Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ghostcrawler can't shadow.

"...anything with more than 1 mob is a job for Mind Sear." -Ghostcrawler (Source, near the end of post 74)

Fail. While I trust Ghostcrawler to get things right eventually, he does need to be slapped upside the head now and again. I guess I should be glad that he's not telling people to cast it on single targets. >.>

Monday, April 19, 2010

Gear: Not as overrated as I've claimed?

While I often point out that gear discrepancies at max level are drowned out by skill differences, I recently rolled a lowbie holy Paladin on another server, and I can say, the original game is much harder without overgearing. Without access to my usual supply of heirlooms and gold, I was found to be running around in gear that actually was intended for content like RFC. While we never wiped, in a single pull I ran from full mana to dead empty, popped a potion, Gift of the Naaru, Lay on Hands, and Hand of Protection. That all with only 9% overheal, which was mostly from Lay on Hands; my health was higher than the tank's (due to my suboptimal stamina greens from world drops). I can definitely say that at extremely low level, not having heirlooms really makes a great difference.

I was prepared to write a rant about how the Paladin's healing toolbox was innately inferior to other classes pre-level 20, but upon comparison to the spells a priest has available, Holy Light is actually 30% more HpM and HpS than the comparable spells that a priest has available. So, I'm here to revise my claim that everyone should have no excuse for being bad; I had trouble healing RFC, and I did 9% away from as good as you could possibly do with the gear I had, and even that meant letting people fall to under 10% before dropping the heal bomb on them. So, at least pre-level 30, cut people some slack if they damage below the healer, (I was desperately meleeing in between casts to proc Judgement of Wisdom,) or the tank, or if their threat is low, or they can barely heal through pulling three packs and a patrol. Wearing usual newbie gear really does make those things exceedingly difficult to do. I almost can't imagine how a team of level 15s in level-appropriate gear could have handled instances like RFC in vanilla.

/salute to those who came before us!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Discipline: Losing its flavor? (Not really.)

Power Word: Shield tooltip"[We want to] make sure shielding isn't always a more attractive option than healing."

These words about halfway down the Priest Cataclysm preview have sparked a surprising response from trolls and legitimate posters alike: "Discipline is losing its flavor." I'm here to disabuse everyone of the notion that moving away from shield spam is bad for the discipline spec. The non-troll complaints seem to come from two schools of thought: shields are what makes us unique, so they should always be better than healing, or using non-shield spells is much weaker than shielding, so this change will be a nerf to the spec. The first is question of flavor, the second is based on a failure of thinking.

1: Most healing specs (everyone but the druid) have a few direct heals, and then their class mechanics make up the rest of their spells. As it stands, discipline priests in high-end raids are primarily assigned to hit every member of the raid with Power Word: Shield, and then to do it again. Since global cooldowns are 1 second, and the spell prevents shielding for the next 15 seconds, it only takes two discipline priests to cover the entire raid, assuming the shields are being consumed more often than every 15 seconds. If a boss takes more than 15 seconds to consume raid shields, then a single discipline priest is often sufficient. In either case, from a flavor perspective, discipline is strange compared to the other healing classes; discipline typically uses its unique mechanic to the exclusion of other effects. Mechanically, the current state of discipline in high-end raids is that two discipline priests is problematic, and anything more than that simply won't work. That's bad on both counts, and thus, change is good.

2: The second argument is flawed in that it examines the effect of this change in isolation. If we got patch 4.0 tomorrow, and the discipline section read:
  • Discipline's shields reduced to encourage a wider variety of spells used.
  • Nope, nothing else changed in Disc, that's all. Really.
Then, it would be fair to say that this is a nerf to discipline that is not needed, and therefore the change shouldn't be made. But, that's not the case; this is a single change amongst many that will be coming in Cataclysm. I trust the developers (and you should too) to properly compensate the spec in other areas so that the net effect is to leave us on a similar level to all the other healing specs in both tank and raid healing.

Don't do this, trust Ghostcrawler to get it right.

