Monday, February 9, 2015

Screw Those Mythic Raiders!

Highly amused by something I read (note: the following post far exceeds the healthy daily dose of snark -- you have been warned).

The Grumpy is upset that people don't have a strong incentive to repeatedly run dungeons once they start raiding or doing LFR:
So it got me to thinking about what would make dungeon more relevant for a longer period of time.

....

My idea would be this.  Dungeon gear that drops will be 630 basic and as you kill raid bosses it can go up.  Not like missions to the "next" level but to that level.  Like lets say you killed 15 highmaul bosses in LFR, when you do dungeons the gear that drops will be 645.  If you kill 15 highmaul bosses on normal it would drop 655, heroic, 670, and so on.

....

The other problem might be that people would, or could, gear up too quickly that way.  Once you down 15 bosses at a specific raid level just spam dungeons until you have all gear of that level.  I can see that point and I believe I have a solution for that as well.  Instead of the gear they "drop" being equal to your current raid level, have a bag at the end of the run for everyone, a bag they can only get once per day and that bag would contain 1 piece of gear, guaranteed, for your current raiding level.  So the dungeon would still drop 630 gear otherwise, but once a day you have a chance to get something that very possibly could be an upgrade.

I know I would still do it that way.
I left a comment responding to that last line in particular:
Yeah, everyone would. In fact, every raider would kill 15 bosses on heroic the first day or two of content and then do a heroic dungeon every day.

Why do you think forcing Mythic/Heroic raiders to do a heroic dungeon every day is a good thing? They're already likely spending 8+ hours a week working through the raid zone. You think that'll make them happier or be constructive for the game somehow?
His response?

I don't think it matters what they think, it is not for them, it is for the other 99% of the player base. You can't design the game around the few. So do I think mythic raiders would be happy about it? Don't know, don't care.

They would be no more "forced" to do it as a mythic raider as I am forced to change servers if I want to raid mythic.

I choose not to, they can choose not to. Choice, it is a wonderful thing. Something blizzard does not have right now. This would offer it.

Bottom line is blizzard can do something to make dungeons more relevant past the first week of the expansion and this is the only idea I can personally think of that could breathe life into it.

If you have any other ideas I would love to hear them. But reward needs to matter and once raids come out I can't see any other reward they could offer.
So let's break this down.

First, his original idea: can you imagine killing 15 bosses in Heroic Highmaul and then having every single heroic dungeon boss dropping 670 gear?  Thankfully, Grumpy managed to realize this *might* be a tad problematic and thus came up with a major improvement to his suggestion -- now you can "only" get one guaranteed 670 piece per day from a random dungeon.


Let's do some math...you basically get 0.2 items per boss you kill, on average, in the best case scenario.  So during Highmaul, that means you should expect to pick up 1.4 items per week from clearing it on heroic.  On *top* of that, you should also get seven additional guaranteed items from running a heroic dungeon!  Let's see...that's a 500% increase in gearing rate by doing heroic dungeons.  Or, in other words, 83% of your gear would come from heroic dungeons.


Now, to be fair, that's not counting the 3 coins per week (another 0.6 items) or the possibly of killing a mythic boss or two...let's say 2 mythic bosses for 0.4 items for 2.4 items per week counting 7/7H, 2/7M, and three coins spent.  That's still a 291% increase in gearing rate from Grumpy's idea.  Or 74% of your gear coming from heroic dungeons.

Yeah.  That's probably not a good idea.  Not even remotely.  Facerolling dungeons tuned for 610 ilvl with an ilvl of 650-660 to get nearly 75% of your gear?  Just...no.  I hope I don't have to explain why that's such a bad idea (and that's not even getting into the issue of how you could stop even doing heroic raids and still get 7 heroic raid drops per week).

To put things in perspective, the garrison mission gives one raid drop every 14 days (and yes, it's technically a tier higher (unless you're a mythic raider already)).

Second, screw those mythic raiders.  Or, quite frankly, any heroic or mythic raider (I guarantee you 90%+ of heroic raiders would be doing that daily heroic for a guaranteed 670 item).  We can't design parts of the game around them.  Along those lines, let's also change the following:

  • No more weekly raid lockouts.  99% (note: heroic and mythic raiders make up more like 10% of the playerbase but we'll go with his number) of players won't run raids like crazy anyway.
  • No more limited stacking of consumables.  99% of players won't bother having 20 potions and elixirs active.
  • No more being limited to three seals per week.  99% of players won't bother getting more than three or so anyway because it keeps getting more expensive per seal.
  • No more "belated" LFR release.  99% of players won't feel compelled to run it to maximize their gear.
  • No more removing default tier and trinkets from LFR.  99% of players won't care about trying to snag those.
That's just off the top of my head -- I'm sure you can think of more examples of things we can change once we stop caring about that 1%.

