How the Ball Bounces

This week we had a tweet from Bashiok that told us the Mogu Runes of Fate (aka Rogu Moons of Fate) will now cost a mere 50 lesser charms, versus the 90 they’ve cost since MoP launched. It is yet another change that was long overdue and another one that makes me scratch my head on how Blizzard approaches these types of issues.

The Past

Let’s keep in mind that any serious level of play was not something I even participated in until WotLK. So I cannot speak to content prior to that. This isn’t an invitation for Vanilla folks to tell me how they had to walk uphill in the snow both ways. Yeah, you had some weird and inexplicable burdens to bear back then, but good for Blizard to move away from some of that.

What I noticed immediately in WotLK is how easy it was to progress through heroic 5-man dungeons. In particular, any of the heroics prior to the ICC ones. Those were a nightmare up front for a lot of people. Well, not all of them, but I know Halls of Reflection was a complete pain in the ass, most notably for healers in the first part, and the DPS check at the end. But you know, as much of a broken record as this may be, this is when the game was really thriving in terms of player count, PuGs, and finally capping the story of Arthas.

Here come the complaints. “Wrath is too easy,” they said. What did they do for Cataclysm? They made dungeons so unapproachable for so many (especially healers), they immediately lost subscribers. The triage healing model (which never really came into fruition—just pillow talk) is what killed it, in my opinion.  Couple that with a mostly uninteresting story, and the game took a complete 180 from where it was before.

The Present

In Cataclysm, now you could cap your vp in a couple hours each week, there were no compelling rewards from dailies, once you got past the initial factions of the expansion, and players were just bored. So, then the complaints were that there wasn’t much to do. As we saw with the Hour of Twilight dungeons, 5-mans are now far more approachable and on the verge of face-roll again. See how the ball bounces?

So, what happens when Mists launched? They overloaded the shit out of us with “things to do.” The problem was always that Blizzard actually believed that most would look at all the content as “optional.” To many of us (as I’ve covered before), it was. But the VP capping and the Lesser Charms capping has seriously been the biggest pain in the ass. Regardless of what it is that you’re doing to gain VP, it’s the same repetitive shit as it’s always been in the game. “New” content is only new for a very short time period. Blizzard understands this, but still insist that we grind and grind and grind for the hope of something more later on. That’s not “more things to do.” That’s having to do the same things more. Big difference. And for lesser charms? You’re only getting those from dailies at the start of the expansion.

The players have been complaining about the grind since MoP launched. Blizzard was “firm” up front about keeping things like they were, but let’s look at the back-peddling so far.

  1. Reputaion gains were enhanced significantly in 5.1, but acknowledged almost as soon as MoP dropped.
  2. Certain dungeons grant more VP, because they’re a bit longer or have more obstacles in them.
  3. 5.2 Brings higher VP rewards through daily sets, and even offers some weekly quests worth 150 VP. That’s 15% of cap in about 10 minutes of your time.
  4. Rares drop 15 VP.
  5. Pet battles can drop lesser Charms
  6. Cost of Mogu Runes is reduced by nearly half.

These are only some examples of how Blizzard heard and responded to requests from the player base. Hats off to them for that. The problem I have is: Why don’t they see these things coming? What causes them to go from one extreme to the other, and then back again, and then settle out somewhere in the middle. Why can’t the design be aimed at “the middle” from the start.

The Future

I only hope that Blizzard finds the sweet spot on this. I do want to have to work a little bit to cap the things which need to be capped in a week, but I don’t want to only focus on this. I’d like to be able to play my alts a bit more without feeling like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do.

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On Death and Desensitization (RIP Sweets)

This post may or may not have anything to do with WoW. You take it how you will.

With all the media’s focus on desensitization from the enjoyment of video games, it makes me wonder how such nonsense makes its way into the supposed motives of the criminals in question. I’m not a psychology major by any stretch. I had a single psych and sociology class in college. But I’m a veteran. One who, like many others, has been surrounded by the deaths of his friends.

In the last year, as of last night, I have lost two very close friends of mine to similar circumstances. While I was an active duty Marine, I lost several others. This isn’t a pity party. It just is what it is.

Most of my circle of friends with like backgrounds deal with death similarly. We mourn very briefly (sometimes minutes), and then go on about our day. It isn’t rude, it’s just how we deal with it. We’re taught to adapt and overcome, and to do so quickly. After a while, losing someone is just another part of one’s day. Adapt to their loss. Overcome your own emotions.

