Perspective, Decisions, Goals: A Raid Leader’s Dilemma

10 August, 2010

“Never write about a place until you’re away from it, because that gives you perspective”-Ernest Hemingway

I’ve been away from the raiding game for exactly4 resets now. I’m a hardcore player that leads a guild with raid bosses left on the table to finish. At 11/12 Heroic Icecrown and normal mode Halion, we decided to go on a pre-Cataclysm raiding vacation.

  • Burn-out
  • Attendance
  • Lack of Skill
  • Frustration

None of those apply, actually. It’s a complicated topic that I decided not to write about until a month after because I felt like I lacked the perspective to really reflect on the decision made by myself and the officer corps just a short month and a half ago.

Decisions

There are so many things that played into it. In many ways, this decision has been six years  in the making.

When it comes to being an officer in a Warcraft Guild, bloggers talk about it, but they don’t really talk about it. If that doesn’t make sense (probably not), let me explain.

We are in one of the oddest positions in gaming. We make decisions that direct how people spend their leisure time. People come home from work or school, sit down at their computer, and then ask me what we’re going to be doing tonight. I remember, in vivid detail, the first time that I ever called a raid. It was Serpentshrine Cavern. We were short 3 or 4 people, and I had to send everyone away for the evening. I sat online for the rest of the night hating myself, and vowed to do everything I can to stop that from happening ever again.

As a person, you feel personally responsible for ruining someone’s fun (which is never fun for you, hopefully). You’re the one that’s in charge of getting people into the raid in the first place. There’s a reason I’ve devoted a lot of time to studying and writing about guild recruitment and roster management. It’s so important and yet so often overlooked that when you get down to it, there’s ~20 real people that are taking time out of their evening to sit down and kick it inside a raid instance. It’s also one of the reasons that I loathed the dependence on badge income for Tier 10: too much undue stress on raid leaders.

But we take it on gladly. Certain people with certain personalities. It all works.

We met as officers, and as friends, on more than one occasion to address the gorilla that weaseled its way into the room. This gorilla was aptly named Arthas, Heroic. While working on getting icebound frost wyrms, we skipped an end-wing boss or two to get achievements. This meant that the Ultimate Encounter was not available for us to try for a reset or two, but we never really sat down and talked about it.

Until we did.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Halion Post #72653: This is the good Twilight

1 July, 2010

Rebels souls, deserters we were called. Chose a gun, and threw away the sword. Now these towns, they all know our names. Six gun sound is our claim to fame. — Bad Company

You’ve already watched the TankSpot video, you’ve read the brief strat write-ups on WoWHead, and maybe even dabbled in a bit of the lore. Going back over all of that is just going to be a waste of your time, and mineso here are my brief (not) impressions/opinions on the last raid of Wrath of the Lich King.

Overall, I was pleased with the new visuals and layout of the instance. It’s only one room so my expectations weren’t amazingly high, but they did a good job capturing the Red Flight’s theme that you see in Dragonblight.

The mini-boss concept is something that they’ve opened up in Wrath of the Lich King and I hope continues into Cataclysm. The dogs and the valkyr in Icecrown Citadel, along with the drakes in Obsidian Sanctum and Lieutenants inside Ruby Sanctum, break up the trash clear in a good way.  They have mechanics that you actually have to worry about and give your DPS some time to actually ramp up and use their real rotations.

For healers, we get to glance back at the monitor during trash which is nice. So far in Wrath there has been no trash other than maybe Crimson Halls that required any sort of real attention.

Halion Phase 1

Being outdoors in an open grove, you immediately get the sense that you are going to need to use most of the area and do a lot of movement. The first step that I always try to take when setting up a fight like this is try and maximize the raid’s usable space, if possible. The fiery wall surrounding the fight area is a nice border you can park Halion’s side against. The breath and tail aren’t really a problem, and if a meteor or poorly placed “void zone” force movement, you can just walk along the outside rim.

Phase 1 is a big time joke. There is nothing in this phase of the fight that can kill you (even if you try). You can take  a meteor to the face and still live. Why? I have absolutely no idea. If it was so important to move out of it, why make it take so long to land or even give much of a warning at all. As it stands, anyone that’s even barely paying attention will reduce the raid damage to nothing.

