Thursday, December 21, 2006

Chat or Die

I've been enjoying my vacation recently and venturing into that fabled instance, the real world, for the majority of it. However, after about a week of enjoying the fresh mountain air and now the white sandy beaches I'm ready for some more inside activities. Plus its very embarressing to have a sunburn in December. You have to have to be practically an albino and fall asleep in a hammock reading the newest R.A. Salvatore but it can be done. So while I'm hiding out to avoid being compared to a lobster I thought I would try to get back on track posting on my blog. Not much has changed since the last patch in World of Warcraft to write about though. Guild raiding is still at a low, Tier 3 pre-mades are still hording honor, and most people are still complaining about maxing out on marks of honor. I know I've started to use mine to collect epic mounts.

I think the new PvP system is still at the front of everyone's mind until the expansion comes out next month. Most people are hoping to collect at least part of the pvp armor set since doing the first Hellfire Citadel instance in epic gear has got to be a lot easier then Scholo/Strat tier-0 gear. Plus from the layout of the zones in the Burning Crusade you can be sure that questing is going to involve defending yourself from the opposite faction at every turn. With the world objectives and conquerable neutral towns it seems like there is going to be a lot more PvP in the expansion then in the old world. Thus if your planning on questing in the first zone in the Burning Crusade its looking like you might want to at least have the full epic pvp set.

So to speed you on your course to epic pvp gear I decide to post a small hint that helps me a lot when I go into the battlegrounds. I usually play with a group of friends from real life but we don't number enough to make a full pre-made group. Usually its just 5-7 of us going into WSG and AB together. What makes a difference of course is a chat channel. Now I know a lot of people use chat software like Xfire or Teamspeak already but from what I've seen a decent percentage of people still have no idea how to set up any kind of chat software.

The free ventrilo server offered at is good for learning how client/server chat works. It's limited to only allowing 8 people onto the server but its easily hosted on the same computer you play games on. Plus since your running the server you can simply turn it off when you don't want to host it. Thus it really does become the disposable chat server.

Steps for Free Ventrilo Server

1) Download the Client and Server from

2) Get your IP address from or use the ipconfig command

3) Click on the Server Icon to start it. Then Downsize it.

4) Click on the Client Icon and put the IP address into the Client. If you have a router look in the forums to learn how to setup port forwarding.

5) Chose a Hotkey under Setup that you will hold down to talk. I like to use the ~(tilde) key.

Voice communication is the number one advantage in battlegrounds that pre-mades have over teams of random people. Its easy to coordinate flag running in WSG when you can call out crowd control and when not to break out. Nothing is more frustrating then watching someone break that sheeped warlock so he can fear your flag runner backwards into a tide of red names. In Arathi Baisin players at the lumber mills can quickly call out incomings for both the blacksmith and the farm with a chat channel. Its also much easier for people to break up evenly so that you don't get huge clumps of defenders at one resource node.

If your goal is to collect the pvp gear then you are going to have to get some sort of chat capability to be functional. Else always expect to lose to pre-made groups even if they are just wearing greens and blues. Don't depend on others to make a chat channel for you, be proactive and figure out the software for one of them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Honor Nerf destroys Alliance PvP

With the recent pvp revamp it became quite possible for many casual players to partake in the battlegrounds and gain epic rewards equal to about the Tier-2 raid set. However, the rate at which these rewards were being earned was very high for some individuals. As a result the developers decided to implement a hotfix into the game which reduced the honor rate for players by about 30%. While a change was needed to maintain the value of the pvp rewards this change has had major consequences for some players.

The population imbalance between horde and alliance makes pvp changes especially difficult to balance because of the difference in queue times. Since I have several level 60 characters on both factions and they just happen to be in the same battlegroup I was able to collect some data on the rates of honor gain. Most horde players were earning about 18-25k honor for playing about 7 hours with queue times that were at most a couple of minutes. The alliance who were running into average queue times of 11-16 minutes for AB/WSG and 35-45 minutes for AV were earning about 10k honor for playing 7 hours. These numbers were based on non-premade teams and reflect last weekend on Lightnings Blade and Shadowmoon servers.

The main problem with the honor nerf is that while it lowers the rate at which pvp epic items can be earned for both sides it still gears the horde players up faster. Normally this wouldn't be a problem since players would get their rewards and then leave to raid or continue doing instance runs. However, it seems that almost all raiding has been put on hold by high level guilds in effort to gain the max amount of honor and tokens that can be held in reserve. This strategy is in preparation for the Burning Crusade introducing new level 70 pvp rewards.

You can already see the problem that the alliance players are running into. As more and more horde earn their pvp rewards the average amount of honor gained per game for the alliance is reduced since they are fighting against better geared players. However, just applying the nerf to the horde would be unfair since they shouldn't be punished for their choice of race. Some better ideas have been introduced on the forums but it looks like most of the developers are too busy with the expansion to implement any of them.

Options instead of Honor Nerf:
1) Cap the amount of Honor that could be earned per day.

2) Implement a rest system for honor.

3) Implement the matching system which would make better geared players wait in the queue longer until they could be matched against players with similar gear.

4) Just let people get the current pvp rewards and reset honor and marks with the expansion.

Some Honor Calculations:
Entire Honor Set
Boots: ~12k, Shoulders: ~12k, Gloves: ~12k
Helm: ~20k, Chest: ~20k, Legs: ~20k
Two 1-hand weapons or One 2-hand weapon: 45k
Total: 141k Honor

Last week I gained 25k honor which allowed me to buy two pieces of the pvp armor set. My friend who played horde on my battlegroup last week gained 54k honor for playing about the same time as me.

Playing with a small group of friends and keeping constantly queued for AV which provides the most honor for the alliance I gained me about 9K honor in 7 hours last week. Now technically with the honor nerf I should now gain 6k honor in 7 hours but last night I only got about 2k honor for playing 5 hours since the queue times for AB and WSG had gone up considerably. I have a horrible sinking feeling that if I play for 5 hours on my horde character tonight that I will gain the 6k honor I calculated. Its simply a matter of the queue time imbalance combined with the honor nerf which is really hurting the rate at which alliance can gain honor.

Original Thread discussing the Honor Nerf and some misleading done by Drysc

Friday, December 08, 2006

What happened to the Matching System?

The last patch has been bugtastic for most raiders out there and they seem to be the ones experiencing the most pain from the new patch. This seems to have caused a large number of players to put raiding on the back burner and adopt the new PvP system as their new favorite pasttime. Now admittingly people might get bored with the same three battlegrounds over the next month so raiding isn't over by a far shot. Plus with the stacking of Heal over Time spells and new healing talents a lot of old encounters might have easier strategies. And honestly learning how to kill Baron Geddon without Decursive might be easier then winning against a pre-made team in Arathi Baisin.

Those of you who have been following the promises of the CM's remember that a matching system was in the works for the battlegrounds. The system supposedly assigned points based on the quality of the gear in a player's inventory and bank slots. These point totals for each player would then be used to assign them to a battleground against opponents with similar totals. Pre-made teams with high quality gear would then be quickly assigned to fight other asshats with Tier-3. (Jealous much?) This would basically allow players in Blue and Tier-1 armor to have a fighting chance of earning enough honor points to gain PvP rewards.

However, it seems with all the problems in implementing patch 2.0.1 the developers have decided to hold off on the matching system until the expansion. Of course when the expansion comes out most of us are going be busy questing and running dungeons so I'm not sure how useful it will be then. Yet if the system is not working then there is not much that Blizzard can do except spend more hours trying to get it working. A similar matching system will be put into place for the Arenas except it will be based on Arena rankings instead of gear quality.

Matching System Scheduled for Expansion

Random Quote copying the Princess Bride

Thursday, December 07, 2006

WoW Patch 2.0.1: A Breath of New Life

Well I must say that for a patch that didn't introduce any new content it sure seemed to breathe some life into a game that had been on standby till the expansion. The delay of the expansion had caused some major repercussions within World of Warcraft which effected both players and guilds. Most high end raiding guilds were having problems fielding raids when the expansion would make a majority of their effort wasted in a couple months. Others who were simply hanging onto the game until new content were disappointed they would have to wait for another two months and decided to quit until January.

However, the numbers I've seen in my battlegroup and server seem point to a trend that this patch brought a lot of people back to the game before the expansion. I've spent the last couple of days playing in a small 5 man premade group and doing Arathi Baisin and Warsong Gulch. When the cross realm queue was working I've seen close to 160 games for each of these battlegrounds. Alterac Valley games were also decently high in number since a majority of the epic PVP gear requires marks of honor from there.

My guild has almost become a PvP guild overnight with a majority of our healers choosing the highest damage specs over the standard raid healing. It seems very few people were that interested in sacrificing 20gp a night to learn the Vael encounter when they can simple wait a month for better gear. Now everyone has a chance to earn the epic PvP gear sets which are quite honestly equal to Tier-2. The amount of honor per piece is a bit high but seems doable to even casual players which were turned off to Battleground PvP by the ranking system. I had about 190 kills last night and my honor total for this morning was around 3,000. Most epic pieces cost betwen 13,000-20,000 honor with the epic weapons being about double that.

I know a lot of PvE and casual guilds are now PvPing because I'm seeing a lot of new trends in the battleground.

