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Earlier in the year I traded my subscription in for three-month game time cards. Current one runs out at the end of the month, and I’m not renewing it.

If you're doing something, do it properly.

If you’re doing something, do it properly.

Horribly enough, there’s no option to supply Blizzard with a “why I’m unsubbing” message if you’re on prepaid, which calls into question every single thing they’ve ever said about reasons why people unsub. They’re just not getting feedback from people who are using game cards, and in my experience, that’s most of the player base. Not to mention that I switched to prepaid partly because I wasn’t sure if I’d want to keep playing.

This has been a while coming. I submitted an ingame CS ticket explaining one of the issues – to whit, that Blizzard seems to think that grinding on alts is gameplay, and I tend to think that playing different characters with different abilities is gameplay. But there’s no room in 500 characters for all of the reasons, so in order of “hey I should remember to put this down”, here we go:

  • Alts. I’m an altoholic who has spent the entire expansion playing a single character. I dislike feeling that time spent on an alt means less effectiveness on my raiding toon. I dislike having to grind stuff on alts that I’ve already unlocked on my main – and yes, the commendations and timeless isle stuff is much better, but commendations were after a huge chunk of the base quit already, and timeless comes at the end of the expansion, when Blizzard admit that they relax the rules. That doesn’t bode well for alt-play in the future.
  • Melee DPS are second-class citizens, and I don’t see that going away. I like smacking things in the face, but Blizzard’s encounter designers don’t seem to believe in this as a valid playstyle, and their graphics team can’t seem to figure out how to make non-casters look and feel impressive.
  • Timeless Isle style content doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t want to run around looking for rares and arriving just too late, or grinding mobs to spawn a better mob that I don’t get to before someone kills it, or doing anything involving fucking Shaohao rep. But at the WoD announcement, TI-style content was trumpeted as the way of the future. Yeah, not my future, thanks. I’d rather they look back at Domination Point.
  • Artificial gating. The worst was requiring us to earn reputations in order to spend our valour, and that persisted right up to Shado-Pan Assault, aka the final tier of valour gear. Fantastic idea there, guys. Totally not still bitter about that shit. This feeds heavily into the alt issue, because climbing those gates the second or third time was just never worth it. But it’s also the little things, like putting major content hubs out in the middle of bloody nowhere with no quick way to get there. Sure, flight paths let you see the world… but it’s five minutes that the “player” is not actually playing the game.
  • A minor point: I went on holiday, and didn’t miss the game at all. I was relieved. That’s not something you want your players feeling – that not playing feels like a pressure draining from behind the eyes, that the distortion this pressure caused was robbing everything else of its delight.
  • Finally: boneheadedness, specifically on Blizzard’s part. The current Blizzard design team is very sensitive to criticism, and seems to respond to any well-considered argument with “well, that’s true, but another segment of our playerbase experiences [x hair-raising idiocy] differently” or the old favourite “players on the forums are not representative of the overall base”. As I pointed out earlier with regard to unsub reasons, Blizzard is not above using non-representative data when it supports their view. There’s a term for that, and it is confirmation bias.

    The current design team take months to fix issues that players feel very strongly about, apparently simply because they don’t want to admit that they came up with a poor design. They blame players for not testing for them, especially in PvP, even when issues are pointed out to them before the content goes live. They carry elements that are not fun forward – see again rep gating for valour gear, culminating in not even having a valour tier for the latest content. All in all, the design team come across as childish and stubborn.

That final point is something that’s been building up throughout the expansion, and something that is going to carry over to the next. The design team is unable to deal with the fact that they make poor decisions, and that they are dealing with a sophisticated customer base with intimate knowledge of a product that’s been running for a decade now, counting the beta. Their arrogance and stubbornness is as galling as any griefer in LFR.

So yeah. Not sure what’s next… maybe Deus Ex, maybe more shooting, maybe more coding, maybe BDSM or becoming a florist. What’s certain is that it isn’t going to happen in Azeroth.

