Friday, August 28, 2009

Before I jump into my posts concerning BlizzCon...

There's something I want to talk about that wasn't really mentioned at BlizzCon: The unnamed MMO.

While there are probably people who are interested in hearing my thoughts on said event, I wanted to get this post out there before I forgot my thoughts about it.

First off, let's go over the very little we do know:

  • Blizzard is releasing another MMO.
  • It's a new Intellectual Property (IP).
That's it! That's all we really know.

So with so little to know, what is there that I could speak about? Is it that it's a new MMO? No. There are a ton of new MMOs, and really with the announcement of Cataclysm, Blizzard has shown that it has no intent of dropping its flagship moneymaker (WoW) the moment this MMO goes live.

But the development of new IP is big news. Not just because it's Blizzard, though that would be enough for me. I'm a huge fan of Blizzard's previous games, having beaten almost every one multiple times. Warcraft. Diablo. Starcraft. All amazing games and/or series.

But this brings up a question... Blizzard has both the Diablo settings and the Starcraft settings that they could expand into for the MMO market. Who here can honestly say they wouldn't sign up immediately for Worlds of Starcraft? So why make an entirely new IP?

Now, time out for a sec. I don't remember where, a while back I saw a blog post about the perceived "death" of new IPs for MMOs (if anyone recognizes the blog post I'm referring to, could you direct me to it?). The basic assertion of the post was that why should a company spend time and money developing a brand new IP for an MMO when there are, literally, hundreds of different settings which could all easily be used for MMOs?

Now back to the new MMO. If the above blog post is true, why is Blizzard... the leader of the MMO genre and one of the biggest names in the gaming field, doing something that makes so little sense? Or... does it make a lot of sense?

Blizzard has, since the release of tBC, increasingly prioritized Game Balance over The Lore. And while I'm a little sad, it's overall made my gaming experience that much more fun, which more than makes up for it. Prior to tBC, vanilla WoW was, almost blow for blow, a match to the lore of WC3 and the novels along with previous sources. If anything, it just expanded on what we already knew, fleshing everything out.

But they found that being too adamant about sticking to The Lore would cause serious, serious issues. The imbalance between one side having Paladins and the other side having Shaman is a stellar example of this. I'm sure there are other changes I could think of, but none spring to mind... but you get the idea.

So they chose flexibility over rigidity for the pre-existing storyline to make the game play experience that much better. While a part of me despairs of the changes to the story and moving away from what it was between the end of WC3 and the start of tBC, I realize that Blizzard is a business and will do what's best for the company. And honestly, as a game (but not a consistent storytelling device), WoW is a stellar success.

Now, let's take a step back from WoW and look over other MMOs based on existing IPs. I'm going to discount FFXI since each one is based on it's own world (even though I feel that it was a financial success, but that's separate).

I would say that the only other MMO based on an major existing non-MMO IP that has succeeded was UO, but that game was released back when there weren't many other real MMO options. UO, EQ, Meridian 59, The Realm Online and Asheron's Call were really it in those days.

Games like SWG, DDO, WAR, AoC, MxO, The Sims Online, and LotRO are all generally considered pretty spectacular failures.

I feel that part of the problem (though not the entire problem) is either you go into the game wanting it to match the source it came from and it does not, or it does match said source, but does so closely that it's no fun.

Early versions of SWG illustrated sticking to the source too well, making the game quite un-fun to play. SOE made SWG take place during the Galactic Civil War. As most already know, by then almost all the Jedi were wiped out. So as a result, when SOE was designing Galaxies, they made the Jedi class so hard to unlock that initially no one could figure out how to do it. Four months after the game's release no one had figured it out, and in retrospect it's pretty obvious why. I mean, in a Star Wars game there are those who will inevitably want to play Jedi. In fact a lot will. Sticking to the lore and being like "only a few and they have these limitations" pretty much hurt SWG from the get go...

Then later on SOE changed SWG to a system less skill tree based and more classical (ha ha, see what I did there?). In this case, when you started you picked your class of which one was Jedi. This created the other side of the problem. Sure, anyone could be a Jedi but it had to be balanced compared to the other classes. Unfortunately, they didn't rebalance other classes to bring them up to Jedi's power levels, they beat Jedi with the nerf stick until they were a shadow of their former selves. Thus while the game was balanced, it bore so little resemblance Jedi presented in the movies that it was an insult. With the game originally balanced around "normal" people, with the force sensitives being hard to unlock and having limited lives (no joke on that on...), it was okay. But bring the Jedi down to an equal level with everyone else just made them underwhelming.

In a very round about way, I'm saying that having an existing IP is actually showing itself to be a liability and not a strength. Sure... you don't have to spend as much money developing it, but balancing between being true to the lore and not alienating the fan and making a fun game is tricky at best and impossible at worst.

