Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What happens when we're not looking?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound? The real question is of course - can we be sure of anything that happens outside of our cognitive senses? If we don't experience something, how can we say that it happens? In the case of reality and falling trees in woods the answer is fairly simple. Anything in that happens in the world has some effect on something else, so even if we don't see step a, we can deduce that step a must've happened because we can see step c. If the ground is wet we can assume it is because it has rained even if we never saw the rain. This is much how advanced physics actually works. When astronomers claim to have found new planets they rarely actually see the planets, they rather deduce that they have to be there because of effect they see on surroundings objects, like stars. So that's how reality works.

But not necessarily how it works in a game. A game is set up by the rules of its creator and these rules don't necessarily have to be that because C there must have been A. At least not in the visible world. Programming wise that might be true but the visible effects can be totally whack where real life physics and logic are concerned. Some games take advantage of this. Some of the best aspects of games like Mario Galaxy are based on this concept. It made me wonder about how it works in our favorite game, World of Warcraft. Does anything happen when I don't see it? Do the mobs move and do their scripted business even when I'm not around to check on them? If a wolf attacks a critter and no one is there to experience it, does it really happen? Let's explore.

There are some reasons that this question was raised in my mind. There are actually a couple of mobs that seem to behave very oddly at the exact moment that they zone into my visual field. Take the burrowed worms in Hellfire Peninsula as one example. They're generally below ground, but the moment they zone in they're actually above ground. Odd. And now that we had the elemental invasion I noticed that they didn't always disappear until I had loaded them into my cache. Then for some reason they moved on to the next step of their existance. But not sooner?

But even if mobs didn't act odd, is there any way we can be sure that they actually do something when we're not looking? Or do their scripts only activate whenever there is a player close by that's loading the mob into their cache. Does it matter either way? Of course not. But it'd still be damn interesting to know.

A couple of years ago I asked myself if mobs spawned with their loot, or if the loot was spawned on the corpse. Practically it doesn't matter either way. But psychologically it does. If you knew that mobs spawned with their loot, you'd know that somewhere out there mobs ran around with whatever you were after (like some really rare pet). It wouldn't make a difference at all to whether you had a chance of getting that item or not, and you'd still have to kill tons of mobs to get it. But somehow knowing still makes a difference. Actually, back then mobs did spawn with a certain set of loot. And people knew how to abuse it. By trying to query the server for a certain type of loot (that hadn't already dropped somewhere on the server, like some really rare boss loot), when entering the raid instance, you could tell whether the boss had the loot or not. Because if he did, the query would come back. If he didn't, you'd disconnect for trying to query an item that didn't exist on the server. That way people could check, in a rough way, what kind of loot a particular boss had. This only worked until the first item had dropped of course, and it might still work actually. Don't know if Blizzard ever fixed that. Or if this is just an urban legend. In the end I'm not entirely sure how it works.

And I'm not entirely sure how it works with this question either. Do mobs move when we're not looking or not? I discussed it with Love and he had some interesting feedback.

Consider the mobs that move along a path, like Steepsnap in Thousand Needles (pre-shattering anyway) or any rare mob that hunters look for. Are they moving when we're not looking? If not, they'd almost always be found at their spawn point. Most people don't kill Steelsnap whenever they see him, so one could imagine that this type of walking mob just walks away from his spawn point eventually. This is not true for most rares however. Most people kills a rare as soon as he sees it, and that means the rare would have to be found at the spawn point, and killed by the spawn point in almost all cases. But we know this is not true, so how to explain that if the mobs don't move when we're not looking? Actually there is a simple explanation for it. If the mobs move only when they're loaded into someones cache, that would include anyone in the who's just passing by. In say, a flying mount. Many mobs will be loaded into the cache of a player who's simply flying by, be it on their own mounts or on some flight path. Would this account for all the rare spawns out there? Hard to say. Not impossible, but it might be pushing it.

There is a way of testing this of course, but I haven't got around to it. You need a mob that moves along a path, a friend and a secluded area. Best an area where you know no one flies over. You load the mob into your visual field, note where it is and then move out. Then let your friend do the same thing and compare the position of the mob. Has it moved a reasonable distance in the time you were absent? If I do this experiment I'll be sure to post the results. I've been busy with everything else that is happening in WoW right now, so eventhough I am really curious about how this works it has had to step aside to other things at the moment.

Another way would be to simply ask a GM. But as the true conspirationist that I am (actually I'm not, I think everyone tells the truth. No wait, that's not true either...) I'd just think anything he says could just as easily be a proof of the opposite being true. I'd have to test myself before I'd be sure in any case. The same goes with the loot question, but since I can't think of a good way to test it (except the mentioned, if it still works) I'll probably have to ponder that question for ever.

Picture from wikipedia.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Deathwing! Take me!

Here I am in Blasted Lands, waiting. Waiting for the end. I remember my first steps from the crypt in Deathknell so many years ago. How I realized I was living dead and under the servitude of the ever great Sylvanas. I have fought many valiant battles since, slain heroes and foes, anyone who ever threatened the existance of Azeroth. Our great leaders pointed and we went off into battle. The hours of pain and joy I have experienced. The friends I have seen come and go. Somehow in the end we all managed to save the day, to stave off destruction yet another time. Evil lurked around every corner but we could always turn back to the safe harbors of our major cities when we needed a rest. 

But not anymore. Deathwing came and he destroyed everything I knew. Eventhough I gave it my all I couldn't save that which I had always fought to protect. In the end all my efforts were in vain. I fell asleep one day, everything being as it always had been. And woke up in what almost felt like a new reality. While I was off fighting in some distant land I never knew what was going on behind my back. What a fool I was to have ever thought I could make a difference. To think I could ever save it all. Evil is too strong. I don't recognize anything anylonger. Evil is now truly lurking around every corner, I don't feel safe anywhere. And our leaders are quarreling amongst themselves. Will we have the strength to defend ourselves, yet another day? No, it is already too late. Deathwing proved to be the stronger, the strongest foe. So here I am in Blasted Lands, waiting. Waiting for Deathwing to embrace me into his claws, sweeping me away into my last adventure.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 12 Intelligences of WoW

I read a really interesting article in the New Scientist Magazine the other day about the 12 intelligences that they measure in modern IQ-tests. IQ-tests have been under much scorn and critique, and with all right. The question has long been - what does an IQ test measure anyway, and does a high score on it really mean that you're smart in areas that matter? When IQ-tests first were put into practice in the early 20th century many of the flaws about IQ-tests were that they were culture-bound. Also you had to be able to read and write to be able to take them at all (which still most often is the case). Question could often center around things that might be obvious to people in one culture but not in another. Even the way we see objects are affected by culture, so creating an IQ-tests that measures IQ (whatever that may be) un-objectively is really difficult. But people have been trying nonetheless for more than 100 years. And the 12 intellegences is the latest attempt to describe a number of brain functions that are important in our day-to-day life and that by excelling in you will be "smarter" than others. You'll be able to complete tasks better and faster than others.

But this isn't a post on whether IQ can be measured, whether it is important or if it even exists. It is more of an exploring post. Taken that these 12 intelligences are true, in what way do we get to use them in our everyday WoW-gaming experiences? I'll present the different intellgences, what they mean and how we use them outside a gaming experience, and then go on to explore if it is something we also use when gaming.

1. Visuo-Spatial Memory
Visuo-Spatial Memory, or VSM, is what we use when we are imagining things or process spatial information. Any time you have to think about something you don't directly see you use your VSM. VSM is "simply" any images you have stored in your brain.

This is used in anything and everything we do, just as much outside WoW as in it. Anytime you want to remember how a specific piece of gear looks or how far it is between the auction house and the mail box in some city you have to use your VSM.

2. Spatial Work-Memory
Spatial Work-Memory, or SWM, is what we use when we are trying to remember how to get from point A to point B. Everytime you walk from your home to a friend, to town, to work/school you have to use your VSM, load that information into your SWM and come up with the best route. Cues in your surrounding can give you pointers on where you have to head next to get to your goal as fast as possible. Also whenever we close our eyes and try to remember where something in the room is we are using our SWM. It's like step 2 of VSM. When using mental maps you are using your SWM.

This is something we use in WoW all the time. Any 3d-game requires that you can orient yourself in the surroundings just like you would outside the game. One can imagine that we get few better opportunities to practice this skill than by playing such a huge game like WoW. Still after 5 years there are times when I have to pause and think to remember the best way to go from Darnassus to Southshore. And I still haven't found a good way to get from Ironforge to Menethil Harbor! And sometimes I take huge detours just because I forgot that there was a better way to go.

3. Focused Attention
To cut response time, the brain likes to hardwire things. Whatever we do often, or whatever response to a certain stimuli we usually use, we'll have easier access to than other stimuli. For example when reading the word "red" you'll automatically think about the color that corresponds with "red", instead of sifting through all the colors you know and settling for one, each time you read the word. We use these kind of short-cuts in everything we do, if we didn't we would have to pause and think about everything we experienced, just as we do whenever we experience something we've never encountered before. Being able to work around these kind of mental-short cuts is what Focused Attention is all about, because sometimes you don't want to use your automatic response, sometimes it is better to use another response.

