Elbow room

A few days ago I was talking about my plans for Cataclysm. Actually I have been doing that a lot lately.

In this particular case I talked about both leveling my existing level 80’s to 85 and starting shiny new alts. Gnomageddon brought up an interesting point in the comments. He mentioned how crowded the new areas will be.

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I remember the chaos that was Hellfire Peninsula in the first days of The Burning Crusade.

I remember lagging out simply trying to zone into the Death Knight starter area in the days after Wrath launched.

I remember fighting shoulder to shoulder with dozens of others in the Draeni starter zone, trying to be the first to tag things as they spawned.

I remember how Shattrah stood empty while people literally waited in line for quest mobs to spawn in Borean Tundra.

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Once upon a time I even wrote  a post about my plans to spend the early days of Wrath in a quiet place, and I did.

This time will be a little different. Not much, but a little.

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In the early days of the Cataclysm I have absolutely no intention of trying to fight my way through the level 80-85 zones shoulder to shoulder with 75% of the rest of my server. Nor will I be in the new starting zones with the remaining 25% of my server trying desperately to level a Worgen or Goblin. Both of those will come with time.

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My current plan though is to do the same with my healers as I am currently doing with my Pally and Shaman. I will hit up the Looking for Dungeon for the new shinys.

I figure that my Priest, and possibly my Shaman if she is high enough in level, will level to 85 exclusively through instances. Regardless of how many people are online I won’t be fighting people for quest mobs at least.

Well, this assumes that additional instance will be able to be launched.

When things settle down a bit I will level my Hunter through the new quest lines and experience the content.

Once things settle down even more I will level up my Goblin and Worgen.

I am just going to wait until I have a bit of elbow room.

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Looking forward to the end of the world

Thinking about the future is one thing, actively planning for the unknown is another.

That has been taking up a good chunk of my time lately. Planning, plotting, and gathering has been on my list of things to do for a while now.

Like a squirrel putting away nuts for the winter, or the ant in the famous story stocking up for a rainy day I have been gathering.

Gathering up things that I will need for my new characters when the Cataclysm comes later this year.

In a way that is a shame.

It’s not that I am not enjoying the game that I am playing now, far from it. It’s more along the lines of looking forward to the content to come.

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People who like to raid are getting their fix of new content now, as Icecrown opens its doors to their not so tender advances.

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People who prefer PvP are getting a new arena season. (Or so I have been told, I don’t participate.)

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People like me who actually enjoy the leveling process are still running the same content we have for the last four years. Soon though, that will change.

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I for one am looking forward to it.

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New places to explore, new quests to do, new lore to see, it will be great.

Ok, it will be great unless I am required to swim everywhere. I prefer my gaming environment to be rather two-dimensional. Thats probably why I don’t care for Eye of Eternity or Oculus, but I digress.

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What does any of this have to do with gathering stuff towards the Cataclysm?

Well, it turns out that looking at it I am not gathering like it’s the end of the world.

I am gathering like I am going on vacation.

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I want enough cash in the bank that I don’t have to worry about grinding dailies or working the auction house to support the characters I will be leveling. That sounds an awful lot like vacation to me. I just want to have fun and not “work” to support it.

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I want basic starter gear for both of the ones I plan to start. I am not talking about having a complete changout of gear I can swap to every ten levels sitting, already gemmed and enchanted, in the bank.

I am just talking about a few heirlooms and other odds and ends.

That leads me (as such things often do) to making a list of what I want to have set aside for my new characters. Since I am writing it down anyhow, and need to put it somewhere where it won’t get lost, it’s going to go here.

  • Cash. 8K gold should be enough to cover money sinks all the way through cold weather flight, so I’ll likely go with an even 10K to be safe.
  • Bind to Account chest(s) appropriate to the class.
  • Bind to Account shoulder(s) appropriate to the class.
  • Bind to account weapon(s) appropriate to the class.
  • Inventory bags. I figure four Frostweave Bags at 20 slots each will do fine.
  • Bank bags. Seven Travelers Backpacks will do well here. 16 slots each, and non-binding so I lose nothing by updating them later. 

Is that perhaps going a little overboard?

I don’t think so.

Going overboard would also include things like this:

  • All the cloth to level first aid to 450.
  • All the meats to level cooking to 450.
  • All the raw materials to level both chosen professions to 450.
  • A well stocked personal guild bank full of consumables and recipes.
  • A second tab in that bank with complete gear sets (minus the heirloom slots) to carry you all the way to 80. Bonus points if there are sets for multiple specs.

When the Wrath of the Litch King was still on the horizon I was planning and gathering as well. The difference is I was a raider back then. Everything revolved around getting to 80 as quick as possible so I could get back into the raid group.

