Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blizzard listens (times two)

In a short period of time, Blizzard have shown that they listen to player feedback.

First the "ghetto hearthing" trick will be nerfed in patch 3.1. That is, the trick to leave a group in an instance to get teleported to your inn. There are probably more names for this trick than there are WoW game servers, since it's more like an exploit than a feature. It's just that it has grown to be viewed as a feature. Because of the magnitude of which the trick was used (and because of the outcry!), Blizzard figured they can now cut the cooldown of the ordinary hearthstone by half. So it's not all bad!

Second: The dual spec feature was included from the start in the PTR. Since then, and before that for that matter, many have complained about the lvl 80 req on the feature. Well guess what, Blizzard gave in. They didn't lower it to what I would have guessed, lvl 60 or 70, but as low as lvl 40. The cost for this feature will stay at 1000g though, leaving it for seasoned players and their twink alts. A fine decision if you ask me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tier 8 versus the Runway!

The result from the grand Tier 8 Runway Show is in and you can read all about it in this post. Enjoy!

First up on the runway is...the Death Knight! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - ok set but the helmet kind of ruins it, whats up with the horns?

Ghost - First impression is: Retouched warrior tier 3. Not much originality but somehow Blizzard pulls it off. Warrior tier 3 is one of the all time best looking tier sets, and Blizzard improve on it to make it look even more sinister. Looks great on the Death Knight. Could use some work to distinguish it from the predecessor, but they are getting there.

NuclearAnt - 7/10, mostly because the face on the torso remind me of Krang in the Turtles, and he was cool. :p

Carys' points: 5
Ghost's points: 8
NuclearAnt's points: 7
Total score: 20

Next, let's hear it for the Druid! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - wtf no kilt? and the head and shoulders will just look riddiculous on taurens, thank god for forms!

Ghost - I couldn't help but to chuckle when I saw the Druid models. Helm plus shoulder armor together give the druids a cartoonish look that isn't quite expected, or wanted I'd say. Don't get me wrong, the idea of those armor pieces are good. But they need some work so that they don't come out as silly. The rest of the armor look great, a compromise between savage and stylish.

NuclearAnt - Sorry. Too much treelover.

Carys' points: 3
Ghost's points: 7
NuclearAnt's points: 4
Total score: 14

Hunter, enter the stage! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - man those horns! scary good looking set.

Ghost - Traditionally, at least in my opinion, hunters have drawn the short straw when it comes to tier armor design. Blizzard doesn't appear to have settled on a hunter look, and it's a shame. Tier 8, while I admit it looks pretty cool, doesn't look like an armor someone using a ranged weapon would use. Far too clumsy look.

NuclearAnt - Love the gasmask but it doesn't really feel like hunter to me.

Carys' points: 8
Ghost's points: 5
NuclearAnt's points: 8
Total score: 21

Mage! No blinking on the runway! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - whats up with all the eyes on their set? helmet looks like some kind of futurama tribute!

Ghost - I bow to the designers. Solid work on this garb. Some polish and this tier set will be perfect.

NuclearAnt - Gives me a cosy Final Fatasy feeling for some reason.

Carys' points: 5
Ghost's points: 9
NuclearAnt's points: 8
Total score: 22're up! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - showing way to much skin and will look horrible on male chars, then again we all know what way belf boys swing. edit: nvm didnt realise male got a diffrent skin

Ghost - I'm...speechless. Most paladin tier sets, with a few exceptions, have been really ugly throughout the course of this game...but this... Scifi spacesuit meet some early civilization, I'm not sure what it is supposed to be but it isn't an armor fit for a paladin. Banana shoulders is better than this even.

NuclearAnt - The women look like some futuristic version of a SARS mask or something. The men on the other hand tell us they aren't healadins anymore. Tankadin!!

Carys' points: 2
Ghost's points: 3
NuclearAnt's points: 8
Total score: 13

Big round of applause for the Priest! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - winnar. i even like the tulip-looking shoulders, the helmet covering half your face is pretty neat too.