Even WoW suffers from this. As I mentioned, I quit the game entirely for a number of months because of the changes they made to the back story when tBC was introduced. I'm sure I'm not the only one (at that point Blizzard had around 5-6 million subscribers... no way I was the only one). And I came back, but who knows how many didn't? And as things went on, the lore was again and again changed for the benefit of the game which probably had a similar effect.

By making an entirely new setting, Blizzard is freeing themselves from any existing lore limitations! They can build the entire setting with how to make the best MMO they can think of in mind. Honestly, I'm even more excited about the prospects of this new MMO now than I was before (and honestly I was pretty excited...). If Blizzard can reproduce their success in the MMO department that they had with WoW in this new MMO with a lore that is completely without need for a retcon, I will love it SO MUCH!

P.S. Sorry for taking so long with this post. It ended up going through four iterations of this post before I felt it was a smooth read.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Not dead, but darned close!

I've not given up on WoW or anything in light of Cataclysm (not that even if WoW went belly up I'd stop posting here since this is an MMO blog and not a WoW blog). I've just been bedridden since I got back from BlizzCon. I managed to pick up a particularly vicious bout of ConPlague while I was down in Anaheim.

For those of you unaware of "ConPlague", it's what happened when you get a few thousand people from all over together in tight confines, have them run themselves ragged so their immune systems are weakened and then BAM! Down you go.

I'm at work today for the first time since I left for BlizzCon on Friday morn, and even now I'm not 100%. Nose is still a bit stuffed up, throat a bit sore, but I think I've got the actual serious aspects of the sickness defeated. Even then, I can't really afford to just slack off more if I can help it.

So now back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm with him...

So this weekend, Tobold made a post about MMO-Champion's "leaks" concerning the next WoW Expansion. Link here.

Tobold posted about them in an article titled Not Believing Everything (Also, thanks for pointing me at RSS feeds allowing me to read your full posts Tobold), and I have to admit that while I disagree on some of the details, I think his overall assessment is correct and that this is just someone pulling a hoodwink over others eyes for their own jollies.

First I'll touch on what Tobold pointed out:
"The level cap in the next expansion will be slightly lower than expected this time around; 85. This suggests Blizzard wants more room for expansions before hitting the level 100 cap." Already highly suspicious. There is no such thing as a level 100 cap. There is no reason at all for Blizzard not to add 10 or more levels per expansion and arrive at level 200 or more one day.
This one's spot on. Level 100 cap? I think this is just your standard placing of additional meaning on BIG ROUND NUMBERS! I mean, the how many people were predicting doom and gloom for the year 2000 (and not because of the Y2K bug). Eeeee! A big round number?! This obviously means something important! *facepalm*

Additionally, the change to adding 5 levels would call for a dramatic shift in talent design. Up until now, while there's an occasional X6 single point talent power, most of the talents which added a new power were X1 talent, like the 11 point talents. These were particularly iconic for the max level talents (31 point, 41 point and 51 point talents). For those who have leveled up as an Arms Warrior (especially pre-tBC Arms Warriors), remember when you got to level 40 and then suddenly... MORTAL STRIKE!

This is a huge shift in talent design because (assuming they add a new single-point max tier talent), there's no talent tier between the 51st and 56th talent (obviously, but follow me here). Now, we have much less wiggle room if we want to spend 20 points outside our given tree of choice.

Also, they usually add a lot of new talents and time is spent figuring out what are good choices and what are bad choices, but at least we have 10 new talent points to spend on them... now we'll get close to the same amount of talents, but only half as many talent points to figure out what to spend them on...

Next portion:
"Troll Druid" In the list of new race / class combinations there is just one new race allowed to play druid. Which would give the Horde two druid-enabled races vs. the Alliance's only one. Never going to happen.
This implies that there were only two races who could roll as Druids for balance reasons. I might buy this if it weren't for the fact that for every class that has an equal balance in races which can access it on either side (Druids, Mages, and Rogues), there are two that there are an unequal balance between (Hunters, Paladin, Priests, Shaman, Warlocks, and Warriors).

I do agree with Tobold this sounds wrong, just for different reasons. Class/race combos are based upon the lore. In fact, one could argue that it's one of the few areas where the lore still stands strong, and at least as of right now, there's no lore justifying Trolls as Druids (or a lot of the other class/race combos that MMO-Champion is listing). While I've seen it pointed out that the Trolls in raid instances change shape, that's hardly justification for Troll Druidism... first off, we know mobs, and especially bosses, do things we can't. Second off, if changing forms is a sign of being a Druid then that means every shaman that has ever existed... IS REALLY A DRUID! OMG! But seriously... Trolls have, since they were introduced in WC2, been practitioners of Animal Shamanism. This is where they get their shape changing powers. From their Shaman ANIMAL TOTEMS.