Leveling those ten levels from 70 to 80 was a chore to be done, an obstacle in my path. Work I had to do before I could play the game I wanted to. Everything I stockpiled was with that in mind.

Now it’s the leveling I am looking forward to, and raiding is just distant smoke on the horizon.

This time instead of having ten levels of work before I could start to have fun, I am looking forward to 85 levels of fun before I start having to work.

It’s actually kind of refreshing.

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Upon further consideration…

Yesterday I put up a rather long post about what I see as some of the reasons for the disparity in the amount of tanks and/or healers available in the game. The post did not draw a huge amount comments, but it did draw some pretty insightful ones.

After reading those and doing a bit more thinking on the subject some of my opinions are somewhat changed. I thought of simply putting this all in the comments, but it actually deserves its own post.

Remember when I said I might hijack some of your comments for further posting?

I wasn’t kidding :)

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In yesterday’s post I broke it down into four categories, mostly to help me keep my thoughts in order. I did, after all, write that before I finished my morning coffee.

Today I am going to go about it just a bit differently..

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TheReaper brought up a few good points last night.

In my opinion tanks are far easier to gear than any other archetype in the game.
Are you defcapped? Yes? Stack stamina. No? Get more def rating.


Avoidance automatically increases with gear and unless you went really wrong somewhere threat generation isn’t much of a problem either these days.


There are certain encounters where a specialized set of gear comes in handy, but those are usually hardmodes that I don’t worry about on my twink (even though I have successfully tanked all raid instances in the game and my paladin is currently sitting just shy of 5400 gs).
On my rogue however, gearing is a nightmare. What stats do I look for?
Expertise
Agility
Critrating
Hitrating
Attackpower
Haste
Sounds complicated? Well, it gets worse…
Expertise pretty much trumps everything until you hit the dodgecap (26 expertise).
Hitrating is imperative up to the poison hit cap, which differs depending on: specc, group composition, available debuffs, race and weapon. If you wanted to really squeeze every last drop of dps you might need up to 5 different sets to hit the different hitcaps.
Hitrating raises your soft crit cap, its great if you reached the cap, pretty bad if you didn’t.
Agility/critrating are good until you hit the soft crit cap, but fall behind AP/haste above it.
So every time I could get a new piece of gear I have to pull up my spreadsheet, see if equipping it would bump me over my soft crit cap, regem/reequip hitrating accordingly, figure out if the upgrade is still worth it at that point and so on.
 
 
 
 Sorry for the wall of text, but gearing a dps class is by no means “easier” than gearing a tank or healer.
Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness, I want to do that on my rogue, so its hard, I don’t want to do that on my paladin, so it appears easier to me.
Someone with a pally tank main and a rogue alt would probably react in the exact opposite way.

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I will admit that when I look back at it with a more critical eye I see that I may have filtered my perceptions of the complexity of gearing through the lens of my experience. Then again, I think we all would.

Today I am both properly caffeinated and looking at this from a wider perspective. The relative difficulty of gearing any character for a specific role will be different for different people. It will also to a large degree depend on who is doing the gearing and why.  

First, how familiar are you with the class and role?

If you are gearing a character class you are familiar with for a role you are familiar with it will be a lot easier. Like any other task, it will be easier with experience. The more you do something the easier it seems.

Secondly, What are you gearing for? The reasons you are gearing up will also influence not only your gear choices, but how in depth you need to go into “perfecting” your gear, spec, and play style.

For instance, I enjoy battlegrounds on occasion, but have no desire to do arena. My gearing for PvP would be simplistic in comparison to someone who was playing on a top rated arena team. Someone who levels up and decides just to stay in 5 mans will have less of a need to min-max their character than someone who plans to see Arthas fall in Icecrown 25.

As TheReaper said, Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness.

There are the absolute basics like he mentioned about gearing a tank, and I mentioned about gearing a hunter at one end of the spectrum. At the other there are calculators, spreadsheets, stat weighted gear sorters, and just about any other thing you can think of to help min-max. I suppose it’s really about how far you want to go down that particular rabbit hole.

Fortunately (in my opinion) the stats are planned to be streamlined in Cataclysm which should make the learning curve a bit less steep when deciding to change how much you choose to focus on a given role.

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A few people touched on the social aspect.

Isa wrote (in part)

… While a different game design could make tanks and healers less obvious points of failure, and thus less scary, I think it’s this social mechanism you’ve mentioned that drives the shortage, and not the design. In other words, I believe game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

Greysmoke wrote (in part)

… There does seem to be a pervasive idea that once you hit 80, you should know perfectly whatever role you’re playing, so if you’re wanting to switch from dps to heals or tanking, you’re either going to take a lot of abuse OR you’re going to have to rely on friends and guildies to see you through the learning curve. And it seems to be much worse for tanks than healers, in my experience. …

Humans are for the most part social creatures. That is one of the big reasons Wow is so damn popular. If I got this level of enjoyment out of a solo console game I would have saved a bloody fortune over the last four years. Hell, if I were not a social creature I would not be writing about it and you folks would not be here commenting.

