Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Burning Crusade Instances

I've done a few of the Burning Crusade instances (Hellfire Citadel, Coilfang Reservoir, one wing of Achindoun, and one wing of Caverns of Time) now, and I have to say that I really like the new style of instances. They are short and sweet, with only 3 or 4 bosses, and very doable in 2 hours or less.

I especially like that most of them have shortcuts back to the beginning after the final boss. That was a very nice touch.

About the only complaint I have is that there doesn't seem like a lot of loot. Usually you get one blue per boss, and given that it's only 5-man, you can usually count on at least one blue going to waste. A couple more blues would not go amiss, I think. I know that I personally only have one dungeon blue so far (though it is a nice one - [Amani Venom-Axe]).

But then again, the instances are short enough that you could easily do several in a week, or even a couple back to back.

The boss fights themselves are fairly creative, especially given the limitations of 5-man content. I especially like the hunter boss who tamed a druid in Coilfang Reservoir. Hilarious! I usually get the job of kiting the bear, which is pretty amusing. Paladin kiting for the win!

I also tried the Caverns of Time instance of Old Hillsbrad. This was very neat, and quite different from most other instances. Thrall needs to learn to slow down, however. He's crazy, Leeroy Jenkins crazy. Also, being so heavily scripted, the instance does seem a bit vulnerable to glitches. During the final fight, Thrall died during the wave of dragonkin, but we survived the wave. He didn't respawn and we couldn't pull the boss, so we were just stuck.

Ah well, so far I really like the instances, and am looking forward to doing a more of them. I can't wait to see what the raid instances are like.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guild Governance

Tobold recently wrote a post on Guild Governance. In it, he talks about democracies vs dictatorships vs communists and how different forms of guild leadership fits into these things. It's an interesting post, and worth reading.

But one thing struck me, and I've noticed it in previous discussions about this topic. Why do we keep comparing guilds to nation-states?

If you think about it, other than being an organization of people, nations and guilds really have nothing in common. Nations are orders of magnitude larger than guilds. Moving between guilds is far easier than moving between nations, and there's no real defensive purpose to guilds. (Well, in most games. I'm sure Eve Online might be different.)

Perhaps it's because civics and politics generate so much noise and attention, and thought and study, that we automatically start to view all groups of people in terms of politics and political ideas.

However, political systems are not the only systems for organizing human groups, and I think there are other real world systems that would be a better match. For example, take small businesses.

In a small business, you have a few founders, and the employees. Everyone works together and earns profit together, but few would argue that the founders are somehow dictatorial for giving orders. It's generally understood that they are the ones who put in the capital and lots of time and effort. They lead because they started the business, and the employee chooses to be employed by them.

In many ways, guilds are very much closer to the small business model than natrion-states. You have a group of founders, the officers. They don't put monetary capital into the guild, but they put in the MMO equivalent, which is time. Your group does activities together and earns profit (epixxx!), which is distributed in rough proportion to the amount of effort put in by all parties.

Like small business employees, regular raiders can and do quit and join other companies. New raiders apply and can be "hired". It's not so naked as I am discribing, but there are a lot of similarities. In my opinion, far more similarities than to democracies or communist societies.

Looking at it this way implies that if you want to make a better guild, rather than trying to apply different political theories, you should look at ideas dedicated to improving small businesses. And I am sure that there are tons of such books and discussions out there. It's just not as sexy as politics and doesn't get as much ink.

There are other models that may apply as well. A guild could be modelled after a small military company, and the dynamic could be examined in that light. However, the guild as nation-state idea is really misleading, and is not really that helpful when trying to improve a guild.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I Blame the Burning Legion

I'm level 66. I have exactly 6666 health.

I need a stamina enchant. Or an exorcism.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Left Behind

I haven't had a lot of time to play over the last month. I'm in a relatively hardcore guild. As a result, I'm way behind everyone else. Pretty much everyone else in the guild has gotten to 70. In fact, I think that I have the lowest level main character in the guild.

This experience has made me really understand the desire to power-level characters. I really want to play with my guild, to see new content with them. I like levelling, and I don't really want to skip content, but I do want to play with my friends.

Levels and progression are both boon and bane to this genre. The idea of slowly improving your character is a major attraction, and just the process of levelling up is fun. But when levels are out of sync, they are annoying because they are preventing you from playing with your friends.

I have a couple of real life friends on the server as well. One just started a month ago, so all of our levels are out of whack. To be honest, there's probably no real way we are all going to be able to play together until we all hit 70. When levels no longer matter.

In many ways, this is the central paradox of the MMO genre. Levels are the carrot, the reason for playing. They represent effort and achievement. But levels also prevent you from playing with your friends. This Penny Arcade comic sums up the dilemma perfectly.

I know different games handle it differently. WoW has the level caps and the slow-down in level speed, as well as rested experience. EvE Online has skills based on real-time, rather than in-game time. I believe that City of Heroes has a 'side-kick' system to temporarily boost a lower level character up. But I don't think any of these solutions truely solve the problem.

