Screenshot Saturday – Sunsets

The sun setting over Kamagua in the Howling Fjord.

Sun eating trees in Felwood.

Finally, a blissful sunset in Westfall.

Fair Play

This weekend is an Arathi Basin weekend and sadly there is a new trend in town.

In  each of the games I’ve played, at least one person has tried to cheat. What do you do when you’re playing a team game with strangers and not all of them are playing by the rules?

Sure, I’m competitive to the point of being slightly crazy but I loathe cheating (apart from when I’m playing Mr Harpy at Chess. What can I say, he’s better at it than me and besides cheating at Chess requires skill). Winning fairly is far more fun than winning because some “enterprising” mage has four bases tagged before the other team make it out of the gate. But just as the Horde team are helpless in the face of those tactics so are the rest of the Alliance team. We can’t stop people escaping early and  we can’t stop them tagging up half the map.

So when the gates finally open, what can we do? Absolutely nothing. Standing around and letting the Horde win would let down the rest of your team, besides it goes against every fibre of my being. Instead, we end up defending nodes won in dubious circumstances, after all, what other choice do we have. Each victory feels hollow but we can’t do anything about it. You enter each new game thinking “this one will be different”, but it never is. In one game I played this afternoon, by the time the gates opened legitimately I was one of only three people still trapped behind them. Yep, that’s a level playing field if ever I saw one.

What are Blizzard doing about this? Nothing it seems. This exploit has existed for years but for some reason it’s got really popular today. I know the Horde in my Battlegroup aren’t particularly adverse to cheating themselves, they were rather bad with flag runners grabbing rides in choppers before that bug got fixed but I don’t want to win like this. I want a proper fight, not one where the enemy don’t see the point in fighting properly because you have a major head start. Right now, cheaters are ruining the game for the Horde and for the Alliance who don’t want victory handed to them on a tainted plate. One or two people (in most cases) spoiling games for 28-9 others and yet reporting them doesn’t seem to make a difference.

So come on Blizzard, stop playing with ideas like RealID and fix the PvP system please. It’s stuff like this that stops you handing out decent items for people just doing their best in random battlegrounds. Cheating on a scale like this needs stopping and stopping fast. At this rate, the vast majority of Alliance will forget how to properly play AB without a cheat code so when it does get fixed, our win rate will plummet (got to get my priorities straight).

Imagine a rated Battleground Arathi Basin in which the Alliance team has four nodes tagged before the gates open and is waiting by the Horde entrance with a bunch of CC heavy classes… Something needs done and soon. Personally I’d like to see all honour, all items earnt by honour, all arena points and all arena related items removed from people who cheat in PvP. There is no way you tag the Blacksmith by accident before the game starts, there is no way you downloaded a bot program by accident nor are you jumping a corner because you think there might be rainbow fairies hiding in your pocket. Not only are these cheats gaining things they don’t deserve, they are griefing other people and that’s something that needs taken very seriously in a multi player game.

Ah well, only another 200 or so wins to exalted then I’m never going to set foot in Arathi Basin ever again. Although no doubt by the time I’m exalted, the random battleground finder will stop picking Strand of the Ancients for me and start giving me Arathi Basin instead.

Loremaster

Finally, I’ve done it. I tracked down those last few remaining quests today and was rewarded with perhaps the ugliest tabard ever.

The extra icing on the cake was picking up a leaping hatchling in passing. He’s adorable.

I was surprised at just how many quests the Alliance can do in the Barrens but my main tip to anyone struggling to find quests for either continent would be to pick up your dungeon set bracers, i.e. if you’re a priest like me, the devout ones and tackle the quest chain to upgrade it. It’s amazing fun and sends you all over the place looking at things which might cease to exist very soon.

Monday Musing

I’ve been running UBRS in the vain hope that I’ll get another Devout Dress. I realise now that destroying it as soon as I got an upgrade in Molten Core was  a huge mistake. So far however, it refuses to drop. No doubt that’s karma or something as I got one the first time I ventured in there originally. Anyway, I’ve got this semi crush on Victor Nefarius. He’s got some of the best bad guy lines in-game and whilst his minions might be muppets, he at least understands the importance of killing the healer first (although he obviously forgets it as soon as he turns into a dragon).

On top of that, there is his excellent dress sense. A fiery halo/crown definitely says it’s owner means business. The thought of a dragon with leather working is a bit sick though.

