22 March 2012

Mists of Pandaria & Bears - A first glance from the beta

Long time no see! I must admit that I've been rather bad at not posting new stuff in this blog. However, this has changed now, since there's plenty of new and exciting stuff to talk about. The MoP beta has just started and I was lucky enough to be with the first wave of invitees. Being a WoW subscriber since launch and getting the annual pass quickly after it was announced apparently paid of.

I first made and played a Pandaren Monk, which is good fun. The class is somewhat reminiscent of a Druid in the way it plays, in the sense that your resource bar changes depending on the stance that you're in. The DPS stance has an energy bar, but if you shift into healer stance, it is replaced by a mana bar. All stances have a chi bar, which is a new resource that you build up with basic abilities and can spend on more powerful moves.

But enough about weird other classes, on to Druids. A lot has changed with the new talent system and this post would be way too big if I discussed all of it, so sticking with the theme of this blog, I will limit myself to what really matters: Bear stuff.

From Feral to Guardian

In MoP Druids are the only class that has 4 talent specializations. Blizzard has finally given up on trying to fit bear and cat into the same spec and has separated them. Kitties are still Feral Druids, but bears will now be Guardian Druids. There are still some shared abilities, that are unlocked with both specs, but some abilities that used to be part of the shared Feral ability-set will no longer be available.

Lets have a look at what changed:

  • Frenzied Regeneration got split into 2 effects. The max HP boost is now called Might of Ursoc while the healing part is still called Frenzied Regeneration. FR now has a 1.5 sec cooldown and heals 5% of your max HP per second for 6 seconds, converting 10 rage per second if available. Survival Instincts is the same as before, as is Barksin.

  • Thrash now applies the Demoralizing Roar effect to everything that is hit. The Demo Roar ability has been removed.

  • Infected Wounds is gone. Other tanks also lost their attack speed slowing debuff.

  • Swipe deals 20% more damage against bleeding targets. This adds a synergy with Thrash that should've already been in Cataclysm.

  • Stampeding Roar now removes roots and slows on all affected targets in addition to the speed buff.

  • Savage Defense is now an active ability that reduces damage taken by 40% for 6 seconds at the cost of 55 rage. 1.5 sec cooldown (you read that right).

  • Mastery now increases armor. The base amount is 5%, with 1200 mastery rating, that increased to 9% for me. Doesn't seem very impressive.

  • Mangle costs no rage.

  • New ability, Bear Hug! Please Blizzard, don't rename this like you did with "Nom Nom Nom", the kitty talent in Cata beta (now: Blood in the Water, how boring of a name is that?). Bear Hug stuns the target for 3 sec and deals 10% of the Druids health every second while immobilizing the Druid. If not in Bear form already, Bear Hug will put you in Bear form.

The need to survive

So both Frenzied Regeneration and Savage Defense were changed into active abilities that seem weird at first glance. Short cooldown, very powerful, high rage cost. But at second glance, this makes perfect sense. Right now, threat is easy. Multipliers are so high that you can literally go AFK after half the fight and are not in danger of losing aggro. Surviving is a more pressing concern on new content.

These 2 revamped abilities give you survival related buttons to press that actually present a difficult choice. 55 (SD) and up to 60 (FR) rage is alot of rage to spend, but the effect is very powerful. FR heals up to 30% of your max HP and SD is a 40% damage reduction for 6 seconds. The way it looks now, unglyphed, SD seems to be the more powerful ability in raids. But you can use them both provided you have the rage.

I like where this is going, it puts more emphasis on staying alive as a tank than it does now. Now all you have are you long-term cooldowns, while you mindlessly spam a pretty simple rotation.

Talents revamped! Again.

So the goal of the Cataclysm talent revamp was to provide less filler and more choice. That didn't really work. Well, the filler was gone, but there were still cookie-cutter builds that pretty much everyone used, because some talents were simply better than others for raiding. This was especially true for Ferals, since we had some talents that were pure-Bear or pure-Cat, making them useless for someone specializing in the other role.

The new talents for MoP look so much better. I actually had to think what to pick and now that I made my first selection, I feel that slight tingle in the back of my mind of those other talents that looked pretty cool, but that I couldn't pick. There's actualy choice now.

How does it work? Every 15 levels you get 1 talent point (yeah, that's not very often). You can pick one talent per tier, choosing from 3 different talents. Each talent is a new ability or massive changes an existing ability. Removing talents can now be done individually, rather than all at once and costs a Dust of Disappearance (just like removing a glyph).

Talent overview

Tier 1 (level 15)

Tier 1 has speed / movement / charge related talents.

  • Feline Swiftness - Like the old Feral talent, but different. Increases movement speed in all forms by 15%.

