World PvP Powerless: Some are more equal than others.

This is a rant so if you are of a nervous disposition you might wish to look away now.

The only thing that doesn’t work is PvP Power-fueled healing. At the moment, you only gain the healing benefit when in BGs and Arenas. The reason is because that we don’t want PvP gear to be super effective for PvE content (useful is fine, but super effective is not). 

That design goal is easily met for damage dealers, because they won’t benefit from PvP Power when damaging creatures. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple check for us to determine if a healer is healing damage done by PvP or PvE. In an Arena or BG you can make that assumption, but in the outdoor world you may be engaging in world PvP, or you may just be questing. 

Ghostcrawler.

No no no!

The healing component has to work everywhere out in the world because PvP, especially on PvP servers is often just a heartbeat away. Doing dailies is just an excuse for outright war and as a healer under this system you run the risk of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

The world should be consistent, the second you start having to have rules within rules it points to bigger issue, highlighting that the PvP Power system is flawed. This is like trying to use a bandaid to stop the Niagara Falls, futile, frustrating and something which will need fixing in the long run.

Group questing is a joke as it is, on the beta I haven’t really come across a quest that we needed more than 2 people for and I’m sure that on most quests a handful of dpsers with zero healers would have managed. As for World Bosses, long term they’ve never been taxing in themselves, the hard part is usually cross faction guild competition, i.e. World PvP. Neither of these is a good reason to start treating healers like second class citizens. The game isn’t balanced around low levels and it shouldn’t be balanced around group quests or the difficulty of a World Boss where you could technically use four separate raids.

We are considering just letting PvP Power affect healing everywhere but dungeons and raids. That would solve world PvP and only risk unbalancing group questing and world bosses. Even the world bosses probably don’t represent a huge game balance risk, given that the option always exists to get tons of players together to zerg them.

Ghostcrawler

Yes please. The other point to note is that by the time we all have enough PvP Power to make a difference, group quests and dailies are hardly going to be relevant content that the game needs any form of balancing around.

Just like Death and Taxes, World PvP will always be with us but group quests come and go. I just two manned the Crucible of Carnage in PvP gear…… oh noes, what an exploiter I am. Oh wait, it’s hardly relevant content and to be honest even if it was, it still wouldn’t make up for me dying to some random dpser who got 100 percent of the benefit of his gear whilst I only got a fraction of mine. Lets take me and Mr Harpy, we PvP a lot but we both put in the same effort in to get that gear and thus should always get the same benefit from it. Stats shouldn’t just turn on and off because you zone (unless it’s a raid/dungeon).

If Blizzard want content to present a challenge then make it hard, don’t penalise healers.

To Bias or not to Bias, that is the question

Whilst flicking through the search engine terms which lure unsuspecting people to my blog, I noticed this:

blizzard horde bias is getting worse

The more I thought about it, I realised I’d seen lots of similar comments littering the forums. So is it true? Do the developers favour one side over the other? I admit I’m not particularly happy about the forthcoming destruction of Theramore but that’s simply because I happen to like the place not because I believe that the developers are out to get “us”. It’s got beautiful sunsets, a handy beach and a lot of memories for me.

The first pawn on the chess board of what is to be the story for Mists of Pandaria is being moved, and you’re angry at whose turn is first? I only offer that maybe there’s a little more to the Horde and Alliance story lines in Mists than an Alliance town being leveled… like the entire expansion story you don’t know about yet. ;)

Quote from here. However you can’t just look at this in vacuum, you have to consider what’s come before. Let’s start by looking at the conflicts/territory the Alliance have already lost. Now I realise that all these losses aren’t just to the Horde but bear with me.

The ruins of Southshore and an absence of closure.

Let’s take Southshore as a starting point. Yes, it had great significance to me because as a vanilla Pvper, I have lots and lots of happy memories of pvping between Southshore and Tarren Mill but I accept that the Alliance having more zones than the Horde for questing purposes was unfair. I also accept that it was a logical territory to lose. Where I start to get annoyed is with the lack of storytelling. What happened to all the townsfolk of Southshore… as Alliance you don’t get any answers what so ever. All those people just wiped out or forced to choose between being turned into a Worgen or a Forsaken and we don’t give a damn. I know that if you play Horde through Silverpine Forest you do get answers (and if you haven’t done that.. then go now and do it!) but that’s not good enough.

Arathi Highlands is still completely underdeveloped and would have been the perfect place to tell Southshore’s story from the Alliance perspective. After all, if Southshore was helpless against Sylvannas’s war machine what chance does the Refuge Camp have. There should be more refugees, proper fortifications and quests to spy on the Forsaken camp in Arathi. Perhaps quests even to fly gryphons into Hillsbrad itself to see the damage for ourselves. It’s touched on briefly with the Quae and Kinelory chain but there should be more. Perhaps a continuation of the Quae/Kinelory chain which has you gathering ingredients for a Mage, get X herbs from the Trolls, Y crystals from the Ogres and some imbued water from Stromgarde crypt. Once you have everything, you get to stare into a crystal ball and view the same cutscene that Horde see, showing you the fate of the Hillsbrad villagers. From there, you could be sent to Stormwind to make sure the proper authorities know what happened.