Who are these two and why are they lurking just outside Feathermoon Stronghold? Victims of a shipwreck perhaps but then why not seek aid in the town five yards away.  No doubt they are up to no good.

There are so many of these unused NPCs lurking around Azeroth. Intended perhaps to be quest givers, they serve no purpose. I hope come Cataclysm, rather than just removing them, Blizzard give them something to do.

Finally, why don’t people defend in battlegrounds? Picture this, Arathi Basin. An Alliance held node is under attack, it’s being announced in battleground chat. You res at said node and riding past you see a Priest fighting two Horde. So far she’s in no great danger of dying in the next 20 seconds but it’s obvious she isn’t going to win. What do you do?

Well if you play in Misery, you ride past and go to the safety of a node which isn’t under attack and happens to be already well defended. I could perhaps understand someone not reading battleground chat, but he selected me and surely he could hardly miss the fact that I was covered in debuffs. Nor I would imagine could he miss the two fairly large Horde thumping me in the face. It smacks of cowardice, but why would anyone suffer from that in game? It’s not as if I’m covered in bruises because my Priest spent the morning PvPing. I am however covered in bruises but that’s because I’m an idiot who fell down stairs last week. Dying doesn’t cost you anything in battlegrounds and surely winning is better than dying a couple of times anyway?

In other news, Erinys picked up mount number 74. I never thought I’d like to ride a ram, but I’m rather taken with this one’s evil violet eyes. He looks ever so slightly mad.

My baby warrior is not so baby any more. She’s lv 67 and hating Outlands with a passion. In fact the only thing she hates more than questing at the moment is frost mages. Unfortunately half our battlegroup seem to be levelling frost mages in preparation for the expansion. Battlegrounds are a painful place when skillstorm is on cooldown. I love bladestorm, it’s like junk food or cherry joke. You know it’s bad for you but it’s so much fun, especially when warlocks desperately spam fear into it. At lv 67 being able to do 14k of damage from one ability seems a little overpowered.

Outside WoW, my new favourite thing is a recipe for yoghurt cake. It’s completely foolproof, unlike our stairs and always tastes delicious. This morning I made one with creamy banana yoghurt and lots of banana bits and the whole house smells of baking.

Screenshot Saturday – An Exercise in Frustration

I logged this morning thinking I’d do a couple of Isle of Conquests. Given that the “random” battleground queue favours Strand of the Ancients over all others, I love the battleground weekends as they provide an opportunity to do something different. So there I am in the queue, no time available on the last 10 players and I wait. I wait a bit more and then a bit more. Nothing so I decide to ride down and finish exploring the last few bits of Westfall my Druid is missing. Explore Westfall pings, still no eta on an Isle of Conquest.

Off I go to Redridge, one of my favourite zones.

The sky always looks so vivid above those orange cliffs. I feel the Orcs are missing a trick here, that bridge would be awesome for a spot of bungee jumping. Instead of fighting people all day long they could make a fortune as a tourist attraction.

Definitely vacation spot worthy, little hidden pools with waterfalls to shower under and clear water to bathe in. Although I’m drawn to all zones with lots of water in them. By the time I had finished exploring Redridge and taken the time to jump off the bridge and swim in all the lakes… still no Isle of Conquest.

Into the Burning Steppes I go. Collect some thorium, explore the zone fully, kill a rarespawn and up into Blackrock Mountain. By this point I remember my Druid still hasn’t handed in her attunement to the core quest, so I take a quick dive into the lava (it really isn’t as hot as I remember it being) and get my handful of silver. Sprinting up the chain, it’s out in the Searing Gorge.

Once that is fully explored, off into the Badlands I go.

Pay the creepy dead guy in the crypt a visit. Wonder if the two sidekicks were servants or just passers-by who made the fatal mistake of trying to steal his sword. I love how Blizzard put stuff like this in-game, it serves or at least seems to serve no real purpose but it’s great to discover, especially by chance.

Badlands explored, still no Isle of Conquest. By the time I cross into Loch Modan, I’m starting to get distinctly grumpy. Ride around the lake, find yet more rarespawns and wonder why Loch Modan is called a loch yet all the lakes in the Dwarf start zone are called lakes. If they were sticking with the Scottish theme, shouldn’t they all be lochs? Wondering if it’s due to size and wishing I had paid more attention in geography, I leap from the dam.