Finally, the mythic raiders have a choice and wouldn't be forced to do it, eh?  You might say it was completely optional?  Or maybe, just maybe, that's not actually true.

But hey, Grumpy wants dungeons to be relevant and the only way he sees this as being possible is for them to drop raid gear.  Pets?  Nope, doesn't care.  Mounts?  Nope, doesn't care.  Gold?  Nope, doesn't care.  Transmog?  Nope, doesn't care.  Rep?  Nope, doesn't care.  Crafting materials/bonuses?  Nope, doesn't care.  Achievements?  Nope, doesn't care.  Garrison bonuses?  Nope, doesn't care.

Gotta get more epicz.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

On Being Permanently Banned For 143 Minutes

At 4:28 PM on Sunday, January 25th I received this email:
 

And no, it wasn't a fake email that was actually done superbly well or something:


The good news is that 65 minutes after being able to initially contact Blizzard about the situation I was able to get the ban reversed.  That may be a world record.



The bad news is that this ban should never have happened at all and the "compensation" for Blizzard's mistake was absolutely pitiful.

That said, the tone of this post is going to be significantly more positive than it was originally going to be.  You see, I GM a Mythic guild that is currently working on Mythic Imperator Mar'gok.  We only raid two nights a week.  Those two nights are Sunday and Monday.  So you might see how being banned on Sunday night for potentially a few days while it got sorted out *might* have been a minor problem for my entire guild.

Thankfully (and unfortunately mostly through persistence on my part) that situation did not come to pass.  I was unbanned 40 minutes before our raid time started.  Woo hoo.  Yay.  Or something.  It has resulted in this, though:


If you can't tell, that's my guildmates writing "Free Balk 2015" with Savage Feasts in Mythic Imperator's room (the magic sparks in the bottom left are him floating in mid-air just off camera).  And now I'm the butt of many jokes such as that slogan being repeated a lot, comments about how people aren't sure they want to risk their Steam account (or insert other game service) by playing with me (since apparently I'm a priority target to ban), and how they're uncomfortable with having an identified exploiter as their GM, etc.

So how did this happen, anyway?

Well, as soon as I saw the email I had a strong suspicion of what triggered it.  You see, I have a guildmate (who also happens to be an officer in my guild and a friend -- though you can't ever tell him I said that last part) who had both Horde and Alliance characters on Illidan and wanted to transfer gold across factions.  The catch is that you can't mail gold cross-faction and you can't buy AH items any character on your account listed.

So Bury (that's his BTag) asked me to help him out and I agreed.  I made a level 1 Orc Warrior named Smashbury (incredibly clever, right?), he met up with me, flew me to Orgrimmar, gave me 30k gold, and I used the 30k gold to buy 3 Copper Bars his Alliance character had put up on the AH.  Which meant that his Alliance character then got 28.5k in the mail from the auction (5% AH cut).  All perfectly legal under WoW's Terms of Service, no in-game items/currency being exchanged for out-of-game currency.

Apparently the fact that a level 1 spent 30k to buy an AH item triggered some kind of flag and I was banned less than a day later.  This was confirmed to me by Blizzard representatives.  I am severely hoping it was an automated ban because the situation involved the following:

1. The gold being transferred wound up back on the same account.  From Bury's account to my account to his account in 5-10 minutes.

2. The person I was transferring the gold to had been on my BTag's friends list for probably at least a year.

3. Even ignoring the friends list, his characters are an officer rank in the guild that I GM -- so chances are we probably know each other.

4. The character doing the transfer was a Warrior named Smashbury and the account getting transferred to was named Bury.  I'll admit I have no idea how gold buying or other exploitative services work but I am *guessing* that they don't involve silly jokes like that.  The spammers you see in trade are all random letters thrown together.

On the flip side, the fact that I might have had my account *permanently* banned by an automated system (not a temporary lockdown for investigation or some kind of warning for a first offense) is also a disturbing idea.

But what did I have to do to resolve this, you ask?

Well, first of all, I messed up.

I went to the support center to submit a ticket and selected "Account Management Issue" (other options being "10-Year Physical Gift," "Account Hacked," "Purchase or payment," "Can't log in," "Technical, Computer, Connection," "In-game issue," TCG Loot Card Issue," and "Recruit a Friend issue") and then proceeded to "Other Account Management Issue" (other options being "Started Edition upgrade issue," "Error when entering game key," "Remove SMS Protect," "Parental Controls," and "Change account information").  This allowed me to submit a "Phone Callback" request/ticket which said I would be contacted by a Blizzard representative in 5-10 minutes.  I submitted this ticket at 5:46 PM.

