Talents, Features and Headcanons

We’re finishing off today with three really interesting posts: a passionate takedown of the new talent system, a really interesting discussion on WoW’s features, and a concept – the aforementioned “headcanon” – that I’ve never come across before:

  • Zellviren writes a passionately-argued critique of the new WoW talent system. Strongly put, but with some really interesting points to make – I look forward to the discussion! – “Either you make active mitigation a visceral part of defence and wholly chase away new players who’ll be overwhelmed by it, or you make its contribution small enough that undergeared or under-experienced tanks won’t feel so bad to their healers and those higher up the curve practically ignore it to contribute more damage.”
  • Matthew Rossi covers a well-worn topic – wish-lists of features for WoW – but comes up with some really interesting ideas that go in different directions to the usual discussions“What the system really would need to make it awesome would be a way to define your characters to other players. My wife and I have played our characters with various relationships over the years and it would be great if we could actually use the game’s systems to make that a meaningful choice. “
  • And Tzufit introduces us to the concept of “Headcanon” – the game lore that exists only in your head, but is nonetheless real and important for you“So given the volatility inherent to a shapeshifted druid, I have a hard time believing that any well-trained druid would put roomful of people at risk by turning into a bear or panther or giant bird of prey in front of them. For me, this wouldn’t be all that different from having a wild bear or cat in the room with you, and that bear or cat wouldn’t be curled up in a ball by the fireside asking for you to pet her.”

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please let your fellow players know about them too!

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MoP Cinematic Analysis Roundup

I guarantee you, this roundup of the blogosphere’s commentary on the Mists of Pandaria cinematic will have at least one idea, thought or piece of analysis that has never occurred to you.

Yes, the Pandaria cinematic is out, and the blogosphere’s been talking it over from all angles. There are so, so many fascinating points of view coming out of one four minute video – let’s go!

  • Erinys discovers an unexpected echo of classic pulp literature in the cinematic, which she argues is extremely similar to 1912 novel “The Lost World”“A huge spread of shoulders and a chest like a barrel were the other parts of him which appeared above the table, save for two enormous hands covered with long black hair. This and a bellowing, roaring, rumbling voice made up my first impression of the notorious Professor Challenger “
  • Shintar looks at the competition, contrasting the MoP trailer with SWTOR’s cinematics“In comparison, the story in “Hope” is very low key. The trailer can do its job perfectly fine without you ever knowing more about the characters than “this is a trooper”, “this is a Jedi” and “this is a bad guy with a really scarred face”. “
  • 35 Yards has a unique way to watch the MoP (and other WoW) trailers – in Mandarin Chinese!
  • Flosch looks at the MoP trailer, and wonders if what it’s saying is that MoP is Kung Fu Panda after all“No, the reason I saw Kung Fu Panda in that trailer was a very specific scene. Remember the scene where unnamed Panda #1 returns the decorative headpiece to its original place… then realizes it’s slightly askew and adjusts it with his staff?”
  • Azuriel thinks that the Kung Fu Pandaness of the trailer may have given WoW, and WoW players, a serious image problem” I am also acutely aware that MoP is going to be fighting an image battle for its entire duration, regardless of the merits of the actual game itself. And more to the point, people playing MoP are going to be the ones fighting that image battle alone, if this cinematic trailer is any indication. “
  • Typhoon Andrew enjoyed the trailer, but felt that it wasn’t War-like enough” If I understand a little of the backdrop story in Mists of Pandaria, the Horde and Alliance are returning to truly hating each other. If so, then show us that hatred. Give the orc the spear…right through the front of his chest.”
  • Rayze feels that Blizzard completely succeeded in introducing the Pandaren“In only a couple of minutes Blizzard managed to clearly put across the main points of at least what the Pandaren fight for, what are their motives and why should we like them, giving them some needed depth to the eyes of a casual observer.”
  • Klepsacovic found himself somewhat confused“And now… who is the enemy? The panda? He does seem to be what we fight. And against the panda we are helpless. Utterly helpless. Two of the three core races (nelfs as third) are in a hopeless fight for survival in an unknown world, a world manufactured entirely for the pandas, and the pandas rule here.”
  • Rohan felt the cinematic was technically adept, but lacked a certain weight“The video sends somewhat mixed messages about the Pandaren. Are the Horde and Alliance uniting against the Pandaren? “
  • Clockwork analyses the video scene by scene, looking at the cliches, the storytelling and the cultural implications“So in one small scene we’ve shown the Alliance/Horde that their war is pointless, that the pandas can show them the way, that THIS panda is badass and cares about restoration, AND that the Horde/Alliance should put down their weapons.”
  • Big Bear Butt showed the cinematic to his son, of course – and then every other Blizzard cinematic ever too“Alex watched as I reviewed the Rage of the Firelands patch trailer, and he freaked. He has now watched that trailer probably 5 times, and he can’t stop gushing about it.”
  • Reliq put together a great gallery of his picks for still shots from the cinematic
  • Rades takes a look at the cinematic with an artist and lorekeeper’s eye“But the orc in the trailer? That guy was awesome! He was massive and muscular, but in a lean, lanky, feral way. He looked strong AND fast, like a hunting cat or a honed predator.”

