[WoW] Everything old is new again. 5.04 and preparing for Pandaria.

MoP_login

Yup, this is the Mists of Pandaria loading screen. The image of ‘two statues flanking an entrance’ bears (sic) a resemblance to both the Vanilla WoW and TBC login screens. Again, as with the intro trailer, the message is that the game is getting back to its roots thematically.

Has it only been a week or so since I last mentioned how I was getting on with WoW? It feels much longer than that. I was getting set to screenshot my achievements, note that I had tried a LFR pickup raid into Dragon Soul and comment that I’d cleared up two of my Cataclysm bucketlist goals by getting Pebble on my Warrior and leveling my goblin priest chick to 85, and running a few instances with her. So ultimately, although I had been feeling very antsy about running heroics again, I felt that I got back into the swing of things with a couple of characters.

I also ran through the Firelands raid with my guild, which was good fun. (I never really disliked it as a raid, and it’s nice to have been able to go down Ragnaros. Again.)

So yay for that, then patch 5.04 hit and everything changed. And of course, that meant all the addons too. And if anyone is interested,  Noxxic, Icy Veins and MMO Melting Pot have guides for every spec in 5.04, which will get you started if you’re feeling confused.

Residual Notes on LFR

The raid I saw was the second half of the Dragon Soul, which involves a few set piece fights,  of which the most memorable is where the raid attempts to pry metal plates off Deathwing’s back while he’s spawing antibodies and trying to throw everyone off with barrel rolls. It probably isn’t as interesting as that sounds, or at least not on LFR.

I didn’t find it fun enough to bother queueing for the other half. It was nice to see the raid, I guess, but the Hour of Twilight instances were a lot more fun and had a better storyline (for what that’s worth). It is entirely possible that the raid encounters are more engaging in regular 10/25 man mode.

Really the odd thing about this raid is that it really does play like a collection of set pieces. In some cases the raid literally teleports from one location to the next and I half expected to see scrolling text on the screen during the transition reading “X hours later …” I guess that gives things a cinematic feel but it was a step too far for me, I prefer my raids (and instances) to feel like actual locations in the world rather than film sets.

I am in favour of LFR as a concept, I just don’t think that raid was particularly engaging.

Shared Achievements and Pets

After the patch hit, the majority of achievements and pets have become account wide. Yes, that means Horde alts now have access to Alliance only quest pets such as Withers and the Faerie Dragon. It also means that any rare or no-longer-attainable pets (eg. the ones you used to get for logging in during WoW anniversaries) are now part of the account-wide collection. It also means that, having logged on all the various alts on which I have dithered since the start of the game, I now know on exactly how many alts I completed the mechanical chicken quest. (Two.)

Account wide achievements also mean that I could create a new character tomorrow and display a variety of titles and achievements which aren’t in the game any more – sadly the Vanilla PvP titles do not go account wide, not that I ever got very far with those but I did have a couple on a no-longer-played alliance priest. Effectively, looking at my list of pets and achievements now makes it look as though I’m far more of an achiever than I really am. I suppose that’s good, but I wonder if characters feel more like adjuncts to the account than individuals now.

Some of the achievements can now be completed in bit parts across different characters. So for example, you could explore the Night Elf areas on an Alliance alt and the Blood Elf areas on a Horde alt and get completions on both of them account wide. Or in other words, simply logging in all your characters post-patch is likely to have resulted in extra achievements being noted. I am quite proud that despite all this I still ‘only’ have around 7700 achievement points on Spinks, Achievements are not really my thing.

The pet list also includes all the pets that exist which you do not (yet) own, including the Pandaria ones. My first reactions are that:

1. There are a LOT of reskinned pets. I don’t expect Blizzard to work miracles, but even Pokemon managed to give each of the pokies their own unique look.

2. I am going to be SO addicted to pet battles. I love Pokemon so this was never going to be a hard sell, but you have pets associated with different types, each of which has a variety of attacks of different types, and the various types are strong/weak against each other. I suspect pet battles will be far more strategically interesting than most WoW fights. Plus I suddenly got more interested in filling out my pet list.