1) A lot of pre-made guild teams who seem to be inexperienced at PvP

2) Most people playing now seem to be wearing mixtures of the Tier-1/Tier-2 set instead of the blue PvP set.

3) A lot of pre-made teams are ignoring some of the well-known strategies for battlegrounds
- No one guarding flags in Arathi Baisin
- Zerging into the opposite faction's base without trying to control the center in Warsong Gulch.

4) People spamming general chat in Ironforge/Ogrimmar advertising their PvP group.

I'm also seeing a lot of talent experimentation going on and I am noticing that PvP seems a bit more on equal grounds with the new talents. Some classes are still overpowered in certain regards but it honestly seems that the talent changes have made it so everyone is on equal footing when fighting.

1) Paladins can now do damage like a decently equipped warrior if they are retribution spec. Combined this with their stuns and shields and you have a deadly combo. Number one thing I saw in battleground that surprised me was that most paladins can now kill a warlock in the time of their divine shield. 12 seconds of invulnerable allows them to crusader strike twice and judge seal of command twice while being immune to all damage.

2) Hunters are now powerful against casters and melee classes. Silence Shot and Scatter Shot combined together are deadly when timed against casters correctly. Freezing Trap is no longer a real factor with its long arm time. Some smart alec hunters were already using Zulgurub snakes since they are now tamable. The seem to have a poison spit ability but I am not 100% sure on this. All I know is "Snakes, I hate Snakes?"

3) Mages have gotten a huge boost to the fire tree. Every time I died suddenly in a battleground with no idea what happened there was a mage behind me. Fireballs now seem to hit for above 1500 even if the Mage is only moderately well equipped.

4) Feral Druids are now a bit dangerous. Their damage in cat form is higher and their damage mitigation in bear form is also very nice. A lot of my teammates were noticing that they were doing more damage meleeing against tier-2 warriors then a druid in bear form. Also the new Tree of Life form has a nice healing bonus but cannot be realistically used in PvP.

5) Most warriors I saw were now immune to disarm and now gained rage/hitpoints whenever they were stunned. This basically just makes it even harder for rogues to fight them though I was surprised to see a couple side effects. One fight I saw a warrior with barely any life get hit with scatter shot which gained him rage and life enough to intercept the hunter and execute. Also warriors with the Endless Rage talent really seemed to constantly have rage.

6) Warlocks still pwn people with their fears and dots. I noticed that the rate which dots appeared on my characters was still a bit slow. I'm surprised to see no one has used the new cast sequence command yet to link all their instant cast dots to one key. Oh well I am sure it will happen pretty soon. The new doomguard pet was around in force and I got to experience its intercept ability first hand.... multiple times. It now seems to be a tie between the succubus and doomguard for most dangerous pet.

7) Duel-wielding Shamans took some getting used to but it didn't seem as overpowering as I first thought. I know a lot of shamans will like the build for grinding but it seems only moderately dangerous in PvP. Getting hit by high damaging shocks still seems the better way of delivering the burst damage necessary to kill people.

8) I didn't really notice many changes fighting against priests and rogues though it did seem that rogues were getting perfectly timed stunlocks more often. Any rogues out there can tell me if the new talents make it easier to keep people stun locked?

All in all this patch really did more for PvP then the last patch with its world PvP objectives. It seems the developers are learning that while some people enjoy PvP most people are going to ignore it unless there are good rewards or no risk. With the old ranking system players had almost no chance of getting anything beyond the blue pvp armor set unless they spent more then 6 hours a day winning battlegrounds. This effectively blocked the awards for any players that had PvE raid obligations or a real life. With the new patch the PvP rewards became available to all players which effectively unlocked new content.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Top Ten Tips you won't see on the Loading Screen

No time for a real update so once again here is a list, enjoy.

10) Since everyone needs money, yes you can in fact always roll Need.

9) If you are new and need insightful advice about the game try the official WoW forums.

8) Always give your password out to anyone claiming to be a Blizzard employee else you might get banned.

7) The Cow Level is what the Alliance now call Tauren Bluff since DKs have been removed.

6) If you ever see a link for a lengendary item you are obligated by law to link it in general chat 1,000 times.

5) Remember that Aspect of the Pact can also be used in dungeons to stop cowardly teammates.

4) Vowels are not allowed in W()rld ()f W<:rcr<:ft instead use numbers and special characters

3) /spit is a sign of Pirate respect.

2) Carefully watch the Succubus pet, hehe did you see that? We are such pervs.

1) Quest givers of the opposite faction refuse to give you quests because they are dicks, you know what to do.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Short Update on WoW's new dungeons

The last raid dungeon in the expansion, the Black Temple, will not be ready for the release of the Burning Crusade but should have minimal impact on the game. Even the most hardcore player is going to take at least a few weeks to get to level 70 and farm the gear for fighting against Illidian. Veteren MMORPG players will recognize that this is standard fare for most expansions and that end game raid content always takes a little bit longer to finish. Lets just hope we don't see the same mistakes that SOE made with Everquest expansions and find unfinished raid zones two months after the release date. However, with Blizzard being opened about the status of the dungeons in the expansion I really don't see any surprises being sprung on us.

The other dungeon that will be patched in after the release of the Burning Crusade will be Zul'Aman. This is another 10 man instance like Karazhan but with a troll theme. It has been remarked upon before that the 10 man dungeons in the Burning Crusade should play the same role that Zul'Gurub and AQ20 now hold. However, with the new policy on gear distribution both these dungeons should have items close in power to those gained from full 25 man raids. One other item to note is that the Caverns of Time could have multipled dungeons patched into it at later dates because of its unique lore in World of Warcraft.

Confirmed Dungeons that will be ready for TBC realease date are:
Hellfire Citadel
Coilfang Reservoir
Gruul's Lair
The Caverns of Time in Tanaris
Karazhan in Deadwind Pass
Tempest Keep

Zones/Dungeons we are still left wondering about:
Hyjal next to Felwood
Uldum inside of Tanaris
Gilineas next to Silverpine Forrest
Nessy's Zone between Ironforge and Stormwind
Island in the Middle of the Map
Grim Batol
Emerald Dream

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Heroic Difficulty and the New Tiers

Scanning through bluetracker is a great way to catch little tidbits from the CM's and developers about upcoming changes to World of Warcraft. Since the expansion is on the horizon I pay special attention to anything that might be related to the latest push onto the beta server. Recently I stumbled across some information on the boards about the new Heroic Difficulty option that will be include in all the 5 man dungeons. Selecting this option will turn an instance into a harder version of itself by adjusting mob density and levels. However, the rewards also increase so that much better level 70 rewards can be gotten from any dungeon in the Burning Crusade.

Tigole explains further by saying that the epic set tokens will drop only from Heroic Difficulty instances and that the last boss will always drop an epic. This really proves that the Blizzard development team has put a lot of thought into making all content viable for the end game. In the old world once someone hit level 60 only the three highest level instances were done with any regularity because they had the best non raid loot. With the Heroic Difficulty being in the expansion it looks like level 70s can visit any dungeon to receive level appropriate loot.

My guess on how the gear structure will work in the TBC:

Battleground (non-epic set): Buyable rewards from farming BG honor

Dungeon Loot 60-70 (non-epic): Dropped from normal difficulty bosses in dungeons

Battleground (epic set): Buyable rewards from farming BG honor. Tobold estimates 100-200hrs for complete set.

Tier-4 (epic): Tokens dropped from Heroic difficulty bosses in dungeons

Kharzhan (epic): At least equal to the Tier-4 set since its also level 70 but requires 10 people

Arena (epic set): Several Blue posts put this set equal to the highest raid instance gear

Tier-5 (epic): Raid Instances like the Black Temple should have slightly better gear then the Heroic Difficulty set

This is just a estimation of the gear tiers and I'm sure I'm not 100% correct. A lot of changes for Kharzhan and the Heroic Difficulty option are just about to be pushed so I know we'll see more information about the new Tiers soon. Still one has to be excited that you can basically choose your favorite dungeon and continue to do it for gear upgrades at level 70. I certainly hope that the old raid content will one day have this option added when the developers have some free time.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Stranglethorn Hell

I had a wide selection of gaming options open to me this Thanksgiving holiday but somehow I still ended up playing World of Warcraft the most. I had recently become addicted to my beastmaster specced hunter and was having fun blowing through the early levels. Unfortunately late Thursday night I hit level 36 with her and entered what is one of the few dead areas in the game. I had done the few quests for the Alliance in Desolace, Arathi Highlands, Hillsbrad and I was left with only one more zone to visit. Every character come to a point in their life where they make the decision to head to Stranglethorn Vale or just grind world mobs. On a PvE server this choice is less relevant but to those of us who play PvP its a major virtual life decision.

Stranglethorn Vale is a questing bonanza with over 30 quests for both the horde and the alliance. They start around level 33 and slowly increase to about level 44. A lot of them are simple kill ten rats quests which can be grouped together by a enterprising individual so they are working on several at the same time. Most of the mobs in the zone are either beasts with no casting abilities or trolls with very low hit points. Both are great for grinding against and can easily help a player to finish up a level between quests. So if this zone is such a nice place to level why is it referred to as the Stranglethorn Hell?

1) The Gank Factor:
The high amount of quests in the zone is like a giant fly zapper. People can't resist the thought of all that easily earned experience just waiting there softly glowing. They forget about the last time they went into the Stranglethorn Hell and being camped at Nessingway's for two hours. The ease and multitude of the quests in STV guarantee a constant stream of players entering the zone and as a result gankers know they can always find victims there.

