Sunday, November 30, 2008

Incoming Holy Nerf?

Sometimes I feel sorry for Ghostcrawler. It's looking like he'll have to nerf Holy Paladins again, and I don't think they're going to take it well.

Essentially, in T7 content, paladins are able to reach around 70% crit rate on Holy Light. With Illumination, that works out to max rank Holy Lights that are 42% cheaper, and thus can be spammed. Remember that this is the first level of raid content, and it's only going to get worse.

I wonder what form the nerf will take. Another hit to Illumination? Making the Retribution crit talents only work with melee attacks? Maybe lower the intercept on the crit rating equation so that it starts very negative, but still increases at the current rate.

In my opinion, what really needs to happen is for the +crit talents in Holy, along with Divine Favor and Divine Illumination, to be removed and replaced with new talents. There is too much of an emphasis on saving mana in the Holy tree, and so far, it always ends badly. The talents really need to encourage the paladin to spend mana. Of course, I doubt a Holy tree revamp is coming anytime soon.

80!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Warhammer Online: Contribution Shocker!

According to Wizards & Wenches, Warhammer players have figured out how contribution in public quests and keep sieges is measured:

Now we know how contribution is calculated. It’s so shockingly simple, so obvious we wonder why we didn’t figure it out a long time ago. It isn’t.

See, instead of actually measuring all the data players do during Public Quests to find out who contributes the most every player is making a roll when they enter a zone, and that roll is your contribution that appear. It doesn’t weight all your healing, all your damage, all your buffing, or everything that make you more worthy of a reward than a player standing AFK in a corner. It’s just random. The roll remains until you zone so you will get the same contribution in both Keeps unless you relog or someone with higher roll enters the PQ area.

Wow. Honestly, I'm speechless. What do you say to something like that? The evidence presented in threads on the discussion forums looks solid to me.

This is a blunder on par with Age of Conan's "females do less dps than males because their animations are slower" bug.

Quick Taunt Macro

Quick macro idea to handle both Hand of Judgement and Righteous Defense:

/cast [harm] Hand of Judgment; [mod:shift][help] Righteous Defense

It casts the single target taunt if you are targeting an enemy, and Righteous Defense otherwise. If you press the Shift key, it should always cast Righteous Defense.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hand of Judgement

From Ghostcrawler:

7) Hand of Judgement - All paladins receive a single-target, 30 yard taunt on an 8 sec cooldown. This spell also does minor Holy damage in order to break CC and the like for pulling ease.

First off, the name is terrible. Hand spells are minor buffs cast on friendly allies. This is not a Hand spell. Naming a taunt "Hand of Judgement" makes as much sense as naming it "Blessing of Judgement". Also, Judgement is a poor word to use, as Judgement already has a very specific paladin use. This is just going to be confusing. Name it "Condemn" or "Rebuke" or anything interesting. Heck, name it "Crusader's Defense" and let it match the other taunt.

To be honest, Blizzard is really overusing the words "Divine", "Judge", and "Righteousness" when it comes to paladin ability names.

Second, I have no problem with the taunt part. I can see the argument there, even if I think the cases where RD fails can be worked around.

Third, this is an opinion that is not going to be popular with most paladins, but I think the ranged pull part is a mistake. Back in 2006, I wrote a post called Restrictions are Good, and it covers most of my arguments.

Weaknesses are important in design, and one important paladin weakness is that we don't get a baseline ranged pull. We have to learn to compensate for that, to learn how to body-pull, to fight multiple mobs at a time, to use our cooldowns to reset the fight.

Not having a ranged pull makes the paladin gameplay different from the other classes. Especially the solo experience. It makes us value different tactics, to identify spots where we can catch flying mobs. Weaknesses make the game interesting.

And to be honest, I think having a ranged pull is unnecessary. Blizzard cannot make a mob that has to be fought at range, because there are multiple classes that cannot kill it (Warrior, Rogue, Paladin, and maybe Deathknight). Every mob must close to melee range to be killable. If a flying mob can close to melee range after the pull, it can also path close to melee range during its normal patrol.

As well, Blizzard can always add a quest item to help. Consider one of the very first quests in Borean Tundra, where you use a net to knock a Scourge flyer out of the sky. The very few cases where a ranged pull is absolutely necessary can be worked around.

Maybe it is inconvenient. But it makes for a different experience than the other classes, and that difference is worth preserving.

Of course, now that Ghostcrawler has announced the ability, he cannot pull it or he will torn to shreds by paladins on the forums. Regardless, it is my opinion that giving paladins a baseline ranged pull is a mistake.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Divine Shield and Avenging Wrath

Blizzard's solution to the interaction between Divine Shield and Avenging Wrath is very clunky. I'm going to present a solution that I believe is far more elegant and simple.

First, as always, let's take a step back. Exactly what are the problems here. I think there are two problems here.

Problem 1: Chaining Immunities

Paladins have three immunity spells (going to list the upcoming versions):

1. Divine Protection - 50% less damage taken for 12 sec, 100% damage dealt
2. Divine Shield - 100% less damage taken for 12 sec, 50% damage dealt
3. Hand of Protection - 100% less physical damage taken, 0% physical damage dealt and melee attacks

Basically, casting these abilities back-to-back is overpowered, especially the case where multiple HoPs are tossed on a mage or warlock.

Forbearance is a good solution for this, and should be kept. Personally, I think a 1 min Forebearance is more than long enough, as the real concern is an immunity immediately coming after another immunity.

Problem 2: Burst Damage Dealt While Immune

Generally, a paladin should not be able to completely kill someone while immune. Blizzard has made a good start by making the immunities have a flat reduction. However, Avenging Wrath increases the paladin's burst damage, hence the effort to make Avenging Wrath mutually exclusive with the Immunities.

However, AW does not necessarily have to be absolutely exclusive. The combination just has to be weak enough such that the paladin cannot deal enough damage to burst someone down.

