It came from the PUG: Pour encourager les autres!

Unsurprisingly, lower level PUGs have been proliferating in WoW since the Shattering (ie. last week). On the Horde side, we’ve been particularly lucky in that two of the new class combos (tauren paladin and troll druid) are both extremely popular and are also both tank/heal hybrids.

So happy times for my new undead hunter, at least until I decided to stop running instances because I really didn’t want to outlevel the zone quests. (Yes, even with the new instance xp changes.)

On the whole, most PUGs have been fine for me. This is partly because protection paladins are insanely overpowered at low level, particularly with heirlooms (they may also be overpowered at high levels, we’ll see this week). There has been the occasional rubbish group but very much the minority. But the behaviour in one group really did puzzle me. Some people!

We were in Ragefire Chasm which is the very lowest level instance available in the dungeon finder. So it’s fairly expected that players are still getting used to their classes, and that it’s the first instance they will have run with these characters.

But one of the other guys (the healer I think) kept complaining that the druid tank wasn’t going fast enough. He got so heated about it that it was at the point of ‘pull faster or else we’ll boot you.’ Unsurprisingly, the tank left. I asked afterwards, “Why were you being such a jerk, he was doing fine.”

One of the other players said, “SHUT UP!!!” (like, he was really really bothered by me challenging the other guy.)

The guy I was asking replied politely, “I just wanted to encourage him to go faster.”

Remember: this was just Ragefire Chasm and the tank had been doing fine. I get that the healer was such a muppet that he thought ‘gogogo or we’ll boot you’ was a polite and acceptable way to suggest slightly faster pulling rates. (I think leaving the group was the exact right response to this, it’s what I would have done too if I’d been tanking.) But why did the other guy lose his rag when I asked about it? That’s what puzzled me.

It came from the Guild Group

Also this week, a very different instance experience. One of the newer players in our guild reached 80 on his/ her character and we decided to go help them get a cool bronze drake (which requires a ‘speed’ run through heroic Culling of Stratholme.)

There was a long pause at the start in which everyone said something along the lines of, “Wow, it’s been ages since I ran an instance with an all guild group.” (There is actually a special icon that shows on your minimap now when you’re in an all guild instance run, featuring your guild emblem.)

So we whipped through the instance as though it was butter –- that’s a bad metaphor, let’s say as though it was cream instead – since a couple of ICC geared dps will tend to do that. There was even time for some banter while waiting for the various NPCs to do their thing.

And the new guy was really happy with the cool drake. And – here’s the thing – I think the rest of us were also really happy to have gotten together and helped him get it. There is, I think, a sense of achievement in working together as a team in favour of a common goal that we sometimes miss in the world of random LFD instance runs and individual rewards.

So I’m definitely looking forwards to more guild runs in days to come.

It came from the PUG: Northrend eats healers alive!

There’s something about moving on to Northrend that has broken the spell with my paladin. I still think that Retribution is a very fun spec at the moment but I am rapidly going off paladin healing. I will (not very) secretly be glad to get back to Spinks.

What happened, you say? Northrend instances happened.

I’m not sure why it is that so many level 70ish tanks feel the need to screw up the first pull in Utgarde Keep by pulling the entire corridor at once, but it’s happened to me three times now. And in none of those cases was it a mispull, they all deliberately grabbed every mob in the vicinity. In one case, a druid tank almost fooled me by pulling three of the mobs; just as I was thinking, “Oh good, a sensible pull” he charged in and got the rest too.

In case anyone was wondering, this is not a kind thing to do to a level 70 healer in green gear. At least, not if you plan to actually survive.

I’m feeling this as a blow to my morale. After all, I made a point of healing through Azeroth and Outland instances just so I could get some practice (I figured I didn’t need any practice as melee dps but paladin healing is a bit different from druiding) and I did fine, absolutely fine. So to keep having groups that wipe on the first pull of UK just makes me uninclined to bother in the Wrath dungeons. It just seems to make more sense to queue as dps, suck up the extra 10 mins queuing time (probably by doing some questing) and leave healing until I hit max level and both me and the tanks have better gear.

There is an alternative of course. One could always just ask the tanks to pull more slowly and explain that undergeared healers have limits and that I’m not as good as their best mate who heals their level 80 all the time in arenas. But I think I stopped feeling that it was my responsibility to teach random people how to play awhile back … in comparison, that extra 10 minutes wait is sounding like pretty good value.

When hunters go bad: The problem with non-negotiated instance groups

(I’m quite proud of this title, you can tell I’m in full-on essay mode this week!)

There was a minor furore amongst WoW bloggers last week when respected hunter blogger Frostheim admitted that he’d acted like a dick in an instance (the clue is in the title of his post).