I did in fact get a call in that time-frame, the agent confirmed my suspicion that my level 1 Orc Warrior caused this ban, and I explained the situation.  He said that he unfortunately was not in a position to make a decision or change anything and that I would need to submit a ticket to some kind of Appeal Review.  Apparently I was supposed to select "Can't log in" initially which would lead to "Banned, suspended, appeal request" as an option.

I mentioned that I was the GM of a Mythic guild progressing on Mythic Imperator and that we raided in less than two hours, so getting this resolved quickly was kind of a high priority.  I then asked what the length of the appeal process was when using the ticket.  The agent said he couldn't really say.  I asked (pretty much word for word): "Are we talking an hour?  A day?  A week?"  The agent said he still couldn't say.

So I asked if he had a superior I could speak to -- he said yes but that the superior couldn't do anything either.  I said I understood and that I wanted to speak to his superior anyway.  He left to go talk to his superior while I waited.

A few minutes later the agent got back to the phone and said his superior would look the case over and get back to me within an hour.  He mentioned something about checking the IPs as part of it (which also disturbs me -- the automated system didn't bother to check the IP when it banned me?  It thought someone was logging onto my account from China or something to exploit the economy but didn't even check the IP at the time?  Really?) and I thanked him for his time.

Sure enough, at 6:51 PM I received a notification saying my ban had been lifted (keep in mind that was still under an hour from the point the superior got involved) which you saw at the top of this post.  I even had a free game day of time thrown in for the inconvenience!

But..let's talk about that last part.

Worst case a WoW subscription is $15 a month which is basically $0.50 a day.  Which means Blizzard considers unjustly *permanently* banning me, freaking me out (both about the ban and the situation my guild would be in), and having me waste an hour of my time to get it reversed to be worth...about $0.50.

That's rather insulting, actually.  I mean, seriously, just keep your "free day."  I'd rather have nothing under the circumstances, $0.50 is in no way some kind of reasonable compensation for unjustly *permanently* banning someone.

Unless Blizzard thinks that's really no big deal, of course, but that's disturbing in its own right.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Too Soon, Blackhand, Too Soon!

We found out a few days ago that Blackrock Foundry will open on February 3rd.  This has me extremely frustrated for several reasons.

1, we only had eight weeks from Mythic unlocking in Highmaul to Blackrock Foundry opening (and we'll need to clear Heroic Blackrock Foundry the week it opens so that week is shot).  Not only does that mean we had to basically average a boss per week, we had to do so with finals for students, work schedule changes due to the holidays, and family events/trips that go along with the end of the year.  Realistically we only had about six weeks to clear Mythic Highmaul.

2, Blizzard indicated they wanted to do this differently than how they handled Mogu'shan Vaults and Heart of Fear/Terrace of Endless Spring.  They said they didn't like how MSV wasn't out for nearly long enough.  Well, guess what?  They're doing it again.  MSV was out for a month with six bosses, HM will be out for a month and a half with seven bosses.  Not exactly much difference there.

3, based on the last two expansions (Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria), I feel like my guild has had a stable pattern: we clear the hardest difficulty with a month or two left in a typical raid tier while only raiding two nights a week. Our general ranking in the US/world has stayed roughly the same, so that's another metric to go by -- not like we're suddenly doing much worse or much better relatively speaking.  Yet we're only 5/7M at the moment with six more raid days to go.  Which means we'll hope to kill Ko'ragh this week (haven't even pulled him yet) and then extend our Mythic lockout for the next two weeks to try to get Imperator.  Hopefully we'll manage to get 7/7M but it's going to be close regardless.  This is also reminding me of the launch of Throne of Thunder (that Blizzard also said was much too soon) where we killed Heroic Sha of Fear the night before ToT hit.  In this case I understood that it was a mini-tier and that we wouldn't be farming for a month or two before BRF hit, but I expected us to be able to clear 7/7M without extending at a minimum.

4, speaking of extending, Blizzard is on the record saying they don't want people to be extending!  They want people to get some more gear each week to help make the bosses easier and did not like how people felt compelled to extend to try to finish in time before the next tier (believe this was in tier 14, aka MSV/HoF/ToES).  But guess what?  Extension time!

5, between the extension and lack of farm time, we're also going to be behind on gear.  The typical pattern is the guilds raiding more per week race ahead and finish faster, then we eventually catch up in progress and then have time to at least mostly catch up in gear before the next tier hits.  But we're going to be severely behind in gear for BRF this time around.  So we're at a further disadvantage than usual.

