[WoW] The million dollar question with patch 4.1/4.2

Today the patch 4.2 hype was released with not only a trailer for the upcoming raid instances, but also a timetable for future hype. Which is handy because now we can schedule it around the royal wedding (or around the unwedding TV timetable if you are not a royalist.)

There is a fair amount of stuff on the drawing board; in addition to the new 5 man instances which were released this week as patch 4.1. There is a huge new raid instance/zone (it sounds as big as a zone), more dailies, more lore, more loot, a new legendary weapon etc all aimed at max level characters.

Question is this: If you are one of the players who got bored of Cataclysm (and possibly left WoW), is this enough to pique your interest and draw you back in?

(And how popular exactly are casters going to be in raids now that there is a legendary item on offer …?)

Changing attitudes towards crowd control

Crowd control: the ability to take at least one enemy temporarily out of the fight by use of mind control, hypnotism, a cosh over the head, crazy transformation spell, rooting them to the ground, freezing them in ice – it’s as old as Dungeons and Dragons itself, which makes it rather older as a concept than any MMO.

In Rift this week we ran another 5-man instance in guild. This time it was King’s Breach, and when settling down at the start we discussed which abilities and offspecs people had available. I mentioned I could do some crowd control as well as dps, and so did Pewter. The rest of the group reacted positively, “Great, two crowd control spells available, let’s rock.”

This is part of the whole old school feel of Rift, because in my experience, as soon as people get more focussed on running dungeons quickly, CC goes out of the window. This is mostly because if you have strong (*coff* overpowered *coff*) tanks, healers, and dps with strong AE, then it’s just much faster to burn all the enemies down at once than it is to kill them one at a time with CC.

I was reading WoW forums this week and I saw a new argument against the use of CC in instances:

The thing about CC is you are doing it for the Healer, no one else. One mob less dealing damage makes the Healer’s life easier. However, for tanks (and DPS to a lesser extent), CCing makes their job HARDER. Making sure not to break CC distracts you from doing your proper job.

I think this shows part of the influence of LFD. It’s not so much about the group picking a tactic as, “oh, we only use CC if the healer needs it.” This makes CC sound more like a crutch in PvE than an interesting and valid tactic in its own right.

And more importantly, it means that if you do get a bad pull or an unexpected patrol, a quick thinking CC player is wasting their time, because the other players will either ignore it or simply not recognise the crowd control spell effects.

In which WoW finally starts bribing the tanks

Announced as an addition for the next patch (and this is not an April Fool):

Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the “Call to Arms: Tanks” icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu <…> Regardless of your role, you’ll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.

Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. <…> Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount.

They go on to discuss why they decided on these incentives, and note also that the pets and mounts come from a variety of sources, but (this is the main thing) they are already in the game.

Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little.

My thoughts:

It will be an interesting experiment on a scale that only Warcraft can organise, so I’ll be interested in hearing how it goes.

I know enough people that quit running heroics in any role because they didn’t enjoy them, even with the gold and tokens that are given as rewards, to wonder how many tanks can be lured into LFD with a few random shinies. I’m sure it will improve the number of tanks queueing, but I wonder by how much.  It certainly wouldn’t have enticed me to tank if I wasn’t in the mood. I don’t need the gold and I don’t care about the pets or mounts – if it was a tank specific mount that might have been another question :)

Also, to get the reward you need to queue SOLO for LFD. That means you can’t bring your favourite healer with you (or favourite dps player/s) and really do have to take what the random generator provides.

There is a whole other question about whether it’s really a good idea to reward people explicitly for playing needed roles. It tends to attract the people who are most interested in the rewards rather than in the role. Plus it’s generally unfair and if the game is that dependent on unpopular roles then it’s time to look at why they are so unpopular.

In this case: why is tanking instances so less popular in Cataclysm than it was in Wrath?

I’d suggest that it isn’t because tanking is harder than it used to be, it’s just that the dungeons are longer and less popular than they used to be. And the easiest way to get dragged through a dungeon you dislike (esp. where you don’t want to learn all the pulls) is in a dps or healing role. Also, it’s far easier to gear as a dps first in instances and then work on the tank gear  – so even a lot of keen tanks will want to do a lot of runs in dps mode on hitting 85.

