Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm in Misery

Sometimes Google Reader makes a suggestion that actually sticks and rings a bell. This morning, they suggested a Shadow Priest blog to me. On these suggestions, I often will check out the site and make sure it's something that appeals and is well written. I'm also doing an assessment at that time if it's something that I'll a) read through once and not miss again or b) read every time it's updated and look forward to.

So, anyway, this suggested blog. I was mid-way through my assessment when this post rang so true with what I was discussing last week with a friend. Go skim, I'll wait.

I think it's summed up wonderfully there, however, I'd add one further thing. By PVPing you're really training yourself to rely only on yourself, listen only to yourself, and be responsible only for yourself. If you try that crap in a raiding guild, you're likely going to find yourself back at your hearth location (unwillingly). PVE content is very much about having a strategy, following the strategy, and listening. Since PVE is scripted, it is predictable. If it's predictable, you can plan for and follow a pattern. PVP is unscripted and thus you must adapt. But if 10 (or worse, 25) people who've all trained themselves to rely only on themselves each start trying to tackle PVE content with a PVP mindset, you've just set the raid back about a million miles.

So, as I keep reading this wonderful new blog, think about why PVP is bad for raid progression.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Crafting Etiquette

I've heard lots of folks say "I'm not paying anyone to just push a button" in reference crafting. This attitude is just wrong.

Before you accuse someone of gouging you on a button push, consider this. Training of a skill costs money in terms of both initial outlay, incremental upgrades (journeyman, apprentice, artisan, etc.), trainer patterns, and patterns purchased at the auction house. Additionally, the vast majority of crafting professions have vast wastelands where a crafter is only making an item for the points. The resulting item is not useful at all. Each of those "point grind" items has a real cost in materials to make it. If each item were purchased, any crafting profession costs easily 1000 gold to level to 375. And honestly, I think the total for most professions is closer to 2k.

"But, they can pick their own mats up" I hear you decry. Yes, if an alchemist is also an herbalist, herbs can be collected as you level. But, the odds are that you're not going to have every herb available when you need to do that points grind and get the skill ranked up. Some of them will be purchased. And even if they aren't purchased outright, there is a cost (in time) associated with veering off the leveling path to "just get this Steelbloom" or "nab a point from this tin vein." These are microscopic time transactions. Keep in mind some MMO models actually fund themselves through microscopic monetary transactions.

I love crafting. It's a part of the game that I enjoy immensely. I get a sense of accomplishment from reaching crafting goals. I also like being able to make the things that my friends and guildmates need. I have never leveled a character who was not a crafter. But I don't like people I don't know assuming that because I can cut a Solid Star of Elune (which takes getting jewelcrafting to at least 350 and getting the pattern at somewhere between 700 and 1200 gold on my server) that I should just cut them for anyone who can ask. And if I do cut one for someone I don't know, I sort of expect to be tipped.

So, when you're finding a crafter for something you need made, here's what you should keep in mind.

  1. Always offer a tip (even to guildies). I never take money from guildies for "pushing a button" and even give away cooldowns.
  2. If you're supplying the materials, supply ALL the materials. Yes, this includes the thread, flux, vials and what not. You'd be surprised how much I've spent making things for friends who've "forgotten" to send the vials. If you aren't supplying the vendor bought materials like this, your tip should be sufficient to cover that cost as well.
  3. If you're expecting the crafter to supply a material because they can also collect it, you should increase your tip.
  4. If you can't be bothered to travel to the crafter (because you're hearthstone is on cooldown or you're just that lazy) your tip should cover the opportunity cost for the crafter. If they have to burn a cooldown on their hearthstone, you should be paying big time.
  5. If they are crafting something for you that is quite rare (think under a 2% static droprate) you should increase your tip even further.
  6. If you're supplying NO materials to the crafter, I think it'd be fair to pay AH prices. And then adjust upward if they're traveling to you.
Considering those criteria, I wouldn't think it was out of the ordinary to expect 20G on a gem cut or enchant if I had to travel to you to perform it. If it's something like the enchant that drops off of Ahune, I'd expect to pay 5 times that.