What we don’t do, however, is use it as an excuse to go on murdering sprees. Most of us know that our passions must still be kept within due bounds, and adjust accordingly. Video games? Pssh. There is absolutely nothing realistic enough about video games that in my opinion would warrant this being a valid excuse.

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RIP, Sweets, my brother. Give ‘em hell in Thunder Chapter.

Prepare Ship for Ludicrous Speed!

More big changes for the Big Nasty over the last couple of months. I don’t think I can approach the blog without having something in the way of changes to talk about. That’s ok though. We all deal with constant changes in life anyway…why should WoW be any different?

Guild Leadership

As I indicated in my last post, there were many challenges that came with the mantle of GM on top of raid leading. I knew these components would be present, but I didn’t anticipate the level in which I needed to be involved with them. This was especially frustrating because even out-of-game, I had to place so much focus into what the raid team’s needs were and how to go about filling those needs.

One conclusion I came to is that I really don’t like the Korialstrasz server. While there are great players on the server, the talent pool looking for raid teams was never very promising. You see, I had a few folks who I knew were actually holding the progression back. However, to fill their spots (or force them to play better to keep theirs) was like pulling teeth! Especially if you’re trying to min-max your buffs and debuffs.

Basically, the level of mediocrity within the raid team and on the server was driving me bat-shit. It wasn’t fair to the few of us who were better than our team dictated. It got to the point to where I was spending so much time out of game, trying to solve problems in game that my work was suffering, my grades in my Master’s program were slipping, and I was just not having fun in the game I love so much.

At this point, I reached out to a couple people I trust in game and talked to them about the problems I was having. We agreed that it would be a good idea for me to leave and try to find a replacement raid leader before I did so. Why leave and not just find the replacement? Because I just didn’t feel like I could be on the team in a different role. Plus, I felt like I was relied upon so much that I needed a break from that pressure. I wanted to find a team where if I needed to miss, it wouldn’t be a show-stopper.

During this time, I had reached out to the GM of the very first guild I was ever a part of. If you go back to my very first post and maybe even a couple after that one, you’ll know that I came to this guild by an invite to the game by a really close real-life friend. I left that guild for time constraint reasons and no matter where I went in my travels around the servers, I always felt that they were “home” to me. I told him my situation and that I was interested in coming back to that guild if they had a spot available. Over the course of 2 weeks or so, we both reached the conclusion that I would be a good fit back into <Ludicrous Speed> of Skullcrusher. The added bonus is that I get to be a black-hearted Hordie again!

Behind the public eye in my old guild, I was still working with come people to try to transition leadership over to them. There was a problem though: nobody wanted it. It came down to the last day when I was going to make my departure announcement that night. Only 4-5 people knew my plans, so I knew that it would be letting others down. I struggled with that part of it, because I don’t like to let anyone down at all. Raid was scheduled for 7pm my time as always. At 1pm, my co-tank and fellow officer finally texted me and said “why shouldn’t I try to do it?” I was so happy! I responded “there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try!”

After raid was formed that night, I made the announcement before pulling trash. I transferred GM to him and gave raid leadership over to him that night so I could still be there, but not in that role. After raid, I said my goodbyes, and transferred back over to Skullcrusher.

Even More Change!

I transferred over to my old/new guild not as a tank, but as a main spec Moonkin! This had been my off spec since Mists and I truly enjoy it, but I had never played it as Main Spec so I was really excited for the new challenge. It being my OS, I came into the guild being the least geared by a large margin (13 ilvls—a whole tier’s difference). I hadn’t realized how important tracking a few things were (DoT’s, Nature’s Grace, and their relative position to eclipse). The good news on that is that there is another Boomkin there who I could compare my logs with. I’ve since added some things to my UI that has already proven invaluable to helping me keep an eye on the things that will potentially help me maximize my DPS.

There is some good news and bad news regarding my former guild—the one I created and raid led. They only lasted one raid night after my departure. That saddened me, but on the upside, the good players from that team have since moved on to other servers and guilds, where they have all enjoyed further progression in their new teams, myself included (I had the luxury of being a part of my new guild’s first heroic Elegon kill, which was my first Elegon kill period). We still keep in touch via Battletags, and we have sometimes met in our old vent server to chat while we do dailies or whatever.

