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?

Wintergrasp Blues

I’m really beginning to loathe Wintergrasp, not because it has vehicles in it, or because it’s on a timer but because of the imbalance.

My server is high population but the Horde definitely outnumber the Alliance, possibly by as many as three to one. Of the Alliance, although there are still plenty of us, most people just aren’t interested in Wintergrasp by this point in the game. At the start when people actually wanted stuff of the various bosses, the win/loss ratio was roughly 50/50 but over time, we seem to win maybe once a day if we’re lucky.

Which means that games even at peak times tend to be in the region of 60 Alliance versus 120 Horde. Tenacity does absolutely nothing when 10 people are beating up on you and the extra damage portion just doesn’t pack a hard enough punch, although 23k starfires are nice when they land on undergeared trolls with offensively named pets.

So there we are, bravely battling on in an attempt to get my Mage her shoulders, when completely ignoring the numbers, people start whining about how the Alliance suck and it’s so easy for the Horde. Of course it’s easy when you completely outnumber the opposition. Arathi Basin is easy when there is 6 of them and 15 of you.

Implementing a one to one ratio surely wouldn’t be too hard and might even make them more money as people transfer faction to ensure they get games. Tenacity as it stacks should shorten cc duration, possibly even making you immune to cc completely if it reaches really high numbers. For the purpose of taking workshops and the like, people with tenacity should count as more than one person (some sort of scaling perhaps dependent on how many of each side are in-game), otherwise you just can’t take nodes if the numbers are heavily skewed. Vehicle health needs to scale better as well, because otherwise you just can’t keep them alive long enough to knock anything down.

However, ignoring that, I have to admit being worried about Cataclysm and Tol Barad. We need a number balancing system or a form of tenacity which works, otherwise it’s going to be impossible for us to compete and I don’t think I can take another few years of Horde making Alliance characters so they can crow about how much we all suck because they win when they have double the numbers.

Grumbles

Out of all the Paladin tanks that my little Mage has seen through the Looking for Group tool, 98 percent have been allergic to Righteous Fury. They don’t buff it at the start and when it’s absence is pointed out and they put it on, they don’t rebuff it when it falls off. Of course, when they lose aggro, it’s not their fault even if it’s the healer who overtook them in threat.  To say I find it frustrating is an understatement and what was perhaps more understandable in the lower levels by lv 64 has just become a huge annoyance.

Then there are the tanks who show up with resurrection sickness (seen a few of these), the ones who can’t hold aggro on one mob but still insist on hitting the sheep at least once and those that stand with their backs to half the mobs all the time and then blame the healer for their squishiness. Oh and people who use taunt every time it’s off cooldown like clockwork, even though the mob they taunt is looking firmly at them. In fact the favoured pulling technique of several tanks I’ve encountered has gone something like this. Run at mobs, white hit them a few times and then use taunt, so the only threat they have is the damage from the white hits.

Taunt
30 yd range

Instant 8 sec cooldown
Requires Defensive Stance
Taunts the target to attack you, but has no effect if the target is already attacking you.

Of course when someone gets aggro 3 seconds later, it takes them a while to respond. In all the instances we have done, the tanks (I use the term loosely) have caused more issues than everyone else combined. They have also been more obnoxious than anyone one else.

Am I alone in not feeling comfortable pointing out the mistakes of strangers? I know if I were tanking on a paladin and not using righteous fury,  I would want to someone to say something but experience has taught me that most people either explode into abuse or leave group, when someone says something negative about their play style. Therein lies the issue, especially when you have such high queue times as two dpsers. Do you say nothing and just tone down your dps appropriately? Do you just dps full out and hope that through the use of novas and high dps you can just kill stuff regardless of a bad tank? Or do you risk Mr Bad Tank having a hissy fit half way through the instance and leaving?

If nothing else, I’ve ended up with a massive admiration for people who manage to level mainly through the Looking for Group tool. Every second instance I’ve done, I’ve left feeling distinctly grumpy.

Strength and Honour

These Orcs have a new trick and it isn’t very honourable at all.

Basically you can “exploit” the gates of Stormwind in a rather annoying fashion if you have a specific item. These two Champions of the Horde spent the night popping out to one shot low levels and harass any duellers who might be PvP enabled. If they were doing it in the normal method, i.e. not underground or through walls fair enough. We have a PvP solution to that, but what are you meant to do against exploiters who keep pinging world defence and generally being a pest but vanish through a solid wall when you try and fight back?

