Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Relmstein Slaughters the Slave Pens

The Slave Pens is the first instance of Coilfang Reservoir and is located to the far left if you are facing the meeting stone. They are a lot of hard pulls in the Slave Pens so crowd control is a must have for your group. All of the mobs are humanoid so rogues and mages are going to be very useful. The instance requires less clearing then the Blood Furnace but the groups of mobs and bosses are much harder. Upon entering the Slave Pens you'll have to fight a couple groups of wandering crab people or as they are called in Illegal Danish, "Sand Lobsters". They move fast and wander all over the first cave room so its best to take them out first.

Afterwards you'll have a few stationary groups of "Broken" slaves and Naga Slavemasters. Its here where you will have to make the choice of killing the slaves or not because once the Slavemaster dies they will be become non-targetable. If you kill the slaves first you get Cenarion Expedition reputation so if you don't mind being cruel, go for it. As you clear to the tunnel at the end of the first cave beware of a patrol of two Naga warriors. After dealing with them make your way to the second cave which is much larger then the first area.

Here you will find groups of Naga and groups of Sand Lobsters. You can head to the first boss by either going left and clearing through groups of Sand Lobsters or straight ahead and clearing through the Naga. The Naga are a pain with Warriors that can fear and Enchantresses that can charm/root. The Sand Lobsters are in large clumps of five but have no real special abilities. A chest sometimes spawns to the left so I usually use that to make the decision for my group. Either way you will eventually find yourself at a building on the left side of the cave. Its guarded by two Naga Defenders which are basically warriors with spell reflect. Don't warn your mage and get a good laugh when he nukes himself for 3k.

Once in the building you will find yourself fighting elite "Broken" shadowcasters and Naga Slavemasters. These groups are a lot easier then the pure Naga ones and you should have no problem clearing them. The first boss Mennu the Betrayer walks up and down a long ramp inside the building which has several groups of mobs at its base. Every time Mennu walks up the ramp pull a group away from the base. Eventually you'll have a nice area clear for your battle with Mennu. Mennu is a shaman who lays down three types of totems. All of them are bad but the healing and fire nova ones are the worst. Have a rogue or dps warrior be on totem duty and hit them as they spawn. Everyone else can stay on Mennu who only auto-attacks and occasionally uses a shock spell. If your main tank has spell deflect the fight is very easy.

Afterwards head up the ramp onto a catwalk that reaches over into the next room. They are two patrols of Naga that wander the catwalk so take care of them first before moving into the next room. Once you get to where the catwalk reaches into the next room you'll find some patrols of Naga and Broken. Take care of them and then you can follow the catwalk until it drops down into a pool of water. Right outside of the pool you will notice another ramp with three groups of Naga around it. One group is on the ramp and two are on the sides. They all path towards the pool and then away in a short cycle. Use this timing to isolate and attack one of the groups on the side. After killing both groups on the sides you can then clear the ramp since a quest objective is at the top of it.

On the left side of the ramp with the quest objective you'll find the tunnel entrance that leads to the second boss. Take care of the two Naga Defenders by it and then proceed cautiously into the next room. The second boss Rokmar the Crackler is a giant sand lobster and has a couple groups of mobs near the area where you fight him. Pull these groups of Sand Lobsters and Naga into the tunnel so you can clear out some room. Rokmar paths back and forth on a long cycle so its easy to time the pulls not to aggro him. The Spore Bat pet and Naga Warrior will fear so its best to pull far away so a feared party member doesn't start the fight early.

Rokmar is a hard fight for this level and can quickly wipe a group. He hits hard and uses an AoE ice bolt which does around 1500 damage. He also infrequently uses a single-target damage debuff that will make the tank's life go down quick. On the good side his hitpoints are only moderate so if you can keep the dps and tank alive he will go down. If your group is only around 63-64 its best to make heavy use of healing potions so a well timed icebolt doesn't kill your casters. After Lobsterfest be prepared for the hardest pulls in the dungeon which all involve four or five Naga with special abilities.

To beat these groups of Naga without dying you'll need to have at least two forms of crowd control. Also if you have a druid healer they can sleep the Spore Bat pet which allows you to even the odds a bit more. The Naga Enchantress at this point tend to charm more often so they should be top priority. My groups usually sheep and sap the Tempest Nagas and try to burn the Healer and Enchantress down. The attack power bonus of a charmed party member is huge so beware if any dps classes get charmed.

After the four groups of annoying Naga pulls you'll find yourself in the last chamber of the instance. The first order of business here will be to take care of the two groups of wandering Sand Lobsters. They move very fast and have a weird path that makes it so that both groups will sometimes rush to the entrance of the chamber. Learn the timing then pull when a single group is near and you should have no problems. Afterwards you'll see another small group of Naga and a Night Elf in a cage to the left.

