Monday, October 14, 2013

Gearing and Raid Progress Update

Holy crap, I'm updating. It's nuts, isn't it? I've determined that I'm the worst blogger in the history of bloggers in terms of consistent update. Possibly an exaggeration. I go through spurts of wanting to write in it, but then... I get distracted by shiny things and before I know it, a month or two have gone by. In any event, here's my little update as to how things have been since I last updated.

We finished out T15 at 10/13H. Dark Animus was the last fight we were working on and man, did it hurt a lot. But since we knew that 5.4 was coming out so soon, we just basically did our farm content for the last two weeks. The thought was to get as much gear as possible for the next raid without also burning people out. We've had a few people take some breaks here and there because of burn out, so we wanted to avoid that going into a new tier.

Siege of Orgrimmar has been a lot of fun so far. Some fights have been stressful, some easier than expected, some that really seem to crap on melee (big surprise), the normal stuff. Currently we're 13/14N, Garrosh is definitely a tough fight as we expected. My biggest bit of news this tier is that I FINALLY got a weapon upgrade. I've been running Shin'ka, Execution of Dominion (fully upgraded of course) since like our second kill of Sha of Fear and it has been just ridiculously frustrating that not even one two-handed strength weapon has dropped in ANY of our runs. I'm not even exaggerating. We literally saw none for all of T15. I was out for a week due to computer issues and they still didn't see one. So I was a little happy when Gar'tok, Strength of the Faithful dropped on like our third General Nazgrim kill. Just a gigantic upgrade over axe.

Speaking of upgrades and well, stats, I've gotten to a point in gear where mastery just is getting to ridiculous levels. I've been reading a bunch of threads on MMO-Champion about blood dks going for haste to increase damage, which sounds good in theory, but I just can't bring myself to do so. Many of these threads talk about "safe points" of mastery and each has a different amount they claim. This is very frustrating because I was always under the impression that mastery never really devalued unless A) the damage in the fight is mainly magic or B) you cap your Blood Shield quickly and sit there at max for awhile. Some of these values I've seen thrown around have been at little at 150%, but most commonly I see 180%. A few posts from Raegwyn suggest that the 230-240% range seems to be more than sufficient, which now that I'm around that level, I can agree with. I'm sitting around 245% mastery raid buffed. Aside from really hard hitting bosses (Garrosh), I can cap my Blood Shield at times while tanking a boss. So more mastery is probably not necessary. Up until this point, I have been shying away from stamina in terms of stat allocation. I hit and expertise (soft)cap, then go mastery wherever I can, taking avoidance as it comes. With the introduction of Riposte, avoidance has become a bit more appealing. As long as I'm tanking something, I can maintain basically a 100% uptime on it. I end up around 25% crit or so while it's up, obviously varying when Dancing Rune Weapon is up as well as some trinket procs. So stamina hasn't really even come into the picture for me aside from the few mastery/stamina gems in blue sockets when I'm already at hit cap. But since I've hit this "threshold" on mastery, it has become more appealing. I've switched my runeforge to Stoneskin Gargoyle and even replaced the jewelcrafter only mastery gems with stamina ones.

So what does all this mean?

Well, on a fight like Malkorok, which I firmly believe was created with a dk tank in mind, I feel ridiculously over-powered. On most fights, it's easy for me to gain a max Blood Shield while not tanking a boss, waiting my turn to taunt. But with the mechanics of this fights, it's insane. During the initial pull, I pop Dancing Rune Weapon to avoid as much as possible, Vampiric Blood to increase healing and Death Strike spam to build my Blood Shield and Ancient Barrier, Empower Rune Weapon for more Death Strikes. As long as everyone does their job and gets in the void zones, I never lose the Ancient Barrier and Blood Shield stays up 90% of the time. In addition to this, and this is something I only recently became aware of, Bone Shield will stay up indefinitely as long as I never lose Blood Shield and Ancient Barrier. I never realized that as long as any damage taken while Bone Shield is up is fully absorbed, you never lose a charge. Most times, we go into phase 2 and I still have all 6 charges up. Now, the over-powered part happens when I take the boss back from my tanking partner. Obviously I have a full Blood Shield at this point, which also means I have a maxed out Ancient Barrier as well, and my health is max as long as I never lost Ancient Barrier. So I get the boss back, with just over 1 million health, with a 1 million physical damage shield from Blood Shield, and a 1 million damage shield from all sources from Ancient Barrier. 3 million effective health? Yeah, try and kill me, buddy. I've managed to keep my Blood Shield up for the majority of phase 2, to the point where the Ancient Barrier buff from phase 1 is still present when we go into the next phase 1.

