Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Feast of Winter Veil!!!

I'm just about finished with all of the Winter Veil achievements. The ones I have left depend on randomness and time. I need mistletoe from revelers, which there is a chance you'll get holly or snowflakes from them instead. I need a crashin' thrashin' robot, which I think you can't get until tomorrow. And I need to open a present, which of course you can't get until tomorrow!

Happy Holidays!

Dual specs

Whether what I've been hearing is true or not, the dual spec feature sounds like it will be the answer to many prayers.

Disclaimer: the following is either rumor, hearsay, or even when quoted from blue "subject to change".

Dual spec feature is supposed to allow you to have 2 specs that you can switch in and out. There is a cost involved with setting up the specs at first. But after that you should be able to switch in major cities.

I've even heard you'll be able to switch them in instances for a minor cost. Not sure how that will work. A talent trainer at the summoning stones?

What's also good news is they are taking it a step further, so when you swap your spec

"It will swap your talents, glyphs and the position of buttons on your action bars.

Note you actually have to buy the glyphs for both specs first."

Being able to switch into a dps spec will allow me to enjoy the game when I'm not healing. At this point I spend time doing things that don't involve killing anything.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A few more heroics - this time with guild

Since I normally pug heroics, I try not to do them on weeknights. The time it takes to find one and get it going and get it finished seems to eat a whole evening up. And the chance for frustration is high.

However, last night I broke my no-heroics-during-the-week rule because some of my guild wanted to run some. Not only did I get one cleared, we did three. Instead of ending the evening grumbling about a waste of time, I came away with some more achievements under my belt and more badges saved.

The nice thing about guild runs is not only are you getting gear, you're actually improving your gear for the 10 and 25 man dungeons. Instead of some random person getting an upgrade and you never seeing them again, your fellow guild member will show up next time a few stats better. So, if one person in your heroic gets gear, even if its not you, its essentially better for you as well.

It really builds a strong case against pugs and that's a shame.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Healer Mechanics

There was a nice thread in the newish Healing forums about Healing Mechanics. I was going to only paste a snippet but the post bears listing in full (with my comments in bold):

Can we have a discussion about healing mechanics? No QQ, no 3.0.8 distress, just a raw mechanics discussion. I'm not talking about class balance here, just the raw mechanics of what does and does not work as a healing implementation. Let me give you a few examples of things I think are overall issues with healing mechanics.

Healer Competition:
While most of PvE is cooperative, raid healing is stupidly competetive with poor support mechanics for multiple healers healing the same damage. It also creates an environment where faster spells are artificially more valued because it means your heal actually works. To overcome this with communication and mods takes an unproportional amount of effort. Playing two different healers in two different "ages" I can say this is unfortunately true. In the end everyone says they don't care how you heal someone as long as enough players stay alive to beat the encounter. So my attempts to keep healing fun by trying out different heals, usually ends up with me finding the best, most efficient heal to spam. No matter how many times we say healing meters don't matter or how skewed they can be (how do you get a dot heal off when a circle of healing will overwrite it; what do paladins do in the age of aoe damage, etc) someone will always look at the meter and assume the top person is the best. It will be interesting to see how things pan out with the circle of healing, wild growth nerf.

Healer Reduction:
Start 25-mans with 7 healers (or even 8 in some cases). Drop down to 4 healers as content becomes farmed. Start new content - need 7 healers again. This seems to be the place where hybrids can shine, when you need healers use your dps paladins, shaman, druids and priests. I don't think this is much of an issue. But if you like healing, having to dps would be a pain (yeah you won't read that anywhere else).

Bored Healers:
1 healer can pull over a million in healing on the right fight. Fights like Noth might have 200k in healing total. You can only heal as much damage as the raid takes. (This definitely leads to burnout, a healer kinda reaches a plateau, while dps always have more to strive for.)

Great DPS makes the fight short. Great tanks keep everything locked down. Great healers ... make everyone else think the fight just isn't that hard. Underlying mechanics mean that spectacular healers don't shine anywhere near as well as spectacular dps/tanks. This is why sometimes I like doing 5-mans more than anything, there is no one else doing the healing but me, so your contribution stands out more. Also priests can shine when crap hits the fan, but that usually requires players making multiple stacked mistakes. A situation if you're smart you try not to find yourself in very often (pugs).

Lag Double Dip:
While everyone in the raid has to react to events during encounters, for example Thaddius' polarity shifts. But while other roles have to do this a few times per encounter or as often as once every 30s, healers do this on every single cast. This makes healing more dynamic than other roles in most cases. It also means lag (link latency or server lag) affects healing roles twice as much as DPS/tanks.(Not sure what is being said here, have to review it later.)

UI/Interface Issues:
The base Blizzard UI is terrible for healing. A lot of encounters are easier if you're staring at the boss and see a cast start (for example: Loken) rather than staring at health bars. Having to either get a mod or macro every single ability is dumb.(It is amazing Blizzard has done nothing to improve the raid ui since original launch.)

Healers have a PvE spec, a PvP spec, and a DPS/questing/dailies spec. Dual-spec suggests that healers are only supposed to do 2 out of those 3 things. It should not be unreasonable to allow PvP healers to have a tri-spec option.(I wholeheartedly agree with this but I'm jonesing so much for dual spec I'm trying not to be greedy.)

