Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zero to Farm in 24 Hours

So, as I previously mentioned, Anub'arak died on Monday for the first time for us. He'd been a roadblock for about three weeks, using various strategies, until we finally worked out an effective strategy and the proper balance of healers vs dps, and kicked his carapaced ass.

Then, we went back last night after the reset, and one shotted every boss in there with almost no difficulty in spite of the lag monster, in and out in maybe 90 minutes. Which was awesome, but a bit puzzling for me. It wasn't the same group, and we even had a couple people in there who'd never even seen Anub before, but it was like Anub had turned into a farm boss overnight. I'm going to pause here for a moment to knock on wood, so that he does't turn back into a roadblock next week.

So this got me introspective, thinking back on previous kills, and I realized this has happened before. Prior to Anub, our biggest roadblock in TotC was the faction champions, who roundly stomped on our faces for a few weeks before we got some rogues to actually show up so we could lock down more casters and actually survive long enough to kill some of them. But even the next week, when those rogues had vanished back into limbo, we knocked them out after one or two "holy crap they just one shotted our best healers" wipes, which I do not count against us because lady luck is a fickle mistress. And since then, we've been knocking them out regularly, allowing for one or two wipes to figure out who needs to be kicking which healer in the face.

Even back in Ulduar, it happened. We spent a few weeks working on Thorim, and then suddenly came in and walked through it like nothing. Mimiron was the same. And after two nights of wiping on General Vezax with almost no progress, the next day we one shotted it like it was nothing. And General is not a forgiving fight, you miss two interrupts and it's an almost guaranteed wipe. Of course, we haven't killed general since then, because we switched our efforts to getting Anub down, but that's beside the point.

And, of course, some fights are the exact opposite. We one or two shotted the Twin Valkyrie the same night we took out the faction champions, and then this past week on our first night in TotC we could not for the life of us kill them. People kept running into balls during the transitions, and we'd have something like 6 or 7 people die all at once. Though we implemented a new strategy this week, after it occurred to the raid leader that we almost never got the shields if we had to transition, and we ended up losing something like a million damage trying to switch, and then got the heal on top of that. So we tried having everyone go light and stay light, and switch only for Dark Vortex, and immediately switch back after that. Ignore light sihelds and just burn burn burn. It worked great, no craziness in the transitions.

I suppose some fights are just a matter of learning the execution. Once you know where to stand, when to move, and what to kill, it's just a matter of doing it again. An unforgiving fight might even make it easier to jump the hurdle to farm mode, because you learned the hard way that missing that interrupt on Vezax, or standing on the wrong side of Thorim's hall, or running head first into one of Mimiron's mines is going to wipe the raid, so you'd better not do it again. I hope we can get anywhere on hard modes, otherwise it's going to be farming Anub and working on Yogg until Icecrown.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

True Stories

First off, Kleps is a witch. True story.

Tanks die if you don't heal them. True story. This is sort of more paladin specific, because it's related to beacon of light. I've always beacon healed, even back before they made beacon healing easier, but the change to full transfer of beacon heals has currently got me to the point where I assume that any heal I cast is also going to heal my tank as well. This turns out to be a problem when either beacon has worn off, or beacon is not on the tank I'm thinking of. It happened a few nights ago on Razorscale, where I had beacon on the left side tank, so I could also spot heal and heal the sentinel tank, but then a different tank picked him up in the ground phase, and I didn't switch beacon, so the heals I thought were being sent to the main tank were in fact going to the guy who was holding the last few remaining adds, and the tank died. Fortunately, only a single ret paladin was killed before a secondary tank grabbed him, so no huge loss. It also happened last night, while fighting Anub (go go first Anub kill! whoo!), where Beacon fell off the MT right as Anub surfaced, and he had run out of range. Either of those alone wouldn't be a problem, because I can heal him if he's in range without beacon, or I can use the 60 yard beacon transfer to heal him until I get a chance to move back in range, but both together means the tank isn't getting healed, and as previously stated, tanks die if they don't get healed.