I personally see the rebalancing of bubbles relative to our other healing components as a good thing for the class, and not just in terms of spell variety. Making it so PW:S isn't our primary spell will make more stats viable on gear. As it stands, PW:S scales only to spellpower, which we have little control over. If we commonly use our other spells, we can actually begin to care about things like whether our gear has haste, crit, or mp5 on it. Besides gear selection, the proposed rebalancing was for the purpose of letting discipline be more competitive tank healers. By allowing us more roles in a raid, the spec becomes more entertaining, less repetitive, and more detailed. So, for the reasons I've listed, I think discipline casting more heals and less shields is good for myself and all the other raiding discipline priests.

What would you pay for?

In what could be described as a somewhat controversial move, (by which I mean the entire blogosphere is on fire because of it,) Blizzard recently made a mount that functions like the Headless Horesman's Mount available for $25. It scales to your riding skill, will upgrade to 310% if you own another 310% mount, and applies to your entire account. So why would you want to shell out that much for the sparklepony? Well, personally, I wouldn't. That image there might look cool, but if you see it ingame, the animations are a little messed up, and it just looks off if you see it with Shadowform. So it doesn't even look cool. The main reason I see for wanting it is that you won't need to spend gold on mounts for your alts. The total savings is 161g per alt (1g for regular, 10g for epic, 50g for flying, 100g for epic flying.) That said, that's only a small portion of the cost of riding; you still pay 7110g for the riding training.

But that topic has been discussed to death. I'm here to consider what they could actually offer that I might pay for. So, let's list some criteria that must be met for me to value something:
  • It needs to save me time or gold.
  • It needs to do so without cheapening the existing game experience.
  • It needs to accomplish the above without harming other players if someone has it.
So basically, the second two mean that gear upgrades, or really anything that grants a competitive advantage are off the list. I'm also not going to waste much time on things they already have available that fit the list (like server transfers, for example.)

Bigger Backpacks. Arguably, this makes me a more powerful character than someone without it, but we get by just fine with the currently-available bags. A 32-slot backpack for all your alts isn't going to be a game-breaker for someone else. In fact, in all probability, no one will know who has one and who doesn't. I'd pay $5 to give +16 backpack slots to my whole account.

BoA Flight Paths. I like how the "you need to visit the destination first" mechanic of the flight path system made me explore the world on my first few characters. When I'm levelling my umpteenth alt, however, it's pretty annoying to find out that I need to hike to Tanaris or something. (Actually, I recently got around that problem by taking the Caverns of Time portal from Dalaran.) If they sold an account upgrade that made it so all of your characters had all of the flight paths that any of your characters had, I'd be down with that. I'd pay $2 for this feature.

Hard-Mode BoA Items. I'd pay for a BoA trinket or an item for some other mostly-harmless gear slot that granted a -25% damage/health/healing/absorbtion in exchange for a +35% XP from kills and +5% XP from quests. Normally I find leveling an alt fairly fun, but not as fun as raiding, because it's not challenging enough. These would help with both things I dislike about the leveling experience: it's too long, and it's too easy. I'd pay $10 if I could get one for every one of my alts, or like $4 if I had to be bothered mailing it around between my characters. Add $2 if it increased out-of-combat health and mana regen to something fast enough to make my downtime about equal to the time it takes to run to the next mob.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pimp my UI: Losing my UI

For those who don't know, (and why would you, I've been posting more than usual, not less,) my old hard drive bit the dust about a week and a half ago. I'll be back up and running by midweek next week, but even after that, my finely-crafted UI will be gone. Rather than lamenting the loss, I see this as an opportunity to plan out my new UI.
So, here's what I want from my UI:
  • I need to be able to see the 3D environment.
  • I need raid frames.
  • I need a minimap.
  • I need target and focus frames.
  • I need a personal buff/debuff display.
  • I need a quality casting bar.
  • I want visual/clickable actionbars. (I can only handle/remember so many keybinds.)
  • I want an XP/rep bar. I've grown rather fond of the defaultUI ones.
  • I want a DoT timer.
  • I want to minimize my eye movements.
So, time for a rough sketch...There, done. I didn't find a spot for an XP bar, but then, that's not really all that important in combat anyway. I think I'll find a way to tack it onto the character sheet, like the pet XP bar for Hunters. Similarly, I don't have a castbar labeled yet, I'll play with it and see where I want it; "it" means Quartz, of course. I may try to compress the whole thing downwards, I'm not sure I want so much of my rear blocked.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reflecting on Wrath

No, the title doesn't mean I rolled a Warrior and pwned a Druid. It means I'm taking today to look back on WotLK and point out what was fun... and what wasn't.

