Thursday, 27 June 2013

I Should Be So Lucky

I have discussed RNG, loot and rewards many times before. The lucky people amongst us love the current system, and the unlucky people want to cut it's heart out with a spoon. None of my characters is wielding a weapon better than iLevel 476 and the reason for that is that is they require a certain amount of luck and some of us are usually very unlucky. On the Instance Podcast this week, Dills was bemoaning the fact that the Mogu Rune of Fate, (which seem to be everywhere now, although we can only carry 10) are supposed to be on a sliding scale to stop bad runs of luck. Dills estimates 15 coins used without a drop, which seems to be a little off, if the luck booster is working. Before Blizzard introduced this function I would have said that was fair game (welcome to my world).

Last night was a little strange, with the weekly server reset, I found myself back in the Barrens. I noticed that the area is exceptional quiet these days, and people have obviously got better to do, or easier ways to make 200 Valor. I have become accustomed to seeing purple items appear on the screen when looting, and the natural assumption is that it is the Kor'kron tokens. Not once but twice in a 5 minute people did I win Epic World Drops. These are now old hat and at iLevel 476 but the ring was a welcome additional for my Death Knight or Warrior.

The value according to WoWhead is  7,464G, which is skewed to this item being worth a fortune at the start of the expansion. The point I wanted to make is not about gold, but about the rarity of Epic World Drops. In 8 months I not seen a single one in raids, or general play, and then 2 drop in double quick time. When the odds of an Epic World Drop are around 0.01% then odds of 2 dropping are absolutely astronomical.

This week in Europe, the Euro Millions Lottery was won by 2 tickets and they shared the €187 million jackpot. The odds of winning the Euro Millions is 1 in 116,531,800, but those same odds are in place whatever the jackpot, so in my opinion if you are going to but a ticket you might as well do it when the jackpot is at a high level.

A story broke out back in a January that a Professional Footballer (Soccer) had won a £125,000 on the National Lottery (UK). The question on most peoples minds was why a Footballer felt the need to gamble in this way, when the top players can earn between £100,000 and £200,000 a week.

I guess some people are just lucky lucky lucky.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Nothing Compares 2 U

It's been seven hours and fifteen days
Since u took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since you took your love away
Since you been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing I said nothing can take away these blues
Prince - Nothing Compares 2 U
Oh look Bob has finally flipped, similar to the breakdown suffered by Sinead O'Connor. No, not really but I am really starting to lose my patience. The British are world renowned for their queueing skills, but I think I have nailed one of the biggest problems with the World of Warcraft today.
The game as been edging towards more casual playstyle for some time now, but the biggest barrier affecting play time is the amount of time spent waiting. LFD, LFR and Scenarios, it is wait, wait, wait. Scenarios are obviously the least amount of waiting due to the lack of requirement for Tanks and Healers.
Yesterday, I was reading WoW Insider "The Queue" and somebody asked about the long waiting times and the lack of interest in the Midsummer - Holiday Boss. It was at this point that remember that Ahune was available, and that meant that there was Alt loot to be had. After some quick research I discovered that iLevel 480 Cloaks are available and a spellcaster Staff if you get very luck. Now the first thing I thought of was, how many of my alts would benefit from the cloak? the answer was 6 out of 7. This indicates a cloak shortage in game or that they are stuck behind reputation vendors, either way it was worth doing the boss. The downside is that most characters in game are beyond iLevel 480 and so the requirement for the seasonal boss is diminished. How many times have you killed Ahune in the last 6 years?
I was already expecting a queue but was not anticipating the 45 minutes that it did take, but the time allowed me to practice my talent respec. As far as I remember this is the only boss that is totally immune to a branch of magic, and for a player who levelled my gnome frost mage from 1-90 solely as Frost even when Frost was considered to be a PvP spec, it is slightly annoying. The result in the boss fight was a reduction in Dps by 30K. Needless to say I was slightly embarrassed and disappeared rather quickly (empty handed of course).
There is no way I can hope to drag any of my characters through this holiday boss with these wait times, and to be honest this is nothing compared to the 70 or 80 minutes I have endured for LFR. The Grumpy Elf might not like what he finds when he gets into an LFR, but I can't afford to spend the time waiting to get in.
If the problem is not fixed in the future with the new virtual realms, then the only answer left will be to use AI Tanks and Healers, probably with dumbed down fight mechanics. The tank shortage is showing no signs of abating, and with iLevel 480 on a holiday boss, the best you can expect is for a decent alt to be doing the content.
Content needs to be consumable in small bite sized chunks, Ghostcrawler once described Scenarios as being able to fit them into your lunch break. Nobody wants to think 45 minutes ahead before they want to do an activity, and invariably feel trapped into not going to the toilet, because they know in the few minutes that they are away the screen invite will pop up the moment you are not looking.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Iron Man

