The long distinguished roll of pick up group disasters

This post marks the end of a long week of posts about WoW and particularly about the new random dungeon finder that came in with patch 3.3. What can I say? It’s been a jolt in the arm for an aging game. It’s been a reminder that the instanced content was always WoW’s strongest selling point. And it’s reminded a lot of people who thought they disliked grouping that what they mostly disliked was all the associated hassle in getting the group together.

The most brilliant thing about the dungeon finder from Blizzard’s point of view is that no one else running current gen games can copy it. In order to work, a tool like this needs a massive user base. For example, I woke up at 2am this morning and tried to get a group on my death knight out of morbid curiousity. 10 minutes later *BAM* smooth as silk Forge of Souls Heroic run. Now think about how many players you need active in order for there to be a 50% chance for any single person to only have to wait 10 mins to get a group at two in the morning.

My new Death Knight who conveniently hit 80 the day before the patch is also looking rather sleek in her new gear, thanks to some lucky drops.

In any case, we’ve all been running a lot more instances, and getting to grip with a lot more PUGs. I feel as though I’ve been in a permanent sugar rush when logged on. And it’s also not all perfect – what’s more, even those of us who are usually paragons of perfection occasionally make (say it in whispers) minor mistakes.

Here’s a list of some of the dumb things I have done this week:

  1. Ran a whole instance with my Death Knight in the wrong presence. I didn’t realise until right at the end when the tank asked why I kept getting aggro.
  2. While manoeuvring a mob in Forge of Souls, I fell off the platform.
  3. Told a death knight that it was fine for him to use Army of Souls on Loken, following which we immediately wiped.
  4. While trying an experimental short cut in The Nexus, I fell off the platform (incidentally, EVERYONE who has ever run Nexus has fallen off that platform at some point but it don’t half make you feel like a noob when it isn’t your first run.)
  5. Let far too many people die while healing on my druid because of being a bit out of practice.

By the way, every single one of those runs was actually successful (except for the Loken one because my friends logged on and I left the group). The only one that even caused a wipe was when I fell off Forge of Souls, because I was tanking at the time.

The oddest complaint I have had from another player was that I killed the bosses in the Nexus in the ‘wrong order.’ I told him I hadn’t received that memo.

I’m not the only person who has been cataloguing personal PUG failures (aka “I was THAT guy.”)

Link hard, with a vengeance

  1. Tarsus explains why we should always blame the tanks and gives a reason for just about every situation.
  2. Blizzard’s new petshop has inspired KIASA to sing. Katy Perry had nothing on this.
  3. We’ve seen a lot of other blog reactions to the petstore. The majority accept that the pets aren’t a big deal, but there’s a pervasive sense of sadness – as if we’d seen the future and people aren’t sure if they like it (ultimately if it’s more profitable for devs to make social games and sell pretty pets than make big expansive virtual worlds with complex teamplay, then well …). Green Armadillo sums this up, asking if RMT is the third Trammel. Copra also expresses sadness at how the game is changing, philosophically.
  4. The Rampant Coyote wonders if too much choice is a good thing in games. Or is it too easy to get lost or distracted and actually miss the game’s goal. I’ve recently started playing both Uncharted 2 and Dragon Age Origins and sometimes being on tracks is awesome fun as long as the view (and, more importantly, the gameplay) is that good.
  5. Naissa (welcome back, by the way) has extensive lists of things she misses about WoW from times gone by, but also things she loves about the new content.
  6. Speaking of Uncharted 2, Kotaku posts an interview with one of the designers, discussing how achievements (trophies) can actually add to the gameplay of a game and how they deliberately structure them. It’s so much more directed than the random ‘lets make an achievement out of everything’ scattergun approach we see in MMOs.
  7. It’s not just zillions of people in the western world who are hooked on farmville. Farming Games are extraordinarily popular in China too (probably where Zynga nicked the idea from).
  8. Game By Night analyses some of the problems with guilds as a concept, especially in games which have levels. And suggests some possible solutions.
  9. It’s much easier for people interested in WoW raiding these days to just run a PUG for the Coliseum. Altadin discusses the problems this raises for raid guilds – if you ask someone to be on reserve for your raid, you’re actually asking them to save their locks and not to even go grab some badges in a PUG. Matticus takes another angle and notes that it’s much easier to recruit and gear up a newbie now, so why not widen the recruitment net?
  10. So your guild is breaking up, everyone is all out of enthusiasm, and even the officers are wishing they could just quit. Ferrel discusses how to neatly put the guild to sleep – not a situation anyone likes but these things happen.