I am definitely not happy with the situation.  Even another week or two would make a huge difference -- when they said BRF was coming out in February I didn't imagine it would be the very first week!  Not after what they said about wanting to avoid repeating the mistake of MSV.

Yet here we are.

TOO SOON, BLACKHAND, TOO SOON.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Racist and Proud of It

Or should I say...HUMANIST.


I mean, I suppose I could carefully mix and match abilities to counter threats...

...OR, and bear with me here, I could just apply human supremacy to the problem and solve it without any thought.  Even the Ogron bow to the power of their human overlords.

As you've hopefully figured out by now, the idea is to use racial preferences to make it significantly easier to counter threats on Garrison missions -- to the point where with the right set-up you can literally ignore two of the six abilities on a raid mission and still have 100% success rate (or very close to it).  This indeed means I'm making a team of humanists and aiming to pick up human humanists if possible.  Yes, I'm racist.

Blook is particularly useful since he not only provides the humanist trait (which is why I'm doing humans -- my warrior's Blook is Child of the Moon so I'm going night elf squad) but also the unique Combat Experience trait.  Two racial preferences will cancel out an ability, and a racial preference plus Burst of Power/High Stamina/Combat Experience/Environmental Preference/Enemy Preference will nearly cancel out an ability.

What you can't see from that screenshot is that Soulare actually managed to pick up Child of the Moon when he became rare, which is super amazing.  That means if I get a night elf with Humanist (and use them instead of Blook) then this squad will have four racial preferences -- which completely cancels out two abilities.

And, yes, this means a team of something like a human with Dwarvenborn and Child of the Moon, a dwarf with Humanist and Child of the Moon, and a night elf with Humanist and Dwarvenborn could cancel out three abilities.  Of course, that's insanely difficult to get...but canceling out two abilities is quite feasible.

It's a good time to be a racist.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I've Been Playing Games and Having Fun...Mostly

It's been a while.  Things have been busy in RL.  When they aren't, things have been busy in WoW.  When they aren't, things have been busy in other games.  You get the gist of it.  Things are calming down more and hopefully I will be able to start getting out a post or two per week, at least.

Today's post is really just going to be more of a taste of upcoming stuff that I'll be posting about (and a recap of some of the things I've been doing).  These are listed in no particular order, mind you.

World of Warcraft
You may not have heard, but there was a new expansion released about a month ago called Warlords of Draenor.  Things are generally going well overall right now, guild is 7/7 normal and 6/7 heroic on two nights a week.  We'll be starting Mythic this upcoming Sunday.

First of all, Draenor is beautiful.


And I mean that.


Did I mention it was pretty yet?


Seriously.


All right, nearly done.


Last one incoming!


Suffice to say I really, really do not understand how people complain about WoW's graphics.  Sure, it's not photorealistic...but does that mean that animated movies like Monsters, Inc, Frozen, etc have terrible graphics?  We're in a world of magic and dragons -- sure, it should look GOOD but I don't see why it really needs to look REALISTIC.

On the non-graphical side, some of the stuff near launch was a bit...wonky.  Like this quest:
 

Uh...yeah...he's totally gone.  Right.  Moving right along...

...to a rather overzealous Postmaster.



Thanks, Postmaster.  You make us proud.

Then I had another fun issue.  Being the lore nut that I am, I did every quest in every zone as I leveled (or tried to, at least, apparently I did miss a few along the way).  This resulted in me hitting level 100 in Spires of Arak and still wearing mostly SoO mythic gear since even an item with a few more ilevels didn't outweigh the enchants and sockets on the SoO gear.

I knew heroic dungeons required 610 ilvl to queue, though obviously you could walk in on foot if needed, so I decided to go and do some normal dungeons for 615 gear.  Slight problem: you apparently needed 600 ilvl to queue for NORMALS.

Well, I remembered that you needed Silver Proving Grounds as well to queue for heroics, so I figured I'd go and see how difficult that was.

That led to this:


Well then.


Needless to say, I was not very happy with the situation (note that while Proving Grounds does scale with your gear (more health with higher ilvl) it does not scale below 615 -- and I was 27 ilvls below that).

What wound up happening is that I manually walked straight into HEROICS with my guild at <590 ilvl.  I'm 650ish ilvl now and have still never done a normal dungeon at max level.  Blizzard has since lowered the required ilvl to 595 to queue and presumably most people would have some gear from Nagrand (or be using the slightly higher ilvl pieces I discarded due to them being worse than mythic SoO gear) so it's less of an issue now...but it was still pretty stupid.

