On Warhammer and Distractions…

So, it’s been quite a while since I last posted, and there have been a couple major contributing factors to this.

One, I gave Warhammer a whirl. It was pretty cool for PvP, and having read over the highlights from Blizzcon, I’m happy to see that Blizz will be incorporating some of the features into WoW, notably queueing for battlegrounds anywhere. Unfortunately, Warhammer’s PvE was sorely lacking, and a game whose only major merits are PvP-based can’t hold my attention for very long.

Two, must…level…alts. Trying desperately to get alts up to 70 before the xpack hits. I should easily have my shaman up to 70 by the time xpack hits, and my mage should be well along the way. This makes me happy. Options are always a good thing, although I very likely will be rolling a Death Knight on launch day. I’m about 90% on that. Which leads me to thing the third…

Beta! Got into the beta a while back, and really enjoyed messing around with stuff. Actually spent very little time on my druid(never even hit 71), however I did tank a bit of Naxx on a premade druid, and that was fun. Most of what I did, however, was play around with DKs. I wanted to get a good feel for how the class plays, and decide whether or not I would play one, and where in the roster it would go. I am sorely tempted to make my Death Knight my new main, and make it the first thing I do on launch day. They’re extremely fun, with quite a few cool abilities.

So, the main reason I’m making this post is to break the radio silence. I plan on posting in the next day or so regarding Death Knights, so if you’re interested but don’t have access yet, I’ll be breaking down some of the cooler/more fun abilities and aspects of being a former servant of the Lich King.

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Buff/Debuff Changes

So, there’s been a pretty huge post on the beta forums that I would like to address. Here’s a link to the original, as I’ll be cutting it up and only including the stuff I’m commenting on. I highly recommend checking it out.

There are thirty or so different categories buffs and debuffs fit into, and I will list each category and which spells/talents are in that category.

Armor Debuff (Major): Acid Spit (exotic Hunter pet), Expose Armor, Sunder Armor
Armor Debuff (Minor): Faerie Fire, Sting (Hunter pet), Curse of Recklessness
Physical Vulnerability Debuff: Blood Frenzy, (2nd Talent Spec TBA)
Melee Haste Buff: Improved Icy Talons, Windfury Totem
Melee Critical Strike Chance Buff: Leader of the Pack, Rampage
Attack Power Buff (Flat Add): Battle Shout, Blessing of Might
Attack Power Buff (Multiplier): Abomination’s Might, Trueshot Aura, Unleashed Rage
Ranged Attack Power Buff: Hunter’s Mark (only Hunters benefit, so no need to exclude against other class abilities)
Bleed Damage Increase Debuff: Mangle, Trauma
Spell Haste Buff: Wrath of Air Totem
Spell Critical Strike Chance Buff: Moonkin Aura, Elemental Oath
Spell Critical Strike Chance Debuff: Improved Scorch, Winter’s Chill
Increased Spell Damage Taken Debuff: Ebon Plaguebringer, Earth and Moon, Curse of the Elements
Increased Spell Power Buff: Focus Magic, Improved Divine Spirit, Flametongue Totem, Totem of Wrath, Demonic Pact
Increased Spell Hit Chance Taken Debuff: Improved Faerie Fire, Misery
Percentage Haste Increase (All Types): Improved Moonkin Aura, Swift Retribution
Percentage Damage Increase: Ferocious Inspiration, Sanctified Retribution
Critical Strike Chance Taken Debuff (All types): Heart of the Crusader, Totem of Wrath
Melee Attack Speed Slow Debuff: Icy Touch, Infected Wounds, Judgements of the Just, Thunderclap
Melee Hit Chance Reduction Debuff: Insect Swarm, Scorpid Sting
Healing Debuff: Wound Poison, Aimed Shot, Mortal Strike, Furious Attacks
Attack Power Debuff: Demoralizing Roar, Curse of Weakness, Demoralizing Shout
Stat Multiplier Buff: Blessing of Kings
Stat Add Buff: Mark of the Wild
Agility and Strength Buff: Strength of Earth Totem, Horn of Winter
Stamina Buff: Power Word: Fortitude
Health Buff: Commanding Shout, Blood Pact
Intellect Buff: Arcane Intellect, Fel Intelligence
Spirit Buff: Divine Spirit, Fel Intelligence
Damage Reduction Percentage Buff: Grace, Blessing of Sanctuary
Percentage Increase Healing Received Buff: Tree of Life, Improved Devotion Aura
Armor Increase Percentage Buff: Inspiration, Ancestral Healing
Cast Speed Slow: Curse of Tongues, Slow, Mind-numbing Poison.