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One capturable pet left. Just one.

Oh seasonal pets, how I despise you

Oh seasonal pets, how I despise you

Upon starting the Zookeeper achievement, I set forth with high spirits to capture blue versions of every pet. That is, until discovering that one f the pets could only be caught during Summer. Around that point I more or less decided “eh, fsck it” and caught whatever specimen was the first to pop up in my beady sights.

Lately, with our raid schedule in flux and le wifelet less interested in playing, I’ve taken to hunting down rares again. Also been doing the Pandaria trainer dailies, which give an average return of 1-2 stones per day. That’s allowed the upgrade of most of my tradeable army as well, barring the beasts and flyers.

It seems sadly ironic that I complained about unusual types’ stones likely rarity via battling. As it turns out, there are far fewer exotic types which need upgrading, but a veritable army of more mundane family pets. If the stone drops for battling those mundane families were more common, that’d be great… but after countless battles, it seems that the drop rate is in fact exceedingly low, even from the highest level pets.

Of course, none of this is news to regular pet battlers. It turns out that some enterprising souls even offer to upgrade tradeable pets, and beast, critter, flying and mechanical stones command a premium above the other types. C’est la vie.

In other news, as a consequence of said schedule flux, I’ve spent a significant portion of the last week gearing my alliance paladin. She’s a little rough around the edges, but at least has some Timeless Isle gear and a coin-bought weapon. Oh, and a classic plate bikini from BC, but that’s neither here nor there.

Apparently I don't love her enough to take screenshots. Whoops!

Apparently I don’t love her enough to take ingame screenshots. Whoops!

Something shocking as a horde player was doing the Underhold and Downfall LFR instances, and finding that much of the more annoying trash – ie. the orc armies with their shredders and turrets et al – were simply skipped by the alliance. This happens in both instances, and was particularly headache-inducing in Downfall – the first two rooms have thus far been responsible for more wipes and group-drops than any of the bosses that I’ve seen, including Garrosh. Yet the alliance get to simply breeze through? I get that they wanted a moment of coolness, but… really? For the difference to be this stark?

That first trash pull sets the tone for the rest of the instance. Horde Downfall runs see players – especially tanks – leaving the instant anything goes wrong, or even looks as though it might. Entire groups will disband rather than face that trash, and this after an hour’s wait for DPS players. Even upon success, the players are taciturn and judgmental to an unusual degree. The overall experience is exceedingly negative.

By contrast alliance queue times are quicker, the players less likely to drop out, and overall are more relaxed. Sure, there are blowhards and elitists and even trolls, but it’s nothing like the horde experience. And the really sad thing is that alliance players probably don’t even know how good they have it.

I’ve maintained for some time now that, despite their continual whining about story focus, alliance players get it way easier in gameplay terms. Seeing that spill over into raids is infuriating to the point of actual sickening rage.

By your powers combined...

By your powers combined…

It’s sadly ironic that the achievement image for Celestial Family is the least interesting of the pets, and the one that I got last. Almost like they knew she’d be the unfavourite.

And now, dear friends, we can look back upon the celestial tournament with the benevolent glow that comes of having received the rewards, and we may in good cheer conclude…

No, bugger that. It was an RNG-ridden slogfest, with opponents specifically designed to ratchet up the RNG factor. Hell, miss chance in general seems to have gone for a ball of spit this past week or two. No, in the end I’m glad that I did it, but I’d recommend some serious self-examination before trying this, lest super-cheap virtual squirrels cost thee a 24-inch screen.

Peace out.

We’ve made solid progress over the past two weeks. Norushen and Pride last week, followed by a repeat this week and downing of Galakras, Juggernaut, Shaman, Nazgrim and Malkorok. Oh, and a couple of decent pulls at Spoils.

Norushen stomping all over the Amalgam

Norushen stomping all over the Amalgam

Vintage last week. Picked a pic with Norushen included, despite the fact that he doesn’t bother to take part in the encounter that’s named for him. Well, unless he’s the one spawning those golden spheres, but that sounds a bit proactive.

