Thursday, September 27, 2012

First Impressions of MoP - High & Low

We've finally got MoP guys. How does it feel? Do you enjoy it as much or as little as you expected? Well I doubt you would've paid for it if you didn't expect to have fun with it, but anyway. Let me tell you what I think of it.

Lowbie Pandaria
I had the choice of either nerding up my priest to max level as fast as possible or try out the new race and class. Since the former is what I normally do first, I decided for a different route this time, namely swapping between the two rather than just focusing on one. Said and done, I rolled a little Panda Monk, named by choosing random article on Wikipedia (quite handy that, this time it was a tiny island somewhere in the Pacific) and got to it.

At first the quests were pretty meh. By that I don't mean boring or disappointing, but not overly interesting or surprising either. Gather some of this, help some guy out with that, it was a lot like what we had seen already. In fact, when comparing to the Goblin starting zone I thought this was starting out a little bit slow. Obviously you will only enjoy the Pandaria zone, and the new Pandaren, to the fullest if you can swing with the whole Martial Arts and Kung Fu idea that they're all about. Fortunately, I am quite fond of that, and although I can understand and even somewhat agree with the critics who scream "Kung Fu Panda infringement!", I am actually liking the whole scenario.

It did start out slow, and up until level 9ish this post would probably have been more along the lines of "it's ok, but I expected more". But then something happened. Don't worry, this post is spoiler fairly free, unless you consider me saying that I had a blast a spoiler. Suddenly I started getting a couple of quests that were, to put it bluntly, awesomely good fun. Eventhough I am low level, they do require some skill to complete. For the first time since late BC I did not feel like my way was constructed with a newb player in mind. Doing and completing the quests actually made me feel like accomplishing something and I had a thrill doing them. Now I am not saying these quests were overly many, but they were there and they definitely upped the entire experience for me.

It's not just about the quests thought, I think Blizzard did a good job with most of the main-NPC. Some of them got pretty damn close to me feeling like I was playing with friends, and parting with them was a damn hard thing to do when I had to choose between going Alliance vs Horde. I really wanted to choose horde, I did, but unfortunately all my characters on that server are already alliance so having one little horde seemed like a bad idea. It was a choice that pained me however, and deep inside I probably deny regretting it.

I do like the Pandaren area, not as much as I did Northrend or Outlands, but it's still ok. It's beautiful and well designed. At one point a random NPC waves at me and asks me if I want to go listen in on one of the Pandaren telling stories for the kids. I think "sure, why not", run off my quest course and sit down among the kids. I get a song sung for me and a long scripted event telling me more about the lore surrouding the Pandarens. It has nothing to do with the quest I am on, but that's exactly why it makes the world feel alive and me feel special. I only wish there were more of these tidbits.

If I had to say anything bad about the Pandaren starting zone, it would probably be that the Pandaren are not half as peace loving and altruistic as their serene faces want to give impression of. A lot of the quests will have me do things I did not quite agree to, nothing that would compare to the Apothecary Society, but still out of the image I had about Pandarens.

85+ Pandaria

I barely even tried questing on release, for obvious reasons. Just trying to get the first couple of quests turned into a quest, with hundreds of people blocking the quest giver and 5-10 min lags. At one point hundreds of people were huddled together trying to find a quest giver that was actually 100 yards in another direction, but no one knew because we couldn't see what the heck was going on. I tried different things like /tar and binding my interaction button, it worked so-so. And even when I finally did get the quest, completing them seemed near impossible with glitchiness that had me pull my hair.

Trying to get into an instance did not prove to any easier
. The first time I tried it I first got stuck in what easily was a 10 minute loading screen, only to disconnect. After a couple of tries however I did manage to get my first dungeon done. They're short and intense, quite simple on normal as to be expected and quite whacky. I am looking forward to see how they work in heroic (no, I have not got that far yet).

These issues were all to be expected, and eventhough even Blizzard should've (did) expected them I do not blame them or nerdrage on them for not making a smoother launch. This is what the launches have always been like, and since things vastly improved just half a day after launch I am still happy. Other issues like every quest area being swarmed with fellow players either tagging all your quest objectives or ganking (which has yet to happen to me fortunately) is something Blizzard can do less about. They have done a few things however, and I commend them for it. Most "boss" quest objectives can be shared, regardless of who gets the first blow, and most spawns have been cranked up extremely high, for better and for worse. I've been stuck a couple of times having to fight a flood of never ending mobs, but in essence, everything is like it usually is at the start of a new expansion.