In WoW this is probably best exampled in the skilled pvp-player. Every gamer has a series of responses that work best for most situations, and in PvE where the fights usually are very predictable we don't have to go much beyond this. But to be truly awesome you have to be able to work around and away your regular play-style. You have to be able to, under a split second, calculate whether doing A or doing B (or something completely else) is the better choice. In pvp-fights this is more often true, since the opponent isn't a scripted fight, but another player that brings into the fight all the irrationality and illogical behavior that only a human can(?). In a pvp-fight you often have to supress your first respons because another might be more appropriate for that unique situation alone, and the better you are at doing this, the better pvp-er you'll be.

4. Mental Rotation
Mental Rotation is being able to rotate objects in your mind, because you don't always have the possibility to actually grab the object and flip it around. In a game like Tetris we'd use this alot (although you can rotate objects in tetris, the best gamers are the ones who can rotate coming objects before they enter the screen). Actually, Mental Rotation is an often occurring part of puzzle games overall.

Just as in real life we rarely have to mentally rotate things in WoW to be able to go about our daily business. When we explain tactics to our fellow group members we sometimes have to be able to rotate the room mentally to be able to correctly explain where stuff will happen. When doing this, do you prefer to use the screen-directions or the map-directions? Do you say "left from where we are standing now" or "west on the map"? If you use the latter then you, and your party members, are better at rotating stuff mentally.

5. Visuo-Spatial Memory + Strategy
Remembering that VSM is about using cues in your vicinity to locate yourself in the room, this intelligence means using those cues to determine the best place to be. A game like Memory, which requires you to pair objects scattered across a board and lying upside down, we use VSM and Memory. You have to remember where among all those objects a certain object (or several actually) that you need lies to win the game.

In WoW we'd use this whenever we have to move from incoming stuff during a boss fight. When you know that the area you're currently standing in soon will be filled with goo/fire/deadly beam you have to quickly locate another area to occupy. We do this by remembering the layout of the room and what other things we have to be careful off all the while standing close to tanks or enemies depending on our role in the fight. Many fights in ICC use this principle, like for example Rotface or Festergut. On Festergut HC you have to keep a distance to everyone (as ranged), watch the incoming Malleable Goo and run to a Spore whenever they are up. This means that you at all times have to keep track of your own location and the location of several other objects of the fight, and quickly calculate the best way to move when you have to.

6. Paired Associate Learning
Paired Associate Learning, or PAL, is what we use to gather Paired Information. Pairing information means whenever you think about one thing, information about that thing pops up. Whenever you think about your mom you see her face and maybe her telephone number/birthday/name etc, usually whatever information you need most at the moment. This is how we remember information about certain objects and people in our surroundings. This is not to be mistaken with conditioning in which we pair a happening with a certain response. Paired Association is about information, not behavior. Conditioning is more like Focused Attention that I already mentioned.

As with many of these intelligenses, PAL is based on basic functions of our mind and as such nothing we can work without anywhere, be it in a game or not. Whenever you hear the name of a skill and remember any information about it, you're using Paired Association. The more you know about the game, the better you're at pairing information to the relevant places and objects. So when someone screams "Defile!", Paired Association would be to know what it does. Conditioning would be to run away and Focused Attention would be to give some thought to your running. It all comes together.

7. Deductive Reasoning
Deductive Reasoning, or DR, means coming to a conclusion based on a set of rules or pre-existing data/knowledge. If the ground gets wet when it rains and the ground is wet, we might come to the conclusion that it is raining. The more information and correct assumptions about correlation one has the likelier it is that one will come to the right conclusion.

We have to come to conclusions all the time. For instance, when tanking you might have information on what mobs you're fighting, what kind of cc your group has and how good the players in your group are. Based on this you will come to a conclusion on what would be the best way to pull the mobs. Or when reading up on your skills you might find a good way to use your skills so that they synergy with eachother for more power. Most conclusions you make in the game will have come through deductive reasoning on some level.

8. Visuo-Spatial Processing
Visuo-Spatial Processing, or VSP, is being able to sort out the important things in a midst of visual information. Looking through a crowd you might want to find your friend who has a red jacket and dark hair. Being able to find him/her means you have to process all your visual information for these cues.

VSP is actually one of those things that people argue is used more in games than in regular life. In games visual cues are usually among the most important things. We can't feel or smell anything in the game so we usually only have audio and visual cues for information. This means people who play alot of games often become rather apt at quickly scanning the area and picking out the important parts. In games like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor, or any shooting game where you have to find a camouflaged target before he finds you, you'd practice this ability quite alot. I know Love is alot better at finding hidden targets among rocks and vegetation than I am. We do practice this in WoW as well, after all we have to react when we're standing in fire or we get a huge DBM warning in our screens telling us to do something special.

9. Visual Attention
Visual Attention is the next step of VSP. After having sorted out the important things in your visual field, you'll want to focus your attention more to some of them than others. If VSP is noticing, Visual Attention is deciding what to look at and what it means to you. Visual Attention is also about finding what is "wrong" in the picture, but not necessarily as fast as you do with VSP. Visual Attention is processing the details.

As with VSP we use Visual Attention alot in WoW. When we're raiding and someone says something in gchat, we might notice (but probably won't) through VSP, but keep our attention elsewhere as long as needed. Visual Attention allows us to decide whether to keep track of the tanks health bar, you standing in fire or something completely else happening in the perifery of your screen at the moment.

10. Verbal Reasoning
Verbal Reasoning is alot like Deductive Reasoning, only with written or verbal information specifically instead of just any information. Therefore not much more is to say about it.

11. Verbal Work-Memory
Whenever you read a number, or get it read for you, you might repeat the information. This is to prolong the existance of this information in your Verbal Work-Memory. The Verbal Work-Memory is "better" than the the visual one, and therefore we use these kinds of tricks to help us remember things for longer periods of time.

In WoW I can imagine people using this if they want to remember a series of tasks they need to perform. Perhaps they just got some boss tactics explained to them, and silently repeat it to themselves not to forget it. Or they want to remember how to do a certain rotation they just read about on the internet. Or what mats they needed for that certain item. There are tons of places where you would want to remember something for a short period of time, and most people use this method.

12. Planning
Sounds simple enough, but it is one of the things that makes humans so special. I'm not saying humans are the only ones who are able to plan ahead, but we're definitely able to plan the farthest ahead (at least to our knowledge). When getting children, a career, or a car we often have to plan many years into the future. But planning also means completing a series of tasks during a very short period of time, and that is generally the case in games like WoW.

Since few people expect to play the same game for several years, we usually don't plan very long ahead. In a game like WoW, that has been around for so long already, we probably do alot more planning ahead than in games generally. Any player playing the Auction House would need to plan ahead several days preferrably. Any player in a raid often has to make very minute planning of what tasks they're going to perform. Especially when being a dps, where you can hope to keep some sort of "rotation" active. Rotation could actually translate into "expecting to use a series of tasks in a predefined order".

Most importantly, all these intelligences work together to form a whole. We very rarely use only one in any given situation. In a raid fight you need to be able to scan the area, know when to move and not to, know what skills to use and under what conditions and so on. When doing this we use all of the abovementioned intelligences in some part. And whether we'd like to call it intelligences or IQ or whatnot, it's pretty dang neat what we manage to do at our keyboards everyday.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Favorite Moments of Wrath

I already made a post about general things I liked in Wrath (and some things I didn't like). This time I thought I'd make it a little more personal. What were my personal favorite moments throughout wrath? Let's sit down and think about the last two years. Surely alot must've happened that was special?

My First LK Kill
My old guild was awesome, but it had one big flaw. For along period during Wrath we didn't have 10 dedicated raiders. For someone like me who thinks endgame raiding is the only fun thing to do at all at endgame, that turned out to be a problem. It worked really well throughout Naxx and Ulduar, but then people started to drop off for various reasons and the already small raid troupe became even smaller. This combined with one of the most exclusive invite policies ever, you basically had to know someone in the guild irl and even then it took time to get an invite, really made getting a full raid together a pain in the ass. Increasingly more often did we had to "resort" to non-raiders, casual players and otherwise people who didn't want to dedicate as much time and effort into raiding as the rest of us. That meant people not knowing tactics, not having the right specs and not keeping their gears up to date. It made raiding more and more difficult. We had to choose between getting a bad raid going, or no raid at all. A complete raid with 10 dedicated raiders at once was a rare sight, but it did happen. The night we finally downed LK 10-man was one of those nights. I can't remember if we had had much trouble with the lk fight in particular. Because of the abovementioned issues we could get stuck on relatively easy bosses on a regular basis, which at times was extremely frustrating and because of this we probably had little hope to get a good enough group together to down LK.

But then one night everything clicked and we finally all came together like the old, awesome guild we once were back in BC and early Wrath. I remember the shouts of joy in Vent, the extreme euphoria I felt when he went down. It was truly undescribable. It was special in another sense as well. It was the first end-expansion boss I had ever downed. Since I never raided in a 25-man or 40-man raid I never got to see Nefarian or Illidan until afterwards when the world had already moved on. But I did get to LK when he was still tough and it is one of my fondest memories from Wrath. This kill together with us downing Putricide Hc 10man after many, many tries are also good closing memories of my old guild, a guild I had spent 3 years in.