My other issue with the bribes is what happens if one role is least popular, and another is just a little bit more popular, and the third role is massively over subscribed? Surely there should be some reward for healers even when tanks are most in demand? Or should we just penalise dps even more than long queue times for LFD would imply, pour encourager les autres?

A birthday party and cosmetic clothing in WoW

My guild in WoW had it’s sixth birthday last weekend – that takes it back to approximately the EU opening day on a day 1 server. (A day 1 server means one of the original WoW servers that was opened when the game was launched.)

Sounds like a good excuse for a party!

party1

So we headed up to Gallywix’s pleasure palace in Azshara, and the fireworks/ dancing/ cakes/ feasts commenced. You can just about see the cake (it’s pink) and the fish feast in the screenshot above.

For all people have asked for cosmetic clothing to be included in WoW, there is actually plenty of RP-type dressing up equipment and toys to amuse players already in the game.  The idea of cosmetic clothing (ie. what is being requested) is that the clothing you wear doesn’t need to match the drops you are wearing for stats so if you want to go into battle dressed in your smartest tuxedo and dress trousers, you can.

Even better would be a LOTRO-style wardrobe so that we could store cosmetic gear without it taking room in our bags.

But for a party or RP event, you won’t need your battle gear anyway, and it’s a great excuse for people to raid their bank vaults and see what they can find. Most of the festivals now offer cosmetic clothing rewards, many vendors in the main cities do too, and even some of the old crafted gear or drops can add a good ‘look’ to an outfit.

As well as this, there are the various Xmas gifts such as the mini tanks and zeppelins to play with, not to mention the inevitable train set, train destroyer and that dratted flute that makes everyone dance.

And that’s barely the tip of the iceberg. We have toy rideable tigers, spotlights from the heavens, items that change your appearance to look like a dark iron dwarf, darkspear troll, or player from a different faction, and more!

party2

So actually, if we just had more excuses to hang out socially in game, there are plenty of interesting things in WoW to do or wear. Which begs the question, if they can stick a cool pleasure palace in Azhara, what about a funky meeting place in Orgrimmar or Stormwind, where people are more likely to hang out?

Or in fact, how could they support people spreading out a bit more in the world when they’re mostly just waiting around anyway? Mostly the reason I stick to Orgrimmar is for the chat and possible AH/ bank access. being able to portal to the new zones is fine but unless I’m on a herbing/ mining run I’m not going to spend time there, plus via guild perks I now have a fairly frequent port back to Org anyway. Extending trade and general chat to be worldwide would be one possibility to spread people out, or at least add extra hubs around potential world hangouts. Adding more auction houses and banks or easier access via minions or guild perks is another.

And the basic one? Just put a player finder tool in that can return how many players (above a base number, say 6 so that it’s more than one group) are present in any hangout. Roleplayers would enjoy this, especially if you could mark yourself for RP and the tool could pick it up too.

But we were too busy partying like it’s 2019 to bother with all that. Instead, bored of Aszhara, we went for a collective skinny dip in the Sunwell.

party3

Gaming News: Shattering hits Azeroth, Elder Scrolls 5 in production, Skills change in EVE, casting for Uncharted film, details on FF Agito XIII

As you can see from the subject line, this is a quiet time of year for gaming news. But there are some moves afoot to change that.

Bioware has already been issuing teasers for a new game announcement to be made after the Spike VGA awards, and now Sony have also announced that a new exclusive PS3  title will be announced then also (word is that it will be Uncharted 3, which probably blows Bioware out of the water.)

As predicted last week, there have been a lot of heavy discounting sales this week. Steam’s indie bundles have been particularly good value if you had any interest in some of the games, and their sale still has a few days to run. I picked up a copy of Audiosurf for approx. zilch a couple of days back, which has been good fun. Anyone else make any good sales buys?

Interestingly, Steam are encouraging people to make a wish list. When I tried, I struggled to think of many games to put on it, on the grounds that if I really wanted something I probably have bought it already. Not really sure what to make of that. Amazon is also entering the world of digital download, at least on their US site.

An article from Massively that caught my eye was about Wurm Online which has revamped its tutorial. WO is very much a sandbox game, I never had much time to play other than checking it out and thinking that it reminded me a bit of Tale in the Desert. But if that sounds like your thing, then this might be a good time to jump in.

The Shattering hits Azeroth

Phase one of the Cataclysm hit World of Warcraft this week, transforming all of the low level zones and quests and introducing some new class/ race combinations. The rest of the expansion (the new races and new high level zones and content) is what you will be buying if you purchase the expansion on 7th Dec.

