Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tips for Holy Paladins in Heroics

Through a combination of pugging, guild runs, and quasi-guild runs, I've managed to do all the heroics in Cataclysm. They're really good, and moderately hard. They really reward knowing the fight and executing correctly. Here are some tips that may help Holy paladins working on instances.

  1. Cleanse - Seriously, Cleanse early, Cleanse often. Cleanse is expensive, so you do have to watch for debuffs that stack faster than you can Cleanse. If you're doing heroics exclusively, I'd strongly suggest Glyph of Cleanse.

  2. Run First, Heal After - If you are ever presented with the choice of running to avoid a fight mechanic, or finishing your cast, choose to run. Fight mechanics are far more likely to kill people than straight up damage. As well, practice healing while moving with Holy Shock and Word of Glory.

  3. Use Cooldowns - Get into the habit of using your cooldowns religiously. We have 5 cooldowns, in addition to any trinkets: Lay On Hands, Blessing of Sacrifice, Divine Favor, Avenging Wrath, and Guardian of Ancient Kings.

    Hand of Sacrifice is pretty strong now. You get a lot of self-healing with Protector of the Innocent, so it usually does not hurt to use it on the tank liberally. I like using it at the start of trash pulls when it's up.

    Use the shorter cooldowns on trash. They'll come back up in time for the bosses. I generally like alternating Divine Favor and Avenging Wrath on trash pulls. Use cooldowns at the start of the pull, when you have the most mobs beating on the tank.

    Lay on Hands is very powerful. It essentially resets a tank's health to full, and gives you a chunk of mana with the Glyph. Use it aggressively on boss fights, especially when it feels like you've fallen behind.

    Guardian of the Ancient Kings casts the same single-target spell on the same target that you do. Ideally, you want to use Divine Light to maximize the healing done when your Guardian is up. I like popping GoAK at about 20%-ish, to stabilize the fight and bring it home. But use it aggressively and early if you need to.

    I also don't like overlapping cooldowns. Unlike DPS, it feels like you get more time with stronger heals if you spread them out.

    Use cooldowns aggressively, and don't be afraid to "waste" them.

  4. Resistance Aura - My aura of choice is Resistance Aura. Things just seem more stable when Resistance Aura is up. As well, you can use Aura Mastery as an extra cooldown during periods of mass damage. I do switch to Devotion Aura if there is no Fire, Shadow or Frost damage in the fight, but that's pretty rare. Raid damage tends to be magical.

  5. Judge Often - try and judge as often as you can, especially on adds. It's extra damage and helps keep your mana high.

  6. Use Holy Radiance to Move Faster - The talent Speed of Light increases your run speed when you cast Holy Radiance. A lot of times, the entire group will need to move because they are taking damage. If you pop Holy Radiance as you start moving, not only will you heal people as they take damage, but you will move out of the fire that much faster.

Those are some tips for paladin healing in heroics. The biggest thing though, is familiarity with the fights. Once you know what to do, they become a lot easier.

Any other tips for Holy Paladins?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Haste Versus Crit for Holy Paladins

In all the theorycraft for Holy paladins I've seen so far, everyone automatically values Haste above Critical Strike chance. I'm not really sure I follow this logic.

Haste improves your Healing-Per-Second (HpS). But it also hurts your Mana-Spent-Per-Second (MpS), and does not change your Healing-Per-Mana (HpM). Crit, on the other hand, improves your HpS and HpM, but does not change your MpS, at least not directly.

Right now, it seems to me that the real limit on healing is mana. Therefore we should be valuing stats which improve HpM above all else.

It's true that you can't count on crit in the short term, but you can count on it in the long run. In the current environment, one heal isn't enough to restore someone to full health. In that environment, crit helps a lot. It buys you time, and allows you to get away with casting less spells. If you need three casts to bring someone up to full, and one of the first two spells crit, maybe you don't need to cast that third spell.

If you need high HpS, that's Flash of Light and Divine Light are for. Haste was awesome for the world when you absolutely need the heal to hit right now or the tank dies. But I find that I don't really encounter that situation, at least in heroics. Or if it's close to that, Holy Shock, Word of Glory, and Flash of Light are fast enough already.

What I've found in heroics is that I really, really want to see spells crit. A crit spell usually means that I don't have to cast a follow-up spell on that target, and I can move onto the next target in triage faster.

So that's my view on crit versus haste. As of right now, I think I'd rather take crit gear over haste gear. I just don't think the advantages of haste gear are of real value in the current healing environment.

A couple of caveats, though. I haven't tried any raids, so I don't know if this changes. Second, this is just haste versus crit. Spirit is still the best secondary stat, while I think the jury is still deliberating over Mastery.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twilight Highlands, Heroic Grim Batol

So it seems that no one cares about spoilers, so I'll just not worry about them. I will tag posts with info about what will be spoiled.

This post contains minor spoilers about Twilight Highlands.

So I finished Twilight Highlands, which was an outstanding zone. Quite honestly, it redeemed the rest of the expansion for me. The Wildhammer questline was superb, as was the Maw of Madness line and the initial questline. Oh, and the dragon line. Actually, pretty much everything was awesome.

As well, I think that [The Worldbreaker] may quite possibly be the single finest quest in the game. The only word to describe that quest is elegance. That was immersion on so many levels. For me, it evoked the exact reaction in myself that it was intended to invoke in my character. Seriously, this was utterly brilliant, and would be extra-ordinarily hard to replicate in another medium.

With respect to Roger Ebert, WoW approached art right there.

Also, I did my first heroic dungeon today. I signed up for regular Grim Batol, which I hadn't done before, intending to do the dungeon quests. We did the first trash pack, and I thought that Grim Batol seemed a bit harder than the other instances. Then the tank said he was in Holy gear, so I figured that explained it. He changed to tanking gear, we keep going and it doesn't seem to get easier. Then someone says something, and I realize I accidentally signed up for Heroic Grim Batol!

It wasn't that bad. We wiped a bunch on the first and third bosses, but one-shot the second and fourth. Really, once you learn how to do the fights, they're pretty straightforward. Mana is a bit of an issue, but using a core of Holy Shock, Word of Glory and Holy Light, then sprinkling in Divine Light and Holy Radiance as necessary worked pretty well for me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cataclysm Impressions

So how was your first week of Cataclysm? I've hit 85 on Coriel, and have done Hyjal, Vashj'ir, Deepholm, and Uldum. I'm currently working on Twilight Highlands. I've done several of the normal dungeons, but haven't yet tried heroics.

For zones, Hyjal was pretty decent. There was one major story element I disliked, but other than that the zone was well done. I'll talk about that element in a future post. I did like that the "torture" quest in Hyjal introduced options, including the choice to kill or let the target go.

I didn't really like Vashj'ir. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it was the pervasive "blueness". The Battlemaiden quests were very nice. Upcoming raid boss, hopefully. :)

Deepholm was okay, but rather middle-of-the-road. I do find it interesting how Blizzard is moving to differentiate shaman from druids, lore-wise. Especially with the introduction of goblin shamans, shamanism appears to be moving in a more "muscular" direction. More about controlling the elements, rather than working with them.

Uldum was ... almost amazing. That's probably an odd reaction to have. The thing is that there is this trend I've noticed with Cataclysm quests (will talk about it in another post), but that trend is making quests less enjoyable for me, and it was quite pronounced in this zone.

The dungeons are interesting. The bosses are well done, and becoming more and more like mini-raid bosses than ever before. I rather like the new emphasis on healer mana. It's not a big issue early on, but becomes much more obvious in the 85 dungeons. It's also amazing what a big difference "aware" DPS makes to healing now. It's like night and day.

Also, ranged dps, please stop moving behind the paladin healer. Try and stand in between the healer and the tank.

However, I'm not sure I like getting mana back on Judgement. I know I've argued for it in the past, but after seeing it in play, I think I was wrong. It creates this feeling that I *have* to judge on cooldown, when I'd rather focus on keeping my group up. Especially with the Judgement cooldown being 8s. I don't mind Judging once every 20 to 30 seconds or once a minute like in previous expansions. It didn't seem to play such a large role in the healing rotation. But at 8 seconds, it quite spoils the rhythm of healing.

Finally, what do you think of spoilers? I know I've been intentionally vague in some of the descriptions above to avoid spoiling things. Personally, I hate spoilers with a vengeance. But at the same time, it's really hard to discuss stories without discussing the ending.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

New Quest Mobs

The new "quest" mobs are rather interesting. Blizzard seems to have added a level in-between normal mobs and elite mobs. The new mobs are named, are the target of certain quests, and have a little exclamation mark beside their portrait.

So far, I've found that these mobs are reasonably challenging (at least for someone in quest greens, no heirlooms, and of roughly equal level). They aren't as hard as elites would be. The quest mobs generally have about twice as much health and one or two special moves. I don't think they do much more damage than a regular mob, the main difference I've noticed is that they last longer, which does make the fight more dangerous.

(Although my lowbie night elf mage got rocked hard by Ruuzel. Death grip + knockdowns on a short timer is harsh against a caster. I'll have to give it another try tonight.)

These quest mobs are clearly pitched as a small challenge for a solo player. A solo mini-boss, if you will, as opposed to elites which are aimed at groups. I think the new mob type is a good addition to the game.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Commentary on the Reputation System

From an Informational Pamphlet found in Westfall:
Give a man a tabard and he will pledge his undying loyalty to your cause. These men are now government sheep who care not for your hardships. They wear the tabard of their leader and care only for what he desires.


Well played, Blizzard. Well played, indeed.

(The new Westfall is *awesome*. Don't read spoilers or anything, just go do it now.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Inscription and the Player Market

One of the most interesting things happening in Cataclysm/4.0 is a change to Inscription. Glyphs are now permanent one-time purchases, but changing glyphs requires a [Vanishing Powder] (for 80 or lower) or a [Dust of Disappearance] (for 81+ characters).