A better solution would be to increase the damage penalty of Divine Protection and Divine Shield slightly. (Hand of Protection is fine, as you can't make physical attacks.) Divine Protection should reduce the damage the paladin deals by 20% and Divine Shield by 60%. 80% of total damage is still enough for Prot to maintain a decent threat output, and is a small price to pay for the damage reduction. And really, for Divine Shield, the paladin doing 40% or 50% damage is not a big difference for a primarily defensive ability.

But if you add AW into the picture, a paladin with Divine Protection does 0.8 * 1.2 = 96% damage. With Divine Shield, she does 0.4 * 1.2 = 48% damage. Note that both of these numbers are less than the proposed official versions. If the proposed version is correctly balanced, the new version cannot be overpowered.

This solution is clean and simple. Avenging Wrath is completely separate from the Immunities. You can use it whenever you want, without having to worry about Forbearance. Each problem has it's own separate solution, and there are no clunky and complex cooldowns to worry about.

Edit: Oops, Divine Shield, not Divine Storm.

Upcoming Paladin Changes

Ghostcrawler posted some changes coming to the paladin class. Here they are, slightly out of order, with some commentary:

1) Divine Protection no longer causes an attack penalty. Divine Shield's penalty was changed to 50% less damage done by the paladin.

2) Sacred Duty: This Protection talent no longer affects the attack penalty of Divine Shield and Divine Protection, but grants additional bonus Stamina.

Good, though obvious, changes. Did we need additional stamina? I doubt the Prot paladins will complain though. It's kind of odd though, we spent TBC as high Avoidance due to uncrushable, and have now morphed to extreme Mitigation tanks.

4) Judgement of Wisdom now returns a percentage of base mana instead of a percentage of max mana.

5) All mana drain effects now return a percentage of max enemy mana (making mana drains less punishing to paladins and other characters without large mana pools.)

This is a good change for a world where a few mana-using classes have stopped using Intellect.

6) Judgements of the Pure: This Holy talent now increases the damage done by Seals and Judgements.

Of course, rather than actually fixing the botch job they did on the Seals, Blizzard puts a band-aid on it and calls it a day.

Still, beggars can't be choosers, and Holy is definitely going begging these days.

7) All paladins receive a single-target taunt (name TBD) as a base ability.

My suggestion for a name was "Guardian's Challenge". However, on maintankadin, someone suggested "Rebuke" and I really like that. It's short, snappy, slightly exotic, and has great religious connotations.

3) Avenging Wrath, Divine Shield, Divine Protection, and Hand of Protection have a shared, 30-second cooldown. The Forbearance effect is no longer triggered by Avenging Wrath.


Sigh. I really wish Blizzard would put some more thought into their paladin fixes. Locking out a Hand which we primarily cast on other people is not a good move.

Second, this solution doesn't fix AW + HoP if the HoP is cast by a second paladin. Though given that you cannot attack, it may not be such a big issue. And Forbearance still prevents back-to-back immunities.

I think HoP could be removed from this shared cooldown without much harm. Still, the whole situation with cooldowns and forbearance seems very jury-rigged to me. I'm sure there's a better, simpler solution.

Edit: Ghostcrawler clarifies:
You can use Hand of Protection during the internal cooldown, just not on yourself. The idea is to prevent the paladin from being able to combo damage immunity. We want you to still be able to use it on others.

I don't really understand how this is going to work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ask Coriel: Help With Healing Heroics

Jinkadink of Mannoroth asks:

I decided to spec holy to get in groups. I was wondering if you had any guidelines in terms of what stats to shoot for, for heroics. Right now I'm about 1100 +spell, 15% crit, 115 mp5 (without BoW). From what I've read on EJ I should be stacking int wherever possible, but I feel like my mp5 is really low. Although I have so much mana (13k unbuffed) I'm not sure running out is an issue, unless the fight goes beyond 5 minutes.

I did manage to heal heroic UK with two early wipes due mostly to my newbness (remembering to use Lay of Hands would have prevented both). I just got the feeling that I was undergeared while running it because I was really struggling to keep up with the tank on most pulls and I rarely ever had time to heal anyone else taking damage.

I haven't really healed with the new 3.0 talents, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

EJ focuses on Int because both Replenishment and Divine Plea work of 'Total' Mana. So if you increase your Total Mana, you regenerate more. Add to that the extra spellpower and crit, and you can see why EJ is promoting Int over Mp5. Now, in a heroic, you might not have Replenishment, and you might not use Divine Plea as often, since the fights are shorter. So the value of Int is less.

However, looking at your stats, I think you need more +healing. EJ kind of takes it for granted that you are trying to stack as much +heal as possible, even if they don't explicitly mention it. 1100 seems rather low for an 80 attempting heroics. I would really focus on +heal, and not worry about regen as much.

As for the situation you are having trouble with, that's what Beacon of Light was made for. It's a new tool, so it will require practice. But try and keep it on the tank as much as you can, especially in boss fights. It will allow you to heal the other party members and still keep the tank up.

Remember to Judge (use a focus macro) to keep the Haste bonus up.

/cast [target=focus] Judgement of Light

(You can set your focus with the /focus command, or bind it to a key in the Options menu.)

Also, I would advise using the glyphed Seal of Light, as that would make your spells more powerful. You sound to me like you are fine with managing your mana, but you need your heals to be more powerful, to do more healing-per-second. The cure for that is more +heal, and to a lesser extent, more +haste.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Howling Fjord

I finished off Howling Fjord a couple days ago, hitting 74 in the process. Thus far I'm pacing about 2 levels a zone, which is a pretty good rate.

Howling Fjord is a really good zone. Borean Tundra was a good zone too, but in a lot of ways Borean Tundra represents "pop culture" WoW. There were a lot of fun quests, and in-jokes with D.E.H.T.A. and the gnomes. Heck, there was a quest to make wolves poop. The magic quests are closer to the "technological" feel of Warcraft magic, rather than the mythic feel (very shields and sensors sort of imagery). Even the regular quests were very much in line with WoW 1.0, but superbly polished. There's nothing wrong with Borean Tundra, but it's very much the WoW we know.

Howling Fjord, on the other hand, "echoes" a bit more. The Vrykul storyline touches a lot of real world mythologies, from the obvious Norse flavour to King Arthur (the sleeping king) to the Nephilim of the Judeo-Christian tradition. In particular, the quests to go into the spirit world and see history are superb, especially the way the Lich King is integrated into the first one.

