My Chars

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ding 76, flying mount Real Soon Now :)

I pushed myself this weekend and managed to get from 74 to three-quarters of the way to level 77. Only 25% left till a flying mount! :)

I leveled almost entirely in Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills and I enjoyed it a lot. The daily quest which involves riding a dragon and doing aerial combat with enemy NPC dragons was a blast and I will definitely be returning to that and not just because of the rep :)
It does however make me wish Blizzard had put in aerial PvP with dragons in Wintergrasp and not just between planes - well here's hoping they add that as well :)

Initially after finishing questing in Dragonblight I thought to continue directly to Zul'Drak, however after 10 minutes of questing there I decided I didn't like it. The area is very dark, almost perpetual twilight. This isn't something I enjoy, it just makes me squint more and want to increase the gamma setting. In addition the zone simply doesn't look very good to me.

Grizzly Hills on the other hand is a beautiful wooded area, with streams and mountains and interesting places everywhere. There were a ton of quests and one in particular that I very much enjoyed. It involved a twist on the escort quest. Instead of walking/running next to the NPC, you get up on a horse (acting as a vehicle) with him and use the vehicle pet bar to ward off attackers as you make your way to safety, while they attack the horse and slowely take down its health bar. The speed of the chase and the excitment of trying to ward off the attackers while your horse makes its way to the destination made for quite a rush and ultimatly a very enjoyable quest.

I'm pretty sure that between doing a few dailies and finishing all my quests in GH I will ding 77, after which it will be time for exploration-XP-fest :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ding 74

Solidfaith dinged 74 last night after a furious evening of questing. I started out with a couple of daily quests, for the rep. I then continued questing in Dragonblight, having finished all of my quests in Howling Fjord.

In Dragonblight I started doing quests along the shore for the Tuskarr, earning Kalu'ak reputation. Soon though I moved inland to Wintergarde Keep and spend the rest of the evening questing there. It's an impressive place, and the dark forbidding Naxx floating high above the fields outside the keep with all of the undead running around outside really ties in the whole feel of the place, of war between the Alliance and the Scourge.
I had a lot of fun, the quest to save villagers from the back of a gryphon was a lot of fun as was the dialog between a certain cleric and an undead mayor :)
There was one short chain where I had to go down to the shore and get stories from some undead humans followed by showing them an orb which shows them how the young Arthas was the one to betray them, burning their ships and thus stranding them on the shores of Northrend. Apart from the cool factor of seeing young Arthas, I thought it was a fair reproduction of the Warcraft III plot (not that I remember that too well having played it several years ago). I thought this was a nice touch on the part of Blizzard.

I also got some group quests there, luckily I quickly found a group and even though I am Shadow specced and the tank was not protection specced, we still managed to kill Kreug without a problem. The other group quests naturally were also quite easy.

All in all I'm quite happy with Dragonblight, there is a huge number of quests to do and a wide variety, some are a bit less interesting in essence but I try to read the quest text and enjoy the story lines even when the quest itself is not so interesting. I'm sure I will ding 75 in this area although not yet sure about level 76, will have to wait and see.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Solidfaith Dings 73, Solidstar Maxes Professions

Solidfaith "ding-ed" level 73 last night, an event which I promptly celebrated by going to bed :)

I'm still only questing in HF and still have a lot of quests there so plenty left to do. However I am not sure if they turn green what I will do since I don't want to level even more slowly, I'm behind most of my guild as it is.

Solidstar got to level 62 a couple of days ago, still doing Zangramarsh quests. More importantly I found the time to level his Alchemy to 375 and Inscription to 350 (there's no reason to level Inscription beyond 350 before Northrend). So my profession goals with him are currently achieved and I'll continue leveling him whenever I find some spare time, or just feel like having fun with an uber char :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A couple of quick notes

First of all, this EJ thread on DKs DPS is a fantastic must-read resource for anyone serious about their DK. Every section there is pure gold, explanations about hit rating (which is complex for a DK as they use both melee and spell hit ratings), rotations, explanations per spec. Seriously good stuff there, if you rolled a DK and are not heading over there right now to read it, shame on you :)

