Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Hybrid Gap - PUGs and Raiders

If we are going to talk about the hybrid gap, we need to define our terms. In my eyes, there are two vastly different worlds in endgame WoW: The PUG world and The Raider World.

The raider world consists of organized guilds that have a team of raiders who plays with each other regularly and bring a balanced composition to every raid. All the raid buffs are accounted for, classes are represented fairly equally and a good balance of melee and ranged is achieved. Raiders are scrutinized to a higher level on how they spec, gem, enchant, gear, glyph, and a million other nits that get picked; this occurs when they apply to a guild and constantly by officers and other raiders.

The PUG world is a raid assembled ad-hoc depending on who is available in trade chat and who’s friend knows a tank or healer. There are competent people here and there are people who are seeing things for the first time. It’s a wiiiiiide rainbow of people from those who can play the game well and those who might as well be wearing their pants on their heads. Generally there is an 80/20 rule where 80% of the people carry the other 20% and generally the 20% soaks up the loot. PUGs are not doing progression content, and people are generally doing PUGs in order to gear up for applying to raiding guilds or to gear up and play alts. Generally when I think of the PUG world I am talking about the Looking For Dungeon system, because those groups are the purest random gathering of players where the biggest crapshoot of players can be found.

The hybrid tax is present in both situations, but where the rubber meets the road is in the raider world. Raiders understand more about their class than the average PUG, and can get the most out of their character in terms of damage throughput. In the raider world pure DPS has the edge and can typically put out 5% or so more damage than a hybrid DPS class. Things that can sometimes fluxuate are encounter mechanics, class nerfs/buffs, latency, and player skill, but in general if all other things are held equal, a pure DPS will come out on top.

However in a raiding environment, this gap becomes very small and almost unmeasurable due to random events that happen in any given raid encounter (movement being the most common); because of these random events the hybrid gap disappears for the raider. This is not a bad thing, because in a raiding environment, every player has a very specific role to fill and a pure DPS is just as valuable as a hybrid DPS. A hybrid cannot fill two roles at the same time, because the average hybrid does not have the gear or comparable skill set as his DPS, not to mention the overlapping of raid buffs that would need to be retooled on a fight by fight basis. Trust me, it’s a nightmare when we have to have a DPS caster heal for Sindragosa and fill in the missing raid buffs left behind.

The hybrid tax in the raider world is not all that interesting because it disappears due to the random nature of encounters. Until we get another Patchwerk or Brutalus type encounter, DPS throughput is secondary to survivability and how the player uses the other abilities they possess (CC, dispells). Where I find the hybrid tax the most interesting is in the PUG world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Hybrid Tax - GONE

This post is a continuation of the previous, and second in a series exploring "The Hybrid Tax" and how it shapes the game.

The heralded design philosophy of Wrath of the Lich king was “Bring the Player, not the Class.” This phrase might as well be stamped all over every square inch of the expansion, because I swear I have heard this more than 100 times from the developers over the last two years. This philosophy meant that while each talent spec had its own unique flavor and abilities, its throughput and performance would be roughly on par with other classes performing the same role. In addition to normalizing the classes, the developers took the raid buffs that were before isolated to one class, and gave them to two or more classes so that raid compositions could be more flexible.

The caveat is that the pure DPS classes would be tuned to push out more damage than any hybrid DPS class, simply because a pure DPS class doesn’t have the option of fulfill any other role in a PVE environment. While this gap between pure and hybrid still exists, it is vastly smaller than what it was in previous versions of the game. While this is good in theory, things kind of hit the fan when this gets put into practice.

Tanking and healing classes were normalized as well, but more in the sense that Bears, Tankadins and DKs were given versions of the tools that warriors had a monopoly on previously i.e. damage reduction cooldowns (Shield Wall) and temporary health boost (Last Stand). Healers also were given tools so that they could do their jobs more effectively. Each healing class could tank or raid heal to an extent where previously they were SOL.

Hybrid classes have ultimate flexibility in a PVE environment. If a hybrid class wants to change rolls in PVE, then it is a simple 50g and a visit to the trainer. When WOLK first came out, Dual Specialization did not exist. There was a barrier in place if you wanted to change rolls from DPS to Tank to Healing, albeit a small one. It was a pain in the butt to go to town, unlearn everything, re-talent, setup my action bars, and shift my mindset. On average it took about 10 minutes out of my playing time if I wanted to completely change roles. If a pure DPS class wanted to change roles, then there was a much larger time investment involved leveling up a brand new class, not to mention appropriate gearing so that they could compete in current content, and learning the class mechanics.

The class trainer was probably the most popular kid in town before patch 3.1 hit. If someone was playing at endgame, they were most likely carrying two sets of gear and fulfilling two roles, be it PVP and PVE, or carrying an offspec for PVE. Personally, I was respeccing 4-5 times a night during farming Sunwell due to paladins being overpowered at various roles for each boss.

Dual specialization was a boon to almost everyone who played the game when it was first introduced, but it began chipping away the benefit to being a pure DPS class. Everyone who had 1000g can now have fast access to two different sets of talents and glyphs. If a raid leader had a choice between bringing a hybrid DPS with a helpful offspec and a pure DPS to a raid all other things being equal, the hybrid DPS might present itself as a better option given that there is more flexibility in the roles that a hybrid can fill.

The question then becomes, is that marginal DPS between pure and hybrid DPS enough to tip the scales towards the hybrid DPS for that raid spot given that the Hybrid can perform more than one role in a raid? The short answer, maybe. The hybrid DPS could be a good replacement for a pure DPS in my eyes if one of the following are true:

1) The hybrid is completely competent in both of their specs and gear.

2) The pure DPS in question is on the margin either because of survivability or performance.

The long answer will come in the next post. The answer depends on how you play the game.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Hybrid Tax: Why it matters.

