Sunday, March 29, 2009

Taking A Look Around: Classic WoW

The last article was certainly an interesting one. It was a new way of writing for me, the content was heavier and made you think more (I hope). I’ve received some good responses, so I’m glad about that.

As a way to start today’s post, I’d like to quote a comment made by Anonymous: “Sometimes in the heat of Wowing we forget why we rolled Class X and why it stuck on us like it did.” An excellent summary of what I intended to say in that particular post, and I thank you for that, Anonymous. However, it got me thinking, and I came to the conclusion that it was much broader than just that. I dare to say that “sometimes in the heat of Wowing, we forget why we initially fell in love with the game and why it stuck on us like it did.”

Exploration has always been a passion of mine. Even before I reached level 70 in TBC, I went out and explored every part of Azeroth and Outland. It was my goal to have seen the best places the World had to offer, to have filled all the maps. When the achievement system was introduced I pretty much already had the Explorer tabard and title, as I had already seen most places long before that (with the exception of Northrend, of course).

Today, most people run around Azeroth without even glancing at their surroundings anymore. I know, as I find myself doing it as well. And it’s perfectly understandable. All the hours of idling in Dalaran or Shattrath, questing in the starting areas or Hellfire Peninsula, farming the same dungeons over and over, at some point it becomes “been there, seen that”. But when you think about it, it’s a shame. A shame that such beautiful places are taken for granted, because we’ve all seen them 100 times before.

And so, as a tribute to all those beautiful places, I’d like to share with you some of the places that have literally made me “WOW”. Out of my Azeroth collection and in no particular order:

I find the Loch a beautiful zone, and unfortunately I’ve never had the pleasure of questing in it. Its main attraction for me is the Stonewrought Dam though, and not so much the view from below (as depicted on the screenshot), but the view from the top looking down. Needless to say, I bubbled and jumped down.

Maraudon was one of my more recent ventures, and while it’s an extremely long and annoying instance, you can’t deny its beauty. Huge waterfalls, magnificent stone bridges, blooming flowers, and vibrant colors make for an awesome place to be (if only you could say the same about its Princess). Any screenshots taken really don’t do it justice, the only way is to see it for yourself and walk through it.

Maybe a slightly confusing choice, but I have to say that I absolutely love the design of Stranglethorn Vale, and Booty Bay in particular. It’s not just the visuals, it’s the entire feel of it. Out of all my favorite places, Booty Bay is the one place I actually visit regularly. I’ll sit down for some fishing, run around dressed as a pirate, or try to seduce Catelyn the Blade. Without success so far, I should say. I’m missing some important Catelyn/Blackwater Raiders rep.

I visited all those places today, and I enjoyed it very much. It brought back some good memories. My advice to all of you: take the time to visit your favorite places again. And then show me what they are.

Next up: Pretty places in Outland!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Someone Post Meters

“Someone post meters plz”. I used to cringe whenever I read it. These days, I merely sigh. Not because I hate statistics. I run the Recount addon as well, and check the results after a raid. No, I sigh because I know what's coming. In between all the random chatter, one inevitable sentence stands out:

“I deserve that item, cause I was highest.”

I always pug VoA-25 and OS-25, and I regularly see the aforementioned situation unfold before my very eyes. Sure, you were highest DPS, Mister X. But you also followed Archavon around after his jumps, ending up in his dust cloud. You came dangerously close to the stairs, as well, at some point. And you never even tried to dodge the rock shards targeted at you, even though there were a few other people right on top of you. All in all, you may have done the most damage, but you unnecessarily stressed the rest of the raid in the process. And that’s something the meters won’t tell you.

The upcoming Patch 3.1 is, of course, accompanied by class changes, some more severe than others. And while it’s still under development, “buff X, nerf Y” and comparison topics are popular. The most recent popular one being “Hybrids vs Pures”.

The main point of the debate is whether or not hybrid classes (Shamans, Warriors, Druids, Priests, Death Knights and Paladins) should be able to do just as much DPS as the “pure” classes (Rogues, Hunters, Mages and Warlocks). After all, the Pures can only DPS, whereas Hybrids can respec and perform as another role if DPS isn’t needed. So, in return, because the Pures can only DPS, they should be the best at it.

In one of these Hybrids vs Pures topics on the official forums, Ghostcrawler fought the urge to reply and lost. One of the things he said was this: “We don't think there would be many pure DPS players unless they knew that it was theoretically possible for them to "win the meters." The risk of being useless would be too great.”*

That sentence perfectly states what's important to players these days. Damage meters. I can’t help wondering: is that really what the game is all about, some statistics monitor that keeps track of your damage output? And what if your name doesn’t come up on the top (or below a certain someone who you don’t want to be below), all hell breaks loose? If the answer is yes for you, then please answer the following question: when did you stop loving your class?

