Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Althor's Abacus for Paladins?

I was chatting with another paladin healer today, and noticed he was using [Althor's Abacus]. I was a bit surprised, because it seems like another [Trauma], which really wasn't that good for paladins.

However, this paladin said that the Abacus was very good. According to him, it can proc when someone gets healed from his Judgement of Light. This means that it actually has a pretty high proc rate. He claimed that the Abacus accounted for a full 3% of his heals.

Any other paladins have experiences with [Althor's Abacus]?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Best Change in Patch 3.3.3

The best change in the new mini-patch that came today:

Hunters now display ranged weapons on the character select screen.

No paladin changes to talk about. The new auction interface is pretty good. Don't forget to convert all your old Battleground Marks to Honor.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cataclysm Parry: Part I

One of the most interesting changes coming in Cataclysm is the new Parry mechanic. Currently, a Parry prevents 100% of the damage on the current swing and speeds up your next swing. In Cataclysm, a Parry will prevent 50% damage on the current swing, and 50% of the damage on the next swing, and will not speed your weapon.

What's amusing about this change is that it changes the way you have to analyze tanking. Boss swings are no longer independent. The damage you take on the current swing depends on if the previous swing was a parry or not. Incoming damage becomes a Markov chain, and you need to play around with matrices instead of simple probability.

There are two possible interpretations of how the second swing after a Parry works, and Blizzard has not seen fit to enlighten us yet. The first interpretation is that the second swing always hits for 50% damage, and cannot be dodged or blocked or re-parried. The other interpretation is that you can still miss/dodge/block/parry the second swing, but damage on a parry or block is reduced even further.

In this post, I'll look at the first Parry version. Here is a graph that shows how damage is reduced as you increase Dodge, Parry, or Block (assumes starting values of 5% Miss, 5% Dodge, 5% Parry, 5% Block):


As you can see, Dodge is the best stat of the three. One percentage point of Dodge reduces damage by significantly more than Parry or Block. Intuitively, this makes sense. After all, Dodge completely negates the attack, while you still take 70% damage on a Block. If you had 100% Dodge, you'd take 0% damage. 100% Block would be 70% damage. As for Parry, if you had 100% Parry, you would be taking 50% damage all the time.

However, in this scenario Parry behaves slightly differently than Dodge or Block. Dodge and Block are linear, and each percentage point of Dodge or Block will reduce damage by a equal amount. Parry, on the other hand, is almost as good as Dodge early on, when you have low amounts of Parry, but becomes less and less effective as you add more Parry.

(Please note that I am discussing raw Dodge and Parry, not Dodge Rating or Parry Rating. The amount of Rating per percentage point will make a big impact.)

In the next post, I'll look at the second Parry scenario. My initial instinct is that Parry will be much better under those rules. After all, in the second scenario, 100% parry would translate to 25% damage all the time.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Optional

Suzina at Kill Ten Rats confessed that she bought gold to purchase dual specialization on her first WoW character at level 40. For the purposes of this post, let us ignore the whole "buying gold" aspect of the story. What's much more puzzling to me is why Suzina felt she had to have dual-spec at all.

To me, it seems that Blizzard put the 1000g price tag on dual-spec specifically to signal that dual-spec was optional. That you didn't need it while leveling your first character, and was more of an extra for experienced players leveling an alt. And I agree with this view. You don't need dual-spec until heroics at max level. Before then you can tank or heal in any spec. Every class has the basic tools necessary available to all specs.

Sometimes it seems like this genre has no concept of the term "optional". Something is either absolutely necessary, or it is useless. There doesn't seem to be any in-between. Another example is professions. Professions used to be more or less optional. But many people complained that professions were useless, and profession perks were added. Now, having two professions is mandatory, just for the extra profession-specific perks.

There is a huge debate on the EJ Benefactor forum about the state of Wrath endgame. The people in Royalty guilds are very unhappy because they feel that--to be competitive--they are forced to do 10-mans, 25-mans, alt runs, and daily heroics. Because every one of these activities has a small benefit, they all become necessary and no longer optional. 10-mans give extra Emblems and some Best-in-Slot gear. Daily heroics give extra Emblems. Alt runs grant you extra attempts on attempt-limited bosses.

And yet, if these activities have no benefit, they become worthless and will not be done at all. There is no in-between, no state where sometimes you do a 10man, and sometimes you don't. You either do the 10-man every chance you get or you never do it at all. Sometimes it feels like players are completely unable to moderate themselves.

Is it possible to design elements that are optional and yet have decent rewards? Or should Blizzard be heavy-handed and formally restrict players from going overboard? Should they combine 10-man and 25-man lockouts? Should they restrict dual-spec to level 80s?

Maybe it's better for the designers to assume that players will have no sense of moderation or sanity, and will take every possible step to gain any potential benefits. Then design the game to severely limit the amount of possible steps to keep players from hurting themselves.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gold Selling

The Problem

Last week Big Bear Butt issued a call for Blizzard to end Prohibition and start selling gold to players. The theory is that by offering players a safe and legal method of purchasing gold, Blizzard will greatly damage the economic incentive of hackers and goldsellers, reducing the damage that hacked accounts are doing to the game.

I am reluctantly forced to agree with him that gold should be sold through legitimate channels. I have never bought gold. I regard purchasing gold as a form of cheating. But the truth is that there is apparently a significant segment of the audience who is willing to purchase gold. To satisfy that need we have people who hack accounts, secretly install keyloggers, and do much damage to innocent players. If selling gold directly would significantly reduce the number of hacked players, then it would be worthwhile.

There have been two options suggested: players selling gold to players; and Blizzard selling gold to players. Each method has pitfalls, and at the end I will make a suggestion on what I think the best course of action would be.