Wrath of the Lich King did something (of many) very different than it did in the two previous versions of World of Warcraft. WOLK allowed hybrid DPS classes compete with the pure DPS classes directly in terms of how much damage they can push out. This was unheard of in Vanilla and Burning Crusade. I think the WoW community loved this change, myself included, but going into Cataclysm, I feel that it may be time to bring our friend “The Hybrid Tax” back in some form. The next few posts are going to be an exploration of the Hybrid Tax, how it shaped this expansion, and how it will affect the World of Warcraft going forward into Cataclysm.

History of the Tax

Every class in the World of Warcraft has the ability to deal damage to creatures, and by extension gain experience and complete quests via the killing of these creatures, but some classes are more effective than others. The gap in the damage throughput between pure DPS classes (Rogue, Mage, Warlock, Hunter) and hybrid classes (Priest, Druid, Shaman, Paladin, Warrior, Death Knight) is affectionately known as “The Hybrid Tax.” The hybrid tax is Blizzard’s sneaky way of hinting to you that while your character has the ability to deal damage to level up and quest, it could be more effective and useful by filling a different role while interacting with other people at max level in the world (of warcraft).

In Vanilla WoW, hybrid classes (Paladin/Shaman, Druids, Priests and to an extent Warriors) were expected to fill different roles if they wanted to raid and do dungeons. All the hybrid classes were expected to do something completely different compared to what those classes were learning to do from leveling 1-60. This came as quite a shock, given that they spent a significant chunk of time learning how to effectively kill monsters and quest.

The vanilla raiding game was vastly different from what it is today; Hybrids were expected to heal or tank, resistance gear was common depending on which instance you were raiding, and if you were a shadow priest, retribution or protection paladin, DPS druid, or DPS shaman: you were at the bottom of the list in terms of people that were able to be invited to the raid. Not only was your DPS incredibly low, but you had very little ability to sustain your mana, and therefore not able to DPS as long as fights would last; don’t even think about respeccing constantly either since 50g per respec is a scary chunk of gold at the time.

The Burning Crusade opened the door to hybrid DPS as a viable raiding spec. Shadow priests took front and center as the most popular and most important hybrid DPS support class in raids; while shadow priests DPS was not very close to what pure DPS classes could deal, they provided a very important resource back to healers and caster DPS: mana. The shadow priest returned mana to their party based on a percentage of their damage done.

The other hybrid DPS classes had a place as well in the new raiding machine, again not in terms of DPS throughput but by the buffs they brought to the raid to enhance the total overall DPS output of the rest of the raid:

* Feral Druid: DPS/Tank that could shift roles in combat and group wide critical strike buff (Leader of the Pack)
* Balance Druid: Melee hit boss debuff and group wide spell critical strike buff (Improved Faerie Fire and Moonkin Aura)
* Enhance Shaman: Melee group buffs (Windfury/Agility totem twisting and Bloodlust)
* Elemental Shaman: Caster group buffs (Totem of Wrath, Wrath of Air, and Bloodlust)
* Retribution Paladin: Group wide damage buff, boss debuffs: critical strike bonus, health/mana return (Sanctity Aura, Judgement's of Crusader, Light, and Wisdom)
* Protection Paladin: AoE tank that could hold threat on many targets simultaneously, Blessing of Sactuary

As an extension of the hybrid tax, feral druids and protection paladins, while viable tanks, were not the go to tank for Burning Crusade. Many of the encounters in the expansion were tuned for warrior tanks, and warriors alone possessed tools in their arsenals to counter specific encounter mechanics that would have left a paladin or druid out of luck (i.e. Reliquary of Souls’ Deaden, and Illidan’s Shear)

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Expectations for Cataclysm Raiding

Basically, this is a Nostrodomus type post. I am not expecting these things to happen, but I think that Blizzard wants raiding to become more cerebral than it is currently and this is the roadmap that I have come up with based on what I have seen in the beta and what Blizzard is saying in blue posts. The game is severely lacking in depth at the moment and I think players are hungry again for a game that poses a challenge, instead of how fast I can hit my nuke button.

WOLK Summary

WOLK raiding has been characterized by fast paced, wham bam thank you ma'am type encounters that are completed pretty quickly. Enrage timers are generally 10 mins (LK 15mins, Halion 8mins both with very demanding DPS requirements) but fights are often done way before that. This twitch raiding model shifted focus away from the group effort and more on the player reacting and moving to avoid getting killed; raiding became less about coordination and more about how fast you could not stand in the poop.

Heroics, and trash are all about throwing as much AOE, and area damage at a group of mobs until everything dies, pull the next pack and repeat. While it is fun to just absolutely obliterate everything in a swirling vortex of rape, something can be said about methodically disabling and killing mobs. It is a lot of fun using all your abilities instead of just mashing your AOE nuke until you get your emblems, which is really the most boring thing I can think of, and one reason why I feel let down by WOLK.

Hard modes really helped give some depth to raiding and allowing more people to get into raiding. Call it catering to casuals, call it a paradigm shift or what have you, everyone has their labels. I call it a win, it let everyone play the game not just the people who raid 20 hours a week, and it was good to see that the large player base being able to take advantage of the content rather than subsidizing the raiders with their monthly fees. Being a hardcore raider, I didnt feel slighted in the least to know that noobs were seeing the same content I was.

I do scratch my head about how gear inflation got out of control in this expansion, and I see Blizzard taking dramatic steps to not allow stats to approach the crit and haste percentages that is common for every player. There is something broken if an averagely geared player is approaching things like haste and crit caps.

Looking forward to Cataclysm

As far as I can tell, Cataclysm raiding will be more of a slow burn instead of a gasoline fire. The days of the two shot tank, the 15 mob AOE trash pull, and the enrage timer will be artifacts of what raiding is going to become. I want to talk about how each of the three raiding Triforce elements (Tank, Healer, DPS) are going to evolve in the new raiding model, and then just a brief overview of raiding structure in general.