Your turn – what did you spot about the cinematic that everyone seems to be missing?

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For WoW Tanks, It’s Time To Take Our Pants Off Again

OK, fellow tanks, it looks like it’s time to get our Magic Mike on again. Yep, along with Pandas and Pet Battles, Blizzard’s bringing back the tearaway pants for WoW tanks.

I’m sure many of you are giving this the full-on “WTH?” moment. Allow me to explain.

You might think that for a WoW tank, more armour is better. But that’s just not the case. As Blizzard have struggled to balance tank DPS to be useful but not overpowered, WoW tanks have gone through various phases where we could tank best by reducing our armour, taking more damage, and doing more damage and threat as a result. Traditionally, we’d achieve this by taking off items of clothing. And what single item has the most armour?

Pants.

We thought this problem had gone away thanks to the introduction of Vengeance, and Blizzard’s subsequent attempts to improve it. But, as Theck demonstrates today, that’s not the case. In fact, MoP features yet another attempt to fix Vengeance, and as a result looks set to see the return of the pantless tank in a big way – and that’s not the only wierd effect the new Vengeance mechanic will have

“Tank DPS is also going to vary significantly across content in this system. Our output will fluctuate wildly with encounter mechanics, specifically bosses with large variances in time-off-target. Or for that matter, sections of an encounter where one tank is taking most of the damage, leaving the off-tank doing very little. And there will be a huge variation in damage not just between 10-man and 25-man versions of content, but between normal and heroic versions of that content. I can see that being a huge balancing nightmare on several fronts – a retribution paladin does similar damage whether you set the boss to normal or heroic mode, but your tank’s damage may vary by up to a factor of 2.

I also don’t see the point in having a significant difference in tank DPS between 10- and 25-man versions of content. Tank damage may be a smaller proportion of raid DPS in the 25-man format, but it’s no less important. For bosses with reasonably-tuned enrage timers (i.e., almost every meaningful heroic mode), tanks were already doing what they could to optimize damage. It really doesn’t need to be normalized to keep the players happy, and I doubt it’s a significant hurdle in balancing the encounters given the array of other, more noticeable differences between the formats.

Another side-effect of our DPS being dependent on boss DPS is that it opens up some really bizarre situations for our rotation. Our abilities don’t scale equally with AP, and as a result our optimum rotation changes based on whether we’re at 0% or 100% Vengeance. Amplifying this effect and making it vary per encounter is even worse, because it means that our ideal rotation can now change from boss to boss.