After killing the Naga you can release the Night Elf from her cage which will trigger an ambush attack. With her help the ambush is easy to win as long as your casters have mana at the start of the fight. The former prisoner will give you a Nature Resistance buff and fulfill a quest objective when you talk to her. The buff is useful for winning the final boss fight but she is usually killed if you wipe on him. So don't mess it up. Have everyone talk to her and if you have a hunter have him turn on his nature aspect.

Quagmirran is a beast who doesn't hit as hard as Rokmar but has a more damaging AoE attack. Luckily his poison based AoE is a cone spell so if the tank can keep the boss 180 degrees from the rest of your party you'll be fine. Beware that Quagmirran likes to knock his target back a little bit so be careful that your healers don't lose line of sight if the tank gets knocked into the water. Also he will spit a poison out randomly at people but it can be dispelled. This fight is easy as long as the tank can hold aggro and Quagmirran doesn't spew his bad breath on everyone. Believe me, it stinks.

The Instances of the Burning Crusade

The new instances in the Burning Crusade have kept me so entertain that I have found a couple of my last posts basically turn into walkthroughs for them. To get this out of my system so I can talk about other topics and perhaps even a MMO besides World of Warcraft I've decided to post the basic order of all the new instances in World of Warcraft. I am going to structure it on recommended level from WoWwiki starting with the five man instances. I've also done the Slave Pens and Underbog a couple of times since hitting 65 so don't be too suprised to see walkthroughs appear for them also.

Hellfire Citadel: Hellfire Ramparts.com (60-62 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Watchkeeper Gargolmar - Vazruden & Nazan - Omor the Unscarred

Hellfire Citadel: Blood Furnace (61-63 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: The Maker - Broggok - Keli'dan the Breaker

Coilfang Reservoir: The Slave Pens (62-64 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Mennu the Betrayer - Rokmar the Crackler - Quagmirran

Coilfang Reservoir: The Underbog (63-65 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Hungarfen - Ghaz'an - Swamplord Musel'ek - The Black Stalker

Auchindoun: Mana Tombs (64-66 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Pandemonius - Tavarok - Nexus-Prince Shaffar

Auchindoun: Auchenai Crypts (65-67 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Shirrak the Dead Watcher - Exarch Maladaar

Caverns of Time: Escape from Durnholde (66–68 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Lieutenant Drake - Captain Skarloc - The Epoch Hunter

Auchindoun: Sethekk Halls (67-69 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Darkweaver Syth - Talon King Ikiss

Caverns of Time: Opening the Dark Portal - (70 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Chrono Lord Deja - Temporus - Aeonus

Tempest Keep: The Mechanar (69-72 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: First Layer: Gatewatcher Gyro-Kill - Gatewatcher Iron-Hand - Mechano-Lord Capacitus - Nethermancer Sepethrea - Pathaleon the Calculator

Hellfire Citadel: The Shattered Halls (70-72 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Grand Warlock Nethekurse - Warbringer O'mrogg - Kargath Bladefist

Coilfang Reservoir: The Steamvault (70-72 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Hydromacer Thespia - Mekgineer Steamrigger - Warlord Kalithresh

Auchindoun: Shadow Labyrinth (70-72 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Ambassador Hellmaw - Blackheart the Inciter - Grandmaster Vorpil - Murmur

Tempest Keep: The Botanica (70-72 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Commander Sarannis - High Botanist Freywinn - Thorngrin the Tender - Laj - Warp Splinter

Tempest Keep: The Arcatraz (70-72 mobs, 5 player groups)
Bosses: Zereketh the Unbound - Wrath-Scryer Soccothrates - Dalliah the Doomsayer - Warden Mellichar Event

Karazhan: (Key Quest Requires Shadow Labyrinth/Steamvault/Arcatraz, 10 player raid)
Final Bosses: Nightbane

Zul'Aman: (TBA, 10 player raid)

Gruul's Lair (No Key, 25 player raid)
Bosses: High King Maulgar - Kiggler the Crazed - Blindeye the Seer - Olm the Summoner - Krosh Firehand - Gruul

Magtheridon's Lair (No Key, 25 player raid)
Final Boss: Magtheridon

Serpentshrine Cavern (Key Quest, 25 player raid)
Final Boss: Lady Vashj

Tempest Keep: The Eye (Key Quest Chain, 25 player raid)
Final Boss: Prince Kael'thas Sunstrider

Caverns of Time: Battle on Mount Hyjal (Long Quest Chain, 25 player raid)

The Black Temple: (TBA, Full 25 player raid zone)

Burning Crusade Dungeon Key Guide

Friday, January 26, 2007

Turbine Tries something New

Turbine the maker of the new upcoming Lord of the Rings MMO is offering some surprise subscription offers for those who sign up early with their game. One of their options is a 9.99$ a month subscription plan which is the lowest MMO rate I've seen since about 2000. The other plan is even more mind boggling since its a lifetime subscription for just 199$. Both offers require you to sign up and probably pay before release but guarantee you a spot in their open beta in March. Also noteworthy is that they will move your beta characters to the live server in April when the game is released.