Postings have been rather scarce this month, due mostly to my game time being based around Battlefield: Barrens. After my encounter with Janingvaar last week, I thought it was only right and proper to put my money were my mouth is, and investigate the Blood Death Knight.

Back in October 2012, I stated that Unholy Death Knights were wreaking balls, but I did discover later that this was an illusion that would disappear at around level 88 as the gear did not keep up with the decline in my powers during the levelling process. Blood Death Knights have morphed into the Paladins of old, able to dish out the damage, absorb huge quantities of damage and heal themselves in the their spare time. Blood Death Knights have evolved, they have no need for healing, they just spontaneously regenerate as part of their rotation and a choice of cooldowns for soaking up the damage.

I have never really played Blood before, except for a strange hybrid I used for PvP which was based on regenerative abilities and maximising the damage from the rest of the skills. Needless to say I had no burst damage, but I was a pain to kill.

I visited Icy Veins as my first stop to understanding the spec, but I discovered that the guide is aimed at producing a Raiding capable Tank, but my goal is completely different. I want a Wreaking Ball, an Iron Man, somebody able to stand up to an angry crowd and give back the damage in spades.

Talents seemed to relatively straight forward but the recommendations for Major Glyphs did not match my intentions. The following is the list provided by Icy Veins:

There are several Major Glyphs that can be beneficial to you as a Blood Death Knight.
  • Glyph of Icebound Fortitude Icon Glyph of Icebound Fortitude reduces the cooldown ofIcebound Fortitude Icon Icebound Fortitude by 50%, but also reduces its duration by 75%. This glyph is excellent when you need to use Icebound Fortitude more often, but for very short periods of time. Unless you really need the reduced cooldown, you should not use this glyph.
  • Glyph of Vampiric Blood Icon Glyph of Vampiric Blood increases the bonus healing received whileVampiric Blood Icon Vampiric Blood is active by 15%, but Vampiric Blood no longer grants you any health. Depending on the fight conditions, this glyph can sometimes be beneficial. You should consult with your healers.
  • Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell Icon Glyph of Anti-Magic Shell improves your Anti-Magic Shell Icon Anti-Magic Shell, by increasing the amount of incoming damage that it absorbs to as much as 100%, up from 75%. Note that Anti-Magic Shell's absorption still remains limited by 50% of your maximum health. This glyph always has the potential of being beneficial, so you should take it if you do not need to use another glyph instead.
  • Glyph of Death Coil Icon Glyph of Death Coil causes Death Coil Icon Death Coil to place a damage absorption effect, if cast on an ally. This will generally not be a worthwhile thing to do, but it remains a possibility in some remote situations.
Icebound Fortitude offers 50% reduction of cooldown but reduces the duration by 75%. This seemed like more faffing about than I was prepared to accept, for a minor improvement, I am not wanting to last for hours against a boss.

Vampiric Blood is another that offers a trade between bonus healing and granting health. I don't intend to travel around with a pocket healer so no thanks.

Anti Magic Shell, is something that I never use outside of PvP, I kill clothies not hide in a shell from them.