I actually have no idea why this caused a fuss, except that he’d been so honest about it. Maybe people hold their favourite bloggers up to strange levels of behaviour. And honestly, everyone has those mad moments when random people in an instance drive you to do something daft like pull a load of mobs and then leave them to wipe. (Notice how it’s always in Old Kingdom when people have these ‘mad’ moments — surely no accident …)

My view is that at this point in the expansion, there’s really no need for anyone to make a fuss about needing to kill all the bosses in a heroic instance. If anyone in the group really hates the idea, just go with it, grab your justice points (or whatever they are called) and queue for another instance. It’s really unlikely that anyone desperately needs those blue heroic drops quite that badly, even if they are a new 80. And if it’s just for an achievement, then you need to ask nicely and not demand the group goes and kills them.

On the other hand, striking off on your own to go pull your own boss of choice rather than just leaving the group isn’t the greatest way to handle a dispute either.

So yeah. Everyone’s wrong. But mostly it’s an issue with the LFG mechanics. There’s no way to negotiate before you zone into an instance as to your intentions. If there was, the guys who really want to do the achievements could get a random together, along with the Tankbot2000 who doesn’t really care what they do because she’s going to pile in and test her new spec anyway, and random people who don’t mind taking a bit longer and getting some extra badges.

Similarly, the guys who are desperate to do speed runs could get instances together along with their hangers on. (and oh the amusement when a load of green geared wannabees who were hoping to get boosted all end up in an instance together … although the LFG algorithm probably avoids that.)

Alternately, you could talk to people and negotiate instance runs to your heart’s content in general chat. But that’s quite a hassle, which is counter to the whole point of LFG in the first place. It’s easier to zone in with some randoms and deal with the inevitable power struggle whenever there is a disagreement.

All of which makes me wonder if it would be useful to have a cross-server general chat. But I cannot see any way to keep it manageable in size, single server chat on its own can get crazy enough as it is. Or maybe just a few tick boxes on LFG so that people could indicate whether they primarily wanted a full run …

Incidentally, the thing which bizarred me the most on Frostheim’s post were the number of commenters who didn’t like being called ‘Hunter’ by random groups. Let me tell you, having your class acknowledged is still slightly better than being called ‘Tank’.

[It came from the PUG]: No one knows the way back from the graveyard!

So the instance in question last week was Blood Furnace – I’ve been finally levelling my bank alt. (Hurrah!) Things were going well, the tank was getting more and more confident with every pull. We killed a boss and kept going. Then the tank got a bit over-confident, pulled too many groups at a time … and we wiped. The tank said, “Haha, oops sorry” … and then left.

But why? It was a decent group, we could have gone back in, pulled that room more smartly and cleared the instance. There was no rage quit.

My guess is that it is because the run back to Blood Furnace from the nearest graveyard is not only a long one, but most people don’t even know the way anyway. And once everyone realises that most people don’t know the way, they can mentally add up the extra delay in their heads and do the maths themselves. Even with more mellow groups in the past, I have had to offer to show people the way back from the graveyard. So if you wipe in one of those instances, you potentially have a long and tedious wait, especially if one of the other guys fails to mention that they don’t know the way.

I don’t have major issues myself with running back. At least you get to see a bit of the world and know where the instance is supposed to actually be compared to everywhere else. But the game very clearly failed in this case at making sure that players will know the graveyard run before they enter an instance for the first time (ie. when you might expect to wipe.) Other instances are even worse – the run back to Blackrock Depths is notoriously long, even if you do know the way.

I do blame the group for being wimps and not even discussing the problem. It might be that everyone actually did know the way back. But I miss the LOTRO solution which is that when you release from an instance, you reappear just by the entrance.

It came from the PUG: The Infinite Healer

One of the things I have noticed lately in high level PUGs is the effect of having a big variation in gearing between group members. It is very common these days to have three or more characters in a 5 man group with well over 5k gear score (that means they’re using a fair amount of raid gear).

Not a bad thing, you’d think. Better geared groups get through the instance faster.

But if I’m playing a lesser geared alt and I am thrown in with really well geared dps, there’s a chance that mobs will die before I’ve had to chance to use my full rotation. On my new Death Knight, if the overgeared chap is a ranged class and is especially keen, the mob might be pulled over to the other side of the room and almost dead before I even get a touch on it. So I am in two minds, I guess faster instances is good, but actually I want to play my new alt and get some practice. And having seriously overgeared dps in the group means that the mobs just die too fast for me to do that. I would probably have more fun in a group which had a much closer gear score variance.

Or the other side is when you have a really high geared healer thrown into the mix with lesser geared/ experienced tanks or dps. “Pull faster,” says the healer with infinite spellpower and mana regen on their gear, “You can pull as fast as you like with me here.” Well, no. Actually the main limiting factor on fast one can complete an instance is not usually the healing.

