Nov 26 2010

Rights and Responsibilities


Reading through what Spinks over at Spinksville wrote about FrostGate got me thinking: what are the assumed rights and responsibilities I have when playing various characters? I know that I have those assumpitons in play, they are informed by the culture, and inevitably shaped by the community and interactions with other players. But I’ve never attempted to articulate them. Let’s have a go.

Belmann. I’m a holy healer, most of the time. When I’m in shadow spec, I’m just another DPS standing up the back. I assume I have the right to regain mana, and have the responsibility to keep as many people functioning as I can. I assume that healing usually takes precedence over dispelling and removing diseases, and I have the responsibility to throw out whatever buffs and damage I can when I can. I assume that I can reasonably expect other players to not stand in the stupid, to use the lightwell when I throw it down, and to not pull when I’m either not ready or out of range.

MacMorris. I’m a melee DPS. I assume that I have a responsibility to let the tank select targets to pull, then hit them as hard as I can once they’re focussed on her. I assume I have the responsibility to get out of the stupid when it bubbles under my feet, stand behind the mobs, do whatever self-healing and self-buffing that I can, and to maintain an awareness of what’s going on so that I can grab mobs that get away and start eating the cloth-wearers’ faces. And above all, a responsibility to not steal aggro from the tank. On the other hand I have an expectation that the tank will make reasonable judgements about what will be pulled and how. I don’t have an expectation that the healer will heal me while the tank is in trouble, and don’t have an expectation that the healer will top off my health if I die.

Morkhaeus. I’m a ranged DPS. I assume that I have a responsibility to let the tank select targets to pull, then fry them. All while making sure that I don’t steal aggro (which given the threat I can currently generate, is not very likely). I have a responsibility not to stand in the stupid, and to be prepared to ice block or go invisible if a mob gets away and heads toward me. If a mob breaks away and goes for the healer, I have a responsibility to try to fry it before it gets to the healer. I expect other players to have at least some awareness that I burn through mana like crazy, and respect that I have to regain mana between fights. I expect other players to not snap their fingers and say “mage, food” or “mage, buff”, just as I assume I have the responsibility to proactively buff and offer food. And above all, if I turn a mob into a sheep (or penguin, as the case may be), I expect other players not to immediately hit the damned thing.

My other toons are not well enough developed to have a clear idea of what I expect. Glymly the hunter is somewhere in the mid-40s, and doing reasonable damage in instances, even though it’s a bit clumsy and face-rolling. I think the main responsibility he has which is unique to being a hunter is to make sure that the pet is not stealing aggro from the tank, and to throw down traps in front of the clothies.

My baby tank Maarisu is still mired somewhere around 38 (so much for my plan to level those two dwarves in parallel), and I’m finding it really difficult to articulate a role for her. As I’ve alluded to before, I find that the change in player behaviour in Vanilla or low level instances makes it really hard to tank effectively, and half the time I feel like I’m battling the other players, and not the mobs. It tentatively feels like as a tank I have a responsibility to keep the mobs focussed on me, while at the same time I have a right to pull mobs and gather together groups in the style and at the pace of my own choosing. That’s definitely the thing that twists my knickers playing her through 5-man instances so far – even when I state it explicitly, there’s seldom any recognition of the simple facts of the mechanics of a prot warrior: it takes a few seconds to build up rage, and if I haven’t got the mobs’ attention when the DPS open fire, it’s needlessly difficult to bring them all back together.

I have to say that dipping my toe in tanking gives me even more respect for good tanks who stick with it. It’s a rotten hard role, I think.

Nov 24 2010



I woke early for work this morning ( think east coast of Oz) and decided to start up the downloader in case there was anything for tonights raid. Woe! The end of the world. “ok” I think, “allow yourself 30 minutes for a quick peek”

Oh poot, priest talent trees reset. Double poot, the servers will be down for another few hours. It might be hard to focus on work.


Nov 17 2010

Want some libertarian comment with that?


I am loving the pre-Cataclysm events and story line that are playing out. The overall story arc and NPC character writing is very good, and there is much more sense of a deep and persistent back-story then there was with the Wrath pre-release (and really, the BC pre-release was pretty well non-existent). They’ve also listened to the player base and made the events much less intrusive – players can opt to ignore the pre-release activity, engage in it lightly, or throw themselves fully into it.

The pace of the events has been excellent as well, particularly if you step back and look at a key facet of the in-game world: the characters we are playing, the puppet avatars we all (one way or another) role play through, and the NPCs, are not aware of what is happening. Step into the game world with me for a moment: everyone is aware that something weird is going on. Nobody has the full picture, nobody has a prescient view of the impending cataclysm. It’s a world where the political leadership is exhausted from fighting the Lich King, and where political and religious institutions have been badly fractured by conflict arising from the war in Northrend. Everything is a bit of a mess, it’s looking like a new war with the Horde is on the horizon, elemental forces are upset and confused, and the earthquakes are coming faster all the time.

Now look at what the events have involved (alliance blinkers on here, I have no idea what the horde events are). We started with the usual sort of vague “there’s something odd happening, go see what it is” quests that we’re used to from the druids. It escalated into a rather more pointed series of investigations on behalf of the military/police of Stormwind, dealing with what they suspect to be a present threat from the latest freaky cult. Which quickly escalated into you going out on the streets of Stormwind and telling the population that the king and security forces are suspending their expected and traditional liberties. This is a pretty grim situation – the general overall ethos in the Warcraft world is a vague adherence to secular humanism, with a heavy overlay of belief in personal freedom married closely to personal responsibility. In other words, fairly standard post-Tolkien fantasy role play.