Ghost - Priests have had a pretty high standard when it comes to tier set looks, and tier 8 is no exception. Overall really classy, although I'm not sure about the helm. It's doesn't strike me as priest-like.

NuclearAnt - Like the hint of wings, but the glowing eyes give them a somewhat surprised expression.

Carys' points: 10
Ghost's points: 8
NuclearAnt's points: 7
Total score: 25

Rogue, you're up. Don't you dare sneak away! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - even the scary wodoo-helmet looks good and the shoulders are just lovely. Might even look good on male orc rogues!

Ghost - Rogue tier 8 does look pretty cool, but there are things I would like to change. First of all the hideous skull cap needs to go. And second, I'd like the set to have a more leathery look. The set show some potential though.

NuclearAnt - Rogue, love it. Can't really tell why, but I like it.

Carys' points: 9
Ghost's points: 6
NuclearAnt's points: 9
Total score: 24

Shaman! Ice Shock! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - wtf2 no kilt here either? other than that it kind of looks cool.

Ghost - The Shaman tier 8 look pretty awesome, but there was something wrong about it that I couldn't place. After I while I realized it. No kilt! Again! Add a kilt and this could be a 10-pointer.

NuclearAnt - Looks a little wierd on a human, but I like the cracked lava'ish texture on the shoulders.

Carys' points: 6
Ghost's points: 8
NuclearAnt's points: 7
Total score: 21

Next model on the runway is, the Warlock! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - again poor male orcs those shoulders will look like shit on them, other than that its a funky set, more druid than warlock i'd say though.

Ghost - Warlocks have had some of the coolest tier sets in this game, and tier 8 doesn't disappoint in that regard. I really, really like the general idea. However, it seem really unpolished and unfinished compared to many other tier 8 armor sets. Give the set more attention and it could turn into something great.

NuclearAnt - Definetly the coolest so far, but I settle for 9/10. Digged it when you saw a forsaken in that outfit during the cutscene in Dragonblight.

Carys' points: 4
Ghost's points: 7
NuclearAnt's points: 9
Total score: 20

...and the last model for the night, let's hear it for the Warrior! (Pic 1/Pic 2)
Carys - omg more horns! and the two middle colors makes it look like the ass is up front!

Ghost - The look of the set itself, it isn't that bad. But it doesn't really fit the warrior. As a matter of fact, this set would have looked better on a paladin. Warrior tier sets should look badass, not defensive as this one

NuclearAnt - Warriors. Took over Paladin tier 3/7. Tough luck.

Carys' points: 4
Ghost's points: 4
NuclearAnt's points: 4
Total score: 12


Death Knight 20
Druid 14
Hunter 21
Mage 22
Paladin 13
Priest 25
Rogue 24
Shaman 21
Warlock 20
Warrior 12

1st place: Priest
2nd place: Rogue
3rd place: Mage
4th place: Hunter/Shaman
5th place: Death Knight/Warlock
6th place: Druid
7th place: Paladin
8th place: Warrior


Big grats to the top 3 classes, your tier 8 sets get the Ghost of Warcraft Past seal of approvement and thus you can raid in style! Don't cash in yet though, I might revise the score if I can get hold on a fourth jury member!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Current PTR status: Live

The PTR for patch 3.1 is finally up and running! You can see many of the changes, but not all, in the patch notes. Undocumented changes can be found on MMO-Champion. The list is too long for me to comment on it all, but I'll probably highlight notes over time.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Healing Fun (Revisited!)

As of lately there have been lots of threads about healing fun (or rather the lack of it). One might think that this is only a kneejerk reaction to the recent mana regeneration nerf announcement, but is that the whole truth? Could it be that healers in general like the idea of healing so much they can't see the shortcommings?

The healing role have always been very dear to me, and my characters tended to become healers if at all possible. I'll try to pinpoint what makes healing fun, and what makes healing not fun, and see if I can come to some sort of a conclusion.

