Nostalgia – That Bittersweet Pill

Nostalgia is a funny thing. In someways those first few years playing WoW were my happiest, playing with a stable group of people, raiding high end content and generally enjoying myself.Yet when I unpick those memories most of them aren’t hugely happy ones. I’ve certainly been left wary of trusting others, of fully engaging with my current guild because of things which have gone before.

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I’ve just spent the afternoon running UBRS remembering how much I loathed the place when it was current content, when the General only dropped one blood and therefore you had to run it over and over again to get your whole raid attuned for Blackwing Lair. I remember having to solo heal it one day in a raid of 15 because the other Priest took offense when someone linked the healing meter (not me) and set out to smite the rest of the run. The wipes because people adored hugging the whelps or being knocked off various ledges and edges. The fights we would have to convince the rest of the group that they’d should do Solakar Flamewreath because Priests deserved a shot at their dungeon set shoulders just like everyone else. Then there was the night we had to go and rescue a guildmate who joined an UBRS raid three or four hours before hand so that he could raid with us the following night and when he finally asked for help, they’d only made it as far as the Rookery… I think I still have nightmares about that PuG.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of WoW, I find myself questioning why I’m still here, why I haven’t learnt from past mistakes and run away as fast as my legs would carry me.  There are plenty of decisions the Developers have made which have left me rolling my eyes but the flip side of that is they’ve also done things I love, Hallows End and Ulduar being prime examples. Besides if they always got it right for me, they would be no doubt a fairly large subsection of people criticizing that because they just don’t like or enjoy the same things as me. Yes it’s a balancing act but it’s not as simple as say deciding not to read a book because either things contained within the text revolt you or you just think a five year old could produce more literary merit. Take Fifty Shades of Grey for example, a friend gave me the first one stating I’d love it. I read the first few chapters in a mix of disgust and horror, imagining Thomas Hardy rolling in his grave and made a conscious decision not to purchase any of her books. WoW on the other hand is more than just a game, it’s a community, something which inspires and pushes me. Do the pluses out way the negatives, I’d argue yes they do at least in my current circumstances as I sit here trying to figure out a way of coping with ante-natal depression and what comes after. Besides, I think there is hope for WoW. People can and do change their minds and their perspectives, it’s just about keeping the dialogue going in such a way that everyone can engage with it. After all, when someone creates something and pushes it out into the Public view then they have to expect criticism. I read English Literature at University and that’s pretty much all we did, unpick other people’s words trying to get inside their heads. Art History contains a fairly hefty criticism component. We have book reviews, Food critics and people who write about the Theatre so why should the Gaming Industry expect to be any different?

Come full Circle – Thoughts on the Healing Changes

Reading through the Healing blog a couple of  things stood out.

Additionally, as gear improves, the scaling rates of health and healing will now be very similar, so the relative power of any given healing spell shouldn’t climb so much over the course of this expansion.

That’s absolutely fine as along as DPS scales the same way. It’s that arms race mentality which led to us this point so as long as that is reined in, Heals don’t need to scale in leaps and bounds. However if DPS start complaining that their damage has only increased by 100 points across 5 tiers, then Blizzard have to say “tough”. I know this is primarily a PvP concern but adding artificial rubbish like PvP power isn’t the way to fix it. If Healers scale slowly from gear, Tanks and Dpsers need to as well. Otherwise gearing Healers becomes a waste of time relatively and it takes the “ooh shiny” fun aspect of raiding away. Now I’m not saying that people only raid for loot, far from it but everyone likes upgrading their gear.

We want healers to care about who they’re targeting and which heals they’re using, because that makes healer gameplay more interactive and fun. To that end, we’re reducing the healing of many passive and auto-targeted heals, and making smart heals a little less smart. Smart heals will now randomly pick any injured target within range instead of always picking the most injured target. Priority will still be given to players over pets, of course.

Smart heals are up there with shell suits as a contender for the worse thing ever invented. The issue will be balancing what’s left as certain classes rely more on Smart Heals than other.

 We want players to use multi-target heals, but they should only be better than their single-target equivalents when they heal more than two players without any overhealing. This way, players will face an interesting choice between whether to use a single-target heal or a multi-target heal based on the situation.

