Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Leotheras

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I Hate Trash Respawns!

Have I mentioned lately that I hate trash respawns?

Tonight was our first night of serious Leotheras attempts. We took a look at Leo on Thursday, but our warlock tank hadn't finished collecting her Fire Resist set. We normally raid from 6:30 to 9:30. We try several attempts, learning how to start and stop DPS, healers learning how to kill their Inner Demon, etc. Our last attempt was gorgeous, except we got a little bit too excited when we hit the 15% mark. It was a heartbreaking 1% wipe.

We res up and get ready to try again, when trash respawns on top of us, wiping us again. It's now 9:00pm, and while we still have half an hour of raiding time, we have people who need to leave right at 9:30 and we have to clear all that trash. So we have to call it. I suppose it's possible that we could have cleared fast enough to get an attempt in, but there are 7 pulls before the boss, and the boss takes 10 minutes or so.

Calling the raid right after a 1% wipe, when you still have half an hour of raiding time, really, really sucks.

Trash respawns suck. Seriously, Blizzard, just remove them already. They're a pacing mechanic which doesn't affect the elite guilds, who are the ones who need to be paced. Trash respawns as a mechanic just hurt the rest of us who are moving at a slower pace or with real-life constraints on our time.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fathom Lord Karathress


We killed Fathom Lord Karathress last night. Two new bosses in a week. Hopefully this is a sign that we are out of our slump.

I have mixed feelings about this kill. We killed him on the ninth try. On the first seven tries, I was Prot-specced and tanking the priest. On the eight try, I tanked the hunter, but the dps pulled him off me. So one of our warriors, who was DPS, and I teleported to Ironforge. He respecced Prot, I respecced Holy, and we came back in and killed Karathress.

It's probable that having that ninth healer was what put us over the edge, especially for keeping the raid alive (Karathress randomly Bolts a raid member for 50% of their max health), rather than having a warrior tank instead of me. But still, in some ways I kind of feel that I failed as a tank.

The respec was probably unnecessary, as I finished the fight with like 60% mana, so I probably could have healed it as Protection wearing Holy gear. However, it was frustrating after eight tries, so we made sure.

Comment Moderation Enabled

I've been having a problem with a gold seller spammer, so I've enabled comment moderation.

For Raph Koster, this is why Real-Money Trade is different than info sites and walkthroughs. The latter do not spam my website.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Al'lar!


Finally! That's hopefully a big monkey off our backs. We killed him 2 seconds or so after the Enrage timer. Best part was that I got the killing blow!


After that, we killed Void Reaver, and then went and saw Kael. That looks like a very fun fight. Phase 1 went by very fast, and Phase 2 was just total chaos. I think we're going to go back to SSC first though.

Still, 3/4 TK and 3/6 SSC is not too bad. Hopefully we can make better progress on the back half of Serpentshrine Cavern.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Problem of Hacked Accounts

One of the major problems facing WoW today is the proliferation of keyloggers and hacked accounts. With the introduction of Guild Banks, hacked accounts are an even greater security risk. It's a very hard problem for Blizzard to solve, because the player's computer is already compromised by the time World of Warcraft is started up. I imagine that Blizzard's Warden already looks for known hacks and keyloggers, but they'll always be a step behind.

The best way for people to avoid having their account hacked is to be rigorous about their computer security. But sometimes people make mistakes. So what are some other ideas that Blizzard could implement that would help security?

Here are three ideas that I had that could help stem the tide of hacked accounts:

Remove hyperlinks from the WoW Forums

The WoW forums are one of the main vectors of keylogger transmission. It's compounded by the fact that your account and password for the forums are the same as the ones for your game. Most people will not take the extra effort to cut and paste a link rather than just clicking on it. So the lack of hyperlinks will probably cut the spread of a keylogger infection significantly.

The price here, of course, is that you wouldn't be able to link to other useful sites. I personally get a fair number of hits from the link in my signature on the forums. So you would damage the "eco-system" of WoW websites.

Make the user select a secret image upon logging in

A password is just text. You can detect someones password by detecting the keys pressed. There is a one-to-one correspondence between a key and a letter. Every time you type your password, it is the same. So we need something that is harder to detect than a straight key press.