Sadly, I don't see a whole lot of changes coming to the tanking game. Stamina and Armor are becoming even more important than they are, and avoidance will be useful for mitigating damage in the long term rather than stopping the two-shot. Good tanks will be able to use their cool downs effectively, i.e. when healers need to move, or when they get into danger of dying; attacks that are capable of killing a tank will require cooldowns/movement and will most likely be broadcast well in advance so that the raid can coordinate. All tanks will have a block mechanic which will play a key role in making the healers mana stretch farther. Good tanks will be able to throttle their abilities in order to put more emphasis on survival or threat, depending on which is needed more; great tanks will be able to do both. Since crowd control is making a comeback, more skilled tanks will know which targets to leave alone and not break CC; pulls will be done more gingerly.


The shift in the healer paradigm is the one I see as the most interesting change in Cataclysm. Healer mana will often be the key to success in any raid encounter. Healers who know how to maximize effective healing are going to be the ones who have the most success in the next expansion. The encounters will last as long as the healer's mana holds out. Once the healers go oom, then the fight will be over very shortly. Healers are going to have much lower mana regen, and much bigger mana pools, so that it acts as a soft enrage timer for an encounter.

More skilled healers will be able to use their mana intelligently. They will constantly be making decisions about who to heal and more importantly who not to heal. Keeping tanks alive is the first priority, other than that keeping everyone in the raid not dead is the next goal. Overhealing will matter again, it will show which healers are doing the best job and not squandering their mana. If a DPS dies in the fire, then the healers no longer need to feel guilty that they allowed him to die, as keeping that person alive would just waste their mana that they can't get back.

Healer coordination will separate the good guilds from the great guilds; the ability to cover a raid using everyone's skills will be enormous. Dispells will also become critical to the PVE game as the mana required must be calculated as to how much benefit a dispell will actually produce. A dispell that is performed early will be much more effective than a dispell done well after a debuff has dished out some damage. Also, a dispell may also be just a waste of mana entirely if healing the damage consumes less mana, the debuff isn't life threatening, or the DPS can heal themselves somehow. DPS self heals will matter.

Healers are becoming much less specialized in Cataclysm, but they still are retaining unique abilities that allow them to shine in certain situations. Paladins will be able to AOE heal, Druids will be effective tank healers, and so on but they will be their most potent when doing the things that they were designed to do. Healers also now have more than one speed. Healers can now do some damage in which that augments their healing abilities. This will be useful for fights where raid damage can be throttled, and healers can participate more in the fight rather than clicking on boxes.


The goal of the DPS is to maximize damage output while not getting themselves killed. Preferably a DPS will place a high value on consuming the least of the healer's mana as possible. From what I have seen of the new talents and abilities, each DPS spec has the ability to heal themselves and/or mitigate incoming damage taken. Good DPS players will be expected to heal themselves to some degree via the use of First Aid, abilities/spells, potions, healthstones or any other avenue which can take the pressure off the healers. In general, DPS will be require to take a much greater responsibility for their own well being in comparison to previous expansions.

In general, better players are not simply measured by how much damage they deal, but by their ability to do more than just kill a boss. Great DPS players will also be able to incorporate their other abilities into their GCDs which will help the raid, such as paladins using hand spells, or priests using hymns as two examples. From what has been put out in the cataclysm beta, players aren't nearly as GCD locked as they once were, so they can afford to use these abilities to benefit the raid, or heal themselves for damage.

I see pure DPS classes coming back into the spotlight as we get further into the expansion. It seems less and less people are playing pure DPS classes simply because of the trade-off between performance and flexibility. Why roll a mage when a balance druid does just about the same amount of damage. The hybrid tax will enter the spotlight again, and pure DPS classes will once again shine on the meters. I don't see the Pure/Hybrid margin to come back in the magnitude of Vanilla and Burning Crusade, but 5% seems like a good place to start. Being a pure DPS should matter a lot more than just bringing raid buffs.

Hybrid DPS classes will have a place, but play a much larger role supporting the raid with dispells, off heals, and temporary buffs/debuffs rather than just focusing purely on damage output; hybrid classes can take some pressure off the healers and conserve their mana. Hybrid dispells seem to be crucial and I think we will see one or more encounters in the expansion that focuses on dispells from Hybrid DPS. The healing classes will be able to dispell magic debuffs exclusively, but poisons, diseases and curses can be dealt with by a hybrid. Hybrid CC will also play a big role in raiding.

Raiding in General

1) Easier initial bosses, harder final bosses. The first couple bosses should be puggable, but it will take a more coordinated effort to defeat the later bosses in a dungeon.

2) 10mans tougher than 25 mans. I'm calling this one right now. The only way to kill any debate that the 10man content is less viable than the 25man, is to overtune the 10man encounters not to mention the gear lag in Valor points that a team faces when doing 10man content.

3) Penalty of death much higher. Raider deaths are excusable for most raid encounters at present, simply because of the twitch nature of the fights and the movement involved which is affected by latency. Cataclysm raiding will be at a slower pace, not to mention most classes being able to heal them selves, and have higher health pools. If you die in a raid, you most likely did something incredibly stupid and your team will suffer for it. If you say that you died due to lag, I will stab you in the jaw.

4) Less complex loot systems. The mastery bonus will make armor less desirable by classes not sharing of that armor type, meaning rings, trinkets, weapons and jewelry will become more sought after. By concentrating the pool of desired loot, guilds wont need a broad complex system to allocate it all. Suicide Kings, EPGP will become more ideal ways of allocating loot.

5) Broadening the guild skill range. Currently there is a very black and white view of how good your guild is, either it is good or bad. By adding complexity to the class and raiding environment we will begin to see a more broad range of the skill of guilds, not just are you an 11/12 HM guild or a 12/12 HM guild.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Men and Sex

In my futile attempts to understand the sexes, I came up with the following hypothesis: All men desire from women is sex. Yea I know it is cliche but think about it.