2) Zul'Gurub
ZG is probably one of the easiest raid zones to do and Pick-Up-Raids for both factions form all the time. As a result there is a lot of level sixty foot traffic heading to the entrance of this zone. This wouldn't be so bad if the entrance was away from any of the questing areas but no Blizzard decide in true cutthroat fashion to place it in the middle. Thus as a raid moves in you can pretty much count out finishing a Nessingway's or Venture Co. quest.

3) The Fishing Extravaganza
Starting every Sunday at 2pm you can expect the coastline of STV to fill up with both Horde and Alliance as they quickly try to fish up 40 tasty fish to win a tournament. Even after the tournament ends the special fishing spots continue to exist for a few more hours and they will continue to be in use. Several nice items with high stamina can be earned by fishing there so often times people will bring a 19 twink to fish and a level 60 to kill everything in sight.

4) The Gurabashi Arena
The loot isn't really that good but it has a habit of getting out of hand with different groups and guilds calling in reinforcements whenever the chest is dropped off. Thus basically you get a lot of people looking for some hardcore PvP flying into the zone and traveling to the exact center where the arena is located. On their way in they have a habit of killing everything of the opposite faction. Its good practice and gets the blood flowing.

5) It's a Jungle In There
STV is designed with a very high mob density so much so that there really only two routes from the south to the north. One is the coastline which has level 40 pirates and Naga and the other is the main road. This basically means that if you're under level 40 you have to take the main road to move between Nessingway's and Booty Bay. Thus every time you have to turn in a quest you are forced to travel the same path as every other character in the zone. As you have learned by now the chance of a level 60 letting a lower level person pass by them is only about 25%. There not even real gankers at heart they just remember all the times they were killed by a high level and blackout into a murderous rage.

So now that you know why people love to hate Stranglethorn Vale you have to wonder, "Is it worth visiting?" The short answer is yes since you can really move fast through the mid thirties if you quest here. However, you have to follow certain conditions when questing here or you are going to spend more time running back to your body then doing actual quests.

Condition 1)
Know the quests and group them together for maximum efficiency. Remember every time you travel to Booty Bay/ Nessgingway/ Gromgol/ Kurzen Camp you have a very high chance of being ganked. Thus the less time spent traveling on the main road the better.

Condition 2)
Do not play in STV during primetime, it is death incarnate.

Condition 3)
Do not bring weak PvP classes to the STV. The entire zone is practically a free for all battleground. If you have no escape abilities then you should not come here. This is mostly talking to warriors and paladins who are basically like turtles without shells before level 40.

Condition 4)
Always approach Nessingway's Camp with utmost caution since usually sixties from one faction or another will be killing someone there. Try to get a look to see if anyone is in the camp before even getting close since people will mount up and chase you.

Condition 5)
Bring friends to quest in Stranglethorn Vale. Yes we all know that grouping actually hurts the experience you can gain in World of Warcraft but the added protection enables you to quickly go through the quests.

The danger of visiting STV depends on the server. The older a server gets the less traffic you see in the zone for questing and raids going to ZulGurub. Also on servers with highly unbalanced faction populations the zone can be quite safe for those of the more populous faction.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Can the Current Level 60 Dungeons be Saved?

With the release of the Burning Crusade a lot of the current end game dungeons will become deserted as people migrate to the better risk vs. reward instances. Stratholm and Scholomance can be expected to become true ghost towns filled with only the undead that make their homes there. Sure an occasional tourist will stick his head in the zone and check it out but the days of a real group of players entering will be over. Thinking about it though there are already several dungeon instances which barely ever see groups.

As World of Warcraft has become more top heavy with level 60 characters most people find it easier to be run through a dungeon with a higher level character then actually build a group of appropriate level people. And yet if a dungeon has a good set of droppable items and a rewarding main quest then it will still most likely see groups of adventurers. For example the dungeons Maradon and ZulFarrak still experience a decent amount of group traffic and will probably continue to receive visitors even after the release of the expansion. Both have good quests that give rare items and a decent array of drops for casters and melees.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are two dungeons designed for players in their twenties. Both Black Fathom Deeps and Shadowfang Keep have limited droppable items and so-so quest rewards for the Alliance. SFK actually has no general quests for the Alliance but makes up for it by having some nice caster loot. Unfortunately the dungeon is not kind to most melees since most of the items for them are very rare drops off the bosses. BFD has one good quest for the Alliance but it only gives a blue shield or wand. The droppable items are poor with only the bosses at the end having a chance to drop good blue items. Just like SFK too many bosses drop green items with bad stats which are easily beaten by gear bought from the auction house.

The current level 60 dungeons are set to soon have the same problem since players in their high 50s will have the same difficulty doing Scholomance as doing Hellfire Citadel. Plus chances are that the bind on equipped items that drop from the Outlands will be better then the rares that drop from current level 60 dungeons. Blizzard really has four options they could choose to try to alleviate this issue.

1) Increase the Item Power in the current Level 60 Dungeons
This option isn't too likely since it could detract from the allure of the new dungeons. Plus modifying and rebalancing old content is much harder then doing the same for new content. Just look at the boss fights for the Tier 0.5 armor set which the developers seem to think are balanced for a group of non raiders.

2) Decrease the Item Power in the new Level 60 Dungeons
This option would go against their philosophy of basically fixing the gear imbalance between raiders and non-raiders. Also if the new items were only slightly better there wouldn't be as much demand to get the expansion right away.

3) Ignore the old content
This looks like the current option Blizzard is going with. It costs them no money and encourages people to concentrate on the new expansion. However, this really increases the rate at which the new content will be consumed since new people will skip all the current level 60 content when leveling and go straight to the Hellfire Citadel

4) Decrease the levels and difficulty of the current Level 60 Dungeons.
I really think this would be the best move for Blizzard since they could put more of a gap between the old content and the new content in the expansion. At the moment the Sunken temple is around level 50 and is the dungeon right before the current level 60 dungeons. Blizzard could easily adjust the item and boss levels of the current level 60 dungeons so that a group of level 54 players without raid gear could beat them.

Shifting the difficulty of the current end game dungeons might be the only way to prevent them from becoming a higher level version of Black Fathom Deeps. With no level gap between them and Hellfire Citadel then the rule of risk vs. reward dictates that almost all players will head straight to the outlands at 58-59. The Blizzard developers might think rebalancing the older dungeons again might not be worth the money but honestly it will help them if new characters can be persuaded to still go there. Basically its the difference between still getting some use out of the content and totally writing it off. The level 60 dungeons can be saved unlike their counterparts the level 60 raid instances which are just plain screwed over by the expansion.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Avatar Customization

World of Warcraft took a great many steps forward by including a plethora of popular features from previous MMORPGS and fine tuning them so they would have mass appeal. One area of the game though that always seemed to go against this philosophy was their character creation process. Only having about six different customizable options was a real step back when compared to other games out at the time. Even classic Everquest technically had more options since they had practically double the amount of playable races. Still with WoW's success one has to wonder if Blizzard did their research and found out that money was better spent on game content then more varied hair styles.

Still, the reason I'm revisiting this topic once again is that I finally got a certain Beta program working on my computer late last night and had time to mess around with the character creation process. I must say I am impressed with the amount of choices Vanguard allows for changing the body structure of your characters. Now I am not quite sure how a NDA works cause frankly when I finished college I swore I was never reading anything over 1200 pages again. Still I am pretty sure without giving specifics I can talk about features.

The number one thing that impresses me is they made use of the same sliding bar for customization that you find in City of Heroes. For an example think of a bar named Height which you can slide and watch as your avatar grows or shrinks in size. Now picture about 50 such options from eye slant to head size. It may not have the outrageous costumes of the super hero MMO but it still allows an impressive ability to differentiate yourself from other players. Quite frankly, in World of Warcraft the amount of evil twins I have run across is ridiculous.

Players like to be able to distinguish themselves from others usually in order to prove their superiority. Equipment plays an important part in this since it directly effects your ability to kick ass but image also plays a part. How many low level rogues do you see wearing a full set of defias even though the stats aren't that good? A lot. How many paladins do you see wearing a dress even though raids force them to heal from a distance? None. What good is kicking ass if you look like a bum while doing it?

I'm not sure if good character creation options are the key ingredient in making a successful MMO but I do know its a good start. Most likely half the fans of City of Heroes/Villains simply liked playing because of the amazing costumes you could put together. I wasn't really a fan of the gameplay but it seem like every other day I was creating a new character with a name and history to match his costume. In comparison WoW's character creation looks simplistic to City of Heroes and quaint to Vanguard. However, the decision to cut back on avatar customization in return for more game content might be smart. After all if people just wanted good looking avatars at the cost of gameplay then Second Life would have more concurrent users.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

No Ninja's Need Apply

Recently my guild had been dealing with a serious drop in attendance due in part to the delay of the Burning Crusade expansion. Some people took a break, some just decided to quit, and others like me are just doing a lot of overtime at work. Having only thirty people show up for our raids was starting to hurt our Rag and BWL attempts so the guild finally decided to start heavily recruiting. Which leads us to our last run where we only had Domo and Ragnaros left to clear. Those of you who are experienced in the ways of WoW already know where this story is going. Basically one of our recruits managed to use feign death to ensure his survival in the Domo fight right at the place where the chest spawns. The quick fingered thief then popped right up when Domo went down and grabbed the chest contents.