Enough boasting, but can you blame me? That's insane. My guild is overall doing decent. Some of the fights this tier I'm not a fan of. Kor'kron Dark Shamans is such a mess of mechanics. Thok the Bloodthirsty hates on melee if you don't keep him in phase 1 (and we don't since we're caster heavy). But other fights are a lot of fun. Malkorok, Paragons of the Klaxxi, Garrosh. Honestly, I love the Klaxxi fight because of the lore involved in it. When I hit exalted with them and went on that walk with Kil'ruk the Wind Reaver to the chamber below Klaxxi'vess and he spoke about Y'shaarj, I got so excited about the impending clash between the Klaxxi and us. Also, that fight seems so intimidating when you read about it. You sift through all the mechanics... which you think Blizzard was writing a book or something, and it's really not so bad. Our first kill happened in just 3 attempts. Seriously like the Twin Consorts of this tier, as Shanthi said in our kill video. Garrosh is proving to be quite the challenge, but it's a very fun fight, aside from him randomly going taunt immune... still haven't figured out why that happens. But it seems to reset when he does Whirling Corruption. Might cause us some trouble in phase 3 if he continues to do that. We've gotten into phase 3 only a couple times thought. Best attempt had him around 13%. Aaaand that's all the steam I've got for now. Until next time!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tanking Issues in Mist of Pandaria

I've been meaning to write a post about tanks in Mists of Pandaria for some time now. With all the changes that have happened since Cataclysm to now (Vengeance, active mitigation, etc) tanking has become a very different experience all together. It's still the part of the game I love the most. I've done a little dps in Cata and in MoP as well, which is fun, but my heart just isn't in damage dealing. I find myself always putting survivability first, for myself and others, picking specific talents just to help mitigate damage to me or the raid. But really how much has it changed from say the Wrath model?

Reminiscing Time!

Well, and I've probably pointed this out before, I played a protection warrior during Wrath of the Lich King until the last few months of the expansion when I switched to my death knight. Warrior tanks back then had a pretty rough playstyle, at least in terms of managing threat. See, vengeance didn't exist back then and there was no such 5x threat modifier from any stance or presence. As a warrior, I most definitely had to work for threat. I'm sure a lot of people remember that time. I'd charge in, Thunder Clap, move the mobs after they collapsed on me, use Shockwave to stun them and gain a decent amount threat and then start target cycling. Man, that was a fun time. Shield Slam one target, Thunder Clap, tab to the next, Devastate, Shield Slam, tab again, repeat until dead. Possibly have to taunt mobs back. Keeping track of what I've hit and what I haven't was fun before I started using Threat Plates.

Moving on, Paladins during that time had a much easier job in terms of threat. As I tend to joke, it was basically drop Consecration, go AFK to make a sandwich, come back and everything is dead. For some reason their threat was crazy high for aoe. Warriors did amazing single target threat, but were completely outclassed by pallies. I was able to actually out threat paladin tanks on my warrior when it was just the boss, but that was the only situation.

The Here and Now

Blizzard has done a decent job balancing threat between the tanks. It's still not perfect, but it's no longer as disproportionate as I illustrated above. In the past, tanks struggled to keep threat against high dps classes as gear would increase. Tank damage wouldn't really scale all that much and was quickly eclipsed by the dps. In response, tanks gained a 5x threat modifier to help counter that problem. But even after that it was possible to out threat a tank as a dps. So Vengeance came into play, and it's been pretty amazing. A lot of dps classes complain about it because it can increase the damage of a tank to dps levels and even surpass them on a lot of fights. This is very apparent while leveling in dungeons, but really, 5-mans aren't exactly the measure of balance when it comes to things like that. Nonetheless, this problem occurs less frequently in raids, but it's still present. Tanks can sometimes pull of some crazy high numbers depending on the fight. Wind Lord Mel'jarak and Iron Qon are two decent examples of that.