Before I go to Tobold's last point I'll give my thoughts on the other class/race combos:


Dreanei ???: First flaw in this theory. Assuming this is the full list, all the rest of the races get one or two "new" classes. Draenei? They get diddly squat. Nada. Hmmmm...

Dwarf Mages: Being a Mage is merely learning magic. There's nothing stopping the Dwarves (and in fact, in Alpha and possibly Beta for Vanilla WoW there were Dwarven Mages).

Dwarf Shaman: Uh... what? I mean... it's been hinted that some of the WILDHAMMER Dwarves (as in the ones in the Hinterlands, who aren't the same Dwarves as the Bronzebeard Dwarves which are who the "Dwarven" players play as). So... either you're a Wildhammer Dwarf or the Wildhammers taught Shamanism to the Bronzebeards. >.>a I... guess? Seems like a bit of a stretch to me...

Gnome Priests: Again... uh... what? About the only thing that the Gnomes worship is Technology. I mean, unless Mimiron came and granted them powers or something.

Human Hunters: Hey, if Nathanos Marris (aka Nathanos Blightcaller) can do (before he became an undead monster), so can the rest of us.

Night Elf Mages: This one both works and fails at the same time! Exciting huh? Okay, so this one ties into a quest that's being datamined in 3.2.2, where there's a Highborne (not High Elves, but Night Elves who practiced Arcane Magic but hadn't started looking like Legolas) who comes out of hiding (there is a precedence for this with the Highborne in Dire Maul) and asks to rejoin "his people" (or something like that... haven't really looked into it seriously). So... Night Elf Mages, right?

Well, this works up until you have the whole "They caused the Great Sundering thing, then after seeing what they had wrought, they still thought Arcane Magic was cool, so to show what they could do, despite it being outlawed in Night Elf society, they attempted to help and caused another disaster (though on a much smaller scale)." Why in the Nine Hells would the Night Elf leadership let these guys back in? This fricken' baffles me. *froths at the mouth some more before continuing*


Blood Elf Warriors: Totally seeable. I've been of the opinion that the primary reason that there were no Blood Elf Warriors previously was to balance out the amount of classes being added with the Draenei. They would have needed to slip another class into them in order keep the total amount of class/race combos equal. But if they are adding a bunch of new classes to both sides, this gives them the chance to correct what they had to leave out before.

Orc Mage: No precedence for it, but far from being impossible. What happens to a Warlock if he decides to break his pact with his demon. Could take up Elemental or Restoration Shamanism, but becoming a Mage is a much closer step.

Tauren Paladin and Tauren Priest: Putting these two together because they both suffer from the same core problem, but the former much more than the latter. Tauren weren't even originally Druids in early development of WoW. Druids were limited to (as they had been in WC3) Night Elves, but this created a rather large gulf between the two factions, with the Alliance getting two unique classes, and the Horde only having one. So they worked it in that in the peace filled aftermath of the Third War, the Druids of the Cenarion Circle found information that there had once been Tauren Druids or that they had been on their way to becoming Druids, only they didn't finish their training or something. Anyway, it balanced the two factions with 7 classes that they shared and one class that was unique to that faction.

But I digress. Anyway, the problem with both Paladins and Priests is they are organized religion with all the Holy and Shadow stuff. While the Tauren are a religious people, their religion is very nature-based.

Now, I'll bite... I could maybe see Tauren Priests. There's the Earth Mother stuff, and this is kinda similar to how the Night Elves worship Elune and also are Druids. Maybe instead of nature worship through Shamanism, it's directly worshiping the incarnation of the Earth Mother herself. I've also heard rumors of worshiping the sun (as a sorta contrast to how the Night Elves worship the Moon through Elune).

But Paladins? Yeah, sure... Taurens are noble. Heck, they are, IMO, the most noble of the player races in the game, including the Draenei. Even the Draenei hate the Orcs for the mass genocide they committed on them while they were under demonic influence. The closest the Tauren come to hating anyone are the centaur, because they attack the Tauren, and anyone who defiles the earth. I mean, given a chance I'm pretty sure the Tauren would just chill out in Mulgore and take advantage of their Herbalism skill bonus... But being a Paladin is more than just being noble. It's also requires you to channel the powers of The Holy Light through you. Again the Sun comes up, but there's a very very big difference between sun light and The Holy Light. It's a very specific energy source that is either drawn through faith or taken by will (or was it ever taken by will by the Blood Elves? I know Mu'ru let himself be captured... did he fake letting them take the energy and gave it willingly, knowing his fate? I need to read up on this...), but either way it was The Holy Light... a source of energy and a religion that the Tauren have no history of associating with up to now.

Undead Hunter: See the Human Hunter entry. Even more-so for them since they have/had an active ex-Ranger General on their side.