Just underneath is one of my favourite picnic spots. It’s quiet, perhaps not surprisingly because not that many people actually seem to leap off the dam (I have to admit, I wouldn’t recommend it without either slowfall, levitate or engineering). Climbing down the rest of the way, still waiting for my Isle of Conquest, I explored the Wetlands in a leisurely fashion. Making sure I took the time to get a good look at Grim Batol and picking up a baby dragon hatchling on route.

Squawk and Awe in action

Having satisfied myself that I had completely and fully explored the Wetlands and by now rather fed up, I crossed into Arathi Highlands. Where, obviously picking up on my mood, the heavens opened. Then just when I was about to log in disgust, an enter Isle of Conquest dialogue box promptly appeared. The game lasted all of eight minutes and was a series of disasters from start to finish, but at least  I got a game, right?

Cataclysmic changes to the talent trees

I was going to rant about RealID but then this caught my eye:

Talent trees will have around 20 unique talents instead of today’s (roughly) 30 talents, and aesthetically will look a bit more like the original World of Warcraft talent trees. The 31-point talents will generally be the same as the 51-point talents we already had planned for Cataclysm. A lot of the boring or extremely specialized talents have been removed, but we don’t want to remove anything that’s going to affect spell/ability rotations. We want to keep overall damage, healing, and survivability roughly the same while providing a lot of the passive bonuses for free based on your specialization choice.

While leveling, you will get 1 talent point about every 2 levels (41 points total at level 85). Our goal is to alternate between gaining a new class spell or ability and gaining a talent point with each level. As another significant change, you will not be able to put points into a different talent tree until you have dedicated 31 talent points to your primary specialization. While leveling, this will be possible at 70. Picking a talent specialization should feel important. To that end, we want to make sure new players understand the significance of reaching the bottom of their specialization tree before gaining the option of spending points in the other trees. We intend to make sure dual-specialization and re-talenting function exactly as they do today so players do not feel locked into their specialization choice.

The full post can be found here.

My first reaction was one of negativity. Losing talent points seemed like a bad design until I had a think about how much garbage makes up the  Holy priest tree. As long as it’s the bad filler stuff that vanishes, this can only be a good thing. Take the current version of the priest talent tree as an illustration. All the first tier are basically things which could easily be built into the spec or given to the class across the board. 5 percent crit, anti-pushback for healing spells and a slightly larger renew, none of which are exciting or class defining. Yet if you were to spend points in all three of them, that would be 10 talent points gone.

Tier 2 isn’t much more better. We have 5 points to get 10 percent less spell damage taken and 5 points to knock 0.5 seconds off the cast time of various spells. Spell warding could be either knocked down to one point or combined with other PvP talents further down the tree. As for Divine Fury, again it could simply require less talent points or be removed as a talent all together. Would there be any harm in allowing all holy priests or even all priests to have a marginally faster casting smite for example? Probably not. Shadow priests wouldn’t use it and if Disc gets penance at lv 10, they probably wouldn’t use it much either.

Basically it’s tier 3 before we get any new abilities at all. Desperate Prayer and Inspiration are the first at all interesting points in the tree. Everything up to that point is utilitarian and frankly fairly dull. There is plenty of room for manoeuvre at the moment. For me, it all depends on what they remove and whether the bits and pieces we lose get baked into the talent tree or to the class as a whole.  I would much rather spend all my talent points in cool, fun stuff and I hope that’s what we get to do in the future.

However I don’t like the concept of having to spend 31 points in one tree. I can understand why Blizzard are implementing it, they don’t want people cherrypicking abilities from two trees but it relies on the whole of your primary tree being worth taking. For example for much of vanilla, the Priest cookie cutter build was something like 25/26. Not because that made us overpowered, but because it was the best of the dubious options available.

The initial talent tree selection unlocks active abilities that are core to the chosen role. Our goal is to choose abilities that let the specializations come into their own much earlier than was possible when a specialization-defining talent had to be buried deep enough that other talent trees couldn’t access them. For example, having Lava Lash and Dual-Wield right away lets an Enhancement shaman feel like an Enhancement shaman. Other role-defining examples of abilities players can now get for free at level 10 include Mortal Strike, Bloodthirst, Shield Slam, Mutilate, Shadow Step, Thunderstorm, Earth Shield, Water Elemental, and Penance.