Men can provide for themselves materially, and can maintain a home, feed themselves and (hopefully) clean up after themselves.
Men are more stable emotionally, and can subside without a woman to be dependent on.
Men are direct and straightforward, and are more adept to solve problems.

The only thing a man cannot provide for himself is sex.

Blah blah I'm a sexist, and don't really know anything deeper about woman. I am not claiming to be right, just doing a thought experiment.

This just makes me think more about traditional gender roles. There is a good quote "Men can build a house, but only a woman can build a home". There is truth in that, but it still makes me think that sex is the only thing women have to offer, and sadly it becomes a bargaining chip in order to get a man who can provide for them.

It might be just me.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Expectations

I wish I had an insightful quote to start this thing off, but sadly all I can think of is "I wish, I wish, I hadn't killed that fish"

The weird thing about interacting with people is that there is an anticipation or a preconception about who person A expects of person B. No matter if people have just met, or have known each other for a long time, your expectations are hastily put together and forced on someone else. I can walk down the street and see a dude in gangbanger clothes, and I can expect that he is probably someone I don't want to mess with, or he is peacocking to let everyone else around him know that he is.

This behavior is useful, because it helps our brains sort out the people who are dangerous, and the people whom we want to be associated with. Your brain can sort out all the things you come across in a day and tell you what to avoid. This can be useful, but I would argue that in the society of today this behavior is constantly on overdrive and is blind to the nuanced nature of how people express themselves.

I thought I was the person that Erin wanted to be with. I expected things to work going forward, given the fact that our relationship has been awesome in the past. She needs more than I am capable of giving, or want to give.

I either don't understand this, or it is a paradox which is incapable of a solution. I feel that she needs more attention from me, yet she wants time to herself. She want's to explore and go out and see things, yet I put myself in her hands to go wherever she wants and nothing comes of it. For now I am chalking it up to us not being right for eachother.

Things have not been right for a very long time. My trust of her has been slowly diminishing over time, and now it is at the point where I can't love her anymore because she hasn't given her love to me.

I just feel like a worthless lame nerd who spends far too much of his time playing video games with other nerds, children, and some people who aren't content with the accomplishment in their lives. People that seek absolution in a virtual world filled with weapons, armor, and dragons to ride on. Erin knew this about me going into our engagement, but perhaps she had the expectation that I would lose interest in this game eventually.

There was a time where I would have thrown it all away just to be with her. I would ask her if I needed to stop playing in order to spend more time with her, but the answer was always that she liked knowing that there would be time for her to have to herself. Now I know she would spend that time with the other men in her life. Fuck me for being such a stupid lame nerd.

I am a lame nerd though. It's who I am, and who I want to be. I like geeking out about math and science. I like playing video games. I have accomplished things in my life that I am proud of. I have a masters degree in EE, and I can sort of speak another language.

I know I am smart, funny and charming. I know that I am an asshole, jaded, and overall disappointed in a lot of the humans on the planet. I'm humble and softspoken. I really don't care about the human race as a whole, but I care deeply for the people I meet everyday. I would rather make one person happy who is local to me than feed a starving baby with aids in China, whether that is the cashier at the grocery store or my own mom.

Erin and I had expectations of each other going into this marriage that I guess the other person just couldn't meet. I expected a lot more from Erin in the bedroom, but I know now that she stopped being attracted to me a long time ago. I expected that she would follow through with her plans to go to law school, or get another job, or get healthy and in shape, or do all the things that she wants to do with her life. Things that I want to be a part of. All of these things that she wants for herself are things that I am unable to give her. We both want each other to be happy and we want to do whatever will make that other person happy. I can't give her the discipline that she needs to make herself happy, ergo I can't give her anything to make her happy.

Erin has been dependent on other people all her life. Well, dependent might not be the right word, but it seems that she has always had someone to rely on whether it be emotionally, monetarily, or what have you. Erin doesn't like who she is. She wants to be more like other people. She craves it. Gretchen is a wonderful lady, and a saint in my book, but Erin depends too much on her mom. Erin is afraid of the world, and every time things get fucked up, Gretchen will bear the load.

I am not trying to absolve myself from responsibility. Looking back, I would have pressed Erin more (ha) about her relationship with Mike, and Trevor, and Leo. I would have seen that Erin needs to explore and push boundaries, where I am content to be in the boundaries I have defined for myself, and simply explore them fully before finding new ones. Erin needs constant external stimulus. She sought these other men out and got what she was unable to get from me. It just really makes me feel inadequate. I have convinced myself that there has been some tomfoolery going on between her and at least one other.

Erin is bad in bed. Even when she is on top of her game, she still can't fully satisfy. Maybe I am just pissed off at her recent lay there and do nothing sack sessions, but I think this is valid. She is an incredibly selfish lover. Being intimate with someone is where I dest display my affections for someone. I want to make the other person feel loved and secure.

It all comes back to expectations. That primate instinct in my brain expected things that I did not communicate, and Erin's brain did the same thing. Now it comes down to brass tacks. Are we willing to give the other person what they need to proceed in this relationship? Based solely on the fact that Erin is unattracted to me speaks volumes. I could help her love herself and in time she could love me again, but that would take far too much time than I am willing to commit to someone I feel has taken me for granted.

I blame us both for this relationship falling apart. I blame her more than I blame myself, simply because Erin has not been honest with herself for a lot of the relationship. She clung to it, cursing me the whole time about why I couldn't be better, or why she didn't deserve me, or fooling herself that I was the stable rock that she needed when someone more flavor of the month would have been better. Erin has a lot of love for the people that she has been with in the past, and she still keeps that with her. I don't think I will be any different. Maybe someday she will have enough ex loves that she will finally decide to drop all her baggage with past men and love someone else truly. She needs to love herself.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blizzard's Perfect (Shit)Storm

So, Blizzard announced this weekend that they are cutting previously announced features from Cataclysm; the most notable of these are Path of the Titans, and Guild Leveling/Currency. As I can recall, Path of the Titans was an alternate way to progress your toon once it hit the level cap other than doing PVE and PVP content, in addition to augmenting your character's stats and/or capabilities in PVE/PVP. This would intersect with the new Archeology secondary profession and let people get really into the lore of the warcraft universe.