Two more thoughts before I go onto the last part of Tobold's post: Arioch posted a detailed view on the new classes and amongst her thoughts, she included this very insightful train of thought:
My gut reaction is it is to facilitate the faction transfer process. How many Alliance paladins are out there that want to make the switch to the Horde but don’t want to be a blood elf? (To those of you in that camp – you don’t know what you’re missing /flex).

How many Horde shaman want to turn traitor but don’t want to be a space goat?

What if they don’t have The Burning Crusade expansion? “Ah, yes. I’m a human paladin and I want to switch to the Horde… but I never upgraded my account so can’t quite be a blood elf… so, what are you going to do with me? Upgrade me for free?” Yeah right. Now you can be a cow. Like it.
This is a really insightful, even if last point is a bit of a stretch (really... who hasn't upgraded?). At the end of the day, having choices will always trump being railroaded into a single option. Let's say you're a Night Elf Druid and your friends are all on the Horde side, so you transfer. As of right now, your only option is changing into a giant, hulking, cow monster... but after Cataclysm goes live you could change into either a giant, hulking, cow monster or a lanky, tusked, cannibalistic monster! Awesome! Okay, all jokes aside, more options are never bad, so with this in mind, I think the addition of more classes is... okay? I'm not thrilled about certain race/class combos, but this makes it seem a lot more sensible than they just got out two dartboards and started throwing one at each until they got the new pairings.

Oh right, and for those thinking "But there are only 3 Druid races. What if I'm a Horde Druid and I want to go over to the Alliance? I don't want to be a dorky Night Elf". Well if Arioch is right on why they are adding these new race/class combos, then it's far too likely that the Worgen will also have Druids as one of their classes (this starts an entirely different rant that I'll go into later).

The second point is that of the four I really have issue with (Dwarf Shaman, Night Elf Mage, Tauren Paladin and Troll Druid) three of those are the currently "single-race" classes on one of the sides, or both. Thus the driving reason for this addition makes me want to kick a puppy. I realize they have to stretch to figure out a way to slide these classes into races that don't quite fit them because if they were a fit, Blizzard would have already added them back at the start or during an earlier expansion (like tBC). While I can accept that these changes are there for The Game Balance over The Lore (note the capitals), they still really bother me. I have no intention of stopping playing because of this. As I mentioned in my previous post based on a Tobold blog post, I love WoW. It's the best MMO I've played to date and I've played a lot of them. This is mostly just me griping.

Anyway, the final part of Tobold's post:
"Part of the redesign of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is the introduction of flying to the two continents" There is already software available that allows you a virtual flight through Azeroth, basically a viewer of the World of Warcraft. And when you use it in the old world, you notice that large parts are just Potemkin villages, places of which only the facade exists. Enabling flying in the old world would mean completely redoing every single bit of that world, so people don't fly up and see behind the empty facades. Given the huge amount of work that would be, and the speed at which Blizzard traditionally works, this is rather unlikely.
This actually matches what Blizzard has said all along. Pretty much since the introduction of flying back when tBC went live, players have been requesting access to flying in the "old world". And all along Blizzard has stated that while it is technically possible, it's not an effective use of development time.

This is because (as Tobold pointed out) there are large swaths of the world that are not developed, or if they are developed, created just to add graphical flavor when flying over, and are not meant to be accessed by the player base. Shatterspear Village (aka The Happy Dancing Troll Village) between Darkshore and Moonglade is a perfect example of the latter.

So basically to do this, Blizzard will, literally, have to redesign a majority of the old world. This will be a very, very time consuming project, considering that they plan on also redoing much of the old world itself. Totally revamping, amongst other places, Barrens, Azshara, and major changes (if not total overhauls) to zones like Thousand Needles, Durotar, Gnomeregan, Wailing Caverns, and Blackrock Mountain.

So instead of developing new content for the majority of the playerbase who's already max level, they will spend time redesigning the world mostly for leveling players (Barrens split in two, but still for the 10-30 range) and Azshara being changed to a 10-20 leveling range (possibly to be the second zone for Goblins)? Maybe it's just me but this seems like a really bad use of development time.

Though I will give a counter viewpoint of my previous thoughts:

First off, back when Blizzard added tBC, the game was already a little over two years old. Those who rerolled as Blood Elves and Draenei were fine for the first 20ish levels in the new zones, when all of a sudden they were stuck back in the middle of everything with all the content everyone had run a million times over. Sure, they slipped a few new quests in here and there with the two new races spreading across Azeroth with their allies, but for the most part these were single quests or maybe a full quest chain. I know there's a mostly Draenei quest hub in eastern Ashenvale, not sure if the same goes for Blood Elves in a different location, but the point still stands.

It has now been over two years since the release of tBC, and with the exception of the revamp of Duskwallow Marsh in 2.3, there haven't been any quests added to the 1-60 level range. At this point, anyone who's leveled a non-DK alt has done most if not all the quests available in the 1-60 run.

