Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More on Attunements

Why have attunements?

Attunements are useful when the answer to "Are we ready for X?" is not obvious. For example, you are ready for Gruul when you've beaten High King Maulgar. You're ready for Magtheridon when you've beaten Gruul. You're ready for Scarlet Monastery when you hit level 35. If you can ask the question, and get a one-sentence answer from someone, attunement is not necessary.

However, the question of "Are we ready for Karazhan?" is a lot more complex, and generally involves discussing relative gear levels. That's why the attunement process works. If your raid can do the attunement chain together, especially Black Morass, your raid is ready to try Kara. They may not blow through it in a single night, but you won't be out of your league either.

Similarly, "Are we ready for heroics?" is another good question. Reputation is a decent stand-in for gear level and familiarity with instancing. Heroic attunement isn't quite as good as Karazhan, because it's easy to do an unequal amount of instances, and end up with Exalted rep with one faction, while not having Revered with another. I did this with Sha'tar and Lower City reputations. Reputation is a reasonable proxy for readiness, but it is not perfect.

But outside of those two situations, it is very easy to state readiness in terms of other bosses or character level. And so formal attunements in-game are not necessary. There are already de facto attunements.

One thing I've always found--which is not intuitive from the outside--is that the raiding playerbase is very conservative. They are far more likely to err on the safe side when it comes to trying new content, or content which they think may be beyond their current gear level. Half the time, you don't need to slow them down, they will slow themselves down.

Does Blizzard need to slow down access to content?

Jehu, in a comment to the previous post, says that:

Blizzard is in business to make money, so they have to find a way to keep emptying people's pockets on a monthly basis. They know that players that want to experience and see limited access content will do what it takes to get there. Hence, beyond the challenge of the actual content therein, there also has to be a way to slow down access to that content so it is not experienced too quickly, thereby extending the amount of time a player stays "hooked" on the game and keeps paying a monthly fee.

I disagree with this statement. How many of us finished WoW 1.0 content? I didn't, and I'll venture that 99% of the playerbase didn't either. And how much of that was because of attunements? Given that attunements in WoW 1.0 were trivial, I don't think they had any effect on the inability of players to complete content.

Blizzard doesn't need to slow access down to content. Indeed, they need to increase access to existing content. Blizzard doesn't lose people because of lack of content, they lose people because the content is not accessible. Putting up unnecessary barriers just hurts this situation even more.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Attunements

Attunements are an interesting topic of discussion. They are obvious "gates" to content. The benefit of attunements is that they provide a pathway to content. You do Karazhan and Gruul before Serpentshrine Cavern, you do Magtheridon before Tempest Keep.

For most of WoW, the pathway is provided by level. At level 35-40, you do Scarlet Monastery, 40-45 Uldaman, etc. But at endgame, Blizzard resorts to attunements to provide the same pathway.

There are actually several types of attunements in WoW. First are the keys, where only one person in the group needs the key in order to :

  1. Upper Blackrock Spire
  2. Shattered Halls
  3. Shadow Labyrinth
  4. Arcatraz

Second are the initial raid attunments, where you need complete a non-raid instance to attune to a raid instance.
  1. Molten Core
  2. Blackwing Lair
  3. Karazhan

Third are the heroic instances, where you need to run a fair amount of non-heroic instances before being allowed to run heroics.

Finally, there are attunements which require you to complete raid instances.
  1. Serpentshire Cavern (Removed)
  2. Tempest Keep (Removed)
  3. Mount Hyjal
  4. Black Temple


But how many of these attunements are really necessary? The thing is that players are pretty good at figuring out what the pathways are. AQ40 had no attunement, but everyone knew you had to beat Blackwing Lair before moving on.

Would anything really change if the keys for the first set of instances didn't exist? I don't think anything would really be different, save that it would have been a lot easier to make groups for UBRS back in the day.

To be honest, out of all the attunements listed above, the only one I think is actually necessary is the Karazhan attunement. Insisting that you have successfully done several of the regular instances before moving on to Karazhan is probably a good idea, especially for guilds and players who have never raided before. Attuning for BWL is unnecessary, as most people know that MC comes first, and Razorgore will ensure that you understand this.

As well, I think the implementation of the fourth class of attunements is not done well. It's not enough to be able to attune your current raid, you need to be able to attune your entire raiding force. For example, let's say your guild successfully defeats Kael'thalas. The next day, all excited, you head for Mount Hyjal. What are the odds that you will be able to field a full raid? For most guilds, the odds are low, because you need the exact same 25 people as the previous night. But you won't get the exact same people. A couple will not be able to log on for real life reasons, and you'll need to swap other people in. Only because of the attunement, you can't. And that's just messy and saps your momentum.

In general, artificial barriers to content are not really necessary. There are already enough real barriers in terms of level, difficulty, and required gear. Keys and attunements are not going to significantly slow down the hardcore, and they just make life more annoying for the more casual players. I think that WoW would not be hurt by removing most of the attunements and keys in the game.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Picture



For some reason, Blogger is not saving the picture when I use it in the sidebar only. Hopefully adding a post with it will make it more permanent.