So now Blizzard is nerfing vengeance to 1.5% of unmitigated damage. I don't see a huge problem to this aside from a pride thing for me. I liked doing enough damage to be competitive with the dps. But damage isn't my primary responsibility, so I'll quickly get over that. A lot of tanks are really upset over this change, which I don't fully understand. The change is being made to reduce the desire to single tank fights that weren't designed to be single tanked. But it is what it is. People will always complain when something is changed. Can't please everyone and all that.

So Vengeance is Great, Right?

There is a particular issue I've had with vengeance for the entirety of this expansion that I don't see a ton of people touching on in forums and such. The issue is that three out of the five tank classes have their active mitigation scaling through attack power. So that means that they become more survivable as they take more damage, as odd as that sounds. Take paladins for instance, all of their self healing and Sacred Shield scale with spell power (which is based off of 50% of AP for protection paladins). This is why we were seeing a protection paladin tanking Wind Lord Mel'jarak solo and not only destroying all the dps on the meters, but also crushing the healers in HPS. A monk's Guard ability also scales through AP. Warrior's Shield Barrier does as well. While Guardian Druids and Blood Death Knights are left in the dust. The only thing they get from vengeance is more damage and threat, which, doesn't even compare to some of the monk's abilities such as Keg Smash. That ability generates a ridiculous amount of threat.

In addition to this issue, I've also noticed some inconsistencies with vengeance. I currently tank alongside a Brewmaster Monk. Our gear levels are very close, around 2 item level difference. Yet he seems to always gain a fairly large amount of vengeance more than I do in normal tank swapping fights. When I trade, I have 70-80k vengeance and when I get him back, the monk has 110-120k. Neither one of us took any crazy spike damage and the duration was pretty much the same. I don't really understand this since vengeance is supposed to be calculated based on unmitigated damage. Unless, of course, it isn't really calculated that way. The only thing really different in terms of our mitigation is the fact that my baseline avoidance is higher, but his can easily surpass mine with Elusive Brew and my armor is obviously higher. But neither of those should factor in if it's truly based on unmitigated damage. It is based on that, right? RIGHT?!

Shanthi and I were discussing tank classes just last night and brought up guardian druids. Neither of us could think of a single one that raids, so I decided to check out their abilities to see why they wouldn't be a desirable for a raid group. It seems like every single one of their abilities is designed to either dodge melee attacks or increase armor. So I'm sure they're good in fights with just physical damage. I mean, there's tons of fights in this game that fit that description. I don't know what Blizzard is doing with them, but right now it seems like they've been mostly ditched for the expansion. I can only hope that they'll get some love in the next expansion.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What happened to the players?

I'll spare you the apologies for not updating. If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you should realize by now I'm terrible at regularly updating it. To give you a quick update on my guild's progress, we're currently sitting at 2/13H in Throne of Thunder. Which, I might add, is a pretty fantastic raid. Normals are so much harder than they've been in a long time and, as a result, heroics are even harder. This is causing a lot of people to complain about how they can't progress. "It's too hard" and all that is on forums everywhere. Well, I respectfully disagree. It is hard, there is no debating that. But it's supposed to be harder than say, Dragon Soul. Since LFR has been solidified as a progression step for more casual players, normal and heroic raids could be scaled up in difficulty. Let's face it, LFR is ridiculously easy, and it's supposed to be. Could you imagine 25 strangers trying to complete ToT25 normal? I'm talking about the normal people you see in LFR. So people who AFK, people who constantly attempt to troll the raid, or better yet, people who don't speak the same language as others. So you can't even communicate strategies or directions to them.

This leads me to my true subject of this post: player apathy. Let me start by saying that I run LFR each week with guildies for valor points. For awhile, it was to get some upgrades for my off spec that I used in an encounter or two. But now there aren't any upgrades for either of my specs (aside from weapon >.<). In the current LFR, all of the ToT mechanics are dulled to the point where following them apparently isn't worth it to most people. Knockbacks on certain abilities don't even exist in LFR. Standing in fire might not kill you. This type of thing drives me nuts. I'm all for making things easier because of the types of people you'll end up encountering and the fact that you may not even be able to communicate with those people. But there has to be some sort of incentive to actually move from that fire, and some type of penalty if you don't.