So remember. It's not just a button push. They spent their real gold and time to level up to 375. IF you think you're entitled to reaping the fruits of their labor freely, perhaps you should have leveled that skill on YOUR character.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Challenges in WoW

It's no surprise to anyone that I've way too many level 70 characters. It also might not be a surprise that my altoholism didn't stop with the fifth 70. In fact, of the 10 character slots on my realm, it breaks down like this:

  • FIVE level 70's
  • ONE horde hunter, level 63, will probably transfer him (see below)
  • Level 53 Shaman
  • Level 44 Shadow Priest
  • Level 25 Paladin
  • Level 28 Mage
Yes, that's all ten full (and no room for a deathknight, thus the transfer.

Anyway, I'm leveling the alts (yes all of them) with people also afflicted with serious altoholism. We're all good players, all have characters that regularly raid (at least to the point we're at in guild. That is, dipping the toes into SSC), and we've run every instance in the game more than we probably should have.

So, now, to keep the instances fresh, we're breaking the standard procedure for completing instances apart. We've run non-standard groups, we've done things under level. Recently we started our biggest challenge. Running things short people, under level and non-standard.

Sunday we four manned the bulk of Blackrock Depths (everything this side of the bar at least). We did it with four characters - Two 48s and two 52s. My cartographer suggests a level of 48 to 53 for BRD. Prior to Burning Crusade, I'd have not taken much less than a 52 in there at all. Even if the 52 was just filling a seat in an otherwise all 60 party. But, four of us did quite well and didn't have any nasty wipes. Okay, maybe an ankh or two was burned, but anything you can recover from isn't a wipe right?

Last night was the stiffest challenge to date. Wait for it..


Yeah, DM/VC. But here's the thing we had a group of 20 hunter, 24 hunter and 24 paladin. Wowwiki recommends a group of 18-23.

We cleared down to the foundry (about halfway in) when the 24 hunter had to go suddenly. The other hunter and I (obviously the paladin) decided we wanted to see how far we could get. We basically had only the hard half of the dungeon left.

Trash is trash, and I'm not going to talk about that. In fact, I'm not really even going to talk much about the how of what we did. I don't think it's really important what strategy we followed for dealing with Captain Greenskin. Or VanCleef himself.

What I'm thinking about now is breaking down some of my own preconceived notions. Five man dungeons take five men, right? Well, I'm beginning to think not. I certainly wouldn't recommend that a new player who was just learning the game and the instance attempt a two-man of the instance, but for us "oldbies" it really adds some additional challenge to what has become a stale instance.

Some of the things that really helped us out were our usable trade skills and classes. The hunter is an herbalist/alchemist (go figure) and my paladin is a miner/engineer. The buff potions and healing/mana potions that the hunter could pass out were indispensable. The dynamite and bombs allowed me to do damage while still healing, and properly placed target dummies saved my bacon on a number of occasions when my bubble was cooling down.

The frost trap on the hunter was a godsend. Even though level 20 hunter traps don't have a habit of hanging around forever, every little bit helps when Smite is laying the smack down. Seal of Judgment and stuns also helped with some CC and prevented running. And honestly, without a class who could heal, I wouldn't try it at all.

Thank god there is a forge and an anvil right in the center of the zone. It allowed me to turn tons of mined material and drops back into more target dummies.

Next time (and there will clearly be a next time somewhere), I'd probably pay more attention to my bags and what not. I ended up carrying around bits and pieces of in-progress quests and uncooked meats all through the instance. And I had a grand total of five mana potions. And they were the baby ones (i.e. restore 140 to 180 mana). Next time I do this I'm having a full stack of appropriate level potions and elixirs.

