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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Distractions" (or Not Dead Yet?)


When I went casual, I pondered if I would keep this blog going.  For now, I do plan to keep it going, but I thought it fair to warn you that I am keeping myself busy blogging about things that are more relevant to me now, mostly Real Life stuff.  And it's hard for a blog specific to a single game that I play casually to compete with that.

It's not dead yet, but who knows what the future will hold.  Don't be surprised if you don't hear from me until 4.1...or never again.  It doesn't mean I don't love you, I just feel I need to blog with other topics. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

[4.0.6] Raid Tank Buffs, Debuffs, and Homogenization


Three Tanks walk into a bar...no that wasn't it.  Oh yeah, I remember now.  Three Tanks walk into a 25-player raid...and it doesn't matter which class they are.

The other day, at lunch, it was posited that have a mix of Tanks was important. Six months ago, I probably would have endorsed that, but when I think really hard about it now...not so much.

Homogenization of the Lich King

During Wrath of the Lich King (WotLK), we saw great strides towards homogenization of classes, which Blizzard referred to with the catch phrase, "bring the player, not the class".  This has two chief consequences:
  •  Raid groups (and guilds) can worry less about getting every class into their raids, so they can be more tolerant of class mix
  • To achieve this, classes require greater homogenization (shared/redundant abilities), which makes them individually less special/unique
For the most part, it's been a good thing, but I will be the first to admit it came with some pain.  I play a Druid as my main because of an affection for the class concept, and that included the unique things they could do. But unique capabilities are so last expansion now.

I say that, because, for the most part, they went away in WotLK and, by the time Cataclysm hit the shelves, we had seen some rather dramatic changes from what we remembered.

The New Era of Tank "Mix"

The premise that you want a mix of Tank classes rests upon the diversity they bring to the raid in terms of game mechanics.  This begs the question - in what ways do they differ?

Debuffs are where we see some of the canonical Tank abilities.
  • Melee attack slow - all Tanks can slow their primary target; Warriors and DKs can easily slow multiple mobs (at the risk of breaking CC).  The latter is nice, but the former is the critical capability, and DPS DKs can provide the latter too.
  • Physical damage reduction - all Tanks can reduce the Physical Damage they take; Warriors, Druids, and DKs do it via an AoE, Paladins can apply it to one to three targets at a time and that's plenty.  If you were to rely on DPS to help, Paladins and Feral Druids could maintain it on their target without DPS impact; Warriors could do it with negligible DPS impact; but DPS DKs rarely dip into the second tier of Blood, so I would not expect them to be able to do this.
  • Armor debuff - This is pretty important and, surprisingly, it has not made it to all Tanks. Only Warriors and Druids can do this right now.  The good news is that this is a DPS concern more than a Survival concern (and yes, the fast the boss dies, the better).  Rogues, DPS Warriors, and Feral Druids can provide this debuff, but it is generally less of a DPS impact if provided by the Druid, since Faerie Fire (Feral) lasts for five minutes and it is not uncommon for a Raid DPS Feral to have the Talent to apply all three stacks at once.  Warriors and Rogues would need to re-apply more frequently and for Rogues, the need to use a combo point and a finishing move makes this relatively costly.
  • Casting speed slow - This is an interesting ability that only one Tank can do - DKs.  That said, I am not sure how desirable it would be to work Necrotic Strike into a Tanking rotation.  Arcane Mages and all Warlocks can also provide a similar debuff, as well as Rogues (Mind-numbing poison), which increasing impacts on their individual DPS.
As for buffs, they are a mixed bag but, for the most part, they are not special to a Tank.  However, if you have a paucity of a given class or spec, you might need to tune a bit.  I recommend using MMO-Champion's Raidcomp tool to make sure your raid is covered.

Your Raid Needs Class Coverage, Not Your Tank Corps

The title says it all, really.  The buffs and debuffs are plentiful. Your real concern in class coverage should be aimed at making sure your raid has what it needs, not your Tank corps.  So, if you have three Tanks all of the same class, that may be just fine, as long as your raid covers the buffs and debuffs you need.

Is There Any Reason to Have a Specific Tank?

For the most part, not really.  We all have ways to address what we need to do.  Picking up multiple mobs as range is still a little challenging for Warriors and Bears, unless charging in and smacking the mobs is OK.  That said, in most cases where you need to Tank at range, a ranged DPS may be the better choice.

Sure, there are subtleties, but again it comes down to your raid.  For example, if you had no Rogues, Warriors, or Druids at all in your raids, then maybe you would ask a Hunter to bring a pet that provides the armor reduction.