This isn’t an interesting choice, it’s common sense or at least it should be. The changes to smart heals should help reinforce this.

Finally, we’re removing the low-throughput, low-mana-cost heals like Nourish, Holy Light, Heal, and Healing Wave, because we think that while they do add complexity, they don’t truly add depth to healing gameplay.

Can’t say I’m sorry to see them go. Although my Priest did the Proving Grounds with huge abuse of Heal it wasn’t fun. Having to use all of your toolbox is always more interesting than using one or two spells but this is something that can’t be forced. Having to heal like Simon Says isn’t fun. Having rotations isn’t interesting. What I love about healing, especially in group PvP is the unpredictable. Blizzard have given me the toolbox but ultimately it’s up to me to figure out how I want to use it. If we lose too many spells and I’m tempted to say one fifth is too much, we lose that choice and that decision making.

It was the last part of the post however which raised my eyebrows. Now I know it does say

Here are some examples:

but I was surprised just how small the list. In a recent post, I briefly touched upon the various instant cast spells and my list was surprisingly long although many of the spells are utility rather than heals .

  • Holy word: Chastise or Holy Word: Serenity (depending on Chakra state)
  • Renew
  • Power word: Shield
  • Cascade or Divine Star or Halo (Talents) 
  • Prayer of Mending
  • Circle of Healing
  • Power word: Solace
  • Desperate Prayer or Spectral Guise (Talents)
  • Levitate
  • Holy Nova (Glyph) – Is apparently going to Disc although I haven’t managed to find a proper source for that
  • Guardian Spirit
  • Shadowfiend
  • Power Infusion (Talent)
  • Void Tendrils or Pysfiend (Talents)
  • Angelic Feather (Talents)
  • Shadow word: Pain
  • Fear
  • Void Shift
  • Dispel
  • Purify
  • Leap of Faith

Now Circle of Healing and Wild Growth both gained a cooldown at the same time so I was quite surprised that Circle of Healing wasn’t on the list for cast time.

All of these changes taken together are intended to make gameplay more consistent between PvE and PvP, and invigorate healers with more dynamic gameplay.

Is casting on the move a bad thing? I would actually argue no, it’s not because it requires practice and the ability to do more than one thing at once. I agree that you shouldn’t be able to put out a similar output whilst bouncing around than you can standing still but I think Blizzard are walking a fine line between creating challenging, dynamic and intelligent gameplay versus mindless button mashing whilst standing still. I hope the former wins because I like deciding what I’m going to do, picking who to heal and managing my mana. Ultimately though, this is only one piece of the jigsaw and right now we’re trying to put the puzzle together in the dark.

 

Proving your Worth: Why Class quests had value

Cymre put up an interesting post a while back about the old AQ Gates quest chain which got me thinking about a couple of my favourite and now removed quest chains. Then when I was attempting to clear out my drafts folder I came across this. A post I started in November 2009 but never got around to finishing or publishing (before now) plus it is Druid week and thus ever so slightly relevant (at least the first paragraph is).

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I’m currently re-running the Swift Flight form quest on my second druid. The experience has left me  feeling a little saddened and humbled. Why aren’t there more of these awesome quests scattered through the game. Why don’t all classes have the opportunity to discover more lore about their class? I had to use virtually all my spell book, from hibernate to cat form, to remove curse to moonfire. I visited places I’d never seen before, like the pink frosting masquerading as water outside the Barrow Dens and the river border of Azshara and Ashenvale. I came out of Sethekk Halls feeling like a proper grown up Druid.

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Back in Vanilla, I had the pleasure of doing the Benediction chain and I watched the Gnomeling do his Rhok’ledar (I was there for moral support and to kill any Horde who looked at him funny). Both were amazing chains but when you compare the Priest/Hunter epic chains to the Druid model, there are a couple of crucial differences. The Druid one doesn’t rely on RNG. I got lucky, my Eye dropped from our very first Majordomo “kill”. However I knew Priests who had to wait months for that chest to stop yielding leaves, conversely, my guild got Eye after Eye and so our Hunters were epic bowless. Putting the two parts that both Hunters/Priests needed on two different raid bosses meant that in order to experience your epic class quest you had to raid. For Priests especially, getting the Eye of Shadow on my server was hard. One guild (mine) tended to get 95 percent of all the Lord Kazzak kills and when you factored in the fact that we had something like 12 raiding priests and numerous priest alts, it took a while for them to filter onto the Auction House. Yes, you could farm it from those horrible demons in Winterspring but doing so as a Priest solo was hard and the drop rate sucked. That’s actually how I got mine, farming with three other holy priests and a resto druid until 4am – roots, smite, smite, smite, smite, wrath, roots, smite, smite, smite, smite, roots, wrath, wrath, wrath and so on. Painful doesn’t even begin to describe the experience. To be fair we started out with a bunch of dpsers but they all went to bed early. Not sure if that was because they were bored or because they had to get up early in the morning and we healers soldiered on.

