Friday, October 30, 2009

Valithria Dreamwalker

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Icecrown Citadel.

Blizzard did PTR testing for Valithria Dreamwalker today. It looks like a hilariously awesome fight. Here is MMO-Champion's post discussing her.

Valithria is a friendly green dragon captured by the Scourge. She starts at 50% and must be healed to 100%. Meanwhile, waves of Scourge are attacking, and must be held off by the rest of the raid.

This sounds like quite an interesting fight, and I am greatly looking forward to it.

It will be interesting to see what classes evolve to be the chosen healers for it. The easy assumption is to say Paladins, but there is a Druid build which can pump out more single-target HPS (single-target only, Beacon doesn't work with Valithria). Even Priests and Shamans can do large amounts of single-target HPS if they put their minds to it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Torchlight Review

Torchlight is Diablo. With a dog.

Now, Diablo was a great game, so there's nothing wrong with that. And the dog is pretty crazy. He can carry loot back to town and sell it for you, making him more useful than 99% of all videogame AI henchmen.

I'm not really sure what else to say. Torchlight is fun and polished, with nice cartoon-ish graphics. There are three classes, and each class has three trees, allowing each class to be played in a different manner. For example, the Inquisitor can be ranged weapons, assassin-style melee, or traps. The trees aren't formal trees, as you don't have to put points in lower tiers to get higher talents. You just need to be the correct level and you can cherry-pick talents as you wish.

There are some nice updates, like a stash you can share between characters. Recovering from death is interesting, as you can either: pay xp/fame and respawn at point of death; pay 10% of your gold and respawn at the start of the level; or pay nothing and respawn back in town. Finally, there's a second track other than experience. Defeating named enemies earns you Fame. As your Fame level rises you get additional talent points. That is a nice addition.

Also note that Torchlight is single-player only, no multiplayer.

But it's pretty much Diablo with some tweaks. If you liked Diablo, you'll like Torchlight. If you didn't like Diablo, you probably won't like Torchlight.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sacred Shield Nerf

The latest patch notes have the following:

- Sacred Shield: The damage absorption effect from this ability now triggers only once every 30 seconds.
- Infusion of Light: This talent now also reduces the cooldown on the effect of Sacred Shield by 12/24 seconds.

This is Blizzard saying that Sacred Shield really should have been a deep Holy talent, not something available to all paladins. However, they probably don't want to mess with the structure of the trees when Cataclysm is going to change them anyways. So the change effectively makes Sacred Shield a Holy-only spell.

I think the real, underlying strain on paladin design is Touched By the Light and Sheath of Light. I confess that I really liked these talents, as they were an attempt to retain some of the fluid hybrid nature of the original paladin.

But perhaps that goal just isn't worth the problems it causes. If Touched by the Light and Sheath of Light did not exist, maybe paladin design would be stronger. Prot and Holy would still have access to heals and Sacred Shield, but they would be much weaker, only using the base values for those spells. Blizzard wouldn't have to be doing these shenanigans to keep these hybrid specs in check.

If those two talents were gone, AP and SP coefficients would also be de-linked, and could be tweaked independently of each other, so Holy could be strengthened or weakened independently. Of course, it's too much to do now for 3.3 as you'd have to tweak almost all AP coefficients.

Perhaps the best way to retain "hybridity" for paladins would be to be specific, rather than general. For example, supposed Art of War gave you an instant Holy Light instead of Flash of Light. Sounds overpowered, but without Sheath of Light a Ret paladin would have zero spellpower, so that HL would only hit for the base heal.

This way the hybrid nature can be carefully controlled, and specific instances can be changed. A general solution only seems to result in general nerfs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On Difficulty and Guilds

Larisa wrote an interesting post on difficulty in WoW entitled Why I Don't Want to Hear Another "WoW is Too Easy" Statement. Her response sums up a lot of my feelings on this issue.

However, I've been thinking a bit more about this issue, and have been looking at guild rankings at Guild Progress. I've also been reading a lot of Regency novels lately, and am inspired to make an analogy which may or may not reflect reality.

In Wrath, I think PvE guilds can be categorized as follows (for raiding purposes). All numbers are approximate:

Royalty - The two hundred guilds which can clear everything, including Trial of the Grand Crusader.

The Aristocracy - The three thousand guilds which can defeat at least one boss in TotGC--or some Ulduar Keeper hard modes--and thus are working their way through hard modes.

The Gentry - The ten thousand guilds which can defeat regular Trial of the Crusader, but haven't been able to advance into the hard modes.

The Bourgeoisie - The next ten thousand guilds which are working their way through Trial of the Crusader. Also includes those guilds working on Naxxramas and Ulduar. Basically any guild that is still working on normal difficulty content.

The Proletariat - Our beloved casuals. All the other guilds which are levelling or making alts or doing 5-mans, and haven't really gotten into raiding yet.

At different points in WoW history, different sections complain about different things. In Vanilla and TBC, a lot of the complaints about raiding came from the Bourgeoisie, who were unable to break into raiding at all.

