn't have been so bad except for how much HYPE blizzard has generated for it! It's a bigger disappointment than the so-called "epic" Thrall questline that consisted of " go kill 20 elementals without getting ganked, repeat 3 more times"

Cata shook my faith in Blizzard and for the first time, I nearly quit the game. It was not burnout, I HATED cataclysm, hated the changes, hated the stories and the new races (well, goblins). Hated how long everything took, how hard quest/daily mobs hit and how slowly they died, how difficult the dungeons were. Especially hated how silly everything was, between rediculously over the top goblins (who are now EVERYWHERE) and silly quests with non-stop pop-culture references with the on-rails storytelling. Hated that all my favorite quests were removed and all my favorite places gone, and hated doing hours and hours of archeology for a troll sword I never got, a long boring new "feature" that only succeeded in giving me plenty of time flying over the world instead of experiencing it to think about how much I hated the changes. Only transmog kept me playing, it was announced the day after I decided I would let my account slip and it saved the game for me. My raid team is the only other reason I still play, they're all kinds of awesome.

But MoP looks terrible. It's like they read my psych profile and set out to make the worst possible expansion  for me, tailor-made. I hate pandas. I hate that they're called panda people, and that they come from panda land, and that they know kung fu and are chinese. Some aspects of the xpac look neat, but the core doesn't engage me at all. I was willing to give it a chance despite my complete lack of excitement over it, but now? Blizzard has cemented the fact that they have lost the magic they used to have. The game is nothing like what made me love it, what made me want to lose myself in it. I don't feel tired of playing it, I feel copletely let down and abandoned in favor of what Blizzard thinks will somehow be "fun" and I just don't see it at all. All I see is a bunch of developers REALLY excited about everything I don't care about, and everything I care about gone or back-burnered or de-emphasized. Talk about a sad panda.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We interupt this broadcast...

Not exactly Warcraft, but it is elves and it does have a war- prefix. Besides, it's my blog and nobody reads it anyways, so there's that. Anyways, I've been working on my old love again: miniature wargaming. Specifically some Warmachine stuff for the first time in a very long time (basically since the mk2 edition change). Retribution of Scryah was the last faction to come out, hitting just before mk2 released. I had thought about it at the time since they're elves, but was pretty heavy into Cygnar  (despite them being pretty distinctly not-elves) and didn't want to jump on the new hotness bandwagon, despite my predilection for elves (I don't think I mentioned elves enough yet). Plus the army seemed like a bit of a pain to paint, lots of large, smooth, white armor that would require lots of layers and blending to look right.

I did pick up a warjack and a solo to paint up, and they turned out fantastic, but sure enough took forever to paint and that's about as far as I got with them. Mk2 really turned me off from the game, all my awesome Cygnar stuff became mediocre, all the mediocre stuff I never bought became awesome, and all my medium sized (now mediocre) units I needed to get more guys for (and match 5 year old paintjobs) since in mk2 you can ONLY have minimum or maximum units. Add in having to relearn all the stuff that had changed and I lost all interest. But a leaked version of the new Warhammer 40k edition got me interested again, and since that's months off I decided to go back to Warmachine and get back on the scene. I sold most of my cygnar to a sucke...friend amd used the money to get Retribution stuff.

I  like the standard scheme for Retribution, but I don't have turquise ink so I used purple for the weapons and arcane effects. The green and black I may go back and highlight more, it looks fine up close but kinda blends in too much on the table-top. Here's the finished Warcasters I picked up, Ravyn, Garryth and Kaelyssa


The original Solo I painted up, a Dawnguard Scyir (who isn't that great in game, it turns out). I originally went with a n ivroy instead of highlighting to white, so he may get highlighted a bit more or left as-is since he's a solo. The green is much brighter than the other models, and I'm still debating bringing the rest up to that color. His base is a rackham base, and I was going to use that style for all my Retribution, but then I realised my mercenary units wouldn't match, so I dropped it for the same style i used with my Cygnar. He will need ot be rebased if he's going to see any in-game use.