Conversely, a raid with lower DPS might have to deal with more meteors and void zones. Our raid comp ended up being 2 tanks (Warrior/Paladin), 5 Healers (Shaman/2xPriest/2xDruid), and 18 DPS (10 ranged, 8 melee), which is very DPS heavy. As we reached 75%, we were consistently getting 2 void zones and 1 meteor. Yawn.

Zone into the Twilight. Don’t touch the Dragon. He bites.

Hallion Phase 2

BloodlustHeroism as soon as everyone is phased in.

Going into this fight, you might ask yourself: “self, how the heck am I going to see the people to cleanse in the right spot while I’m running around dodging this big lazer!?” The answer is simple, just cleanse it right away. We tested fairly early on that the damage done by the void zones (both shadow and fire) in normal mode are easy to heal through for quick bursts.

Cleansing people immediately in the Twilight gives you these benefits

  1. Mindless. Your healers won’t have to think a lot about people’s position and whether it’s “safe” to cleanse. The debuff pops up on your grid and you just knock it right back down.
  2. Small void zone. An immediate cleanse creates a void zone that’s about 8ish yards across. Even if it’s dropped in melee, Halion’s hit box is so big that you almost don’t even notice it. They disappear in enough time

Phase 2 doesn’t last all that long (a trend from Phase 1).

Halion Phase 3

Shieldbubblebear Wall while people are zoning in/out and healers are making sure the Physical Realm team is safely ushered back upstairs.

If assigned, zone out into the Physical Realm. Don’t touch the Dragon. He bites.

Your raid is now split in two. We sent the melee upstairs (+hunter) and kept the ranged DPS downstairs. The Twilight Cutter is impossible to get hit by if you’re a ranged dps unless you’re standing right on top of an orb. Conversely the melee are always in danger of getting caught up in their rotation and being zapped.It’s also easier to just say “melee up, ranged down” and you don’t have to bother with pesky group assignments.

Physcial Realm (Top)

One Healer. One Tank. A little bit of fire. We started off with our healing split being 2 down (Me and a Druid) and 3 up (Druid + 2 Priests). We then went to 2 up, 3 down (Me/Druid/Priest), and by the time we killed him we determined that the top can be easily solo healed. Four healers, split between tank and raid, is good insurance for the Twilight Realm which is significantly…more involved than the Physical Realm.

Twlight Realm (Bottom)

Healer tips for those that are new:

  1. If your tank is closely following the beam (like he should be), a good place to stand is right on the bosses front leg. This will keep you in range of him with some buffer if a void zone is dropped oddly, but will also keep your DPS healing targets within 40 yards.
  2. That being said, make sure you don’t get cleaved or breathed on, it’s easy to lose track of which way the dragon is facing while you’re running.
  3. The tank is your number one priority, do not focus on keeping raid members topped off 100% of the time. Make sure you are keeping them in a safe range, certainly, but this fight is over immediately if that tank drops. Dead raid members can be battle-rezzed (also: ankh, soul stone) and take the portal back down.
  4. Riptide and LHW are your best friend. Being soft-capped on your haste is a good thing here.
  5. Communicate with your tank and let him know if you’re out of range for any length of time. Even if it’s only for a little, Halion hits hard enough that an unlucky avoidance streak will equal a wipe.
  6. I found myself hitting my NS cooldown as soon as it came up and waiting on it for a quick burst when I was moving (prelude to Cataclysm and spirit-walking).

One thing to keep in mind if you choose to do a melee up, ranged down strat, Halion’s corporeality will dip under 40% quite often as the ranged DPS will be forced to move as a group much more often than the melee. Just have the Physical realm pause for a bit and let it come back up.

Stay out of the Twilight Cutter and you’ll have little problems. Like I said above, a competent healer can handle the Physical realm on their own. Even with the movement requirements in the Twilight, I never felt overly stretched. Though, after healing Putricide(HM) Phase 3, Halion phase 3 is a bit of a breather.

Impressions

I made the comparison of raids to Theme Parks a few posts back, and that analogy holds true for Halion. Halion is a boss that’s all about making you feel like you’re about to die at any moment, but never actually does anything that will kill you. The void zones aren’t really void zones, you can run across one and live with just a couple heals (if any). The Twilight Cutter is dangerous but the extensive emotes and the slow movement mean you really have to leave your computer to be killed by it.

We obviously haven’t done heroic mode (yet), but I’ve read enough about it to know that there is a lot more potential in this fight. Heroic additions such as adds from meteors, void zones appearing in both realms, and two simultaneous twilight cutters means that if you didn’t have enough things to not stand in before, you can rest assured that you’re available space will be much tighter.