I'm not sure what to think so far. I think my problems have less to do with the fact that the quests aren't that interesting yet (and I've only just dinged 86 so there is still a lot to come) and more to do with the fact that my gaming has changed a lot on a more personal level. Most of the people I used to play with have quit playing, or scattered off to other servers, and because of this this expansion is very different for me compared to other ones. Previous expansions I used to level together with a group of friends, people I've either known for a very long time in game, or actual IRL friends. At the end of the leveling, instancing and raiding with these people waited for me and I had that to look forward to. Eventhough I am in a really nice guild now, they can't remove the fact that I still don't know them that well and that I also overall have less time to play.

That has taken a lot of the fun out of the game, so much in fact that I seriously contemplated quitting just a couple of months ago. The guild I am in is the reason I haven't yet, as they have brought back a lot of the fun in the game for me. In the end it just means I will take things slower. Playing as disc is working ok, it's how I've tackled every expansion so far. It does require a lot of smiting (which isn't overly interesting), but I don't think it's that much slower than if I had gone shadow (or that is what I am telling myself at least).

On an ending note, MoP has turned out to be pretty much what I thought it would be, but with the little surprise here and there that upped the experience a notch. I am not throwing myself at it, but I am looking forward to exploring more of it and finding out more about the story surrounding the Pandas, slowly but steadily. All in all, woW is still the good old time killer it's always been.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Theramore and the World Event that wasn't

There have been so many posts on this matter already I doubt any of you can be spoiled about what the new Theramore event is about, but in case of you have been hiding in a closet the last week - spoiler alert.

Let me start off first however with telling you what this post is not. This is not a post complaining about the new scenario (maybe just a little), this is not a post about how I think this game is going downhill and so much about MoP could've been done better. Although I can see where people are coming from with those complaints, I do not agree. I still enjoy Wow a shitload, I'm really looking forward to MoP and I thought the scenario was fun - yes fun. What this post will be about is how bummed I am about the fact that MoP did not receive a proper world event, so there you have it. But let's take a look at the Theramore Scenario;

First we did a little of this, if you were horde.

And then a little of this, if you were alliance.

Like I mentioned, a lot has been said about the new Scenario all over the interblogs. Here are some posts I've read about it and that is probably still just a drop in the ocean;

Tree Heals Go Woosh - The Theramore Distaster
Forever a Noob - Theramore Scenario and Lack of Pre-launch Event
The Light's Wrath - Scenario Impressions
Variant Avatar - Theramores Fall as a Scenario Expansion Tie In
Blog of the Treant - Theramore No More
Drunkard's Regalia - Theramores Balls
Azerothian Life - Scenarios and Awesome Things
Scribblings on the Asylum Wall - Expectations
Typhoon Andrew - Theramore Down

So if that doesn't please your Scenario-reading appetite I don't know what will. Although not all of those posts are negative about the Scenario, the vast majority are. It ranges from issues with the whole concept to lore, and I can agree with a lot of things but overall I think the Scenario isn't that bad. Yeah, we don't know why the heck horde suddenly decides to bomb Theramore, but I must admit I haven't had complete track on why any of the bad guys did the evil things they did - and if you never played any of the Warcraft games or had friends explain it for you, you might wonder why Arthas wants to kill everyone or who the heck Sargeras is. Now, I love the lore in this game but I will not go out of my way (read: out of the game) to find out more about it. What I understand from quests and short cut scenes is all there is to it and in a lot of cases that isn't very much. This has never bothered me, I realize that in games with fantasy concepts people will have fantasy motivations. So Garrosh has suddenly decided that Alliance need to get a kick in the nuts - my first impression was that this was what WoW started out with, the fight between the factions. Isn't his actions just a roll back to whatever we were fighting over back then? I could be completely wrong, but for the moment it is what I am going with and it works for me. We undid the evil guys, Garrosh is bored and needs some action. Why not?

It's working ok, but it could've been so much more.

I enjoy the idea of a non-trinity area, and I think it is working ok. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of things about the Scenario I think could be even better. I agree that it is just basically a short questing area as it is now and the bosses are push-overs with totally uninteresting fight mechanics. I think the Scenario overall is a little too stumped, I don't really get involved in what is happening - I don't end up caring. I was kind of hoping of something along the lines of the Darrowshire questline, if anyone still remembers that from back in Classic. For those of you who don't, it was a sort of re-enactment of the Battle of Darrowshire (which the final quest is also called) where you help the now ghosted inhabitants of the once Darrowshire to defend themselves against the ghoul/plague invasion. It was a questline that ended in an epic battle that had a lot of feeling to it, but mostly because of the build up until then. This is exactly how I would have wanted Scenarios to be. I am hoping the Theramore Scenario is but a wiff of what the other scenarios will be like, because it has a lot of potential.

