Monday, February 9, 2015

Loot Council

So I'm in a reasonably serious raiding guild. It seems decent, we're 4/10 in normal Blackrock Foundry after the first week. Operator Thogar has proven to be more of a roadblock than expected, although it's not actually the trains that are killing people. But I'm happy with the guild overall.

However, the guild has recently decided to switch loot systems. We were doing open roll on all loot, but the new system will be loot council.

I'm not really happy with this idea. This is mostly philosophical. I don't really like leadership structures that aim for a large amount of control over people, and it's hard to get more controlling than a loot council. This is despite the fact that the new system will probably benefit me, on average.

I do understand the impetus for the switch. Open roll has problems of its own - it incentivizes farm runs more than progression, and can cause inefficient loot distribution, where items don't go to the player for whom they represent the biggest upgrade. As well, rewards under the new system are supposed to be based partly on attendance and performance, which should make people work harder in those areas.

However, this just seems a little excessive. Open roll is probably the least restrictive loot system out there. Is it really necessary to immediately jump to the most restrictive one?

Overall, I would have preferred some sort of DKP system. DKP does well at getting people to come to runs, and there could be a DKP bonus for behavior like on-time attendance that is supposed to be encouraged. As well, people will generally not spend DKP on minor upgrades, so the distribution issue mostly takes care of itself.

In general, I prefer if leadership can solve issues without imposing any more restrictions than necessary. Using loot council seems like a violation of that principle.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Judgement armor is still one of the best-looking sets for paladins. So I was pretty happy to hit 7/8 pieces today. I'm only missing the bracers, which thankfully aren't too noticeable.

For Ret I use the Draconic Maul, which is a nice match and very classically paladin. I'm also on 7/8 Lightbringer (or Lightbringer lookalikes), only boots have yet to drop.

I don't know if adding purely cosmetic armor was the best decision for WoW's long-term health, but it's certainly giving me a lot to do in the short term. Honestly, I was probably happier about the Judgement gloves dropping than I was about any of the actual stat loot I've gotten in weeks.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Melee DPS and Interrupts

I was thinking about two problems that WoW has nowadays, and it occurred to me that it may be possible to solve them both simultaneously.

The first problem is the state of melee DPS classes at endgame. Quite frankly, ranged DPS are generally superior to melee.

The reason for this is that melee characters need to stand near the boss as much as possible, whereas ranged characters can stand anywhere within 40 yards of it. This means that pretty much any mechanic which forces movement disproportionately affects the melee DPS.

Melee DPS have an inherent disadvantage. So if they are going to be balanced, they need to be stronger in other ways. And currently, this is not the case. As a result, everyone is recruiting ranged DPS.

The second problem is the use of interrupts. The playerbase's attitude toward interrupts seems to be a lot better than it has been (the proving grounds and monk training quests both require you to use interrupts), but it could still be better. In particular, I've had some extremely annoying Everbloom runs where people simply didn't interrupt the heal on the second boss.

I think that people would do much better at interrupting if it were made clear that interrupts are not just a frill, but are a core part of a DPS player's role. Accordingly, here's my idea:

     1. Remove all interrupts from tanks and ranged DPS, or significantly increase their cooldowns. Only melee DPS can regularly interrupt spells.
     2. All interrupts deal a significant amount of damage if a spell is successfully interrupted.

The nice thing about this is that it ties interrupts to the rest of the DPS role. Your job is to do damage, and interrupting helps you do damage. This makes it very clear what you should be doing. As well, it makes performance much easier to measure, since your position on the meters will be better if you interrupt a lot.

And secondly, this adds an additional dimension to the melee DPS role. Now they have a strength that ranged characters don't have, so things are more even.

As well, I think this would open some new possibilities for encounter design. Currently, Blizzard tends to shy away from mechanics that punish players for grouping, since these are always hardest on the melee. Or the mechanics are made artificially easier (like Tectus' pillars only targeting the ranged). If this weakness were made up for in other ways, then it would be easier for Blizzard to accept it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I don't really understand why gamers are so eager to maintain anonymity in their online games.

Scratch that. I understand why many people want to be anonymous. What I don't understand is why they expect a culture of anonymity not to produce negative consequences.

It seems like most people are familiar with this Penny Arcade comic. It's popular enough to have become a sort of running joke, that's sure to be mentioned whenever someone misbehaves online. Surely the observation behind it - that anonymity can cause a lot of antisocial behavior - carries some weight. But for some reason, nobody ever draws the conclusion that we should make it harder to be anonymous online.