On the subject of Anub, if you stack too many healers, bosses will enrage. True story. In all our previous anub attempts, we either had the boss hit his hard enrage at about 60% if we burned the burrowers, or our offtanks died to stacking add debuffs if we tried to hold the burrowers until the submerge phase. And we tried a dozen different methods of burning one and holding three, or burning two and holding two, or leaving certain people on the boss and having everyone else burn, and we never managed to get him anywhere close to dead. We finally did figure out the right solution, which was to pull the adds to Anub's butt and AoE all three, so that anub was constantly taking damage even while the adds were up, and he still enraged. I wouldn't say our DPS is the best in the world, but we thought they at least had the output to get normal mode 25 Anub down. When we got him to 24k health before his enrage finally wiped us, with zero deaths prior to the enrage, someone finally had to say, "Do we really need seven healers for this?" So the resto druid pops over to boomkin, and we kill him with three minutes to spare. And yet, they still say, "Who's our seventh healer for farm night ulduar content?" True story.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Watcher Vezax

A couple weeks back, Valnoth (lead world designer for WoW) hinted that the missing Watcher Tyr might be none other than our dear old friend General Vezax. For those of you who have no clue who the hell I'm talking about, there were six titanic watchers appointed to watch Yogg's prison: Freya, Hodir, Mimiron, Thorim, Loken, and Tyr. The first four appear in Ulduar, and Loken shows up in the Halls of Lightning, but Tyr only appears as a small footnote in an alliance only quest, indicating that his temple is vacant, but there appears to have been no struggle (unlike the temples of Freya, Hodir, and Mimiron where there was evidence of serious ass-kickings).

Inside Ulduar, each of the four guardian bosses has a room just off the observation ring overlooking the prison itself. But there's no rooms for Loken or Tyr, at least that are still intact. There is a shattered series of rooms that lead down to the prison that could have once been the domain of Loken or Tyr, but since it's been renamed "The Descent into Madness" we may never know.

But anyway, Valnoth implied that the descent might have once been Tyr's station within Ulduar, before the mess with Yogg and Loken really got going, where he served as a sort of final jailer. But where did he go? Maybe Vezax ate him. Or...[maybe he is Vezax].

So while this would answer the lingering lore question of where did Tyr go, it does open a bigger question: if Vezax is actually a corrupted Tyr, why is there no hint of this in the in game lore? Vezax doesn't really have much lore of his own, I had thought of him as just the general of the faceless ones, as implied by the name. But if he really is something more lore-wise, that lore should really be in the game somewhere. Maybe there could have been something in his dialogue, or in the other keepers dialogue, or an thing in the archivum about him somewhere. Or even a questline where you search his temple for clues to where he is, and it's ultimately hinted that he's still in ulduar somwhere, but not quite himself anymore.

Of course, it's also entirely possible that Valnoth is just messing with us, and Tyr will make his triumphant return as a friend/foe in Uldum.

Monday, September 14, 2009

World of Warcraft vs. Game of Warcraft

So I was in western plaguelands over this past weekend on my hunter, and in between getting slaughtered when my pet would run up and chain aggro nine other mobs and having the mobs I did manage to single pull randomly evade bugging and running back to their silos, I realized that I was still enjoying the hell out of that zone. Going into WPL and especially Andorhal felt like I imagine going into a real undead infested city would feel, even though this occasionally makes for extremely frustrating questing and solo play.

This, and QQ threads about pvp and pve balance on the forums, got me thinking about the conflict between the game needs and the world needs. Like in the example of WPL, a undead infested city is a cool world concept that fits in well with the scourge, but from a gameplay point of view can be extremely frustrating. And on the other end of the spectrum, spread out and isolated undead are a much more managable solo experience, but really takes away the feeling of a land that is completely controlled by the undead, which I believe is an important part of the experience. TBC pushed pretty far in the direction of gameplay trumping world design, but WotLK hit close to the proper balance, in my opinion. Especially in some of the minor details, like having mountain rams randomly sitting in out of the way places, or having the frost protodrakes fly down and kill rhinos, then pick up the corpse and fly away. Small things which have no real impact on the gameplay, but sort of help prop up the illusion of a real, continuous world. The little scarlet groups in WPL who would go to the farms and andorhal and fight the undead are another good example of this. I always liked those, even though they usually created a small radius that was even more obnoxious than just the undead huffing about.

And it's not just in world design, but also in creature AI and dungeon layout. It reminds me of that old Flintlocke joke, from when they're infiltrating the Scarlet Monastary. First, when the sentries find the corpses, one says, "Look, dead bodies!" and the other says, "OMG Where?!" Because patrols who spotted and then immediately went looking for the people who killed these bodies, while more realistic, puts a huge damper on the party who's trying to get mana up after that trash pack. And once that patrol alerted the high commander, he called for the Impenatrable Scarlet Defense, which meant having all the crusade soldiers going forth and standing in small groups of 1 or 2, waiting to be pulled, instead of rushing to the door to deal with the intruders. Because while realistic, having the entire zone aggro and rush you as soon as you let a runner get loose is absolutely no fun for a game like Warcraft. Dungeon design and npc AI is designed to meet in the middle between the realistic version and the fun version. If you let a runner go free, he's going to bring some friends back, but he won't raise the alarm and bring the whole zone down on you.