I don't like the idea of beta characters getting a head start over everyone else but with Turbine wanting a monetary commitment before release I can see a need for the punch and pie. And believe me, when you start doing the math of how much your spend on an average MMO their offers start to sound really good. Especially, the lifetime subscription offer which could allow you to move from new game to new game while still maintaining a presence in Lord of the Rings. Most casual gamers aren't going to pick up on this offer but I think every hardcore gamer who tends to stick with a MMO for over a year just had an epiphany.

Turbine is thinking smart with this lifetime subscription plan since it basically guarantees a constant population of hardcore gamers in Lord of the Rings. Most big subscription MMO games charge around 15$ a month which puts a yearly charge of around 180 for playing. Hardcore gamers are going to see that the game will keep them entertained for at least a year and drop the dough for the plan. Then as expansions and new patches are released for the game they will keep coming back since their is no barrier of having to re-subscribe.

So why is that important? Well the hardcore might not make the most amount of money for MMO companies but they have a habit of making or breaking any game release. Their reviews and word of mouth tends to spread through most internet forums and gathers huge anticipation for games from the general gamer population. If enough hardcore gamers become lifetime residents then Turbine can see this digital word of mouth spread very fast for their game and any future content for it. Of course this could be a bad thing if they start turning out less then stellar content but so far reviews for the initial game look good.

Of course Turbine has had some rocky history in the MMO world and has never really seen the wild success of a games such as DAoC, Everquest, or Final Fantasy XI. Their most popular release to date was the original Asheron's Call which hit its peak of around 125,000 subscriptions back in 2001. Since then they have had the lackluster launch of Asheron's Call 2 and the slow growth of Dungeons and Dragons Online. Still the company does have at least three MMO games under its belt and every one of them went over 45,000 subscribers. No Auto Assaults in their history. If practice makes perfect then maybe Turbine might finally be ready to really grab a large share of the MMO market.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What Controls the Nerf Bat?

A few thread discussions have sprung up on the World of Warcraft forums talking about what the most nerfed class is in the game. Every poster has their own reasons why they think a specific class is the most nerfed and surprisingly enough its not always because they play that class. A few point to the warriors which have been the most consistently nerfed since the beginning of the game. Still others point to classes that have received fewer nerfs but ones they argue were more devastating to damage output and survivability.

All the arguing and trolling made me stop and think about what probably directs the nerf bat to hit a class in a MMO. Despite what most players think its not that the developers have their favorite classes or that they listen to whoever whines the most on the interweb. Instead its most likely a combination of statistics, abilities, and flexibility which determines where the feared foam covered instrument strikes. Thinking about the current class checks and balances I came up with six categories where I see developers introducing nerfs and on rare occasions, buffs.

The Balance Categories

Burst Damage: How much damage can the class deal quickly in a short amount of time?

Damage Mitigation: How much melee and spell damage can the class receive and still survive?

Crowd Control: How effective are crowd control against the class and how effective are their own?

Casting Times: How many instant cast abilities and spells does the class have?

Range Damage: How damaging are the range attacks of a class?

Hybrid Viability: Can the class assume more then one role in the trinity of Tank/Healer/DPS?

Making a decision to nerf a class ability often revolves around balancing the power of these six categories so that if one is high another is low. The developers want classes which play very different from one another but still have the same power.

Burst Damage is very effective in PvP since its hard for a players to react to suddenly losing most of their life. Also its effective on boss mobs since they have a habit of using enrage or other special abilities near death.

Damage Mitigation is important since the longer the class can stay alive the more effect they have on the battle. The type of armor a player is allowed to wear plays an important part in damage mitigation along with base hit points. Also healers are treated as having slightly more mitigation then non-healers.

Crowd Control is important since it allows increases the likelihood of getting spells and abilities off on a target. Also the ability to escape crowd control abilities plays an important role when fighting certain classes since its almost as good as having damage mitigation.

Casting Times determine how often a spell or ability can be interrupted or stopped. The longer the casting time the higher the chance for the spell or ability to be interrupted. Instant spells or abilities are often of lower power or require a sacrifice in one of the other categories.

Range Damage effectively lowers the amount of movement a player is forced to worry about to keep his target within damage range. It also can be combine with surprise attack or crowd control abilities to create a huge advantage.

Hybrid Viability is the category that causes all of the problems when balancing classes. Certain classes can choose talents or gear that changes their role in the holy trinity and allows them to have greater flexibility in combat. This greater flexibility often causes hybrid classes to be gently tap by the nerf bat every patch as developers try to balance their power with their flexibility.