Secondly, I got a solid 1.5 hours of playtime last night on Solidfaith and as I hoped, questing as a Shadow Priest was trivialy easy compared to my previous leveling attempts as a Holy Priest. So I hope I'll start leveling a bit more quickly now, as I'm still only level 71. I am alas constrained by some work pressure at the moment but I hope that eases up later on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Leveling Solidfaith as Shadow

I've broken down and decided I just can't do it. As much as I wanted to level as Holy, I have to give up on the idea. DPS too low, downtime too big.
The difference, once I specced to this 9/0/53 build, was night-and-day (fitting metaphore :)). I didn't manage a lot of quests as Shadow before going to sleep but in the ones I did do, the mobs dropped like flies.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

First Impressions from WotLK

Like many other people I've been keeping busy the last few days, getting to know the new continent of Northrend. In a nutshell, the quests are fun and well written, the instances are well designed and leveling is something I've always enjoyed - I love that "level ding" :)

But I should start with how I got to Northrend. On midnight between Wednesday Nov 12th and Thursday Nov 13th, a store about one hours drive away from where I live was holding a WotLK sale/event. I had pre-ordered and went with a couple of friends to pick up our copies. We arrived ~20 minutes early to find the place packed with hundreds of people and at least 2 (!!) camera crews that I could see! It was so strange seeing this massive amount of people and knowing at least a few play on Thunderhorn and who knows maybe I even know the chars of some :)

Because the line was so long and we arrived late, we only got home around 4 a.m. - much later than originally planned. Even so, I still managed to install the game + patches and take the boat to Northrend with Solidfaith before going to sleep. I had originally planned on going to Borean Tundra (from SW) but most of the people online from my guild had gone from Menethil to Howling Fjord, so I did the same.

The next morning (I had the day off from work) I did not start with my priest, instead I started a new character - yes you guessed it, a Death Knight. Welcome Solidstar to the company of solids :)

Solidstar is already level 60 at the time of this writing and to say that playing a DK was a blast would be a massive understatement. Actually I wanted more than one DK but it turns out you can only create a DK on a server where you have a level 55 char and you can only have one DK per server. Anyway the quests from 55 to 58 were simply amazing, the phasing technology and massive battles you undergo really add to the feeling of an epic class. Of course there is the epic gear that you get from those initial quests :)

I have never played a plate wearing class before and I know the gear the DK starts with at 58 is very good but it is still amazing how powerful I am. At 58 I can (and have) killed level 61 elites. Unlike previous characters where I waited till level 60 to enter Outland, I entered Outland at level 58. I really didn't have any problems, any mobs that attacked me died quickly, even 3-4 levels above me. The blood build I chose is proving itself, making sure I can heal myself and thus have zero downtime. As I'm now level 60 I'm planning to skip all of the remaining HFP quests (never did like the zone) and continue leveling in Zangramarsh. It will be interesting to see if I remain as relatively powerful in higher levels when my initial gear becomes outdated and replaced.

In parallel I played with Solidfaith, getting to know the new continent and doing quests and instances. I am currently Holy in order to provide a healer to my guild - this worked out for me in terms of being requested to come to guild runs as I have already done both Utgarde Keep and The Nexus several times, and even Azjol-Nerub once even though I was only level 71 when I did it. In terms of looks I thought The Nexus was simply amazing and I liked it the best, however the other 2 instances were not bad looking either.

In terms of difficulty it feels like Blizzard have toned down instances, both UK and Nexus were really easy runs. Even Azjol-Nerub was not too difficult even though our group was under-level for it.

The negative side of playing a Holy priest is that I level slowly, killing mobs takes a long time and the difference compared to the uber-powerful DK makes this especially noticeable. I may even respec to Shadow if it becomes too much...

Quests are fun to read and do. I've always liked the process of leveling and I find the quest text to be a fun part of that process. It's obvious Blizzard developers gave some thought to the quests, it's not just "go kill 10 {x} since they are bad"... at least not usually :)

So my first impressions from WotLK are very favorable so far. I would have liked if the 5-man instances were both more challenging and gave more XP per complete run but I can understand Blizzard wanting people to experience the massive amount of quests they designed and not just limit themselves to instance runs.

I also wish I had more time to play, but then don't we all :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Final Kara Run

This evening people will probably be getting ready with final preparations for WotLK and I doubt anyone will be in the mood to raid. Knowing this in advance, when someone suggested last night to go to a final Karazhan run we quickly got the required 10 people, all ready to blow a final /kiss to the Kara bosses.