Naxxramas: Fun. Naxx was where I first learned to raid, since a couple forays into Kara the week before WotLK came out really don't count. Because of this, (and the low quality of the guild I was in at the time,) it was tuned appropriately for me. The fights were varied enough to each be interesting, ranging from truly tank-and-spank like Pathcy, to things demaning some strategic contribution from everyone, like Heigan, Sapphiron and Loatheb. Overall, it was an excellent place to learn to raid for beginning players, and every expansion should have something like Naxx.

Original 5-Mans/Heroics (pre-Dungeon Finder): Meh. They were really fun the first time or two through them, but on my umpteenth run looking for Gal'darah's Signet in regular Gun'drak just so I could reach the 535 defense cap for Heroics really sucked. 5mans are fun about twice. Then they're fun on Heroic mode as long as they remain appropriately challenging for some reason other than your party sucks. Being "forced" to run them beyond that is poor design and should be done away with.

Glory of the Hero: Fun! These ranged from "so easy a caveman could do it" to "legitimately challenging with a group of 5 seasoned raiders." It was a fun achievement in ~213 gear. A word to the wise: don't go trying to do this in the Dungeon Finder. It makes you an asshat.

Vault of Archavon: Awful. While it was fun when Naxx was fun, (because I was bad,) it degenerated into something ugly. By putting all four bosses on the same raid lockout, it made it basically impossible for people who need the lesser bosses to actually do them. And really, the only real challenge in the place is being online the one time your faction gets VoA this week. Like the dungeon finder, the rewards were too good; they encouraged us to do unfun, unhealthy things. Also? Never tie raid access to being on the populated side of your server again! >.< Obsidian Sanctum: Fun! Easy enough to show your bad casual friends a raid with no real fear of failure, yet individually punishing even on regular mode (I.E. people who ate flame waves got repairs.) And then the hard modes... wow were those fun in appropriate gear. Granted, I never got to down OS+3 in ilvl ~213 gear, but we did manage OS10+2 after a few weeks, and that was some of the most hectic fun I've ever had.

Eye of Eternity: Not fun. Take a raid, add clunky vehicle mechanics, a mandatory class, (a non-tank DK for Grip-Chains on the Power Spark,) and flying combat, and you have a recipe for a buggy, clunky, awkward raid. It was easy enough, but it just wasn't fun.

Ulduar: Fun! I never full cleared it. On regular. It was plenty challenging, the art and story was truly epic, and it kept me occupied for an entire patch cycle. What more can you ask for in a raid? Another note, this is the first time they did vehicle combat right. FL+0 was tuned easily enough that you could work through the various vehicle UI problems and learn the new controls bring your non-raider friends and still have a fair shot at it. And after that, the farm content wouldn't get tiresome, because you could crank the difficulty to fit your raid group. We did FL+3 in appropriate gear, and it was fun. I also recently went back to tackle the hard mode achievements (in ICC gear) and one of them at least was still hard and fun: Firefighter. To anyone who has never done Firefighter, I strongly recommend going back to do it before level 81. You'll be glad you did.

5man ToC: Fun! While I'll admit that I didn't specifically like the jousting or the Wall-O-Text, neither detracted enough from the instance to make me dislike it as a whole. The epics falling from the sky cause a crash in the Abyss Crystal market, but I think that this was one of the best ways to ensure that newcomers could gear up quickly. Certainly it was much better than ~50 random heroics. The random bosses were a nice touch, and this was legitimately hard in ilvl 200 gear, putting it properly in progression after the original Heroics and Naxxramas.