My First Steps In Howling Fjord

I remember my very first impressions of Northrend very clear, and I remember how I totally loved it. I am glad I took my first steps in the beautiful Howling Fjord rather in the extremely dull looking Borean Tundra, and I was awestruck by the design and feeling of the place. I thought getting out into Hellfire Peninsula was pretty cool too, but Howling Fjord was even more special. And overall I really enjoyed the areas of Wrath more than BC. I liked the snowy mountaintops and plagued valleys. The crazy mix of jungle and tundra. I liked the way it stepped away from the spacy theme of BC and back to a more low-rp style. Wrath was also the first expansion I got to experience in full, and I want to thank Blizzard for making the content more available to players not in 25-man guilds, unlike in BC. I regret having missed out on awesome content like BT and Sunwell, just because I was in the wrong type of guild. But with Wrath I was there from the start, and I must say I loved it all the way.

Although this is of a more recent happening, one of my favorite moments in Wrath was me getting Mimirons Head. Like I mentioned in that post, I'm not usually a mount-collecter (I have some 13 or so), but there are still a couple of mounts I find extremely cool. The Headless Horseman mount is one, and Mimirons Head was another. I am now proud owner of one of these mounts!

Completed My Collection
A goal I had set for myself in the early Burning Crusade, I finally managed to finish collecting one end-leveled char of each class. Although I never actually put much effort into it, but merely leveled whenever I felt like it, it still felt really nice to have it done. Back in BC I nearly made it, and I think I only had my rogue and maybe druid left to level. But then wrath came and suddenly I had to level them all at least 10 more levels, and get a Death Knight. That set my progress back a bit. I have since then deleted my druid and started a new one, so my collection isn't in fact complete anylonger. But it was at one point, and that is all that matters!

Sarth 3d
My guild didn't do this the really hard way, that is killing all the add-drakes before killing off Sartharion. Instead we did it the nuke-way, which meant killing Sartharion before he summoned the second add-drake which made him immune to damage. You had 1 minute to do this (if I remember correctly) so this was still not something easy to do. I think we did it with Ulduar gear, and our raid group had just about as much raid damage needed to make it in 1 minute (or whichever time you had). It required some minute skill work by everyone involved, and when we finally pulled it off it really felt awesome. We had wiped and wiped and wiped. The dps had used every trick in the book to push out as much damage as they could. Prepotting, timing of skills - everything. Each time we failed extremely close to the goal. One time we failed with the boss at 600 hp. That's not even a joke. A dot from the healer had given us the kill. That is how close we were every good try.

Interestingly enough, the time we actually downed him I didn't heal. We only had one healer in the raid to get as much dps as possible, one tank that tanked Sartharion and one off-tank that kited the first add-drake. The time we actually killed him I was tanking with my paladin. Looking back at it now I can't remember why we chose to do this, probably because the druid that was healing had no other spec or char to join the raid with and so I offered to come as a tank instead of a healer. Love was the add-kiter and he was supposed to run off and die with the drake, far enough away for it not to return to the raid before we had downed Sartharion. Love was so used to dying and releasing that he did this automatically, and missed out on the kill. He was really bummed by this, but managed to get it some time later. In any case, this kill was truly an epic moment of Wrath for me.

Stepping It Up
Although not directly related to Wrath (or maybe it is), it was when playing Wrath I decided to become a more serious blogger. I had started the blog already back in BC, nearly 3 years ago, but only posted occasionally and without any real plan. Back then it was more like a personal diary and posting was very sporadic. Then, for no particular reason at all, I felt like I wanted to blog more continously. I decided to post a post each day if I could and that the post should be in a more article-fashioned way. Once I got it started it was really no trouble at all. I've been keeping it up for nearly a year now, loving each post and very rarely had a lack of ideas to write about or lacked the motivation to write them down. I have no idea how long I will keep on blogging, but I can't see an end to it right now. It could've been playing Wrath that finally jogged my motivation for it, and I've had great fun with it.

A Little Bit Of Everything

Looking back I remember tons of little moments in which I really enjoyed playing. I suppose that is why I spend so much time doing it afterall. There were some gear pieces I got that made me happy, like when I finally got that darned Althor's Abacus. There were plenty of exhausting bosses that felt really good to down when we finally did, except those already mentioned, like Yogg-Saron. And plenty of quests, events, mobs and other small details that highlighted my game time.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Shattering - Lowbie Instance Changes or How To Profit From A New Patch

Whenever a big patch like this hits us we get a bunch of changes. Some are quite obvious - new zones, new quests, new class-race combos. But some are less obvious and usually on a community scale. Changing zones could for instance change the way the community behaves in those zones. Remove Goldshire and you'd remove a whole lot of whacky stuff that goes on there. I am quite sure Barrens chat will never be the same now that Barrens has undergone such a grand transformation. I'll let it be unsaid whether that is a good or a bad thing. One group of people who usually have a really good sense in telling which way the wind blows are the auction house campers. Seemingly subtle changes could have enourmous effects on a whole nother level, a level most of us don't care much to keep track off. If you do, there is a possibility for great profit however. But this is just an example. I won't talk about making money from some change that occured during this patch. Instead I'd like to highlight another change in which you can profit, but not gold - but good times.

Like I mentioned yesterday in passing by I rolled a troll druid. I deleted my old druid and made her fresh. I really had no affection for my old druid so there was no loss in deleting her. The only sligtly interesting trivia about her is that I rolled her simultanously as Love rolled his main, and we had intended to level up together as druids (seeing as we both met as druids). But I got bored and tired of her already so many years ago, and I never really found an interest for her. I only managed to get to 80 at all because I could switch between healing, tanking, melee dps and caster dps, and it still took me years! But I am having a total blast with my troll druid. Don't ask me to explain it. Maybe I never had a problem with the class, I just really didn't want to play it as a tauren, and especially not as a female tauren. Why I rolled one in the first place? Well, I didn't know it'd be so horrible! It also took me a really long time to realize that that was the real problem.

I did alot of instancing with my troll druid and it was when doing this I noticed something really interesting. I did all the lowbie instances at least once and I'll give a quick comment on them although that's not the point of this post (I'll get there, just you wait);

  • Deadmines - Completely changed, I love it. Bosses are much harder and much more fun. New quests, new mobs, everything. The instance looks the same, but it's much more fun to do.
  • Ragefire Chasm - Pretty much the same as it used to be, the same mobs but more cool loot.
  • Wailing Caverns - Quests have been made easier to complete, otherwise it was very much the same which means it is still a long, rather boring maze.
  • Shadowfang Keep - Completely changed. I don't know about alliance, but as a horde you get a rather interesting experience. I really liked it.
  • Blackfathom Deeps - Pretty much the same.
  • Stockades - Completely changed. Now has different kinds of mobs in the various wings, although I can't understand why anyone would want to imprison elementals (says something about the alliance ey?). One of the endbosses was a really fun suprise.

Overall all the bosses have become alot more difficult.
Killing a boss prepatch usually took some 10-20 seconds, even with a really bad group. Now they take around a minute, and some bosses have the most dreadful skills. First boss in SFK uses an aoe which takes everyone down to some 2-5% hp, that was a shocker I tell you *phew*. In some cases you might even need some sort of tactic to avoid any deaths. Alot of "unecessary" mobs have been taken away, like all those trash miners in Deadmines (they are now replaced by neutral mining monkeys (yes, seriously)) and the quests have been easily accessible by having all quest npcs located at the entrance of each instance. Nicely done Blizzard! Another interesting change is that not only the bosses have become more difficult, but everything seems to be a little more difficult. Eventhough I have a nice healing gear with BoA and other good blue items for healing, I'm having real trouble with my healing since I'm not healing specced. I can't say for sure if healing might be really difficult even when in a healing spec, but I can tell you that being in the wrong spec sure makes things alot tougher. I've actually considered not healing until I can dual spec for it, pre patch healing with the wrong spec wouldn't be much of a problem at all. But people die now. And not due to overpulls or crazy runs but due to regular mobs. This might sound like a bad thing, but I really like it. You can't just blast through an instance anymore, you actually need a little skill and teamwork. I will put emphasize on "little" here, because lowbie instances are still not difficult. Just alot more interesting than they used to be.

But let's get back on track with this post shall we. So I was doing alot of instancing yesterday, and since I was a hybrid, and even have BoA for both caster and melee, I tried all roles as well. And through all those instances I noticed something really interesting. Or rather, I noticed the lack of something really annoying;

  • We had no one needing on items randomly (except a hunter who needed on an intellect ring, but that's more sad than annoying).
  • We had no one complain about anything that went slightly unplanned.
  • Everyone knew where to go.
  • Everyone were doing their job! Omg! I've always felt like there is always at least one (usually dps) that is a total slacker when doing randoms. Not once during all these runs yesterday did we have a slacker.
  • Everyone knew what to do. I even had some people who ccd, crazy I tell you.
  • People didn't say much, but when they did it was something neutral or friendly. No caps? I don't believe my eyes.

So overall I didn't have a single horrible run yesterday (and counting some runs today as well). I usually have a 30/70 chance of getting into a horrible run when pugging, where 30% chance is the chance to get into a bad group but yesterday it was 100% smooth. Was this pure chance? Was I having so much fun with my druid that I didn't notice all the horrors that went down around me? I don't think so. I have a theory...