And my wtf of the week is wow.com’s post this morning about paladins which notes:

paladins are forced to pay the hybrid tax three times over — because they can do it all without limiting themselves, they can’t do anything as well as other classes

Does anyone seriously think that paladins can’t heal or tank as well as other classes (hint: they’re probably ahead on both right now).? Or that their dps is way behind … e.g. warriors? It’s not. Everyone whines, but that was a silly thing to say with any editorial weight behind it.

Also, I’ve seen a lot of rather tedious tank and healer questionnaires going around? Who the hell cares what your favourite spell is? *facepalm* It’s the whole package you should be looking at and how they fit together.

But for the record, my favourite tank type to team up with are bears. Warrior/druid is just a nice combo with a lot of finesse, I find. Or maybe I just know good bear tanks.

How to fail! And 20 ways to fail at tanking!

Blog Azeroth has a shared topic this week about Fails.

If I listed all the mistakes I’ve ever made in MMOs then (aside from needing a photographic memory to recall all the details) it would be the longest post I have ever written. ie. even longer than the one about why all MMOs will either need to implement a massive change or slowly die after about 4 years — feeling quite good about that prediction vis-a-vis Cataclysm right now so that’s not a fail.

Here are some of the main ones. I hope someone can learn from my mistakes.

Fighting for ownership of a guild when I was an officer and not the GM

I spent far too much time and energy trying to help direct one of my first guilds. I’d put a lot of time and effort into it. I’d been one of the first members and I was an officer. I didn’t understand why the GM and other officers weren’t interested in promoting guild activities or organising anything. I should have left before I really clashed with them. Even though I was probably right, it wasn’t worth it. I was much happier after I did leave and they probably were too.

As a general rule, never be afraid to leave a guild and find a new one if you realise that it isn’t working out for you … and probably never will. If you find yourself arguing a lot with guild leaders, that’s a good sign that it’s time to go. If you know you are playing more than you really wanted to, it’s a good sign that it’s time to find a guild with a more relaxed schedule, you owe it to everyone.

Fretting about picking a non-optimal class

You know how this one goes? You pick a class (or build, or whatever) because you find it fun. Later on, it turns out that it just isn’t as strong in its niche as other classes or you aren’t happy with it for other reasons. This is the point at which you should just reroll or find another game. There’s no point hanging on in the hope that devs will wave a magic wand and sort it all out for you, and that you’ll be rewarded in any way for sticking with an underpowered class. Just go play the bandwagon class for awhile and have fun, it’s a better use of time. I was much happier in DaoC when I left my minstrel and started a new sorceress — both classes were fine but I had been grumping for awhile about how badly I wanted to play a sorcerer. It would have saved a lot of time if I’d just done it.

Similarly in WoW, I knew I wasn’t enjoying tanking 5 man heroics in TBC. I’d have been happier if I’d switched to my resto druid sooner in that expansion.

I do think WoW at the moment in particular is more balanced than it has ever been, but MMOs in the past haven’t been as quick to balance the classes.

Taking someone on a raid because you couldn’t bear to say no

As a raid leader, your main goal is a successful raid — however you want to define that. If you know for sure that taking one person along will either make everyone else miserable (ie. because people hate them) or seriously affect your chances of a good raid, then grow a pair and find a polite way to tell them no. This is also a useful life lesson, you can’t always say yes to everyone and people actually don’t mind being told no as much as you think that they do. If you want to be productive, tell them what they can do to turn that no into a yes in future … unless you actually have taken an irrational dislike to them in which case try to persuade another raid leader to take them instead.

If you really want to do something, step up and lead

In every MMO I have played, I was much happier when I stopped bitching about people always organising raids or groups at times I couldn’t make  and just started organising my own. True, I don’t always want to lead. But being willing to step up from time to time means that you’ll always be able to make the raids and always be picked (unless you want to sit out). It magically becomes easier to do whichever content is on your mind at the time.

Know when to ditch a fail group

I was so happy when I found a Deadmines group for my alliance warlock. How foolish I was, how quickly I had forgotten the many ways in which a Deadmines group can fail from the past. We got lost on the way to the instance entrance and wiped three times while searching for it, then two of the group went afk for several minutes at different times.