Solution 1: Players Selling to Players

There are three major problems with Player-To-Player transactions that I see. First, it gives players a significant incentive to defraud other players, especially as the fruits of the fraud result in real money. Imagine a GM or officer making off with the guild bank to sell for real money. Even in day-to-day transactions, the incentive will be to take the most valuable option. In random dungeons, always roll Need on gear so you can sell it. I think that setting the players against each other in this fashion is not good for a casual game like WoW. In a hardcore PvP game like Eve Online, it might be acceptable or even necessary, but it would not be good for WoW.

The second problem I see is that it has the potential to get the IRS and the government involved. I see no good coming from having the IRS interested in my game playing. Anytime something involves real money, the government has an interest and tends to interfere. The academics who think virtual worlds are important might feel validated at the sign of government interest, but I don't want to end up filling out Section A, Subsection B: Income Earned From Virtual Currency Trading on my tax forms.

The third problem is that I believe it is wrong for strong players to get a "free ride" at the expense of weaker players. If players can sell gold to other players, the good players will pay for their subscriptions by selling gold to weaker players. So essentially, the weaker players are paying both subscriptions and are the ones who are actually supporting the game.

In Magic Online, this phenomenon was called "going infinite". Players had to supply packs of cards to enter tournaments, and the prizes were additional packs of cards. A good player would win tournaments, and the prizes would pay her way into the next tournament. The only people who were actually paying for the game were the losers. I don't think this behaviour is healthy for the game in the long run.

Right now, everyone pays an equal amount to access the game, and that is fair and sensible. Creating a division between sellers, who play the game for free, and buyers, who end up paying for everything, will cause nothing but problems.

Solution 2: Blizzard Selling to Players

There are two major issues with Blizzard selling gold directly to players. First, Blizzard can be undercut by the illegal gold sellers. A significant number of players will buy from Blizzard, but there will probably be enough people who go for the cheaper prices. This may or may not be a big problem.

Second, incentives matter. This is just as true for corporations as it is for individuals. If Blizzard sells gold, then selling gold becomes a revenue stream for them, and they have a strong incentive to increase that revenue stream as much as possible. I really don't want to see game design decisions that encourage the player base to buy gold instead of bettering gameplay. For example, the drop rate of Frost Lotus was recently increased, bringing down prices. Would you trust Blizzard to make the same decision if they stood to gain money as people bought gold to compensate for higher prices?

Maybe the Blizzard of old might have made the best decision for the game, but Activision certainly won't. Not if the other path results in increased revenues in the short term.

My Solution: Charity Selling to Players

My solution would be to have Blizzard sell gold to players and donate all money generated to a charity. Not just the profits, but all the revenue. Blizzard can pay for it out of the decreased Customer Support costs.

This would remove any incentive for Blizzard to maximize gold selling revenue at the expense of gameplay. They wouldn't really care if players buy gold or don't buy gold. The charity might care, but it would have no power to do anything.

Secondly, it would provide a powerful incentive for players to purchase from Blizzard instead of illegal gold sellers, even if the illegals undercut Blizzard. On one hand, your money can go to people who hack accounts. On the other hand, your money can go to charity. I think that making the choice starker, and adding extra moral weight to the choice we want people to take, would lead to more people sticking with the official sales.

As well, this would avoid consumers protesting that Blizzard is being excessively greedy. Gold selling would be seen as something completely separate from subscriptions. The divisions between sellers and buyers would not occur.

Of course, this option is extremely unlikely to happen. It's hard to imagine an MMO company allowing its virtual currency to be sold, but giving up all revenue from it, especially if the amounts were non-trivial.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Ask Coriel: New Prot Paladin Spec

Redzilla asks:

I'm looking for the overall best Tankadin build in your opinion. I have a Female Dwarf Ret Pally, that I love, but I'm now leveling a Female Blood Elf Prot Pally. This is the cookie cutter I'm using, wanted to get your opinion, and what you would do to change this:

0/53/18

Also, as a long time Ret pally, I'm used to using certain blessings and aura's for different situations. With a tankadin, what do you suggest? For 5 Mans, I'm assuming Blessing Of Kings, Devotion Aura, and Seal of Light(for health regen) or Seal of Just curious as to what you use in 5 mans vs solo'ing to level. I'm going straight Prot Pally all the way to 80 with my Blood elf.

In my opinion, my tank build would be: 0/53/18

It's not very much different from yours, but I would take 2/2 Imp Judgements, 2/2 Pursuit of Justice, and Seal of Command. 2/2 Imp Judgements is not strictly needed, but sometimes it's useful to have your Judgements available a bit early. The 969 rotation is the standard, but don't get tunnel-visioned. Sometimes deviating from 969 is necessary. For example, if you were kiting a mob, you'd prefer to have more Judgements.

As well, I am a great fan of Pursuit of Justice. I find being able to move swiftly is very useful, and I think trading 2% crit is worth it. However, a lot of other paladin tanks would probably disagree with me, and say that having Tuskarr's Vitality on your boots is good enough.

Seal of Command is very useful on trash and adds. It's especially good for AoE tanking.

I'm not sure about Divine Sacrifice. I'm not sure how much you would use it as a tank. You might be better off just getting 3/5 Divinity instead. Divine Sacrifice is powerful, but if you never use it because you're always tanking, better to take something else.

As for Auras/Blessings/Seals, at low levels I would suggest Blessing of Kings, Devotion Aura, and Seal of Righteousness. Don't use Light, let your healer keep you healed up. When I see low level paladin tanks running Light1 I know that the tank is going to have a hard time holding aggro.

Switch to Blessing of Sanctuary when you get it, and then Seal of Vengeance or Command when you get those.

1 Or worse, Seal of Justice. I'm not sure why Justice is so attractive to newbie tanks.