When is healing fun?
Healing is challenging - I like it when healing is challenging. Mana shouldn't be a non-issue and I should have to use my spells to the fullest, unless I totally overgear the instance. Goes hand in hand with healing variation.
Use of non-healing spells - I like it when I can use spells that aren't immidiately associated with healing to help my group and help with my role. In fact it's one of the more gratifying feelings since it doesn't happen that often. At least not compared to using healing spells. Be it a timely spell interrupt, stun or crowd control.
Variation when healing - I like it when I'm encouraged to use my full set of healing and damage prevention spells when healing. I don't want to be able to spam one spell over and over again and get away with it.
Varying types of damage - In raids I like it when there's a mix of predictable and unpredictable damage, as well as targeted damage versus AoE damage. Unpredictable damage keep you on your toes and the predictable damage is a pleasant distraction.
When assignments matter - In raids I like it when you can assign healers to certain targets, and it makes the encounter easier. It shouldn't be rocket science, but assignments should matter.

When isn't healing fun?
Discrimination - It's not fun when a dungeon seem constructed as a counter to certain healing specs. What comes to mind is Magisters' Terrace for holy paladins, at least before WotLK. While it was doable, it was much easier for the remaining healing specs at the time.
Healer is to blame - It's not fun when everything that can go wrong in an encounter can be blamed on the healer. Since healers are responsible for keeping the group/raid alive, much of what can go wrong can be blamed on them. That comes with the job. But healers shouldn't be able to bail out damage dealers every single time they do something stupid, just because you can save them in theory if you react near instantly and/or waste loads of mana. Mostly a raid issue.
Spamming - It's not fun when one healing spell rule them all. This is even more important after the downranking nerf.
UI fall short - Healers spend most of their time watching health bars. Many of the UI shortcommings can be fixed by downloading 3:rd party addons. But the fact that the UI, after all these years, still is so primitive and poor for healers is incredible. In a bad way. Even with addons we can feel impaired in certain situation because of UI limitations.
When benched - It's not fun when a healer get benched only because the raid want to do a timed run or get some other achievement done. This is a fundamental flaw with healing in this game. You work yourself out of a raid spot.

So what can be done to make healing more fun?
Keep challenging healers - This is an obvious solution, and something that Blizzard always aim to do. Keep in mind that all specs need to be challenged but also encouraged to use all their spells to keep on top of healing.
Less healing fallback - Use more enrage timers, punish stupid damage dealers in ways other than by damage in some encounters.
Let healers increase dps - It kinda goes against all Laws of WoW, but it would be nice if healers can increase the potency of damage dealers dps by the means of active and passive buffs. The healers themselves shouldn't dps. It would be awesome if bringing the standard amount of healers would give a higher overall raid dps than bringing fewer, but decrease the overall dps if more are brought.
Revamp the UI - Sounds like a no-brainer, but it has hardly been touched from vanilla WoW so it can't be that obvious. Healers need to be able to have fun healing without addons. Some people say they do fine without them, but I can assure them that they'll never look back if they start using them. Healers need to be able to do this without addons: customize the look/size of the UI, filter options on buffs/debuffs shown and possibility to show both types at the same time, urgent debuffs that is always shown with a larger icon (encounter specific) and the possibility to make debuffs curable for the class shown as urgent or visualized in some other way, make the raid frame belonging to someone being targeted stand out from the crowd, easy way to go mouse-over healing (like Clique/Healbot), restored UI after disconnects, an actual threat meter... I could go on forever.
Thinking outside the box - I have no idea how fun it would be, but what about this: possibility to charge up a healing spell, possibility to start cast and hold healing spells, feint spellcasting, healing combos and so on.

There you go, some suggestions on how one can make healing more fun in WoW. This was mostly for PvE, as PvP is another matter completly. It has to do with survivability. What comes to mind in terms of PvP I'd say innate resilience, some base resilience that increase with level that keep burst damage down in PvP. Letting healers increase dps as suggested above might buy them some time as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

PTR Forums now Open + Character Copy Available

The much awaited content patch for WoW is one step closer to being released. The other day the PTR forum opened up and also character copy became available. This suggests that the PTR might be available for testing early next week. So copy your characters now if you want to be part of the lag-o-rama from the start!