One of the things many people fear in a social situation is rejection by ones peers. They may not admit it, or even consciously know it, but it will influence their decisions.

The steeper the learning curve would be to achieve success the fewer will be willing to climb that learning curve. The greater the cost, or more visible the failure would be, the less likely people are to take the risk.

This can be lessened somewhat by being able to practice alone. Target dummies and random critters out in the world do a good job of that for Dps classes. Battlegrounds (especially AV) can be a good training ground for healers.

I have yet to find a way to “practice” tanking in a way that does not involve running a five man.  Of course, having said that someone will come by and tell me how to do it now.

The only ways to eliminate that would be for Blizzard to somehow put in the ability to practice tanking into the game, or to eliminate the distinctions between tanks, heals, and dps. Somehow I think that the simulator is more likely in Wow, and eliminating the distinctions is more likely to happen in the next generation MMO, but that is a whole other post.

As Isa said, game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.

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The more I think about this the more I think it boils down to two major reasons for the disparity.

The first is the fear of failure, particularly of public failure and the ridicule that can go with it.

That goes a long way to explaining not only why people tend to not play the single point of failure roles, but why many that do will have periods of “burnout” where they drop that role in favor of Dps. Whether actually performing the tasks to play the role well is more difficult or not, the perceived stress coming from the fear of failure will get to some people after a while.

I know there was a time when I took six months or more off healing and went shadow on my priest, just because I was tired of getting blamed for choosing to throw my heals on the tank who is holding the boss and letting some idiot that was standing in the bad die.

*note to all:  if your feet are on fire… please move.*

The second is the ability to practice and improve ones performance outside of a group setting.

How much “soloable” content that can be practiced on may not be a factor, but I do see a direct relation to role choice. It may be coincidence, but then again it might not.

  • Dps

Training opportunities include everything from “kill ten rats” quests, to target dummies. There are lower level instances to run solo or in a group, battlegrounds to fight in, mobs wandering the countryside, in short it’s a Dps paradise.

By the time people leave their starting zone they have the beginnings of a grasp on Dps. Unless you heal or tank instances as you level every character is a Dps’r all the way to the level cap.

Most training opportunities, most common role.

  • Healing

Training for healing is a good bit harder to come by. Since the only way to learn group healing is to heal groups your choices pretty much boil down to healing instances, healing raids, or healing in PvP. I suppose we could throw in the odd group quest while leveling that requires a bit of healing, but honestly most can be solo’d by a Dps class.

That’s pretty much it for healing. Sure there are a few times here and there where you can learn healing outside of running instances and raids, but not much at all.

Much leaner training opportunities, much fewer players in the role.

  • Tanking

Training for tanking is simple. Run five mans, or run raids. That pretty much covers it. Perhaps a few group quests would count here as well. I can think of no ways to practice holding threat and managing cooldowns as a tank in a group other than being the tank in one.

Could you go practice your rotation of a target dummy, or random mobs out in the world? Sure.

Will that show you whether you would actually be holding aggro against high output Dps? No.

Will that get you practice in using your “oh crap” buttons at the proper time? No.

There are a very few skills you could actually practice, such as line of sight pulling of casters, but there is really not much you can do without a group.

Least amount of training available, fewest people willing to step into the role.

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I don’t see these things so much as a reason people will not roll a tank or a healer. I see them more of a reason that tanks and healers both will tend to find groups of friends while learning their trade. Friends that will help them out and not give them a bunch of grief as they learn the ropes of that role.

Once a person has done that why would they want to run with strangers? Why take a further chance of getting crap from people you will never see again in favor of rolling with folks you know you can depend on? Why put yourself out there in a spotlight ready to be criticized if someone pulls aggro or stands in the fire?

In the bigger picture I don’t really think that there exists a disproportionate number of Dps. I simply think it much more likely that people choosing the tanking and healing roles are less apt to run with strangers. The are a lot more likely to run with those they have had good luck with before.

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The next time you are in a pug 5 man and one of the players says “Hey guys, My gearscore is low and I am new to this role. How about you help me learn the ropes?”

Are you going to be one of those that just bail and leave that person hanging, or will you be one of those that says “Thanks for the heads up, we can do this.”

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Think about it.

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It’s about class, in more ways than one

Lately there have been a ton of posts about the differences between the three major roles (tanking, healing, and Dps).