ToC raid: Mixed. This was fun the first time, and remained fun until we had beated it. Which didn't take very long. The fact that hard modes were separated from regulars was, I think, a bad idea, and thankfully it seems that they have at least somewhat learned from this for ICC. This was the first time they scaled-up the old sources of emblems, to give Conquest. That, I think was a mistake, they should have made most things give Valor, and leave Conquest in Ulduar and H 5man ToC, so that gearing up remained a proper progression in all parts.

Heroic ToC raid: Fun! Still hard, still fun now. Unfortunately, it's not incentivized now. Give it a shot if you haven't before. You'll need a free night and some good players though; out-geared or not, it still won't tolerate sloppy play.

Dungeon Finder: Mixed. It was very novel to be able to group in ~30 seconds, as opposed to ~30 minutes, and being able to chain-run an alt was great... for about a week. The rewards were too big on the Dungeon Finder, and that led to many people running beyond when hey stopped having fun. Please don't use rewards to get us to do something we hate. Use them to get us to try something we might like.

Heroic 5-man ICC: Fun! Challenging, rewarding, full of plot, everything I look for in a 5man. Halls of Reflection was particularly fun with a group of 4 of my ToC25-raiding friends. That said, it's specifically not fun to tackle challenges with people whose skill, motivation and gear are a crapshoot; HoR should never have been a random dungeon, though having it available to queue specifically for it was a good call.

ICC: Fun! Like Ulduar, it had fights ranging in difficulty so that everyone and their alts can see a few fights, while being a true challenge as you get deeper in. I refer to Funship Battle by that name for obvious reasons, and I've still yet to kill the Lich King (mostly for lack of trying; I haven't played since the warsong went live, and we were damn close before that.) I do wish that a full clear wasn't required for hard modes, however; I wish we could set Marrowgar, Deathwhisper, and a few others to medium mode so they wouldn't be so boring.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Priest Cataclysm Changes: Because a million and one other posts just weren't enough.

It would be poor form to comment without a link, so... Priest Cataclysm changes from the WoW forums.

One-by-one I'm going to post my thoughts on the changes.

New Spells: Heal, Mind Spike, Inner Will, Leap of Faith Life Grip.

Heal was "added" to enable a new style of healing whereby healing is less frenetic and a lot more about minimizing overheal. The new (old really, vanilla was like this) healing environment where mana matters and health pools are much bigger than heals will be a nice change of pace, and I think it and the new middle-ground heal spells are good for the game in general. Now the devs will be able to produce more varied fights, the old hard-enrage and heal spamming fights can still work, they'd just need to be short, and if all goes as planned we'll also have more slow and mana-managing fights like Vezax.

Mind Spike is... kind of useless, IMHO. We already have (Improved) Devouring Plague spam for things with very low health, and for anything that lasts even a few seconds, I'd prefer to DoT it up. It only takes ~8 seconds to make my DoTs better than a quick, weak burn rotation. Ah well, another spell for lolsmite and on the off chance that I get spell-locked while shadow, I guess it will be helpful.

Inner Will sounds good. I can't see wanting to intentionally screw my spellpower very often, but I'm sure we'll find a few fights to use it in, and it will make things like the run from the Brann event in HoS to Sjonnir the Ironshaper a little faster.

And finally Life Grip, my personal favorite upcoming Priest spell. Life Grip promises to be riotously full of griefing potential, much like certain other hilariously fun and useless abilities like Mind Control. Unlike certain other mostly-useless abilities, I can see Life Grip being legitimately useful for more than just Instructor Razuvious Must Die! and Who Needs Bloodlust? It can function as another "shield" type heal, by preventing damage someone would have taken had you not moved them, and I expect it will also see use in a few kiting and other movement strategies.

Mechanics Changes

The new version of haste-scaling for DoTs is interesting, to say the least. At the very least, it will improve shadow's hast scaling, but it will also simplify the rotation a bit. I'm okay with the rotation getting mildly simpler if we get mildly stronger, I can view it as a necessary evil. Of course, for healing this changes things a lot, particularly if Radiance scales to haste. I hope something similar is worked out with our Weakened Soul duration being shortened by haste also.