The story is more martial, and there are fewer pop culture jokes. There is a greater sense of wilderness, especially with the homesteaders in Fort Wildervar. As well, Howling Fjord throws you into the fight as soon as you arrive, and that makes everything seem more immediate. The music is awesome, and perfect for the zone.

Plus, there were pirates. And Tuskarr. I love the Tuskarr, their voices are just perfect. The quest to get the reef cows to mate (after you kill Big Roy) is hilarious. The pirate quests were very funny, especially the elf-loving pirate and his girlfriend. But even the pirate and Tuskarr quests had that strand of death and loss running through their quests.

Blizzard did a superb job with Howling Fjord.

As an aside, you ever notice that dwarf quest-givers are crazy? It's sort of unexpected, because you expect them to be level-headed and down to earth. You see a gnome with a quest, you know it's going to get really weird. Humans will give you solid, traditional quests, and Night Elves will give you hippie save-the-whales or deeply tragic quests.

But dwarves give you quests that start out normal and sensible, and yet somehow you end up like this:

Dwarf Lieutenant (after several perfectly reasonable Vrykul quests): Navigating the steep bluffs of Howling Fjord can be nerve-racking! I've come up with a solution to ease that burden by utilizing vrykul technology and dwarven ingenuity.

Me: Umm.


Guard Captain Zorek: You are insane, Coriel! What kind of degenerate would actually launch themselves from a harpoon gun as a method of travel?

Me: I blame the dwarf.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Retribution Tanking

Judd W asked for some tips on tanking as Retribution. So here are some. Retribution tanking works pretty well in 5-mans, as Protection armor now has a fair amount of strength on it. Your biggest problem is that you are missing most of the mitigation talents, so your healer has to be prepared.

  1. Make sure Righteous Fury is always up. Because Ret has extra threat reduction from Fanaticism, keeping RF up is crucial. I refresh RF if it goes below 10 minutes.

  2. Wear Protection Armor and a high-DPS 1-hander. Stamina, Defense, and Strength are your key stats. I've found that good tanking gear usually comes from instances, though there is a little bit as quest rewards. There are also some decent crafted pieces.

  3. Pulling can be hard. Pull with Repentance if you can. Otherwise body-pull if it is safe, or get another class to pull for you, and drop a Consecration to pick up the mobs.

  4. I prefer using Seal of Vengeance as you can switch targets while the Vengeance stack ticks away. You'll have to switch targets a bit more often than Protection.

  5. Ability preference is something like: Consecration, Judgement, Divine Storm, Crusade. Emphasis on Holy damage that can hit multiple targets.

  6. Don't forget about Divine Protection. It's really powerful now for reducing damage at crucial points, especially early on large pulls, where you have multiple mobs beating on you.

  7. Righteous Defense is actually pretty useful with the new threat display. As soon as one of your teammates highlights in red, you can select them and RD. You don't have to find the mob that is actually attacking them. This is invaluable on larger, more chaotic pulls.

  8. Unlike Protection, a lot of your threat comes from active abilities, not reactive abilities. As well, you have Judgements of the Wise, so you don't need healing to regenerate mana through Spiritual Attunement. This means that you and your teammates can use stuns liberally, and still maintain high levels of threat.

Realistically, tanking as Retribution is not a whole lot different than tanking as Protection for 5-mans. Make sure your healer knows that you might be a bit squishier than normal so she is prepared. Tab around a bit more to maintain threat on multiple mobs. Stun early, stun often.

I personally wouldn't advertise myself as a tank. But I would offer it as an option if the group is having trouble finding one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Repentance

I forgot to mention that the new Repentance is very useful, especially when tanking as Retribution.

It gives you a ranged pull that's also Crowd Control. It's like sheep-pulling, only the mobs run towards the tank instead of the mage.

I'm so used to Repentance being mediocre in PvE that I didn't even have it on my bar and was just body-pulling. Then there was a pull where I could not get close, and I remembered Repentance had been changed, so I pulled it out and it worked beautifully. I used it a lot for the rest of the instance.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Borean Tundra and Initial Notes

I finished up Borean Tundra today. Coriel is now 72. I did take a brief detour to Howling Fjord and did the first few quests so that I could do Utgarde Keep. I've done both Utgarde Keep and Nexus now, tanking as Retribution (in protection gear).

Tanking as Retribution isn't too bad, but you're definitely squishier, and sometimes your health can drop very fast. I'm thinking about switching to Protection, but I like Ret for general solo questing.

One thing about Retribution soloing is that it is much easier with Seal of Command. Seal of Blood does more damage, but the recoil means you have to keep healing yourself, and if you're not paying careful attention, your health can drop to dangerous levels. I skipped SoC at level 70, and I'd be questing, and then I'd look at my health and be below 20% for some reason (probably serveral SoB/JoB crits in a row). I picked up SoC at 71 and it's been much smoother.

The quests in Borean Tundra are well done. I especially liked the D.E.H.T.A. quests, especially the one where you free trapped mammoth calves, and they trumpet at you. (Also, the quest reward [G.E.H.T.A.] was hilarious.) The big cutscene quests were very well done, with a really nice integration of lore in regular questing.

I also really liked how the different camps had different flying options. The drakes from Coldarra, and especially the planes from the Fizzcrank Airbase.

The only negative was the torture quest in Amber Ledge.

Other than that, it was a great entry zone, and I'm looking forward to Howling Fjord, which is where I'm headed next.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Torture Quests

The quest The Art of Persuasion in Borean Tundra was a bad call on Blizzard's part.

I was okay with the Death Knight torture quest because it fit the Death Knight thematically. But this one is just out of place. Especially ironic considering the quest giver states, "You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain 'extreme' measures - even in desperate times such as these" as the reason he is handing the prisoner over to you to be tortured.

My immediate thought was, "Hello, paladin here!"

It's especially annoying because it's on the main line to Coldarra and the Nexus. If you don't do this quest, you pretty much miss out on the entire Malygos conflict.