My future Dwarf shaman is bouncing gleefully at the thought of thunderstorm at lv 10. Wonder if that means Holy Priests will get Circle of Healing at level 10? My cynical side says welcome to a world where you get the current version of Lightwell at lv 10 and have to spend around 20 talent points to make it at all usable. Although Ghostcrawler has made noises which suggests it won’t be Lightwell but I’m not going to get my hopes up just yet. So what  are Holy’s defining spells?

  • Circle of Healing
  • Lightwell
  • Spirit of Redemption
  • Guardian Spirit

None of which are particularly good for an ability you gain at lv 10. The other abilities Blizzard have mentioned are useful in all aspects of the game. Take Earth Shield, it helps you grind as a low level (pushback reduction and passive healing), it helps you heal dungeons and it helps you PvP. What does Holy have which fulfils a similar function? Well certainly none of the four “iconic” spells I covered earlier. After all one requires you to die, which isn’t particularly effective when solo, although it can be useful in low level dungeons and PvP. Lightwell lacks mobility and fails a bit in group content because the group usually refuse to use it. Guardian Spirit requires you or else to come close to death and circle of healing is only efficient when you are in a group. Desperate prayer perhaps but again, it’s hardly exciting or spec defining. One possible solution would be to use the chakra system if it makes it into the game as it would provide both a buff to healing and dps.

All the rest of the points in holy are pretty much modifiers to our existing spells. So as long as their effects are baked in as passives or merged with other points, I don’t see us missing out and hopefully we’ll gain something new and funky as well. Fingers crossed for a interesting Lightwell that’s actually worth using please. I’m definitely interested in seeing what they plan on giving holy priests, holy paladins and resto druids. Particularly paladins, my mind is kind of blank on that front, especially since they said that holy shock would be baseline for all specs.

I fully admit Blizzard are not my favourite people at the moment (RealID grrrr) but if they manage to get this working by the time Cataclysm ships, I’m potentially fairly excited (assuming I overcome my dislike of the way they are forcing us to choose between privacy or posting on the forums and actually buy the expansion). To me they are making all the right noises, wanting to get rid of all the five point talents and add the dull modifiers in as passives is a good thing. Whether they have left it a bit late to get right remains to be seen.

Shared Topic – Go die in a Fire?

Over at Blog Azeroth this week’s shared topic is:

When should a healer let someone die?

suggested by Ecclesiastical Discipline.

Now my first instinctive response is NEVER EVER EVER. Conditioned perhaps by five years of healing groups in WoW, I get upset with myself if anyone or anything dies on my watch. Hunter’s pets, suicidal mages and lifetapping warlocks.. doesn’t matter the circumstances leading up their demise. I always feel guilty. However I realise that is an unrealistic approach. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the good of the many.

My priority list for 5 mans goes something like this:

  1. The tank. Why the tank first? Well if they are at all competent they stand between the other four people and certain death. Why not me first? In five mans, quite often a tank can survive without a dedicated and specced for healer. I’ve healed a couple of heroic fights purely as a ret paladin throwing art of war procs at the tank for example. In reverse though, if your party is a bunch of undergeared casters facing a melee boss, you might not make it without the tank. Luckily spells like binding heal mean you don’t have to make that call often.
  2. Me.
  3. Sensible non-fire hugging Dpsers
  4. Anyone else

Even category four gets a couple of chances to allow for lag and/or mistakes. If they never move from anything bad or never use any relevant cooldowns to help out when things get hairy (like barkskin, cloak of shadows etc), then I’ll start to get a little grumpy. Even whilst grumpy though as long as no one else is in any danger, I’ll keep them alive.

I tend to avoid blanket statements like “If dpsers pull aggro I’ll let them die”. In my time I’ve seen some truly awful tanks who couldn’t hold aggro off a wet paper bag. Paladin tanks who refuse to use consecration because it cost too much mana even when a herd of mobs was rampaging around trying to eat healers being the example which springs to mind. In that case, any dpser who managed to pull aggro would get lots and lots of loving heals. After all better him or her than me.

So are there other reasons why I might withhold a heal from someone? Not that I can think of.  Sure I might get mad if someone was being a complete jerk but I’d rather get through the instance as fast as possible so I had to spend less time in their company. Letting them die repeatedly makes me as bad as them, after all we are both griefing others by our actions. Also I can’t help but think it’s a bit self defeating. What if the most obnoxious dpser in the group is the one doing the best dps? Trying to kill them just slows down the pace.

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