Speaking of dungeons, we were also doing the daily Challenge Mode for 640 gear.  Some of the bosses were a bit crazy, notably the second boss in Skyreach.


Yes, that is 37.5k HPS sustained for the fight.  Fun times.

One of the benefits of doing Challenge Modes early on was getting the Feat of Strength (and thus unique title) for realm best times, sometimes because we WERE the very first group to complete it.





And my favorite one...


Along the way we also picked up all Silvers without too much trouble, leading to...


Those yetis are HUGE!


In total we managed seven realm best times out of the eight dungeons -- some group had gotten a pretty good time in Skyreach and that's the only one we didn't want to dedicate the time to getting quite yet.  And a personal goal of mine is to possess the Lord of Blackrock title again -- it's my favorite of the titles (though most of my group seems to prefer Grimrail Suplexer).

Last but not least on the WoW front, sometimes we see interesting things on Garrison missions.


Yeah.

Civilization V
I've also been playing Civilization V a bit (a lot), though I'm past the initial craze and more interested in playing with friends at this point.  For those not aware, Civ V is what's called a 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate).  You start with a simple settler and some warriors with clubs and try to leverage that into an empire while advancing through human history.  You don't necessarily need to win by fighting and can indeed sometimes avoid fighting at all -- can win through domination, culture, science, or diplomacy.  It's turn based as well which is interesting to adjust to and also makes it more about good strategy than APM -- which means if you struggle with playing SC2, for example, because it seems like there's too much going on at once, you might particularly love Civ V.

I've been playing this with a variety of people including half a dozen people in my guild, Stubborn, and Talarian.  Fun times.  One game I was playing with a RL friend (his first time out of the tutorial) resulted in me deciding to go culture focused.  The results:



I realize that doesn't mean much to people not familiar with Civ V, but believe me when I say that is an INSANE amount of culture/tourism.  I bet Stubborn is feeling rather jealous at the moment.

I am also playing a single player game a bit in an effort to improve my earlier warfare -- I'm quite good once artillery and planes arrive on the scene but am less comfortable with going on the offensive early on.  So I decided to pick up the Mongols and give that a whirl (as you might guess, they have some bonuses towards trying to dominate during the medieval period -- specifically a ranged Knight unit called the Keshik which specializes in hit and run attacks).  My offensive spree went well, conquered half the world during the Keshik's prime period, then I sat back to rebuild my economy and consolidate my holdings.

Unfortunately, Austria decided they weren't happy with my taking their capital earlier and declared war on me.  They brought hordes of Calvary, Riflemen, Cannons, and Gatling Guns.  And my half dozen Keshiks were half the globe away.


Yes, that's 15 military units plus a Great General while my army of half a dozen Keshiks were down in the south middle of the map.  I guess they figured they could take their time and try to surround my capital to try to avoid unneeded losses by zerging it immediately.  That was a bad idea on their part.


Four turns later, my Keshik's arrive (hurry for having 2.5 times the movement of most units due to being mounted and a Mongol special ability -- and then having a good road system to improve their movement even further).

Yes, I am going against Riflemen, Calvary (with rifles), Gatling Guns, and Cannons with archers on horseback.  It's hardly fair...TO AUSTRIA.


The result five turns later.  Never bring a rifle to a bow fight, sheesh.

To be clear, I was able to do these for three main reasons.  One, Keshiks.  Two, Keshiks have a special ability that makes them earn experience 50% faster, and gaining experience lets you gain promotions to improve the unit (such as attacking twice in one turn, 15% bonus for fighting on a certain terrain type, gaining an extra range, etc) -- which meant my Keshiks had something like the following:
  • 45% more damage to targets in rough terrain
  • 45% more damage to targets in open terrain
  • Attack twice
  • +1 range
  • Heal every turn even while attacking
  • 66% more defense versus ranged attacks

That's a total of 11 promotions right there -- which takes a very, very long time to rack up (3 experience per bow shot, need 10 XP for first promotion, another 20 for second promotion, a further 30 for third promotion, etc).  Good thing I used those Keshiks to conquer the world with their experience bonuses so they had all those bonuses.  If I trained a new Keshik with experience providing training buildings it would start with like...

  • 30% more damage to targets in rough terrain

So you can see there's a *slight* difference there.

Also, the third reason?  Keshiks.

(In all fairness, the Khan (Mongol special great general) also helped a lot -- Great Generals give combat bonuses to nearby units and Khans are mounted and can thus keep up with the Keshiks, unlike a standard Great General).