We had 2 tanks (one of which was me on Solidd), 1 holy paladin as healer and 7 DPS. Even though we had only 1 healer and even though not all the DPS were good geared it didn't matter. We didn't wipe even once and we cleared the place from top to bottom, no wipes, in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We didn't even have a warlock for the Illhoof fight and only a single mage, but it didn't matter - I think Illhoof managed to shackle only 2 people before we downed him.

My only regret is that once again Moroes didn't drop his Lucky Pocket Watch - predictably, I've only ever seen it drop while going through Kara on my priest or mage, never on my druid... damn you Moroes!
I also didn't get the T4 helm token from Prince, again my lousy luck meant I have seen the druid token drop multiple times - always on other chars...

All in all it was an awesome run, not something to brag about due to lack of challange but just something to say goodbye to the instance we raided most during TBC in a fun and ez-mode way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death Knight Leveling

If you've been thinking like I have of leveling a Death Knight, WoW Insider now has a nice article on possible DK leveling builds.

As is usually the case with this things I tend to take the advice as a set of helpful guidelines and not an exact guide to how to play. So from looking at the talent descriptions and after reading the article, I think I'll start my level 55 DK with this spec, continue at 60 with this one, at 70 with this spec and at finish at 80 with this one (59/0/12).

Why a blood heavy build and how is it different from the WoW Insider blood build? Well for leveling I love two things - survivability, and little to no downtime. For a melee class this means self healing and the build I chose, especially the changes vs. the one recommended by the article, reflect this. Rune Tap (modified by Improved Rune Tap), Vendetta, Blood Aura, and Vampiric Blood should all decrease my downtime significantly. Will of the Necropolis will increase my survivabilty when things get tight.

It's possible of course that I've taken too many self healing talents, leading to lower DPS (I wasn't in the beta so I have no idea how the class will play). If I start off and see that e.g. (improved) Rune Tap is really enough to keep me up (and a 20% self heal once every 30sec does sound very impressive), I'll simply respec the other points back into more damage-increasing talents, in either the frost or unholy trees.

I'll finish this post with a couple of blood DK beta videos, one showing the blood spec used to good effect killing mob after mob in HFP and the other showing some AoE grinding in Zangarmarsh. I was impressed by how little the life of those DKs went down in most fights - exactly what I was looking for.

This is going to be fun :)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Player Feedback and the Blizzard Forums

Relmstein has a post from a couple of days ago where he talks about the Blizzard forums, player QQ and trolling and the effect of this on Blizzard. He raises some points which I frankly disagree with. As background, I visit the forums almost ever day, including the class forums for all 4 of my classes, so I'm well aware of the content of posts there and of the occasional Blue feedback.

The number of hot-fixes and patch revamps caused by out of controlled forum posting is almost too high to count... Blizzard has mistakenly changed nerfs and buffs too many times based on fabricated forum feedback
Actually, the number is probably close to 0.

Blizzard patches and hot-fixes which affect class balance or other such "hot" issues have never followed a pattern of following the latest forum shouting match. In fact direct calls for nerfing are forbidden and usually such threads are locked. What usually happens is that Blizzard release a change, wait a while, realize based on game data that a fix or change is required, and implement it. Sometimes, this fix aligns with player requests. Sometimes it doesn't.

The most you can say is that players sometimes manage to bring to attention a topic that would otherwise take time to surface via testing and bug reports.

There are possibly exceptions, but they are rare and we have no way of knowing if player QQ really had any effect. For example, the recent outcry over Blizzard's decision to reset all honor points going into LK, citing "fairness to players at 80" was eventually reversed and the honor points were not wiped. How much effect did player arguments have on this decision is hard to say, since there were actually many forum posts which argued against the outcry from PvP-ers and was pro the initial decision.

That's not to say that players can't have any effect. Blizzard blue posters routinly request balanced and thought-out class feedback and we can hope that some of the issues raised by players actually make it to the devs. But again, it looks from long experience that little of the mountains of player opinion which gathers in such threads is used and certainly trollish posts have never solicited blue response (except the negative kind :)).
This is probably why they are talking about getting rid of the class forums
Actually, this decision was changed fairly quickly and the new forums were added to the Blizzard forums, instead of replacing the class forums. While weakening Relmstein's case this ironically seems to be a case of Blizzard listening to player QQ, since the stupidity of the idea of removing the class forums was almost universally hated by forum posters.
All I know is that a change in WoW's forum structure might be called for at the moment.
I think a more meaningful and helpful change would be to completly scrap (or at least retire) the current forums and build new ones based on better software, able to handle tens-of-thousands of readers and hundreds of comments per post and able to scale with increased load.