I kept thinking about it, what could it be that is making all my pugs so generally good? And I realized the most plausible reason was that most of them were alts to serious mains. Players who don't usually play alts, but who have waited for this patch specifically to reroll that special character they've really longed for. Like a tauren paladin. Or like my troll druid (I don't count though, I play alts all the time). So I was basically doing a lowbie run with a bunch of players who usually probably only raid or do the occasional heroic. In any case it sure felt like it. People were being professional (aka silent and doing their job) and polite  when talking. Even when blue boe items dropped no one needed. And I don't mind people being new to the game, but there are bad noobs and good noobs too. And I usually end up with the bad ones. This time I didn't end up with a newbie at all. So my weekly recommendation really has to be - if you've wanted to roll an alt but dreaded the horrible pug groups, roll one now. Quickly! Before they've all outleveled you and you're stuck with the horrible players again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Not Much To Say That Hasn't Already Been Said

I'm having way too much fun playing to write a sensible post, and you're all probably having way too much fun playing to read anything of length. There isn't much to say really, that hasn't already been said in any WoW-blog that's still being updated. I've got plenty of posts ready-written already of course, but it all seems so out of place now.

  • I love the new areas.
  • I absolutely frickin adore the new troll druids, and it was the first thing I made once I could log on again (after a really long and tedious work shift).
  • I love the new music.
  • I love the fact that I am checking the skies to see if Deathwing will burn my face to bacon every other minute.

We can safely say that Azeroth really needed this facelift. Blizzard recognized that and did what had to be done. We've all been screaming "MOVE THAT BUS!" for a couple of weeks now, and here we have the result. Do we like it? I know I am. I'll leave you with that, because I have to go back and enjoy my little troll druid, the new areas and everything else that is so fancy and shiny some more, and so do you. This is the Shattering bit**es, enjoy yourselves!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Do You Do When Someone Says...

Pugging makes you meet alot of different people, but I still feel like that you often meet a certain kind of people more often than others. Probably simply because they are more annoying or otherwise notable than other types and I just notice them more. You've got the guy who needs on all items, the tank that is too slow/fast, the healer that lets everyone drop to 10% hp before they start casting and etcetera. I'd like to make a post on how I regularly deal with these kind of people.

Today I am going to the discuss the player who always wants bigger pulls, never satisified with the amount of mobs because they have some really cool aoe skill that they want to use. Because of this these players usually play a class that isn't good at anything but aoeing (read: Mage) and therefore wants this opportunity to shine. It is also occasionally the healer that asks for this, because lowbie healers often become bored of lack of action.

I've had various ways of responding to this kind of player. To some extent it depends on which class and role I am currently playing in the group, since big pulls will affect me very differently.

I've had two ways of dealing with this as a dps. Initially I had the confronting attitude in everything when I was pugging, but I quickly realized that this wasn't a good way to handle random people (actually it took me longer than it should have, and many sad pug moments...). I was never the one who asked for bigger pulls myself. Honestly. I've been a tank and I usually think that whatever the tank is doing, it's probably exactly what he wants to be doing. The only reason for him to take smaller pulls than he'd be able to handle is if he thinks the healer can't handle it, in which case he shouldn't be taking bigger pulls anyway. As a dps I try to adapt myself fully to the skills and mood of the tank (and healer to some extent). Back in the day, whenever some other dps would ask for bigger pulls, or even the healer, I'd jump into defense for the tank at once even if he didn't ask for it. Because I knew how I'd feel in that situation. How do I tell them that I don't feel like doing bigger pulls? That I am enjoying it the way it is? I didn't want the tank to think that we were all on the same side as the "do bigger pulls"-dpser, so I usually stated that whatever the tank felt like doing was going to be the right thing, as long as it took us forward. I've too often seen tanks trying to make the group happy with pulls they can't handle, and eventhough that doesn't necessarily lead to a wipe I always feel sorry for a tank that isn't on top of things. Being a tank is wanting to have full control over the situation (or should be anyway). That doesn't always mean that you'll tank everything, but you'll at least want to have the feeling that you're the one making the decisions. Tanks that too easily oblige aoe-horny dpsers usually loose this precious control.

Lately I've taken to a more laid-back and "heck, it'll work out in the end" kind of attitude instead. If the group happens to have someone that desperately needs bigger pulls, and the tank tries to oblige, things can either turn out well or not so well. But in most lowbie pugs things need to turn out horribly bad before you'll wipe, and nowadays I usually just try to do the best of the situation. Cc, offtank... whatever I can offer to make it easier on the healer and the tank. Because I am thinking that the poor tank will have to learn to stand up for his way of tanking sooner or later. Sure, everything about a pug group means you'll have to adapt yourself to some extent, it's still a group-effort, so if someone asks for bigger pulls you might at least consider doing bigger pulls. You can try to oblige, but never let people bitch you around, or they'll walk all over you.

One thing I really love about being a healer is that whatever happens, I'll probably have it under control. Being a healer in a group really means having the ultimate responsibility for success or failure, especially in lowbie groups. You don't really need a tank in a lowbie group, so if the healer is decent and some mana breaks are allowed, you can have anyone pull and tank, most of the time. When I am healing and someone asks for bigger pulls I usually just /shrug. More action for me, yay. It's easy because all you need to do is keep people alive. As a tank you want to keep all aggro on you, and that is probably the most difficult thing to do. As a dps you want to outdps everyone else (at least I do), and that can be quite some challenge in lowbie instances if you happen to play a class without a good aoe skill. But as a healer I just have to make sure no one dies, and that is usually quite simple. As a healer I rarely get worked up about anything that happens in an instance, because the ultimate responsibility lies with me and if I know I can handle it there is nothing to worry about.

I used to be extremely cranky as a tank. One of those "you better do exactly as I tell you or I will nerdrage and leave group because you don't deserve me!". As a tank I still think I am more important than everyone else in the group. There is a reason there's a shortage on tanks. They do all the work (especially in lowbie groups where the tank often does 50% of all the damage) and never get any recognition or love for it. One mistake and you'll have a choir of crying babies in your group. Tanking really does feel like herding ungrateful children sometimes (and many times that's probably exactly what I'm doing). Back in the days when I used to be a cranky tank I would fly off the handle when someone suggested bugger pulls. I made it quite clear that if I was remotely interested in their opinion I'd ask for it and I am tanking exactly the way I want to. Don't like it? There's the dungeon exit. Ok, I am exaggerating, but only slightly. I have a good reason for being this cranky though - people blame everything on the tank. Give them the pinky and they'll cut of off your arm.

I remember some months ago when I was doing BRD, and we had one of them people who always asks for bigger pulls. I kindly (seriously, I tried to be very gentle) told him, and the rest of the group, that whatever pulls I made were based on what I thought I could handle. I also pointed out that if I did a bigger pull and it went wrong, I would surely get the blame, and I wouldn't have that. But they kept on and on with the nagging. Finally I thought "what the heck, let's give it a try". I did a big pull, some two groups of dwarves in a room instead of the one I had planned for. We wiped, and guess who got the blame? Yours truly. In fact, my wanting to oblige my group and make them happy only awarded me the title "worst tank I've ever had" from one of the group. I wasn't very happy with WoW or random people at that time.

Nowadays, that I am more smooth and laid back instances, I actually just ignore people when they ask for things I don't care to do. So if someone says "DO BIGGER PULLS!" (it's always caps for some reason) I just go on tanking as usual. If I keep a steady pace and never let their minds wander away, it usually stays at the occasional cry for bigger pulls, like some kind of tick, and nothing more. And that's the way I want it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Report on The Venture Co. PvP Event 21/11

This sunday we had a great pvp-event scheduled on my home-server, The Venture Co (EU). I hope anyone who plays on my server had a chance to be there. It was great fun and I want to give out big thanks to the guys and girls that made it happen. Hope to do it again soon!

The idea was to gather a horde force in Tarren Mill and an alliance force in Southshore and have an epic battle between the two factions in Hillsbrad. The event was arranged by a couple of rp-guilds on both the alliance and horde side, and eventhough I hardly ever rp, there was some interesting rp going on (I don't know the background to it all unfortunately, but I listened in on some of the conversations and enjoyed it).

The only problem is that there are more horde players than alliance players on TVC (at least I think so) and in any case there seem to be way more horde pvpers than alliance pvpers. We usually outnumber them greatly in most world-pvp events and Wintergrasp is rarely won by the alliance during regular play-hours. We tried to keep this in mind and wanted to have some fair play. No griefing or camping.

The horde group assembled well in time for the set start time. We had gathered a considerable amount of people in Tarren Mill some half hour before the event was actually set to start. People were anxious to get started, and there is always a problem with trying to keep them people in line that don't belong anywhere. I mean my guildleader can always just say ”do as I say or I wipe your dkp” and that usually gets people to listen. But there are always a couple of unguilded people that don't listen to anyone and they just do whatever they want or sometimes what everyone else is doing.

It makes me marvel at battlefield leaders of old. They had no ts or chat channels to communicate their commands and yet they managed to mostly keep track of way more people than were active during this pvp-event. Fascinating really. What I noticed is that you need a strong and decisive leader that quickly gives out orders. It is kind of like tanking only on a bigger scale. The longer people go without a standing order, the more likely it is that they'll wander off and do mischief.

We arrived to Southshore a little early, and unlike us the alliance had not gathered their forces at Southshore, but came flying in at around start time. At that time we, the horde, had already eagerly charged Southshore and killed the flight master. This left the alliance confused and I heard rumors that they had warned people from landing in Southshore since they'd only be killed at once. Most of us decided to fall back to the fork leading to Southshore to give them a chance to regroup. There is no fun in killing them off one by one as they land after all.