And In the End…

“Breaking up” was hard to do, but it ended up serving us all better in the end. Good raiders are now seeing progression, others who lost interest have no obligated feeling to keep logging in, and for me personally, I can concentrate on my class and learning the fights versus trying to troubleshoot 10 people’s performance all the time.

Oh happy days.

Number 1 or Number 2?

Seasons’ Greetings!

I am really awful at keeping up on this blog, apparently. Don’t get me wrong, I think about it often, I just never get around to it. I’ve had a busy last few months in the World of Warcraft, so I’ll dig right in and get her going.

Dailies for Dailies!

Yeah, everyone in the world talks about these and there are two viable approaches: 1) “I have to do them every day,” and 2) “You don’t NEED to do them every day.” I finally found myself in category number 2, and I’m so happy that I did. You see, when I first got to 90, I was a category 1-er and was getting just as frustrated and burnt out as everyone else who bitches about the daily grind. I had such a hard time figuring out which I wanted to do that day: dailies or dungeons. After about two weeks of this, it finally dawned on me that I could be a 2-er. The 2-ers have it right. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Mathematically, it is impossible to gain reputation AND valor points at a rate fast enough to make them both universally useful at the exact same time. With no single piece being obtainable with even a single week’s worth of valor-capping, it just didn’t make sense to continue burning through the dailies.

Like the 1-ers though, I did want those done and out of the way so what I chose to do was to pick two factions and do their dailies only…and not even every day (/GASP!!!). So, I went with August Celestials and Shado-Pan first, finished those off, then went to Klaxxi, and now I’m on my last couple thousand of Golden Lotus. I have no problem capping every week, I have time to do other things in the game, and I don’t feel like I’m doing the same old tiring bullshit every single day. 1-ers…stop beating yourselves up!!

Saying Goodbye to Friends

This next topic is one I’ve actually already talked about in public in a way. The good folks over at the Tauren Think Tank have read a couple of my letters to them. It’s regarding a long-time real-life friend who I’ve now probably lost. If you recall, I came back to this crazy game in May to help my friend and her husband build their guild into a raiding guild. We never had any intentions of being hard-core, but we certainly didn’t want the “casual” tag. Both of those approaches have their place, but we wanted a happy medium…some structure, if you will.

We had some “success” in the waning days of Cataclysm, but I knew the way we handled things were not going to work in Mists of Pandaria. Why? Because my raid team had not yet faced current tier content which hadn’t been diluted with ridiculous nerfs. As a team, we had not had to face encounters that we didn’t already out-gear.

The problem that I foresaw reared its ugly head right on queue. We weren’t adapting well-enough to mechanics to make a good push for progression. The biggest piece of the issue was that I felt constantly pressured to be more all-inclusive instead of being allowed to pick and choose my raiders based on awareness and basic raid performance. I would be reminded that the control of the raid was completely mine, but then in the next breath pressured to bring certain people along. One of which being the GM’s daughter.

Here’s where it got ugly, and too many personal feelings got involved. I really did enjoy having the daughter along. She is a really nice girl and never has anything negative to say. The problem that I had was that she wouldn’t do the work required to be a contributing part of a raid team, even when given specific tasks to help improve her performance. So, after a few weeks, I made the call that she would no longer be considered in my raid rotation. This ended up causing so much hostility, that I had the GM, the GM’s husband (one of our DPS), and the daughter all upset at me, each other, and it was just too much.

After thinking about it for a bit and realizing that I was causing problems in their actual lives and household, I decided it would be best for me to leave the guild. I knew this would cause them to not have a raid team any longer. I knew this would cause them to dislike me even more. But one thing they probably don’t even realize is that even though I did it for me, I also did it for them. I can no longer cause them any animosity because of my decisions. I won’t cause the GM to choose between my raid leadership and her family. This is a GOOD thing for them….but they don’t even realize it.

What happened after I left was something that I suspected would happen: The entire raid team followed me over. I knew this would be the case from some of the people because they flat out told me they would come if I started my own thing. After everyone left the old guild though, RealID friends were removed, alts were gkicked, and no lines of communication were still open. I was a bit sad for a couple days about this, but realized that if that’s the attitude that was going to be taken, it wasn’t in my best interest to remain friends anyway.

And Now!

