CataRaiding Day 2: Hero Points and Competition

28 April, 2010

The bullet points from Bashniok [MMO-Champion]:

  • Hero Points — Low-tier, easier-to-get PVE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, but no cap to how quickly you can earn them. Earned from most dungeons. (most like the current Emblem of Triumph)
  • Valor Points — High-tier, harder-to-get PvE points. Maximum cap to how many you can own, as well as a cap to how many you can earn per week. Earned from Dungeon Finder daily Heroic and from raids. (most like the current Emblem of Frost)

Fury

It’s almost cliche at this point to say the response to the Cataclysm raiding changes has been nothing short of loud and far from calm. When you do something as drastic as announce these kinds of changes, you have to expect this type of thing. Frankly, I’m not surprised that people on all sides of the Casual vs. Hardcore vs. CasualCore vs. Hardsual are all mad. There are so many loose ends and questions that it’s hard to point fingers and be mad at anyone.

The best response? Be mad at everything.

Everyone is trying to predict or put an expiration date on their guild or their style of raiding. I think it’s too soon to be numbering the days of 25 mans as we know them, but the path to that point is possible, so that’s what people are going to be looking at.

Battle

Since there are so many different kinds of guilds out there, I find it best to just address these changes from the point of view of an upper-middle tier 25 man guild (9/12 Heroic ICC25, Frostwyrms in 10 man). One of the drivers for 25 man players is inter-guild/intra-server raiding competition. If you are competitive by nature, you are always measuring yourself against your peers.

Can we do better? How are they doing better? How close are they behind us?

Viable competition requires a couple things:

  1. A common starting point and a common end goal
  2. Rules for competition
  3. Level playing field from team to team, match to match

Achieving #3 in an MMO is very difficult due to it’s very nature (intentional diversity between players). A football team might have players at many different positions, but every team has the same number of them on the field at a time. It’s true, some modify that (3 linebackers/4 lineman vs. 4 linebackers/3 lineman), but the quality of play is dictated by the talent (and to a lesser extent, the strategy).

Keeping that competition going means that separate progression tracks for 10 and 25 man need to be maintained. It might be the same boss fights and the “same difficulty” using the same loot, but the number of raiders is significant and a completely different game is being played (in terms of competition). Denoting if a kill was completed on 10 or 25 man in some fashion is essential.

Many have talked briefly about what exactly Blizzard can do to make 25 man raiding attractive? That’s where Hero/Valor Points enter into the discussion. First off, I don’t really care what they’re called. They could be called Hero Cookies or Unicorn Points for all I care, it all ends up meaning the same thing, it’s just in a different form.

With that being said, here’s what I think needs to happen to give 25 man raiding an edge:

A 25 man raid will provide enough Valor Points that no 5 man raiding is necessary to become point capped in a given week. Likewise, it will be impossible to reach more than 50% of the cap by only doing 5 mans. A 10 man raider will only be able to achieve 75% of his points cap from the 10 man raid.

Gearing to prepare for the first tier of raiding is one thing, but having 25 man raiders (and even 10 man raiders) step back all the way down to 5 mans in order to improve their character is clunky and uninteresting. Those numbers can go up or down, my intention is only to keep with Blizzard’s statement (more points/loot/gold from 25 mans).

The one thing missing from this whole “points system” (or what I’ve been affectionately calling Emblems of Frost: Blizzard DKP) is that it does not reward progression the same way a guild does. A guild can enter a dungeon, kill no bosses, but generate dkp based on effort. If points are tied very closely to gear progression, is the increase in point gain from a slower progressing (potentially) 25 man raid going to be enough to keep people coming back?

The “goal”, again, is to have 25 man raiders getting more stuff than 10 man. Right now, they would have to double (or more) the number of drops in 25 man to equal that ratio out. Also, with a greater number of raiders, competition for a piece is going to skyrocket (especially for the cloth wearing classes). A 10 man raid might run with a warlock, a mage and a priest. A 25 man could easily have 2 mages, 3 warlocks, and 2 priests, all (potentially) after the same drop.

A good solution would be double drops or multiple instances of the same item on different bosses, but I’m sure many of you have better ideas than me (the guy that competes with basically no one for gear).

Points are the same way.  Because the logistical challenge of organizing a solid, consistent 25 man, they are likely progress more slowly over the life of content (speaking at the middle of the progression pack, not the bleeding edge). Killing half the bosses in a 25 man as compared to a 10 man should be worth the same amount or more points.

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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.


Strength of Win

5 April, 2010

Temper gets you into trouble. Pride keeps you there.–Unknown

Nearly 5 weeks into the era of the zone-wide Icecrown buff, I’ve taken some time to reflect on how it has truly affected the way that raids are run and the affect it has on progression.

