Monday, October 29, 2007

Getting the New Arena Shoulders: Now Its Personal

Ever since Blizzcon the announcement of a rating requirement for top-end arena weapons has been met with disdain by the World of Warcraft community and labeled as red tape. Some players compared it to the hour long wait on auction house sales which was recently implemented. Most players saw it as another annoying rule being put into the game which could easily be gotten around by those who wished to exploit. After all wouldn't people just simply buy a one week spot on a top arena team so they could get the weapons? Well it seems as if Blizzard has uncharacteristically put more thought into rating requirement then originally suspected.

Basically the developer's hope to prevent farming the arena system for high quality weapons by implementing a personal arena rating which is associated to a single character and not a team. This prevents players from saving up points while doing badly in the arenas then purchasing a spot on a high end team. While a week on a high end arena team will probably improve your personal arena rating it wouldn't effect it enough to allow you to buy a restricted items. Also in a move which is sure cause some drama they decided to put an even higher rating requirement on the new arena shoulders.

While nothing specific has been revealed on how the personal arena rating will be calculated it's probably going to be similar to how team ratings are turned into weekly points. This means that winning a lot of 2v2 games will probably effect your personal rating less then winning a lot of 5v5 games. Also you can probably expect Blizzard to put a hump into the formula so that making a new team to reset your rating to 1500 has only a minimal effect on your personal rating. Don't expect that joining a 1200 rating team and winning 10 games in a row to effect your personal rating that much.

With all this math going into the arena system we're lucky that Blizzard is going to show our personal arena rating through the pvp tab. Hopefully it will be updated after each match since its a personal rating and should only be dependent on the matches you participate in. However, since this is a counter "exploit" feature it might be that Blizzard decides to only update it weekly to slow down the min/max number crunching crowd. Whatever time schedule they go with, the idea of a personal arena rating is a good idea. I can already see it being invaluable for teams trying to find a replacement for a lost member.

About the only thing I don't like about the personal arena rating is that its going to be used to restrict the new shoulder models. I can only assume that Blizzard caught on that the shoulders are every one's favorite piece of set armor and they decided to make it the "big reward" of the arena system. I blame all the forum whiners who bugged the CMs and developers when the shoulder models started shrinking on the public test realms. Now that they know we really like big, scary shoulder pieces of course they're going to put them behind a 2000 personal arena rating.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bringing Decent Players back to PUGs

I had just recently leveled my shaman to 70 and this weekend was the first time I tried doing some dungeon runs to improve my gear. The only problem was of course that most of my friends don't have any alts who just hit max level like me. As a result I was basically asking for 1-2 hour commitments without any benefits for their characters. Now most people don't mind helping out a friend but you can only bug them ever so often before you start to become a pest. After all most players fall into the achiever category and they also want to improve their characters. Unfortunately, the only other option left to me was to use the LFG tool and try to find a pick up group.

Weekend PUG Attempts

Attempt 1: Shadow Labs
Our tank would only use sunder on one mob in a single pull. Our healer eventually asked him why he wasn't thunderclapping and he replied "I have to tank in defensive stance and can't use it" Could only kill the first boss. Rogue continuously went afk without telling anyone but was always back in time to roll on armaments.

Attempt 2: Mana Tombs
Our dps was comprised of me and two mages who continually broke each other's sheep. As a result the ethereal casters that summon mana elementals continually killed us. Eventually the priest left after dying five times before getting to Tavarok, the second boss.

Attempt 3: Durnhold Keep
Once again we had two mages in the group but this time they knew to coordinate crowd control. However, our paladin healer continuously went afk and died during the escort of Thrall because of it. When he came back to the keyboard he exclaimed "WTF" and left even though we were just waiting for him to start the Epoch fight. Still the most successful pug attempt this weekend.

Most of the people I grouped with were moderately skilled players but the problem was of course that it only takes one bad player in the group to cause a wipe. A lot of times this player was someone who was obviously unaware of the abilities and skills to use in group content. Other times a player was just completely rude and lacked any sort of group etiquette which eventually rubbed someone the wrong way. Percentage wise it seemed like about 1 out 4 players in a pick up group were either unskilled or a complete jerk.

So where are all the decent players and why aren't they using the LFG tool?

Why Decent Players avoid PUGs?

1) A large number of level 70 players can no longer get any upgrades from dungeons. The epic items for badges of justice are only about equal to Karazhan loot thus most raiders in a guild that can beat Nightbane don't even bother with heroic dungeons.