So if any future class quests were added, I think that Blizzard should follow the Druid model and make the chain easily available to anyone regardless of how they choose to spend their time in-game. Availability obviously has to impact on the reward, but the rewards could be cosmetic or fun or even powerful at the start of the expansion but wilt over time. If something is easily obtained by say all warriors willing to spend a few hours running quests and probably doing a dungeon or two, I can’t think of any reason why it couldn’t be comparable with the first tier of raid weapons. It would provide a different gearing path and help factor out RNG for people trying to get their first set of gear together. As for dealing with the different specs, Benediction/Anathema was an awesome way of doing that and it would be nice to see Blizzard implement that on other stuff.

Which then got me thinking, Blizzard originally added quite a few class based zones. Think Ravenholdt hidden away in the hills, compete with its poison garden and staffed by persons of a dubious nature. Or Fray Island, the fight club of WoW where warriors would brawl to prove their worth and receive Berserker Stance. Then there is the Moonglade itself, the tranquil valley in which druids of both factions can meet, watched over by the Cenarion Circle. When Cataclysm rips a path through the world as we know it, WoW’s very own disaster movie, I really hope that areas like those get a bit more love.

Also WTB a Priest hideout where Erinys can sip honeymint tea and debate the finer points of religion with other Priestly types. Although I suspect we might as well just rent a battleground or a graveyard because given the diversity of our faiths, someone is bound to end up dead.

———

Returning back to 2013, clearly my crystal ball was a bit out of tune. When Blizzard added the latest class quest (the epic Rogue one), they made it require a raid boss and so much for embellishing those class areas…

What I loved about all three of these quests was the fact that they made you think about what it meant to play that specific class. Not only in terms of playstyle although all three required you to explore your spell book, perhaps the Druid and Hunter more so than the Priest, although plenty of people I knew did take Holy Nova especially for the quest but also from an RP perspective if you wished to indulge it.

With the Priest quest, you had to merge the dual nature of the class by acquiring both the eye of shadow and the eye of divinity before striking a balance between them.

You have come for redemption, yet you yourself do not realize this… Do you?

From a roleplay perspective, when I look back on all the terrible things my Priest(s) have done since that day in EPL, I remember this:

I never stated that you were here to redeem yourself, priest/priestess. You are here to redeem me and the innocents murdered while trying to escape Stratholme. My spirit and the spirit of those lost are bound here, cursed to endlessly relive our own tragic deaths.

and consider the slate wiped clean. I really would love to see the quest chain added back into the game, possibly with the Eyes being available through the Black Market.

I also loved the fact that you had to do it by yourself otherwise the “Cleaner” would come and squish you underfoot.

Be warned, you must complete this task alone. It is recommended that your allies remain at a distance. Interference by outside agents will result in a most severe punishment.

Although that plus the fact that Eris Havenfire would yell, alerting the entire zone Horde and Alliance alike that some brave Priest was attempting the quest did make it easier for the opposing side to grief.

———-

Therefore it probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise that the main aspect of the next patch which I’m really looking forward to is the “Proving Grounds”. Yes I’d rather have the storytelling and romance of class quests but given that Blizzard understandably wishes to design for the masses not a percentage, I’ll happily settle for that.


Some Minor Glyphs are more Equal than others

I’ve had a hate hate relationship with minor glyphs ever since the start of MoP. Playing a Holy Priest didn’t exactly leave me with much choice outside the cosmetic and whilst I’ve nothing against cosmetic, when other classes have something useful to fill their slots it’s a little frustrating.