"Draw me like one of your French girls!"

“Draw me like one of your French girls!”

Pride’s been a pretty simple kill. Wish we’d had the option of choosing between Pride and Norushen. Thought SoO was meant to have branching options, but apparently that went out of the window sometime in development.

There was going to be a pic of our Galakras kill here, but I’m totes lame and awful, so just imagine it. Or flash back to the end of your most recent LFR Galakras, after half of the raid’s left because they only wanted loot off the first boss. Derp.

Juggernaut fall down, go boom.

Juggernaut fall down, go boom.

Biggest problem for Juggernaut was raid members assuming that they could soak bombs as though this were Flex. Kids, do not try this at home. Leave it to trained professionals, like tanks.

Only one of the pair. Like socks through the tumbledryer, so are the Days of our Shammies.

Only one of the pair. Like socks through the tumbledryer, so are the Days of our Shammies.

Our strategy for downing Dark Shaman actually involved three tanks tanking them separately – two at the top with Dottsy McTankSwap, one at the bottom with the DPS and Oozetastica the Poisonlicious. Works really well – you get deathwalls at the sparsely-populated top where they’re less likely to cause huge issues, and oozes and ashfalls at the bottom where there’s plenty of room to maneuver.

One poor decision too far.

One poor decision too far.

A lot of people seem to be attached to Nazgrim. I don’t get it. Since Cataclysm we’ve been following this tool who spouts off about how the Horde is all too magnificent, and who then tends to go right ahead and fuck already-bad situations up even worse. he tried hard, he was loyal, and he was way out of his goddamned depth. Maybe it’s because of that – the fact that he wasn’t some unstoppable Marty Stu – but his self-righteous jingoistic prattle got on my nerves.

I swiped his mace from the DK tank, purely on the basis that it’s a hefty base damage upgrade and mastery’s a pretty good stat for AoE-heavy encounters like around 80% of Siege. This also means that the warrior and I won’t be competing when something heavy on crit drops. We were both at the top of the SK list… I don’t know if Siege just has poor item placement for plate DPS, or if we’re just really unlucky.

The club can't handle us.

The club can’t handle us.

Malkorok really came out of nowhere. I get that he was important in the books, and he was some sort of kitten-stomping baby-eating Bad Guy in the backstory, but seriously… it would have been nice to have some insight into what his deal was within the game. Also, this encounter makes no bloody sense at all.

Downing the boss wasn’t the hard part – the hard part was getting everyone online at the same time to do so. At one point the raid leader’s machine crashed and completely lost all of his addon settings. Given that he was a healer, that was rather inconvenient. In the end we did manage the kill.

And now for some arbitrary nonsense.

Behold the holy bug-zapper!

Behold the holy bug-zapper!

Our main tank got his Tabard of the Lightbringer this week, something that he’s been working towards for quite some time now. Quite nifty.

If you recognise the room, yes it is indeed Garrosh’s secret underground no-cooties clubhouse. We were running it in Flex. If you recognise the second tank, I’ll be a little surprised. That’s Drythorn, making his return behind the board after a long period of smitey smiting. We didn’t get Garrosh down in the end… not enough DPS, and the tanks kept exploding violently due to adds and Warsong. Tips appreciated, since we don’t actually know how to prevent mobs getting the buff and stomping us obscenely.

Ended up tanking most of Flex and some of 10N with Dry this week. One of our tanks has come over all unreliable, so we’re making do with anything that can equip a shield, and in the case of a certain bear, the shield’s optional. Raid tanking beats the hell out of PuG tanking, at least.

"Hey, where do you think you're putting that thing?"

“Hey, where do you think you’re putting that thing?”

Ah, pet battles. Such light-hearted family fun.

It awaits you under your bed

It awaits you under your bed

And finally, in case you ever wondered why anyone would ever play an orc as a clothie: this. This is why.