 A WIP shot of what's on the bench, some nearly finished solos. An Arcanist, a Soulless Escort, and 2 Mage hunter Assassins

   and the original Manticore I painted, which now has to be lightened up to white, and a Gorgon that needs a lot of work. A Pheonix and a Griffon are on the bench too, as are a unit of Dawnguard Sentinels and Officer, all at the same level of paint as the Gorgon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The problem with nerfs

This started as a comment to a post over on Blessing of kings, which itself was a response to
Kurn's post about the Dragon Soul nerfs. But, it got a little long in the tooth, so I figured I'd leave a shorthand comment there and anyone that cares can follow through to the full monty.

So yeah. Blizzard is nerfing the current raid, while it's still current. Again. At least they're starting with small nerfs this time, but it still hurts. It's not an elitist thing, it's not a "catering to casuals" thing. It's far more subtle and personal, at least for me. Lancore made a comment over there I thought I'd reiterate: the people that suffer most from these are the casual-hardcores. The Minor League of raiders: good, capable players that only the locals know and follow and beyond that don't get much beyond doing what they love. Raiders that almost certainly could down that next boss, given a few more weeks of practice and gear. Blizzard has said it themselves, encounters nerf themselves over time as players gear up and learn the fights. You prepare yourself, you gem and enchant your gear, you flask up and eat your food, you read the strategy. But the best videos in the world aren't the same as going in there and spending a night wiping to something. Sometimes a 2nd night is needed, maybe you need to come back next week with a few more pieces of gear, and try a few more attempts. Eventually the gear and the practice lower the hurdle enough to get over. It's only extended amounts of time on the same hurdle that cause issues, and I don't see how we can already be so close to that kind of wall.

Blizzard says we are, and that they have data to show guilds have already stopped progressing (already after 7 weeks? Really?)  but it just feels like it's too soon, like we haven't REALLY been able to show that yes, we're stuck and need help. It feels like it's too soon to really be coming up against these impassable walls. Surely with such data, blizzard knows where these walls ARE, right? If so then nerfing certain encounters should be the answer, not a blanket nerf.

To those that say "you can just turn it off, it's the same thing" it really isn't. If you're trying to get a first kill and there is still another boss after, you use everything you possibly can to get past the immediate encounter and on to the boss after. That's just what you DO in progression. You use all the gear and food/flasks and gems/enchants so you can to give you that edge, to lower that bar enough to climb over. Once you get over, once you get that all important first kill, after that it's always much easier. You don't get any achievements or extra/better gear for turning the buff/nerf off, you just delay getting to that next boss, and you lower your world/server ranking for those that care about such things, websites that only track the date you killed something, no credit is given for self-imposed handicaps.

It's not the nerfs even, it's The nerfs coming so quick. It takes away the amount of facetime you put into a boss (which is where the REAL progression should be happening) and replaces it with an easymode, it lowers the bar so you don't have to work as hard to climb over it. so you can get that all important first kill and move on. And you DO want to move on, there's still other bosses to kill, so you do it. Only afterwards do you realize it feels kind of empty. You get to the next (supposedly harder) boss and that's cool, right That's what progression is all about, right?

New boss! Awesome! Fantastic! Wonderful! but there's this nagging feeling in the back of your mind. Something is about it, like you cheated yourself out of an experience. That feeling that you probably COULD have done it without that extra few % if you had just applied yourself a bit more, and now you'll never know because it's already DONE. You got that first kill, the one that matters. The hard one.

When the boss is still standing, undefeated, you use everything available to you to get past that hurdle. It's really only when you look back and wonder what might have been that it really starts to gnaw at you, and THAT is the problem with these nerfs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How To: Retribution

How To: Retribution

OK, this isn't actually a guide on how to play retribution as there's some guides out there that totally blow away anything I could write up. Instead I'll just link to those guides and provide some useful info that ISN'T in those guides. To start, you simply can't beat the Elitist Jerks forum for any class questions, and specifically the Retribution Concordance (currently updated for 4.2 at time of writing). All the information for how to play, what to spec, and what stats are best and worst for you are here, definitely worth the read.