Because we moved the entire raid team over, we were able to start raiding right away. The holiday season boss has held us back from progression a bit, but I know we will get in there and be able to start moving forward again. I don’t think that we’ll realistically be able to clear 16/16 while current, because of the mess, but I feel confident that tier 15 will be much better for our guild.

I have loads more to say, mostly about the troubles of guild leadership, but I’ll save that for another post.

First Impressions of Mists of Pandaria

So, here we are one week into Mists and I must say that I am really having a good time overall. I think the continent was very well put together. The landscape is gorgeous, the quests are very fun (the stories—more on other parts in a bit), and everything just makes sense!

Cataclysm was good times for reasons which were mentioned before. But there never was any sort of excitement around the expansion as a whole. My GM mentioned a few months ago that she hated Cataclysm simply because of the lack of color diversity. Not Mists! Even my wife who is on the verge of hating WoW was looking over my shoulder the other day when I was doing Cloud Serpent dailies and said “wow that’s very pretty.” I was very shocked to hear this coming out of her mouth but she was right!

Questing

I took the whole week off for the launch but I could not do the all-nighter thing because I still had to get up in the mornings and get my kids ready for school. Plus, because my job in M-F, 8-5, I took advantage of the time off and made appointments for things I otherwise wouldn’t have (fucking dentist!).

Because I knew that everyone and their sister would be in the starting area for launch, a few of us decided to do dungeons for the two hours I had dedicated to playing before going to bed. It helped us gain XP, and allowed us to avoid the masses in the Jade Forest. When I woke up the next morning though, GAME ON!

I really enjoyed how Blizzard mixed the Cataclysm questing (leading you from place to place) with older style questing (find ! on the map). I also appreciate how if you open your map, you can see quests you haven’t discovered yet. What I enjoyed most, though, was just being in the continent. With the exception for the Dread wastes, which is an absolutely dismal place to be, just viewing all the sites while questing was plenty of entertainment. There weren’t too many cut scenes, but there were enough to provide some background on whatever quest you were doing. And Trolls!!! I wonder what they’re up to in this expansion? More Zandalari to deal with in a future patch, I’m sure.

Although my overall impression of leveling was very positive, there are a couple of things I really did not enjoy about it. The biggest thing I didn’t like is something I think most people are complaining about (those who are complaining that is): quest mob HP. This extends past the leveling experience and into the Daily-grind too. I can understand that level 90 quest mobs for dailies may need to be a bit harder to take down so they’re not entirely faceroll as soon as you ding 90, but I don’t understand nor agree with the fact that level 87, 88, etc leveling mobs take so damn long to kill. It really takes away some of the fun that I’m having otherwise. The only GOOD thing for me and any others who may be leveling in their tank spec is that I could tag anywhere from 3-5 mobs and never worry about getting hit too hard. Sure, it took a couple minutes to down the entire pack, but I didn’t have to wrestle other players for them.

The second thing that I really didn’t enjoy about leveling was how the quest rewards system was working. I didn’t really want to quest in my Bear spec, but I was sort of forced to if I wanted to have the gear to run heroics when I reached 90. Boomkin kills things much faster of course, but the way the loot system was working, your rewards were based on your current spec. Sure, there were a few options here and there along the way that benefitted my Balance spec, but overall not much at all. Now, if I had reversed that and stayed Boomkin to level, my Guardian gear would have been shit instead, which was something I wanted to avoid.

Dungeons

Ok, so at first I was a little irritated over how incredibly easy the dungeons had become, but after a few days, my mind is changed. I think it’s almost necessary to make these 5-mans this “faceroll.” Why? I haven’t met anyone really who plays WoW specifically to run 5 mans over and over at max level (or leveling). They are either a means to get folks some entry level gear, a way to stack achievement points, something to do to kill time, or just getting VP/JP (formerly badges or emblems). In my opinion 5 man dungeons shouldn’t be the three hour Grim Batols we had a few days after Cata launch. For some, 5 mans will be the extent of their PVE end-game experience for a variety of reasons. The only ones who will really be annoyed with their ease will be the hard core folks and they’re most likely looking for challenges in raiding, not 5 mans.

That said, I do like some of the mechanics of some of the fights. Engaging and entertaining (think barrels on Ook Ook).

OMFG Dailies!