And we waited and waited, but no alliance came. Then we got reports that Tarren Mill was under attack. Those sneaksy alliances had abused our good will and sneaked behind our backs and attacked Tarren Mill while we were looking elsewhere! Maybe we deserved it. But we all ran there and quickly vanquished the poor alliance. Horde had gathered some 120ish people (we were at least 3 40man raids) and alliance couldn't have been much more than 50. Many people in our raid complained that there were no alliance to kill.

People started running back and forth between TM and SS to find more alliance to kill, but eventually the lust for blood could only be quenched by an all out attack on the alliance cities (where we hoped to find more people). So the order was given to charge to Ironforge, and people quickly ran off. About half way there we got the report that Alliance had finally gathered in Southshore, but there was no stopping the war-train heading for Ironforge.

 Well there we found no more alliance, so continued on to Stormwind. Stormwind was currently under an elemental invasion, and desperate for something to kill the entire Horde raid decided to at least kill the elementals, and as such doing the alliance a favor. After this the raid started crumbling, but we were still a considerable force travelling onward towards Darnassus and Exodar, getting For the Horde for the people that didn't have it yet. It's funny that in all the alliance cities I seriously didn't see more than some 10 alliance. Is the alliance side on TVC really that empty, or was it just bad luck?

In any case I had a wonderful evening and I really hope we can get something like this going again. Maybe a huge Gurubashi Arena brawl?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thoughts on Frost Mage Raid Dps

I wanted to try out frost dps in a raid and so respecced my mage frost for a gdkp run. Here are some random thoughts and impressions on frost mage as a viable raid dpser. Remember that all this is based on one raid (and some tests on a target dummy), so this is far from some definite conclusion on frost mages viability in raids right now.

First of all, I did do less damage than in my fire spec. About 1-2k dps less, depending on fight. I did have the proper glyphs, but on the other hand my entire gear was still gemmed and reforged towards fire, meaning I had tons of crit and reforged everything to mastery. I don't think this is the right way to go for frost however. Also I haven't played frost for a long time and didn't have much practice with getting the right skills used with the right procs and all that. Taking this into consideration I am amazed I only did 1-2k less dps than my fire spec.

I'll start with an overall impression - I liked frost. I definitely sensed potential. Unlike fire it doesn't have a rotation, but is purely proc based. You basically spam frost bolts until you get Fingers of Frost (FoF) or Brain Freeze (BF). These two procs open up a bunch of possibilites for how you'd best want to use them. We can either use Deep Freeze, Ice Lance, Fireball or Frostfire Bolt depending on proc, and which we choose is mostly dependant on whichever does the most damage. I found that whenever you can you'd want to use Deep Freeze. Even with my non-awesome gear (it's definitely not bad, but not "up there") I usually did around 40k damage with Deep Freeze. Whenever your DF is on cooldown you use FoF on Ice Lance. Unless you've simultaneously also procced BF in which case you'd want to use Fireball or Frostfire Bolt instead. I actually found that FFB did more damage than FB, and with the glyph you also get a nice dot on the target. Here are some of the things I'd like to discuss however;

Haste seems to be a better stat for frost, definitely better than crit. With alot of haste we get more FoF procs, and FoF will increase your crit chance with Ice Lance and Deep Freeze by so much that you'll easily overcap yourself if you've got over 30% crit, thanks to the Shatter talent. Shatter will increase your current crit chance on a frozen target by 3, which means if you have 30% crit chance you'll get 90% crit chance against frozen targets. Before you drop that jaw though, remember that frozen targets only counts those affected by Frost Nova/Freeze, which aint gonna happen in a raid. FoF makes Ice Lance, Frostfire Bolt and DF count the target as frozen and this is where we'll deal our real damage. Also we have no bonus from crits, besides the extra damage. What you want are as many Frostbolts as possible, which means you'd want a lot of haste. I did also notice however that Frostbolt already has a comparably short cast time and with bloodlust/heroism you'll come very close to cap. You probably don't want to use Icy Veins when BL/Heroism is up because that would be a waste of haste. This means haste is important but still easily cappable (at least compared to fire, don't know about arcane) and we definitely have to keep an eye on this. Also alot of frost dps are from instants, which further makes haste less valuable. The only thing you have to keep track off is speeding up your frostbolt as much as possible, but not so much so that Icy Veins or BL/Heroism means overcapping too much.

Using my über math skills (*cough*) and wowpedias haste information, I've come to the following conclusion;
Haste rating needed for cap (hrnfc) - 3279
Hrnfc with BL - 2296
Hrnfc with Icy Veins - 2623
Hrnfc with BL and Wrath of Air Totem - 2132

But! With the talent Early Frost we are reducing the cast time of our frostbolt to 1,3 seconds every 15 seconds. Bloodlust alone will cap us when we have this cast time, but we only have it every 15 seconds. During 15 seconds we can expect to cast another ~9 casts (with my current haste) which we would want to be hasted. From those ~9 we'd want to subtract instants that'll proc. How many frostbolts can we expect to cast that need haste between each 15 second intervall? I usually get roughly 4-5 Frostbolt casts between each 15 second intervall, with my current haste of about ~650 rating or ~20%. This tells me that haste is important, but like I said easily capped (by "capped" I here mean "put up to a practical amount"). We probably don't want much more than a maximum of ~1000 haste rating.

Frost Mastery is Frostburn which increases damage against frozen targets. In a raid you can only ever hope to increase the damage of Ice Lance, Frostfire Bolt and Deep Freeze with our mastery, which are the only spells affected by FoF. This means our mastery doesn't affect all of our skills, but still an important part of them. The more haste we've got, the better our mastery becomes it seems, but I am still divided as to just how good our mastery is in the long run. On the other hand once we've got enough haste there won't be much other stats to reforge into.

The second best stat to collect, next to capping haste (at around 1000 haste as discussed), and hit of course, would be to smack on as much intellect as possible. I think most mages will get enough hit and crit from using endgame gear, so what we'd want to gem is haste and intellect.

From my limited testing it seems like we should prioritize like thus;
  1. Hit (to 17% with buffs)
  2. Haste (to about 1000 rating)
  3. Intellect

The pet doesn't make much of a difference. Unlike most other pets it brings no buffs or good amount of damage and whether you've got it out or not during a boss fight won't make much of a difference. I see potential in the talent Improved Freeze which makes your pets Freeze skill proc two FoF for you. This means you could get two FoF procs at will by using your pets freeze skill. I didn't try this talent and don't know if you'll get the procs even if you're freezing something that is immune to freezing, like a boss. I am assuming you do, otherwise this talent is purely a pvp talent. If it does work however it brings further depth and necessity of skill to frost dps.

Cold Snap is a lovely talent since it allows you to use Ice Block twice during a fight and Icy Veins one extra time during a fight. Knowing when the best time is to use Cold Snap will definitely make a difference.

When we get BF procs, do we want to use FFB or FB? Like I mentioned I noticed that FFB seemed to do more damage, especially when glyphed. This is because it is affected by FoF. One idea could be to use FB whenever you've got 3 stacks of FFB up already and no FoF proc. This would probably be the ideal damage, but quite tricky to manage. Also you never really know when you'll get another BF proc and you don't want your dot stack to drop either. Tricky indeed.

Although frost mages don't have a good skill to use when running, like fire mages do (scorch) I didn't feel like running was much of a penalty. You've often got some FoF procs to use up and this could be a good time to use your pets Freeze for some extra FoF procs, which will allow you to use instants on the run. Just using an unprocced Ice Lance is basically useless as it deals close to no damage that way.

Mana is definitely less of an issue for frost mages than fire mages. I didn't have much trouble in the various fights we did in ICC. As a fire I usually oom very fast, as frost I think mana consumption was reasonable. I still often had to use Mana Gems, but I never found myself completely out of mana.

These are just some quick notes on frost dpsing in raids. It's not as good as fire or arcane right now, but challenging and fun. If you're currently raiding mostly for fun, and doing fights where you don't need everyone to be at their max potential, I definitely recommend at least trying it out. Mastering frost dpsing seems to be the trickiest among all the mage specs right now and it's really not far behind the other specs (especially not when compared to prepatch).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Top 5 Most Interesting Auction House Deals

This won't be a post on five generally good ways to make quick, easy or big money on the Auction House. There are plenty of really good gold making blogs out there that would make a way better list than I ever could. Overall I'm actually very mildly interested in making gold in WoW. I've never tried to find a certain market and usually only earn my money from whatever scrap I find when questing and raiding. I've never owned more than some 25k g, and although that might sound like alot for some people, it's what you get when just using the auction house in a moderate but sensible way. That doesn't mean I don't seize an opportunity to make a nice deal whenever I see one. And considering I have been playing for quite a while, and Love happens to be very interested in gold making, I know at least in theory how to make good money. And here are my top 5 auction house deals (actually I've included some of Loves most interesting deals as well, as we're basically one person anyway. All his money belongs to me.). Love has helped me with the terminology.

5. Snatching
Sometimes the best Auction House deals is just to find some item that generally is worth alot, but people don't know it and put it up for a really low price. There are gold making people who have certain list with items that they check for on a regular basis, snatch it and resell it for alot more. I don't do this, but I have found good deals like this just by randomly using the AH. Lifelike Mechanical Toad is one such item. Love found it for 50g, snagged it and resold it for some 800-900g the day after. Easy money.
Another good example of this kind of fast money was when I found the recipe for Savory Deviate Delight on AH for 2g. It's worth hundreds of g and I sold it for some 300-400g.
Just the other day Love found Brilliant Cardinal Rubies at AH for 27g. He didn't resell those though since we use up pretty many on all our alts (all of my alts actually).