But my personal issues about mechanics not being lethal aside (I'm aware that LFR is not designed for the level or raiding I normally find appropriate), the lack of penalty for those who simply refuse to play is what bothers me the most. People who go AFK constantly, put someone on follow, randomly pull things, tunnel into a boss constantly and ignore adds... I think you get the picture. I don't expect people to do amazing damage in LFR. I understand that a lot of these people are on second and third alts, maybe they only have the time to play 2 hours a week. All that stuff I understand. But not being able to damage the things you're supposed to while moving out of an obvious trap that should kill you is ridiculous.

Just last night I ran this with the normal group of guildies and it was a nightmare from start to finish. One warlock decided they were going to pull everything instead of waiting for me or the other tank (from my guild as well) to pull it. And here's where I get really annoyed, when we tried to kick him after he kept doing it over and over, we constantly got the message "That player cannot be kicked for another 4 hours." Wait wait, so this person is intentionally being a jerk and making this harder than it should be, and we can't even rectify that? So... what consequence is there for those who do this? Nothing? I just didn't understand. During Horridon, half the raid tunneled into damaging him for the entire fight. This is normal, as I've seen in other runs. But let me tell you how difficult that makes it for the tanks. Tanking all the adds on the 4th door, grabbing the warbears as they drop, just in time for Jalak to drop down. More adds are spawning, people are still damaging Horridon, the other tank will need a swap swoon, probably can't survive tanking Horridon and Jalak, and I have all the adds. I used Army of the Dead to try to get some pressure off me from the adds while I grabbed Jalak. At the same time, the Dinomancer dropped. Despite my gear far exceeding what is found in LFR, I just barely survived. Not to mention it was a complete mess until the boss died. But again, no one cares.

When we queued for the next section, we obviously got a different group. This one wasn't much better. During Tortos, almost no one was damaging the bats that I was tanking. Plus there were turtles everywhere. They, again, tunneled into the boss. The trash after Tortos is probably the worst spot for a group in LFR. There's a ton of it, and everyone will skip a lot of it. We do in our normal raids, but for some reason avoiding mobs that move is too difficult for a lot of people in LFR. That's not to say people aren't trolling and purposely pulling trash, as we soon saw in this attempt. We cleared to the second bell and move towards the waterfall section as we normally do in my guild. The amount of trash that everyone brought with was absurd. It literally seemed like people tried to pull all of it. I guess to some people that's funny? Yes, fighting a losing battle against that much, dying and then having to run back is funny. I can clearly see that now. Very amusing.

Ji-Kun is always a mess in LFR because people don't want to fly to the nests. Not much more can be said there. Durumu's maze continues to confuse people. Half the raid seems to die during it each week. For Primordius, I still see people never getting transformed for the entire fight and doing very little damage as a result. But all this pales in comparison to Dark Animus. The horrendous mess this is on LFR. I'm sure anyone who has done this knows what I'm talking about.

I've rambled about this for long enough. To summarize, the people I encounter in LFR either play extremely badly and show no signs of improving, or they intentionally do poorly because they just don't care. The latter is my issue. If you don't care, then don't even queue. I'm not saying that everyone should be as obsessive as I can be about learning my class, the fight, etc. But actually doing what you're supposed to be doing... is that too hard to ask?

This is the whole problem here. There is little to no consequence for being like this. You might be kicked from the group. But only if you're doing something obviously bad. Why is this behavior allowed? When someone confronts another about doing something wrong, even if the person is just explaining how the fight should be done, their response is almost always some variation of "lol this is LFR. it doesn't matter".