So, what's next? I have a quest hanging about in my Paladin's quest log. I need to hit both Blackfathom Depths and Shadowfang Keep. Wowwiki lists them as 18-25 and 20-27 respectively. The other thing to do would be hit the Stockades. That's like 23-28. And Wowwiki (again) suggests a team of well geared 27-ish characters.

So apart from end-game, I'm making the game challenging by doing things I shouldn't be able to. As time goes on, I'll probably keep trying new things to keep making WoW different.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Reputation Expectation

I wrote a few days ago, in my Guide to Reputation, all the ways to get reputation with various factions. There are a few ways I'd like to see paths to reputation changed and enhanced in WotLK. First, I'll review each of the ways currently in game (very briefly) and write a bit about how they should evolve in Wrath and then I'll discuss a couple new ways I've brainstormed on how to get faction.

Faction Gain Methods - Previously used
Killing Mobs - this is obviously a good method for rep gains. As this is one of the most accessible paths to reputation, it need to stay and be relevant. I'd like to see this at a level that currently exists in the game. Keep up the good work, Blizzard.

Completing Normal Quests
- Another awesome method for rep gains. For at least the Aldor/Scryer quests, the quest text had a notice of what faction you were gaining. This would be a nice addition to quest text for ALL reputation rewarding quests. Again, I think this frequency is about right and should stay constant.

Completing Repeatable Quests- Again, not a bad method for rep gains. The only downside here is continually running back to the quest giver to turn-in and get another version of the quest. I might even enjoy a few more of these.

Completing Daily Quests- This seems to be the direction Blizzard has moved. For my tastes there are too many and they're too static. The cooking and fishing quests at least have a chance of randomization from day-to-day, but I know I've caught Zangarmarsh shrimps many times in one week. MORE randomization for those quests would be awesome as well as some randomization for any daily quest.

Turning in Bound Items- this is obviously a good method for rep gains. As this is one of the most accessible paths to reputation, it need to stay and be relevant. I'd like to see this at a level that currently exists in the game. Keep up the good work, Blizzard.

Turning in Unbound Items- Nice method for reputation gain and a nice way to make some cash if you've already outrepped it. However, please Blizzard make some way to turn in multiple instantiations of quests. I spent a good portion of time turning in Incendosaur Scales to the Thorium Brotherhood (and other items to the Scryers, come to think of it). And I'd really like to have that time back.

Turning in Crafted Items- This one really is a disguised "pay cash" version. Unless every trade has something to turn in, it gets to be expensive. The positives are it can reward crafts who don't have as many "marketable" items and gives a place to dispose of unwanted duplicates as a craft is leveled.

Pay Cash- This one is risky. Without awesome gold sinks in the game, it can quickly get to easy to rep. Especially when I know someone who has 28,000 gold on their alt. While it's refreshing from a quest perspective, it would get very old very soon.

Brainstormed NEW Faction Gain Methods

Hidden Quests -
It would be very cool to me to have quests that tracked what you had done and when you completed the heretofore unknown requirements, a quest giver would light up and allow you to do a turn in for gold, experience and some faction. What I'm talking about is, like if you kill 100 nagas in Zangarmarsh, the next time you hit Cenarion Refuge you get a quest turn in that wasn't available to you before. Stuff like that.

Time Sensitive Quests (either repeatable, daily or normal) - The idea of getting more reputation for completing a quest in a faster time is awesome. I'd love to get "double" rep if I could complete it in a short time. This method may not work for normal repeatable quests that involve turn-ins, but should work for others.

Mini-Instanced Quests - I'd love the idea of doing a solo or (very) small group quest that was instanced. Long ago in another MMO I played, door-missions adjusted to level and numbers of party members at entrance. The same could be done in WoW and would be a very cool style of reputation grind to do.

Well, that's it for me today. Everyone enjoy the weekend of raiding, PVP, questing, faction grinding and/or Midsummer Festival.