What is really interesting is that both items can be crafted by scribes, but they are also sold by NPC vendors. Vanishing Powder is extremely cheap from the NPC, but it looks like a single Dust of Disappearance will cost 10g or so.

To me, it looks like Blizzard is experimenting with setting an upper bound on the player-to-player marketplace. If supply and demand lead to an auction house price of less than 10g, players will buy Dust of Disappearance from the marketplace. But if the price rises to above 10g, then people will switch to buying from the vendor.

This is really the first time that we have seen this behavior in WoW. Normally, NPCs serve as the lower bound for selling items on the AH. If the AH price of an item drops below the NPC price, you sell the item to the NPC instead.

I expect that Blizzard is doing this to keep the Auction House accessible to everyone. Buying and selling on the Auction House is fun, but if prices are too high, that makes the game less fun for the subset of the population with less gold. Theoretically, the upper bound serves as a brake, ensuring that no matter what happens to the market, necessary items are always available at a known maximum cost.

It's also possible that we may see a similar pattern for Enchanting Vellums. Currently there's only one type of vellum, and it is available from vendors for cheap. A second, higher-level vellum for an upper-bound price would mimic the same structure as glyph dusts.

Edit: I forgot one other aspect. On a low-population server, there are occasional shortages of items on the Auction House, just because there are fewer crafters, and the entire stock of an item gets bought out before a crafter can replenish it. When I played on Lethon, this would sometimes happen with flasks. It was never a permanent thing. Having the Dust being sold on an NPC guarantees that it is always available, that you are never completely blocked from changing glyphs.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Starting Areas

Since I can't decide on what to do, I've just been making new characters and running through the first 5 levels in the new starting areas. They're very well done. A smooth introduction to the game, and several deft nods to experienced players.

Orc - They're introducing the human/orc conflict really early. It's an interesting choice. Otherwise very similar to the old version. Waking lazy peons is still the highlight of the early orc experience.

Dwarf - Nicely streamlined, with integration of the Dark Iron mages and warlocks. Of course, everyone rolled dwarf shaman. I don't think I saw a single dwarf mage or warlock.

Night Elf - They only make you run up to the top of the tree once, at the very end. And they give you a Slowfall buff so you can jump down! As well, the moonwell quest lore is now more in the game world, rather than quest text.

Tauren - The quillboar killed the Greatmother! I liked this the best of the starting areas I tried.

Gnome - Very well done. An interesting story, and lots of gnomish moments. Oddly, this was the hardest starting area. I almost died several times fighting troggs, as they hit hard and I kept getting attacked by multiples. They also have a knockdown, which didn't help. (I was playing a priest, so was a little squishy.) I did actually die during the final battle, as I got swarmed with little guys, and didn't use the special device properly, I guess. Still kind of shocked that I managed to die in the first five levels.

Haven't tried the others yet, but I probably will give the rest a whirl tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Shattering

So Blizzard came out with a major patch, and the servers came up ahead of schedule. Guess it really is the end of the world.

Kidding aside, props to the Blizzard operations team (or whatever they're called). Smoothest launch of a major patch (considering the entire world was remade) I've ever seen.

Though I'm kind of sad, I was planning a post which was nothing but an embedded video of Greyfoo's Happy Patch Day.

As for the actual patch day, I'm paralyzed by indecision. I rolled a dwarf shaman, then a night elf mage, then logged on Coriel and wandered around Stormwind looking at all the changes. (Harrison Jones is the archeology trainer!) I really like the Stormwind cemetery.

The redone class quests were interesting. No more Verigan's Fist! I think that shocked me more than all the other changes I saw. The new quest models are nice and shiny, but still, it's Verigan's Fist! Using the T1 helms for the level 50 quest is a nice touch, but Lawbringer is going to look so out of place.

I really can't decide between doing all the new quests on my main, just for all the achievements and lore, or rolling an alt and taking the alt through all the new content.

Edit: Also, welcome to all the new Tauren paladins out there!

Note to Commenters: Political Jabs

I do not like these small jabs at politicians or political parties in non-political conversations. They mar what are otherwise perfectly fine comments. I consider these jabs to be impolite and lacking in grace.

Accordingly, from now on I will be deleting any comments that contain unrelated political jabs, regardless of the quality of the rest of the comment.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Followup To Raiding Styles

From the comments on the last post.

One issue with focus though is how new raiders will learn the ropes. It used to be that older learning instances were still in the rotation (so you'd join a guild which ran them). If people are coming straight in to the latest raid, where do the learning instances fit in?

I am beginning to wonder if new raiders actually need learning instances. I think that on the institutional, or guild level, learning instances are important. But for an individual raider, it seems like individual raiders can learn quickly when integrated into an already experienced group.

Yeah, they don't know the tricks and shortcuts. You can't go "This boss is like Chromaggus crossed with Illidari Council". But individuals not having done the learning instances doesn't seem to have significantly hurt, at least in my experience. It's actually kind of shocking to go into Ulduar with someone you think is an extremely experienced raider, and she starts picking up the basic achievements.

This is just the individual level, though, and on Normal modes. Exposure to the experienced group seems more important than exposure to previous content. However, I'm not sure throwing a group of people who have never raided before into ICC will really work.

There are middle ways like: standard progression but every month all existing raids get a 5% ICC-like buff. So imagine the old MC-BWL-AQ40-Naxx way, but one year after start MC has a +60% heal, HP, damage buff and BWL has +30%.

I think this kind of cuts against the whole progression idea. The idea is that every group encounters content in more or less the same difficulty. I really don't see any difference between getting i251 gear and going back a tier vs a 60% buff.

If there's going to be a 60% buff, why bother making them do the old content at all? May as well just point them to the current content content and tell them to have at it.

I don't understand how the WotLK raiding system helps people see more content by skipping to the last raid of the cycle.
In both styles, you are not seeing content. So I don't understand at all how that somehow becomes a part of equation.

The difference is in Wrath, you don't do earlier content by choice. Your ICC guild can always go back and run through Naxx and Ulduar for fun. Odds are you'd be able to complete it fairly easily. My own guild did Yogg+1, Yogg+0, and got someone a Valy'nar at the end of the expansion.

In Vanilla/TBC, the upstream content was pretty much blocked. Once a guild was stuck, it was stuck. There was no aspect of choice involved at all.

If MC was dropping 6 items per boss instead of 3 when AQ40 came out, new players and less progressed guilds would have been able to catch up faster without getting a free skip-all-old-content pass.

I don't think I agree with this. In my experience, by the time your guild reaches a boss, you have enough loot to beat that boss (excluding edge cases with the Royalty guilds). Loot is very rarely the true stalling factor.

Now, you can use loot to overpower fight, but that generally requires loot from higher tiers. The current tier of loot is almost never enough. If you are stuck on a boss in a progression-style, the kill usually comes through improved execution or an improved strategy.

Do Hard Modes change things?

One thing to consider is that Vanilla/TBC didn't have hard modes. It's quite possible that the guild-killer bosses we all know and love would really be a Hard Mode in the Wrath environment. Perhaps the Normal mode progression chain would be enough to keep guilds from stalling out.

Obviously a lot of the Aristocracy and Gentry guilds would leave Hard Modes unfinished when the next tier came out. And a new guild would probably ignore Hard Modes altogether until it got caught up. They would do Naxx-normal, Ulduar-normal, TotC-normal, and ICC-normal. There really isn't a Vael or a Vashj in that path to really get stuck on.

Other issues and thoughts

But that doesn't solve the recruitment issue. For a guild in the ICC tier, being able to recruit relatively new 80s is a huge boon. It makes life a lot easier than poaching from the TotC or Ulduar guilds would be. But if progression is in place, if you need to do TotC before ICC, then obviously an ICC guild must recruit someone in a TotC guild, or run old content to gear them up.

Maybe a different change would help. What if, when TotC came out, Naxx gear was automatically upgraded to Ulduar ilevel? And when ICC came out, Naxx and Ulduar gear was upgraded to TotC level? This would mean that Naxx and Ulduar are not entirely obsoleted. But perhaps Naxx would become the zone of choice, because it is easier than the other two but would provide the same reward.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Raiding: Progression or Single-Focus?

In Vanilla and TBC, the raiding endgame was based around the idea of progression. A guild did Molten Core first, and after they moved on to Blackwing Lair, then AQ40, and finally Naxxramas. This was the pattern guilds and players followed regardless of when they started. A new guild or raider was expected to start in Molten Core and move their way upwards.

In contrast, Wrath raiding was based around a different idea: focus on the current tier. In general, at any given time the community--including newer raiders and guilds--focused on the most recent tier. When TotC was released, that was what everyone did. When ICC came out, everyone went for ICC. You could essentially solo your way, gear-wise, to the entry point for the most recent tier.

So which style was better?

Progression Style

To me, they both have strengths and weaknesses. Progression felt natural and organic. You moved through the raids and as you got better you did harder raids. You experienced each tier of content in roughly the same difficulty as it was intended. There was this sense of "being on the path" which really doesn't exist any more.

But on the other hand, guilds often got stuck on the path. There would come a boss or point which you just could not beat with your current guild, and that was that. And very few guilds actually got a chance to see the last couple tiers. The vast majority of guilds stalled out a lot earlier.

Secondly, I don't think recruitment was healthy in the Progression era. In order to sustain itself, a guild had to pick up people at the same level or just below to keep going. That meant that the high-end guilds poached the better players from the tier of guilds below them, and that tier in turn poached from below them. Players were always moving up from guild to guild, because they had to join a better guild in order to see newer content.

I know that in Wrath, a lot of the Royalty guilds have been complaining that recruiting has gotten harder, but I have no sympathy for them. Previously, they had their pick of good players, because joining a Royalty guild was the only way a player could see content like Naxxramas. Now, a good player doesn't have to leave her guild just to see new content.

Current Tier Focus Style

The Wrath model also has strengths and weaknesses. It's greatest strength was that a much larger percentage of the player base got to see the newest content. If you raid at all in Wrath, you've gotten to see ICC, and quite possibly have gotten to see the Lich King. Compare that with the percentage that saw Kil'jaeden or Kel'thuzad.