  • Displacer Beast - Basically Blink, but with a 3 min CD.

  • Wild Charge - Gives you a Charge-like ability in all forms. Bears get our regular Feral Charge (note that without this talent, no charge for you!). Kitties get their kitty-leap. Moonkins leap backward, I guess like Disengage from Hunters. Travel Form leaps forwards by 20 yd and Aquatic form gets a short speed boost. If you're not in a form, you fly towards a target ally. Looks a bit like the Priest lifegrip.

Personally, I'd go for Wild Charge, because I find it difficult to imagine playing without Feral Charge. For Bears, this means maintaining the status quo. Kitties will have to choose between moving faster and leaping. Displacer Beast seems useless due to the long CD.

Tier 2 (level 30)

Tier 2 are all healing related talents. Fortunately, all talents either have a separate effect for each form or are useable in all forms. There are no talents you have to skip because they dont do anything for your favorite form.

  • Nature's Swiftness - Not quite the NS that the Restos know and love. The new NS has a 1 min CD and only works on Cyclone, Roots, Healing Touch, Hibernate, Rebirth or Regrowth. It makes the spell instant and removes any mana cost. It also allows the spell to be used in all forms.

  • Renewal - Simple cooldown-clicky, heals for 30% of max HP, 2 min CD.

  • Cenarion Ward - Buffs a friendly target so that the next time he/she takes damage, he/she gets healed for 6.5K every 2 sec for 6 sec. 30 sec cooldown.

My money is on Nature's Swiftness. It heals me for 33K, while I have 183K unbuffed, while the cooldown is half that of Renewal and it allows for other spells to be used.

Tier 3 (level 45)

Tier 3 has different utility talents without an overarching theme.

  • Faerie Swarm - Makes Faerie Fire reduce the targets movement speed by 50%, but gives the ability a 15 sec CD.

  • Mass Entanglement - 20 sec root, that spread to up to 5 targets. 2 min CD.

  • Typhoon - Just like the current Moonkin spell, but without the damage component. So just a knockback and a 6 sec daze.

I picked Typoon initially, but I'm not sure whether I want that or Mass Entanglement. Faerie Swarm seems more of a PvP talent to me with limited PvE use.

Tier 4 (level 60)

Tier 4 has 3 talents that have an effect that differs for each spec.

  • Soul of the Forest - Mangle now regenerates 2 rage. (Balance: when Eclipse ends, gain 20 energy of the other type, Feral: 2 energy per CP when using a finisher, Resto: 50% for next spell after Swiftmend)

  • Incarnation - Activites a superior shapeshift form for 30 sec. Bear: CD on all damage abilities and Growl reduced to 1.5 sec. Balance: Lunar and Solar power generation doubled. Feral: Prowl in combat, stealth-abilities useable when not stealthed. Resto: Healing increased by 15%, armor by 120%. Some spells are "enhanced" (didnt test this).

  • Force of Nature - The regular Moonkin treants with a twist: they have an extra ability that depends on your spec. Unsurprisingly, Bear-treants have Taunt, which is on autocast by default (so you can annoy other tanks like DKs have been doing with Army of the Dead for a while now).

I went with FoN initially to see what it does. I'll probably end up with using Incarnation, but might be convinced to go for Soul of the Forest depending on how rage management ends up working out.

Tier 5 (level 75)

Tier 5 has crowd control talents.

  • Disorienting Roar - 10 yd AoE disorient, 3 sec duration, damage breaks it.

  • Ursol's Vortex - Creates a vortex at target location that slows all enemies by 50%. First time an enemy leaves, it gets pulled back in. 15 sec duration.

  • Mighty Bash - This is just Bash, it lasts a second longer (5 sec) and has 10 sec less CD (50 sec) compared to what we're used to.

I went with Mighty Bash initially, because I'm conservative when it comes to my abilities and didn't want to lose a stun.

Tier 6 (level 90)

The stuff that's not available yet! These are talents related to shapeshifting and hybrid play.

  • Heart of the Wild - The name is familiar, the effect is not. It's a 6 min CD clicky that gives you some of the strengths of the other specs. Bears gain greatly increased spelldamage and mana regen, other specs gain stuff like increased armor, increased agility, reduced chance to get crit, etc...

  • Dream of Cenarius - Damage spells and abilities increase the power of the next healing spell by 30% and vice versa. Only happens every 30 sec.

  • Disentanglement - Shapeshifting removes roots (LIKE IT ALWAYS DID UNTIL RECENTLY!). Shifting into a form heals you for 20% of max HP, 30 sec CD on that one.

For this, I'll go with Disentanglement for the self-heal. Powershifting will be very useful here. The other 2 abilities make more sense from a soloing or PvP perspective.