(Source) / (Source)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dual Spec on the Horizon

The long awaited ability to set up two seperate sets of talents, also known as dual spec, will be added with the upcomming content patch. Well, if everything goes according to plan that is. Blizzard have released a Q&A where Senior Game Designer Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street answer a few questions about the new feature. In this post I'll quote parts of the Q&A and then comment on the answer GC give us.

Nethaera: Who will be able to use it?
Ghostcrawler: Players who have reached the maximum level will be able to set up dual specs.

I know that this isn't set in stone, and that they might expand the feature to include characters leveling up, but I think this is too restrictive. Personally I would allow players to get this ability at lvl 70 to begin with, and expand down to lvl 60 if deemed possible. Also make the ability WotLK only.

Nethaera: Why do players need to be max level in order to do this?
Ghostcrawler: We didn’t want to burden lower-level players with extra complexity as they’re working to level up and learn their class. But if the feature proves popular we might consider expanding it.

You are seriously underestimating your players. Besides, it's not like it's mandatory to get a second spec. If you think it's too complicated then you can wait with getting it.

Nethaera: How do you switch between specs?
Ghostcrawler: Players will be able to switch between their talent specs by visiting any Lexicon of Power provided they’ve paid for the ability to have a secondary spec. Lexicons of Power will be available in major cities, and inscribers will also be able to create a new item that summons one. Anyone can purchase this item, but it requires a ritual of several players to summon it for use by the party. It’s similar to a repair bot in that it will exist in the world for a short duration. It’s important to keep in mind that you will not be able to switch specs while in combat or Arenas. While you won’t be able to switch your spec without the Lexicon, you will still be able to look at your secondary spec whenever you want to.

Seem like a good solution to be honest. Would be cool if Lexicons of Power could be added in Shattrath and Dalaran. Raiders having to take a detour to Azeroth every time it's raid time (or raid end) would be annoying. Letting inscribers create items capable of summoning lexicons is cool. Professions in general could use some more service opportunities like this. The item could perhaps summon a sealed tome of sorts. If three party/raid members channel at the same time it unlocks and become a Lexicon of Power. Duration/Cooldown...10 minutes perhaps? It gives the raid plenty of time to respec for a boss encounter, defeat the encounter and then spec back afterwards.

Nethaera: Is the item that allows you to summon a Lexicon of Power reusable, or is it used up?
Ghostcrawler: We haven’t made a final decision on that yet, and will be evaluating how it works on the PTR.

Tough call. Both would work really. Reusuable equals more of an achievement for the character, while one time use mean more business opportunities for inscriptors. I'm leaning towards reusuable myself, with some hard to get materials.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ulduar Preview and PTR Testing!

A preview of the next tier raid dungeon Ulduar is released! And judging from this preview, Ulduar will be an impressive creation. Great looking and innovative. A breeze of fresh air after Naxxramas, which was but a remake. Perhaps now raiding guilds will be able to keep themselves busy during the raid week. Can't wait to hear more about it.

Also the development of Ulduar is getting close to the point where public testing will be needed. Blizzard have decided to keep a leash on what is being tested and what is not. Both so that the most zealous raiding guilds won't have the dungeon on farm before the public testing is over, but also so that the developers can get better, more focused feedback on the encounters being tested. The first set of boss encounters to be tested is: Freya, Thorim, Hodir and The Iron Council.

(Source) / (Source)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Class Change Highlights

As we all know Blizzard are working hard on the new content patch, patch 3.1. A week ago some highlights were released, focusing on class changes. These were almost exclusively changes that would be described as buffs. I'm guessing Blizzard want to get the ruthless forum mob in a good mood before releasing any details about nerfs. ;)

Jokes aside, there's some really nice stuff in that list, so go have a look if you haven't already.


Next time I post it will probably be about the dual spec announcement.

Mana Regeneration Nerf and Healing Fun

A few days ago developers announced that mana regeneration will most likely be nerfed in content patch 3.1, since they believe it's currently too powerful.