Some Class examples of the Balance Act

Burst Damage: Bad
Damage Mitigation: Good
Crowd Control: Medium
Casting Times: Good
Range Damage: Bad
Hybrid Viability: Good

Burst Damage: Good
Damage Mitigation: Medium
Crowd Control: Good
Casting Times: Good
Range Damage: Bad
Hybrid Viability: Bad

The exact effectiveness of each class in the six categories can change depending on how their talent points are spent but developers make sure there are trade-offs. For example a paladin can chose talents all the way into the retribution tree and gain crusader strike but will lose either the quicker casting of the holy tree or the added mitigation of the protection tree. The categories can even be broken down into sub-categories. Priests trade the damage mitigation of being able to heal themselves for mitigation against melee attacks in shadow form.

Since this is just a quick run through of what directs the nerf bat I am sure I missed a category or two. Feel free to make any suggestions in the comments.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Relmstein blows through the Blood Furnace

My Blood Furnace Walkthrough

The Blood Furnace is the opposite of the Ramparts in that the bosses are easy but clearing through it can be a pain. The instance takes about half an hour longer as there is also a lot more trash to kill. Before heading there you should have the quests to explore the Blood Furnace and the quest to collect 10 vials of Fel Orc Blood. Both result in good blue rewards for level 60 players. The majority of the boss drops are healer items though a couple assorted other items can be found.

At the start of the Blood Furnace are a couple of pulls of standard warrior mobs without any special abilities. Right behind them are groups of warlocks complete with non elite imp pets. Take care of the imps first since they have a quick cast fire spell that does around 1200 dmg. Behind these warlock groups you'll notice a closed off tunnel entrance which will open when you defeat the final boss. After taking care of the first group of warlocks turn left and clear your way up a huge ornate ramp. Be prepared for surprise attacks by pathing Fel Orc Rogues which are impossible to spot when your in the low sixties.

At the top of the ramp is a glass corridor filled with several groups of warlocks with imp pets. Use line of sight or silence to pull one of the groups unto the ramp way to avoid the single pathing warlock. Keep in mind that if a warlock is pathing and doesn't have a pet then most likely he will summon a succubus that will seduce someone right away. So its in your best interest to disrupt their summon spells. You can now go into the corridor and look down to get a view of Magtheridon and the final instance boss in the center of a pentagram.

Continue clearing the corridor making sure to kill imp pets first until you get to the room at the other side. At this point you will be introduced to the pain in the ass of the instance, the Fel Orc Technician. These mobs throw dynamite and set down mines which are very reminiscent of Gnomeregan. In the following room you should use what crowd control you have so you only have to fight one Technician at a time. When they lay a mine down back up a good 10 yards since they explode for 1800 dmg and silence. The only way I have found to clear the mines so far is to set them off with full health or have a rogue disarm them.

Once the room has been cleared its time to engage the first boss the Maker. Its a fairly simple fight with the boss using basic melee attacks. About once per fight he will charm a party member so be prepared to have someone grab aggro if the tank goes AWOL. The charm only lasts for a few seconds so a short term crowd control ability is the best way to counter the renegade. After the fight you can look forward to another hallway filled with Technicians, Rogues, and brand new Fel Orcs. These non-elite Fel Orcs don't have the hit points of their experienced cousins but still hit just as hard so target them first.

At the end of the hallway you'll find yourself in a room similar to the one where you fought the Maker. Use the same techniques to clear it of mobs until you are at the lever in the center of the room. Make sure to have full mana and hit points then pull the lever which will start the second boss encounter. The second boss Broggok is easier then the Maker but you have to fight all the captive Fel Orcs in the cages around you first. A total of four cages will open one after the other and spit out quite a large amount of orcs. They are mixture of elite and non-elite orcs so make sure to use your crowd control on the elite ones since they take longer to kill.

After the hard part of the fight when the last orc is dead Broggok comes out of the main cage. He looks like a mix between a Beholder and a Metroid but has only a few special abilities. If you are familiar with the snake priest in Zul'gurub then you'll recognize his AoE poison and keep out of it. He's goes down fairly quick which is nice since killing all those orcs beforehand has probably depleted your mana. A trick some people make use of is to keep the last orc of the fourth cage crowd controlled while everyone regains mana/bandages in combat.

After Brogguk you'll have to clear through a room filled with more warlocks with imp and fel reaver pets. The Fel Reavers hit hard and have a nasty habit of ignoring standard aggro gaining abilities. Especially watch out for Fel Annihilators since they tend to live up to their name. Once through the room you will see a hallway that leads down to the pit you saw from the upper glass corridor. At the beginning of this hallway is a nasty group of 6 imps and a warlock. Use line of sight so that all the imps charge through the doorway then start nuking. This will group them up so that you can make use of any AoE spells you might have. One mage should be able to kill them fairly quickly.