Glyph changes

Glyphs were changed. Again. Prime glyphs were removed, leaving us with major and minor glyphs only. 3 of each. The most interesting new or changed Bear glyphs are:

Major glyphs

  • Fae Silence - Causes Faerie Fire used in Bear form to silence a target, but trigger a 15 sec CD on FF.

  • Frenzied Regeneration - Removes the rage->health conversion from FR and makes healing taken 40% more powerful for 6 sec. Makes FR cost 60 rage up front.

  • Might of Ursoc - Increases health gain from Might of Ursoc by 20% (up to 50% max HP), but also increases CD by 2 min (up to 5 min).

  • Survival Instincts - Reduces cooldown by 60 sec (3 min -> 2 min) but reduces duration by 6 sec (12 sec -> 6 sec) as well.

  • Stampeding Roar - AoE range increased to 30 yd.

Minor glyphs

  • The Chameleon - Gives you a random hair colour every time you shift into Bear or Cat form.

  • The Stag - Changes your travel form into a Stag. Allows party members to use you as a mount. I got to admit, I felt a bit dirty when I first asked in Orgrimmar if anyone wanted to ride me.

Final thoughts

Things looking good so far. I like the new talents, I like the mechanic of having to budget your rage for very powerful defensive abilities. I do fear that, depending on how plentiful rage is, the rage-consuming defensive abilities will outshine the regular defensive cooldowns for any situation other than insane damage spikes that require both the rage-abilities and the cooldowns to survive.

I'm pretty optimistic about MoP as an expansion. It seems to do a lot of things right that were shaky (at best) in WotLK and Cataclysm. The 85-90 zones aren't open yet, so I havent dived into those. But if the Pandaren starting zone is any indication, those new zones will be very nice.

24 October 2010

A case for DPS jewelry

With patch 4.0.1 shuffling up stats quite a bit, Bear Druids get the endless pleasure of re-gearing part of their equipment. Where previously we used AGI/STA leather and STR/DEF jewelry, with the new patch, we'll be using AGI/STA stuff in our jewelry (and cloak) slots as well.

The might of agility
Since the patch, each point of AGI provides 2 AP in bearform (before buffs and talents and such). This was 0 before the patch. Consequently, agility is now just as good as strength when it comes to attack power. But, agility also provides crit and dodge. Dodge is gained at approximately the same amount with agility as with dodge rating (dodge rating is slightly better). And while you get crit a bit faster with crit rating, the difference isn't large. The only thing that's less awesome is that agility no longer provides armor.

Now AP and crit are nice for threat, but since the patch, Savage Defense plays a much larger role in our survival. The shields can go up to 15K or more with a maximized stack of Vengeance in high-end raiding gear. And that really takes the edge of those big hits.

And while agility has become more awesome, the removal of defense rating means that the classical tank jewelry now has more dodge rating. In itself, this isn't bad, but the conversion defense -> dodge isn't 1:1, since most of those items already had some dodge-rating and the itemization formula makes stats more expensive the more you get of them.

An example
So all the pieces line up for DPS jewelry/cloak to strike a decisive blow at their tank counterparts. Lets look at an example to see what's up:

The tank-cloak:
Royal Crimson Cloak (heroic), item level 277.
599 armor, 78 strength, 141 stamina, 102 dodge rating, 44 hit rating, 1 socket

The dps-cloak:
Shadowvault Slayers Cloak (heroic), item level 277
599 armor, 102 agility, 141 stamina, 60 crit rating, 68 haste rating, 1 socket

The armor, stamina and the socket are equal, they cancel out. The dodge from both cloaks is close, but the DPS cloak actually gives slightly more with raid buffs. The AP from the agility outweighs the AP from the strength (to be fair: Most comparisons between equal level tank and DPS jewelry/cloaks will show the same agility and strength, giving equal AP in both cases).

So the main difference we're left with is a whole truckload of crit (from agi and crit-rating) and some haste versus a little bit of hit on the tank cloak. Both threat-wise and survival-wise this massively favors the DPS cloak. Losing the hit can be a bit unfortunate, but it can be reobtained by reforging for example.

And that's just this specific example. If you run the numbers and compare tank-jewelry with their AGI/STA equivalents, then the DPS stuff wins every time. There's only a little over 1 month to go before Cataclysm, so it may not be needed to go all-out on regearing. But this trend will most likely carry on into Cataclysm, so it's good to know. And if you're planning to level as kitty, then you will have a very nice overlap between your leveling DPS gear and you instancing tank gear.

15 October 2010

4.0.1 - The Bear Essentials

A short summary of bear-related changes in the recent Cataclysm pre-patch. It will turn out to be a pretty long post, since there are simply so many changes.