Now, you might say, “But wait Theck, DPS specs change their rotation from boss to boss too.” And you’d be right, but only in the trivial sense. They may perform different actions for different numbers of targets, or bosses with strange special abilities. But they don’t change anything when going from Patchwerk #1 to Patchwerk #2, which is their basic “nuke a single target” rotation, the bread-and-butter of their class. But with “new Vengeance,” a tank’s ideal rotation could be different depending on which boss they’re facing, what phase it is, and whether they’re the main- or off-tank.”

Theck’s talking about Paladin tanks, his speciality, but as far as I know the changes to Vengeance will mess with all tanks equally. And Theck takes us on a fascinating journey through all the potential ramifications in this post – not just pantless tanks and wierd DPS rotations, but BiS tanks being out-DPSed by alts in greens and more.

Even if you don’t care about WoW or tanking, this is a fascinating read from a game development perspective – some well-intentioned and reasonably well-thought-out changes turn out to have really, really unexpected emergent consequences. And if you are interested in WoW tanking, I’d say this one’s a must-read – if only so that you can start collecting your DPS set and preparing the appropriate emotes for when you suddenly have to whip off your outerwear…

Bow-tie optional.

So, will you be joining the Pantless Tanking Craze?

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Looking Ahead: Gating in MoP, 50 Reasons for GW2, and balancing the two

It’s all about the future right now in the MMOsphere – at least for Guild Wars or WoW enthusiasts.

So here’s the latest discussion and debate on That Which Is Coming Up, from the news that Mists of Pandaria’s raids will be released one at a time, to the question that a lot of us are facing – how the hell we’re going to manage to play both games…

  • Beruthiel at Falling Leaves And Wings considers the news that MoP’s raids will be released in stages, and doesn’t see this as a bad thing at all“I’d ask “What’s the rush?”. If you are worried about rankings, aren’t you in the same boat as everyone else? I’m curious what is so wrong with getting through the first zone before the next is released?”
  • Sunnier at the Art Of War answers the question “How the hell will we fit MoP and Guild Wars 2 in at the same time?”“So what’s a GW2 and WoW lover supposed to do? I can’t be a progression raider in WoW if I’m (shudder) casual, but I can’t become a PvP superstar in GW2 if I spend all my time dying to the disconnect boss in Mogu’shan Vaults.”
  • And Syl at Raging Monkeys looks back on her “50 reasons to look forward to Guild Wars 2″ and considers which of them have been borne out by the beta tests“For direct comparison, I will go with the list of 50 reasons I presented this April 2012 with no first-hand gameplay experience whatsoever. I expect to see few changes but not to get ahead of myself, let’s rather examine each point once more.”

Are you annoyed by MoP raid gating? Shuddering at the thought of fitting both games in? Or do you have 99 reasons to play GW2 (but a raid ain’t one)?

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A Short Thought: Are Pet Battles A Gift For Gankers?

If you’re planning on completing your pet collection in Mists of Pandaria without full Gladiator gear, as the meme goes, you’re going to have a bad time.

Blizzard seem to have made a rather curious choice with Pet Battles. In order to catch them all, so to speak, you’ll have to travel the world. Currently, this appears to include contested zones, where you’re flagged for PvP if you enter, even on a PvE realm – and Blizzard have confirmed this is deliberate and intentional. Cymre of Bubbles of Mischief wrote about this curious choice a couple of days ago

“I was annoyed to find what almost appeared to be random flagging on a PVE server if you were just working on Pet Battles. I thought this was a bug since you would be flagged flying into Mulgore, for example, but I’ve since read that it’s an intentional feature. ”

Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression so far is that the demographic who are likely to be enthusiastic about Pet Battles and the demographic who are enthusiastic about World PvP are, shall we say, not identical. I’ve heard enthusiasm for Pet Battles from more casual players, from achievement hunters, and even from peoples’ children. It doesn’t look like a minigame that’s meant to require PvP expertise. Pet Battles seem to be targeted at – and recieving the most enthusiasm from – the more gentle, less hardcore side of WoW’s playerbase.