I like the idea of starting Pandaria and favouring the pets I actually like best (usually due to having fond memories associated with them, like the mechanical squirrel that was given to me by a friend, or the crimson whelp that Arb gave me.)

Stoppableforce has a great post on Pet Battles in MoP, and I suspect that like me, he is a chicken fan. Ignore the haters, fun pokemon is fun.

Learning to play your class all over again

As has become the norm for WoW, the new class mechanics enter the game the patch before the expansion and they are currently live. I am still experimenting with my warrior but my first impressions are:

  • I like the tanking changes, I think it will be interesting and hopefully fun. But I wish I could do this with fewer buttons; warriors have a ton of utility and with the addition of an extra shield ability and the war banners, finding buttons and binds for them all is going to be a pain. I also think I need to find an addon to help monitor rage more closely.
  • Do not like the new Arms. It used to be such a fun, fluid rotation (I mean up until last week) and now it feels awkward, with lots of waiting around for crits and procs. I also think that one single target rage sink should be enough for anyone, so having two abilities that pretty much do the same thing (Slam and Heroic Strike) is just adding unnecessary complexity.
  • Fury looks OK though, my first impressions were mostly good. Also I’ve always wanted to try Bladestorm while dual wielding 2-handers.

The actual mechanics of being forced to relearn your class every expansion can get a bit wearing. As Beruthiel eloquently notes:

This is now the fourth time I’ve “relearned” to heal. The second time with massive mana changes. And you know what? It fucking sucks. I’m tired of trying to work small miracles with my toolkit, figuring it out, only to have it yanked out from under me and made to go through all the learning pains of learning your limits again.

It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for that position, especially for anyone who really quite liked how their character played in Cataclysm.

A proportion of the WoW player base expects both themselves and everyone else to learn the ins and outs of a new spec pretty much instantly, which does up the pressure. I personally expect to get some practice in from levelling through MoP and running instances, and will probably come back to how warriors play later once I have a better feel for the spec. (I don’t know about anyone else but I do usually fret for ages about which character to play as a main in a new expansion and then end up playing my Warrior again anyway.)

I’m also tanking ICC for a guild run later this week so we’ll see how that goes.

Preparing for MoP

The last few things I intend to do in preparation for the expansion are to finish up the Fishing skill on Spinks and level my warlock from 83 to 85. I have toyed with laying in some materials so that I could grab 10 points in Blacksmithing as soon as the crafting cap is raised (ie. by making PvP gear which is currently orange to me), I just don’t know whether I can be bothered.   My priestlet now has engineering and tailoring up to 500, which will let her pick up the Pandaria upgrades and my enchanting alt also has enchanting at 500 for the same reason.

As WoW players will know, it is extremely common for players to have a few crafting alts. I kind of wish Blizzard would just allow crafting skills to be account wide at this point, because no one should have to level enchanting more than once, ever.

I have also been selling off various bits and pieces, but without the sort of laser intensity or the scale that gold making glyph sellers apply to their work. Having said that, belt buckles and weapon chains both turn a good profit, as do bags (as usual) and crafted engineering pets. I will probably go into the expansion with about 50k gold on my main and 20k gold on a couple of alts, which is plenty for anything I might need to do. I also suspect that the main money making window for Blacksmiths will be in crafting entry level PvP gear at the start of the expansion and every arena season, at least if things follow the same pattern as Cataclysm.

Everything old is new again

In a few weeks time, the busy Cataclysm endgame zones will be quiet again. Only the starting zones will see an influx of levelling characters who will probably reach the expansion max and move on before ever spending time in the Firelands daily quest area or Twilight Highlands.

I flew round the now-deserted old TBC endgame zones, to remember again how this impacted previous expansions. Some drink to remember, some drink to forget.

netherstorm

How are you spending the last few weeks of Cataclysm, if you are playing WoW?