In order to help with the issue of "blue attrition" mentioned by Relmstein, It should also allow better moderation of posts, either through a select group of volunteers (which would perhaps get forum or even game perks for their work) or through a system of randmly assigning mod points to any registered user (so that at any time you would have say ~10% of users being able to mod posts up or down) and letting (in a manner of speaking) the community police itself (up to any arbitrary limit at which point a blue could step in).

I'm of course modeling my suggetion on the well knows slashcode software which runs slashdot, but there are probably similiar offerings out there which could also serve Blizzard's needs.

Existing forums could be retired and kept as a searchable archive so that information is not lost, while the content of selected stickies and guides is moved.

If it doesn't work then maybe we would just have to use fan sites like Elitist Jerks and MMO-Champions.
Just about everybody who plays WAR agrees that lack of official forums is a major mistake of the part of Mythic. So I would very much hope that Blizzard continue with running official forums. Personally I have found a lot of good advice, guides and helpful players in the forums (and I try to add my own). They may not be perfect but to dump them would be to dump the baby out with the water.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

4/5 MH, 2/9 BT

Too bad raiding MH and BT no longer qualifies you as a hard-core raider, since we are now a BT raiding guild :)

Last night my guild joined with our another guild and we went to tackle the 4th boss in MH, Azgalor (I mentioned taking down the first 3 bosses in a previous post). The waves in my opinion were more challenging than the boss, as the nerf meant the "race" against his Doom ability was very short. I managed to roll the lowest score on the T6 glove tokens which dropped - a 10. Only one more 0 and I would have had a 100! :)

However at least the fact that I was with my mage meant that I had a ton of fun nuking the trash and climbing sky-high on the damage meters. Useless numbers to be sure but still gratifying for a mage to see such large numbers :)
I actually did fairly well on the boss, mostly since I (a) didn't get the Doom debuff and (b) managed to stay otherwise alive (rain of fire hit me a couple of times but I managed to run out of it). However his AoE silence ability meant this was not a very caster friendly fight.

We went to see Archimonde but didn't engage as the fight is too complex and requires a specific group setup which we lacked - we would have just wiped and wasted time. Instead, we decided to try our luck in BT.

Flying in front of the main gates of the Black Temple, you will see down below at ground level a portal-entrance which looks like a breach in the right side wall. The entrance area was not as I imagined it - I thought it would be a dry place but it is full of water. I guess the temple sewers?

The trash was not hard at all, I guess the nerf really lowered the difficulty.

Naj'entus was an interesting fight, having to click the spined person and attack the shield with the spike in your bag. Amusingly, one of the raid members was spiked just before Naj went down, so when I clicked him I got the spike in my bags but nothing to use them on. I decided to keep the spikes for now :)

The trash before Supremus gave us our first (and only) wipe of the evening, when we accidently pulled both a humanoid patrol and 2 patrolling winged demons. However apart from that wipe and the occasional death of individual raid members we didn't have any probles.

Supremus himself I thought was a fun fight, with volcanoes erupting, blue fire being cast around and phases where he chases people. He came after me 3 times, two times I simply Ice-Blocked and he lost interest, the 3rd I ran and he got tired of chasing me :) However he had the last laugh as near the 20% mark a volcano erupted next to me and instead of turning and running or blinking, I walked backwards. Too slow... I took too much damage and died :(

Still the boss went down and so we were at 2/9 BT and I could even buy 2 tailoring recipes from the Ashtongue Deathsworn quartermaster, having hit friendly with them.

All in all, a fun evening :)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I'm Currently Happy As Frost

So why am I currently happy as frost, caps and all?

