Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hot Topic: Hard raid hallelujah!

If you're not Finnish, I hope to god you didn't get that reference. If you did, I wish you early onset alzheimers so you may forget you ever heard that horrible horrible song.

So Karthis seems to have set the ball rolling and WoWwiki are trying to pick it up about the current raid content and how mindnumbingly easy it is. When I hear Fusion say they've run all of naxx25 with 2(!) healers and 2 tanks...that just makes me want to cry. But so what? This is entry level raiding, it's going to be entry level even when eventually we've got the sunwell equivalent of wotlk. It's Karazhan for 25man. So what?

Now, you might argue that KZ was, initially, a lot harder than naxx, and I'll agree, the trash required more focus and the fights were relatively speaking more complex. However, when my friends who used to play in Massive rolled a bunch of fresh chars and "returned" in early TBC, they also cleared the original KZ in one night, every boss on the first attempt. Good players who know how to adapt will be able to do this, especially as it's not their first time in this game, or any other. Yeah sure, Blizz could have introduced Naxx, Maly and Sarth as harder than they did, in style with KZ/Gruul/Maggy(which, I'm told, was completely insane when TBC came out). But that's not really the problem.

Problem is the normal dungeons are pointless. In TBC, you had to farm rep to get into heroics. Even more so, you had to farm gear to be able to do said heroics. You had to do the heroics to get into KZ(even if we ignore the atunement quests, which to be honest, no sane person would miss).

Now what we do is get to 80 by questing and then go do Naxx25man. Normal dungeons at 80? HAH! Not done a single one, barely did a few while leveling my main since there was plenty of people from the guild to group with and I had a few quests. But you can literally level to 80 without ever entering a dungeon and go straight into naxx25 now. That's just a bit lame. Yeah there's some ok gear to start off with to be had from heroics, but you don't need it. Naxx is tuned so low, not only is it accessible to everyone, it's accessible without any effort what so ever.

Now while I don't expect there to be content designed for hardcore guilds since day 1 of a new expansion, I do expect there to be some kind of progression even before the first major content patch. Now you may argue that the achievements are the content for the hardcore, but to me, achievements initially seemed like the casual players delight. However, it seems these are being approriated to fill the content hole for hardcore raiders as well, so I guess that's just something I have to live with. And yes, some are useful for keeping people focused while we wait for Ulduar, but the lack of tangible awards from doing most of them does mean a lot of hardcore players aren't terribly motivated. Having said this, Sarth3D seems to be the model for the future, so I guess I should talk about that a bit.

Now, I like Sarth3D as an encounter. It's not as hard as people make it out to be, there's about 3 things to look out for of the "don't stand in the fire" nature, there's some adds so there's actual need for multiple tanks, and there's a real risk of tanks dying so it's somewhat interesting from a tanking/healing perspective as well. But once people stop failing the voids, the flame walls and learn not to just dps like crazy if their on low hp while Vespiron is up, it's a pretty easy fight. 3.0.8 made it a bit harder for those of us not using DK tanks, but that was still cured just by setting up a cooldown rotation on the MT if you weren't allready using one(there really wasn't a need for it before). The encounter is actually somewhat well liked in the guild, since it's not a complete faceroll and we actually have to do more than just show up and loot. The fact that is has extra loot also placates those who don't give a shit about achievements. The fact that it's a lot more fun than the pragmatic Immortal or annoying Maly 6min(which favours dk's and range dps heavily, which again, sucks) is also a huge plus.

Now, when we heard there's going to be tons of hard modes in Ulduar, and they are going to be modeled after Sarth3d, most of our guild seemed to rejoice. Sure, very few of us are actually the least bit syked about vehicle combat, but what the hell. That being said, there are some achivements which have clearly become all-around hated, and which nobody would like to see in Ulduar hard modes:

1. "Ironman" - Sure, when you've cleared everything and content is irrelevant, doing old farm content with as few players as possible is a challenge in itself. But it's not fun to 20man content for a bloody achievement. Make it so you can choose to increase the overall difficulty by 20% instead. Some switch or whatever, make use of the "Epic" setting that allready exists in the game(if you don't know what this is, it's because it's never actually been used for anything). Taking the time out of farming content to Ironman it just sucks for the people who get left outside a raid. It's not fun, it doesn't add complexity, it's just shit.