Now, even with awesome guides like that I've seen a lot (and I mean a LOT!) of people complain that retribution is hard to play and they suck at it. Every time i see this, my first thought isn't that it's difficult to play or that they're bad players, but simply the information you need to properly play is scattered to the 4 corners of the screen. Quite literally! Your abilities are all along the bottom and sides of your screen, your holy power is in the upper left, and the inquisition buff is hidden with the rest of your buff in the upper right. Default blizzard UI = crappy ret pally. Even me, I SUCKED the few times I tried to play on a friend's computer. So what to do? First things first, read up on your class above. Next, grab yourself some addons buddy!

With that understanding of WHAT to do, the clincher to playing ret is WHEN to do it. When do you Templar's Verdict vs use Inquisition is the biggest one. Ideally, you have Inquisition up 100% of a boss fight. But that's not always possible, and it's hard to track effectively. There's 2 ways to get around this. CLCret is a good starter addon. It tells you what ability to use next for maximum single-target dps. It doesn't actually use the abilities for you, just tells you the ideal one to use next. It's very helpful, but I suggest only using it long enough to get a feel for when you should be using abilities, I don't like being constantly told what to do. It feels like the addon is playing for me, instead of telling me information and me making those decisions. But, the very beginner can stop reading this guide right now, it'll still be here when you come back.

For the real meat of it, you need brace yourselves for some ugly. This is my (extremely cluttered) UI with all my addons running. Brace yourself...

Pretty bad, I know. You can see I'm in the middle of a Hex Lord Malacrass fight in a random Zul'Aman 5 man group, and I've just popped all my major dps CDs. Well, you could see that if you could make heads or tails of the info on my screen, so lets break it down.
There's a lot of addons I didn't highlight, mostly because they're not at all necessary. Heck, even the ones I highlighted aren't all necessary, just useful. Again, it looks really cluttered (and it is) but that's how I like my info, everything available at just a glance. You'll notice a lot of it is redundant as well, You don't need player and enemy healthbars in the middle of the screen when they're at the top too, and you don't need party frames at all with a healing mod like healbot. You could very easily take a few of these away and still have all the info at your fingertips, but a lot less to look at on screen, this is just a personal preference that I can have stuff in different areas. However, there are some important bits that I would suggest to every single ret pally, a few key points.

First and foremost, despite the clutter you'll notice all my essential, important info front and center highlighted in pink, blue and red. My health and mana bars are to the left of my character, but more importantly my Holy Power is right underneath my feet, so I can watch it while making sure to not stand in Bad Stuff. Right below Holy Power is my major buff timers for Inquisition and my DPS cooldowns, and below that at the bottom of my screen is all my abilities clumped into one nice big cluster, so I'm not searching the 4 corners of my screen for abilities. Everything I really need to watch is right there in the center of the screen, near my character so I can watch positioning. These are the essentials you need to play ret effectively, the rest is just stuff i like to be able to see at a glance, in my periphery.

Essential Addons:

iceHUD for one major reason: the holy power. The health bars are nice, but it's the holy power (and runes on my DK) that i care about. X-Perl can do the same thing if you want a party frames addon but not the health bars, and there's other addons out there as well, but again what is important is moving Holy Power being somewhere so obvious you know how much you  have at at all times. Ret uses a priority rotation and the biggest deciding factor in that priority is how much holy Power you have. It determines everything, when you refresh inquisition, when you can TV, when you should pop zealotry, when you should skip CS at times. Everything. Holy Power tracking is key to this, so make it obvious.

TellMeWhen is an amazing, highly customizable addon for any class. In this case it's used to track Inquisition (as well as a few other things). It gets set up right below Holy Power because upkeeping that buff is incredibly important. TMW is very similar to Power Auras and is pretty much completely interchangeable. The main difference is TMW shows an ability icon with optional timers  instead of a glowing symbol. Either addon will do the same thing, but I prefer TMW by far. Use it to track buffs/debuffs/procs/status effects you want, or to track when multiple buffs line up, or any number of stuff. For tracking Inquisition I have it set to show a timer and it glows big and red and angry if it's not up, but is hidden outside of combat. In the screenshot above you can see I also have it show my durations on Avenging Wrath, Guardian of Ancient kings, and Zealotry (which should all be used together for max effect) so I can see at a glance how long I have left for burn phases. Ret is very dependant on these CDs and mismanaging my abilities while they're up, activating them at the wrong time or even just poor luck with procs can have a HUGE impact on DPS.