Then in Stormwind, the NPCs should have dialogue about  the Forsaken attack, perhaps someone bemoaning the loss of a family member or complaining about Varian’s inaction. What about some angry Southshore Worgen, railroaded into a terrible choice, why aren’t they howling from the rooftops. We all know this tentative peace won’t last, the hatred goes too deep and that’s what I find so frustrating. Blizzard have already painted in the background but are holding off on the detail work.

Next up Gilneas.

Now I’ve played through it on three characters now and each time when it’s over I think to myself “that’s it?”. I had to escape MY home town through a tunnel filled with vermin. I had to watch as the Forsaken invaded, used my friends as slave labour and slaughtered people with their plague yet I seem fairly happy on escaping to start running errands for the Night Elves. Why aren’t the inhabitants of that tree in Darnassus demanding justice and revenge? Why aren’t we at least talking of war on the Horde, instead of standing around making polite conversation and no doubt sipping cups of tea. That chapter shouldn’t just end with the Worgen arrival in Teldrassil. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there should be a full out assault on Gilneas or any of the Horde lands. Just that the occasional quests and the random NPC dialogues should mention what the Worgen have lost. Greymane lost his son yet he stands in Stormwind Keep handing out platitudes, “Gilneas will rise again”… “Not if you just stand here it won’t”. Adding a dialogue option in which he says something about his desire for revenge wouldn’t hurt. He and Varian could be warmongering quite happily with Anduin trying to convince them that killing isn’t the answer as an occasional dialogue.

Where is Lorna Crowley and why don’t the Alliance have any quests relating to the Gilneas Liberation Front?

Yes, playing through content on both sides is great but you shouldn’t have to play the opposing faction to find out what happened to characters you spent the first 12-14 levels fighting side by side with. Due to phasing, as Alliance we can’t even go and look for them. Their story just comes to an abrupt end once you destroy the Horde airship, at least as far as we get to see.

The neutering of Night Elves.

Then we come to the Night Elves. Their forests are being systematically destroyed and Elves are being tortured in their own heartlands. The Goblins vandalised Azshara when no one was looking, even though it was ancestral Elven land and that’s before we even touch on the “BOMB”. How patient are these people? Why aren’t there Night Elves coming to Darnassus/Stormwind talking of war, or at least registering their displeasure at what the Horde are doing. Why is the bulk of Sentinel Army parked in Feralas rather than actually fighting something? When you speak to Tyrande all she has to say is “May Elune light your path”, very useful in a time of war that so perhaps Fandral had a point about her ability to lead her people. There are so many opportunities to move the struggle between the factions forward and yet they are the road currently not taken.

The damp squib which was the Battle for Andorhal.

Oh, well, we lost. I’m off to rescue my boyfriend from the clutches of the Banshee Queen, don’t bother telling anyone too important because they won’t do anything and besides it hardly matters because the Forsaken aren’t harassing our farmers thirty feet away from the town they just won. Oh, here have a cool-looking staff as compensation.

Notice  that Sylvanas is hands on, overseeing her battle plans even if it is in disguise yet despite Andorhal surely being a key battle, especially with Southshore lost, we don’t send anyone more senior than Thassarian to co-ordinate the attack. On that note, both Sylvanas and Garrosh show up during a variety of questlines as Horde. The Alliance on the other hand, well Tyrande and Malfurion are clearly making up for lost time. Varian is too busy commissioning statues of himself and the three Dwarves are babysitting or arguing.

On a unrelated note, can we please find out if Thassarian succeeded in rescuing Koltira sometime soon.

Even the Weather and Deathwing play Horde!

I included the lands ravaged by the weather/an angry Dragon as well because I want to highlight the inconsistencies. Auberdine and Feathermoon Stronghold took the brunt of the bad weather yet the the Horde bases on the same coastline were fine. Although Shadowprey Village looks like it would blow away in a strong breeze, it managed to withstand the Cataclysm without the dock breaking up or any of the houses falling down. A whole district in Stormwind was destroyed, killing surprise surprise a bunch of Night Elves and yet no one says anything or has made any move to rebuild it.

The Thousand Needles was flooded yes but other than that what Horde lands suffered due to the Cataclysm? I’d argue that Durotar was improved by the addition of water, after all, now it’s impossible to get stuck down in Thunder Ridge. Whilst Stormwind was being knocked down, Orgrimmar was being built up although we still have an awesome dock and they’ve got a Goblin slum.. so, that’s pretty much equal really I’d say.

A Slaughter of Taurens.

Finally I want to look at the most significant Horde loss of Cataclysm, Camp Taurajo. Like Southshore it was presented as a fait accompli, yet as Horde you have the opportunity to get a kind of closure. It’s the emotive, gut wrenching story-line that Southshore could have been. It gives even the most mild-mannered characters a reason for wanting to fight the Alliance. Like Silverpine Forest, it’s a must play through for all my Horde characters because not only does it re-enforce the bloody pointlessness of war, Camp T makes you want to seek revenge and more importantly the story allows you to do so. Something the Alliance have been denied on front after front but wait a minute, the Taurens lost their faction leader, Cairne Bloodhoof. The flooding of the Thousand Needles hit them the hardest and their mortal enemies the Grimtotem are up to all sorts of mischief both in the Thousand Needles and in Stonetalon (not to mention being armed by the Alliance). Then of course there was the Grimtotem attempt to seize  power in Thunder Bluff, a plan which almost worked and resulted in the deaths of many more Taurens. Yet no one is accusing Blizzard of being anti-Tauren, well not yet anyway.