In each category, you can only benefit from the most powerful spell granting that effect. For example, Fel Intelligence grants Spirit and Intellect, both weaker than Arcane Intellect and Divine Spirit. If a player has Fel Intelligence and receives a stronger Arcane Intellect buff, he will gain the intellect value from Arcane Intellect and the Spirit value from Fel Intelligence.

In most cases, fully-talented players will have exactly equal power on the strength of these buffs and debuffs. Fel Intelligence is an example of where one ability is weaker than others. The buffs in the “Increased Spell Power Buff” category are also not all the same potency, as they scale in grow in radically different ways. In virtually every other case, however, the buffs are equal. This means, for example, that fully-talented Battle Shout and Blessing of Might now grant the exact same amount of Attack Power.

So, in effect, buffs and debuffs are being normalized across the board, to create parity between them, so that one class isn’t being brought to raids because their debuff is better than another class’ similar debuff. I see this as definitely being a good thing. My guild right now is in the awkward position of being a bit too big for it’s britches, but not big enough to move up a size. We can field 10 man raids no problem, and in fact usually have more people that want to go than we can bring, by a fair number. Unfortunately, we don’t really have the consistent numbers to steadily run two 10 man groups a week. So, most times I try to roster a Kara run on our popular on nights, we end up leaving 3-5 people sitting on the bench. Now, because of how our guild is(a casual guild that raids, not a casual raiding guild), we don’t bring people based on class beyond the bare minimums required for roles. Two tanks, 2-3 healers, rest dps. We’ve had nights with 3 hunters in Kara, and nights with zero priests(aka Heroic Moroes mode). What these changes bring to the plate for me is, I can continue rostering based on who hasn’t had a chance to go lately and things of that nature, and not take as big a hit in the performance department, at least as far as the view from game design is concerned.
It also makes it a bit easier rostering raids in general, and lessens the need to be a walking encyclopedia of the raid performance and quirks and whatnot of every single class in the game for a raid leader, and lets us get back to the more simple x tanks, x healers, x melee, x ranged formula. Easier to roster the raid, less time spent worrying about/balancing buffs/debuffs, more time raiding, less time yanking your own hair out. This change is full of win.

 

 

In addition to this change, we also needed to address the “mana battery” roles in a raid. The mana regeneration effect they grant is no longer limited to their own party, and it no longer depends on the amount of damage they deal. Each time they trigger the mana regeneration effect, 10 people in their raid group will receive a buff which causes them to regenerate 0.5% of their maximum mana each second. This buff, Replenishment, will be given preferentially to raid members with the lowest mana, but will re-evaluate which raid members receive it each time it is fired. Replenishment is provided by Shadow Priests, Survival Hunters, and Retribution Paladins.

This, on the other hand, has a lot less win. Now, granted, it’s better than it was, affecting 10 people instead of 5, however being mana efficient is now going to be penalized. If you have a solid casting rotation and have done the research to understand how to be mana efficient, you will most likely be passed over by the game mechanics to feed mana to people who recklessly burn through their mana pool with no thought given to mana efficiency. This change promotes mana inefficiency, because the more inefficient you are, the more likely you are to receive replenishment.

All in all, I have to say, I like the direction that the Blizzard dev team is taking the game in. I think the new philosophies of making raiding more accessible to smaller guilds, and creating parity between the classes both in the buff/debuff department as well as the tanking and healing departments is going to be great for the game. Some people, I’m sure, will complain that the classes are being diluted, that everyone is being given the same abilities and playing a druid tank will be just like playing a warrior tank will be just like playing a DK tank. To this, I say bullshit. It’s very much possible to level the playing field without putting everyone on the same team. From everything I have read, the classes will retain their unique flavors, however they’ll be given tools suited to their flavor to get the job done. I can’t wait.