Our ventrilo channel lighted up like the National Lampoon Christmas tree since one of the rare +46 healing bands was in there. Most of the other gear was substandard for us so outrage was a bit lower then it would have been say two months ago. Still most people were shocked to learn that there is no penalty for ninja looting an item in a raid. A lot of our newer members thought surely a warning or temporary banning would result. But in the end the only thing the guild could do was post about the ninja in the forums. However, the thief delighted in informing general chat in Ironforge that he was soon transferring servers and that his name would be changed also in the process.

For as many steps Blizzard took to prevent ninja looting in the game it still occasionally makes itself known. The need/greed rolling system helps prevent a lot of group looting hijinks but still leaves room for some manipulation. A group leader could switch to master looter right before a boss or a person could simply roll need on armor and weapons they can't use. Especially sneaky ninja looters will often wait for everyone else to select greed roll before they choose need. However, when you have a situation like a chest then it doesn't matter what the loot settings are since the first person to open it can loot all the items. I guess Blizzard thought a MC raid would know each other well enough that ninja looting wouldn't be a problem.

A lot of other games had much worse systems for managing ninja looting. Early Everquest simply allowed the person or group who dealt the most damage to loot items from the mob. Thus often when a rare mob would spawn several people would start wailing away each hoping they could out damage the other and gain the xp and loot. Other games like City of Heroes simply decided to do away with the idea of having equipment for players. Still others made it so the game always divides items based on some sort of system like round-robin.

All these systems were invented in part because digital property is not protected under any sort of real law. In a MMORPG the only laws are those that control how a player interacts with the game. The EULA for most games try to set additional laws that are really only enforceable by direct GM intervention. And to be honest GM intervention becomes unrealistic when the player population is so much higher then the GM population. The current GM to player ratio for World of Warcraft has to be somewhat like having one police officer for all of New York City. So when you think about it the only real way to enforce digital laws is to program them into the game.

Short Summary: I'm pissed that someone stole from our guild but I am more pissed at Blizzard for not putting chests and vaults into the loot rolling system.

Note: A song a dwarven rogue was spamming in IF one day, yes he did have the devout set.

I am a little ninja, short and stout,
I'll steal your gear and hearth on out.
Everyone on teamspeak will curse and shout,
Cause I am the rogue in full devout.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Top 10 Things Not to do in WoW until Jan 16th

10) Make a NE Hunter and go to the horde newbie area with a level one pet. Stay in shadowmeld until a low level attacks your pet then Aim Shot them for +1,000 dmg. Later on brag about how good you are at fishing for newbs to your guild. Post pictures of all the level one characters you have killed this way. Make sure to photoshop black X's over their eyes.

9) Give your raid leader a hug when you're the bomb in the Baron Geddon fight. When everyone yells at you sigh heavily into your microphone and say "I guess I'm just not leet enough for Molten Core."

8) Using lots of patience and dots train King Mosh from Ungoro Crater to the Crossroads. On your way there brag in general chat that the stink of the Crossroads offends you and your having your pet wipe it out. Since no horde could understand you include the words KeK KeK so they know bad shit is going down.

7) Spell out "Janury 16th is too far" in front of your race's city using level 1 corpses. Start over again when someone calls you a moron for misspelling January.

6) Have your NE priest shadowmeld near the main entrance to BRM. Whenever a single character runs by use mind control to throw them into the lava. Before each mind control announce that you are making another sacrifice to Ragnaros in hopes he makes the TBC release date sooner.

5) Stake out the Gadgetzan Gnomish Transporter and watch for mechanical failures. Try to get a series of screenshots when people appear 10,000 feet above the tranporter then turn it into an animted gif. Include it in a forum's post about why goblin engineering is better then gnomish.

4) Hide near the pyramid transporter that leads to Naxx. When guilds approach jump out and point to the pile of level 1 corpses that you have cleverly spelled out to say "The End". When someone remarks that the one in front of Ironforge was better tell them to STFU.

3) Go to a newbie area and ride your epic mount backwards in front of them to show that yes you are in fact Uber. If they doubt you make sure to pull out glowing weapons. If they still doubt you challenge them to a duel. They didn't accept did they? Cowards.

2) Go outside and play in the park ..... Hahaha I kid. What would you rather be outside throwing a frisbee around all day or on your computer doing something that really matters?

1) Collect as much purple cloth gear as possible and get the Crisom Hat from Stratholm. Get a group of friends to follow you around as naked female characters. Walk around Ironforge and introduce yourself as Pimpmaster Pimpalicous Smakabeotch. Use the /slap command on any friends who talk out of character. Threaten to use the /beotchslap command if they continue to get out of line.

Hopefully, work will settle down and I can actually write a real post next week. I remind people that most of these things are annoying and I don't recommend them as actual ways to pass time. Unless your really, really bored.

Friday, November 03, 2006

What Class Would you Like to See in WoW?

As we all disappointingly know there will be no new classes in the Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft. But for the longest time before we got this information people loved to theorycraft on what classes might make an appearance in the game. Everything had been suggested from old Everquest favorites to even more exotic classes from rare DnD manuals. After fighting Lefty the monk in the Tier 0.5 Arena event I've been thinking about how I missed new classes. Blizzard has stately numerous times they don't wish to create any overlap by introducing new classes that have the same roles as current ones. Dealing with that that limitation what do you think will be the most likely new class?

Here are some suggestions which I faintly remember from discussions of theory craft, forums posts, and even some barrens chat (god help us all).

One of the more talked about choices since the costume was provided by use of the Orb of Deception. Originally suggested as the Hero class for rogues it could also be playable as a separate class though it would probably have a lot of overlap with the current backstab professionals. The main thought would be that a ninja would be a cloth wearing dps class that would have very powerful initial attacks and finishing attacks like execute but be lacking in stable dps. Basically a rogue without sinister strikes but an ambush and eviscerate to die for. Because of their lack of armor the class would have to be much more careful at pulling aggro then rogues.

Another obvious choice because of the Orb of Deception and the general internet rivalry with ninjas. Pirates would also be a cloth wearing dps class but would use swashbuckling to avoid taking damage. Thus they would have skills and abilities for parrying and blocking but would take heavy damage from attacks that got through. They could also have the auto shoot ability but be limited to using guns. Also many suggest that they should have parrot companions like the mobs in the Deadmines which are very weak pets.

World of Warcraft already has an evil caster class but a lot of people still miss the standard Necromancer. Plus its not like the lore of the game doesn't support the class since several dungeon bosses are Necromancers. Basically if this class was ever implemented it would have to have something to greatly distinguish itself from warlocks. One suggestion was to make their damage spells cold and disease based and really make their pets unique. Perhaps enable them to have multiple pets but only be able to summon them around recently defeated foes. Or make them sort of like hunters where they have to track down and kill certain mobs to be able to raise them as different types of undead. Thus if they wanted to summon a skeleton they would have to kill a human but if they wanted a ghost they would have to kill an elf.

Since World of Warcraft tries to balance itself on PvP combat as well as PvE combat they have given almost every class a means of crowd control. This has really defused the need to have a pure crowd control class like an Enchanter in the game. Yet an Enchanter would open up a entirely new type of class since their sole purpose would be to crowd control. They could have minor arcane damage abilities like a mage but their greatest benefit would be able to crowd control more then one mob at a time. Also allow them the ability to mind control like a priest but with more control of their targets.

Basically this would be a class set up just like the Enchanter but instead of having damage spells like a mage they would have healing spells like a paladin. The Templar would be like a preacher or religious zealot whose crowd control stems more from his ability to brainwash then cast spells. The class would be harder to solo then an Enchanter since they would have no offensive spells. To compensate they could wear plate armor just like a paladin. I mainly think of this class whenever someone mentions the mobs of the Scarlet Crusade. Plus in my opinion more classes that can heal need to be put into the game.

A mild dps class that would be able to use AoE songs to cast buffs or debuffs. Unlike casters the singing ability would be able to be used while attacking but just like channeling would be interrupted when attacked. Thus the key to using a bard would be knowing when to stay in combat range and when to back off. The class should probably be able to wear at least mail armor since AoE debuffs will probably pull aggro one or twice no matter what the player does. The song ability would work a lot like totems but the Bard would be more melee oriented then the Shaman. Also limiting the bard to only one handed weapons would further separate them from the other hybrid classes.

The bare fist fighter. Monks would be limited to only fist weapons and leather armor but would have a natural high armor class. Monks should be thought of as rogues with perhaps a bit of healer thrown in. I would like to see monks as a class that could heal and dispel themselves. Perhaps tie their heals and dispels to a combo point system like the rogue class. To make them wanted in groups and raids have them able to get out of almost every type of crowd control so that they would be useful for powerful debuff fights. To limit them from being overpowered in PvP make sure they have almost no form of crowd control ability themselves. The class would be like a hunter in that it would be very good at soloing but would also be useful in dungeons for getting aggro off the healers and not requiring much healing in return. Basically a dps class that doesn't subtract healing from the tank if he mismanages aggro.

