Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Highmaul PUGs

I did a full clear of Highmaul in LFR today, and got 2 epics for a change. I also managed to kill Kargath in a Normal pick-up group.

The most amusing part was when we went on to Butcher, and the raid leadership wanted to try it with all the melee DPS in one stack. Of course they all died about a minute into the fight, and we wiped. I don't think they realized that Gushing Wound instantly kills at 5 stacks, instead of just doing progressively more damage.

I was unpleasantly surprised when someone linked healing meters after the second attempt, and my healing was just over a third of the top healer's! In my defense, he was a resto druid in full epics - and my healing was only about 3% behind the other holy paladin. Still, I'll need to read up and see if I could be doing anything differently. I know I have a bad habit of using HS on my Beacon target, which isn't really mana-efficient.

I also tried Tectus in a different group. That fight's actually a lot of fun, but unfortunately I died both times to running through the trail left by Crystalline Barrage. Normally I do pretty well at moving out of things, but that effect is pretty subtle relative to the amount of damage it does. Oh well, at least I'm learning.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mechanics Space and Thematic Space

Well, I thought of something else I didn't mention in the post on monks. Playing the class made me feel sorry for rogues, because the monk is yet another way in which Blizzard has encroached on territory that used to belong to the rogue.

The rogue is a leather-wearing melee class that uses an energy bar and combo points. When WoW was released, each of these characteristics was unique to the rogue (as well as the feral druid). But that has changed over time; first Blizzard gave hunters an energy bar, then they gave several other classes (paladins, Shadow priests) combo points.

Now the monk comes along; a melee class which wears leather and uses energy and combo points, but also has the ability to spec as a healer or tank. All the rogue really has left is the stealth mechanic, which is frankly useless outside of PvP. I don't believe it's a coincidence that rogues are currently one of the least popular classes in WoW, and have been for some time.

I don't have a solution to the problem of rogues. However, I do think this shows how difficult it is to add a new class to a game like WoW.

At its core, WoW is a game about reducing an enemy's hit points to zero before they can do the same to you. So the mechanics of a class in WoW are essentially an answer to a simple question: "How will this class deal or prevent damage?" And as the last decade of WoW development have shown, there are really not that many ways to answer this question that are also feasible, intelligible and fun to play. Blizzard has come up with some mechanics both old (rage) and new (stagger) that add new twists, but there is only so much they can do.

By contrast, it is relatively easy to think of thematically new WoW classes - bard, ninja, barbarian, enchantress, necromancer, knight, warlord, spellsword, psychic, vampire, sheriff, etc. Although there is some overlap in flavor between these and the existing classes, the overall thematic space is much larger than the space of possible mechanics. This is because the theme of a class is an answer to a much broader question, one which could be something like "What does a perfect example of this class look like?"

Since the space of themes is much larger than the space of mechanics, there are only two options: either not every theme can be represented, or some themes must share mechanics. With the monk Blizzard has chosen the second option, trusting that the theme is so strong that it's worth having it reuse existing mechanics. And it's possible that they are correct. However, it's clear that they can't do this with every class that is suggested.

I wonder if it would be a good idea to make an MMO where classes could specialize into trees which were thematically very different, but mechanically similar. In WoW terms, the rogue and the monk could be specializations of the same class, and share most mechanics like they do now. But thematically their abilities could be very different, with rogue abilities emphasizing cunning and brutality, and monk abilities emphasizing tranquility and balance.

This would allow the developers to draw on all the traditions connected to each of those archetypes, and perhaps appeal to players who are particularly interested in one of them. However, perhaps the idea is more trouble than it's worth, and it's better just to stay with a relatively small subset of all possible themes.


Well, it looks like I'm going to write about tanking before healing. I hit 30 on the monk and picked up dual specialization; however, I didn't want to take the healing spec while levelling, since it has a different primary stat than the DPS spec.

On the other hand, the tanking spec has agility as its primary stat, and monks don't use special gear like shields. So it was very simple to spec Brewmaster and jump into a few instances.

I had tanked an instance a couple of times before, but it had been a while (I don't believe I've ever played DPS in an instance, incidentally). Fortunately normal dungeons are a complete faceroll now. The most difficult part was just keeping track of where all the mobs were. Although I did feel a little squishy when I pulled a tough group and Guard was on cooldown.

As an aside, Guard seems like a pretty poor name for a monk ability. It would be much better suited for a warrior or paladin. Unfortunately the names of monk skills generally feel a little phoned in; the Mistweaver tree is particularly poor for this, as it feels like half the abilities are just some variation on *blank* Mists.

When I play a healer, I am annoyed above all else by tanks who pull before I'm ready. In particular, I'm often in a DPS spec when soloing, so I have to change specs and then drink at the start of the instance. So I decided in advance that I would play carefully, watch the healer's mana, and ready check before the first pull.

Of course, this just meant that the DPS ran in and pulled instead. Oh well.


The monk class is old news by now, but I hadn't tried it until recently. I'm normally not one to spend a lot of time playing alts; I only played one character throughout almost my entire time playing WoW. But waiting for raid lockouts on the paladin is dull, so I rolled one to try it out.

The first thing I noticed was that this class kills things extremely quickly. At low levels, the 2-chi finishing move almost kills an even-level mob in a single crit! And the windwalker special move (Fists of Fury) is just absurdly strong. Pulling four or five mobs is completely feasible.

I'm not sure whether this is due to the monk being overpowered at low levels, or just the way the game plays nowadays. In any case, it was amusing to compare it to my memories of going Wand Spec (the recommended build) on my first character so I wouldn't have to drink after every mob. Of course, pulling two mobs at once would have been out of the question.

It's interesting to consider whether the earlier, harsh model or the new, forgiving one is preferable. Zipping around from mob to mob with no downtime is certainly more fun, and in my opinion corpse runs were much too frequent in early WoW.

However, the current model seems to trivialize the game in some ways. For example, the monk has an ability that causes your attacks to ignore a portion of armor for 20 seconds. It certainly seems like the game is encouraging you to keep this buff up, but when mobs die in a few hits anyway it hardly seems to matter.

I suppose what I'm saying is that the game should encourage you to play at the highest level it permits. If some element of skill is introduced, then practicing that skill should have a reward. The game should not be impossible for players who choose to ignore that element, but they should be at least a little less effective than those who do. Designing things otherwise seems like a recipe for unhappiness.


This is going to be a blog focused on playing a healer in World of Warcraft. I've played the game casually since mid-2007, starting sometime before the release of patch 2.3. Back then both blogging and the MMO genre were in their heyday, and I read a fair number of WoW-related blogs. My goal is to bring what I enjoyed from that era into the MMO world of today.

My original character was a priest, but I am currently playing a Holy paladin on the Proudmoore (US) server. I am also levelling a monk.

To be honest, it's completely possible that I will not update this blog regularly. However, I think it will be a useful exercise even if it never achieves any popularity.