Friday, April 27, 2012

Dragon Soul Nerfs and Mass QQ

It was just announced that Dragon Soul would be nerfed a further 5% after the scheduled maintenance on April 30th. This brings the Power of the Aspects debuff to 20% total. In that same Facebook post I linked to, the comments are rife with the crying and gnashing of teeth from players who are upset about further nerfing an already easy raid. The words facerolling and noob are thrown around. Jabs are taken at the incompetence of people that can now complete the raid and bringing regular mode down to the level of the Raid Finder version. There are a few comments here and there about the ability to toggle the nerf on or off, but so far the overwhelming consensus is that Blizzard is ruining the game, past its prime, and everyone is leaving the game for Tera or Guild Wars 2.

At least that's what one might gather from the comments on Facebook, and probably from comments on the official site under the identical post.

It grates on me to see so many people upset. On one hand, I can understand the frustration of seeing rewards you worked hard for suddenly becoming available to people through content being nerfed. Suddenly what you accomplished doesn't seem so special because the epics and titles are available to more people. We tend to see rare things as trophies, and it makes us feel good to be one of the few with those trophies. If everyone has it, it's not unique, and it's not easy to see if someone got a title or epic long before someone else did. Sure, you can look up achievement dates on the armory, but that's a bit cumbersome. So it's hard to take pride in doing something first if that's not really apparent.

On the other hand, I don't see what the big deal is. It benefits Blizzard (and thus the longevity of this game we play) to make content available to as many people as possible. And for the last several years the expectation is that raids and dungeons will get nerfed. Especially at the end of the expansion. It opens up the world to millions of people who didn't have the time or ability to see the content before. What's the point of keeping people from getting epic rewards? So we can feel unique and special and superior? What's the point of gear anyway? The point of gear is to make top content easier to finish. And then later we replace that gear with other epics, and then at the start of a new expansion we replace the purples with greens. Gear is only a means to an end. The same can be said for nerfs.

I also see a lot of misconceptions. I don't have the stats. Neither do many other players. Claims to the effect that everyone has already beaten the content, and thus nerfs aren't necessary, should just be thrown out. Blizzard wouldn't be nerfing it further if that was the case. Blizzard has access to more information about who is raiding, and who is beating the raids, than anyone else. Maybe a lot of raiders have beaten the content, and the nerf is to encourage people who haven't stepped foot in Dragon Soul to try it out. I don't know. But neither do most of these people complaining and making wild claims about raiding stats.

I'm not sure where I intended to go with this post, so I'll just leave you with a what if. What if, instead of being elitist and lording it over people that we've beaten content first, we extended help and encouragement to those working on content we've completed so that they could accomplish the same things? What if we spent less time telling people they're noobs because they haven't done what we have or because they chose not to pursue the same challenges we did? What if we just took pride in our own accomplishments without comparing ourselves to everyone else? What if doing all of that made mechanical nerfs unnecessary?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cataclysm Postmortem

With a lot to look forward to in Mists of Pandaria, I'm going to take a moment to hit the highlights of World of Warcraft's fourth expansion. These observations all come from a fairly casual perspective. I've participated in Raid Finder, but the majority of my time was spent leading 10 person raids with my guild. We formed at the end of Wrath, so Cataclysm is our first expansion together as a guild, and my first expansion as a guild leader. I think we've done well, and again, I'm really looking forward to hitting the shores of Pandaria in the near future. In the mean time, here is how I felt the Cataclysm shook out.

The expansion started out tough. Blackwing Descent and Bastion of Twilight were not the nice, happy, introductory raids to Cataclysm like Naxxramas 2.0 was for Wrath of the Lich King. There were some nerfs eventually, but overall, it was hard for a new raiding guild to get started. Firelands proved just as tough, if not more so. That is until they nerfed it. Even with the lower health and damage, Ragnaros was a ridiculously hard fight due to the amount of things happening, and you know, the fire everywhere. Dragon Soul was the first raid of the expansion that felt properly tuned to me. What I mean by properly tuned is that the average raid group makes steady progress throughout the raid, without hitting any enormous roadblocks that couldn't be over come with gear or practice. While that could be said about any encounter, I never felt hopeless against a boss in Dragon Soul, only that we just needed some more time and effort. It's a little more complicated by the introduction of Raid Finder, which allowed us to see and try versions of the fights before we attempted them in 10 person raids.

Speaking of Raid Finder, I think it's a great idea. At one point, playing WoW was not something I could do with my wife, and I only had scant moments where I got to play for any length of time. Raid Finder is perfect for the people without enough time to commit to a guild and weekly raid schedules. It's a good learning tool for those that do run with guild groups, but I learned early on not to get to worked up about gear from Raid Finder. There were too many people wheeling and dealing with the drops to make it worth it.  This is something being addressed in Mists of Pandaria and the way that loot will work in Raid and Dungeon Finder, so that people can't game the system.

80 to 85
I've posted before what I thought about the 5 levels we were given in Cataclysm. It seemed like it wasn't quite enough, but part of that might have been from the leveling zones we were given. Most people zipped around on flying mounts and went from quest hub to quest hub in a linear fashion which made leveling a breeze. Not that it's all that hard to begin with. Because so much of the expansion focused on the revamped 1 to 60 experience, I think the end game levelers rightfully felt that they were given the short end of the stick. With Mists of Pandaria, we again have only 5 levels to work on, but these will now be focused on one continent that we'll have to travel by foot for those 5 levels. While this may slow people down a bit, I believe it will also make the leveling experience more rewarding.

