Archive for May, 2011

It’s true, I jump to conclusions about people really quickly, I am way too impulsive…in game. Which is ironic because I don’t make fast friends or take against someone quickly in real life. I’m very reserved and slow to form judgements about people. In fact I just try to take people as they are and see the best in them and not make judgements. I have a tiny group of people I’m close to and then there’s everyone else. I have no great hatred of anyone however.

I think that, because the relationships in WoW are more ephemeral and transient and so unimportant, I get to play with being off the cuff and more knee-jerk. I have to say the results are pretty good. You meet people fleetingly and it is necessary to make snap judgements. OK half the people I meet in WoW hate me, but that’s fine because I imagine WoW as a little world I pop my thumb into and waggle it about arousing reactions from people. I know that most other people feel like they immerse themselves as themselves into this online world. Honestly they’re not being honest with themselves. They think they have their head inserted wholly into this world, most have it inserted into their own ass.

So I understand perfectly when some people become enraged at me and behave like I’ve done something staggeringly wrong, either by slating their play, attitude or behaviour. They behave like I ‘poked them in the eye’ or maybe cut off a limb, they feel this world is almost as important as the real one and that they really have their head in it. All were doing mostly is having some kind of thumb war. When people are raging at Fleetfoot it’s like they’re raging at my thumb inserted into this world. I can almost come around to where they are sitting, in their home, painting an enraged face on their thumb to stick into World of Warcraft to go postal on my ass (my thumb’s ass, LOL).

I can completely step to one side and evaluate the quality of the interactions in general, and my interactions in particular in this game, and be objective. It’s a game, meh. Douche in game, douche in real life? Well, I’d say that depends how much of yourself you invest into your character. People mock me and accuse me of being a bit ‘RP’ when I talk about Fleetfoot (“poor Fleety”) in the third person. However, this is a little telling. I laugh at Fleety’s misfortunes and that’s easy because that isn’t me. I am authoring Fleetfoot‘s voice, yeah, however that simply makes me the author of Fleetfoot’s words, she is narrating her own story though.

Let me explain. When you write a book, let’s take an extreme example like American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, you can write in the first person: “I did this I went there, I saw them…” American Psycho is narrated by Patrick Bateman, serial killer and Manhattan businessman. Easton Ellis is neither of these things, he’s an author. I’m not an undead warrior, I do not enter dungeons with a party of adventurers and I do not ever argue over loot (LOL). If I did this in real life my interactions with the people I did this with would be very different. My reactions would matter, the way my reactions actually made these people feel would matter, they would matter. In Warcraft we can pretty much achieve all we want to achieve without speaking to each other or being even remotely friendly. The other people I get thrown into random dungeons with don’t matter (as much, they matter, they’re human beings too), it’s just they are not playing the game to forge a relationship with me so I don’t matter very much to them either.

It’s this realisation that to a great extent it’s difficult to really get to know the real person through a game like World of Warcraft that makes me care less about how I’ve perceived in game. You can’t really control that perception. Interactions are so much less that they are in real life, how could anyone form an accurate, rounded impression of you? So I’m not too concerned with anyone’s take on me as a person…like you could possibly know me through our use of WoW? People make snap decisions about me, I make snap decisions about them in game. In game it doesn’t matter since you have so little to base a considered opinion on anyway.

Fleetfoot and her sisters live in Azeroth (Dragonblight-EU realm) and are followers of Sylvanas and proud members of the horde. One of Fleet‘s sisters is a Kingslayer, but she was always a bit up herself anyway. I live in Reading, UK, work in IT and spend way too much time thinking about all aspects of WoW, even when I’m not playing.

…and another thing!

You may not remember, you may not have been around here then, but assembling a PUG used to be an active and extremely painful process. Three DPS trying to assemble a group to tackle Shadow Labyrinth or Slave Pens would find it a long, difficult and often frustrating process. Old low level dungeons? Well, you might as well forget it. It was difficult enough to find two DPS if you had a tank and healer.