As I said before in Stories, Wrong Choices and Death Knights, there is a difference between single-player Western RPGs and MMOs. MMOs must have a shared reality and thus our choices are dictated by the quest designer. The quest designer therefore has the responsibility of making sure our actions are at least somewhat acceptable.

This quest crosses that line, and is a failure on the part of the quest designer.

(Also, you'd think mages would have a spell to force people to tell the truth. That seems like a very common spell in fantasy.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Regarding First to 80

Dear people on General Chat/Forums,

Ever notice how anyone who plays more than you has no life? And anyone who plays less than you is not dedicated enough to deserve epics?

It's amazing how you managed to hit that perfect balance.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

First Day in Wrath

I picked up Wrath at lunch today. After installing I logged on to an 800-person queue for Sargeras. I quickly switched to Skywall, which only had an 80-person queue. I took my hunter to Howling Fjord and did a few of the quests. Then I realized that I really wanted to play my paladin first, so I went back to Sargeras. By this time the queue had grown to 1300 people.

A long time later, I logged in with Coriel and started doing the Borean Tundra quests. Borean Tundra is a bit more crowded than Howling Fjord, but not too bad.

For now, I've decided to go with Retribution and mostly solo. I've decided not to rush to 80, but take my time. To that end, I've turned off Instant Quest Text. It actually does make a difference in immersion, I find. With Instant Quest Text, I barely read the quest, but having the text fade in forces me to slow down, to actually read the backstory behind the quest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Here's to You, Marshal Windsor

With the return of King Varian Wrynn to Stormwind, one of WoW's greatest quest events is no more. I speak of the quest The Great Masquerade, where Marshal Reginald Windsor marches through the streets of Stormwind, and exposes Lady Katrana Prestor as the black dragon Onyxia.

This event was more than most other events in WoW. In a lot of ways, this was WoW's Triumph of the Legions, the ticker-tape parade for the conquering heroes. There are a lot of elements that made this event so special.

First was the decision to put the capital city right next to the starting areas. This meant that there was a whole range of player levels in Stormwind when the event takes place. I remember first seeing it as a very young player, seeing a group of max level players walking through Stormwind in their shiny high-end armor, with the guards all saluting. This event never failed to attract a crowd of people to see the fuss, really emphasizing the sense that this was truly a parade.

From the other side, a player usually completed this quest chain as they hit endgame. In many ways, it functioned as the dividing point, the graduation ceremony, between leveling and the endgame. This quest was the reason the Walk key needed to exist. As well, unlike the raid events, this was accessible to just about everyone. It was also the culmination of a long chain, and Jailbreak was not a trivial quest, so the parade was a worthy reward for the effort.

I think events like these, where the player gets to show off--to strut a bit--in front of the other players are important. It provides incentive and aspiration to the lower level players, and acknowledges the effort of the higher level players. Events like the hanging of Onyxia's or Nefarion's head. I don't think the Burning Crusade really had anything, other than maybe Magtheridon's Head and Kael. But so few people did those bosses, that it didn't have the same feel.

As well, I think the "graduation ceremony" feel, at the edge between 5-man and raid content was important. We mark important transitions with ceremonies, and I think TBC could have used a similar ceremony between raiding and levelling.

I'm kind of sad that the event has gone away, but with 20 extra levels, it doesn't have the same impact it once had. Still, here's to you, Marshal Windsor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Akoha: Playing It Forward

While we wait for Wrath, let me take the opportunity to point you to a new type of game.

One of my friends is involved with a startup, Akoha. Akoha is described as the "world’s first social reality game where you can earn points by playing real-world missions with your friends." It's still in Beta, and is looking to launch sometime in the new year, I believe.

Essentially, you start with a pack of cards. Each card has a mission on it, a mission ID number, and is worth X points. Missions are real world activities like (looking at my pack):

  • Donate an Hour of Your Time (200 points)
  • Invite Someone for Coffee (175 points)
  • Thank Someone (125 points)
  • Give a Compact Fluorescent Bulb (200 points)
(Yeah, it's got a heavy starry-eyed, young, urban 20-somethings influence, but they mean well.)

You do your mission with someone in your real world, and give her the card. She goes onto the Akoha website, and enters the mission id, confirming that the mission passed from you to her, and everyone gets points. There's options to enter more details, and pictures/video of the event. Then she can "play it forward" and passes the mission on to someone new, and the process repeats itself. You can see nice maps and graphs of how your mission gets passed around the world.

It's an interesting idea, especially the way it attempts to mix the real world with the internet. It's also an interesting attempt to promote people being nice towards each other, an altruistic game instead of a zero-sum competitive game.

Of course, coming from the MMO world, I have a little more cynical bent, and it's interesting to see the divide. I briefly held the highest score in the game after bouncing a single mission back and forth between two accounts umpteen times. To me it seemed obvious that someone would try that, would try to grief and/or cheat.

I'm also a little concerned about how they plan to make money. Personally, I'm a fan of the Blizzard model. I give Blizzard money and Blizzard keeps the servers running. It's very simple, and everyone understands their part. These Web 2.0 social networking games/sites, I have no idea how the money flows, and that is a bit worrying.

Heh, here's an exchange that illustrates the divide between gamers and non-gamers. There's a forum where people can suggest new missions.

Someone Else: How about a "Make Love to Your Lover" mission, to show them that they are truly special.
Me: This is going to suck when it gets "played forward."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lack of Paladin Enthusiasm

There's a distinct lack of enthusiasm among paladins these days. Which is sort of odd. More than any other class, Wrath of the Lich King is our expansion. We follow Tirion Fordring to Northrend, to defeat Arthas, the fallen paladin who killed Uther the Lightbringer. All the paladin lore comes to a head in this expansion.

The paladin community should be pumped, should be excited. But it really seems like we're not. Instead, you have paladins quitting, and the sense in the community is more one of resignation than true excitement. It really looked like Blizzard was going to fix us. Instead, they went half-way, stopped, and then nerfed us "to the ground, baby." Put a few band-aids here and there, and called it an expansion.