It all started with a guest post over at World of Matticus. As that slowly simmered in peoples heads I suddenly started to see my feed reader positively explode with posts on the subject.

Over the course of a few days it has spawned posts from Blessing of Kings, Spinksville, forbearance, The Pink Pigtail Inn, Azure Shadows, and the  Big Bear Butt to name a few. Actually I suppose I could include myself in that, but you are already here.

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Now, I am not going to get deeply into whether I think tanks and healers deserve a greater reward than Dps for running the same content. I will simply say no.

Same content, same reward.

The party is a 5 player team, and should be rewarded as such.

Now that I got that out of the way, moving on…

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The defining point of this topic seems to be the fact that there is nearly always a lack of healers and/or tanks. That is what I am going to look at.

No, I am not arguing whether there is a shortage or not. There is, and I think I know a bit of why.

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  • Fear

Simply put, both of these roles are single point of failure roles. Generally if one of them goes down it’s a wipe.

Fear of failure keeps many from ever trying.

Peer pressure can be a bitch. Just look at how Kaylynn started off planning to learn tanking as she leveled, and after getting treated like crap by her peers gave up on it.

Yes there will occasionally be a second character in a Dps role that can take over if needed. I have seen a cat Druid go bear when the tank went down. I have seen an elemental Shaman pick up heals when the Priest pops angel form. I have seen Rogues evasion tank that last few percent, and Hunters that pet tanked.

I have seen a lot. However I would say at least 90% of the time that either the tank or the healer goes down we will be running back.

There is a good amount of stress involved in knowing that if you screw up the whole group dies. Lots of people I know play the game as a way to burn off the stress of their daily lives. They don’t want stress where they have their fun.

Barring a complete redesign of the games mechanics I don’t really see a solution for this one. It simply is what it is.

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  • Gear

In my opinion gearing up as a Dps is simply easier. The vast majority of quest rewards are geared towards exactly that.

Dps gear.

Now that makes a good deal of sense on the part of the designers. At the point you are leveling up the vast majority of players do so in a Dps spec. It simply makes sense to do it that way, as the questing is generally more easily managed and faster as Dps.

I know I have always always gone that route, at least until yesterday. (I am going to attempt to level a Pally as Prot. She is all of level 10 right now. More on that in later posts.)

Gearing as Dps is also generally simpler. Lets assume my Hunter just made 80. A little bit of reading shows me that I need to gear for the hit cap of 8%. Once that is done I simply stack agility, int, and perhaps a bit of  stamina and I will be fine.

Not perfect maybe, but fine.

There is also a decent amount of  crafted blue quality gear that will make decent Dps gear. Hell, that same hunter could put on most of the Swiftarrow PvP set with a few other crafted odds and ends and be geared enough to do his job in heroics about 3 seconds after hitting level 80.

From my experience at least there is simply a lot more number juggling that goes on with gearing a tank or a healer.

Take as an example my Priest. As a healer he needs Spellpower, Int, Spirit, crit, haste, MP-5, and Stamina, not necessarily in that order. He needs to balance throughput with mana regen in addition to everything else. Stacking one thing will simply shortchange him somewhere else, it needs to be a balance.

Trying to use my DK tank as an example is pretty shaky for me since I have yet to actually tank with her. I do recall spending quite a bit of time working on which gear to get from what source to achieve all the numbers that were on the notepad I had to write them all down on.

Off the top of my head I can think of Defense rating, Stamina, Strength, hit rating, Dodge, Parry, and Expertise. I am sure there is more that I am forgetting, my notebook with all the math in it is at home. Actually my head hurts just thinking about it.

Simply put, when gearing my character turns from “oh, cool this is an improvement!” to “Hell, I don’t know. Lets do some calculus to figure out if it’s an upgrade.” that is no longer fun for me.

Fortunately most of the solutions that I could think of for this are already being worked on, and are planned for Cataclysm. They have already announced a streamlining of stats to make them a bit simpler when figuring out what to wear.

An example would be all tanking classes getting their defense capped through talents, similar to the talent Survival of the Fittest which Druids already have. At least that will be one fewer number to juggle.

Not only do I think that will help with designing the entry level crafted gear, but should lessen the need for dual-specced characters to carry multiple sets of gear. A player that can simply re-talent and use most of the same gear is more likely to try out a role than one that has to drop a sizable chunk of change on an “offspec” set of gear.

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  • Skill

There is much to be said for being skilled at what you do.

Running as Dps, Heals, and Tanking require very different skill sets than each other. Yes, that is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating.

Every character that comes into the game starts as Dps. Depending on which race you picked you might be killing anything from wolves to pigs, possibly even walking flowers or glowing worms. The simple fact is you will be killing something, at least for a while.

Could you level up purely through LFG? Sure thing.