The first thing to note when respeccing is that before you're allowed to invest any talent points, you first have to pick a tree to specialize in. This specialization unlocks a key ability for the spec as well as some passive bonusses. For Feral, the key ability is Mangle and the passive bonusses are +25% AP, Vengeance (more on this later) and the mastery-ability Savage Defense (bear) and Razor Claws (cat). More on masteries later. So some of the most important things that set Ferals apart from other Druids (Mangle & more AP) are available immediately to leveling Druids. After picking a specialization, you need to get all the way down that talenttree before you can place points in the other trees.

The total number of talent points was cut in half. As a consequence, most talents gives considerably more benefit per point and some talents have been replaced by the specialization-bonusses mentioned before. The Bear spec is fairly straightforward:
Tier 1: Furor and Feral Swiftness
Tier 2: Everything (Infected Wounds and Feral Aggression are optional depending on raid-setup)
Tier 3: Feral Charge, Stampede and Thick Hide
Tier 4: Leader of the Pack
Tier 5: Survival Instincts, Endless Carnage and Natural Reaction
Tier 6: Rend and Tear and Pulverize
Tier 7: Berserk
Resto Tier 1: Heart of the Wild

If you spec this way, you have 2 talent points left at level 80 that you can put in King of the Jungle (more threat) or Brutal Impact (better stuns / interrupts).

A new tier of glyphs was added: Prime Glyphs. These are the most powerful glyphs that simply buff your stuff without any drawbacks. Currently there are 3 Prime Glyphs affecting Bear abilities (Lacerate (+5% crit), Mangle (+10% damage), Berserk (+5sec duration)) and 3 slots for Prime Glyphs. Do the math. For the Major Glyphs there's slightly more choice. The Maul glyph now causes the 2nd target to only take 50% of Mauls damage. The Frenzied Regeneration glyph now removes the self-healing effect and adds a 30% bonus to healing received. Then there's the Faerie Fire glyph, extending its range by 10yd. And finally the Feral Charge glyph, reducing the cooldown by 1sec. For raiding, I'd say FR is mandatory. Maul I would keep whenever it's OK to hit more than one mob (so not on Saurfang). Between Faerie Fire and Feral Charge it's up to personal preference, I'd say. Minor Glyphs were unchanged.

Pretty much all our abilities were changed and we even gained some new tricks.

Mangle - The ability itself is one of the few to not have suffered any changes, but the Berserk talent now has the added effect of making Lacerate DoT ticks have a 30% chance to reset the cooldown of Mangle and make it free (similar to the Sword and Board talent that Prot Warriors have).
Maul - Maul is no longer on-next-attack, it is now an instant attack that's not on the global cooldown. The rage cost has been increased to 30 and it has a 3 second cooldown.
Lacerate - Lacerate has had its DoT damage lowered and the direct damage increased. In addition, it now only stacks to 3.
Swipe - Swipe now has a 6sec cooldown, but deals significantly more damage.
Faerie Fire - Faerie Fire now applies the Sunder Armor effect instead of its own armor-reduction. It stacks to 3. Feral Aggression allows you to apply 3 stacks of FF in one go, but it doesn't noticably improve the threat of the ability.
Demoralizing Roar - Now decreases physical damage done instead of attack power.
Pulverize - Consumes Lacerate stacks on the target and deals damage based on the number of stacks. Gives you 3% crit per stack consumed for 12 seconds (18 talented).
Skull Bash - New short distance (<13yd) charge and interrupt ability.
Survival Instincts - Now reduces damage taken by 60% for 12secs, 5min CD.
Frenzied Regeneration - Now has the old Survival Instincts effect (+30% max health) as well as its original rage-to-health conversion.

Rage changes
Rage gains were normalized, which effectively means that the amount of rage you gain has decreased. This means that rage management is more important. Maul is the rage-dump, just like before. But unlike the last years, you can't always expect to have all the rage you need to Maul as much as possible. Users of Maul-macros may suffer.

Stat changes & Mastery
Defense rating is gone. Items with this stat have had it converted into other stuff (mostly dodge rating). Armor penetration is gone as well, it's mostly been converted to crit. Finally, attack power (as a stat on gear) has left the building and is now fully replaced by agility and/or strength.

A new stat was added, mastery rating. This stat does not natively appear on current gear, but can be obtained via Reforging. Mastery has a different effect for every spec. As you choose your spec, you are granted one mastery-ability which is enhanced by your mastery rating. For Bears, this bonus is Savage Defense, a 50% chance on crit to proc a shield absorbing up to 65% of your AP on the next attack. Mastery improves the amount of damage absorbed by the shield, you start out with 8 mastery points (not rating), providing a 32% increase in the absorption.