Whom, if they want to complete their pet collection, are going to be required to go out into Azeroth, get themselves flagged for PvP (as I’m assuming that different pets spawn in each zone), and stand very still operating a completely different minigame.

Is it just me, or does it seem like the Pet Collection feature, coupled with PvP flagging, is basically sending a lot of people with no particular interest in or skill at PvP out to be slaughtered by gankers? Obviously, it’ll be worst on PvP servers (where I would imagine pet collection will be somewhere between deeply irritating and completely impossible), but even on PvE servers it seems the design is explicitly intended to send people who aren’t prepared for PvP into PvP-flagging zones. And then have them stand still with their backs turned.

I can’t see this one ending well…

What do you think? Have I misunderstood something?

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MoPping Up: Improving on DS, Brewfest Danger and the Original Challenge Mode

So, want to know how Vanilla’s original “challenge mode” went? Want to know what fixes are coming in for Dragon Soul’s raiding problems, or what popular seasonal boss might derail the Pandas?

With MoP now two months away, the Mists of Pandaria blogging is coming thick and fast, and I suspect “MoPping up” will become a regular feature! There are some great posts on Pandaria today – enjoy:

  • Scott Andrews at WoW Insider looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the WoW Vanilla Baron 45-minute run, which he (correctly, I think) calls WoW’s first Challenge Mode“What newer players may not know is that vanilla WoW also had a timed dungeon run. It was known as the 45-minute Baron, Strat 45, or sometimes simply Baron run. This “challenge mode” was actually just a quest (called Dead Man’s Plea) to engage Baron Rivendare within 45 minutes and then kill him, or he would execute his prisoner and you’d fail. “
  • Vixsin at Life In Group 5 goes over the ways MoP promises to fix the problems of Tier 13 raiding, including LfR abuse, class stacking and more“, I see the same problem with the Legendary Questline as I do with Dragonwrath farming—it encourages guilds who want a legendary edge to continue operating multiple alt raids to ensure more chances at the drop. “
  • And The Godmother at ALT:ernative has spotted a small problem that could nonetheless badly derail Mists’ levelling speed“I’m not sure its a good idea to start telling people they need to level in X days so they can access content that, for the vast majority of those who will be experiencing it, will be inappropriately high.”

I remember the Baron run of old – great fun, although I never got anywhere close to completing it…

**Anything about Mists that has gotten your goat?

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Mists of Pandaria Release Date Reactions

25th September.

What do you think?

No, just kidding. This isn’t actually the Pot’s shortest linkpost ever – but the news of WoW’s latest expansion’s release date has to be one of the most eagerly-awaited single pieces of information ever in the MMORPG world. (Arguably that isn’t 100% positive for Blizzard, because quite a lot of the eagerness comes from impatience…)

Bloggers are reacting to the announcement in a variety of interesting ways, and we’re following it all:

  • Green Armadillo considers this announcement from a tactical point of view“Perhaps the portion of the populace who are not annual pass subscribers – most likely the majority despite the surprisingly large number of annual subscribers – are the biggest flight risk.”
  • Anjin wants to know if people are really excited for Mists of Pandaria, and would like to hear comments“I’m wondering if people are really that excited for another WoW expansion. Do people want this because they can’t wait for more WoW or is everyone buying out of habit?”
  • Aldous the Boozekin is drawing attention to a related phenomenon – the unexplained outbreak of illness and absenteeism predicted for the end of September…“We highly recommend checking any networks that you or your company uses prior to these dates, as finding a support technician will be very difficult during this time. We are doubtful that we’ll learn what is going on behind these strange occurrences, but we’ll be sure to get that information to you if it ever becomes available.”
  • Scary at Scary Worlds has a controversial take on whether Blizzard schedule their releases against competing titles“None of these games fail because some other game ruined them by releasing around the same date as them, they failed because they just didn’t do good enough. It’s their fault, not Blizzard’s.”
  • And The Ancient Gaming Noob takes a broader look at the onslaught of MMO and MMO-related gaming titles set to hit us starting in late August“Guild Wars 2 goes live on August 28, the LOTRO Expansion Riders of Rohan shows up on September 5 last I checked, and Torchlight II is threatening to ship in September as well.”