I leave you with a video from Preach all about how there is a lack of incentive to try. This pretty well sums up my experience.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tier 15 update

5.2 has been out for a couple weeks now. My guild has been working on the encounters and making some steady progress through normal mode. I don't think I could ever get used to downing all the normals in the first week. I get that guilds that do such things are usually playing on the PTR to learn all the mechanics beforehand. But I just feel that doing so would get me to the "burned out" stage more quickly. I mainly just want to be competitive on my own server; which we are. Currently ranked 5th at 5/12 normal Throne of Thunder. Ji-Kun should be dying on Thursday. We had a 0.8% wipe on our last pull Tuesday. That was heart breaking.

We finished out tier 14 with 5/6H(MSV) 1/6H(HoF) 4/4(ToES). Unfortunately that was only good enough for server 8th. We had a slow start though, so I'll attribute it to that. This tier however, things seem to be going a bit better...

We got Jin'rokh the Breaker down in 3 tries on the first night. Very easy fight, almost Morchok difficulty. The debuff he places on the tanks is a magic effect and therefore can be prevented with Anti-Magic Shell. That's the only real tip I have for dk tanks there. If you do prevent the debuff from being applied to you and the other tank still takes him, feel free to stand in the puddle with the rest of the raid group for the added damage.

Horridon proved to be a bit more difficult. Seems like such a cluster of things going on at once. It was definitely overwhelming, but we killed it after 16 tries. I ended up tanking the Gurubashi and Amani doors. The poison from the Gurubashi is brutal. The Amani warbears are probably the most annoying for me. They cleave and do a ton of physical damage. Anyone who isn't a tank can't survive more than a hit from them. To top this off, they have a rider on them that dismounts after the warbear is killed, which has it's own aggro table. When it dismounts, it likes to charge after the healers. Be wary of that.

Council of Elders took another 23 attempts to down. Despite it taking longer than the others, we were still on pace with 1 new boss kill per raid night, which I found very encouraging. We tried a couple different tanking strategies for this encounter. One where we traded Frost King Malakk while keeping him next to Sul the Sandcrawler. This meant that the High Priestess Mar'li tank would have to grab both Malakk and Sul. The problem was when people would interrupt Sul or Mar'li during a swap. Those bosses would then move to the tank that isn't supposed to have them anymore. We wanted to keep Mar'li from Malakk and Sul. So we ended up not doing any swap at all. I tank both Sul and Malakk until they're dead. This means eating the stun Malakk does. Popping a cooldown or 2 for each stun is pretty much mandatory. Supposedly you can avoid the stun by preventing Frigid Assault from stacking to 15. This is said to be possible with enough avoidance. So far, I have yet to be able to prevent it. But hey, I'm no bear tank with 60+% dodge.

Tortos was next and took 27 tries. Getting the turtle kicking part down contributed to a lot of those though. Wiping on the first breath attack doesn't seem like much of an attempt. I ended up being the bat tank for this fight. Those little guys can be annoying to pick up. Deadly Boss Mods doesn't seem to have a timer for them yet. But they came up every 30 seconds or so. Death and Decay was either off cooldown or about to come off each time they came down. It seemed to happen after each Quake Stomp, at least after the Rockfalls slowed down from it. They are immune to damage until they're completely down, which makes them somewhat frustrating. They also liked to go after the tank on the boss. Sometimes it made it easier to pick them up, but only if that tank didn't use really any aoe. For some reason Pestilence wasn't spreading diseases from Tortos to the bats even when I tanked them basically on him so the melee could cleave everything. I tested it with the Glyph of Pestilence as well. Perhaps they have to be basically right under the center of him.

Megaera took another 18 tries before a kill. That fight seemed rather brutal, which might be why they nerfed some of the damage the following week after our kill. We used the strategy of just killing Venomous and Flaming heads the whole fight. For awhile, people were dying to Rampage and the dot from Cinders. Leaving the Frozen Head up the whole fight means that Hydra Frenzy will stack pretty high. The breath attacks from the Frozen head weren't so bad. But the melee damage became a bit much near the end. I found using Dancing Rune Weapon would help a lot though.

Ji-Kun is our current project. I have gone dps on this fight since unholy aoe is pretty crazy right now. Only issue I've been having is my ghoul. I was a little worried he would despawn when I would go to the nests since he'd stay attacking Ji-Kun for a bit while I was flying around. But he seems to be working ok with that, just showing up next to me when I start attacking the eggs much like a hunter pet. But sometimes he takes a few seconds to get there. So I'll be using Death Coil to transform him to do more aoe and he won't be getting the Dark Infusion stacks, despite the UI displaying he is. Annoying that Dark Transformation was lit up when I really only had 3 stacks on him and not the 5 it was displaying.