There are no comprehensive reviews out yet, and I’ll be writing more about my experiences next week but the lower level game is now incredibly slick, story focussed, and bang up to date with lots of interesting ways to stitch the quest based play together. I’ve been impressed at the parts I have seen.  No one does this type of thing better than Blizzard and possibly only Bioware even come close. Or in other words, if you like themepark quest-led style RPGs, there has never been a better time to join the party. And Blizzard are sweetening the deal at the moment with some pretty good discounts on WoW and all of the existing expansions. Come on in, the water’s lovely :)

Also, Blizzard announced more details of the various Cataclysm launch events which see their dev team sent off around the world to host in different cities. London gets Ghostcrawler, and … does anywhere else really matter anyway? (Me, I’ll be in bed at midnight on 7th Dec.)

Elder Scrolls 5 in production

Eurogamer quote an unnamed source that Bethesda is working on a 5th game in the Elder Scrolls series. This would be a sequel to Oblivion, but hopefully not with the same dreadful levelling system.

Still if – as is likely – this is true, it means good news to come for fans of the single player RPG. Or is it? Various commentators have wondered if the new game might be an MMO. (I think this would be a pretty bad idea, but who knows?)

EVE Online ditches the learning skills

As you may know, EVE is based on characters learning skills. Currently, a whole batch of metaskills exist which make it possible to learn other skills more quickly. So a savvy player would train those up first and the save hundreds of hours in skill training time for future skills.

But as from an upcoming patch, this will no longer be the case. Learning skills are disappearing from EVE, and players who spent time learning them will get the skill points back – the link is to the official announcement and it has graphs and everything to explain why they did this.

Another entry on the dev blog this week touched on the issue of F2P and item shops. Short summary: they will soon be selling vanity items via some kind of a cash shop. We don’t know if the vanity items will also be craftable in game.

Casting announced for Uncharted film

It’s a sign of how weak the news has been that this even gets a mention here. But for those interested, Mark Wahlberg will play Nathan Drake (ie. the lead) in the film of Uncharted, and the producers are talking to Robert de Niro about playing his father.

This has caused a large amount of concern amongst fans who don’t think he fits the role. But that’s likely to have been the case whoever was cast, although my personal pick would have been Tom Hardy (Eames in Inception).

Final Fantasy Agito XIII

I think anyone could be excused for being confused about the various different games being touted around in the FF13 series. Some details about this one, which is to be a PSP game, have been released this week, but frankly I’m still confused. And I don’t think we’ve had much mention of FF Versus 13 (which I think was to be a fighter) yet either.

Where to find more warrior information

If you play a warrior in WoW, write about the class, or are looking for more information on how to play a particular spec, look no further.

Kadomi has put together an exhaustive list of warrior blogs and I’d recommend anyone who has any questions to go check it out! Also if you have any blogs you’d like to add to the list, let her know.

And on a similar note, I think the whole community (such as it is) will miss Veneretio now that he’s decided to move on from tankingtips. You only have to read through the (currently 141) comments on his last post to see what an influence he’s had on so many people.

And he also knocked up the banner that I’m using here :) Thanks Veneretio, and good luck! Come back with your shield or on it.

How I’m playing Protection in 4.0

I’ve been experimenting a bit with Protection in the current patch. We’re done with raiding until the expansion and my desire to tank in PUG raids is approximately zero, so I’ve been running a few heroics. (Also mad props to Ele who said, “Lets try some heroics” and queued us straight up for HoR. This is what we call the ‘in at the deep end’ approach.)

Summary: The sky is not falling. AE threat is down across the board for all tanks, but warriors play hasn’t changed greatly. It’s mostly a few tweaks rather than a complete overhaul. Plus you can get some pretty amazing numbers out of Shield Slam. I’m still adapting but definitely still finding it fun.

The only way I adapt to less AE threat is by apologising for poor threat in random instances. But I don’t mean it :) And in Cataclysm when mobs start hitting harder I’ll get back into marking and requesting CC.

Live by the shield, die by the shield

The protection spec is now very oriented towards shield type moves, with lots of boosts for shield block and shield slam. It is now possibly to get some insanely large shield slam crits, especially if you tank in dps gear which you can also do now that we get crit proof from talents. Tankspot has a shield slam bragging thread so I know I’m not the only one who’s dazzled by the big numbers! If you want to test this then wait for a Hold the Line Proc, hit Shield Block and any of your dps trinkets, and then Shield Slam.