Sure things like being able to sprint over water and fall great distances safely are essentially niches but they take an existing useful spell and add something to it, making it more useful in certain situations with no negatives at all. Perhaps it’s easier for classes like the Rogue who despite having three specs has only one role but Priests have definitely suffered when it comes to fun minor glyphs which give you an edge over the cosmetic ones.

Confession is amusing for about 10 seconds, although if you could edit the confessions to suit the people you cast it on, it could have far more potential (although I can see why Blizzard would never ever allow this). I do like turning into a Val’kyr  but wish it altered the spell somewhat, perhaps you stay “alive” for three quarters of the time the normal Spirit remains for but it allows you to cast smite too. Not having to die to get any use of the glyph would be even better though. There are 10 Priest minor glyphs, four of these are Shadow specific, 1 Disc and 1 Holy. Of the four non spec specific spells, 3 are straight up turn this spell effect into that one and the final one is confessions.

Which brings me to the Monk. Here we see a variety of minor glyphs, ones which completely alter spells giving you variety and extra options. Take the Windwalker glyph Blackout Kick:

Use: Permanently teaches you this glyph.

Your Blackout Kick always deals 20% additional damage over 4 sec regardless of positioning but you’re unable to trigger the healing effect.

For situations where you don’t need to heal yourself, this is a great glyph. I admit my Monk currently rocks the completely cosmetic glyph of Crackling Tiger Lightning but my other 2 slots are filled with mostly practical glyphs and besides pretending I’m a Sith Monk is useful, honest. I fell in love with the glyph of Zen Flight the second I tried it out. Okay it’s not as fast as my mounts but you can cast it whilst falling, always handy especially when you’ve used crackling lightning to punt a mob off a cliff and had a slight accident whilst trying to loot it. You can cast your proper mount whilst smugly sitting on your cloud having not fallen to your death. You can mine on it four foot off the ground as well as complete pesky pick up quests under the noses of aggressive mobs. You can pose on it and chill out on it and perhaps most importantly you don’t need to die to use it.

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In many regards I wish Blizzard would return to the three type model for glyphs. Major spell altering ones, which always do something nice to your abilities, lesser ones which like the Blackout Kick above offer you a situational choice and finally the minor glyphs, always cosmetic and always fun. At the moment it feels like discussing minor glyphs is comparing apples with oranges which is wrong because it should be apples with apples and the Priest ones shouldn’t be windfall, mushy and filled with maggots when compared to other classes with their shiny pink ladys and golden delicious.

Sprout the Brawler

Slightly late to the party but this weekend, Sprout intends taking on all comers in the Brawler’s Guild.

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My self-imposed challenge however is to do it as Holy or die trying! No doubt the latter will definitely happen more than a few times but I think with a bit of practice some fights at least will be possible and making the attempt is half the fun in it’s self.

So without any further ado, introducing Brawler Sprout!

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Be afraid.

Minion of Har’koa: Transmogrification Gnomish Style

So I noticed whilst flicking through my feed reader that J D Kenada was hosting yet another transmogrification contest and I thought “ooh!” to myself. My first thought on reading the brief was Snow Gnomes!!!!! and given that first thoughts are usually if not the best, at least the most quirky and strange, Snow Gnomes it is!

First of all, every Spirit needs a few Priests to speak for them.

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This outfit was one of those serendipitous moments begun whilst running around AQ40 pursued by an army of angry bugs when you happen to pause long enough to loot Fankriss and find those beautiful blue robes staring back up at you. Being a modest Gnome it is of course matched with the Cerulean Filigreed Doublet, a shirt whose design I adore and use whenever shyness gets the better of my characters.

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  • Heroes’ Crown of Faith
  • Pauldrons of Transcendence
  • Robes of the Guardian Saint
  • Bindings of Transcendence
  • Cerulean Filigreed Doublet

As it happens, this is what Sprout is wearing at the moment but when I went to grab a few screenshots of Har’koa, I noticed that the blues matched up almost perfectly.

The other outfit I made, the one I originally intended entering was designed around the weapon as after all, Spirits need Blades just as much as they need Priests to praise them.