Going further with that thought. King Varian Wrynn is generally and basically the Lawful Good archetype (yet another Paladin with a rod up his royal backside), and when you take that to extremes you get some pretty questionable behaviour. And he’s done some pretty questionable things. Invading the Undercity is high on the list. Even though it’s the “right” thing to do, there surely would have been less bloody minded and dogmatic ways of dealing with the issue. And this whole “tell the citizens I’m putting a fence around them to protect them, at the cost of their liberties” is pretty questionable as well: at this stage, he’s not really got evidence that the cult is that much of a threat. The reactions is dispraportionate.

Stepping back out into the Real World – it’s a lovely piece of detailed and quite deep world building, presented in a way that players can engage with it at whatever level they choose. It makes me excited for Cataclysm – all those extra writers and designers they have are going to have made some really neat toys for us.

Nov 17 2010

Blog Lag!


Once again I have to beg indulgence, as the the thing that has been squeezed out of my timetable is writing here. So many good ideas, so little time to commit them to pseudo-paper.

Looking back at my last post, given all that has been going on, I’m surprised how much I got done. Admittedly it could be in part because I spent a week ill and mainly in bed.

I did get Morkhaeus up to level 80, and have been running all three 80s through randoms heroics in a desultory fashion, getting the two “lesser” 80s a bit more geared up. I’m not stressing about that though, as I expect by the time they hit 85 all three will have roughly equivalent gear.

Belmann got the Well Read achievement, with the help of various walk-throughs on the web. It’s a silly one, but one of the several that I feel will mean something later to me to have done with Vanilla content before it goes away. He also got a complete Tier 10 set, which is the first and only time any of my characters have had a complete Tier set of any kind. As he replaces gear, I will hold onto all that set, as a memento.

The other goals are in general terms still progressing, although the unstated goal of downing the Lich King remains unfulfilled. I’ve seen the fight a couple of times now, and am frustrated that others in the guild are getting him down, but I’ve never quite got him. So close, and yet so far. The committment needed by the guild to get individuals up to the fight is pretty strenuous, and it’s been exacerbated by the end-of-expansion malaise, and so I frequently applaud the individuals who are opting to spend their game time to help others in this. A strategy has evolved where they try to have rolling raids going on before the “main” raid night that have downed most of the bosses, meaning that those of us who are after the Lich King can pretty well get straight onto that fight, rather than spending most of the night just getting to him. Fingers crossed I will get this before the expansion drops, but I won’t be surprised if I don’t.

I realised, as I was consolidating what the other characters are doing, that a real meta-goal (and to some extent one that Blizzard supports and encourages, just not very vocally), is to get most of the professions maxed out across the various characters so that I can be pretty well self-sufficient. This is particularly true with Gems, and I’m keen to get Morkhaeus levelled up so that I stop spending a fortune on Gems for new gear. The only problem is that it’s turning out to be slow and expensive. Belmann did max out both enchanting and tailoring though, which means that when the expansion hits it should not be too much of a grind to build them up to whatever the new max level is.

As an aside, the changes to enchantment vellums finally make them useful, and make enchanting useful. This little-heralded change has finally made it possible for one character to enchant another high-level character’s gear, and there’s a nice little work flow in play where Macmorris can make the vellums, send them to Belmann for the relevant enchantment, who then sends them on to (for instance) Morkhaeus.

Unlike a lot of folk, I found the 4.x releases to be generally a Very Good Thing. The user interface changes in particular are welcome, and has reduced the number of addons I’m using. I’ve always preferred to have as few addons as possible, to reduce the load on the central game engine, and have found that really for most of my characters the only essential ones are Omen and Dominos, and in the case of Belmann, VuhDo. I might write up something about my addons and UI.

The simpler currency they introduced, reducing the number and variety of badges, is welcomed, but it’s spottily implemented. Various vanilla tokens and currencies are still being awarded, and some of the BC ones as well. While this doesn’t affect levelled characters, and may go away after the expansion, it does mean that leveling characters (or LoreMaster hunters like Belmann) still collect junk tokens as they progress.

In general all three 80s seem to be more effective after all the nerfing, de-nerfing, re-nerfing and anti-nerfing has been finished (for the time being, until a week after Cataclysm). I’m not running any sort of DPS meter on any of my toons (I rely on Omen instead to judge the important thing: am I pulling the mob off the tank) but in general solo play both the frost death knight and the fire mage seem to be knocking things over faster and more easily than they used to. Belmann’s heals are definitely up, at the cost of significantly more mana use, which I think is going to be one of the major challenges for healing as a holy priest in Cataclysm .

Morkhaeus manages to produce some satisfyingly big numbers for a barely-equipped fresh 80, but fire mages remain delicate little snowflakes. In 5-man dungeons, he can throw down quite satisfying damage (although it’s hard to get full rotations up and effective, as other players are generally so over-geared that trash and bosses are going down too fast), but in solo play the consequences of running out of mana, or letting too many mobs get too close, are dire. It’s particularly a problem since there is no longer a viable knock-back spell that can keep mobs away long enough to zap them, and the other escape spells are only really effective when there’s a tank to pick the mobs up again.

The Death Knight talent trees feel much better defined and differentiated, but again, MacMorris has trouble building up effective rotations of attacks and abilities because fights don’t go for long enough.

There are a lot of small, barely noticeable changes in the 4.x patch, many of which have gained little press attention. I’m thinking particularly of little UI changes like the pop-up buttons for teleports and portals, and summoning pets and minions. And merging the personal-buff and group-buff spells, and removing the reagent cost (no more buying 60 candles for a night of raiding)

And the water is pretty.