Guild leveling would allow guilds to generate experience by doing raids, instances, battlegrounds, and achievements in order to make the guild a stronger entity. This would include a guild talent tree where points could be spent in order to increase proficiency at whatever the guild's goals were oriented towards.

These cuts feel like the removal of something that would make the game feel new and fresh again. Cataclysm seems like it is going to be more of the same. The developers are streamlining raiding with unified 10/25 raid ID lockouts, gear and talents are getting streamlined, and I don't see many new raid mechanics coming down the pipeline (but I could be wrong). A lot of the complexity, for better or worse, that exists right now is being taken out of the game.

I was really hoping that Path of the Titans would breathe some fresh air into the game and give the game something new to replace what is being removed. Even if it resembles a Farmville type (Do something, wait a bit, get reward, do something else) system, it would still be a little more fun than the current raiding environment. I am still pulling for Archaeology to add this type of randomness to a game that is getting more and more formulaic.

I can dig the new talent trees, but I still think they look too much like WOLK trees. I guess the huge shakeups from Vanilla -> BC -> WOLK in the talents have put me in a position to expect more. I might also be biased that I am comparing the trees that I play as alts and the Paladin tree might just get completely upended.

Behind all this it seems like Blizzard has overextended itself. It tried really hard to be all things to all people, and for that it has succeeded. Blizzard wants this game out by the end of the year, and it probably needed to cut what it did in order to make that deadline. The price that was paid was fun. I really think WoW is going to suffer from Activision syndrome this next expansion. They know what works, and they are going to keep milking that cow until the milk sucks. I fear that Cataclysm is going to drive off a lot of the veterans, and the WOLK babies are going to get what they have always gotten.

These cuts needed to happen. If the game goes for much longer without new life breathed into it, people are going to leave in droves. If we have to keep farming ICC until say march of next year and we ended up getting the Path and Guild features, I don't think the influx of people would offset how many people would leave. It is a numbers game at this point and they have too many people invested to take that chance. I would say that half the player has gear addiction and needs their fix.

The Cataclysm WoW population is going to be a cess pool of people of whiny jerks who are only in it to use each other to get better gear, pretty much what the LFD has become. I am leveling a bear druid through LFD and I have done dungeons where I nobody says a word throughout the entire thing. Everyone in the dungeon has shut down the higher functions of their brain and tries to get through it as quickly as possible, so they can get their gear.

This is a little tangential but it is an example of this behavior. Guitar Hero 1 was arguably the best game in the franchise in my opinion. It had personality, challenge and it was something fresh and new among all the platformers and sports games, and shooters. None of the music was licensed, it was all covers and they sounded good. I would argue that some of the appeal in the game was the covered music because it let the player get into the game more by knowing they weren't trying to be the stars who wrote the songs, they were just pretending. It didn't take itself too seriously, and it was a labor of love for the developers. All in it cost over 100 bucks to buy the thing and it still flew off shelves, cause it was something new and fun. Guitar hero today is just formulaic, homogenized and streamlined. Sound familiar?

The Big Crits crew are all amazing people, and right now it is because of them that I am probably going to keep playing. Getting H-LK down and getting people their drakes, no matter how futile it seems is what is driving me still.

Okay time for a nap for this old man. Gotta get my energy up to yell at those damn kids.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Healers in Cataclysm

It looks like Blizzard is going to give healers something to do rather than react to raid damage in Cataclysm. I am looking at the sneak peak at the released talent trees and I see some suspicious talents that convert damage into healing.

Penitence (3 ranks) - Increases the critical effect chance of your Smite and Penance spells by 5/10/15%.
Atonement (3 ranks) - When you deal damage with Smite, you instantly heal a nearby low-health friendly target within 40 yards equal to 15/30/45% of the damage dealt.
Evangelism (2 ranks available) - When you cast Smite you gain Evangelism, increasing the damage done by your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova and Penance spells by 2/4% and reducing the mana cost of those spells by 3/6% for 15 seconds. Stacks up to 5 times.
Archangel (1 rank available) - Consumes your Evangelism effects, instantly restoring 3% of your total mana and increasing your healing done by 3% for each stack. Also allows you to channel Penance while moving. Lasts 18 seconds.
Divine Accuracy (2 ranks available) - Increases the chance to hit with your Smite, Holy Fire, Holy Nova and Penance spells by 10/20%.

These might be aimed at PvP, but it looks like Priests might become shockadin types with a smart heal attatched. We will see, but this looks interesting in terms of the direction Blizzard is taking with Priests: heal when things are frantic, DPS when things are boring.

Shaman don't get as big a toolbox as Priests.


Focused Insight (5 ranks available) - After casting any shock spell, your next heal's mana cost is reduced by 15/30/45/60/75% of the cost of the shock spell, and its healing effectiveness is increased by 5/10/15/20/25%.

Druids also don't get the same breadth of tools as Priests.


Fury of a Stormrage (3 points) - You have a 5/10/15% chance when you cast Nourish or Healing Touch to cause your next Wrath spell to be instant cast and cost no mana. Fury of Stormrage lasts for 8 seconds.

So, it looks to me like Blizzard is trying to make healing more dynamic in that you can heal and DPS at the same time either via boredom or skill. If two healers applicants look really evenly matched in their healing output, a little DPS could tip the scales in favor of the better player. The shaman shock mechanic looks a little weak sauce, but I'm sure it will get retuned, unless they adjust the coefficients on Shaman shock spells to make them hit a lot harder.