We reported them to a GM but got the usual “wait time is unavailable” response. In the meantime they were still killing passer-bys and those undergeared but brave types who were looking to respond to the “Stormwind is under attack” message being spammed at us.

Are you meant to ignore them or take the law into your own hands and “exploit” too because they are griefing others? It is rather frustrating to be forced between ignoring the opposing faction on your doorstep (especially on a PvP server) or having to bend the rules to get to them.

I’m hoping (eternal optimist that’s me), that Cataclysm and flying mounts in Azeroth will finally fix all these little glitches that litter the landscape. Obviously it could just make the issue worse, with people slow falling into little hidey holes right, left and centre but in a multi player game which involves competitive play, issues like this need fixing straight away.

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.

Pets are people too!

I’ve been thinking about resurrecting my hunter for a while now. She got to 80 sometime last year, did a few instances including alt runs of ToC and then ground to a halt.

Whilst my server was ever so slowly patching itself, I ended up in the dark and dangerous world of the WoW forums. Driven by dreams of huntering again I flicked through several pages of hunter related information until I ended up on the Healing forum. Skimming the list of post titles, I found  a rather heated thread discussing the rights and wrongs of healing hunter’s pets. Naturally with my head full of hunter stuff, I couldn’t resist having a peak.

The general gist of the arguments contained within went like this:

  • My UI doesn’t show pets and I don’t see why it should!
  • It’s the Hunter’s responsibility to look after his or her pet and they have the tools to do the job.
  • The Hunter is just plain bad if their pet needs healing.
  • I don’t have the mana to waste on pets
  • Hunter’s don’t need their pets to DPS.

Going through each point one by one, I noticed a couple of things that I found odd.

My UI doesn’t show pets and I don’t see why it should!

Given that several people pushing this argument admit to using Grid, I find this hard to believe. It takes a matter of seconds to set Grid up to show pets in 5, 10 and 25 person modes. I would imagine this is true for all non-standard party frames.

As for why should your UI show pets, well pets are part of the group. Your interface should always provide an accurate representation of that group. What if at some point Blizzard adds a debuff on some future raid content that can blow people up and targets pets as well as players? Adding pets now means if for any reason you NEED to keep one alive you can easily.

I’ve been in several situations where a hunter and his pet have ended up saving the day. Tank dcs in a 5 man, pet takes up the slack and holds boss until either the tank comes back or the boss dies. Having the pet show on my unit frames made healing him so much easier than having to manually change target would have been, given that the rest of the group needed healing too. Lousy tanks in 10 mans, mobs eating me as a healer. Sympathetic and attentive hunter notices and pulls mob off me and onto his pet. So showing pets can be a good thing. However I can’t think of a single situation where me having the pet bars showing has ever been a bad thing. After all, I don’t have to heal Whiskers the Wolf if I don’t want to.

Healing pets in PvP, especially small scale stuff can be great too because whilst they are trying to bash Cobweb the spider over the head, they aren’t hitting me.

It’s the Hunter’s responsibility to look after his or her pet and they have the tools to do the job.

Of course it’s their responsibility to a degree. I expect everyone to do their best to stay alive and kill the boss. Now in the case of pet classes that also included keeping their best friend safe and well. Mend pet should be used in hairy situations, no one is denying that. To let your pet die without using it would be stupid. However at the end of the day, we as healers also have responsibility for all those little green bars. Throwing a shield out or a rejuvenation will not make or break your mana supply, but it may make the difference between Tybalt the cat contributing all the way to the bad guy’s death or not. Without his contribution the boss will always die slower, which is a bad thing.

The Hunter is just plain bad if their pet needs healing.

Perhaps, two weeks of Ahune have shown me there are some truly terrible hunters out there. My healing Priest has out dpsed every single one I’ve been partied with so far. However there are lots of fights with large amounts of party or raid wide damage. Even with talents to lessen magical damage and the like, I can imagine a lot of content where “mend pet”  might not be enough. Obviously a hunter has more than just mend pet in his arsenal, a ferocity pet could come with Bloodthirsty for example but again, a chance to heal for 5 percent of the pet’s total health isn’t too hot if the animal is taking lots of damage.