Dominos action bar addon. This barely made the essential list, but again it puts info you need (your abilities) front and center, and keeps you from having to look around and move your mouse across your entire screen. Abilities I have hotkeyed are on the bottom, abilities I click the most are at the top, and rarely used abilities are in the middle. Bartender4 is another addon that does the exact same thing with one exception: profiles. Bartender requires a custom setup per character, Dominos will save button positions to a profile set that any character can then load. Amazingly important when you have alts (and boy do I have alts!)

Deadly Boss Mods. Do I really have to say why? It tells you when important things are happening during encounters. If you don't use it, you're not going to be as effective in fights. Period.

Suggested addons:
X-Perl Unit Frames and other unit frame addons are awesome. Not QUITE as necessary now that the default raid frames are pretty nice, but X-Perl displays some very useful info. Most importantly, you'll notice the Boss frame has a few large debuffs next to all the smaller ones. Those are mine. Not as important for ret pallies as other classes, but it means I don't need to use any kind of DoT timers on my DK or hunter. Another great thing is it shows target of target for every party member so I can see what people are attacking. Lots of other info like curable debuffs can be shown, or when members are out of range etc, but mostly it's a DoT timer with extra info is why I like it.

Omen and Recount. Omen is mostly for tanking actually, the built in threat meter is ok for DPSing. Recount is almost essential though. Not for linking meters to stroke your Epeen, mind you, but as a measure for how you're doing. I always run it, and I'm always comparing how I'm doing to how I've done on fights in the past. It's a great tool for self-improvement and for figuring out where you or others might be making mistakes. Just don't abuse it.

Healbot. Or Grid+Clique, or VuhDu. These addons could easily completely replace your raid/party frames if you want, clearing up screen real estate. "But," I hear you say, "You're a RET paladin! you DAMAGE stuff, you don't need a healing addon!". ORLY? Healing addons are awesome for ret, for a few reasons. They let you throw out easy Word of Glories and Lay on Hands without target swapping (which can take precious seconds) . They track curable debuffs so you can cleanse with a click. You can set them up to use your Hand abilities with a simple click of the mouse without having to target the player then click the ability that you probably don't have hotkeyed. What's that? Adds wreaking havoc and the healer has aggro? *click* -Hand of Protection- *keep DPSing like you didn't just totally save the day*. Escorting the flag carrier in WSG? *click* -Hand of Freedom- keep killing stuff like a boss. Very useful.

Setting up Tell Me When:
TMW setup is definitely NOT intuitive. There's some good youtube guides out there, but here's a quick and dirty one for setting up inquisition. Start by typing /tmw, and right-click on any of the empty buttons to set up an icon.

Enable the icon with the checkbox and use the dropdown list to select Buff/Debuff

Typing the name of the ability in the command line. Most are preloaded into TMW and you can select it at the pane on right. 

Most of the options here we don't care about, but make sure you click the Buff checkbox, and show a timer for it, and always show so it,  that way it turns red and angry if you let it fall off. The icon is now set up to display, but it'll show at all times, which can get annoying, so we'll set it to only show during combat.

Click the Conditions tab at the bottom, add a condition with the green plus sign. From the dropdown menu mouseover Unit Conditions and select Unit in Combat

Move the icons wherever you want them on the screen. You'll notice there's a bazillion other options and settings for the addon, so play around with it if you want. Type /TMW again to lock everything in place. Now you're ready for a fight!