2) Good players mostly depend on guild members and friends to form dungeon groups. They might use the LFG tool to fill in that one last spot but they tend to avoid using it.

3) A lot of players only do PvP nowadays since a combination of arenas and battlegrounds can get you better loot then any 5-man instance in the game.

Blizzard has noticed the decline of players participating in group instances and has planned out several changes in the next patch which should encourage people to return. Most of the changes seem oriented at offering a reward to higher geared players for doing normal and heroic dungeons. Now most of these people are going to try using guild chat first to start a group but chances are some of them will end up in the LFG channel. This should do a lot to flush out the average pick up group since one well geared player can make the difference especially if its your healer or tank.

Patch 2.3 changes for 5-man instances

1) New Daily Quests for a random heroic and normal mode dungeon.
Earn gold and reputation by helping out your lesser geared brethren

2) New Armor Set available via Badges of Justice
Should encourage the running of Heroics, Karazhan, and Zul'aman

3) Heroic Keys now only required Honored faction
Now alts wearing half Karazhan hand me downs can be useful.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Small Example of Paladin/Warrior Numbers

Gwaendar raised an issue on the last post that the popularity of the warrior/paladin combination could be more of a urban legend then a reality. He could be right since paladins are under represented in the 2v2 teams though this could be because they can easily get spots in the higher point brackets.

A quick look at the top 5 teams in the 5v5 bracket for four battlegroups show that warriors and paladins are present in a majority of the teams. Since I think players try to earn the most amount of points by getting into a 5v5 team I think this bracket heavily influences how people perceive the popularity of classes in arenas.

Data was pulled 10/15/2007
Teams with less then 5 members are not counted

1)FapFapFap Boom: 1 paladin, 2 warriors
2)TwopointoThreeFourfive: 1 paladin, 1 warrior
3)Jolly Asian Clams:No paladins or warriors
5)Steam Rolled: 2 paladins, 1 warrior
6)Narutards: 1 paladin, 2 warriors

1) Clan Hex: 1 paladin
2) Lucky: 2 paladin, 2 warriors
3) Team NoobSauce: 1 paladin 2 warriors
4) Pento Supremo: 1 paladin, 2 warriors
5) Arena Point Bandits: 2 paladins, 2 warriors

1)Mein Kampf: 1 warrior
2)Nerve: 1 paladin, 1 warrior
3)Jenox and the Pooteytats: 1 paladin, 1 warrior
5)Team AG Carnage: 1 paladin, 2 warriors
6)Who Knows: 1 paladin

1)Pretty Standard: 1 paladin, 3 warriors(2arms, 1fury)
2)Trounce: 1 warrior, 1 paladin
3)Jonald Danklin be Ballin: No pallies or warriors
4)Game Over: 1 paladin, 2 warriors
6)IDK my BFF jil: 1 paladin 2 warriors

Teams with no paladins or warriors: 2
Teams with paladins but no warriors: 2
Teams with warriors but no paladins: 1
Teams with paladins and warriors: 15

I think these numbers are going to be the same in most battlegroups with about 75% of arena teams having both a warrior and paladin. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that they are better or more popular then other classes since most teams are going to have a full 10 members. However, from what I've seen in the arenas, warriors and paladins tend to be the classes that are played more often while the other three spots are switched out. Then again as you can see two teams made it into the top five without either class. Skill at crowd control and coordination with your team members also plays a important role.

In the end the only conclusion I can really make is that the warriors probably scale quicker in arena gear when compared to others classes. Paladins on the other hand don't really scale in power quickly with arena gear especially since resilience is missing on their set. Instead its the functionality of being able to throw off dps concentration with shields that makes them so desired for arena teams.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why Paladins and Warriors rule the Arenas

If you have spend any amount of time in the arenas in World of Warcraft then you have gotten the feel for the popular class combos that players like to use for making teams. Some of these combination revolve around class tricks like stealth while others go for strategies like massive crowd control or insane burst damage. Yet despite all these gimmicks almost every arena team with a rating over 1600 is going to have one thing in common. They are all going to have a charging juggernaut with a huge 2-hander who wants to introduce you to Mortal Strike.

Not since the days that the Arcanite Reaper ruled the battlegrounds has World of Warcraft seen such a multitude of mortal strike warriors. They are the number one class in all three brackets of arenas right behind their bosom companion the paladin. Rogues with their healing reduction poison are also in high use but lack the survivability of a warrior when focused on by multiple dps classes. Thus you often see rogues in 3v3 teams but they tend to become a little sparser in the high end 5v5 teams.