It wasn’t as if I knew the way to the instance entrance either so I can’t say I was much help. But at least I knew when to say goodbye, for the sake of my sanity. There was a time when I would have felt honour bound to stay until the rest of the group split up, I have learned better now.

I cannot count the number of times in the past in which I dutifully stuck with a group where people weren’t even trying. You have to find a balance between helping a group work its way through an instance, even if it is slow and lots of people are learning, and deciding when people are just taking the piss and there’s something else you actually need to be doing (possibly in real life).

20 Ways to Fail at Tanking

Oh, this one is a whole category on its own! Unfortunately most tanking failures aren’t very novel or interesting and as you (and your friends/ guildies) get more practiced, you tend to recover from the failures quickly without even missing a step.

I’ve also noticed from reading threads on the official WoW boards that the types of tanking failures people report have changed in Wrath. There are a lot more cases of someone forgetting they were in an offspec or wearing the wrong gear during a pull. This used to happen previously but dual specs means that it’s a lot more likely to happen now. In Cataclysm, tanking gear will no longer feature defence as a stat. So it may be easier, like a druid, to do some emergency tanking while in the ‘wrong’ gear.

Paladins and DKs often fail by forgetting to have the right tanking buff/ presence up which has a huge effect on their threat (ie. no threat). This doesn’t really happen with druids (everyone else can yell at you if you aren’t a bear!) or warriors (who just switch stance quickly without really missing a beat — plus your tanking abilities won’t even show up on the quickbar if you’re not in defensive stance).

Classic tanking failures — I have done all of these in the past and probably will in future too:

  1. Pulling too many groups, probably by walking into one by mistake. (We call this the arse pull.)
  2. Pulling with the wrong ability, often resulting in the above. (ie. charging into a group by mistake instead of shooting at one.)
  3. Charging into combat and falling off a cliff (*cough* Kologarn)
  4. Forgetting that some crucial group member was afk and pulling anyway.
  5. Ditto for not waiting for healer mana, especially if they specifically asked.
  6. Forgetting my assignments in a raid encounter and trying to tank the wrong mob. Oops.
  7. Forgetting to repair.
  8. Messing up my macros so that my shield got unequipped and I couldn’t find it in my bags (while tanking) to switch it back in.
  9. Anything else connected with hitting the wrong button/ having a non-optimal hotbar layout such that hitting the wrong button did something more amusing or catastrophic than that would sound.
  10. Not noticing when my healer died. Or needed assistance.
  11. Ditto to not noticing anything happening to any of the other tanks.
  12. Not spotting adds in time to pick them up; particularly bad if the adds are large, brightly coloured, noisy, or eat several healers before I notice them.
  13. Not informing the rest of the raid promptly  if any of the above happens.
  14. Mismarking. Getting the kill order wrong in a pack of mobs such that the one you left until last kills everyone in an amusing way.
  15. Arguing about mismarking while trying to tank the next pull.
  16. Mistaunting. Oh no, you used your taunt by mistake and now it’s down and there’s an important tank switch coming up!
  17. Mistaunting off another tank.
  18. Taunting while targetting the wrong mob, oops.
  19. Not realising that your mouse batteries were running low until it goes dead in the middle of a boss fight.
  20. Not realising that your voice chat headset has become unplugged until you wonder why no one is responding to the VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION you just gave them in the middle of a boss fight.
  21. Getting a Papercut on your “Heroic Strike Finger” (Tarsus)
  22. Bleeding all over the place because you can’t stop hitting Heroic Strike in the middle of a boss fight. (Tarsus)
  23. Tanking a boss that requires an interrupt (hi, Auriaya!) and accidentally hitting Shield Bash about two seconds before you need it, so it’s still on cooldown at the critical moment. (Linedan)
  24. Mistargeting and pulling an extra group because you tab targeted into that group sitting across the way instead of the guy right in front of you. (Smakendahed)
  25. Showing your back to the mob. In this scenario, you are crittable, cannot dodge, parry, or block. (Pypsi)

Well I don’t know about you but I feel better for having got that off my chest. Feel free to add any suggestions!

