Spicing up farm raids, external auction access, and the Lich King is dead

First up, congratulations to Blood Legion on the world first 10 man Lich King kill. (I did think it was funny that they praise their non-vent voice chat in the bboard post at mmo-champion but their website has an advert for vent hosting.)

I suspect  no-one was surprised that Arthas didn’t even last until the end of the night, and I’ll be amazed if at least one of the EU guilds doesn’t kill him tonight also after our patch goes live. None of which means that it was particularly easy, just top guilds are that good and this isn’t a hard mode that was set up specifically to test them.

edited to add: Yup, as expected, Ensidia got a kill in on 10 man Arthas this afternoon, on their 5th attempt. They comment that some of their raiders were quite moved by the lore and RP, which is sweet.

External Access to the Game and Auction House

Bornakk announced yesterday on the official forums plans to let players access the Auction House without being logged into WoW, either through the Armoury or an iPhone application.

Today, we wanted to give you a heads-up about a new service now in development that will let players access the Auction House directly through the Armory website or Armory App for iPhone or iPod touch.

It’s important to note here that certain elements of the service will be premium-based, which we’ll go into more detail on once the service functionality is finalized.

Player vs Developer discusses some of the implications of this functionality. He suspects Blizzard will require the use of an authenticator to use the Auction House remotely, which does seem likely.

The biggest implication for me is that Blizzard is eyeing up the casual gaming market. Maybe some Farmville fans (who also happen to be WoW players) would also enjoy playing the WoW auction house during lunchtime at work. If this is successful, it could herald the way to more mini-resource management games which could be played outside the game client but still give some bonuses in game. That would certainly fit into the something-for-every-playstyle model of MMO.

I could also imagine far more automation of Auction House activities. Imagine an addon which logged into the AH once an hour remotely and could be set to check current prices on desirable commodities and automatically buy or sell if the price is right. For example: check the price of  titansteel and buy if it is selling for less than 150g.

And finally, Blizzard are showing a marked preference for the iPhone, which has got to be disappointing to anyone with a different smartphone. (Possibly even one that features true multi-tasking :P ) There’s a balance between offering neat functionality to the Apple lovers and saying ‘actually, you really need this gadget to really get the most out of our PC game.’ Although I applaud their business nous at realising that iPhone users will probably happily cough up premium rate subscriptions for the privilege of gaming via their favourite toy.

The Advent of the Weekly Raid Quest

I almost missed this one but today’s patch has also added some extra weekly quests to the Icecrown Citadel. They’re available from various NPCs inside the Citadel, and hopefully we will soon know more about them.

They feature extra mini-bosses, and reward extra frost badges, gold, and … inexplicably … xp. Here’s the quest list from wowhead.com.

I love the idea of throwing in some random extra encounters to spice up otherwise dull farm raids. Comments from wow.com imply that these weeklies aren’t a walk in the park, so they might also add some extra optional difficulty and rewards for guilds that are bored of normal modes but maybe struggling with hard modes.

Death of an Old God #1

killedyogg

We killed Yogg-Saron in a 25 man raid this week. It was the second kill for the raid, but the first one in which I was there. So now I have helped to kill an Old God, and it’s time to move on. I missed all the 10 man kills so I’m very glad to have been in for this one. There is a sense of closure from clearing the instance, even on normal mode.

I enjoyed Ulduar very much, and the Yogg fight was fun to learn. It was busy, and exciting, and there was plenty for everyone to do and to remember. Phase 1 was probably one of my favourite tanking fights in Wrath so far (I just like kiting mobs around, picking up adds, and dodging environmental damage.)

If it feels bittersweet, it’s because this was my last remaining goal from patch 3.2. I’m sure we’ll enjoy the remaining hard modes, but somehow they just don’t ping me as goals in the same way.

The Thrill of the Last Boss

First there was silence. Grim determination. Clipped orders barked out. As time goes on, everyone keeps an eye on the clock, everyone keeps an eye on the meters, everything thinks, “This is looking good,” but can’t spare the time to say it. People call for heals, add switches, targets. The tension mounts. Phases change, people jump, health bars shoot up and down. Towards the end, someone yells “ten percent!” and everyone’s heart starts to beat that bit faster.

Then finally, the last percent (which always seems to take forever) clips out and the boss goes crashing to the ground. Voice chat erupts with cheers. It’s at least a minute before it is quiet enough for anyone to be heard. One of your healers whispers you to say that they didn’t think you were going to make it. And your raid has cleared the instance for the first time.

This is why we raid.

What’s so special about the last boss?

anubarak

So last night we got Anub’Arak down for the first time in the 25 man normal version of Trial of the Crusader. (I feel privileged to have been there and very proud of the raid and especially the raid leaders and healers – it’s a particularly testing fight for the healers). It was an absolutely classic first kill, we’d had a few previous tries, each one getting slightly better. This was the last try of the night, and we all were getting tired.

This is a familiar tale. So many times a first kill has happened on the last try of the night.

I know it isn’t just my raid group, other people follow the same narrative. Maybe  people try harder when they know it’s the last attempt, or being slightly tired makes it easier in some obscure way – perhaps thinking is not as helpful as just reacting at these times. But I do know that it is quite common to get a first kill on a challenging boss late in the evening, on the very last attempt.

And there really is something special about the last boss in an instance. Raid instances are usually sold to us as ‘belonging’ to one main boss who just happens to let some of his/her friends or employees rent rooms there too. The lore is all about the big guy at the end. S/he is the sole reason you are there, notionally.

To make the main guy even more significant, the last boss is also usually harder than the rest. So the gameplay is fitted to the lore ie. the lore says that endboss X is very powerful, the gameplay says that the fight is the most challenging. Plus of course the last boss usually has the best loot. This keeps the achievers happy.

It is also cool to be able to say “We cleared that raid instance.” It means you have seen all the content, and so the explorers are happy too. It also means that you feel a social bond with the rest of your raid group – we cleared that raid instance by working together. Again, good for the social players also.

So we really are all set up to prize these boss kills more highly.

A fight to challenge the healers?

I’m not overly excited by the Trial of the Crusader, but for all that, Anub is a cool fight. Blizzard is often guilty of testing healers by brute force. They can make a fight hard for the healers by making everyone take tons of damage, throw in the occasional silence effect, and have something really hard hitting on the tank for extra spikey damage. But harder doesn’t always mean more fun.

In phase three of the Anub fight, the healers are challenged to try to keep the whole raid alive but at low health. We’re taking constant damage which in turn heals the boss, but it is at a rate of 10% of your current health per tick. So if everyone was at full health, he would be getting more heals than we could nuke down inside the enrage timer. But … if you can keep the raid alive with less than full health, that means he can be killed.

That’s not the only interesting side to the fight but I thought it was one of the more interesting healing challenges I’d seen in a raid. I also know that a lot of people find the Coliseum too easy but I thought that particular boss was well-tuned to give us a good challenge.

I also used to think that Tiron Fordring was quite cool. His response to us killing this massive evil spider boss? Oh, why don’t you try the heroic version next?

Well OK, but a thank you would not have been out of order. Git. (Paladins are all gits, a warrior would at least have offered beer.)