As an aside, it seems that all the released trees have a damage reduction talent in reach of all three specs. Is this a sign that raid damage will matter a lot more as healers fight to keep their blue bar at least partially filled?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The audacity of Earth

I have a plant outside my office. Well, I didn't put it there but since I have the closest proximity to it, I call dibs. It is starting to get pretty big, and it has been a while since the plant lady trimmed it. I am starting to hit it with my head as I walk to the get a drink, go to the bathroom, or go talk to my boss. The nerve. This plant had better learn a thing or two or I just might trim it myself.

If you are an inferior species, your choices are adapt or die. This plant better adapt and quick or it will lose a limb. I just might have to forbid it be watered as well. That will teach it a thing 'er two.

Heck, the planet itself had better watch it's step. Homo Sapiens are the dominant species now. We can dictate pretty much whatever we want to thanks to science and technology. We can extract food, heat, and whatever material need we can imagine out of the Earth. We have adapted, and we have grown dominant. For too long, people have been oppressed by the planet and have had to struggle and scrap for everything we have out of constant oppression. It's time the planet learned a thing er' two. It's Earth's turn to adapt or die.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Reckoning has gotten a very bad reputation since the days of BC, and especially after the first Reck bomb. Right now it is opposite of useful if you are a protection paladin, even if it was a 1 point talent. A white hit + seal proc is not a ton of damage or threat, and more white hits mean more parry opportunities for less threat and more incoming damage; granted there are like 2 bosses in ICC that parry haste, but I want to get away from that model and parrys should actually mean something in the future. Here is reckoning in it's current form:

Reckoning (5 talent points? WTF?!?)
Gives you a 2/4/6/8/10% chance after blocking or being hit by any damaging attack that the next 4 weapon swings within 8 sec will generate an additional attack.

Since reckoning is an offensive ability at it's core, it seems that it's proper place is in the Ret tree. I have grown fond of the 2PC T10 and I want to keep some randomness in the Ret Paladin rotation. Plus, Ghostcrawler and the dev team seem to be loving the idea of "Fun" abilities woven into our rotations based on procs and random crap that might happen in your rotation. In that spirit, I propose the new Reckoning:

Reckoning (3 talent points)
Your melee critical strikes have a 5%/10%/15% chance to allow you to cast a Hammer of Wrath within 10 seconds, but at twice the mana cost.

The mana cost thing is in there just to give the player a downside to the ability. If you spam it too much, you will run out of mana, or good players can regulate their mana and still have fun and do great DPS. It also allows the paladin some sort of ranged attack, potentially to keep pressure on a healer in PVP, or hit another target. Maybe even:

Improved Hammer of Wrath: (2 or 3 talent points based on balance)
Your Hammer of Wrath will now strike 1/2/3 additional targets within 15 yards, but each hit strikes at 75%/66%/50% damage.

Just something like this would add a lot of fun to the game for Ret pallies, and also potentially make the glyph a little more useful. For me especially, I like the randomness of an extra divine storm, but without the GCD locking that currently happens. Heck, right now Hammer of Wrath hardly makes it into my rotation due to it hitting like a rubber mallet. Come back and talk to me when it procs a seal.

I don't think this would make paladins overpowered again in PVP, although I wouldn't mind a little padding since I am terrible in Battlegrounds . It would also mix up PVE a lot in addition to filling in the flavor of this next expansion, "The Fun Button"

It also seems useful but optional. This wouldn't be terribly useful for single target fights. It also is very dangerous in the hands of a noob, as trash and heroics aren't going to be the AOE fests as Wrath is currently, and it will make the clcRET users have to think a little before mashing that next shiny button, which even I am guilty of most times.

I want to see dual spec become useful for Ret pallies as well. You have one spec for single target DPS, and one for utility/multiple target fights. If I want to tank or heal, there should be more of an opportunity cost involved than casting for 10 seconds. I should have to leave the instance, see the trainer, and buy glyphs.

P.S. Yes I saw the Tankspot post about fixed game mechanics. Yes I remember vividly the Reck bomb video. Yes I went half mast.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ranty McRantrant

Crushadin said: "Jack quit... sry i didnt let you know."

I am not surprised in so many ways:

-Being a friend of an officer and apping to the guild for a raiding spot.
-Acting like a cock to me and others on the forums.
-Switching mains.
-Failing in every way on Herioc Dreamwalker.
-Vanishing without a trace.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Gamer Bio

If you read this, and haven't seen the first episode of Big Crits go check it out: www.bigcrits.com

The featured raiders at Big Crits are all being asked to do a self bio to give people who watch the show an idea of who they are as gamers. I don't know whether this is to communicate to the viewers that the players are people, or to plunk down their phat gaming resume.

For some reason, gamers can be a very discerning breed when presented with a gamer peer. We immediately size them up based on their pedigree and/or gaming preferences. I have heard more of my share of gamers sneer when someone presents that they play Wii, Farmville, or whatever the casual flavor of the month is.

Gamers are gamers are gamers. Whether you grew up playing Magic: The Gathering, SNES, or frisbee golf, there is a spirit common to everyone one way or another that it is all about playing and having fun. If anyone wants to play, go play with em.

That being said, I want to share my bio.

As long as I can remember, there have been video games. Being a youngin' I can remember the allure of arcade games and knowing friends with these things called computers and Ataris. If I could manage to find a quarter, or get one from my parents, I think it found a home in the nearest arcade cabinet. The NES was my gateway drug: Super Mario 3, Megaman 2&3, Battletoads, then to the Sega Genesis, N64, and stopping at the PC Games, with a minor detour playing games on Macs (my dad is a little of an apple fanboy.)

My little brother and I were fiends at whatever game came our way. It's hard to say it but he is a much better gamer than me, even though I spend vastly more time playing than him. Any type of competetive game we played I think he won more than I did. Marathon deathmatches, Doom, Command and Conquer, Starcraft, Goldeneye 007; we hashed it out on em all, and any given day I think he could best me.