Anyways, as far as the normal mode version of the encounter goes, it was a fun and refreshing take on YADF*. Anything that splits the raid in half is always a challenge of balancing and coordination. You never quite know what is going on so it forces you to actively communicate and keep vent cleared. The vent clogging can get out a bit out of hand as the Twlight Realm will be talking a lot more than the Physical Realm.

The first two phases were just too short for even very average DPS. Because of this, you don’t really deal with any of the mechanics until the last phase and by that time, as long as your tanks stay upright you can limp home if needed. The meteor and void zone timers do not require your movement and positioning to be as strict as I thought they would. Things tend to disappear rather quickly.

I stayed in the Twilight Realm, but from what I heard over Vent, the Physical Realm is the trivial portion of the encounter.

On hard mode with the adds and additional damage/void zones, it will likely be the more complicated half of the raid. The disappointing thing about normal mode, sadly, was that we only got one upgrade (Caster DPS trinket). The other pieces were given to offspecs/side grades. We’ve spent a lot of time farming hard mode ICC, so that is expected, but it seems like we could have used this boss maybe 2 months ago whenever we were plodding along still with some 251 gear.

My question is: Why not have encounters in all of the Wyrmrest portals? Both Sartharion and Halion were incredibly enjoyable experiences top to bottom. It would end up being a set of 1 encounter dungeons that would form a pseudo-full instance. There were a lot of breaks in content throughout Wrath of the Lich King, adding fights for the Green (with Ulduar?), Blue(with ToC?), and Bronze (with ICC?) flights would have been really cool.

All in all, we notched another boss kill in about 6 attempts. By ICC standards it ranks on the low end of difficult fights, but nothing I didn’t expect. In the next couple resets I hope to get into hard mode (10 man and possibly 25) to see what’s in store to snag some i284s.

Bottom-Line: Very fun and engaging encounter, but lacks a real danger factor once you’ve seen how tame some of the mechanics really are. A nice punctuation mark on a successful expansion.

*Yet Another Dragon Fight


Talent Show: Shaman Cataclysm Preview

10 June, 2010

Don’t let the world deceive you, don’t let their words betray you, don’t let their lies deceive you. Let them do their worst–Killswitch Engage

Ooooo...frosty

The drought of New in the World of Warcraft has been long, so long in fact, that I think local authorities were asking people to only read one (two if it’s an emergency) blog posts, 5 tweets, or 5 Facebook updates per day in order to conserve as much time eating content as possible. It’s a long Summer, people. We can’t waste it all in May before it even starts!

Blizzard dropped a rather sizable portion of content on our plates this week as the talent trees for several classes (Shaman, Rogue, Priest, Druid) were revealed. This is our first glance at what the Cataclysm really will do to our playstyles and characters, something that we’ve all been anxiously awaiting since Blizzcon 2009. [Thanks, MMO-Champion!]

Top to Bottom

The Restoration tree was barely touched. All the familiar talents are still remaining and the tree looks like it was copy-pasted, but the subtle changes that do exist are very, very interesting.

Focused Insight (5 ranks available) – After casting any shock spell, your next heal’s mana cost is reduced by 15/30/45/60/75% of the cost of the shock spell, and its healing effectiveness is increased by 5/10/15/20/25%

This new talent, taking the place of our good friend Tidal Mastery (5% crit to healing and lightning spells), will show its true benefit further down this list. This gives restoration Shamans a little something for the Frost Shock kiting that we tend to do whether by design or necessity.

I talked some time ago when the first preview was released about how Blizzard needed to give healers a way to show some skill, show some creativity, and simply have more choices.  As it stands now, I don’t see this becoming part of a “rotation” (as if those exist for healers). The shock isn’t free, it just reduces the cost of the next heal[edit: Wind Shear is not a shock dur].

Edit:

A high tree PvP talent, the Resto tree is already heavy PvE, so I can’t complain too much about this considering Blizzard’s goals.

Ancestral Resolve (2 ranks available) – Reduces damage taken while casting spells by 5/10%.

Awesome new talent for raiders…right now. In Cataclysm? I can’t be too sure. Right now I spend 90%+ of my time in combat casting. Some fights a little less and some 100%. The ticking auras and the massive amounts of RSTS damage that exist make this basically a flat 10% reduction in damage across the board for Shamans (again, in WotLK). Cataclysm is showing its hand currently as having a different damage output model than what we’re seeing in Icecrown Citadel.

