Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ask Coriel: Healing Trinkets

Jammy asks:

So my guild is just starting out in SSC/TK and I was wondering what the best possible trinkets for a healadin would be. As of right now, I currently use the Lower City prayerbook, and the Ribbon of Sacrifice from Kara, occasionally swapping out a couple of JC trinkets, like the Talasite Owl or the Living Ruby Serpent. Any other suggestions I might shoot for?

I use the [Lower City Prayerbook] and [Ribbon of Sacrifice] myself. They're pretty decent trinkets for that level.

The only trinkets I'd really suggest as possible upgrades (from lower
content) are:
- [Battlemaster's Perseverance] (Badges, Honor)
- [Pendant of the Violet Eye] from Shade of Aran
- [Tome of Diabolic Remedy] from Hex Lord Malacrass
- [Figurine: Seaspray Albatross] from Shattered Sun Offensive
- [Vial of the Sunwell] from Heroic Magister's Terrace

There are 3 or 4 decent trinkets coming up in T5 content. Don't forget about spell crit trinkets. There's a really nice spell crit trinket off Karathress ([Sextant of Unstable Currents]).

Honestly, I wouldn't worry too much about trinkets. You have a solid pair. If you can get one of the ones on the list above easily, go for it, but don't sweat it. Also, I find that making a macro to automatically use your trinkets (especially LCP) when you cast a spell will help ensure you get maximum use out of them.

Something like:

/use Ribbon of Sacrifice
/use Lower City Prayerbook
/script UIErrorsFrame:Clear()
/cast Flash of Light

Any trinkets that I may have missed?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Ask Coriel: Pursuit of Justice for a Tank?

Jarilo asks:

I was just wondering what you thought about pursuit of justice as a talent for protection paladins running instances and raids. Is it a useful talent? Does it have a noticeable impact on the amount of spell damage the paladin takes? Does it even work for PvE, or is it only worth it for PvP? My husband has a prot pally and we were noticing a bit of difficulty in Magisters Terrace from the large amount of damage done by spellcasters. We're finding conflicting reports from google searches, and wondered if you knew one way or the other?

As far as I know, Pursuit of Justice will work in PvE. Your husband's paladin will take 3% less spell damage overall, which can help in magic-heavy fights. And the speed increase is really nice.

The real problem is where do you take the extra points from? The best idea is probably stealing some points from Anticipation. You'll take a little more physical damage, in order to take a little less spell damage. I'd suggest a build like this: 0/46/15.

Also, if you raid, be careful to stay both uncrittable and uncrushable if you do this. If your defense is too low, and you can't afford to lose points in Anticipation, I'd probably take the points from Precision instead.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wipe Recovery

Moving off the topic of my performance, spending a week with that guild definitely exposed me to some new (to me) ideas and concepts.

One interesting thing is that Reclaimed never used wipe recovery tools. After a wipe, the entire raid always released and ran back. This is in stark contrast to all the other guilds I have ever been. We almost always soulstoned a priest or paladin, and then relied on the healers to resurrect the raid, unless you couldn't recover from the fight.

Running back appears slower at first glance, but is it really? It takes 70 seconds to fully resurrect a raid under perfect conditions. And usually conditions are not perfect. Resurrections will overlap or you'll have to hunt down someone's body. Running probably doesn't take that much longer.

Additionly, people often decide to go AFK after a wipe (post-res if you're lucky, pre-res if you're not). Everyone running keeps everyone at their computer, actually doing something. You don't have to waste time waiting for everyone to get back after from being AFK.

Finally, always running means you are expected to use your Soulstones and Ankhs in battle, which can make a real difference. Getting a mage to return from the dead can be a life-saver, and turn a potential wipe into a victory.

It's probably a small thing, but it's just something that none of my previous guilds did, and maybe a tactic that a lot of smaller/lower level guilds have not considered.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

WWS Reports

Several commenters asked for WWS reports, so here they are. I was only present for the Black Temple and Mount Hyjal parts.

1. Tuesday - BT
2. Wednesday - BT
3. Thursday - BT/MH
4. Monday - MH

Please don't comment on Reclaimed in general. I would have anonymized the reports, but that option appears to have been disabled.

Some general notes. On Tuesday and Wednesday, my HL5/FoL7 macro was messed up, resulting in me casting many more HL5 than I intended. Ratio should have been about 1:7, but was 1:3 instead. I switched to just doing FoL7 (and HL11) after that.