Back when I started playing, I rolled a Warrior as my first toon. I leveled him to 20, but during that time I never really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the game, but didn’t like the class. I started experimenting with other classes, and ended up rolling a Paladin. It instantly felt good. The Paladin was the perfect embodiment of the melee fighter with some spellcasting capabilities that I envisioned. The seal system, which gave you a buff when activated, but turned into a debuff when judged onto an enemy, was intriguing and ingenious. It fit my style perfectly, and if anyone would ask me what class I played, I could proudly say “Paladin”. And during my entire playing time, that hasn’t changed.

Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Do you play a Rogue because you were promised to be the best of the raid, or because of the kick-ass backstabbing, mutilating, shadowstepping sneakyness that your class has? I certainly hope the latter.

There’s too much focus on statistics meters these days. Granted, it’s a nice way to keep track of your performance, and might help you improve your playing style. I even encourage that behavior. But it’s often taken to extremes, becoming “meter madness”. The meters become the only thing that counts, and people feel that they deserve things because of their high DPS.

Personally, I’m a big fan of the flexibility. Stopping a broken loose mob in its tracks before it reaches the healer, interrupting a spell, dispelling a debuff as a DPS. Anything outside your main function that saves the raid from a wipe or brings back order to a chaotic fight is worth more than a high number on the DPS meter. I regularly commend fellow raiders whose on-the-fly acting has saved the day.

Disable that Recount addon for a change. Raid without it, and just focus on completing the task at hand. I’m sure that you’ll enjoy yourself much more.

*Although a very interesting topic, the Hybrids vs. Pure debate isn’t the focus of this post. It might prove interesting enough for a future post, but I’m letting it play out a bit more for now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Soul Searching

As a (relatively) new blogger, I am always searching for new ways to improve my blog. The new layout was one of them, and even though it's still not exactly what I want, I find it an improvement. Chances are I'll only be able to get the exact look I want if I start self-hosting, and right now that is not an option, so the next best thing is good enough for now.

The other point of improvement is obvious: content. Right now, most of the content is "I did X, raided Y, achieved Z", which is all good, of course. After all, it's my blog and I talk about whatever I want. But therein lies the trick: even though I enjoy writing about those things, it's not enough. When progress comes to a halt, there's nothing interesting to say. "Well, we cleared Naxx-10....again. Nothing special." That's not fun to say, that's almost like writing for the sake of writing. And as soon as blogging becomes a chore, you should stop. But seriously, I don't want to stop blogging, so the only other option is to expand my horizon.

So, in my search for inspiration, I spent a while reading blogposts and articles on several different blogs. I ended up with a revelation while reading some articles on World of Matticus. Naturally, some piqued my interest more than others. A post about Northrend faction reputation was enjoyable to read, for instance, while a post focused on the usefulness of certain Priest abilities didn't really interest me that much (most likely it'll interest me more as soon as my Priest becomes a more important character).

Then I stumbled upon something that made me sit on the edge of my seat: Matt's view on guilds. A full explanation on how he runs his guild, why he chose that particular path and what he does to make sure he doesn't stray from that path. Over the years I've been second in rank in several guilds, spread out over several MMO's. When I started playing WoW, I decided I didn't need that anymore. I like to have some level of responsibility, but I decided I'd always remain a "care-free member". However, guild mechanics still interest me to this day, and I enjoy observing Samsara as its Officers make decisions, and how its members react to them.

And while reading that, my revelation occurred. I'm a social player. I love raiding, and I wouldn't give that up. I, too, feel the need of progress. But the social aspect of the game intrigues me a lot. How do players act around new members? What happens when a new loot system is introduced? How do people interact with something every guild has: the Guild Joker? Those are the questions I ask myself, and I come up with the answers by my observances.

I found my niche, I think. Instead of just talking about what I do, I should talk about what I see as well. And about what I think of those things. Theorycrafting isn't my thing, nor is talking about upcoming patch info. I'll leave those things to the people who are good at it, and maybe branch out into it myself if I ever feel the need. Like, as often as a solar eclipse.

So that is what's going to happen from now on. It'll take some effort to flip the switch from "I see what's going on" to "I see what's going on, let's write something about it", but that's all part of the learning curve.

The most interesting thing of all? You may think you know yourself in and out, but you can learn something new about yourself every single day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

For lack of anything better

Some random ramblings to sum up last week:

The raiding coalition didn't work out in the end. I'm not quite sure what went wrong, but it did, and I don't really feel the need to keep asking questions. It's a shame for the 25-mans, since those are out the window again. There's still some 10-man stuff I can get, but most of the upgrades are from 25-mans now. And I like the new challenge of 25-mans, having a bigger raid, stronger bosses, more trash, etc. Of course there's still Sarth as our challenge, which we can still improve to two and three drakes, and Malygos, who we haven't downed yet. But with Ulduar coming, getting ready for 25-mans is becoming increasingly important.