A conclusion of sorts.

I know they say “Revenge is dish best served cold” but it just feels as Blizzard have ignored so many opportunities to push for conflict in Cataclysm. Compare the way they handled the destruction of Auberdine with the way we lost Southshore. One is brilliant storytelling which jerks at your heartstrings. The other doesn’t exist, at least for the Alliance. So that’s why I’m angry at the thought of losing Theramore. I see a string of missed opportunities to move both sides towards the inevitable and on the Alliance side at least, great gaps in the storytelling. The former I can live with, the latter I find inexcusable. The Destruction of Theramore is not the the “first pawn” on the chessboard, it’s more akin to the last one. Already we have skirmishes going badly across Azeroth, the Horde using “illegal” weapons (the Bomb in Stonetalon/the Plague in Gilneas/Hillsbrad), torture (Ashenvale/Darkshore) and yet we still need more reasons to go to war… really?

Certainly I think Varian Wrynn for the Alliance really needs to be the kind of character that players really look up to and see as a major world figure. And I think if you ask players right now, they don’t quite see him that way yet.

Dave Kosak on Varian Wrynn. This quote from Blizzard’s lead quest designer does suggest that both Jaina and her city are sacrificial pawns in the game of “make Varian more awesome”. I  just wish they weren’t pushing the most “vanilla” of all the faction leaders on us. He’s male, white, heterosexual and bad tempered, how exciting. I just need to go out on a Saturday night and I’ll encounter plenty of men who are exactly the same (only most of them have better hair).

That said, do I cry bias? no I don’t. There will be always be points in the story that people don’t like, perhaps the zones being destroyed had a lot of personal memories, perhaps they don’t like the direction a  particular character is being moved in or perhaps they’re just looking for something to complain about on the forums.  For each piece of personal knee jerk reacting, there is a logical explanation out there. I remember playing one of the Civ games where the further from your capital the harder it was to keep order, now that makes sense so if we apply to that WoW, Azshara is right on the Horde’s doorstep but a long way from Darnasssus. You could also argue that due to the weather/angry Dragon that the Alliance actually got some of the best storytelling in Cataclysm, Darkshore is heartrending for example, especially if you played a Night Elf through the zone as it was before. As for the battle for Andorhal, perhaps we’re looking at wrong. Maybe it’s not purely about the Horde versus the Alliance, perhaps it’s about showing the Alliance that Sylvanas has the Val’kyr under her control or about advancing the relationship between Thassarian and Koltira or a mixture of both. I didn’t like Cairne dying which is strange because I used to participate in his death on a regular basis. I don’t like the fact that Sylvanas attempted suicide but I’m going to wait to pass judgement. Each expansion is merely a chapter and until the last one is written we don’t know who is going to end up on top and more importantly we don’t know the events which bring that victory to pass. Our own history should have taught us that the victors of the first few battles often lose the war.


Footnotes

Here are some of  the previous inhabitants of Southshore, the ones I’ve managed to track down.

  • Henry Maleb, Magistrate: Worgen and imprisoned in Shadowfang Keep. There is no quest line or dialogue options for him.
  • Darla Harris: Ex-Gryphon Master, now Bat-Handler and Forsaken. Not surprisingly doesn’t talk to the Alliance.
  • Caretaker Smithers: Now Worgen, living in Silverpine Forest and as the Horde you get a quest to kill him. As Alliance he has nothing to say to you.
  • Loremaster Dibbs: Makes a brief appearance as a Worgen during the Horde quest chain in Silverpine Forest.
  • Phin Odelic: Fights and dies alongside Loremaster Dibbs during the Horde quest chains in Silverpine Forest.

Random Battleground Ranting

One of my favourite pieces of MoP information is the potential blacklisting of up to two different battleground maps.

I hate the “randomness” of random Battlegrounds. Now I fell down the stairs last night and sprained my ankle so I’m not in the best of tempers but I defy anyone to like a system which thinks five Strand of the Ancients in a row can possibly be ok. My foot is slowly turning that lovely shade of deep purple which looks gorgeous on plants (thinking violets and pansies here) but not so hot on feet. The random Battleground finder is turning my mood the same colour considerably faster.

Why the loathing?

Because there is no choice at all. It’s either use the random queue or don’t PvP. The queue times are considerably longer when you queue to a specific battleground and unreliable too, you may get one in a few minutes and then have to wait hours for the next one or you might just have to wait hours. Compare that to getting a random battleground within 2 minutes of queuing up even at weird times in the middle of the night. Then there is the honour or rather lack of it. For winning a random we get an extra 270 per game winning game, not to mention the conquest points but when you queue for a specific battleground, guess what… no bonus. Now since the honour is an incentive to queue up for randoms, that might seem fair enough until you consider the fact that the bonus honour was implemented to replace the tokens that we used to get.