Still as most teams have found out through trial and error their chances of winning are highly effected by whether they have a mortal strike warrior in their team or not. The ability itself is not as efficient as some of the fury ones for dealing damage on targets but in the dynamic and fast moving world of PvP it's king. Unlike standard PvE fights, targets do not stay in one place which makes melee damage very spotty unless it can be concentrated into a burst. Mortal strike fits this requirement and also reduces healing by 50% on the target which is vital if the other team has a healer.

From my experience having 50% reduced healing on a target is enough to allow any two competent dps classes to kill it as long as there is only one healer on the opposing team. If the opposing team has two healers then there is a chance that they can keep the target alive. If one of the healers is a paladin then they can usually interrupt the 50% debuff with a blessing of protection. This is especially devastating when there are multiple melee dps on the target since they often go into a feeding frenzy and don't notice the target is immune to physical damage.

Just like in world PvP the one thing that makes paladins so hated in arenas are their bubble spells. Though whether paladins deserve the disdain for using a cheap spell or whether melee dps deserve disdain for not switching targets is debatable. Either way the one sure-fire effective way to negate Mortal Strike is to have a paladin healer in your arena team. I've made a little ladder that shows the stereotypical advantage one team has over another based on mortal strike and healers.

2 Healers (paladin) and Mortal Strike
1 Healer (paladin) and Mortal Strike
1 Healer and Mortal Strike
1 Mortal Striker
1 Healer
0 Healers or Mortal Strike

* This ladder is built on the assumption that mortal strike allows a team to negate the effects of one healer while a paladin negates the effects of all mortal strike warriors. Two mortal strike warriors do not negate a paladin simply because dps must focus to be effective in arenas and blessing of protection blocks all physical damage. Also in my experience most healing priests are not quick enough or reluctant to spend the mana for mass dispel so I chose not to include their effect.

Now there are a couple of ways to combat the juggernaut that is mortal strike and paladin healing but most of those ways revolve around classes that are easy to kill by focusing your dps on them first. The number one example I can think of is using a shadow priest to mana burn the paladin constantly. A more conventional team that uses mortal strike might be beaten by such a tactic if the paladin runs out of mana before the dps can kill the other team's healer. However, this usually only works once since the next time the team will focus on the shadow priest first. Well I've gone off enough on mortal strike and paladin shielding and I think next time I will talk a bit about other interesting class combinations I've seen.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Law and Order uses MMO as a crime scene

If you were watching this week's Heroes episode then you might faintly recall a commercial for the next Law and Order: SVU episode. The teaser made heavy use of pixelated strip clubs and the well endowed avatars which most MMO fans automatically recognize as coming from Second Life. This bizzaro virtual world has become the Grand Theft Auto of the MMO universe where practices that would earn a banning anywhere else are commonplace and profitable. Still Second Life's unique entrepreneurial opportunities and wild west atmosphere has often garnered it free advertising from the press who for the most part ignored its huge red light districts. It looks like the cat is out of the bag though as it seems to be the main focus for this episode.

Of course whenever mainstream television mentions gaming its usually in a bad context and it looks like Law and Order isn't setting out to disappoint. Its very ironic how television almost always portrays gaming in a bad light while movies are a little more forgiving. Its almost as if television shows see themselves in direct competition with video games while movies know they rule the weekend. Also it could be because movies tend to get video games and the Internet mixed up whenever they write a script. Its like they can't differentiate between a MMO and cyberspace, its all just the Matrix to Hollywood.

Still anything is better then the drek these crime shows tend to come up with when they talk about video games and virtual worlds. A couple of years ago it was CSI: Miami that had a video game episode which was straight from the daily diary of Jack Thompson. In it fans of a popular FPS were modding the game as practice for a real shooting they had planned out. If you look in the archives from you'll find a couple cases of teenagers being expelled when they modded Counterstrike with they layout from their school. Not a really smart move but hey they're teenagers. None of them were ever charged with anything or found to own a gun or live in a house that had a gun.

Now not having watched this episode of Law and Order yet I can't tell you for sure that they will portray MMO players as creepy people with the urge to kill. But based on the teaser it certainly seems this is the direction they chose. In my past posts I've made fun of residents of Second Life for all the weird things that go on in that game but honestly killing demons in the Outlands is just as likely to get looks from non gamers. I recall one quote from the teaser that was along the lines of "And now she's dead cause of your sick fetish." and I can't help but wonder if they are aiming it at all gamers in general.

P.S. In the episode they never actually name the game as Second Life.