SW:D as an execute? Cool. More to think about if you want to do more damage; exactly how it should be.

Priests as viable good tank healers? Sweet. In keeping with the above mention of using the right heal for the job, multiple sizes of bubble is also nice.

O noes, what ever will we do without our spirit buff? Oh right. Basically the exact same thing we've been doing. I actually like this; you no take candle!

The 5-second rule is gone? I'm not sure if I care about that either. On the one hand, I (sort of) liked the old complexity, since it offered the opportunity to squeeze out extra mana if you pulled off some convoluted strategy, in theory. In practice, however, we've been solidly in the 5sr for ages anyway, may as well just make it official.

Talent Changes

Much of this section I've already commented on above.

Power Word: Barrier. Cool. I hope this means that the role of a disc priest won't be "shield everyone once, than do it again" anymore. Other than that, this is also one of many announced ground-targeted AoE heals (the others are for other classes). This sounds like a fun change, switching healing from Grid whack-a-mole to actually paying more attention to the fight itself.

Chakra. Being able to specialize for many different healing roles sounds good in theory. However, since they posted that they've also mentioned that they intend to have some special UI to indicate your Chakra status, and get an "in the zone" feel. This, I'm vehemently opposed to. New UIs typically break, and broken UIs cause wipes. Please just use something that works. I recommend a few different buffs, one for each state.


Absorbtion: how bland. The mechanic is simple, but it does emphasize what makes Discipline unique, so, bland or not, I think it'll work out alright. This will also be fairly easy to balance, and helps to cover an old issue that there was no gear for priests who commonly get assigned to shieldbot.

Radiance: cool. Again a simple mechanic, but instead of increasing an effect we already had, it tacks on a new effect to spells that never had it. This is also a fairly simple thing to balance.

Shadow Orbs: not enough information. I think Blizzard doesn't yet have a clear idea of what this will do, so I can't really fault them for not telling us yet. As it stands, it sounds somewhat like a graphical version of Shadow Weaving. If executed well, this sounds like it could be an amazingly involved mechanic, if executed poorly, well, we may find ourselves saying "wait for 5 shadow orbs before applying SW:P."

In the hope that Shadow Orbs is awesome, here's a small handful of suggestions for the use of shadow orbs.
  • If they deplete over time, make sure it's not yet another excuse to rush pulls. 40 seconds out of combat seems like little enough time that farming orbs before a boss pull isn't really viable, but long enough time that you don't need to hurry between trash packs or risk wasting orbs.
  • The brief mention of "spending" shadow orbs to empower a single spell or to perhaps cast an entirely new spell sounds excellently fun.
  • There should be a balance struck between hoarding shadow orbs for their passive damage bonus and spending them for the powered-up spells. Ideally the chance to gain a shadow orb would be based off your mastery rating, but the chance goes down for each shadow orb you have. So higher mastery leads to a higher maximum number of shadow orbs, and spending more orbs on spells allows you to gain orbs back more quickly.
  • They should be spendable for a damage boost, so that keeping a balance between the passive boost of having them and the immediate boost of spending some is worthwhile. Ideally this balance should not be "pop an orb whenever you hit the maximum number." It should also not be "pop an orb whenever you have one."
  • They should also be spendable for utility effects, like temporarily making VE raid-wide, making Inner Will look more like Sprint, making Fade get you out of combat, or making Dispersion a real immunity effect. Clearly some of these are pretty powerful, so they should require a large number of orbs, possibly so many that you can't even use some of them unless you have enough mastery on your gear to be able to have that many orbs.
  • Speaking of which, having the maximum orbs vary with mastery, and having certain uses for them that only become available as your maximum increases sounds incredibly fun as well. It's like leveling up and getting new spells when you're already at the endgame.
Well, that's my two coppers on the topic of the priest changes for Cataclysm. Here's hoping for another amazing expansion.