Sure, it’s possible that the infinite healer could keep a tank alive as she pulled the entire instance in a single land-speed record breaking rush … but someone still has to actually kill the mobs. Plus some pulls can’t be rushed anyway.

In fact, I have come to the conclusion that having an overgeared healer in your PUG is a waste of otherwise useful gear score. They get bored, and it doesn’t actually help anyone else make shorter work of the instance (if that was your goal). Even my resto druid, sporting a few emblem items and generally teetering just below ICC entry levels, can snooze through a 5 man with just a few sleepy HoTs and nourish spells to keep things going. I can’t imagine how bored a player would be with 1k more gear score than that. I guess that’s a bonus if you want an easy life as a reward for all the hard work in raids.

This is really a design issue with the holy trinity (tank/ heal/ dps) and that if there is limited damage being taken then the healer part of the trinity doesn’t have much to do. I personally think that if Cataclysm does encourage healers to throw some dps into the mix it will be a step forwards, although I know a lot of healers won’t share my opinions.

So my proposal this week is this: how about the notion of an average group gearscore? When you zone into a PUG, the game could tweak everyone’s gear appropriately to make sure that any differences were evened out. Maybe things would be more fun if the average gear level was even a function of the instance and not of the individuals. That way the challenge level would be more stable.

I know this will never happen. People like their individual rewards too much. But gear scaling in Wrath has made the 5 man game very strange indeed.

It came from the PUG: Sorry, missed the invite

invitedeclined

Anyone who has spent much time running level 80 instances in WoW with the dungeon finder will be familiar with this scenario.

  1. You join the dungeon finder.
  2. You wait for an amount of time based on your role (tank/heal/dps) and how many other people are queueing.
  3. The dungeon finder finds you a group (hurrah!!) and as soon as everyone in the group clicks ok to indicate that they are still interested, you’ll all be ported to your instance.
  4. But if one person either selects no or (more commonly) the finder times out because one person didn’t notice it and doesn’t click at all.
  5. return to 1.

So far, so good. The reason a lot of dps fail to click anything on the dungeon finder is that it just takes longer to find them an instance. Mostly this is fine, people can find something to do in the game to keep them occupied while they wait. But if you are all out of things to do, the temptation is to alt-tab out and catch up with twitter, go get a drink, browse forums, and so on. And when that happens, it’s quite likely that people just miss the dungeon finder when it comes up. (Although it is guaranteed to time out a millisecond before you tab back into WoW to check on it.)

It is however quite annoying for the rest of the group who were ready to go and now have to wait another minute or so (depending on who declined and how long they need to wait for a replacement.)

There’s no ideal answer to this one. If you don’t have anything much to do in WoW then staring at the screen for 20 minutes isn’t much fun as an option. As long as the holy trinity is required for instances, dps will also always have to queue longer than tanks and healers.

I do think it would help if there were more ways to spread the notification though. Maybe addons to control where it appears on the screen so that you could more easily bring up a browser window and still spot the notification. I did find one that plays a PING tone when the finder comes up.

Another way would be more minigames or even a browser within the game client. It’s dreadful for immersion, but at least means you can see the dungeon finder while playing bejewelled or flaming some noobs on your bboard of choice. Or maybe more immersively, how about some kind of instance or activity where players can only go while they are in the queue. ie. something to do while you are waiting.

What do you do when you are waiting for the dungeon finder?

It came from the PUG: No really, I’m new here! This is my first character!

When was the last time you met a genuinely new player in a PUG? Are you sure?

Old time WoW players (myself included) do tend to assume that  the people we run into while levelling are alts. The majority probably are. But for all that, there are also plenty of players who are trying the game for the first time or finally decided to come back and try to level a character before Cataclysm.

I was in a PUG this week with Arb in Utgarde Keep, for example. We all were level 69-71, and the instance can be a struggle at that level, especially if people are still mostly in Outland greens. I know Arb has really connected with her new shaman. It’s also the highest level alt she’s ever had in Warcraft. But I was surprised when one of the other players in the group also said that he’d never seen that instance before and was new to the game.

Two newbies in one group! Maybe they aren’t such a rare breed as we often assume. The rest of the group was very decent. They reassured the newbies that they were doing fine. No one stormed off because they had to explain strategies or because someone’s spec or dps wasn’t perfect. But I wonder if a player who was actually new to online gaming and not WoW would have realised that people were being nice to them. They might have just seen the jokey insults and taken it literally.

smacktalk

This is an example. The more experienced player, who is the dungeon guide, was telling the nervous newbie DK that he was doing fine (in his own inimitable way). And you can see here that the new player is joking about it too.

But as I said above, I wonder if a more touchy or nervous player might have taken things the wrong way, if they even understood what the guy was saying, just because they aren’t used to how gamers communicate.

Have you played with any newbies recently?