Second, I think it may have made recruitment, and bringing in alts, easier for lower tier guilds. They didn't lose people to the high end guilds as often, and newer recruits can solo to a reasonable entry point for raiding. We don't have to carry people through a lower tier to gear them up like we used to.

I really think that it has also made raiding guilds that target a shorter number of raid days or more casual atmosphere a lot more viable than they were in Vanilla/TBC.

However, the Current Tier Focus style does have downsides. First, the lower tiers of raid content got obsoleted. Very few people do Naxx and Ulduar now. And that means that raiding isn't quite the shared experience that it used to be. For instance, all raiders in Vanilla went through Molten Core. If I say "Loot the Hound", every single person who raided in Vanilla understands me. Whereas if I comment about the Heigan dance, there are players in ICC right now who won't know what I am talking about.

Or difficulty-wise, pretty much everyone who did BWL understands the challenge of Razorgore or Vael, because we all did it at more or less the same difficulty. But someone who gets taken to Ulduar now, in full i264 gear, just doesn't experience it in the same fashion as those of us who did it when it was the current focus.

The other major downside is that this model is very sensitive to the amount of time that an instance exists as the current tier. It is very arguable that the Wrath experience would have been a lot better if Ulduar had lasted for 2-3 more months, TotC 1 less month, and ICC maybe 1-2 less months. TotC was actually the current instance for longer than Ulduar.

In the Progression style an instance was "current" for as long as you were working on it, which is pretty much the ideal amount of time. You want just enough time to beat it, and maybe farm it a couple of times to finish off your set, before the new instance opens. Unfortunately, that amount of time is completely different from group to group.


So which style would you pick? As much as I liked the Progression style, I would much rather have the Current Focus style. The people at Elitist Jerks are very much in favor of the Progression style, but I think they suffer from survivor bias. It was a lot less fun for those of us in the lower tier to get stuck and lose players to the upper guilds.

Or worse, to have to choose to leave the guild and people that you liked because you knew that if you didn't, you would not see new content at all. For all the flaws of the Current Focus style, pretty much every guild that raids regularly can see all the content that Blizzard creates.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I saw this Frostheim story making the rounds, and I've wanted to comment on it, but didn't really find the right words until today.

For those who don't know, Frostheim is some kind of hunter personality. He writes for WoW Insider occasionally, and runs Warcraft Hunter's Union, a big hunter guild. Apparently Frostheim joined a random Dungeon Finder group, saw that it was Old Kingdom, and announced in party chat that he did not have time to do the optional bosses. The other party members did not say anything. Later on, the other four went to do an optional boss. Frostheim went off on his own and attempted to solo the last boss. The boss managed to get the rest of the group into combat and the group wiped. Drama ensued.

In my view, there were three mistakes made during this fiasco:

1. Frostheim should not have signed up for a dungeon if he didn't have time to complete it.

2. The group should have decided about the optional bosses at the start and communicated that decision to everyone. Then people could leave if they were unhappy.

3. Frostheim should not have gone off from the rest of the group.

In any case, the main point I want to make is:

Sometimes, you get outvoted.

Sometimes, you're in a group, and the majority of the group wants to do something that you don't want to do. The right thing to do is either leave the group, or follow their lead.

There is no shame in losing the vote. "I wanted Y, but more people wanted X, so we did X" is okay. It leads to a functioning group or society. "I wanted Y, but more people wanted X, so I attempted to force them to do Y" just leads to strife.

But a lot of people seem to take being outvoted personally. Like it's a judgement on you as an individual, and it's vital for you to "win" at all costs. And this seems to be happening not only in WoW, but society at large.

For example, take all these schemes to introduce new voting systems like Single-Transferrable-Vote. I can't shake the feeling that the backers feel they can't win normally, and so are trying to rig the game so that they can magically win. We all know Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, so why try and make life more complicated?

Though, to be fair, I am unreasonably conservative on the subject of voting. I disapprove of absentee voting, computerized voting, machine voting, assisted voting, write-in candidates, punching holes in ballots, internet voting, non-secret voting, counting votes by machine, butterfly ballots, releasing results to the media before voting closes, and pretty much anything that is not going to a polling station and marking an X on a paper ballot beside the name of your preferred candidate.

Anyways, went a bit off-topic, but the point remains: when you're in a group, sometimes you get outvoted. You either leave the group, or you abide by the results. Of course, this isn't absolute if we're talking about something like slavery, but for the vast majority of life, it's a pretty good rule to follow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nostalgia and 10s vs 25s

As most readers know, I'm a 25-man raider. It's not that I dislike 10s, it's more that I just don't care about them. A lot of other people do care, though, enough that's it worthwhile to have 10-man raids exist.

But to me, 10-man raids are UBRS1. I did UBRS a lot, before I started raiding. It was fun and all, but it was just UBRS.

25s are Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. The grail, the goal. When I think of 25s, it seems to tap into that line of instances.

I'm not really going anywhere with this train of thought. But really, I don't think there's any real, logical reason I prefer 25s to 10s.

I do think that for the Royalty guilds, the Paragons and Premonitions, 25s will provide a greater challenge than 10s. But for someone at my level, I think a tuned 10-man can be just as challenging as a 25-man.

I do like working within a sub-team, having a healer channel, etc. Yet it's also nice being part of the entire team.

But still, at the end of the day, 10s are UBRS and 25s are Molten Core or Blackwing Lair. The patterns laid down in our youth are hard to break.

1. Upper Blackrock Spire. But really, it's UBRS.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Willingness to Schedule

Just a random thought, but sometimes it seems like it is a lot harder these days to schedule things, to get people to commit to showing up at a given time in advance. Not just in WoW, but in real life too.

I wonder if it is related to the increasing inter-connectedness of our social lives. Sometimes it seems that everyone wants to leave their options open. To not commit to X, because there's a small chance that something else more interesting might pop up in the time between now and X. And because of the speed of communication, you might hear about the new thing in plenty of time to go to it.

It just seems like in the past, because it was harder to communicate with people, that people ended up making arrangements earlier, and sticking to the arrangements with more faithfulness.

I'm not really sure which way is better. Ad hoc gives the individual a lot more leeway with what they want to do. But it does make life a lot harder on the people who have to organize events.

And I think there is a strength in scheduling that is often undervalued. To be able to count on people to show up when they say they will show up. I've always felt that the single greatest characteristic I would want in a raider is dependability, not raw skill.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Elemental Invasion

For God's sake, is it really so hard for a tank to wait 10 seconds and let everyone get the quest before charging in?

I even broke my own rule and did not heal the second tank who did this to me. He had been requested to stop so the group could get the quest, and he just kept charging. I know it was wrong, but it was so satisfying to watch that tank faceplant.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Some of the comments on the last post have brought up complexity. Yes, the optimum pattern is relatively complex. But there are other patterns which are a lot less complex, and only slightly worse.

For example, with that Chaotic meta-gem, you could follow Suicidal Zebra's pattern of Purple gems + 1 Blue gem. It simplifies the gemming a great deal, and is only a little bit worse. You could even go Purple in Red/Blue slots and Green in Yellow slots (or Yellow and 1 extra Blue in a Blue Socket), and that would easily get you the meta-gem activation and your socket bonuses.

There are other meta-gems you could use. Maybe they aren't as good as this one, but it would make gemming easier if you were concerned about that.

There's a thread espousing the same thing for classes on the DPS forums. The poster is complaining that the optimum rotation is getting too complicated and asks for some specs to have a simpler optimum rotation, but not do as much damage.

I'm not sure I really understand this request. You can alway simplify your rotation and do just a little bit less damage. For example, if you're a Retribution paladin, drop Holy Wrath and Consecration entirely. Your damage will go down slightly, but that rotation would be a lot easier to manage.

Or take Destro warlocks, which is the poster's concern. Drop Corruption and maybe Chaos Bolt. Don't worry about the Imp Soulfire buff. Unfortunately, the Shadow Bolt buff is a group buff so it's harder to drop. But now your rotation is just Immolate, Conflag, Bane, Incinerate, and instant Soulfires when they proc. That's a lot easier to keep track of.

I thought this was the ideal that people wanted. A moderately complex rotation for good damage, or a highly complex rotation for a bit more damage. An easy gemming strategy for good effectiveness, or a complex gemming strategy for optimum effectiveness.

When reforging was introduced, I seemed to be the only person who didn't like it, because I saw it would introduce this level of complex tweaking. But everyone else seemed to think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. I don't really see the difference between reforging and this gemming strategy. If anything, this meta-gem is easier to deal with than hit caps, expertise caps, and haste soft-caps.

So where then does this vision of complexity go wrong?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Requirements for Cataclysm Chaotic Metagem

Note to new readers. Blizzard is changing these gems in a future patch. You may want to hold off before spending a ton of money on regemming.

Suicidal Zebra and Graylo have commented about the meta-gem requirements for the Chaotic meta-gems.
Chaotic Shadowspirit Diamond Activation Requirements:
New: Requires more Blue Gems then Red Gems.

In my opinion, they are both using a sub-optimal gemming pattern to take advantage of these gems, and as a result, their valuation of these meta-gems is lower than it should it be.

This is what I think the optimal gemming method is:


1. I assume that our goal in gemming to maximize our Red primary stat (Str, Int, Agi) while still activating the meta-gem. We can always fiddle around with the secondary stats with reforging.

2. I assume that we will hit the socket bonuses. Since we're already messing around with red and blue gems, it's a small step to get the yellow sockets too.

Description of problem

Let each gem have a "meta-score". This how that gem affects the count for activation of the meta-gem. For example, red gems are -1, and blue gems are +1. The end goal is to have a net meta-score of +1, as that is exactly the minimum to activate the meta-gem.