I used to be a pretty big lore junky. I still am, to an extent, but I haven't kept up with it like I used to. Wrath of the Lich King had one of the best story lines to date as it dealt with some of the major players from the Warcraft RTS games and pitted us against one of the main characters from those games. A lot of us have been playing WoW for the sole purpose of taking down Arthas, the Lich King, and in Wrath, we were given that chance. Cataclysm also brought back a character from the history books. But unlike Arthas, I don't think Deathwing instilled as much intrigue in players because he was not heavily featured in previous games. Still, it was a lot of fun to see the world affected and changed due to his reawakening, even if it did create a sort of skewed timeline with Outland and Northrend.

Each of the new zones and raids fit well with the story. Unlike places like Ulduar (which was still awesome) and Trial of the Crusader, the Cataclysm raids didn't seem to be shoehorned in to fill time until we fought the real bad guy. And even though I'm not a horde player, I enjoyed the Thrall story line. Thrall is a favorite character of mine from the RTS games and the WoW Novels. His journey and the fate of the dragon aspects concludes a long standing storyline for the WoW universe. I'm looking forward to what's in store for Thrall, even as the focus switches to Garrosh, The Horde, and Varian Wrynn.

Final Thoughts
Cataclysm was a blast. We concluded some more long standing story lines withing the universe. Blizzard perfected the tuning of raids, and introduced a whole new way to raid in the process. Leveling wasn't as dynamic as it could have been, but things are looking hopeful for the future. More than anything, I'm ready to put the destruction of the world behind us, and move on to newly discovered lands.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Mists are Inspiring

Cherry Blossoms
Back when it was announced, I signed up for the WoW Annual Pass. My key purposes for doing so were to get an in-game mount and Diablo III (when it was released), and it was all for the low low price of telling Blizzard I would play their game for another year. Something that was a pretty safe bet. Along with that annual pass came a free invitation to play in the Mists of Pandaria beta when it started, which it did recently. I was not planning on participating much in the beta because I didn't want to spoil myself, or bother with bug reports. That didn't stop me from installing it as soon as I got the invite though.

After installing, I tried to make a pandaran monk, but I logged into about 150,000 other pandaran monks in their starting zone who also got invites this weekend, and the game crashed shortly after that. This being a beta, I was prepared for this. Since the game hadn't fully downloaded, I let it sit for awhile and went to watch TV. Then I get a message from a guildie who happens to write about WoW for a living, asking me if I'd run a dungeon with him because he needs some input for his piece that's due soon. Let's see... midnight? Check. Work night? Yeah, check again... Sure. Why not?

I copy over my main, my hunter Elionene, and log into Pandaria where the other 150,000 people who got their invites at the same time as I did are just starting their adventure in the Jade Forest. I try to adjust my video settings, and the game crashes. I make a note and log back in. I meet up with my guild mate and we form a group and queue up for the first dungeon, Temple of the Jade Serpent. The first thing I notice is that I have no macros or key bindings. I was expecting no addons, but I'd forgotten about the macros and things, so I take a few moments to set up the vital ones. (Later I read a neat trick at WoW Insider for copying over your saved stuff from your real account, along with some other nifty beta advice.)

Apparently the first boss is dead or defeated when we log in. It takes a second to get my bearings and then I realize I'm in a huge library. It's impressive. We find our way to the rest of the group and we fight off a stationary water boss (who I'm told is similar to the Lurker Below mechanics, and I confirm this is true). I think we wiped, but the group seemed understanding, and we ran back in and killed him. From there we go through a series of hallways into a courtyard and fight off some monsters and fight another boss that turns into a dragon. The last boss is one of the Sha. The Sha of Doubt to be exact. I told the party I wasn't sure we could beat him. I didn't know why, but I was very doubtful it would happen. I'm still wondering if they ever got that.

Cloud Sepents
We did end up wiping to him twice. The healer (a pandaran monk healer who kept placing these huge statues everywhere) couldn't heal through some of the damage. Something clicked in the third go round, maybe we overcame the doubt, and we won. So that was fun. I was distracted by my macros and key bindings being off, and I wasn't getting very good frame rates, probably because I was still downloading game information in the background.

After that, I ran from the starting area to the center of the zone where my guildie showed me a pretty awesome bridge. And it was on the way there that I realized how beautiful this place was. It was lush and green with flowers and trees everywhere. Epic stone statues, and the Temple of the Jade Serpent towering above it all. My guild mate showed me the Dawn Bridge. A very long bridge with scenic viewing areas built in. It ended at the top of a hill with a breathtaking view of the temple. I couldn't help gawking at it. I was inspired.

To write again that is. It's been over a year since I've posted anything here about Warcraft. I've thought about it many times, but nothing seemed interesting enough, and I took the time to play other games and do other things. My guild progressed through Cataclysm at a fairly good rate. We've beaten all the normal content, which for a bunch of friends raiding together is really all we wanted to do (with a few exceptions).

Dawn Bridge
But seeing the beta, and what we have to look forward to in Mists of Pandaria, got me excited about WoW again. I never gave it up, but I was logging in mainly to interact with the people in my guild, and lead a few raids to clear content, or level an alt with my wife. I wasn't compelled to write about any of that like I was when I saw cloud serpents being ridden through the azure sky from the top of a skinny mountain that I'd walked to across a serpentine bridge. I kept thinking how the last couple of expansions were pretty bleak. Northrend was cold and foreboding. The Cataclysm destroyed much of the existing world. This is the first time in awhile we've seen some places that are flourishing and vibrant.

It feels good to write again. I plan to continue to do so, whether it's about the beta or lore or anything else. I've also included a few pictures of some of the sites I saw. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks, and have a good morning.