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  • Very Light Sabre (the reason why my Warrior is a Gnome)
  • Mechanized Snow Goggles (which always make me think of Charles Causley’s poetry
  • Glimmershell Shoulder Protector
  • Iceguard Breastplate
  • Imbued Plate Greaves
  • Iceguard Leggings
  • Lurker’s Girdle
  • Gauntlets of Resolute Fury

I was still toying with the idea of designing something around the “wonderful” Boneshredder’s set but work and duty calls, that will have to be a plan for another day.

Seeking Redemption: A Blog Azeroth Shared Topic

The Blog Azeroth Shared Topic this week is a touchy subject for me, I’ve always been a firm believer in asking forgiveness not permission but only when caught red handed in mischief. However, in order to write this, I’ve put my “big girl shoes” on and gritted my teeth. Here’s hoping confession really is good for the soul, as suggested by Matty.

What is one thing, just one thing, you did that was pretty awful in Azeroth, that you wish you could get some kind of redemption or forgiveness for, or even just get off your chest?

First the extenuating circumstances leading to my crime.

Back in vanilla, my then guild got server firsts on everything after Razorgore (the Horde beat us to that one) but everything in the garden was far from rosy. Too many egos clashing, massive competition to top the damage metres and lots of cliques hidden amongst the raiding team. We Priests however all got on fairly well, communicating mostly through the Priest channel, the name of which we changed regularly to stop non-Priests from infiltrating. The biggest “fly” in our ointment was a former Priest rerolled Mage who thought that we “healers” existed to serve, nothing more and who set about orchestrating  a campaign with the Guild leaders to prevent amongst other things healers rolling against dps alts on dungeon drops that no main wanted on our Molten Core/BWL fun runs. Things came to a head one BWL where our GM (who ruled with a rod of iron) was catnapping with the intention of logging later for AQ40. In his absence, the one healer who was an officer lead the raid and awarded Mish’undare to a fellow Priest. Now everyone’s favourite Mage ignored the war raging in guildchat and took the step (too far) of phoning the GM at home who promptly erupted on-line and proceeded to read the riot act. DKP was threatened and even I (usually considered immune to the yelling) ended up on the receiving end of furious whispers because I had done nothing to stop the “crime”.

The Priest Officer turned first to shadow before vanishing in the dead of night, having “mislaid” the guild bank and the rest of us were under scrutiny and house arrest by the rest of the guild. We in turn, reacted like the children we were currently being treated as. Rank 1 fortitude buffs on certain people and lots of “accidental” deaths on Nefarian during the Priest call topped the bill. However my sin came a bit later when still smarting from the fall out I happened to be spending a lazy afternoon on-line  picking herbs in Felwood and chatting away to a range of people including a pvp hungry Horde Druid who had logged his Alliance alt for some ganking gossip. Our server had a fairly small community and the news of rebelling Priests had spread like wildfire, after all, no other guild wanted to be “infected” and so once we’d covered the latest who ganked who news we moved straight to the events of that BWL. Some how I found myself breaking my own cardinal rule and the identity of a certain Mage fell from my lips like cherry blossom petals from the tree. Naturally my Druid buddy excused himself from the conversation a few minutes later and logged off, I continued picking flowers and waited to see what happened next. It didn’t take long, soon Mr Mage was complaining about being ganked by a 5 man group including a particular Druid. In all, he died five or six times before the cavalry reached him.

I didn’t give his location but then I didn’t need to, the Druid was perfectly capable of using the /who function but that doesn’t mitigate my crime. As soon as I started typing I knew what would happen, after all Druids were in a similar boat to Priests, having to fight to be accepted as something other than healers and more importantly I knew that this particular Druid would be happy to avenge me.

In closing, I’m not in the slightly bit sorry that the Mage got ganked repeatedly and from that moment forward had a target painted on his back but I do regret the fact that I sunk to his level, that I got into bed with the Horde to get revenge.

 

Edit: Mr Harpy made me add this bit which is probably the worst part. We ended up being part of the rescue group because the guild had to stick together and all and despite said Druid emoting /love at me, when my GM charged him I had no choice but to play my part as a good little Alliance healer. In short, not only did I get a Guildmate ganked against my own “principles”, but I played a starring role in the corpse camping of my Knight in shining armour because I didn’t have the guts to admit that it was all my fault in case my DKP got wiped.

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