Socket ColourGem ColourMeta-scoreRed Primary Stat Amount

As you can see from the table the best gems to maximize both Meta-score and the Red Primary Stat are Red, Green, and Purple. You want to put Red gems in Red sockets and Purple gems in Blue sockets. That leaves Green gems in Yellow sockets as your method of balancing the Red gems.

The second tier of Orange and Blue are last resort gems, only to be used when the number of sockets doesn't work out nicely.


(Note: for the purposes of this algorithm, prismatic sockets count as Red sockets. You will also need to keep track of your current meta-score as you are gemming.)

1. If half or more of your sockets are Red, put Purple gems in Red sockets until the number of empty Red sockets is just less than half of the number of total empty sockets.

2. Put Red gems in the empty Red sockets.

3. Put Green gems in the empty Yellow sockets until your meta-score reaches +1 or you run out of Yellow sockets.

4. If there are empty Yellow sockets remaining, alternate Orange and Green gems until you run out of Yellow sockets. (If you don't care about socket bonuses, you can use Red gems instead of Orange gems in this step.)

5. If your meta-score is 0 or lower, put Green gems in Blue sockets until your meta-score reaches +1. (You can use Blue gems in this step if you still want more of your Blue stat.)

6. Fill the remaining empty Blue sockets with Purple gems.

Basic Idea

That looks a little bit complicated, but the underlying idea is fairly simple:

You use your Yellow sockets to balance your Red sockets (Green gems against Red gems), and then you zero out your Blue sockets using Purple gems.

The extra steps are just to compensate for cases where the number of sockets doesn't easily match the basic idea.


My character right now (in DPS gear) has 9 Red sockets, 1 Prismatic socket, 9 Yellow sockets, and 2 Blue sockets. Remember that Prismatic counts as Red.

1. My Red sockets are less than half of my total sockets (10 out of 21) so I move to step 2.

2. I fill all 9 Red sockets and 1 Prismatic sockets with Red gems. Meta-score is -10, with +200 primary stat.

3. I put Green gems in all 9 Yellow sockets. Meta-score is -1, with +200 primary stat.

4. I don't have any Yellow sockets remaining so I move on.

5. Meta-score is 0 or less, so I add 2 Green gems to 2 Blue sockets to bring it up to +1. If I needed more hit, I could use 2 Blue gems instead. Meta-score is +1, with +200 primary stat.

6. I don't have any remaining Blue sockets, so I am finished.

Net result: Meta-gem activated, +200 primary stat, all socket bonuses. If I have excess hit rating from the Green gems, I can use reforging to convert the extra hit rating into another secondary stat.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thoughts on the Authenticator

In a thread on the Guild Relations Forum, Karamoone of Dark Iron expresses a view on the Blizzard Authenticator that I've often seen espoused by various "power users" or highly technical people:
I don't get malware on my PC, and if I did I'd look at blocking the infection vector (to prevent things like my credit card number and SSN from getting snagged) rather than just slapping on a band-aid to protect access to one video game. If I played on insecure PCs I'd get one in a heartbeat, but I only play on one PC. I'll probably set up the phone number authenticator, since it doesn't involve any additional annoyance in my normal style of play, but that doesn't count for the 'require authenticator' ranks in a guild.

This authenticator madness seems to me to be driven by a bunch of people with really unsafe computing habits who pick up malware routinely, but don't want to believe they're being incautious so choose to believe that everyone has a parade of keyloggers on their systems.


But really, I think if you're going analogize to home security, it really makes more sense to analogize the house to a computer than to a single video game, since the house has multiple valuable things in it and isn't used just for the one game. The game account is better represented as a collection of RPG character sheets or a single board game. So really, getting the authenticator is like getting a safe to store the paper character sheets for your RPG characters while leaving your credit cards, emergency cash, SSN card, and title documents out in the open on your desk, and the attitude some people are expressing is like not worrying about a break-in because they couldn't get to your character sheets.

I think this attitude is somewhat hubristic. I've never been hacked or had a virus, and I try my best to keep my computer secure. But I'm only human, and I can make mistakes. Maybe some of the hackers are smarter than me, and might outwit me. Maybe one of the people I rely on to help me keep my computer safe will themselves make a mistake and let me down. (And this is the worst, because sometimes I might not realize that they let me down.)

To go back to the analogy, a house has multiple vectors for a break in. They might come through the doors, the windows, maybe even the wall or the roof. I can harden each potential attack vector, but I might make a mistake. Or maybe a new attack that I did not anticipate will appear. Adding the safe to protect my RPG sheets might be good idea if I care that much about them, or if losing them will negatively affect other people.

I looked at the authenticator and decided the trade-off was worth it. It was fairly cheap, and typing in the authenticator code is pretty quick and doesn't add that much more to the login process. Plus, I got a corehound.

Considering an extra layer of security is never to be sneered at.

As well, consider that this layer of security is verifiable. If you are in a partnership with someone else online or at a distance, you can't tell if she follows good computing practices. All you have to go on is her word that she is doing things correctly. An authenticator can be verified, and acts as a guarantee. You hope that your partner is doing everything else correctly, but if it turns out she isn't, at least she had an authenticator which helped protect your interests.

In many ways, your authenticator is not so much about protecting your interests--though it definitely does that--but about signalling to others that their interests will not be attacked through you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Proposal for Raid Loot in Cataclysm

When I look back at how loot dropped in Wrath, there are two major items that I disliked.

1. I never really understood why normal loot needed to be strictly better than the heroic loot of the previous tier. The same, or even slightly worse, seemed more logical to me. But loot being strictly better in the new instance meant that the previous instance was dropped instantly, and added to gear inflation concerns.

2. I really did not like having multiple recolors of the tier sets. It really devalued the uniqueness and recognizability of the tier sets. Of the 25-ish different tier sets released this expansion, I doubt that I can even name a handful on sight. Which is far different than the previous two tiers.

So here's my proposal for how loot should be handled in Cataclysm:

Normal C1 raids would drop C1 gear of all slots, including the tier set. Heroic C1 raids would drop the normal C1 gear plus one C2 ring/trinket/necklace/cloak (maybe relics and throwing weapons too). Basically, you only get access to one tier of cloth/leather/mail/plate at a time.

When the C2 raids come out, they drop C2 gear of all slots, including the tier sets. And the heroics give you one additional C3 piece of jewelry or cloak.

This has two important effects. First, there is only one tier of armor at any one time. There are no recolors or anything similar. Gear inflation is kept to a minimum, especially that of armor and weapon inflation.

Second, the heroic loot is usually available to the widest pool of players as possible. All healers can go for the heroic healer ring. You won't end up with the situation where a heroic paladin healer plate drops and everyone groans. As well, since rings and trinkets have two slots, the normal rings and trinkets of the next tier will still be valued.

A high-end edge raid would still see significant upgrades in heroics, just from upgrading all her jewelry. But she would also see good upgrades in normals, while not completely obsoleting the heroics of the previous tier.

I think that this would strike a good balance between reward and upgrades from tier to tier. Tier armor would be more unique, and hopefully more recognizable.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hard Mode Triggers

In Ulduar, hard modes were triggered by an in-game mechanism that was unique to each fight. For example, Yogg had the Keepers, Thorim had the race in the tunnel, and Mimiron had his Big Red Button.

With Trial of the Crusader and ICC, the hard mode trigger was changed to a switch on the interface. This was done to make creating fights easier on the developers, but it has resulted in qualitatively worse raid fights and hard modes. Hard Modes in ICC are uninteresting compared to those in Ulduar, and mainly consist of the boss hitting much harder, having more health, and maybe one new mechanic.

Ulduar hard modes were better because they told a different story than the normal mode fight. This is because the in-game trigger causes the fight to have a determinant phase. And how the determinant phase unfolds changes the story, and seems to have encouraged the developers to make a more interesting hard mode. For example, reaching Thorim before Sif leaves, causes Sif to jump down and join the fight. It makes sense story-wise, and adds a new element to the fight that is not simply more health,damage, or a new debuff.

The determinant phase is not always part of the fight. For example, on Flame Leviathan, the determinant phase is the towers before the fight. But again, the determinant phase causes the hard mode to change in storyline, which results in a better fight.

It's interesting to note that the one Ulduar hard-mode that is generally regarded as worse than the others is Hodir, and Hodir's hard mode does not have a determinant phase. It's a straight timer, and thus is much less interesting than the other fights.

The determinant phase also had the advantage of tying the boss fight to the rest of the instance. As good as the Lich King fight is, for all intents and purposes the rest of ICC may as well not exist when it comes to the storyline of that fight. In contrast, Yogg's hard mode involves the Keepers that you rescued, strongly tying Yogg to the rest of the instance. In Ulduar, the boss fights feel more a part of the instance, and I think that is in large part because of the way the hard modes were designed.

The in-game hard mode triggers are a much better mechanism than the interface trigger. It may have been harder for the developers to make fights, but they rose to the challenge in Ulduar, and it resulted in much better fights and a more engaging raid instance as a whole.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Star Trek Online: Weekly Episodes and Design Inheritance

I'm not playing Star Trek Online, but I have been following Tipa's descriptions of the weekly episodes that the STO Live team is putting out. Each week they put out a new short quest line. The story arc completes over several weeks and then a new arc starts.

I thought it was a really good idea, because it fits in beautifully with the source material. Star Trek was an episodic TV show that aired weekly, and mimicking that structure has a certain resonance. What they are doing just feels very Star Trek-y to me, as an outside observer.

And of course, it gives you incentive to subscribe, to "tune in" every week to see the new episode.

Tangentially, before this, Star Trek Online always seemed like the design inherited from the wrong games to me. Inheriting design from DikuMUD style-RPGs like EQ and WoW, with destroyed enemies dropping loot and gaining levels and ships never seemed to quite match the feel of the televsion show. I remember seeing that you could buy and sell officers on the auction house/marketplace, and--green-skinned Orion slave girls aside--that felt really out of place in the Start Trek universe.