Death Coil, is not something I even added to my toolbar, due to the fact that it did not appear in my list of Blood spells.

In the end I choose Glyphs that I am familiar with like Dark Succor which grants 20% of your Health. Pestilience, because it increases the range, and Icy Touch because I had no idea what else to use.

Still wearing my DPS gear I went off to test my new spec. The first unsuspecting soul died a smooth bu slow death, and I was on full health which is not uncommon for a Death Knight. Next up was a party of 2, slow deaths but I was surprised to see how much AoE damage the other target was taking from my rotation, still on full health.

Next time I took on 4 Kor'kron Engineers and an Overseer,  I took a bit early damage to about half way, until I applied my Shields. Bone Shield and Icebound Fortitude up, now it was time regenerate. Death Strike, and Siphon and I am healthy again, 5 dead bodies and full health at the end of the fight.

One of the things that had most impressed when I met was Janingvaar, was the ability to take out the destroyers in the Oil Fields area of the Barrens. They are tough as old boots and come with 4 Engineers as an extra deterrent, so to test out my new experiment I grabbed a destroyer and 4 engineers, 2 Incinerators and an Overseer, applied my shields kept the regeneration process going and then mashed a series of buttons. In the end a huge mound of bodies, broken engineering parts and a nice collection of Oil.

In many respects this is all very easy, there is no risk involved and it is takes forever to kill one thing, but it takes a fraction of the time to kill the additional mobs. It does not seem worth engaging into combat unless there are at least 3 mobs present. On a Hunter you can deal with multiple mobs but you have to start breaking into your toolbox of tricks, Death Knights stand there laughing at the flailing army of mobs who are only able to scratch the surface of Iron Man.

As a playstyle I find it awesome in how OP they are, but another part of me is left thinking that this is cheating, in the same way that Druids can pickup items whilst still in flight form.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Knights Of Cydonia

The last few weeks have been spent stocking up for the war effort by assisting Vol'jin. The guaranteed gear and the weekly reward of 200 Valor which I had previously not noticed, are helping my Alts in a steady progression.

Blizzard have hotfixed the Battlefield:Barrens area, but it is more buggy than a nest of ants. I have previously discussed the problems of CRZ and phasing together not making good bed fellows and it appears that the working as intended model is far from satisfactory.

The choice of the Barrens makes perfect sense for Blizzard's story telling, but the area was cleaved into two like Stranglethorn Vale, and so is not a natural region surrounded by rugged terrain. Anybody flying in the vicintiy of the rift, will switch between North and South Barrens on a frequent basis. This plays havoc with the phasing that takes place near the divides. The main action in the zone is fairly central to the zone, but the caravans do go very close to the edge. Caravans do not always appear on the map unless you are in close proximity, and they have been known to disappear before your eyes but still appear on the map. Corpses from the marauding Kor'kron cannot be looted because they actually reside on another map. WoW Insider and other fan boy sites are constantly telling us that Blizzard does not release content until it is ready, but the decrease in time between content may bring more unpolished content into the game.

The Barrens area is often very busy, but the pattern is starting to emerge, that after reset day, the number of people completing the weekly is high, and the Kor'kron Commanders are on farm, making the content easy to farm. Oddly the weekends were relatively quiet, which means the preferred method becomes defending caravans and waiting for overturned Kor'kron caravans, which have become a very rare sight in the area, and it looks like Blizzard included a sliding scale based on the number of the people in the area.

In between defending the caravans the time is made up by collecting the materials, and wishing that you could shoot Druids out of the sky. Druids are the one class that can farm herbs and now pickup Stone, Food, Lumber and Oil in flight form. This means that the unscrupulous douchebag Carl's are out there stealing the resources and flying off, leaving you with the mobs to contend with.