One idea is to have the user select a secret image when setting the original password. Then when logging in, you type your password and choose an image from an array of possibilities. The location of the image changes each time. All you can really tell from outside the program is the exact co-ordinates of the mouse-click.

Since the image's location will change each time, the co-ordinates of the mouse-click will change each time, and it will become harder for a keylogger to capture the necessary information to access the account.

Safe Mode

Have World of Warcraft create a "signature" of the physical machine used to create the account for the first time. This signature would be derived from the physical characterstics of the machine including things like the processor, amount of ram, hardware installed, etc.

When a computer connects to the account, its signature is compared to the signature on file. If the signature is different, the account starts up in "Safe Mode". In Safe Mode you wouldn't be allowed to do stuff like sell or disenchant soulbound blues and epics, spend more than 100 gold, or withdraw items from the bank. Guild officers would not be able to invite, promote, or remove people from the guild.

The idea here is that WoW is basically saying, "Hey, this isn't your normal computer, so I'm going to be very suspicious." Of course, people will occasionally play from different computers, or a laptop, so you can't prevent them from logging in entirely.

As well, you would need some mechanism for changing the computer signature on file for when people get new computers or upgrade. In many ways, this idea is similar to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage, and it will have the same issues that system has.

Anyways, those are three ideas I had which could help stem the problem of hacked accounts. I don't think that there is anything (short of banning asymmetric trades, which I think is overkill), that Blizzard could do to eliminate the problem entirely. The point of weakness that allows for the installation of keyloggers and computer hacks lies outside Blizzard's control.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Short Notes

Castsequence Macros broken in 2.3.2

If you use castsequence macros (for example, to weave HL5 in-between FoLs), be aware that if your target is out of range or the cast is interrupted, the macro will "jam" and will stop working. It might start working again after a bit, but it's very annoying.

World of Warcraft Sweepstakes

The book publisher Simon & Schuster is holding a World of Warcraft Sweepstakes. Lots of swag including novels, CCG packs, and other WoW material. The contest is open to residents of Canada and the US (sans Quebec, as normal).

Loot Update

I picked up [Crystalforge Shoulderguards] last week. I went with the Protection shoulders, as I have the healing shoulders from Tidewalker. I also got [Chestguard of Hidden Purpose] from Zul'Aman. I haven't been in ZA very much, and last run was the first time I've killed Bear, Eagle and Lynx bosses.

I also picked up some mail healing gloves from Solarian. It was a pretty good week for loot.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hybrid Theory: Shadow Priests

Shadow Priests are an example of a successful class in WoW. They combine good DPS with solid utility and are in high demand in raids. They heal and regen their group while they DPS. They are often regarded enviously by paladins who wish to be fluid hybrids, to heal and melee in the same fight. So what makes the shadow priests successful? In my view, there are three significant reasons: minimal time costs; one scaling mechanism; and the fact that the sum of their parts is greater than 100%.

Minimal Time Costs

A Shadow Priest's utility comes from the spells Vampiric Embrace (which provides health to the party) and Vampiric Touch (which provides mana to the party). A Shadow Priest spends 1.5s every minute casting VE, and 6s casting VT. The rest of the time is spent dealing damage. Further, VT is actually good DPS (eyeballing it, it looks better than Mindflay). So a Shadow Priest actually spends 97.5% of her time doing damage, all the while contributing health and mana regen to her party. This means that the Shadow Priest can actually come extremely close to her maximum possibly DPS (disregarding threat).

In contrast, if a paladin casts a heal, she reduces her DPS by the equivalent amount. If she casts only a single Flash of Light every 10s, her DPS drops to 85% of her maximum. If she swings her weapon, she reduces her healing throughput, just though time costs.

One Scaling Factor

A Shadow Priest only has one scaling factor for both her damage and utility: spell power. VE and VT scale with spell power. That means that a Shadow Priest only has to collect one stat in order to maximize both her utility and her damage.

In contrast, each side of the paladin's nature has a different scaling factor. DPS scales with Attack Power, threat scales with Spell Power, while healing scales with Healing Power. All scale with Spell Power, but damage and healing does so poorly. Having multiple different scaling factors encourages the paladin to choose one and specialize, ignoring the other.