I do want to point out that at the next tier of units the Keshiks would simply not be strong enough -- they'll get slaughtered by Great War Infantry, Landships, and Great War Bombers (think WWI stuff).  But during the Mongols heydey, they wreck.  And thus the idea of the Mongols is to use those units to get a massive advantage while Keshiks are relevant in order to win long term.  Other civilizations, such as Korea, get large science bonuses.  Others, like Egypt, get bonuses to building world wonders.  Etc.  While a few civilizations are just flat out weaker and a few are basically god tier, most of them are pretty balanced in their own unique way -- if you take advantage of their bonuses at the appropriate time.

Final thing -- I picked up some extra copies of Civ V Complete at 75% off during the Steam Thanksgiving sale.  If anyone is seriously interested in playing it (as in will actually play it and not "Oh, I'll fiddle around with it for fifteen minutes or maybe just let it sit in my Steam library and never actually touch it") then I'd be happy to send you one of the copies.  Can play single player or multiplayer, I just want you to actually play it!  Can email me about that.

Neverwinter Nights
I've also been playing NWN a little bit, shocking news.  It's also on sale again right now, so if you email me while it remains on sale I'll get you a copy to promote the game -- I WANT more people to be playing it!  I'd sing its praises more but you have that link if you want to read about it.

Mainly been working my way through the Darkness Over Daggerford custom campaign: "To many, the town of Daggerford is of little consequence. To others, however, it is of immeasurable value. The nearby great cities of Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate would do well to look over their shoulders at what is brewing in this once sleepy town. Prepare to delve into the dark mysteries surrounding Daggerford..."

You start as a somewhat experienced adventurer (level 8) and work to unravel the dark plots surrounding the town and threatening the region.


While the game is certainly older at this point, it still looks more than good enough for me to enjoy it.

I also played the custom module "Small Village Woes," which was a lot of fun and I hope to make a post proper about it in the near future.  Note that there are dozens of custom campaigns which are quite good (in addition to the three official campaigns which range from decent to good) and at least half a dozen campaigns which are much BETTER than the official campaigns (and better than Dragon Age, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect, or Mass Effect 3).

Starcraft 2
I also usually play SC2 once every week or two with a friend -- we play with him having an AI ally two levels of difficulty above an AI ally of my own and we see how it goes.  I usually win anyway but he's managed to pull off some wins and is getting better.  Happy to play some games with people if they so feel inclined.

Conclusion

I'm pretty sure this is longer than War and Peace at this point, but that's what I've been up to lately.  Hope it was at least interesting reading about it and cross your fingers for more regular posts going forward.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

So I'm at BlizzCon...

Yeah, yeah, I've basically been a ghost for three months.  RL has kept me very busy.  When that wasn't the case, WoW guild business has kept me very busy.  When that hasn't been the case, finishing some NWN projects before deadlines has kept me very busy.  In whatever free time I had left, I just had no desire to write for the blog and mainly filled it with Civ V (which I seem to have a love/hate relationship with since I picked it up like 2 months ago).

Anyway, to the important stuff...

I'm at BlizzCon for the first time ever!  Should be a blast, managed to already get my pass for tomorrow, and excited for the charity dinner tonight.  I imagine this is the part where you're hoping I'll say something about how I'll write about the stuff that happens at BlizzCon.  And perhaps I will (no guarantees), depending on how things go.

But more importantly, I wanted to throw this information out there in case anyone wanted to meet up.  I happen to have about 4 hours right now prior to the charity dinner and obviously can meet people over the next two days as well.

So if you're in the neighborhood and want to say hello, drop me a line!  Can leave a comment here or email me at balkothwarcraft at gmail dot com.

Monday, August 18, 2014

So There's This 10:10 Thing Going On...

Sorry on the absence, been dealing with a lot of 12+ hour days, getting ready to leave on a research trip next week, having to lead my guild (incidentally, we started sales of Heroic SoO stuff -- more information here if interested), and been working on another post that involves blog drama but that, I hope, will have a happy ending.  Suppose we'll see.

In the meantime, I figured I could jot down some notes for this 10 Years :: 10 Questions deal and some of my answers are noticeably different from most I've seen.

Fair warning: I'm going to totally cheat and go beyond the technical bounds of the question asked though it'll be on the same general topic as the question.

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?
Because I had been introduced to Warcraft III like a year before WoW launched and I started seeing advertisements for it on Battle.net.  I figured it was just the next Warcraft game except with a fancier title, I had no idea what an MMORPG was.  Hell, WC3 was the first game I'd ever played online (I technically did play another game (Lords of Magic) with a dial-up modem with a friend who moved away, but that was just the two of us).