2. Immortal - Anything that hinges on people not disconnecting or lagging for completion is pretty damn shit. It wouldn't be so bad if the servers weren't lagging, but as it is, the only reason Immortal has only been done by 1% of guilds(according to GuildOx) isn't that it's hard, it's that you have to do it far off peak raidtimes, the guilds on our server who've gotten it have just done it at 23:00-02:00 servertime(most raids on our server are 19:00-23:00). Again, it doesn't add complexity, it just hinges on random shit and lag.

3. Random component - Right. So this is stuff like Gonna Go When the Volcano Blows. This is, literally, a reward for fucking up. If you actually do what you're supposed to, there's just about nothing you can do to avoid getting hit by a meteor. If you get that lucky, it wasn't that you did anything right, it was just random. This might be the most idiotic achievement EVER! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

So what should the Ulduar hard modes be like then? It should be pretty obvious from this post, but let me summerize it anyway:

1. Adds! - Force the tanks to work harder, the healers to work harder, the dps to disengage from their task every now and then. Adds add complexity. Complexity is good.

2. Distractions! - Force us to do more than just stand there and wait for shit to happen. Voids, flame walls, beams(think Illidan) and what not. Keep us on our toes, keep us focused. Distracting people makes the fight more complex. Complexity is good.

3. Phases! - Phases change the nature of an encounter. When done right(read: not like the utter boredom of Phase 1 on KT atm) they make for a more complex encounter. Complexity is good.

So what do hardcore raiders want? COMPLEXITY! Because when you're being pushed to your limit having to do 10 things at a time, you actually feel like you've achieved something. And when there's an appropriate reward for doing that, you are actually insentivised to do it. And most importantly, the fight is different, and in this way, it actually creates another layer of real content.

[Edit]Damn, got a bit carried away and forgot to say that, although some seem to be harkening back to how great it was in TBC when there was KZ/SSC/TK/BT/Sunwell and therefore there was something for every level of player, people are forgetting that was the situation at the END of TBC. We're only getting started with WotLK, so ofcourse we're not going to have the same spectrum of content, don't be silly. But at this point in time, that spectrum should be dungeons/heroics/10man raids/25man raids, in that order. The problem is, it's basicly just 25man raids, there's no steps to be done in between. You might have spent weeks, even months, clearing things like SSC and TK. In BT and especially in Sunwell, one single boss might have had you on the ropes for as long as the whole of SSC or TK took you to clear. But you sure as hell didn't take a week to learn Prince(or 'Spite), Gruul or Maggy. The fact that Sarth3D took even a few days to learn for decent guilds(before the videos came out, damn nice work Fusion btw) is shocking for 3.0 content. To expect anything else than to have everything on farm within a few weeks, if you are a good guild, was just dillusional. It's the price we pay for being progression raiders. It also means we get to enjoy life until the next major content patch, or at the very least level some alts(working on my 3rd atm, guildmate is on his 5th or 6th...). Let's be honest, nobody wants to raid 24/7 from 3.0 straight to the end of WotLK. Getting the whole content farmed in 2h each week wouldn't upset me one bit at this point(without lag I figure we could do it in about 2h 30min atm if we tried).[/Edit]

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bite me!

Seems 3.0.9 is in the pipelines without a hint of an warning and perhaps due for a release this week. Unexpected to say the least.

The only change so far is a cap on Ferocious Bite energycost at base(35)+30. Welcome news if perhaps a bit underwhelming from a PvE standpoint. A lower cap would have made the ability very useful in a PvE dps rotation but would also have reduced kitty PvP burstdamage to a point where it would have been rather insignificant. Personally I believe it's a mistake to balance feral PvP around a pure burst ability, rather it should be brought more in line with the bleed-effects which allready dominate the PvE rotation. As it is we feel like some half-hearted mix between a rogue and a warrior, neither side developed properly. All we're good for is farming flags in WsG. Well, hopefully getting rid of the distraction of the once-in-a-while big crit of FB might allow Blizzard to get around to adressing some of the classes real PvP issues. And once they figure out how they want us to work in PvP maybe we'll get a really decent PvE finisher out of FB. One can only hope.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Glimpse of the Future

One of the primary reasons behind the 3.0.8 armour nerf was that we were getting very close to hitting the cap. Now with 3.1 we're being told we'll get a new shield-mechanic working off offensive stats, but they want to nerf our armour further. Natural reaction is probably to think that maybe Blizz sees us closing in on the cap again in further tiers, so let's check if that's the case, or if a further armour nerf combined with a potentially weakened block-mechanic(can only mitigate one hit after a crit) is wholly unjustified.