Existential angst of a new dps

1. Hurrah, run our first 25 man raid and made some good progress on Magmaw.

2. Boo, I’m about several light years behind the feral (cat) druids on the meters.

As dps, you’re largely looking to the meters to measure how well you are doing (with appropriate mental adjustments based on whatever else you were doing in the fight). So if you’re lower down, you’re going to start wondering what you can do better next time. That’s normal and perfectly fine. But what if it’s just a class design issue?

I’m not sure how well I‘ll get on with playing dps in raids if it means settling for a lower position and hoping that Blizzard decide to balance the dps out in their own sweet time. I generally prefer feeling in more control of my gameplay/ performance. I don’t know if I want to play a game that’s biased so that I can’t ‘win’ … or even feel as though I’m in the running.

This is very different from tanking or healing where, as long as my class COULD handle the content, I knew I could learn to do it. There might be whining if some classes had an easier time with fights than others, but it wasn’t this demoralising, “What’s the point in me even being there?” feeling.

dps players, how do you stay motivated to keep going when you know your class is behind others by design?

In which I suffer class preference angst

Since the last patch I have now had some more time to play a few of my alts and there have been just a few cases where I’m now weighing up my preference order (ie. which classes I like most).

This has been most striking to me with paladins. It’s a class I never really got my head around, I was never even interested enough to get an alt to Outland, never mind Northrend. But right now, Retribution is way more fun than it used to be, at least at low levels. I keep finding myself comparing it with how the Arms warrior plays, and I think I prefer the paladin on the whole.

This tends to mess up my class priorities because I have always compared my warriors with paladins in the mindset that, yes they get more utility and a healing spec but I prefer how my warrior plays for both tanking and dps. So I stick with Spinks because she’s more fun.

It’s a checks and balances thing, you look at the shopping list of benefits and drawbacks (in which ‘most fun’ is probably the most important benefit for me) and make your decision.

But if I do prefer the paladin’s dps spec to the warrior’s – let’s not discuss Fury because that way lies the madness of feeling forced to roll on every single melee weapon that drops in the next expansion – that changes the weightings. I’m not that interested in paladin tanking but again I keep hearing that it feels closer to the warrior. And then there’s the healing spec, which is a bonus playing style.

I feel that with the plate tanks, because there is such a huge overlap of roles (Death Knights, Warriors, and Paladins can all be tanks or dps) that it can sometimes be a very hard call to make. When the playing style is very different, then you just pick the one you prefer and that’s fairly straightforward.  But if they start feeling more similar to each other, the extra utility of one class starts to trump the rest.

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.

Preparing for Cataclysm: Garage Sales and Test Realm Antics

One thing is for sure as a new expansion approaches in Warcraft – many of the end game materials and components that have been staples of the economy for the last two years will suddenly become defunct, useful only as curios.

It’s at this time of the expansion cycle that people start thinking about clearing out their current bank inventory and making more room. But what to sell, or buy, or collect? And emblems and honour will also become outmoded, what to do with those?

In a scant few months, almost no one will want to buy those epic gems, raid crafting materials, or foodstuffs. There will be some demand from new goblins or worgen who are levelling tradeskills but it won’t be for the level 80 endgame materials. On the other hand, cosmetic items which required some grind at 80 might become even more sought after in future. The pets from the Argent Tournament fetch a decent price now, but how much more when half the new players don’t even know where the place is, let alone want to go grind rep there? Plus of course there will be a huge influx of gold into the system when everyone heads out questing again. So prices may rise across the board as the value of current era gold falls.

But still, that’s months away. Players will still want to gem and enchant their gear as long as they are still raiding/ PvPing. They’ll want to buy materials to prepare for the expansion too.

But I did find something recently that made me think harder about my plans.

whelplingdrop

The Tiny Crimson Whelpling is a rare dropped pet in The Wetlands and is a small red dragon. I wasn’t particularly trying to farm for one. I was just wasting time while waiting for Arbitrary because I wanted to show her where to find the Razormaw Hatchling eggs (another pet, but not so rare.)