I am sure there a million other classes from all the theory craft posts I have missed. If anyone wants to add one or points a forum threat discussing the topic feel free to list it in a comment.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Warlock's Defense

The last post was not a general call to nerf the warlock class but a examination of the Fear spell's reputation for being overpowered. Since I have never played a warlock to sixty I have had more experience being on the recieving end of fear then the casting side. Thus every time I tried to write a point to argue for fear not being overpowered I might have been thinking more about being one shot fear killed then thinking about a good arguement.

Luckily using blue tracker I found a decent forum post (yeah I was surprised too) which defended the Warlock's use of the deadly duo (fear and deathcoil) . The format of the post is done in a humorous manner but the summary had several good points.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fear: the King of Crowd Control?

Me and my friends were going through a low level WSG battleground when we ran into the problem of a flag carrier being escorted by two warlocks. As any of the melees on our side got close to the carrier they were feared which effectively kept them from ever catching back up to the flag carrier. We did have one hunter on our side and his concussion shot did slow them down a bit but he could never get in range to use wing clip. As our enemies returned the flag for the third time using this method my teamspeak channel broke out into a ton of complaints about how overpowering fear is at the moment. Usually not one to call for nerfs I got into a discussion about just how effective fear was as crowd control.

There are several types of fear spells but the ones most often complained about are the Warlock's deadly duo of fear and deathcoil. Warlock's have the standard fear spell which on average always seems to last longer then ten seconds. This time can effectively be extended with the use of deathcoil which is a shorter but irremovable version of fear. This makes warlock fear one of the longest lasting crowd control abilities in the game with only sap and polymorph lasting longer. However, both of those abilities automatically break when the target takes damage.

The crux of the complaints about fear stem from the change made with the way it interacts with Damage over Time spells. It used to be that every time damage was dealt to a feared target there was a chance to break the spell. This made the spell fairly balanced except that warlocks who were the main users of fear were very dependent on DoT spells. Plus there were rumors that people used low level DoTs on themselves to beat raid bosses that feared. Thus the rules were eventually changed so that only the initial damage of a spell had a chance to break fear. Thus DoT spells went from having a very high chance to break fear to a very low chance. This change combined with fear's effectiveness in PvP is why many claim that spell is overpowered.

Liability in PvE but Benefit in PvP
1) Aggro Management: Fear in PvE has to be used carefully so that the feared target doesn't aggro more mobs which will then attack you. Yet in PvP combat the feared target is the one who is attacked by any added mobs. Thus fear gains an added boost to its effectiveness during world combat and battlegrounds with mobs.

2) Range Control: Fear is the perfect ability to gain range on your target. While in PvE it can be annoying to have to chase your target to recast your DoTs it becomes quite beneficial in some forms of PvP. Mainly any type of PvP that involves flag capture or running since the crowd control spell effectively allows the claiming of the flag without having to kill your target.

If you look at how Fear works you can see that by its very nature its not an effective PvE crowd control method. In fact the only time Warlocks are in demand for a raid or group instance is when their banish ability is needed. Inside a dungeon you are almost never going to see anyone use fear since it is too chaotic and unpredictable. Yet this becomes its strength in PvP combat where your opponents can be controlled for a long time and perhaps even killed by one spell alone. Thus Fear is the ultimate PvP crowd control ability but is balanced by its uselessness in most PvE instances. Still since players compete directly in PvP most only ever see the overpowering side of Fear.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Vanguard Beta wouldn't run on my computer since it requires a higher shader model then is supported by my graphics card. My card is a Radeon 9200 Series which is kind of old so I'm not surprised two years after I bought my computer its now out of date. Sure I could go out and purchase a new graphics card which would only be around 400$. But my male nerd logic tells me what I require is a new computer. I've had my eye on Alienware for a long time so I am finally going to buckle down and hit my savings account for one of their machines. I'm looking forward to seeing how well both World of Warcraft and its expansion runs on a higher end machine. Most of the time my current machine handles WoW just fine but if I'm near more then one AoE spell then I get the stutter effect.

Its weird but a few hours after I placed my order with Alienware I got a call from my apartment office. It seems that an apartment I've had my eye on for awhile just opened up and I can transfer my lease to it free of charge. Oh yeah but I have to move this weekend! This apartment is huge and only a few more gp a month so I am currently in a mad dash getting my stuff ready for the move. Its been crazy but it should be worth all the chaos once I am settled in. However, my play time is severely cut down since its taking forever to get my stuff into boxes. I somehow managed to cram over 4,000 books and 500 dvds into a small 600 sq ft apartment. I blame World of Warcraft since I am sure it taught me how to deal with limited bag space.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Raid Positioning: Its all about the way you move

Recently my guild was running into problems properly placing people in the Razorgore fight and it got me to thinking about how many raid encounters depended on coordinated movement to succeed. Even in the lowest level raid zone of Zulgurub there exist several fights where placement and coordinated movement is the key to victor. Trying to organize them in my head I came up with several different placements that my guild used for different fights. Oftentimes the different classes would be using different placements depending on their role in the fight.

Max Range Placement:
Think of the Bat Boss in Zulgurub and any other mob that will charge people in proximity. This placement is also used in fights like Shazzarah where the boss has an AoE spell that is centered around them. The main strategy for this placement is always to be ready to react to any movement your target makes. You will need to know the max range for your spells and range attacks and be sure that you are always within a couple yards of max range. This way as long as you don't steal aggro from the main tank you will be able to cause damage without taking any.

The Group-Up Placement:
This placement isn't used that often since its vulnerable to AoE attacks but its needed in several cases. Usually the raid leader will call out a physical feature or spot for everyone to gather on. The rune for the Baron Geddon fight is a good example of where this placement becomes handy. Since everyone is close together dispellers can cleanse everyone in the raid which causes debuffs to be gotten rid of very quickly. When the debuffs are especially dangerous like a magic drain then this becomes one of the few ways to quickly cleanse a 40 man raid.

The Semi-Circle Placement:
This placement can be use in combination with the max range placement but makes cross group healing difficult. The main purpose of using this placement is to minimize the danger of an AoE spell that is not centered on a boss mob. One example where I usually see this is the Kurinaxx fight where the boss causes silencing sand traps to spawn around him. By being spread out around in circle everyone is in range to cause damage but only a few people are damaged by the exploding sand traps. The key to maintaining this placement is to watch the boss mob's movement and not pull aggro to the outside of the circle.

The In and Out Movement:
This movement is for all you melee fighters out there. Basically some boss's have a powerful AoE spell which they can only be maintained for short periods of time. Usually the main tank or secondary tank will call out when the AoE spell has been temporarily depleted and that is your cue. Run in quickly and do some sweet melee dps damage, then just like the hooky poky get yourself out. Baron Geddon has a fire damage AoE spell and Ragnaros has a knockback spell that are both are commonly defeated with the In and Out strategy.

The Hide and Seek Placement:
This placement is a healer's nightmare but is needed for some of the more difficult fights in the game. Basically the idea is for healers to use the terrain placement to hide themselves from the boss mob's line of sight. However, while they are doing this the tanks and melees have to keep themselves within sight of the healers so they can be kept up. I personally don't have that much experience with this strategy but I hear its commonly used to defeat the second boss of BWL, Vael the Red.

The Anti Social Movement:
Also know as the "No Touch, No Touch" strategy. Basically certain effects can be cast on a player which actually hurt all the people around them. The big trash mobs before Ossirian are notoriously for casting a disease which does this and several other boss mobs are know for casting devastating attacks if people are grouped close to one another. The ones off the top of my head are Onyxia during her phase 2 flying and Ragnaros with his targeting of clumps of any people with mana. If more then three people are close together for too long then in both cases they will cause the boss to throw a good chunk of range damage their way.

If anyone else can think of any that I missed go ahead and throw them into a comment.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

RMT's Relationship with World of Warcraft

I've written my thoughts on real money transfers several times in forums but never on my blog. Its a very polarized subject matter and several online personalities I respect disagree with my views on the matter. If you read my post about keyloggers then you know that I've watched a professional gold thief loot a friend's account then advertise the site he was going to be selling the gold at. Nothing sends a chill down your spine like having a real life friend's game character speak broken english and advertise gold. You know that the next day he'll log in naked in the gutters of Stormwind with all his money gone.

Besides having a couple friends fall victim to keyloggers and being looted, I've also noticed a constant stream of gold selling advertising in game. They love to send messages in your mailbox, in your chat channels and sometimes just randomly send tells to you. Last night I actually had three messages in my mailbox advertising gold, a new personal record! Well the recent spat of gold advertising has made me put aside my reservations about such a polarized subject and get down to the nitty gritty of RMT. Most of the points I'm making are from inside the point of view of World of Warcraft but they can be applied to most MMORPGs.

RMT's effect on the WoW economy
One of the most argued about points in the RMT debate is whether it hurts virtual world economies. In World of Warcraft the effect of RMT can be seen in the auction house. Prices of items that are commonly dropped at level sixty are greatly reduced as farmers keep a constant supply of them in the auction house. This effectively lowers the value of these items much more then if just players were putting the items up for sale.
There is a inversely proportional relationship between supply and demand and if you increase the supply side much faster then the demand you get a lowering of value for the item. RMT effectively reduces the ability of players to make money themselves. What you end up getting is a system that encourages the buying of gold from farmers since earning it yourself becomes much harder then it should. Thus the cost of expensive items (like epic mounts) at level sixty become much more time intensive to get without buying gold.