Dealing with mobs is not a problem if you are a reasonably geared Blood Death Knight as I found out last night. My second Hunter became character number 7 to reach max level on Saturday and after a day spent collecting gear and running scenarios for the Kirin Tor Assault and Operation:Shieldwall, I was ready to attempt the weekly on the Sunday night. The area was deadly quiet so no chance of tagging along on the Kor'kron Commanders, or many caravans to protect, so it was time to knuckle down and collect 600 resources, one piece at a time as Johnny Cash would have said.

In the process of collecting Oil, I noticed a Draenai Male stood quietly in the middle of the zone not moving. In my experience, if I leave my keyboard for more than a minute, I normally return to find myself bathed in white and staring at an Angel in a graveyard. I got on with my activities and noticed a whisper from the mysterious figure who was unperturbed by his surroundings.

"Do you want some Help? I can pull lots", Ok this is new, somebody talking in the Barrens and I don't mean inane Barrens chat. It was not like I was mowing down the opposition very quickly in my mixture of Purple, Blues and Greens. I think he felt sorry for me. I decided it was worth a try and it might make the evening go  a little quicker having some company.

I invited the Draenai Male into a party and for some reason I was expecting him to be a Shaman, all male Draenai are Shamans, it is just the law. The first pull was a disaster, and my party member kindly asked me to remove growl from my Pet. It was only at this point that I was with a Death Knight of the Blood variety who wanted to tank the zone. What I didn't realise at the time, was that he intended to Tank the whole zone at the same time.

A huge mound of Kor'kron, Destroyers, and assorted munchkins were gathered in the one spot. I fired my first multi-shot into the pack and my screen lit up with numbers. I fired two traps, more multi-shots and the figures kept rolling onto the screen. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I collected my resources in a matter of moments, it was a joyous occasion for me having already visted the zone on 5 other characters, to get such a boost of a total stranger.

Janingvaar, if you are out there and reading this, "For those about to kick butt, we salute you".
Thanks alot, it was a totally unselfish thing to do in a game that appears to be full of Douchebag Carls.

By the way when I grow up, I want to be a Blood Death Knight, that was one awesome display.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Between The Wars

MMO's were groundbreaking at their inception, no longer would there be an end to a game. The game would use levels, and once the maximum level was achieved the the endgame began. In the case of WoW we have witnessed the endgame move from 60-70-80-85 and currently 90. The tools used to prolong game play are based on Gear, we have grown accustomed to the colour of the gear (grey and white are not much of a feature these days) Green - Blue - Purple and Orange known also as Common, Rare, Epic and Legendary. Psychologically we have adapted Purple and Epic as the obligatory standard. Every expansion since The Burning Crusade as seen all my characters decked out in Epic gear ready to meet the new world and the challenges that Blizzard chooses to throw at us.

Wrath of the Lich King which many people look back to as a Golden Age of WoW allowed a very easy mechanism for the acquisition of Epic gear, simply run a 5 man Heroic every day and you would have the choice of the latest gear. 2 aspects of the game, developed from this, the first was an add-on called Gearscore and the second was Looking for Group. After the prevalence of Gearscore, Blizzard openly embraced the idea and then Gearscore was superseded by the open use of iLevel. Looking for Group allowed the average player a chance to run supercharged Heroics that would last as long as 8-12 minutes, the queue times were usually longer than the instance.

This is what I define as the method of least resistance, MMO players will seek the biggest reward for the least amount of effort. In this expansion there as only been two such give aways. The first was in Patch 5.2 introduced the Shado Pan Assault who happen to have a very benevolent Quartermaster offering Battletags (iLevel 522 Neck pieces) for the princely sum of 1250 Valor available at Neutral Reputation. The second was the new content which involves 2 Scenarios, controlling a cat whilst deep undercover in Orgrimmar, a resource gathering quest for Vol'jin and then escorting an old man up a mountain. For about an hour of your time he will reward a nice pair of boots.

The rest of the expansion as been about LFR and reputation gains and the valor capping that goes with it. LFR offers the random method for gearing up, and Reputation/Valor offers the safe although very time consuming, guaranteed route.