Finally, the weapon damage -> Feral AP conversion has been removed. The base damage of a bear (before any contributions from strength, agility or attack power) is now determined directly from the weapon you're carrying, modified to the bears native attackspeed of 2.5. So if you equip a 600 DPS weapon, your base DPS in bearform will be 600. As a consequence, your total AP will be lower than before the patch, though the damage will be unchanged.

Vengenance is a spec-specific bonus that all the tank-specs are getting. It causes you to gain a stacking attack power buff whenever you are hit by a mob. The size of the stack that's added depends on the size of the hit and the maximum of the stack depends on your maximum health. This provides a scaling mechanic that lets your threat generation ramp up as you get into harder content (bosses hit harder -> faster stacking) and as you gear up (more HP -> higher maximum AP bonus). It does require the tank to get hit, so tank-swap fights like Saurfang may see some threat-issues. When a tank is not getting hit, the Vengenance stack decreases in strength until it disappears or until the tank is getting hit again.

Basic rotation
The basic rotation on bosses will be roughly the following:
- Keep FF up (once every 5 minutes)
- Keep Demo Roar up if needed
- Mangle whenever it's available. This is either every 6 seconds or whenever Berserk procs (free Mangle from a Lacerate tick).
- If Lacerate isn't at 3 stacks, stack it up.
- When Pulverize is about to run out, Pulverize the Lacerate stack.
- Use Lacerate as filler when you have enough rage, use FF if you're low on rage.
- Use Maul every 3 seconds only if you have sufficient rage to keep your normal rotation going. You need 45 rage to be able to Maul and still have rage for the next attack.

On smallish groups / trash:
- Swipe whenever it's not on cooldown.
- Keep Lacerate up on a few mobs to cause Berserk to proc often (3~4 mobs should do it).
- Mangle when it's available (this should be often). Tab between targets.
- Use Lacerate as filler. Try not to stack it when there are still mobs without Lacerate around as free Mangles are very strong.
- Use Maul every 3 secs if rage allows it. If you get plenty of Berserk procs, then your Mangles are free and rage should not be a problem, so Maul can be used plenty.

The three core concepts of the rotation are Mangle as the main threat-move (use it before anything else unless important debuffs would fade otherwise), the interaction between Lacerate, Pulverize and Berserk-procs and finally rage-management through dosed usage of Maul.

There's not much indepth analysis behind this, but it should keep a bear going until the fine details are worked out. In 2 months everything will change anyway, with Cataclysm and 5 more levels.

09 July 2010

Im in ur beta, testing ur Cataclysm

Our merciful Blizzard overlords have granted me access to the divine realm known as the Cataclysm Beta. I've not had much time to look around yet, but so far it looks good.

After installing the beta, I had to go through a very lengthy patching process. There was over 3 GB of patches to download and install, but I guess that's the consequence of dramatically altering the world. As an added bonus, the EU patching server was down for the last 2 patches, so it took me some time to find manual downloads of the patch-download-executable.

But after an evening full of patching, I managed to start up the beta and log in. At that point my wife said what any sane wife would say: "Ooh, Cataclysm beta. Can I try the Worgen starting zone?" Since resistance is futile, I relinquished control of my computer and pulled up another chair for my new spectator position.

Worgen Starting Zone (Spoiler alert!)
The Worgen start out as ordinary humans, inhabitants of Gilneas. There is no narrative yet for the introduction sequence. I assume that will be added at a later stage, possibly even after the beta. You start in Gilneas City, which is under attack by Worgen. Your first quest-giver is Prince Greymane (the son of the King). As you slowly retreat through various parts of the city, you'll notice very heavy use of phasing. Three main quest-givers (Greymane Jr and Sr as well as a local mayor) move with you through the use of phasing.

Eventually, you're cornered in a cathedral and an NPC yells something about a cutscene about your transformation to a Worgen that's supposed to show, but is not yet implemented. After this non-existent cutscene, you find yourself, as a Worgen, on the brink of being executed when there's a debate between NPCs whether or not your humanity can be saved. Obviously, you're given the benefit of the doubt and you continue to quest on, with familiar quest-givers recognizing you and saying things like "Oh, it really is you, $name". At this point the Forsaken are attacking Gilneas from the sea to the south and you're tasked with stopping them.

One thing I noticed is that Blizzard really polished up the new-player-tips. They now include graphics such as a part of the UI that is being explained or a mouse with the correct button highlighted for some new action. It takes you through the basic concepts of the game, such as combat, trainers, looting, vendors, etc... in a nice way. For veterans it's useless of course, but I can see new players gaining much more from this than from the old tip-system.