Saturday Links: Interesting Reading

  1. There’s no drama like RP drama. So when players decided to select one Aion server as their unofficial RP home it was guaranteed to become a dramafest, right? Of course right. Aionic Thoughts is at ground zero to report.
  2. Dickie@Rainbow MMO wonders if the lifetime subscription scheme is viable in the long run. Is it possible that LOTRO just has too many lifetime subs, meaning they’re going to have to find more ways to add extra charges?
  3. Is Champions Online actually a step backwards from City of Heroes? Trembling Hand thinks so, at least when it comes to teaming up.
  4. Hawley (yay, he’s back!) writes about his experience with leaving his raid community and joining another one. But the invite came before the quit, and suddenly his ‘casual’ raid group were acting as though he was “ worse than Hitler” for abandoning ship.
  5. wow.com is one of many sites that reports on a study showing that playing in a guild actually lowers your stress. I’d rephrase that as ‘playing with friends’ lowers your stress, or ‘interacting with a friendly  and supportive community’ which might rule some guilds out from the start.
  6. Green Armadillo notices how little shelf space in games shops is given over to PC games these days (I’ve noticed that here also), and asks if this is the end of retail PC gaming and what that might mean.
  7. Tamarind tells a heartwarming story of a guy in a sissy robe and the little pet that found its way home. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Even I was in tears by the end.
  8. Brian Crecente at Kotaku writes a thoughtful piece using Beatles Rock Band as a starting point to wonder about the use of reality in games, and whether designers have a responsibility to represent reality wisely.
  9. Klepsacovic wonders how you can reward exploration in games without punishing non exploration. He also reminisces about some of WoW’s less obviously located quests. (For me, that water elemental guy who gave the MC quests just took the biscuit.)
  10. Oakstout was chatting in CO about his favourite abilities and found himself inundated with theorycraft and advice about what he should take instead. Does theorycrafting make us happier? Can we have too much information?

A Warhammer Special

Warhammer Online reached its first anniversary this week.

Jeff Hickman spoke at GDC about what he thought were Warhammer’s three biggest mistakes. He puts a lot of it down to PvE being too easy, which wouldn’t even have made my top ten, to be honest. But I do think it shows that without any ‘community’ specialists on the team, they really don’t know why their community didn’t gel. I guess blaming PvE is as good a way to go as any.

Syncaine notes pithily that you can’t blame PvE for the failure of a game that was all about RvR.

Syp chimes in with his comments and suggestions for three major mistakes, which seems nearer the mark to me. He also lists his 10 great successes for Warhammer. Dude, by the time you include “Um, Snafzg is playing it”, you are really reaching :) Also, he missed out the red blobs of awesome, the friendly/unfriendly targets that were beloved of all healers, being able to pour boiling oil onto people’s heads, and scenarios. Apart from that, it’s a good read!

In any case, it’s a game with which I had a lot of fun and my personal view is that their biggest mistake was not trying to go for a single virtual server (a la champions online). I don’t think they realised how many players they’d need active to keep all their PvP zones, PQs, and PvE instances busy.

I was going to use the title “Happy Birthday (WAR is over)” which tied in neatly with both Warhammer and The Beatles, but truth is, I hope very much that WAR is not over. I had a lot of fun with it and I hope that Mythic are plotting even now about how to lure people back from Aion (or grab the Aion tourists in a month or two when they’re disillusioned with it.)

Also, Shana Tovah, mateys.

In which voice chat leads to revelations

If it hadn’t been for voice chat, I never would have known there were so many different ways to pronounce words like:

  • shaman
  • pyrite
  • Moria
  • melee (people who pronounce it ‘mealey’ make me twitch though)
  • the name of just about any NPC

I guess that in games like SWTOR that are fully voiced I’ll just have to yell at the NPCs, “No, you’re saying it wrong!!”

How (not) to abuse achievements

Last night, we were settling down and getting ready to fight the Assembly of Iron in Ulduar. This involves three bosses who need to be tanked separately. One of them, to whom I always get assigned, casts spells which damage the raid but can be interrupted.

My warrior has access to some interrupts, and last night I was also assigned a rogue to come and help me out with some more. The rogue who was to be my interrupt-assist is a nice guy, but notorious for his lack of focus and the length of time it takes him to understand the mechanics of a fight.

So I whispered to him that there was a special achievement you could get if the boss didn’t get off a single cast! He whispered back excitedly that he wasn’t sure we could do it but he was going to try — and he didn’t put a foot wrong.

In the end, the joke was on me, because I checked the Ulduar achievements later and there really is one