I canceled my subscription ten days ago. I'm really not sure if I'm going to pick up Wrath. I probably will, just because I have nothing else to do. This time, though, I sort of wish I did have something better.

These are just random thoughts on the three specs:

Holy

Boring spam. Good luck soloing with Holy. Blizzard revamped the Judgement system, but did not fix the Seals. Seal of Righteousness is pulling double duty as both the spellpower Seal and the levelling Seal. Given that we have zero spellpower while levelling, this paradox is really hurting the other Seals, as Blizzard tries to keep SoR from being either underpowered or overpowered.

Paladin damage seals should go in the following structure:

Level 1: AP-based consistent Seal for levelling, also becomes the default Protection Seal at endgame.
Level 20: AP-based burst damage Seal, PvP Retribution Seal.
Level 64: SP-based consistent damage Seal, for Holy. We start getting spellpower plate around this level, so it makes sense that we get a Seal that can take advantage of that gear.
Level 64: AP-based consistent higher damage spell with a drawback. For PvE Retribution.

This setup makes sense. Each Seal has a place and an appropriate job. You don't have to try and force Seals to do what they are not meant to do.

Protection

No 11-point talent. Talk about unfinished. Maybe we'll see one in 3.1. I'm not holding my breath.

Retribution

I'm concerned about the direction Retribution theorycraft is going in. We should be talking about weapons, or debating Armor Penetration versus Haste rating. Instead, all the discussion is focusing around obscure ways to generate mana to power extra Consecrates. Using the Spiritual Attunement Glyph. Chomping Dark Runes. Deliberately taking extra damage to maximize SA returns.

I appreciate resource management as much as the next paladin. But I don't really want the best Ret paladins to be the ones who farm Dark Runes, or are the ones who can take the most damage without dying. It just does not seem right to me. The best Rets should be the ones who can pull off the priority rotation the best, or have the best dps time-on-target, or pop trinkets/Avenging Wrath at exactly the right moment. Or even the ones who can use their Hands or small spells to greatest effect.

Conclusions

Bleh, maybe I'll go watch Inuvusira's movie about the Light of the Dawn again. That seems to be the only thing that gets me half-way interested in Wrath.

Edit: Just to be clear, I'm probably not going to quit. I'll probably end up picking up Wrath and resubscribing. I think.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

On Blogging, Part II

See Part I.

Traffic

First, make sure you are measuring traffic. You can get free tools from Sitemeter or Google Analytics.

The best source of traffic are the blogrolls of other sites. First, link to other similar sites in your own blogroll. Click those links occasionally (don't spam clicks, but click the link once in a while). That causes your blog to show up in the other person's referral logs, and they'll often check the link out of curiosity. Don't only link to established blogs, link to a few of the newer upcoming blogs that you read. They'll be very grateful for the link, and more likely to link back to you.

The established blogs tend to have larger blogrolls, and are less likely to want to have to fiddle with it. In particular, it's very annoying to link to someone, and then have them stop posting a little while later. I personally don't really like linking to people who haven't been posting for a few months. Again, content is king. The more you post, the more you seem established and worth linking to.

As you write more, the more likely the search engines will start to pick you up. After a while, search engines (specifically Google) becomes a good source of traffic.

Put your blog into your signature on forums. It's an easy way to generate a bit of traffic. I still get hits from years-old posts on the WoW forums. As well, most other blogs have a field for you to enter your website when making a comment. Fill out fields like that. However, don't be obnoxious and constantly reference your blog in comments on other blogs. Just make a worthwhile comment, and if the people are interested, they will check out your blog.

Traffic builds up slowly and steadily, I find. If you write steadily, traffic will build steadily. Oddly enough, a direct link from large sites such as WoWInsider doesn't really help your traffic. WoWInsider shows up as a massive spike, and it's quite thrilling. But almost always, traffic falls from that spike back to the same level as before. The spikes are noticeable, but don't really make a difference in the long run.

So that's my advice for building traffic. Write steadily. Link to other bloggers, both big and small. Put a link to your site in your signatures. Don't worry about traffic. Write steadily for yourself, and people will come.

Advertising

I don't really know a lot about advertising. The problem with WoW advertising is that the real money comes from gold sellers. If you get Google Adwords or similar, it's a fair bit of work to filter out the gold sellers, and whatever is left doesn't really earn you much money.

I think I had Adwords for 3 months once, and I made a grand total of $5. Given the amount of time I spent blacklisting gold sellers, it really wasn't worth it, and I dropped Adwords.

Honestly, I have no clue how to make money from a WoW blog. My advice would be not to bother. I'm pretty sure a shift at McDonald's would be better value for time.

Comments

Comments can be very weird sometimes. You'll craft something that you think is utterly brilliant, and no one will say anything. They won't even tell you that you are wrong. Yet a throwaway post can generate great discussion. It's odd and hard to predict.

I recommend that you never "ask" for comments in your post. Let your post stand on it's own. It's something I've noticed, but it seems like if the post invites comments, fewer people actually comment. It's not 100%, sometimes people do respond to posts, but it's very hit and miss. Plus, I think it looks a bit sad, if you ask what readers think but there are zero comments. Write as if you don't expect comments, and it is more likely you will get some.

The only surefire way of generating comments is to insult PvP from a raiding perspective, or insult raiding from a PvP perspective. That will almost always generate a firestorm.

As to the rules for comments, I try to make it as easy as possible to comment. I don't require people to log in, or type in a captcha. Every barrier you put up makes people less likely to comment. The easier you make it for people to comment, the more likely they will comment.

Of course, you're probably worried about comment spam if you leave comments wide open. For some reason, Blogger doesn't actually get a lot of spam. I'm not really sure why, but it's another advantage to using Blogger. Occasionally, one specific spammer will pop up and start spamming. What I do then is to turn on Comment Moderation until the spammer goes away. Always have Comment Notification up so you get email when people comment. Sometimes you will get spam and normal comments on really old posts. Blogger now allows you to enable Comment Moderation for older posts, and it's been a big help.

I don't really get very much spam, and what I do get I just manually delete. Captchas and other anti-spam mechanics cut down on spam, but they also cut down on normal comments.