If I’m supposed to pick and choose my heals to cast, so as not to immediately run out of mana, will I get a big benefit from this talent? My thoughts are still up in the air and I don’t think I’ll be able to make up my mind until I’m in a Cataclysm raid. Even if you don’t actually finish the cast, you will still “activate” this talent. Pre-casting and canceling spells will once again be very important in the healing game. The kicker is that you might not actually be taking any damage, and if you aren’t this talent has given you nothing.

Tidal Waves

It will now bump Healing Wave into the 10% category and insert Greater Healing Wave into the +20% buff when active.

Earth Shield and Riptide

Their function remains the same, but the devil is in the details. Same as always except we get a little taste of the mana and spell changes. The base for this spell now reads as costing 8635 Mana and healing at a base 1609 per charge. Putting that into perspective, the current spell heals for a base of 150. Using this spell after a shock would reduce its cost down to 2158 (-6476 mana)! Riptide, according to the post, is 6590 mana (1647 with Focused Insight).

For me, the current numbers for those two spells are as follows (4172 Base Mana):

Earth Shield (15% of Base Mana):626

Riptide (18% of Base Mana): 751

Yowza.

We still like enhancement as our sub spec

The top of the enhancement tree was completely redone.  It looks more like the Arms tree now with 4 tiers of no dependent talents. You have your traditional entry point into the tree with Ancestral Knowledge (still essential), but then you’ll notice 2 things: Enhancement Totems has moved down to tier 2 and Toughness has been moved up to Tier 3, putting into the “attractive for restoration” range. Also sitting pretty in Tier 4 is

Ancestral Swiftness – Increases movement speed by 5/10/15%. This does not stack with other movement speed increasing effects.

Movement speed increase is an essential raiding buff to have. I recommend it to everyone, dps, healing, or tanking, for their boot enchant if they don’t have an talent/inherent ability to make them faster. That little bit of extra speed always pays off. Maybe we can fit this into a resto build with those 5 extra talents…stay tuned…

Noticeable missing is Thundering Strikes. Like it’s sister talent in the restoration tree for Healing/Lightning, this crit increasing talent now has gone the way of the Dodo and leaves Flurry as a talent with no requirements other than 15 invested talent points.

Make the Forest Turn To Wine

My first go at a level 85 build looks like this: [Build 1]

Looking over it I have some second thoughts. Improved Reincarnation is good utility, but not essential. It’s another talent similar to Ancestral Resolve in that it has 0 benefit if you don’t die. It’s an insurance talent, and one I’ve come to like a lot in Wrath of the Lich King. We also don’t really need it to get to Tier 3 so let’s leave it out for now.

+2 Talent Points

Focused insight is something that I sort of adopted because it looks really cool from a 10 man raiding perspective where utility can sometimes be at a minimum. Using some shocks to help gives you a good reward. However, it’s 5 talent points and maybe we can use those somewhere else. We’ve already made it to Tier 4, so let’s fill move on down to Tier 5.

+5 Points (7 Total)

We’ve only spent 4 points in tier 5 so we’ll need to tack on a point back to Focused Insight so we can move down and pick up Purification, a free pass into Tier 7.

-1 Point (6 total)

From here on down we meet head on with a lot of essential stuff, and we still need to get down to Riptide. Mana Tide and Cleanse Spirit are only 1 point talents, we’ll need to back track and put more into something else to move down. We need 3 so let’s put them into Focused Insight.

-3 Points (3 Total)

If we’re looking at the most important 5 points in Tier 8, we’re definitely going for Improved Chain Heal and Nature’s Blessing, no question.  Tier 9 only gives us 3 points from Earth Shield Talents. We left Blessing of the Eternals off our previous Tier so we’ll use that to move down all the way and grab Riptide. Giving us this bare bones talent tree: [Build 2]

We’ll throw in 8 essential points in enhancement (5 for Ancestral Knowledge and 3 for Improved Shields). We have 17 points to spend at the candy store. Where do we spend them?

This is where I spent mine: [Link 3]

That’s a lot of talking to basically say that I moved 4 points, but I wanted to really see what I could get away with in the new “wider with more points” model. As it turns out. Restoration Shamans will have about 17 points to use on utility talents. Throwing 5 more into enhancement to get Elemental Weapons drops that number down even further (12 for those that hate math). There are a lot of considerations for which you would like to use.