You can imagine my surprise when I picked up the game and realized it was very different.  Luckily I had been playing Neverwinter Nights prior to WC3 (and still play NWN, you may have heard me mention it a few times) and Lords of Magic had some RPG elements so I wasn't completely lost.  Of course, after installing it and signing up for an account I learned apparently I would have to pay monthly to play, which I thought was insane -- after all, why should I keep paying for a game I own?  I didn't understand initially about how Blizzard maintained the servers we connected to (unlike single player games or online games like WC3 multiplayer) and would add in new patch content.  So I set it aside for a month before deciding I might as well give it a shot since I already had a month to burn by buying the game initially.

2. What was the first character you ever rolled?
A human mage.  I had always loved magic in games like Legend of Zelda, Lords of Magic, and NWN (Magical_Master was/is my NWN nickname since Balkoth was taken) and I thought the mage channeling Blizzard at the end of the intro cinematic was completely badass.  I made it until about mid-20s before being annoyed with just how squishy mages were (very different from NWN where they were gods).

So I rerolled a human paladin going Holy -- figured I'd have a sword and shield and wear down anything that tried to fight me.  Auto attack and heal.  I made it until about level 35 where I got into a duel with a Kurzen Medicine Man who I literally could not kill.  He couldn't kill me but I couldn't kill him fast enough to outdo HIS heals either.  After about fifteen minutes of fighting I dumped the paladin in disgust.

So then I made a human rogue -- figured it would be lethal without being as squishy as the mage.  That guy made it to 60 easily and in fact my first three 60s would all be rogues (different servers, no paid transfer back then).  Then a 60 night elf warrior (charging from Shadowmeld!).  Then a 60 human warrior (different server) who I reached rank 11 with in the old PvP system.  Then in the break before Burning Crusade I made Balkoth -- who was undead initially.  I kind of made him to kill Alliance who I met while PvPing on my warrior that I didn't like.  Wound up falling in love with shadow priests ever since.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?
I nearly always played humans in NWN, they were one of the best races.  My favorite faith in Lords of Magic was Order which was mostly humans.  And my favorite race in Warcraft 3 was humans.

Oh, and the mage in the intro cinematic and the female mage on the CD cases/bags were human.

Guess which race I went with first?  Hence Alliance.

Though I will say that I liked the idea of the Horde -- the outcasts just trying to make their way in the world.  Which is why I was fine with going Horde when I made Balkoth and was Horde for all of BC.  Lost most of my enthusiasm for the Horde in WotLK, though.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in WoW and why?
I honestly do not know.  I'm a very practical person and don't suffer (much) from nostalgia.  Some moments that stand out to me looking back (in order of timeline):

- Topping the damage meters in Zul'Gurub by 20% on my rogue.  My rogue had a level 50 blue dagger (no, not Barman Shanker) and a level 55 green sword in my offhand as combat daggers.  And I was annihilating rogues with mostly epic gear and level 60 epic weapons because they were playing Seal Fate builds (Assassination) and didn't maintain good target uptime.  I swear I could see their jaws drop in-game.

- 45 minute Baron run in Stratholme.  Good times.

- Hitting rank 11 on my warrior.  That's Commander Talnor to you.  I formed *the* PvP group to be in on my server at the time, the only groups that did better were ones literally made out of all members of a raiding guild who were completely decked out in epics.

- Joining a raiding guild in BC as a Shadow Priest.  I applied to the guild as Shadow (which had just been made viable) and they wanted me to heal...but I was adamant.  Shadow or nothing.  They invited me to a random BG and apparently I impressed them enough during the battle (Eye of the Storm) that they just ginvited me mid-battleground.

- Getting server first on all heroic dungeons in BC.  We had a core group of four plus a fifth who fluctuated.  Tank was a Feral Druid who I became best pals with, basically.

- Writing the original Elitist Jerk Shadow Priest guide.

- Topping both the damage AND healing meters on our first Gruul kill.

- After that guild disbanded a few weeks later due to internal drama, Feral Druid I mentioned earlier convinced me to join his raiding guild and help it become better.  Was promoted to be an officer within a few months

- Getting a Netherdrake.  Pertinent:


- Server first kills of Vashj, Kael'thas, Archimonde, and Illidan.  All amazing fights, all in their own way.  Could write a post about each of them.

- Getting Amani War Bear and selling them.

Note: quit from a few months prior to the end of BC to a few months prior to the end of WotLK.

- Leading a PUG group (with a core of 4 RL friends) to 11/12H in 10 man ICC.

- Getting Herald of the Titans back in WotLK.

- Doing Cataclysm heroics near launch.  I loved those, so much fun.

