Streamlined Questing: The New Darkshore

24 11 2010

While I was leveling my new spacegoat Shaman yesterday, I popped over to Darkshore instead of doing Bloodmyst to start experiencing the new post-shattering questing world. First experience: it’s great. After some time and some pondering, I noticed a few significant changes to the way questing was set up.

Kill ten of that, find me this, rescue those guys, discover that and then come back

In BC and Wrath, and especially in vanilla content, leveling was often a matter of collecting all the quests from a hub and going out to complete them. This is still the foundation of questing (at least, based on my Darkshore experience), but there’s more to it. I arrived in Lor’danel somewhat disappointed to only see two available quests for my level 10 Shaman. Assuming that there was more than met the eye, I took my quests and wandered off to kill things and save people.

I did a few quests (all of which were pretty much adjacent to the town/questgiver) and returned to the town. On the second set of quests which sent me into a cave, I at first was annoyed. Typically cave quests mean you have to kill far more of a mob than usual to get to the desired named mob/item in a quest. This time, however, there were two extra quests found in the cave, and these also played into the storyline of the zone! I was pleasantly surprised.

This trend continues into the rest of the early parts of the zone. Questing is much more streamlined and organic. There has been no point so far where I have been starved for quests. I have always been on my way somewhere, finding quests as I go. Also, named mobs appear as a skull on the minimap. This makes me very happy.

Story, story, story

Another thing that strikes me as excellent about the new questing is that the quests are very focused. Something is going on in the zone, and the quests go beyond “we are being attacked by x, kill them.” I won’t give away what the story is, but suffice it to say that the quests really tie in well to a story and while there might not be any significant phasing going on, you feel pretty involved with what is happening. Also, there are elementals attacking the city. (Will they be attacking the city for the next two years/until the next expansion comes out?)

Tangent, tangent, tangent

Speaking of story, a guildie who saw a burning tree asked in gchat yesterday: “So will this tree be burning for the next two years?” I answered probably. I hope that I’m wrong, however. A Cataclysm occurred, yes, but I think it’s important to keep the story moving as much as possible, and this should involve more than the introduction of new raids. Citizens of Stormwind should slowly rebuild the broken sections, cities under siege should be calling for reinforcements or fall to the attacks, etc.

So please, Blizzard, let us rebuild, or make us fall; just continue the story! (They have demonstrated the ability to do this without too much interruption: see the way the elemental invasion unfolded without major patch downloads between stages.)

A taste of what's to come





How to Write a Successful Leveling Guide

14 10 2010

This is not a post about how to level your DK. This is a post about how to write a leveling guide that will do more than just tell people what zones to go to. In my opinion, leveling guides are more about how you should be shaping your character, especially in terms of gear, talents, specs, and important things to learn on the way to max level. No, it won’t tell you how to level a DK (it’s not very hard) but instead some tips for writing a leveling guide.

 

Hooray

Ding!

 

  1. Include a spec. If it isn’t obvious what order points should be placed, then you should make a note of that. For example with this Unholy spec, you’re better off putting 2 points in Butchery before getting Gargoyle/Subversion, since 20 RP on a kill is really quite useful (more so than some extra crit or a 3min cooldown). If you’re going to outline each tier individually, as shown here, make sure to include what the end result will look like. I would suggest only including one spec that is generally agreed to be the best leveling spec. People reading leveling guides are often focused on speed rather than exploration, so including only the most useful spec will be helpful to readers. Note: spec includes things like glyphs, pet talents, etc.
  2. Discuss basic rotations. For an Unholy DK, this means something very basic. For example: put up diseases, cast Scourge Strike, cast Death Coil, cast Blood Strike. Highest priority to lowest.
  3. Explain instance roles and strategy. Writing for Mages? Note some beginner tips on how to sheep things while still doing effective DPS, such as using focus macros. Writing for Death Knights? Depends whether you’re advising tanks or fledgling DPS DKs. For a tank, discuss when oh-shit buttons should be used. For a DPSer, mention what types of mobs usually die first (spellcasters, healers, for example) or how important hitting mobs from behind is. Learning these types of things as you level helps immensely when thrown into the craziness that is max level raiding.
  4. Note any class-specific leveling habits. One example: Hunters. What pets are good for leveling? Tank pets (e.g. turtles) or DPS pets (e.g. raptors)? To use another example, what totems should a Shaman use? Should a Shaman bother with totems while leveling? If so, when is it good to use them (multiple mobs in one place, etc.)?
  5. Mention important quests and questlines. Some examples: the Hodir questline, any quest that gives a new weapon to Hunters/melee classes, that sort of thing. A quest that has a large effect on max-level play or speeds up leveling is what I would consider important.