The final topic regarding comments is censoring/deleting comments. My advice is to just delete comments that are insulting or pointless. Try to delete such that people see "This post has been deleted by a blog administrator" or similar message. People tend to follow the social norms already established on the blog. If everyone else is insulting or trolling, then they will insult and troll, push the boundaries a little bit more. Step on it early, delete the first offenders aggressively, and it will keep your blog from becoming like the official WoW forums. Of course, it is important to differentiate between honest dissent, and people being stupid. But in general, people who are worth listening to can phrase their disagreement in an appropriate manner.

Freedom of Speech doesn't mean that you have to put up with jackasses on your own site. They can always make their own blog.

Conclusions

That's pretty much all I wanted to write about. My advice boils down to keep things simple. Write steadily, and write for yourself.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

On Blogging, Part I

I've been writing this blog for a fair while now, and I'd like to offer some thoughts and observations for new bloggers or interested readers.

Platform

The first decision you need to make is to self-host, or use a hosting provider such as Blogger. The advantage of self-hosting is that you can control everything, down to the exact detail. The disadvantage of self-hosting is that you have to control everything. Self-hosting is also a bit more expensive money-wise, but web space is not very expensive these days. The time costs in setting up everything are a more important consideration.

Obviously, I've opted for using a hosting provider. I picked a template at the beginning and have not really changed it. Maybe the site is not the best looking in the world, or the flashiest, but it's clean and does what I want with a minimum of effort on my part. I don't have to worry about databases, or hand-tuning HTML or CSS or similar silliness.

But there are drawbacks. For example, Blogger doesn't really do trackbacks very well. I've seen other sites have neat little tricks like adding the the person's last blog post to a comment. Or allow you to edit your comment for a few minutes after posting. If you self-host, you can do pretty much anything you can imagine, but it can take a fair bit of work.

If you can live within the confines of a hosted blog, I recommend using a service like Blogger. It's quick and easy, and allows you spend less time working on your website, and more time on writing content. If you ever have a choice between getting a new website feature to work, or writing another post, I recommend writing the post. Content is what will make your site. New, flashy features are nice, but you really have to beware of neglecting your content to work on your presentation.

Focus

The second decision you need to make is focus. For example, this is a World of Warcraft Paladin blog. The name in particular, Blessing of Kings, identifies the focus squarely.

Focus is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having direction makes it a lot easier in the early days. It gives you something specific to write about, making it easier to generate ideas for posts, making it more likely you will continue writing. You belong to the community that shares your focus, and that often makes it easier to get inspiration, links and traffic.

On the other hand, sometimes your interests will wander away from the focus. A more generic name and focus allows you to write about anything without being confined. Sometimes I wonder if I am still playing my paladin because of this blog. If I wasn't writing this, would I have switched to another class, or even another game? If I had chosen a different name, would that have made it easier to switch?

I think having a focus is very useful, especially in the early days. It helps establish your identity. But that identity can and will be confining, so consider how you present your focus.

Content

The single biggest thing you can do to improve your blog is to write more. A steady stream of new content is the best way to get more visitors. Ideally, you should aim for one post a day. Of course, that's an ideal. I almost never make that, and I think I average something like one post every two or three days. But I can see the difference in traffic for months where I had a steady schedule of posts versus months with more erratic schedules.

Other than that, my advice is to write what you want to write about. Don't write something thinking that it is what your audience wants to see. If you don't like role-playing, don't write about role-playing. If you don't theorycraft, don't force yourself to write posts with lots of numbers. Write for yourself, and the audience will come in time.

Finally, the one recommendation I will make regarding content is not to use expletives or put up anything that is Not Safe For Work. The vast majority of readers will read your site from work during the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday. While I weep for the lost productivity of our economy, you should generally avoid posting anything that would cause your site to be blocked by workplace firewalls, as that will prevent most people from reading your site.

Upcoming in a later post

Getting Traffic, Commenting, Advertising, and anything else I can think of.

See Part II.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Class Achievements

I was thinking about the fact that new paladins don't need to do the Charger questline any more. Instead, they can learn the Charger spell at level 61. I completely understand why Blizzard is doing this, as it's pretty hard to get a group at level 60 to do the instances. And yet, it seems a little bit sad. Getting a charger was a rite of passage for a paladin in the old days.

I was thinking of a reward to encourage paladins to do the Charger questline anyways, and it occurred to me that it would make a good Achievement. And then I thought we could take it a little further. What if there was an Achievement for each class, with the reward being a title, and each Achievement required a whole bunch of requirements that really represented the class as a whole. And of course, completing the Achievement nets you a very nice class-specific title.

For example, for the Alliance Paladins, I would have requirements like :

  • Completing the Redemption questline
  • Obtaining Verigan's Fist
  • Rescuing the Charger from Deathknight Darkreaver
  • Completing Tirion Fordring's questline in EPL
  • Do that level 50 quest, and the one involving Uther's Tomb
  • Exalted with the Argent Dawn
  • Exalted with the Argent Crusade
  • Probably some other paladin-ish questline in Wrath
  • Clear all the 5-man dungeons which involve the Scourge (including Razorfen Downs!)

Completing this Achievement would be a good way of handing out a title like "Knight of the Silver Hand" or "Blood Knight" for the Blood Elves. (Obviously the Blood Elves would have a few different quests than Alliance.)

You could do something similar for all classes. For warlocks, you could require the charger questline, the various demon questlines (including the infernal and doomguard). Druids would require Cenarion Circle and Cenarion Expedition rep. I wouldn't require anything from raids or heroics though, which is kind of sad as it rules out Benediction and and Rhok'delar for priests and hunters. But I think this achievement would be something that would interest a lot of casual players, and should be involved, but accessible.

Heh, I'll issue a challenge to the other classes to list what would be a good set of requirements for their class (either in the comments, or on your own site).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Alternative to Flash of Light

In the comments to the previous post on Flash of Light, Bob asks:

I would agree with you if it wasn't for one thing. What could you give paladins instead of designing the class around FoL, that the other healers don't have?