I've always thought that the better games for STO design to have inherited from would have the Sims games. Focusing on your officers, and giving them needs and desires, and then balancing that against the various adventures you go on, might have fit the IP a bit better.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Winning and Losing

I read an interesting article by Barry Rubin the other day:
My son is playing on a local soccer team which has lost every one of its games, often by humiliating scores. The coach is a nice guy, but seems an archetype of contemporary thinking: he tells the kids not to care about whether they win, puts players at any positions they want, and doesn’t listen to their suggestions.

He never criticizes a player or suggests how a player could do better. My son, bless him, once remarked to me: “How are you going to play better if nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?” The coach just tells them how well they are playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat, he told them they’d played a great game.


Or am I right in thinking that sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills? A central element in that world is rewarding those who do better, which also offers an incentive for them and others to strive, rather than thinking they merely need choose between becoming a government bureaucrat or dependent.


When the opportunity came to step in as coach for one game, I jumped at the chance to try an experiment. I’ve never coached a sport before, and am certainly no expert at soccer despite my son’s efforts. Still, I thought the next game could be won by simply placing players in the positions they merited, and motivating them to triumph.


They played harder, with a bit more pressure and a less equal share of personal glory than they’d ever done before. But after the victory, they were glowing and appreciative, amazed that they had actually won a game. Yes, winning and being allowed to give their best effort as a team was far more exciting and rewarding for them than being told they had done wonderfully by just showing up, that everyone should be treated equal as if there were no difference in talents, and that the results didn’t matter.

I really wonder how Mr. Rubin’s column would have turned out if his team had lost. If his team had tried to win, played their better players more, and yet still lost, maybe because they made more mistakes, or because the other team was flat-out better.

I’m not disagreeing with Mr. Rubin’s central point. This no winners/no losers thing is silly, and is doing a disservice to those youngsters. But at the same time, I think that stopping at "winning matters" was the easy, facile point. In a lot of ways, losing matters more. How to lose gracefully, how to deal with the sting of losing even though you did your best, how to draw lessons from your loss so you improve. Those are the really important lessons of childhood games, and those are much harder to teach than the simple "winning matters".

In some ways, I think the unspoken reason behind the whole no winners/no losers idea is to avoid those lessons about loss, rather than any real animosity towards the idea of winning. We fear the the concept of losing so much that we denigrate the concept of winning. After all, if there are no winners, then there are no losers.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Pandaren Pet and F2P

One of the things mentioned at Blizzcon was that Blizzard donated $1.1 million from the sale of the Pandaren pet to the Make-A-Wish foundation. That's great for the Make-A-Wish foundation, but I'm not sure what it says for the viability of item shops.

$1.1 million sounds like a lot. Blizzard donated $5 from each Pandaren, so we can infer that 220,000 people bought a pet. Sounds like a lot. But Blizzard has approximately 4 million subscribers across North America and Europe. So just 5.5% of Blizzard's subscriber base were willing to pay for this pet, even though a significant portion of the money went to charity.

Blizzard would have to sell *27* items of equivalent appeal just to make the money they make from one month of subscriptions.

This is the part I just don't believe about F2P and item shops. Every indication I've seen suggests that only a tiny fraction of the potential audience is willing to pony up money if they aren't forced to.

I just don't think that games where 5% of the players support the game and the other 95% just leech can be financially stable enough to thrive.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Class Anthems: Warrior

It's Saturday, so let's look at some machinima. I was thinking about class anthems, short videos which focus one class and make them seem awesome. Something that makes you want to roll a character of that class after watching the video. For example, Blind for rogues.

Here's an anthem for warriors, Red Eye Lobine's music video for Pillar's Frontline:

Ah, good old orc warriors. The Intervene->Spell Reflect was particularly stylish.

So what other videos would be good anthems for other classes? I think of a couple, like Cranius' Big Blue Dress for mages. Oddly, though, I can't really remember any videos that would have been a good paladin anthem.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rated Battlegrounds: A Compromise?

If rated battlegrounds are not going to have automatic group creation, I think that will hurt them as transient content. But what if Blizzard pushed rated battlegrounds towards the extended content side of the spectrum?

Instead of rotating the three brackets (10v10, 15v15, and 25v25) every week, making assembling teams very hard, what if each season focused on a specific bracket?

For example, PvP Season 9 could focus on 10v10, and the rated battlegrounds would be Warsong Gulch, Battle For Gilneas, and Twin Peaks. PvP Season 10 could focus on 25v25 and the rated battlegrounds would be Alterac Valley and Isle of Conquest. PvP Season 11 would focus on 15v15, with the rated battlegrounds being Arathi Basin, Eye of the Storm, and Strand of the Ancients.

The big advantage of this is that you could form your team at the start of the season and play with the same people for the entire season. You would only need to find a new team after the season ends, which is a natural point of change in many cases.

I think this change would encourage team play and mitigate the frustration involved in assembling a PuG group each week. You would win or lose with your team, and if you did well, your entire team would be rewarded at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, if you didn't want to form a permanent team, you would PuG a team each week, just like you would in the current design. You don't really lose anything under this system.

I think this might even lead to better gameplay, as focusing on a few specific battlegrounds for longer period of time might lead to more strategies and counter-strategies being created. You wouldn't need to master all 8 battlegrounds at once, you would focus on two or three at a time.

And the other battlegrounds would still be available as unrated options if you wanted to indulge. Blizzard could even remove the current rated battlegrounds from the unrated pool to keep things different.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rated Battlegrounds: A Missed Opportunity?

Apropos of our discussion yesterday, Blizzard posted a FAQ on Rated Battlegrounds. The key points I want to pull out are:
1. Rated Battlegrounds are broken down into three brackets. 10v10, 15v15 and 25v25. These brackets rotate weekly and can be viewed in-game via the calendar by activating the battleground holiday filter.

2. Players must create a raid with the full number of players required for the current bracket before entering the queue. Any level 85 player of your faction may participate in the battle (regardless of guild association).

As I've mentioned before, I think there are two main types of group content: transient and extended. I think the current design of rated battlegrounds falls in-between the two types, and thus is more awkward than it needs to be.

Extended content works best when you have the same team each week. Where you work together as a team and gradually become better and better. Things like raiding and Arenas. However, for rated battlegrounds, the size of the team needs to change from week to make, making it extremely awkward to have a consistent team. One week you go with 10, the next with 15, the next with 25. It's a scheduling nightmare. You'll have to do substitutions and all sorts of shenanigans to get everyone in the guild their full quota of points, if you approach rated BGs from an extended content point-of-view.

From the transient side, there's no automatic group creation. Again, I believe that automatic group creation is a killer feature for transient content, that transient content is essentially crippled without automatic group creation.

With this design, rated battlegrounds will become like pugging raids today. However, if you think that Gearscore is bad today, you are not prepared for the hell that will be rated battlegrounds. Lose a game, and recriminations will start flying, even if the team that won was simply better. Those the group leader sees as weak will be kicked from the team after the first game, and the next 30 minutes will be wasted as the team lead tries to find the perfect current "overpowered" class with the best gear and rating possible.

Rated battlegrounds seem perfect for an automatic matching system. Just match people of similar rating together, and let them fight opposing teams of similar rating. Transient content should be approached in a transient manner. If people want to queue up with groups, let them, but the differing battleground sizes will always make that hard to do consistently week after week.

Creating a successful Pick-Up Group for a raid right now is a time-consuming and frustrating exercise. I'm not sure why Blizzard wants to use it as the model for Rated Battlegrounds, especially when the automatic group creation of the Dungeon Finder seems like a far better path.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Leechers and Automatic Group Creation

Sometimes I think that if Gevlon did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

His latest brainwave is a mod that kicks and blacklists people from the Wintergrasp raid. Basically, if he or other mod users see people leeching or being stupid, they can kick them out from the raid, preventing them from gaining much of the rewards that the people in the raid get.

The thing is that for as long as PvP has had rewards, there have been leechers. People who sit in the Battleground doing nothing, essentially forcing their team to play at a disadvantage, while racking up the rewards that the rest of the team earns. Because the other players cannot impose consequences for negative behaviour, that negative behaviour flourishes. Automatic detection of negative behavior hasn't really helped.

What's interesting is that in the PvE implementation of automatic group creation, there is a mechanism to allow players to punish negative behavior: Vote-kicks. The group can vote to kick a player from the group and get a new player. All of a sudden, behavior that reduces the chances of success has consequences.

And I think that by and large vote-kicking, or the threat of being vote-kicked, has worked. There is far less obvious leeching in dungeons than in PvP.1

Gevlon's mod is essentially a vote-kick system for Wintergrasp, albeit with only one vote.

It begs the question: would PvP battlegrounds benefit from a vote-kick system like the one the Dungeon Finder has? Automatic detection of negative behaviour can usually be outwitted, but I think it's fairly obvious to the entire team when one person is slacking.

The sad truth is that when there are no consequences for bad behaviour, people often behave badly. There have been no consequences in PvP for a long while, and maybe it is time there should be.

1. We can debate about people doing low dps in random dungeons another time. To me, at least they're trying to hit the mobs, even if they aren't very effective. It's much better than them sitting at the front of the instance leeching xp and loot.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Living with Loot Council

As most long-time readers know, I'm not the biggest fan of Loot Council. I much prefer DKP systems that leave the decision-making up to the players. So when my guild decided to switch to Loot Council, I viewed the move with some trepidation. I really did like our previous English-bid DKP system. But a lot of the guild felt uncomfortable with the "adversarial" nature of that system, and so we decided to change it up.

So what has Loot Council been like so far?

First off, I would like to note that I really like the implementation of Loot Council that our leadership came up with. We have three people on the council: our long-time loot officer, the guild master, and one non-officer raider. The non-officer raider changes each raid and is chosen more or less randomly. The guild master only casts a vote if the other two members disagree.

On the whole, Loot Council has worked out more or less okay. Loot distribution is a little bit faster, and there's definitely a much lower burden on the loot officer. There's not a lot of record-keeping to worry about.