Midsummer Fire Festival

The Midsummer Fire Festival goes live tomorrow 6/21/2008. While one of the more lackluster seasonal events previously, the rumor is that this holiday has been substantially updated and is closer in scope to Hallow's End. It even has a level 70 summonable boss (in Coilfang Reservoir's Slave Pens) that can be attempted in either normal or heroic mode.

While I'm not generally a big fan of the holiday stuff, I'll probably do something with this. The quality of loot from the Headless Horseman was very good, and if this boss is anything like the horseman event, I'd not want to miss out on it.

The festival is scheduled to run 6/21 through 7/4. So, get your Midsummer fix in within the next two weeks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Guide to Reputation

Reputation has been in the game forever. Or at least as long as I can remember. And heretofore, Blizzard has come up with several very reliable ways for players to increase their reputation. I'd like to go over each of the ways and give examples both old and new. As a follow up, I'll post about some thoughts about how Blizzard can enhance reputation in the WotLK expansion.

Bonus: The clickable image above leads you to a reputation calculator website where you can check YOUR reputation.

Killing Things
This is perhaps the simplest in terms of recognizing it. Every time you kill a certain type of thing, your reputation is increased. In the "old world" every Molten Core boss you killed upped your Hydraxian Waterlords reputation. Likewise, killing any pirate in Stranglethorn Vale increases your Booty Bay reputation. And perhaps the greatest time sink in pre-BC was the Timbermaw.

In the Outland, you can see this mechanic at work in Nagrand and killing Ogres (for Kurenai/Mag'har reputation) or in Zangarmarsh as you kill Bog Giants and their ilk(for Sporregar reputation).

Killing things is a well-defined mechanism for increasing reputation and makes a lot of sense. This should definitely stay in.


Non-Daily non-repeatable Quests
These quests when turned in grant reputation usually with the faction of the quest giver and some sympathetic reputation with factions aligned with that faction. In other words, if you turn in a quest from a human, you will most likely get some Stormwind Reputation and some smaller amount of reputation from Ironforge, Gnomeregan, Darnassus and Exodar.

In the Outland these quests will be everywhere. Most stuff out there grants SOME kind of reputation.

Having some faction associated with a lot of the quests is a great idea. This scheme needs to not be overused though. If the only way to grind favor with any faction is killing, it loses its appeal.

Non-Daily repeatable Quests
The vast majority of these quests are actually turn-in quests more fully detailed below. As I wrack my brain, I cannot think of any of this type of quest still in the game. Back before the great Timbermaw Reputation Reformation, there used to be a quest like this. But it was removed in favor of a more rigorous method to achieve Timbermaw rep. The only one I can currently think of in game now is the collection of diminuation powder and watery cores (both Alliance quests on the Feralas shores.

The one I'm seeing in Outland is "Now that We're Friends/Now that We're Still Friends" quest in Zangarmarsh for the Sporregar.

These types of quests can be completed as many times in one day as you like but require you to have the quest before beginning the killing spree. This kind of quest is fun, and I'd honestly like to see more.

Daily, Repeatable Quests

The typical dailies. They can only be completed once per day. And they're generally the same thing every day. These didn't exist in pre-BC and not even when BC shipped. They were added via patch 2.2 (?) Some of the dailies vary day to day (the normal & heroic dungeon, the fishing, cooking and battleground daily all do).

These are good quests, but honestly, too many have no variation day to day.

Turn In Quests

Non-Soulbound items

These quests ask you to turn in a number of items that are BOE when dropped (or harvested). I think everyone of these is also a quest that is non-daily and repeatable. In general, the objects to complete the quest are gathered and the quest is turned in as a part of taking it.

Pre-BC has quite a few of these. Think of Dadanga (the kodo) at Marshall's Refuge in Un'Goro. She asks for 15 Bloodpetal sprouts. The goblins in Gadgetzhan also ask for Water Pouches in this manner. The Thorium Brotherhood uses this mechanism as do the Timbermaw. Also each of the five Azerothian factions (on each side) want cloth of all kinds from wool to runecloth to increase rep. The Darkmoon Faire also uses this mechanism.