With the potential addition of two new races, suddenly the dearth of new content in the 1-60 run rears it's hideous head once more. Sure Blizzard could do what they did in 2.0 and spread a spattering new quests across the zones with Worgen and Goblins popping up at the various quest hubs (wait... there are already Goblins at the various Horde quest hubs...), but it doesn't make the portions where you're stuck without new quests any faster.

Some people would just request that they remove the 1-60 (or even 1-70 or 80) grind. Have characters start at 55 like DKs, or even 60 to get past it all. While this has it's merits, what about those who want to do the newbie zones? Should there be a one-way trip to 60 or 70 the moment you finish it? Would it only be available to the new races or good for anyone?

Instead, doing a massive overhaul to the design of the old world, they will give players who start one of the new races or one of the old races a whole new set of quests to go through. And if all the new quests are not counted by the old quests' completion tracker, then if you don't want to start a new character, you can just run back to the old world on your level 80 and stomp through every quest for the thrill/lore of it.

Additionally, since the release of WoW, back when the core of the old world was designed, WoW has undergone massive changes. And I'm not just referring to in The Lore (though that alone could be enough), but also the technology of the game.

First off, the technological changes: Even if we look past the graphical upgrades, relatively minor as they are, there are additions such as Daily Quests and Phasing Quests. These two additions, especially the latter, would create a much different and more lasting situation in the world.

Imagine, first off the quests focusing on the Gnolls are removed from Lakeshire, so all the quests are focusing on the threatening Blackrock Orcs who control Stonewatch Keep. After defeating them, said keep is then filled with Alliance guards and others working to rebuild it. It could then become a quest hub to deal with the remnants of the Blackrock Orcs in and around Stonewatch along with the growing threat from the Gnolls.

And that's just one quick example I can think of. If pressed I could probably think of alterations for every zone currently in the game. Ways to give them a more concrete feeling. Additionally, these post-phase zones could be used to give a dynamic feeling to the growing conflict between the Horde and the Alliance.

What if, once you got to a certain zone, there were reports coming in that the other faction was moving in to take some strategic location, if they hadn't already taken it. So you, the loyal hero of your faction is tasked to attack an equally vital position in the hands of (whoever is the NPC enemy group of this zone), and take it in the name of the King/Warchief! So you go to this location, fighting your way through the zone and defeating the boss. You then report back to the quest giver, who thanks you for your work and tells you to report back to the location you just secured. Now it's a Daily PvP quest hub, all thanks to you!

So technologically speaking WoW's undergone major changes and the same can be said for the setting itself. Since WoW's release Blizzard has pushed the overall story forward, either via the game itself, or via companion products such as novels and the WoW comic book. While Blizzard as do minor things like adding and removing characters (for example, the removal of Katana Prestor and the "return" of Varian Wrynn), it's always been "fixable" with a quick change.

But if WotLK ends the way it's looking like it will end (with the death of the Lich King! O_O), this will be the most major change to The Lore yet. What difference will it make? Well, for starters, all the Scourge locations will be in disarray, their leader dead. The current implementation of places like the Plaguelands just make no sense with the Lich King dead. By redoing them, maybe focusing on other powers in the Scourge who have taken control of groups of its remnants (much like the Cerebrates did in Starcraft after the death of the Overmind).

Also, with the cold war between the Horde and the Alliance growing hotter with every patch, this will allow Blizzard to redesign many of the quests and zones to place a greater emphasis on it. This could very much be used as a replacement for the Scourge in certain zones such as Tirisfal Glades, the Plaguelands, and Silverpine Pine. If the Horde is depicted as defending itself against Alliance incursions in Silverpine and Tirisfal Glades, you still have a wide variety of quests, but they could show early the struggle between the two factions.

Other zones could also be used to emphasize the greater importance of the battle between the two factions, such as Ashenvale. Instead of having a few quests where you fought the enemy faction, we could have out-and-out war!

So while it would be time consuming, and a part of me wants more max-level content, I can understand the benefit that would come from redoing old content.

Anyway, all of this is just speculation. We'll have answers quite soon. In fact, I'm due to leave for BlizzCon in about and hour (and thus I cut down this post a bit...). Well, if you're interested in my thoughts and don't want to wait until after BlizzCon, check out my post below concerning my BlizzCon Twitter account!

See y'all later!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Twittering from BlizzCon!

I'm in the process of putting together a huge post on my thoughts on the Cataclysm leaks, but it's taking much longer than anticipated (What? Me be long winded? Lies and slander!). Anyway, either way I'll be going to BlizzCon tomorrow morning and I've made a twitter account just for my posts from said awesome event. I'll try to have my thoughts on the Cata leaks up before I leave, since one way or another we'll have answers after this weekend.

Anyway, if you're interested in reading my thoughts on it, you can follow me there and I'll post as frequently as I can (though I'm afraid I'm going to prioritize listening to the panels to tweeting).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oh... right... 3.2!