Consoles sparked my interest but PC games fueled the fire. I still game on consoles a bit, but there is nothing more satisfying than playing PC games on a rig you built yourself. Not only that, but Emulators and ROMs got me through many summers of boredom. I got caught up on SNES JRPGs, Super Metriod, and other games I missed by having a Sega as a kid. You can play a lot of free stuff that you can find if you look hard enough. Super Mario RPG was my unicorn though; I don't think I ever found a working ROM for many years, and when I finally found one, we were playing Baldur's Gate II and KOTOR, and it didn't quite stand up.

I remember resisting playing WoW for a very long time. I knew it would be fun and good, but the concept of paying a monthly fee to play a game seemed foreign to me; after all, I got through college playing cracked PC games because I was poor and had bandwidth. I started playing about a month or so after I split with my first fiancee, when some roommates of mine introduced me to it and hooked me up with a trial key. This was back in May 2006.

Saltycracker will be my first and only I think. I leveled him from 1-60 in around 15 days of playtime, but quickly got bored because there was not much to do for a retnoob at 60. BC came and I went Holy then Ret then Prot and cleared everything. Wrath came and I tanked and ansgted through T8, where I went back Ret and now roll my face with the best of em.

Being an electrical engineer I still dabble in consoles a bit, but I find more fun breaking them and modding them than actually playing some of the games. I gave my little brother a chipped Xbox with a ton of roms on it for christmas five years ago and he says it's the best gift he ever got; I had to replace the hard drive in it recently because it wore out. I currently live in Denver, Colorado and am extremely lucky to have a great friend and fiancee Erin. We are getting married in December in New Mexico.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I got gonged and I liked it.

Gong Show took me in, gave me some loot and then shat me back out. Although I thought I did an acceptable job as a DPS paladin, they thought otherwise. Halfway through my trial, another paladin came in and eventually took my raid spot after about 3 bosses worth, and I thought he was a friend of an officer but I could be wrong. It was a pretty shady transition and after talking with the other paladin. I guess he applied to GS before I did, but couldn't join because he still wanted to raid with his previous guild. He had better gear than I did before I joined, and did more DPS than me on those few encounters, but not by a very big margin. My exodus from the guild may not have been entirely performance based, especially since these world ranked guild go through recruits like kleenex.

Gong show keeps a thread where raid members make comments about your raid performance, and here is how mine read:

Poor communication skills
Popped tons of ghosts on DW
Pulled aggro on beasts on Saurfang
Got hit by an extra block on Sind p3
Almost faceplanted an orange slime on a Putricide hard attempt and said he was fine when I asked him about it because he had rocket boots
Pretty bad at princes
Overall just dies a lot to random shit it seems, and a ret should be able to pull a little bit better numbers

Any criticism is good criticism so let's break this down.

-Poor communication skills.

I am still scratching my head about what this means, but I think this means in raid communication, i.e. raid chat and vent chat. I started to speak more towards the end of my trial as opposed to the beginning, but that's how it goes when you join any guild.

-Popped tons of ghosts on Lady Deathwhisper (HM).

Tons of ghosts apparently means 1 per attempt, and just as much as the other melee were failing on them. Granted recruits are under a microscope, but if it is happening as much as the other member melee, isn't the bar set there?

-Saurfang Beasts.

There is a bug where if you have Avenging Wrath active, it will bypass the AOE reduction buff that the beasts get. My AW buff was expiring heading into the beasts phase and I got hit by a blood beast, which in Hard Mode is a big deal; the raid is trying very hard to starve Saurfang of runic power in any way possible (BoPs on boiling blood raiders, tight taunt transitions, efficient killing of blood beasts.)

-Got hit with extra ice block on Sindragosa P3 (HM)

I never ever ever got hit with an extra block unless we were already wiping. In fact I never died to a phase 2 ice bomb, or screwed up a block position. I am scratching my head on this one as well.

-Orange Slime (Putricide HM)

This one aggravates me more than any other. I was trying my best to be proactive at killing the orange slime when the raid leader says he wants some initial damage on the ooze, and I had the foresight to use my rocket boots if the ooze picked me to chase. It did, I did. Is wiping to a bomb going off a more preferable option than using a cooldown to prevent it?

-Pretty bad at Princes (HM)

Guilty. It took me a few kills to get this one right. Shadow Prison is pretty tricky especially when there is nowhere to go when a non-empowered shock vortex goes off in the middle of the raid, or when all the melee gets a movement speed debuff right before an empowered one; this formula equals a huge pile of melee corpses and usually the ranged had to finish off the fight.

-Overall just dies to a lot of random stuff

I don't think I died any more than anyone else during attempts. The only two preventable deaths I could think of are:

1. Standing too close to the choking gas bombs a couple times when they went off

2. Vile spirit spawning right on top of the melee, waiting about 5 seconds before using any sort of AOE and promptly getting punched in the face. 5 seconds is more than enough time for a misdirect or a taunt.

-Low DPS

I was consistently in the top 5 in fights where you had to stand still and kill stuff, just what DPS paladins are good for; we have a severe penalty for switching targets. Fights where target changes happen often (LDW, Putricide, Blood Princes) I was usually hanging in the low middle range of the other melee in the raid.

Taking this criticism for what it is worth, I know where I need to improve. I also know how thin the line is between acceptable and unacceptable mistakes in world class raiding guilds. Part learning curve, part raw deal. GLHF Siqwence.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Posting topics

My brain is full and I want to put some of this in the cloud.

-Getting kicked out of Gong Show
-New Guild - Big Crits!
-Economy WTF
-US political system
-Entitlement inside and out of WoW
-The aversion to original ideas or why the remake/reboot is so comforting.

More as I get time to write.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The End?

My old raid guild died. Eden. It was a super fun place to raid with amazing cool people, but the management just fell apart. Kudos to Serenity, and her husband but in the end they created a place that needed infinite upkeep from them and it was too much to handle. I guess they brought it on themselves with a complex set of policies from everything to recruitment, gear audits, four DKP systems, scheduling each and every raider to each raid ahead of time, and even a policy of how to logout to Eden standards. Pretty damn anal, but to each their own. I applaud them for realizing they needed to shed the yoke while they had the chance, even if it meant that all their raiders would no longer have a home.