Actually I am planning to try it with the Pally I mentioned earlier. My failures should be blogworthy at very least.  

For now though, she is a Dps prot Pally questing her way towards level 15 or so before I start pugging.

With Dps I can (and have) simply solo leveled my way to the cap, learning as I went how to do it. There used to still be a difference in skill however. If you made the level cap as a Dps there was still more to learn. Crowd control, threat management, and  mana management were things that soloing did not teach.

It still doesn’t, but we no longer really use them. The second half of WotLK has been Aoe the trash, blow cooldowns on the boss, balls to the wall and don’t worry about mana or aggro for the most part. If something goes wrong its the tank/healers fault.

Both tanking and healing require a completely different set of skills, skills that will only be learned by practicing them. Unfortunately there is no place to practice them other than in a group. A group generally composed of extremely judgmental strangers. No one likes to be called out as a failure.

Here is a secret. We all start out failing.

Some learn faster than others, some never do. The fact remains that no one simply installs the game one day and magically knows how to do everything.

Another quick example.

I made a party chat macro that goes something like this:

Hiyas folks. Just a heads up, I am new to tanking. I may move a bit slower than you are used to as I am learning the pulls. Please give me a few seconds to get everything really pissed off at me before starting Dps, it will make our lives a lot easier. I will mark the kill target with a skull, please concentrate Dps on that one.

I have so far used that macro three times.

Both times I used it on my lowbie Druid I got a wall of “kk, ok, can do, or thanks for the heads up”, and my favorite “my main is a bear tank, mind if I offer a few tips”? I ran Wailing Caverns twice on that character and had a blast both times.

When I tried that on my level 80 DK it did not go nearly as well.

I decided to forgo the two Emblems of Triumph in favor of going to an instance that I know fairly well. I qued up as a tank for the first time, choosing normal Nexus to cut my teeth on. I que up, zone in, and as we are buffing up hit my macro.

One by one the other four dropped group.

The only one who so much as whispered me was the healer, and all he had to say was “Sorry mate, I just want a quick badge run.”

Four people would rather take a 15 minute debuff than give me that 15 minutes to show that I had a clue which button to push. Three out of the four likely lost a solid half hour between the debuff and the re-que time. 

I wonder if any of them bitched about there being so few tanks while they waited.

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Thats just a single example of how learning the needed skills can be a bit harder for the tanking and healing roles. 

How do we solve this?

I think the new LFG tool will actually go a long way towards helping to even things out given enough time. Other than that I can’t really see a way to get practice in for group roles without a group to heal/tank for.

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  • Design

Just a quick note on design. Since every class has to be able to level solo, and that was set up as a Dps task. Every class has to have at least one spec that can Dps.

Look at that for a second.

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Ten classes, all of which can Dps.

Four can only Dps.

Four can tank.

Four can heal.

Two can do all three.

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There are thirty talent trees.

Six are tanking trees.

Five are healing trees.

Twenty-three are Dps trees.

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The game is designed to favor the creation of Dps characters. Without completely re-inventing how characters work that is not going to change. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Do I have some ideas for how it could be done differently? Oh, I most certainly do, but now is not their time. They will be coming up in another post on what I think Blizzards next generation MMO might be like.

This wall is long enough without me opening that can of worms.

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3.3, Thoughts from a tired mind

3.3 oh how I have coveted thee.

So much promise, so many new toys to play with.

Assuming of course I can actually get online.

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 Some folks say life “critted” them. Some are right. In my case it was more a case of life stunlocking me so I couldn’t do any of the things I really wanted to when I wanted to do them.

I had fully intended to write up a good long post about how I am experimenting with the new tools that have been given us, but I really did not get to do a whole hell of a lot last night. There are, however, plenty of changes coming for the way I do things within the game. I’ll talk about a few of them.

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First things first. Ever since the moment Blizzard mentioned cross faction mailing of heirloom items I have been stoked. I have another Hunter Horde side that I would like to get to 80 some time soon, that will help a lot.

One problem with the patch notes on the subject of mailing though, they never said anything specific about it. Was it just the armor and weapon pieces? How about the Tome of Cold Weather Flight? BOA vanity pets like the Blizzard bear? Hell, even head and shoulder enchants are BOA now, could I send one of those?

Well, on a few of those I can actually give a concrete answer. The others I will test out later today. Last night I sent over a set of chest armor, a set of shoulders, and a Tome of Cold Weather Flight. Those I can tell you for a fact work. Tonight I will try to send shoulder and head enchants along with a vanity pet and see how it goes.

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Next on my list of things to do is work on my UI.

I logged in and took a look around (once I could finally get on) and realized it had been well over two years since I have tried playing with something even resembling the default UI. I decided as kind of a project to see just how I would adapt to it, so I turned off everything that was not nessacery.