I would probably buff Seal of Light heavily. Something like this:

Seal of Light
14% of base mana
Instant cast

Fills the Paladin with divine light for 2 min, healing up to 5 friendly party or raid members for [A * AP * WS + B * SPH * WS] with each melee attack. Only one Seal can be active on the Paladin at any one time.

Unleashing this Seal's energy will heal the friendly party or raid member with the highest threat for [C * AP + D * SPH] over 20 sec. (Does not stack. A, B, C, D are values such that the ability is balanced and worthwhile)

Effectively, meleeing with Seal of Light takes over the mundane maintenance healing that we use Flash of Light for. We use the Judgement to maintain a solid HoT on the tank with duration matching the duration of the Judgement effect. We have Holy Shock, Sacred Shield, and Holy Light for responsive healing. I'm not really sure where Beacon of Light would fit in.

Actually, it might be interesting to use Beacon of Light like a focus target. If you cast Beacon on someone, your Judgement of Light HoT automatically targets them, and maybe something similar happens with Holy Shock (Shock hits the enemy and heals the Beacon target). Beacon would have to go much lower in the tree though.

Essentially a normal paladin would have somewhat undirected healing, but a Holy paladin would be able to focus her healing through Beacon of Light. I'd have to think about it a bit more, but I think there are some possibilities with this scheme. It fits nicely with our niche as a single-target, tank healer. Effectively we're duplicating WAR's defensive target scheme on a small level. It's not a true defensive target, but it would be enough to get some of the same style as the warrior priest mechanics (which I've praised in the past).

WotLK Death Knight Finale

A while back, I mentioned how the first thing you should do in Wrath is play through the Death Knight opening. A number of paladins mentioned in the comments that they felt uncomfortable playing as the bad guy, or doing some of the evil things the death knight chain requires, such as torturing people, or killing civilians.

I understand that point of view, and luckily, Invisusira has has made a movie of the Death Knight ending sequence.

It's a must-watch for any paladins who are not going to play the Death Knight. It's pretty much the same as the finale event, only edited slightly and with added music (the music actually adds a great deal to the video).

It goes without saying that this is full of spoilers.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Smart Heals

There's some interesting discussion on the new Blizzard healing forums. One new line of debate I'm seeing recently is the effect of "smart" heals such as Chain Heal, Circle of Light, and Wild Growth. Each of these spells are multiple target spells, but the server chooses some or all of the targets. And the choice is not random. Instead, the server usually chooses the targets with the lowest health, maximizing the spell's effectiveness.

Unlike direct heals, where the target has to be chosen a few seconds in advance of the spell landing, the smart heals choose their targets at the time of the heal, making them perfectly reactive. What this means is that these spells tend to have much less overheal than spells which require human targeting. As any paladin can attest, our overhealing skyrocketed in TBC, to the point where seeing 50%-60% overheal is common.

It's very possible that because of their high effectiveness, smart heals are a better choice than most other heals, in any situation which does not require large direct heals. As well, a great deal of the skill in healing involves proper target selection, choosing the right person to heal at the right time. Perfect smart heals controlled by the server negate a lot of that skill.

One interesting suggestion I've seen is to give the various smart heals the Beacon of Light treatment. Essentially, the smart components would only work off the effective healing done to the selected target, not the raw healing. If you cast Circle of Healing on a full health target, it does nothing, just as if you had cast a direct heal on that target.

This would once again make target selection more important, and weight healing back towards the direct single-target spells. You can't just spam Chain Heal and expect the server to do perfect bounces, you have to direct your healing to where it is needed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

On Flash of Light

Ghostcrawler posts:

The paladin has been designed around Flash of Light, just like the shaman was designed around Chain Heal. We didn't want to completely change what these classes were all about, in part because a lot of players like them as they are. We figured players who gravitate towards wanting lots of different kinds of heals can play the druid or priest. Players who want to have relatively few spells and can then focus on cooldowns, trinkets or the like can play the paladin or shaman. We think it would be dangerous for paladins to pick up Lich King and find their class had completely changed.

Sigh.

Flash of Light represents everything that is wrong with the Paladin healer. Cleric. Clothadin. Healbot. Boring. 2-button spam. Standing at the back of the raid. Completely changing the playstyle from levelling. Not hitting things with a giant hammer.

I wrote this in 2006, two and a half years ago, and it still applies today:
Flash of Light is the real problem with the paladin class. A single cast of FoL heals for a trivial amount, but at a trivial cost. This means that a paladin generally casts multiple FoLs in quick succession to actually do anything. I've heard Flash of Light described as a "channelled heal-over-time spell." And this is precisely what it is. The paladin stands there and channels her mana into the tank's health bar.

The problem is that if you are channelling, you cannot do anything else. And the essence of a paladin is doing multiple things at once! The mechanics of Flash of Light cut across the very grain of paladin playstyle. So remove Flash of Light in its entirety. Soloing will not miss it. PvP will not miss it. And PvE will be better for its absence.

If you really want to fix paladin healing, to make it more enjoyable, I believe that Flash of Light will have to be removed or drastically changed. I find it really disheartening that not only does Blizzard not see this, but they have deliberately designed the class around Flash of Light.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Protection 11-Point Idea


Glorious Charge
Requires 10 points in Protection Talents
5% of base mana
8 - 25 yd range
30s cooldown
Causes you to charge an enemy. All party or raid members within 45 yards become immune to Fear effects for 10* seconds.

Glyph of Glorious Charge
Minor Glyph
You may use Glorious Charge while mounted on a Paladin Warhorse or Charger. If you do, the target is stunned for 2 seconds. After the charge, you dismount and the battle is finished on foot.

I'm pretty sure everyone can see what I'm going for. Lots of paladin flavour, a gap closer, but no real stun/damage like the warrior or druid variant (unless you're mounted, and really, getting hit with a mounted charge is probably worth a small stun). Also, this would require lots of gold particle effects for the charge blur.

The Fear immunity might be funny. Imagine a raid fight like Nightbane where a Holy paladin charges in right before the boss casts the Fear.

* 10 seconds might be a little high. But you get the idea. The Paladin is inspiring her comrades by charging in, and the buff to friends, rather than a debuff to the enemy, reflects that. Also, anti-fear is decent in that it prevents an immediate Fear from completely negating the Charge.