Character first

I think leveling guides are at their most helpful when focusing on combat-related information because this is the most complex aspect of leveling a new character. Wandering from zone to zone is pretty straightforward, especially since starting areas get you well-acquainted with the basics of questing and moving to new areas.

Professions also have very little effect on leveling, aside from derailing them to make time for crafting. Crafting gear for yourself is rarely effective since stuff gets outclassed so fast/heirlooms exist. When I read a leveling guide, I want to learn anything and everything that will make leveling that class faster.

What about you, what do you look for in a leveling guide?





A Caper Story: Reforging Old Alliances

5 10 2010

It seems like Cataclysm has been on its way for a long time. And I guess it has been. And for what seems like the 30th time, I’ve renewed my subscription. It’s not because suddenly WoW is more exciting than it was when I left in November last year. But something else is happening, and that’s people returning to the game. Not just me, but a bunch of the people from my old guild who were the main reason that WoW was any fun.

Looking out past Dalaran

Feels like the beginning of a heist movie

At the beginning of Ocean’s Eleven, Brad Pitt and George Clooney start looking through their rolodex and picking the best people to make a team. That’s the kind of thing I was doing today–working out who we knew was coming back, who we could convince to come back, to make the best 10man Cataclysm guild we could. And it’s so great that 10man guilds are an option now, because it just gives you so much more freedom without limiting you, gear-wise.

But that’s not really the point of this post. Cataclysm is almost here, and the promise of a whole new way of doing things (changing far more than Wrath did, and in a much more interesting way, but again, that’s a post for another time) is leading people back to WoW. So here’s to bringing old friends together to beat up angry monsters.

More posts to come, hopefully.





Revelation is Recruiting!

13 10 2009

I’m going to take advantage of all this traffic from wow.com, come to see the magic of the zeppelins, and plug my guild, which is currently recruiting. First of all, here’s a link to our recruitment thread, which has all the basic information you need to know about us. We are focused on progression but on a casual schedule. We raid 25-mans only 3 times a week and make the most out of that time. If you’re a very skilled player who just can’t dedicate 20 hours a week to raiding, we’re the guild for you.

With that done, I’ll turn this into a real post about recruiting. It’s difficult. It’s frustrating. It seems like whenever you browse the official guild recruitment forums the only LFGuild posts are from classes you’re full on. Have 5 mages? You’ll only see mages. So what can you do in this situation?

Make sure your recruitment thread/shpiel reflects your guild’s personality

Recently I’ve been working on an assignment for school developing a media kit for a magazine. A media kit is basically something you sent to potential advertisers to sell them on your magazine/product. Your recruitment thread is no different. You need to describe why you’re different from every other guild that you’re competing with. This means that if you are, say, a hardcore guild with all hard modes completed (like other hardcore guilds) you should discuss what sets you apart.

Don’t just say that your DPS is awesome and your tanks are well-geared or that your healers could solo heal Onyxia without a tank. Talk about your raiding atmosphere, guild chat, quirky things about your guild, that sort of thing.

What do you offer recruits?

A fair loot system? Free repairs? Brunch on weekends? Beyond your progression level, each guild has something to offer its recruits, even if it’s just a functioning guild bank. Tell people about this stuff; it will help people make a choice between your guild and another like it.

What classes you’re looking for and what positions are available

You should, of course, put a list of what classes you’re recruiting. But be more detailed than that. What positions are available? Core raid spot (like an MT) or a DPS who might get benched now and again? Don’t get into the situation of pissing off a recruit who transferred under the false pretences of having a full-time raid spot. Bad press about your guild is very near a death sentence since a lot of recruiting is done by word of mouth.

P.S. Revelation is recruiting! We want you! Here’s that link again. :)





Zeppelins, Attack!

10 10 2009

When you’ve finished all the content you can, what do you do next? I bet you didn’t guess “attack Dalaran with paper zeppelins” but that’s just what we did. I hope you enjoy the following screenshots of the great Dalaran zeppelin raid.

Paper Zeppelins begin to swarm

Paper zeppelins begin to swarm

They're everywhere!They’re everywhere!
Even in the bank...

Even in the bank...





A Quick and Dirty Guide to Rawr

6 10 2009

For the uninitiated, Rawr is a program that players can use to evaluate different pieces of gear. Rawr does fuzzy math things which I am not qualified to talk about and gives a value for every item available to you, with the highest value being the best item. What is optimal may change, however, based on your current gear. For example, if you have capped expertise as a DPS, items with expertise on them will not be valued highly. You can set filters to ignore, say, Trial of the Grand Crusader-25. Finally, Rawr gives an estimate of your DPS on a 10-minute (that’s the default time) patchwerk-esque encounter where you set what buffs you have and what rotation you use.