Continue down the hallway dispatching a couple more fel reavers and warlocks until you get to the final boss room. Keli'dan the Breaker is another easy boss who just happens to have a lot of friends. His five friends who make up a pentagram prison for Magtheridon are all shadowcasters. They have a nasty debuff which greatly increases shadow damage and they all love casting shadowbolt. Open the fight up with your crowd control abilities and have anyone who can dispel, concentrate on getting rid of the debuff. Once all five casters are dead Keli'dan will attack.

He's a very simple boss with only one deadly ability that is a point blank AoE. When he shouts out "Come Closer" run away since he's about to use a 2,000 fire dmg spell. Other then that the fight is fairly simple and goes quickly. Afterwards thankfully Magtheridon does not reach up through the floor and kill you. However, a the tunnel to the instance entrance does open up allowing you to easily reset and try again for the loot that didn't drop for you. Its nice to see Blizzard designing better dungeons and no longer leaving people trapped after a boss fight like in the popular Marudon instance.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Relmstein rocks the Hellfire Ramparts

My Hellfire Ramparts Walkthrough

The first instance in the Burning Crusade is a short one and only contains three boss fights. Its about as challenging as Dire Maul North with the mobs hitting about as hard as the Ogre Reavers there. The big difference you notice in the dungeon is that the boss fights are a bit more challenging then the ones commonly found in Azerothian (yes its a word) dungeons. Before going in make sure to do the quests from your faction's respective tower/base near Hellfire Citadel. This will eventually lead to the quest "Weaken the Ramparts" which has good blue rewards. For the Alliance do "illfire Omens" then go to the castle in Honor Hold to talk to the lieutenent in there for the quest.

The path to the first boss (Watchkeeper Gargolmar) is paved with small groups of fel orc hunters, warlocks and reavers. Also present are non-elite dogs which don't hit very hard but stack a bleed effect much like the infamous hounds of Molten Core. While clearing through these small groups make sure to kill the dogs first since a fully stacked bleed effect does over 700dmg a tick. At one point while clearing groups, a small pack of 3 dogs will be sent against you so be on the lookout for them. When you get to the Watchkeeper be relieved that he is not as nasty as he looks. Simply make sure to kill his two gurards first as your tank keeps the Watchkeeper busy. His special ability is a charge so keep everyone close to the tank during the fight. The boss also has a reduce healing effect so its in everyone's best interest to burn him down quickly.

After the Watchkeeper you have a fun group to kill at the top of a spiral rampway. Its comprised of 4 warlocks and a warrior and is situated so that its easy for the warlocks to fear you into the next group of mobs. To avoid this use line of sight to pull most of the warlocks onto the spiral rampway. Make use of any crowd control and interrupts your party has to stop the Warlocks from casting Rain of Fire. After that fight clear your way to the open area ahead and turn right. You can see the final boss flying on his mount at this time but you'll want to kill Omor the Unscarred first.

If you have silent shot or another way of pulling casters then the two orc warlocks in front of the Unscarred can be pulled first. The Unscarred himself is probably the toughest boss of the instance but has no range attacks which makes the fight fairly easy if you have non melee dps. His special abilities are: a gravity flux which will send one member of the party high into the sky, a DoT life drain, and felhound summoning. He also hits especially hard and almost always uses the gravity flux on the tank. Get ready for someone to grab aggro when the tank all of sudden finds himself with a good view of Citadel.

After providing Omor with some battlewounds go back to the open area and get ready for the final boss. The two guards in front of the bosses Vazruden and Nazan trigger them to attack when they die, so be ready. One is a fairly simple warrior boss without many hitpoints who will attack from the ground. While doing this his dragon looking mount will throw fireballs that explode and burn on the ground. This is very similar to the the Bat Priestess encounter in Zul'gurub so simply avoid stepping onto the patches of fire.

You'll want to quickly kill the warrior boss since eventually his mount will land and start using a cone of fire attack which hits for around 1500. Its quite common for the mount to land and catch everyone in the cone of fire and wipe the party. To avoid this have someone run down to meet the dragon mount and turn him away from the rest of the party when he lands. Once the mount dies a chest will spawn after a couple of seconds with two blue items in it. Also an Ominous Letter can be found on one of the bosses which provides a nice quest for the next instance, The Blood Furnace.

My First Day in the Burning Crusade

9:00am-5:30pm: Work

5:30-6:30pm: Eat and Drive at the same time on way to Best Buy

6:30pm: Find a million copies of TBC at Best Buy and feel foolish for rushing

7:00pm: Scream at 2.82mb patch stuck at 89%.

7:02pm: Download patch from a mirror and feel foolish again for not trying a mirror first

7:04pm: Make way through the portal and fly to Honor Hold

7:08pm: Make friends go to the first instance since the lag in Hellfire Pennisula is bad

7:10pm-12:00am: Run Hellfire Ramparts over and over again trying for Warrior/Paladin loots

12:01am-1:00pm: Try to Figure out how to get the Weaken the Ramparts quest.