Some of the buffs are less distributed.  The armor *buff* is only brought by Paladins and Shamans, as is "push back" protection for casters.  The stat multiplier provided by Druids and Paladins can also be provided by a Shale Spider pet.  But if you have none of the three, then no stat multiplier for you.  For the most part though, you would need to be missing at least two classes completely from your raid before it was an issue.

So, yeah, don't worry about diversity on such a granular level.  If your raid has the class abilities covered, you should be good.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

[4.0.6] No Endgame For Old Men


So, there I am, geared up as much as I can be from Honor gear and I even have a few Conquest pieces.

My Honor is capped and there is nothing I really want to buy.

The Random Battleground (BG) queue system is screwed up and I keep passing the "average wait time" and having to drop and re-queue unless I want to wait 30+ minutes for the queue to figure out it passed me up.

Every BG is good news & bad news:
  • Good news - I am one of the best players on my side, maybe even the best
  • Bad news - Almost all of the other players are undergeared, disorganized, and ineffective*
* - Because I am by no means the best skilled, most experienced, or geared PvPer

I remember the good old days when the guy from the RP server (me) was the weak link, i.e., most everyone was as good or better than me.  But I swear it felt like almost everyone on my side was drunk, new to BGs, undergeared, accidentally queued for PvP (and have no idea what is happening), or all of the above.

Broken queue, broken queue, broken queue, bad BG, broken queue, bad BG, broken queue, bad BG.

It's like WoW has finally become a self-aware entity and is doing its best to annoy me to death.

Monday, April 4, 2011

[4.0.6] Does a Bear Golf in the Woods?


So, now that I have "retired" from our guild's raiding rank?  What do I do to keep myself busy?  Candyswiper?  Orgimmart greeter?

Once I took the plunge there was a cascade effect.  I have lost all interest in daily quests and dungeons. I lost interest in logging in with my alts except maybe for an *occasional* Jewelcrafting daily, but that is passing.

PvP has suddenly become far more interesting to me for the same reasons that it likely attracts most people:
  • It's accessible - There are zero requirements to enter a Battleground beyond level (this can be a bad thing when the occasional heavily undergeared person shows up, but you get the bad with the good)
  • It's dynamic - the games always feel different, because my opponents are human beings, not scripted monsters.
  • PvP "raids" (battlegrounds) are automatically formed for you.  I can pretty much jump in and do it whenever I like

I like raiding, but I am increasingly of the opinion that Blizzard has crafted raiding so that it is only really accessible if you give what I consider an unacceptable time commitment to it.

If there was a guild out there that raided once a week, I might give it a try, but I also might not.  Stepping off the raiding train had a sweeping effect.  With all of my alts already leveled, and no raiding main to support anymore, my desire to sign on for ancillary activities has evaporated.

WoW has become just another computer game and when measured against the other single player RPGs and PvP games I can play, it isn't actually all that remarkable. In fact, there is quite a bit of tedium to it.  The last two nights, it has taken 30+ minutes to get into a BG, even though the queue kept saying "4 minutes" average).

I also don't care for the fact that the best gear is almost completely unobtainable unless you participate in activities that require group formation.  Consider, for example, Conquest points.  You can earn 1343 Conquest points in a week, you can earn that in a few rated BGs, but if you try to do that with a daily random BG, you are going to earn a maximum of 175 Conquest points.  So, in 20 weeks you can buy a nice PvP weapon...if you can stomach being slapped around like a pinata by the folks that are earning the points almost eight times faster than you.

Full disclosure, you can also get Conquest points via arenas, but again, form a group, schedule arena nights, and hope everyone actually shows up consistently.  In my experience, that lasts about 5-6 weeks at best.

Valor points (PvE) are a little faster, but the amount of gear you can get is more limited.

As for crafting, you can only craft a few epic pieces for PvE and none for PvP.

Long queues and hard limits on accomplishment/gearing unless you make a greater scheduling commitment to the game.  Compare that to first person shooters where you can unlock everything on your own and in many/most cases, queue up very quickly for games.  They are looking a lot more attractive.

So, now, that monthly fee is looking like more of a waste and I am pondering something I never thought I would - letting my account expire. /dramaticmusic

Friday, April 1, 2011

[4.0.6] How Much Time?


Leading up to my "retirement" in my guild, one of the key topics of discussion I covered with my wife, other officers, and myself, was the time commitment.

I am going to use the Grim Legion's expected raid time commitment as my example.  There are guilds with similar commitments, some with more, and some with less.  Grim Legion is not unusual in its time commitments, it is commonplace for a guild with any focus on progression to have one.  This is but one example.

