It came from the PUG: Do you want cheese with that?

Unfortunately(?), all my random groups this week have been pretty good so instead of pointing the finger at outrageous behaviour, this week we’ll have to settle for mildly annoying.

Achievements are not the Marmite of WoW, very few people actively hate them with the passion of a billion blazing suns. They are more like  Nutella. Everyone likes Nutella. (Oh no, I missed World Nutella Day! How is that even possible?)

But most of us like it in moderation, and not with every single meal. I reserve the option to say, “No thanks, I respect that your tastes differ from mine but I’ll have my steak without Nutella today.” Frankly, Nutella with steak is an experience you want to share only with very close and special friends, who will put up with experimental cooking techniques and later forgive you if it turns out to be disgusting. Now, imagine Nutella if you also won a special prize for eating a whole jar without throwing up. And if you ate every meal with people who insisted on slathering it over everything and forcing you to do that too.

Yeah, you might go off it after awhile too.

So, back to achievements. A poster on the EU boards this week suggested that the LFD tool could have an option for people to select if they wanted to do achievements on their random run.

This is actually the worst idea ever for the players who do want to do achievements on their random runs.

  • Everyone who just wants some quick badges will not select achievements.
  • Every experienced player who already has finished their dungeon achievements will not select achievements (at least not on their main).
  • Every player who hates achievements will not select achievements.
  • Every player who does not feel like talking a random group through one of the more complex achievements will not select achievements.
  • Anyone bored who wants to grief people WILL select achievements.

Nope, the best way to get dungeon achievements sorted out is either to assemble a group on your home server, or bully/ cajole a random group into doing them. Guess which of those options is easiest for most players?

Now, I don’t actually mind being asked if I want to do an achievement in a dungeon run. But I expect people to give up on it gracefully when I say no. Naturally in random groups, this often does not happen.

I was called a noob this week when I declined to attempt Oculus with 5 bronze drakes. No, the reason I don’t want to do that is because I am NOT a noob and I just want my quick and easy badges without having to care whether a random group can sort out drake cooldown rotations.

Given the reluctance of people in the group to speak up or show any other behaviour that would distinguish them in any way from a doormat, I should not have been surprised to see 4 obedient little bronze drakes, and then me on my red. I left. Perhaps they got a tank who’d put up with those demands and got the achievements for them. But I still wonder if the silent members really cared about the achievement or were just falling into line with the most shouty person in the group.

As a basic rule of politeness, I go this way:

  • If even one person in the group wants to kill an extra boss, then we go kill it.
  • If even one person in the group does not want to do the achievement, then we don’t do it.

To me, the basic assumption of LFD is that the group will clear the instance with no special achievements involved. So I think anything that differs from that needs group buy-in.

But achievement junkies are often not polite. They try to bully groups into doing their achievements. They harass and abuse anyone who does not fall into line. So I save everyone the bother these days and just leave as soon as the question even gets asked (unless it’s the sort of achievement that we were going to do just by completing the instance anyway.) No, I am not interested in helping Joe Random get his achievement. I don’t like Nutella THAT much.

Solving the Oculus Problem

I had a whole post ready to write all about the problems posed by The Oculus in the random dungeon finder. It’s THAT hated instance, the one people always bitched about, the one they are most likely to drop out of as soon as they zone in.

It doesn’t matter why this is. All that matters is that players learn quickly from each other to gauge the risk of not completing any given instance. And once people have learned that the fastest way to get badges in the Oculus is to leave immediately and queue again in 15 minutes, the instance is basically toast.

I was going  to unveil my great plan for making The Oculus more popular to fix this quickly. It was inspired. It involved giving the end boss a 1% chance to drop a battered hilt (the current hotness in trash drops). If all else fails, just bribe the players some more.

And clearly Blizzard were thinking along the same lines, because the rewards for killing the end boss in Oculus are about to be boosted. Zarhym posts on the US forums:

Once Ley-Guardian Eregos is defeated, one loot bag per character will be provided in his chest in addition to the current rewards. Each loot bag will offer players rare gems, two additional Emblems of Triumph, and a chance of being rewarded the Reins of the Blue Drake.

The blue drake is a pretty little mount. 2 extra badges are not to be sniffed at (even people who don’t need badges for gear can find something to spend them on, even if it’s just epic gems to sell) and rare gems are always handy.