RMT effectively creates chokepoints in content
Farmer accounts are usually in use 24/7 with multiple people working on the account in round robin fashion. Thus the account's characters are always in the game tying up content. While this isn't too hard to deal with if you are of the opposing faction it can be a real pain to those on the same side. Trying to complete a Kill Ten Rats (sorry Oz and Ethic couldn't resist) quest on mobs being farmed by professionals is almost impossible.

RMT encourages shady behavior
The only real penalty for breaking a company's EULA is the lost of your account. Thus any act that earns you more real world money then the cost of a new account becomes a good investment. This is why you get scams, keyloggers, and bots in World of Warcraft even though GMs suspend accounts that engage in such behavior. The amount of players is so huge in WoW that by the time a GM has started to investigate an accusation of shady behavior a profit has already been made on the activity.

RMT probably violates digital copyright law.
Virtual game items have not been specifically identified in any legislation regarding digital copyrights. The reason for this is that the last couple of laws on the matter happened before MMO games became popular. However, the laws that cover other digital mediums such as movies, music, and software can easily be applied to virtual game property. Basically the act of purchasing digital information doesn't give you the right to resell it since it is someone else's intellectual property.

RMT breaks the EULA
The EULA is a contract and is thus enforceable only as a civil matter and not a legal one. You won’t go to jail for breaking a EULA. The main purpose in having one is so that the company can avoid lawsuits when they cancel accounts that engage in behavior they disagree with. It will also probably be used the first time a virtual property ownership case goes to court. Mainly if you agree to a contract which clearly states you don't own anything in game then your position to argue ownership is greatly decreased.

RMT advertising is annoying
It appears everywhere in game and manages to get into any advertising space remotely related to a game. Half the time the ads that appear on my blog are probably for gold buying services. It breaks the immersion of the game and kind of breaks the fairness of it.

RMT spawns bad players
Its true and don’t you deny it. The amount of people who appear in World of Warcraft with Tier-2 armor and no idea of their class abilities is astounding. Now not everyone of them is using a bought account, I am sure some are just regular idiots. Yet the number remains high enough to convince me that a lot of account selling goes on. Normally I wouldn’t care but I love doing instances and pvp which means I occasionally have to make Pick-Up-Groups. If you’ve been in more then one PUG group then you know that there is a large amount of people who apparently made it to sixty without learning anything about the game. And not all of them are hunters and rogues either!

I have a decent job with good pay and I have a fair amount of free time since I am not married (hint hint ladies). So the reason I disapprove of RMT isn't because I can't afford to buy gold. Instead the reason is more of RMT's effect on the fun factor of any MMORPG. It introduces a lot of negative elements to the game and really does detract from the overall enjoyment you can pull from the game. People need to realize that you don't really need a lot of time to make money in a MMORPG and that every time you buy gold you are sucking away the ability of players to earn items w. I think my next post will probably be about some of the arguments people use to support RMT. If I get linked to a lot on this post I know there will be some in my comments.

Vanguard Vs. World of Warcraft

I recently got accepted into the third phase of Vanguard's beta and I am looking forward to exploring the world of Talon to see if all the rumors are true. I had heard a lot of reports about the graphics of Vanguard being subpar and the gameplay being tedious in the previous phases of their beta. It would be refreshing if this new phase introduced some changes that fixed those problems. After playing World of Warcraft I am not sure if I could go back to playing a time consuming and hardcore MMORPG. Its not that I am a carebear its just that I have much less time now that I am working. Back in college I could play 5 or 6 hours in row which was required for some of the longer raid targets. Now with WoW I find myself being able to play for a maximum of 4 hours in a row. I just have too many other things that gang up to steal my attention away from gaming.

There are a couple of things that I do miss about the older MMORPGs that World of Warcraft is missing. The major one being a larger selection of classes and races. World of Warcraft is very limited in classes since they found it easier to balance for pvp fighting. While pvp is very fun I'm not sure its worth keeping the class choices so low. Also World of Warcraft can get annoying at times because of its high number of immature players. The ease of the gameplay encourages gamers of all types and ages to try out the game. Thus the amount of questions, random invites, and begging for gold is much higher in WoW then the older generation games.

Vanguard has a few other things going for it besides the small perks of being hardcore. They're exploring new systems for crafting, questing, and handling player death. Now while some of their choices for these new systems might have a hardcore edge to them they are at least trying new ideas. Ideas like putting the death penalty on a sliding scale based on what action killed your character. It's worth at least trying the game out to see how these ideas are panning out. If the gameplay is too hardcore I will probably not be too interested but if I see they are trying to be challenging without being time intensive I might stick around.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Benefits to Delaying the Burning Crusade

Blizzard just recently announced the delay of the Burning Crusade expansion to a definite January release date. The decision wasn't unexpected since rumors and beta testers have been commenting on the unfinished look of the game. The delay also fits in well with Blizzard's devotion to releasing quality games and the Duke Nukem Forever development cycle. The added time to the BC development makes World of Warcraft one of the few MMORPGs to go over two years without an expansion. Numerous content has been patched in but as some have commented most of it was partially created during the initial development of the game.

The expansion is one hundred percent brand new content with several features and changes that will have a major impact on the World of Warcraft. Blizzard remains confident that perfecting these changes is worth the delay and that gamers will be kept interested in World of Warcraft. And why shouldn't they? Most of the competition has moved their new releases out of the Q4 2006 time frame in hopes of avoiding the expansion to Blizzard's blockbuster. The truth is that Blizzard loses almost no buzz by delaying the release by two months and actually gains a couple of things.

Benefits of a January Release Date:
-Avoid the buzz and newness of the Wii and PS3 systems.

-Avoid the holiday season which actually might impact MMORPG sales differently then standard video games.

-Guarantee that subscribers will still be experiencing new content when new MMORPGs come out later this year.

-Give the beta testers extended time to catch all the bugs and errors in the expansion.

-Allows them time to incrementally work on and patch in the new features of the expansion. I fully expect the LFG system, the upgraded meeting stones and parts of the new PvP system to be patched in before the expansion hits.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What’s the Hardest boss in each raid Instance?

My guild is trying to get as far as we can in the classic raid progression before the expansion comes out. Sure we know most of our items will be replaced by level 65 but at the moment its still a challenge. We just recently started killing Ossirian the Scarred in AQ20 and we’re working on the first boss of Blackwing Lair. In every dungeon we come across though we almost always seem to run into one boss who hands our ass to us. Most of the time this is the end boss but sometimes is just one who requires a really challenging strategy to defeat.

Jindo the Hexxar

I’ve written about Jindo before and my undying hatred for the Totem Lord. This is a very involved fight where Jindo constantly lays down healing totems and mind control totems. He also teleports people into a skeleton pit that constantly respawns and summons shadow copies of himself. Because Jindo has so many different unique attacks it hard to focus on what needs to be done. We find that if the we have at least 3 rogues to kill totems and 2 warriors with mortal strike we can usually keep Jindo from regaining health and kill him. Still if we’re unlucky enough to get our main tank constantly sheeped and aggro wiped then we lose quite fast.

Onyxia’s Lair

Onyxia is a pretty easy fight we found if you can meet two conditions. One is having people who can constantly keep dots on her in phase two where she flies around her cave. The second condition is having some way to handle her fear in phase three. Alliance get it easy if they have a dwarf priest to fear ward but just having a couple warriors who know how to stance dance makes all the difference. Still sometimes this boss gets a bug up her butt and constantly uses deep breath during phase two. This usually makes things interesting since most of our newer members never get to the safe spots in time.

Molten Core
Ragnaros the Firelord

Ragnaros used to cause our guild a huge amount of trouble every time we fought him. It took awhile for most of our dps classes to get epic weapons which make all the difference with this fight. It’s a simple burn him down fight where he needs to be down to 30% by the time he submerges and releases his Sons of Flame. The Sons used to wipe us every time until we started coordinating low level warlock banish and mage frost nova. The main problem we have with this fight is his knock back attack which is chaotic and can cause the main tank to go flying way out of healing range. The best strategy for this is just to equip your main tank with as most fire resistance gear as possible.

Ossirian the Scarred

The Big Bird was starting to get on our guild’s nerve since we’ve been clearing every boss in AQ20 but him for a while now. Finally we devoted a full day to just fighting him and we got good at finding the obelisks which weaken him. This fight reminds me a lot of the Jindo fight where you can’t just let loose on the main boss. You have to be aware of where the next obelisk is and how long before Ossirian goes into god mode. We’ve had luck having one hunter with aspect of the cheetah run around on the outside and click on obelisks that spawn. This forces them to spawn on the inside which makes it easier to move from one to another. Still its always a close race with this guy.


Razorgore (only the hardest cause that’s the only one we fought)

If my guild thought the coordination for Jindo and Ossirian was hard this fight takes the cake. For a game that put all world mobs on a leash to prevent kiting its seems kind of unfair to require it as a strategy in a fight. But still that’s what Razorgore requires, lots and lots of kiting. Usually we can get down to between 3-9 eggs before we lose control of the massive train of mobs and the wipe all our healers. The funny thing about this fight is where healers have to use low ranks of heal to keep aggro off themselves. Also the train of orcs gets big very quickly and its easy for it splinter apart if the main aggro holder dies. We still have some work on this fight but I could see us pulling a win in a few weeks.