Now I might be a special little snowflake but there are times when I want to chill out in 40 mans, bullying Horde in Stonehearth bunker or seeing just how many people  I can kill whilst they are attacking Balinda. At those times, the random Battleground finder throws me into WSG or Strand of the Ancients. Then there are times when I just want to work on my Arathi Basin rep, of course then I get everything and anything but Arathi Basin. Sometimes, sure I really don’t mind which battleground I end up in, I just want to kill people. Then of course I wind up in the Isle of Conquest, the blink and you’ll miss it game where tracking down the enemy faction is akin to finding the fox cub mini-pet, i.e. the odds are not in your favour.

Why can’t winning a battleground reward the same honour regardless of how you got there? That way I wouldn’t keep ending up in Strand of the Ancients with a bunch of people who don’t know what they are doing. Blacklisting isn’t necessarily the fix I would have gone for (a system a bit like my old cd player in which it never plays the same song twice in a row would have been my first choice I think) but I have to admit I intend welcoming it with open arms.

The only bit I find a bit odd is the caveat about the battleground weekends.

So If I exclude the Strand of the Ancients when SotA weekend rolls around, it will unblacklist itself and when I queue to random, there is a chance I’ll still wind up on the beach. On their respective weekends, the smaller maps are often crawling with premades so the sensible solo player wants to avoid them more than ever but as things stand when you queue to random at those times, you still find yourself thrown into the weekend battleground. I was hoping that this change would go a long way towards fixing that issue but it seems not. I understand that Blizzard want their Battleground weekends to be a success even when it’s SotA but I do think this devalues the whole point of the blacklisting to a degree. Yes, we’re getting more new maps so the gap between SotA weekends will be increasing but I’d still like to never ever go there again.

So which maps will I be avoiding?

Whilst I think it will vary on a character by character basis, SotA is definitely on the list (no surprise there!). Games of two halves don’t work under Blizzard’s model of Player versus Player. If the team who attacks first doesn’t break through the final wall, more often than not they don’t fight in the second half. They want to obtain their losing honor quickly, after all the best possible outcome at that point is to lose fast. Even if you hold the game to a draw, it’s counted as a loss in your statistics because the armoury doesn’t recognise draws (another reason why I dislike the armoury), so you might as well lose fast and hope you get better luck next time around.

My Druid and my Shaman like it a lot more than my Priest as both have ways of slowing vehicles down or bringing them to halt outside tailoring nets but despite my good win rate in there, I’d be happy never to have to get sand in my shoes ever again.

As for my second choice, I think I’ll wait until I’ve fully tested out all the new maps before committing but Isle of Conquest is a contender. The map is too big for the number of players on it. You can easily go all game without seeing any red name plates and if you do decide to defend in order to get some actual PvP, more often than not it’s you versus 40.

In conclusion.

On the plus side though, outside of the SotA weekends, everyone who ends up there should be there because they want to be. AV will be full of people who want a proper AV game not a quick rush with zero pvp. Hopefully this change will improve the quality of pvp for all of us because each game is full of players who want to be in that map, who aren’t shuddering behind their screen, who aren’t planning on afking half way through but who are actually there to play and to win.

I am curious to see what everyone else goes for avoiding. I know quite a few Horde players who don’t intend ever doing AV or Isle of Conquest again, as well as a few people who hate the two flag carrying 10 mans. Mushan posted about his choices here as well. I think given the size of the pool, this shouldn’t effect queue time apart from perhaps the 40 mans late at night but it will be interesting to see how it all balances out.

On Levelling and my Love Affair with Kreug Oathbreaker

This post was inspired by two things, Tzufit’s wonderful post about Outlands as well as my own recent experiences levelling my rogue.

(The italics belong to C.P Cavafy, taken from his poem Ithaka)

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,

Levelling, you either love it or hate it. We all have to do it and yes, it’s a means to an end but isn’t Warcraft more than just the end-game, more than just the Dragon Soul? When I first started playing reaching 60 was the last thing on my mind, in fact reaching 40 for a mount seemed unlikely. Then I started to fall in love with the landscapes, the lush jungles of STV blurring into the icy reaches of Winterspring. Each quest was a breadcrumb that led me deeper and deeper into the forests of Silverpine, Ashenvale and Elwynn. Like Little Red Riding Hood, I strayed from the path time and time again but my experience was richer for it. Sure, the wolf got me more times than I care to remember but each time I resurrected determined to get stronger and better at the game.

Fast forward to now and everyone seems to be racing to hit 85. Heirlooms, shortened levels, experience from PvP, RAF and guild experience mean that unless you deliberately go out of your way to smell the flowers, you’re 85 before you know it. My Rogue will have taken four days of play from 1 to 85 but since I’ve spent quite a few hours hanging out online not doing things which give experience, I imagine she could have been there a lot faster. If memory serves me correctly, it used to take about seven to nine days to level from 1 to 60 in classic (on average). Given that the game has got bigger, not smaller in terms of content, that seems wrong to me.

full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

Or where have all the elites gone?