Sum of the Parts is Greater than 100%

The deep truth of hybrids is that to be less than 100% of any pure dimension (tank, healing, dps) is a huge drawback. The other side of a hybrid must contribute more to make up for that fact. A hybrid that is 50% of a dps and 50% of a healer is simply not good enough. In my opinion, the sum of the two sides must be closer to 150% to even be considered for a raid.

However, this looks unbalanced, but it really isn't. The only two successful fluid hybrids in WoW are Shadow Priests and Feral Druids. I would class Shadow Priests as 90% dps and 60% utility, and Feral Druids as 90% tanks and 60% DPS.

The hard part here, though, is keeping the class from becoming 150% in one aspect. For example, if the paladin was a 75%/75% dps/healer hybrid, what would stop a paladin from not dpsing, and becoming a pure 150% healer?

Conclusion

Minimal time costs, one scaling factor, and the fact that the sum of the parts is greater than 100% are the reasons that the Shadow Priest is a viable hybrid. You can do the same exercise for Feral Druids, and see that all three reasons apply to them as well.

In my opinion, time costs are most important barrier to hybrid viability. You always have the choice between casting a heal or swinging your weapon. If one option is always a better choice for a particular spec, you don't have a fluid hybrid.

If Paladins are ever to become a fluid hybrid, I think that they will need to be changed such that they follow these three rules.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A PvP Milestone

Friday, January 04, 2008

Outlands as a Protection Paladin

Grogin of Area 52 wanted to know how viable levelling from 60-70 in Outlands as a Protection Paladin is.

Short answer, it's very viable. I levelled from 60 to 70 as Protection. Of course, I level by questing, and very rarely grind for experience, so I don't know any specific spots which are good for AoE grinding while levelling. Once you hit 70, though, you have to go to the Demon Hunter training grounds at the Temple of Karabor in Shadowmoon Valley. It is the Protection Paladin version of Paradise.

However, there are a couple of things to watch out for. There's not a lot of true Protection gear until you hit 70 and Netherstorm. Most paladin quest rewards tend to be str/int/sta/spell damage. Luckily, most quests don't make you choose between warrior tanking gear and paladin gear. So you can use warrior tank quest rewards for your tanking set, and paladin gear for general levelling if you prefer.

Personally, I recommend levelling as Protection/Holy rather than the standard tank build of Protection/Retribution. I find Spiritual Focus invaluable while soloing, especially when undergeared. Also, take Reckoning. It's very good while levelling, especially for regenning mana with Seal/Judgement of Wisdom, though most tanks spec out of it when they hit raid content.

The only other thing about levelling as Prot that I can remember is that you get Seal of Blood/Vengeance at level 64. Try them out and see if you like them better than Righteousness. I tried Vengeance for a bit, decided it was silly, and went back to Righteousness. Vengeance can give more damage, but half the time it falls off. Righteousness is always reliable.

If you're bored, you can "twist" Vengeance and Righteousness. Cast SoV, after 10s Judge it, and then switch to SoR. You'll get SoR damage while the Vengeance debuff continues to tick. It's decent extra damage for the last part of the fight.

Anyways, as long as you save the warrior tank quest rewards, you should also be able to tank any of the instances as you level.

Hope that helps!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Upcoming Articles

In lieu of New Year's Resolutions, I'm posting a list of topics that I want to write about. I find that I have a bad habit of coming up with a topic, thinking a lot about it, but never actually writing about it. I want to write a bit more, so this post is to encourage me to actually write up the articles I'm thinking of.

Upcoming topics:

  1. Revisiting Warsong Gulch
  2. Selling Raid Spots (for Gwaendar ;) )
  3. Should Diminishing Returns from Honour Kills be Removed?
  4. Gear, Raiding, and Difficulty
  5. An Entry-Level Raid?
  6. Guild Application Questions
  7. Why Does the Shadow Priest Work as a Hybrid?
  8. My Super-Secret Crazy Idea
Hopefully these upcoming posts will be decent. As always, if you want to hear my thoughts on anything specific, feel free to email me or leave a comment.

Also, the Super-Secret Crazy Idea requires graphs, so if anyone knows a Windows program that allows you to quickly sketch good mathematical graphs, please post. Sadly there's a Mac program, Graph Sketcher, which is exactly what I am looking for, but there is no Windows version. I don't really want to resort to MS Paint or Excel.