A list of some of the changes in short:
  • Decreased mana regeneration outside the five second rule.
  • Reduced mana regeneration granted by spirit across the board.
  • Boosted effect from spirit regen ---> mp5 abilities/talents.
  • Increased healing penalty on Divine Plea from 20% to 50%.
  • Spiritual Attunement won't be as effective for holy paladins anymore.
  • Clearcasting procs won't keep you out of the five second rule.
  • Raids will be balanced with the assumption that replenishment will be present.

The changes should have the following impact on the different healing classes:

  • Druids and priests: Will be less tempted to regen mana outside the five second rule. The change to clearcasting procs will make it harder to remain outside previously mentioned rule. Intensity/Meditation will be buffed so that mana regen within the five second rule will remain roughly the same as before the nerf. Will have more issues recovering mana out of combat (have to drink more).
  • Paladins: Will not have a very favorable mana regen in encounters with heavy raid damage, and thus have a more even mana regen. Divine Plea will not be cast mindlessly anymore.
  • Shamans: Won't be affected much by the nerf. The other classes will be brought down to the shaman class in terms of mana regeneration.

Nerfs to mana regeneration has happened several times since the dawn of the game, and this won't likely be the last time. I agree with the developers that mana regeneration needs to be kept in check. While it's never fun to be nerfed, it's not fun to never have to think about mana either. A mana regen nerf will mean that mana efficient spells will have a comeback, and with them come a new level of skill: to know when to use the appropriate spell. So in this case a nerf = more fun.

However in some ways I don't agree with how they choose to nerf mana regen. For instance how they nerf the potency of mana regen outside of the five second rule. First off making the most out of out-of-casting regen takes some skill, but most of all it's fun. Do healers need less fun at this point? I can hardly believe my eyes when Ghostcrawler say, after all the talk about mana regen nerfs, that they'd like for healers to be able to pause without disaster as a result... Ehm, wouldn't the five second rule be a nice incentive to take it easy? The current changes bring spirit closer to mp5. Depending on how much they choose to nerf regen outside of the five second rule, they might not be encouraged to pause at all.

By the way, isn't it about time that Intensity/Meditation become baseline for druids/priests? They were as must-have as talents get for balance/resto/disc/holy/shadow even before the buff. After the buff it's just silly...

What's next on the agenda...ah yes, replenishment. I like the idea of replenishment. I don't like how they are making it mandatory for raiding. What happened to "bring the player, not the class"? A mandatory replenishment goes against this goal, and it doesn't even make raiding more fun in the process. It would be better for the game if it was made into a minor buff that a few classes brought as a bonus, and that replenishment is balanced around existing mana regen instead of mana regen getting balanced around an imbalanced replenishment.

They said the high mana regeneration at the moment devalues the ability. I'd say that the pathetic raid difficulty at the moment devalues the ability. In Ulduar we will see replenishment's true colors, and I'm certain it will be deemed overpowered at that point.

On the bright side, paladins have so far been nerfed in ways that doesn't make them less fun to heal with. The change to Divine Plea should even make things more interesting and fun. Wish that druids and priests could recieve the same treatment.

(Source) / (Source)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tigole moves on

I'll start off with some old news. First up...

Jeffrey "Tigole" Kaplan has left his position as Lead Game designer of World of Warcraft to instead work on Blizzard's upcomming, and currently unannounced, MMO. While he'll still be involved with the game, he'll leave the day to day operations to his collegues Tom Chilton and J. Allen Brack.

Good luck Tigole. I'm counting on you to work your magic on that new project of yours.


An Introduction

The blog looked so empty so I figure I'd make a short introduction while I work up the courage to post about more WoW related topics.

Ghost here. Corny I know, but it is what I feel like. Still having a burning interest in something but being unable to vent about it. Even if I was able to somehow do that, my opinions would still be invalid since I don't play anymore. For that reason I mainly write for my own sake, for my own sanity, since I'm guessing not many are interested in what old has-beens has to say. Any and all that are interested in input from a not so likely source are more than welcome though.

My plan is to keep up to date with how WoW develop, mainly through reading the official forums, and post about stuff that catch my interest. This post could be anything from a BUMP! to "this is how I would have done it!".

Anyways, time to wrap up. Thanks for reading.