First some quick examples of gear at the current iLvls:

iLvl 200 564
iLvl 213 578 (+2.48%)
iLvl 226 591 (+2.19%)

iLvl 200 494
iLvl 213 506 (+2.44%)
iLvl 226 517 (+2.17%)

Now the numbers for all 8 slots of leather gear + the cloak slot(assuming no bonus armour as it's not multiplied anymore):
At iLvl 200 armour from gear is 3394
At iLvl 213 armour from gear is 3480 (+2.53)

Projections for the next tiers:
T8.25: iLvl 226, total armour from gear 3567 (+2.5%)
T9.25: iLvl 239, total armour from gear 3656 (+2.5%)
T10.25: iLvl 252, total armour from gear 3747 (+2.5%)

After applying current armour modifiers(8.58) we get:
T7.10: iLvl 200, total armour from gear 29120
T7.25: iLvl 213, total armour from gear 29858
T8.25: iLvl 226, total armour from gear 30604
T9.25: iLvl 239, total armour from gear 31368
T10.25: iLvl 252, total armour from gear 32149

Conclusion? With the current modifier and assuming no bonus armour items we'd still be short of our pre-3.0.8 potential numbers even at a theorethical T10.25 gearlevel. Barring some pretty crazy bonus armour items we can all but kiss hitting the cap(49.905 vs. lvl83 mobs) goodbye.

So then what does that mean? It means we're getting a sub-par block for tanking trash whilst losing out on the best scaling stat against hard hitting physical bosses. 3.1 doesn't make us any more healable, and as such doesn't enable us to scale with stamina as we could. There's not relief for our single avoidance mechanic which is allready hitting the DR. In short? At current time, unless the effectiveness of this new shield is truely insane we're looking at a nerf.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Classification of encounters based on tanking

Khalon's recent Anti-Tank series is an interesting idea as to how the 3.0.8 armour changes might be used to our advantage. However, viewing his talent spec, I realized he hadn't actually changed much of anything compared to a normal tanking spec, which made me question the premiss of his anti-tank gear. Are there really encounters in which it's advantageous to have a cross between feral dps and feral tank gear?

Single Tank Encounter
Examples: Maexxna, Heigan, Loatheb, Sapphiron

These are encounter in which the only circumstances under which a OT will be required to tank is if the MT dies. Pure DPS gear is recomended.

Multiple Tank Encounter
Examples: Razuvious, Patchwerk, Gluth, Sartharion

These encounters require multiple tanks for the full duration(or close there to) of the encounter. OT's will take significant damage during the encounter and therefore full tank gear is required.

Optional Multiple Tank Encounter
Examples: Anub'Rhekan, Faerlina, Noth, Grobbulus, (Kel'Thuzad), Malygos, VoA

These encounters are most commonly done with a limited time OT, or an OT who will take very litle damage. In each case if sufficiently geared, the MT can take the adds which are normaly the OT's responsability, or the OT can be replaced by generic plate-dps who equips a shield for the situation(Malygos, VoA). Even if using an OT, argueably on all of these encounters the OT can wear pure DPS gear for the entire fight(although the advantages of this on Noth are questionable).

Limited Time Multiple Tank Encounter
Examples: (Anub'Rhekan), (Faerlina), Gothik, (Four Horsemen), Thaddius, (Kel'Thuzad)

These encounters are typically phased encounters or encounters with one-time-only adds. During phases without adds or once initial adds have been disposed of, the OT is free to DPS. This type of encounters usually has quite low damage on the OT and therefore the OT can either be replaced entirely, or the encounter can be OT'd in DPS gear.

Damage Mechanic Multiple Tank Encounter
Examples: Four Horsemen, Kel'Thuzad

These encounters have some mechanic which constitutes a threat to players or a burden on healers the more players are involved in an optional situation.
In the case of Four Horsemen, a tank who has finished with his job on Baron/Thane might decided to run in and start tanking or DPS'ing Zeliek. However, due to the nature of the fight, he now presents one more target for the healers to heal. Also, whilst moving away from Zeliek he may cause further links, increasing the chance of that his Holy Wrath will jump to multiple targets and insta-gib someone.
In Kel'Thuzad, whilst during Phase 2 no OT is required, each additional melee dps increases the number of targets for Frost Blast and increasing chane of Shadow Fissure in a highly crowded area.
What possible additional DPS the OT may provide in said situations is far outweighed by the additonal risks to the raid he constitutes. In such encounters, it is therefore better for the OT to simply stand off to the side than when not needed.

So my findings are that there is no situation, atleast in the current content, where the Anti-Tank gearset which Khalon suggests is actually useful. You are better off having two seperate sets of tank and dps gear.