1:00 am: Go to Bed, have dreams of red orcs who continually deny me plate gear

Friday, January 12, 2007

Things to do this Weekend

In an attempt to stop the madness and try to regain some order I decided to share Relmstein's list of things to do before the Burning Crusade. Most of these items are centered around improving your financial situation and preparedness (probably a word) for the expansion. I hope that I can a lead a few of you bored souls away from the path of ganking and onto something more helpful to society, like AH price gouging. Anyways here's what I'm going to be doing this weekend. You can ignore it, copy it, or canonize it and make it your religious text. Just don't complain of boredom and kill low level alts. I've got a hunter I need to get to 58 by Tuesday.

1) Clean out your Bank - you don't need your old resistance gear or the hundreds of items being saved for quests you are never going to do. Also get rid of items for faction grinds that don't matter anymore like scourgestones and cenarion badges.
You are about to get all new faction grinds and believe me there will be new resistance gear that will be much better.

2) Liquidize your Armor and Weapons - the expansion will eat up your gold very quickly as you try a new tradeskill or buy that awesome new armor at an inflated price. Sell any non soulbound weapons/armor quickly before the economy becomes unstable with the new expansion. You don't want to be bankrupt when you see an upgrade or when it comes time to buy new spells. Chances are that very few people will be buying any level 50-60 items until the new crop of Drenai and Blood Elves get that high.

3) Save your Tradeskill Materials and Low Level Items - A lot of trade materials are expected to jump in price with the expansion especially those connected with jewelcrafting. Save up the stuff that you think will sell well to people in the future. Remember that currency drop rates increase at higher levels so expect the prices of most items to go up. Also expect a billion low level alts to soon appear as both the horde and alliance get to try out a new class.

4) Visit the Old 60 Dungeons - This might be the last time you can ever find a group to do them. If you can manage to find someone who needs an upgrade from the dungeon, bring them along. The more friends you have who are well equipped the better your chances are in the first couple of instances in the expansion. Do not camp lower level dungeon entrances to try to find some PvP action. Instead go to the dark portal for that kinda of stuff.

5) Find a Leveling Buddy - With the concentration of horde and alliance in the new zones and their linear nature of leveling you can expect to be running into the opposite faction constantly. A lot of quests are going to require PvP objectives and some of the towns will switch factions depending on those objectives. After the first batch of people have hit level 70 things might get less crowded but if you are going to be playing the expansion any time this month expect to be ganked and have your mobs stolen.

6) Research the New Dungeons - Try to find out which instances are keyed and which ones are especially hard in the expansion. Believe me no matter what information you find the dungeon will still seem brand new compared to Stratholm or Scholomance. Loot tables are especially nice to look at since they make you yearn for that one drop that would complete your character. Of course it wll never drop for you but its dreams that keep us going. WoWwiki and the Warcry sites are pretty good for information along with assorted forums. Note: Not the WoW forums.

TBC Anticipation Leads to General Craziness

I've been busy at work this week and my blog posts suffered as a result. Luckily from what I have been reading I didn't miss much. The Dark Portal event is a huge dissapointment and is only memorable in that the horde and alliance are both trying to hold it for bragging rights. On servers with horrible alliance queue times this is quickly becoming the PvP hot spot. Other goodies from the last patch include warlocks getting hit with the nerf bat and a bunch of annoying little bugs with game textures and sounds. My favorite is the battleground bug which causes the ding sound to go off every 2 minutes when you're in a queue.

With the expansion still a couple days away I know most World of Warcraft players are going stir crazy from the waiting. I've seen some weird things lately as the anticipation for the expansion is drawing more players to return to the game early. Just look at the new milestone of 8 million players and you know the population flood is starting. However, it seems that once in the game these returning players are having trouble finding any real goals they can accomplish before the expansion. As a result they are falling back on the time honored goal of annoying other people.

Some Signs that Azeroth has gone Crazy:

1) VanCleef has apparently hired groups of Tier-3 horde to guard his not very secret base. Reports are in that the Fanglords have a similar aggreement with the alliance.

2) An enchantment link which disconnects players the first time they click on it is making the rounds of every chat channel in the game. Avoid unfamiliar links and never, ever, get into a car with one.

3) For the first time ever the alliance Arathi Baisin queue was seen to be longer then the Alterac Valley one. Relmstein upon logging in and discovering this decided to take up an employment opportunity with the Fanglords.

4) Highlord Kruul can be regularly found outside Stormwind eating millions of alliance newbies. The only guilds that have managed beat him have had to distract his fuel source (newbs) with promises of a free Hogger raid.

5) The Mr. Smith Effect: Because of the unequal battleground queue times large groups of identically geared horde now patrol Azeroth. The only way to tell them apart is to closely inspect the different Smith's belts which are an eclectic collection of crappy greens.

6) The chances of being randomly mind controlled while roaming the countryside is now much more common. Make sure to learn what the word defenestration means since bored priests seem eager to explain.