4. This looks expensive, but really isn't
One of the funniest things to do on the auction house is to buy stuff from vendors and resell them on the auction house for alot more money. In a way it is sad because there are so many people out there that just don't know they're being completely ripped off. And it never seizes to amaze me what items you can resell this way. Somtimes people buy vendor-items from the auction house just because they cba to travel to the vendor to buy it themselves. When you still needed to buy books to learn certain levels of First Aid I often did this for example. But now with reforging Love has found out that he can sell Vanishing Powder on the Auction House for alot more than they cost at the vendor. I've managed to sell items like vendor sold pets, vials, recipes... you name it. Anything a vendor sells has a good chance to be sold on the auction house it seems.

3. Refining
I'm never one to turn down an easy deal whenever I see one. I just don't like to put in alot of time in my auction house deals. Love used to make huge amounts of money on selling glyphs, but that also meant putting alot of time into buying herbs, milling, deciding what glyphs to craft, craft them, placing glyphs on ah, cancelling glyphs and managing the hundreds of glyphs he always carried around by mailing them back and forth between characters (at one time he had so many glyphs at AH he made up one seventh of all items on AH at that time). Eventhough he had addons that helped him with alot of the work and the gold earned for time spent was great, it is still way beyond what I'd ever bother to do to earn money in WoW.

I did however find a nice deal when I was checking for Mongoose enchants on the auction house the other day. Since I don't actively seek out nice deals, I usually just stumble upon them whenever I am doing something else in WoW. This time I needed a mongoose enchant and I wanted to find out if it was worth it to simply buy a ready and done mongoose enchant, or buy the mats and do it myself. I found that a ready made mongoose enchant sold for about twice the price of the enchant mats. So I started buying some enchant mats to sell mongoose enchants. But then the prices on enchants went down, but the prices on mats stayed fixed so I started looking at them instead. And I noticed that the prices of Small Prismatic Shards was way lower than that of Large Prismatic Shards. As an enchanter you can convert 3 SPS into 1 LPS, so the price of one SPS should reasonably be one third of one LPS. That was not the case. In fact the price of one SPS was one twentieth of one LPS. I bought all the SPS on AH for 50s each, converted them into LPS which I then sold for 20g each and made some hundred g in just a day. I love the WoW-market sometimes.

2. Woops, not the best deal I've made
Sometimes you try to make a good deal but it doesn't turn out so well. You maybe don't have a clue about what an item is worth, think you put it up for a nice price but it is really worth way more. Or you buy something in the hopes of selling it for alot of money only to find out it was worth less than what you paid for it. I didn't say this list was going to be just good deals!
Just before Wrath came I decided to buy up on epic leg armors. Don't ask me why, but I bought some 3-4 for about 250g each. Remember them Clefthide Leg Armor and Nethercobra Leg Armor? They used to be hell to get mats to so they usually sold for some 500g on my server. I thought that was really cheap and hoped to be able to resell them later for at least twice as much. But hey! New expansion makes old leg armor boring! Turns out no one wanted my leg armors and so I had spent some 1000g on nothing really.
Love bought a bunch of Pristine Black Diamonds really cheap (some 15g each) in the hopes to be able to sell them for alot more the next day. Turns out Blizzard had decided to up the drop rate on Pristine Black Diamonds by alot however, effectively reducing the price on them to zip, zero, nada. The really funny thing is that the guy that Love bought the diamonds off probably knew about this and sold them "cheap" just to get rid of them before the change.
Another example - an old guildie of mine logged on drunk one evening (bad idea), found Staff of Jordan on the auction house for 950g, decided he just must have it and bought it. Now it's a really nice staff, especially back then when there were no BoA-gear. But 950g? Needless to say he really regretted it the day after, but I bet the seller was happy.

1. Luck
Sometimes the best deals are made out of pure dumb luck. Wool Cloth is known to be really expensive at times, but here is a crazy story that takes it to another level. I know Love once, many years ago, accidentally put up Wool Cloth on the auction house for 97g per stack (don't ask me how), and some buyer accidentally bought them all before he realized what he was paying for them. This is a true story! They had both thought it was 97s, and both were wrong. The guy was completely devastated and sent a desperate letter to Love pleading to get his money back. He did actually, minus the cut for whatever Love had intended the Wool Cloth to cost.
Something that also has to count towards a lucky sell are the rp-sells. They're not really auction house deals, but still worth mentioning. I don't rp often, actually I could probably count the times I've engaged in some kind of rp during my 5 years of playing on both my hands. But occasionally when I find some cool gray item, and I'm on some alt in desperate need for money, I decide to try and rp-sell it. It's worth 2 copper to vendor, but could be worth a couple of g to a player when offered in the right way. I got 10g for a Rotting Bear Carcass this way, and I even wrote a post on this matter a couple of months ago.

What have been your most interesting deals in WoW?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Up For Interpretation

Me and Love argue all the time. He pulls my hair, I punch him in the stomach, he throws rocks at me and I delete his favorite gear piece. All normal behavior, right? The best thing is we only argue about things that don't really matter. Like if it's better to start walking with your right or left leg. Because we noticed that we don't begin with the same leg, so when we're out walking hand in hand we always end up unsynchronous. Someone has to switch leg. But who? These are typical dilemmas we struggle with on a regular basis.

I've also noticed that we don't agree as to how exactly a sound in WoW sounds. Love calls me tonedeaf, I call him just plain deaf. But it's still interesting that our opinions on such a small matter can vary so widely. Is it really possible that two people hear different things? Let me give some examples.

Take the sound that is made whenever you abandon a quest. I think it sounds like two separate sounds, like a gong being hit twice but with slightly different strengths. Like DUN-dun. Love thinks it sounds like a gong being hit once where the same one sounds is diminished over time. Like DUu-u-nn. He's clearly wrong, but why do we even think we hear different sounds?

Obviously we hear the exact same sounds. But for some reason our brains interpret them in different ways. Mine cuts the sound up to sound like two basically separate sounds just after another, and his ties it together to sound like one single sound. Interesting! Well at least I think so. I decided to ask some guildies to find out who was right in this matter - me or Love. This was done long ago, probably over a year or so, but the matter turned up again a couple of weeks ago when me and Love yet again couldn't agree on a sound in WoW. This time it was Exorcism.

I told him I liked it because it sounded like a ghoul/undead moaning. It made the skill feel like it really did hurt undeads. Didn't matter who you used it on, some ghoul was sad over it somewhere! But Love didn't agree, he thought it sounded just like some blasting sound. So I had to place my paladin by a dummy and spammed Exorcism so that he could hear the moaning sound. It took a while, but in the end he thought he could hear something. Admittedly the moaning sound didn't make as much noise when I used exorcism on a dummy and Love has never really played a paladin so he's not used to hearing that sound as often as me. But I thought it was the prominent feature of the sound, Love thought it was something nearly indistinguishable in the background.

Another skill we couldn't really agree on was the new Devastate sound. Apparently it has two sounds nowadays, but they both sound kinda like smashing two metal bars together. Or at least that's what I thought. Love thought it sounded like pulling the edges of two knives against eachother. Sure those are similar sounds, but not the same.

So when I asked my guildies
it turned out that defining just how a sound sounds wasn't so simple after all! Actually most people showed a moderate interest in my question ^^ Maybe I'm the only one who really thinks this is interesting. It might not matter in the long run, but if we interpret things so differently when it comes to sounds, couldn't we do the same when it comes to other things? We all already know that people can interpret what other people say very differently. Especially in WoW where alot of the communication is made through text we often find that we have to be extra careful to make sure our meaning comes across just as we intend it to. I find it fascinating that this applies to other things as well. Things one would think could only be interpreted in one way, like the sound a skill makes.

Have you ever been in a situation where you and someone else ended up interpreting something completely differently?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Things I Didn't Like About Wrath

Continuing from my last post about stuff I liked in Wrath, it is time to take a look at the stuff I didn't like so much. Like I mentioned in my other post, these aren't so many fortunately and overall I really enjoyed the Wrath experience. I do feel it was getting a little long. I can't remember being this anxious to have and expansion over an done with before, as I am now (here I am, talking about it like it's dead already). But remembering the first steps I took in Howling Fjord, the first instances, the first runs in Naxxramas and all the fun I've had during these two years I definitely have to wrap Wotlk up as a very good expansion. But now, the bad things. As with my other post I have focused on game design choices rather than bugs and ponies that never showed (like, we were supposed to have gotten PW: Barrier a long time ago!).