But let's get to the point of this post
- whatever I think of the Theramore Scenario; if I don't get a world event before MoP I will be very disappointed. Incredibly even. The past World Events have been some of the most fun I've had in WoW and I still remember each and every one of them clearly.

The Opening of Ahn'Qiraj WE

Back in Classic, even the launch of a new raid instance warranted a World Event. The launch of Ahn'Qiraj was preceded by a world event so epic, they should write books about it. Called the "War Effort", it required every player on the entire server, regardless of level and faction, to chip in to be able to open the gates of AQ. Thousands of cloth, metal bars, ore, leather, bandages and basically anything you could craft had to be turn in. How about 800.000 Linen Bandages and 96.000 Peacebloom? That's just a fraction of what was needed. The factions had different goals which meant they had to work together to get there. A lot of the hand ins only required a low level character to gather, meaning anyone could help out. The guilds that were hoping to be first into the new raid obviously stood for the major contribution, having players who farmed for days to get the effort done, but the thing was that anyone could do it. Back then I was still a newb, running around on a level 40 something druid, and barely had a clue what was going on. I loved the idea of everyone having to work together to a common goal, and the final part where the actual gates opened had so many people gathered in the same place that the servers crashed continously - good fun and a mega-party. All the following quotes are taken from Wowpedia.

"The event evolved through different phases and included gathering of war supplies by both Alliance and Horde players, epic and hardcore quest chains for the elite guilds, and ultimately a ten hour long war at the Scarab Wall in southern Silithus."

I would kill a gnome for an event like this in any kind of MMO, what better way than to really feel like you're part of something bigger with other, real, live people in it? Have I ever done anything this cool outside of the gaming world? Nope (which might be sad). The only bad thing I can say about the AQ event was that anyone who wasn't in a high-end raiding guild didn't get to reap the fruits of the labor, but it was a small price to pay to be able to part of something so big.

Scourge Invasion
Another raid that got a WE was Naxxramas, in the Scourge Invasion. If you want a thorough explanation of what this event was all about, read here.

"During the Scourge Invasion, numerous high-level zones are under attack by one or two flying necropoli each"

"The necropoli are accompanied by Necrotic Shards, which are visible on the ground near each of the flying citadels. These shards are always surrounded by a large number of undead"

"Aside from the necropolis events outdoors, Scourge mobs will occasionally appear in Stormwind and Undercity. They spawn seemingly at random, causing city NPCs to yell for help"

"On November 10, 2008 the forces of the scourge attacked Stormwind Harbor and Orgrimmar's Valley of Honor every thirty minutes with actively hostile 72 elite Frost Wyrm Raptors and 71 elite Towering Horror abominations. "

This just goes on and on! See back in the day Blizzard actually took a lot of time and effort to make Azeroth seem like a place that was alive with change and things going on whether you were online or not. I'm not saying they're not trying to do that now, I'm saying they were better at it back then, and I am not normally a very nostalgic person.

Opening of the Dark Portal
In this event, preceding the release of the BC and as such the first proper expansion-release-world-event, Kruul was wandering around with a pack of demons wrecking havoc around Azeroth. It all culminated with a massive invasion force coming through the Dark Portal. Imagine another massive slaughterfest where people fought eachother as much as the enemies and you will have a pretty good picture of what was going on. It was hilarious, it was epic, I loved every second and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Scourge Invasion 2
Preceding the release of Wotlk, Azeroth was yet again attacked by the scourge in yet another epic World Event. Eventhough I am a massive fan of the AQ one, this is probably my favorite one yet. I like this one so much because it forced itself upon you. If you really wanted to you could pretty much ignore the previous world events and go about your playing like nothing was going on. This event however snuck into your gaming and made your part of it whether you wanted to or not, and in all honesty that is what I want a game like this to do to me. It started out simple with "suspicious crates" lying around. Many of you will remember this event by now. Soon people were starting to get sick, and eventually - BAM! - turn into zombies.

"Conspicuous Crates appear in the port city of Booty Bay, infecting players who touch them. "

"Plagued Roaches start to appear in capital cities (include Shattrath) and Booty Bay, spreading the Infection to any players who kill them"

"Groups of Plagued Residents begin to wander the lower level zones, attacking other mobs and players at random. "

"Low level quests Investigate the Scourge of Thunder Bluff and etc. added."