So far I am pretty impressed with the improvements. The only thing I really miss is having the questhelper arrow under my feet. I find myself looking at the map more and more now. On the plus side I really like the way the new quest/map interface works.

For the time being I am only running Auctioneer on my banker characters. The others are all going back to the default UI with Omen, Deadly Boss Mods, Altoholic, and Identity.

The only toss up at the moment will be whether I can find a way to set up the default raid frames in such a way that I can actually heal. I guess we will just wait and see on that one.

It should be interesting, who wants to be in my first VOA pug with the new setup on my Priest?

Wow what a sale

Dear readers,

I just noticed a little something interesting.

Starting today (11/27/09) and going thru Sunday (11/29) the original World of Warcraft game will be on sale thru the Blizzard store as a digital download for a mere five dollars. Apparently hard copies will be similarly priced this weekend at retail stores also.

My roving reporter/price checker lovely wife who is out shopping at oh dark thirty this black friday morning also tells me that the World of Warcraft battle chest (original game+Burning Crusade+near useless guide book) is going for twenty. Then again, that may be a local sale at one store only, I can’t confirm anything right now on the battle chest.

Been thinking about using Refer-a-friend to multi box your way to 60?

I know I have. I simply never got around to it.

Will I do it now?

Possibly.

Have a friend that you have been trying to talk into Wow for ever?

Drop five bucks and get them the first month and first sixty levels.

I know of a dad who is planning to buy accounts for his sons this Christmas. They have been using his and/or his wifes accounts up till now, but with both parents and three sons all playing they can field five mans in-house.

Am I recommending it to you?

No, not particularly. I just give information, what you do with it is entirely up to you.

I am just pointing it out to you, my wonderful readers, the same way I might point out an ad in the sunday sales flyer to a friend. This just happens to be the way I talk to you, as opposed to over a cup of coffee at the local Waffle House.

Enjoy the weekend,

-Dechion

This post brought to you be the fact that I would rather gouge out my eyes with a spork that go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. My wife calls it Black Friday and looks forward to it for weeks. I call it National Asshat day. I am a firm believer that trade chat will be quiet at the moment, and all pugs will run like clockwork. All the asshats are already busy.

Not all the shoppers this morning are asshats, but most of the asshats will be there.

That by itself is enough to keep me at home.

The great Retcon

When I first got the game and began leveling up I remember distinctly being told that the game began at 60. Raiding was where it was at, everything else was merely hurdles to overcome to get there.

Obstacles placed in the way by the games designers so that only the worthy would persevere through it all.

Raiding was the real game, everything else just got in its way.

I bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

 

I started that day looking at all the zones and quests starry-eyed, filled with wonder, like I was part of a story that was ongoing. I was happy to be where I was, discovering things as I went.

Once I bought into the game starting at the level cap that all went away.

Leveling up was no longer fun, it was an obstacle in my way. Less a lore filled joy to experience and more something to simply get through as efficiently as possible. So I turned on instant quest text, grabbed some addons, and started smashing my way through.

 

I no longer looked at each quest, I didn’t have to.

The arrow told me where to run.

The mousover told me what to kill.

The sparkles told me what to gather.

Then the arrow told me where to go turn it in.

It was fast, efficient, and boring as hell.

No one likes doing chores, and that is exactly what leveling had become.

I look back on it now and realize I was wrong.

 

The game does not begin at the level cap. The game begins at the character creation screen.

I would hazard a guess and say that 95% of the content of the game has to do with something other than the level cap.

There are stories out there, great stories, just waiting for me to be a part of them.

Unfortunately I already did them, blazing through with quests unread, just following the arrow under my feet.

I didn’t just kill critters as I quested away, I killed a huge chunk of the game for myself.

 

That’s why I am so looking forward to Cataclysm, it is going to give us something people only dream about in real life.

A fresh start.

A chance to live out the dream of  “If only I had known then what I know now.”

 

Cataclysm is going to be just that, for me at least.

I plan to roll a shiny new character, currently planning on a druid, and turning off all the helpers.

I will read the quests and follow the story where it leads me.

I am not even going to spoil the new areas by blowing through them to get to 85. With the new Looking for Group tool I can instance my way through those five levels on my level 80’s without ever leaving town.

Most of all I will keep in mind that leveling is not a chore to be done, nor is it an anchor holding me back.

It’s 95% of the game, and I plan to have fun with it.

Why did I not see this before?

 A thought came to mind last night as a group of guildies and I were finishing up heroic ToC. We had two DK’s with us and were remarking on how much easier The Black Knight phase two was with two armies plus our two ghouls fighting the adds.