All of this changed with the introduction of the Looking For Group Dungeon Finder tool. This is one best features that Blizzard introduced in the whole of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. We now have a situation where you can actually level an alt by doing almost nothing but PUG dungeons. If you are solo, assembling a group for an instance in the current new content it takes between ten and thirty minutes, depending on the time of day, if you are DPS . If you want to narrow your choice to a specific sub set of the current content it may take a little longer, up to the full thirty minutes, a random dungeon at peak times (5 PM to 8 PM ST) will hook you up with four team mates in, usually, no more that ten minutes.

Personally, remembering how things were, I don’t think thirty minutes is all that bad. It’s not Blizzard‘s fault that the demand for PUG instance dungeons is not great. Introducing a cross realm, automatic, group building tool has done everything Blizzard can to bring together five players who want to tackle a normal or heroic five man in the post-Wrath expansion game. Still there is enormous QQ from some players that they have wait for an instance. Often this QQ is met a little wearily with the admonition that if you want to get into instances quicker roll a tank.

When you’re waiting for a group for thirty minutes checking the dungeon finder tool will probably tell you that your party has four members and you are just waiting for a tank. On the very rare occasions that you aren’t waiting on a tank you will be waiting for a healer…and probably for a much shorter time that you can wait for tanks.

Blizzard have sadly responded to all this QQ about waiting (“as much as half an hour!! /wail”) for a PuG to form with a singularly short-sighted and counter productive solution. They have offered a reward to people who complete random five mans as a tank. On top of the ilvl requirements imposed by the Dungeon Finder (and the highlighting of problems this can cause) rewards tanks for actually entering PUG randoms has caused another problem that simply exacerbates the ‘long’ wait. When you get into an instance you frequently have a ‘green shield tank’ leading the line.

The main problem with these chancers’ is they degrade the fun and the quality of PUGs dramatically. The otherwise reasonable waiting time is being stretched and made to feel longer and more frustrating. When we finally get into groups and start instances the tanks are frequently so appalling that first pull results in a wipe and probably with half the people leaving. This often includes the tank, almost as if they are blaming the group, probably the healer for not being any good or being unable to keep them alive.

This is sometimes the case since being a ‘green shield tank‘ he probably has two or three pieces of dodge/parry gear and the rest hit/crit or even resilience. Or as I prefer to call them: DPS with a shield. Often they’re doing the highest DPS, not because there is anything wrong with the DPS in the party, but because they have the best DPS gear. As they have a couple of tanking pieces and mostly DPS gear the focus of the gear set is damage output rather than health and mitigation. I’m sick of hearing “It’s fine, it’s a normal!” Tell that to the healer as we wipe our way around and pay my repair bills if you think it’s OK. If things get bad the first person to call it a day and quit the group is ironically the cause of the problem: the DPS with the shield. If you decide the frustration and irritation of this group outweighs the rewards and quit yourself here is the punchline: a thirty minute dungeon deserters cooldown and then another thirty minute wait for another ‘green shield tank’ who won’t mark, use CC, or wait for the healer to mana up and /ragequits after the first wipe, just after the first pull.

After a couple of hours you’ll be smashing your head into the keyboard having completed no runs but having started three or four and grouped with more than twenty people. You will be /ragequitting from the group after the tank asks meekly what the tactics are here. Thanks Blizzard you have succeeded in making a minor problem, a thirty minutes delay in forming PUGs, into a staggeringly big problem of people who are not geared and cannot tank queuing as tanks for a thirty second dungeon queue and your stinking reward bag! Good idea!

Quick Question…

I’m posing this as a question but I already have my own answer. Do tanks and healers have a god given right to gear? If you’re a healer is all spirit gear yours? If you’re a tank is all gear itemised with tanking stats yours? Whether it constitutes an upgrade or not?