And so on, check here to see the full story

Now even if you had no clue about anything and never read any news about what was going on in WoW, you could not help but noticing that something was happening around you and to the game you were playing. Something big was on the move, and you and everyone else were going to be a part of it. This wasn't just a really fun WE that perfectly set up the coming expansion, it was also a really interesting psychological experiment. Some players went full heartedly into trying to infest as many of their fellow players as possible, while others tried to help instead. Blizzard made this into something you couldn't ignore which made it feel like something important, something that you had to care about, and I did.

Oh and this;

"Player avatars in the Forums become zombies. "

They even took it into the forums!

There have been many more WE events besides these three examples - we've got the fight for Sun's Reach in BC and a couple of smaller ones like Operation: Gnomeregan and Zalazanes Fall. Even our latest expansion Cata got a WE similar to the one before BC. So why can't this one get it? The World Events are normally server wide parties, the only time where everyone regardless of level and faction gathers to fight and play towards something bigger, the only time where we get to do something that is even more epic than fighting the bad guys in raid instances.

The only time when the game ever truly feels like it makes justice to the word Massive in MMO.

Not having one for MoP only gives me the impression that Blizzard don't even want to put in the time and effort into their own game anymore. I don't doubt they've outdone themselves in terms of awesome content - like I said I am really looking forward to MoP and think I will have loads of fun. But the WE is a very special part of a new expansion and quite simply, I think MoP deserved one.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Patch 5.0.5 - Not about priests this time

I remember my initial thought when I read about the new talent changes was something along the lines of "wee, new changes to get comfortable with, it's going to be totally fun trying to figure out how to heal again". My second thought, when I remembered the amount of alts I tend to play on a regular basis was "omg, new changes to get comfortable with, I am going to suck ass for ages".

I normally enjoy changes like these ones in WoW, I think a game that has been around for so long needs to revamp itself every now and then. Because of this I haven't really minded any of the bigger changes made, whether it was introducing new stats like heal power and spell power, turning heal power into spell power, making intellect count as spell power, mana and crit (and some other things) and then fixing the mana pools. It's all totally ok with me as long as everyone is playing by the same rules. So what if we have fixed mana pools now? I don't mind, since every caster has to abide by that same rule.

But change means re-learning, at least to some extent. And every big overhaul means I need to check and re-understand (if that's a word) every alt I happen to play (and they are many). That is time I don't always have the motivation to put into the game straight away, and an alt I don't play very often can easily be completely forgotten for another one during times like these. This time around my recently dinged level 85 paladin has gotten the temporary ignore button. I was already losing interest in her simply because she is freshly dinged right before a new expansion, and gearing her up felt kind of pointless at this time. But for some reason, the mere thought of having to re-learn holydin made me want to go back to prot, don't ask me why. We'll see about that.

I have checked out a couple of other alts however, all of which are not max-leveled should be noted and I have noticed one thing, the amount of change has varied quite a lot from class to class. Healing priests for instance have not changed overly much, while a class like warlock has changed completely. I'm wondering if this is due to me being the most comfortable with the priest class, making any change less of an obstacle to be than it is on a class like warlock, that I understand and master a lot less, I don't know. Here are some thoughts on the changes made to a couple of classes.

My first thought logging in to and trying to tank on my warrior was "oh lord, they have ruined my rotation, how will I ever be able to tank again?". Of course I hadn't really looked anything up, but just jumped straight into an lfd hoping for the best. Things got really confusing when I was lacking Rend and using Cleave soaked up all my hard earned rage. And what is this, most of my skills don't even use rage anymore? HOW OP IS THAT?! I don't know about dps warriors, but for a prot warrior I love this change. Rather than having almost every skill use rage, only a couple of key skills like Shield Block and Enraged Regeneration (if you have that talent) use rage. This means a lot of things. First of all, it removes that horrible moment 22 warriors were suffering from that occurred when someone pulled a pack of mob and you needed rage to get aggro but without aggro you got no rage. Even Challenging Shout required rage! Admittedly, with some practice you knew how to solve those situations without too much trouble, but it did turn into chaos-fest every now and then, especially when every dps in the group decided to dps a different target. Now I can Devastate something in the face at any time and I can see this making tanking a lot easier for newbie tanks.