I wiped the raid once on Gorefiend. I died in the wrong spot, and didn't realize you could shoot other people's constructs--I thought it was like Leotheras for some reason--so I'm pretty sure I was not shooting my own constructs. I also wiped the raid once on Archimonde (Doomfire).

Other than that, the obvious healing error I noticed was on Bloodboil. I really should have been faster on the draw to heal the Fel-Raged person. I also needed to do a better job keeping the paladin tanking the Hyjal waves up.

I do think my healing mix should have more HL11 and less FoL7, but the tension between cast time, mana, and other healing was hard to judge. I think I should have defaulted more to HL11 when in doubt.

As for gear, I'll try and log out in healing gear (though I am Retribution at the moment). When Holy I have about +1925 healing, and the gear is mostly at the T5 level. I heal using Grid and mouseover macros.

Thanks for all the help and comments so far.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Improve My Game?

So Reclaimed denied my application on Wednesday. They cited poor healing and poor situational awareness as the reasons. And quite honestly, looking at the WWS reports for those raid nights, I agree with them. I had very low total healing, and did a poor job overall.

I'm not sure what it was, maybe it was a bad week, maybe it was because it was the first time I had seen Mount Hyjal and Black Temple, maybe it was adjusting to the speed of their playstyle or maybe it was because my skills are simply not good enough. It's probably a combination of all those factors.

One thing is pretty clear: I need to improve my game. However, I'm not sure how to go about doing that.

Gear and theory-wise, I believe that I am solid. It's more the intangible parts that I need to work on. And kind of honestly, I'm drawing a blank as to how to improve them. Should I do more heroics? Try PvP in earnest?

Any suggestions you guys have would be appreciated.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Other People

After reading some recent posts from Galoheart and Big Bear Butt Blogger, I have solidified my view that the central paradox of MMOs is:

The best thing about MMOs is that you can play with other people.

The worst thing about MMOs is that you have to play with other people.

In many ways, WoW was the first MMO to really grasp this distinction. And a huge amount of the angst and conflict at the level cap comes when the game transitions from focusing on the first style to focusing on the second style. We play this game to play with other people, yet playing with other people often causes a lot of problems.

It's amazing fun to play with other people. It's what sets this genre apart from all the other games out there. I still believe that single best thrill in WoW is downing a hard new boss with a raid of friends. A hard-fought, evenly matched Arena battle might compare. They're both the same idea: defeat a hard challenge because you worked together as a team.

Yet other people are also the worst part of MMOs. Drama, people going afk, griefing, etc. So many problems in this game aren't really problems with the game itself, but with people. And sometimes it's just simple logistics. Person A only has 20 minutes to play, so that's just not enough time to do something as a group.

There are a ton of issues where the difference comes into play. Take raiders vs casuals. Raiding demands that you play with a large number of other people, and thus places strict demands on people in order to make the playstyle reliable. Casual places fewer demands, but you often end up playing by yourself.

PvE vs PvP. The real advantage PvP has over raiding is that it involves fewer "other people". Battlegrounds you can essentially solo. Arenas involve 1 to 4 other people.

The shortage of tanks and healers. DPS "can" play with other people. Tanks and healers "have to" play with other people.

Realistically, what can a game company do? The entire point of these games is to play with other people, yet the more you force people to play together the harder it becomes to consistently enjoy the experience. I know there are other MMOs who force you to group all the time, but I also believe that is a reason they haven't achieved the success of WoW.

In the end, all I have to offer are the (paraphrased) words of the great philosopher Homer J. Simpson, "other people: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Updates

I'm currently applying to Reclaimed, which is one of the more advanced guilds on Skywall, working on Sunwell at the moment. I thought it would be interesting to try a more hardcore approach to raiding for a while. I respecced back to Holy and am healing for the most part.

I haven't actually seen Sunwell yet, but I did get taken on a Black Temple run, which was pretty interesting. It's illuminating to see how this guild does stuff.

The biggest thing is that they are fast. They just move from trash pack to pack swiftly. People go afk, come back, the raid keeps going. Heck, the main tank went afk and the raid kept going, just using the other tanks. Even boss attempts are fast. Wipe, everyone release, run back in, buff and pull again. It seems like this guild gets in three attempts in the same time it would take the other guilds I've been in to do one attempt.