Hrm, you'll notice in that screenshot that the enemy nameplates are not default either. Yes! another mod! Threat Plates is an addon for an addon (modception? better go deeper). You'll need Tidy Plates to use Threat Plates, but both are pretty lightweight. As you see above the nameplates are big and red and have those "PAY ATTENTION TO ME" dags like store sale signs or batman "POW!" "ZIF!" "BAM!" effects. That's because I'm dps and stuff is attacking me! Now, if i were a tank, the plates would be happy and green and calm, like so:

Now the addon thinks I'm a tank, and tanks should have aggro so the plates are calm ang green, everything's right with the world. If i start to lose aggro (or gain it as DPS) the plates get bigger and yellow, then red and angry if I fully lose/gain aggro. It determines this based on the aura, or you could tell it to ignore auras and use your current spec. Good addon for DPS, absolutely AWESOME addon for tanking since you can tell at a glance exactly what mobs have your undivided attention and which need to be taunted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thoughts on Mists of Pandaria

Well, Blizzcon is over and blizzard has officially announced MoP the next world of warcraft expansion. I'm still deciding if I simply don't care, or if I'm actively upset about that. That's kinda sad that I can't even really tell, isn't it? I mean, a whole new expansion, a whole new race, a whole new class, tons of new features and ways to play, that should be a good thing, right? I should be totally stoked right? Right? But everything just seems so damned silly... I love wow, I'm a big enough man to admit my true feelings. I love the story, the history, the characters. I love how fleshed out it is. I was gonna say how real, but that's not at all true. Perhaps how real it is to itself. That's not entirely true either, but I'll go with it.

I'm not an RPer, I've tried a few times, and I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons over the years, but I just can't pretend to be a character. What I like doing, however, is experiencing a story as a character, to use that character as a medium to tell a story even if I'm the only audience. I like to think of my characters as existing within their fictional worlds, as having an impact upon those worlds and upon the fictional people around them. They are toys to play out the scenarios in my head, since I'm a poor artist and a worse author. Ideally I would create my own comics or cartoons, if I had the skill, but I will settle for these digital avatars.

What does this have to do with Mists of Pandaria? Oh, only just everything. If the game becomes too silly, thee it becomes a joke and not a story. It loses credibility as a setting and loses meaning. It becomes something to see instead of something worth experiencing. How many comedies are good cinema? They're fun, as a quick escape for 90 minutes, but they generally don't hold up well over time. I feel the same thing is happening to wow. Blizzard realized people loved the little jokes here and there, the sly winks in the quest text, the little pop culture reference here and there. Blizzard slipped it in to bring some levity to an otherwise solemn occasion, and it worked oh so well. But they went overboard in cataclysm. Goblins are ridiculously over the top, an entire zone devoted to a bad Indiana Jones joke, quests that go beyond a wink and a nudge and full on bring you out of the game and into our own world. I hope it doesn't turn out this way, but I see what came before and i see where it's going, and I can only hope that I'll be surprised to find my fears unfounded. Unfortunately, I think my fears are WELL founded, and I feel the game suffers for it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September update

Well, I'm playing again with renewed fervor, almost entirely due to the announced transmogrification. Spent the last few days leveling the priest I originally made in BC and never got to level cap, just so she could go back and get her T6 (already got 4 pieces now! woo!).

After seeing an article on WoW Insider about a classic raiding guild, I made Eirik, a human paladin twink, and got him up to 60 over on Draka, only to realize there really isn't anything left to do at 60, it's all been removed and "updated" for other levels. Half the raids are gone, many of the old level cap dungeons are now leveling dungeons. And unlike my 70 twink, turning off XP puts you into the different twink-only battlegrounds, which never pop. There is a grand total of 4 old world dungeons left to do at 60 now, whereas a 70 has all the heroics available, and a total of 4 raids left. The classic raiding guild is hardcore too, 4 nights a week and full DKP system in place, might be a little too much for a fun side-project, they expect this to be a dedicated main.

Been running lots of old raids on all my characters lately, which is AWESOME! Almost got Rhelyk his ICC achievement drake, finished Khael's T1, odds and ends on other characters too.

And of course Elladrion, who has now defeated firelands...sort of. He's now 7/7 normal modes, but since you don't freaking kill ragnaros that means almost nothing beyond a simple number higher than 6/7. Might be different if a Sulfuras had dropped, he's still rocking Shulag off of Cho'gall. Got his 4 piece at least so I don't have to look at those godawful troll shoulders anymore. Here's hoping 4.3 drops soon, so he can start rocking his old sets!