Lightning bitches!
So they removed Rend and pretty much Cleave for me. My old rotation used to be; charge in, Rend and Cleave at the same time and Thunderclap. Worked like a charm, spreading Rend around the group for that extra aoe damage. Now we've got Deep Wounds baseline instead to replace Rend, triggering off of any of your damaging skills. Cleave is one of the few skills that use rage, and because of this I tend not to use it at all since I prefer to use my rage on damage reducing cooldowns such as Shield Block. I like this change though, giving me a real and important choice between using rage on dps or damage reduction.

One part of me thinks they might've oversimplified warrior tanking a little too much, removing a lot of fun skills I enjoyed using in my regular rotation, but on the other hand I am glad they've finally made mitigation vs damage a real choice for us not just while choosing gear, but also while fighting. And now I can Bladestorm while tanking, how awesome is that! (I will go for Shockwave however, but Bladestorm is tempting just for the lulz).

I've had a very on and off relationship with warlocking, going from having mained one briefly in BC (!) to pretty much not looking at it all through Cata. I love the complexity of warlock in BC, lost interest in Wrath when I thought they were too much like mages (ignoring the fact they have pets, shapeshifts and shitloads of cc) and when I tried it again in Cata I found what looked like an sb-spamming spec (demo) and what probably is the most complex rotation I have ever tried to master (destro). I slowly found my way back to warlocking, but it was definitely not one of my favorite alts.

Having played destro the last couple of months (mostly because I thought the other two specs were so boring), I was shocked at the level of change that it had gone through in 5.0.4. Umm, where are my dots? Where is the rotation from hell? My first impression was that destro had just lost two thirds of its skills, but remember that I am playing a lowbie warlock and that a lot of good stuff good just be lying around the corner. At the disappointment of the changes made to destro (which basically meant spamming a dreadfully slow shadow bolt and some chaos bolt) I decided to try out demo - hopefully it would've undergone as much change and hopefully for the better. All I can say is

EHRMAGEHRD METAMERPHERSERHS! That's metamorphosis for you who have trouble reading that. It's like Blizzard just had an epiphany and realized that people play demonology because they want to be really cool looking demons (which totally is the case) and made it possible to be in metamorphosis like all the f*cking time! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

After the initial glee had settled down and I was getting kind of bored of just going into metamorphosis, press Hellfire and sit back and wait, I decided to actually see if I could understand what this new change was all about (except looking really cool and doing aoe all the time). Of course Metamorphosis (which I hate spelling btw) is supposed to be some sort of powerful cooldown, but it does limit your choice in spells which means you have to think about when to use it. You can't just press the button and expect to do awesome damage, as far as I've understood it you need to alternate between forms to get the most out of it. If that is the case, I definitely love the idea. Unfortunately I don't really have the opportunity to test it to the max just doing lowbie instances (where your ability to aoe is what is really valued). Because of this I am curious about re-testing destro again and see if I can figure out how to play that, I feel I didn't really give it a proper chance the first time around. (If you're curious I'm not seeing affliction as an option it's simply because I've never liked that spec). (Ever.)

Another "ehrmagehrd" is really in place here, but I feel like one per post is probably one too many. Suffice to say, I feel like a flame wielding murder machine on my fire mage and I am completely loving it. Fire has always been my preferred spec on mage. I probably don't have to explain why I don't like arcane (hint, it's always been extremely boring) and although I've never had a problem with frost I just felt like there was a little more oomph in fire (not just damage wise, but visually and esthetically as well).

Fire has had many problems however, being heavily reliant on gear and sometimes what felt like pure damn luck. I could easily sway between awesome dps and shit dps just based on my crit streak, and my frustration would follow suite. Fire mage was so good when it was good and so bad when it was bad. Blizzard have realized this and basically, but not completely, given you control over your own Hot Streaks (that is the magic we need for firey mayhem fun) in a way I think is genius. By giving us a skill that is guaranteed to crit, we're able to get that double crit streak as soon as we get at least crit, simply by using our crit-skill, allowing us to fling out the rest of the arsenal (ie Pyroblast and Combustion). Oh and Combustion is on a way lower cooldown, making it more of a part of our rotation than just that extra bang every now and then. But our crit-skill is also used to spread our dots onto other targets, and with a cooldown on it we need to really think about when and how to use it. To get the most dps out of my fire mage now means having fast thinking and fast reflexes and I am loving it. When my dps goes down the drain I don't feel like I can blame anyone but myself, and the rotation and skill usage is just complex enough to feel rewarding when I get it right and motivate me to get better when I get it wrong. I am totally loving it.