I just realized that everyone else is posting their thoughts on 3.2 and I haven't! Shame on me! (Though I was out of town this week so my experiences in 3.2 are somewhat limited...)

Let's see...

Trial of the Champions (that's the 5-man): Fun!
  • The transfer from being mounted to fighting the three champions on foot is really clunky. Your still using your lance, everyone's everywhere, and God only knows who has threat with whom. My core group that I normally run heroics with has done it twice so far. We have nothing but iLVL 200+ gear, and many slots are 213 or higher. Yet on both of our runs we have wiped. I'm sure we'll get better, but I think this could have been more smoothly designed. Maybe not give us a chance to engage them on our terms, but give us a moment to at least get out of weapons, please...
  • The second fights are cute, especially when Argent Confessor Paleteress (BTW, great reference!) summons an illusion of a fight of the past, but not particularly challenging. Got The Faceroller (hee hee!) achievement last night when we killed Eadric the Pure.
  • The Black Knight (oh noes! I spoiled it! D:) is an interesting fight. The first time I fought him I missed out that there was a phase three... so when he died the second time I was thinking "Well there we go." only to have him get up again. It was like "Why won't you die!?" But after that we were fine.
  • One thing I like that they did with this is that all the loot is on-par or better than Naxx loot, which means if you are like my guild and not deeply into Ulduar there are some decent upgrades. Heck, there are even good upgrades from normal TotC5. I plan on doing some PUG runs in the coming weeks.

Really beyond that I don't have a lot of comments. The lack of options for 1H tanking weapons makes DW tanking a non-option to me, so the major change to the Frost tree (my preferencial tree for DKs) doesn't matter.

Changes to other classes are interesting but not overly prevelant to me. About the biggest change is the addition of the Shaman Totem Bar, but that's because my girlfriend plays a shaman and we commonly instance/raid together.

I'm working on getting the Crusader Title and Exalted with the Silver Covenant so I can start doing the new dailies for the island north Icecrown and gain access to the new stuff that you can get for Crusader Tokens (or do you buy them with Emblems?). But I can't do them yet, so it's just more of the same. Woo.

And I haven't touched any of the PvP stuff added. Neither the new BG nor the revamped WG. I'm not really sure what to make of the revamped WG. Preface: My server is very badly imbalanced on the Alliance side of things. Prior to 3.2, when Horde was on defence they were almost assured to lose. One time I looked in the book outside of Arch's instance and the numbers were something like this:

  • Alliance Successful Offensives: 328
  • Horde Successful Offensives: 314
  • Alliance Successful Defenses: 316
  • Horde Successful Defenses: 39

No, I did not forget to add a number to that last bit. Seriously... they would only win when they were on the defense 10% of the time. As for why this happens, obviously because the Alliance can field way more players than the Horde can, even with the bonus granted for being outnumbered, they just get overwhelmed. Now with the sides being evenly capped at 120 per, I'm hoping it's more balanced. I'm just basing my statement on one of my friends saying a few unclear things. Honestly I hope it doesn't become an inverse where we were before, with the Horde winning all the time and the Alliance only able to occasionally take it from them only to have it stolen the next go around. Really, I want a nice balance between who has it and who doesn't.

About the only major change I've made recently has nothing to do with the patch and that was dropping Blacksmithing and Mining and taking Alchemy and Inscription on my main. My guild lacks high a raider who has either, so I decided to take both on my main.

Sadly, this is not something new...

Tobold (which is a blog blocked by my work firewall and that makes me a very sad, sad panda) recently posted a post (which I saw via my cell phone's internet) titled "Game design beats lore in Cataclysm". In it he details how is posting a lot about the theoretical new expansion (which, if true, will be announced at BlizzCon).

Tobold goes on to comment about how the Worgen are speculated to be the new race for the Alliance and then quotes the basic info from the WoWWiki article on Worgen which describes them as horrible, bloodthirsty monsters. His next point is that the pretense of the Alliance being the "good guys" and the Horde being the "bad guys" is gone.

Aside: Technically if you do all the quests like I have, you realize the Alliance is no more "good guys" than the Horde are "bad guys". There are very good and very bad people in both factions, but in the end, mostly it's just shades of gray. But that's not the point of this post...

Then he postulates that this is another attempt to balance the factions, giving the Alliance a "monstrous" race while the Horde will get the Goblins, which gives them a cutesy race, broadening their appeal.

Whether this is an attempt to add appeal to the Horde or if it's just an attempt to give some cool new races, the statement that game design is more important than the lore is definitely not something new.

While it didn't show up in RTS games since they could tailor the races to work with where they wanted the story to go, the same doesn't work for an MMO, and especially one like WoW>

First off, even ignoring the potential issue created when they decided to make it Horde vs. Alliance (a design change they made, since some of the original concept art have, for example, Humans, Orcs and Tauren working together), just having to balance the classes against each other made things hard. This DPS and that DPS need to not be too different from each other. One race needs to not be better than another in a given role.