Rawr can be a little bit intimidating when you first download it, and this guide will help you get started and hopefully make you fall in love with Rawr.

Step 1: Download Rawr and load up your character (File -> Load from Armory)

Make sure your character has the correct gear (i.e. DPS gear if you are a DPS character) when you log off so that you don’t have to go in and change each piece of gear manually. Before you go off and look at upgrades or die of shock at the fact that Rawr is telling you that your DPS is only 2400 there are a few important steps to take.

Step 2: Check off buffs that your raid group regularly has (under the buffs tab)

Since Rawr evaluates gear based on your current stats (including buffs you have), it’s important to select buffs that accurately portray a regular raid night for your guild. If you only raid 10s, for example, don’t go checking off every available buff or you won’t get accurate information.

Step 3: Make sure your rotation, talent spec and glyphs are correct

The rotation is found under Options, just hit the Rotation Details button. Pick whatever is appropriate to your spec and modify as needed. The default rotations are taken from EJ discussion, so if you follow that you’re probably familiar with them already. Review talents and glyphs to make sure everything is up to date (sometimes Armory can be slow and/or stupid). Also make sure to set up any enchants that disappeared in the move from Armory to Rawr.

Now for the good stuff

Those are the basic steps you need to take to start using Rawr. Now you can use it to test out what items are upgrades and which are not. A few things to note before you start that, though:

  • Just because an item does not have Strength doesn’t mean it’s not an upgrade (for me, Collar of Ceaseless Torment is pre-25 hardmode BiS)
  • Remember that while an item might be BiS with one set of gear it won’t necessarily be BiS all the time (item values are dynamic and change based on your current gear)
  • Leather is an option too
  • You still have to use your judgment; for example, exclusively following WoW will not always keep you at the Hit or Expertise cap, so if you prefer to keep them capped you have to consider that on your own

The easiest piece of gear to look at for a Death Knight is the sigil. Since it doesn’t provide any complex stats (i.e. Hit, ArPen, Expertise) it’s not going to change very much based on your gear and stats.

On the right part of Rawr, select the dropdown menu next to “Slot: Gear” and choose Ranged

Now you’ll get a numerical value (DPS) for each sigil. The one with the highest value is worth the most DPS. So go out, find that sigil, and now you’ve got a piece of BiS. Other slots, especially head, shoulders, chest, legs and gloves, are more complicated (these are the slots tier pieces go in). The most important thing when using Rawr is to keep an open mind while still thinking critically. Don’t let Rawr make all your decisions for you. That said, it’s a great tool for evaluating pieces of gear and comparing items. This is especially true when comparing Agility items to Strength ones, since it’s usually not obvious (you typically lose a few AP) that one or the other is better.





Where Are We Heading Tonight?

30 09 2009

This is a question I see with growing frequency in guild chat or raid chat as the group fills up. This is because, as a guild, we are in a strange place with regard to progression. We’re not quite ready for ToC-25 hard modes, but doing Ulduar hard modes can seem a bit silly. They’re definitely harder than ToC-25 normal mode, but with (mostly) inferior loot.

This makes the term “progression” a bit loopy. There’s no doubt that Algalon is significantly more difficult than Northrend Beasts on normal mode, but Algalon’s loot is a few item levels lower. If you look back at previous expansions, raiding progression was a bit more linear. In pre-BC, you started off with a mix of Onyxia and Molten Core. When you could reliably kill Ragnaros, you’d probably move on to a mix of ZG (which was harder than MC) and Blackwing Lair. Then you’d start playing around with AQ20 and AQ40. Then, if you were awesome, you’d head into Naxxramas (when it was actually hard).

A mishmash of progression

A mishmash of progression

In BC there were significantly more raids but again a fairly linear progression. You started with a mix of Karazhan and Gruul’s Lair, moving up to Magtheridon and then upgrading to the next “tier” of gear when you were ready. In Wrath, you can get Ulduar level gear from heroics. You can get ToC-25 level gear from an instance that is easily pugged (Vault). Malygos, Sartharionx3 and Kel’Thuzad drop loot that is comparable (and in some cases superior, as with the Signet of Manifested Pain and Pennant Cloak) to Ulduar gear.