In the Grim Legion, the current time commitment is 7:45 PM to 11:00 PM, three nights a week, every week, without interruption.  It is assumed that we are playing on holidays unless otherwise noted.  In the history of the guild, I think we have actually canceled a raid beforehand due to holidays a handful of times in the 4.5 years the guild has existed and while we might have discussed or declared a break from raiding prior to an expansion, in practice, it generally did not happen.  The only real breaks from raiding that I have seen were when a new expansion came out and we had to take a break while we waited for enough people to gear up.

"Just" Three Hours a Night

I remember when this statement seemed reasonable for me.  It was around the time when we stopped playing four hours a night.

I have a job and I have to eat, sleep, shower, etc.  On a good day, I have four hours to myself without depriving myself of sleep.  For me, this means my night is shot if I do anything for "just" 3 hours.  When you factor in things like daily quests or daily random dungeons (a necessity until you have all of your gear), it absolutely shoots the evening.

As a result, I can't plan any other activity on those nights.  I can't partake in a social outing for dinner, because it will take too long or I will have to excuse myself prematurely.  Errands and chores get postponed.

Obviously, it's not really just three hours either.  It's always more, typically at least 3.5 hours.  And real life is still there, giving you things to do, so even "just" three hours in a night can mean some minor sleep deprivation when real life is factored into the equation.

"Just" Three Nights a Week

I also remember when this statement seemed reasonable for me.  It was when we trimmed down from four nights a week and when there were still many hardcore guilds raiding five nights a week.

Now, it seems almost comical to say that.  That's almost half of your evenings shot.  That's a LOT.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  How many commitments do you have that take three complete evenings out of your week every week of the year, without end?  That's on par with the same commitment to earn a degree in night classes, except that college has breaks, sometimes for months out of a year.

Another ting you don't really appreciate at first, is the rigidity is imparts to your schedule.  Every week, you start with only four evenings open.  Yes, you can obviously choose to not show up to a raid, but you do start with that assumed commitment every week (and you might have a limit on allowed absences, as has been recently put in place in our guild).

The Eternal Season - Persistence is Painful

One of the key things that really gets me is the never-ending aspect of most raiding commitments. It's not every other week, or three weeks a month, or a three month "season" followed by a one month break. It's every week without interruption.

Of course, people want to have fun, and most people are going to spend more than 10-11 hours per week doing that, but that's a world of difference from a rigid schedule that obligates multiple, specific nights every week throughout the year.  Then it becomes a vocation.

And that is the primary nail in the coffin.  For me, only things that have significant real world benefits really warrant that level of commitment, in my opinion, e.g., work, family, health, religion, education, etc.  Having fun is good and doing the same thing for fun all of the time can be OK (although probably not ideal), but *committing* to a rigid, pervasive schedule that persists through every week of the year to play a computer game.  I am not sure that can be part of a healthy life.

So, Is There A Place in My Life For WoW?

Yeah, I think so, but right now it looks like only as a casual.  Even if I resumed raiding, I can't be that 100% attendance wunderkind.   Too many things to do, and too much to see in the world.

I soldiered through some pretty crazy time commitments out of a sense of obligation, but I just cannot do it anymore.

What If I Had More Free Time?

Well, the one thing this has really brought home for me was the sheer magnitude of time being spent.  So, I don't think it would change if I had more free time.  Sure, I could definitely consume it cheaply with WoW, but I think I would rather use that time to diversify my activities.

While everyone needs some good mindless fun, there are far too many interesting and/or beneficial things to do with my time and, frankly, a lot of other choices for mindless fun.  Why not choose some that strengthen my circle of local friends and family, or that make me more physically fit?  Or, at the very least, elect flexible commitments.

I still clearly remember that about nine years ago I mocked the very notion of playing a MMORPG.  I would say things like, "I don't want to get addicted to Evercrack."  Then someone invited me to play City of Heroes, then WoW, and boy did a lot of time whiz by over the years.

It's not like I haven't put a lot of time into something for pure recreation.  Oh my, those weekend-long Civilization marathons.  And those few months when I was assembling an army for, and playing, Warhammer 40k.  Yeah, a lot of time spent there.  But the key is that it was a spurt of activity, not a persistent year-round commitment.

And that really is the kicker.  I need it to be something I can drop at a moment's notice for an indefinite period of time, whenever it suits me, without feeling like I am letting people down.  You know, like a regular game. :)

I am happy with putting WoW in its place as just one of many computer games I have enjoyed.  Onward with the casual gaming experience... :)