My Priest hit Outlands and is lvl 59 now. Time to charge through that place and into Northrend.

Naxx-10 again yesterday and today. I seem to get picked every week lately (I sign up every week for the lack of better things to do in the weekend), shortage of DPS perhaps? I don't know. The proof is there that we've got Naxx on farm now, with a consistent full clear in two nights each week for the last month or so. It's still fun to do (apart from Construct), and each weeks raid composition makes the raid interesting. This week we had an all-melee group (the ranged couldn't come, and no other ranged were available at the time to replace them), which made fights like Kel'thuzad very interesting. It's that little twist that keeps you sharp, forcing you to adapt to the situation and step out of your routine.

I also went into Molten Core today, for some retro raiding. Unfortunately it wasn't as fun as I'd hoped because of the idiot PuG me and a few guildies were in. Loot whores who were nagging for gear, consistently rolling on gear that wasn't for their class and sulking when they didn't get the T1 that dropped. Seriously, don't say you need it, cause you don't. If you're leveling up, you'll get better gear in no time, and if you're lvl 80 you already have better gear. The classic Tier sets are novelty items now, so treat them as such. Ah well, I got to see Molten Core, kill Ragnaros and get the achievement.

My healing gear is done. Almost all pieces are enchanted, everything is gemmed and the only thing left is experience. I'm eagerly waiting for the dual specs, since it's hard to say goodbye to my DPS spec for long. I know exactly what I'm doing as Ret, and people have come to expect a certain level of performance from me in that role. A big part of me wants to immediately do a good job at healing, but I know that isn't possible. I'll need to dive in and accept the learning curve.

And as a final brain wave, maybe I should start writing some insightful posts to fill the gaps when there's nothing much happening otherwise. I still have that Retribution guide I can post...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Track marbles, track dust bunnies, track...

Not much under the horizon for the past few days since my last post. Friday is always a non-WoW day for me, and a pleasant day out made today the same.

I did go into Naxx again on saturday, though. And it's going better and better, because we cleared three quarters in one night again. Tuesday's follow-up day as usual, and I have no doubts Kel'Thuzad will die once again.

In other news, I rolled a Hunter. A very good friend / guildie of mine dared me to level a Hunter (more specifically, a TAUREN Hunter), for a reason I can't remember anymore. Maybe cause she's a Hunter-turned-Paladin, and felt like I should do the same. And since I can't say no to her anyway, I rolled that Hunter. I doubt it'll get far, but as long as I'm enjoying the companion of my wolf pet, I'll probably spend some time on him every now and then. And change his name. Molgar of Mulgore, what was I thinking?

By the way, have you ever rolled a Hunter? They have a tracking ability for, like, EVERYTHING. Beasts, okay. I understand that. Humanoids, fair enough. But Demons, Undead (without a handy glyph thankfully), Dragonkin, Elementals, Critters, NPC's, GM's, Enemy Players, Foliage, etc... You get the idea, it's pretty extensive.

Aaaaand, I guess I could talk PTR/3.1/Ulduar/SA loss/talent tree revamp stuff, but I'm not really that kind of guy. I'll gladly answer any questions regarding those matters, maybe even make a post out of it if there's enough questions to fill a post with (then again, that would require readers in the first place to ask those questions), but I don't really want to go really in-depth on it. My short opinion on all this stuff is simple: It's the PTR. I don't believe anything until I'm reading it in the official patch notes on release day.

Now, go out and track some undead. Or wait, SENSE Undead. What are we, Hunters?

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's all fun and games...

...until someone loses an eye. At least that's what they say. So, was mondays Eye of Eternity fun and games?

Yes it was, but no one lost an eye. It being my first time up against Malygos, the fight was a learning curve. It took a while before we got phase 1 down, positioning right and making sure we all survive the vortex. However, sometimes it ticked for the expected 2000, and sometimes for a "mere" 1400. And as soon as we hit phase 2, the Nexus Lords just hit the crap out of us. It was incredible, the amount of damage we got, even inside the bubbles. It made me think Eye of Eternity was bugged for the night or something. More so because I had trouble seeing (and targeting) people until they moved, and our tank was seeing people up to their waist in the floor. All in all very strange. So, in the end we had to give in and let Malygos life for another night.

The Naxx10 follow-up was on tuesday, and it was a blast! We quickly cleared the Military Quarter, the only one left, and went on to Sapphiron, who we one-shotted without too much trouble. On to Kel'Thuzad! Last time I was in Naxx I got this far, but couldn't get him down. So needless to say, it was time to set things right! We made sure we were fully prepared, and headed in. Phase 1 is always a bore in my opinion, it takes quite long and doesn't get interesting until KT himself joins the fight. The problem of him joining the fight though, is the obvious and inevitable increase in raid damage. It proved too much for us on our first attempt, and the second try as well. On our third attempt we nailed it, and the achievements for downing KT and clearing Naxx filled the screen. That's one more for the record! One step closer to Champion of the Frozen Wastes.