CC, where did you go?
I wrote a post about the lack of CC in Wrath already back in May. Back in BC you didn't want to group up for a random heroic with just anyone. And you needed a pretty good plan on how to deal with each pull, or most likely wipe. I'm not saying this is the best solution, but there just has to be something inbetween "too much cc" like in Magisters Terrace and "no cc" like what we've had now in wrath. Not even the difficult instances, like PoS or HoR require much cc. And it have made players dull! Whenever they're asked to do more but the very basics of their class, they fail. Some classes have suffered more from the disappearance of cc than others. I really enjoyed playing my lock in BC for example. Mastering seducing, fearing (using the good old Curse of Recklessness to manage the running mob) and banishing was something I really enjoyed about my lock. Come Wrath and I don't think I've ever had to use one of these spells (outside a pvp setting), and so unfortunately the interest in locking was reduced significantly. If I just want to spam a couple of spells and manage a couple of procs I might as well play my mage (and coincidentally, I am). In my post I wrote;
"I do wish however that there was one or two a little tricker instances, which you could go with a bunch of trusted friends for some better loot. Maybe Blizzard intended the ICC instances to work this way, but unfortunately they didn't make the lesson clear enough and people are trying to brute force those instances too, usually with success. Who can blame them when that is what they've been taught to do throughout Wotlk? Easy street, don't worry, you won't have to move your face from the keyboard to cc something.
Love tells me that they're apparently bringing cc back some with Cataclysm, so we'll see how that turns out! "
Yes I do hope things will become a little tougher in Cataclysm, and it seems like that will be the case. But for how long?

Heroic Modes
I didn't mention it in my post about things I liked about Wrath, but one thing I really enjoyed were the hard modes. Not the heroic modes, mind you, but the hard modes. The ones they had in Ulduar for example. For some reason Blizzard decided they didn't want to keep this system and went with the heroic mode system instead. We've had heroic modes for a long time, all of BC we did heroic instances. But using them in raids didn't turn out to be as much fun in my opinion. It was basically the same fight, only more of it. In Ulduar you could choose several "settings" of difficulty. Freya with 0, 1, 2 or 3 adds was four different ways of playing her. And it didn't just mean having to have more hp, more healpower and more dps, but more skill. Extra elements were added to the heroic modes as well, but they were often few and instead each single one was alot more difficult. Like the disease on Putricide hc or the Dark Wells on LK hc. In the hard modes you added a bunch of extra elements to the fight that by themselves weren't that tricky, but all together became alot more difficult. Yogg-Saron with or without keepers is another good example. It gave a lot more depth to the fight and I really feel like the heroic mode system Blizzard used later on was the lazy way out. Designing a lot of fights so that you could choose several ways of completing it is of course takes alot more work than just taking the good old fight and making the bosses hit harder. But they did such a good job with Ulduar! It made ICC feel like something of a disappointment.

One For All, All For One
This is really an extension of the abovementioned issue with heroic modes. I did feel like the ICC heroic modes were way too unforgiving. I realize you'd want a fight to be challenging, but it has to be challenging for the right reasons. A bad reason would be - one player failing leads to the entire raid wiping. This is troublesome in a 10man raid and frickin horrible in a 25man raid. But alot of fight mechanics revolved around one single person being able to wipe the entire raid. Someone forgot to run from the orange ooze on Putricide hc? Sure wipe. Someone forgot to run out of melee with the goo on Rotface? Definitely a big problem. Someone didn't run fast enough from defile? Bummer. You could have an awesome try being completely ruined by someones momentary lapse of mind. People aren't infallible. We're not robots. We will fail and the fall shouldn't be so long when we do. This really bothers me because I hate it when I feel like no matter how good I am doing, it won't save the raid when someone suddenly does a mistake. The reason this is a problem is because it doesn't make the fight feel like a group effort at all. It makes it feel like we're 25 monkeys sitting by a bunch of typewriters and if we're lucky our individual efforts will turn out into Shakespear. A good fight is where I can feel like someones incredible effort actually saved a wipe. This fosters group play and a good guild community. An entire raid wiping because of someones mistake will only make everyone annoyed at that person.

An example of a really good fight that requires team work and where individual efforts can save the moment is a fight like Hard mode XT-Deconstructor. To make it work you need everyone to shine at certain moments, without any individual failure necessarily bringing the entire raid down. You've got the Tantrum, for which healers need to excell (at least when the fight still was difficult), you've got the adds (sparks and bots) that tanks need to be able to pick up fast and neat, you've got the heart and adds that need to be nuked down by the dps. This means everyone has their chance to shine and by using the right skills (like cooldowns and skills when needed) will make or break the fight. In most cases an individual mistake won't be the end of the raid. The combined effort is what matters, and if someone slips up another one can pick up the slack. This is what a good fight should be like. Yet again ICC comes short in comparison to Ulduar. Having one person killing the entire raid is just an extremely lazy way to make a fight difficult, and it definitely doesn't make it fun. I'd be really sad if this is the way Blizzard will take in Cataclysm.

These are some of the things that bothered me the most with Wrath. What would you rather seen never had left the drawing table when it comes to Wrath game design choices?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Things I Liked About Wrath

There seems to be somewhat of a theme going around the bloggosphere to share thoughts about what one liked and disliked about Wrath. It's not a bad idea, and I'll jump on the train! I'll start out with some of the things I liked and continue tomorrow (or another day, you never know really) with the things I disliked. I can say at once that I definitely found more things I liked than disliked, and I'm very glad I did. Would've been horrible to have spent the last 2 years on something that overall was more bad than good.

Letting Discipline In From The Cold
One thing I really liked about wrath is how they made alot of classes more viable for raiding. They had taken steps towards this already in BC, leaving the clear cut roles everyone had in Vanilla behind, and continued on this track in Wrath. This meant alot of specs and classes suddenly found a whole new set of things to do. You didn't have to tank as a warrior and you didn't have to heal as a priest. I was the most happy about the changes made to discipline, making them a viable and awesome raid healing spec. Before Wrath, Disc was more of a pvp spec and I didn't play it much (since I never pvpd). Come Wrath I was eager to try it out and was really happy when it turned out to work beyond expectations. I mained disc for a long time during the beginning of wrath before I returned to holy, and then finally back to disc towards the end of Wrath. I'm not sure what I will focus on come Cataclysm, I feel like both disc and holy are at a pretty good place and both have some problem areas that need to be resolved. Archangel doesn't affect absorbs - fix nau! Holies have mana issues - please fix, it's affecting our entire healing throughput.

Grinding Rep Through Instancing
One thing I never did back in BC was grind rep. Rep has always been a fairly important part of the game, and I don't mind that at all. But I don't want to spend 50 hours grinding tigers to become honored with a certain faction to be able to enjoy the game. The way it worked in Vanilla sucked (as much else), the way it worked in BC, by getting rep through certain instances, definitely worked better but it still meant doing something really boring alot of times. In Wrath Blizzard went yet another step to make it a little easier to get rep with your favorite faction. See the thing I dislike about grinding is that it forces me (in case I want the reward) to do something I don't like for a long period of time. In wrath I could instead do something I liked to get my reward. Now I got rep by doing any instance, instead of a couple specific ones, which made the whole rep grinding thing less boring, less fast.

I don't like respeccing chars. Whenever I wish to play my class another way, like say shadow priest instead of healing priest, I prefer to just reroll another char with that spec. There are several reasons for this. I don't like having to learn a class at endgame. I feel like there are so many things you miss when you don't learn a class from scratch. And also I hate to collect a whole new gear. Collecting gear is honestly one of those things I don't love to do in this game. Especially not a whole gear at once. So when Dual-Spec came it saved me a lot of time "having to" level alts. And it also opens up a way for lowbies to be able to level as one thing, but play another in instances. It is funny to think about how Blizzard never initially intended for respeccing to be a big part of the game. In most rpgs, being able to respec at all is a big step. In Blizzards earlier games like Diablo 2 this isn't even possible without mods. In early Vanilla you were pretty punished by respeccing with the respec-cost being infinitely cumulative. But Blizzard quickly noticed how popular respeccing was among the players and made it more and more accessible. Hybrids enjoyed the idea to be able to switch between different roles, and others liked to be able to switch between pvp and pve. Love respecced a couple of times per week in BC, going between tanking, healing and dpsing as needed. I am extremely happy about Dual-Speccing, and would love Triple-Speccing of course. But maybe it would be kind of silly to be able to play all the trees of your class at any time. Or maybe not?

I play alot of instances. Instancing is one thing that really has kept my interest throughout the years, since anything can happen really. Being able to log on and quickly jump into an instance (at least if I choose to tank or heal) is probably what I do the most in WoW at the moment. Quick leisure when I want it. Maybe "leisure" is the wrong word, pugging can be extremely tedious after all. But it is actually a big thing about what I love about it. Doing a nice run is extremely rewarding, whether I dps, tank or heal and I never bore of it. The only thing that wasn't much fun about pugging was for a long time to get a group together. I often never bothered. I stayed in the LFG-channel and whispered anyone who was collecting a group if it seemed interesting. That way I could play another char while keeping an eye out for something to do on another char. The only thing I dislike about the LFD-tool is how it forces me to be on the char I want to join with. Maybe it is too much to ask, but on some characters I really have nothing else to do but stand around and wait in Dalaran for 20 minutes before I get a group. I could fly around and gather something, but I don't even have that option on some of my chars. So I mostly join the tool with my tank or healer chars. Overall I am extremely happy with the tool however, as it allows for way faster access to dungeon groups. What took over an hour to accomplish before usually doesn't take more than 5-15 minutes today.

