Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ask Coriel: Farming Instances at 70

Juniorkow asks:
I enjoy your blog and was wondering at level 70 could you provide a template to farm old instances ? I dont have wrath yet so just something to keep me busy.

I would suggest going Protection and using a build like this: 4/51/6.

I think that should give you a good build so you can AoE farm most older instances. Note that it isn't a proper tank build as it is missing Spiritual Attunement (no other healer) and Guarded By The Light (you get Divine Plea at level 71).

You might have mana problems. If you find you are, you might be better off with a Retribution build like: 2/5/54

You'll have to be a bit more careful, but there won't be any mana worries.

Introducing New Characters

In the comments to the previous post, Elladrion, makes an interesting point:
They have no depth, and no charisma to back up their lack of depth. Also, specifically from a horde perspective, I will never be able to get past the entire questline where hellscream is moping around being a little defeatist bitch becuase he's not as great as his father and their people are doomed. You do an entire questline helping them out and at the end of it, he gets even more despondant and whiney becuase it was you that did all the work and not him and oh what a worthless creature he is. Then with no warning wrath comes out and he's all gung-ho rip-roaring kill all alliance with no transition story in between. And Varian wrynn doesn't even have that amount of story (in game) going for him, he just shows up out of nowhere trying to start fights.

It's very true. Garrosh and Varian emerge in Wrath almost fully-formed. There is a questline with Garrosh in TBC, but he doesn't play a major part, and Varian just shows up (and takes credit for Onyxia, to boot).

This is in stark contrast to one of the other major characters in Wrath: Tirion Fordring. Unlike Garrosh and Varian, Fordring is introduced in 1.0 in Eastern Plagueline. He has one of the best and most-loved questlines in the game. It's also a very personal questline for the character, and shows the reasons he decides to reforge the Silver Hand. In a lot of ways, Wrath and the Argent Crusade are sequel to those quests.

I think those quests have a lot to do with how popular Tirion Fordring is. We got to see the character at the beginning of the story, to sympathize and empathize with him. By doing the quests, in a way we were responsible for the character, and the way events turned out. We are more invested in the Argent Crusade and Tirion's storyline.

Tirion illustrates how important doing is to a video game. Garrosh and Varian illustrate how weak merely telling is. The strength of games is that we are not passive consumers, we have to do something to advance the story. That has the potential to make us more involved with the story, and make it more important.

In the abstract, I understand Garrosh's and Varian's story. But I am far more interested in Tirion's story, and that is almost entirely due to the original questline in the Plaguelands.

Would Varian have been more successful if there had been a questline to restore him to the throne? I think so. Similarly, a questline showing Garrosh's conversion to a more aggressive stance would have helped a lot.

There are two major lessons here. First, in an MMO, doing is always better than telling. Second, major storyline characters really benefit from being introduced early and fixing the player's sympathy, before they actually undertake a major role.

There are a lot of other examples. For example, consider the player base's attitude towards High Overlord Saurfang, Chromie, or Bolvar Fordragon vs that towards someone like Rhonin. Early exposure in a more trivial setting really benefits the character when it comes time for them to take the spotlight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Nature of War

In a game like Civilization, most of us have launched a war for the purpose of expanding our nation's territory and power, or to weaken a rival nation. In this, we are following Carl von Clausewitz's observation that "War is merely a continuation of politics." In the context of such a game game, and indeed much of human history, such a strategy of conquest was not considered wrong or immoral.

However, the modern world is moving away from Clausewitz's statement. It is moving towards a view that the only moral war, the only just war, is a defensive war. And this is causing an interesting reaction between game players and developers.

Consider the current plot lines in World of Warcraft. Blizzard wants to heat up the simmering conflict between Alliance and Horde. From a gameplay perspective, war is more interesting than peace. It gives players more things to do. To that end, Blizzard has introduced the characters of Garrosh Hellscream and Varian Wrynn, who are pushing the Horde and Alliance towards a war.

However, these two characters are not very popular with WoW players. I believe that the failure of these characters has more to do with the changing nature of war, than by their actual characteristics. If the only just war is a defensive war, then an aggressive leader is necessarily worse than a leader who is mostly peaceful (for example, Thrall).

As well, whichever faction starts the war is the aggressor, and in the wrong. And Blizzard definitely wants to avoid painting one faction as the bad guy. One of the strengths of WoW is that both the Horde and the Alliance have their good points and bad points.

Other games avoid this in a variety of ways. Often one side is clearly labelled as the bad guys, rendering morality moot. For example, in Warhammer Online, the Chaos faction are the bad guys and clear aggressors. Other games have the war between factions being more of an "eternal war", one that has no real beginning and no real end.

But how do you start a war between two good factions, when starting a war is considered wrong? This would be possible in the times when the Clausewitz dictum held, but I think is all but impossible now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tauren Paladins?

Holy Cow! (Be warned: Massive potential spoilers for the next expansion.)