Back to the L80 Druid
This morning I had a chance to actually log my Druid. I've seen very little yet, so there's not much to say. The newly announced talent system has not yet been implemented, so saying anything about talents is somewhat pointless. There was a new skill on the trainer though, Skull Bash. It's available both in Cat (25 energy) and in Bear (1 rage, probably not final) forms. It has an 18 yd range and when used causes you to charge the target and interrupt any spell being cast with a 5 second school-lockout. The base cooldown is 1 minute, but it can be talented (Brutal Impact, though that may change with the upcoming overhaul) down to 10 seconds, making it equal in power to Kick from Rogues, but with the charge effect added. What will happen with Feral Charge is not known yet. It seems to be a bit too much to have this charge effect as well as Feral Charge, both on short cooldowns. Not that I would mind though...

More spoilers follow
In other news, Orgrimmar looks great. Much more city-like. But there are no mailboxes yet, so I had to fly (yup, flying in Azeroth is long overdue) down to Razor Hill (which is pretty much unchanged) to fetch my mail (nothing interesting in there). Then I went to Vashj'ir to check out some of the new areas. One thing I noticed is that there isn't really anything that directs you to the new areas. I would've expected an ingame mail and/or plenty of pointer-quests in popular places, but other than one quest to travel to Vashj'ir, there wasn't really anything. Maybe that's still on the todo list.

Going to Vashj'ir is a little event on its own: You board a boat together with some Orc Warriors that are chatting about a new island having emerged close to Stormwind, which is going to be claimed by the Horde so they have a staging area for an assault on Stormwind. Originally, this is the goal of your journey. Once in the area, you see a capsized boat with some survivors standing on it, asking for help, but large tentacles come from below and pull them down. The tentacles then attack your boat and you're pulled away and thrown into the sea. As you sink, a naga approaches you and tries to pull you away, when a Draenei Shaman from the Earthen Ring rescues you. You wake up in a sunken boat, where a bubble of air remains, the Shaman is there to give you your first quest. The reward for this is a spell that allows you to breathe under water and move 60% faster while in the Vashj'ir area. You're then tasked with rescuing the others from your ship and then gathering supplies for the Orc troops.

And that's as far as I've come. There will be more :-)

07 July 2010

Real ID & forum posts - Has Blizzard finally lost it?

My last post was about the new Real ID chat system and its flaws. My main point was that showing your real name instead of a nickname in these chats is a bad idea for 2 reasons: the first being privacy, the second being practicality, as the people I want to chat with ingame know me by my nickname and not my real name. The first point, privacy, did not weigh all that heavily for me, as you can choose yourself who to add to your friendslist (though being able to see your friends friendslist is still a stupid thing).

The Forum Cataclysm
However, yesterday, Blizzard announced that once Cataclysm goes live, all posts in the official forums will show your real name, attached to your Real ID. Your character name can be added to it, optionally. The reason for this: The quality of posts on the forums is too low because people hide behind internet avatars.

I, just like many others, am at a loss for words to describe just how terribly awful this decision is.This change will singlehandedly turn the quite lively (though not always very useful) forums into a ghost town with most quality posters gone. Post something controversial and you can end up with someone ordering a pizza in your name or something equally stupid. As an example, one of the Blizzard forum-moderators posted his name on the forums to show that it wasn't a big deal. In no-time, forumers had found his Facebook page, his age, his address, names of his family members and even some info on a run-in with the law that he had had.

I don't know what went through the heads of the people that came up with this that made them believe it was actually a good idea. I mean, people can be completely twisted in their minds, we see those examples often enough. But for an entire management team to have the same mental breakdown is quite bizarre.

But what should they have done then?
Now you'll tell me: Ranting is all nice and easy, but how then should they combat the crap quality of the official forums? Well, there are a few easy ways to do this. First of all, stricter moderation. Moderators on the Blizzard forums are extremely lenient. If you look at a forum like Elitist Jerks, you will hardly see any bad posts, since mods are very strict. Okay, they're extremely on the other end of the strictness-spectrum, but somewhere in between there's a good spot for Blizzards forum-moderators to sit. Faster (temp-)bans for people that don't contribute.

Secondly, force everyone to post on the highest level character they have on their account. Most trolls hide behind low-level alts, as they value their ingame reputation on their main. Forcing the forum to always select the highest level character removes that element to some extent. People with several characters that are the highest level can choose. Some have proposed this in the past and a common objection was "what if I want to ask/discuss something concerning my low-level alts class?" Well, I don't think you will gain much credibility by posting on your L30 Warrior alt instead of your L80 main of any other class in a discussion on Warriors. And if needed, you can always post an Armory-link to your alt if you have specific questions. Obviously, this method is not going to be 100% foolproof as people can just use L80s they don't care about to post and some even have a second account they can use, but I think it would greatly cull the troll population as the threshold for anonymous trolling goes up considerably.