But at the same time, I don't really see the Loot Council leading to a "better" distribution of loot than the previous system did. This is the flaw in Loot Council. The council is human, and thus, is likely to make mistakes and be unable to capture every piece of information necessary to make the ideal decision.

It's not like the council makes outrageous mistakes. But sometimes things can be subtle. For example, let's look at one example of loot distribution that I consider a mistake:

An i277 caster/healer cloak dropped. Of the people who wanted it, several had i264 cloaks, and one had an i258 cloak. The i277 cloak was given to the i258 guy because it was the largest upgrade. Certainly it is a defensible decision, or so it seems. But the thing is that most of the i264 cloaks were Emblem cloaks, purchasable from a vendor. So either the i258 cloak was better than than the i264 cloak, in which case the i277 cloak was a bigger upgrade for someone else, or the i258 cloak was worse than the i264 cloak, in which case the i258 guy wasn't willing to spend the Emblems to upgrade. In that case, the people who took initiative to upgrade their gear outside of raiding got passed over in favor of someone who didn't.

Certainly it's a very small mistake. I would have just considered the i258 and i264 cloaks more or less the same and had everyone roll for it.

The other amusing Loot Council folly was counciling 4 i277 tokens in row to a disc priest to help with Heroic Lich King. Said priest promptly quit right after getting the fourth token. Now obviously, the priest could have pulled similar shenanigans in the DKP system, blowing all his DKP right before quitting. But when something like this happens in Loot Council, it's the Council's error, their misjudgment thrown into stark relief, rather than the impersonal nature of DKP earned and spent.

But so far, Loot Council doesn't lead to obviously "worse" results than the previous system. And the savings on administrative overhead are huge. Plus, the guild seems much happier with this system than the previous one.

And that is a very important part of loot systems. Your guild has to believe in your loot system. You can have the most technically and mathematically sound system in the world (*cough* Vickrey bidding *cough*) and if the guild does not buy into it, it will fail. Similarly, a terribly flawed system can succeed if everyone is willing to work with it.

Monday, November 01, 2010

How was your Wrath?

As the pre-Cataclysm events started today, I guess it's time to look back at Wrath of the Lich King. How was your Wrath experience?

Mine was pretty good. I joined and stayed with one guild throughout this expansion. I moved up from a Gentry level guild into one that is definitely Aristocrat. I got to see all the content in the expansion, which was my major goal this time around. I got to drop raiding down to a nice, steady 3 nights/week.

I even got my Ulduar drake a couple weeks ago, which I think was my last major goal (one of the ICC or Ulduar drakes). There's still stuff left on the table: Heroic LK, Heroic Halion, Yogg+0, ICC drake. My guild actually has the ICC drake, but I was waitlisted the one night we did Neck-Deep in Vile. :/

I would have liked to PvP a bit more, I guess. I didn't do much PvP at all, but it might have been nice to explore that facet of the game.

I also seem to have lost interest in alts. I'm actually heading into Cataclysm with fewer max-level characters than I took into Wrath (my hunter is still at 78). I actually have a lot of random alts stuck at many different levels, but I can't seem to care enough to actually level them to max.

But really, all in all, I'm satisfied with how this expansion went.

How was your Wrath expansion?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Light of Dawn

First, to quote the inimitable Jong:
Also, holy pallies are shooting lazers out of their hands.

On the first night of raiding post-patch we went to Icecrown Citadel. I tried using Light of Dawn, but I just wasn't impressed by it. It didn't seem to do anything, and was always on cooldown.

But then last night, we went to Ulduar. And I fell in love with the spell.

The thing is that raid damage is fundamentally different in ICC than it was in Ulduar. In ICC, raid damage is constant and heavy. Aura damage fights and many random sources of damage abound. In this environment, Light of Dawn seems exceedingly feeble, and the long cooldown just makes it pointless.

But in Ulduar, raid damage generally follows a pattern. The boss does a special move and the entire raid takes damage. The raid damage is not constant. In this environment, Light of Dawn shines. XT has a tantrum; all the paladins bust out Light of Dawn in response.

And that interaction is just incredibly fun to me. Perhaps it was because those points used to be the worst part of healing for a paladin. Sure, once in a while you could use Aura Mastery or Divine Sacrifice, but most of the time you were frantically single-targeting the people with the lowest health, cursing your lack of tools.

The best analogy I could come with was back when I played Magic: the Gathering.
Opponent: I Fireball you for 7,000,000 damage.
Me: Counterspell.

Light of Dawn feels like our counterspell:
Raid Boss: Ha, ha. Eat my super-move of mega raid damage.
Holy Paladin: Light of Dawn.

Obviously, it's not a complete panacea, you still have to heal everyone up. But it feels fun when I use Light of Dawn in Ulduar.

It even makes the choice of glyphing Light of Dawn more obvious. Does the move you want to counter occur every 20-30 seconds? If yes, glyph Light of Dawn. If it occurs every 30+ seconds, glyph something else.

Now, we don't really know what raid damage in Cataclysm will be like. Hopefully it will be more like Ulduar than ICC.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Odds and Ends

Ghostcrawler on Holy Paladins

Nice long post by GC on the state of holy paladins. Very interesting read.

Right now, I think we're a little skewed because mana restrictions aren't in yet. With infinite mana at 80, the other classes are able to put out a lot of healing to multiple targets, which is our weak point. We don't get our main AoE spell until 83, and Beacon got drastically weakened. However, when mana restrictions become stronger, things may be more equal.

Cataclysm trailer

The Cataclysm trailer is online. It's pretty good, but I think the Wrath trailer was just more elegant.

Lord of the Rings Online

Since Lord of the Rings Online went F2P, I've been giving it a whirl. I've been levelling a Guardian. It's fun, but I'm approaching the point where I need to decide whether to pay for stuff or not.


As predicted, Reforging has become mandatory for endgame raiding. Kind of honestly, it's a serious annoyance. I haven't reforged my Holy gear, because I'm not having mana problems, and the theorycraft on the other three stats is all over the place.

But then I reforged Ret gear, and trying to maximize stats while hitting the hit cap, expertise cap, and haste softcap was a trying exercise.

Ahh well, I expect someone will make a program to tell you what the optimal reforging pattern is.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Holy Paladin Spec and Glyphs in 4.0.1

Well, 4.0.1 is almost upon us, and with it comes the biggest shakeup in the game systems that we've seen in a long time. Here are some thoughts on Holy's new spec and glyphs for level 80. For the glyph's section, I'm looking at the Holy-focused glyphs only.

Talent Spec

Looking at the talent trees, I think there are two major decision points for Holy Paladins:

Long-range or short-range Judgements?

Judgment gives a 9% haste buff, but you need to spend 4 talent points if you want to be able to judge effectively from range. If you think you can survive without long-range Judgements, that frees up 4 points which you can spend on other talents.

Divinity or Crusade?

Divinity gives +6% to all your heals. Crusade gives +30% to Holy Shock. At 80, you don't have enough talent points to get both.

You will be using Holy Shock a lot, and 30% is a large enough buff that it can actively change how you use the spell. With Crusade, maybe you'll be able to Holy Shock in a place where you would have had to use Flash of Light.

In contrast, Divinity adds 6% to all your healing. It's constant and works with everything.

My thoughts

Right now, I'm leaning toward taking Long-range Judgements and Crusade. I'll have to relearn how to play Holy Paladin, and not needing to mess around with range, and being able to judge like normal will reduce the learning curve.

As for Crusade/Divinity, at 85 we will be taking both talents. There's a risk that if I don't take Crusade, I may end up not using HS like I should, because it will be much less powerful than it will be at 85.

Sample Builds

LR+Crusade: 31/0/5
LR+Divinity: 31/3/2

SR+Crusade: 31/2/3
SR+Divinity: 31/3/2

Prime Glyphs

Divine Favor - Increases the duration of Divine Favor by 10 sec.
Holy Shock - Increases the critical effect chance of Holy Shock by 5%.
Seal of Insight - While Seal of Insight is active, the effect of your healing spells is increased by 5%.
Word of Glory - Increases the healing done by Word of Glory by 10%.

My choices are Holy Shock, Seal of Insight, and Word of Glory. Those are the spells that will get used all the time.

Major Glyphs

Beacon of Light - Increases the duration of Beacon of Light by 30 sec.
Cleanse - Reduces the mana cost of your Cleanse by 20%.
Divine Plea - Your Divine Plea provides an additional 5% of your total mana.
Divinity - Your Lay on Hands grants twice as much mana as normal and also grants you as much mana as it grants your target.
Light of Dawn - Reduces the cooldown of Light of Dawn by 10 sec and the amount healed by 20%.
Hand of Salvation - Hand of Salvation no longer permanently reduces threat over time but instead reduces all threat as long as Hand of Salvation lasts.
Long Word - Your Word of Glory heals for 50% less up front, but provides an additional 50% healing over 6 sec.

My choices are going to be Beacon of Light, Divinity, and Long Word.

I don't think we need to worry about mana just yet, so Cleanse is out. As for Divine Plea, I don't think we will use it on cooldown. If it turns out that paladins are using it on cooldown, I expect it to be nerfed until we only use it in emergencies. Or possibly by macro'ing '/cancel Divine Plea' to all our healing spells.

Light of Dawn is a 20% increase in effectiveness if you are using it on cooldown. But it feels like the type of spell you save for exactly the right time, not a spell that you use every chance you get. Hand of Salvation is interesting, but I think that permanent threat reduction is going to be more useful. Temporary threat reduction can save someone after they pull, but we already have Hand of Protection for that.

Long Word makes WoG different than HS, and I think that will be important, rather just having WoG be a HS clone.

Minor Glyphs

Blessing of Kings - Reduces the mana cost of Blessing of Kings by 50%.
Blessing of Might - Reduces the mana cost of your Blessing of Might by 50%.
Seal of Insight - Reduces the mana cost of Seal of Insight by 50%.
Lay on Hands - Reduces the cooldown of your Lay on Hands spell by 2 min.