So, what happened to my totems? (I wanted to write "Dude, where's my totems?" but I just couldn't) I was pretty bummed when I noticed that the majority of them were gone, but after having calmed down over that fact I realized that I never was a huge fan of totems in all honesty. I've probably had pretty much the same thoughts about them as the rest of the shaman community - they have so much potential, but they just felt like bad versions of other classes buffs. Blizzard have listened and removed, altered and introduced new totems into our arsenal. Some oldies but goldies remain the same, like Searing Totem, some work differently like Healing Stream totem (which works more like a healing cooldown now) and some are completely new like Lightning Capacitor Totem.

With the risk of sounding repetative, I like these changes. I miss my totems in a way (as a lowbie I barely have any) but that is only because they have been with me for so very long. I still remember having to do the totem quests to get them, how you had to carry them around in your bags to be able to use them... Totems now are more like cooldowns or special shaman buffs but it is a change that was needed and a good one. I will gladly vote the totem relocator skill to Best Skill of the Year award right here and now.

Fugly? Or fute...
What about the other changes to shaman? I've only tried resto, since my enhancement shaman is abandoned on another server at the moment, and besides the fact that it is impossible to oom at lower levels healing is very much the same. I have access to skills I didn't have before, like Riptide, but otherwise I don't feel like shaman healing has changed much at all and that's ok - I've got enough to wrap my head around as it is already.

As a tanking druid I have noticed the same move towards dps vs mitigation change that prot warrior got, only it took me so much longer to get. On my warrior I was used to using Shield Block on a regular basis and quickly figured out how the new Shield Block was meant to be handled. On my druid however it first took me a while to notice Savage Defense was no longer present and then even longer to realize that it had been turned into a mitigation skill like Shield Block (only it gives dodge instead obviously). No wonder I was taking so much damage!

In fact, my druid has suddenly got a whole handful of new mitigation and dps cooldowns (to some part depending on which talent skills you choose) that I barely know what to do with. I press one out of the many every bigger pull, hoping to make the healer a little happier. Most of the time I just feel confused, but I think I am slowly getting the hang of this.

One of the things that kind of disappointed me were the skill choices, where few seemed as interesting or good as they did on other classes. I suppose one of the problems could be that most of the skills are usable in all shapeshifts, so that eventhough they're tweaked to work better for some shapeshifts they do work in all and that makes it difficult for me to find one that I think is useful for tanking. I tried the treants, but they didn't really seem to do anything worthwhile. I tried the Typhoon, but that turned out to be mostly annoying (as I had already suspected it would). It's too many choices but because they all feel pretty meh rather than all seeming so good. That could just be me not grasping the idea completely yet, but I'll get there.

Druid tanking has changed about as much was warrior tanking, and overall I think the changes are ok. It annoys me that I need to spec for the charge, but fine - paladins and dks don't have a charge either (they do have ranged aoe threat skills to compensate for that however!). Druids still don't have a ranged silence which is a quality of life change I think we deserved. Druids feel weird, but not necessarily bad and I think I might just have to get comfortable in these new druid shoes first. It's just proving to take a little longer than for the other classes I've tried so far.

On a closing note (omg, finally) I feel like Blizzard have really tried to bring forward the essence of the different classes and specs, making them feel more separated and special and like you're actually achieving something differently from the next guy. Since I've only tried these new classes on low levels (around 50 and druid on 83) I know there is still a lot more to discover and understand before the day is over. I am definitely liking what I have been seing so far however, and can only hope these classes progress on in this direction. Good job Blizzard, thumbs up from me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Impressions of Disc 5.0.4 - Hopes before an expansion

And all the priests rejoiced and lived happily ever after.

That is how I would like to end this post. And I might, read on and find out!

So I finally did a proper 25man heroic raid to test out the new disc, which in a way is kind of like stomping around in a new pair of hiking shoes at home, because it doesn't give you an idea to whether they'll be any good when actually hiking or not, but it does give you a general idea to whether they fit or not. Too weird a metaphor for you? Yeah maybe. My point is, whatever place priest healing happens to be in right now, it's not until we're actually healing an actual MoP instance/raid that we know whether this is a good or bad place, but at least we can get an idea to whether we like these changes or not.

So do I like it?
Hells yeah I do, in essence and if you want the tldr version of this post - I feel like Blizzard has finally dared to steer disc towards proper absorbtion healing the way I had always hoped we'd be. In the beginning of Cata I was head over heels with the idea of dpsing while healing aka Atonement. That did not turn out the way I hoped, which I've written numerous posts about already. Now, I am head over heels with the new Spirit Shell and how it allows discipline to wield complete control over when to heal and when to absorb, with any spell (!). I'm not going as far as to saying that this is completely op and awesome (but not far from), but I definitely love the idea and the way it makes me feel special about disc healing.