Yeah, that last question is the clincher for me. You Need on gear if you need it and, unless it’s a question of gemming and enchanting it appropriately, you’re pretty much equipping it right now. If the gear’s itemisation is not as good as your current gear you pretty much pass right? Then if it’s tank gear DPS can roll on it. It may not be the perfect itemisation, but it can still be a substantial upgrade and an all important ilvl upgrade to enable them to reach ilvl333 and enter heroics.

Here is an issue I had yesterday. Tank plate dropped in normal Vortex Pinnacle for me yesterday. I simply waited to see what the tank did, but as the roll timer was ticking down I inspected the tank. The drop was ilvl308 and the tanks equipped gear was ilvl314 and consequently the stats were better. What made the gear attractive to me was the large amount of hit rating, the strength and stamina were good and it was a massive upgrade from my wrath epics. So I rolled need expecting the tank to pass.

I won the gear and then the tank kicked off. He demanded I pass him the ‘tank gear’. I pointed out that with a handy slab of hit it was just as much help to me as him and as his current gear had better tanking itemisation, higher ilvl and more parry it would constitute a downgrade. He wouldn’t hear it, he kept repeating it was tank gear and demand I pass it to him.

Let’s take an extreme example. Imagine you’re in an heroic with a raid geared healer. Caster gear with spirit drops and raid geared healer needs. Let’s say the drop is blue ilvl333 bracers and they’re currently wearing epic bracers from a raid instance, exactly the same stats only obviously higher values on the epic raid gear. Is this ninja-ing? The healer can, but will not use that gear. Would it be legitimate for a DPS to roll on Need on that gear either for their current spec or even their ‘off’, healing, spec?

Should tanks roll on all ‘tank gear’ and expect DPS to Greed, or just simply pass. Should healers expect the same with ‘healing gear’. Does the presence of parry, dodge or spirit rule out DPS making a fair roll on that gear in all circumstances?

I think the Need and Greed system is totally straight forward. If you roll Need you need the gear and will be equipping it. If not immediately then after gemming and enchanting. Equally, as a healer if you have no use for the ‘spirit blue gear’ pass and let the DPS casters evaluate the itemisation for their own gear sets. If Fleetfoot rolls on a plate helm with parry on it for her DPS set so be it. She should have an equal chance of winning it with all the plate wearers if the tank has a markedly better helm (with the same stats) on at the time.

Need and Greed is about use first and spec/itemisation second.

The new dungeon system has created several problems that Blizzard could not have anticipated. One of them has been highlighted for me this week: the average gear ilevel requirement to access normal and heroic Cataclysm dungeons. The idea is not new, it first appeared in game with the introduction of the last 5 mans added at the end of Wrath: Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection. This is generally a good idea and paces the entrance into dungeons indirectly by level and directly by gear quality.

In principle, I think this is a very good idea. The unfortunate thing is that it has made an issue of an unacceptable, but largely ignored, practice: ninja-ing levelling gear. I’ve met disbelief and disdain recently after complaining and objecting to ninja-ing in normal instances. In fact I had an item ninja-ed from me and complained bitterly until I was removed from the group (proof, if any were needed, that I am indeed a whiner and a loot whore). People expect a hard-line attitude to ninja-ing in raids and even heroic instance dungeons. After all this is the important gear that you will be wearing as you enter the first tier of raids in this expansion. Normal instance gear is trivial and will be replaced quickly.

However, this not entirely the case. With average gear ilevel thresholds for entering the next tier of dungeons, blues from normal instances are now becoming more significant and almost as important as heroic blues. This gear is essential to ensure a steady progress through the instance content. To advance into the next tier of instances a good selection of gear upgrades from the current tier is a prerequisite. This is exactly as Blizzard intended as far as creating thresholds and ramping up dungeon difficulty to 85 goes.