I think our Minor glyphs are the most boring out of all the classes. I'm taking Lay on Hands and Seal of Insight. Kings and Might is a toss up, but I'll take Kings for style.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Blind Guild?

How viable do you think a guild that insisted on doing content "blind" would be? By "blind", I mean not reading boss strategies or watching videos. Maybe not even using Boss Mods.

I've greatly enjoyed the few times I've gotten to tweak boss strats. But I'm not really in the first stare of Royalty guilds, both by talent and inclination. So I don't really have the opportunity to do things like that in the natural course of play.

I guess I'm just looking at Cataclysm, and idly thinking about what I'd like to do in that expansion. I like my current guild, but I'm just wondering if I would perhaps enjoy something different.

There are a lot of issues with a blind guild, though. You'd have to get people who would not cheat. Progress would be a lot slower. Probably would be a lot less loot.

As well, you'd have to consider the type of people who would be attracted to this sort of guild. Would they use the no-strat policy as an excuse to slack off in other areas? If you're already handicapping yourself by not using outside resources for boss fights, would people still be willing to use outside resources for rotations, or insist on full consumables.

Sometimes it feels that people are "efficient" in all things, or efficient in none. I think that this is a point which is under-appreciated by those people who wish that people were less concerned about spec or gems. The choice is rarely between a 100% efficiency player and a 95% efficiency player, it's between a 100% player or a 50% player.

The thing is that the players you need to make a blind guild relatively successful are also the players who will seek out strategies, watch videos or ask people who have already beaten the fight.

I think you might be able to get a 10-man normal blind guild running. But I like 25-man heroics, and that may be a bit too much to ask.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Response to Tobold on Board Games Philosophy

Tobold recently wrote a post on Board Games Philosophy that I thought was rather interesting. He explores the concept of "Eurogames" vs "Ameritrash", which is described as:
As RPS describes it, "Eurogames are the board games you can play in polite company" and "If you’ve ever rolled a dice to hit the guy sitting to your left with a poisoned lance, causing him to storm out of the door and march back to his mum’s house with tears in his eyes, you’ve played some prime Ameritrash."

Tobold feels that Eurogames are a much more popular genre than Ameritrash. But I am not so sure.

First, let's get rid of the prejudicial names. I observe that there are two main styles of adversarial games: Last One Standing, and First to the Mark.

Last One Standing games feature people being knocked out as the game goes on. The winner is the person who survives and defeats all her opponents. Examples include Monopoly, poker, Axis & Allies, and Diplomacy.

First to the Mark games usually feature everyone gaining score, with the winner being the first person to reach a predetermined state. Examples include Settlers of Catan, Clue, and trick taking games like whist or euchre.

There's also a third type, High Score at Time. But these games are often just one of the other two types with a time limit. If you remove the time limit, it's often pretty obvious which category they fall into. For example, Risk is a Last One Standing game, only with a time limit. Scrabble is a First to the Mark game with a time limit.

As you can see from the examples, it is not at all obvious that First to the Mark games are innately more popular than Last One Standing games.

I think that both game types have strengths and weaknesses. To me, Last One Standing games are often better when the stakes are higher. Poker dominates the other card games when it comes to gambling. On the other hand, Last One Standing games are very annoying if the elimination period is very long. It's no fun being the first person knocked out when the game continues for a significant period of time. As well, two people can often team up against a single other person, and the out-numbered person can rarely survive.

With First to the Mark games, everyone usually gets to keep playing the game until the very end. On the other hand, one thing I loathe about this type of game is the presence of kingmakers. Kingmakers are players who absolutely cannot win, but can determine which of the two leaders will win the game. Often times, a kingmaker's support will have nothing to do with the game, but much to do with outside relationships.

First to the Mark games are also less adversarial than Last One Standing games. A lot of people might say that this is an advantage, but I am not so sure. Many times, First to the Mark games don't really feature a lot of interactivity between the players. It's like each player is playing solitaire, and the fastest player wins.

In more interactive First to the Mark games, negative interaction comes in the form of "refusal to help". Somehow I find that an outright attack in Last One Standing game is just more honest and less frustrating. An attack is what one expects. Maybe it's just me, but I take getting attacked in a wargame--or even getting betrayed in Diplomacy--much better than someone refusing to trade in Settlers of Catan.

So both types of games have strengths and weaknesses, and I think it is incorrect to say that one type is obviously better or popular than the other. But one thing is that Last One Standing games are best when they reset quickly, and that is often against the nature of MMOs.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

4.0 Paladin Healing (at 80)

I copied Coriel over to the PTR this weekend and tried some heroics. Some thoughts:

1. I don't think the mana requirements are in at 80.

Now maybe the mana requirements drastically increase from 81-85, but at level 80 they're negligible. The only way to run dry would be to spam Divine Light (the big heal) or Flash of Light (now an expensive, fast heal).

2. Holy Shock and Word of Glory are the go-to heals.

They're fast, cheap and heal for a decent amount. I was using Holy Shock on cooldown, tossing WoG when I hit 3 Holy Power, and filling in with Holy Light on non-tanks and Divine Light on the tanks.

3. Beacon of Light is now dirt-cheap.

It's so cheap that Beacon is a no-brainer now. Just put Beacon on the tank and heal as if Beacon did not exist. It only transfers 50%. If you heal a non-tank, the tank gets a little heal as a side-effect. If you heal the tank, you get a boost of Holy Power.

4. Flash of Light is obsolete.

Holy Shock is instant, costs 25% of the mana, and heals for something like 66% of FoL. WoG heals for 66% and is free. Plus, after a HS, HL or DL are sped up, so they can land very quickly. And you can proc Daybreak to get double HS and then chain into Word of Glory for very quick heals. I'm not really sure I see what situation FoL would fit in now.

5. One-click buffing is awesome.

One button press, and everyone gets Kings. Heaven.

6. Light of Dawn is ... interesting.

I don't really know about this spell. The thing is that in the two heroics I ran, the only time everyone took damage was when the DPS pulled aggro. More often than not, they were running around like monkeys so it was really hard to get all of the them in the cone.

As well, it's a good heal, but it won't keep a group up when mobs are beating on them. It seems fine for splash damage, but not when people pull aggro. Plus it's on a fairly long cooldown, long enough that it often falls out of mind.

7. The Healing Mastery is okay.

The healing mastery puts a temporary shield on your heal target for 8 seconds. The shield is for about 8% of heals. It's okay, but the only problem is that the shield doesn't increase with subsequent heals unless it expires. This is especially problematic as Holy Shock tends to hit quickly after the last heal, before the shield can expire. So you often end up losing some of your mastery if you heal the same target twice in a row.

This could be a bug, so we'll see if Blizzard fixes it.


So is the new healing model better?

Well, it's certainly better than spamming Holy Light all the time. But I'm not sure about the actual triage involved. The thing is that you want to use HS all the time, because it's cheap, fast, heals for a decent amount, and is the primary generator of Holy Power, which gives you your Word of Glories. So really, I found I was following a strict priority of WoG-3, HS, then Holy Light. The only exception was if the tank dropped to 50-60%, at which point I used Divine Light to bring them back.

The problem I see with making mana more important is that if Holy Shock gets more expensive, then a paladin will be less likely to use it. But that will mean less Word of Glories, so you're kind of just left with Holy Light.

It could work, but it does feel as if HS and WoG are too tightly bound to really allow one to truly triage and conserve mana. But I don't know. I'd really have to try first-hand the later levels when mana restrictions actually kick in.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

4.0 Early Levels, Part II

I'm just rolling new classes and giving the first couple levels a whirl on the PTR. These are some impressions.


Uhh, low level hunters are a little insane. Before, Arcane Shot had a 6s cooldown, so you only got one shot off per fight. Now, Arcane Shot costs 25 focus, and you start with 100 focus, so you can pop off 4 Arcane Shots in a row. The new hunter starts with a pet, which is great, but stuff dies before your pet even reaches the mob. Maybe low level Arcane Shot should do a little less damage, so combat lasts longer than 2 GCDs.


Mages are very nice at low levels. You start with Fireball, which is pretty much the essence of magery.

Then at level 3 you get Arcane Missiles. The new Arcane Missiles is a lot of fun. It's now activated (like a proc) by your spells, but it's free. So you Fireball a couple times, and then Arcane Missiles proc and you blast the mob with them. It's lots of fun, and much better than just spamming Fireball.

The proc also shows off Blizzard's new built-in Power Auras. When Arcane Missiles proc, two purple lines appear on your screen to either side of your character. It's very noticeable, and is much better than watching your action bar or buffs.


Warlocks start with the Imp and Shadowbolt. They also start with Demon Armor, but that wasn't on the action bar so I didn't notice it.

The Imp is good, but I don't agree with Shadowbolt. It makes the low level warlock feel too much like a mage. But then again, I'm prejudiced against Shadowbolt. I think the single worst mistake ever made by the WoW Class Dev Team was warlocks at the end of TBC. We started with a pet class with a focus on DoTs and lovely, lovely complexity. Then it was turned into a class that sacrificed the pet and spammed a single nuke.

So yeah, putting Shadowbolt forward as the introductory warlock spell is bad. I would suggest giving level 1 warlocks Drain Life instead. It's very different from mage spells, and is much more appropriate thematically. Warlocks don't just blast you down, they drain the very life from you, healing themselves at your expense.

As well, 4.0 warlocks get Drain Life at level 8, so moving Shadowbolt up to level 8 in its place doesn't really change things in the long run.


Level 1 Warriors are very meh. You start with Attack, which starts auto-attack, and Strike, which is a 20 rage attack. It's better than starting with Heroic Strike, I guess. It takes about two auto-attacks to generate enough rage for a Strike. I found that I was actually pressing the Attack button, just to have another button to press during combat.

But then, at level 3 you get Charge. And the warrior goes from meh to great. Charge, swing, Strike, good times. Charge is just awesome, definitely a contender for best spell in the game.