So, what are your thoughts on the release date announcement?

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Torture, Judgement, and Small Fluffy Animals

Yep, we’re running the gamut today – although even the small fluffy animals post has a thread of serious debate running through it…

  • Stormy at Scribblings on the Asylum Wall is really not impressed with MoP’s Pet Battles, and wants to know exactly what they think they’re playing at“There is no intervention from the player at all. Once you’ve picked another pet to battle, it literally becomes you watching what amounts to a video of your pet killing the other pet.”
  • MMO Gamer Chick wonders if she did The Secret World a disservice by judging it on its beta“You could say that I too judged TSW a tad too early, specifically the combat which I initially described from my brief beta experience as clunky and unintuitive.”
  • And Big Bear Butt writes a column I whole-heartedly agree on, talking about the massive missed opportunity that was Wrath of The Lich King’s “Art Of Persuasion” torture quest“Take your neural needler, shove it up your ass, because maybe it’s time you asked yourselves some pointed questions about how committed you are to the intent behind your rules and not just the letter of the law.”

What do you think of the whole “Pet Battles” thing?

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Pet Battles!

The latest patch for the Mists of Pandaria beta introduces the Pet Battle system!

For those of you just looking for a tour through Azeroth’s answer to Pokemon, you’re in luck – two bloggers have dived into the Pet Battle system this weekend and emerged with semi-comprehensive writeups of the story so far…

  • Cymre at Bubbles of Mischief shares a screenshot-filled summary of her Pet Battle experiences so far“As your pets progress in skill, you’ll be required to battle various battle trainers around Azeroth. The first one requires you to find the Master Pet Tamer in Northern Barrens. The quest rewards you with a bag which can contain either a pet, pet leash or fetch ball, etc.”
  • And The Godmother at ALT:Ernative gives us a “your first Pet Battle” introductory guide to the system“The canny person will be checking out the pet trainers before the game goes live to ensure they have strong teams to defeat them quickly (in this case, snakes are I believe critters, so you’ll want abilities that do a + damage to them.) “

Have you tried Pet Battles yet?

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Should Attunements Return To WoW?

Is it time for the glorious return of the attunement run to WoW?

Very little divides old-school WoW players like the question of attunements. For everyone reminiscing, misty-eyed, about helping their guildmates through the Onyxia chain, there’s another person frothing about the epic attunement grind that was later BC raiding.

Now, fueled by comments from a Blizzard CM, the entire debate’s raging again, as the blogosphere asks – should attunements make a return in MoP?

  • Matthew Rossi at WoW Insider argues passionately that attunements should never, ever blight the game again“What I don’t like or want is a barrier to entry that has nothing to do with skill, just time and the ability to get other people to help me get through a series of stages that serve no other purpose but to delay me, especially when we’re already delayed by other aspects of the game anyway.”
  • Klepsacovic at Troll Racials Are Overpowered takes Rossi’s arguments point-by-point , arguing that none of his points are valid“There could of course be no barriers at all to any content, so roll up your character and teleport to Deathwing. With your 24 friends who you magically found despite having played none of the rest of the game. There is no time, skill, genetic, or money barrier to fighting Deathwing, but I suspect having heroic Deathwing kill you over and over again isn’t the best way to start a game.”
  • And The Godmother at ALT:Ernative argues that people who wish attunements would return are viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses“People like to remember the past as a better place because it gives them license to complain about how slack standards have become and how the present is never as good as what you remember. Trust me, these people are not remembering the bigger picture.”

Personally, I’m mildly in favour of attunements, for no other reason than they provide a sense of structure and anticipation to endgame. But I’m fair from the hardcore of either camp, and I’m interested to hear arguments in both directions.

Do you think attunements should make a return?

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