But there was something about mana issues...
I heard a lot of concerns regarding mana, or rather the lack thereof. I had a couple of comments on my previous posts venting some thoughts that definitely had me worried. I can see where these concerns are coming from, more often than not I was struggling with mana on fights I usually had little trouble with before. But I could easily ascribe those problems to me getting acquainted with my new best friend the MindBender (which totally makes me think of Bender in Futurama everytime I say it) and the fact that my gear is so not statted (that's an adjective right?) towards the Rapture change. I see one third of the mana return from Rapture to what I used to, of course that is going to be noticed!

Yes, I had mana issues. I even had to chug mana pots like back in the beginning of Cata! And that is exactly it, the mana issues I have now don't feel anything like the problems we were facing back then. I remember playing discipline and not being able to cast more than two-three shields in a fight without ooming. We're talking about not being to play the class the way it's supposed to be played because of mana issues, and discipline were so incredibly bad back then (because even when you did cast shields, they sucked ass). That is not the case now. I am struggling with mana, but only because I am throwing shields around me like crazy like I used to. Clearly Blizzard wants us to use Spirit Shell to cushion the raid before a big hit rather than spamming out shields, and I like this change, this is exactly the kind of healing I was looking for regarding discipline. Rather than putting all the absorption eggs in one basket by spamming shields, we know have some options.

You keep going on about this Spirit Shell.
Yes, I am, and because it is awesome. With risk of repeating myself - it is awesome because it allows discipline to be all about what discipline always should've been all about - absorptions. The problem with absorptions has always been that in many ways they're better than regular heals. They're preemptive which allows you to brace for impact rather than remedy the damage afterwards. Being able to reduce the damage taken has usually always been considered a better alternative than healing up damage afterwards and Blizzard has always struggled with balancing discipline around this. They nerfed our shields some ways into Cata for this very reason, and then some more. With Spirit Shell they have given us a powerful tool that is totally about absorptions but without being too op (at least I don't think so). Because it is "only" a 15 second shield it still requires pretty minute timing, and choosing what spells to use to shield people up. But with good timing and aligning it with other cooldowns it has so much potential. I am really looking forward to finding good places to use this in upcoming raid fights.

Examples of when it's useful in DS include;
  • Before a stomp/crystal on Morchok
  • In the black phase or on the tank before Psychic Drain in Zon'ozz
  • On someone standing out for Twilight on Ultraxion
  • On tank before Frenzied Assault or during Frost Phase (if you stand in the middle) on Hagara
  • Before Amalgamation explodes or before running into Grasping Tendrils on Spine
  • Before Elementium Bolt explodes or on tank before Impale on Madness

And this is just off the top of my head.

Sounds great, but what about everything else?
Everything else, yes. Fortunately now we really do have everything else. I've always chosen not to use Atonement/Evangelism (see above), but now I get it for free. With the neat buff it has gotten it should totally be used, giving yet another level of tactic to playing Discipline that I really enjoy. Make sure to have that 25% extra healing before something nasty hits your raid and you will do wonders. Spirit Shell isn't affected by archangel, which is a major bummer. I don't understand how, because the tooltip of SS implies it is based on the healing of the skill, basically turning the heal into a shield instead. Bigger heal should equal bigger shield right? Simples, but apparently not. Be that as it may, it still gives us two good cooldowns to make the most out of.

The rest is pretty much the way it has always been, meaning that the core of discipline healing looks the same, but we've got a lot of things to tinker with. Throw in some well timed Archangels, Spirit Shells and Inner Focuses and I doubt you will be bored or have trouble at the meters. For myself I had some issues at the beginning of the raid, and completely smashed the meters on Madness, a fight I normally do the worst at (and because I'm a 'tard I accidentally deleted the logs, you just have to take my word for it). This just shows that Discipline has still got it and it just needs us to adapt and get comfortable to, to get the most out of.