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Triple Size Me

So, as Sharon mentioned yesterday, we went ahead and got a third account to take advantage of the crazy triple xp bonus, among other things. We’ve played around with it a few days now(did it the day it came out, Wednesday), so I figured I would talk about what I think about it, so far.

It’s somewhat hard to tell who this incentive program is aimed at. I find it a little hard to believe that it is actually aimed at bringing in new players. There are some interesting issues that occur when leveling that fast that I think could actually cause some problems for brand new players to the game. As has been mentioned elsewhere, hunters who are gaining the triple xp bonus do not pass on triple xp to their pets, so keeping a pet leveled up with you would be nigh on impossible, and about the only recourse for this would be to abandon and tame a new pet every few levels.

Also, you outlevel gear extremely fast, and with the crazy leveling pace, at least so far, you actually end up skipping a lot of quests, missing out on gear upgrades. So far, my shaman and her warrior are now level 23, at around 11 hours played, and that includes a bit of screwing around with tradeskills. We hit level 8 before leaving the Valley of Trials, and did all of Sen’jin village and two, maybe three quests in Razor Hill before leaving Durotar. A handful of quests in the Barrens, perhaps 10, and we’ve now moved on to Hillsbrad Fields. Did a couple of quests in Hillsbrad, and that’s where we really noticed how badly our gear had fallen behind. Her warrior was not even remotely able to hold aggro with me using any kind of weapon buff, even without shocks, and my flametongue weapon buff was hitting damn near as hard as my weapon was. We actually came really close to dying a bunch of times, and she did die once(I got mind controlled by one of the jailors and started healing him). So, right before logging, we actually hit the AH and bought up a bunch of greens to kit ourselves out in. Played aorund with them for about ten minutes, and it really did make a big difference.

The problem with this scenario is that a brand new player isn’t going to have the cash to set themselves up in AH greens every 10-15 levels or so, especially if they’re blazing through the levels and not getting as many drops or as much cash from quests/kills. In theory, the Recruiter will be able to hook them up to some extent, but depending on the server economy and just how much cash the recruiter has kicking around, that could get pretty damn expensive, especially when characters make the jump to plate/mail. This is one of the main reasons it seems to me like it is aimed at multi-boxers and people in the market for a second account. That’s actually what happened to us, I was considering getting another account to have more room for alts and bankers, and the new incentive program sold me on it.

Another issue I see with the incentive program being directed at brand new players is, part of the leveling process is learning how to play your toon. You get time to learn how abilities work and what they do, before you are forced to dive in with 4/9/24 other people and show them how well(or how little) you know your class. Now, it is true that things change significantly from 60 to 70, and that you do a large amount of learning how to play your character at 70. However, you learn the basics from 1-60, and the faster you burn through those levels, the less you learn, and this is especially true when you are new to the game and not only have to learn the basics of your class, but also the basics of the game mechanics.

The tools you get are pretty cool, and fun. It makes it much easier for me to be able to level my shaman in Eastern Kingdoms, since I can just hearth over to Orgrimmar, train, and then have her summon me back, as long as I don’t need to go back and trian again within an hour(believe it or not, this could actually be an issue, at least until 30). Also, being able to grant free levels is just awesome. She has a low level pally kicking around, and the plan is for me to grant levels to it to give it a pretty solid boost, then she can start with a really nice headstart in getting it up to 70. Plus, Sharon is pretty stoked about getting a Zhevra. I would have liked to have been able to get one, but it just worked out better for us to have the secondary account going into my name and having me play it(what with me being 100% out of alt spots).

So, all in all I would say that this incentive program is great for existing players who want to expand to a second/third/thirtieth account that have a partner they could play with, and people who are looking to multi-box that have not gotten set up with it yet, however for new players, while making the leveling process quite a lot faster, I don’t think that it creates a good atmosphere in which to learn how to play the game, and creates issues such as the gearing and pet issues that could be potentially very frustrating.

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