We even wondered at the possibility of speccing five DK’s into tanking builds that generated a lot of self-healing and trying to run instances with only that. It was only speculation mind you, but it got me to thinking about the differences between the pure Dps classes and the hybrids.

There has been a lot of going back and forth about just how equal hybrid classes should be Dps wise to pure Dps classes. Now, before anyone gets their panties in a wad and starts telling me I have no idea what the hell I am talking about keep in mind a few things.

  1. I am not taking sides in this, merely making observations about the game as a whole.
  2. My three primary characters are a Hunter (pure Dps), a Priest (Holy/Shadow hybrid), and a Death Knight (Dps currently, gathering a tanking set). I see this from all three sides.
  3. I am curious where things will go with this, not angry.

Ok, we all know that there are three roles in any instance, Tanking, Healing, and Dpsing. Those are a given.

Once upon a time there were five things to consider when building a group. You needed a tank, you needed heals, and you needed three Dps just like now. Then again, this was before the great homogenizing of 3.0 and Wrath.

Back before these times we live in now there were two other things that one looked at when building a group.

Class Specific Buffs.

Players were selected for the buffs they brought. They made classes special. You want Fort? Bring a priest. You want Mark of the Wild? Bring a Druid. You get the idea. This was not restricted to any one class, everyone had something to bring to the party.

Kind of like when everyone shows up at the beach party and pours a bottle of something alcoholic into the cooler full of  Hawaiian Punch. You never really know what you’re going to end up with, but it will certainly get the job done.

With the advent of spread the buffs around to every class that is no longer the case. 

Ok, there a re a few exceptions like Heroisim/Bloodlust from Shaman and the Druids battle rez. For the most part though the buffs are spread out well.

Buffs are only part of what once made the pure Dps stand out. Think of one thing that the four of them (Warlock, Mage, Hunter, and Rogue) have in common. Something that the hybrid classes either lack or are not nearly as good at.

Go ahead, name a few things.

I’ll tell you what pops to mind for me.

Crowd Control. 

Once upon a time pure Dps brought the four most versatile types of crowd control to the table. Yes, I know Priests can shackle undead. I think that was actually useful back in Karazhan, for some horses and one boss fight.

Now the buffs spread out and the Dps output from most Dps specs (hybrid or pure) is roughly equal. The only thing I see that could make a pure Dps’r stand out is how great they are at crowd control.

Oh, wait. There is no such thing any more.

Crowd control is now called AOE tanking.

There is nothing left for a pure Dps’r to do, no skill to develop beyond “Don’t stand in the fire, hit your spells as they come off cooldown.”

I guess after writing this I do have a opinion after all. I truly hope things change in Cataclysm, but if I had to suggest a class to someone who is just starting…

I’d tell them to roll a Hybrid, probably a Druid.

Why bring a single tool when you can have the whole toolbox for the same price?

Now me on the other hand, I this weekend the latest addition to Team Dechion made level 15. I am having a blast on my behbe Rogue.

I never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the box, but most would agree that I can be a tool.

Oh, and back to the five DK instance. Can you imagine the mayhem on a boss fight when we pulled out five armies of the dead at the same time?

That would be a sight to see.

Chores

This morning I was doing some thinking…

You can stop laughing any time, honest.

As I was saying, I was doing a bit of thinking today about this wonderful game we all play.

Be advised, this post is largely the ramblings of a tired and somewhat cranky individual. Feel free to mark as read and move along.

I, along with many others from what I have been reading, am suffering from a bit of a funk within the game. As I sat here this morning thinking about the book I am attempting to write for NaNoWriMo something hit me.

A similarity between the two.

This month I took something I love to do for fun, writing, and by placing goals and check points on it essentially turned it into a job. I am discovering a lot about myself by doing the project, and that is the real goal. However, I am paying very close attention to my attitude towards writing.

If I get to the point where I don’t want to sit down and create anymore, if it starts to feel more like taking out the trash than a relaxing thing I do for fun, I am pulling the plug.

How is that in any way similar to Wow you ask?

Simple.

I have limited playtime, so what I have been doing is basically a priority list.

  1. Check my banker / AH toons to see if it’s time to scan or craft more glyphs. If it is,  then scan, craft, and post.
  2. Check cooldowns on Inscription reasearch and Alchemy transmutes, use if they are up.
  3. Do the Jewelcrafting daily if not done yet.
  4. Farm Mageweave. (EDIT: It occured to me that some might take this the wrong way. I am farming Mageweave, and later Netherweave, to level tailoring on my priest once 3.3 goes live. The Mageweave I have farmed up for the Raid for the Cure event is completely seperate from this.)
  5. Check time on Wintergrasp, do it for the stonekeeper shards once a week per level 80. (for the gearing of my upcoming Worgen Druid with BOA’s, should be done in 2-3 more weeks)
  6. Run a heroic if I have the time (and a group just happens to be forming)
  7. Stand in Dalaran and chat with guildies.
  8. If all else fails level fishing/cooking on yet another character.