  • The 5 points spent in Focused Insight could be moved to Threat Reduction, Pushback Prevention, and even into Ancestral Resolve depending on the situation. None of those are deal breakers from a pure output perspective in an unmolested healing environment.
  • Let’s also not forget some more points could be placed into toughness or silence reduction depending on the fight, again, without impeding your maximum output (unless I missed something, which is fairly likely).

It’s going to be a fun time playing with some of this utility before Cataclysm really hits, and hopefully we’ll get a little preview of exactly what our mana pools in relation to our healing spells will be looking like with the beta coming in the next month or two.

Miscellany

  • We got our Icebound Frostbrood Vanquishers last reset, woo hoo!
  • Decided to finally dive into the world of Twitter a mere 5 or 6 years after everyone else it seems. You can find me @borskzj. Only about…25% of my tweets are related to WoW, but that will likely change as the beta ramps up.
  • The Starcraft 2 beta ended for a while this past week, boredom has once again consumed me as I look for more obscure films to take in (No obsucure, but go see Splice if you haven’t).
  • A-Team. Expendables. Inception.
  • The long wait for football season has officially begun with Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks lifting the cup for the first time in 49 years. Suck it, Flyers.
  • Once I finish the last couple site banners, I’ll post them all here for everyone to look at without having to click our web-page a bunch of times.

Edits:

I was sort of living in the past when Earth Shock still had an interrupt component. There was bound to be something I would gloss over in this preview! That puts focused insigt squarely in the PvP corner as the chances to use a shock in a raid on a regular basis are pretty small.

As of right now, the talents aren’t really in a state that prevents restoration shaman from getting everything so I’m quite certain they’ll be throwing a lot more changes our way. If they don’t, then that’s a definite advantage to Shamans.


Cataclysm raid refinements open doors, leave questions

26 April, 2010

Bibi’s quick take on [MMO-Champion]:

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.

The news came down this afternoon that these significant changes will be made to raiding when we get to Cataclysm. A little vague, a little bit left to be desired, but nonetheless thought provoking. From the perspective of a player that enjoys heroic raiding at the 25 man level, it certainly got me thinking.

Each tier so far this expansion has had a 25 man and 10 man raid. For hardcore raiders, it’s a simple concept, to gear your character faster, you do more content. Running both the 10 and 25 man each reset is an accepted practice. The only reason a person would kill the same bosses twice a week is for the gear. Also, with so much gear being placed on the badge vendor (tier starters in ICC), you also need that extra influx of badges to make sure you got the gear you need for progression right now and not 3 months from now (now being December ’09).

The biggest problem, aside from badge generation, was the fact that 10 man and 25 contained unique loot. But wait, isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t they have distinguishable gear to really denote a “10 man” and “25 man” raider? The idea is good, but the itemization always fell short of the goal in a few unique circumstances. The biggest offender here were trinkets (Mjolnir Runestone, anyone?), but there were still a few weapons and other pieces of gear that just happened to be itemized better in 10 man. This meant that in order to get the best gear for your toon, you needed to do 10 and 25 man.

With 10 man’s removed from the docket of a main raider, it will relieve a lot of intra-guild stress generated from finding a 10 man group.  In a small roster situation, a 25 man guild barely has enough raiders to field 2 10 mans with a backup here or there. It’s a strange predicament and something, as a raid leader, you want to facilitate, but you end up going insane trying to do so. The new lockouts will now give you a hard number on the amount of gear coming into your raid.

So in Cataclysm the choice to be a 25 man guild will really mean something…

…or will it.

There was another practice that came about this expansion with the advent of gated content: running 2 25 mans. The amount of gear coming into your raid could be increased by running half of your guild’s mains  in 2 different 25 mans, filling each half with alts. This was easy to do in normal mode ICC since the content was easy and was released in small chunks. Once it went out to a full fledged 12 boss instance (and you had hard modes), trying to attempt this became harder to do so while actually having days in the week where you don’t raid.

The Cataclysm raids, according to the Blues, will be smaller (5 or 6 bosses each).  The temptation will be there (to split your raid), but I don’t think that the time in a raid week will be there. At the moment, you can already see signs that a lot of guilds are dialing back their raid time per week (and being incredibly successful doing so). Very successful, low hour per week raids are very attractive as they minimize time spent in game,  but maximize character progression.