I don’t know much about AQ40 bosses except that some of them require massive amounts of nature resist gear and that Cthun is a laser beam using bastard.

Way beyond my guild’s skill level though from what I hear once we got enough people attuned it might be worth while killing trash mobs for drops. I hear the four horse are a pain in the butt but I don’t think they are the hardest boss in there. Any Naxx guilds out there have one they really hate? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

EA, the A stands for Advertising

I've found a couple links about EA's new game Battlefield 2142 having adware built into it and my initial response was "Shrug, its EA". The company's reputation for turning out lackluster sequels to make money off their franchises is almost legendary. Not to say that EA doesn't make good games just that most of them are crap. They have a lot in common with college textbook publishers who ask their authors to make minor changes every year so that they can force students to buy only new editions. Combined with major allegations of not paying overtime and forcing 70hr work weeks and you get a picture of not the most honest of companies.

Thus when one of their new games comes out with adware built into it you have to begin to wonder why anyone buys games from them. As if paying 50$ for a game wasn't bad enough but somehow the company thought they could make an extra buck by having adware. In game advertising isn't so bad if done right and incorporated into a game, think product placement. But with adware you basically have a 3rd party company snooping around your browser history and selling targeted advertising. This stuff cause more problems then most viruses and is harder to get rid of then a free edition of AOL. And somehow the company came to the decision that this was an acceptable way to recoup money on the game development.

We need to be very careful as video game consumers that we don't support games that try to make revenue this way. Some people theorize that this will become a common way to offset the rising cost of game development but they need to realize that its a consumer choice. We need to nip this in the bud before it becomes common practice. Could you picture having 3 or 4 games with adware installed on your computer? How good would performance be with all that background processing? Plus how trustworthy are the 3rd party companies that advertise this way?

These are troubling questions and I believe we will be entering into troubling times for the video game market. Advertisers know that the magic age group of 18-34 is disappearing from television and playing more games. It can only be suspected that they are trying to follow us not realizing that their aggressive advertising is probably one of the reasons television is losing popularity. The ratio of advertising to actual entertainment is around 11 minutes to 19 minutes for every half hour show. Perhaps that’s why so many young adults have turned to video games where the ratio of entertainment is 30 minutes to 0 minutes for every half hour of game time.

Time to Tone Down on the Raiding

Initial reports from the Burning Crusade Beta has itemization starting off more powerful then the tier-1 armor from Molten Core. Basic blues items from the first five man dungeon Hellfire Citadel are being reported as being on par with the tier-2 armor that drops from Blackwing Lair. When you throw in the fact that most of the new gear has slots for jewels then you could say that the gear is even better then tier-2. Plus at the moment no one is reporting the bosses as being extraordinarily difficult in the first instance.

For an example of what you can expect, Tobold recently did a run into the first wing of Hellfire Citadel called Hellfire Rampart. Its designed for level 60 players so you could head straight into the dungeon the second you make it into the Outlands. The first boss he fought in there dropped the Wasteland Stitched Leggings(Mail): +22 Agi, +24 Sta, +15 Int, +32 attack power and 3 slots for jewels. The rest of the bosses in the wing dropped similarly impressive gear with one item being specifically for feral druids and granting 160 attack power in animal forms. Those of you who play feral druids know how bad the itemization was in the old world for your class.

While raiding isn't all about gaining more powerful loot it certainly played an important part in recruiting people into guilds. Guilds that could regularly clear MC and BWL never seemed to have any problems getting new recruits. While social guilds that had to join others to attempt the first boss in Zulgurub always seemed on the verge of breaking up. It seems obvious that loot is the glue that holds large raiding guilds together. Yet is there any purpose in continuing doing 40 man raids when the loot in the expansion is so much better?

Well you can be assured that raiding will always be part of World of Warcraft. During this expansion the size will drop down to 25 people and most guilds will have to downsize as a result. However, this doesn't mean that Blizzard won't put more 40 man raid zones into the game at a later date. In fact we don't really know what the future of World of Warcraft holds and the raid size might eventually go up to classical Everquest sizes. Thus if you like raiding, continue to raid, since your only increasing your ability to coordinate and play your class with others. The further ahead you get in BWL and Naxx the better prepared you will be to jump straight into the raid content in the Burning Crusade.

However, if you are bored with the current raid instances and only raid to get upgrades then I do suggest you stop attending 40 man raids. Instead show up and try to organize ZG and AQ20 raids since they are more in line with what the raids in the expansion are going to be like. You may be able to do instances and quests on your way to level 70 but eventually your going to be in the same position as before and have to raid to get better gear. Thus you don't want to get too out of practice in raiding.

Even if you do get out of practice as luck would have it the 10 man instance in Kharazhan is supposed to be a nice mix between raiding and grouping. The dungeon is on an instance timer and from Tigole's mouth supposed to be 20x the size of Shadowfang Keep. It will be for those who wish to push their skills and get better gear at level 70 without jumping straight into the time commitment of joining a raiding guild. This dungeon should give players not in huge guilds a challenge and a fair way to keep up in gear with raiders.

-Tone Down on the Raiding if you don't enjoy it

-Level 60's in the expansion will quickly be able to catch up to Tier-2 gear

-By level 66 they should have better gear then Tier-3 just by instances and quests

-The best of the best gear will still be gotten from Raids

-The current 40 man raids are quite different from the future 25 man raids

-Kharzhan will allow casual players to keep up with raiders.

-Decent gear can be earned in other ways besides raiding

Sunday, October 15, 2006

World of Warcraft Machinima

I hear the argument all the time about whether video games have reached the same level of art as movies and music. The argument is usually won on the specifics of which game is being discussed. Does Grand Theft Auto constitute art? Well most people think not but what about a game like Myst? Both sides can throw around different game titles in an attempt to prove of disprove the new age question.

One point they can’t argue about is that a video game world can be used as a stage to create art. Thousands of fans throughout the world use cut scenes and media capture tools to turn video game footage into short films. Known as machinima, the process has started to become immensely popular in several different MMORPG communities. The films range from short comedy skits to long and dramatic epics. Blizzard and Xfire have encouraged the budding machinima community by sponsoring several different contests and providing cash rewards and recognition.

Just recently World of Warcraft machinima made an appearance in South Park where over half the show was done with in-game footage. Even more interesting was that Blizzard and Comedy Central used a machinima studio to do most of the footage for the show. Its nice to see what is basically an indie industry getting probably its first network exposure. For some of the studio’s other work go to and check out some of their contest submissions.

Recently while out sick with a toothache I had time to find some of my favorite pieces of machinima using Google Video and YouTube. Most of my favorites are based in World of Warcraft but I hear several other virtual worlds are also popular stages. A word of warning I mostly enjoy comedies and my taste in machinima reflects that.

Big Blue Dress
This piece of machinima is set perfectly to a song written about mages in World of Warcraft. It seems as if the band Destromath was a big fan of the game and decided to write a song about one of their favorite pastimes. The song really synchronizes well with the in game footage which is mostly provided by a well known PvP persona named Cranius.;hl=en

The Hardware Store
This is a fan made machinima music video to the Weird Al song “The Hardware Store” I was surprised at the amount of editing and special effects used in this song which goes way beyond most non studio machinima films. It’s very humorous and fits the lyrics of the song;hl=en

Zinwraith the Movie
This is a well thought out and humorous machinima film produced by the myndflame studio. The plot follows members of a guild called Illegal Danish and uses many in-game references. Still its hilarious to most players and even has several songs produced just for the film. There is a decent amount of editing used in the film and the plot is in the style of an Adult Swim cartoon.;hl=en

Super Snacks – the Sequel;hl=en

The Internet is for Pron

Another hilarious example of machinima with several in-game characters having a singing battle over the purpose of the internet. This is a very basic machinima with little editing but contains good use of in-game emotes to create a sort of over the top Broadway style. Contains some vulgarity but nothing above PG-13.;pl=true

If anyone else has favorites fell free to list them in the comments.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good Arena Practice

I'm doing the tier 0.5 armor set quest at the moment as kind of an impulse to get some unique looking armor. When the quest was first released I saw a couple people wearing partial sets but the number of people who had the full set seemed rare. I am sure there are a couple people that have every piece stored in the bank but I am betting their numbers are low. Anyways while on the third part of the quest to upgrade my boots, shoulders, and legs I ran across an interesting fight. Its the fight that takes place when you trigger the Ring of Law event with the Banner of Provocation.

Normally the Ring of Law event is a short gladiator pit like fight in Blackrock Depths where you have to fight a single boss mob at the end. But while upgrading your dungeon set armor you eventually get a banner which you can set up in the middle of the arena to change the final boss that comes out. Instead of a single mob you get a small group of NPC characters who all have real class abilities. It's completely random which classes you will have to fight except for the warrior Theldrin who shows up every time to give the quest item.

This group of NPCs act just like a real PvP team. The rogue will stunlock any casters and use vanish if you get him down too low in health. The priest will dispel and heal everyone on his side while fearing anyone that tries to damage him. If your unlucky enough to get the shaman NPC then watch out for constant earthbind totems. The most annoying thing about the group is they target your own healers and ignore standard threat causing techniques. Don't expect Blessing of Salvation or Taunt to save any of your casters.