Finally, let forum offenses and penalties carry over to the actual game. Second time banned on the forums? A couple of days of ingame-ban as well. Right now, the forums and the game are separate entities and people can troll all they want. The worst that can happen is that their posting privileges are revoked. Put some serious ingame penalties on trolling and other forum offenses and people will think twice before posting an easy troll.

Neither of these solutions is perfect. But all, especially combined, are a hell of a lot better than what Blizzard has in mind.

As a conclusion, I would like to post the following that I found on the US WoW forums and that catches the mood of the forums right now. I have never seen them this busy (the main US thread on the subject has 17000 posts at the time I write this, less than 1 day after the news came out) and pretty much everyone agrees with eachother. This happens about as often as the Netherlands reaching the world cup finals (yay!). Anyway:

Good morning.

In less than a day, forum posters from my realm have joined others from around the world. And we will be launching the largest forum battle in the history of the Blizzard community.

"Blizzard Community..."

That phrase should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps it's fate that today was Maintenance Day, and you will once again be waiting for your game to work correctly... Not for quest item drop rates, buggy NPCs, or missing auction items... but for Anonymity. We are fighting for our right to play. To post.

And should we win the day, Maintennance Day will no longer be known as a day the GMs did their duty, but as the day the world (of Warcraft) declared in one voice:

"We will not be revealed by something so contrite!"
We will not be exposed without a fight!
We're going to post on!
We're going to survive!
Today we celebrate our Maintenance Day!

30 June 2010

Real ID - Its potential and its flaws

Patch 3.3.5 is out and with it came Real ID, a new friend-network that Blizzard introduced for communication between players on different factions, realms or even games. Sounds good, right? I'm planning on getting StarCraft 2 when it launches and spending time in there when not raiding (since there isn't much else to do in WoW right now for me) and it'd be great if guildies could give me a poke because they need a tank for a 10man or so. However, the way Blizzard has chosen to implement Real ID leaves much to be desired. I'll quickly go over how Real ID works and what's wrong with it.

How does it work?
Next to your regular WoW friendlist, you can now add players as friends by inputting their Battle.net username, which is the email-address you've used for your B.net account. The other person gets a friend-request and if he/she/it accepts, you will become "Real ID friends".

You can talk to Real ID friends from any up-to-date Blizzard game. Right now, that's just WoW, but in a month, StarCraft 2 will be added to this list and Diablo 3 will follow when it comes out. In addition, classical WoW-related boundaries like realm and faction do not apply to Real ID friends, so you can keep in contact with a friend on a different realm.

As a bonus, you get what Blizzard calls "Rich Presence" information about your Real ID friends, which means as much as being able to see which game the player is logged in to and where he is in the game (WoW) or what he's doing (SC 2). So you can check if your friend is raiding in ICC or playing a ladder-match in SC 2 before disturbing him with the latest Chuck Norris jokes.

Since Blizzard wants Real ID to become sort of a mini social network within Battle.net, you will be able to see the friends of your friends, so you can add them to your friend-list if you would want to.

So that was the happy story, what's the bad news?
In a world where information is power, you have to give away quite a bit of information to use Real ID. First of all, your unique identifier is your Battle.net email-address. Now you could use a secondary spam-address for this, but it's quite a bit of extra hassle. On top of that, your display name within the Real ID system is your full name associated with your Battle.net account.

Not only is it not directly desirable to have to give away this information in order to use Real ID, it's also not convenient in an online world where nicknames have replaced real names long ago. If I were to whisper a guildie who is online in SC 2 and it would say "Rannasha says: ...", they'd immediately know it's me. If it would say "Gideon says: ...", most of them would have no idea who it is that's talking to them.

Now, Blizzard claims that Real ID is meant to keep in contact with real life friends that are online in a Battle.net game and that therefore the whole real name business makes sense. But ask yourself: How many real life friends do you know that play WoW / SC 2? And how many people in WoW do you know that you would like to keep in touch with? For most people in solid guilds, the second group will be bigger. In addition, most people will already have their real life friends on some communication network like MSN, Skype or Facebook, which they can use without having to be ingame.

Then there's the "friends of friends" feature. I don't want this. I want to be able to turn it off and as far as I know (EU realms are still down, so can't check), it's not possible. I just want a way to chat with guildies when either I or they are not online on our realm. I don't need to build my online social network. If I wanted to do that, there are several superior systems for that already.