Then mix in the initial issues of Paladins and Shaman on differing sides of the faction divide, not to mention other issues such as the Alliance getting Fear Ward and the Horde not, and it's more than just balancing around the lore. Other issues also popped up, such as the overall faction population imbalance.

Because of this, Blizzard decided to do a retcon. This wasn't the first time they decided to do this... they'd done it before with the storyline for going from WC2 to WC3, but that was done to create a more interesting story, while this was done for more practical reasons.

Draenei were changed from all of them being creepy shaman humanoid... things (See The Broken) to Light worshipping noble relatives of the evil Eredar. This was something that blindsided almost all the lore fans that I knew. There was nothing to back this up. And I remember hearing from a BlizzCon panel that one of the reasons Blood Elves were chosen was to give the Horde a visually appealing race.

Some consider the decision to make Paladins and Shaman playable on both sides the biggest lore travesty, though I viewed it as pretty common sense and less of a big deal. Opening up access to a class makes a lot more sense than changing something's entire history (Draenei). And both races had a precedent for their given "new" class. Elves have always been very magical and the High Elves had priests in WC3, so becoming Paladins is not a huge step. And as I mentioned above, the old Draenei were Shaman to begin with, so... that's fine.

Now, when I found out about Draenei I was livid. I completely quit the game (this was, obviously, prior to me starting this Blog). Eventually I returned, but I returned to play the game, not enjoy the lore as I had before.

Sure, I still did and do all the quests in the game and find them fun, but I'm now far less concerned with the impact of the story since I feel WoW is a game that a story is built around, not a story that a game is built around. And honestly, I'm fine with that. I think it makes for a better game that way, and I'm generally unable to enjoy either half in a vacuum.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Name change!

Oh yeah, forgot to mention it (though some of you more astute might have noticed the change in the link to the right), but I changed the name of my DK. Despite being a new character, everyone still called me Kaziel, Kaz, Alixander or Alix. This, combined with the fact that another of my guild name had a shortened version that sounded like my shortened name for my DK (Saiyarik's was shortened into Sai, and the other member was Sylaurin, pronounced Sigh-Lauren, shortened into Sy) I decided to change my DK's name and I did so choosing to combine my two known names into one:

Kazalix (pronoucned Kaz-Alex)

Before I decided on doing it, I had jokingly said I'd change my name to that. Then when I did it, I logged in and one of my friends commented "YOU DID NOT!" to which I repled "I DID!" and that alone made the price of the name change worth it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back from Limbo

So the day of the DWing DK is nearing.

With 3.2 on the horizon, Blizzard is finally implementing something they mentioned in planning weeks ago: Making a talent in the Frost Tree which makes the abilities a Frost specced DK gets (including Death Strike) hit with both weapons if Dual Wielding.

For those not keeping up with MMO-Champion or the patch notes, the talent is:
Threat of Thassarian: New 3-point talent. When dual-wielding, your Death
Strikes, Obliterates, Plague Strikes, Blood Strikes and Frost Strikes have a
30/60/100% chance to also deal damage with your off-hand weapon. Off-hand
strikes are roughly one half the effect of the original strike.
Additionally the talent is deep enough in the Frost tree that only those going Frost can get it (or at least you can't get enough talents in another tree that you can reach a major talent in another tree).

Now, as a tank, I'm not immediately viewing this as the best thing ever. First and foremost, it's not made with DW Tanking in mind, since it doesn't effect Rune Strike. Mechanically Rune Strike is next to impossible to make hit with both weapons. This is, obviously, because it is based on the next hit, so having the off-hand attack as well would be a bit unbalanced (especially with 1H weapons having a much faster swing speed than 2Hs, so they could theoretically get off more Rune Strikes). Having MH + ½ OH damage every swing, plus additionally the normal ½ OH damage would be crazy damage, thus completely imbalanced.

Instead, a possible fix to making Rune Strike valid while DWing, would be a modification to it's threat generation. Currently Rune Strike does 150% damage plus a variable number based on AP, with a 150% threat modifier. If Rune Strike was changed to do the damage it normally does, only with (this is a random number and not truly reflective of the number needed to balance out the loss of damage) 200% threat modifier, our TPS would remain where it was with a 2H, while our damage wouldn't skyrocket. Now, from there, let's look at the pros and cons of DW vs. using a 2H.

Higher TPS: Two Hander

Straight numbers here. A DW attack, even if it uses two slow weapons, will still do less damage than a two-hander. It's just the facts. Assuming Blizzard does not do something for Rune Strike, there's the loss of TPS there too. While it's true that white DPS while DWing comes out ahead of a 2H (again, pure numbers), Death Knights' reliance on using weapon-based Strikes makes 2H a stronger TPS tool.