The only difference between the two raiding types now is the fact that you will get more (badges, gear, money) from the 25 man. “More” is so subjective that it’s hard to comment, but this is something that I get a little worried about when I think down the line in Cataclysm.

End of the line for 25 mans?

Blizzard has now decided to support 25 man raiding only because there is a segment of the population that enjoys “large scale raiding.” Count me among that group. I love going in with 25 and battling a boss that needs the synergy and coordination of a lot of people. I hated the logistical nightmare of 40 man raiding, but liked the fact that it took so many people to kill one boss.

I don’t like worrying or speculating, or going doom and gloom, but this is something that I think is a good issue to bring up. The lure of 10 man raiding is how controllable the environment is. You are dealing with 10 people. Getting 10 schedules aligned and working is relatively easy. It’s possible to fit a 10 man into almost any day of the week and even change it week to week to suit the needs of the group. The group is also small enough that no loot system is really needed, and every decision can be made by the group.

Raiders were attracted to the 25 man setting because it had better gear and the encounters were (generally) more challenging. The only difference now will be the amount of gear. This begs the question: If I’m only raiding with 9 other people, why do I need more gear and badges? What are the chances I’ll be competing for gear if I’m the only Rogue or only Shaman?

Again, expansion talk is always precarious.

The difference in the drops (including badges and gold) could be incredibly significant. Twenty five man raiders may end up getting twice the badge/gold input as the 10 man raiders. However, this is an aspect that I think Blizzard needs to get just right, or it will mark the slow downfall (and eventual demise) of 25 man raiding. It is impossible to know at this point how big this will be. The price of badge gear, the exact amount of loot or gold, and the number of bosses will all factor in.

Turnover

There are a lot of established 25 man raiding guilds (Blood Red Moon being one of them). Our guild won’t die because of this lockout change, but it might be hard to maintain a roster as more “starting with Cataclysm” players enter the game and “older/veteran” players leave.

Over the life of an expansion, a guild loses players. Some of those players move on to other guilds, some just quit the game. During Wrath of the Lich King I probably saw no less than 20 players (if not more) join and then eventually leave the ranks of Blood Red Moon.  These players ranged from one week wonders to three year guild veterans and everything in between. It’s normal and something that is easy to handle with consistent, proactive recruitment. With the new system, what will be the motivation for a “new player” (Cataclysm borne) to seek out a 25 man raiding group?

My answer to that question is reputation. The rep of a server’s guilds will keep funneling players into them, but will that hold up once those players get a sense of what 25 man raiding and 10 man raiding are all about?

There’s still the question of current players. Maybe it’s easier for a group of in game friends to leave their guilds. Leave the dkp systems, the recruitment, and the logistics of 25 man raiding behind and start something for themselves and close friends. It might not be a new guild, but a new raiding group (you only get one lockout per character).

Could we see the rise of “raiding teams” along the lines of how people view “arena teams”?

Is an official format like this coming with the new guild leveling system (players being grouped by both guild and/or raid)? In game rankings, perhaps?

10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other

I’m anxiously awaiting what becomes of this statement. To me, the simple act of coordinating 25 people is harder, and Blizzard acknowledges that. I only hope that they align the difference in difficulty with their “more loot” policy for 25 man raiders. If 25 mans are more difficult, but drop the same loot as a 10 man, do fringe 25 man raiders continue to stick with 25 man raiding or instead opt for the 10 mans?

Does 25 man raiding end up being there only to serve guilds that have been around? Why would a player starting up a guild want to tackle building up a 25 man raiding force? Would it even be possible given the above changes?

Keeping the difficulty close will be, in a word, difficult. There was evidence of this during this expansion (10 man Sarth 3D was harder, comparatively, than 25 man), but most of it was the exact opposite. Icecrown Citadel Heroic, in its entirety, is simple on 10 man when compared to 25. The differences between things such as one Val’kyr vs. three on Lich King, or the minimized dangers of Lady Deathwhisper 10 (1 ghost, 1 add) are huge.

I would say the encounter designers really have their work cut out for them, but that is an understatement.

Toward the Future

I ask a lot of questions in this post because that’s what Blizzard has opened themselves up to at this point. I’m predicting a lot of forum rage and possibly a few rebuttals and clarification by the design team.

The direction they are heading: one lockout, same gear, same difficulty, gives players a black and white choice: 10 or 25 man., heroic or normal. For established 25 man guilds, this is a good thing. No more pressure to run 10 mans. Further, 10 mans can be reserved purely for alt advancement as a fun side activity. Smaller raid sizes encourage pickup raids. They also encourage raids at odd hours when you might have the people but not the time complete a full (12+ boss) instance without missing out on some of the encounters.