So, it’s no battered hilt. But will the promise of extra loot be enough to make more players fly?

Random LFG in WoW: Day 1

In which well geared groups are happy to help a new 80 out, and everyone still hates the Oculus

I had set this afternoon aside to try out some of the new content – yes, our patching here in the EU was very smooth as I predicted yesterday and instances were up, but yet to see what things are like tonight.

I tried a few runs on my newly level 80 Death Knight (I think it was Stabs who asked why I was bothering with an alt – the answer is a) because I want to and b) I wanted to redo the Icecrown quests again before 3.3 came out to refresh my memory.)

Just for the record, my DK does about 2k dps at the moment. Which I know is plenty for the regular heroics. Still, for the sake of karma, I plan to run at least one a day on Spinks and let new 80s come along.

1. Heroic Utgarde Pinnacle. Group ran silently apart from a few comments in what might have been Swedish. They didn’t seem to care that I died on a couple of the bosses in their hurry to speed clear the place. I ran along behind and picked up the loot.

2. Heroic Violet Hold. I zoned in just as they pulled the first boss. I also zoned in by the instance entrance which is behind the lockin. If you talk to the NPC there, she’ll port you into the actual instance but not while a fight is going on. So I apologised to the group for standing there like a lemon while they got me a badge. After the boss died, I was able to join them for the rest – they were a friendly bunch.

3. Heroic Oculus. As soon as we zoned in, one person said ‘fuck’ and two more left the group. I took the 15 mins deserter buff rather than waiting around in the instance.

4. Heroic Halls of Lightning. I zoned in, the rest of the group laughed at my blue and green gear (ie. lol DK.) I countered with the witty and well thought out argument, “Don’t be thick, you don’t need 5k dps to do heroics.” This apparently convinced them because after that we went on and cleared it effortlessly. I suspect the enchanter in the group was on a silent protest because although the disenchant option came up, he kept pressing greed and seemed to get all the loot. I actually think from earlier instances that greed and disenchant have exactly the same priority and he was just lucky. However, the rest of the group got annoyed and booted him (I didn’t vote! I don’t like booting people!) so we had to 4 man the last two bosses. It didn’t stop us getting some speed achievement so clearly I wasn’t dragging them down too much.

5. Heroic Halls of Stone. Quiet, friendly group who really just wanted to do the encounter with Brann and then get the last boss so everyone could get the instance counted on the LFG tool and then get out. At my stage of gearing, I’d have appreciated the extra badges and drops but since I think it’s a fairly dull instance anyway, I could see where they were coming from.

6. Got onto Spinks and queued up to tank a random. Sod’s law said it was Oculus so we zoomed through quickly and got the Make it Count achievement for people. People seemed friendly enough, knew what to do, and were (relatively) happy to be there.

So far, my first impressions have been very good.

Which are the most popular Wrath instances?

via Jacob, a commenter on Tobold’s blog, who set out these numbers and piqued my curiousity.

There are twelve instances in Wrath that can be run as heroics. But not all heroic instances are equal, some are very much more popular than others.

And here are some stats to prove it. The numbers here are gotten from checking how often each end boss was looted in heroic mode from wowhead. So these numbers only reflect the experiences of wowhead contributors – they also don’t account for the people who attempted an instance but weren’t able to kill the last boss. However, it’s still a large sample size.

Nr Times Looted Boss/ Instance
4454 Cache of Eregos/ Oculus
6938 Sjonnir the Ironbreaker/ Halls of Stone
7287 Herald Volazj/ Ahn’kahet
8940 Loken/ Halls of Lightning
11115 Gal’darah/ Gundrak
11135 Anub’Arak/ Azjol-Nerub
11579 Prophet Tharon’ja/ Drak’Tharon Keep
14164 Dark Runed Chest/ The Culling of Stratholme
14296 King Ymiron/ Utgarde Pinnacle
18946 Keristrasza/ Nexus
19379 Ingvar the Plunderer/ Utgarde Keep
22031 Cyanigosa/ Violet Hold

So everyone really does hate the Oculus.

Factors in determining popularity

In previous expansions, instances were tied to reputations. So if you wanted a particular reputation reward, you were forced to run the right instances for it. In Wrath this is no longer the case. You can just wear the tabard from the faction you’d like to champion and you will win reputation for them wherever you decide to go.