Retribution Utility Idea

It's 1 AM, and I had an interesting idea for Retribution PvP utility. We'll see if it's any good in the morning.


Guilt
Rank 0/2
Requires 1 point in Crusader Strike
Requires 45 points in Retribution talents
Gives the Paladin's Crusader Strikes a 50/100% chance to increase the target's Global Cooldown by an additional 100% for the next 30 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times.

Effectively, hit the target once with CS, and her GCD becomes 3s (2s for Rogue/Cat), 2 hits for 4.5s, etc., all the way up to 5 hits for 9s. (Assuming zero Haste, of course)

It's something that no other class can do. It messes with tempo, slows the fight down, and is anti-burst. It hurts instants more than spells with cast times. Yet at the same time, it doesn't affect a specific individual spell, only how often you can cast spells. It sort of becomes a counter to the Haste stat.

I have no idea how this would work with mobs. It's probably a PvP-only thing.

Thoughts? Would this actually be worthwhile in PvP, or should I get more sleep?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

So What Went Wrong?

Blizzard is never, ever going to tell us exactly why paladin development for WotLK unfolded as it did. Currently, Ghostcrawler is publicly blaming it on some bug with weapon switching. But I don't think that's the real story. There's too many other factors in play. So this is my speculation as to how Blizzard got into this position. Note that I have zero evidence that any of this is real, just what happened in Beta/Live, and my gut feeling as a somewhat experienced paladin.

For PvP, at the beginning of WotLK, I think Blizzard made the design decision that a Ret Paladin would be high burst, but very immobile. Essentially, it would be very hard for her to get inside melee range, and she would be pretty easily kited. However, if you let a Ret paladin catch up to you, she would be able to unload and burst you down.

The reason I think this is what happened is that none of the current Ret burst is surprising. It doesn't take a genius to see that Ret was going to try to run up to someone and hit all the buttons in a row. It's not like a Frost Mage's Shatter Combo, which revolves around getting off an instant Ice Lance while a Frostbolt is still in flight. That's an example of something which is tricky, and can be unexpected if you're not an expert with the class. There's no way that any person reasonably familiar with Retribution could fail to predict Hammer of Justice -> Judgement of Command -> Divine Storm -> Crusader Strike. It's not clever or something which takes mad skill, it's obvious.

Second, consider the initial Art of War talent on Beta. It gave CS a chance to double the damage of the next Judgement. The immediate combo with the old Judgement of Command, and the resulting *eight-fold* damage on a stun-crit comes to mind. As I commented in July, when I first got into the Beta:

Sometimes I really don't understand Blizzard. Back in March, they said they were worried about Paladin burst damage. Fast forward to the WotLK Beta, and we see the following two talents: [Righteous Vengeance, Art of War].

The existence of the original Art of War--and the crit damage increasing talents like Righteous Vengeance--says to me that either: no one at Blizzard plays a Retribution paladin (entirely possible); or paladins were deliberately being given higher burst in the initial WotLK design.

So in Beta, Blizzard toned down the worst excesses of burst, but left the design of "immobile + high burst" alone. Then they released it to Live, and immediately the vast majority of the populace made it clear that this was an unacceptable design decision. The outcry forced Blizzard to scrap the "immobile + high burst" concept, and just hotfix Retribution down to a nominal level.

So that's my theory for PvP. It is my explanation of why Blizzard is just going nuts with hotfixes. That's not a rational response to a few bugs or missing the damage target slightly. If that had been the case, Blizzard would have just shipped fixes in Patch 3.0.3. It's the reaction to realizing that the entire design concept was seriously flawed and needs to be scrapped.

For PvE, I think the original spreadsheet/model that Blizzard used to come up with initial damage numbers had a significant error. My guess is that the model didn't account for Seal procs from specials.

The reason I think this is the case is that Blizzard has consistently focused on Seal/Judgement damage when nerfing Ret's sustained damage. This is despite the fact that Seal/Judgement nerfs hurt the other specs, especially Holy, even harder. Blizzard went to a lot of trouble to make it easier for healers to solo, and I really don't understand why they targeted the paladin mechanic that is most important to the healing spec (and levelling characters). Last time around, Blizzard was willing to do things like play with cooldowns. If Ret's damage was too high, I would have expected Blizzard to target the Ret-specific abilities like Crusader Strike and Divine Storm. Decrease damage, or increase cooldowns. Change Ret damage increasing talents to do something else. But they didn't really touch CS/DS until the Live hotfixes.

On Beta, Blizzard kept adjusting Seal damage down, saying that Seal damage was too high. To me, that implies that the damage from Crusader Strike and Divine Storm was meeting their expectations, but Seal damage was consistently higher than they predicted. That implies that their model wasn't predicting Seal damage correctly, and the most obvious explanation is that it didn't account for the procs from specials. That's the major change from TBC (other than the change to AP + SP scaling, which is much easier to check and much more likely to have been the first data to be compared).

This is all speculation. I don't know if any of this is real. But the paladin class is not a very complicated class. There's no feedback loop like warriors and Rage. There's no complex mechanics like Combo-Point generation. In fact, if you look at the other classes, Blizzard was mostly in the right neighbourhood most of the time, barring crazy bugs. They've been much more surgical with the other classes than paladins. To me, that says that the spreadsheet/models were pretty accurate. The biggest change I can remember is the warriors losing Heroic Leap because it was too buggy, and the top end of Fury being shuffled around. And that's in a completely different league than getting the damage numbers wrong.

Paladins are very straightforward and unsurprising, and I really would have expected Blizzard to nail the paladin numbers from the very start, both in PvP and PvE. That they didn't, in my opinion, points to deeper underlying causes than mere weapon-switching bugs on the Beta server.

Edit: Additional proof for the PvP side of things. Ghostcrawler is now posting on the forums that Blizzard is considering giving Retribution some form of utility like a snare or interrupt. This is a 180-degree change from Blizzard's previous stance on Retribution, and further indication that their design for Ret is now completely different than in Beta.