Hopefully we'll get to Durumu the Forgotten on Thursday. I need to refresh on that fight a bit. The maze section seemed like it's going to pose the largest problem for us. I can see people panicking and running through a section they shouldn't be. But we'll see.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Raiding update

Been awhile again. Eventually I'll become more consistent with this. I figured now is as good a time as any to get a little update going on our raiding progression.

Currently the guild is 3/6H 6/6N 4/4N. We almost downed heroic Elegon the other night as well. Progression seems to be picking up again, which obviously makes me happier. Not to mention our heroic kills are getting more smooth. Our dps seems to be picking it up a bit, but we still seem to have issues that have been present for the duration I've been here. That being, dps doesn't seem to know when to stop killing things.

The first time I noticed this issue was during our heroic Spine of Deathwing attempts. People would blindly kill the Amalgamations before they had 9 stacks. They found it difficult to monitor it's health percentage. I'm still at a loss as to how that's possible. Obviously not everyone made this same mistake. But once something is low enough in health (<20%) it can die extremely fast due to executes and such.

Amber-Shaper Un'sok is another prime example of where we have issues. Dps would blinding destroy the tanks when they are in a Mutated Construct. During phase one, the tanks are trying to stay in the constructs for as long as possible to stack Amber Strike as high as they can. Also making sure that it will stay up long enough for the next tank to continue to stack it. So with the dps basically killing the constructs, we'd have to leave early and the debuff would fall off.

Now we're running into the same issue on the Celestial Protectors during heroic Elegon. People are killing the thing before the tanks can pull it out of the middle circle. Some of this, I think, is lack of understanding. The protectors cast Arcing Energy periodically, which has a cast time. So they obviously have to stop moving to cast it. I immediately see how that can be a problem, what with trying to move them out of the middle. But apparently not everyone realizes that. Too often have protectors died in the middle circle. If we tried to pull the protectors out earlier, they wouldn't die fast enough and a new protector would be summoned.

Despite these issues, I'd say we aren't doing badly this tier now. It was a rough start, but we're at least staying competitive on our server. We've had some recent changes in some of our roster. Lost a person here or there, added a few to help fill out the ranks in case people can't make it. Seems to be working out alright though. The new raiders are pulling their weight, and that's really all that can be asked of them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting back to this...maybe

It's been a few months since Mists of Pandaria has been released and I haven't updated at all. I know, blasphemy. Work has been sapping the life out of me lately. Same old song and dance and all that.

So, how have things been, you ask? Pretty good. I took four days off of work when MoP first dropped. I leveled with Maralia from my guild. She's a bit less experienced than I am, so some of the leveling took a bit longer than others, but we were still within the first 5 in the guild who hit max level.

Then started the reputation grind. I can't even put into words how draining that's been. I haven't gotten Shado-pan or the August Celestials to exalted yet, but I mainly just wanted to unlock all the valor point gear. Then it was just dungeons, dungeons, dungeons.

The first week of raiding went rather poorly and, to be honest, we haven't fully recovered from that abysmal showing. It seemed like not enough of us took gearing up seriously. Many were still undergeared by the first raid night. This just equated to much fail and we didn't down the Stone Guard on the first night. In fact, it wasn't until the second week of raiding that we finally did.

Raiding was pretty tough for the first few weeks. But as people started to replace their blues with shiny purples, it became easier and easier. LFR has been a decent place to get upgrades as well, and it isn't nearly as painful as it was last tier. Eventually we cleared Mogu'shan Vaults and had a decent progression standing on the server. We had issues beating the enrage timer on Gara'jal for a bit, so that slowed us down. Elegon, like with most guilds, gave us a lot of problems as well. But we managed to clear that raid just as Heart of Fear was going live.