It used to be that I would simply hop on an alt and happily level it up. Now I find myself playing a waiting game.

Waiting for Blizz to put forth the features they mentioned.

The new LFG tool will be excellent for those times I have just enough time to run something but there is not a group forming at the moment. I am looking forward to that.

As soon as they announced the future ability to send BOA’s cross faction I immediately lost all interest in leveling my Horde side Hunter until I can send him a Tome of Cold Weather Flight. There he sits in Dalaran patiently letting the Auction House pay him to level Inscription. After all, he will sit there for a while I think.

Alliance side I am down to one alt that needs some more leveling before getting parked until Cataclysm. My level 19 Shaman will get to 20, and then wait for the rest of the group. Myself, my mother in law, and two of my kids, are going to level a group solo to 20. We will then level up those alts only through instances, and only with each other.

I already have my Priest, Hunter, and Death Knight to 80. They are done gearing up outside of instances.

My Shaman, as I said, is waiting for the rest to catch up. Since at least two of them will be rolling Worgen that plan is on hold.

With one character simply holding a name for my upcoming Druid and three others being Banker or AH toons I have no plans to level any of them.

It boils down to this:  Wow, at least for me, is in a holding pattern.

What does that have to do with writing you ask?

Simple. 

Logging in to Wow is starting to feel more and more like taking out the trash. More a list of chores to do than something I log in and do for the fun of it. 

Lately I have been more about preparing for the future and less about having fun now.

I do have one character slot still open, perhaps it’s time to lose myself in an alt for a while.

I would have to start a new one.

I wonder what I should roll.

I put my money where my keyboard was

There was a time in ages past when A blogger wrote a post about leveling Alchemy on the cheap.

In response to the comments on that post he decided to put his money where his keyboard was and see just how much it would end up costing.

Why are you looking at me like that?

Ok, Ok, I wrote the post like two weeks ago, sue me.

Anyhow, two weeks ago I took on the task of seeing just how much it would cost me in the long run to level Alchemy purely from the auction house. I did use some mats that I already had laying about, but I take their value into account. I also picked up a few more items once I reached 450.

After it was all said and done I had leveled to 450, specced for transmutation specialist, and gotten the materials for the final transmute quest at 450. In total I spent just under 1300G in cash and used about 550G or so worth of my own storehouse of materials. We will just call it an even 1900G to have a reasonably solid number.

Now, as of this writing I have only done two of the epic gem transmutes toward the quest at 450. I have three left to go before I can start transmuting Cardinal Rubies. My shopping list included the mats for making each epic gem once.

Here is whats left after over a week of listing.

Transmute spec really helped out on this one. I used fifteen of these to skill up from 435 to 450. I ended up with 19 of them after having it proc twice.  Since about half of these have sold for a bid and half on a buyout i’ll split the difference at 60g each and call this 420G once they all sell.

I also have a few flasks left over.

The flasks of agility and greater agility have been slowly selling off, but the earthen elixer and elixir of detect undead have not done so well. I am simply going to consider there a loss at this point. At best I could hope to get maybe another 10G out of these, but we shall see. More likely I’ll save the relisting cost and simply send them to my kids so they can use them on their small army of mid level characters.

Over all the strategy of crafting things that people would buy has worked out pretty well. I still have four epic gem transmutes to go over the next several days, and I am finding an average profit of about 100G on each one. That should put me at somewhere in the neighborhood of 800G still coming in from this project.

Another thing I did is to make use of the extra herbs that I bought for the leveling process. I did not waste their value by turning them into low level  potions. While those do sell I took a loss on every single thing I made until I started crafting at about 350 or better. Instead I used inscription to mill them into inks. In the same way as tipping an Enchanter to D/E a bag full of greens you have been carrying about you can find a friendly scribe and pay them to craft the inks.

Or simply put them back in the auction house, thats up to you. Personally I happen to have a scribe so I did it myself, then sold myself the inks at 80% of market value.

The idea was not to eliminate losses, that is not going to happen with low level stuff. The idea was to limit them to the point that the gains from the higher level stuff would balance out. So the question is, how did we do? We still have an estimated 800G coming back to us from the meta gems and the as yet untransmuted epics.

What do we have already?

I started with 50G to cover listing fees, when it’s all said and done I should end up with about 1980G from this little adventure.

So the answer to the question is:

While you might take a loss on some things, especially before about 350 or so skill, over the long haul you can make alchemy pay for itself.

I put my money where my keyboard was, and I’m glad I did.

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