- Killing Heroic Nefarian and putting ourselves on the map with an Alliance first kill for a guild practically no one had heard of two months before (started Cata with 4 members and had to PUG for months).

- Getting a server first Heroic Ragnaros and establishing ourselves as the top two night a week guild in the US.

- Organizing "For the Alliance" near the end of Cataclysm with several other guilds.

- Getting 200 pets prior to MoP launch.  At which point I stopped caring because it became a serious thing as opposed to "Get that collection number higher!" and over 500 pets existed.

- Getting the server first Galleon kill with like 10 level 90s and 30 level 86-89 players.

- Killing Heroic Gara'jal literally as he raised his hand to wipe us AFTER he started the beserk emote.

- Heroic Lei Shen.  So, so much fun.

- Heroic Siegecrafter pre-nerf on 10H and H Garrosh pre-4/4 upgrades.  Siegecrafter was more fun, Garrosh was more brutal.  Both immensely satisfying in the end.

5. What is your favorite aspect of the game and has that always been the case?

 Raiding (surprise).  It's been my favorite aspect of the game ever since the beginning of BC.  I love the sense of teamwork and coordination needed to defeat an epic encounter.  You need everyone on the same page with a variety of skills and all able to trust each other to do their jobs in an extremely demanding environment.  It's why I still play and love WoW 10 years later, haven't heard of another game able to offer the same experience.  Some games have tried to replicate it but only succeeded in pale imitations.

As you can probably gather from the previous questions, though, it wasn't always my favorite.  I didn't even really understand what raids were for most of Vanilla, I simply did five man dungeons.  Then I tried to get into raiding but was aggravated by the guilds that wanted me for having so many bad players and was rejected by the better guilds due to lack of experience/gear (or they wanted me to tank on my warrior rather than DPS on my rogue or warrior.  Kind of interesting to wonder what would have happened had I accepted the offer to act as an off-tank in Vanilla using an Arms/Prot hybrid spec).  Was frustrating.  So then I got heavily into PvP on my warrior.

But then Vanilla hit, I was loving my new Spriest, they became hot commodities in raids, and things took off from there.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?
Nope!  That was easy.

7. How long have you /played and was that continuous?
Well, I started playing about a month after release and have played continuously except for a hiatus from the end of BC to the end of Wrath.

In terms of going through my level 10+ characters, I have a total of about 625 days /played with 305 of those on Balkoth.  That's about 15000 hours over eight years (since I wasn't playing for two years) so that's 15000/2950 = 5ish hours per day on average.

To be fair, probably at least one of those five hours a day was spent AFK/alt tabbed.  And I typically only play about 15-20 hours a week on average these days, often less.

...but during Vanilla I was PvPing like seven hours a day seven days a week for the rank 11 grind and during BC I was playing about the same number of hours a day seven days a week again.  Main raid four days a week, alt raid two days a week, Karazhan casual clear one day a week, plus PvPing.

Would be interesting if I could look solely at /played since I returned at the end of WotLK.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?
Absolutely.  I'm a huge lore nerd and can recite many boss RP speeches by heart.  Even if I stopped raiding, I'd at least subscribe to WoW every now and then for a month just to do the quests and see the lore.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?
Nothing grand and overarching.  I suppose there are four things that stick out to me, though (in chronological order).

First, I sometimes wonder what my WoW career would have looked like had I accepted the offer to tank for a guild in an off-tank role back in Vanilla, as I mentioned above.  But since I was trying to claw my way up through the PvP system I didn't want to handicap myself in PvE to off-tank in raids.  Might be in a very different place now.

Second, upon being promoted to an officer in that BC guild, I said something along the lines of how I could finally fix some of the problems player X had caused.  And I had forgotten that player X was technically an officer for some silly reason, he was completely useless and didn't do anything (and I mean anything) worthwhile anyway.  Was made an officer long ago for social reasons, I think.  So he saw my comment and I was mortified.  "Fortunately" the other officers and GM completely agreed with my assessment and wanted me to do exactly that, but still...

Third, I hate having to cut people from raid teams.  Had to do it back in BC.  Had to do it even more since forming Despotism.  I know it needs to be done.  I know it'll help the team overall.  I know the people getting cut are causing massive frustration and making people unhappy.  It still sucks to do.  Really sucks.

Fourth, I missed Ulduar while it was current content.  Though that's more of a regret from time NOT in-game.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside of gaming?
It helped me become a lot more confident and able to lead people in many different ways from social groups to teaching positions to supervisory roles.  It taught me organizational and motivational skills (though the motivational stuff is less speeches and more about good incentives and fair treatment).  It improved my writing through creating this blog.  It helped me create new bonds with people I met in real life due to shared experiences.