Patch 5.3 introduced the middle way , with the Battlefield: Barrens. I know I have discussed this before, but it really suits my style of play and I have seen enough to give some reasonable advice.
The key to the area is picking up the weekly quest, and for anyone sporting an average iLevel of 490 this is probably going to be a waste of your time. If you are in need of an upgrade of iLevel 489 gear to one of the following slots, then it is going to offer a guaranteed reward for a reasonably rigid amount of effort.

  • Belt
  • Boots
  • Chestpiece
  • Gloves
  • Helm
  • Leggings
  • Spaulders
These items either drop randomly from level 90 mobs or can be purchased from the Darkspear Rebellion Quartermaster. Obviously this is the safety net if you are unlucky with the drops. Bear in mind that the drops are not soulbound, so it is possible to farm on your better characters.
The aim is to collect 150 of Lumber, Oil, Stone and Food. If you tried to do this the hard way and to kill in the region of 600 of Garrosh's troops, it would take an absolute age. This in my opinion is the fallback method. The key to finishing the area in a timely manner is the Kor'kron Commanders. These are nasty little bleeders, that will use Rockets, Toxins, Explosives, Fan of Knives, Blink, Charge and a host of other nasty things. I friendly Healer is nice to have especially for the unfortunate melee classes. Keep yourself alive and take the rich rewards. Don't be Doucebag Carl and let everybody else do the work, get stuck in because many hands make light work. Then move on to the next Commander, rinse and repeat. The downside is that there are normally only enough people to do at busy server times.
I also stated recently that the spam about Overturned Caravans was a bug. I am beginning to think this is actually working as intended. I am sure it is do with CRZ, but the upshot is that you should check your map every time you see the announcement. Once in awhile it will appear on your map, and if you get lucky you can salvage the entire contents of the the 3 waggons, which are rumoured to contain about 50 packages.
Defending the caravans is a less useful method of collecting resources and I would only recommend helping if you want to break up your or the caravan is nearby. Melee will find this soul destroying.
The only drawback is that you can only create one item per character per week, but with the decrease in XP required to level you should soon have a full stable of characters wanting iLevel 489 items.
Farming with guaranteed rewards is therapeutic. Down with those RNG gods, up with hard work.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Ghost Town

Back in February I wrote about the Darkmoon Faire, there is nothing unusual in this, as it as occupied my thoughts on numerous occasions. I previously described the Monthly event as being like a Ghost Town, with only a small number of people being on the island at any time. Blizzard have rectified this situation by adding it to the Cross Realm Zone.

The place is bouncing, the area is full of people again, and guess what? I preferred it how it was. Go in do your quests and get out. Not any more there is a fight for every single resource in the place, from broken tonks to injured carnies.

The dock area had 15 people all fishing in a small area, I have not seen that many fishers since the fountain in Dalaran. If crowds is not your thing, the area is like a Stag do or Hen Party in certain European cities. The biggest problem with CRZ is the lack of control, exhibited by the inhabitants. It is like a living breathing version of the WoW Forums. The area is full of shouting, swearing and general loutish behaviour. Nobody would crap on their own doorstep, but in an environment were nobody knows your name, then they stop caring and run amok.

The more I see of Cross Realm Zones, the less I like them.

I was just about to give up with the post and then I saw this from the WoW Insider Queue.

Ronald3 asked:
Why did stupid Blizzard make stupid DMF stupid CRZ?? It's stupid!! :)

Some are suspecting the CRZ on the Darkmoon Faire is bugged, because players from servers that aren't usually linked together for cross-realm play are all ending up on the island. Cenarion Circle, where I'm from, is seeing players at the Darkmoon Faire from realms we've never seen ourselves partnered with anywhere else. That said, it's possible that's intentional in that particularly location. The first couple of days of the Faire are always extremely busy, but the place empties out dramatically after that.

Maybe they linked everything together, maybe it is a bug. I guess it is going to be another month before we find out.