Expect a short list of real goals you can accomplish before the expansion comes out to be posted soon.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How High will WoW's numbers go with the expansion?

The time is growing near for the first expansion of World of Warcraft to be released and most fans are holding their breath in anticipation. Many people have grown overly familiar with the current content in the game but stuck it out since the expansion was just around the corner. But for every person who stayed with the game, another left and vowed not to return until there was new content. Now a lot of people are starting to wonder, "Just how many players will come back?"

Its an important question since a high amount of returning players could effect server stability. Around the time of patch 1.9 Blizzard announced 7 million subscribers with about 2 million of them being in North America. Since no new milestone markers have been announced since then, we can assume that the numbers have probably fallen or stayed the same. With the release of the expansion though a good majority of ex-WoW players are expected to return. After all no new games are scheduled to be released until Vanguard in Febuary. This leaves a good period of time for the temptation of new MMORPG content to work its magic.

With the upgrades in game servers, patching, and account management Blizzard seems confident they are ready for the increase the expansion will bring. Sources from the WoW forums give information that Blizzard is preparing to handle up to a 25% increase in traffic. Of course the problem is that not only will the server traffic increase but that it will all be concentrated in the new Burning Crusade zones. Hopefully, this trend has been taken into effect and Blizzard has special ways of dealing with said population concentration without zone crashes and crushing latency.

Based on previous trends in the subscriber base I'm predicting sometime in March that Blizzard will anounce the 10 million milestone for World of Warcraft.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Most Horde are Done with PvP for Now

For the last week or two I noticed that the queue times have worked their way slowly back up to pre patch 2.0.1 numbers. There still seems to be a million alliance players wanting to earn the pvp rewards but they seem to be having trouble finding opponents. The near instant queue times for the majority of horde players has quickly gotten them all the rewards. In fact from my horde character's experience the major roadblock to earning equipment was not honor but Alterac Valley tokens. Luckily most of the epic armor only requires Arathi Baisin tokens which are easy for my orc warrior to earn.

However, the majority of horde players have already completed their epic sets and stopped participating in battlegrounds. This is bad for most Alliance players since some servers now have 17-25 minute queue times for AB and WSG. This makes it harder to form PUG premade teams. Plus long queue times guarantee that some people will be AFK and not join a battleground when it starts. Arathi Baisin is especially terrible since some games will start with only 7-9 alliance and a full 15 horde. WSG and AV are less effected by this since the first few minutes of the game does not effect the outcome as much as it does in AB.

The only good thing about most of the horde population having already earned their rewards is that it has significantly reduced the number of well equipped horde playing. I see end game items on my opponents a lot less often now then I did a few weeks ago. Though yesterday I did run into three tauren warriors with Askandi, Dark Edge of Insanity, and Thunderyfury. Still for the most part the remainder of the horde seem to be those with blue and tier-1 who missed out on the pre-nerf honor rush. So my pvp forecast for the future until January 16th is:

Alliance: Queue times back to normal but with a better chance of winning battlegrounds. Chance of raiding guild pre-mades around 20% for the most part. Expect queue times to increase as more horde complete their pvp sets.

Horde: Queue times down from a couple of minutes to instant. Chance of raiding guild pre-mades around 40%. Expect a large range of gear quality in your opponents since many hardcore alliance have yet to save up to the 75,000 honor point limit.

New Year's Resolutions from the MMO Industry

Our massive amount of subscribers will no longer prevent our patches and expansions from being playable the week they come out. Also the honor nerf is being rescinded.

We will try to to retrict some of the general sleeziness of our user base and prevent press conferences from being invaded by flying genitalia.
-Linden Labs

This Lord of the Rings liscense cost us a fortune, please play our game and we promise not to suck.

We promise that we ignored most of our hardcore crazy beta testers and that our game will not require degrees in catassing and spawn camping.

We swear to god that we can handle having Vanguard and EQ2 on our all access pass. Heck, EQ3 will probably join them in a couple years.

We promise that we are not just making the PvP game that World of Warcraft left out.
-EA Mythic

Tabula Rasa will not be the next Planetside. We have Lord British and a way cooler name.

I know Spore is an icky name but I promise I'm a fun-guy.
-Will Wright

Areae is not Neopets with the Star Wars Galaxies crafting system
-Raph Koster

Found the idea of MMO resolutions from a couple of places like Amber Night and Penny-Arcade. Note that these are fake New Year's resolutions so yes the WoW honor nerf is still in effect and Areae could indeed have the SWG crafting system.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What determines Skillz in MMORPGs?

When you defeat someone in online player vs. player combat just how rewarding do you find it? In Real Time Strategy games those who can multitask and click fast seem to have the advantage. In First Person Shooters the players with good hand-eye coordination and knowledge of the maps dominate. It seems that depending on the genre of online gameplay different traits come into play for determining the better player. So what traits define "Skillz" in Massive Multiplayer Online games?