As an aside, why do random Kara epics look exactly like Dungeon 3 pieces? I don't mind reusing model skins, but you should never replace one item with an item that looks exactly like it. As well, collecting the entire Dungeon 3 set is an accomplishment. A player who has spent the time to get the entire set shouldn't look the same as someone who picked up a couple Kara epics.

The green-brown lawbringer looked pretty bad, but it was better than the current skins for the non-set Kara pieces.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

PvP-only or PvE-only spells

Perhaps it is time that some spells and abilities got tagged as PvP-only or PvE-only. It seems a bit artificial, but it would make balancing a bit easier.

This thought is prompted by the upcoming change to Blessing of Sacrifice in patch 2.2:

Blessing of Sacrifice now has a 1-minute cooldown.

It's pretty much aimed at PvP, where Sacrifice is constantly used to break Crowd Control for paladins. However, this change makes Sacrifice useless for both PvP and PvE purposes.

Admittedly, Sacrifice doesn't get used an awful lot in PvE. But there are times when it is useful. I use it on AoE packs to keep multiple mages up. I have fond memories of almost killing myself with it in the BWL Suppression Room. (It turns out that putting Sacrifice on 8 mages/warlocks adds up to a lot of damage.) It's also useful for controlling Greater Blessings, allowing you to put Greater Blessing of Salvation on DPS warriors and "clean" it off the tanks. There are a few fights where you can use it to break Crowd Control (for example, Maiden of Virtue, or Moroes for a paladin tank). I've even used it on the tank, to mitigate damage, if I am on Salvation duty.

It's a neat little spell with a lot of uses. It's not a spell you use all the time, but comes in handy on occasion. However, this cooldown pretty much makes the spell useless for my purposes.

The annoying part is that yes, Sacrifice is probably overpowered in PvP. Virtual immunity to crowd control is overpowered, even if you can purge/dispel it. But adding the cooldown removes it from both PvP and PvE.

Maybe it would be better if Sacrifice was tagged "PvE-only" and you could not use it in Arenas. There are already several spells that are effectively PvE-only: Lay on Hands, Righteous Defense, Taunt, Blessing of Salvation, etc.

There are probably several other spells that could benefit from the same treatment. And maybe Blizzard could introduce PvP-only spells, which could only be used in arenas.

PvP and PvE are very different creatures. Is it really ideal to attempt to balance for both simultaneously?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gruul Dead!



We finally killed Gruul the Dragon-Slayer. For some reason, Gruul has stymied us for longer than any other boss so far. Tonight everyone stepped up and we got him down in 13 growths.

The best thing about this is that we can finally start on the full 25-man content, and not worry about 10-man raids.

Friday, July 20, 2007

+Hit Caps for Bosses

Note: This page used to have all the hit caps for level 70. Because it was still getting linked and visitors, I have deleted all the data from the page, as it is now obsolete.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

DoTs, Resilience, and Cleanse

One of the upcoming changes in the new patch is that Damage-Over-Time spells will now have their damage reduced by resilience. Some DoT classes see this as unfair, because resilience is a stat targeting critical hits, and DoTs cannot crit.

I think the reason DoTs need to be reined in a bit is that their normal counters are much less effective these days. Traditionally, the downside to DoTs is that they can be Cleansed or Dispelled. But Cleanse is no longer as powerful as it once was, due to three new factors in TBC.

First, Unstable Affliction punishes you for Cleansing. It does a significant amount of damage, and the Silence effect is a killer. It is a superb guard for the other DoTs.

Second, there are several new talents which increase the chance of resisting the Cleanse.

Finally, many classes are able to apply 2 magic debuffs per global cooldown(GCD). While Cleanse only removes 1 magic debuff per GCD. Shadow priests in particular are insanely annoying for this, as all their spells add an extra Shadow Weaving debuff. This means the Cleanser is always falling behind. Affliction Warlocks use Shadow Embrace to accomplish the same thing.

As well, Cleanse is an entirely defensive action, and that means that the attacker has tempo, or is controlling the fight while the defender is Cleansing. While you Cleanse you can't use special attacks or heal. In general, because of tempo, defense needs to be more powerful than offense to be a viable tactic.

These three factors have conspired to significantly reduce the power of Cleanse. Thus DoTs need to be reigned in using another method, which is Resilience in this case.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Team Healing

I responded to this thread on the WoW Guild Relations Forums. In it, a paladin is complaining that he used to partner up with a shaman, and the two of them healed well together. However, a new priest was brought in, and now the healing in his raid has problems.

As I responded, it struck me how very different raid healing is from other areas of the game. For a tank, the game boils down to the mob and you. You need the healers, but it's not something you can really affect. Other tanks don't really interact with you, unless you need to hand off the mob in a tank rotation. You rely on the healers, but you don't really affect them. You just have to have faith that they will somehow keep you up.

DPS meanwhile is again alone, each person working on their optimal rotation. In the great scheme of things you work as a team, but when it comes down to doing your chunk of damage, you are alone.