Onyxia muddies the water even more. Another puggable instance that drops ilvl 245 gear! It’s crazy! Is it better, though? Hard modes have certainly made progression a fuzzier line than before. While I do certainly enjoy attempting (and later succeeding at, hopefully) the Ulduar-25 hardmodes, it feels off to be doing them after completing the normal mode of ToC. Invariably, progression is measured by the kind of loot you can get from an instance. So Ulduar is behind ToC in these terms. The major change we have seen in the last few patches of WotLK is that difficulty no longer necessarily scales with ilvl.

I recall talking to my GM about the subject (or at least something closely related) and he lamented the lack of a middleground. Something between ToC hardmode and ToC normal (which is simply too easy and a bit boring) for guilds that fall between casual and hardcore. What could this be, though? Perhaps if hard modes could be calibrated multiple ways with different loot, as with Sartharion, there would be more for middle-of-the-road guilds to do. This is my major frustration with having “hard” and “normal” modes. Where’s the middleground?

The basis for creating it is there. Have Freya with two trees alive drop, say, ilvl 236 loot (between 226 and 239, which is the ilvl of Ulduar hard mode gear). This would require tweaking of certain hard modes, such as Mimiron, where you have everything built into the press of the button. For other fights, such as the previously mentioned Freya encounter and Hodir, calibrating loot drops to have normal, medium and hard drops wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. It would also follow Blizzard’s trend of giving its players options.

Be casual, be hardcore, be casualcore. Play as much as you want. Just hope that Blizzard notices you and gives you something appropriate to your skill level to do.





World of Logs: Your New Best Friend (Even if the Old One Was Cool)

25 09 2009

I decided to write about World of Logs (WoL) and then I thought I’d google it to see what others had written. Lowered Expectations has a post about it here that I recommend checking out. I’m going to try and cover some things he (she?) didn’t for the sake of variety and other good things. First things first. If you don’t know what WoL is, well, it’s like a super-expansive Recount that’s much easier to navigate. Instead of simple coloured bars with numbers attached, ala Recount, WoL graphs information out on a timeline.

DPS over time

DPS over time

You can get similar graphs for healing, damage taken, and other things. You can also focus in on certain areas to get a more detailed view. So with the basics out of the way, I’ll go into a few ways you can use WoL to your advantage.

Who did damage to what?

Sometimes a boss fight is less about hitting the boss and more about burst damage on adds or various other things. The best examples of this type of fight are Yogg-Saron and Freya. For example, if a melee DPS assigned to the brain room had lots of damage done to tentacles but very little to the brain, you would be suspicious and possibly investigate/ask the player what happened. As for Freya, if a DPS had no damage done to Eonar’s Gift (the trees Freya spawns) at all, you’d be similarly worried.

Don’t take this sort of thing as gospel and /gkick someone just because they don’t have the right amount of DPS to a certain target. Be sure to use WoL simply as a way to look objectively at what happened and then talk to the player in question to see what happened. Chances are there is a good reason for whatever you’re wondering about but the raider in question simply forgot to tell you or was never asked.

Who healed whom?

Healing meters are good for testing how well healers stick to their assigned targets. If you assign Healer A to Tank B but all he’s healed are other raid members and himself, you have a problem. Straight numbers (total healing), however, can be very misleading where healers are concerned.

DPS, Damage Done, Active Time, oh my!

When you’re looking at a chart of Damage Done there are three numbers on the right side, as seen here.

I'm the best!

I'm the best!

First is DPS (damage per second). In my opinion, this number is usually completely irrelevant. As you can see, I have more damage done than other players with higher DPS. How can this be, you ask? If you get a particularly lucky streak of crits, during Heroism, say, your DPS will go up a lot for that portion. DPS as shown in the screenshot above is averaged out over the whole fight. So if you instead did really solid damage throughout an entire fight, your DPS might be lower than others but your damage done could easily be higher.

Next is Active Time. Since this is the Damage Done chart, Active Time counts seconds that the player is actively doing damage to the boss. As a result, this statistic can be misleading. Mages, or other classes who are frequently spending time casting spells, often have lower active time than melee DPS. This is because melee DPS are constantly active as long as they are next to the boss due to autoattack. Active Time is also a misleading stat to assess healers on since constantly casting heals is not necessarily a good thing. Overhealing doesn’t help anyone.

Damage Done seems pretty obvious, but it’s always worth looking into exactly what a player did damage to. Consider this example. I was in a PuG VoA (in the days before Koralon) and we had just killed Emalon. One of the rogues had about 8k DPS but if you looked at what he had done damage to, you quickly realized he had spent the entire fight casting Fan of Knives at the adds. He did lots of damage but was almost entirely useless in the big picture.