This means that players are much freer to pick their heroics on other criteria. Note also that each heroic can only be run once a day, due to lockouts.

An instance will be more popular if it’s either seen to give a better time: reward ratio, if it’s easier to find a group to go there, or if it’s just more fun. It may also be more popular if there is some rare instance-specific drop that many players will want.

Lets’ see.

From the numbers above, we can see:

Everyone hates the Oculus. It’s not seen as fun, it’s hard to get groups there, and there’s no special drop that would lure people into it.

Oculus is an unusual instance because you have to use vehicles (flying drakes) to fight the last boss. But the second and third bosses are also quite tough. Annoyingly, if you die on the last boss, there is a possibility that you’ll fall so far off your drake that not only will you die but also zone out of the instance. This would mean missing a chance to loot the boss even if your group does kill it. So not only is it a long ride from Dalaran, the bosses are hard, the vehicles are odd, and there’s a non-zero chance that you will miss out on some rewards.

The easiest instances are the most popular. Violet Hold, Utgarde Keep, and The Nexus are widely known as the easiest heroics. So the risk of a group not being able to finish them is lower, and they’re very popular. Violet Hold in particular is right in the middle of Dalaran and also quick to run.  So an instance that’s quick, easy, and convenient is also popular.

The Nexus is not convenient, it’s a long ride from the middle of Northrend. But it has some other redeeming factors. It’s relatively easy, it’s one of the instances which has an extra boss in heroic (ie. an extra badge/ extra loot) and there’s also the possibility of a good epic healing mace dropping from the last boss. So healers are usually keen to go there.

As a corrolary, the hard instances are less popular. Halls of Stone, Halls of Lightning, and Ahn-kahet are harder heroics, or they contain at least one encounter that’s notorious among the player base. So whether or not they really are more difficult, the players have the perception that a PUG to those places is less likely to succeed and will likely pick somewhere easier to spend their limited time.

I think Ahn-kahet is getting a raw deal here. It’s really not that bad and also has an extra boss in heroic. But still, the perception is there.

The effect of daily quests

If an instance is the subject of the heroic daily quest, there will also be more player interest. The daily tips the effort/ reward ratio for that instance. But I’ll assume that dailies, being random, apply equally to each instance.

However, if an instance is also the subject of a normal daily, that also adds an extra reward. And only 5 of the twelve instances can be attached to a normal daily quest. Oculus, Stratholme, Halls of Lightning, Halls of Stone, and Utgarde Pinnacle.

These include some of the least popular instances. So having a daily quest doesn’t make an instance more appealing, even though it adds a fair amount of cash and reputation as a reward.

Outliers

There are a couple of instances where the numbers puzzled me.

Drak’Tharon: I would include this as one of the easiest heroics.

Yet, it’s barely more popular than Gundrak and Azjol-Nerub which are both harder, and not any more convenient to get to. So people just don’t know that it’s easy? Or is it simply that if they have limited time, they’ll run a couple of the easier heroics and Drak’Tharon just isn’t on the top of anyone’s list? My guess is that it just lacks some fun. It’s not a bad little instance at all.

Utgarde Pinnacle: Probably one of the harder heroics because of the gauntlet at the third boss, but also one of the most popular. It’s not at all convenient, but there are a few factors luring people out there.

  • Possibility of a rare mount drop
  • It’s next to Utgarde Keep which is easy.
  • Contains an epic tanking weapon, so paladins and warriors (and dual wielding death knights?) are very VERY keen to go there.

Do tanks get a raw deal?

This is not the first time that Blizzard, in their wisdom, have put an epic tanking weapon on the end boss of a heroic and given no other crafted options for tanks who don’t fancy running it a lot. They did the same thing in The Burning Crusade.

This does apply to feral druids also, but they luck out here because their epic tanking weapon drops from the last boss of Violet Hold. Which is easy and also very popular.

By comparison, healers can grab a good crafted epic mace to get them started, and casters and melee dps have  options among the reputation rewards. We do get the option of a nice crafted epic shield. But you can also pick up a good shield with heroic badges which people will get anyway.

There’s no decent tanking weapon available as a reputation reward, epic or not. It continues to be a theme for Blizzard to encourage the support roles into heroics.