Raid healing, on the other hand, is very much a team endeavour. You need to work with the other healers, and your healing style needs to mesh with theirs. As well, an individual healer's duties expand and contract with changes in the fight. If a healer goes down, the remaining healers need to pick up her duties. A good healer also needs to know how the other healers heal, so she can judge if it's appropriate to toss a heal or if it's better to wait for a Heal-over-Time to tick or a large heal to finish casting.

It's a curious mix of aggressiveness and trust. If you aren't healing aggressively, the other healers will take up the slack. But this will cause problems as they stretch too thin. Yet at the same time, if you heal too aggressively, you invalidate their heals, leading to large amounts of overhealing, and stretch yourself too thin.

Sometimes I think the hardest thing about raid healing is learning to NOT cast the heal, to trust that your fellow healers have the situation in hand.

You can feel it though, when you get into that rhythm. When your heals match up with your fellow healers. When you are healing steadily, but not getting stretched or falling behind. I find that the meters usually reflect this state. Lower overheal across the board, and a very even division of healing.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Seal of Vengeance

I was playing around with the damage meter mod Recount today. It's pretty slick actually, and even has pie charts.

In any case, I fired up Seal of Vengeance while working on the quest "Banish the Demons" in Ogri'la. I was comparing the newly fixed SoV with Seal of Righteousness. I have to say that I really don't understand SoV. It seems to be doing far less damage than SoR. According to the meters, I averaged around 215 DPS when using SoV, and 290 DPS with SoR. That's a huge difference!

The Horde seal, Seal of Blood, at least fills a different niche than any other damage Seal. It provides consistent damage based on Attack Power. Seal of Command provides burst damage based on Attack Power, while SoV and SoR both seem to provide consistent damage based on Spell Power.

SoV and SoR both occupy the same niche. As such, I don't really see any case where you would use SoV over SoR. And because my weapon was fast, SoV was inconsistent in its application, and would sometimes even just drop off the target, even when I was just auto-attacking.

I'm sure that SoV could be buffed to be better than SoR, but even then that creates a problem. SoV is either better or worse than SoR. You only ever need to use one Seal.

Quite honestly, I think Blizzard should just drop Seal of Vengeance and give all paladins Seal of Blood. SoR already fills SoV's niche, and Seal of Blood would give all paladins another weapon in their arsenal.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bowing to the Inevitable

I like heal. I like to melee. Hence I rolled a paladin.

It seemed so simple back then. But now, if I go Holy, I heal but I never melee. If I go Retribution or Protection, I melee but never heal. I've spent the last few months bouncing from spec to spec, trying to find something that captured a happy medium.

That medium does not exist anymore. So I need to choose: heal, tank, or dps?

The plain truth is that I am not willing to put in the effort to get the gear required to make Protection or Retribution good enough. I'm still crushable in my tanking set, despite it being half epics. My Retribution gear is terrible, and I'm doing as much damage as the tanks (though, admittedly, that's because I can't stop myself from throwing heals).

And I'm not willing to run instance after instance to get the gear necessary to bring these two specs up to the level of an average tank or dps.

Quite honestly, I'm a liability to my guild when I am Protection or Retribution. They won't care that much, but I care. So I've respecced back to Holy (my preferred 47/14/0), and I'm planning on staying Holy unless significant changes are made to Protection/Retribution.

Ah well. Healing is boring, but it's necessary, and I'm pretty good at it. On the plus side, I completed my set of T4 Gloves (I have all 3 different T4 Gloves), so I have 2/5 Holy T4 now.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Avoidance Macro

For a paladin tank interested in raid tanking, the overriding question is "Am I uncrushable?" It's usually a lot of work to calculate it, especially if you want to factor in buffs. Luckily, Raymond of Nazjatar has come up with a nifty macro that calculates your current avoidance for you:

/script DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage("Need 102.4 combined avoidance. Currently at:",0.8,0.8,1)
/script DEFAULT_CHAT_FRAME:AddMessage(GetDodgeChance()+GetBlockChance() + GetParryChance() +5+(GetCombatRatingBonus(CR_DEFENSE_SKILL) + 20)*0.04,1,0.5,0)

It's very useful when trying to build a gear set when raid tanking. The only thing to note is that in the line:

(GetCombatRatingBonus(CR_DEFENSE_SKILL) + 20)

The + 20 assumes you have 5/5 Anticipation. If you don't, you have to change this line to reflect how much defense you are getting from Anticipation (0 - 20).

(Snagged from the WoW Paladin forums. Stuff like this makes wading through all the Ret/Holy sniping worthwhile.)

Edit: Added some spaces so the macro will wrap properly in Firefox. You may have to remove some spaces if it is over the macro character limit.

Edit: Changed GetCombatRating call to GetCombatRatingBonus call. Shortens the macro slightly.

Edit: Also, you have to activate Holy Shield before using this to get results with Holy Shield. Otherwise you'll look 30-35% worse than you really are.