A unified loot pool will keep the quantity of epics down and hopefully control the itemization to a degree. There will always be bad pieces of gear, but now there should be less bad ones compared to ones that are actually desired.

Blizzard’s desire to focus game play and remove “grindy” elements is crossing them into a weird territory that other MMOs have not been. Formerly, the way to show how good you are in an MMO was how much time you put into the game. Blizzard’s divergence from this long established practice is an interesting one that pulls them closer to what people like from their console games. They want people to be able to show their stuff and achieve things in a small frame of time (and with the people they enjoy playing beside).

If anyone can pull that off, it’s Blizzard. I just hope that by doing this they don’t remove the challenge of the game that many of us have to come to enjoy in the format we’ve come to enjoy it.

  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will share the same lockout.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids difficulty will be as close as possible to each other.
  • 10-Man and 25-Man raids will drop the exact same loot, but 25-man will drop a higher quantity of items.
  • Normal versus Heroic mode will be chosen on a per-boss basis in Cataclysm raids, the same way it works in Icecrown Citadel
  • For the first few raid tiers, our plan is to provide multiple smaller raids. Instead of one raid with eleven bosses, you might have a five-boss raid as well as a six-boss raid.

Cataclysm Raiding Manifesto

20 April, 2010

“Death can take me if I can’t be free. I am not like you, I’m a dying breed!”-Five Finger Death Punch

It’s hard to remember back to the time when there were no achievements in raids. We’re coming up on nearly two full years of raiding with those little 10pt boxes flashing on our screen after (or even during) boss fights.

The playing field for the whole game changed with those little boxes. Now, we are no longer raiding for perfection, we’re raiding to check off boxes on a list of things we need to get done. The necessity of being able to easily repeat a boss fight is now distilled down to one encounter: Lich King Heroic. A raid group needs to complete the heroic mode versions of Professor Putricide, Blood Queen Lana’thel, and Sindragosa to move on and use their remaining attempts to work on the pinnacle challenge of WotLK.

So it affects about 200 guilds. Cool.

The problem that this creates, in conjunction with Strength of Wrynn, is that gear is no longer a factor in progression. It certainly provides an edge to those that collect it and min/max their kits to squeeze out every last drop of DPS, but it isn’t required to progress nearly as much as it used to.

This has moved most of the hardcore raiding community off of the race track and onto a go-kart track. Someone might win the race, but it’s only about the ride and not the result. The choice we make to raid in a hard core environment and compete with other guilds is watered down, and has little in the way of actual competitive measurement.

After the jump my thoughts on Cataclysm, raiding, and moving back to a raiding system that melds the traditional with the contemporary.

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Shotgun Friday: Shiny Ponies, Mini Robots, Ragnaros, and Pllayyyofffss?

16 April, 2010

It’s a great day for hockey.– “Badger” Bob Johnson

Time to take a little trip around the blog-o-sphere on this beautiful NHL playoff Friday.

Short and sweet, but my blog-o-read-o-matic is rather shallow these days. If you got something you would like to show off, just post it in the comments and I’ll throw it up, I mean, I’ll post it the next time I get a chance.

Random Friday Thoughts

Ponys and Robots

Micro-purchasing in WoW reached a new high (or low to some folks) yesterday with the release of the Celestial Steed and the Lil’ XT mini pet. The Celestial Steed is an account wide mount that’s both ground and air. It scales with your riding skill so you can use it on every one of your characters from level 20 on up. All I have to say about this mount is that it looked cool…until they released it. Now it looks like some bloated ghost pony.

The mini-XT on the other hand is an amazing non combat pet. It smashes trains, it shoots robots, and it makes a lot of noise. I’ll likely be picking one of these up very soon…

GC gave you a pony. Now shut up about it (and fork over $25 US)!

Nagas On Fire

Blizzard released a couple brief previews this week for some of the new Cataclysm zones: Vashj’ir and Mount Hyjal. The latter is going to contain one of the new raids at level 85 (The Firelands) and is something that I’m sure everyone is looking forward to. The Firelands obviously is going to contain one of our old friends, Mr. Ragnaros (or is it just Ragnaros, maybe Sir Ragnaros. I’m not really into the whole brevity thing).