Kreug Oathbreaker, my husband and I, we had a thing. A happy little ménage à trois in which he provided the benchmark for each of the pairs we levelled. Could we kill him at 71 with a ret paladin and a (bad) hunter? Yes, it took a few tries but with traps and stuns and my poor pet taking turns at tanking we could. What about with a destruction warlock and disc priest? Turns out they needed another level before the blueberry was up to the task but again, we managed. Now, he’s a sorry excuse for a mob, a shadow of his former self. My rogue solo’d him without a care in the world, in fact because he’s stun-able I took an impressive 3k of damage across the entire fight.

I suppose my issue here is not that it now takes less time to gain more levels but that I feel that too much has been sacrificed in the process. I accept that taking weeks to level would put new players off as well as frustrate those just wanting to try out a new class at 85. I don’t however see why the elites and group quests needed a nerf. They were always optional and now even more so because we need less experience per level. If you couldn’t find enough people in the zone who were on the quest or didn’t have friends/guildmates to come, you weren’t stuck. Your levelling experience wouldn’t just abruptly end there, you were free to move on something you could complete by yourself.

The elite quests provided an extra frisson of excitement, especially those free roaming ones. Running into Stitches for the first time was an experience everyone should have. Not only was he an argument for staying off the road in the first place, the chance of bumping into him made the zone an interesting place. I liked that feeling of nervous anticipation pre-cataclysm Duskwood gave me, it’s creepiness intensified whenever you heard the yelling start. Now he’s safely phased so no innocent questers will be accidentally flattened whilst he rampages around Darkshire and that’s a loss to all of us. Once you’ve completed the quest chain, no more Stitches ever. You can’t roam through Duskwood lying in wait for him to settle old scores, collecting his femurs as trophies.

I got to Outlands vaguely hopeful that all my old friends would be untouched by Blizzard’s incredible nerfing shrink ray but no, they too were all pale reflections of their former selves. I know the Fel Reaver is untouched but given how open Hellfire is, it’s rather hard not to see him coming.

Then there is the inconsistency, I can solo Durn, this massive monster of mob, this son of a raid boss but I still need a group to take on Brokentoe even though he looks exactly the same as Banthar, a mob I killed by sneezing on five minutes previously. I also noticed on a quick trip to Netherstorm that most of the elites there are still elites. Is that because most people just go straight from Blade’s Edge to Northrend now or is that a bit too cynical?

May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

One of the things which hooked me into WoW in the first place was the challenge of levelling. I still remember the feeling of satisfaction we had when we killed King Mukla the first time with just two people. Yes, it required a fair amount of kiting and one or two attempts but we’d seen five man groups wipe on the giant ape before. Now, all the bumps in the road have been ironed out.   Making levelling easier is one thing but these changes have a couple of knock on effects.

Firstly, they eradicate part of the need for social interaction whilst levelling. In the past I got to know a lot of new guild-mates by helping them with their alts, it was a great way of striking up conversations outside raiding. It was also a way of meeting new people, all of you standing there staring at some massive elite. I made quite a few friends through Fozruk in particular, either by asking for help tracking him down or just getting people to help me kill him. Now, talking just slows you down in the mad race to see who can pull him fastest because you know it’s easy and you don’t want to share experience.

Secondly because the levels whiz past so fast, learning your abilities properly can be hard. You’ve barely had time to keybind one before you’ve got the next. I always see levelling a new character as a house of cards. Each ability or spell I learn is a new card and I carefully add them to those that came before, building upon them. Spells interlinking with each other as I figure out which order I should use them, in any given situation. Take my rogue, she’s combat with a few pvpish talents thrown into the mix and so I want to be able to treat mobs a bit like players as a sort of practise run without ego getting in the way but they don’t have enough health for it to work. I get a fraction of the way through my planned moves and the mob is dead at my feet. In the end, I have to resort to pvp to practice against live target dummies (a cruel choice of words perhaps but then rogue versus most people especially in the lv 75 to 79 bracket could be classed as cruel, especially when the rogue is wearing cataclysm loot).

We’re taught spells in a spaced out fashion, I imagine so as not to overwhelm people but I keep seeing people (in pvp and sub 85 dungeons) who don’t use key abilities for their spec/roll and when you ask why (in the politest possible way), you get answers like “Oh is that what that does?” or “I haven’t done my training since lv 15″. Surely something is wrong if questing is so easy you don’t need to do your training and you can kill easily without using abilities your choice of spec is supposedly built around.

I also want to touch on the gap between those with heirlooms and those without. It is a massive chasm and quest rewards do not come close to bridging it. This is seen in particular in low level PvP, where without heirlooms, rogues are drawn to you like angry pointy teethed moths to a flame. I think this disparity is part of the issue and if heirlooms were either removed from the equation or all players were given access to them, then balancing the levelling game would be far easier.

Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

One of the things I regret most about my WoW play time was my journey to 85. We stayed up all night to level along with most of my then guild and hit 85 sometime in the afternoon. By the time I hit Uldum, I was existing on chocolate and cherry coke, I wasn’t reading quest text (which is really unlike me) and I wanted to kill Harrison Jones (although that would probably have happened anyway). I don’t really remember Twilight Highlands at all nor do I remember the actual yay I’m 85, now I can go to bed moment. Possibly because there wasn’t one and I had to start running instances to gear up for raiding. Looking back at my blog posts, I know that 10 days into the expansion, we were sitting at 8 bosses down already but it’s all a high speed blur. If I could do it again, I’d have gone slower even if it was just by a day or two.