In the Outlands, each of the factions seems to have something to turn in like this. Granted most of these turn ins will get you only to revered. But for instance, Cenarion Expedition wans Unidentified Plant Parts, Kurenai/Mag'har AND Consortium want Ogre Warbeads in Nagrand, Lower City wants Arakkoa feathers and so on.

These quests are also awesome for rep. And the items can be purchased ahead of time on the auction house.

Soulbound Items

Not many pre-BC factions use this method at all. In fact, the only one that springs to mind is the Argent Dawn's acceptance of soulbound scourgestones collected from Eastern & Western Plaguelands and the dungeons within them.

This trend continues to Outland where the Consortium who accepts both Zaxxis' Insignia and Ethereum Prisoner ID Tags.

Again, very good quests for rep and having the items be soulbound makes sure that only the character that actually puts in the work to farm these gets the reputation credit. Being soulbound, the turn in items can't be sold or traded.

Crafter Items

Both the Argent Dawn (through crafting writs) and Darkmoon Faire accept crafted items as reputation turn ins. The writs are actually fairly complex as you must turn in an Argent Dawn Token (from turning in scourgestones) to accept the crafting writ. However, once acquired the writs themselves are not bound and can be sold on the Auction House.

To the best of my knowledge, there are no crafted turn ins in the Outland.

This would be an awesome place for Blizzard to expand into. Having leveled many crafters, I know that at some point the stuff I'm making to level up is just being vendor sold or disenchanted. It would be awesome to have another place for those items to go.

Paying for Reputation

The only example of this that I can find was introduced with the Shattered Sun daily quests. While this quest is very worthwhile for the reputation, Blizzard has to be careful to not over-do it. Gold is freely available in the game now and allowing large sums of it to exit just for reputation might reverse some of Blizzard's actions against gold sellers.

So, that's reputation in a nutshell. Many different factions, each utilizing some blend of the above for advancing a players standing. Next time we'll look at what I'd like to see happen with reputation in the WotLK.

Did I just do that?

So, over the weekend I got a call from the guild to fill out a Karazhan group. Not strange at all. I rarely sign up for the Kara runs any more because they're usually completely filled (one might go so far as to say "oversold") and neither my priest nor hunter really NEEDS anything in there. Okay, my hunter could actually use the belt from Illhoof and my priest has a few things he could pick up. But no real needs.

So, I say sure and ask what to bring. You couldn't have surprised me more when I was told "actually, we need an OT."

So, I dusted off the doughty dwarf warrior, picked him up some pots, flasks & food and trundled off to Karazhan. I approached with a bit of trepidation, but I went on in.

It's hard to offtank. No really. There are a number of very well-geared folks in my guild and my warrior is still in some greens (however, he does have 490 defense and about 12K HP - so fine to off tank). It's a challenge to stay second on the threat meter when you're rage starved and it takes more time than some folks were willing to give me (but the Skeletal Ushers vindicated me by eating the faces of those who didn't give me time to build threat).

The MT was very well geared, and I had visions of many tank pieces dropping that he would then pass on to me. However, Blizzard must hate me. The only tank piece that truly dropped was the trash mob Boots of Elusion (?)

On Nightbane and the Prince, I was told I could swap to DPS gear or stay in tank gear. I opted to stay in tank gear for Nightbane and it's a good thing I did. About 6%, the MT went down and I picked him up as quickly as possible and tanked for the last few percent. On the Prince, I swapped and was immediately rewarded with a combo Enfeeble/Shadow Nova. I watched the rest of the fight from the floor.

All in all, I had fun. It was nail-biting at times, but generally the good times outweighed the stress. I'd like to go back.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jumping on the Twisted Nether Train

I was quite interested to hear that there was a new blogcast (no, not a typo) in the world that's done by members of the blogging community and is actually about the blogging community. I have now listened to both of the blogcasts that are posted and can heartily recommend them.