The Events and Immersion
Blizzard implemented alot of events into the expansion which made our actions feel more epic than ever before. Phasing became a regular thing, setting players differences in progression into more focus and emphazising your part in the adventure and your effect on the world. They implemented more scripts, cinematics and other things like this to make your actions feel more worthwhile. In a sense Blizzard have had this kind of features for a long time. Killing Onyxia made her head appear in Orgrimmar/Stormwind with a herald proclaiming of some guilds victory, already back in vanilla. But that is more about e-peen than sensing your place in the lore. In Wrath we had events like Wrathgate, Algalon destroying the world, Yogg-Saron destroying minds and tons of little things scattered all across Northrend that made us players more immersed into the lore of the expansion than ever before. The only other times I have felt this kind of immersion is between expansion when Blizzard threw in some world-events to prepare us for what was to come, like they are doing now with the Elemental Invasion. In Wrath we got to see these kind of events on a more regular basis, and it really made me enjoy my questing and raiding a whole lot more.

These are some of things I really enjoyed about Wrath. If you are doing a list of your own I'd love to check it out, so leave me a comment about it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Playing Off-Server

One effect of being an altoholic is that you'll play alot on offservers. Off-server in this case means - a server other than where your main is. Playing on an off-server can be challenging, fun and horrible in many ways and I thought I'd share some thoughts on it in case you're thinking about doing it.

New Rules
First of all it is good to know that servers are like persons. No one server is the other one alike. One of the most interesting things about occasionally playing on another server than your main is to meet new people and especially how some servers use completely different systems for doing things than others. If you're not ready for this you can get yourself into some real interesting situations. For example; Most servers use some sort of score system to rate players gear. My server uses the good old Gearscore addon, which means a regular advertisement for people to weekly would look something like "LF3M to weekly, whisper achis and at least 5k gs". Ok so most weeklys don't require good gear, but merely that you know the tactics, but that's beside the point. To me this is the "normal" way to ask people to come well equipped. I won't debate whether gearscore is a good or bad addon, I've done that already. People will want you to be prepared for the raid, and will find out about it one way or another. Gearscore is one way.

But then I rolled an alt on a completely different server and saw a message in trade like so; "Tank LF raid to ICC, got 3k gs and know tacs". I immediately reacted, because 3k gs is really, really low. It is less than you'd expect from a freshly dinged, and badly geared, level 80. I found it completely hilarious that someone would advertise for a raid, any raid actually, with such a bad gear. At first I thought this was a mistake or a joke. But people kept on advertising their low scores when asking for raids. Finally I told them; "umm... 3k gs is extremely low, why would anyone let you raid with such a bad gear?". The answers I got were interesting but mostly consisted of "3k gs is pretty good actually.". At first I didn't understand anything. I had clearly misunderstood something. Turns out this server wasn't actually using Gearscore, although they called it that. They were using WoW-Heroes Score. And since WoW-Heroes are using a completely different scoring system, 3k actually is pretty good for most raids.

Me coming from a completely different server, using another system, didn't get this at first. And because of this I made a fool of myself in trade (although I don't understand why they'd call it GS when it clearly should be something like WHS). Actually WHS (WoW-Heroes Score) is a better scoring system than GS since it takes into account gemming and enchanting, which GS doesn't. But the interesting point here is that coming as an outsider there were new rules for me to learn, new ways to do things. And I had to learn them to get around properly on this server. If I had advertised my gear as Gearscore, people would've cared less as Gearscore doesn't say enough about your gear. If someone had used WHS on my server (calling it gs) they would've been the laughing stock of the day (or maybe week).

And this is far from the only rule that differs from server to server. I remember when I did my first server-jump together with some friends. This was some 5 years ago. We thought we had ended up in twilight zone since our new server had the weirdest of rules. I don't remember them exactly but I recall it being rules about what was ok to need on (which differed completely from my old server), how to complete instances and things like that. And still today I sometimes join a group where someone questions the way I handle something in an instance. "We always go this way" they say. "Well I've always gone the other way" I say. Now that pugging means being thrown in with strangers from other servers no matter which server you're on, your pugging experience won't differ from being on an off-server. But your questing or raiding experience might and knowing about these differences might be useful. They're definitely very interesting to find out about anyway. "Hmm, so you do this that way? Never thought of that...".

Some others things
that affect your gameplay when playing on a server other than your main are a little more obvious, but maybe not until you've started playing and realize - you're really all alone on this server.

No Money
You don't have your friends and you don't have your own resources. If this is your very first char on this server you won't have any money to buy fancy gear or maybe even skills the first levels. When I reroll a char on a new server I actually usually have to vendor my starting gear to afford the first set of skills. Getting money as a lowbie is actually fairly easy and you'll quickly afford not only your skills but also alot of nice gear if you like, especially if you follow the tips in the post I wrote about it. But unless you start AH-camping you won't quickly be so rich so that you can afford anything. I'm not rich on my main, but if I see some epic I want I've generally got enough money to buy it. This is definitely not the case when being off-server, and especially not once you've finally dinged your alt to endgame and want to buy crafted gear for thousands of gold. Just buying Epic Flying might be the investment for several weeks to come.

No BoA
Not having your own resources usually also means you won't have access to any BoA gear. And let me say this at once, anyone who claims BoA gear doesn't make much of a difference is a big fat liar. The 20% extra experience (In Cataclysm you might even get up to 50% extra experience through BoA gear) is the obvious part. But the BoA gear usually also has a really good itemization for your class (given you've chosen the right pieces and aren't playing a tank) and often convert to what is the best gear for those levels in terms of amount of stats. Sure this differs between classes and actually nowadays few classes have big problems with leveling anylonger. But I've compared a BoA geared and non-BoA geared char of equal level and class and the difference is huge. Measured in killing effectiviness I'd say a BoA geared char easily kills twice as fast as a non-BoA geared, counting more survivability, extra damage and less downtimes. Like I said, leveling without BoA-gear is still easy. But BoA gear sure gives an edge. Not having it makes a difference, no doubt about that.

No Boosts
Not having high leveled friends around means you won't get any boosts. This has several implications. If you really want a certain gear piece from a certain instance there are only two ways to get it, and they're both way more tedious than having someone boost you for it. You can either a) go get it yourself, which isn't even a possibility for many classes, and/or you might have to wait till you're high level enough to pull it off to make the item you want less interesting. Or b) random pug for that specific instance, potentially loosing it to other needers (which might also be ninjas, which just makes me go "yay" inside). There is an option c) pay someone to boost you. But because of the abovementioned issue with getting huge amounts of money fast, and boosters generally asking for alot of money for their time and effort (easily 10g for a run somewhere, unless you can find a bored kid who just rolled a dk and wants to pwn lowbies in an instance), few people actually think a certain item is worth it.

No Raids
Not being boosted does create problems all the way up to endgame. In fact I think that in endgame not having any contacts really begin to become an issue. When you know people on a server they know what good you are and might bring you for raids eventhough you're undergeared. Love got to join for an ICC25man raid with his newly dinged warrior. Sure, it was a gdkp run and people were hoping to make some nice money of him, but him knowing the raid leader surely played its part. And I know from first hand experience how extremely difficult it is to get into raids when you're all alone and have no one to back your credentials. People want achievements. You need to raid to get those achievements. The tougher achievements will be only be gained either by being lucky enough to get into a pug (which doesn't happen often), or by having friends take you. On most of my off-servers characters I've really have to bust my ass off to get into simple raids like VoA and some tougher weeklys, even with 5k gs. Admittedly it was as a tank, and as such it is more important than for any other class to have a nice gear, but still. People don't want to bring my 5k gs geared tank for weeklies like Jaraxxus. People weren't anywhere near 5k gs when that instance was first launched! But people want to take the smooth ride, and I don't blame them at all. But it means that you'll have to work so much harder to prove your worth to get to join a raid, and often not even being given the chance at all.

You Vs The Pug
No friends also means you have to either quest all the time or accept the possibly infuriating random-pugs. To me, random pugging has turned into something of a lottery, but one with the chance of loosing money as well as winning some. Because pugging rarely leaves you in a neutral emotional position. Either you find a great group, and get so happily suprised that you love the world. Or you end up with 1-4 complete asshats, which get you so annoyed you want to punch them through the screen. Interestingly enough I often end up with groups that consist a little bit of both. And with a lot of meditation, finding my inner peace and following my pointers on how to survive the random pug I nowadays rarely get out of a pug angry, as I often did before.

Sweet Silence
One possibly good thing about being all alone on a server is that no one will bother you. If you're one who loves to chat and comment everything you do while playing this could be a problem, but you could always join some guild on your off-server to solve this of course. I rarely do since I can vent all my joys, frustrations and thoughts on Love and so I don't feel left out even when I am playing alone. Also now that the new friend system lets you chat cross-server this has definitely become less of a problem. But if you're an officer or a guild leader or otherwise often have a lot of people who ask for your attention when you're playing on your main or on your main server, playing on an off-server can really come as a peaceful vacation (funny since all of WoW should be relaxing really).

Not having anyone but yourself to rely on can really come as a fun challenge as well. Having to start everything from scratch could sound scary or tedious, but if you succeed it's often more rewarding. Not having BoA means you'll be all the more happy with some crappy blue. Not having friends to boost you will make you the more pleased when you kill that nasty elite all by yourself. One could argue if it's really happyness when you get happy about something crappy just because you can't reach what is really good. But I think as long as you're having fun that philosophical blahblah really doesn't matter.

So to conclude, playing on an off-server means;
  • New "social" rules to learn
  • No boosts (unless you pay a hefty price)
  • Not being able to buy anything you want
  • Accepting defeat and your limitations
  • Being a social outcast (at least at a beginning)