I can’t help feeling that this levelling lark creates a false sense of expectation. You aren’t supposed to sleepwalk to 85 (even though I did) and then learn to play your class at the expense of other people (didn’t do that though). Battlegrounds, dungeons, LFR, guild applications, you see it all the time. People who have put zero effort in to a character, expecting to be able to muddle through, the way they did on the road from 1 to 85. The problem is, they can’t and that causes friction, tension and a good deal of flaming. People who walk into 85 random battlegrounds still in their questing gear or heirlooms and wonder why the rest of their team aren’t pleased to see them. People who try tanking heroics in PvP gear and wonder why their healers are struggling and/or angry.  People who think that doing less dps than the healer is acceptable. Challenge free levelling creates a whole set of issues of it’s own, ones which do have a negative effect on the game. I fully accept that people should be free to play anyway they want to, apart from the areas where their desires/wishes cross into other people’s. Sure, doing a quest in Elwynn shouldn’t be on par with a Heroic raid instance but mobs shouldn’t ever be one shot-able either.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

The road to 85 should be marvellous, after all there are some beautiful zones and amazing, heart-wrenching quests waiting to be explored.

I just wish when they made the levels smaller, they left the elites alone. Little challenges sparkling like pearls in amidst the easy quests so the brave or arrogant could confront them at will and perhaps learn more in those fraught minutes than in all the rest of the journey.

Here’s to levelling in the Mists, may the experience be “full of adventure, full of discovery.”

The Culture of Losing: Gear, Bots and Strand of the Ancients

This is a rant thinly disguised as a constructive post.

First up, disclaimers.

I realise that random is entirely that. The players making up your team and the opposing team are picked at random from a large pool of people. The battleground map is picked at random too. There is no malicious consciousness set on deliberately ruining your day behind these random choices. Sometimes it just feels that way.

Gear Discrepancies

I don’t want to be playing with sub 100k health and zero resilience wearing people, especially when the opposing team are fielding a full bunch of ruthless wearing, hard hitting, 140k plus, objective focused gladiator wannabes. Nor do I want to face people with no gear, I don’t play battlegrounds to farm people at the graveyard. What’s the point of keeping score when you know the outcome as soon as you see the enemy riding across the map.

I’m not saying that everyone with sub 100k health isn’t objective focused just that if you can’t kill anyone or outheal anyone’s damage, you are a waste of space (Yes, there are exceptions to this and they are usually Frost Mages however they tend to be few and far between). I’m currently playing a Resto Druid and the difference between geared and non-geared players is immense. I spent a good 10 minutes running around Tol Barad with 5 brand new 85 Horde trying to kill me but barely being irritating. If you are in a 10 man battleground and half your team can’t kill one healer you have a major problem. Suddenly you are outnumbered nine to five. Then there is the fact that if you are particularly squishy, you tend not to be able to reach any objectives in the first place. Spending 90 percent of your time in the graveyard is not helpful.

Then there is the lose fast culture. The two teams clash, one team comes off as the clear and definite winner due in part to gear. From the graveyard comes the “lose fast”, “they out gear us”, “we can’t win”, “you all suck”, the latter usually coming from a Deathknight in greens and epics from a previous expansion. The game is basically over, it doesn’t matter how hard you as an individual try when a good chunk of your team are content with taking their losing honor as fast as possible and trying again.

So on to the constructive bit. You can’t enter Heroics without a certain item level of gear so why not implement something similar but different for Battlegrounds. The 40 mans would be available to anyone regardless of their gear as the sheer numbers tend to balance out across both teams. That way brand new 85s would still be able to play with friends whilst gearing up.

The rest, because each individual contribution is much more important in smaller scale PvP would be divided up into two brackets on plus and minus say 340 item level basis (the number would increase as the expansion progressed).  Everyone in levelling gear would only be fighting people in levelling gear. Yes, it won’t stop people in pure PvE gear getting steam-rolled by those in PvP gear but since it seems rare (in my experience) that anyone bar brand new characters don’t have some sort of PvP gear already, it shouldn’t be too bad. It should make everyone’s experiences a bit better and provide more balanced games, removing the need for threads like this on the forums.

Afkers/Bots

Then we come to the afkers/bots, some of which are doing it because gearing up half way through an expansion/season is horribly painful and some of whom just don’t like PvP in general or hate having to play with the “random” factor.  Having recently took part in an Arathi Basin in which five people, one third of our team never actually moved from the start zone, I’m rather unimpressed with people who join games and don’t play. Again, I feel it comes down to the accepted culture of losing that permeates battlegrounds at the moment. Through the random queue system and the various bits and pieces you get throughout the game (especially during battleground weekends) honor just ticks up too fast from losing. There is no incentive to fight hard to turn around a losing game  and since Blizzard don’t seem to care about people botting in PvP, there is no incentive not to do that either. Yes, I’m sure that people who do afk through games would rather pick up winning honor but it’s still better than nothing. Part of the problem is perhaps that honor can be converted to justice points allowing people who don’t like PvP to gear up for heroics/raids in an afk fashion. Botting 5 mans is a bit more obvious than botting battlegrounds.