And this brings me to PvP versus PvE balance. I've seen a lot of posts that say that blizzard should just have PvP mechanics and PvE mechanics and completely unlink the two, allowing for both sides to be balanced independently. However, this completely destroys any concept of a continuous world. They already have some fairly severe departures, especially in terms of CC duration, but those fall under necessary to have a balanced game (30 second polymorph is important for dungeon CC, but completely not-fun in a PvP setting). The biggest clunky mechanic was exorcism, where they had to make it simply uncastable on player targets to reign in ret burst, until they could figure out a better way to do it. Having PvP and PvE follow mostly the same rules really helps keep some simplicity in the game and maintain the continuity of the world, since the horde and alliance conflicts are a big part of it.

Ultimately, this is why lore is so important to the game. This is something that was largely brought into focus with the T9 raid, and the issue with it's lore. Primarily, that there should be some. Yeah, there's the tournament there, and there's the prep for Icecrown hovering in there, but what you really have is 5 encounters that are just floating in space, with no real lore to hold them together, in contrast to Ulduar, where there was so much lore they had to actually make an official page on the WoW website to explain some of it. Make the tournament a training area instead, prepping crusaders for the attack on icecrown citadel, and change the raid into some sort of first battle in the final campaign against Arthas. Throw in a slightly simplified version of Hyjal Trash, with only one or two waves per boss, and turn the first three encounters into scourge-related counterparts: three powerful undead monsters, a master necromancer who summons ghouls and stuff instead of demons, and a team of the scourge's most poweful lieutenants, each who happens to resemble one of the player classes. Then the twin valkeryie and Anub can be left as is, and Arthas will at least seem to still be a threat, instead of letting us capture some of his most powerful minions and having a huge party tournament right on his doorstep, complete with minstrels and fried food.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

They're coming out of the walls!

So, I made my first Yogg attempts this past week (yeah, yeah, I'm a noob who has to l2play because I haven't been farming ulduar hard modes for the past three months). We barely made it through phase 1 a few times, but we tended to have something like four adds up at the transition, and then went spiraling out of control into wipe as the tentacles spawned and cut our damage by 20%, then 40%, etc, and the remaining adds ran loose killing dps. We ran into a few hitches:

The dps was getting guardians down to 20% faster than the relay tanks could get them over to Sara, resulting in a nearly dead guardian slowly being knocked down by cleaves and consecrates until it finally explodes in the melee, killing half the raid.

Half the time the first guardian didn't explode with Sara, because people can't freaking slow dps at 40%, and then it'd have a billion dots on it while the tank tried to drag it over to Sara, having to dodge clouds along the way, so that the damn thing died before getting in range of Sara.

A particular problem for our raid comp that night, we were extremely melee heavy, so trying to do something like pull off the remaining adds and AoE them once we got Sara down wasn't really an option. Speaking of which, why the hell are people AoEing them while standing in with them? Don't freaking AoE exploding mobs while in melee range!

Probably the main solution to this is to use more plate DPS as runners, since the mobs really don't hit that hard. A few extra reliable people to taunt the nearly dead add, pull him out of the group, and take him over to Sara, dodging the clouds. And maybe spawning another couple mobs on purpose at the beginning.

Overall, this looks like a really cool fight, I look forward to actually beating it and seeing the full effect.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

All Great Journeys...

Start with a single rambling post about nothing. I'm not really sure why I created this, I suppose it's so I could have a place to vent semi-anonymously, and have people I either vaguely know or don't know at all read and comment on it. If you haven't guessed, this is mostly going to be Warcraft related. I'm Jarik, and I'm a warrior, although currently the forces of evil have coerced me into raiding as a holy paladin. Hence, I am a holy spec warrior. However, I'm also a complete altaholic, and also obsessively research all the other classes. So, I'll probably talk about any or all of them. Or none of them. We'll see.

As for what you can expect from this blog...well, I'm still not sure what I expect to put into it. Ranting about the stupid things people say, expressing my extremely important opinion about class changes, and maybe the occasional semi-insightful rant about a boss fight, or the nuances of leading raids in a hybrid casual-raiding guild, but I wouldn't hold your breath. Insight doesn't grow on trees.