However, I think the current complaints about WoW being too easy are coming from the Gentry. They can beat regular modes fairly easily, but hard modes are completely beyond their touch. This means that they see hard modes as something for the "crazy hardcore" and not for "normal people". And the problem is compounded in that a lot of people who are active in the WoW community via blogs or forums come from the Gentry.

Whereas both Larisa and I are in guilds which are in the Aristocracy, which can beat some of the hard modes. So to us, complaining that WoW is too easy smacks of whining. The content is there to be beaten.

The real problem is that the Gentry is currently too large. Too many guilds are in that gap between hard modes and regular modes. It needs to be shrunk from both ends. The difficulty of the first two bosses in TotGC should be reduced a little bit, and the difficulty of the last two bosses in TotC should be increased a little bit. That should create a more gradual path. Ulduar is a fairly good example of this, as the jump from Yogg-Saron to the first few hard modes is not that large.1

The Gentry need something to work on, otherwise they will be unhappy. Ideally, a lot of them should be in the lower ranks of the Aristocracy or upper ranks of the Bourgeoisie. Too many guilds in that gap causes a lot of complaining.

1Actually, I think Yogg+4 could be reduced in difficulty. It seems just slightly too hard for it's placement. But it's not all that bad to have a hard end boss.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

State of the Blog

I went on vacation last week, hence the lack of posts. Before I start posting again, I'd like to take a brief moment for some introspection.

Blessing of Kings

This year my posting has been rather streaky. I'll post several days in a row, and then stop posting for a bit. I think I need to spend less time thinking about potential posts, and more time actually writing them.

I should also do more response posts to interesting articles other people have written. There have been a lot of neat posts that I've wanted to talk more about, but after thinking about it for a week, it feels like the discussion has gotten cold. I should strike while the iron is hot, or be more willing to pick up "old" topics.

Spam

I don't get a lot of spam on this blog, but for the last few months, I've been getting a comment in Japanese characters on one post. The comment comes roughly once a day, or once every other day, and always to the same post (Making an Impact). I can't read Japanese, but it looks different each time (or is rotating through a collection). Of course, since I can't understand it, I reject the comment every time. It's really weird.

New Blog?

I'm also thinking about starting a new blog for non-gaming material. Kind of honestly, the only problem is that I'm having a devil of a time coming up with a name for it.

Raider 101

Well, so far Raider 101 is a bit of a bust. Several months ago, it basically got overrun by spammers. I tried pruning it a bit, but eventually surrendered to them.

I don't know. It was a somewhat good idea, but the whole wiki aspect didn't really work out as I planned. Not only did it give the spammers an open doorway, but a wiki is only as good as the last edit. People would make edits that I would consider incorrect, or at least not suitable for basic information. For example, I had the complete 969 Prot rotation listed, but someone cut it in half and I did not notice until a few months later when a comment pointed out that the rotation was incorrect.

Or I had mages organized into four sections: Arcane, Fire, Frost, and Frostfire. Someone decided to replace Fire with the Frostfire information, and delete the FrostFire section.

I don't mind being corrected when I'm wrong, but having to revert incorrect "corrections" got old fast. And when you're dealing with many changes made by spambots, it's the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Finally, I find I don't really have a lot of motivation to keep it accurate. Self-interest is a powerful motivator, and Raider 101 really offers nothing for the people who are most qualified to add information. EJ doesn't have this problem, because it is cutting-edge, and the most qualified people who post also benefit from it.

I'm not really sure what I'll do with the site.

Other Stuff

I hate spam. If I could change one thing about humanity, I would make advertising fail to work. I think everything would work better. Alas, advertising works, and we are stuck with so much nonsense because of that fact.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Streamlining Blessings, Take 2

I hate having to use PallyPower. But handing out Blessings manually is very annoying, especially if you have two or fewer paladins in the raid.

Here is an idea to make casting Blessings easier. I hesitate to propose this, because it is a nerf to paladins, and everyone is going to complain about that. (Yes, I know my audience.) However, I would rather have a reduction in power--which can be made up somewhere else--in exchange for the smoothing out of gameplay annoyances.

Suppose all normal Blessings--not Greater Blessings--hit the entire party or raid instead of individuals. There would be no more individual blessings, just one button and you Bless the entire raid, starting from the very first rank of Blessing of Might that you get at level four.

This immediately simplifies Blessings, because you can't make complicated assignments. You hand out Might or Wisdom to the raid, not Might to some people and Wisdom to others. However, multiple paladins still hand out different blessings, just like now. You could even have the regular Blessings cost a reagent and last for 30 minutes, though you might have to do some fiddling with the lowest ranks.

This would probably make Kings the first choice of Blessing, followed by Might and then Wisdom. I'm not sure where Sanctuary would fit in.

The biggest problem with this scheme (other than the fact that Blessings become less powerful) is that Blessings become more similar to Auras. A paladin gives 1 Blessing and 1 Aura to the raid, and all raid members get the same Blessing and Aura. However, Auras are still centered on the paladin and are lost when the paladin dies, while Blessings belong to the character, and have a limited duration. Perhaps that is enough differentiation. Another minor issue is that you can no longer do drive-by buffing of random people, which is always fun.