What I would like to see is a reduction in the amount of honor you receive for a losing game. The object of PvP is to win, everyone in the team should be focused on that and not the fact that losing fast is better than winning slowly. I accept that sometimes bad luck means you can lose ten plus games in a row, so I feel that there should be some honor for losing but it should be minimal. Hopefully this would also mean that the voices crying to lose fast from the graveyard would finally shut up and start focusing on objectives.

I would also like to see the honor all being rewarded at the end of the game, not piecemeal through as it currently is. That way if someone is afk and it takes you half the game to get them kicked out, they get nothing just as they deserve.

I also feel that Blizzard should police their battlegrounds and implement severe punishments on a regular basis for people caught botting/afking. At the very least, all their honor/conquest points for the current season should be wiped along with everything they have bought with said honor up to this point, including any PvE gear/mounts etc. It is after all, a form of griefing. Winning with one hand tied behind your back because you don’t have a full team is tricky and the late night games where you are desperately hoping the opposing team has as many bots as you to give your side a fighting chance are horrendous. I once played an AV in which both teams had 40 players but only six people from eighty were actually fighting. Five on our side, four paladins and my hunter and one on theirs. Needless to say we won, but it took a while. Unfortunately though, whilst threads like this fill the battleground forums, Blizzard keep rather quiet on the subject.

Strand of the Ancients/10 mans

Everyone who likes battlegrounds will have one or two maps they hate. For me, it’s SotA and EotS, according to the forums for other people it’s AV, Isle of Conquest and quite often SotA. I’m also not too partial to the 10 mans because of some of the reasons I’ve outlined above. You can’t afford to have low geared or afk people in a 10 man unless the opposing team has similar and since that’s random, more often than not, they just pull you down.

So I propose that we can set one or two battlegrounds that we just don’t want to ever see. For me, one would definitely be SotA, my heart sinks every time I see that loading screen.  Although popping Treeform and dancing about instant rooting demolishers and players is pretty fun, I could live without the thrill and happily never see the place the again. It’s not helped by the fact that someone always afks straight away before the game even starts. Failing that, I’d like random to be a bit less random. Knowing that if you get SotA, whatever battleground you get next won’t be SotA would go along way to making the place a bit more palatable.

Random questions and stuff

But Teasel, you only hit 85 10 days ago, surely you must have been one of those undergeared people you’re complaining about?

Nope. I timed my arrival at 85 to co-inside with Alterac Valley weekend. When I dinged, I already had 4000 honor points and 4000 justice points so I could already buy a couple of decent 85 items, which I gemmed/enchanted before queuing up for more 40 man goodness. When AV weekend ended, I then queued specifically to the 40 mans for a day or two to make sure I had gear I was happy with before hitting the random queue. I hate the idea of inflicting myself on people if I feel I can’t pull my weight.

Losing fast? Can you lose fast? Oh yes. However, it tends to bring out my bloody mindedness and I’m good at making losses slow and painful. Tagging back bunkers, stealing flags and trying to make sure the lemmings don’t die can be lots of fun especially when they are all calling you names in chat.

Finally, yes I realise that there are rated battlegrounds where you don’t have to carry people with zero resilience (unless you choose to) or put up with afkers/bots. However, I like to battleground throughout the day and finding nine to 14 likeminded people at 6am would be a challenge. Plus fielding a team which works well together takes time and commitment (in my experience getting commitment out of WoW players is a painful process). Besides, people should be able to queue for an aspect of the game which they enjoy without having to put up with bots/afkers and rogues wearing dresses.

The return of High Farmlord

Whilst flicking through the EU PvP forums, I noticed a rather large  and heated discussion about the old PvP ranks and how people felt about bringing them back after all this time. Now I’ll admit I have a vested interest in this particular topic because I reached rank 12 on my Undead Priest and “General Dornroschen” is the only one of my characters to display a title even though I have a variety of PvE and flavour options available to me. I certainly wouldn’t have been happy if Blizzard had decided to remove all the titles across the board and make you re-earn them so I’m glad that they decided to let people who have them, keep them regardless of whether or not they choose to take in part in rated battlegrounds. I can’t quite decide how I feel about them being available again though.

It smacks of lazy design. Surely they could have come up with a few more military sounding names which would have made suitable ranks for the rated battleground system. I also have mixed feelings about people earning the same reward in two completely different ways. I know that applies to PvE all the time, people are still running Ulduar to grab the Ironbound Protodrake now in far better gear than I earnt mine in for example. Yes, I realise that other people getting a stuffed elekk doesn’t diminish my plush dinosaur at all but I remember all the bitterness, tears and pain that some people went through during the old rank system and since I don’t believe the new system will be anywhere close to being as nasty, at the back of my mind, I feel they shouldn’t give the same titles. That said, the new system from what I can gather also sounds rather grindy, just not as excessive as it’s original incarnation. You could obviously argue the opposite is also true. People who managed to farm High Warlord/Grand Marshall through account sharing, premades or afking in a corner at 5 am (like the guy in the screenshot below) whilst a bunch of randoms carried them probably shouldn’t be wearing the same title as someone who earned it through organising a team for rated battlegrounds.