To be honest, I've always thought Tauren would make good paladins. They have a certain nobility. Hopefully they become more Silver Hand-style paladins rather than Blood Knights.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Simplifying PvE Retribution

With the change to Crusader Strike in 3.2, Retribution gameplay can be simplified with a couple of macros. The optimum Retribution rotation is a priority First-Come-First-Serve (FCFS) list with:
Hammer of Wrath > Crusader Strike > Judgement of Light > Divine Storm > Consecration > Exorcism

Basically, you hit whatever ability is off cooldown and at the top of the list.

Regular Gameplay

For the first 80% of the fight--where Hammer of Wrath is not available--you can simplify the ability list using two macros:
Macro 1:Single-Target
/castsequence reset=4 Crusader Strike,Judgement of Light,Crusader Strike

Macro 2:AoE
/castsequence reset=10 Divine Storm,Consecration

Your priority list now becomes:
Macro 1:Single-target > Macro 2:AoE > Exorcism

If the first macro is on cooldown, hit the second. If both are on cooldown, and Art of War is up, hit Exorcism.

This scheme is identical to optimal FCFS, but only uses 3 buttons instead of 5, so you might find it easier to use. It also has the advantage that if you can't AoE (for example, Crowd Control is being used), you can just ignore Macro 2.

Execute Range

Once Hammer of Wrath comes into play, the above system breaks down. However, there is another sequence which comes very close to optimal FCFS play. You lose about 1 second out of every 24 seconds of DPS, which is about a 4% loss from perfect play. However, 2 buttons are a lot easier to press than 6, so you might find that you come out ahead.
Macro 3: Execute
/castsequence reset=target Hammer of Wrath,Crusader Strike,Judgement of Light,Divine Storm,Hammer of Wrath,Crusader Strike,Consecration

The priority list becomes:
Macro 3:Execute > Exorcism

As before, if Macro 3 is on cooldown and Art of War is up, pop Exorcism.

Friday, August 07, 2009

3.2 Impressions

So new patch. Here are some quick thoughts:
  • Female paladin T8 chestpieces now cover the stomach. Thank you, Blizzard! I actually really like the look now--even the helm has grown on me--and am hoping to pick up the shoulders soon.

  • Healing is weird now. Healing the tank by not healing the tank (except for a random FoL every so often to put up the HoT) feels really awkward. It's really weird when you hit someone with a 20k Holy Light, and they only had 3k damage, but the tank needed the big heal. However, I haven't had a chance to try healing in a raid yet, so I'll reserve judgement. It is a flat out buff numbers-wise though.

  • The new daily quests are pretty neat. I like the fact that they are fairly random.

  • The 5-man is pretty fun. The transition between jousting and regular combat is a bit abrupt, especially as we all have lances equipped. But other than that it is quick and fun. I particularly like the fact that if you get through a fight without deaths, you get an extra piece of loot. That's a nice touch.

  • Badge changes are also good. I like running random Heroics. Having epic gems available for the lowest rank of Badges was a nice touch.

  • Speaking of epic gems, I regemmed to all +23 Spellpower gems in order to maximize Flash of Light and Sacred Shield. However, I find that I really don't like not getting the socket bonus. I miss the green text lighting up and the gem border doing that little sparkle. It may be the optimum way to gear, but skipping socket bonuses offends my sense of order.

  • I don't like the new Crusader Strike, it's very weak. The new Hand of Reckoning is nice, though. As for the Seal change, I've pretty much switched to using Righteousness most of the time, and only using Vengeance on long boss fights.

  • I haven't tried the new raid, but I think the staggered release of bosses may be a good thing. We get new bosses every week, but can still work on Ulduar, rather than dropping it unfinished. After a while, we can start extending the Ulduar lockout timer to work on the last half of the instance.

  • The Coliseum also seems to have much higher item level loot than I was expecting. I was expecting the 25-regular to come in at ilvl 239, the same as Ulduar-hard. Instead it comes in at ilvl 245. Loot in heroic mode extends all the way up to 272, which is pretty crazy.

  • Speaking of the ilvl 272 cloaks, Blizzard made a mistake on the names. The paladin cloaks (Bolvar's, Lady Liadrin's) have spirit on them, and the mage cloaks (Jaina's, Aethar's) don't. Probably should be switched.

  • I really like being able to trade Bind-on-Pickup items in the instance. Makes it very easy to recover from a mistake when handing out loot.

  • The new Battleground is interesting. I've only played it twice so far on Horde. The current strategy seems to be grab the airport and parachute into the base. Looks like fun though.

  • There are a lot of other nice, small mechanical changes: the new quest log, mount changes, seeing the change in attributes when looking at new gear, being able to see item level, etc. It's not a big content patch, but it has a lot of small changes, fixes and experiments on new ways of doing things. It seems more like a "palate cleanser" to get us ready for Icecrown.