The number one trait that seems to give an advantage in MMO combat seems to be time spent playing. Unlike the other genres its not just that players learn the subtle nuances of combat by practicing. Players also attain statistical advantages to combat by increasing both their level and the equipment on their characters over time. As a general rule characters that have been played more often are going to beat players that have been played less.

Some roadblocks are thrown in during the end game of most MMOs to try to slow down those with large amounts of free time. But they never seem to work. Despite the ridiculously high time cost of end game items many players will eventually pay it. After all MMOs are popular since they are relatively cheap for the hundreds of hours of entertainment they provide. However, players with the less time intensive gear are forced to work on improving other traits to be competive in PvP.

1) Time Spent Playing: Time played = Quality of Gear, and better gear provides the statistical advantage in almost every aspect of combat. A tier-3 equipped player can be half asleep and playing against good players and still win if they are only wearing blues. In my opinion the gear advantage from having a high /played time will offset two of any other traits I've listed.

2) Timing: Patience is a virtue and being able to know the cooldowns of your spells and abilities keeps you one major step ahead of your button mashing opponents. Know which spells take too long to cast and aren't likely to go off during combat. Plan your crowd control abilities around your other spells. Rogues aren't the only ones who can time abilities to lock down a player.

3) Teamwork: Combat is almost never 1v1 and being able to integrate your character's abilities with another makes you both stronger. I'm not just talking about having a healer following you around. Knowing when to leave an enemy alone cause they have been crowd controlled or already about to die because of dots can be crucial. Having a chat channel can artificially boost teamwork but people truly skilled in this area will know what to expect from good players and be prepared to react to their abilities.

4) Preparation: For player vs. environment combat this mostly means researching information to know the outline of a quest or raid boss before you begin the fight. In player vs. player combat this generally means having the consumables and trinkets to break out of someone else's good timing. Fear, root, snare, and critical strikes can all be offset off by consumables and trinkets. Its amazing how many times a cheap pvp healing potion from the AV vendors will save your life in the battlegrounds.

5) Interface: Old MMO games had interfaces set in stone which often required players to use special programs to modify. But newer games often include macro and scripting languages which allow players to reduce the amount of keys they need to press. Thus a player's favorite combo attack or complex spell sequence can be put into a single key. Then it just becomes an issue of reaction time since the computer is really doing all the timing. And I hate to say it but a computer is always going to win in a contest of timing abilities.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Five Things You Didn't Know About Me

So I take a nice vacation from work for two weeks and what do I find when I get back? Apparently I've been called out by a chain post that has been making the rounds of MMO bloggers. So thanks to Tobold on my first day back I got to come up with weird facts about myself. Oh well if anyone else has noticed I have a natural tendency to make lists on this blog anyways.

1) I was the world's youngest poolman.
My dad ran a pool cleaning business in Florida and thought that doing chores around the house wasn't enough for an allowance. Thus as far back as age seven I have memories of cleaning pool filters and testing water samples. It was kind of a drag and convinced me that working outside in the sun was deffinitely not for me. On the other hand I did learn cool things like mixing Cholrine and Muratic Acid makes mustard gas. Kids don't try it at home.

2) I earned a sports varsity letter in high school.
Despite being a hardcore nerd now, I used to play sports in High School well enough to make it on Varsity. Of course by sports I am talking about bowling which qualifies as a sport as much as synchronized swimming. But then again you do compete against other people by doing a physical activity. So it has all the technical qualifications of a sport. You just have to ignore the french fries and beers that always seem to be in our hands.

3) I've almost been eaten by water beast.
On a canoe trip off a tributary of the St. John's River me and my brother managed to piss off a 16 foot alligator. We hit him pretty hard when we were paddling and to return the favor he decided to almost tip our canoe. Luckily he decided from all the screaming and cursing that he had evened the score and left. The thing that really sucked was that my brother lost his paddle in the commotion so I was stuck paddling solo. After going upstream for a mile I wish the gator had bitten my arm off.

4) I got through undergrad and grad school debt free.
I know I suprised myself also by doing it. I had been saving up money in high school forever and instead of getting a car decided to keep on saving. My savings combined with a good part time job actually allowed me to get a Masters without the indenture servitude of student loans. Of course I did eat ramen and macroni for 6 years straight but I make it up to myself by having steak at least once a week now. Hmmm steak.

5) I'm at war with wasps and bees
Its not that I'm afraid of them but they tend to really piss me off. Like waving red in front of a bull, every time I see a wasp nest I search for the biggest bottle of Raid and go to town. Apparently, I was stung once when I was a toddler and instead of crying, I spent the next 10 minutes stomping the little bugger to death. Since then I swear the little monsters seek me out for revenge. I hate needles and it goes double when they are attached to insect ass.

I am calling out Saylah, Kinless, and the KTR Guys to continue this post or beware the curse.