The Firelands needs to have lava that you can tumble into and maybe even some sort of Red Tunic-esque fire prevention item available. I definitely do not want to go back to farming loads of resistance gear, but I think to recapture what made the fight against Ragnaros so epic, it needs some sort of resistance element to it. Gearing up for Rag, the Fire Resist gear, the consumables, all fed into the epic nature of the fight.

Maybe a resistance tabard or cloak linked to reputation?

[MMO-Champion]

Strength of Wrynn: 15%

Our projected time-line of four weeks per level is nearing of the end of it’s cycle for the 10% buff (April 27th). We’re currently working on Heroic Putricide in 25s and just starting some attempts in on Heroic Lich King in 10s. This gives us a raid week plus one day to finish up and start work on Sindragosa before we get bumped up another 5%.

The last increase to 10% really opened the flood gates on a lot of hard modes. The way a lot of the timers/benchmarks are looking for the stuff we currently do, 15% is going to put a lot of people up against Heroic Lich King in 25s very soon. The battle for the Realm First Light of Dawn is starting to heat up very quickly.

NHL Playoffs

If you are a casual hockey fan and really enjoyed what you saw from the coolest game on ice in the Olympics, don’t miss a second of the NHL playoffs this year. Every game so far has been absolutely fantastic. Last night two games went into Overtime and ended in the most dramatic fashion possible. The home team has only won twice out of the first 7 games so a lot of series are still really up for grabs.

Go Pens!

Have a great weekend, folks.


HHM: Lord Moralegar – Turning Raiding Momentum In Your Favor

15 April, 2010

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.–Vince Lombardi

Hidden Hard Modes (HHM) is a series dedicated to those bosses you see outside of the game. The bosses you need to kill just to make it into an instance and before you even kill one boss. This feature will be archived in its own page for easy access after it runs its course. Previous entries: Attendancegut, Recruitmentface

It’s been some time since my last entry on this topic due to a lot of progress, other interesting topics to write on, and the one first of two events this year that make this post actually possible to carve out. Also, this post is likely going to cover much of what I intended for Stratagosa, so we’ll count this as a “council boss” for Hidden Hard Modes ;).

Morale and confidence within a raid are strange animals. In one moment you can effortlessly defeat anything placed in front of you, and with one wipe at a low percent you’re struggling wipe after wipe, for seemingly no reason. There’s a reason that I’m constantly comparing what we do in game to those that skate and hoop in front of thousands: the mentality is similar

Seasons

In PvP there are defined arena seasons, but those are relatively abstract compared to an actual sports season. Raiding actually follows a more stringent schedule and time frame when compared to the typical NHL or NBA season. In a typical week, they’ll play 3 to 4 games. For Raiders, we’re getting up and heading into an instance the same amount.

Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The mental and physical toughness that it takes to be a professional athlete is so far above what a raider in WoW exerts it might as well be on Jupiter. That being said, in a typical raiding cycle (approximately 7 months) you’re suiting up to play 112 times with probably 70 of those nights being actual progression.

Handling that kind of grind is not easy. There will be off nights and weeks, times when you don’t really get anything done. Is the sky falling every time you wipe 10 times on a boss you’ve killed a half dozen times? Is it time to kick people or disband the guild if a bad raid night turns into a streak of bad nights? Of course not.

Bouncing Back

In hockey this phenomenon is referred to as “tilting the ice.” During a game or a season it might seem like one team is completely outmatched. No matter what they do or how many penalties the other team gets, they just can’t get anything going. It actually looks like someone picked up one end of the rink so that one team is playing downhill. When a game is in the balance, the tilt can go either way at any time. A quick streak of goals can send a team into a downward spiral, bleeding momentum.

Momentum when fighting through a raid instance is just as important. An easy one shot on a boss carries over to the next boss (and so far). Wipes happen just like goals agsinst happen. Expecting to go an entire season without being scored on is ridiculous. Especially on harder content, you need to expect that some bad things will happen or someone will make a mistake and you won’t be able to recover. That’s fine. You just recover, re-buff and pull again.

The wipes that really throw you off kilter are the “back breakers.” You just had a couple solid attempts where a tank DC’d or some dice rolls lined up the wrong way. Everyone is still pretty confident, but this time a melee loses his head and gets his group killed early in the fight. Ugh, killer. We played perfectly and wiped, we played poorly and wiped, how the hell are we going to beat this?

It’s time to bounce back.

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