Side note: Remember that other classes that can use 2H and DW don't rely as heavily on weapon-based attacks as DKs do. Warriors only valid "strike" build is Arms, which only takes it's damage from it's main hand. Shaman only have Storm Strike (Lava Lash only does OH damage), plus the damage from weapon enchants. Basically, no other class is like a DK, so comparing it to other classes that can DW and pointing out how them DWing is better is a moot point.

Higher Overall-Survivability: DWing

As of right now, the most efficient enchant to use for a DK is the Rune of the Stoneskin Gargoyle. Granting 25 Defense (non-diminishing) and a 2% health boost, this generally makes up for a DK not having access to a tanking specific weapon and a shield. While it's possible to take something other than SSG, you have to give up a lot in other areas because you're losing out on Defense.

Thus I constantly see people say that losing SSG makes you lose 25 defense, which amounts to 3% avoidance, not to mention that gear needs to be regemmed/re-enchanted for more Defense. These people are forgetting one very, very important thing about being a DW tank, and that is that you can... dual wield tanking weapons. Considering that Broken Promise is the best 1H tanking weapon currently available to a DK (will go over this later), and it gives 8.75 points (not rating) of Defense , if you were to DW two of them, you'd be sitting pretty at 17.5 Defense, thus meaning the loss of SSG actually only equates to a loss of 7.5 Defense points, and lose a grand total of 0.9% avoidance (and the 2% health bonus).

What I trade for those losses it the gain of 4% undiminishing Parry, along with a 50% reduction in disarm duration, and that's not counting any additional avoidance that one gets from Parry, Dodge, or Defense Rating on the two tanking weapons you choose to use. So in the end it's a decent gain in the avoidance department.


So! Great stuff, right? Well... not really. The catch on all this: Blizzard isn't changing how the damage is based. All the attacks that are modified by ToT still do a % of weapon damage, which means you still want the weapons with the broadest damage ranges that you can get. Basically, fast weapons are bad, slow weapons are good.

No problem, right? Well... not really. Go run over to Wowhead, go to the PTR side of things, do a quick search of one hand, main hand and off-hand weapons useable by DKs, are iLVL 200 or higher, and have defense rating on them, but are slower than 2.0 speed. Go on, I'll be here when you get back...

What did you find? Unless they added anything new since last night when I checked for new stuff all you found were the Infantry Assault Blade, a blue iLVL 200 sword from Heroic Utgarde Keep and Broken Promise, which drops from Heroic Naxxramas. That's it folks. Two weapons, and even the best clocks in at only iLVL 213.

So by the time you're poking around hard modes in Ulduar or even normal mode on new instance when it comes out either tomorrow or the week after you'll start trailing behind in terms of available stamina. I mean, the amount of stamina that two Broken Promises gives you is about equal to what any other 2H will give you. By the time you start picking up even 10-man ulduar drops you're trailing, and you just keep falling further and further behind. While additional avoidance is good, falling behind in terms of EH is actually worse IMO. I've always been of the opinion that as long as you aren't neglecting either, EH > Avoidance. And yes I know it's only a little difference... but it will add up, of that I have no doubt. "Only 500 health" turns into "only 1,000 health" and keeps going.

It just doesn't justify itself in the end using two BPs when you have a perfectly good, up-to-date 2H.

Now, it's not a complete no-go. We don't have the full drop table from the new 5-man and the new raids, so it's possible that we just haven't seen some new slow 1H tanking weapon, but with Blizzard's track record, I wouldn't go holding your breath. Consider... one slow 1H tanking weapon in all the heroics (and only a blue, not an epic), one slow 1H tanking weapon in all of Naxx (both 10-man and 25-man), and absolutely no slow 1H tanking weapons in Ulduar, despite having something like over 800 pieces of loot between the 10-man normal and heroics and 25-man normal and heroics. If Blizz does add a slow 1H tanking weapon in this patch or in Icecrown, I'll do a respec, but for now it looks like I'll continue to use a 2H.


Addendum: I'm really thinking about how I'm going to respec for my frost tanking build. One of the other changes in 3.2 was dropping Blood of the North from 5 points to 3. Previously I had just enough points get what I needed for a 15/51/5 build but now with my two floater points, I'm not sure where to put them... it'd be one thing to slip them over to Unholy to get something like increased disease duration, but they need to stay in the Frost tree so I can get Howling Blast.

I'm considering pulling more points out some of the handy but not necessary talents to go for Icy Talons and Improved Icy Talons again. I had it before, but dropped it because we almost always have my girlfriend who plays an enhancement shaman. But with these damned floaters I might as well go for it and have her throw out the spell haste totem. It'll decrease my TPS a bit, but should boost overall raid DPS and I think that's probably the best for the guild. I mean, it's not like anyone can touch my TPS except the hunters when they are being stupid and not FDing... *glares at hunters*