Probably the most interesting NPC that can spawn with Theldrin though is a small weaponless gnome named Lefty. Lefty hits like a truck and seems to use weird rogue like attacks. During one fight our warrior was hit for 7,000 dmg with a combo attack called "Five Fingered Exploding Heart Technique". Paying attention to our combat log we noticed most of his attacks were punches and kicks. This combined with his high hitpoints made me think that this NPC is actually a monk. Perhaps he was just put into the encounter as a joke but it's very interesting to see what Blizzard thinks a monk might play like.

Anyways I definitely recommend doing this encounter for the experience at 5v5 pvp. It seems as if Blizzard payed special attention to program all the dirty PvP tricks into these NPCs. Out of the five fights we did we lost to them twice. One time simply because the hunter mob feigned death and ice trapped our druid healer. My group was wearing mostly tier 1 epics from Molten Core and we still had some challenge with this fight which just seems to prove to me that PvP coordination is much more challenging then PvE raid coordination. I would recommend this encounter for anyone that wanted to practice for the upcoming arena system in the Burning Crusade.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Decursive gets the Boot

A bombshell was dropped in the UI and Macro Forums over this last weekend when it was announced that in the expansion the scripting language would be changed so that it could not target or cast spells. This means that all intelligent targeting macros would be out of the game as of the next major patch. While you might think at first this isn't that big of a deal I can think of several addons used by most raiding guilds that will be affected. Decursive will be the major one but also Emergency Health Monitor and CastParty might be caught in the crackdown. Basically any intelligent addon that automatically targets something based on preset criteria will be banned in the expansion.

My first thought on this is one of outrage. Current raids will become much harder with the way that most boss mobs cast area of effect debuffs every 20 seconds. Without decursive I can see a lot of raiding guilds having problems on zones they previously had on farm status. True once the expansion is out most raiding guilds will trim down their memberships and focus on the new raid zones. But what about when people want to go back and revisit the old raid zones. At the moment MC mobs make massive use of debuffs. Basically the amount of time it takes for someone to call out they got hit with a debuff then have someone target them is probably 5x the time it would take for someone to just use decursive.

Plus even if the new dungeons are designed around players not having decursive I just don't quite trust the developers when it comes to boss behavior. Just look at the Baron Geddon fight in Molten Core, which I believe was originally designed before the decursive mod was widely used. Trying to do this fight without decursive would be very hard and most likely Geddon's debuff would be reapplied before it could be dispelled from every caster. Maybe that was the original intention of the developers but either way the fight would have had to been adjusted if decursive hadn't become popular.

In fact the major problem I see with the scheduled changes to the scripting language is that its going to raise the skill level requirement for most raid encounters. Healers and Dispellers are going to have to get much more skilled at picking targets out of a raid. A lot of raiding guilds aren't going to have enough members with fast reaction times to do any encounters that make use of debuffs and other tricks. Most intelligent targeting addons were originally used much like a set of training wheels. Guilds slapped these addons onto new recruits so that they could keep up with the rest of the guild instead of having to slow down for them to learn how to raid heal or dispel.

However, over time the recruits have mostly replaced everyone and now you have an entire guild on training wheels. With this new change Blizzard is basically issuing a recall and now we're all going to have to learn to ride the bike like big boys and girls. I for one expect a lot of falling flat on our face on these new raid encounters and perhaps Blizzard might have to tweak them more often. We will just have to wait and see if this make us all better players or just seriously freaking annoyed at how fast Blizzard expects us to be at targeting.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Over 12,000 Hits

I just wanted to announce that I hit over 12,000 hits with this blog just recently. Having only been around since the summer I was surprised that it built up that fast. I suspect its mostly because I write about World of Warcraft which is one of the more popular MMORPGs out nowadays. Anyways I hope to get some more time to write about other MMOs in the future especially with the huge amount scheduled to be released next year. I deffinitely plan on trying out Tabula Rasa, Age of Conan and maybe even Vanguard. However, the Burning Crusade continues to be the one I am the most excited about.

Also on a side note I would like to mention that Battlestar Galactica is having its season premiere tonight on the Scifi channel. I suggest all gamer nerds at least mark it on their Tivos. Especially you EVE Online fans out there!

WoW Scams to Avoid

After the string of account thievery that has gone around World of Warcraft over the last month I started to become interested in some of the other under handed techniques used to steal gold from players. Most work like real world scams where the con artist encourages the greed of a player by offering a really good deal. The really good scammers offer deals that are only a little bit of a bargain but they use items that are used often and have a high demand. This seems to fool people more effectively then offering a outrageously low price on something that is rare.

I am going to quickly go through some of the scams I've actually seen first hand or had a friend fall victim too. I am already in hot water since someone recognized themselves in the key logger article so I have to keep names out of this one.

The Quick Switch Scam
The scammer will offer to sell you an item for a very good price. He will come to you and open the trade window and actually put the item into it. Then as you are gathering the agreed upon low price he will switch the item out with another junk item that has the same icon. The scammer is hoping in your hurry to get the item for the low price that you will quickly hit trade and not notice the switch.

My experience:
I've only ever had this happen once to me back when I was a new to the game and I recognized the switch. The seller claimed he was just fooling around and had changed his mind on selling the item. I think this scam is widely recognized now and only those new to the game are being targeted. On most servers this scam is out of practice but may still be used by the occasional asshat trying to get an extra buck.

How to Avoid:
-Don't doing any trading when your tired. Scammers depend on either greed or lack of attention to make money
-Avoid responding to private tells trying to sell you an item. Most scammers are recognized in trade channel so they tend not to advertise there.
-Be careful of buying items from low level alts.

The Runaway Crafter Scam
Someone offers to make an item for you if you can provide the materials. After you give them the materials they either sell them or send them to their main character using the mailbox. In either case they probably put you on their ignore list as soon as the trade was done and plan on quickly logging off. This is the base scam in World of Warcraft and is comparably to grabbing the money from a cash register and running. But just like in the real world such obvious thievery has strict consequences. Usually people who engage in a crafter scam will gain a reputation so bad that whenever they log on people will make a comment in the general chat channel.

My Experience:
This one actually got me once when I was a playing a young hunter and wanted a pair of barbaric bracers made. The person faked a disconnect and when I caught back up to him claimed he would send it in the mail when he could be bothered to make it. Usually crafter scammers rely on a strategy like faking a disconnect so that their reputation decays more slowly. At least once every two weeks I hear about someone getting ripped off by people in this manner.

How to Avoid:
-Only have level 60 characters in real guilds make items for you. They have too much work in their character to risk being kicked out of a guild because of running scams.

The Auction House Price Hike Scam
These scammers have patience and rely on their victims making a simple mistake when purchasing items from the auction house. The scam usually involves putting a commonly used up item in the AH for a decent bid price but with a outrageous gold buyout price. The scammer usually makes sure the auction appears either at the top of the item list or in the middle of a group of properly priced items. Then they sit back and hope that someone buying a large amount of the commonly used items won't be paying attention and accidentally buy their outrageously priced item.

My Experience:
This scam is always in existence. Just look up the commonly used potions, cloth, and crafting materials in the auction house.

How to Avoid:
-Don't buy things from the Auction House late at night when you're tired.

The C.O.D Scam
The scammer will mail an item to a player and make sure its wrapped up so it can't be identified and request that the player pay for it. There are some variations of the scam which can be more tempting then others.

One method is when they pretend that they mistakenly sent an item to you instead of a fellow guildmember. Usually in the email they claimed the wrapped package is a crafted epic item and they are just requesting the COD as a tip. If the COD price is low enough like 5gp you be suprised how many people would take the item.

Another method I've heard of is including a small amount of gold in the mail message so one might accidentally accept the COD amount in the rush to get the gold.

My Experience:
Never actually had it happened to me but I've seen both screenshots and know of several friends who have received unexpected packages in the mail with COD attached to them.

How to Avoid:
-Don't accept items unless you know the person who sent them.
-If its too good to be true then it probably is. Don't be stupid

The WTB Scam
This scam is more involved then others but seems to trick a lot of people especially when the scammer is making disposable alt characters to do the advertising. Basically the scammer puts a rare but cheap to make item that might be used in a quest up in the auction for a high buyout. Then they log onto an alt and start advertising they want to buy the item for double the price listed in the auction house. The idea is that someone will get greedy and buy their item from the auction house and attempt to sell it to the disposable alt character. Of course the scammer has no attention of buying the item and will refuse to accept any real offers.

My Experience:
Seen it being done a couple of times. The last time was a blacksmith who had listed a moonsteel broadsword for 25gp in the auction house. He then had a series of alts advertise to buy a moonsteel broadsword for 50gp. Eventually one idiot bought the sword then spent the rest of the day trying to track the person down who wanted to buy it.

How to Avoid:
-Never pay more then something is worth in hopes you can sell it at a higher price.
-If its too good to be true then it probably is. Don't be stupid

These scams are sort of old and I believe the majority of them only happen rarely now. However, new ones are developed daily as a lot of people get off on the anonymous nature of the internet. Remember the main advice to avoid being scammed is to be cautious and avoid being tricked by greed. Most won't be sympathetic if you fall for a scam and there are very few punishments for scammers besides reputation loss. As far as I know most GMs will do nothing to retrieve lost property from scams which depend on human error. In fact the only time I've heard of them banning a scammer was when someone was mass mailing people with the COD scam. Apparently it was mainly because they use a bot to do it with and not that they were actually sending out the packages.