Feedback from healers is that I’m easy to heal. Feedback from dps is gogogo. Feedback from me is that threat is more of an issue, but I’m not finding it a major deal except in special cases such as the event in HoS where there’s no real time to build rage up – I think with more practice in managing rage I’d handle this better.

My current spec and thoughts on talents

This is my current spec. (The goal of this spec is to generate huge shield slam crits.) Many of the talents I discuss below are still being discussed in the community at the moment.

Blood and Thunder: I’m not enthralled with this one. Rend doesn’t generate a lot of threat anyway, maybe this would work better for Arms specs or in a raid but trash mobs in instances don’t stay up that long and Thunderclap + Shockwave plus some cleaves and glyphed revenges will be better bang for your buck than slinging rend around.

Incite: Heroic Strike is no longer spammable (thank goodness) and I’m still getting the hang of how to manage rage, but I still think this is more useful than blood and thunder.

Hold the Line: Parry is now your very best friend. Shame it doesn’t work on spells.

Shield Mastery: Reduced timer on shield block is nice. The rest is a bonus. Bear in mind you now use glyph of shield wall to increase the cooldown and increase the amount absorbed.

Shield spec: Not really finding rage to be an issue but need to put the points somewhere.

Bastion of Defense: This is your new anti-crit ability. Compulsary.

Impending Victory: I tried it and wasn’t really impressed with the numbers. Sounds cooler than it is.

Vigilance: Probably mostly a raid talent now, to be put on off-tanks. I find it useful to stick on the most aggro-y dps in heroics at the moment and then make good use of all the free taunts.

Thunderstruck: Way better for AE threat than blood and thunder imo. Note that it stacks three times but you have to spam Thunderclap to do that.

Arms: Field Dressing — this is why healers find me fairly straightforwards to heal at the mo.

Fury: Cruelty — Moar shield slam crits!!

(Blood Craze will probably be ace for levelling and I may swap points from cruelty to blood craze when the expansion drops. Unless I decide to level in Arms spec, which seems really really fun atm from my first forays.)

Glyphs

Warrior glyphs are pretty lame and you won’t get a lot of choice.

Prime:

Shield Slam (yay for more shield slam damage!)
Revenge
Devastate (will be your main filler)

Major:
Heroic throw: Heroic throw applies a stack of sunder.
Shield wall: Shield wall cooldown increases by 2 mins but it reduces a lot more damage (60% instead of 40%)
Long charge: charge range increased
You might want to glyph for cleave for better AE threat. Thunderclap (increases range) is another possibility but I’ve avoided that because of issues with breaking CC.

Minor:

Berserker rage: adds 5 rage whenever you use it. Handy for emergency rage generation

Battle/ Command/ Demo — increase range and duration of shouts. Pick whichever.

Warriors do however have the best named glyph in the game which is “glyph of bloody healing”, sadly it’s for fury though.

Rotation/ Priority

Very similar to usual except with less heroic strike. That is to say, protection uses a priority attack system and not a fixed rotation. I’m sure as we all get more practice we’ll get a feel for where it’s worth trying to fit HS in but generally use it when you have a full rage bar.

Shield Slam –> HS –> Revenge -> Devastate (single target)

Shockwave->Thunderclap-> Cleave (AE) (if you use blood and thunder you’ll want to weave rend in as well. Remember if you have thunderstruck you can stack the thunderclaps for more of a shockwave buff.)

Rage — shouts now give rage. Demo shout also still has some threat attached so you can shout and then charge for some starting rage. I like the berserker rage glyph for some extra emergency rage too.

Stats and Reforging: If you’re raiding it will probably be worth indulging in some reforging (if needed) to cap out expertise and hit. If you’re not, I wouldn’t bother, all the equipment will shortly be moot anyway. I haven’t done any reforging myself to gain extra mastery — not inclined to mutilate my gear until some number crunchers have worked out the optimal strategy first.

(You’ll notice that I have zero interest in gear optimisation but that I do quite enjoy experimenting with new talents and specs on my own. That’s my gameplay preference, and I’m glad for anyone who prefers things the other way around because I can steal their gear cribsheets later.)