Final Verdict then?
What, hadn't you got that yet? Discipline looks extremely promising! And I am not the only one who thinks so. Blizzard have handed us a bunch of tools that I am eager to learn how to use as good and as much as possible. The problems I had I could easily write off as me not being completely knowledgeable, still trying out new things and styles of healing, and bad stats due to spell-changes. The only threat I see to discipline healing at the moment is the possibility that all the other healers are even more powerful. Shamans did seem to have a field day with Healing Rain, but paladins and holy priests seemed pretty much the same as far as the meters go. Now remember I've only really done one raid to base this on, but at least that raid gave me a lot to look forward to. I'm not worried at all regarding discipline healing, and just hope that Blizzard doesn't c*ck this up somehow before MoP is released. I want discipline to be pretty much exactly the way it is now, and would only like to see some tweaks to some underperforming talent choices (like PW: Solace). Blizzard gets two thumbs up from me for now, and it will be very interesting to see how things turn out in MoP.

Sooo... everyone lived happily ever after?

I don't know! That remains to be seen. But if we're talking for the reminder of Cata, then sure. Now I will have to take a look at holy, for which I think things are not looking as peachy. But those are matters for another post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Do we need mods/addons?

So it's time to battle the mods again, or addons as I prefer to call them for no special reason at all (but I am gonna keep calling them mods because my autocorrect likes it). Typhoon Andrew asks us what our attitude towards mods are, some refuse to use any, some only use the bare necessity and some use mods to do anything, from mounting to selling to eating stuff in the game. I would probably describe myself as a lazy mod user, I normally don't bother getting a mod until someone forces it on me, either a person or the game, and then I can't play without it ever again. I never update my mods until they break however, which means I always get a message from dbm telling me someone in my dungeon group has a newer version. Some mods are quality of life ones for me, like karni crap which prevents me from picking up items I don't want (like fish scales!) or mods that auto sell all the greys in my bags automatically or with a simple click of a button. Some I consider necessary enough that I probably wouldn't play without them eventhough they don't really improve my gaming, like autobar and bag mods. Some alter my gamestyle enough for me to consider them a core part of the game, like mods that allow me to bind my healing keys and to "click" heal. I used to use clique and now I use vuhdo but I know for a fact I could not play without these mods even if I wanted to. I've known annoyance both when trying to convince a fellow player about the necessity of a certain mod, and trying to convince a fellow player that I really don't need a certain mod.

According to Typhoon Andrew Blizzard are expecting players to use mods when raiding and I can understand that. I don't know of anyone who does any serious raiding without at least one mod that affects their gameplay, be it a warning mod like dbm, a timer mod like dotimers or a key mod like vuhdo. But apparently Blizzard have now started to create fights with this in mind meaning you are now basically forced to use mods to be able to raid properly. I can see why this would bother some people, in fact I am not entirely sure I like that concept myself, eventhough I have always used mods when raiding to some extent and will defend their use vigorously if I have to. I know there are people out there who can be awesome players without tweaking their entire game with mods but the fact is the vast majority of us play a lot better with mods than we do without. But that is because there is just so much to keep track of and so much information to gather and the game just doesn't present it well enough for us in most cases.

Sometimes a mod isn't meant to help us do our job better, it's to make the game do it's job better so that we can do our job better (this is something I've written about before). DBM might help us notice that the boss is doing that special skill, because the in-game cues are just not visible enough. In some cases Blizzard have realized that a mod has been a very useful feature to the game and have incoroporated in themselves - like QuestHelper or PowerAuras. The difference is that the incorporated version often is rigid and stumped compared to the original, probably to be easily used by any kind of player. But going as far as saying that they'll create fights with us using mods in mind just feels like Blizzard agreeing with us that they're not capable of designing a style understandable enough for us themselves but have to rely on amateurs (i.e unpaid people) doing the job for them. Basically throwing their hands up and saying "kay, we're clearly no good at this, so we'll stop trying".

If we need mods to help us manage a fight, does that mean we're lazy and/or bad at playing or that the UI mechanics already in the game are too poorly designed? I'm trying to imagine dispelling on Spine without having a mod that helps me see who has the debuff I need to remove. I know that the Blizzard UI-frames are horrendous when it comes to trying to see a certain buff or debuff, and by the time I have located the right debuff on the right person, the raid is most likely dead. And this is just one out of all the things I have to keep track of in a regular raid to make sure we don't all die horrible deaths.

I can agree that probably 90% of the mods I currently use aren't really necessary for me to play the game. The vast majority of them are there to smoothen out my playing experience and save some time when dealing with one of Blizzard many time-sinks. I know this at least, I don't use mods just for the sake of it, I use them because I think I need them. Normally I get another mod because I've realized I can't handle a certain mechanic the way I need to, and try to find something that will help me do so.  In these cases I argue that mods are crucial for me to be able to handle certain fight mechanics and I wonder - is it because I need to become a better player or because Blizzard need to become better fight designers?