If throwing a heal in the direction of the pet doesn’t leave you out of mana, what harm can it possibly do? There are plenty of threads complaining about how boring 5 mans in particular are for healers who are geared, well why not do a spot of extra curriculum pet healing to spice things up.

I can’t spare the mana!

This one I tend to be more sympathetic towards but it depends on one simple question. Why not? If you don’t have the mana because the rest of the group are playing badly and you’re healing full out, fine. The same is true if you’re undergeared and struggling to keep the players alive. However if you’re oom because you’re spamming smite or another dps spell, then perhaps putting a few heals in the direction of the pet first would make more sense. If nothing else, it may make the hunter like you a bit more.

Hunter’s don’t need their pet to DPS.

True they don’t but given that the whole idea is usually to kill the mobs as fast as possibly, every little helps as the supermarket chain says.  Let us consider the Beast Mastery Hunter. Now I know that it’s a lot less popular in this expansion than it was in the previous one, but you still see plenty of BM hunters, especially in 5 mans. There is a talent midway down BM called Ferocious Inspiration, it’s a fairly simple talent but one I would expect all BM hunters to pick up. Amongst other things, it gives a flat 3 percent damage increase to all party and/or raid members who stay in a 100 yard range of the pet. By allowing Chompy the Devilsaur to die because you aren’t willing to alter your UI, not only do you cut the hunter’s dps, you effect that of the whole group. To me, that goes against the whole principle of running instances in the first place. You should all be working together to make the run as smooth as possible. Allowing a source of DPS to die, hinders that.

In conclusion, I think the arguments put forth are for the most part ridiculous. I’m not suggesting putting a pet at the top of your mental priority list, after all that would be pointless but surely there is a spot somewhere in there. My list goes something like this:

  1. Tank
  2. Healer
  3. The nice, sensible dpsers who don’t stand in the fire too much and don’t make nasty comments about the rest of the group
  4. Hopeless the crab
  5. Any remaining obnoxious dpsers

Obviously I’m not advocating the blanket healing of all pets, but they should at least be a consideration and they should most definitely make it onto your interface. The sooner we learn good habits the easier it is to stick to them. Who knows, perhaps in Cataclysm BM will become the hunter spec again giving you added reasons to keep those pets alive. Perhaps raids will require every last drop of dps and pets will become a lot more important to all hunters, regardless of spec. I’m not denying some hunters can try your patience as they attempt to murder their pet every 5 seconds, but it’s easy to ignore them (although I wish Azeroth had a version of the RSPCA so we could confiscate pets from bad hunters only returning them when they learnt the art of animal protection) and / or point out why letting Fluffles the crocolisk run around on aggressive is a bad idea.

Yes, this post probably stems in part from the fact that I feel dreadful whenever a pet dies in a group I’m healing. Especially when it’s erstwhile owner can’t even be bothered to think up a name for him or her. The fact that I may at some point be venturing back into 5 mans with my adored pets has nothing to do with it at all (honest!).

TLDR: Pets are people too! Make friends with your neighbourhood hunters and heal their pets.

Cataclysm? That’s just another word for Disaster right

I have to admit, I’m worried already. Not about the “lol smite” direction of the Priest class or by the removal of the Path of the Titans but by the way raiding seems to be going.

I didn’t like the idea of only being able to run an instance on 10 man or 25 man when it was announced. I like the ability to help out friends by running 10 man Onyxia even though I’ve already killed her on 25 man and I believe that removing that ability come Cataclysm takes a way a bit of the “multi-player” aspect. Now it seems to firmly put the emphasis on alts, which is fine if like me you have lots of them, but I know plenty of raiders who only have one character. Oddly enough, it’s nearly always a rogue (they must be a strangely addictive class).

Then comes the news that you will be able to divide 25 mans into up to 3 10 mans. No no no no. The potential for chaos this could cause is worse than the zombie plague of 08. To illustrate my point, let me tell you a story.

Back when Ulduar was cutting edge content, we were working on Freya plus three. Now for some reason people just kept doing all sorts of stupid things, not controlling their aoe, standing in beams, hugging the person exploding and the like. The raid got more and more mutinous. Half the team kept whining that we were obviously undergeared and that we should just kill one add, kill her and move on. The other half were determined to keep going and since the officers were in the latter group, we eventually succeeded.