It’s also important to look at random adds that players can hit, such as Ignis’ Iron Constructs. If melee DPS are doing a lot of damage to them, it’s probably just an accident or to pad the meters. So when you look at Damage Done, don’t just take the numbers for granted.

Some things to watch out for…

WoL gives you a lot of information. If you take all of it at face value and don’t think what the numbers might mean, however, you’ll end up getting angry for no reason a lot of the time. The best example of misinformation (or lack of information) on WoL is looking at interrupts.

wolgraph3

From this table, it seems like I sucked ass on interrupts (which, unfortunately, I actually did). But what you have to keep in mind is that you only see successful interrupts, not all interrupts cast. I definitely cast Mind Freeze more than twice, but it’s perfectly possible I only actually interrupted a spell twice. So what this information could be telling you is that the people with the highest number of interrupts were the ones who prefer to interrupt early on in the cast time of a spell rather than later (which is not necessarily a good thing, given that bosses don’t do other things while casting).

Buffs and debuffs

Another thing you can use WoL for is looking at uptime of debuffs on the boss. This is important for finding out if people are putting up the debuffs they’re supposed to be, i.e. Sunder, Expose Armor, Faerie Fire, etc. Like all other WoL information, however, make sure that just seeing a number below 100% doesn’t make you freak out. Sometimes it’s just impossible for buffs to be up 100% of the time and you should be aware of this. An example is Icehowl – with the frequency that he knocks melee around, it’d be difficult to keep debuffs on him throughout the fight.

wolgraph4

Any other ideas for using WoL?





An Old Shared Topic

25 09 2009

Stop, from The Stoppable Force, recently linked to his first post, a Blog Azeroth Shared Topic. This one asks what your character’s theme song would be. It didn’t take me long to find a suitable one for me:

It’s a terrible video, but the whole idea of the canary in the coal mine is fitting. If I die (in a raid) something has seriously gone wrong. Most of the time. Sometimes I just zone out and stand in some fire. I also just love the crazy lyrics and the fast pace. What would your theme song be?





Recruiting, Officer or Not

21 09 2009

Whether you’re an officer, a GM or just an every day raider, you can help with recruiting. Part of this means finding out what classes you’re looking for and trolling the official WoW forums (along with other channels, such as WoWRaid and LookingforGuild) for LFG posts. If you’re not too invested in spending more than 5-10 minutes a day on recruiting, here are a few things you should do:

  • Look at the pages 1-3 of the official Guild Recruitment Forum (note, the link is for the alliance forum)
  • Post a response, generally copy/pasting whatever is in your recruitment thread on your realm forum and adding in a short, personal note to show that you read the post
  • Bump your guild’s recruitment threads (realm forum and others)

When you’re trolling the official forums…

  • Make sure you read applicant’s posts thoroughly (unless the spelling and typing is so atrocious it makes you want to barf)
  • Get the relevant details: e.g. what kind of guild the poster is looking for (hardcore, casual), make sure your raid times mesh (are they looking for early morning, but you raid late evening?) and make a quick assessment of whether you think their personality would fit with your guild
  • Post! Don’t be afraid to post in many different threads. Just try not to post in the same threads that someone else in your guild has already posted in.
Not the best way to go

Not the best way to go

Want to put a bit more effort in?

If you’re not satisfied doing the bare minimum of recruitment-related activities, there’s always more work to be done!

  • Make profiles for your guild on sites like LookingforGuild
  • Check recruiting forums more often and go past page 3
  • Look at how your guild is recruiting and troubleshoot – is there something you feel is lacking or simply could be more efficient?
  • Run PuG raids such as VoA and Ulduar25 (either start them or join existing runs) and start dialogues with unguilded raiders who stand out from the crowd (I joined an excellent guild back in BC by running a bunch of heroics with some people and then applying to their guild)

One other thing you can do (that I recently did) is to look at your application form. What questions are you asking applicants and is there a good reason to be asking each one? Start a dialogue with the rest of your guild (officers might have a reason to be using certain questions that you don’t know about) and trim the fat off your application. Some things to look out for:

  • Yes/no questions – you want to provoke long responses from those stand-out applicants who are willing to put the effort in
  • Questions that will likely provoke dishonesty (for example, “How do you deal with disagreements?” – applicants will never answer that they are likely to ragequit if they disagree with something, so you won’t learn anything useful from this question)
  • Questions that are likely to get the same answer from any applicant to a raiding guild (such as “What are your goals in World of Warcraft?” If your guild is primarily a raiding guild, 99% of the time the answer will be “to raid” or some variation thereof)

What kind of questions does your guild put on its application? I’d love to hear about any eccentric/uncommon ones.








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