I wanted to give them a listen or two before giving a full on endorsement because I like to make sure the things I recommend are actually good. Well, that's sort of an understatement. It's better than good.

You should definitely go check them out at Twisted Nether. Their casts are on iTunes now (and apparently the Zune equivalent too). You can also download from the site or other places folks get podcasts. Go. Give them a listen.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Don't be a Huntard

If hunters were not the easiest class to solo all the way to the level cap with, probably we wouldn't have the reputation of being completely unable to control ourselves, our aggro, or our pets. However, we are the easiest class to level and solo with. And, unfortunately, solo play style and group play style differ wildly.

Here are a few tips to help you to not be a huntard when you're actually in a group.

  • Turn Growl Off - Growl is a taunt that your pet uses to keep it high on the hate list of whatever mob you're fighting. This is a good thing if you and your pet are fighting something just the two of you. However, if you've a dedicated tank at your disposal, you don't want your pet taking the majority of the hits. Turning growl off allows the pet to do damage (which can account for a large percentage of your damage) without pulling aggro.
  • Use Aspect of the Pack (or Cheetah) only when appropriate - It's great to be able to move quickly (and grant that buff to your party) if you're running back in after a wipe. But don't forget to turn it back off. If anyone under one of these aspects is hit, they'll be dazed for a few seconds. Trying to tank while continuously getting dazed is neither effective nor efficient. Turn on a more reasonable aspect (like Hawk) when you're fighting and not moving quickly to your death point.
  • Feign Death - Yes, being able to feign out of a wipe is wonderful for you. But you should almost never feign when you have the aggro. The mob at that point is hellbent on running to you and giving you some chin music. Feigning at this point means you've lost any control over where the mob goes. Rather you should feign as you're getting close to pulling aggro. The feign will remove you from the threat list and the mob will happily stay glued to the tank.
  • Learn to Trap and DO IT - I've heard the argument that "trapping is ineffective and DPS is better." This is totally false in almost every case. Having one mob out of commission (cooling his heels in your trap) and fighting one mob is clearly superior to fighting two mobs at once. Yes, keeping something trapped will lower your DPS for those fights, but it will also lower your total repair bill (as well as those of your party) if you're not wiping because two mobs are running amok.
  • Carry everything you need - This includes food for you, food for you pet, potions, water, and ammunition. I always carry enough ammunition that if someone else doesn't have the bullets that I can supply them with a stack. Huntards have to hearth back to town after three pulls to buy more of any of the above.
  • Know what a "hunter weapon" is - Let's face it, we can use a LOT of different weapons. In fact, I don't think there's a weapon we can't use. Just because we can use it doesn't mean it's best for us. The vast majority of weapons out there are better for other classes than for us. Give the weapons to the classes who benefit from them most. If it's a choice between giving it to you and sharding the weapon, quite often you'll end up with the weapon.
  • Stack ZERO damage and healing from magical spells and effects - Very, very few of your abilities benefit from this stat. Some of your traps and special shots can benefit from this stat, but there is much better gear out there. Leave the mail bracers with +28 spell damage for the elemental shamans. You should be stacking attack power over spell damage.
  • Never Miss - Granted, this only makes sense at 70. However, 70 is when most huntards come into full bloom. You are the only ranged DPS class that can achieve the never missing goal. Spell casting always has a 1% innate missing chance, but your shots can never miss with enough hit rating. Find out what that number is and gear for it first.
  • Avoid Talent Tree Lemons - Each talent tree has some real losers in it. Find out what those are and avoid them.
  • Keep your pet under control - Aggressive is almost always a no-no for pets. Defensive is slightly better but takes dedication on your part. Passive is most safe, however you'll have to issue orders for your pet to attack. Also, watch out for your pet chasing "runners." It can easily aggro a whole new group by chasing a fleeing mob.
There are more ways to not be a huntard. But if you follow this list, you'll be well on your way to not being one. Now you're only challenge will be convincing folks that don't know you that you've overcome your huntardish tendencies.