That’s pretty much it for the week. Still no image editor, so the screenshots look a little like they came from the inside of a Soviet mining gulag, which I suppose is actually fairly accurate. Deepholm flashbacks ahoy.

Looking forward to getting a shot at further and better bosses this week. I’m pretty happy with the raid as a whole… particularly in the second half, it certainly feels more dynamic than Throne of Thunder, while moving far away from Throne’s tendency to determine encounters on the strength of random people executing cheap gimmicks.

Go Team Siege.

Yowza.

Yowza.

After a few weeks of running Galakras LFR exclusively, the Evil Eye is mine. Cackle, cackle, cauldrons and spackle, etc.

A couple of Public Service Announcements with regard to this trinket:

  • When mousing over your abilities to check the reduced cooldown, bear in mind that 1.43 minutes is not the same thing as 1 minute 43 seconds. This point may only apply if you’re prone to hot and cold running derp. No, the shiny new statblob did not just shave a whole 17 seconds off of Avenging Wrath.
  • I’m not convinced that the math on this thing is entirely straightforward. A 31% reduction on a 2 minute ability should math out at 2 – (0.31 * 2) = 1.38, but it’s somehow showing as 1.43.

On to the paladin-specific issues. Yes, you knew there were going to be issues, you’er reading my blog after all. Don’t act all innocent and wounded, we both knew where this relationship post was headed.

Okay, so this may be less paladin-specific than one would think – I wouldn’t be surprised if other classes have similar issues, but I don’t know the classes as well and, more importantly, I don’t have this trink on any of them.

The Eye messes with our talent choices. Not by reducing CDs on our active talents – that’d actually be pretty cool. No, the messing about is more subtle. With the advent of Mists, we received a tree that was supposed to give us some freedom in picking and choosing our abilities, with no real wrong choices. Unfortunately, if you want to choose anything other than Sanctified Wrath now, you’re wrong.

See, with a lower CD on wings, the benefit of SW is also active more often. Meanwhile, Holy Avenger is unaffected by the change, and Divine Purpose – being a passive effect – is just as static. But at least neither of those abilities actually breaks the CD reduction – unlike Clemency. See, Clemency gives us two charges on our Hand abilities. Unfortunately, a couple of those Hands are in the list of abilities modified by the Eye, but if you have Clemency, the CD reduction completely fails to apply. I can sort of see their point – we’d be able to throw more hands around than a squid in a rubber glove factory – but it still feels broken, since it means that we don’t get a benefit from 2 of our 6 reduced abilities.

So, what to take instead? Unbreakable Spirit, which modifies another ability covered by the Eye? Yeah, we’ve seen how that works out. How about Hand of Purity? See, despite being a good candidate for the most situational talent in the tree, HoP is actually the one and only talent to which the Eye grants its benevolent glance.

So much for “major abilities”, huh? This is a DoT-reduction talent, which states in the tooltip “less for some creature attacks”. That makes it a talent only useful for cheesing some boss mechanics, but which is nerfed not to actually be able to cheese said mechanics. And rather than give us a reduction on something genuinely good – like our 90 talents, for instance – they decided to try and buff what is, in the end, a lackluster also-ran.¬†*sigh*

Regardless, as a CD-driven class I’m looking forward to letting rip with the Eye in my corner. Just wish that it felt a little less… limiting.

WoWScrnShot_102713_151145

This character model actually looks pretty good without the hover-weapon on its back. The tone of the cinematic suited hiding my polearm, and now I sort of wish there was a way to hide it in general. Other than unequipping, of course.

In coincidental news, the three celestials appearing in that image also happen to be the same three whose pet-versions I’ve acquired from the tournament so far. Just three short weeks until this chapter closes behind me. I won’t say that I’ll never take part in the tourney again – that seems short-sighted. But given the frustrating nature of the RNG that determines success or failure, it’ll be severely unlikely that I do.