Assistance

Icecrown Citadel is a series of glass ceilings. There are many guilds bumping their heads trying to break through each of them right now:

  • Sindragosa
  • Lich King
  • (H) Gunship/Marrowgar/Rotface/Council/Dreamwalker/Festergut/Blood Queen
  • (H) Deathwhisper/Saurfang
  • (H) Sindragosa
  • (H) Putricide
  • (H) Lich King

The timeline currently allows guilds 4 weeks to break through each ceiling on their own. After that, the buff will increase and nudge them through. This was evident on our server this week as several guilds broke through barrier 2 and 3 above to step up. Across all servers, everyone moved up together. Our US and world ranks changed very little, which is another indicator of just how granular the skill level is among guilds.

If you’re killing it, chances are everyone else at your level is also killing it.

We like to think that our accomplishments occur in a vacuum, but they don’t. Our accomplishments are grand, and often times astounding for the server that we play on. This is why many of us focus on intra-server progression more so than World or even US rankings. It’s a way for us to get good, fair comparison.

The guilds on your server are using the same forums, same pool of recruits, and have the same server culture. It’s also nice to actually pass your competition on the way to the instance and not have them be some mystical number and fancy name on a website.

Srength of Wrynn has ferried along everyone very nicely, allowing us to progress at a steady pace without doing the work for us. The final goals of Icecrown Progression are very clear:

  1. Glory of the Icecrown Raider (25 Player)
  2. Realm First! Light of Dawn
  3. Leveling Gear

Everyone where we are (in the 8/12, 9/12 heroic mode range) has a high enough raid-gear level to complete the instance. Blizzard only made 4 277 tier tokens available per week (and only 2 of those being realistically accessible). Expecting your entire raid to be decked out in best in slot gear to complete the instance would be folly.

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Your step-stool is now 5% higher.

30 March, 2010

[Source: MMO-Champion]

My bold prediction was correct. We’re riding into Icecrown tonight with 5% more damage, health, and healing. Unfortunately that means we’ll also be dealing with up to 200% more lag.


ICC10 Hard Modes: Round 47

29 March, 2010

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.–Franklin D. Roosevelt

I label this Round 47 because it really feels like it’s been that long since I’ve been able write about our 10 man raid. Due to 10 mans occurring on our off-raid nights, you never know if something is going to perk up and pull one (or two, or three) raiders away at the last-minute.

Been waiting a long time for this could refer to The Lich King’s achievement, or what it’s like waiting to get your entire group back together and ready to tackle the rest of the hard mode encounters.

Standards

My goal starting this week was not to flip-flop hard mode and normal mode. There is some sort of psychological switch connected to the dudes in my 10 man that turns off their ability to play whenever hard mode is no longer active. Trying to flip it back on for the next boss has never worked.

So we turned on hard mode and started slow on Marrowgar (Some dumb shaman kept disconnecting), but got our game ramped up pretty quickly in time to Storm the Citadel heroic style. Our first target was the Crimson Halls, and our long-delayed date with the Blood Prince Council.

As I detailed in my last entry (sometime around the great depression), we had problems with the Council and they were many. To address these, we went in with some basic guidelines:

  1. Cover every inch of the floor. We placed a Shadow Priest on the stage to cover that area and then one ranged DPS west, and one east. If the Priest was targeted for an Empowered Flame Orb, he could disperse if it wasn’t drained enough. Two pet classes on the orbs made handling them easy once the areas of responsibility were covered.
  2. Disregard the Shadow Prison during Taldaram. As long as your stacks are low or gone when Taldaram is active, soaking/draning the Empowered Flames is easy.
  3. Keep the melee clean. Glittering Sparks = 40% Slow = Lots of problems with both kinds of Vortex. Mass dispel them if necessary.

Our composition was identical to our previous failed attempts(Holy Paladins are great for a 2 tank setup). The fight ended in a brisk 4:27 and gave us our Heroic: The Crimson halls(10 Man) achievement.

World of Logs

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Now With 5% More Fiber

3 March, 2010

No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. — Gen. George S. Patton

The buzz this week, other than the Lil’ XT, is the activation of Strength of Wrynn/Hellscream’s Warsong.  As everyone knows by now, this is (initially) an extra 5% damage, healing, and health.  This buff by the end of the expansion will reach 30%.

It should be noted that talking to your faction leader and removing the buff will take it away for the entire reset. So be warned, there is no turning back (for a week at least) if you choose to go in without your King.

Blizzard’s continuation of using the “lore” of the Ashen Verdict to enhance and expand ICC is very solid.  Giving players a small boost is a better direction than their former model of cutting off whole limbs of bosses to allow raid groups entry into the later portions of raid zones with little more than a foam sword rack.

Five percent isn’t going to let trade chat PUGs kill The Lich King (or even Festergut, most likely).  What it will do is push guilds stuck at a particular point in the instance over the hump.  Very small execution mistakes aren’t nearly as magnified.  A little bit later in this post I’ll do a quick comparison between this week’s clear to last week’s Tuesday’s clear.

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