Now had that been Cataclysm, no doubt the officer led group would been clamouring to divide the raid and conquer. Sure, we would have got that kill a lot faster but it’s hardly fair on those that get left out. There is always the risk that whoever is making the groups cherry picks the best players (which makes sense if you want first kills) but that can destroy the harmony of the guild as a whole. No one likes feeling left out.

I still have a bad taste in my mouth remembering Karazhan and trying to divide the guild equally into two teams each week. In fact I have at least four separate screenshots of people accusing me of bias and generally being a bitch because of their perceptions of the team I put them in. The thought of doing it on the fly, in the middle of a raid where people are already frustrated and pissed off is a nightmare.

When you couple that with the words of Ghostcrawler himself..

Remember that in LK the 10s were specifically designed to be easier (with a couple of exceptions where we messed up) and many players ran them with the loot they earned from their 25s, further exacerbating the problem. Given the complexities of some encounters, realistically it’s probably not possible for every single battle to be of exactly the same difficulty in both 10 and 25, but we have a lot of room to bring them closer together.

and my heart sinks even further. It’s likely that some content will be harder on 10 man and some on 25 man. Now if you’re pushing for server firsts or even just to beat the guild closest to you on the progression list, taking the path of least resistance is the way to do it. For the sake of argument lets go with the first two bosses being easier on 25 man, you clear them and then the third boss is considerably easier if done on 10 man. So you divide the team up into three, getting over the logistical problems like turning two tanks in your 25 man into 6 tanks for three ten mans and dividing seven healers into little pieces. Now A and B manage to kill the boss no problem, but C struggles. Drama ensues. Someone gquits after having a screaming row with three officers and comes back two days later after their tantrum wears off.

To further add to the drama, lets assume that the guild closest to you on the progression list is a 10 man only guild. They are behind because they don’t have the luxury to scale up to tackle the first two fights which are easier on 25 man. Because they are behind, a couple of their crucial players apply to a guild they perceive as being better. So much for a level playing field.

On top of that, I don’t believe that content which is “not equal” should generate the same rewards. Obviously the problem here lies in the fact that whichever is easiest will probably come on a boss by boss basis, but the hardest stuff should always yield the best reward. Otherwise it’s like handing out gold medals to everyone who enters a race even if they come 15th (a primary school I briefly attended did just that –  my father almost had a fit when he discovered the kid who crossed the finishing line about 4 minutes after I did, got the same reward).

Yes, I’m horribly cynical but I swear I didn’t start out this way. Being an officer in two raiding guilds over the last 5 years has shown me all sorts of depressing things the dregs of humanity will do for gear. Raiding for a lot of people is about loot, how fast you can obtain said loot, what sort of loot it is and so on. I’ve experienced guild life from the most casual to the server first level and the people in those guilds behaved very similarly to each other, whether we were talking Naxx or AQ40.

I suppose I don’t like the idea that Blizzard are trying to sell a level playing field, when it’s obvious that there will be a myriad of pitfalls for raiding guilds to fall into.

Personally I prefer 25 man raiding. 10 people is family and friends around a barbecue on a Saturday night. It doesn’t feel epic or exciting to me. I like my raids to be as multi-player as possible. However, I realise and accept that not everyone thinks like me but I don’t believe that Blizzard’s solution will keep many people happy in the long run.

25 mans assuming you have secure leadership, could potentially still have the upper hand because they will be able to always take the fastest path to first kills. That won’t make 10 man guilds who have been sold a promise of equality happy for long. 10 mans could possibly work out as being more challenging that 25 mans across the board, that would force people like me who want a challenge to move to a format I don’t particularly enjoy. Not sure how long that would sustain my interest. Are there enough raid leaders and competent tanks for a massive shift to 10 mans? My guess would be no, but selfishly if push comes to shove, I have a pet raidleader who also doubles as a pet tank.

Yes, it’s still the alpha and a lot could happen between now and Cataclysm going live, but I have to admit I’m losing excitement on a day by day basis. Yes, we coped with shrinking raid size in the Burning Crusade, we coped with running ToC four times per character in one reset and I’m sure we’ll cope what ever happens in Cataclysm but…..

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