Hide and Seek in Arathi Basin

Plenty of things are no longer obtainable in-game, (the Warbear from ZA, the Naxx Protodrakes, Hand of A’dal) yet Blizzard doesn’t seem to be planning on making them accessible again. So what’s different about the ranks? In my opinion, nothing. Although everyone who doesn’t have PvP ranks seems to think that everyone who does earned them by being afk or steamrolling in premades, the truth was often a very different story. Just as not everyone I know with a warbear or the “Hand of A’dal” earned them through good old fashioned raiding, in fact my old guild used to sell both for cold hard cash. Does something no longer being in-game diminish the game for new players or old ones who never got the opportunity to get the item? Personally I think not, I don’t have either of  the Naxx protodrakes because we kept finding new and interesting ways to wipe on the Immortal and I wasn’t that interested in 10 man content, yet I still have a protodrake to ride. I could have multiple if I wanted, in a variety of shades and obtainable in several different ways. Molten Core at 80 is completely different than Molten Core was at lv 60 with 40 people all learning to raid for the very first time. The game changes, things come and things go. What we take away from WoW should be our own memories, the good times we had and the friends we made, who has what shouldn’t matter (although I’m sure quite a few of our tradechat heroes would disagree).

Then because I’m good at going around in circles, I started to wonder if it’s more like fashion than anything else. Take hemlines for example, they go up and they go down. Short tends to follow long and vice versa. Is re-using something which had it’s heyday four years ago, a welcome touch of nostalgia rather than anything more sinister? The battlefield is returning to Azeroth again, the Alliance and the Horde find themselves at each other’s throats once more. Perhaps, this is the perfect time to make those titles accessible to everyone.

The more I consider the issue, the less of a problem it seems. I get to keep my old title on my Undead and I get a chance to rank up my other priest who is currently a Knight-Lieutenant to something a bit more flashy sounding. It’s a win win situation really. Oh and the thought of proper battlegrounds with people focused on objectives… well that’s got to be heaven, right?

The thread can be found here and yes, it has been going for over a year now.

I call shenanigans

I feel slightly nit picky about this but I’m disappointed in both Operation Free Gnomeregan and Zalazane’s Fall. Yes, I had fun and I love the flavour items you receive but…

Rawr

Firstly it’s all over in about twenty minutes. Now maybe I’ve just got high expectations but there is nothing epic about that. Taking the Alliance chain for example, we spent time checking how a spider tank work and then we attack Gnomeregan on foot… why not have dailies which involve taking spidertanks for test drives? I’m not the greatest fan of dailies but I feel this is one instance where they should have been used. A proper build up to the main event in which vehicles have to be tested, recruits have to be found, planes have to be built all over a period of time, say a week or two. Then and only then should we be attacking. Instead we get twenty minutes of new content and that’s it. You do it once per character and then forget all about it. This is the first new content since December and we breezed through it. If we hadn’t had to wait for the High Tinker to reappear, it would have taken even less time. I realise that they are working on an expansion which is quite possibly late but I was expecting more.

Then there is the fact that if your character is level 74 or below, you can’t take part in the fun stuff. Especially for little Trolls and Gnomes that doesn’t seem very fair. Since you get buffs to your health pool in all these types of events (the Battle for Undercity and the Battle for Light’s Hope being examples) why can’t low levels take part? Everyone’s health could be set to the same healthpool, say 100k regardless of level when they pick up the quest. Yes, lower levels would do less damage but mobs were falling over dead as soon as someone breathed on them today. Having a few low levels along for the ride would make zero different to anyone.

I’m also slightly grumpy about the  fact that you can’t use your Gnomeregan pride or Darkspear pride in battlegrounds. I can’t see the harm in being  a Infantry gnome whilst in Strand of the Ancients. People will be able to figure out very fast what class I am when they get a frostbolt in the face. I could be hidden behind a tree so they can’t see my character but they still know that they are being attacked by a mage so what harm can costumes possibly do? I pvp all the time as a Bloodelf using an Orb of Sin’dorei and yet I can’t use my gnome suit. Mr Harpy on the other hand is pleased that hordes of trolls wearing masks can’t pursue him across the field of Strife. He doesn’t like people using noggenfogger, deviate fish or any other disguises whilst in PvP. Actually I don’t think he likes people using them at all, regardless of location.

Having got Gnomeregan pride on two druids today and planning on getting Darkpear pride on another tomorrow, I’m also bad-tempered about the fact that you lose the debuff on shapeshifting. Ghostcrawler said the other day that they don’t balance around duels yet that was basically why druids lost the ability to shapeshift with things like noggenfogger in the first place. Surely at this point in the game, they could reverse that decision.

All in all, I preferred the Horde event. That may have had something to do with the amazing tropical storm taking place over the Echo Isles when I was doing the quests though. Took me back to watching lightning flash down over purple skies in the Bahamas.

The ending possibly played a part too. Narrowly escaping being blown up was hardly the conclusion I wanted for my little gnome. Where is the triumphal procession into the lost city of the Gnomes, where is the standing on that evil Mekgineer Thermaplugg’s corpse (again) and most importantly where is my brag bot?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,309 other followers