And then Naxx25 the following day, with our raiding coalition! It was very enjoyable running with people I've never raided with before. All good people as well, both in skill and personality. Still, I didn't enjoy myself as much as I'd hoped I would. Maybe it was because we started (and finished) in the Construct Quarter, my least favorite wing. I'd rather see Military or Plague, those are the fun ones. We got to Thaddius and tried him a few times, but it just wasn't meant to be. So we went off to the Military Quarter and tried our hand on Razuvious, but it proved too late already for some people, so we had to call it.

It was 0.20 server time and we were done. Quite honestly, I don't have a problem with finishing early (0.20 is early for me, I'm a real night owl), but you can't combine it with starting late. If you start at 22.00, you can't finish at midnight. I know that we have a lot of people who just can't log on earlier or have to go before it's too late. They have children, they have jobs, they have various other obligations. And I respect that, because we all do. But quite honestly, two hours just isn't enough for a decent raid. Sartharion and Malygos don't need nearly that much time, provided everyone has experience with the fight and you only need two, maybe three attempts. But Naxxramas does. And especially in a 25-man, two hours just isn't going to cut it. Maybe when you've got it on farm, but not in the earliest stages of 25-manning.

Then again, maybe it's just me, and I just have too much time for this stuff.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ain't that place empty yet?

Hooray for late night posts, it's becoming standard issue lately.

Lots of Naxxramas! First, a guild run in Naxx10 where we plowed through three wings in one night without wiping. We have Military left to do, and then it's off to Sapphiron and Kel'Thuzad! The follow-up is on tuesday, as usual, and I'm very confident we'll clear it.

And remember that Naxx25 from the day before, that I couldn't attend? Their follow-up was tonight, and at some point during the evening they asked me to fill in for a lost DPS. I ended up in the 25-man strong raid group with our raiding coalition guild, and together we went through Construct Quarter. We got as far as Gluth, but too many people called it a night after him, so Thaddius was a no-go. Still, I had a lot of fun and got a taste of how our coalition raids go. I'm definately looking forward to more raids with them.

My Death Knight is also getting a bit of love again, and I'm almost up to the Wrathgate again. It'll be interesting to see the upcoming events from the Alliance perspective. Lore-wise you only get the full information if you play both sides, I've noticed. Things I didn't get to know when playing through Northrend as Vaadren, got explained in detail while questing with Rhyl. Pieces start to fall together, and you really get a view of the whole picture.

Malygos tomorrow, I hope I'm drafted for the team!

Friday, March 6, 2009

What's the deal with friday?

I'm sure you all noticed the change to the layout. I was in need of something new and fresh, and I quite liked the look of it. I set up a poll to ask you what you think about it, so don't hesitate to voice your opinion.

Nothing much under the horizon WoW-wise, it's like spring break for me or something. The Malygos raid went through on monday, but unfortunately they didn't get her down. Oh well, better luck next time, and more chances for me to join the raid. I'm itching to see some content again.

As far as 25-mans go, we're not up to scratch yet. Lots of people are itching, but it's proving impossible to get 25 people online at the same time for any decent amount of time. So our officers decided to take a different approach on the matter. They contacted another guild we have good connections with, and set up a raiding coalition. Both guilds will provide half of the people needed, and together we'll rock the house. It sounds like an awesome idea, and apart from a few things that'll have to be sorted out really well to prevent discontent (raid leaders, loot rules, etc.), I'm quite sure that this will work out. But with seven days in a week, I do have to ask the question:

Why always on the one night I can't come?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Up the Ladder

Not much time spent in WoW the last couple of days. This odd thing called "Real Life" took a bit more of my time than anticipated.

One fun thing though: my guild has decided to appoint so-called Class Leaders for each class, mainly so people have a designated person to turn to with questions. I was appointed as the Paladin class leader together with a good Paladin friend of mine. Since he knows a lot about Protection, I about Retribution and us both combined a lot about Holy, this is the perfect combination.

The first assignment was to liven up the class boards on our forum a little, so I spent the better part of today visiting theorycrafting sites, collecting data and combining that data with my own knowledge into a Retribution guide. It was time consuming, yes, but also very fun to do. After typing it all out in Word, it was a good five pages long, and is now on our forum, waiting to be read. I'm still debating whether or not to put it up here.

On another note, Samsara's first Malygos raid is scheduled for tomorrow night. Of course the Sods Law dictates that I have other stuff to do that evening, so I won't be joining them yet again on their first adventures. But hey, there's always next time!

EDIT: Darn it! I had hoped to keep up the thursday-sunday updating schedule, but the newest post registered as monday already!