I will use Real ID. With SC 2 coming out, the ability to cross the boundaries between games to chat with guildies is too useful to pass up. But I would've preferred if Blizzard had made Real ID more focused on actual gamers: Nicknames instead of real names as identifiers and no visible friends-of-friends. Save that for Facebook and co.

23 June 2010

Bloodlust - When?

Bloodlust is one of the key abilities that when properly used can greatly ease an encounter. But, since it's only available once per fight (LK Heroic excepted), it needs to be timed properly. There are different views on how to time it. The naive claim is that it should be popped when the boss is below 35% HP, because several classes deal more damage then (the so-called Execute-phase). However, this turns out to be false.

Execute-phase or not
When you Bloodlust in the Execute-phase, the time you spend in this phase goes down, which means that the raid has less time to benefit from that sub-35% DPS boost. It turns out that this effect exactly compensates for the increased damage you get from Bloodlusting during the sub-35% phase. And since math says more than a thousand words, I'll show this.

The following variables are used:
- H = boss HP
- R = base raid DPS without Bloodlust or sub-35% bonus
- D = duration of Bloodlust (40 sec)
- e = raid DPS increase factor due to Execute-phase (1.2 means 20% increase)
- b = raid DPS increase factor due to Bloodlust (1.2 means 20% increase)
- t1 = time from start to the moment the boss hits 35% HP
- t2 = time from the moment the boss hits 35% HP to the moment of death
- t3 = time to kill the boss, so t1 + t2

If we Bloodlust early (say, at the start of the fight), then we have some time with Bloodlust, during which we deal D * R * b damage. So the time left to burn the boss to 35% is (0.65 H - D * R * b) / R. And we need to add D to this to account for the time we spent during Bloodlust. Then we can obtain the time needed to burn the last 35%: (0.35 H) / (e R). Adding this up gives the total time:

If we Bloodlust when we hit 35%, the calculations follow the same idea:

Notice anything special? Right, both results are the same. The conclusion is that whether you Bloodlust early or late, the time-to-kill remains the same.

So when do I use Bloodlust?
Seeing as there is no DPS-gain from waiting for 35% to Bloodlust, I can give some compelling arguments to Bloodlust as early as possible, once all the relevant debuffs are up and people have their rotation going. This way players can pop their trinkets and cooldowns early and automatically have them sync up with Bloodlust, which is a decent DPS gain. If you postpone Bloodlust until the 35% phase, people will either not have their cooldowns available or they will have postponed using those cooldowns, which makes them get less benefit from them over the entire fight.

Another reason to Bloodlust early is that people die from time to time. Especially on new bosses, where DPS actually matters, you may lose people during the fight. At the start, everyone is alive and at full capacity, so you get the maximum out of your Bloodlust.

Decision-altering circumstances
All the conclusions made earlier assume a simple tank-and-spank bossfight with no adds or different phases. This is not entirely realistic and in actual fights, there may be circumstances that make you want to adjust your Bloodlust timing.

Encounter-specific damage buffs (such as Icehowls stun) are a great thing to combine with Bloodlust. A dangerous wave of adds is more easily disposed with a Bloodlusted raid. And finally, don't forget the healers: Bloodlust makes their work easier too, so if you anticipate a period of very high raid damage, Bloodlust can help the healers get through it.

ICC Boss-Bloodlust Guide
A quick summary of when to Bloodlust (IMO) on ICC fights:

- Lord Marrowgar: Preferably shortly after the pull or after the first Bonestorm.
- Lady Deathwhisper: Start of phase 2. Alternatively, during phase 1 after clearing up an add-wave.
- Gunship Battle: People Bloodlust here?
- Deathbringer Saurfang: At his 30% Frenzy. This phase is the most dangerous, so you want to get it over with quickly.
- Rotface: Just after the pull, people will be busy running around to drop their oozes later on.
- Festergut: Just after the first tank-switch. The old tank will be DPSing with alot of damamge-increasing buffs and Festergut will hit 3 stacks of Inhale Blight, causing alot of damage to be healed.
- Professor Putricide: At the start of phase 3 (normal mode) or during the second double-ooze transition phase (heroic mode)
- Blood Prince Council: Once Taldaram or Keleseth gets empowered. Empowered Valanar requires too much movement.
- Blood Queen Lana'thel: At the end of the fight, just after the last round of bites and after the second fear/airphase. More vampires means more DPS.
- Valithria Dreamwalker: Your healers decide, but generally once they have high stacks of their buff and just after they exit a portal.
- Sindragosa: Phase 1. We like to stress that Phase 3 is not a DPS race and just maximize the time we have for that phase by getting through the first 65% of her health quickly.
- Lich King: Second transition phase (normal) or right at the start and again in Phase 3 (heroic).