Healer's Fault:
Stand in a fire? It's the healer's fault. Get crit while tanking and die? It's the healer's fault. Not enough DPS so the healers run out of mana? It's the healer's fault. Trying to do an instance in mediocre gear with no CC? It's the healer's fault. If a mechanic is supposed to be a gauge of skill, there are other ways to handle it than making healing really really hard. Thaddius is a successful solution - a nice exception to the rule. (Sigh, other than dps simply being more fun than healing, I think this has to be the second reason players quit healing. Healers are held accountable for things that aren't really their responsibility. I can only assume progression, hardcore guilds don't put up with the crap that healers are at fault for everything. But in the 11 million player world the majority either assume or expect healers are there to make up for their shortcomings. As you can imagine its not a fun place for healers' to be - especially when you're blamed for it instead of thanked or at the very least (and would be fine with me) just not blamed.)

Loot Distribution:
DPS casters are rolling on every single piece of caster gear. Healers are excluded from anything with +hit on it. The heavier the armor you wear, the more loot you can roll on.(Sometimes games expect players to do the right thing, to share, think of others and be considerate, but as we all know this is farthest from reality. In a short time of grouping again I've been b*tched at for rolling on hit gear although I requested to only be considered if dps didn't want it in the first place. Apparently hit gear should rot if no dps is there to roll on it. Never mind some hit gear have all the other stats a healer could use.)

From Cafooh - Healer Exhaustion:
As a healer, you have to pay 100% attention 100% of the time. Even 5-10 seconds of talking to your roommate or trying to answer a phone call can and will cause wipes and deaths. The ramifications of anything less than 100% of attention are faaaaaaar less severe as a DPSer (or even as a tank, as I am finding with the DK). You are constantly staring at the screen and reacting instantaneously for hours and hours. No other role is even close to as demanding or as straining as healing.(I think this is less prevalent now that 40 mans are gone, but I always like to share how as a priest I felt I couldn't look away for a moment for months of raiding, only to find out later a dpser would go afk for dinner for at least 30 minutes every raid - he had a buddy let him go on auto-follow.)

Leaving issues of class balance aside, if there was one thing you would change with regards to healing mechanics, did I list it? If not, what would it be?

Some of these things I feel as a healer you decide yourself to put up with them. For instance you should know you have to have a good attention span. And deciding to do it for hours and hours is all on you. But some things where a dpser not flipping out that you share their gear, or dpser/tanks realizing what steps they need to take to be more responsible for themselves would be a nice change that wouldn't even take much effort on their part. The ui is all on Blizzard. They've got fine examples, would it screw up too much performance to include them? But in the end if you end up bored or burned out, nothing helps but quitting at least for a while. At least that was the case for me.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Problem with PUGs

Pugs have a bad rep. But deservedly so.

I leveled fairly quickly. Not very quick compared to my own guild, but in general fairly quickly. 95% by questing, my favorite part of the game. I didn't jump right into instances, because I felt I had 2 years, give or take, to do them.

Boy, did I make a mistake. By the time I felt like running the majority of my guild was not only done with all the regular instances they were done with running them on heroic! They had started doing 10 and 25 man runs which had better.

So I set aside time to do instances on my own. I've spent most of the time in "Looking for Group" which I secretly feel gives you a stigma of "if you were any *good* you could find a group in your own guild". Maybe it's just me.

I feel like I'm a decent player, with decent gear and considerate. If I'm looking for pug groups surely other players like me are looking also. And there were. However, you can have 5 players with a mish-mash of those qualities and it only takes ONE missing one of them and your pug becomes a pain.

Many times I've read posts about pug experiences and although I have a history of my own experiences I still think "No way! They couldn't be *that* bad! Could they?"

Well over the past week, I've come across that ONE in just about every group I've been in.

1) Considerate player, decent gear, not a decent player: One dpser couldn't kill a level one critter. Last boss was dps intensive. We couldn't defeat it.

2) Decent gear, decent player, inconsiderate: More than one tank decided to go afk for an extended period of time.

3) Decent player, considerate, lacking gear: I've seen enough of my share of dpsers below the tank on the damage meters.

I'm used to all of these things, but doing a week of pugs was a bad idea. And I hate it too because I know what it's like to look for a group for something and not be able to find anyone interested. Which leads me to what I believe to be my biggest gripe about pugs.

You, dear player, are looking for a group. Apparently you, yes you, have decided to join LFG. And you, no I didn't stutter, have decided you want to run this instance.

I'm looking your squarely in the eye. Can you please answer this question for me? Why do you join a group and then take 10-15 minutes to get to the instance.

This is my biggest gripe. Because you finally have the group you've been looking for! Yet you decide to keep doing your quest, or finish up your battleground, or go cut a stone for someone, or check the auction house, or generally shoot the breeze until someone summons you.

Maybe in a few days or weeks I'll realize there is something in an instance I want and I won't be able to find anyone in guild to help me and I'll pug again. But for now I'm done with them.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to AFK for dinner while I'm NOT in an instance.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Every day is a slow news day for the hardcore

I have to admit I miss the days of reading about what encounters the hardcore guilds have completed. Lately the only thing you'll find is Sartharion with 3 drakes up. From what I've heard there are 10 man achievements that are the pinnacle of raiding at the moment. It seems the hardcore are clamoring for something that makes them stand out.

I mentioned a while back that Blizzard should implement varying degrees of accomplishments, and obviously they've already done that to an extent. No surprise, but they may be onto something here. If you make it challenging they will come. They may as well make it Sartharion with 10 drakes up. There are guilds out there that will attempt to reach it. I guess the problem is running out of rewards to give them.

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"I don't *need* to play. I can quit anytime I want!"

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