The week it did, we manged to clear Mogu'shan Vaults in one night. Practically one-shot every fight. Always a good sign when you can do that! Imperial Vizier Zor'lok proved to be quite difficult for us. Apparently moving to stay alive is difficult for a lot of people *rolls eyes*. For the first few nights of progression on him, I was the tank for the fight with our paladin tank going holy. We ended up switching this up since her gear in holy was a bit low and, despite my dps gear not being great, I could still pull numbers comparable to the rest of the raid. A night or two with this change and he fell.

On to Blade Lord Ta'yak. Here we hit his enrage timer as well. Very frustrating when stuff like that happens. People had a hard time avoiding tornadoes as well in his last phase. Pretty much the same three people reached each side with no problem every time. Eventually we tried a method where we'd use the side walls in phase 2 that would push you back to get to the other side before he flew over to that one when he hit 10%. Usually we'd do this around 11% or so and leave one dps over there to ensure that he'd get to the required health percentage. It didn't take many attempts using this method until we got him.

Garalon proved to be the most difficult boss for us so far. Kept hitting the enrage timer on this one as well. It becomes pretty obvious what our issue is when we keep hitting enrages. On most bosses in MSV (excluding Elegon), we wiped around 20-30 times before our first kill. We finally managed to kill Garalon last night, after 50+ wipes. To top it off, we killed him as he was enraging. So we all ended up dead, but so was he. I ended up switching to dps spec and gear with a tank trinket equipped just for added health. Our druid healer would pop Heart of the Wild at the beginning of the fight so she could do extra damage (usually 3-4 million). Obviously we couldn't have beaten him without it!

To be honest, I'm a little disappointed with our showing so far this tier. I know I'm not the only one. We have some really good players in this group, and I consider a great many of them my friends. But sometimes it's just depressing when people aren't performing as well as they could be or, even worse, making the same mistakes again and again. I'm not talking about perfection here, we are a pretty casual guild after all. Perhaps I'm a bit more obsessive about things than others. I just wish that more people in the guild would put in as much effort as a few of us do.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Game Design and Difficulty (Then VS Now)

With Cataclysm coming to an end and Mists of Pandaria to be released in a little over a month, things have gotten pretty dull lately. My guildmates and I have been trying to keep occupied by running some older content for achievements, transmog, even just for nostalgia's sake. Ideally I'd like to get all raid/dungeon achievements for Cataclysm done, but not enough people want to go back to tier 11 and 12 to finish a few things up.

During this downtime, I've spent a lot of it reading the official WoW forums as well as the forums over at MMO Champ. What I've been reading has been a broken record of QQ from the community. Comments of "Vanilla was better than Cataclysm" and "the game is too easy now" are extremely common. Well with so many people saying these things, they must be true, right?

Vanilla WoW: The Pillar of Game Design or a Lesson in Fake Difficulty

I really don't think so. As Shanthi and I have discussed recently, vanilla WoW really only seemed to be difficult. See, things weren't very accessible. You had to go on these long attunement quests through multiple dungeons and raids and travel all over Azeroth to complete even a small part of the quest chain.

Even after completing said attunement, you needed to grind for gear in lower tier dungeons and raids before even thinking about stepping in with the big boys. This model continued to exist throughout The Burning Crusade as well. All the guilds who didn't finish content fast enough but couldn't access the new content. Hell, tons of guilds had issues finishing Tempest Keep before Sunwell Plateau was released. But people somehow think this was amazing. It was awesome that so few saw the original Naxxramas too, right?

Blizzard obviously disagrees. Raids are now easily accessible to every person who runs random dungeons. "Welfare epics" give the player the required item levels to raid the current content. But those filled with nostalgia of how "amazing" vanilla was are upset about this. From my perspective, these epic items allow people to see normal mode content and raid casually with their guildmates and friends. I don't see what's so bad about this. Looking for raid exists for those that don't have a schedule that allows them to raid consistently. Or, maybe they don't have enough people in their guild that can actually raid normals. This I feel is perfectly fine also. Heroics are the measure of raiding ability currently in WoW anyways. No one cares how quickly you killed Morchok on normal. Hell, my guild was third on the server in that regard. But normals don't matter in terms of raid progression for "elite" guilds. Not saying my guild is of the type mentioned. We're somewhere in between casual and hardcore.