And now the poor thing is sitting in my bags while I try to decide what to do with it. I guess the pet is probably still available in Cataclysm but we won’t know that for sure until the expansion goes live (I’m assuming that beta players have better things to do). So on the one hand it’s pretty cool and definitely rare at the moment. On the other, it’ll probably be worth more after the expansion drops, possibly lots more if it is no longer farmable.

But it’s a tiny red dragon! Would a worgen with a tiny red dragon pet be cool or not?

Have you started clearing  out your bags and banks for Cataclysm? Or collecting things to help future alts with levelling and training a craft?

A glimpse beyond the veil

The character copy has finally worked for me with the Public Test Realm so I’ve been able to start testing warrior stuffs for patch 4.0. It feels a bit like Moses getting a glimpse of the promised land – I’m not cool enough to be in the actual beta, but just enough to do a bit of testing with a fragment of what is to come.

spinksbeta

This shows the default UI during combat. The red shields are the new built in power aura effect for Sword and Board. It thoughtfully also lights up the icon, and writes the name of the ability above your head, making me feel like a character in an anime.

“SWORD AND BOAAAAARD!!!”

I find myself reluctant to actually go tank an instance without waiting for people I know to transfer over. I know from other comments that AE threat has been found to be lacking and when I say to myself, “Self, how about testing this new tanking build in an actual instance with a PUG?” I somehow find a zillion other things to do instead.

I just can’t feel inspired to want to put up with whatever insults and personal comments  the frustrated and overgeared dps masses probably want to throw at me. I will sometime. I’ll gird my loins with beer or something and just see what happens but in the cold clear light of day, it sounds rather masochistic and I’m sure I urgently need to test … err… something or other different. I remember tanking BC heroics on my warrior. It had its moments, but those were mostly in specific instances which played to my strengths (I remember Arcatraz being a personal favourite.)

My inclination is to tank for friends or guildies, and switch to DPS for everyone else if it’s going to be like that. This probably does not bode well for LFG queues in Cataclysm, because if I’m not sure I want to tank randoms, you can bet a lot of other people are thinking the same thing.

Still, on the bright side, Victory Rush heals Spinks for about 10k which is is a fifth of her health unbuffed. Not bad.

Make your Google background awesome

googlewarrior

Anyone checked out Google yet today? They’ve gone all bing on us, with eye-bleedingly bright backgrounds.

But it is possible to swap in something altogether better, like the Guild Wars 2 Warrior wallpaper shown above.

googlechange

This is a screenshot of the google homepage, showing the ‘”change background image” option on the lower left of the page.

If you select this you will be given the choice to pick your google background from a selection of pre-approved images, or you can pick something that is on your computer (as long as it is at least 800×600 in size).

Once you have done that, the background will switch over, and the tag on the bottom left will change to show, “remove background image” for whenever you get sick of it.

Or until Google gets sick of messing around with backgrounds and goes back to plain white.

Yes but what about the Guild Wars 2 Warrior?

The GW2 team has been releasing pockets of information lately and this week’s info concerned the warrior class. I don’t have a huge amount to say about either the game or the class yet. Except that the warrior will make every plate wearing, weapon swinging, warrior at heart happy.

Abilities that change depending on what weapon you are carrying, battle shouts, plate armour, shields, everything is in there.

Guild Wars has always had a good reputation for artwork, and the GW2 art certainly doesn’t disappoint. Check out the other backgrounds if you don’t like the warrior one (this one is a female warrior in plate btw, she has a waist.)

General trends, the core tank toolset, and is survival more fun than threat?

(Firstly, apologies for the flood of WoW related posts. I’m trying to use WoW class changes as a jumping off point for more general discussion, but yeah I get that the blog is a bit focussed right now.)