I have no idea what the perfect solution is. It may well be that there isn't one, that this is just a total paradox, and the best you can do is make a reasonable trade-off.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Main Tank Today

I hit 65 and main-tanked an instance for the first time. It was just Slave Pens in Coilfang Reservoir, nothing special, but it was a pretty interesting experience. I got to put a lot of theorycrafting to the test.

The group was me (65 paladin), 2 warlocks (a 67 and a 62), a 64 mage and a 64 priest. Decent group, everyone knew their stuff and played well.

Keep in mind that I am fully Protection spec, and that's how I'm looking at this run.

First off, holding aggro was not a problem at all. Between Avenger's Shield, Holy Shield, Consecration and Seal of Vengeance, I easily held the attention of all the mobs in a groups. The only time I had issues is cases where a mob bypassed me entirely and ran after someone. Even then taunting with Righteous Defence took care of most problems. As well, Avenger's Shield is very good. Pulling with AS and having the mage sheep a dazed mob is so much easier and cleaner than the mage pulling by casting sheep. And when the sheep is broken, the mob comes straight for me.

Where the problem lies is damage mitigation. I think I was much squishier than a warrior would have been, and my health level seemed to be much more unstable than normal for the main tank, especially in the last two boss fights. Of course, we didn't have a secondary healer, and every group I've been in other than this one has had at least one secondary healer--me--to smooth out the healing.

In fact, during the last two boss fights, I was casting heals on myself half the time. It seemed to be necessary to keep myself up.

We completed the entire instance, with only one wipe at the final boss. I didn't get any loot, but I haven't gotten loot in a TBC instance yet.

My conclusion for paladin tanking so far is that I need to concentrate less on threat generation and more on damage mitigation. One thing that I have noticed is that quests which have warrior tanking gear as rewards rarely have paladin gear as well. It would probably be worthwhile to save up some of those warrior pieces for the next time I have to tank.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Small touch, Seal of Vengeance

Another small touch I noticed is that the Captain at Allerian Stronghold will refer to you using your PvP title. It's a neat touch, bringing the PvP game into the PvE game a little bit. It's sort of like the NPCs recognize your title, and that is a bit amusing. In some ways it makes PvP a bit more "real", part of the main game, rather than just a sub-game within the game.

I also hit 64 today. I was feeling unhappy with my spec (mostly because Vindication is completely useless--elite world quest mobs are now immune to it as well), so I respecced to Retribution. I also picked up Seal of Vengeance as well. When I got back to questing, I realized that SoV was amazingly suited to my previous 1H/Shield build, as it does not depend on weapon damage at all. So I went back to Stormwind, and respecced again, this time to 10/45/0.

It's a pretty nice build so far. JotC -> SoV -> Holy Shield -> JoV when fully stacked (usually around 10-12 seconds) -> Holy Shield and/or SoR if the mob is still alive.

I quite like SoV at the moment. Apparently it doesn't scale as well as Seal of Righteousness, but for the moment it does the job quite well.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Killing Slaves

In the Outlands so far, there's been a persistent slavery sub-theme. The demons and the naga often have Broken slaves and they will force the slaves to attack you when you fight them.

Maybe it's just because I play a paladin, but I've always felt a little uncomfortable killing the slaves in places like Blackrock Mountain. I tend to go out of my way to avoid aggro'ing them.

So when I got to Outlands, and saw the linked overmasters and slaves, I had a sinking feeling that I was going to have to kill some of them to complete my quests. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the slaves run away after you kill the overmaster, allowing you to complete the quests without killing the slaves. It even adds a bit more challenge to the affair, as you can't use reactive damage (Holy Shield, Ret Aura, etc.) safely.

It's a small touch, but it made me happy. In many ways, Blizzard excels at these small effects, and its a major reason I love their games.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Aldor versus Scryer

I haven't had a lot of time to play (still only level 63), but I've made it to Shattrath City and seen the whole Aldor/Scryer faction debate.

It's a pretty neat idea, acutually, having two opposing factions, and having your choice be meaningful. However, the execution of making that choice could have been improved.

As far as I could see, you go to Shattrath City, take the tour, and then are presented with the choice of which faction to join almost immediately. I found that I simply didn't have enough information to make a choice that I was happy with. All I knew was that Aldor = draenei and Scryer = blood elves. So I went with Aldor. I didn't really see any other place you could find out more.

I'm sure that you could have looked up the rewards online, and picked a faction that way, but that seems very clinical to me.

What Blizzard should have done is have a couple quests where the two factions are actively trying to woo you to their side. I'd go with two quests for each side (four total). One quest shows the good side of the faction, and the other quest shows the dark side of the faction. Rep changes would be fairly minimal to allow people to "taste" each faction.

Then, after doing these initial quests, you could make a meaningful, and more permanent, choice.