In the end, it all comes down to accessibility. Vanilla and TBC weren't exactly great in that regard. Some people really enjoyed that aspect. But when the majority of players don't get to actually see any of the content, I don't really see that as a good thing.

What about boss mechanics? Surely bosses have become much easier! Look at the mechanics for bosses in say Molten Core. 1-2 basic mechanics (don't stand in fire, pay attention, etc) and you win. But why would mechanics be so simple and people would still claim it was harder?

40-man Raiding: A Logistical Nightmare

Oh, that's right. You had 39 other people to worry about when you raided. Wait, that's really it? Organization was the main factor? Ok, so from a raid leader's perspective, that was probably ridiculously difficult. Trying to get 40 people to all work together had to be a nightmare. But that's why mechanics weren't that difficult. See? It all makes sense if you actually think about it. Gearing up was a nightmare as well. I can completely understand that. Fighting with likely 10+ people to gear up. But actual gameplay was not any more difficult than it is today. In fact, I'm 99% sure it was easier.

Look at heroic Spine of Deathwing for instance. Count the number of mechanics. Tell me that's somehow easier than boss fights in vanilla and TBC. It's absolutely not. But hey, it's easier because it requires less people. This is why the 25-man versus 10-man debate is so vicious. I won't go deep into that topic for now, but I will say each has it's own strengths and weaknesses.

To me, the total number of people should not dictate how simple the mechanics are. Blizzard seems to have agreed with me there and has made 25m and 10m pretty close in terms of mechanics.

Players Suck

Another argument I've seen on the forums is that players aren't nearly as skilled as they used to be. Well, I tend to disagree. Sure, a lot of things are now easier in terms of accessibility, as I've discussed. But the thing people have to remember is that a lot more people are playing nowadays. There's easily 2-3 times as many people playing WoW presently than were playing in vanilla. So finding bad players is pretty easy just because of the sheer amount of people playing.

And I use the term "bad players" rather loosely. There's a ton of different types of players now as well, with varying amounts of time invested in the game. At present, it's rare that I find people playing their main character when I run dungeons. Most mains are completely geared at this point so people are working on their alts. Let's face it, you never play an alt quite like you play your main. You just know what ability to use and when to use it with your main. You can feel out the right time to do everything. But on an alt, you might find yourself searching for an ability or staring blankly at all the icons wondering what one does what.

Subscription Decline is Due to Blizzard's Horrible Design!

Clearly. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the expansion ending. Why pay for something you normally would play a ton but there's not a whole lot you want to do for now? How many subscriptions do you think will come with the release of Mists of Pandaria? This is a slow section of the game. Anyone who's every been around for the end of an expansion will agree. At the end of Wrath of the Lich King, Orgrimmar felt like a ghost town. But when Cataclysm dropped, Org completely blew up with players. Lagged the hell out of my computer.

Am I saying that some of the lost subs aren't due to Mists of Pandaria? No. I'm sure there's people who aren't interested in playing it. But that happens with every change. Personally, I don't like pet battles. I'm not a huge fan of the Pandaren either. So I'm not really going to participate in pet battles and I'm likely not going to make a Pandaren. Wow, that was a tough decision.

The Root of the Problem

What is the actual issue here? It seems like no matter what, people are going to continue to make these claims. People will resist change and hold on to things that they feel were amazing and the right way to do it. This is nothing different than people who hold on to archaic values in society. It's human nature. In society, if you don't evolve and roll with the changes, you're doomed to be left behind. So, is this really any different? Things are changing constantly. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with them. But at least in the instance of WoW, Blizzard tries to help you adjust to these changes. People will still be unwilling to change and lay claim that the old way was better. But was it really?

People will always find something to complain about. Blizzard knows this, they know they can't make everyone happy. But they try to make as many of their players happy as they can. Overall, I'm very satisfied with the time I've spent on this game. It's been a lot of fun learning things about it and playing with people who have become some of my closest friends. Sure, things have bothered me from time to time in terms of design and such, but Blizzard is constantly making the game evolve. As long as the raiding aspect continues to be engaging and gives me something to work towards, I'll continue to play.