And at level 5, warriors get Victory Rush and go from great to outright amazing. Victory Rush does a fair chunk of healing and damage. Charge, swing, Strike, Victory Rush the next target, swing, Strike, Charge, Victory Rush, etc. It just flows so beautifully.

Other Observations

I like the low level tooltips on abilities. They're geared to the beginner, and often offer tips on how best to use the ability. For example, Fireblast suggests that you use the spell when you are moving or in melee.

Ranged classes also had their range increased to 40 yards. I'm not sure I really like this. It feels a little too far from the mob. 30-35 yards felt a little better.

As well, from a healing point of view, 35-ish yards was ideal because heals reached 40 yards. The tank was often on the other side of the mob from you. So when ranged stood at 35 yards from the boss, you could stand with them and still reach the tank on the other side. And if mob did that charge the closest range thing, they'd hit the ranged instead of you.

Now with both heals and ranged hitting 40 yards, if the ranged stands at 40 yards, the healers will have to stand closer to reach the tank. That creates some separation meaning that AoE heals will be a little less effective. Not to mention that rather than just having the melee in one place and ranged in another place, we'll now have melee at point 1, healers at point 2, and ranged dps at point 3. As well, healers will soak random mechanics that target the nearest range. Or that any effect which causes the ranged to run will probably cause the healers to have to run farther or in different directions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

4.0 Early Paladin

So the 4.0 PTR is out. You can download it (16 gigs!) and test all the new class talents and mechanics. No Cataclysm content is available though.

Character copy wasn't working for me, so I decided to test out the low level paladin experience.

First off, the UI changes are superb. The new character pane is great. The new guild pane is pretty nice as well. The only thing I would change is that the Guild pane really needs a default hotkey.

As for the newbie paladin experience, I don't really like it. The thing is that the very first level sets the tone for the class. Cataclysm Paladins start off with only Crusader Strike. No heal. CS is a great skill, and does make leveling more interactive. But it makes the level 1 paladin feel like a warrior. Previously, a level 1 paladin had Seal of Righteousness and Holy Light. It set the tone that the paladin hits her enemies and heals her allies.

The next few levels don't help either. At level 3 the paladin gets Judgement and Seal of Righteousness. Judgement doesn't even have the healing debuff, so it's a straight combat move. You get Devo Aura at 5, but still, it just doesn't feel right.

The other problem with level 1 paladins is that CS generates Holy Power, but you don't have any skills to use it. An extremely common question in general chat is "What is this yellow bar under my paladin's health/mana?" The first skill that uses Holy Power is Word of Glory (the instant heal) at level 9.

What I would suggest is that Word of Glory gets moved to level 1. That way the paladin gets both a melee attack and a heal right from the very start. Both facets of the paladin are represented, and paladins are once again differentiated from warriors. As well, you get an outlet for Holy Power, and get paladins used to the new mechanic right from the start.

Then you could move Judgement to level 5 and push Devotion Aura to level 9. You don't really need Judgement right away at level 3.

I think this scheme would work better for the initial paladin experience.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Tier Sets in Wrath

For some reason, I feel like the Tier sets in Wrath were less ... effective, maybe ... than the Tier sets in TBC and Vanilla. For me, the main differences are colors and uniqueness.

When I think of old Tier sets, I remember the colors more than anything else. The red and gold of Lightforge, the black edged with red/gold of Judgement, the blue and gold of T6, and even the purple of T5. The Wrath Tier sets, on the other hand, have as many as 3 different variations, and that greatly decreased their memorability. You couldn't just look at someone and recognize the Tier set, like you could in the previous version.

Of all the paladin sets of Wrath, the white T8 may have been iconic enough to stand near T2 and T6.1 But having the other recolors of the same set diluted the effect.

The other issue with Tier armor this time around is that the non-Tier armor shared the same look with the Tier. Perhaps that this was done so people would look more cohesive, not have the "clown" effect of TBC. But it just made Tier feel less special. You couldn't just look at the crowd and pick out someone in her full Tier set.

Blizzard should step back a bit and make Tier armor feel a bit more unique. Use a single, iconic, color scheme for both normal and heroic variants. Use a different, more generic, armor model for non-tier gear. Tier armor pieces are the main Loot as Reward items in raids, the armor you collect and save in your bank. Someone in full Tier should look significantly different than someone in mixed gear, and that really wasn't the case for most of Wrath.

1. Also, T10 should have gone with pants. I like the plate skirt/cassock of T2, but it's something that should be used sparingly, and regular plate pants worked better with the rest of T10. The skirt/cassock works better with sets that have a cleric-ish vibe, but the dragon helm of T10 evokes knights.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Response to Spinks on Gamer Misogyny

This is a response to Spinks' That 'women in gaming' post. I posted a comment to that post in haste, and didn't really convey what I wanted to convey. So this is my second stab at it.

Proposition 1: A significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic.

I completely and utterly agree with this proposition. It's pretty much self-evident.

Proposition 2: A significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic, because of the way games are designed.

I completely disagree with this proposition.

Aside from the few companies who are stupid and/or deliberately provocative (*cough*Rockstar*cough*), modern Western games--not gamers, but games--are extremely respectful to women. They feature strong, competent female characters. Off the top of my head consider Jaina, Sylvannas, Jaheria, Bastila, Annah, Fall-From-Grace, Leilana, Morrigan, Wynne, April Ryan. Western game rulebases do not differentiate between male and female. Female characters are just as likely to be successful as male characters.

Female villains are just as daunting as male villains, without resorting to offensive caricatures. Quite frankly, this is something the game industry does better than any other media out there. Consider Onyxia, Queen Anora, Kerrigan, SHODAN, GLaDOS, Carmen Sandiego. There aren't that many female villains, but the ones that are tend to be drawn quite well.

Most game companies also go out of their way to be welcoming to women. A decade ago, when Wizards of the Coast released Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, they wrote the rulebooks using female pronouns (she, her instead of he, his), to basically hammer home on every single page the point that women were welcome. I don't really know how successful that method was, but I thought it particularly stylish, so I copied it for my own writing.

In my experience, the modern game industry is more respectful of women than most modern movies, music, television, fiction, and even media aimed mainly at women like romance novels1. In my opinion, the only genre that routinely treats women better than modern games is young adult fiction, and even young adult fiction rarely has good female villains.

So then, how do we square the fact that many gamers are misogynistic, when most games are not, and in fact do make significant efforts to be respectful to women?

I think it is a combination of three factors.

The first factor is that gamers, especially teenage gamers, are treated badly by female culture. Male culture has mostly absorbed gaming to the point where almost every young male games casually. But female culture still looks down on gaming. Exactly how many guys would tell a girl that they gamed on first acquaintance? Versus pretty much any other hobby? What other moderately mainstream hobby carries such social stigma as gaming?

So is it any surprise that some gamers, especially teenage males, lash back defensively? It completely fails to excuse that behavior. Misogyny is inexcusable. But if the misogyny stems from this cause, then there is really nothing that game makers can really do. They've been trying to make games more popular and more main-stream for years now.

The second factor is that it is much easier for like-minded gamers to find each other and group together, reinforcing their negative tendencies. This is because gaming communities are heavily internet-based. In a smaller or geographic-based community, the community leaders could police these behaviors, and bring deviants in-line with the rest of the community norms. But in a very large community, such as the internet, the deviants just slink off and form their own sub-community and impose their behavior on others.

Again, I am not really sure what game makers can do about this. Would you really accept limitations on your right of association? Imagine if you could not choose your guild, but were randomly assigned to one. And you could not easily switch guilds. What would the social structure look like? What norms would prevail? I think it would prevent the reinforcement of an individual's misogyny, but it would also prevent reinforcement of some positive norms. Not to mention that most people want to play with their friends.

As well, so much of association is carried out on Vent and external message boards that the game maker cannot control.

The third and final factor is anonymity. Anonymity dehumanizes people. You don't see other people in the game, you start to see just characters running around. These gamers do not see how many women actually play the game, do not see that real people control the characters that they are insulting. Anonymity also reduces fear of reprisal. People act badly just because they can. They pay no social price for their vitriol.

Consider the game of chess. In many ways, chess maps to gaming in that very few women play, and it has a low social cachet. Yet, chess culture is not nearly as misogynistic as game culture can be. Now, maybe it's because chess is more staid, but I think it is because chess lacks that culture of anonymity. Everyone uses their real name and are ranked with that. And as a result, chess culture is far more respectful to everyone than gaming is, even if almost no women play.

But then again, none of you agree with me about anonymity and real names. Everyone is too concerned with "privacy" in video games2. And so we reap the consequences of that decision.

That's where I stand on this issue. I agree that a significant portion of gamer culture is virulently misogynistic. However, I think the games themselves have done a really good job of driving out disrespect to women in the actual game and rulebase. I'm not sure that there is too much more that they could do. They can't force female culture to not stigmatize gaming. I think gamers would fuss if they made a solid attempt to break the right to choose your associations. We've already seen that gamers howl if their precious "privacy" is in any way threatened.

So what's left? Fiddling with crafting and pet collecting in a futile effort to entice more women to play? (Does anyone really believe that women don't game because there's not enough pet collecting?) And this will reduce the misogyny how exactly? More women in the game won't matter because you cannot force the misogynists to associate with them. Social shame is pretty much the only option to control them, and that path is blocked.

Games cannot be held responsible for factors out of their control. Modern games have done, in my opinion, a superb job of creating strong, competent female characters and generally being friendly to women. If I had daughters, I would much rather them take Sylvannas as a role model than most other characters in non-gaming media (though maybe with less emphasis on the whole "raising the dead" thing).

1. I read Regencies, and kind of frankly, sometimes I wonder that women accept the way women are treated in a significant minority of those novels, let alone how men are treated. If women were treated that way in a male-dominated medium, there would be Senate hearings. Also, what's the deal with red hair?
2. Meanwhile, your local government is probably putting your house plans and property taxes up on the internet. Not joking, by the way.