It's amusing that this distinction between your online and real-life personas is treated as being some sacred and inviolable right, when it's really a very recent invention. Most societies throughout history haven't had anything of the sort. In the past, the people you interacted with regularly would know your name, what you looked like, and where you lived. And someone who wasn't so well-known, a stranger or a loner, would inspire distrust. Internet communities are likely the only societies in history where being anonymous is viewed as acceptable.

I'm not saying we should go back to fearing the unknown. But it seems clear that the current model isn't perfect either. And knowing the people you interact with has benefits. Having more information means more ways to connect to others, and more accountability decreases the amount of bad behavior. On the other hand, the upsides of anonymity are - what, exactly? You might want to keep employers from finding out you're a gamer, but is that really all people are concerned about?

I think it would be very interesting for a game to require users to register with real ID, and then show your real name ingame. Perhaps it could even display a photo and your location. I think game companies would see it as risky, but I also think that if it took off, the resulting community would be one of the best available.

Mission Timers

Maybe it's odd, but I quite like the mission board in Warlords. It's quite a simple minigame, but it has the same polish shared by everything Blizzard does. Plus the integration with the rest of the game makes it more rewarding.

The only thing I don't really like is the 10-hour missions. In my opinion, scheduling missions would be much cleaner if the longest missions were 7, or even 6, hours.

The thing is that for most people, the day is divided roughly into three 8-hour segments. Eight hours of work, eight of leisure time, then eight of sleep. This translates nicely into queuing missions at the beginning of each period - directly before and after work, and before bedtime.

So if a mission is longer than 8 hours, there is already a problem, in that it will not finish during one of those periods. So at the beginning of the next period, either you wait, or you don't have access to all your followers. This is annoying. Plus it tends to compound itself, as when the 10-hour mission is done your followers will be behind schedule on their next one.

However, even then the schedule is pretty easy to break. If you stay late at work, or have a commute, then you won't have time to complete a full 8-hour mission before bed. So I think it's best if some tolerance is built into the system. Otherwise you're pushed into playing at odd hours.

In general, if you're going to include real-time barriers to progression, I think it's better to make them on the lenient side. Having to adjust your schedule just to play the game is rarely a good idea.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Too Much Specialization?

One thing I've noticed about Warlords is that the behavior of a spell is now much more dependent on your choice of specialization. Of course your specialization has always affected how skills work, but in the past the differences were mainly small - a skill might do 25% more damage, or have a chance to proc something, but it wouldn't have a completely different effect. This is no longer really the case.

For example, here is the tooltip for Avenging Wrath as Retribution spec:

  • Increases all damage and healing caused by 20% for 20 sec.
Whereas for Holy it reads:

  • Imbues you with wrathful light, increasing healing done by 100% and haste, critical strike chance, and damage by 20% for 20 sec.

Really, these are two different skills which happen to share a name.

I don't think this is really good design. It's inelegant, and makes the game more difficult to learn.

I believe that players expect a given skill to have basically the same function for each spec. It would have been simple for Blizzard to have given the Holy version of Avenging Wrath a different name; the fact that they chose not to is an acknowledgement that the skill is intended to work the same way. But it does not, except in very broad terms.

So the naming scheme guides the player into transferring knowledge from one spec to another, but the game mechanics are such that this is a mistake, or at least not very helpful. I think this is the opposite of how skill names should work. 

For instance, it would be a mistake to let rogues use the skill Backstab while in front of their target. This is because in that case, the flavor (thematic content) and the mechanics of the skill would be opposed to each other. Similarly, giving very different abilities the same name opposes flavor and mechanics, which is inelegant and confusing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Butcher Update

I had the opportunity to go on another Butcher raid. I managed to pull 36.5k HPS and top the meters. Here are some things which I felt helped:
  • Used an int flask, int rune and Savage Feast, as well as a mana potion.
  • Glyphed wings and used it on cooldown. I think this glyph is very useful for LFR / PuG raids, since it seems like a lot of the extra healing goes to overheal when it's unglyphed.
  • Used Holy Shock / Prism as often as possible.
  • Healed Beacon targets the absolute minimum possible.
  • Paid attention to free Eternal Flame procs.
To be honest, I'm pretty surprised by how much difference a modest increase in skill makes, at least in terms of raw HPS.

Now to try to improve my performance on some of the more complicated fights in Highmaul. Unfortunately, it's pretty tough to find a decent pickup group that sticks together for more than a couple of bosses. I have joined a small raiding guild, so we'll see how that goes.