Usiel asked in comments if I had any thoughts about the bigger picture for Cataclysm, based on last week’s class changes. I can see a few vague trends:

  • Blizzard are addressing a lot of ‘quality of life’ issues (rage normalisation, focus for hunters, simplified stats, treeform). If these work out as planned, then I do genuinely believe that the game will become more fun and less frustrating for everyone involved, whether or not they get many new cool abilities.
  • They have said several times that one goal is to make healing more fun. We are starting to see what they think that means. Wide range of heals, interesting choices, less frantic heal spam, more movement, more emphasis on deciding when to dispel and mana management. But we won’t see the whole picture until we get a chance to try it.
  • DPS specs of hybrid classes are losing some hybrid-ness. We will see shamans and paladins lose some dispel abilities when in dps mode. Blizzard have also commented that retribution paladins will lose some survivability (because defensive dps specs are viewed as not working well, perhaps another reason why Blood DKs are being turned into tanks.)
  • DPS in general are getting more abilities to control fights, in one way or another.

I don’t get a clear view yet of the vision for tanking in the next expansion. Gravity thinks that raids will place more emphasis on mobility, which would make me happy because I find the mobility fights more fun.

The core tanking toolset is becoming better defined, with more tools being handed out to classes who lacked them. Hence more interrupts for ferals and paladins, and a demo shout equivalent for death knights. Those are all good trends. If the ability is that important, then all tanks should have access to it. Anything else is just pointlessly frustrating.

So if we try to define a core tank toolset, it needs to include at least:

  • similar threat, both AE and single target
  • similar survivability, both vs magic and physical damage
  • similar cooldowns and effective health
  • interrupt/s
  • burst or targeted threat, to neatly pick up adds
  • similar buffs and debuffs (ie. if three tank classes have a buff, then the fourth should probably have it too).

In some ways, tanks are more homogenous than either healers or dps. It’s hard to imagine a core healer toolset when one healer has bloodlust/ totems, another has combat res, and another brings paladin buffs. This has always been an issue for priests, since originally the hybrids got more utility to make up for priests having better healing.

Interestingly, it appears that being able to smoothly switch from tank to dps (ie. in a multi-stage fight) is not considered a core tank ability, because as of Cataclysm only druids will be able to do that. We can only hope that there is not a single boss fight where this will ever be important, because it has been an annoyance for years. (ie. druids have felt annoyed at being ‘forced’ into the off-tank role, and paladins/ warriors have been annoyed at not being good at it. Death Knights have been good off-tanks up till now, but who knows what they will be like in Cataclysm?)

In many ways we also need to wait to see the new expansion encounters to really understand how tanking may or may not change.

Another trend I see is for more responsibility for the success of a group to be spread between dps and healers, rather than so heavily focussed on the tank. For those control freaks (surely no tanks are control freaks!) who enjoy the current state of tanking, this may not be an entirely good thing. Expect to spend more time feeling like a dumb lump with high auto-threat while dps misdirect threat, put up smoke clouds, run rings around you, and generally do more of the work.

Survival vs Threat

Perhaps put more succinctly, a lot of tank players just seem to find the survival game more fun than the threat game.

- Ghostcrawler

It’s clear from previews that tank threat is not intended to be much of an issue in Cataclysm. The easier it became for tanks to establish threat in Wrath, the more people played them. That sends a fairly clear picture of what players want, and also DPS players hate being threat capped so if one tank lets them go all out and another doesn’t, the one who doesn’t will get benched.

I’m in two minds about the above quote though. I find the pure survival fights to be very dull indeed (omg I hit my cooldown 0.5s late and died, woe is me!). Instead of favouring the tank with the highest threat, they favour the tank with the highest effective health or best cooldowns. This is equally out of the player’s control. And that’s not especially fun either.

In fact, I’d prefer to see both pure survival and threat become less of an issue, and instead focus on movement, situational awareness, and working with the other tanks and the rest of the raid. The tank who can both survive and hold threat whilst balancing a spoon on their nose and dragging a mob neatly through a dog agility course? That’s the one I want to play.

I’m just not really sure if that’s the way the game is going. We’ll know more after the paladin changes are announced.