The pace is the hardest thing for me to get used to. I honestly couldn't tell you very much about the bosses in the first part of Black Temple, as it's kind of a blur.

All in all, it's been a pretty interesting experience so far. We'll see how things turn out.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are Consumables Bad Design?

I've been watching the discussion about Brutallis, the second boss in Sunwell, and the first real gear check in The Burning Crusade. One thing that has jumped out at me is the side discussion about Leatherworking drums. Drums are items which can only be used by leatherworkers, but provide a temporary buff to the group. Apparently they are quite powerful, and are pushing people to do things like stack the raid with leatherworkers or change professions.

Drums are just the latest consumable to have issues. Flasks and elixirs got sorted into the Battle/Guardian system to keep them under control. There are complaints that the caster classes have to chain mana potions every two minutes.

So it begs the question: Are consumables--items which give a temporary bonus and are then destroyed--inherently bad design?

In theory, potions and flasks are pretty cool. They're a strong part of fantasy literature, and the idea of brewing elixirs is pretty neat.

But in practice, consumables tend to be annoying. Because they are powerful, content tends to be balanced with the expectation that the players are using them. If content wasn't balanced around that, a buffed group would find it too easy. As well, farming materials or money for consumables is something you have to do for every raid. Basically, you're continously expending a lot of effort just to stay level.

Permanent items on the other hand, like armor, enchants, and gems have a large initial cost, but once you meet that cost you're set. You've actually achieved something, and your character will always be better from that point. To me, gathering the materials for a [Red Belt of Battle] seems much more worthwhile, and much more fun, than gathering the materials for flasks for the next week of raiding.

Of course, WoW can't remove consumables entirely, as the Alchemy profession is based on them. But it might be a good idea for a new game to simply not include consumables. Make buffs either permanent or easily renewable. In many ways, I think the endgame would be a better place if consumables didn't exist.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Blessing Assignment Patterns

In my Guide to Blessings, I originally advocated assigning Blessings as follows:

Pattern 1: Combined Might/Wisdom

Paladin 1 - Light on tanks, Wisdom on hunters, Salvation on everyone else
Paladin 2 - Wisdom on casters, Might on melee and hunters
Paladin 3 - Kings

This pattern has its advantages, mainly that all the complexity of blessing assignments is put on the shoulders of Paladin 1. This means that Paladins 2 and 3 have simpler assignments, which can be a great boon for an entry-level raid.

However, this pattern does have disadvantages. To maximize effectiveness, Paladin 1 needs Improved Wisdom, while Paladin 2 needs both Improved Wisdom and Improved Might. Paladin 3 needs Kings, of course. It is rare that you will get 3 paladins with exactly the right buffs, especially if you run a Retribution paladin.

So let's take a look at a second pattern:

Pattern 2: Split Might/Wisdom

Paladin 1: Light on tanks, Salvation on melee, Wisdom on casters and hunters
Paladin 2: Salvation on casters, Might on tanks, melee and hunters
Paladin 3: Kings

This pattern greatly reduces the requirements for maximum effectiveness. Paladin 1 needs Improved Wisdom, Paladin 2 needs Improved Might, and Paladin 3 needs Kings. This is much easier to get, and works well with a Retribution paladin.

The downside is that the complexity is split up between the first two paladins, and no single paladin is responsible for keeping Salvation up.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ability Names

Something that Blizzard does extremely well, but goes uncommented on by most people, is the naming system for talents and abilities. The names for each class are extremely well-chosen, and do a superb job of reinforcing that class’s identity.

Take rogues, for example: ambush, mutilate, backstab, rupture, garrote, sinister strike, crippling poison, hemorrhage. Brutal, guttural words. Words which are perfect for the rogue.

Paladins have might, wisdom, justice, crusader, light’s grace, avenger's shield, vengeance. Blessing of Kings. Again, the words used are chosen for deliberate effect, reinforcing the class identity.

Warlocks have corruption, doom, agony, immolate, drain life. Words that evoke the dark nature of the warlock.

You can see similar effects for all the other classes. Attention to details like these is what makes Blizzard games so polished, and their Creative/Naming team has done an outstanding job with ability and talent names.

It's one of those things that I never really thought about, until I saw a different game which had just terrible names for abilities. That made me realize that coming up with good, solid names is not as easy as it seems, and actually goes a long way to making your game shine.