Poor Fleetfoot, the unluckiest of chars, the char who went to Shadow Labyrinth forty one times (after I began counting) to get Platinum Shield of the Valorous, has been unlucky in normals this expansion. As I posted earlier in the week my lucky hunter, Rhianwen, has raced to 85 and tidied up her gear for heroics in a matter of three days. Rhianwen is now amassing Justice and Valor points and collecting a very fine set of blues. Fleetfoot the unlucky warrior is exactly half way to 85 and has a very shoddy set of gear. Two decent ilvl 272 blues, a couple of half decent greens and a lot of very old epics from Wrath. Average ilvl is 256 and as such she cannot enter any other dungeons except Throne of Tides and Blackrock Cavern with the crap she’s wearing.

The simple fact is that over three days I have run Throne of Tides eleven times. Twice the gear appropriate to me didn’t drop. Three times I’ve been out rolled by chars who can equip strength plate. That’s OK, that’s the game. Four times gear appropriate to a DPS warrior has dropped and been ninja-ed by a class/spec that cannot use the gear. Twice I’ve been beaten by shaman healers, once by a rogue and on a further occasion by a healing paladin. I’ve even had a brother warrior tank Need str/hit/crit gear, probably for his off spec, superb.

I’ve noticed one way to predict if ninja-ing of blues is going to occur on the last boss. If someone quietly Needs all the green drops and any blue BoE’s all through the instance there is an absolute certainty they will attempt to ninja final boss loot. Don’t think for one minute that not Needing on all greens means they won’t attempt to ninja final boss loot though, it doesn’t work that way around.

So I’m running 4 or 5 instances an evening, so after four days I think it’s reasonable (unless I was really unlucky and no strength/hit/crit plate dropped at all, which can happen) to expect to have inched up my gear level high enough to enter the next two Cata normal instances: Throne of Tides and Vortex Pinnacle. However, despite being level appropriate my gear hasn’t reached an ilvl of 262 yet.

So the next time someone in your normal instance group complains that someone has inappropriately needed on gear that would otherwise have been theirs don’t simply dismiss this issue and them for moaning about nothing. Don’t tolerate these low level ninjas, vote to remove them from your group. People will only stop this irritating practice if we respond in the same way we do when people ninja gear in heroics and raids. A stronger response to ninja-ing at lower levels will almost certainly translate to a little less ninja-ing in raids and heroics.

That way poor unlucky Fleety will have a slightly better chance to win some gear upgrades and instance somewhere other than Blackrock Depths and Throne of Tides for a change…

Maybe it’s just me…maybe I have just been lucky. However, it strikes me that everything Hunter is a little easier than everything Warlock. Let me elaborate.

Ruta’s progress through the expansion was measured and considered. I planned my questing around the available loot and regularly made efforts to upgrade each slot systematically. The theory was that, by selecting and pursuing the best gear on offer at each level from quests and the available instances, when Ruta hit 85 her gear would be of a relatively high ilvl. It shouldn’t take too long to raise the average ilvl to 333 and start farming first step raiding gear from heroics.

This was not the case. After reaching the level cap I spent a relatively long period upgrading items in normal instance dungeons to bring my average ilvl up. Heroic instances have slowly yielded their secrets and I now have a tolerable set of raid ready gear and an average ilvl of 352.

With the Hunter I has no plan at all. I quested in burst and generally equipped the mail item with agility that had the highest item level between wearing and in bag. When Rhianwen hit 85 I have an ilvl of 290 and within three days I was doing heroics and almost matching the DPS that Ruta can lay down. (I would’ve been there sooner, unfortunately, I was in Grim Batol and a nice agility ring dropped and was needed and won by a Death Knight. I wouldn’t mind so much but the exact same guy was in Lost City with me in the very next instance and needed and won the agility polearm before I noticed it was him.)

Conclusions? None. Maybe I was lucky with the Hunter. Maybe Hunter drops are more numerous. Maybe there is less competition for Agi/mail than for Int/Haste cloth. Maybe I’m a fantastic Hunter. Maybe I can’t play a warlock. I’m just reporting what I experienced.

I now have a Hunter that is gearing quickly and is fun to play. Maybe one day she will be designated my main. Maybe.

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