The whole mess makes me sort of wonder what’s next for pet battles. We haven’t heard anything about epic-quality pets in a long while, and that seems like a good thing. As for the tournament itself, it seems to have been generally well received, though that’s probably more to do with the novelty and rewards than anything else – which means that it’s sunk as soon as most battlers have familiarised themselves with all of the trainers and acquired the full set of pets. Blizzard does have a tendency to iterate, so maybe we’ll see something with a bit of a different format next. At the very least I can thank the tournament for giving me a reason to level some very interesting pets.

Meanwhile, back on the raiding front… we’d been stuck on Norushen 10N for a while. Week before last we powered through to the kill. Downed Sha of Pride in one pull, had a few decent attempts at Galakras but no down. Last week didn’t see any progression at all; the wifelet and I were out scampering around the bushveldt getting sunburn, and the run just never came together regardless.

One of the issues might be Flex… we’re running two nights a week for Flex, and then one night N prog. That doesn’t give us a lot of time working on normal, and worse yet, the normal run is on a week-night when people need to get to bed earlier. Extending hours is pretty much out of the question. It’d work out if we could down the Flex bosses faster, but there seems to be a frustrating tendency for people to be completely unable to rein in their off-topic rambling. Sure, we’re a guild not an army, blah – it’s a waste of people’s goddamn time. Mumble’s running outside of raid time as well, and that would seem to be a better time to talk about arbitrary miscellanea than when we need to focus. This isn’t Dragon Soul – there are 14 bloody bosses in this raid, and they’re all long-ass fights, apart from Norushen.

No, I’m not the most polite or social guildie in the world. Grr.

Either way, we’re trying for prog on friday this week. See how that goes. Won’t have the boost from Flex gear for the week yet, but that’s fairly low-importance. We’re not hitting enrages… it’s just refinement that we need.

The first week that SoO Flex part 3 was available, we stomped all over Malkorok within 3 pulls. This was without our main tank, with one of our best healers taking his place, and without a couple of our best DPS. Think it was a test week at uni or something.

The next week we went back with our full complement of heavy hitters, confident in our experience and with high spirits.

And we wiped on the fight for almost two hours before calling it.

What changed? Well… we brought two more people. Those two people pushed us over the threshold to four exploding swirls of doom rather than three. We tried dropping our lowest DPS, as vile as that may seem in a Flex group, but still couldn’t get it down again. It looks like the damage from the swirls doesn’t scale – just the number of them present.

Now, this might look like a bit of an edge case. We’re few enough that one extra swirl is 33% more burst damage. A bigger group might have less of a problem soaking that extra swirl. Still… it’s dispiriting rolling over a boss one week and then being completely unable to make progress the next. You’d think that someone would have thought this through.

But no. Blizzard has severe difficulty with scaling, and even more difficulty accepting that fact. Every time anyone mentions scaling it’s shot down by a blue with “we don’t like talking about scaling because the community uses it in a broader sense than we do” or the like… which basically translates (to me) as “you guys complain about scaling everywhere, so we don’t want to talk about it”.

Thing is, those scaling arguments everywhere are relevant. With Challenge Modes and Proving Grounds, the fact that some specs are utterly godawful¬†until they’re in raid gear – a regular fixture of class balance, to the point where being weak in poor gear is even considered part of the warrior identity – is no longer just a minor concern that will be fixed by natural gear progression. Watching Fire catch nerfs in the last patch three expansions running because of their scaling isn’t a joke any more. Seeing everyone and their little sister play Frost because it’s the only mage spec that does well in challenge mode level gear and yet still manages good DPS at high end should be a red flag for a design team that goes on and on ad nauseam about wanting players to have choices.

There are other manifestations of blizzard’s trouble with math – low level PvP is rife with them, and heirlooms scale abyssmally at some points, for instance – but this rant would take forever if we went through every example in the file, as it were. For now, it’d just be nice if we weren’t punished for bringing more guildies along. That was the whole promise of Flex, after all.