Well, what can I say about these that hasn’t already been said? There are just far too many of these and way too much of a required feeling to them to make them really enjoyable. Having a full-time job, I had to choose last night whether I wanted to run some dungeons for more gear, or if I wanted to dailies. I could not do both. Not if I wanted any good sleep anyway. Instead of having a central vendor for JP/VP items, I need to grind the rep out for all the factions in order gain access to their items. Can this stuff be ignored if we jump right into raiding and are successful in our Dungeon blues? Of course! But some of us are not jumping right in, and many more people will most likely need the boost from the Revered Epics in order to be successful in Normal mode raids. Why make it so gated? As I said before: it feels too mandatory.

All About the Choices

It was said that MoP would be more about what the player wanted to do. Well, this is largely true considering the amount of choices we have right now. Which cooking school do you want first? Which faction is most important? Are dungeons or dailies on your priority list? Do you want normal, heroic, or challenge mode? How are you going to utilize your Spirits of Harmony. It adds flavor to the game for sure. Just seems overwhelming at the moment.

Cataclysm Reflection and the Upcoming Mists

Well, here we sit at the end of an expansion again…only a few days left before Mists of Pandaria is launched, and we are all on our way to level 90, and exploring all of the new content that comes with it. Some players will devour this content much faster than others. Other folks will focus on what I like to call “incremental experiences”—meaning the little things that can add to the overall experience without being a focal point from the developers. PC Gamer just posted an interview with Ghostcrawler, who made mention of all of the Easter Eggs they’ve implemented into the dungeons. I may or may not go after these things, but it’s definitely a nice new option to have. That actually goes with several facets of the game that have been implemented (e.g. pet battles). You can love them or hate them, but they’re options to explore.

 

Reflection on Cataclysm

To me, Cataclysm was actually kind of a big deal. As I’ve stated before, it was my first expansion as an active progression raider. I learned the ins and outs of my Resto Shaman and contributed to theory-crafting in any environment I found myself in. I got in a little too deep and had to step back from the game for a while. That’s actually my third expansion I’ve not played in its entirety now. Started in BC, left and came back with 10 months of WotLK left, and left Cata for 5 months to pursue real life for a while.

What I didn’t like about Cataclysm (and I think many others didn’t either) is that when it launched, and all the way through Firelands, things were just a touch over tuned for many players. Don’t let anyone fool you and don’t fool yourself into thinking that very early Cataclysm heroics were “easy.” They weren’t. And Blizzard did this on purpose. Shit mattered then that hasn’t mattered in a long time. Extend that through the first two raid tiers of the expansion and you still get that there was a much more “elite” element to heroic progression. I’ll use my own personal experience for this one. My guild ended T11 ranked 136th in US 25 man raiding. And that’s including not getting Heroic Council down. So, less than 136 25-man guilds actually went 13/13 heroic while it was current. Similar story with Heroic Ragnaros. The guild I was in there ended up US 49th in 25 man Firelands with about a month left in the tier.

Overall, I really did like Cataclysm, though. I enjoyed the challenge of the earlier stuff even though I wondered how I would ever make it as a Resto Shaman early on. I liked the story; I liked the Villain…if you’ve read the books you will understand more about this guy Deathwing/Lord Prestor/Neltharion. Many people complained about feeling like the game was over once Arthas went down, but if you look at Azerothian troubles in history, Arthas was just a flash in the pan.

But, believe it or not, this post isn’t about Cataclysm necessarily. It’s about what I’m doing going forward.

 

The Future of “Me”

I’ve decided to main my Guardian Druid for Mists. This came after debating for about 6 weeks on whether or not this was a decision I wanted to make. I finally pulled the trigger on Sunday night, and announced it to the guild. I’ll still be main tank, and I’ll still be raid leading as well as providing some leadership for the guild’s management in conjunction with the other officers. It was a little tough to make the decision, to be honest. After progression raiding on my Shaman, coming back to my original main (Pally) had a feeling of “coming home” to it. But the bear….OMG it really feels good when tanking. Maybe I have the advantage of not having any old habits in muscle memory, but I don’t see any of the issues others are complaining about (when do people not complain though?).

So, you will find me…Cohumulone, Guardian Druid of Blood Red Sky of Korialstrasz. Which makes me ask: what do I do with the title of this blog now? I rarely even log on to the Shaman any longer. I’m still Big Nasty IRL. I want to lean away from trying to tackle any class in particular with a blog. There are plenty of those out there.

Give me some ideas on naming this blog!