Edit: Heh, I just remembered that I already wrote a Streamlining Blessings post a year ago, which proposed combining Blessings of Might and Wisdom in a single Blessing. Guess this is another solution.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Spell Haste: Bad for the Game?

Spell Haste is an interesting stat in theory. It reduces the cast time of your spells, and is supposed to be a double-edged sword, increasing the Damage-Per-Second of your spells, but also increasing the Cost-Per-Second. However, for a variety of reasons, I think having Spell Haste on gear has actually weakened the game in several respects.

1. Speeds up the Game

The most obvious thing spell haste has done is speed up the game. Everyone casts faster, does damage faster, and heals faster. Which leads to people taking damage faster as well. I think that WoW has gotten a little bit too fast, and could stand to be chilled out some.

2. Emphasis on Spamming Casts

You really only see the power of Spell Haste when you are spamming spells. To take advantage of a small reduction in cast time, you need to be hitting buttons immediately, in quick succession.

3. Blurs the line between Short Casts and Long Casts

With lots of spell haste, there's not much difference between spells with short cast time and spells with long cast time. This has causes short cast spells to be undervalued, and instants to be greatly more powerful.

For example, if spell haste did not exist, it's possible that interrupts could go back on the GCD, making it harder to interrupt short spells, and making Curse of Tongues more valuable, even in PvE.

4. Prone to "Magic Numbers"

If an ability rotation includes a spell with a cooldown, spell haste means that certain "magic numbers" will exist. These are values of spell haste that allow you to squeeze an extra cast off while the first spell is on cooldown.

For example, baseline you can go Holy Shock, 3x Flash of Light as a baseline. But there is a value of spell haste where you can squeeze in an extra FoL while HS is still on cooldown. And an even higher value where you can squeeze in a fifth FoL.

I don't think this level of complexity--actively changing a rotation like this--is good behavior for a stat to exhibit. It makes people overly reliant on theorycrafting and spreadsheets.

5. Messes with the Global Cooldown

The Global Cooldown is the "heartbeat" of WoW. I think that allowing spell haste to alter the GCD was a mistake. It plays havoc with the rhythm of the game, and has led to random spells having odd GCDs. In my view, the game just plays much better when there is a standard 1.5s GCD on all abilities.

I also think that too many abilities are now off the GCD, and that has also contributed to the excessive speed.

Conclusions

That's not to say that reducing spell cast times is entirely bad. I think that it is a quite appropriate effect for talents like Improved Fireball. Talents can also allow for a significant change in a specific spell's cast time, rather than a very small reduction in the overall cast time. Reducing cast time on specific spells is a good effect for talents or possibly glyphs, just not a good effect for a gear stat.

However, the general idea of the stat, increasing DPS while also increasing cost-per-second, is a good notion. With the integration of spellpower into Intellect in Cataclysm, perhaps spell haste could be retired as well. Replace it with "spell infusion" a stat which directly increases SP and Cost, without changing cast time. This would give two knobs to balance the stat, rather than indirectly balancing both through cast time.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Empirically Measuring Class DPS

I saw a really interesting discussion on EJ about those Top 50 DPS class leaderboards. The argument is that, because the leaderboards take the top 50 parses, the class with high variance--perhaps due to a high crit rate--in their DPS end up higher on the boards than classes with low variance.

For example, if you took two classes that did 5000 DPS, one with a 50% crit rating, and the other with a 20% crit rating. If each class did 100 fights, and you picked the Top 20 fights, the class with the 50% crit rating is going to be on the top. This is because the Top 20 fights are fights with a greater than average critical strike rate, inflating the damage done.

So if the Top 50 boards aren't a reliable way to measure Class DPS, what would be?

One idea is to look at the average DPS across *all* parses. The problem here is that as you drop lower and lower, skill and gear becomes dominant factors. At least the Top 50 parses are probably going to be equally skilled and geared, so you're only looking at the differences between classes. But maybe you can make the assumption that each class is equally likely to have under-skilled and under-geared players. Is that a good assumption? I'm not sure.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Retribution Nerf in 3.3

Edit: Whoops, I'm wrong. It's a tooltip correction. That's what I get for posting in haste.

Class Channels

There is one feature of Aion that WoW should absolutely steal: class channels.

In Aion, one of the automatic channels you join is dedicated to your class. All Clerics are in the same Cleric channel, all Templars in the Templar channel, etc. I find that these channels are invaluable.

Class channels provide a new or inexperienced player with immediate access to the wisdom of higher-level players of the same class. I've seen discussions on how to gem, advice on which path to take, and general all-around help.

I think WoW players would also greatly benefit from this. To have a place where you can ask questions, which is only populated by people of your class, would be very useful. Even the lurkers can benefit from seeing questions answered. As well, by restricting the channel to a single class, you avoid cross-class arguments and sniping.

In some ways, it's like the class forums, but more immediate. You can ask a question as soon as you have the problem, and get quick feedback.

The only concern is if there would be too many people in the channel for comfort. From my experience in Aion, I find that the class channels are mostly quiet, unless someone has a question.