Well over at Critical QQ, Euripedes made a very nice post about the state of the Arcane tree (and I agree with most of the points). However, I was struck by this sentence:

Frost is easily the most boring spec right now

I'm not sure this is as true as it used to be before 3.0.2. Sure, you're still nuking with Frostbolts, however you now have (in addition to WE summons, IV and trinket activations which you had before):
I think that fights post 3.0.2, from a Frost mage's point of view, are less of a "nuke Frosbolts till my finger drops off from boredom" than they used to be :)

In addition, one of the things I loved about Arcane before-3.0.2 was the high DPS.

Well due to the general instances nerf and the general buffing of classes, mobs are going down very fast in both 5-mans and the raids I've done such as ZA. Add to this the fact the all tanks can now AoE tank and the result is that most times runs consist of pulling the next group of mobs and AoEing them down - and CC-be-damned.

So what happens when you take a run heavy on AoE damage and a Frost mage with fully improved Blizzard which can finally proc criticaly? That's right, you get a very happy mage :)
Even if the tank losses agro on mobs, they are now moving so slowely, they can never reach you before dying :)

Solo play, both when alone and when killing a single target in an instance/raid, is more disappointing. Crit values are a bit pathetic compared to my pre-3.0.2 values. But this isn't surprising, since as an Arcane mage I had some serious buffage to my spell damage from talents.

Game play in WotLK at level 80 is something I'm not going to try and predict. Even if current numbers show Frost as being bad for raiding, Blizzard could easily change the entire picture between now and level 80. So for now, I'm happy with Frost and sticking with it for both the remainder of BC and for leveling to 80.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Regarding the Blizzard Forums

A post over at Hudson's Hidout led me to think about what would make the Blizzard forums better. Hudson wrote (about the addition of the 3 new forums):

This still dilutes the conversations, as it adds another place to check for information, thereby causing one of the boards to die I am sure. I still don’t like it either way.

I think it kinda depends on the players but if for example general healing guides, Q&A etc. are posted in the healing forum, while e.g. specific issues to holy priests are posted in the priests forum, this could work. On the other hand I suspect a lot of material which would be posted on these new forums would actually go better in a class specific forum. A priest heals very differently from a paladin, for example.

TBH ever since I've started working with tags (gmail really made me work with them in force) I have really liked the idea and I consider these much better than categories. Imagine if the forum allowed you to tag your post: "priest, healing" - instead of having to post in either the priest or healing forums.

But for that to work, search has to be done right (since the volume of posts esp. in general forums/tags is huge). Search right now in the Blizzard forums simply isn't working and even when it did, it was bad - barebones at best and with a very strange (and incomplete) feature set.

No solution is good when the basics are bad and really the basic forum infrastructure of Blizzard is horrible - no threading of replies, no tags, no search, no ability to "mod up" good posts/replies. And what's with the stupid limit on number of posts in a thread?

I also think they should let selected players moderate the forum, this would give them a much bigger set of moderators, who would volunteer in order to keep the forums useful to all. There is no way the current Blizzard moderators can follow every post and this is a pity since it causes both a lower S/N ratio and on the other hand good posts/replies get missed. Alternatively selected players (based on the Slashdot model) could get mod points and use these up to mod posts down or up. This system actually works pretty well for Slashdot posts, which while not a forum come pretty close to it.

Guardian of Cenarius

Just a quick post, I finally managed to find the time to gring CC rep with Solidd. I managed to grind 10k rep in about 3 hours which is pretty good I think (especially as there was competition) and got to exalted. So now Solidd has the Guardian of Cenarius title which is good because (a) it's good title for a druid and (b) he finally has a title floating over his head (poor alt :)).

I would have gotten to this earlier but I kept getting sidetracked on other days to do stuff like ZA (full clear in ~1 hour, insane how easy Zul'jin was - this was my first ever takedown of him) and ZG, both on my mage. I didn't need ZG but several guild friends wanted it and I figured it would be more fun than grinding rep :) Since we AoE'd a lot (mostly on trash) my overall position on damage meters was 1st or 2nd. Blizzard with crits is imba :)

Also did MH first 3 bosses one night, was really awesome raiding T5 content and being able to see new bosses and down them. We grouped up with another guild to do it and hopefully we can continue MH on Monday. My only regret was I was there with my priest and not mage so I didn't get to nuke those lovely AoE fights.

So anther pre-Wrath task is done, now I need to get busy grinding herbs and I want to do a few instances with Solidstate for the achievements. Doing a few more 25man raids would be nice too :)