My new guild, Gong Show is pretty awesome too. The players are great, and they are very knowledgeable and skilled. I like to think of myself as a good player knowing strats, knowing how to gear, spec, gem, play, be aware, and all of the things that a good raider should be, but I am still learning stuff from these guys. Great fun.

The raid/guild leader is really impressive as well. He knows the fine line of positive and negative reinforcement very well and can motivate the raid very effectively, which is great considering he content we are learning (Heroic Putricide is going to eat shit tonight)

I really hope we kill Lich King on heroic soon, and I want to give everything I can to ensure that we do. 5 nights a week sounds a lot more fun that it is, and I really would rather be doing something with Erin on a few of those nights, but once farming hits 2 nights is all I would really like to spend doing this crap. Even then I will just be feeding Blizzard just to grind.

I think my time with this game is getting close to done. I don't agree with Blizzard's current model of providing content. I don't like this expansion at all, with the exception of Ulduar and Icecrown. Everything else has just been a loot padded house of farts. The only conflict I have right now is a sense of loyalty to the guild I play with. They brought me in and I feel that I owe them a debt that I need to repay by being useful to them. For now I want to help them get to the end goal, Arthas.

I guess the game has been challenging up until now because I have been trying to carve out a place for a Ret paladin in the grand scheme of things, and I feel like I have accomplished this. Not that I have single handedly accomplished this task, but that I have shown the people I have played with that Paladins can do as good or if not better than any pure DPS class. Ret paladins are accepted now and people realize their usefulness and have been accepted into the mind of a raid leader instead of shoehorned in by Blizzard because of the buffs they provide. PUGS can look for a DPS and a paladin can stand on their own feet.

Blizzard's WOLK formula is starting to show it's age, and I think Cataclysm will be a bandaid. It was a slippery slope shoveling gear down people's throats so that they can experience the content. The gear is why a lot of people played, to see how much they could perform and be able to upgrade their performance with better numbers. Now, people have the expectation of easy gear, and when it finally reaches the parity where everyone has the same gear as everyone else through nerfing and retooling, subscriptions will plummet.

It is the paradox of homogenation. I felt a sting when I learned that the uniqueness of my class was going to be shared with everyone else with the raid buff changes that accompanied WOLK. I understand why it was done and I enjoy not having to seek a elusive 1 raid member to make the raid machine perform. Nonetheless, this meant that raid members and classes were now interchangeable to a degree and some classes were at a comparative (dis)advantage. With the gear and stat changes coming with Cataclysm, it feels like more of the same. Blizzard is going to shoehorn you into the stats they think you should be using and leave no wiggle room in terms of how you gear.

I might be eating my words when I see the final changes (Talent tree overhauls, new mechanics, etc.) but I feel the same sting coming. My question to myself is, do I want to keep funding this type of homogenization, or swallow my concerns and have marginally less fun. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chinese Food

Jill likes chinese food. It's not something that she could eat everyday, but I don't think I could either for an extended period of time. I am pretty sure that I like chinese food more than Jill, which leaves me wanting sometimes when I want some good chinese food, but Jill doesn't find it all that appetizing. I also find that when I ask Jill what she would like, she hardly ever mentions that she wants chinese.

Jill's temperament is also very finicky when it comes to eating chinese; sometimes she doesn't feel well, sometimes it's too late to eat chinese, and sometimes the chinese isnt very good and that will put her off about eating it at a later time. We both know that I like chinese, 2-3 times a week would be my preference and then trying different dishes and flavors as well. I definitely have my dish preferences, but sometimes I like to deviate and find something new to try.

Jill knows I like chinese, and she can empathize when we haven't eaten it in a while and knows that I miss eating chinese. If anyone is denied something they want for an extended period of time for no identifiable reason, I think their moods become significantly affected. Mine is no different. I get moody and bitchy if a lot of time goes by where chinese isn't a part of my day.

I can't blame Jill for not wanting chinese with me. I could go get chinese by myself, and it might be nice to eat alone, but that isn't a long term solution as I like sharing chinese with Jill. If I ate alone, I would have to be discrete about it, because I don't think Jill would like the idea of me having chinese without her. I think she would feel bad because she doesn't enjoy chinese as much as I do.

I want there to be a solution where I don't simply want chinese food less, or Jill must force herself have chinese just to make me happy. I wonder if I just have a lot of bad chinese food, then I will not want to have it as much.

I don't think I am helping the situation at all by playing WoW three nights a week with my buddies. I come home, have about an hour to eat and talk, and then play late. There isn't enough time on those days to have chinese and enjoy it with someone else. When Jill wants chinese, there needs to be time devoted to it, and it can't be rushed. It is a meal to be enjoyed, and eaten together.

I feel like I have put myself in an impossible situation, wanting something that I am unwilling to commit time towards. Three nights a week are locked out from having chinese, which leaves four days left in the week. I could have chinese all of those days, but it is a crap shoot if Jill feels the same, and with her tolerance for chinese there comes maybe one day in those four that chinese actually might present itself as an option.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Posting more.

I just use my blog mainly as a springboard to all the other ones I am watching, but something postworthy happens once in a while.

I decided to go into work late, so I could sell my TV to some guy after work. Rather than get up and do something productive, I think I made a conscious choice to stay in bed and dream. Not because I was tired, but because my dream felt like it wasn't being dreamt to it's satisfaction.

I had a dream where I was floating around a city. It was a very urban place like Paris or NYC. It was me going home after work, through a crowded market, a plaza, up and down stairs, just kind of cool. I got home and immediately my conciousness was transferred to another person, who then started the trip in reverse, and a slightly different route. This dream has happened a few times and I want it to return so I can examine this place closer.

I also had an idea for a short story the other day. A person that celebrates the birth of every day, and mourns the death of every day.